Friday, November 11, 2011

Last Call

What happened in Ohio on voters rejecting Issue 2 was a big victory statewide for public workers like firefighters, cops, and teachers.  But people are forgetting that Ohio voters also rejected more than half the school levies on the ballot on Tuesday, and that means while public unions aren't busted in Ohio, public schools are in real trouble.

Voters rejected more than half the school levies that were on Ohio ballots on Tuesday, making layoffs and other cuts likely in one of the state's big-city school districts and other school systems, officials said.

The levy's defeat in Cincinnati means layoffs are likely as officials try to close a $30 million budget gap for the public schools, which already have eliminated 200 jobs this year, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The district has not said how many additional positions could be cut.

"We believe our community supports us, they just didn't have the money," Superintendent Mary Ronan said. "We'd still like to thank all our voters. We came up a little bit short."

That $30 million gap is a big problem here in Cincy.  As good as Tuesday's election was for the progressive transformation of the City Council, the school levy losing was a major blow as it went down 47-53%.  Cincy schools will haveto make more serious cuts.  It's bad in other counties in Ohio, too that saw new levies lose. Just how bad is it?  This bad.

Districts that lost out at the polls had contingency plans in place to make up for the tax money they won't be receiving and will now move toward cutbacks, he said.

For example, the Westerville schools in suburban Columbus plan to eliminate all sports and other extracurricular activities next year, scale back busing to state minimums and eliminate about 175 teachers, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The planned cuts are "very grim," said Chris Williams, the Westerville teachers union president.

The union battle may have been won this time, but the larger GOP war on government in the state is still going very much in favor of the Republicans wishing to dismantle as much of Ohio's public infrastructure as possible.

Oh, and the Tea Party in Ohio is already gearing up for their next assault on the middle-class:  turning Ohio into a "right-to-work" state to eliminate what waning power unions in the Buckeye State have left.

The constitutional amendment would prevent any Ohio worker from being forced to join a union or pay union-fees as a condition of employment. There were provisions in Senate Bill 5 that would’ve enacted similar rules for public employees by eliminating “fair share” payments for those with bargaining-unit jobs that did not want to be union members and cancelling automatic paycheck deductions for political causes unless the employee gave written permission.

“Unions obviously are powerful political machines,” Thompson said. “One of the reasons for that is they have the ability to reach into the pocket of each of their workers through work and fair share fees and use them for political purposes.”

Passage of Issue 2 would’ve changed that — and greatly limited collective bargaining for public labor unions — but more than 2.1 million voters squashed those provisions on Tuesday.

The GOP will not give up until every union in the country is dead and gone, and every worker is at the complete whim of their employer.  It's useful to keep that in mind.  This is far from over.

Prisoner's Dilemma

All the money invested in private prison companies has to come from somewhere, you know.  Is it any wonder that one of the big players behind for-profit incarceration is a megabank like Wells Fargo?

The advocacy group Small Business United on Thursday called on Wells Fargo to provide a full accounting of investments related to private prisons and immigrant detention centers.

Wells Fargo is one of the largest investors in Geo Group, Inc. — the second largest private prison company in the world contracted by state and federal government agencies. The group spends millions lobbying for stricter immigration enforcement.

Wells Fargo has claimed the investments in the GEO Group were made by Wells Fargo mutual funds on behalf of clients, not investments made by Wells Fargo and Company.

“We demand transparency,” said Marco Reinoso, owner of Superstar Deli for 26 years and resident of Brooklyn. “I pay my fair share of taxes and deserve to know where the dark money trail leads, and whether our money is being used to further anti-immigrant bills that hurt our economy and lead to many in our community being treated with violence and inhumanity in these detention centers.”

And of course stricter immigration enforcement plus state and federal budget cuts across the board means more need for privately-operated immigration detention centers.  Amazing how that works.  Pushing to lock people up and treat them like cattle to be moved around is profitable on a large enough scale, like say a huge international bank investing in the second largest for-profit prison group in the country.  Rights optional, of course.

