Monday, February 28, 2011

Israeli Gov’t May Deport Children Attending Tel Aviv School Featured In Oscar Winning Documentary


Yesterday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded its Oscar for Best Documentary, Short Subject to “Strangers No More,” a film about a school in South Tel Aviv that educates children from 48 different countries, many of whom have come to Israel as refugees or because their parents have immigrated for employment. The film’s co-producer and co-director Karen Goodman thanked the school’s children in her acceptance speech:

“Thank you most of all to the exceptional immigrant and refugee children from 48 countries at Tel Aviv’s remarkable Bialik Rogozin school. You’ve shown us that through education, understanding, and tolerance, peace really is possible.”

Yet Mya Guarnieri at the Middle East news website Mondoweiss reports that the Israeli government doesn’t necessarily see it that way. “After a five month delay, which followed a year-long battle over the matter, the deportation of 400 children and their parents is scheduled to begin on Sunday,” Guarnieri reports, “Just a week after a crowd in the US applauded the touching story of foreigners who find a home here in Israel.” Moreover, the Israeli government may deport children from the Bialik Rogozin school, including one of the stars of “Strangers No More”:

Just a week after the Israeli media runs its hip-hip-hooray! reports of the win, the Oz Unit will start rounding such kids up. And one of the children is the 10-year-old star of the film. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel:

…10-year-old Esther who starred in the movie is facing a probable deportation alongside an estimated 120 pupils from her school. Esther fled from South Africa and arrived in Israel with her father four years ago – thus missing the five-year mark set as a condition to remaining in the country.

Leftist Meretz Party leader Haim Oron called the deportation plan “brutal, random, and regretful” while a former member of the Knesset from the same party called the deportation plan “despicable” and “evil.”

As for the children attending Bialik Rogozin starring in “Strangers No More,” Guarnieri observes, “it seems that ‘strangers’ are strangers to the Israeli government — no matter how tolerant and understanding the children might make the state seem to the world.” (HT: @julespenner)

Fox News’ Mike Tobin Says He Was Attacked By Wisconsin Protester

Masses of people in Wisconsin have been peacefully protesting for weeks now their governor’s decision to take away worker’s rights for no good reason; not a single one of them has been arrested.

But that hasn’t stopped Fox News from trying. Witness this hilarious report from Fox’s Mike Tobin on Sunday, pretending a whole bunch of protesters were going to get violent, get shot by tear gas, and get arrested.

These people are from the Midwest, so they’re spending their time at the protest kindly knitting with each other, but that won’t stop this Fox guy from saying they “hit” him. RIGHT-WING BLOGOSPHERE POWER RANGERS, IT’S MORPHIN’ TIME! READ MORE »

Palin Fans Organizing Plan To All Pull Over To Side of Road For Some Reason

Why do ideologues have such an abiding faith in their message that they believe if most people just hear it, they will support it too? We have no idea, but it’s often rather humorous to watch them get frustrated that nobody cares about the crap they find so fascinating and important and try to find new ways to raise awareness.

Which inevitably brings us to the conservative group Stand Up America, which is trying to organize people to drive to their “nearest highway or main route” on March 13 at 4 pm Eastern time and then all pull off to the side of the road, presumably causing all kinds of traffic jams and car accidents.

Why? “Sarah Palin called the Obama Administration’s actions as the ‘Road to Ruin’!” Okay, yeah, that sentence. READ MORE »

Poll: Wisconsin Voters Wouldn't Elect Gov. Walker In Do-Over


Wisconsin voters already have buyers remorse about electing Gov. Scott Walker (R).

In a PPP poll released Monday, a majority of registered Wisconsin voters say that in a hypothetical re-do of last year's gubernatorial election, they would vote for Democrat Tom Barrett, whom Walker defeated in November. That finding comes as Walker continues to stand firm on his budget proposals that would strip most state public employees of long-held collective bargaining rights.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they would vote for Barrett if the election were held today, while 45% said they would vote for Walker. That's almost exactly the opposite of what happened in the election, when Walker won the governorship with 52% of the vote to Barrett's 47%...................

Get Used To Everyone Hating On Michelle Obama Forever

Last week was probably not the best for our beloved FLOTUS. On Monday, famed underwear model Rush Limbaugh grumbled some crazy-speak about how our Michelle ate ribs one time, which made her too fat to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, or something.

To make matters worse, New Jersey Governor and Professional Fat Person Chris Christie decided to come to our FLOTUS’ defense, with help from Former Fat Person and Future President of the United States of Lard Mike Huckabee.

Apparently Chris Christie really wishes that Michelle Obama had put him on a diet years ago, and wants you to know how hard it is to be fat, okay? It’s a struggle. Everyone should get used to this nonsense, because when it comes to being the target of stupidity, Michelle is the new Barack. READ MORE »

Oh, Chris Lee Was Also Messing Around In the Craigslist Transsexual Section

When Republican Congressman Chris Lee resigned a few weeks ago mere hours after Gawker published what appeared to be e-mails and a photo he sent to a lady on Craigslist about wanting to have an affair, it surprised people.

People such as us. If a married diaperman such as David Vitter can survive and even be re-elected to the U.S. Senate after having weird relations with prostitutes, why should Chris Lee resign if all he did was ask a regular, not-prostitute lady on the Internet if she wanted to have an affair?

Because he also asked the same thing in the “m4t” section. Yes, some odd e-mails forwarded to Gawker, Chris Lee may have also been offering himself to transexual women. READ MORE »

Walker’s anti-union posture sends retirement rate soaring


Record numbers of public employees in Wisconsin are planning to retire because of fears that they could lose promised benefits if they don't.

The Boardman law firm, which advises unions on contract matters and benefits, sent a letter union lawyers last week warning them that the state could revoke certain health insurance benefits.

"The only way to guarantee receipt of the SHI [Supplemental Health Insurance] benefit [accrued sick time that converts to health insurance premiums after retirement--worth tens of thousands of dollars in many cases] will be to resign State employment," attorney Steven C. Zach wrote. "Receipt of the benefit is conditioned upon retirement, death, or layoff."

