We are the 99%

September 30, 2011

Will Bush Cancel This Trip, Too?

An astute reader brought this to my attention yesterday:
Today, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) lodged a detailed and lengthy indictment setting forth the case against former U.S. president George W. Bush with the Attorney General of Canada, urging him to open a criminal investigation against Bush for his role in authorizing and overseeing his administration’s well-documented torture program. Bush will visit Surrey, British Columbia on October 20th, as a paid speaker at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit at the invitation of Surrey Mayor Diane Watts.
If the arc of this story sounds familiar, it's because it is. In February, we reported on a trip Bush canceled to Switzerland.  And linked to this bit from the Huffingtonpost:
Former U.S. President George W. Bush has cancelled a visit to Switzerland, where he was to address a Jewish charity gala, due to the risk of legal action against him for alleged torture, rights groups said on Saturday.
The CCR was among those groups:
On February 7, 2011, two torture victims were to have filed criminal complaints for torture against former president George W. Bush in Geneva, who was due to speak at an event there on February 12th. On the eve of the filing of the complaints, George Bush cancelled his trip. Swiss law requires the presence of the alleged torturer on Swiss soil before a preliminary investigation can be open. The complaints could not be filed after Bush cancelled, as the basis for jurisdiction no longer existed.
This time it's Canada:
“George Bush has openly admitted that he approved the use of torture against men held in U.S. custody,” said Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at CCR. “Despite this admission, no country has been willing to investigate and prosecute Bush’s criminal acts, leaving the victims of his torture policies without any justice or accountability. Canada is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, and has an obligation to investigate Bush for his leadership role in the U.S. torture program. Torturers – even if they are former presidents of the United States – must be held to account and prosecuted. We urge Canada to put an end to impunity for Bush.”

“Canada has a strong legal framework and there is absolutely no ambiguity in our criminal code when it comes to committing or allowing torture,” said Matt Eisenbrandt, Legal Director of CCIJ. “There is grave evidence that former President Bush sanctioned and authorized acts of torture, not only in violation of Canadian laws, but also of international treaties that Canada has ratified. It is therefore clear that our government has both the jurisdiction and the obligation to prosecute Bush should he set foot again on Canadian territory.”
You can read the indictment here.

Section II (page 34) spells out the Canadian Jurisdiction over tortuers. Pointing out that torture is illegal in Canada.  It also points out (page 36) that:
Notwithstanding anything in this Act or any other Act, every one who, outside Canada, commits an act or omission that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offence against, a conspiracy or an attempt to commit an offence against, being an accessory after the fact in relation to an offence against, or any counselling in relation to an offence against, section 269.1 shall be deemed to commit that act or omission in Canada if...(d) the complainant is a Canadian citizen; or (e) the person who commits the act or omission is, after the commission thereof, present in Canada. [emphasis added.]
And Bush is scheduled to be there on October 20.

Maybe Canadian law will do what the Obama Administration has so far refused to do, prosecute the Bush torture.  To do so would be to merely follow the law.

Yes, it is that simple.

September 29, 2011

Watchin' Teh Crazie

It's always a good idea to take a peek at what teh crazies are thinking. What was once the far fringe of the GOP is now pouring the tea at the party.

So where's the fringe now?

Secession, dissolution of the union. Thus spake Robert Ringer at crazie central, WND.

Writing as "The Voice of Sanity" Ringer lays out his plan like this:
Those who believe in big government could take one half of the country and regulate, tax and redistribute wealth to their heart's content. Within a few short years, of course, it would become a U.S. version of North Korea, devoid of civil liberties and mired in poverty, but, hey, we all get the government we deserve.

After giving the left first choice, conservatives and libertarians could then take the other half of the country – any half would be just fine – and implement a free-market economy that would be as close to laissez-faire capitalism as possible. In a short period of time, it would become a U.S. version of South Korea (or the U.S. itself in the days of yore), with explosive wealth creation and maximum freedom for its citizens.
His argument, such as it is, is based on a set of false pretenses:
The truth, of course, is that the U.S., like Europe, is socially and economically beyond repair. Yet, the answer from the left is always the same – take more money from small businesses and working people and redistribute it to handpicked corporations, special-interest groups, and government employees and bureaucrats. .

The problem is that there soon will be no wealth to redistribute. Sure, progressive politicians can keep the redistribution vote-buying scam going for a while longer, but, ultimately, a Greek ending is unavoidable. And when that happens, rioting in the U.S. will be much more violent than in Greece, because people have gotten used to a considerably higher standard of living than working people in Greece and the rest of Europe. .

Now, here's where it gets complicated. While the left continues to rev up its class-warfare strategy, there are tens of millions of Americans – primarily libertarians and conservatives – who want the government to butt out. Specifically, they want to drastically cut back on government's usurped powers to regulate, tax, redistribute wealth, and interfere in the economy and people's lives.
That "the left" is taking money from (among others) "working people" and giving it to (again, among others) corporations.

But according to Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson, that's just what the GOP is planning:
Come January, the Republicans plan to raise the taxes of anyone who earns $50,000 a year by $1,000, and anyone who makes $100,000 by $2,000.

Their tax hike doesn’t apply to income from investments. It doesn’t apply to any wage income in excess of $106,800 a year. It’s the payroll tax that they want to raise — to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent of your paycheck, a level established for one year in December’s budget deal at Democrats’ insistence. Unlike the capital gains tax, or the low tax rates for the rich included in the Bush tax cuts, or the carried interest tax for hedge fund operators (which is just 15 percent), the payroll tax chiefly hits the middle class and the working poor.
Do I need to continue analyzing Teh Crazie?

In any event, that's what's going on on the right wing fringe at the WND; Faked Birth Certificates, Scary Sharia behind every shadow, and splitting the Union in two.

September 28, 2011

Reminder: Off The Record!


Off The Record XI: No fracking Way!
Satirizing Pittsburgh for a Good Cause

See Batman try to save Pittsburgh from the treacherous Marcellus Shale, whose influence on the region extends to parking rates, school shutdowns and stink bugs, in addition to energy and the environment.

What: Musical satire, lampooning Pittsburgh politics, personalities and culture, with a special emphasis this year on Marcellus Shale drilling.
Who: Presented by the Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild/CWA and Pittsburgh AFTRA. KDKA’s Ken Rice emcees.
Where: Byham Theater, Downtown.When: Thursday, Oct. 6. Hors d’oeuvres and cash bar in lobby at 6:30, show at 8.
Why: Primary beneficiary is the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
How: For tickets, $70, $45 or $25, call 412-456-6666.More information: www.offtherecordpgh.com.

