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Member since: Thu Apr 29, 2010, 02:31 PM
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I live in a pretty rural area, and have very limited internet choices. Why is that?


MAILING IT IN: Senator RoJo and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Post Office

UppityWisconsin takes on the Very Serious Republican (VSR) plan to destroy the USPS.


Now, how have the VSRs sought to pry the post office from the grasp of the tens of millions of us who rely upon it almost daily? The Republican brain trust (I'm being ironic: it's neither brainy nor trustworthy) came up with a brilliant, if unorthodox scheme: Force the post office within a decade to pre-fund $55 billion – 75 years' worth – of retired-employee health benefits, a demand made of no other institution in America. Any business that thought this was an affordable necessity within its own shop would soon be out of business. But it's not too excessive a mandate to force upon a government service. Not at all. Just like that, the postal service – which up until the VSRs passed that law in 2006 was running a profit – began running deficits. Then, the VSRs demanded that the post office stop asking for federal aid to balance its suddenly out-of-balance budgets, even though the post office has been making pretty good progress overall in digesting the VSR retirement “poison pill.” In fact, the postal service is nearly $8 billion ahead of schedule in making those payments, and is now asking Congress to let it take back enough to meet this year's $5.5 billion deficit.

But allowing that would ruin the VSRs' excellent scheme. And just to make sure it doesn't happen, the VSRs have appointed one of their most dubious members in Congress to oversee the process: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Ron Johnson), yet another Wisconsin embarrassment. In January, when the new GOP-controlled Senate takes hold, Johnson is slated to become chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the US Postal Service and all other federal employees – who, by the way, have been suffering through years of little or zero pay increases.

Not only is RoJo extremely unlikely to back the postal service's request to spend its earnings more sensibly, like other businesses are free to do, he's indicated he's interested in undertaking additional destructive moves against America's most venerable public institution. Johnson has been quoted as saying the Postal Service should go through bankruptcy – you know, like the City of Detroit. That process would when completed produce a much smaller, private postal corporation that would no longer be an enterprise agency within government. Because, as every VSR knows, while government should run like a business, it shouldn't try to run a business. And cost-effectively delivering the mail to every resident of the USA is, according to Republicans, a mere business, not a fundamental mission of good government. But try sending the equivalent of a First Class letter anywhere in the country via UPS or FedEx for less than half a buck, and see how far it gets.

As in Detroit, this RoJo-inspired bankruptcy proceeding could allow a new, totally private postal operation to get rid of nettlesome contracts with suppliers and also all of its newly privatized employees. And that could include huge grab-backs of promises made to those employees in collective bargaining agreements – just as happened in Detroit. Stuff like, oh, you know, pensions and health care benefits. In the Republican scheme of things, management's bosses giveth, and they taketh away, and at their total whim, because “union bosses” are, well, just too bossy.

R&D Cost Estimates: MSF Response to Tufts CSDD Study on Cost to Develop a New Drug


“The pharmaceutical industry-supported Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development claims it costs US$2.56 billion to develop a new drug today; but if you believe that, you probably also believe the earth is flat.

“GlaxoSmithKline’s CEO Andrew Witty himself says the figure of a billion dollars to develop a drug is a myth; this is used by the industry to justify exorbitant prices. We need to ask ourselves, if the CEO of a top pharmaceutical company says it’s a myth that it costs a billion dollars to develop a drug, can we really take this new figure 2.56 billion seriously?

“We know from past studies and the experience of non-profit drug developers that a new drug can be developed for just a fraction of the cost the Tufts report suggests. The cost of developing products is variable, but experience shows that new drugs can be developed for as little as $50 million, or up to $186 million if you take failure into account, which the pharmaceutical industry certainly does—these figures are nowhere near what the industry claims is the cost.

“Today nearly half of R&D spending is paid for by the taxpayer or by philanthropy, and that figure continues to rise as governments do more and more to make up for the pharmaceutical industry’s R&D shortcomings. Not only do taxpayers pay for a very large percentage of industry R&D, they are in fact paying twice because they then get hit with high prices for the drugs themselves.

The Value of Whiteness


In a recent encounter between Fox's Bill O'Reilly and Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, the two men discussed "white privilege." O'Reilly maintained that his accomplishments had nothing to do with race and everything to do with hard work. Stewart pointed out that O'Reilly had grown up in Levittown, New York, a planned community to which the federal and local governments transferred tremendous mortgage subsidies and other public benefits—while barring black people from living there—in the post–World War II period. O'Reilly thereby reaped the benefits of a massive, racially exclusive government wealth transfer. As legal scholar Cheryl Harris observed in a 1993 Harvard Law Review article, "the law has established and protected an actual property interest in whiteness"—its value dependent on the full faith and credit placed in it, ephemeral but with material consequences.