"[T]here are no assurances that, as of March 13, 2011, the SHI benefit will be available under the terms of the current colective bargaining agreement... The worst case scenario is tha WSAA members would lose that benefit both retrospectively and prospectively on that date."..........

Report: U.S. Has Wasted Tens Of Billions Of Dollars On Contractors In Iraq And Afghanistan


A new report from a bipartisan commission set up to scrutinize the unprecedented use of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan concludes that the United States has wasted tens of billions of the nearly $177 billion that has been spent on those contracts and grants since 2002.

The report, titled "At What Risk? Correcting Over-reliance on Contractors in Contingency Operations," said its estimate may even understate the problem because it may not take into full account ill-conceived projects, poor planning and oversight by the U.S. government, as well as criminal behavior and blatant corruption by both government and contractor employees.

"For many years," the report says, "the government has abdicated its contracting responsibilities - too often using contractors as the default mechanism ... without consideration for the resources needed to manage them."

The commission, chaired by Michael Thibault, former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and former Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) holds a hearing Monday to review the new report's findings.

About 200,000 contractor employees are working in Iraq and Afghanistan -- a number roughly equal to the American military forces deployed there, according to the report. Their work includes guarding bases, building facilities, providing food and laundry services, escorting supply and personnel movements, and translating local languages.

The current unprecedented reliance on contractors reflects a reduction in support functions the military provides and urgent needs in the two combat zones, but it occurs at a time when federal capabilities for managing and auditing contracts have suffered from years of staffing cuts and weak inter-agency coordination, the report says.

The commission's co-chairs said prompt reforms are critical for both improving the effectiveness of U.S. operations and for easing the strain on the federal budget.

Defense officials and other witnesses will testify Monday on the tools and procedures used to keep track of the 200,000 contractor employees working in Iraq and Afghanistan. They will also face questions on the competition involved in choosing contracting companies and at what level the projects can be sustained after the U.S. withdraws from the region.

The commission's final report to Congress is due July 2011 and will identify lessons from the past two years of hearings and recommend improvements for future dealings with contractors in wartime operations.

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin's pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

The Big Myth in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Union-Busting Crusade

The Battle of Madison, in addition to being about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s desire to cripple his state’s public sector unions, is also at least ostensibly about budgetary matters. Walker wants to get those nasty teachers and other government workers to foot more of the bill for their retirements, right? Well … wrong actually. And one of the worst kinds of wrong, a factual error so broadly accepted by the journalists covering the story that it distorts everyone’s understanding of it.

That’s the conclusion reached by’s David Cay Johnston, who won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of tax loopholes with the New York Times in 2001. Johnston, in a must-read for anyone who has been following the Wisconsin battle (and the similar showdowns playing out in places like Indiana and Ohio, among others), points out that the notion of asking the workers to pay a “greater share” of their retirement is deeply inaccurate. He writes:

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin's pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

How can that be? Because the "contributions" consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.

Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply "contribute more" to Wisconsin' s retirement system (or as the argument goes, "pay their fair share" of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin' s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.................

He goes on:

Who's Behind the Bills that Could Legalize Killing Abortion Providers?


First, it was South Dakota. Then Nebraska and Iowa. The similarly worded bills, which have quietly cropped up recently in state legislatures, share a common purpose: To expand justifiable homicide statutes to cover killings committed in the defense of an unborn child. Critics of the bills, including law enforcement officials, warn that these measures could invite violence against abortion providers and possibly provide legal cover to the perpetrators of such crimes.

That these measures have emerged simultaneously in a handful of states is no coincidence. It's part of a campaign orchestrated by a Washington-based anti-abortion group, which has lobbied state lawmakers to introduce legislation that it calls the "Pregnant Woman's Protection Act" [PDF]. Over the past two years, the group, Americans United for Life, has succeeded in passing versions of this bill in Missouri and Oklahoma. But there's a big difference between those bills and the measures floated recently in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa.............................

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's a Hoax: Anonymous Did Not Threaten Westboro Baptist Church


Based on its recent successes taking on the considerable forces aligned against Wikileaks, and its ability to take down HBGary--an information security firm--in a matter of hours, you do not want to be on the radar of the hacking collective known as "Anonymous". Perhaps that is why an apparent ultimatum from Anonymous to the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is making headlines. Problem is--it's a hoax...............


People of America we have heard your cries against the hate mongering and violent rhetoric of Glenn Beck and we stand with you.

No longer will we tolerate his incessant conspiracy theories intended only to incite hate and violence in the uneducated. No longer will we sit idly by while he promotes racism, bigotry and xenophobia. No more will we be silent while he fends for the RichFags under the disguise of patriotism while pandering his books and the wares of his advertisers.

Take heed Glenn Beck, if you do not immediately cease and desist your hate and fear mongering your broadcasts, websites and advertisers are in jeopardy. You must immediately broadcast a full appology to all the people you have attacked and offended. You must immediately end your hate rhetoric and fear mongering and use your position of power only to promote unity and peaceful resolutions from henceforth. The choice is yours.

People of America you can help Glenn Beck to see the error of his ways by refusing to acknowledge his broadcasts and boycotting his adverisers, websites and books in a very public manner.

Anonymous is an advoate of freedom of speech, but with that freedom comes great responsibility especially for those in a position of power like Glenn Beck that can use their speech to incite hate and violence. Therefore, we will no longer tolerate his incivility, lack of restraint and moralfaggetry.


We are Legion.

We do not forgive.

We do not forget.

