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Member since: Thu Apr 29, 2010, 02:31 PM
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A Bill to Get the Labor Movement Back on Offense


For years, the American labor movement has been on the defensive as it has become harder and harder for workers to join or maintain a union. But some House Democrats are planning a dramatic counter-offensive: a bill that would make union organizing a civil right.

Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis plan to introduce a bill Wednesday that would make labor organizing a basic freedom no different than freedom from racial discrimination. That sounds like a nice talking point — but this isn’t just another messaging bill. The Ellison-Lewis legislation would amend the National Labor Relations Act to include protections found under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include labor organizing as a fundamental right. That would give workers a broader range of legal options if they feel discriminated against for trying to form a union.

Currently, their only redress is through a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board — an important process, but one that workers and labor analysts frequently criticize as both too slow and often too lenient on offending employers.

If the NLRA were amended, however, after 180 days a worker could take his or her labor complaint from the NLRB to a federal court. This is how the law works now for civil rights complaints, which gives workers the option, after 180 days, to step outside the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission process. Then, workers would have sole discretion on whether to push a complaint, as opposed to relying on a decision by the NLRB on whether to forge ahead. Workers could also move the process along much faster than the NLRB handles complaints, which can often take years.

The New Political Rating System That Shows the Stakes This Year


The New Political Rating System That Shows the Stakes This Year
Elections 2014: Where the Candidates Stand

Any one of five or six campaigns could determine which party wins control of the Senate in November. Yet the race in Iowa is worth an extra dash of attention, not only because it’s been among the most entertaining – full of target practice, hog castration and the Koch brothers – but also because of the ideological distance between the two candidates. It’s even bigger than in many other races.

In Arkansas, Mark Pryor, the incumbent locked in a tough race, is among the Senate’s most conservative Democrats. In New Hampshire, Scott Brown, the challenger, is a well-known moderate among Republicans. Representative Renee Ellmers, left, a Republican from North Carolina’s Second Congressional District, is running for re-election against Clay Aiken. In Iowa, though, neither of the candidates – Bruce Braley, a Democratic House member, and Joni Ernst, a Republican state senator – qualifies as a centrist. Mr. Braley has a populist tinge to his politics, like the senator he’s trying to succeed, Tom Harkin. Ms. Ernst is an Iraq veteran who has questioned the need for a federal minimum wage. Come November, one of them, and only one of them, will have a national platform to advance his or her views.


Until now, it has been nearly impossible to compare the ideological gap in Senate and House campaigns systematically. But an online service making its debut on Tuesday, known as Crowdpac, aims to change that. Using the work of a Stanford political scientist, it gives an ideological score to all candidates, based on their donors and, for those who have held federal office before, their voting history. Other rating systems tend to be based only on votes and, as a result, don’t cover candidates who haven’t been in Congress before.

The Crowdpac database goes back to 1980, allowing for a portrait of American politics over the last generation. It shows, not surprisingly, that moderate candidates in both parties used to win elections more frequently than they do now. Today, elected officials within each party are more similar to one another – and more different from the other side – than in the recent past.

See link for more, including graphic of ratings.

Edited to add missing link.

Holy crap, even my sister is sending me pro-marijuana articles!


Old dope, new tricks: the new science of medical cannabis

Well, an article just published in the prestigious journal JAMA Internal Medicine provocatively suggests that US states with medical cannabis laws have dramatically reduced opioid mortality rates.

So the science is clearly every bit as alive and kicking as the political bluster, but rests on firmer, less emotive grounds. This is what we know: somewhere in that much-incinerated plant lies valuable medicine – perhaps a treatment for cancer or an antidote to obesity.

In fact, cannabis science is one of the fastest moving frontiers in pharmacology and has accelerated by the realisation that we’re all already marinated in cannabis-like molecules (endocannabinoids) and their receptors. Endocannabinoids help regulate many physiological processes: mood, memory, appetite, pain, immune function, metabolism and bone growth to name a few (there are even cannabinoid receptors in sperm).