I've been to a few of these things and they're always very good.  If you can scrape together the double sawbuck and a fin, do it.  If you can scrape together more, then do more scraping.

Also, October 6 is also the day AFTER my birthday.  So if you were planning on getting me anything (and I know you all were!), give it to the food bank instead.  They need it w-a-a-a-a-a-y more than I do.

Banned Books Week

Did you know we're in the middle of the ALA's "Banned Books Week"? Well, we are:
Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.
So get off line, shut down the computer and go read a book.

Of course, I can't tell you what to do.  But maybe you could read one of these, perhaps.

As a follow up to this incident this summer, it'd like to point out something from the Guardian in England:
"To hell with the censors!" said Kurt Vonnegut. "Give me knowledge or give me death!" Now the late author's memorial library is acting on his words, giving 150 copies of his seminal novel Slaughterhouse-Five away for free to students at the Missouri school that banned it late last month.

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is asking interested pupils at Republic High School in Missouri to drop it an email requesting a free copy of Slaughterhouse-Five after an anonymous donor provided it with 150 copies of the book. "We think it's important for everyone to have their First Amendment rights. We're not telling you to like the book ... we just want you to read it and decide for yourself," said Julia Whitehead, the library's executive director, in a note on its website entitled "stop the madness".
Well, I liked the book.

To hell with the censors. All of them. Everywhere.

Poo-tee-weet?

September 27, 2011

Doesn't ANYONE Read The Constitution These Days?

From John Micek's essential, indespensible Capital Ideas, yesterday:
A Cadre Of Mostly Republican Lawmakers ... ... called this morning for House approval of a pair of bills that critics say will significantly curtail access to abortion services across the state.

The bills, which await House approval, would hold abortion clinics to the same licensing and health standards as outpatient surgical centers and forbid taxpayer-funded abortion coverage through state-run insurance exCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.changes now scheduled to open in 2014.
For whatever it's worth, take a look at who's opposing the bills:
Andy Hoover, legislative director for the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said supporters of the clinic bill will have to "explain" how the legislation advances the cause of women's health when both the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Ob/Gyn department at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have come out against the legislation.
Beyond the misogyny of this legislation designed to "help" women by restricting their rights, let's scroll way down to the bottom of the piece.  It's a gobsmack moment:
Rep. Brian (sic) Barbin, D-Cambria, the only Democrat to speak publicly on behalf of proposals that backers claimed have broad bipartisan support, framed his argument for the bills in personal and religious terms:

"You're responsible to encourage the decision that God would have you make," he said.
I can't imagine Micek getting the quote wrong or omitting the context necessary to frame it into something, you know, reasonable.  But can someone in Harrisburg please get this Barbin a copy of the Bill of Rights?  This part especially:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
If Rep Barbin needs some coaching as to what that all means, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote in Everson v. Board of Education that:
The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.
If Rep Barbin is looking for something closer, he can take a peek (again, if someone can perhaps send him a copy?) of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Section 3 on Religious Freedom:
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship. [emphasis added.]
Setting aside everything else that's odious about this legislation, justifying it by saying (as I understanding Barbin) that the law should encourage women to make the decision that God would want them to make runs counter to the letter and the spirit of the Constitutions of both the United States and of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Gobsmacked.

Protest/Rally Tuesday

Lots going on today:
  • 12:30, Environmental: Press conference, 1:30 clean air march. "clean air and water / for stronger protection against natural gas and oil pollution." ~ 10 major national, state and local enviro groups. Outside David L Lawrence Convention Center. Street address of the Conv. Ctr is 1000 Ft. Duquesne Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Part of the EPA's public hearing, 9 AM to 8 PM. I believe one can still sign up to speak via this link or this link. Not sure what times of day are still available, nor if they'll take walk-ins. Links here and here and here.

  • 1:30 PM, Voting: "Fix the economy, not our elections" (encourage Corbett to join other notable R's who oppose the R plan to re-allocate PA electoral votes in a way that's calculated to give an excess of votes to R's, compared to the popular vote). Outside 301 Fifth Ave. Piatt Place Building downtown Pittsburgh. Links here and here

  • 4 PM, Save America's Postal Service: Various locations statewide, "save your post office and P.O. delivery" AFL-CIO & others, incl. E Carson &26th & 504 Washington Road, Pittsburgh. Link to locations
  • September 26, 2011

    Just Wondering...

    A few days ago my good friends at the Tribune-Review published this:
    The Justice Department's own inspector general indicts the agency for extravagant spending on food. Think $16 for a single muffin. Think a single beef Wellington appetizer that cost $7.32. Think $5 for a single Swedish meatball. Just as bad, the IG suggests not much has improved since its last report in 2007. And this from the administration that insists on "soaking the rich."
    See that? $16 for a single muffin - that's what they said.  That's just outrageous!!

    It would be if it were true.  Which of course it isn't.  From ABCNews:
    “Under a complete accounting of the services provided for the Executive Office for Immigration Review conference, it is clear that the muffins did not cost $16,” DOJ spokeswoman Gina Talamona said in a written statement. ”The abbreviated banquet checks did not reflect all of the food and services provided. The package consisted of food, beverages, staff services and function space, including a 450-seat ballroom and more than a dozen workshop and breakout rooms each of the five days of the conference.”
    Oh, things look different now. That was from the DOJ side. What do the Hilton folks have to say about it? Take a look:
    “Dining receipts are often abbreviated and do not reflect the full pre-contracted menu and service provided,” a Hilton statement said, “as is the case with recent media reports of breakfast items approved for some government meetings. In Washington, the contracted breakfast included fresh fruit, coffee, juice, and muffins, plus tax and gratuity, for an inclusive price of $16 per person.”

    Without the tax and tip, a spokesman noted, the cost of the continental breakfast was $14 per person.
    Ok. Now we're down to $14 per person, not per muffin.

    And lookie that actually agrees with something else found in that IG report:
    The IG reports said “the EOIR spent nearly $40,000 on refreshments at the conference. The service and gratuity charges applied to each bill equaled 20 percent of the total price of refreshments. Applying the 534-attendee figure to the total cost of refreshments over the 5 days of the event, EOIR spent an average of $14.74 per person per day on refreshments.”
    My question is this: given that a fuller investigation into the facts of this story has, in fact, changed the outlines of this story, when will we be seeing a correction by Scaife's braintrust on the Tribune-Review's op-ed page?