Expect us.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Media Matters Daily Summary 02-23-11

UPDATED: Fox Reverses Poll Results To Falsely Claim Most Americans Favor Ending Collective Bargaining
On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed, along with an on-screen graphic, that a recent USA Today/Gallup poll found that "61 percent" of Americans are in favor of taking away collective bargaining rights from public unions. In fact, Fox aired the results of the poll completely backward: the Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans are opposed to taking away collective bargaining rights. Read More

Fox & Friends Pushes Health Care Misinformation Using Case Of Canadian Baby
Fox & Friends repeatedly used the tragic story of a 1-year old Canadian baby in a permanent coma to advance its health care reform misinformation, falsely claiming that the Canadian hospital is the cause of the infant's impending death, and fearmongering about a potential similar situation in America. In fact, the hospital is in no way the cause of the baby's coma or death, and comparisons between the health care law and the Canadian system are baseless. Read More

Limbaugh, Beck Leave Out Context On Test Scores To Smear Wisconsin Teachers
Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have both misled listeners about Wisconsin students' performance on national reading tests in order to smear union teachers. In fact, Wisconsin public school eighth-graders' reading test scores surpass national averages. Read More

Glenn Beck's Perfect Storm

Facebook: Sarah Palin ‘Lou Sarah’ Account Violated Our Terms of Service

We’re now at the end of day two of wondering why a private Facebook account was registered to Sarah Palin’s personal e-mail address, a profile listed under the name “Lou Sarah” that was “friends” with members of Palin’s family and her political appointees, not to mention was used to “like” her own infamous public page. Palin hasn’t given an answer, but when it appeared the profile was in the process of being taken down, she issued a statement saying her public page was her only account.

If the “Lou Sarah” account was hers, the statement was technically right at that point; because it was coming down, she did only have one account. So we reached out to Facebook, who sent us back a statement on why the account went down. “The account was found to run afoul of our terms and it was disabled,” wrote Facebook official Andrew Noyes. “Facebook has always been based on a real name culture.”

He refused to say whether it was Facebook acting alone or a request by either the Palin team or somebody logged in as “Lou Sarah” that prompted the removal of the profile. READ MORE »

Indiana Dep. AG Loses Job After Live Ammo Tweets

That Deputy Attorney General in Indiana who said it was time to use "live ammunition" on the protestors in Wisconsin is "is no longer employed" by the Attorney General's office.

Important to note that while fool's politics would seem to be pretty straightforward. He was in a career position. So this was not a political appointee.

Indiana Conducting "Immediate Review" of Official Who Called For Using "Live Ammunition" on Wisconsin Protesters


This morning, Mother Jones reported that Jeff Cox, an Indiana deputy attorney general, had called for using "live ammunition" against Wisconsin protesters. Cox's bosses have issued a statement noting that they are conducting an "immediate review" of the prolific tweeter and blogger and that the state attorney general will take "appropriate personnel action" when the review of the "serious matter" is complete. The statement:

The Indiana Attorney General's Office does not condone the inflammatory statements asserted in the "Mother Jones" article and we do not condone any comments that would threaten or imply violence or intimidation toward anyone. Civility and courtesy toward all constituents is very important to this agency. We take this matter very seriously.

An immediate review of this personnel matter is now under way to determine whether the assertions made in the "Mother Jones" article about an employee are accurate. When that review is complete, appropriate personnel action will be taken.

The reporter who wrote the "Mother Jones" article informs us that the offensive postings over the weekend were made using a personal Twitter account and personal email, not a state government email account.

As public servants, state employees should strive to conduct themselves with professionalism and appropriate decorum in their interactions with the public. This is a serious matter that is being addressed.............

Ga. Law Could Give Death Penalty for Miscarriages

It's only February, but this year has been a tough one for women's health and reproductive rights. There's a new bill on the block that may have reached the apex (I hope) of woman-hating craziness. Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin has introduced a 10-page bill that would criminalize miscarriages and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal. Both miscarriages and abortions would be potentially punishable by death: any "prenatal murder" in the words of the bill, including "human involvement" in a miscarriage, would be a felony and carry a penalty of life in prison or death. Basically, it's everything an "pro-life" activist could want aside from making all women who've had abortions wear big red "A"s on their chests.

I doubt that a bill that makes a legal medical procedure liable for the death penalty will pass. The bill, however, shows an astonishing lack of concern for women's health and well-being. Under Rep. Franklin's bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was "no human involvement whatsoever in the causation" of their miscarriage. There is no clarification of what "human involvement" means, and this is hugely problematic as medical doctors do not know exactly what causes miscarriages. Miscarriages are estimated to terminate up to a quarter of all pregnancies and the Mayo Clinic says that "the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn't even know she's pregnant. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn't developing normally."...............

Fox Completely Reverses Poll Results To Falsely Claim Most Americans Favor Ending Collective Bargaining

On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed, along with an on-screen graphic, that a recent USA Today/Gallup poll found that "61 percent" of Americans are in favor of taking away collective barganing rights from public unions. In fact, Fox aired the results of the poll completely backward: the Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans are opposed to taking away collective bargaining rights..............

Media hones in on Koch brothers and Walker's proposal to sell state energy plants

SHAWN DOHERTY-The Capital Times

No wonder Gov. Walker was in such a hurry to get his budget repair bill passed. Every day new stuff comes out about it.

The labor issues were obvious and got all the attention for a while. But then people started uncovering the fact that the bill would hand the Walker administration sweeping powers to revamp Medicaid with little public and legislative input.

Now a third piece of the 144-page bill is making headlines -- a power grab some critics believe could be political payback to the conservative Koch brothers.

The bill allows the Walker administration, without approval of the public services commission and without a competitive bidding process, to sell off or lease the state's several dozen energy plants to private companies.

The state can sell the energy plants "with or without the solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state," according to the rather circular wording of this clause, which then concludes that "any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest."

This is not new news -- shortly after the release of the bill, the Wisconsin State Journal published an article about the measure, and so did the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other state media.

What's different is that now, thanks in part to the delay caused by Democratic state senators fleeing the state to stall the measure, people are starting to connect some dots.............

Indiana Official: "Use Live Ammunition" Against Wisconsin Protesters


On Saturday night, when Mother Jones staffers tweeted a report that riot police might soon sweep demonstrators out of the Wisconsin capitol building—something that didn't end up happening—one Twitter user sent out a chilling public response: "Use live ammunition."

