Sunday, June 26, 2011

Last Call

Want to know the real reason Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels isn't running for President?  Here's a hint:  it has everything to do with the absolute failure of the central Republican argument of the last several years -- that privatization of vital government services is the only way to save these services.  Under Mitch Daniels, Indiana privatized the state's public assistance services.  The results were nothing short of horrific.

Though the $1.37-billion project proved disastrous for many of the state's poor, elderly and disabled, it was a financial bonanza for a handful of firms with ties to Daniels and his political allies, which landed state contracts worth millions.

The disparate effects underscore the risks of handing control over public services to the private sector. Whether the approach will ultimately improve services and save money remains a matter of fierce debate in Indiana. But the state's experience shows that without adequate safeguards, privatization can compound the very problems it is designed to correct: bureaucratic burdens, perceptions of influence-peddling and a lack of competition.

It's an issue that is likely to persist, as Republicans in statehouses nationwide turn to private companies as they seek to shrink government and weaken the hold of public-sector unions. One of the main proponents has been Daniels, who privatized a prison and a major toll road and sought unsuccessfully to lease out the state lottery, cultivating a reputation for fiscal discipline that led major party figures to urge him to run for president in 2012. He recently declined, but retains considerable influence in his party.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is seeking to privatize aspects of his state's welfare programs, much as Daniels did — an idea that has drawn warnings from federal officials who noted the problems Indiana encountered.

That's right: under the state's privatization program, tens of thousands of Indiana's citizens lost their public assistance, while the companies that administered the program made millions at taxpayer expense.  Worse, those same companies were -- you guessed it -- major donors and friends to Indiana Republicans like Mitch Daniels.

Critics say that in Indiana, the privatization process barreled forward with little public input and was marred by the appearance of conflicts of interest. Despite the massive nature of the changes he was proposing, Daniels insisted he did not need legislative approval. And the only public hearing occurred after he announced he would proceed with the project.

Key players involved in the process had ties to Affiliated Computer Services, the company that benefited the most from the deal. Mitch Roob — a Daniels appointee who ran the state's Family and Social Services Administration when it awarded the contract — was a former ACS vice president. As the state began the project, Roob occasionally sought advice from former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, a political ally of Daniels and fellow privatization advocate who also had been an ACS vice president.

It proves that the whole "free markets" and "privatization" scheme is nothing more than another avenue for the GOP to give taxpayer money to their corporate owners.  Imagine that.  Oh, but let's remember this is exactly what Republicans want to do at a national level with their plan to "reform" Medicare and Medicaid.  Scott Walker is trying the exact same plan in Wisconsin next.  And if Republicans get control of the White House and the Senate in 2012, then they'll do the same thing to the entire country.

Republicans don't want anyone taking a look at Mitch Daniels' record too closely.  There's a reason why he suddenly decided he wasn't going to run in 2012, and I guarantee you this disaster of a privatization program is exactly why.

They have to screw the entire country over before Mitch Daniels gets too much attention in the press.

Still On The Wrong Side Of History

Reaction to New York's same-sex marriage law has been slowly coming in from the 2012 Clown Car Candidates, and on the Sunday shows today the differing reactions of two of those hopefuls are notable.  First, GOP Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey vowed once again that any measure similar to New York's would immediately meet his veto pen.

"In our state we're going to continue to pursue civil unions. I am not a fan of same sex marriage. It's not something that I support. I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. That's my view. And-- and that'll be the view of our state because I wouldn't sign a bill like the one that was in New York."

On the other hand, Michele Bachmann seems to have the opposite reaction...on the surface.

BACHMANN: In New York state, they have passed the law at the state legislative level and, under the 10th amendment, the states have the right to set the laws that they want to set.
WALLACE: So even though you oppose it, then its ok from — your point of view — for New York to say that same-sex marriage is legal.
BACHMANN: That is up to the people of New York. I think that it’s best to allow the people to decide on this issue. I think it’s best if there is an amendment that goes on the ballot, where people can weigh in. [...]
WALLACE: But you would agree, if its passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor then that’s the state’s position.
BACHMANN: It’s state law. And the 10th amendment reserves to the states that right.

 Now that's interesting, but before we start in with the "ZOMG Bachmann is better on gay rights than Obama!" idiocy, let's note she's punting here, and she freely admits here that she would much rather see A) a US Constitutional amendment that outlaws gay marriage for the entire country, and B) State constitutional amendments that ban it by popular vote.

All she is saying here is that she respects New York's state same-sex marriage law...right up until the second it's overridden by a federal constitutional amendment.  Clever move on her part, but completely transparent.  Let's not kid ourselves here:  Republicans still want to eliminate gay marriage and other gay rights, and no amount of tenther punting will cover that up.

She's still homophobic as Chris Christie and the rest of the GOP crazies, period.

PS, LA Times has a very interesting piece on an old story that, now that Bachmann is in the race, the Villagers are starting to pay attention to:  our "fiscal conservative" Tea Party Michele sure loves her federal farm subsidies, to the tune of a cool quarter of a million dollars.

Judge Prosser Needs A Check-Up From The Neck Up

A rather disturbing story out of Wisconsin this weekend:  State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, who won this year's special election and recount under very dubious circumstances and then was the key vote in allowing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting bill to become law, is now being accused of trying to choke a female justice on the court after a heated argument.

New details are emerging in this weekend's story that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser -- a member of the court's 4-3 conservative majority who was just re-elected to a ten-year term in a heated race that involved a recount and vote-tabulating controversies -- allegedly attacked liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley during an argument over the court's recent decision regarding the upholding of Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union legislation. Now, Bradley is speaking up, and saying publicly that she was assaulted by Prosser.

