Lazy Saturday Reads

Cuban-Americans celebrate upon hearing about the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Fla., on Saturday. AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Cuban-Americans celebrate upon hearing about the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Fla., on Saturday.
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Good Morning!!

The big news this morning is the death of Fidel Castro. From the AP via the NYT: Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Who Defied US for 50 Years, Dies at 90.

Former President Fidel Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half century rule, has died at age 90.

With a shaking voice, President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died at 10:29 p.m. Friday. He ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Toward victory, always!”

Castro’s reign over the island-nation 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Florida was marked by the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling U.S. trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots, died 10 years after ill health forced him to hand power over to Raul.

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Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.

His commitment to socialism was unwavering, though his power finally began to fade in mid-2006 when a gastrointestinal ailment forced him to hand over the presidency to Raul in 2008, provisionally at first and then permanently. His defiant image lingered long after he gave up his trademark Cohiba cigars for health reasons and his tall frame grew stooped.

“Socialism or death” remained Castro’s rallying cry even as Western-style democracy swept the globe and other communist regimes in China and Vietnam embraced capitalism, leaving this island of 11 million people an economically crippled Marxist curiosity.

The Times also has a lengthy obituary: Fidel Castro, Cuban Revolutionary Who Defied U.S., Dies at 90.

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90….

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

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Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

He dominated his country with strength and symbolism from the day he triumphantly entered Havana on Jan. 8, 1959, and completed his overthrow of Fulgencio Batista by delivering his first major speech in the capital before tens of thousands of admirers at the vanquished dictator’s military headquarters.

A spotlight shone on him as he swaggered and spoke with passion until dawn. Finally, white doves were released to signal Cuba’s new peace. When one landed on Mr. Castro, perching on a shoulder, the crowd erupted, chanting “Fidel! Fidel!” To the war-weary Cubans gathered there and those watching on television, it was an electrifying sign that their young, bearded guerrilla leader was destined to be their savior.

Much more at the link.

Meanwhile, we’re in the midst of a shocking revolution here at home. Our government has been essentially taken over by a hostile foreign state, and it appears that no one in power is doing anything about it. It looks like we are going to be ruled by billionaires–are we really going to allow our country to become a Russian oligarchy?

The Washington Post: Americans keep looking away from the election’s most alarming story, by Eric Chenowith.

In assessing Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote.

U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the Russian government actively interfered in our elections. Russian state propaganda gave little doubt that this was done to support President-elect Trump, who repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and excused the Russian president’s foreign aggression and domestic repression. Most significantly, U.S. intelligence agencies have affirmed that the Russian government directedthe illegal hacking of private email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and prominent individuals. The emails were then released by WikiLeaks, which has benefited financially from a Russian state propaganda arm, used Russian operatives for security and made clear an intent to harm the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

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From the Russian perspective, the success of this operation can hardly be overstated. News stories on the DNC emails released in July served to disrupt the Democratic National Convention, instigate political infighting and suggest for some supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — without any real proof — that the Democratic primary had been “rigged” against their candidate. On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks began near dailydumps from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account, generating a month of largely negative reporting on Clinton, her campaign staff, her husband and their foundation. With some exceptions, there was little news in the email beyond political gossip and things the media had covered before, now revisited from a seemingly “hidden” viewpoint.
Russian (and former communist) propaganda has traditionally worked exactly this way: The more you “report” something negatively, the more the negative is true. Trump and supportive media outlets adopted the technique and reveled in information gained from the illegal Russian hacking (as well as many “fake news” stories that evidencesuggestswere generated by Russian intelligence operations) to make exaggerated claims (“Hillary wants to open borders to 600 million people!”) or to accuse Clinton of illegality, corruption and, ironically, treasonous behavior.
Does anyone in the Obama administration have serious concerns about this? And what about possible connections between Russia and factions in FBI? I can only hope that efforts to deal with the situation are going on behind the scenes, but it sure doesn’t seem that way. Instead, it looks like the Obama administration is focused on making things easier for Trump and his Russian oligarch pals.

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NYT: U.S. Officials Defend Integrity of Vote, Despite Hacking Fears.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said on Friday that despite Russian attempts to undermine the presidential election, it has concluded that the results “accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

The statement came as liberal opponents of Donald J. Trump, some citing fears of vote hacking, are seeking recounts in three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where his margin of victory was extremely thin.

A drive by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, for recounts in those states had brought in more than $5 million by midday on Friday, her campaign said, and had increased its goal to $7 million. She filed for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday, about an hour before the deadline.

In its statement, the administration said, “The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian government-directed compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the president-elect.”

