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A Tale of Two Scandals: Leland Yee and Bill Kramer

8:18 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

This is a tale of two scandals currently playing out in America. Both involve state-level politicians.

One of these scandals, the corruption one concerning California state senator Leland Yee, has penetrated the awareness of the national media, resulting in stories in Huffington Post, Forbes, and the New York Times. It will probably be prominently featured on FOX by the middle of next week, and on the other networks soon thereafter.

The other scandal, the sexual molestation one concerning Bill Kramer, the Majority Leader of Wisconsin’s State Assembly, has drawn sitting US Senator Ron Johnson into its vortex, and could shake up the corridors of power in that state. But aside from mentions in Daily Kos and Politico, there has been nothing to date in any non-Wisconsin media on this scandal.

Nothing.

Now, what was that again about a “liberal” media?

(Crossposted at Mercury Rising.)

Koch Fib Files: The Apolitical Cancer Patient

2:19 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

The “apolitical” Julie Boonstra

Remember the anti-Obamacare ad created by Karl Rove’s Koch-funded group “Americans for Prosperity” that featured a lady cancer patient who tried to make it sound like her health care costs were going up?

Well, it turns out that she’s actually going to save over $1000 a year because of Obamacare:

Before her plan was canceled, [Julie] Boonstra was paying a $1,100 monthly premium. That’s $13,200 a year, without adding out-of-pocket expenses like co-pays and prescription drugs. But under her new plan, the Blue Cross Premier Gold, Boonstra’s premiums are down to $571 a month, and out-of-pocket costs are capped at $5,100. That’s a maximum annual expense of $11,952 a year.

Oh, and here’s something else that won’t surprise anyone at all who’s been paying attention over the last four decades:

Boonstra told The Detroit News she had never been politically active before joining the anti-Obamacare campaign. The newspaper reported her ex-husband, Mark Boonstra, had served as chair of the Washtenaw County GOP, and was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2012.

What was that about being apolitical again, Ma’am?

(Crossposted to Mercury Rising.) Read the rest of this entry →

Calling All Minnesotans! Whip Your State Senators Re: Minimum Wage Hike

3:29 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

As ably limned for some time now by the incomparable Sally Jo Sorensen of Bluestem Prairie, the Minnesota state legislature has been pondering raising the state’s minimum wage, a long-overdue move. (How overdue? Look at the graphic in this post. All our neighbor states have higher minimum wages than we do.) Right now, there’s a deadlock between the House and Senate conference committees, a deadlock that needs to be broken for the legislation to succeed.

To that end, a whip count’s been created over at Bluestem.

Y’all know what to do. Go to it!

 

Map of minimum wages in Minnesota and surrounding states, Via MinnPost and Bluestem Prairie, Source: Department of Labor Map image: CC/Wikimedia/Theshibboleth (above)

Venezuela: What CNN (or CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, etc.) Won’t Tell You

9:15 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

The powers that be want Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution to fail

Here is something you’ll never see in any mainstream US media:

Back in 2003, because it did not control the oil industry, the government had not yet delivered much on its promises. A decade later, poverty and unemployment have been reduced by more than half, extreme poverty by more than 70%, and millions have pensions that they did not have before. Most Venezuelans are not about to throw all this away because they have had a year and a half of high inflation and increasing shortages. In 2012, according to the World Bank, poverty fell by 20 percent– the largest decline in the Americas. The recent problems have not gone on long enough for most people to give up on a government that has raised their living standards more than any other government in decades.

The powers that be want Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution to fail because it’s Venezuela’s oil money that’s helped free the rest of Latin America from the tyranny of the disaster capitalism of the World Bank and IMF. Once Venezuela fully develops its Orinoco heavy-oil reserves, they can then export the revolution beyond Latin America.

Why does that scare Big Business (and Big Politicians) so? Think about one of the reasons labor unions did so well in the decades spanning the 1920s through the 1960s: It was because they could always point to the Soviet Union and say “If you don’t give us what we want, we could do what they did — confiscate your wealth, and dump it into the greater economy. The Russians did that, and turned a backwards boyar-ridden land into one of the world’s superpowers inside of two decades.” So long as Venezuela remains unconquered, they represent an example of a lefty nation that is on its way to greatness despite everything its enemies throw at it.