    My guess is that, yet again, they won't let the facts get in the way of a good smear.  And we'll be hearing about Obama's $16 muffins for years.

    [Comedy note:  If there were only bagels mentioned in the story, then I could've punned in that last sentence and say that the Trib wouldn't let facts get in the way of a good schmear.  Oh well - maybe that's a good thing.]

    September 24, 2011

    OFF THE RECORD - October 6


    Off The Record XI: No fracking Way!
    Satirizing Pittsburgh for a Good Cause

    See Batman try to save Pittsburgh from the treacherous Marcellus Shale, whose influence on the region extends to parking rates, school shutdowns and stink bugs, in addition to energy and the environment.

    What: Musical satire, lampooning Pittsburgh politics, personalities and culture, with a special emphasis this year on Marcellus Shale drilling.
    Who: Presented by the Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild/CWA and Pittsburgh AFTRA. KDKA’s Ken Rice emcees.
    Where: Byham Theater, Downtown.When: Thursday, Oct. 6. Hors d’oeuvres and cash bar in lobby at 6:30, show at 8.
    Why: Primary beneficiary is the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
    How: For tickets, $70, $45 or $25, call 412-456-6666.More information: www.offtherecordpgh.com.

    I've been to a few of these things and they're always very good.  If you can scrape together the double sawbuck and a fin, do it.  If you can scrape together more, then do more scraping.

    Also, October 6 is also the day AFTER my birthday.  So if you were planning on getting me anything (and I know you all were!), give it to the food bank instead.  They need it w-a-a-a-a-a-y more than I do.

    September 23, 2011

    Daryl Metcalfe on Fairness

    On his campaign website, State Representative Daryl Metcalfe writes:
    The founders of our great nation sacrificed to give us a Constitutional Republic as our form of government, and intended for us to prosper in a free market economy. A common theme in our U.S. and State constitutions is that the primary purpose of government is to ensure justice, by protecting the life, liberty and property of the individual citizens of our nation and states. Our government's role was intended to be that of a servant and not a master. Government, with its tentacles of departments and programs, has cast the rights of the individual citizen aside to pursue its own agendas. Government must be downsized, restructured, and brought back to its assigned Constitutional role of protecting the rights of the individual. It should ensure justice so that the people of the Commonwealth may enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
    Certainly tinged (ok more than just tinged) with conservative talking points, but the overall idea in the above paragraph is found in those last two sentences; that government's function is to protect the rights of the individual so that they may enjoy life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Great idea, no question.  It's good that Representative Metcalfe feels so strongly about it.

    But it's not for everyone, it seems.

    On Tuesday, Amy Worden of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Can I call it the "Inky"? Everyone else seems to.) wrote:
    The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act has long banned discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of gender, race, religion, and disability.

    Not covered, however, is sexual orientation or gender identity.

    State Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny) has waged a nearly decade-long fight to change that through legislation that would add gay, lesbian, and transgendered Pennsylvanians to the protected categories.
    There's more info on the meeting here:
    The House Democratic Policy Committee heard from legal and business experts today regarding the impact that discrimination is having on Pennsylvania businesses and local governments and how legislation (H.B. 300) could positively impact the state, according to committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster.

    State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, requested the hearing and served as its co-chair. Frankel has introduced House Bill 300, which would protect people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in the past two legislative sessions.

    "In recent polls Pennsylvanians have made it clear that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable in our Commonwealth," Sturla said. "The wave of support is growing across the state in favor of measures like House Bill 300. Representative Frankel has been an outspoken advocate for equality in our state and today’s hearing was essential in exploring some of the elements of his bill."
    And that poll data? For that we turn to Tracie Mauriello of the the P-G:
    The majority of Pennsylvanians support his effort, according to poll data released this morning by Equality Pennsylvania. Statewide, 69 percent support legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, public housing and public accommodations, according to the poll. Meanwhile, 24 percent oppose such legislation, 6 percent are undecided and 1 percent refused to answer.
    Here's HB 300 in the event you wanted to see it.

    Let's close the loop on this. Back to Worden at the Inky:
    Despite 64 legislative cosponsors and polls suggesting the majority of the public supports his proposal, Frankel's bill will likely not even get a hearing in the GOP-controlled House.

    His bill passed out of the State Government Committee last session, but failed to get a full House vote even when Democrats controlled the chamber.

    Obstacles loom larger this session, given the fact that the Republican chairman of the committee that would consider the bill is opposed to it.

    Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), the chairman of the State Government Committee, said there were "laws on the books" to protect individuals against discrimination and charged Frankel with attempting to advance a far-left agenda.

    "Trying to add additional behaviors to the act would be endless," he said. "Rep. Frankel's obsession with putting sexual behavior into law is offensive to people."
    Looks to me if the "laws on the books" were enough, then there'd be no need for Frankel's bill.  And, of course, it's interesting to see that when the bill mentions (as it does) "actual or perceived" sexual orientation or gender identity, Daryl Metcalfe only hears "sexual behavior".  And, of course, it's those "behaviors" that offend him.

    Either way, it's obvious that Daryl Metcalfe wants the guv'ment to protect the rights of the individual, just not every individual.

    September 22, 2011

    Yep, They're STILL At It!

    From today's Tribune-Review:
    De facto amnesty for an estimated 300,000 illegal aliens is not merely an Obama administration end run around a Congress opposed to such coddling. It also hamstrings an economy struggling to create jobs -- and is especially harmful to younger, less-educated jobless Americans. In a new report, Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies (cis.org), says this administration is allowing hundreds of thousands of illegals who'd otherwise be deported to stay here and to apply for work authorization, too.
    We've danced this dance before, haven't we? A few times. So let's look at how others view CIS. First there's John Micek over at Capital Ideas. He was writing about some hearings run by another friend of ours, Daryl Metcalfe:
    The range of experts appearing before lawmakers today suggests that Mr. Metcalfe -- as is common knowledge hereabouts -- has already made up his mind. The witnesses include Michael Bekesha, of the conservative Judicial Watch, which has received funding from the Scaife Foundation; the Center for Immigration Studies, whose research has been called into question by the Southern Poverty Law Center; the Tea Party Immigration Coalition and several others, including a police chief from Beaver Meadows, Pa., and a member of the American Legion.
    And this is what (from the link above) the SPLC has to say about the CIS:
    Although the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) bills itself as an "independent" think tank that seeks "to expand the base of public knowledge"about immigration, the Washington, D.C.-based group is only interested in one thing. CIS's reams of reports, as well as its blog postings, editorials, and frequent panels and press conferences, incessantly push the idea that America's immigration system is an unadulterated evil and that the only way to save America from impending doom is to cut drastically the number of immigrants. CIS has blamed immigrants, both legal and undocumented, for everything from terrorism to global warming. To make its case seem as strong as possible, CIS often manipulates data, relying on shaky statistics or faulty logic to come to the preordained conclusion that immigration is bad for this country. But CIS studies have been regularly debunked by mainstream academics and think tanks including the Immigration Policy Center, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and America's Voice.
    But I guess that's ok.  I mean if one of your main sources of foundation money actually owns a newspaper and that newspaper regularly quotes your "research", it's more or less inconsequential that that research gets debunked by mainstream academics.

