Daily Archive: 11/29/2012

Nov 29 2012

The Ghost of Kirk Cameron

What?  He’s not dead yet?

Two and a Half Men star urges viewers to stop watching sitcom’s ‘filth’

Rory Carroll, The Guardian

Monday 26 November 2012 16.14 EST

The 19-year-old actor, who reportedly earns $350,000 per show, making him the highest paid teenager in US television, made the pleas after embracing the Forerunner Chronicles, an Alabama-based Christian group which warns about evil in entertainment.



Whereas other child actors tend to grow up to find alcohol and drugs, Jones said he found God after meeting Christopher Hudson, a preacher known as Forerunner who makes YouTube videos warning about evil influences in Hollywood and government.

Jones said he felt awed by Hudson. “I’m like, ‘Dang, man of God, Forerunner, right here. I can touch him, I can give him a hug…’ Like, seriously. God is great. It’s just, like, one of those those things.”

It may surprise you to learn that I agree 110%.  Ashton Kutcher is NOT funny and never has been, Jon Cryer has only ever been funny once.

Nov 29 2012

CEO’s Have “A Pension Deficit Disorder”

A group of CEO’s from major US corporations have been lobbying Capitol Hill to put cuts to the social safety net at the forefront of negotiations to “fix the debt’ at the same time asking for more tax breaks while they reap the benefits of billions in government contracts and hand themselves lucrative pay raises and pensions while they bankrupt companies and underfund their employee pension funds.

From the Huffington Post

A group of high-profile corporate CEOs are lobbying Capitol Hill this week to put Social Security and Medicare cuts at the forefront of deficit reduction negotiations. Their own retirement funds, however, are secure: The coalition includes 54 CEOs who have amassed combined pension assets of more than $649 million from their companies’ executive retirement plans, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, titled “A Pension Deficit Disorder: The Massive CEO Retirement Funds and Underfunded Worker Pensions at Firms Pushing Social Security Cuts.”

The CEOs’ employees are much less secure in their retirement than the CEOs. According to the report, less than 60 percent of the 71 public companies offer pension plans for their employees. Of the 41 companies that do, 39 of them haven’t contributed enough to their workers’ pension funds to enable the plans to pay out their anticipated obligations. Among the companies with employee pension funds in the red, these deficits exceed $100 billion.

The CEOs are among 71 chief executives of publicly traded companies who belong to the Fiscal Leadership Council of the influential Campaign to Fix the Debt, a group which has raised more than $60 million to lobby for a debt deal driven by cuts to “entitlements.” The coalition will meet Wednesday morning with congressional leaders, according to sources familiar with the group’s lobbying activities. The group, funded in part by former private equity magnate Peter G. Peterson’s foundation, has pledged to push for austerity during the lame duck congressional session, and beyond. Peterson has spent nearly half a billion dollars in recent years pushing his austerity agenda.

As the debate heats up over whether to cut Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid in order to maintain federal spending and corporate tax breaks, companies with well-compensated CEOs who preside over underfunded employee pension funds invite a new round of questions about the motives, and methods, of the CEOs pressuring Congress and the White House to cut programs for the middle class.

As Talks Begin on “Fiscal Cliff,” Report Warns “Fix the Debt” a Front for More Corporate Bailouts

As the White House begins a series of meetings today on the looming “fiscal cliff,” a coalition of the largest corporate firms and advocacy groups is lobbying for wide-ranging cuts in government spending, including to programs like Medicare and Social Security. The group, which includes 80 of the country’s most powerful CEOs, is called the Campaign to Fix the Debt. It was co-founded by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, previously the co-chairs of President Obama’s bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Critics have accused the group of using the budget crisis to push for corporate tax cuts. We are joined by Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the new report, “The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks.

The middle class, elderly, students and the poor have paid more than their “fare share” in this economic downturn while Wall St. and these megacorporations have continued to rake in billions. Social security, medicare and medicaid should be removed from any talks about the “fiscal cliff” myth. Lambert Strether at Corrente enumerated it best.