That was a reference to the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, and the leak of emails from figures like John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

“Nevertheless, we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” it added.

I don’t get it. So President Obama really isn’t that interested in fighting for his legacy anymore? And there’s this from The Hill: Obama urged Clinton to concede on election night.

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President Barack Obama called Hillary Clinton to persuade her to concede the White House on election night, according to a forthcoming book on Clinton’s defeat.

Authors Amie Parnes, The Hill’s senior White House correspondent, and Jonathan Allen cite three Clintonworld sources familiar with the election-night request in the unreleased book from Crown Publishing.

“You need to concede,” Obama told his former secretary of State as she, her family, and her top aides continued to watch results trickle in from the key Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The latter state, called after 1:30 a.m. by The Associated Press, was the clear tipping point for the White House race, ensuring Trump would crest over the 270 electoral-vote threshold needed to win.

Clinton ultimately heeded Obama’s advice and called Trump to acknowledge her defeat in the early morning hours Wednesday….

Obama’s call left a sour taste in the mouths of some Clinton allies who believe she should have waited longer, and there’s now a fight playing out between the Obama and Clinton camps over whether to support an effort to force the Rust Belt states to recount their votes.

Meanwhile, efforts to get recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are moving forward. The Wisconsin Election Commission: Wisconsin Elections Commission Receives Two Presidential Election Recount Petitions.

MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Elections Commission today received two recount petitions from the Jill Stein for President Campaign and from Rocky Roque De La Fuente, Administrator Michael Haas announced.

“The Commission is preparing to move forward with a statewide recount of votes for President of the United States, as requested by these candidates,” Haas said.

“We have assembled an internal team to direct the recount, we have been in close consultation with our county clerk partners, and have arranged for legal representation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice,” Haas said. “We plan to hold a teleconference meeting for county clerks next week and anticipate the recount will begin late in the week after the Stein campaign has paid the recount fee, which we are still calculating.”

The last statewide recount was of the Supreme Court election in 2011.  At that time, the Associated Press surveyed county clerks and reported that costs to the counties exceeded $520,000, though several counties did not respond to the AP’s survey.  That election had 1.5 million votes, and Haas said the Commission expects the costs to be higher for an election with 2.975 million votes.  “The Commission is in the process of obtaining cost estimates from county clerks so that we can calculate the fee which the campaigns will need to pay before the recount can start,” Haas said. The Commission will need to determine how the recount costs will be assessed to the campaigns.

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The state is working under a federal deadline of December 13 to complete the recount. As a result, county boards of canvassers may need to work evenings and weekends to meet the deadlines. “The recount process is very detail-oriented, and this deadline will certainly challenge some counties to finish on time,” Haas said.

A recount is different than an audit and is more rigorous, Haas explained.  More than 100 reporting units across the state were randomly selected for a separate audit of their voting equipment as required by state law, and that process has already begun.  Electronic voting equipment audits determine whether all properly-marked ballots are accurately tabulated by the equipment.  In a recount, all ballots (including those that were originally hand counted) are examined to determine voter intent before being retabulated. In addition, the county boards of canvassers will examine other documents, including poll lists, written absentee applications, rejected absentee ballots, and provisional ballots before counting the votes.

Haas noted that the Commission’s role is to order the recount, to provide legal guidance to the counties during the recount, and to certify the results.  If the candidates disagree with the results of the recount, the law gives them the right to appeal in circuit court within five business days after the recount is completed.  The circuit court is where issues are resolved that may be discovered during the recount but are not resolved to the satisfaction of the candidates.

The Detroit News: Mich. readies for presidential recount as cutoff looms.

Lansing — Elections officials are preparing for a possible presidential election recount in Michigan that could begin as soon as next week, state Director of Elections Chris Thomas said Friday.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has indicated she plans to jumpstart a recount in the Great Lakes state over fears that Michigan’s election results could have been manipulated by hackers. Republican President-elect Donald won the state by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to unofficial updated resultsposted Wednesday.

By Friday afternoon, Stein had raised more than $5 million of her $7 million goal to cover the cost of a recount in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan “to ensure the integrity of our elections” because “there is a significant need to verify machine-counted vote totals,” according to her campaign website. Stein finished nearly 2.3 million votes behind Trump in Michigan and received 1.1 percent of the vote.

Michigan’s deadline for initiating a recount is Wednesday. “We have not heard from anybody,” Thomas said about a Stein recount request. “We’re just trying to be proactive, make sure we have plans.”

Thomas said officials “could probably begin by the end of the week,” although it will be “a huge undertaking in a very short period of time” if it happens.

