Native American Kansas State Rep. Smacks Down Anti-Immigrant Secretary of State Kris Kobach

Kansas State Rep. Ponka-We Victors

This is such a great story, via Think Progress:

A Native American state representative in Kansas rebuked Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leader in the anti-immigrant movement, at a hearing yesterday.

“I think it’s funny Mr. Kobach, because when you mention illegal immigrant, I think of all of you,” said State Rep. Ponka-We Victors (D), a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona, during a hearing on Wednesday about a state statute that allows children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities. Her comments drew loud applause from the audience.

From The Topeka Capital-Journal:

Students who have lived in the United States most of their lives got choked up as they described the academic lifeline in-state tuition has provided to improve their lives. A counselor who works with such students in Wichita high schools shed tears as she showed legislators a scrapbook of success stories. Murmurs of unrest were heard in the gallery as one House member asked about the prevalence of illegal immigrants from gangs and drug cartels in American prisons.

But nothing drew a bigger reaction than when Rep. Ponka-We Victors, D-Wichita, wrapped up a series of questions to the bill’s chief proponent, Secretary of State Kris Kobach.


Wednesday’s hearing on House Bill 2192 would have repealed a nearly 10-year-old statute that allows students who graduate from Kansas high schools and have lived in Kansas for at least three years to pay in-state tuition at state universities and community colleges, regardless of residency status.

Kobach, a lightning-rod for controversy on immigration issues, told the committee federal law conflicts with that statute.

“U.S. citizens should always come first when it comes to handing out government subsidies,” Kobach said.


Kris Kobach is the architect of the Arizona “papers please” immigration law as well as other anti-immigrant laws around the country. He is also a strong supporter of the extremist Arizona voter registration law that is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Read more about him at the Mother Jones Link (2012)–and if you have time, check out this 2011 piece at the Southern Poverty Law Center: When Mr. Kobach Comes to Town: Nativist Laws and the Communities They Damage.

Kris Kobach is the architect of the Arizona “papers please” immigration law as well as other anti-immigrant laws around the country. He is also a strong supporter of the extremist Arizona voter registration law that is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Read more about him at the Mother Jones Link (2012)–and if you have time, check out this 2011 piece at the Southern Poverty Law Center: When Mr. Kobach Comes to Town: Nativist Laws and the Communities They Damage.

Rep. Ponka-We Victors was elected in 2010, and the Indian Country Today Media Network characterizes her as a “political warrior.”

As a young, first-term legislator, Victors, the first American Indian woman elected to the Kansas legislature, garnered state headlines in 2012 when she urged colleagues to reject proposals for strict immigration-enforcement laws during a hearing of the House Federal and State Affairs committee. “Personally,” said Victors, “my people have been fighting immigration since 1492. It doesn’t get any better.”

Read an interview with her at the Indian Country link.

So…. What else is happening out there? Got any feel good stories to share? This is a wide-open thread!

MTP: Jindal’s Pants catch fire & melt Dancin’ Dave’s Disco Ball

mtpBobby Jindal got the first word on the budget sequester this morning on MTP. His “reasonable” face to the nation is no where near his record as Louisiana’s worst Governor Ever. He was basically there to state how easy it is to cut government spending and taxes since he’d done such a bang-up job of it in Louisiana. As usual, Jindal was whistling Dixie out of his bony, malignantly narcissistic ass.  Let me demonstrate Jindal Budgeting Tricks 101 for those in the national media that will NEVER actually do any research on these hideous and false claims.

Some national press figure should do some homework on what Jindal’s done to the budget in Louisiana and the dishonest, destructive, and unconstitutional ways that he’s found to “balance” it. His budget director more than fessed up last week to the fact that he’s cut state services beyond the point where basic needs met by the state will go unmet.  This includes the State Patrol which  I would assume even Republicans find a necessary expenditure and service. That’s not preventing him from going on national TV and telling a completely different story about how easy it is to find fat in budgets. This information is succinctly put by Stephan Winham writing for The Louisiana Voice.   Mr. Winham should know.  He’s the now retired State Budget Director.  This year’s Jindal Budget will go beyond hurting the state and selling off state assets to potential corporate donors to his presidential campaign.  Please, some one stop him before he kills again.

The governor is happy to tout his refusal to increase state taxes. He is also happy to talk about his successes in reducing the size of government and refusal of additional federal support. He is very direct, if not necessarily consistent, when it comes to holding the line on these things. Although there is no second half to his current plan to eliminate income and franchise taxes, he assures us that, if he actually ever presents a proposal for the other side of the equation, it will be income neutral.

If Nichols’ testimony is to be taken at face value, we can only assume it is not possible to maintain critical services with our current level of recurring revenue. So far, the governor’s approach to reducing state government has been to gradually strangle it through continued submission of unrealistic budgets intended to give the impression everything is okay. The legislators adopt these proposals and congratulate themselves on another successful year.

In reality, everything is not okay. The governor knows it. Ms. Nichols knows it. The legislators interested enough to pay attention know it. As long as projected revenues from reliable, stable sources do not equal projected necessary expenditures, things will NEVER be okay. Governor Jindal has not submitted, nor has the legislature adopted, such a budget during his entire administration. This is proven by the mid-year cuts that are always necessary in adopted yearly budgets and the never-ending projections of deep holes for every future year.

Governor Jindal has been quoted repeatedly in the national press saying we all have to learn to live within our means. If he really believes this, why does he not present budgets that allow the state of Louisiana to do so? I think Ms. Nichols has made the answer quite clear – because we simply cannot live the way we want to within our present means. Presenting a truly balanced budget would result in an outcry from even the staunchest fiscal conservatives who would immediately begin to cry, “Why don’t you cut the fat, not the meat?” They would never accept there isn’t enough fat left to leave the meat alone.

This year, Jindal’s budget relies heavily on selling off LSU’s hospitals.  It’s just a matter of time before our Tier 1 school loses Louisiana Hussyits accreditation and the med school’s standing is jeopardized.  The hospital in Monroe that serves some of the poorest folks in the state can’t find a buyer and will most likely just be shut down.

The budget cuts about $780.6 million from those programs on the assumption that all but two of the state’s 10 public hospitals will be privatized. So far, only five of those hospitals have announced plans for partnerships with private companies, and none of those proposals has been finalized.

Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, described the public hospital situation bluntly as he questioned Nichols about the process Friday. “Public hospitals are gone after this budget,” Thompson said. “Don’t exist. Over. Finished.”

Thompson’s concerns focused on E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe. No private company has been identified as a possible partner for it, and the budget does not include enough money to operate the center for 12 months. Thompson said the center cares for some of the poorest residents in the state.