A recent lawsuit brought by Jennifer Cramblett pursues the stolen property of whiteness in unusually literal terms. Cramblett is suing an Ohio sperm bank for mistakenly inseminating her with the sperm of an African-American donor, "a fact that she said has made it difficult for her and her same-sex partner to raise their now 2-year-old daughter [Payton] in an all-white community," according to the Chicago Tribune. Cramblett is suing for breach of warranty and negligence in mishandling the vials of sperm with which she was inseminated, as well as emotional and economic loss as a result of "wrongful birth," which deprived her of the whiteness she thought she was purchasing. The story was hot news for about twenty-four hours and included an interview with Cramblett on NBC. "We love her," she said of Payton. "She's made us the people that we are." Cramblett then burst into tears. "But," she continued through clenched teeth, "I'm not going to sit back and let this ever happen to anyone ever again."

That disjunctive, the "but" clause of her despair, was reiterated throughout Cramblett's court papers. Despite being "beautiful," Payton was "obviously mixed-race." While Cramblett purportedly bonded "easily" with the little girl, she "lives each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty." Her community is "racially intolerant," plus Cramblett suffers from "limited cultural competency relative to African Americans," having never even met one till she got to college. Then there's Cramblett's "all white" family, who can barely stand that she is gay…and dear lord, now this? While Cramblett felt "compelled to repress" her sexual identity among family members, "Payton's differences are irrepressible," the lawsuit states. "Jennifer's stress and anxiety intensify when she envisions Payton entering an all-white school."

But the infant Payton did not make Cramblett and her partner "who we are." They lived a confined and reprehensibly oppressive life before she was born, and it was only because of her birth that they were forced to confront it. The real question is why or how they could have been happy with their lives before.

Muslim, Christian, Jewish Leaders Unite At Saudi Conference To Condemn Islamic State


VIENNA, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Senior Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders condemned violence by jihadi militants such as Islamic State (IS) at a Saudi-backed conference on Wednesday in a rare display of inter-faith unity aimed at promoting tolerance and diversity.

Islamic State has caused international alarm by capturing large expanses of Iraq and Syria, declaring a Sunni "caliphate" straddling their borders and massacring those they deem apostates and infidel, like Shi'ite Muslims and Christians.

"Some organizations that are affiliated with Islam are perpetrating some actions in the name of jihad. This is not Islam at all," said Abdullah bin Abdulmuhsen Al Turki, secretary-general of the Muslim World League.

"This is why we wish to deplore and strongly condemn this behavior, which we see as against Islam," he told an audience including the Muslim grand muftis of Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan; top representatives of several churches, Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, and diplomats.

Seems the Saudi's are playing on both sides of the fence ....



The Program Big Oil's PR Firm Uses to 'Convert Average Citizens'


Astroturfing is the increasingly popular tactic wherein corporations sponsor front groups or manufacture the appearance of grassroots support to simulate a genuine social movement that is rallying for goals in line with their profit motive. In the past, astroturf efforts have used paid actors, company employees, and media-heavy websites. But the program Edelman pitches in its own reports goes even deeper.

The new papers detail an in-depth proposal—part sales pitch, part action plan—put together by Edelman's Calgary office, suggesting that TransCanada combat environmental groups by mounting one such manufactured “grassroots advocacy” campaign. Those environmentalists are ​currently organizing to oppose the Energy East pipeline, which TransCanada hopes will be an alternative to the long-delayed Keystone XL, on the grounds that it will disastrously boost carbon emissions and increase the likelihood of a major oil spill.

Edelman's plan is specifically designed to “[a]dd layers of difficulty for our opponents, distracting them from their mission and causing them to redirect their resources," according to the documents. It stresses developing “supportive third parties, who can in turn put the pressure on, especially when TransCanada can't.” In other words, the goal would be to attack environmentalists head on with supporters recruited by, but not necessarily directly affiliated with, Edelman and TransCanada.

In one document titled "Digital Grassroots Advocacy Implementation Plan" and dated May 20th, 2014, Edelman explain that its "Grassroots Mobilization Program”—an astroturfing campaign by any other name—should begin with an “action center website." The document also suggests using a “technologically distinct subdomain” like action.energyeastpipeline.com. Come November, that very site is live, and it is run by TransCanada.