That’s all I have for you today. I admit that I’ve been sinking into depression and despair over the past few days. I don’t know how to deal with this nightmare. I’m not giving up; I’m just in a state of extreme confusion and not sure how to come out of it yet.

Take care Sky Dancers! I love you all.


Whatever You Do, Don’t Leave the House Carrying a Pressure Cooker!

Talal al Rouki with the pressure cooker of doom!

Talal al Rouki with the pressure cooker of doom!

If you do leave your house with a pressure cooker, you could be surrounded by FBI agents in an instant!

First let me clarify that this is not satire. This isn’t from The Onion, it’s from The Detroit News:

Federal agents arrested a suspicious traveler with an altered Saudi Arabian passport at Detroit Metro Airport over the weekend after discovering a pressure cooker in his luggage.

According to a criminal complaint filed today in U.S. District Court, the passenger, Hussain Al Khawahir arrived at Detroit Metro on Friday from Saudi Arabia via Amersterdam. He had a visa and a Saudi Arabian passport, and told officers in the baggage control area that he would be visiting his nephew at the University of Toledo, the complaint said.

In the baggage area, two customs officers interviewed the passenger and noticed a page had been removed form the man’s passport, the complaint said. The man said that he did not know how the page was removed form the passport, and stated that the passport was locked in a box that only he, his wife and three minor children have access to in his home, the complaint said. His hometown was not listed in court documents.

While at the airport, customs and border officials also examined his luggage and found a pressure cooker inside. When questioned about it, the man initially said that he brought the pressure cooker for his nephew because pressure cookers are not sold in Saudi Arabia, the complaint said. The man then changed his story and admitted his nephew had purchased a pressure cooker in America before, but it “was cheap” and broke after the first use.

So basically, he was arrested for lying about why he had a pressure cooker in his luggage. He couldn’t possibly have been so flustered by what happened that he couldn’t think of what to say, right? Obviously, he must be a dangerous “terrorist” carrying one pressure cooker into the country to make a bomb. Because no one sells pressure cookers in the U.S., right? So is he part of a terrorist “cell” that brings pressure cookers into the country one at a time for some future plot?

At least they read the guy his rights, according to the article.

Of course the hysteria stems from the Boston Marathon bombings in April in which pressure cooker bombs were used.

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Here’s a little more information:

Hussain Al Kwawahir appeared for a brief hearing at 1 p.m. in federal court on charges he allegedly used an altered passport and lied to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent about the pressure cooker.

It was unclear Monday whether his arrest is terrorism related or a misunderstanding. But the prosecutor handling the case is Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel, who prosecuted the terror case against underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

No one has told his court-appointed lawyer anything either.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade declined comment on the particulars of the case or whether there are any links to terrorism.

“We never want to jump to conclusions and read more into a situation than is there, but we want to make sure all cases are fully investigated to protect the public,” McQuade said.

Don’t these people have anything better to do? We have children shooting each other with guns all over the country, but they’re worried about cooking equipment. What if I order a pressure cooker on Amazon? Will the FBI come to my house and question me? Don’t worry, I’m not taking that chance.

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This story follows on a previous one–also in Michigan–in which a Saudi student cooked rice in his pressure cooker and was carrying it over to his next door neighbor’s house when other neighbors freaked out and called the FBI. From The Daily Mail: FBI surrounds house of Saudi student after sightings of him with pressure cooker pot – only to discover he was cooking RICE.

A Saudi student living in Michigan was questioned in his home by FBI agents after neighbours saw him carrying a pressure cooker and called the police.

Talal al Rouki had been cooking a traditional Saudi Arabian rice dish called kabsah and was carrying it to a friend’s house.

According to reports in a Saudi newspaper on Friday, the FBI are increasingly vigilant about ‘pressure cooker’ home-made bombs after the Boston bombers used one to make an explosive….

The young student showed them his pressure cooker and explained to them he used to make a rice dish.

An FBI agent said: ‘You need to be more careful moving around with such things, Sir’

So watch out! If you’re going to take a meal to a sick friend or an elderly neighbor, for heaven’s sake use a transparent glass casserole dish so the “authorities” can see what you’re carrying. Especially if you happen to be a brown person or have a foreign accent, of course.

I guess we can expect a long string of pressure cooker arrests, while Congress refuses to vote for background checks on gun sales and Americans continue to kill and maim each other with firearms on a daily basis.

I only wish this were a joke.