"The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold," Bradley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Meanwhile, an unnamed source who is on Prosser's side of the argument accused Bradley of initiating the violence. "She charged him with fists raised," the source told the paper, saying that Prosser "put his hands in a defensive posture" to block her, and made contact with her neck. Bradley is then said to have immediately complained of being choked, while another, unnamed Justice responded, "You were not choked."

In response, Bradley told the paper: "You can try to spin those facts and try to make it sound like I ran up to him and threw my neck into his hands, but that's only spin.

"Matters of abusive behavior in the workplace aren't resolved by competing press releases. I'm confident the appropriate authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident involving abusive behavior in the workplace."

Assault like this is no laughing matter if it's true, and whatever investigation into this affair needs to be completely transparent and above board.  If it turns out Prosser did assault another judge on the court, I would have to imagine he'd face impeachment hearings at the very minimum.

Where this will go I have no idea, but I'll certainly be keeping an eye on this case.

Supreme Stupidity

The Supreme Court put the brakes on a massive job discrimination lawsuit against mega-retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., saying sweeping class-action status that could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of current and former female workers was simply too large.
The ruling Monday was a big victory for the nation's largest private employer, and the business community at large.
The high-profile case– perhaps the most closely watched of the high court's term– is among the most important dealing with corporate versus worker rights that the justices have ever heard, and could eventually impact nearly every private employer, large and small.

So, their concern isn't that thousands upon thousands are being treated improperly under the law.  Discrimination?  Don't worry about it.  The fact that it's so bit it might make a difference is what is holding back the Supreme Freaking Court.  I am afraid I have to call bullshit, big time.  That is what the Supreme Court is for, and they should take a look at this and do their job.  

Right now, workers need protection more than ever.  With so many out of work and considered "working poor" businesses can exploit this. 

Gisel Ruiz, Executive Vice President for Wal-Mart U.S., said in a statement the company was "pleased" with the court's ruling.
"Walmart has had strong policies against discrimination for many years. The Court today unanimously rejected class certification and, as the majority made clear, the plaintiffs’ claims were worlds away from showing a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy," the statement said. "By reversing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, the majority effectively ends this class action lawsuit.

He's wrong.  Wal-Mart wasn't found innocent, the victims were found too plentiful.  As a woman who has gone through this many times, I share their frustration.  More than once I have worked longer hours, produced more results, and made measurable improvements only to be paid less than my male coworkers and promoted more slowly.  I'm not saying Wal-Mart is guilty, that hasn't been proven.  But this is plain cowardly and stupid, a chance to investigate and help has been turned down knowingly.  I'm disgusted.

It's About Darned Time

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) – Governor Andrew Cuomo made same-sex marriages legal in New York on Friday, a key victory for gay rights ahead of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
New York will become the sixth and most populous U.S. state to allow gay marriage. State senators voted 33-29 on Friday evening to approve marriage equality legislation and Cuomo, a Democrat who had introduced the measure, signed it into law.
I have lost some respect for Obama lately over his handling of a few issues, and this is one of them.  However, despite a lack of support, we finally have movement.  The "deeply troubled" bishops can start minding their own business, and take their concerns and apply it towards the divorce rate, drug addiction, the homeless, or something that is actually, you know... wrong.

GOP Lies In Arizona Spreads Like Wildfire

And the source of this big lie is the "reasonable Senator Emeritus" of the GOP, one John McCain, who said last week that undocumented immigrants were responsible for setting the wildfires that are ravaging eastern Arizona and western New Mexico right now.  Now everyone's getting in on the two-minute hate.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the infamously tough "Sheriff Joe," released a statement about the arrests, which occurred near the border where the wildfires blazed.

“It’s a long shot I know,” Arpaio said. “But since we already gather information from them about their U.S. entry points and traveling routes and methods, this is simply one more area of intelligence to explore that may help us to determine the origins of these fires.“

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been criticized for the last week because he blamed undocumented immigrants as the cause of the fires.

"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” he said at a press conference last Saturday. “They have set fires because the want to signal others. They have set fires to keep warm and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Az) backed him, up, saying "he is correct."

Only one problem with this.  It's a total and complete load of crap.

U.S. Forest Service officials have directly discredited McCain and Kyl's claims.

Tom Berglund, the Forest Service official in charge of the Wallow blaze, told ABC News that it has been classified as an "escaped campfire." Asked if there was substantial evidence linking illegal immigrants and the fire, Berglund said, "Absolutely not, at this level."

"There's no evidence that I'm aware, no evidence that's been public, indicating such a thing," he said.

No evidence, no facts that support this wild conspiracy theory, no proof that undocumented immigrants had anything to do with this.  But that won't stop the GOP's crusade in Arizona to blame them for everything that goes wrong there.  If you fill the citizens' mind with hate, it's so much easier to demonize them, to dehumanize them, and demand that the state take violent action against them.

But remember, Republicans like John McCain and Jon Kyl are reasonable, moderate lawmakers.  John McCain was almost President, after all.  Can you imagine what President McCain would be doing right now in Arizona?

I sure as hell can.

Yelling At Gay Clouds

Via Balloon Juice, the National Organization for Marriage's Maggie Gallagher is vowing that the New York Republicans who allowed same-sex marriage to pass will pay "a grave price."

This is a woman who is promising that since some Republicans didn't hate gays enough, weren't bigoted enough, weren't hateful enough to their fellow New Yorkers, that they will be made to pay a price for doing so.  This is how the GOP operates in 2011, if you don't have enough hate in your heart, you're useless to them.

And I have to laugh, because the only people getting consigned to the dustbin of history are people like Maggie Gallagher.
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