Something you will never see in any major US newspaper, much less on any major US TV newscast.

For more news of this sort, see also this article. Read the rest of this entry →

Steve Stockman and Oklahoma City

7:16 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Stephen Ernest “Steve” Stockman

As the air is filled with more stories of his current antics, I thought a little refresher on Texas congressman Steve Stockman’s history might be in order.

You see, Stockman was a congressman nineteen years ago, too. He’d just been elected to his first term, and was a darling of the far-right Bircher-birthed militia movement, the ancestors of today’s Tea Party twits. Because he was so close to the militia types, he was the congresscritter whose office received a fax on the morning the Murrah Building was blown up in Oklahoma City:

About 45 minutes before the bomb went off on 4/19/95 in front of the Murrah
Building, this idiot’s office got a fax that the sender (who turned out to be one of
the “Michigan Militia” who knew McVeigh) had tried to make look like it came
from a Federal agency, warning of a bomb threat to a Federal building in Oklahoma City.

As the writer goes on to mention, all Federal employees and all congressional staffers are taught that whenever any sort of bomb threat is received, even if you think it’s a joke, it is to be reported, immediately, to Federal Protective Services and the FBI. Stockman’s people threw the fax into the recycling bin.

Eventually, after the bombing, somebody in Stockman’s office finally made the connection, retrieved the fax from the recycling bin, and told the FBI. (But not without passing it along to the National Rifle Association.)

There has been confusion about when the fax was actually sent. Stockman has claimed for years that his office received the fax after the bombing occurred, yet a Christian Science Monitor article written shortly after the blast shows that the issue of timing isn’t that cut-and-dried:

Less than four hours after the bombing, a woman in the Wolverine Productions office who called herself ”Libby,” told the Monitor that she had sent the fax to Rep. Stockman’s office, but that neither she, nor anyone else at Wolverine, had written the note.

Libby, whose full name is Libby ”Malloy,” according to Stockman’s office, explained that the message arrived first on her fax machine. She says she then made a copy of the note, wrote ”Wolverine” on it, and forwarded it on to Stockman.

[...]

According to Rep. Stockman, the fax his office received bore a time stamp of 8:59 Eastern time, suggesting it was sent well before the 10:04 Eastern time bombing.

WHEN asked why the fax she sent Stockman was timed before the bombing, Libby and Mr. Stadtmiller said they had neglected to set their fax machine clock forward an hour for daylight savings time earlier this month.

But on the day of the bombing, when asked to read the time stamp on the fax she received from the unidentified source in Oklahoma city, Libby said it read 8:48 a.m. Central time, 12 minutes before the bomb exploded.

In explanation, Libby said that the person who sent the fax must also have forgotten to change his or her clock. Libby added that she always sends relevant ”intelligence” to Stockman’s staff, whom she considers ”friendly.”

Now, if Libby was telling the truth about the timing, why in the world would she have sent that weird fax to Stockman’s office after the bombing?

On the other hand, it would make a lot more sense if, say, Libby and whoever sent her that fax were starting to feel guilty about a bomb plot they knew was about to be brought to deadly fruition, yet they didn’t want to rat out their fellow travelers in the militia movement, so they came up with this cockamamie plan to try and create a warning that looked like it was issued by a Federal agency and then pass it along to somebody who they figured was sympathetic to the movement yet would feel duty-bound to notify the proper authorities in time to avert the bombing.

(Crossposted from Mercury Rising.)

Alan Grayson: The Congressman with Guts is Now Also the Congressman with Results

9:12 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

While we weren’t looking, Alan Grayson’s quietly becoming in the House what Teddy Kennedy was in the Senate: An expert at creating or amending legislation in a way that advances the cause of good:

The Democratic congressman from Orlando had convinced the Republican-run [House Science] committee to adopt five of his amendments. One would bar “the federal government from awarding contracts to corporations convicted of fraud,” and another would force NASA to “consider American public-private partnership human space flight” before it partnered with foreign space programs. Each was getting him closer to an unheralded title: The congressman who’s passed more amendments than any of his 434 peers.