Even THC is a legitimate target for ongoing medical research, particularly when dosed in forms that give slow and steady blood levels. THC clearly has important therapeutic effects in multiple sclerosis and pain, in stimulating appetite in HIV or cancer patients, and even for anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Many links in the article.

NYT: How to Buy a Mine in Wisconsin


How to Buy a Mine in Wisconsin
Did Gov. Scott Walker Violate Campaign Laws?

Last year, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and the Republican-controlled State Legislature approved the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, a gash in the northern part of the state that could be as long as 21 miles, a half-mile wide and 1,000 feet deep. The mine legislation was bad enough from an environmental point of view: It allows the operator to fill streams with mine waste, eliminates public hearings and reduces the taxes the operator would have to pay.

It turns out to be even more shocking from an ethical viewpoint. Newly released documents show that the mine operator, Gogebic Taconite, secretly gave $700,000 to a political group that was helping the governor win a 2012 recall election. Mr. Walker had urged big corporations to give unlimited amounts, without fear of public disclosure, and many companies that wanted favors from the state happily obliged. Once the recall failed, the favors began to flow, even at the expense of the state’s natural resources.

The group that received the money, along with millions of dollars in other donations, was the Wisconsin Club for Growth, an “independent” conservative spending organization that state prosecutors say was actually controlled by R.J. Johnson, one of Mr. Walker’s closest campaign aides. Mr. Walker and his aides brazenly violated state campaign finance regulations barring coordination between independent groups and candidate campaigns, first by rounding up the money and then by telling the groups how to spend it.

“The governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth,” Kate Doner, a paid fund-raising consultant to the Walker campaign, wrote in a 2011 email to Mr. Johnson. “Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept corporate and personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure.” She added that the governor wanted all the advocacy efforts to be run by one group, the Club for Growth, to “ensure correct messaging.”

Krugman: The Medicare Miracle

One can't do justice to this with only four excerpted paragraphs. Please see the link for the entire article.


But a funny thing has happened: Health spending has slowed sharply, and it’s already well below projections made just a few years ago. The falloff has been especially pronounced in Medicare, which is spending $1,000 less per beneficiary than the Congressional Budget Office projected just four years ago.

First, our supposed fiscal crisis has been postponed, perhaps indefinitely. The federal government is still running deficits, but they’re way down. True, the red ink is still likely to swell again in a few years, if only because more baby boomers will retire and start collecting benefits; but, these days, projections of federal debt as a percentage of G.D.P. show it creeping up rather than soaring. We’ll probably have to raise more revenue eventually, but the long-term fiscal gap now looks much more manageable than the deficit scolds would have you believe.

Second, the slowdown in Medicare helps refute one common explanation of the health-cost slowdown: that it’s mainly the product of a depressed economy, and that spending will surge again once the economy recovers. That could explain low private spending, but Medicare is a government program, and shouldn’t be affected by the recession. In other words, the good news on health costs is for real.

But what accounts for this good news? The third big implication of the Medicare cost miracle is that everything the usual suspects have been saying about fiscal responsibility is wrong.

Rick Perry's College Transcript: A Lot Of Cs And Ds

Another boy genius from Texas. Not news, but worth reposting ...


One reason that might explain his hostility toward the system: He didn't do very well in it. A source in Texas passed The Huffington Post Perry's transcripts from his years at Texas A&M University. The future politician did not distinguish himself much in the classroom. While he later became a student leader, he had to get out of academic probation to do so. He rarely earned anything above a C in his courses -- earning a C in U.S. History, a D in Shakespeare, and a D in the principles of economics. Perry got a C in gym.

Perry also did poorly on classes within his animal science major. In fall semester 1970, he received a D in veterinary anatomy, a F in a second course on organic chemistry and a C in animal breeding. He did get an A in world military systems and “Improv. of Learning” -- his only two As while at A&M.