From my own Twitter account, I confronted the user, JCCentCom. He tweeted back that the demonstrators were "political enemies" and "thugs" who were "physically threatening legally elected officials." In response to such behavior, he said, "You're damned right I advocate deadly force." He later called me a "typical leftist," adding, "liberals hate police."

Only later did we realize that JCCentCom was a deputy attorney general for the state of Indiana...................

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Simple Charts Explain How 90% of Americans Get Almost Nothing

In this ridiculous country, it’s “class warfare” when working people would like a fair wage and health insurance, but it’s “Morning in America” when the top 1% have harvested nearly every dollar of financial gain in this country for the past 30 years.

Corporate taxes have dropped as quickly as CEO salaries and bonuses have risen, and we’re all supposed to “take one for the team” while Wall Street criminals make up new ways to earn billion-dollar bonuses while you get to spend a couple of months arguing with your insurance company (if you’re “lucky enough” to have health care coverage) over whether your kid’s concussion or dad’s cancer is something that might be covered.

Mother Jones put together what is possibly the most useful Mother Jones feature ever: A simple collection of visual charts and diagrams to easily explain exactly what the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush Jr./Obama Republican/Democrat governments have done to this country. READ MORE »

Media Matters Daily Summary 02-22-11

Fox News Forced To Air "Fox Lies" Protests
Fox News has been forced to air footage of Wisconsin labor protesters shouting "Fox lies" and "tell the truth" during its live coverage of the labor protests. Read More

Right-Wing Media Push Misleading Stat That WI Public Employees Make More Than Private Workers
As protests against Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget continue in Madison, WI, right-wing media have continued to push the misleading statistic that public employees in the state of Wisconsin make more money than their private sector counterparts. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, when education and experience are factored in, public sector employees in Wisconsin earn less than workers performing comparable jobs in the private sector. Read More

Fox's Bolling Ignores Key Fact While Promoting Lila Rose's Planned Parenthood Smear
Eric Bolling helped Lila Rose promote the falsehood that Live Action exposed Planned Parenthood covering up the sex trafficking of underage girls. Bolling ignored the fact that that Planned Parenthood had contacted the FBI to report the possibility that sex trafficking was occurring, which completely undermines Rose's claim that they are covering up sex abuse. Read More

Fox Uses Case Of Canadian Baby To Raise Specter Of Death Panels
On Fox News' America Live, Megyn Kelly highlighted the case of a Canadian couple who Kelly claims has been "ordered to let their 13-month-old boy die." During discussion of the case, guest Wendy Murphy claimed the decision was "a cost issue," when in reality, the baby has no chance of recovery and doctors seek to avoid preforming a procedure that could increase the baby's discomfort and the risk of infection. Read More

Koch Industries Front Group Americans For Prosperity Launches Ad To Support Walker’s Union Busting


As ThinkProgress has reported, the global conglomerate Koch Industries not only helped elect Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), but is the leading force orchestrating his union-busting campaign. Koch gave Walker over $43,000 in direct donations and its allies aired millions of dollars worth of attack ads against his Democratic opponent. Then, Koch political operatives pressured Walker to crush labor unions as one of his first priorities.

Tim Phillips, a former
lobbying partner to Jack Abramoff and current president of Americans for Prosperity, a front financed by David Koch, told the New York Times that Koch operatives “had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown.” A Koch-financed front group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has prepped Wisconsin GOP lawmakers with anti-labor legislative ideas.

Today, the Koch group Americans for Prosperity announced that it will air an ad smearing the protesters in Madison and calling on the state to support Walker’s power grab. As we noted on Friday, Koch has demanded that collective bargaining rights be curtailed for both private and public sector unions, a step beyond Walker’s already extreme move.

The ad disparages the pro-labor protesters for allegedly bringing in “out of state political protesters.” In fact, the small pro-Walker demonstration orchestrated by Koch operatives last Saturday included a number of out of state conservative activists, including Herman Cain (from Georgia), Jim Hoft (from Missouri), and Phillips (from Virginia)...............

May 1933: Hitler Abolishes Unions


On May 2nd, 1933, the day after Labor day, Nazi groups occupied union halls and labor leaders were arrested. Trade Unions were outlawed by Adolf Hitler, while collective bargaining and the right to strike was abolished. This was the beginning of a consolidation of power by the fascist regime which systematically wiped out all opposition groups, starting with unions, liberals, socialists, and communists using Himmler’s state police.

Fast forward to America today, particularly Wisconsin. Governor Walker and the Republican/Tea Party members of the state legislature are attempting to pass a bill that would not only severely punish public unions (with exception for the police, fire, and state trooper unions that supported his campaign), but it would effectively end 50 years to the right of these workers to collectively bargain...........................

Poll: Majority Oppose Banning Collective Bargaining For State Employees


As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) continues to push for a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for almost all of the state's employees, a Gallup/USA Today poll taken amid the standoff finds that most Americans would oppose a similar measure in their own state.

In the poll, 61% of adults nationwide said that they would oppose a law that would take away some collective bargaining rights for state employees, including teachers. Only one third, 33%, said that they would support that measure if it were proposed in their state.

While the poll does not specifically mention Wisconsin, the results are a fairly strong repudiation of Walker's efforts. Walker's proposal would roll back almost all collective bargaining rights for state employees except for law enforcement personnel and firefighters. Salary negotiations would be exempted from the ban.

Walker isn't the only governor looking to use budget woes as a pretense to gut collective bargaining for public employees. Similar efforts are underway in Ohio, Tennessee and several other states.

Previous polls that addressed the showdown in Wisconsin specifically provided a more mixed picture. A Rasmussen survey release earlier this week found Americans siding with Walker over the unions by a ten-point margin. Yet those results should be viewed with much skepticism, as Rasmussen front-loaded the poll with potentially misleading questions.

Another poll released this morning by Democratic pollster GQR found Gov. Walker's support eroding over the past week as protests escalated in Wisconsin.

The survey was conducted Monday night among 1,000 adults nationwide. It has a margin of error of 4.0%.