GOP Electoral Vote-Rigging Scheme Is Losing Steam

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Good News

It looks like the Republican plans to change the way electoral votes are assigned in swing states may be dead in the water. This afternoon, a Virginia Senate committee voted to kill the state’s proposed bill and Republicans in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin are expressing serious doubts about similar bills in their states.

In Virginia:

The measure appeared headed for defeat after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) came out against it Friday, as did two GOP senators who sit on the committee that would decide the bill’s fate.

Earlier Tuesday, McDonnell said during a televised interview that he was “afraid people will ignore Virginia” if the commonwealth switched to an electoral college system that picked winners by congressional district.

The governor told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that the winner-take-all system most states use is the way to go, and that splitting up electoral votes by congressional districts is a “bad idea.”

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder isn’t bullish on the proposed changes.

In another blow to the push to replace the winner-take-all method for awarding electoral votes, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said he is “very skeptical” of a Republican proposal in his state to adopt the congressional district system for allocating the votes.

“You don’t want to change the playing field so it’s an unfair advantage to someone, and in a lot of ways we want to make sure we’re reflecting the vote of the people, and this could challenge that,” Snyder, a Republican, said today on Bloomberg Television’s “Bottom Line.”

“I don’t think this is the appropriate time to really look at it,” he said.

And the Michigan Senate majority leader has indicated the measure probably won’t be put up for a vote. Michigan Live reports:

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is wary of a proposal to split up Michigan’s Electoral College votes by district, suggesting that such a move could diminish the state’s importance in presidential elections.

“I don’t know that it’s broken, so I don’t know if I want to fix it,” Richardville said Tuesday, becoming the first high-ranking Michigan Republican to question a bill that state Rep. Pete Lund is poised to reintroduce in the House.

“We’ll take a look at it,” Richardville said. “I’ve heard these things before, all or nothing versus splitting it up. I want to make sure that Michigan’s voice is a loud and clear voice, so I’d be a little concerned if we ended up splitting the difference.”

Other Michigan elected officials noted that presidential candidates would be less likely to campaign in the state if they knew they could win only a small number of votes in favorable districts.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker says the plan is “risky.”

Walker said Tuesday it’s an interesting idea, but not one he spends time thinking about. He says because Wisconsin is a battleground state, presidential and vice presidential candidates have an incentive to make repeated campaign stops here. He says he’s wary that changing the system could dissuade candidates from visiting.

Finally, in Ohio, several GOP leaders, including Secretary of State Jon Husted, oppose the plan.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Count Ohio’s Republican leaders out of a GOP-backed effort to end the Electoral College’s winner-take-all format in the Buckeye State and other presidential battlegrounds.
Spokesmen for Gov. John Kasich, State Senate President Keith Faber and House Speaker William G. Batchelder told The Plain Dealer this week that they are not pursuing plans to award electoral votes proportionally by congressional district.

Batchelder went a step further, saying through his communications director that he “is not supportive of such a move.” And Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, the state’s chief elections administrator, emphasized that he does not favor the plan either, despite Democratic suspicions based on reported comments that he said were taken out of context.

“Nobody in Ohio is advocating this,” Husted said in a telephone interview.

That just leaves Pennsylvania and perhaps Florida. Would those states want to discourage candidates from coming in to campaign?

It certainly looks as if the GOP electoral vote-rigging scheme is a loser.


State Governments Interrupted

I’ve spent the last few years watching Republican Governor Bobby Jindal enact the ALEC agenda 121211-michigan-2-8a.photoblog600down here and gut our state’s public education and health system to the point where it’s marginally functional.  All the while, he’s been taking state assets and selling them to the lowest bidders–who also represent his donor class–in the name of expensive privatization.  Any one with one of these Republican governors in office right now are watching many legislative agendas rammed through that have nothing to do with what the voting populace wants or needs. Florida, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and now Michigan are being plundered by today’s Privateers.

None of this privatization drive has anything to do with quality of service or cost savings.  Its purely away to transfer public wealth and the rights of people to corporations.   Cuts to medicare and destruction of the social security program will not improve market outcomes, do not control costs, and do not benefit the stakeholders.  Facts and other practical decision variables are not at the root at these moves.  They are naked, political plays by plutocratic power brokers who are trying to recoup their losses in investments like Mittens who didn’t pay. They’ve turned their sights to vulnerable states and populations.  Private insurance is expensive and cost-inducing.

 According to the  Council for Affordable Health Insurance , medical administrative costs as a percentage of claims are about three times higher for private insurance than for Medicare. The  U.S. Institute of Medicine  reports that the for-profit system wastes $750 billion a year on waste, fraud, and inefficiency. As a percent of GDP, we spend $1.2 trillion more than the  OECD average .