    Another lesson on the rightwing noise machine.

    Hey, THANKS!

    Thomas C Waters had some very nice things to say about my PodCamp chat with Congressman Mike Doyle.

    Modesty prohibits me from directly quoting the blog post - and anyway, you should go read the blog post for yourself.

    And if you like it, dammit buy the man a cup of coffee!

    September 21, 2011

    More Scaife Connections To Keep An Eye On

    From The Huffington Post:
    A recently-formed judicial "academy" funded by industry groups and conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is offering members of Congress and their staff free meals and trips in order to "educate" the lawmakers on controversial pro-business reforms.

    The group is the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy (CCJCA), launched earlier this year by the Law and Economics Center (LEC) at George Mason University's School of Law. Despite being part of the university, the right-leaning LEC depends entirely on specially-designated donations which come from a core group of about 50 corporations and foundations, including The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, Merck, Exxon, Eli Lilly, Altria, Wal-Mart, and the conservative Bradley Foundation.
    Luckily, if one were to click the "core group" link above one would see a familiar name on the list:
    Sarah Scaife Foundation
    You just knew there'd be some Scaife money tied in with all this, didn't you?  Wondering how much?

    Glad you asked.  Way back in March of 1999, Salon.com described write this:
    Most alarming to critics is the fact that key financial supporters of the seminars are foundations such as Olin and Scaife -- philanthropic institutions whose normal list of annual grantees reads like a hall of fame roll call for the right-wing intellectual power structure. While Scaife has provided seed money and continuing funding for the Law and Economics Center at George Mason, the Olin Foundation has spent millions on a large-scale attempt to promote law and economics curricula at law schools across the country.
    And a page or so later:
    The Scaife Foundation also funds numerous law and economics programs, and has taken a particular interest in the George Mason Law and Economics Center. The Scaife Foundation provided original seed money for the establishment of the center (then located in Miami) in 1973, and as late as 1996 was still contributing around $100,000 a year to the center -- about 10 percent of its annual operating budget.
    In fact, Media Matters lists $860,000 in Scaife money going to the:
    LAW AND ECONOMICS CENTERS FOUNDED BY HENRY G. MANNE (AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI, EMORY UNIVERSITY, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY) LAW AND ECONOMICS CENTER
    from 1990 to 1997.

    So yea, I guess we can conclude there's some serious Scaife money involved here.

    And this is what's going on, according to the Huffingtonpost:
    According to an invitation and an agenda obtained by The Huffington Post for the October retreat, participants will be "educated" on "civil justice issues" by three different experts, all of whom belong to the same controversial "Law and Economics" movement in the legal community. The movement's speakers favor the use of economic principles to make legal decisions, with a high value placed on the most efficient solution. As such, Law and Economics tends to favor corporations over individuals where lawsuits and punitive damages are concerned, making it especially popular among industries with high litigation rates and plaintiff class actions, such as pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. These same industries are the ones that fund the academy's work: In addition to the corporations above, the Law and Economics Center has received donations from Verizon, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Google, State Farm, Pfizer, Conoco Phillips, Boeing, AT&T and 3M -- every one of which has been the target of at least one class action lawsuit since 2009.
    Interesting what connections you find if you just take a look.

    Something else to watch.

    September 20, 2011

    PSO Ticket Giveaway!

    Along with blogging here at 2PJ, I occasionally blog for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

    This week we were given the opportunity to GIVE AWAY TWO TICKETS to Friday's concert.

    So here's the deal: In the comments and in one sentence or less, give me a good reason why you (and no one else) should get Friday's tickets.

    It's 9:45 Tuesday night right now.  I'll randomly select a comment from all the comments made in the next 24 hours.  (Actually, I'll assign each a number and then find a random number generator on line to pick one of them for me.)

    Good luck!

    COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED.

    UPDATE: Congratulations on Joe AND Jennifer!  Since there were only two commenters (and how embarrassing for me!) I was able to scrounge up a pair of tickets for each.

    Missed This Yesterday - The Trib Tribs Again

    I ended a post yesterday (a post that pointed out, yet again, how the Tribune-Review's editorial board casually omits their owner's financial entanglements with the think tanks it cites) with this:
    Another lesson in how the right wing media functions.
    It's one thing to see such tribbing on the editorial page.

    It's another to see it in the paper's news section.

    This is what I missed yesterday.  It's a piece by Jeremy Boren and Jason Cato and it's about poverty in America.  In positing an opposing point of view, Boren and Cato wrote:
    As the figures grow, the face of poverty is changing to include more suburbanites and young, able-bodied people such as Jones who want to work but are having trouble finding jobs as unemployment hovers nationally at 9.1 percent.

    Views of poverty also are being challenged.

    The Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, riled poverty advocates with a July report from researcher Robert Rector that said most poor people are not huddling in shacks or waiting in soup kitchen lines.

    Instead, Rector wrote, 80 percent of poor people have air conditioning; 92 percent have a microwave; almost 66 percent have satellite TV; nearly 75 percent have a car; and more than half have Xbox or PlayStation game consoles in their homes.

    The report said 96 percent of poor parents said their children did not go hungry in 2009 despite the recession.

    "It's meant to remind people how really well-off the people in the bottom quintile are," said Edwin Feulner, president of the foundation.
    I am sure you know where this is going.

    Do I need to remind Messers Boren and Cato that their boss, Richard Mellon Scaife is the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Heritage Foundation?  The same boss that's given millions to the Heritage Foundation?

    Do I need to remind Messers Boren and Cato that Ed Feulner, defender of the above mentioned Rector Report has a weekly column at the very same newspaper they write for?

    Or that Mr Rector wrote a column on this subject in their very newspaper only a few months ago?

    Surely I do not need to remind either of them of their paper's owner's financial connections to the sources they cite, do I?  Perhaps I do.  Perhaps they, in fact, didn't know any of this all too easily found information.  Perhaps, had their audience known of those connections it would, again perhaps, undermine the credibility of their piece.