After spending a month in solitary confinement in a GEO Group operated Texas prison, 32-year-old Jesus Manuel Galindo allegedly died of an epileptic seizure in December 2008. The cell lacked an operational intercom, which would have allowed Galindo — who needed regular medical attention — to call for help. The neurologist who reviewed Galindo’s autopsy said he was “set up to die.”

In another incident, former GEO Group employees working for the Texas Youth Commission failed to report horrid conditions at a GEO-operated prison in Texas. An independent report found the bug-infested prison smelled of feces and urine, had numerous water leaks and racially segregated the young inmates.

It's a growing field as the One Percenters take a bigger and bigger slice of the pie, leaving more desperate and broken communities and families in their wake.  There's profit to be made off the increase in socioeconomic misery out there, and by God, America is going to lead the way in that industry.

Who says capitalist innovation is dead in America?  Not me.

Ryanair's Mile High Club

Indie Irish airline Ryanair is making turbulence in the skies with their latest aviation add-on:  in-flight porn on your tablet or mobile device.

Duty-free shopping onboard may no longer be limited to watches and perfume.  Ryanair is considering offering in-flight pornography to its passengers, according to a report on Tuesday in The Sun.

The racy content would be broadcast through a custom Ryanair app for smartphones and tablets.  Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the Dublin-based discount airline, told the Sun, “Hotels around the world have it, so why wouldn’t we?”  He said that pornography would be available only via the relative privacy of mobile devices and would not be shown on seat-back television screens.

This isn’t the first time O’Leary has displayed a “sex sells” ethos for his airline.  In 2008, he made flippant comments to the media about offering “beds and b***jobs” in business class.  The airline has also published an annual “Girls of Ryanair” calendar since the same year, featuring its female flight attendants in bikinis.

The Irish budget airline’s business model relies on controversial nickel-and-diming practices, or at least the threat of them.  Airline officials  discussed removing toilets or creating vertical “standing” seats to make room for additional seating, and converting toilets to a coin-operated system.

Ryanair has come under fire from passengers multiple times this year for charging piecemeal fees.  British singer Lily Allen criticized the airline on Twitter for charging her 40 pounds to print a replacement boarding pass.  A scuffle also broke out on a Canary Islands flight after a passenger was asked to pay an extra fee for a large piece of carry-on luggage.  A Swedish man who went into cardiac arrest onboard was given as treatment a sandwich and soda by staff and later charged for it.

All argument aside fon pornography itself existing, see a need, fill a need, as the saying goes. Hey, if people are willing to pay for it, it's going to happen.  The first time it happens in front of a family of four from Poughkeepsie, then you're going to have a problem.  Never underestimate the selling power of stuff like this, however.  I think more airlines are going to start discreetly doing this, especially European ones.

Zynga Plays A New Kind Of Game- Employee Screwing Level 1

Attracting top employees can be difficult for cash-strapped startups. So, in many cases, they give out company stock to supplement salaries that employees might feel is below-market.

Zynga followed that strategy. But now the CityVille and FarmVille maker apparently wishes it hadn't, according to a new report.

Citing industry sources, The Wall Street Journal reported today that Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, along with his top executives, decided last year as they were preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) that they had given out too much stock to employees. But rather than accept that reality, the executives reportedly tried a different tactic: demand employees give back not-yet-vested stock or face termination.

In order to determine which employees would be asked to give stock back, Pincus and his executives tried to pinpoint workers whose contributions to Zynga--in the execs' eyes--didn't necessarily justify the potential cash windfall they could receive when the company went public, the Journal claims. One Journal source said that Zynga executives were especially concerned with not creating a "Google chef" scenario.

The Google chef crack is regarding a man who ended up with twenty million in stock after Google went public. But that's the purpose. Employees gamble on the company while it starts up, and rather than force cash they are investing in the company, taking a cut in exchange for stock. If the company goes belly up the employee has no right to sue for what might have been. Why does Zynga think they can go back in time and make adjustments that suit them best, at the employee's expense? They try a weak justification, saying they are only forcing this on employees who didn't meet expectations. Failing to coach or discipline employees is not a reason to ask them to give the stock back.

Lately, we've gotten pretty good as a country at saying "no" to such stupidity. Let's hope this is not an exception.