That’s an amount equal to the entire deficit wasted on private medical care companies.  One out of every six  dollars we earn goes to doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and insurance companies.

Ending social security for its less effective and more expensive private counterparts benefits no one but Wall Street.

Various reports have concluded that administrative costs for 401(k) plans are much higher than those for Social Security — up to twenty times more.

It would be difficult to find, or even imagine, any short-term-profit-based private insurer that is fully funded for the next  25 years .

At the state level, we have wars on unions, women, and public servants.  No where has the naked political aggression against working people and voters been more obvious this month than Michigan.   The  Lame Duck House Legislature is shoving through a “Right to Work” Law that is pure union busting.  It will not increase jobs.  It will not provide better outcomes for work or state budgets.  What it will do is decrease the political clout of unions in key states that  Republicans cannot win.

The Michigan House has approved one out of two right-to-work bills Tuesday. According to the AP, “The Republican-dominated chamber passed a measure dealing with public-sector workers 58-51 as protesters shouted ‘shame on you’ from the gallery and huge crowds of union backers massed in the state Capitol halls and on the grounds.”

A vote is still to come today on a second bill focusing on private sector workers.

The state’s governor has declared war on Michigan’s unions with the usual exception of police and firefighter unions.

Moreover the symbolism of Michigan’s pending right-to-work legislation cannot be overlooked. Michigan is the birthplace of the powerful United Auto Workers union–the state is practically synonymous with auto workers and other union jobs. Furthermore, Snyder’s support for the bill represents a shift in views for the Republican governor in his first term. Since he took office in January, 2011, Snyder has maintained that a right-to-work bill is not part of his agenda, and if he signs the legislation today, as is expected, he will likely face a harsh political backlash.

While Democrats lost their battle in Wisconsin, Democrats argued that the battle helped to energize the base for what turned out to be a decisive win for President Obama in the state.

And in Ohio, despite the recovering economy, Gov. John Kasich, who had his own losing battle with labor earlier this year, has approval ratings much lower than President Obama in Ohio. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Kasich with 42 percent job approval rating–his highest of his tenure, but is still 12 points below that of President Obama’s 54 percent rating.

With all three Governors up in 2014, the success for labor will ultimately be judged by whether or not these three are re-elected.

The Fox News Propaganda Network is on full steam ahead mode.

Fox News host Gregg Jarrett on Monday advised a woman who thought Michigan’s so-called “right to work” law was unfair because it allowed some workers to benefit from unions without paying dues to just “go get a job elsewhere.”

Speaking to Fox News host Martha MacCallum, Michigan state Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R) defended the legislation by saying that workers “will be able to choose how they spend their money.”

After her interview with Meekhof, MacCallum noted that Fox News had featured a woman who was angry that the anti-union law would allow workers who didn’t pay union dues to unfairly receive benefits.

“One woman, in a soundbite we had earlier, said ‘I don’t want to work somebody who doesn’t have to pay what I have to pay.’ That is part of the outrage there,” MacCallum explained to Jarrett.

“I mean, if she doesn’t like that, she can go get a job elsewhere, I suppose,” Jarrett opined in reply. “But the point here is, it seems anathema to democracy to force somebody to join a union, to force somebody as a condition of having a job to join a union.”

People that benefit from the services provided by a Union should pay for them.  Most people will free ride on union benefits.   The true benefit to Republicans is that Union Dues will not fill Democratic political coffers while Billionaires will continue their Citizens United Funding Fest.

As usual, the name “right to work” itself is a term meant to mislead the public.  The Fox reporter played into that completely.  It’s really about open and closed shops. 

Protests continue.

Law enforcement officials said they wouldn’t let Michigan become another Wisconsin, where demonstrators occupied the state Capitol around the clock for nearly three weeks last year to protest similar legislation.

Armed with tear gas canisters, pepper spray and batons, State Police officers guarded the Capitol as protesters shouted “No justice, no peace!” and “Shut it down!” NBC station WILX of Lansing reportedState Police confirmed that one of their troopers used pepper spray on one protester. No details were immediately available; the agency said it was still gathering information.

On the lawn, four large inflatable rats were set up to mock Snyder, House Speaker Jase Bolger, Senate Republican leader Randy Richardville, and Dick DeVos, a prominent conservative businessman who union leaders say is behind the bills.

This is just so obviously the work of wealthy corporate donors who are insisting their agendas be passed despite public outcry and votes.  The Republican led legislature is also attack women’s rights in a last minute attempt to shove right wing legislature through after losing at the polls.