In the past, whenever any part the mainstream (read: Beltway) US press mentioned Grayson, it usually was to make fun of him as this nasty shouty (and thus ineffectual) liberal who had no clue how to operate in DC. But as the quoted part above of a Slate piece from last July shows, Grayson’s been a very effective member of Congress since his return to that body in 2012.

Here’s another example from that Slate article:

The new strategy is simple. Grayson and his staff scan the bills that come out of the majority. They scan amendments that passed in previous Congresses but died at some point along the way. They resurrect or mold bills that can appeal to the libertarian streak in the GOP, and Grayson lobbies his colleagues personally. That’s how he attached a ban on funding for “unmanned aerial vehicles,” i.e. drones, to the homeland security bill.

He’s used a similar strategy to push through amendments nibbling away at the NSA, among other things. And he still finds time to write pieces like this one, wherein he points to Greece as what the US will look like if the austerity mania isn’t stopped.

We could use more Alan Graysons.

Strange Bedfellows and Double Standards: The War on Glenn Greenwald Takes a Misogynistic Turn

2:01 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Dear Josh Marshall:

When last the world took full note of the man who is now your bestest buddy in your War on Glenn Greenwald, he had just caused The Nation to do this apology:

At TheNation.com we make it a point to practice fearless, bold, timely journalism that raises critical issues ignored by the mainstream press. On very rare occasions that ambition leads to mistakes, and when it does, we’re committed to acknowledging them and setting the record straight. Unfortunately, a recent article by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, “TSAstroturf: The Washington Lobbyists and Koch-Funded Libertarians Behind the TSA Scandal,” was one such moment.

 

As Glenn Greenwald of Salon quickly pointed out (and as other writers echoed), the article wrongly suggested that John Tyner, the libertarian citizen-activist who coined the “don’t touch my junk” protest against the TSA’s security procedures, might be linked to an Astroturf operation. Ames and Levine’s article didn’t directly call Tyner a plant, and they didn’t say that he was funded by the Koch brothers. Nonetheless, their article gave that impression—by placing Tyner in the article’s lead and by using a generally disparaging tone to refer to him. The article also used innuendo to cast doubt on Tyner’s motives, and when Tyner denied any connections to lobbyists and to Koch-funded organizations in an interview, we printed his denial—but we didn’t press hard enough to get clarity on his actions and intentions. We should have stopped and done just that, and if Tyner’s story checked out, we should have removed him from the piece.

Dear Fran Townsend:

Here is the Chicago Reader’s Martha Bayne writing in the year 2000 on the now-shuttered publication run by the guy who is now your bestest buddy in your War on Glenn Greenwald:

Most notably, the Exile nurtures a peculiarly vicious and schizoid attitude toward women. …

It’s not ironic–Ames and Taibbi explicitly scorn the bourgeois safety net of irony–and it’s not just a rhetorical stance. “You’re always trying to force Masha and Sveta under the table to give you blow jobs,” complains their first business manager, an American woman, in chapter six, “The White God Factor.” “It’s not funny. They don’t think it’s funny.” “But…it is funny,” replies Taibbi. They take particular glee in trashing several former female staff members in print, taking multiple potshots at the aforementioned business manager’s “gorilla ass.” They’re equally nasty to her replacement, who quit in disgust after they went on a four-month “brain-sucking speed binge.”

And Ames’s treatment of Russian teenage girls is documented with frightening glee. In the book he recounts one evening with an expat investment banker pal and what he thought were three 16-year-old girls:

“When I went back into the TV room, Andy pulled me aside with a worried grin on his face. ‘Dude do you realize…do you know how old that Natasha is?’ he said.

“‘Sixteen?’

“‘No! No, she’s fif-teen. Fif-teen.’ Right then my pervometer needle hit the red. I had to have her, even if she was homely.”

After they do it, she tells him she has a three-month-old baby.

“It was hard to imagine that Natasha had squatted out a baby,” Ames writes. “Her cunt was as tight as a cat’s ass….I’d slept with mothers before–they’re a lot wider. Sex with them is like probing a straw in a mildew-lined German beer mug.”

Later he learns that she’s lying–she has no baby, but rather is four months pregnant. After she has an abortion, he writes about her in the Exile, suggesting that she be sterilized and awarded “one of those cheap trophy cups with the inscription ‘World’s Greatest Mom.’”