That’s not all of the last drops of the safety net programs that are on the table.  Plus, every year since Jindal’s taken offce, the budget estimates have been far rosier than occurs, so midbudget year slashes have been necessary.  I lived through those at both UNO and at SELU when I was there.  Let me just say I’m glad to be teaching at a private institution while living here.  It gets harder to justify staying here in Louisiana every year.  The kids graduated LSU and bolted. Thanks goodness Jean went to med school and is doing her residency in Nebraska. I love New Orleans and my little Bywater gem,  but it’s hard to see much of a future in a state that’s been gutted of assets to appease Republican political donors. As an economist, I know that it’s going to take a good decade to get over the impact from that kind of loss of infrastructure alone. State expenditures now include running the same functions with an added layer of payments for corporate inefficiencies, executive bonuses, and lush corporate profits and dividends.  I can’t wait until he starts selling off the state parks next year and all of our arenas and stadiums.  I’m assuming that some of the universities will collapse completely too and be auctioned off for some obscene use. That’s about all we have left now.  I’m also assuming he’s got his eye on that BP money.  He ran through a lot of the Katrina/FEMA money during his first year or so.   We simply aren’t using sustainable sources of revenue.

Here’s some more things on the table.

The budget also cuts funding for the Early Steps program, which provides therapy to developmentally disabled children under the age of 3. It proposes to make up the shortfall by charging some participants in the program.

Families that make more than 250 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $57,000 for a family of four, would have to pay for Early Steps on a sliding scale depending on their income, Greenstein said. About half of the 9,400 children who participate in the program each year belong to families that would be affected by the change.

The revised rules, which are expected to save the state about $1.7 million, would require the passage of new legislation before they could go into effect. Officials have not yet worked out exactly how much families will pay, Greenstein said.

The department is also planning to move pregnant women who are now receiving care through Medicaid into a program set up under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that provides subsidized health insurance.

Here’s additional cuts in the budgets for the State Police and higher education.

Jindal and other administration officials have noted that if the budget passes, about 26,000 state government jobs will have been shed since the governor took office five years ago.

Among the positions that will not be funded next year are 44 commissioned officers and 39 civilians in the State Police. The last new class of State Police cadets began training in the fall of 2008. When they graduated, there were 1,153 troopers in the force. That number has since fallen to 964 troopers.

State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson said he’s been dealing with the loss of troopers by putting officers who formerly spent much of their time behind a desk, such as investigators, on the road and by hiring retired officers to work on a part-time basis during peak hours. He also credited increased cooperation with sheriffs’ offices and local police departments, as well as an effort to make troopers more of a visible presence on the road, for decreasing traffic fatalities.

The agency is looking for money for new troopers and hopes to be able to graduate a class by the end of 2014, Edmonson said. Nichols said there are no plans for a new cadet class in this year’s budget.

As you can see, a lot of Jindal’s budget cuts come from selling off state assets.  These are one time occurrences so they only fill the holes for one year.

The state expects to make $47 million by selling six state properties, including a portion of the campus of Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville, which was privatized last year; office buildings in Baton Rouge; and a Department of Insurance property. The administration had intended to sell the Department of Insurance property last year and included that same anticipated money in last year’s budget.

Jindal has also diverted funds from other projects.  Most people fear that he will divert funds from the BP oil settlement and RESTORE which are supposed to go to coastal restoration.  Jindal’s budget revenue tricks are short term while his guts in public services and taxes are permanent.  I can’t imagine any one would want to be governor following these steps.  This is basically a short term plan to shore up his presidential appeal to right wing, tea party nuts.  The state will suffer for decades as it tries to unwind the damage.  Already, he’s pulled funds from the Rigs-to-Reef funds.

Yesterday, we learned that during the last two years, Governor Jindal has raided nearly $45 million from the Rigs-to-Reefs fund, which, as its name implies, requires rig operators to contribute a certain portion of their income to create and develop infrastructure projects along the Louisiana coast that could offset some of this destruction. But instead of spending that $45 million on needed coastal restoration projects, Jindal pilfered from the fund in order to offset losses in the State’s General Fund. Thankfully, the Board of the Artificial Reef Fund is now speaking out and making it abundantly clear that, for them, Jindal’s use of their monies is unconstitutional

Robert Mann–the Director of LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs –came up with a better series of questions that Disco Dave should’ve asked our Governor who is evidently relying on the ignorance of the national press to enhance his national prospects.

1. You say you are a fiscal conservative. But how do you square that with your habit of cobbling together your state’s budget every year with non-recurring revenue? Didn’t you campaign against such a practice as reckless and fiscally irresponsible?

2. Do you believe that your Republican gubernatorial colleagues in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and North Dakota are reckless in accepting federal funds to expand their state’s Medicaid programs? What do you know that they don’t?

3. Why have you not yet visited the community of Bayou Corne, Louisiana, where hundreds of your constituents have been homeless for months because of a collapsing salt dome?

4. You have fired or forced out a considerable number of staff members, state legislators, university officials and others who disagreed with your policies. Why are you so uncomfortable with dissent or contrary views?

5. You have a biology degree from Brown. Do you believe in evolution? Do you believe that creationism is science?

6. Your administration has slashed higher education funding by more than $400 million in the past several years. The LSU system president, Williams Jenkins, said recently that those budget cuts had harmed LSU and threatened its status as a tier-one university. When was the last time you visited the LSU campus, or any other university campus, to meet with students to discuss the impact of those cuts on their education?

7. Do you believe that sales taxes are inherently regressive and harmful to the poor? Is exempting only groceries, medicine and utilities enough to shield the poor from the impact of a large state sales tax increase?

8. Why would you oppose a 4-cent renewal of your state’s cigarette tax and then propose more than a dollar increase in the same tax? Why was the 4-cent renewal an unacceptable tax increase, but a dollar increase is not?

9. Do you believe that purchasers of guns ought to first be required to undergo a basic background check? Why do you believe people should be allowed to carry guns into churches?

10. You campaigned on transparency. Why do you believe the records of your office should be shielded from public view?

Of course, Disco Dave would actually have to rely on research instead of Beltway memes to follow this line of questioning so it’s doubtful that any of Mann’s questions even crossed his mind. Disco Dave and staff are probably doing the Harlem Shake right now since it’s the “in” thing and investigative journalism is so 1973.  At least, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was there to challenge some of Jindal’s rationale on the sequester.

Patrick, a frequent surrogate for Obama during the 2012 campaign, reacted yesterday to criticism by fellow “Meet the Press” guest Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, saying the current standoff on Capitol Hill over how to pull the economy out of a looming nosedive “is not of the president’s creation.”