Joining Wisconsin, Montanans Protest Tea Party Assault On Workers And Environment


Protests over the radical Tea Party agenda have spilled over from Wisconsin into Montana, where hundreds rallied on the state capitol steps on Monday. Republicans gained control over both chambers of the state legislature in 2010, and, like their colleagues in other states, are challenging Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) with budgetary plans to cut health, environmental, and labor programs in order to pay for corporate tax cuts. Supporters of a safe and healthy middle class rallied in Helena yesterday to protest the “unprecedented GOP attacks on public services and education and laws that protect land, air, water and wildlife”:

Conservationists, sportsmen, firefighters, teachers, correctional officers and others gathered for a pair of rallies on the Capitol’s north lawn and demanded that Republicans focus more on creating jobs and less on ramming through controversial bills and budget cuts aimed at slashing government employees and rolling back bedrock environmental laws.

Montana Republicans are pushing:

– A bill by State Sen. Chas Vincent (R-MT) to gut the Montana Environmental Policy Act because, Vincent says, it’s what “venture capitalists” need.

– A bill by State Rep. Scott Reichner (R-MT) to slash workers’ compensation insurance because “businesses are being crushed.”

– A bill by State Rep. Walter McNutt (R-MT) to close the Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls.

– A bill by State Sen. Jason Priest (R-MT) to prevent the establishment of a state health insurance exchange.

– Bills by State Rep. Joe Read (R-MT) to declare global warming “natural” and “beneficial,” and to prevent the EPA from enforcing climate pollution rules.

– Bills to slash health programs like vaccination, water safety, anti-smoking, child nutrition, and the Montana Healthy Kids health insurance program for children.

– A $32 million cut to higher education in the state.

Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing bills to cut or eliminate taxes on corporations.

Update - Protesters in Ohio and Indiana have also descended on their state capitols to defend workers' rights.

Priorities? GOP Governors Shift Burden To Poor, Middle Class To Pay For Tax Breaks For Rich, Corporations


State budgets across the country are in disarray as a weak economy, the end of tens of billions in Recovery Act funds, and a GOP-led House that is pushing for deep cuts to many programs that benefit state and local governments set the stage for massive in shortfalls over the next two years. Instead of making the tough choices necessary to help their states weather the current crisis with some semblance of the social safety net and basic government services intact, Republican governors are instead using it as an opportunity to advance several longtime GOP projects: union busting, draconian cuts to social programs, and massive corporate tax breaks. These misplaced priorities mean that the poor and middle class will shoulder the burden of fiscal austerity, even as the rich and corporations are asked to contribute even less. Here’s a detailed look at how the GOP’s war on the poor and middle class is playing out at the state level:

Arizona: Following months of national outcry and at least two deaths, Gov. Jan Brewer’s administration has finally relented on what many likened to real-life “death panels” that denied care to those in need of transplants in order to save the state just over a million dollars. Now, however, Governor Jan Brewer is proposing to kick some 280,000 Arizonans, mostly childless adults, off the state’s Medicaid rolls. Brewer claims such a move is the only way to get the state’s fiscal house in order, as it would save $541.5 million in general funding spending. Brewer also wants to save $79.8 million by dropping 5,200 “seriously mentally ill” people from the state’s Medicaid program. Instead of balancing out these draconian cuts with additional revenue increases or simply not making the cuts in the first place, Brewer instead signed $538 million in corporate tax cuts into law two weeks ago.

Florida: Last week, Gov. Rick Scott announced that he was canceling a proposed high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa — something that will cause Florida to forego $2 billion in federally-funded investments and cost the state at least 24,000 jobs. Scott’s move is opposed even by the Republican chairman of the U.S. House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Obama administration officials are seeking ways to bypass Scott to keep the project moving.

Scott’s radical budget proposal, unveiled at a tea party event, includes $4.6 billion in spending cuts that would result in the direct loss of more than 8,000 jobs. It would also privatize large areas of state services, including juvenile justice facilities, Medicaid, and some hospitals. Education spending would be cut by more than $3 billion and teachers and other public employees would see their pensions under threat. Such deep cuts in essential programs and services are necessary to offset Scott’s proposal to cut corporate and property taxes by at least $4 billion.

Michigan: While newly-elected Gov. Rick Snyder has said he won’t “pick fights” with unions, his budget plan echoes the misguided priorities of other GOP governors. As Matt Yglesias has noted, Snyder has an innovative definition of “shared sacrifice.” His plan calls for “$1.2 billion in cuts to schools, universities, local governments and other areas while asking public employees for $180 million in concessions.” In addition, it would raise taxes on individuals by ending many deductions and taxing pensions — all in order to pay for $1.8 billion in tax cuts for businesses. Since the state’s entire budget shortfall this year is only about $1.7 billion, all or most of the cuts to services and programs important to the poor and middle class (many of whom will also see their taxes increases) could be avoided if the governor was willing to forego corporate tax breaks.

New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie has become a right-wing sensation, particularly because of his war on public employees — especially New Jersey’s teachers. He’s often lauded by the conservative punditocracy for his tough talk and for balancing the state’s budget last year without raising taxes. Unfortunately, a look behind the curtain reveals that Christie’s numbers simply don’t add up. After vetoing Democrats’ plans to raise taxes on New Jersey’s millionaires, Christie closed the state’s multi-billion dollar shortfall through a combination of measures, including simply refusing to make contributions to the state’s pension fund and steep cuts in education funding and assistance to municipalities. Democrats accused Christie of simply shifting the burden to local governments, which caused New Jersey’s already-high property tax rates to double even as the state was slashing funding to its property tax rebate program. (Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty used a similar gimmick during his final year in office.) Christie is also being sued by Federal Transit Administration for keeping $271 million in federal funding for a tunnel under the Hudson — money he insists on keeping even after having personally canceled the project.

New Jersey is staring down another large deficit and Christie’s budget, expected to be released today, will pair continuing austerity for education and local governments with further cuts to the state’s Medicaid program. The austerity measures and cuts to programs for the poor will have to be all the deeper this year as Christie is also insisting on cutting corporate tax rates.

Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin after the jump.