   Not one penny of cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or any other social insurance program, and any savings to be paid out as benefits.

The Democrats are defending programs. But they should be defending households. Here are some of the social insurance programs that are on the table, even if Social Security, Medicare, and Medcaid turn out to be off the table:

   Unemployment benefits extension in 2013 ($40 billion): If long-term unemployment benefits are allowed to expire at the end of the year, some 2 million jobless will be affected. Kogan says “there will be some extension, because that’s just brutal. It’s just a question of how much.”

   Pell Grants ($36 billion) (pdf): These need-based grants help some 10 million low-income students afford college.

   Section 8 Housing Assistance ($19 billion): Section 8 vouchers allow more than 2 million super low-income families to afford decent housing in the private market.

   Job Training ($18 billion in 2009): Loads of federal job training programs help millions of seniors, Native Americans, farm workers, veterans, young people, and displaced or laid-off workers with career development.

   Head Start ($7.9 billion):  The program, which helps kids from disadvantaged homes be better prepared to start school, had about a million enrollees in 2010. Research has shown that Head Start generates real long-term benefits for participants.

   Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program ($3.47 billion): In 2011, about 23 million poor folks got help paying the winter heating bills through LIHEAP.

   Community Health Centers ($3.1 billion (pdf): In 2011, more than 20 million patients, 72 percent of whom were below the poverty line, got healthcare through federally-supported community health centers.

   Title 1 Education Grants ($322 million) (pdf): Under the No Child Left Behind Act, school districts serving a big percentage of low-income kids get financial assistance to help them meet state academic standards.

   Women, Infants, and Children ($7.2 million in 2011): The Department of Agriculture’s WIC program helps low-income moms and babies get access to supplemental nutrition and health care referrals. WIC has about 9 million participants, most of whom are kids.

Not one penny should be cut from of any of these programs. Go scuttle an aircraft carrier or something. Stop one of the wars. Whatever, dude. You’re the Preznit.

Know your president by the friends he keeps.

h/t Suzie Madrak at Crooks and Liars

Nov 29 2012

A Step in the Right Direction: Ending Indefinite Detention for US Citizens

Shortly after President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act on December 21, 2011 a group of journalists and activist joined Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges in a lawsuit against the Obama administration asserting that the law violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In September U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest had blocked the disputed statute from the National Defense Authorization Act, essentially declaring it unconstitutional. That ruling was overturned in October by a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is worth noting that all of those judges were appointed by Barack Obama.

But who would have thought that Hedges and company would have an ally  in Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who along with several other senators from both sides of the aisle, filed an amendment to the current military spending bill that would bar detentions of citizens and green card-holders:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who helped write that amendment, declared Wednesday that it is not good enough, and recalled seeing Japanese Americans jailed in horse stalls at a racetrack when she was a girl.

“I believe that the time has come now to end this legal ambiguity, and state clearly, once and for all, that the AUMF or other authorities do not authorize such indefinite detention of Americans apprehended in the U.S.,” Feinstein said.

“The federal government experimented with indefinite detention of U.S. citizens during World War II, a mistake we now recognize as a betrayal of our core values,” she said. “Let’s not repeat it.” [..]

Paul, who adheres to many libertarian positions, noted that the federal government’s “fusion centers” — which are supposed to facilitate the flow of anti-terrorism information — already make recommendations that many people would find objectionable, and if carried to their logical conclusions, could provide basis for jailing just about anyone.

Paul pointed to a report from a center in Missouri: “From this fusion center comes a document that says beware of people who have bumper stickers supporting third party candidates,” Paul said. “Beware of people who believe in stricter immigration laws. Beware of people who support the right to life. They might be terrorists.

“This is an official document,” paul added. “Do we want to give up the right to trial by jury when we’re being told that somebody who keeps food in their basement might be a terrorist?”