“The president hasn’t campaigned and hasn’t wanted to govern constantly being in conflict with congressional Republicans,” said Patrick. “From the very beginning, it was the leadership of the Republicans … who said their No. 1 agenda was to make this president a one-term president. When he won a second term, their No. 1 agenda is to slow down the recovery of our economy and that needs to be called out. It is a fact.”

But Jindal countered Obama “needs to stand up at the plate if he really thinks this is going to devastate the military, devastate air-traffic control, really devastate meat inspections …

“The reality is the federal budget this year, even after the cuts, will still be larger,” Jindal said. “Families and businesses out there during this national recession have had to tighten their belts, do more with less. You ask any American out there, ‘Is there at least 3 percent of the federal budget that’s being wasted today?’ Let’s not cut the air-traffic controllers first, let’s go cut the waste.

“It is time to stop campaigning,” Jindal said of Obama. “It is time to actually do the job right here in Washington, D.C.”

8504266430_e253fb7911_oDisco Dave did at least chide Jindal for having a state that resides on the bottom of every conceivable quality of life measure possible. Jindal insists he’s got things going in the right direction.  HA!

Here are some statistics, state to state, Massachusetts to Louisiana, that reflect kinda more services, less taxes, and the different results. Put that up there. You have a bigger population in Massachusetts. You see that there. The high school graduation rate much higher in Massachusetts. The median income about 20,000 higher. The percentage of population without healthcare insurance much higher in Louisiana. The percentage of the population on food stamps much higher in Louisiana. So does this, do results break a little along some of the ideological and philosophical lines about taxes and the amount of government services?

Still, Jindal should take his own advice rather than killing the state he governs with ALEC-inspired policies meant to enrich the richest and enslave the poorest.  He’s been in perpetual campaign for president mode since about the second or third year of his first term.  His second term is basically nothing but appeasement of Republican primary voters and donors.  He continues to divert state funds to religious madrassas and private, charter schools that are not required to follow the same strict state and federal laws regulating the state’s public schools.  He has defunded Higher Education to the point that even LSU’s accreditation is in jeopardy and most universities have had cut into vital services and programs.  I’ve already inkled just some of the nasty things happening to the state’s health care system and public safety.  The minute the FEMA funds and BP Oil spill funds leave the state, we’ll fall so far below Mississippi we may never catch up again.  Those are the few stimulatory sources of funding we have.  Don’t forget that he’s trying to increase our sales taxes which will undoubtedly kill a lot of retail stores and the tourist industry. Consumer demand of these items are extremely price sensitive so it’s likely to cut in to the revenues of many of Lousiana’s small businesses.

Again, will some one PLEASE out this man for the liar that he is and stop him before he kills again?

Friday Reads: Red State Hell Realm Edition

newspaper-2Good Morning!

I’m not sure a lot of you know what it’s like to have a Republican Governor these days implementing the Koch Brothers and ALEC agenda.  I thought I’d focus a little bit on that.  I hope those of you that live in Red States–like me–and are horrified at what’s coming down the pike in your neck of the woods will share. Yes.  I just don’t stop writing about ALEC.  I can’t.  It’s like watching a train come down the track knowing that all of your friends are bolted right to it.

So, climate change is one of those topics where Republicans love to be deep in denial.  What’s it like to be in one of the hottest Red States in the US and have a governor that’s basically ensuring that you’re in the fire or the frying pan?  This one is for my birth state of Oklahoma where my Dad grew up during the worst of the dust bowl days.  They have one of the dumbest damn Senators on the planet. Here’s the ever quotable and insane Jim Imhofe.

Oklahoma is another state that experienced its warmest year on record. The average temperature in the Sooner State was 63 degrees. The USDA today declared a drought disaster in 76 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties.

When it comes to climate change denial, Republican senator James Inhofe takes the top prize for outrageous statements. His anti-environmental stances are even more dangerous because Inhofe serves as the ranking member of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and was its chairman from 2003 to 2007.

In a 2003 Senate speech, Inhofe said that “catastrophic global warming is a hoax.” Last year, Inhofe stated on a Christian radio show that the Bible refutes climate change, saying “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

Down here in Louisiana, we’re mired in a recession and have had our public health and education systems gutted to the point that the accrediting institution for LSU is asking if any one’s in charge of the system.  So, what’s that freak of nature Governor Bobby Jindal up to?  He wants to eliminate our state income taxes and corporate taxes.  I have no idea how a got stuck in a Pinochet-like hell realm but here I am.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing the complete elimination of income and corporate taxes in the state, and says he wants to replace the revenue by increasing sales taxes.

The Times-Picayune reported that Jindal is in the process of fleshing out the tax reform proposal, the goal of which, according to a statement from the Governor’s office and given to the paper, “is to eliminate all personal income tax and all corporate income tax in a revenue neutral manner. We want to keep the sales tax as low and flat as possible.”

“Eliminating personal income taxes will put more money back into the pockets of Louisiana families and will change a complex tax code into a more simple system that will make Louisiana more attractive to companies who want to invest here and create jobs,” Jindal says in the statement.

“Tax reform will remove administrative burdens from families and small businesses and improve Louisiana’s business prospects; create more business investment opportunities with increased job growth; and raise the state’s profile in national business rankings,” the statement continues.

“The bottom line is that for too long, Louisiana’s workers and small businesses have suffered from having a state tax structure that is too complex and that holds back economic prosperity. It’s time to change that so people can keep more of their own money and foster an environment where businesses want to invest and create good-paying jobs.”

I pay nearly 10% sales tax now and it has completely stopped me from looking at cars.  I already go out of state to shop for clothes and nearly ww2 reading newseverything but basic food.  Hasn’t this mean, bug-eyed man found enough policies that punish the poor already?    Those of us that have to actually buy something do not keep more of our income if we’re paying regressive consumption taxes.
The one thing that I’ve really noticed about these granny starvers is that they could all play the part of some creepy Shakespearean villain.  Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Scott look like the original templates for those lean, hungry men.  They also remind me of the creeps that show up in the Dickensian tales.  Speaking of Rick Scott, let’s not forget this guy and what he’s up to with health care in Florida.  The man who is well known for cheating scandals is now in trouble for exaggerating the cost of a Medicaid expansion.

Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott has rejected the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. And now he’s in hot water for apparently inflating the cost of the expansion to Floridians in order to justify his decision.

The website Health News Florida reported Tuesday that Scott was warned in letters by the state legislature’s top economist and budget analyst that his administration’s figure — that the expansion would cost the state $26 billion over 10 years — was false.

Scott’s aide reportedly said, in emails obtained by HNF, that the figure was based on the assumption that the federal government — which is tasked with paying for the vast majority of each state’s Medicaid expansion for the first decade — would not fulfill its promise.