Republican Senator Mark Jansen was the main sponsor of S.B. 613. This bill passed the state Senate and has been referred to the House Insurance committee. It prohibits abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered by the state insurance exchange in accordance with the Affordable Care Act unless a rider is purchased. So unless a female pays extra, she has no coverage in the case of an emergency. That would include an abortion needed to protect her life. How on earth is any woman supposed to look into the future and see if she would need to purchase such a rider? And one would wonder at the cost of such coverage.

Mr. Jansen didn’t stop there, though. He also sponsored S.B. 614 which requires any woman purchasing any insurance in Michigan to purchase a rider for abortion coverage. It’s sneaky about it, though. It prohibits any licensee, health care agency or facility from accepting reimbursement from any health plan for elective abortion services unless it’s from one of the aforementioned riders. Additionally, insurance providers won’t be required to even offer these riders. Again, women are expected to be able to predict the future and buy one of them. If they can even find an insurance company that offers one. And be able to afford it.

The Michigan House jumped right on board with these policies, passing H.B. 1293 and H.B. 1294, both sponsored by Rep. Joseph Hune and containing the same provisions. These were given “immediate effect.” These bills essentially ban any health care policy issued in Michigan from providing abortion coverage, making it almost impossible to obtain a medically necessary procedure.

This should show every one exactly how extreme and right wing Republican politicians have become recently and how detached they are from the will of their voters.  This should be an outrage and a warning to every concerned voter in the country.  This amounts to trying to overturn election results.  The governor of Michigan has caved to plutocratic privateers and should be removed from office.  The legislature was tied to a spending bill so it cannot be removed by voters like a similar bill was treated in Ohio.

Michigan can’t go the way of Ohio, where a referendum last year reversed legislation that would have restricted collective bargaining. Michigan’s right-to-work legislation is attached to an appropriations bill, meaning it can’t be reversed by referendum. Also, it may be too risky to wait and go the way of Wisconsin, where litigation continues after a judge struck down parts of a collective bargaining law.

However, in Michigan, there is an option of a “statutory initiative,” which would be permitted if opponents of the bills can collect enough signatures to equal 8% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, union leaders say. A so-called veto referendum could be triggered by collecting signatures equal to 5% of the votes cast.

A statutory initiative would allow voters to cast a ballot on right-to-work legisation in November 2014, when Gov. Rick Snyder, who has said he would support the legislation, will be up for reelection.

“There are multiple options for a referendum,” a senior labor leader said Tuesday. “All options are on the table. This fight is far from over.”

It’s unclear whether unions are promoting a referendum now to warn Snyder of the repercussions that signing the legislation would have.

Democrats including Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. John Dingell met with Snyder on Monday to urge him to veto the legislation. The governor promised to “seriously” consider their concerns, but Democrats remained worried that he would sign the bills.

“The governor has a choice: He can put this on the ballot, and let the voters make the determination, or he can jam it through a lame-duck session,” Dingell said Monday.


DNC Live Blog: Day 3

Here we go . . . This is the last night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. We can only hope the speeches will be as thrilling as the ones we heard last night.

Tonight Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama will accept their nominations to run for reelection. In addition, there will be a who slew of celebrity appearances, including Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, The Foo Fighters, Eva Longoria, Mary J. Blige, James Taylor, Earth Wind & Fire, Marc Anthony, and Kerry Washington. Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will lead the pledge of allegiance.

At 8:00, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist will speak. At 10:00, we’ll hear from Eva Longoria, Joe Biden, and President Obama. The rest of the night’s schedule has not been released.

Just a few headlines to get you going:

Amanda Marcotte: Sandra Fluke’s Speech Made Republicans Crazy. Which Is Just What the Democrats Want.

For a short period yesterday evening, a moment of panicked confusion broke out among those of us obsessively watching and tweeting the Democratic National Convention, when Sandra Fluke did not go on stage as scheduled. It turns out that we needn’t have worried; convention organizers made an apparently last minute decision to move Fluke’s speech to later in the night, giving her a prime-time audience. It’s a move that indicates Democrats have finally stopped freaking out at the first sign of reactionary histrionics, and instead have embraced the strategy of taking the fight to conservatives.

After decades of playing along with conservatives who dress up their hostility to female sexuality as nothing more than an interest in “life,” Democrats have finally realized that baiting the anti-choice right into showing its misogynist, sex-phobic side may just be a winning strategy.

Marcotte posts some of the rageful Republican tweets at the link.