The problem that many opponents of the indefinite detention provisions see with it is that it is especially vague, saying only that the military can grab anyone who provides “substantial support” to Al Qaeda or “associated forces.” Those terms are not defined by the law, which is being challenged in the federal courts.

Although President Obama signed the bill he had promised that he would never use it who is to say that he won’t change his mind or another president will use it to silence dissent. Considering the number of promises this president has already broken and his close friendship with Cass Sunstein, who would love nothing more that to criminalize decent, the senate needs to approve this amendment to protect the our constitutional rights.

Nov 29 2012

SCOTUS: Bad Cops Lose

The latest efforts by state authorities to protect the police who abuse their authority has been dealt a blow by the US Supreme Court. From the Chicago Tribune:

The Supreme Court refused on Monday to revive a controversial Illinois law that prohibited audio recordings of police officers acting in public places, a ban that critics said violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Without comment, the court on Monday let stand a May 8 ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that blocked enforcement of the law, which had made it a felony to record audio of conversations unless all parties consented.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 7th Circuit called the law “the broadest of its kind,” and said it likely violated the free speech and free press guarantees in the First Amendment.

MSNBC The Last Word host, Lawrence O’Donnell, commented on the importance of this ruling during his Rewrite” segment:

“After the Rodney King beating, Chicago police decided to use an old anti-eavesdropping law to protect themselves-a law which basically made it a felony to record a conversation unless all parties agree to be recorded,” said O’Donnell, giving part of the back-story. “That, in effect, meant you couldn’t shoot video of Chicago police because, of course, video recording normally includes sound.” [..]

“The good police officers in this country, which is to say most of the police officers in this country, have no problem with the Supreme Court’s decision this week,” said O’Donnell. “Thanks to federal judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, some Chicago cops-the bad ones-have something new to fear, tonight: your video camera.”

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley also commented about the Court’s decision and had some very harsh criticism of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez:

As a native Chicagoan, I remain astonished that citizens have allowed Alvarez to remain in office as she has publicly sought to strip them of their rights and block a tool that has been used repeatedly to show police abuse. For a leading and generally liberal jurisdiction, Chicago has the ignominy and dishonor of leading the effort to fight core civil liberties in this area. [..]

It is otherworldly to see these abuses occurring in two usually progressive jurisdictions of California and Illinois. Alvarez has become the leader of this rogue’s gallery of prosecutors who have strived to jail their own citizens for monitoring police in public. It is, to put it bluntly, a disgrace. While Alvarez failed in her latest bid, she and other prosecutors remain undeterred in their desire to see citizens punished for such videotapes – tapes that have featured prominently in establishing false arrests and police abuse. Before such filming, abuse claims were overwhelmingly rejected with the denials of the officers. Now, there is often undeniable proof – proof that Alvarez and others want barred under the threat of criminal prosecution.

Prof. Turley also points out that the trend to protect bad police is not over:

We have been discussing the continued effort of prosecutors and police to jail citizens who photograph or videotape police in public. For a prior column, click here. Now, in California, another such arrest has been videotaped in California as Daniel J. Saulmon was charged with resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer when the video shows him standing at a distance and not interfering in any way with the arrest.

The officer immediately demanded to know what Saulmon is doing when it is obvious, as Saulmon indicates, that he is filming the scene. Saulmon states that he does not want to speak to the officer when asked for his identification and the officer immediately puts him under arrest. Ironically, the officer then tells him that he doesn’t need any identification since that will be handled at the booking. [..]

Saulmon reportedly spent days in jail. Such jailings serve as a deterrent for abusive police officers since few citizens want to face such incarceration as well as the cost of defending against criminal charges. Even when later thrown out (which often happen to such charges), the message is sent and the officers are rarely disciplined. I have little doubt that this case will be thrown out. The question is whether people in California will demand action to discipline the officer, who swore to charges that are clearly invalid and abusive.