But after the report was published and caused a stir, including scathing criticism from Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Scott said through a spokeswoman that his Agency for Health Care Administration would consider alternate cost estimates.

“AHCA’s report concluded that adding people to Medicaid under the new law would cost Florida $26 billion over 10 years,” said Scott’s aide Melissa Sellers. “Others have asked AHCA to use different assumptions to calculate different cost estimates. We look forward to reviewing those cost estimates as well.”

Castor accused Scott — a former hospital executive who rose to national prominence in 2009 while campaigning against the ACA — of deliberately deceiving Floridians.

“Not only did Gov. Scott manufacture flawed cost estimates, but it appears he had been advised that the numbers were flawed and used them anyway,” Castor said in a statement. “Florida Legislative Appropriations staff advised the governor’s office that the numbers were misleading, but it appears that the governor ignored it. … Clearly this was not a mistake. Knowing that the numbers are wrong and using them anyway is.”

The Scott administration’s Medicaid figures were disputed by multiple nonpartisan analyses.

tumblr_m3kx6dNEe11qzq84io1_500Both Jindal and Scott have  lifted their agendas directly from ALEC.  Wisconsin is another state being driven into developing nation status by rogue legislation designed to enrich the wealthy.  Here’s a list of bills to watch for in that state.

Wisconsin’s 2011-2012 legislative session saw the introduction of 32 bills or budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation — including Governor Scott Walker’s contentious attack on public sector collective bargaining, voter ID legislation, and bills that make it harder for Americans to hold corporations accountable when their products injure or kill — and 19 of those proposals became law.

What pieces of the ALEC playbook might be on the agenda for the 2013-2014 session, which began this week?

One of my favorite Louisiana Bloggers –Professor Robert Mann–has read and reported on the “snake oil” agenda of ALEC and how it’s impacted the economic viability of the states I grew up in.  This study comes from the state of Iowa where I spent most of my grade school days and where my dad was a small town Ford dealer.  Here’s a great synopsis that discusses how that trickle-down, voodoo economics is bad for state economies.  I’ve written many times about the Laffer curve and its absurd hypothesis which has been refuted by study-after-study. This should be just one more nail in the voodoo economics coffin.

That scrutiny comes in the form of a November 2012 report by the Good Jobs First and Iowa Policy Project, “Selling Snake Oil to the States: The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Flawed Prescriptions for Prosperity.” The report, written by Greg LeRoy and Philip Mattera, concludes:

A hard look at the actual data finds that the Alec-Laffer recommendations not only fail to predict positive results for state economies—the policies they endorse actually forecast worse state outcomes for job creation and paychecks. That is, states that were rated higher on ALEC’s Economic Outlook Ranking in 2007, based on 15 “fiscal and regulatory policy variables,” have actually been doing worse economically in the years since, while the less a state conformed with ALEC policies the better off it was.

Read the report for yourself. It’s a treasure-trove of evidence debunking the whole wacky supply-side economic theories that have governed the Republican Party for the past 30 years. But here are a few helpful excerpts that are particularly relevant to those of us who live in states, like Louisiana, with governors totally beholden to the corporate interests that are selling this economic snake oil.

ALEC-Laffer claim that lowering state and local taxes produces much greater job growth; in actuality, such taxes are such a tiny cost factor for businesses, and come with higher taxes on others or lower quality public services, that such a strategy fails

ALEC-Laffer claim that a low top personal income tax rate is a key to small business success; in actuality, property and sales taxes—ignored by ALEC-Laffer—are far more important issues

ALEC-Laffer claim that high top personal income tax rates and the presence of estate and inheritance taxes cause large-scale out-migration of high-income individuals; in reality, migration has little to do with taxes, and there is no plausible case for state estate taxes affecting job-creating investment

The ALEC report asserts that state tax rates in many instances approach “Laffer Curve” territory, where tax cuts would actually increase tax revenue; in reality, tax cuts reduce revenue and result in the defunding of public goods such as education and infrastructure, which really do matter for economic development

A remarkable finding in the Iowa Policy Project report, stated a few paragraphs above, is worth repeating: states that swallowed ALEC’s economic snake oil have done worse than state that did not.

. . . actual results are the opposite of the ALEC claim. The more a state’s policies mirrored the ALEC low-tax/regressive taxation/limited government agenda, the lower the median family income; this is true for every year from 2007 through 2011. . . . The relationship is not only negative each year, it also became worse over time: the better a state did on the ALEC Outlook Ranking, the more family income declined from 2007 to 2011. . . . The more a state followed the Alec-Laffer policies, the higher its poverty rate, every year from 2007 to 2011.

And what do Fisher and Mattera prescribe in lieu of the ALEC snake oil? Well, they advise against slashing income taxes to spur small business job growth, explaining

Income taxes, on the other hand, are low or nonexistent in the early years of a business when it is showing losses; they are payable only to the extent that a business has gotten off the ground and is generating a profit, and even then will often remain low, or nonexistent, for years as the early losses are carried forward. Clearly if a state wants to encourage entrepreneurship and help really small businesses, it should shift taxes from sales and property to income. But Rich States, Poor States would have us do the reverse. It’s another example of how ALEC and Laffer are fixated on progressivity (which most affects high-income individuals and larger corporations) and will employ any argument, valid or not, against it.

For those interested in learning what really does spur economic growth in states, the authors of the Iowa Policy Project study note that there exists “a large volume of research investigating this question over the past 40 years.” And what is the conclusion of these studies?

The preponderance of the evidence from many dozens of studies over a period of 30 years or more is that business tax cuts, if they could be enacted without cutting public spending, have some positive growth effect on state economic growth, but that this effect is quite small. These statistically controlled policy experiments are in effect holding all else equal. It is important to understand what this means. The research does not imply that a 10 percent cut in taxes on business that is paid for by cutting 10 percent of the state budget would produce 3 percent growth. Such a balanced budget policy (and states of course must balance their budgets) might well produce no growth at all, especially in the long run, because budget cuts necessarily mean cuts in state and local services essential to the functioning of the economy. As [Professor Timothy] Bartik himself has said: “[A]n economic development policy of business tax cuts may fail to increase jobs in a state or metropolitan area if it leads to a deterioration of public services to business. An economic development policy of tax increases may succeed in increasing jobs if it significantly improves public services to business.”

The authors’ conclusion is fairly simple and impressively substantiated in their report: ALEC’s snake oil does little more than provide “a recipe for economic inequality and declining incomes for most citizens and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain public infrastructure and education systems that are the underpinnings of long-term economic growth.”

That’s also a very nice summary of Jindal’s failed approach to government.