You’re welcome to him.

The Ten Companies with The Lowest US Wages

2:50 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

24/7 Wall Street made a list of the ten US-based companies that pay their US workforces the least — and, for grins, also showed us how much their CEOs are paid. (Of course, defenders of obscenely executive compensation will say that one must look at how much the CEO does for his/her company, whilst ignoring the fact that the CEO isn’t the only one in the company or on the company board to be paid exorbitant compensation.)

Yes, Walmart tops the list. Yes, Target and McDonald’s aren’t that far behind. And no, CostCo isn’t anywhere on this list, because they both pay their workers better wages (the lowest-paid entry-level workers get at least $10 an hour, and usually a bit more than that) while their CEO’s compensation, while still very comfy, is an order of magnitude less exorbitant than that of many other CEOs. But I thought that the #10 company on this list might surprise many:

10. Starbucks
U.S. workforce: 120,000
CEO compensation: $28.9 million
Revenue: $13.3 billion
Net income: $1.4 billion

Howard Schultz is Starbucks’ CEO, and he takes in $28.9 million while the majority of his people, the baristas, average $8.79 an hour. Shift supervisors average $11.02 an hour. But the heck with those tens of thousands of moochers: Randian dictates say you should really pity Schultz’ four poor direct reports, who must scrape by with between $2.4 million and $4.3 million per year.

Make of this what you will.

ALEC, Asbestos, and Lung Disease: The “FACT” Act

9:10 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Last spring, Susan Vento, the wife of the late (and legitimately great) congressman Bruce Vento, alerted me to a particularly awful ALEC bill oozing its way through Congress — the horribly misnamed “Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency” (FACT) Act which is designed to force anyone suing an asbestos dumper to allow their most private information (including parts of their Social Security numbers) on the internet.

Palmer House ALEC Protest

The latest evil from ALEC.

The bill stalled out for a few months (otherwise you would have probably heard about it by now), but unfortunately it’s regained momentum and is set to move through the house as part of “tort reform” week.

How vile is this piece of garbage? Pop Tort has the deets:

The second bill to be voted on, H.R. 982, the so-called “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act” (FACT Act), does two things: 1) it requires asbestos trusts to disclose on a public web site private, confidential information about every asbestos claimant and their families, including their names, addresses, where they work, how much they
make, some medical information, how much they received in compensation and the last four digits of their social security numbers; and 2) it allows any defendant in any asbestos lawsuit the right to demand any information about any asbestos victim from any asbestos trust at any time for any reason.

This was all too much for the New York Times editorial board.  In June, the ed board called the bill “misguided,” saying the bill was “rammed through the House Judiciary Committee” supposedly “to root out fraud and abuse” despite the lack of any “persuasive evidence” of this.  What the bill would do, said the Times, is “make it harder for plaintiffs injured by asbestos to get fair compensation.”

Go to www.cancervictimsrights.org for more information. A petition opposing the FACT Act is here.

Read the rest of this entry →

Right-Wing Terror Is More Common than Any Other Kind in America

8:18 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Timothy McVeigh

Most of us here probably already know this, but it bears repeating: The biggest terror threat in the US is from homegrown right-wing groups and individuals:

In the U.S., 56 percent of terrorist attacks and plots have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, 30 percent by eco-terrorists and 12 percent by Islamic extremists. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported the highest number of extremist hate groups ever recorded in U.S. history, with the sharp rise attributed to massive growths in white supremacist, anti-immigrant and radical anti-government groups. Anti-Muslim hate groups have also increased by 300 percent.

Why is this not something we’re likely to see from any news outlet the average American is likely to encounter on a daily basis? Because the conservatives will do anything to keep this news suppressed:

… Daryl Johnson, a former counterterrorism expert for the government, submitted a study on the rise and danger of right-wing extremists and white supremacists only to be pressured, criticized, repudiated and ultimately sidelined by conservative members of Congress and the Department of Homeland Security.

Fortunately, the right-wingers have not yet managed to silence the persons at the Combating Terrorism Center of West Point. A CTC report issued earlier this year delineates the clear and present danger posed to America by right-wing terrorists.