"A&M wasn't exactly Harvard on the Brazos River," recalled a Perry classmate in an interview with The Huffington Post. "This was not the brightest guy around. We always kind of laughed. He was always kind of a joke."

A spokesperson for the governor recently told the Texas Tribune that the university "helped shape who he is today." The governor’s office did not return a request for comment from The Huffington Post.


Dancing Elephants

(courtesy of Cindy)

Gun Culture and Anti-Government Extremism


Police violence in America differs from that of other wealthy democracies in two important ways. First, police in the US kill exponentially more citizens than they do in other countries. The other salient fact is that exponentially more American police are killed in the line of duty than their colleagues abroad.

According to an analysis of FBI data by USA Today, at least 400 Americans are killed by police every year. But that’s a low-ball figure: “The killings are self-reported by law enforcement and not all police departments participate so the database undercounts the actual number of deaths. Plus, the numbers are not audited after they are submitted to the FBI and the statistics on ‘justifiable’ homicides have conflicted with independent measures of fatalities at the hands of police.”


Police in the US also face a unique challenge — and singular threat — from anti-government extremists. No other police force in a functional democracy has experienced something like the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada in April, where federal agents found themselves outgunned by heavily-armed militias — which included well-trained military veterans — holding the strategic high ground.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center noted last week, a new report from the Department of Homeland Security found that, “after years of sporadic violence from domestic extremists motivated by antigovernment ideologies, there has been ‘a spike within the past year in violence committed by militia extremists and lone offenders who hold violent anti-government beliefs.’” Last month, a survey of 364 officials from 175 law enforcement agencies conducted by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START) found that members of the Sovereign Citizens movement are now considered to be the greatest terrorist threat faced by law enforcement. Third on the list, after Islamic extremists, were members of militia and “patriot” groups.

Wisconsin shows how job incentives are handed out -- in Bizarro world


Via the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison, we learn of the zany way that political officials in that state are handing out job-creation funds. Long story short, they've voted to hand over $6 million in taxpayer cash to a company that's planning to cut its Wisconsin work force in half.

The company is Ashley Furniture, which has had its snout in the taxpayer trough before. But the new grant is more than all those others combined, the Journal says. The $6-million grant, which has been voted by the state Economic Development Corp. but not yet finalized, won't require Ashley to create any new jobs. Instead, it will allow the manufacturer to "lay off half of its current 3,848 Wisconsin-based workers," the newspaper says.

The chairman of the incentive-awarding body is Republican Gov. Scott Walker. A few weeks after the WEDC approved the grant to Ashley, its owners donated $20,000 to Walker's re-election campaign.


That's not what the terms of the deal reportedly say. According to a WEDC memo reviewed by the Journal, the company agrees to retain 70% percent of its work force this year, 60% next year, and 50% percent in 2016-18. The memo also observes that Ashley doesn't provide a lot of high-grade jobs--56% of the workers make less than $10.88 per hour.

Report: Walmart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance


Walmart’s low-wage workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing, according to a report published to coincide with Tax Day, April 15.

Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of 400 national and state-level progressive groups, made this estimate using data from a 2013 study by Democratic Staff of the U.S. Committee on Education and the Workforce. “The study estimated the cost to Wisconsin’s taxpayers of Walmart’s low wages and benefits, which often force workers to rely on various public assistance programs,” reads the report, available in full here.

“It found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year, or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.” Americans for Tax Fairness then took the mid-point of that range ($4,415) and multiplied it by Walmart’s approximately 1.4 million workers to come up with an estimate of the overall taxpayers’ bill for the Bentonville, Ark.-based big box giant’s staffers.

The report provides a state-by-state breakdown of these figures, as well as some context on the other side of the coin: Walmart’s huge share of the nationwide SNAP, or food stamp, market.

And Minnesota is working on a solution to this problem ...,

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