What really makes this so shameful is that these Banana Republic-style agendas are being subsidized by Blue States.  There are very few economically viable Red States in our country.  They could not exist on their own as they are in worse shape than countries like Greece.  They stymie policy at the national level and continue to subsidize their backward growth agendas with federal monies. However, they are not beyond complaining about government spending will sucking it in like a big ol’ black hole.

No place was this hypocrisy most evident than in their collective votes and responses towards Hurricane Sandy Victims. 

Palazzo is one of 67 House Republicans to have voted against the federal flood insurance expansion; many of those said that the funds need to be offset by cuts to other areas of the federal budget. Think Progress reported that 37 of the dissenting members had previously backed federal disaster aid for their home states. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), the House Republican Conference vice chairwoman, told HuffPost in a statement that she voted against the flood insurance money due to concerns about the long-term debt of the flood program and a need to protect flood insurance funding for Kansas residents.

It’s amazing to me that so many folks living in the states where I’ve spent most of my life do not wake up and smell the cafe au lait and the feed lots! I’ve always found the scent of both very hard to miss.

Meanwhile, red districts and states continually send us the likes of Michelle Bachmann with their conspiracy theories and insane outlook on life.  Bachmann’s silly ass is right back in a seat on the intelligence committee despite the very clear threat she has brought to he life of US public servants..  She also introduce the first HR that once again seeks to overturn the HCRA.  Meanwhile, Paul Ryan has just introduced another “Personhood” HR.   This is what we get from these Red State Whackadoodles.

It’s amazing to me how these people continually waste our money and time while wrecking our economy with completely rogue and disproved ideology.  It’s clear that the ALEC agenda is all about plumping us turkeys up for their corporate feasts.

So, I’ve written way too much and ranted way too long.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

The Ripple Effect

I don’t know if it’s simply the election cycle or what, but more and more frequently the world seems to be spinning out of control.  Problems and/or issues everywhere.  Which one to prioritize?  How to “fix” what is going wrong?  Is it leaving you with an overwhelming sense of helplessness?  It does me, all too often.

Here is a list of the serious issues that are bombarding my senses:

  • The economy
  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Wall Street’s continuing abuses
  • Wealth inequality
  • Debt
  • Offshore oil drilling
  • Fracking
  • Renewable energy
  • The condition of our oceans
  • Climate change
  • Endangered species
  • Pesticides, herbicides
  • Food safety
  • Pollution of our air and water
  • Violence against women throughout the world
  • Pay equity
  • Abortion rights
  • Access to contraception
  • ALEC’s legislative initiatives
  • ALEC’s co-opting of our political process
  • The need for campaign finance reform
  • Voting rights
  • Union busting
  • Immigration
  • Health and health care
  • The dismantling of our educational system
  • The privatization of the prison system
  • Hate speech & hate crimes
  • Gun rights & gun control
  • The billions of non-human animals killed each year worldwide, not only for food, but on our streets, in our homes and in our shelters
  • Wars, seemingly everywhere
  • The aftermath and attempted recovery following both natural and man-made disasters

There is little doubt in my mind that most people have shut down and they have chosen to ignore many, if not all of these critical issues.  For so many others they don’t have a choice.  They don’t even have the time or energy to think about them because they are struggling to survive, to put food on their tables, to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads.  Their focus is on their personal problems, not the bigger issues that are taking a heavy toll on their day to day lives, their future and the future of their families.

What can we do?  How can the majority of the people on the planet, especially those whose personal resources are sorely limited make a difference, not only in their own lives, but for the future of all life on our planet?  Here are a few simple each of us could try:

  • Educate ourselves so we make conscious decisions that will benefit our finances, our health and the impact we have on our environment, whether it’s our home, our community or the planet.
  • Reduce the amount of plastic, especially disposable plastic, that we buy.  For example, opt for fresh foods over processed, prepackaged foods when possible.  Use refillable containers instead of individual bottles of water. Avoid individually packaged food items – opt for a full size bag or container.  Separate into individual servings at home. Don’t buy disposable plates and cups.  Recycle and/or reuse plastic – and don’t forget to cut up those plastic rings that hold bottles and cans together – and return plastic bags to the stores for recycling.  Take reusable bags when we shop, instead of the store’s plastic bags.
  • Donate unused items to community groups or thrift stores.
  • Pick up trash when we see it: in our yards, in the parking lots, on the beach, or participate in an annual beach or waterway cleanup in our area.
  • Volunteer our time in schools, nursing homes, soup kitchens, for non-profits or wherever our time and expertise can be used.
  • Eat lower on the food chain.  It’s good for our health.  It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for the animals.
  • Write letters or send emails to our local media, to our elected officials, and to policy makers.  Sign up for the action alerts of groups who address issues of concern to us.
  • Adopt a homeless animal from a shelter or local rescue group.  It will save a life and the animal will enrich ours. And if you can’t adopt, consider volunteering for a local rescue group or even fostering an animal until he/she is ready to be adopted.

Many of you are probably already doing some or all of these, or you may be doing others that I haven’t mentioned.   By all means, if you have additional personal solutions or tips, please add them in the comments.  Most of these ideas will only cost a bit of your time.  Many of them will actually save money.   I know that even doing what seems like something small, I feel better.  I feel like I am doing my part, however little it might be.  We rarely know the full impact of the choices we make on a daily basis, or how our actions might influence others.  Even if we can’t always make waves, we can, at least, generate some ripples.

Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I’ve been livid recently about our Governor’s jihad against public education.  Here’s some details on how Bobby Jindal used the ALEC play book to turn the state’s public schools upside down.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has remade the Louisiana public schools system with impressive speed over the past legislative session. Last week, he signed into law a suite of landmark reform bills that will likely change the direction of public education in Louisiana forever. But not all change is good, and critics say both Jindal’s agenda and the strategy to move it come right from the playbook of conservative advocacy group ALEC, in an effort to revive Jindal’s national political profile.

Louisiana is now home to the nation’s most expansive school voucher program. Charter school authorization powers have been broadened. And teacher tenure policies have been radically transformed. Louisiana already had something of a reputation as a radical-reform state, thanks to the post-Katrina educational climate in New Orleans. But not all change is good, and education advocates have deep concerns about the efficacy of Jindal’s overhaul, and the interests that have push it.

ALEC has overrun Louisiana at a time when it’s losing corporate sponsors and cronies in various state legislatures.  ALEC still has some steam left, however.

ALEC will survive, of course, kept afloat largely by the billionaire Koch brothers and their corporate allies. But as activists keep up the pressure, they must not lose sight of the worst culprits, who must be identified and targeted: the more than 2,000 legislative members of ALEC. The Center for Media and Democracy maintains a list of lawmakers allied with ALEC at The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has begun to pressure dozens of Democrats involved with the overwhelmingly Republican group to quit. Their exit from ALEC would put the lie to the claim that ALEC is nonpartisan.

