Day: February 21, 2011

GOP won’t vote on union bill without Democrats

This is an unexpected development, and yet a welcomed one. 

Pictured on the right is State Senate President Scott Fitzgerald who made the promise not to force a vote until the state Dems return.

Forbes

The Republican leader of the Wisconsin state Senate says there will be no vote on a bill taking away union rights for government workers until Democrats return.

Fourteen Democrats skipped town on Thursday, delaying indefinitely action on the proposal that has led to protests drawing as many as 68,000 people over the past week. One of those Democrats suggested Monday that Republicans might try to pass the restrictions on collective bargaining as part of another bill on Tuesday.

But Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he will not attempt to pass any portions of the bill without Democrats present. The Senate is meeting Tuesday to take up other measures, such as a resolution commending the Green Bay Packers on winning the Super Bowl.

A handful of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin seemed to hold one of few paths to a compromise that could end a high-stakes stalemate over union rights that has captured the nation’s attention.

Gov. Scott Walker made clear Monday he won’t back off his proposal to effectively eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public employees. Senate Democrats who fled the state last week to delay the plan vowed not to come back to allow it to pass – even if they have to miss votes on other bills Tuesday. And union leaders said they would not let up on protests that have consumed Wisconsin’s capital city for a week and made the state the center of a national debate over the role of public employees’ unions.   More here…

Rumsfeld blasts Obama’s world image

This, from a man who can’t go overseas for fear of being arrested for crimes against humanity? 

Politico

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld disputes the notion that President Barack Obama has made America more popular around the globe than it was under his former boss, President George W. Bush.

Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” by host Candy Crowley whether the U.S. is looked at differently than under his tenure, Rumsfeld replied, “I don’t think there’s data that supports that.””I think [Obama] has made a practice of trying to apologize for America,” Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld also downplayed Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.“He had not accomplished a thing when he got the Nobel Prize. It was given to him on hope,” Rumsfeld said. “He’d been in office 15 minutes.”

Gulf Spill Devastated Marine Life

Everyone in the Gulf region knew this long before this report was released…

BBC News – Science and Environment

Gulf spill’s effects ‘may not be seen for a decade’

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill “devastated” life on and near the seafloor, a marine scientist has said.

Studies using a submersible found a layer, as much as 10cm thick in places, of dead animals and oil, said Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia.

Knocking these animals out of the food chain will, in time, affect species relevant to fisheries.

She disputed an assessment by BP’s compensation fund that the Gulf of Mexico will recover by the end of 2012.

Millions of barrels of oil spewed into the sea after a BP deepwater well ruptured in April 2010.

Professor Joye told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington that it may be a decade before the full effects on the Gulf are apparent.

She said they concluded the layers had been deposited between June and September 2010 after it was discovered that no sign of sealife from samples taken in May remained.

Professor Joye and her colleagues used the Alvin submersible to explore the bottom-most layer of the water around the well head, known as the benthos.

“The impact on the benthos was devastating,” she told BBC News.

“Filter-feeding organisms, invertebrate worms, corals, sea fans – all of those were substantially impacted - and by impacted, I mean essentially killed.

“Another critical point is that detrital feeders like sea cucumbers, brittle stars that wander around the bottom, I didn’t see a living (sea cucumber) around on any of the wellhead dives. They’re typically everywhere, and we saw none.”

Organisms on the seafloor stimulate the activity of micro-organisms and oxygenate the sediments, two tasks at the bottom of the aquatic food chain that will inevitably have longer-term effects on species nearer the surface – including the ones we eat.

Professor Joye noted that after the Exxon Valdez spill, it took several years before it became clear that the herring industry had been destroyed.

As such, she disagrees with the assessment in February, by the administrator of BP’s $20bn (£12bn) compensation fund, that the Gulf of Mexico will have recovered from the spill by the end of 2012.

“The Gulf is resilient,” she said.

“I do believe that it will recover from this insult, but I don’t think it’s going to recover fully by 2012.

“I think it’s going to be 2012 before we begin to really see the fisheries implications and repercussions from this.” 

What’s Happening in Wisconsin Explained

Now that the public service workers have conceded to two of the three demands Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker presented for their State Budget, the only thing left on the table is taking away “collective bargaining” for the unions.   Scott said this was all about saving money for the state.  Yet, if he refuses to omit the collective bargaining issue then it is obvious even to a non observer that Scott simply wants to dismantle the Unions in Wisconsin.

Mother Jones

If you need to know the basics of what’s going on in Wisconsin, read on. If you’re already up to speed, you can follow the action on Twitter or jump straight to today’s updates from our reporter on the ground in Madison.

With additional reporting by Nick Baumann and Siddhartha Mahanta

The basics:

For days, demonstrators have been pouring into the streets of Madison, Wisconsin—and the halls of the state’s Capitol building—to protest rookie Republican Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union proposals. Big national unions, both major political parties, the Tea Party, and Andrew Breitbart are already involved. Democratic state senators have fled the state to prevent the legislature from voting on Walker’s proposals. And the protests could soon spread to other states, including Ohio.