    Why else wouldn't they mention them?

    And THAT, my friends, is how the right wing noise machine works.

    September 19, 2011

    Fact-Checking Jim Roddey (I Think)

    I happened to catch a few minutes of Jim Roddey and Joe Mistik on PCNC this evening.

    As part of the discussion of the necessity of keeping National Defense spending high, I think I heard former County Commissioner Roddey say something like, "Right now China is building more aircraft carriers and submarines that we have."

    I must've heard him wrong.  That can't possibly be true.  How do I know this?

    Well, let's start with the aircraft carriers.

    According to this page, there are 10 active Aircraft Carriers in the US Navy and according to this article at the Daily Mail, China is building its first aircraft carrier.  And ""building" is not exactly correct because:
    General Chen Bingde is the first Chinese military official to confirm one of the world's worst-kept secrets, but he refused to say when the carrier - a remodelled Soviet-era vessel - would be ready.

    The 1,000ft Varyag, which is being built in the north-east port of Dalian, was originally constructed for the Soviet navy in the 1980s.

    But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it languished in dockyards in the Ukraine before a Chinese company bought it in 1998 claiming it wanted to turn it into a floating casino in Macau.

    Refurbishment work is expected to be nearly finished, and the aircraft carrier could being sea trials later this year.[emphasis added.]
    So rebuilding is more like it.  10 US carriers vs 1 Chinese carrier and it's not even ready yet.

    How about those submarines?

    According to, again,The Navy, there are 46 active attack submarines, 14 ballistic missile submarines, and 4 guided missile submarines.  That's 68 active submarines by my count.

    According to sinodefense.com, China has 63 submarines - but Roddey said they were building more than we have.  Are they building more than 68 submarines?

    I can't see it.

    Did you know that, according to global issues, the US accounts for 43% of the entire planet's military spending.  China only accounts for 7.3%.

    So somehow I am thinking China is NOT building more aircraft carriers and submarines than the US.

    So I must've heard Roddey wrong.  He couldn't possibly have been this wrong.

    The Trib, Again

    They never fail.

    In an editorial in today's Tribune-Review, we find yet another "warning" about how inefficient wind power is. It's from Manhattan Institute senior fellow Robert Bryce.

    Now, let's get to work. We all know the drill.

    According to the Media Transparency project at mediamatters.org, foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife have funneled about $4.58 million ($693,000 from Carthage and $3,815,000 from Sarah Scaife) to the Manhattan Institute over the years.

    And, of course, no mention of that money in an editorial touting the research from a senior fellow there.

    Another lesson in how the right wing media functions.

    September 17, 2011

    ANNOUNCEMENT!

    Tomorrow, I'll be hosting a podcamp session with Congressman Mike Doyle.

    There should be a way to watch it live online, but wouldn't you rather be there and see it in person??

    HAPPY CONSTITUTION DAY!

    Today, in 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified.

    And it begins like this:
    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
    There are seven articles to the Constitution and they define:
    • The legislative branch
    • The executive branch
    • The judicial branch
    • The states' power
    • How to amend the Constitution
    • Federal authority
    • Ratification
    There are 27 amendments to the Constitution (you'll have to look all them up yourselves) but the first ten are called the Bill of Rights:
    • The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly and the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances
    • The Second Amendment guarantees the rights of the States regarding militias and the right to keep and bear arms
    • The Third Amendment guarantees the right not to have soldiers quartered in any citizen's homes, in time of peace
    • The Fourth Amendment guarantees protection against unreasonable search and seizure
    • The Fifth Amendment guarantees protection against self incrimination, double jeopardy, guarantees due process and eminent domain
    • The Sixth Amendment guarantees us all a fair trial
    • The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a Civil Trial
    • The Eight Amendment guarantees protection against excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment
    • The Ninth Amendment states that there are other rights enjoyed by the people yet not listed in the first eight.
    • The Tenth Amendment guarantees that the rights not spelled out in the Constitution and not prohibited by the states are, nevertheless still to be enjoyed by the people
    HAPPY CONSTITUTION DAY, EVERYONE

    Go read it for your self. Including the Bill of Rights. Aloud if necessary.

    Yes, it's important.

    September 16, 2011

    A Real Deal

    A real deal from Groupon:
    If 30 People Donate $10, Then Best Buddies Pennsylvania Can Assist Three People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
    They're almost two thirds of the way there, BUT they must reach 30 by Midnight.

    Click here to give.

    Congratulations

    Congratulations to all the winners of the "CBS Pittsburgh's Most Valuable Blogger Awards" for 2011 including The Pittsburgh Comet and The Burgh, Exposed for "Local Affairs" and YaJagoff! and That's Church for "Everything Else" (the category we were in).

    The Thrill is Gone





    Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette
    Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at the
    opening of the new Beechview supermarket



    John Heller/Post-Gazette
    Ravenstahl "listens" to East Enders' flooding concerns

    You almost have to feel sorry for the guy. Now in his 30s, he's lost his "youngest mayor" news worthiness. He can't get away with the hijinks of his earlier years of stalking Tiger Woods or joyriding in a Homeland Security vehicle. At odds with the majority of Council, he can't deliver City assets to his bankster friends or even help oust his critics in that body. And, while he always had a problem with showing up/staying at important meetings (including those with the President), he can't even manage to be at the right place at the right time when natural disasters hit our region.

    Just look at those pictures.

    Is that the face of a happy camper?

    And, even as the thrill may be gone for him, it's also gone for the voters. With a 19% approval rating, he's no longer Pittsburgh's Favorite Grandson.

    But, Lil Mayor Luke still has over two years to serve in his current term. Maybe he should just do himself -- and all of us -- a big favor and pull a Palin. Say you're doing it for your family for Pittsburgh and just go.

    Fact-Checking The Trib's Editorial Cartoon

    First, the cartoon:

    And now the Trib editorial that echos its message:
    Solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing last week left taxpayers on the hook for more than half-a-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees and put 1,100 out of work. And it's the latest case study in the predictable failure of Obamanomics -- a "green" beneficiary of crony capitalism, unviable even when subsidized by a government trying to pick winners.
    Yea...about those loan guarantees. You could guess from the braintrust's editorial that Solyndra sent an email to Van Jones in the White House who then personally rubber stamped a $500 million loan guarantee to help out some Obama campaign contributors.

    The facts (those stupid stubborn things) shall we say complicate this right wing meme.