My favorite Episcopalian Minister just sent me this.

Top ten signs you're a fundamental Christian.

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian

Fat on Restaurant Cash, Democratic Lawmakers Float Minimum Wage Preemption in IL


Democratic state legislators in Illinois are mulling an effort to thwart Chicago's effort to raise its minimum wage, even as they raise the state wage above the national average. And the state National Restaurant Association affiliate is eating it up. Efforts to "preempt" local governments from enacting a higher minimum wage is most closely associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which counts the National Restaurant Association among its members and has long pushed bills like the “Living Wage Preemption Act." At ALEC's meeting next month in Washington D.C., "Minimum Wage Preemption Policies" will be at the top of the agenda.

The Illinois preemption measure comes amidst an effort by legislative Democrats to raise the wage in the lame duck session. On election day, Illinois voters overwhelmingly supported an advisory referendum calling for the legislature to raise the state's minimum wage to $10.65 per hour -- even as voters also elected a new governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, who has called for lowering or eliminating the minimum wage altogether. The GOP governor-elect said he would only sign a minimum wage bill if the legislature agreed to corporate-friendly measures like tort reform and overhauling the workers compensation program.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Democrats, signaled they would push for passage of the minimum wage increase that voters demanded before Rauner took office in January -- yet also said they are gauging support for a preemption measure that would block cities from enacting their own higher wage. This would shut down an effort in Chicago to raise the minimum wage to between $13 and $15 per hour. Chicago has been the site of some of the biggest "Fight for $15" fast food protests in the country, with over 50 people arrested during the most recent protests in September.


One group that is likely celebrating the preemption proposal is the Illinois Restaurant Association, the state chapter of the powerful National Restaurant Association (sometimes referred to as "the Other NRA". NRA affiliates around the country have been key in thwarting minimum wage and paid sick day efforts through preemption measures, as the Center for Media and Democracy has documented.

An Embattled ALEC, Buoyed by Election Results, Lays Blueprint for 2015


ALEC has long pushed bills like the “Living Wage Preemption Act" to block city, county, or local governments from enacting progressive economic initiatives like a higher minimum wage. In light of the renewed grassroots push for fair wage laws, this bill to crush a local government's ability to increase wages in their community will likely be a top ALEC priority in 2015. (ALEC legislators have also been active in banning local paid sick day efforts, passing 10 laws after Wisconsin's paid sick days preemption bill was shared at ALEC's August 2011 meeting).


The ACCE meeting will also feature a presentation titled "Local Right to Work: Protect my Paycheck." ALEC has long pushed anti-union "Right to Work" laws, which allow non-union members to free-ride on union representation, reaping the benefits of union negotiations for wages and benefits but without paying the costs. Michigan's right to work law, for example, was a word-for-word copy of ALEC's model legislation and sponsored by ALEC members. With ACCE, ALEC is now trying to promote this anti-union legislation at the local level.


The ALEC Health and Human Service Task Force will discuss the "Medicaid Anti-Crowd-Out Act," which would prohibit people from enrolling in Medicaid if their employer offers some form of insurance, regardless of how poor the person might be or how much the plan costs.


ALEC's "Public Charter School Act" is a revamp of a 2007 ALEC bill, and it goes far beyond the predecessor in its attempts to greatly expand school privatization in a state, preempt democratic oversight, and sneak in a parent trigger mechanism. Although ALEC's agenda does not list the bill's sponsor, the proposed model closely tracks one promoted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The bill would eliminate caps on the growth of charter schools in the state, exempt those charters from many state laws, and exempt the charters from existing collective bargaining agreements between a district and its employees. The bill explicitly provides for these schools to be managed by “for-profit” education management organizations -- and since there are no other sources of revenue than what the school district pays, the profit must be “carved out” from the money intended for students. Notably, the bill also sneaks in a "parent trigger" mechanism, which allows for paid petition drives and a snapshot of parent opinion to shut down public schools and reinstate them as charters. Additionally, the bill puts charter authorizing authority in the hands of unaccountable state-wide authorizers, and expands the list of authorizers, taking authorizing authority away from elected local school boards. As one ALEC member told an ALEC education subcommittee earlier this year, "we need to stamp out local control."

More on these and other draconian ALEC policies at the link.
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