HuffPo: Unions Hope Democratic National Convention Draws Attention To Plight Of North Carolina Workers

North Carolina passed right-to-work legislation in 1947, barring contracts that require all workers at unionized companies to pay union dues. North Carolina is now the least-unionized state in the country, with about 3 percent of workers belonging to one, according to the Labor Department. The state also bans collective bargaining for public-sector workers. Feeling snubbed, some activists skipped the convention in favor of what was billed as a “shadow convention” for organized labor in Philadelphia.

“This entire saga, from the beginning to today ­– the site selection, the state selection — the way it’s been handled is just nothing more than confirmation to me that the standing of organized labor in the eyes of the Democratic Party is lower than it’s ever been in my time,” said Chris Townsend, political director of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union, who has been in the labor movement for more than three decades.

CNN Money: Is Wall Street Being Bamboozled by Romney?

FORTUNE — Wall Street is taking quite a pounding at the Democratic National Convention this week as speakers, like Massachusetts Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren, fire populist missives so inflammatory it would cause even the most liberal banker to cringe. While the speeches are meant to fire up the Democratic base, they are also likely to induce some financiers to double their contributions to Republicans, namely, Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

But is that a safe bet? Much of Wall Street’s concerns derive from the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, even though some of the most controversial aspects of the bill seem permanently lost in regulatory limbo. Going forward, there remain questions as to what, if anything, a Romney Presidency could truly deliver in the next four years that would be so different from a second term Obama presidency. Given that uncertainty, Wall Street could possibly be better off sticking with the devil they already know.

New York Observer: We Can All Breathe a Sigh of Relief: Mitt Romney Has a Plan to End the Housing Crisis

Is Mitt Romney really the man to solve the housing crisis? Well, consider this: Mr. Romney may not have ever struggled “to put food on the table” as folksy politicians are so fond of saying, but he has four houses. Four. So he knows a thing or two about home ownership. And, unlike some homeowners who took out mortgages and couldn’t pay them back, Mr. Romney is wealthy enough not to have to take out mortgages (although there’s a possibility that he did—the man does have the common touch, at times).

In any event, the Republican candidate has revealed his four-point plan while taking a few swings at Obama, like: “the dream of home ownership is out of reach for many Americans as a result of President Obama’s failed policies and stalled economy.”

Because Americans were doing so well with home ownership before Mr. Obama took the helm. Ha! Good one! As though the “stalled economy” and, well, the “economic crisis” weren’t a result of the fact that many Americans were actually really horrible when it came to assessing risk and making responsible choices about home ownership.

The consensus is that it’s not much of a “plan.”

ABC News: Paul Ryan Anticipates and Counters Obama’s Convention Speech Tonight

COLORADO SPRINGS–Just hours before the president takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention, Paul Ryan attempted to counter Obama’s speech by reminding voters in this battleground state of then candidate Obama’s promises in his 2008 speech in Denver.

“Right here in Colorado, four years ago with the Styrofoam Greek columns, the big stadium, the president gave this long speech with lots of big promises,” Ryan said. “He said … that Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress. By those very measurements, his leadership has fallen woefully short.”

Yawn. . . Lots more of Lyin’ Ryan’s psychic predictions at the link. Frankly, after the spanking he got from Bill Clinton last night, the little twerp would do better to just STFU; but I’m hoping he continues making a fool of himself. I guess he doesn’t know that he has lost all credibility with everyone but obsessive Fox watchers.

Detroit News: Conservatives Pull Ads from Michigan

Mitt Romney’s conservative allies are bypassing Michigan with their advertising while stepping up efforts in other battleground states — suggesting campaign strategists don’t believe his road to the White House leads through his native state.

The pro-Romney groups American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity are pouring nearly $13 million into advertising in key states, indicating they remain eager to lend considerable financial muscle to Romney in states viewed as truly competitive.

There are no presidential campaign ads of any kind airing in Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to information provided by media trackers to the Associated Press.

Nate Silver: The Simple Case for Why Obama Is the Favorite

…our forecast has moved toward President Obama over the past several days. It now gives him about a three-in-four chance of winning the Electoral College on Nov. 6.

I’ll explain a little bit more about how the model comes to that conclusion in a moment, but the intuition behind it is pretty simple:

1. Polls usually overrate the standing of the candidate who just held his convention.
2. Mitt Romney just held his convention. But he seems to have gotten a below-average bounce out of it. The national polls that have come out since the Republican National Convention have shown an almost exact tie in the race.
3. If the polls overrate Mr. Romney, and they show only a tie for him now, then he will eventually lose.
The first point is the simplest of all, but perhaps the most important. There is a lot of focus on the bounce that a candidate gets after his convention — that is, how the polls conducted just after the convention compare with the ones taken immediately beforehand.