Common Cause argues that ALEC has abused its tax-exempt status by lobbying, and Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan has introduced a bill requiring ALEC to register as a lobbyist in that state. But especially as November approaches, the Exit ALEC movement must go beyond the group to confront some of the damage it has done. In the past two years, thirty-four states have introduced bills to restrict voting for some 5 million eligible voters; nine have passed voter ID laws; dozens of other states have gotten rid of early voting or tried to hobble voter registration drives. In Florida get-out-the-vote efforts by the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote have been sabotaged. The most affected are blacks, Latinos and other groups that skew Democratic.

If you haven’t been following CISPA, you really should.  Here’s a primer from Truth Dig.

What is CISPA?

CISPA, an abbreviation for the Cyber Intelligence Security and Protection Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives on November 30, 2011 by Mike Rogers (R-MI), as well as 111 co-sponsors. Since then, a number of amendments have been introduced. The House is expected to vote on the bill Friday and its author has said that the latest changes brought the number of supporting Congressmen “well past” the threshold of 218 necessary for the adoption of the legislation. It is therefore very likely that the bill will be passed by the House. However, it’s not all that certain whether the bill will be made into law, especially with the White House’s latest statement that President Obama would be advised to veto the legislation.

What does CISPA entail for internet users?

The act says it is meant to create procedures allowing “elements of the intelligence community to share cyber threat intelligence with private-sector entities and to encourage the sharing of such intelligence.”  It also states that a cyber-security provider or a self-protected entity may share “cyber threat information”  “with any other entity designated by such protected entity, including… the Federal Government.

But what does that mean?

Unnecessarily broad definitions are the factor which makes CISPA so controversial with web users.

Experts argue that the bill would give the government the ability to circumvent internet privacy laws and obtain information on user activities from private companies – be it providers, hosting companies or social networks – essentially any company involved in the Internet.

The bill does specifically say that the Federal Government can only use the information obtained for a “cybersecurity purpose” or the “protection of the national security of the United States,” but the broad definitions of the terms could potentially lump an average Internet user sending an encrypted e-mail into the same threat category as a terrorist. Privately owned corporations could, under the pretext of cyber and national security, spy on users and transfer their data to a government agency.

You will get no accountability for that,” explains David Seaman, host of The DL Show. “If findings are turned against you in the worst possible way, you won’t be able to get a lawyer and sue because of the litigation immunity.

You can find more analysis and links at Cannonfire.  The House has already passed CISPA.  No surprises there since these guys are standing in line to monitor US women’s menstrual periods and want to peer into every woman’s uterus.  As usual, a few Democrats joined in the effort to expand government’s intrusion into your personal lives.  Here’s wishing Obama follows through with his threat to veto.

The final tally was 248-168, enough to pass the measure but not enough to override the threatened veto. Forty-two Democrats broke with the White House to vote for the bill, and 28 Republicans voted against it.

The administration and Democratic critics opposed the bill because of privacy and civil liberties concerns. The other main sticking point was that, unlike a Senate bill by Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), CISPA would not mandate new security requirements for a critical infrastructure network.

Although those disagreements still exist, House Republicans have now jumped ahead of the Senate in a race to avoid the political fallout in the event of a major cyberattack.

At least some of CISPA’s Democratic supporters weren’t happy with their colleagues’ opposition to the bill, nor with the White House.

After the White House issued the veto threat Wednesday, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, Rogers’s chief Democratic ally, launched an all-out lobbying effort to persuade his fellow Democrats to back the bill.

Here’s an article that pretty much outlines my worst nightmares: “How Christian Groups Push Right-Wing Religion With the Help of Your Tax Dollars”;Taxpayer-funded crisis pregnancy centers are using religion to oppose abortion, and many of them only hire Christians.

If you want to help carry out the anti-abortion mission of the taxpayer-funded Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center, you have to be a Christian.

It’s right there on the Rapid City, S.D., center’s volunteer application.

“Do you consider yourself a Christian?” “If yes, how long have you been a Christian?” “As a Christian, what is the basis of your salvation?” “Please provide the following information concerning your local church. Church name … Denomination … Pastor’s name.” “This organization is a Christian pro-life ministry. We believe that our faith in Jesus Christ empowers us, enables us, and motivates us to provide pregnancy services in this community. Please write a brief statement about how your faith would affect your volunteer work at this center.”

But that hasn’t stopped the center from receiving federal funding and other forms of government support.

In 2010, it was awarded a $34,000 “capacity building” grant as part of President Obama’s stimulus bill.

Last year, the nonprofit National Fatherhood Initiative, with “support from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance,” awarded the center $25,000 for capacity building.

And when South Dakota passed a law requiring that women get counseling from a “pregnancy help center” before receiving an abortion, the Rapid City center was quick to sign up — becoming one of three such facilities listed on the state’s official website.

When do we get our country back from these whackos and when do we get to say that they don’t get our money?

I’m sending Hugs out today to Senator AL Franken for this.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Monday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

I have a little this and that from the crazy grab bag for you today.

One of the gun advocates associated with writing gun rights boiler plate laws for ALEC is way beyond fringe.  He has ties to a white supremacist group.

As the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) works to distance itself from the NRA-bill it backed as a “model” adopted in dozens of states, it may be hoping that people will not continue to dig into the damage done by its long love affair with gun groups, like the gun-industry funded NRA and fringe groups with ties to white supremacists like Gun Owners of America (GOA).

GOA’s Executive Director is Larry Pratt. In the early 1980s, Pratt and the GOA were outspoken supporters of the white rulers in South Africa during apartheid, calling a press conference in 1984 to present “evidence” that allegedly tied Bishop Desmond Tutu to an effort to violently overthrow the white minority regime in the country. In 1990, Pratt wrote a book titled “Armed People Victorious” based on his study of death squads in Guatemala and the Philippines, and advocated for similar “citizen defense patrols” in the United States. The idea reportedly caught on in 1992, when Pratt addressed a three-day meeting of neo-Nazis and Christian Adherents organized by white supremacist Pete Peters. He shared the stage with a former Ku Klux Klan leader and an Aryan Nation official.

Pratt also held leadership roles in ALEC for many years. His relationship with ALEC began in 1978, when ALEC began an effort to oppose a constitutional amendment giving the District of Columbia full voting rights in Congress. When Pratt was elected to the Virginia State Legislature in 1981, he took a leadership position in ALEC. He sat on ALEC’s board even after he left the legislature, serving as its treasurer into the 1990s.