Ohio: Gov. John Kasich demonstrated an early propensity for making future-losing choices when he made good on a campaign promise to kill Ohio’s federally-funded high-speed rail project — a move that will cost Ohio $400 million in badly-needed infrastructure investment, cost thousands of jobs, and derail millions of dollars in related private sector investments in economic development. Kasich, along with numerous other Ohio Republicans, has signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge that rules out any tax increases to help the state make ends meet. Even though the state has an $8 billion budget shortfall, Kasich has gone even further in proposing a variety of tax cuts that would benefit corporations and the wealthy. In addition to going after public employees (who Kasich thinks should not ever have the right to strike) and essential government programs, he has proposed a variety dubious privatization schemes to finance such massive tax breaks.

Kasich has voiced support for radical Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s assault on the middle class and workers. The Ohio Senate takes up SB5, its version of anti-union legislation, today; at least 8 Republican Ohio state senators have already come out in opposition to the current proposal. The current proposal goes even further than the Walker plan in eliminating collective bargaining rights for Ohio’s public employees.

Texas: As ThinkProgress has reported, Gov. Perry spent the last two years traveling around the country attacking the stimulus and other Obama administration initiatives, all while touting the “Texas Miracle” (low taxes, low services, and low regulations). However, as Matt Yglesias noted, “It looks like the secret behind Texas’ ability to avoid the kind of budget woes that afflicted so many states last year was two-year budgeting rather than the miracle of low-tax, low-service, lax-regulation policies.” Moreover, Perry relied more on the stimulus than any other state to fill his 2010 budget gap, with stimulus funds plugging a full 97 percent of the gap.

In facing down a $25 billion budget crisis on par with that of California, Perry categorically rejected any tax increases. Texas, as Paul Krugman said, already takes a “hard, you might say brutal, line toward its most vulnerable citizens,” as indicated by its poor educational performance and sky-high 25 percent child poverty rate. Still, Perry also refuses to use any of the $9.4 billion in the state’s rainy day fund (some of which, ironically, comes from stimulus funds intended to help states stave off draconian cuts that Perry instead squirreled away) and is instead contemplating deep cuts to child services programs and education, among other things. Perry even floated a plan to drop Medicaid entirely. Perry’s proposed education cuts are so deep that they prompted an unlikely source to take to the pages of the Houston Chronicle to write in opposition to them — none other than former First Lady Laura Bush. Bond ratings agency Standard & Poors has also weighed in, saying Texas’ cuts-only approach “won’t solve the state’s long-term fiscal problems” and that revenue increases need to be considered alongside the deep cuts being proposed.

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker first gained national headlines for joining Ohio’s Kasich in a future-losing decision to cancel an $800 million investment — fully paid for the by the federal government — in high-speed rail. This decision prompted train manufacturer Talgo to announce it was leaving the state and will likely cost the state thousands of jobs.

Walker is of course now famous for his high-stakes war against Wisconsin’s workers. Walker has used a very small short-term shortfall and larger shortfall to come (which is still smaller than shortfalls the state has faced in recent years) to move forward with an unpopular plan to destroy the state’s public employee unions. As Ezra Klein and many others have noted, Wisconsin’s unions aren’t to blame for the state’s budget problems and taking away their collective bargaining rights will have no impact on the state’s fiscal situation. Indeed, the unions offered to concede to all of Walker’s financial demands, so long as they could retain their collective bargaining rights. Walker balked at this offer, betraying his true motive: busting unions. Walker is also late in offering his budget, but it is believed that in spite of the supposed “crisis” and being “broke,” as Walker himself has said, his budget plans will include “a LOT more tax breaks” for the rich and corporations that will have to be balanced on the backs of workers or with painful cuts to state services and the state’s Medicaid programs, BadgerCare. It’s also worth noting that the last time Scott Walker went union busting, it turned into a massive boondoggle when he was overruled by an arbiter, wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars in the process.

When Republican governors speak of “shared sacrifice,” it seems that the only thing they mean is sacrifices by the poor and middle class in order to fund massive tax breaks for the rich and corporations. As governors from across the country gather in Washington, D.C. at the end of this week at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, ThinkProgress hopes to catch up with some governors to discuss their priorities — misplaced or otherwise.

Rasmussen Poll on Wisconsin Dispute May Be Biased

Nate Silver of the Times' FiveThirtyEight blog

We’ve noted before that the automated polling firm Rasmussen Reports has had problems with bias in a statistical sense: in the election last fall, its polls overestimated the standing of Republican candidates by roughly 4 percentage points on average.

A somewhat different issue arises today in a poll the firm conducted on the dispute in Wisconsin between Gov. Scott Walker and some of the state’s public-employee unions.

The poll, which included people that Rasmussen deemed to be “likely voters” from across the country, found that 48 percent of respondents agreed more with Mr. Walker in the dispute, while 38 percent agreed more with “the union for teachers and other state employees.”

That question, though, was the fourth one Rasmussen asked in the survey — and the questions that came before it may have biased the responses.

According to the firm’s statement of question wording, these were the first four questions Rasmussen asked in the poll:

1: How closely have you followed news reports about the Wisconsin governor’s effort to limit collective bargaining rights for most state employees?

2: Does the average public employee in your state earn more than the average private sector worker in your state, less than the average private sector worker in your state, or do they earn about the same amount?

3: Should teachers, firemen and policemen be allowed to go on strike?

4: In the dispute between the governor and the union workers, do you agree more with the governor or the union for teachers and other state employees?

There is nothing wrong with the first question, which simply asks people whether they have been following events in Madison. But the second and third questions are arguably problematic.

The issue is clearest with the third question, which asked respondents whether “teachers, firemen and policemen” should be allowed to go on strike. By invoking the prospect of such strikes, which are illegal in many places (especially for the uniformed services) and which many people quite naturally object to, the poll could potentially engender a less sympathetic reaction toward the protesters in Wisconsin. It is widely recognized in the scholarship on the subject, and I have noted before, that earlier questions in a survey can bias the response to later ones by framing an issue in a particular way and by casting one side of the argument in a less favorable light.