And these cases from Maryland and Massachusetts

In Maryland in July, Anthony Graber got a well-deserved speeding ticket, but his real mistake was posting footage from his motorcycle helmet-cam on YouTube. It showed an irate off-duty, out-of-uniform officer pulling him over with his gun drawn. Prosecutors obtained a grand jury indictment against Graber on felony wiretap charges, which carry a 16-year prison sentence.

In Boston in August, the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unambiguously that the Constitution protects citizen videographers filming in public. In that case, attorney Simon Glik was walking past the Boston Common on Oct. 1, 2007, when he came upon three Boston officers arresting a man. Glik turned on his cellphone camera after hearing a witness say the police were being abusive. An officer told Glik to turn off his camera. When Glik refused, he was arrested for violation of the state wiretap statute, disturbing the peace and, for good measure, aiding in the escape of a prisoner.

The charges were dismissed after a public outcry, but in a later civil rights case, city attorneys fought to deny citizens the right to videotape police. The court rejected Boston’s arguments and found that the police had denied Glik his 1st and 4th Amendment rights.

Score one for the 1st and 4th Amendments.

Nov 29 2012

Taking It To The Streets

In Drive to Unionize, Fast-Food Workers Walk Off the Job

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times

Published: November 28, 2012

Fast-food workers at several restaurants in New York walked off the job on Thursday, firing the first salvo in what workplace experts say is the biggest effort to unionize fast-food workers ever undertaken in the United States. The effort – backed by community and civil rights groups, religious leaders and a labor union – has engaged 40 full-time organizers in recent months to enlist workers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants across the city.



Over the decades there have been occasional efforts to unionize a fast-food restaurant here or there, but labor experts say there has never before been an effort to unionize dozens of such restaurants. The new campaign aims in part to raise low-end wages and reduce income inequality, and is also an uphill battle to win union recognition.

Ruth Milkman, a sociology professor at the City University of New York, said there had been so few efforts to unionize fast-food workers because it was such a daunting challenge.

“These jobs have extremely high turnover, so by the time you get around to organizing folks, they’re not on the job anymore,” she said. Nonetheless, she said the new effort might gain traction because it is taking place in New York, a city with deep union roots where many workers are sympathetic to unions.



Richard W. Hurd, a labor relations professor at Cornell, said the organizations backing the fast-food campaign seemed intent on finding pressure points to push the restaurants to improve wages and benefits.

“But it’s going to be a lot harder for them to win union recognition,” he said. “It will be harder to unionize them than carwash workers because the parent companies will fight hard against it, because they worry if you unionize fast-food outlets in New York, that’s going to have a lot of ramifications elsewhere.”

Nov 29 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Let the Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy Expire Already

Right now, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the end of this year. That means the only way that Republicans can extend tax breaks for the wealthy and cut vital programs is if Democrats let them.

Sadly, virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are too willing to do deficit reduction in a way that hurts those who are already hurting.

Don’t let them win. The Bush tax cuts must be allowed to expire.

I look forward to working with President Obama and all members of Congress to do deficit reduction in a way that finally asks the wealthiest people in our country to pay their fair share, and that recognizes the needs of working families.

Gail Collins: Happy Talking

We’re currently having a big debate about the Senate filibuster. It is possible you hadn’t heard, what with the onset of the holiday season, the fiscal cliff and several unexpected plot turns on “Homeland” to worry about. There’s just so much a person can handle.

In Washington, it’s all people talk about. O.K., not all. But there’s a lot of rancor. John Cornyn, the new Senate minority whip, predicted to Politico that if Democrats went forward with their plans to change the filibuster rules, “It will shut down the Senate.” [..]

Here’s the basic deal: There are, at minimum, six points in the life of any fledgling bill when the minority party can file filibuster paperwork that will stop all progress unless the majority can round up 60 votes. The Democrats want to eliminate a few. Also, they’d like to replicate the “Mr. Smith” rules. No more procedural shortcuts. As Senator Richard Durbin put it, “you want to stop the business of the Senate, by goodness’ sake, park your fanny on the floor of the Senate and speak.”