Little Boy, Big Heart

Bradley Thomas earned his yellow belt in Taekwondo, but it is what the 7-year-old Canton boy is doing from the heart that has earned him praise.

Bradley decided to help a family have Christmas as part of his Taekwondo community service project.

Dewayne Thomas was surprised when his son came up with the idea. He said Bradley knew the Moody family had lost their Villa Rica home in an April fire.

Kelly Moody, her husband, 12-year-old son and twin 10-year-old girls live in a small, cramped hotel room. They did not have renter's insurance and had nowhere else to go.

Moody said getting by day-to-day is hard enough, and can't even think about Christmas.

Since the beginning of October, Bradley has spent his spare time earning money. He helps the neighbors and collects money at church.

"Helping organize stuff, a lot of stuff. I keep on forgetting what I do," said Bradley.

He has earned $300.50 to buy presents for the Moody children, but it's not just money he has raised.

Bradley was supposed to stop in October, but has been so successful that he will continue through November. It's just nice to hear that someone out there is working to make the world better, and this one child was able to bring a whole family hope and cheer. They will never forget this, and neither will he.

The article links to it, but I'll list it here as well. Anyone who wants to help can email his father at

Looks like Christmas really does start earlier every year!

It Goes To Eleven

Stuff to do today on Nigel Tufnel Day.

The Dems' Job Strategy Is Working

Republicans are starting to crack under the pressure of being seen as blocking all job legislation, and have decided to let a couple of shots on goal get past them.  After unanimously blocking every jobs bill so far, Republicans have completely switched tactics to try to trip the Dems up.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to pass two modest pieces of President Obama’s jobs bill.

The final vote was 95-0 with one senator voting “present.” The legislation, which is expected to pass in the House, will provide tax credits to businesses who hire unemployed veterans, and, separately, will eliminate a requirement that the IRS withhold three percent of government contracts, to assure compliance with the tax code. That requirement isn’t currently in effect, but is scheduled to be implemented January 1, 2012.

The measures are expected to pass the House. Though neither measure is likely to reduce unemployment in a significant way, these will be the first provision of President Obama’s jobs bill to become law — a fact Republicans are citing as evidence that they’re willing to compromise with Democrats to grow the economy.

Republicans are now trying to be seen as the Great Compromisers,  giving into President Obama's "demands" in the name of the American people and all that.  They're now hoping that they can force the President to give in to the rest of what they wanted in the first place.  The President needs to keep the pressure up at this point.

Bring on the next part of the jobs bill and see what the Republicans do.

In The Pipe, Five By Five

President Obama's decision to hold off on the KeystoneXL pipeline until after the election was arguably the most pragmatic thing he could do, but he was going to take damage either way.

The Department of State is planning to put the brakes on the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, Reuters reports. After seeming to be a foregone conclusion, approval by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama of the $7 billion Canada-to-Texas pipeline hit a wall of popular opposition and scandal. Climate activists mobilized across the nation, risking arrests in acts of civil disobedience, to raise the alarm about the civilizational risks of mining the tar sands. Nebraskans of all political stripes united in opposition to the foreign oil company TransCanada’s abusive practices and plans to cut across the state’s most valued ecosystems. State’s decision to reconsider its draft impact statements to evaluate alternate routes means possible final approval, originally expected this year, will be delayed at the minimum by several months.

Remember, Republicans wouldhave attacked him no matter what he did.  If President Obama agreed with the pipeline, he would have been using his army of union thugs to take land away from Americans to build his "stimulus project" gift to the AFL-CIO.  Likewise, if he disagreed with it, he would have been attacked for giving into the "job-killing environmental whacko greens just like Solyndra".

But I'm seeing the President take a lot of heat from green progressives over this too.  Greens did want a delay and for reconsideration of the project based on environmental studies and further investigation into TransCanada.  They got it.

So you have to wonder what the motive of the usual suspects really is right about now.  This one's tailor made to try to split the Dems, and more than a few are obliging.  Given that attempt, taking it out of play as the President has done was a smart move.

Karoli over at Crooks & Liars has more on this.

StupidiNews, Veteran's Day Goes To Eleven Edition

On this 11/11/11, Veteran's Day and Nigel Tufnel Day, everything goes to eleven, even the news.

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