The Rasmussen example is more blatant than most. While many teachers have been among the protesters at the State Capitol in Madison, obliging the city to close its schools for days, there have been no reports of reductions in police or fire services, and in fact, uniformed services are specifically exempted from the proposals that the teachers and other public-sector employees are protesting. So bringing in the uniformed services essentially makes No. 3 a talking point posed as a question.

As an analogy, imagine a survey that asked respondents whether they believed the Democrats’ health care overhaul included “death panels” before asking them whether they approved or disapproved of the bill over all.

The second question in the Rasmussen poll found that 36 percent of respondents believe that public-sector employees earn more than private-sector workers in their state, while 21 percent thought public sector workers earned less, and 20 percent thought they earned about the same amount.

In fact, according to an analysis by USA Today, state employees earn about 5 percent less than comparable employees in the private sector, on average, although federal employees receive significantly (20 percent) more.

A poll is not a pop quiz, and the respondents in the survey are not to blame for giving the “wrong” response. Also, the question posed by Rasmussen, which did not consider the type of work performed and asked simply about average salaries in the respondent’s home state, was not exactly the same as the one studied by USA Today, which covered the whole country and took account of the the type of work done. Still, to the extent that this misperception about pay levels is widely held and casts public employees in a less favorable light, a survey question that reminds respondents of it could bias responses to later questions.

Until we have another survey that designs its questions more carefully, there is no good way to predict how the responses to this one might have turned out differently.

Another automated poll by the survey firm We Ask America, which is a subsidiary of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and uses methodology similar to that of Rasmussen Reports, found that a majority of respondents disapprove of Mr. Walker’s budget plan — but it was a survey of Wisconsin residents, not the entire country, as Rasmussen’s was.

Because of the problems with question design, my advice would be simply to disregard the Rasmussen Reports poll, and to view their work with extreme skepticism going forward.

Sarah Palin Has Secret ‘Lou Sarah’ Facebook Account To Praise Other Sarah Palin Facebook Account

Sarah Palin has apparently created a second Facebook account with her Gmail address so that this fake “Lou Sarah” person can praise the other Sarah Palin on Facebook. The Gmail address is available for anyone to see in this leaked manuscript about Sarah Palin, and the Facebook page for “Lou Sarah” — Sarah Palin’s middle name is “Louise” — is just a bunch of praise and “Likes” for the things Sarah Palin likes and writes on her other Sarah Palin Facebook page. “Lou Sarah” even says “amen” to Facebook posts by Sarah Sarah. READ MORE »

Monday, February 21, 2011

Evian Roller Babies international version

Fox Says Anti-Union Bill Is Need To Balance OH Budget, But Bill's Author Disagrees

Fox News' Special Report portrayed legislation that would restrict the collective bargaining rights of public workers in Ohio as "the only way" to balance the state's budget. However, even the State Senator who introduced the bill acknowledges that it will not "solve Ohio's immediate budget problems." Read More

Disgraced Former Tea Party Leader Calls On Right-Wing Activists To Pose As SEIU Organizers


National tea party groups like Americans for Prosperity have been bussing conservative activists to Madison, WI to confront protesters there standing up to Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) union busting. But Tea Party Nation and Mark Williams, the disgraced former chairman of Tea Party Express, who was forced to resign after making offensive racial comments, are calling for a more radical approach. In an email alert to supporters sent last night, Tea Party Nation promotes Williams’ “great idea” to impersonate SEIU organizers at upcoming labor rallies in an attempt to embarrass and discredit the union.

Williams lays out a highly dishonest and fairly involved scheme to have “plants” sign up on the SEIU website to be organizers for an upcoming rally, dress up in SEIU shirts, and to then make outrageous comments to reporters covering the events in order to “make the gathering look as greedy and goonish as we know that it is”:

That link will take you to an SEIU page where you can sign up as an “organizer” for one of their upcoming major rallies to support the union goons in Wisconsin. Here is what I am doing in Sacramento, where they are holding a 5:30 PM event this coming Tuesday: (1) I signed up as an organizer (2) with any luck they will contact me and I will have an “in” (3) in or not I will be there and am asking as many other people as can get there to come with, all of us in SEIU shirts (those who don’t have them we can possibly buy some from vendors likely to be there) (4) we are going to target the many TV cameras and reporters looking for comments from the members there (5) we will approach the cameras to make good pictures… signs under our shirts that say things like “screw the taxpayer!” and “you OWE me!” to be pulled out for the camera (timing is important because the signs will be taken away from us. [...]

Our goal is to make the gathering look as greedy and goonish as we know that it is, ding their credibility with the media and exploit the lazy reporters who just want dramatic shots and outrageous quotes for headlines. Even if it becomes known that we are plants the quotes and pictures will linger as defacto truth.

Williams is even hoping to make a few bucks off the idea, asking readers to “Please contribute!!!” as “I need to travel beyond Sacramento to the other SEIU rally cities and then Madison, and in short order!”

And Williams has no qualms about employing this treachery, telling his “plants”: “Chances are that because I am publishing this they’ll catch wind, but it is worth the chance if you take it upon yourself to act.” In an update, Williams say activists in Iowa, Colorado, Massachusetts, “and several other states” were already on board, and he said “Tea Party Patriot groups and individuals are flooding me with emails vowing to participate and come up with their own creative ruses!”

Williams’ plan appears to have been taken down from both Tea Party Nation and Williams’ own site, suggesting they perhaps realize this plan is entirely in the wrong, but view a cached version here, and screen grabs here and here.

Update - In a statement to ThinkProgress, SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette condemned Williams' plot, saying: "At a time when Americans are standing up and courageously speaking out, these guys are playing the same old dirty tricks. Last week we learned about the Chamber trying to create phony research to debunk and hack into our computers, this week the Tea Party dons purple. It's like the emperor has no clothes: they have to rely on subterfuge because they do not really represent the majority of people."

George Soros Responds To Glenn Beck's 'Puppet Master' Criticism


George Soros has responded to Glenn Beck's extensive criticism of him, in which Beck calls Soros a "puppet master" trying to overthrow governments around the world.