    The program under which Solyndra got the loan guarantee was section 1703 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Solyndra applied for the loan guarantees in December of 2006. In 2007, the Department of Energy deemed Solyndra eligible to move forward in the loan guarantee process.

    Tell me again who ran the show in DC from 2005 to 2007?

    So tell me how this is all about "Obamanomics"?

    September 15, 2011

    PodCamp!

    PodCamp's this weekend!

    I'll be chatting with Congressman Mike Doyle on Sunday Morning at 10am (bring your own damn coffee!). We'll be discussing how social media has changed how Congress does its job.

    Take a look at this:



    Take a close look at :19. Right after the shot of Super Bob Mayo.

    It's ME!

    I really need to loose some weight.

    They Haven't Won PA Since 1988 - So Now They Change The Rules

    A few astute readers emailed in yesterday about Governor Corbett's game changer.

    We'll start, as we almost always do, with the P-G:
    Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, is pushing to change the state's "winner-takes-all" approach for awarding electoral votes to doling them out to presidential contenders by congressional district.

    That proposal, first reported by online news service Capitolwire on Thursday, could significantly revamp the state's role in the presidential general election.

    "It would not only change the type of attention that Pennsylvania would receive in a presidential election, but it would also choose where in Pennsylvania that attention occurs," said Pileggi, following his appearance at the Marcellus Shale Coalition conference in Philadelphia Thursday morning.
    And from the Tribune-Review:
    Republicans in charge of the General Assembly want to change how the state hands out its electoral votes, a move that could reshape the national electoral strategies of future presidents and diminish Pennsylvania's role in choosing the country's leader.

    Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi wants to allocate the 20 electoral votes Pennsylvania will have in the next election according to who wins each of 18 congressional districts, plus two more for whoever wins the statewide popular vote, rather than the winner-take-all system the state now uses.

    Pileggi said the new formula would better reflect what voters want.
    The funny part, is that with the very next paragraph, the Tribune-Review tells us that's, basically BS:
    In 2008, for instance, when Pennsylvania had 21 electoral votes, Sen. John McCain won 10 congressional districts to then-Sen. Barack Obama's 9, but Obama won the state by 620,000 votes. Under Pileggi's proposal, Obama would've gotten the two statewide electors, for a net win over McCain of one electoral vote.
    So winning the state by more than a half-million votes counts for just one extra electoral vote. To Pileggi, that's what "better reflect what voters want" means.

    Make no mistake, it's a transparent ploy. A ploy to help out (of course) Pileggi's and Corbett's fellow republicans in the upcoming presidential election.

    But would it help them all? Not everyone in the Statewide GOP is drinking the kool-aid. From Dan Hirshhorn at Politico:
    With next year’s presidential election expected to be hard-fought, even sapping some electoral support from Barack Obama in Pennsylvania could have a major impact on the national results. But to several Republicans in marginal districts, the plan has a catch: they’re worried that Democrats will move dollars and ground troops from solid blue districts to battlegrounds in pursuit of electoral votes — and in the process, knock off the Republicans currently in the seats.

    Suburban Philadelphia Reps. Jim Gerlach, Pat Meehan and Mike Fitzpatrick have the most at stake, since all represent districts Democrats won in the last two presidential elections. They and the rest of the Republicans in the delegation are joining with National Republican Congressional Committee officials to respond and mobilize against the change.

    “Any proposed change to the election laws shouldn’t be done under the radar,” Fitzpatrick told POLITICO. “If every vote matters, everyone should have a chance to discuss this.”

    State GOP chairman Rob Gleason is also opposed to the plan.
    And:
    “You’re asking the southeast Republican county parties to go toe-to-toe with the Philadelphia Democratic machine, in money and manpower,” a senior national Republican official said. “It’s a matchup that we not only lose in 2012, but one that decimates the Republican Party in southeast Pennsylvania.”
    The DailyKos has a deeper explanation:
    Put simply, awarding electoral votes by congressional district would be a disaster for Democrats. Democratic voters tend to be much more concentrated in urban areas while Republican voters are typically more spread out. That means that the average blue seat is much bluer than the average red seat is red, which in turn means that there are more Republican-leaning districts than Democratic-inclined CDs.

    Here's one stark illustration. John McCain's best district in the nation was TX-13, which occupies the Texas panhandle. He won there by 77-23, a 54 percent margin. By contrast, there were 39 districts that Barack Obama won by an equal or bigger spread, all the way up to his 90-point victory in New York's 16th Congressional District in the South Bronx.

    More concretely, if Pennsylvania's proposed system were in place nationwide, Obama's 365-173 electoral college romp would have been a much tighter 301-237 win. Meanwhile, George W. Bush's narrow 286-251 victory over John Kerry would have turned into a 317-221 blowout. And just as bad, Bush's razor-thin 271-266 margin over Al Gore would have been a more comfortable 288-250 spread for Dubya, making Gore's "loss" despite winning the national popular vote even more galling.
    Which is why the GOP is for it. Which is why they think it's fair.

    But it ain't - and there's 620,000 reasons why.

    September 14, 2011

    Checking In On Teh Crazie

    World Net Daily's posted a shreiking jeremiad about the danger of radical Islam and they don't see the irony of what they've written.

    Take a look:
    Muslim extremists are using a relatively new tool in their attempt to intimidate and bully Christians, with death threats sent by text-messaging to Christian church leaders, a new report confirms.

    The report comes from Compass Direct, which monitors and reports on Christian issues around the globe. The situation has developed in Sudan.

    "We want this country to be purely an Islamic state, so we must kill the infidels and destroy their churches all over Sudan," Compass Direct sources in the African nation have reported that one text message said.
    Assuming all that is accurate, what is WND missing?

    Let me rewrite the text message and I'll show you:
    We want this country to be purely an Christian Nation, so we must kill the infidels and destroy their churches all over America.
    How outlandish does THAT sound? No one ever said that here, right? As recently as 2004 the Texas Republican Party Platform read:
    The Republican Party of Texas affirms that the United States of America is a Christian nation, and the public acknowledgement of God is undeniable in our history.
    Then there was Operation Rescue's Randall Terry in 1993:
    I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good... Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called on by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism.
    More recently, there's Pam Geller and the non-Mosque at not-Ground Zero.

    See? Not so different, is it?

    September 13, 2011

    Sally Kern's At It Again

    You remember Sally Kern, right? She's a member of the state legislature in Oklahoma who caused a stir a few years ago when she asserted the Pittsburgh City Council was controlled by teh gayz.