More examples of today’s nuts that get  political platforms from the right wing include a Tea Party Congressman that says the President will “commit treason” if he gets another term  and a Catholic Bishop that compares the President to Hitler. What is in people’s breakfast cereal these days?  Nuts, flakes, and whacky weed?

Let’s deal with the Bishop first.  Of course, this has to do with granting women access to contraception.  Rev Wright has nothing on this red beanie dude.

Last Saturday, Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky delivered a homily in which he claimed that President Obama “now seems intent on following a similar path” to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.

Now, the Tea Party Congressmen from Pennslyvania who evidently doesn’t like the START treaties.  He thinks Obama will sell state secrets too.

At a campaign fundraiser last week, Tea Party Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) warned attendees that President Obama would commit treason if reelected in November.

Fitzpatrick was listing the reasons why voters should not support the President, and for reason number three, he told the audience that President Obama would have no qualms auctioning off state secrets to foreign countries.

The Huffington Post flagged Fitzpatrick’s comments, which were distributed by the progressive advocacy group Credo SuperPAC:

“When he left the microphone on in Russia, we all heard what he said … left unrestrained, without the inhibitions of the next election — he’d have flexibility, he said, flexibility to do what he wants to do. Whether it’s trade away … the secrets of our national intelligence, to, what he could do to the United States Supreme Court in the next four years.”

Here’s a little Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy for those of you that like to follow the CIA.  The CIA is afraid of High Tech Border Iris Scans.

Busy spy crossroads such as Dubai, Jordan, India and many E.U. points of entry are employing iris scanners to link eyeballs irrevocably to a particular name. Likewise, the increasing use of biometric passports, which are embedded with microchips containing a person’s face, sex, fingerprints, date and place of birth, and other personal data, are increasingly replacing the old paper ones. For a clandestine field operative, flying under a false name could be a one-way ticket to a headquarters desk, since they’re irrevocably chained to whatever name and passport they used.

“If you go to one of those countries under an alias, you can’t go again under another name,” explains a career spook, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he remains an agency consultant. “So it’s a one-time thing – one and done. The biometric data on your passport, and maybe your iris, too, has been linked forever to whatever name was on your passport the first time. You can’t show up again under a different name with the same data.”

The issue is exceedingly sensitive to agency operatives and intelligence officials, past and present. “I think you have finally found a topic I can’t talk about,” said Charles Faddis, a CIA operations officer who retired in 2008.

“I can’t help you with this,” added a former intelligence agency chief. “I do think this is a significant issue with great implications for the safety and security of our people, so I recommend you not publish anything on this. You can do a lot of harm and no good.”

Romney spokesman Richard Grennell seems a little too interested in the wives of pols.  His twitter stream is so catty that I can’t imagine why women’s groups aren’t demanding his resignation.  And they wonder why they have a woman problem with this sophomoric dude on board … topless beer pong and  groping cut-outs of women up next folks!

Grennell’s not the only oddball on board.  Robert Bork–you remember him– is advising Romney on the Supreme Court and the Kansas Secretary of State–rabidly anti-immigrant–is one of those guys that makes Hispanics crazy-go-nuts is the big adviser on immigration law. However, the Romeny camp is walking the title back a bit.

Kobach himself has continued to insist that he is not only advising the campaign but fully expects Romney to support the use of Arizona’s draconian SB-1070 anti-immigration law as a national model.

Nothing up my sleeve, Rocky!

Okay, so this is kewl.  Former GOP Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is comparing the GOP to the Chinese Communist Party.  Excuse the link to Buzz Feed … but it was funny enough I had to use it.

Former Republican candidate Jon Huntsman took a battle axe to his own party, comparing it to China’s Communist Party and criticizing it’s standard bearer in a wide-ranging interview at the 92nd Street Y Sunday night.

Recounting his first experience on the presidential debate stage in Iowa last August, Huntsman says he was struck by the question “Is this the best we could do?”

Huntsman, the former Utah governor and once President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to China, expressed disappointment that the Republican Party disinvited him from a Florida fundraiser in March after he publicly called for a third party.

“This is what they do in China on party matters if you talk off script,” he said.

Meanwhile,  Moonbeam Gingrich is wasting up to possibly $40,000 a day of US Tax payer money by keeping his secret service detail.  Maybe it’s because they know the location of the best little whore houses near Tranquility Base?

Gingrich, who has had secret service for about a month, has vowed to stay in the race until presumptive nominee Mitt Romney reaches the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination. Gingrich has the “Camp David” package of Secret Service, which includes but is not limited to six cars, six federal agents, four state troopers at a campaign stop, four local agents when the candidate arrives and a press agent if there is a press bus, a person with knowledge of the Gingrich campaign said.

Although the cost to keep the Secret Service detail on the Gingrich campaign couldn’t be determined, it includes agents’ meals, hotel stays, transportation and salary. The person with knowledge of the Secret Service and the campaign said Gingrich’s protection might be helping him stay in race because the cost is borne by taxpayers.

The campaign has no intention of changing course, however. “Where does he not qualify for secret service? Has Mitt Romney secured the nomination?” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond asked.

Well, that’s a little bit of the weird and whacky things I’ve found in the news.  What’s on your blogging and reading list today?

Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

This week’s New Yorker has a fascinating article by Jill Lepore about guns in America that I think everyone should read: Battleground America: One nation, under the gun. It’s long, but well worth reading. Here’s just a tiny excerpt:

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.

Men are far more likely to own guns than women are, but the rate of gun ownership among men fell from one in two in 1980 to one in three in 2010, while, in that same stretch of time, the rate among women remained one in ten. What may have held that rate steady in an age of decline was the aggressive marketing of handguns to women for self-defense, which is how a great many guns are marketed. Gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, higher in the country than in the city, and higher among older people than among younger people. One reason that gun ownership is declining, nationwide, might be that high-school shooting clubs and rifle ranges at summer camps are no longer common.

Although rates of gun ownership, like rates of violent crime, are falling, the power of the gun lobby is not. Since 1980, forty-four states have passed some form of law that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons outside their homes for personal protection. (Five additional states had these laws before 1980. Illinois is the sole holdout.) A federal ban on the possession, transfer, or manufacture of semiautomatic assault weapons, passed in 1994, was allowed to expire in 2004. In 2005, Florida passed the Stand Your Ground law, an extension of the so-called castle doctrine, exonerating from prosecution citizens who use deadly force when confronted by an assailant, even if they could have retreated safely; Stand Your Ground laws expand that protection outside the home to any place that an individual “has a right to be.” Twenty-four states have passed similar laws.

I hadn’t realized that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin just one day before the school shootings at Chardon High School near Cleveland, Ohio. Isn’t it amazing that we heard all about that shooting right away and it was old news by the time the corporate media began reporting on Trayvon’s death?