"I would be amused if people saw the joke in it," Soros said in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria that aired Sunday.

Soros added that News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch is actually responsible for spreading anti-government falsehoods, and Beck is echoing his ideals on TV. "He has a media empire that is spreading falsehoods," Soros said.

Beck has dedicated no shortage of air time trying to expose Soros' "secret" plans, including hanging actual puppets from strings -- something The Daily Show's Jon Stewart specifically lampooned.

Soros said Fox News has imported George Orwell's "Newspeak," in order to deceive its viewers.

"This is a very, very dangerous way of deceiving people," he said. "I would like people to be aware that they are being deceived."

How John Birch Society Extremism Never Dies: The Fortune Behind Scott Walker’s Union-Busting Campaign


Over 68,000 people have mobilized in Madison and progressive organizers are planning solidarity efforts across the country to denounce Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) radical attempt to bust Wisconsin’s public sector unions. So far, Walker has refused to compromise, even though Wisconsin labor leaders are already coming to the table with large concessions. How can Walker press on, even with public opinion beginning to turn against him? Much of Walker’s critical political support can be credited to a network of right-wing fronts and astroturf groups in Wisconsin supported largely by a single foundation in Milwaukee: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a $460 million conservative honey pot dedicated to crushing the labor movement.

Walker has deeply entwined his administration with the Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation’s CEO, former state GOP chairman Michele Grebe, chaired Walker’s campaign and headed his transition. But more importantly, the organizations lining up to support Walker are financed by Bradley cash:

The MacIver Institute is a conservative nonprofit that has provided rapid-response attacks on those opposed to Walker’s power grab. MacIver staffers produced a series of videos attacking anti-Walker protesters, including one mocking children. Naturally, the videos have become grist for Fox News and conservative bloggers. In addition, MacIver created studies claiming that Wisconsin teachers and nurses are paid too “generously” and other reports claiming that collective bargaining rights hurt taxpayers. The Bradley Foundation has supported MacIver with over $300,000 in grants over the last three years alone.

– The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is a major conservative think tank helping Walker win support from the media. The Institute has funded polls to bolster Walker’s position, and like MacIver, produced a flurry of attack videos against Walker’s political adversaries and a series of pieces supporting his drive against the state’s labor movement. Over the weekend, the Institute secured a pro-Walker item in the New York Times. The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is supported with over $10 million in grants from the Bradley Foundation.

– As ThinkProgress has reported, the powerful astroturf group Americans for Prosperity not only helped to elect Walker, but bused in Tea Party supporters to hold a pro-Walker demonstration on Saturday. In 2005, the Bradley Foundation earmarked funds to help Koch Industries establish the Americans for Prosperity office in Wisconsin. From 2005-2009, the Bradley Foundation has given about $300,000 to Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin (also called Fight Back Wisconsin).

It should be no surprise that Walker’s radicalism is boosted by Bradley money. Today, the Bradley Foundation is controlled by a group of establishment Republicans, along with Washington Post columnist George Will. However, the Foundation’s agenda still reflects the extremist views of its founder, Harry Bradley. Although he passed away in 1965, Harry, a member of one Wisconsin’s most powerful families and a key financier of nationalist hate groups, would have eagerly applauded Walker’s union-busting agenda.

Harry, along with his older brother Lynde, started the Allen-Bradley company, a major manufacturer of electronics and engine parts. After a bitter strike in 1939, Harry became increasingly political. Although his company boomed because of World War 2-era contracts from the government, Harry abhorred any intrusions into his business: especially labor organizers (who he termed “communists” in his memoirs), as well as pressure to hire women and minorities in his plants, a move he resisted until his death. Responding to the civil rights movement and liberalism in society, Harry became obsessed with right-wing politics. According to scholar William Schambra, Harry even studied Lenin and Stalin for ideas on how to wage guerrilla warfare against the left. He joined candy manufacturer Robert Welch to be one of the founding members of the John Birch Society (along with Fred Koch, the father of Koch Industries executives Charles and David Koch), and financed other right-wing firebrands. Media Transparency’s profile of the Bradley Foundation sheds light on its founder:

Robert Welch, who founded the Society in 1958, was a regular speaker at Allen-Bradley sales meetings. Harry distributed Birchite literature, as did Fred Loock, another key figure at the company. They also supported the Australian doctor Fred Schwarz, founder of the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade; William F. Buckley, Jr.’s National Review; and a right-wing Midwest radio program produced by anti-communist producer Bob Siegrist. Harry’s main political targets were “World Communism” and the U.S. federal government, not necessarily in that order. His political philosophy was laissez-faire capitalism, and he was strongly opposed to anything that might restrict his freedom to conduct his business as he saw fit. His promotion of “freedom”, however, did not extend to his own workers. While women had worked at the plant since 1918, and made up nearly a third of the workforce during World War II, they weren’t paid the same as men. They finally sued in 1966, charging the company paid less to women than male workers operating the same machines. A federal judge ruled in their favor. Allen-Bradley was one of the last major Milwaukee employers to racially integrate, and then only through public and legal pressure. By 1968, when the company’s workforce had grown to more than 7,000, Allen-Bradley employed only 32 Blacks and 14 Latinos.

After the Allen-Bradley company was purchased by Rockwell International in 1985, the Bradley Foundation surged with an additional $290 million in funds. The money has gone on to finance ideas held strongly by Harry Bradley: anti-affirmative action scholars, anti-multiculturalism books (the Bradley Foundation underwrote the notoriously racist book The Bell Curve), anti-welfare campaigns, privatization efforts, neoconservative fronts, and tens of millions for groups opposed to public and private sector unions, particular in the field of education. As conservative writer Al Regnery has observed, conservatives have relied on the Bradley Foundation to finance the backbone of radical policy ideas that first take root in Wisconsin but are then championed by Republicans around the country. Gov. Scott Walker’s current fight to crush labor rights in Wisconsin is the fulfillment of Harry Bradley’s John Birch Society dream.