This would be very hard on the minority. Although everybody in the Senate likes to talk, very few actually like to hang around the Senate itself.

Robert Reich: Will Timothy Geithner Lead Us Over or Around the Fiscal Cliff?

I’m trying to remain optimistic that the President and congressional Democrats will hold their ground over the next month as we approach the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

But leading those negotiations for the White House is outgoing Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner, whom Monday’s Wall Street Journal described as a “pragmatic deal maker” because of “his long relationship with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, for whom balancing the budget was a priority over other Democratic touchstones.” [..]

If “pragmatic deal maker,” as the Journal describes Geithner, means someone who believes any deal with Republicans is better than no deal, and deficit reduction is more important than job creation, we could be in for a difficult December.

Jon Nichols: Don’t Eliminate the Filibuster, Restore It

Historically, the filibuster existed as a protection against the silencing of the minority. Under the rules of the Senate, a member or group of members who did not have the votes to prevent approval of a piece of legislation could demand to be heard in opposition. Ideally, the traditional theory went, this avenue of dissent could prevent a rush to judgment.

But, in recent years, the filibuster has not been used to raise voices of dissent. Instead, it has been used to block votes on critical pieces of legislation, to make it harder for the president to advance even the most popular proposals and to undermine the basic premises of the principle of advice and consent.

What to do? Bring back the filibuster as it has historically been understood.

Amy Goodman: Our Climate Future and the Doha Summit

The annual United Nations climate summit has convened, this year in Doha, the capital of the oil-rich emirate of Qatar, on the Arabian Peninsula. Dubbed “COP 18,” an army of bureaucrats, business people and environmentalists are gathered ostensibly to limit global greenhouse-gas emissions to a level that scientists say will contain the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.8 degrees Fahrenheit), and perhaps stave off global climate catastrophe. If past meetings are any indication, national self-interest on the part of the world’s largest polluters, paramount among them the United States, will trump global consensus.

“We want our children to live in an America … that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,” President Barack Obama proclaimed in his victory speech on Nov. 6 this year, just over a week after Superstorm Sandy devastated New York City and much of New Jersey, killing more than 100 people. These are fine aspirations. The problem is, action is needed now to avert the very scenario that President Obama has said he wants to avoid. The United States, which remains the greatest polluter in world history, stands as one of the biggest impediments to a rational global program to stem global warming.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal Is Wall Street’s Latest Scam

It’s like a Woodstock for plutocrats, or an Avengers for the avaricious: The CEOs of America’s largest corporations have banded together to lecture us on the importance of debt reduction. And despite their lack of qualifications and their very obvious self-interest, the media can’t get enough of them.

Why? They’re not experts in economic policy. Quite the opposite, in fact. Many of them got where they are by persuading people to buy overpriced crap that’s bad for them. So a better way to look at this seemingly endless PR campaign would be to say: There they go again.

And yet their cynical campaign continues to capture national venues like 60 Minutes and conduct local blitzes in areas like Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Reporters are even hounding Warren Buffett — a CEO with much deeper economic knowledge — with the words of a less-informed and more self-interested colleague.

Think of it as Wall Street’s latest scam. If you liked toxic investments and the 2008 financial crisis, you’ll love their deficit deal.

Nov 29 2012

On This Day In History November 29

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 29 is the 333rd day of the year (334th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 32 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1963, one week after President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, President Lyndon Johnson establishes a special commission, headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, to investigate the assassination.

After 10 months of gathering evidence and questioning witnesses in public hearings, the Warren Commission report was released, concluding that there was no conspiracy, either domestic or international, in the assassination and that Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, acted alone. The presidential commission also found that Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner who murdered Oswald on live national television, had no prior contact with Oswald.

According to the report, the bullets that killed President Kennedy and injured Texas Governor John Connally were fired by Oswald in three shots from a rifle pointed out of a sixth-floor window in the Texas School Book Depository. Oswald’s life, including his visit to the Soviet Union, was described in detail, but the report made no attempt to analyze his motives.