Is this like Egypt?

No.

What’s actually being proposed?

Walker says his legislation, which would strip most state employees of any meaningful collective bargaining rights, is necessary to close the state’s $137 million budget gap. There are a number of problems with that argument, though. The unions are not to blame for the deficit, and stripping unionized workers of their collective bargaining rights won’t in and of itself save any money. Walker says he needs to strip the unions of their rights to close the gap. But public safety officers’ unions, which have members who are more likely to support Republicans and who also tend to have the highest salaries and benefits, are exempted from the new rules. Meanwhile, a series of tax breaks and other goodies that Walker and the Republican legislature passed just after his inauguration dramatically increased the deficit that Walker now says he’s trying to close. And Wisconsin has closed a much larger budget gap in the past without scrapping worker organizing rights.

What’s really going on, as Kevin Drum has explained, is pure partisan warfare: Walker is trying to de-fund the unions that form the backbone of the Democratic party. The unions and the Democrats are, of course, fighting back. The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein drops some knowledge [emphasis added]:

The best way to understand Walker’s proposal is as a multi-part attack on the state’s labor unions. In part one, their ability to bargain benefits for their members is reduced. In part two, their ability to collect dues, and thus spend money organizing members or lobbying the legislature, is undercut. And in part three, workers have to vote the union back into existence every single year. Put it all together and it looks like this: Wisconsin’s unions can’t deliver value to their members, they’re deprived of the resources to change the rules so they can start delivering value to their members again, and because of that, their members eventually give in to employer pressure and shut the union down in one of the annual certification elections.

You may think Walker’s proposal is a good idea or a bad idea. But that’s what it does. And it’s telling that he’s exempting the unions that supported him and is trying to obscure his plan’s specifics behind misleading language about what unions can still bargain for and misleading rhetoric about the state’s budget.

Walker’s proposals do have important fiscal elements: they roughly double health care premiums for many state employees. But the heart of the proposals, and the controversy, are the provisions that will effectively destroy public-sector unions in the Badger State. As Matt Yglesias notes, this won’t destroy the Democratic party. But it will force the party to seek funding from sources other than unions, and that usually means the same rich businessmen who are the main financial backers for the Republican party. Speaking of which….

Who is Scott Walker? 

Walker was elected governor in the GOP landslide of 2010, when Republicans also gained control of the Wisconsin state senate and house of representatives. His political career has been bankrolled by Charles and David Koch, the very rich, very conservative, and very anti-union oil-and-gas magnates. Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. They’ve used their vast fortunes to fight key Obama initiatives on health care and the environment, while writing fat checks to Republican candidates across the country. Walker’s take for the 2010 election: $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC, his second highest intake from any one donor. But that’s not all!:

The Koch’s PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used political maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points. The Koch money, no doubt, helped greatly.

More on this article…

 

Progressive America vs. The GOP’s Version of Corporate America

Since the unrest in Madison Wisconsin, many progressives have had a chance to really evaluate what’s at stake if the corporate shills, namely the GOP and the Tea Party win the battle in Madison.   

In all honesty I’m concerned that the corporate interests backing Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP and Tea Party Governors across the country may just win this fight based on the enormous amount of power that those guys wield.  After all, they’ve even got some members from the Supreme Court of The United States doing their bidding. 

As we all know by now, the agenda of the modern day republican party and in particular the tea party and billionaires like Koch Industries who support it…is to roll back FDR New Deal… so that basically we have a country that is run by very wealthy people, essentially eradicating labor laws, minimum wage increases and social security.  They want to roll back regulation of banks, SEC, etc.

I often refer back to The Rational Radical i.e.,  Jack Clark who has placed the following on the front page of his website:

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

THE JACK CLARK COROLLARY

Everything the right-wing does is designed to accomplish one of two things, either:

(a) transfer wealth from everyone else to the rich,  or   (b) distract everyone else from the fact that (a) is occurring.

There’s no doubt in my mind that as much as we get pissed off with President Obama, the alternate is exponentially worse

In 2012 we must increase our majority in the Senate and win back the independents who left us in 2010.  It is essential that Barack Obama be re-elected to finish the remarkable job (for the most part) that he has done.

More importantly we need a Democratic Majority and Presidency to…

1. Maintain the Constitutionally Proper Role of Government
2.  Establish a Supreme Court Majority
3. Maintain Right To Choose
4. Taxes to Maintain our Infrastructure
5. Minimum Wage
6. Maintain Unions
7. Continue Expanding Health Care
8. Safeguarding Our Food, Water & Air
9. Presidential Vetoes
10. War and Peace

The GOP want to dismantle the above agenda.  As a country, as a democracy, we cannot allow that to happen.

Say what you will about Barack Obama.  Think what you will about him.  Just know that if we don’t stand behind him and his agenda, the alternative is a nightmare.  The alternative will be what we are witnessing in Madison, WI. on a national level.