    She's at it again - but not about how Pittsburgh City Council's being controlled by teh gay agenda - but with this:
    You know if you just look at it in practical terms, which has destroyed and ended the life of more people? Terrorism attack here in America or HIV/AIDS? In the last twenty years, fifteen to twenty years, we’ve had maybe three terrorist attacks on our soil with a little over 5,000 people regrettably losing their lives. In the same time frame, there have been hundreds of thousands who have died because of having AIDS. So which one’s the biggest threat? And you know, every day our young people, adults too, but especially our young people, are bombarded at school, in movies, in music, on TV, in the mall, in magazines, they’re bombarded with ‘homosexuality is normal and natural.’ It’s something they have to deal with every day. Fortunately we don’t have to deal with a terrorist attack every day, and that’s what I mean.
    Ah, numbers. I love numbers.

    But is the incessant Kern saying that because more people died of AIDS/HIV than terrorism that that means it's more of a threat to the US?

    According to this paper, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, death by "sexual behavior" (and that's not just AIDS, by the way) barely makes it onto the list:

    Perhaps the Kern would extend her analysis to its logical conclusion and declare that since more people are killed by death by firearms (or tobacco or alcohol or automobiles) that those things too, are more dangerous than terrorism.

    Sally Kern - insanely scared of teh gay.

    Hey, is it any surprise that she's associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council? The proof is found at her own website:
    Sally’s memberships include Olivet Baptist Church, the Northwest Chamber of Commerce, Heart and Hand non-profit ministry, Eagle Forum, Frontier Country Republican Women’s Club, Advisory Board for the Master of Leadership Public Administration at Mid-America Christian University, Tri-Cities Republican Women’s Club, Oklahoma City Republican Women’s Club, and the American Legislative Exchange Council. She is, also, a board member of the Advisory Council for BOTT Radio, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, member of the Office of Personnel Management’s Employee Assistance Program Advisory Council, and member of the Advisory Board for HIRE (Help in Reaching Employment) at the Moore Norman Technology Center. Sally is also a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
    Nope. Not a surprise at all.

    September 11, 2011

    And This Is All I'll Say About That...

    From Paul Krugman:
    What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. Te (sic) atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

    A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?

    The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.
    Hear, hear.

    No comments on this one. I ain't in the mood.

    UPDATE: Krugman has more:
    Now, I should have said that the American people behaved remarkably well in the weeks and months after 9/11: There was very little panic, and much more tolerance than one might have feared. Muslims weren’t lynched, and neither were dissenters, and that was something of which we can all be proud.

    But the memory of how the atrocity was abused is and remains a painful one. And it’s a story that I, at least, can neither forget nor forgive.
    The rest is worth the read.

    September 9, 2011

    But Galileo Was Wrong!

    From Tony Norman's column today:
    "Galileo got outvoted for a spell," [Texas Governor Rick] Perry said, defending his utter indifference to the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. It was one of the most preposterous and audacious quips ever by an American politician whose suspicions about science are notorious and well known.
    Who's this Galileo and why was he outvoted?

    I believe that Perry is not only on the wrong side of this metaphor but that we should be teaching both sides of the the Aristotelian/Copernican debate in our public schools.

    Both sides. Let the children decide for themselves which one is right - the eternal word of God or the "opinion" of some unnamed fallible "scientists" who are probably mostly atheists anyway.

    Some background:

    Galileo Galilei was an early 17th century astronomer who favored the now-current scientific "theory" (and remember, it's only a theory) that the sun is at the center of the solar system and not the earth.

    Which ran him straight into conflict with Scripture. Galileo said that the earth moves around the sun but Chronicles 13:30 says quite clearly:
    Tremble before him, all the earth!
    The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
    And this is echoed by in Psalm 96:
    Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”
    The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
    he will judge the peoples with equity.
    Not only that, but Scripture is very clear that it's the sun that moves. Ecclesiastes 1:5:
    The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
    The Joshua 10:12 tells us that the sun was the thing made to stand still - not the earth:
    On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel:

    “Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
    and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
    Scripture says it's the sun that moves and the earth is immovable. Galileo was wrong, Perry was wrong and scripture is always right.

    We should be teaching both sides of the controversy - that's the only way proper science works!

    September 8, 2011

    Full Text of President Obama's Speech Tonight

    NOTE: If got to this post because you're looking for the text for the President's January 24, 2012 State of the Union Address, it's here.



    Via THE WHITE HOUSE, Office of the Press Secretary:

    Remarks of President Barack Obama in an Address to a Joint Session of Congress

    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and fellow Americans:

    Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that has made things worse.

    This past week, reporters have been asking “What will this speech mean for the President? What will it mean for Congress? How will it affect their polls, and the next election?”

    But the millions of Americans who are watching right now: they don’t care about politics. They have real life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their best just to scrape by – giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage; postponing retirement to send a kid to college.

    These men and women grew up with faith in an America where hard work and responsibility paid off. They believed in a country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share – where if you stepped up, did your job, and were loyal to your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent salary and good benefits; maybe a raise once in awhile. If you did the right thing, you could make it in America.

    But for decades now, Americans have watched that compact erode. They have seen the deck too often stacked against them. And they know that Washington hasn’t always put their interests first.

    The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we’ll meet ours. The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy; whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.

    Those of us here tonight can’t solve all of our nation’s woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people’s lives.

    I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans – including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything.

    The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away.

    Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin. And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven’t. So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for “job creators,” this plan is for you.

    Pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or raise workers’ wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. If you have 50 employees making an average salary, that’s an $80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012.

    It’s not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that’s in this plan. You should pass it right away.

    Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America. Everyone here knows that we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world.

    This is inexcusable. Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?

    There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There’s a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that’s on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America. A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country. And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school – and we can give it to them, if we act now.

    The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows; installing science labs and high-speed internet in classrooms all across this country. It will rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hit hardest by foreclosures. It will jumpstart thousands of transportation projects across the country. And to make sure the money is properly spent and for good purposes, we’re building on reforms we’ve already put in place. No more earmarks. No more boondoggles. No more bridges to nowhere. We’re cutting the red tape that prevents some of these projects from getting started as quickly as possible. And we’ll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it would do for the economy.

    This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America’s largest business organization and America’s largest labor organization. It’s the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike. You should pass it right away.

    Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this jobs bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.

    Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America’s veterans. We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, and risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home.

    Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and dignity of a summer job next year. And their parents, low-income Americans who desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of poverty.

    Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months looking for a job. We have to do more to help the long-term unemployed in their search for work. This jobs plan builds on a program in Georgia that several Republican leaders have highlighted, where people who collect unemployment insurance participate in temporary work as a way to build their skills while they look for a permanent job. The plan also extends unemployment insurance for another year. If the millions of unemployed Americans stopped getting this insurance, and stopped using that money for basic necessities, it would be a devastating blow to this economy. Democrats and Republicans in this Chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of times in the past. At this time of prolonged hardship, you should pass it again – right away.

    Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a fifteen hundred dollar tax cut next year. Fifteen hundred dollars that would have been taken out of your paycheck will go right into your pocket. This expands on the tax cut that Democrats and Republicans already passed for this year. If we allow that tax cut to expire – if we refuse to act – middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. We cannot let that happen. I know some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away.

    This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, teachers, veterans, first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief for small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle-class. And here’s the other thing I want the American people to know: the American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. And here’s how:

    The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next ten years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I’m asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I’ll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan – a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.

    This approach is basically the one I’ve been advocating for months. In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts I’ve already signed into law, it’s a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts; by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid; and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share. What’s more, the spending cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on our economy, or prevent us from helping small business and middle-class families get back on their feet right away.

    Now, I realize there are some in my party who don’t think we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid, and I understand their concerns. But here’s the truth. Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions more will do so in the future. They pay for this benefit during their working years. They earn it. But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program. And if we don’t gradually reform the system while protecting current beneficiaries, it won’t be there when future retirees need it. We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it.

    I’m also well aware that there are many Republicans who don’t believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it. But here is what every American knows. While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary – an outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and everybody pays their fair share. And I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that, if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.

    I’ll also offer ideas to reform a corporate tax code that stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington. By eliminating pages of loopholes and deductions, we can lower one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Our tax code shouldn’t give an advantage to companies that can afford the best-connected lobbyists. It should give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs here in America.

    So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt, and pay for this jobs plan in the process. But in order to do this, we have to decide what our priorities are. We have to ask ourselves, “What’s the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?”

    Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can’t afford to do both.

    This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math. These are real choices that we have to make. And I’m pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It’s not even close. And it’s time for us to do what’s right for our future.

    The American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can’t stop there. As I’ve argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future – an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security. We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build, out-educate, and out-innovate every other country on Earth.

    This task, of making America more competitive for the long haul, is a job for all of us. For government and for private companies. For states and for local communities – and for every American citizen. All of us will have to up our game. All of us will have to change the way we do business.

    My administration can and will take some steps to improve our competitiveness on our own. For example, if you’re a small business owner who has a contract with the federal government, we’re going to make sure you get paid a lot faster than you do now. We’re also planning to cut away the red tape that prevents too many rapidly-growing start-up companies from raising capital and going public. And to help responsible homeowners, we’re going to work with Federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4% -- a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family’s pocket, and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices.

    Other steps will require Congressional action. Today you passed reform that will speed up the outdated patent process, so that entrepreneurs can turn a new idea into a new business as quickly as possible. That’s the kind of action we need. Now it’s time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea – while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition. If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers. I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with three proud words: “Made in America.”

    And on all of our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we need to look for ways to work side-by-side with America’s businesses. That’s why I’ve brought together a Jobs Council of leaders from different industries who are developing a wide range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs.

    Already, we’ve mobilized business leaders to train 10,000 American engineers a year, by providing company internships and training. Other businesses are covering tuition for workers who learn new skills at community colleges. And we’re going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here, in the United States of America. If we provide the right incentives and support – and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules – we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that are sold all over the world. That’s how America can be number one again. That’s how America will be number one again.

    Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy. Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations.

    Well, I agree that we can’t afford wasteful spending, and I will continue to work with Congress to get rid of it. And I agree that there are some rules and regulations that put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it. That’s why I ordered a review of all government regulations. So far, we’ve identified over 500 reforms, which will save billions of dollars over the next few years. We should have no more regulation than the health, safety, and security of the American people require. Every rule should meet that common sense test.

    But what we can’t do – what I won’t do – is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe that’s a race we can win.

    In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own – that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.

    Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world.

    But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.

    We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future – a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.

    Ask yourselves – where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways and our bridges; our dams and our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance?

    How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this Chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result?

    No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. Members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.

    Every proposal I’ve laid out tonight is the kind that’s been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. Every proposal I’ve laid out tonight will be paid for. And every proposal is designed to meet the urgent needs of our people and our communities.

    I know there’s been a lot of skepticism about whether the politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan – or any jobs plan. Already, we’re seeing the same old press releases and tweets flying back and forth. Already, the media has proclaimed that it’s impossible to bridge our differences. And maybe some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box.

    But know this: the next election is fourteen months away. And the people who sent us here – the people who hired us to work for them – they don’t have the luxury of waiting fourteen months. Some of them are living week to week; paycheck to paycheck; even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.

    I don’t pretend that this plan will solve all our problems. It shouldn’t be, nor will it be, the last plan of action we propose. What’s guided us from the start of this crisis hasn’t been the search for a silver bullet. It’s been a commitment to stay at it – to be persistent – to keep trying every new idea that works, and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it.

    Regardless of the arguments we’ve had in the past, regardless of the arguments we’ll have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country. I also ask every American who agrees to lift your voice and tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option. Remind us that if we act as one nation, and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge.

    President Kennedy once said, “Our problems are man-made – therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.”

    These are difficult years for our country. But we are Americans. We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let’s meet the moment. Let’s get to work, and show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.




    Excerpts of the President’s Speech on the American Jobs Act

    Via The White House, Office of the Press Secretary:
    Excerpts of the President’s Speech on the American Jobs Act

    The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we’ll meet ours. The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy; whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.

    Those of us here tonight cannot solve all of our nation’s woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people’s lives.

    I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans – including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything.

    The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away.

    Pod Camp Update!

    Guess what?

    I'll be speaking at PodCamp this year.

    Actually, it'll be a discussion I'll be having with Congressman Mike Doyle on how social media (blogs, facebook, twitter, etc) have changed how members of Congress and Congress as a whole do their jobs. While it'll be a political discussion on a political entity, it won't be a partisan discussion of how:
    • Those evil Republicans in Washington and their enablers in the media have ruined the country or how
    • Those evil Democrats in Washington and their enablers in the media have ruined the country.
    You wanna have those discussions (and I wouldn't blame you if you do), go have them someplace else. The Congressman and I will be discussing how changing technologies have shaped how members of Congress communicate.

    Some other sessions of note:Check the PodCamp website for more info.

    See you there!