Tuesday was the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, and it seems America has changed very little, probably largely because of NRA lobbying as well as ALEC’s “model legislation” writing services.

Of course no one could help hearing about the crude and tasteless behavior on display at the NRA convention last weekend. Executive VP Wayne LaPierre even had the gall to complain about media coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting. At HuffPo, Dean Obeidallah asks why.

Did Mr. LaPierre offer any sympathy to Trayvon Martin’s family? No.

Instead, he chose to denounce the media for their coverage of the case, alleging that the media’s: “… dishonesty, duplicity, and moral irresponsibility is directly contributing to the collapse of American freedom in our country.”

What makes Mr. La Pierre’s comments especially callous is that they were made at the annual NRA convention which was being held this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis has the unenviable distinction of being the city with the second highest rate in the country for youth being killed by guns. Indeed, the gunshot murder rate for 10 to 19 years old in St. Louis is more than three times the average for larger cities according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yesterday the LA Times published photos of American troops in Afghanistan posing with body parts of dead suicide bombers.

Two photos of incidents from a 2010 deployment were published Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times. In one, the hand of a corpse is propped on the shoulder of a paratrooper. In another, the disembodied legs of a suicide bomber are displayed by grinning soldiers and Afghan police.

These are the “hero” troops that we are constantly told we have to support and be grateful to. Have these young people been warped by America’s immoral wars? Or are they products of America’s vicious gun culture? I don’t know the answer, just asking.

American officials weren’t happy with the LA Times for publishing the photos and tried to stop them from doing it. Although the Obama administration and military leaders fell over themselves condemning the actions of these troops,

At the same time, Pentagon and White House officials expressed disappointment that the photos had been made public. The Pentagon had asked The Times not to publish the photos, citing fears that they would trigger a backlash against U.S. forces.

Speaking to reporters during a meeting of NATO allies in Brussels, Panetta said:

“This is war. And I know that war is ugly and violent. And I know that young people sometimes caught up in the moment make some very foolish decisions. I am not excusing that behavior. But neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people or to our relationship with the Afghan people.”

Tough shit. Haven’t we seen enough war crimes by now? This war and the war in Iraq are just plain evil. Get these kids out of Afghanistan, and let’s hope we can prevent a majority of them from acting out violently or joining the growing number of military suicides when they get back home.

Mother Jones reports that ALEC is begging right wing bloggers to rescue them from mean old Common Cause, Color of Change, and other liberal groups who have been convincing ALEC’s donors to withdraw their support.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, the once-obscure organization that pairs corporations with state lawmakers to draft pro-business and often anti-union legislation for the state level, is in damage control mode. Corporate members such as McDonald’s, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Mars, Inc. have cut ties with ALEC after taking heat from a coalition of progressive groups angry over ALEC’s “discriminatory” voter ID bills and controversial “Stand Your Ground” self-defense legislation that figures into the Trayvon Martin shooting in central Florida.

To push back, ALEC has turned to the conservative blogosphere for help. As PR Watch reported, Caitlyn Korb, ALEC’s director of external relations, told attendees at a Heritage Foundation “Bloggers Briefing” on Tuesday that the campaign against ALEC was “part of a wider effort to shut all of us down.” She asked the bloggers for “any and all institutional support” in ALEC’s fight against progressive groups, especially when it came to social media. “We’re getting absolutely killed in social media venues—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest,” she said. “Any and all new media support you guys can provide would be so helpful, not just to us but to average people who don’t know much about this fight but are seeing us really get heavily attacked with very little opposition.”

Korb educated the bloggers with a handout listing ALEC’s positions on a range of issues. PR Watch, one of ALEC’s loudest critics, described the handout as “riddled with errors.”

Check out the list at the above link.

Joshua Holland has an excellent piece at Alternet: Freedom from a Dead-End Life: True Liberty Means Defeating the Right-Wing’s Nightmare Vision for America.

Last week, Mitt Romney summed up the Right’s rhetorical fluff as well as anyone when he told the National Rifle Association that “freedom is the victim of unbounded government appetite.” It was an unremarkable comment, so accustomed are we to hearing the Right – a movement that historically opposed women’s sufferage and black civil rights and still seeks to quash workers’ right to organize and gay and lesbian Americans’ right to marry– claim to be defenders of our liberties….

Dig a little deeper, and it becomes clear that “freedom” for the Right offers most of us anything but. It’s the freedom for companies to screw their workers, pollute, and otherwise operate free of any meaningful regulations to protect the public interest. It’s about the wealthiest among us being free from the burden of paying a fair share of the taxes that help finance a smoothly functioning society.

The flip side is that programs that assure working Americans a decent existence are painted as a form of tyranny approaching fascism. The reality is that they impinge only on our God-given right to live without a secure social safety net. It’s the freedom to go bankrupt if you can’t afford to treat an illness; the liberty to spend your golden years eating cat food if you couldn’t sock away enough for a decent retirement.

It’s another long read, but well worth the time.

At FDL, Kevin Gosztola writes about yesterday’s unanimous SCOTUS that multinational corporations can’t be sued for torturing and/or killing people.

The US Supreme Court unanimously decided that foreign political organizations and multinational corporations cannot be sued for the torture or extrajudicial killing of persons abroad under an anti-torture law passed in 1992. The law only gives people the right to sue “an individual,” “who acted under the authority of a foreign nation,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the family of a US citizen, Azzam Rahim, who was tortured and killed in the Palestinian Territory by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) intelligence officers. It was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who President Barack Obama appointed to the Supreme Court, that spoke for the decision. She explained the text of the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991 “convinces us that Congress did not extend liability to organizations, sovereign or not. There are no doubt valid arguments for such an extension. But Congress has seen fit to proceed in more modest steps in the Act, and it is not the province of this branch to do otherwise.”

Apparently, corporations are only “people” for purposes of corrupting electoral politics, but when they commit crimes they are no longer considered “individuals.” Gosztola also calls attention to the fact that Chief Justice Roberts actually laughed at the arguments of the Rahim family’s attorney Jeffrey Fisher.

Mr. Fisher did what he could with what the justices seemed to think was an exceptionally weak hand.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. summarized Mr. Fisher’s position: “You are saying, ‘Well, we want a term that is going to include individual persons and organizations but not state organizations.’ And the only term that fits perfectly is ‘individual.’ ”

“Exactly,” Mr. Fisher said. “That’s our argument.”

Chief Justice Roberts was incredulous. “Really?” he asked, to laughter in the courtroom, which the chief justice joined.

Finally, Dakinikat sent me this from The New York Times: Vatican orders crackdown on American nuns

The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America’s 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.

Rome also chided the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about?