Silver predicted the 2008 election results almost perfectly.

I’m looking forward to reading your comments tonight, so bring it!


Evening News: Before the results…

We will be having a live blog tonight as the results for the Michigan and Arizona Primaries come in. Michigan polls close at 8pm local time and Arizona’s closes at 7pm local time.

So before the “fun” begins, I thought it would be good to get the evening news roundup out-of-the-way.

First some humor…then the tough stuff…and then the finale…its a good one.

You just know the comedians and satirists are itching for a Santorum nomination.

Yup, that is about the right shade of pea green…don’t you think.

Now for the news…

I wonder how long it will take the clown brigade to hop on this news item from the Washington Post:  Portions of 9/11 victims’ remains taken to landfill, report says –

Some small portions of unidentified human remains recovered from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., were incinerated and ultimately dumped in a landfill, the Defense Department acknowledged Tuesday.It was the first time that the Pentagon has said that some remains of Sept. 11 victims taken to the Dover Air Force Base mortuary later ended up in a landfill.

We have a suit and pair of shoes tucked away in our basement that has human remains and ash from the towers…my guess is lots of those remains went home on the trains and buses on September 11th, 2001.

I just don’t like these people using someone’s misery to campaign against each other.

Here are some links about the results expected today…you can pretty much guess what is being said.

After Many Momentum Shifts, Michigan Is Too Close to Call – NYTimes.com

People sometimes apply the term “tossup” a bit too broadly, using it to refer to anything close enough that they don’t want to render a prediction about it.

In Michigan, however, the term is appropriate. Rick Santorum, who once trailed Mitt Romney badly in the state, then surged to a clear lead there, then saw Mr. Romney regain his footing and pull back ahead, appears to have some late momentum in the race — perhaps just enough to win, and perhaps not.

In fact, after adding in a poll from Public Policy Polling that showed Mr. Santorum ahead by five points in interviews conducted on Monday night, our forecast model of the state briefly showed a tie, with Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum each at 37.6 percent of the vote.

George Stephanopoulos has this question…which is on everyone’s minds. /snark. What Happens if Rick Santorum Wins Michigan?

That’s the question I asked ABC News contributor Matt Dowd ahead of tonight’s primary. Mitt Romney has been bouncing up and down in the polls of his home state, and is now neck and neck with Rick Santorum.

“If Rick Santorum wins tonight it’s the equivalent of a 9.0 on a Richter scale. I mean it is going to shake Washington, it’s going to shake Republican establishment it’s just going to shake things to their very core,” Dowd told me. “And I think what you’re going to see are the conversations that have been going on behind quiet doors saying we need another candidate in this race.”

But how can another Republican jump in?  After Super Tuesday, the filing deadlines will be open in only seven states.  Even if a candidate can manage to get on the ballot – and win every one of those states – he or she will still have fewer than a third of the delegates needed for the nomination.

Dowd says Republicans could recruit another candidate to shake things up and “demonstrate that these guys are not the guys that are most electable.”

“They may not be able to win the number of delegates, but if nobody gets the majority of the delegates going into the convention, if somebody comes out from behind the scene and shows up tomorrow or in the next week or two they could actually show that they could win this,” Dowd said on “GMA.”

Video interview at the link.

Whoa…What a minute…did someone say something about recruiting other candidates?  Huh? Still pushing that meme I see…Damn they really hate Mittens.

And only after backlash like those cartoons up top has Santorum walked back his vomit comment.

Santorum regrets ‘throw up’ response to Kennedy speech

Rick Santorum regrets saying that he wanted to “throw up” in response to watching a video clip of President John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech about the separation of church and state.

“I wish I had that particular line back,” Santorum said Tuesday on Laura Ingraham’s radio show.

From that display of histrionics yesterday while defending his remarks, I don’t think he really wants to take that line back…

I know that you’ve heard me say it before, never underestimate the power of the Jesus Freaks. Case in point: Santorum on top in second straight Ohio poll

I guess I should also add violence loving Waffle House customers to that list as well: How Mitt Romney booked Kid Rock

And now for the finale…this is for all those sheep out there voting for Santorum in Michigan, because the big orange site told you to:   ‘Oldest sheep’ dies after falling off cliff

I cannot embed the video, but you have to watch it…and listen to what the owner says. It is priceless!

A ewe, thought to have been a contender for the title of world’s oldest sheep, has died after falling off a cliff.

An ear tag on the blackface ewe, nicknamed Methuselina, showed that she was 25 years and 11 months old.

Her owner, John Maciver, said he her longevity down to her good teeth which allowed her to graze easily.

See you all later tonight!