How to Buy a Mine in Wisconsin? Scotty Knows

Favoritism and corruption, and, in this case, their toxic residue will literally flow into the clean waters of northern Wisconsin.

Editorial Board
The New York Times (8/31/14)

The New York Times (Last year, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and the Republican-controlled State Legislature approved the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, a gash in the northern part of the state that could be as long as 21 miles, a half-mile wide and 1,000 feet deep.

The mine legislation was bad enough from an environmental point of view: It allows the operator to fill streams with mine waste, eliminates public hearings and reduces the taxes the operator would have to pay.

It turns out to be even more shocking from an ethical viewpoint. Newly released documents show that the mine operator, Gogebic Taconite, secretly gave $700,000 to a political group that was helping the governor win a 2012 recall election. Mr. Walker had urged big corporations to give unlimited amounts, without fear of public disclosure, and many companies that wanted favors from the state happily obliged. Once the recall failed, the favors began to flow, even at the expense of the state’s natural resources.

The group that received the money, along with millions of dollars in other donations, was the Wisconsin Club for Growth, an “independent” conservative spending organization that state prosecutors say was actually controlled by R.J. Johnson, one of Mr. Walker’s closest campaign aides. Mr. Walker and his aides brazenly violated state campaign finance regulations barring coordination between independent groups and candidate campaigns, first by rounding up the money and then by telling the groups how to spend it.

“The governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth,” Kate Doner, a paid fund-raising consultant to the Walker campaign, wrote in a 2011 email to Mr. Johnson. “Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept corporate and personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure.” She added that the governor wanted all the advocacy efforts to be run by one group, the Club for Growth, to “ensure correct messaging.”

The new documents were released as part of a state investigation into whether Mr. Walker violated Wisconsin campaign laws. Prosecutors have said the timing of the mine approval, following the donation, suggested a clear quid pro quo, a favor in exchange for dollars.

“Because Wisconsin Club for Growth’s fund-raising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker’s agents at the time of Gogebic’s donation,” according to a prosecution statement in the case, “there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited.”

Mr. Walker says he didn’t solicit the mining company donation, and, in any case, he already supported the easing of regulations on mining. But his depiction of himself as above fund-raising doesn’t fit the record. Ms. Doner urged Mr. Walker to personally solicit money from the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other wealthy Republicans, and a timeline submitted by prosecutors showed that donations came into Club for Growth within a few weeks or months after the governor met with the donors. It’s hardly a coincidence that the governor’s union-busting, tax-cutting agenda is the same as that of the right-wing millionaires [Actually, it is multi-billionaires. DC Editor] who helped keep him in office.

Unlimited secret donations pervert American politics, at the state and national levels. They inevitably produce the appearance (and often the reality) of favoritism and corruption, and, in this case, their toxic residue will literally flow into the clean waters of northern Wisconsin.

Link to Story


Posted in 2014-09-02, Newsletter | Tagged , | Comments Off

Greedy Corporations Stealing More Wages From Stressed & Exploited Workers

“Sometimes I’d work 60, even 90 days in a row. They never paid overtime.”

(Editor’s Note: One of the corporate rip-off artists profiled here is Green Bay, Wisconsin-based Schneider Trucking. — Mark L. Taylor) 

By Steven Greenhouse
The New York Times (8/31/14)

MIRA LOMA, Calif. — Week after week, Guadalupe Rangel worked seven days straight, sometimes 11 hours a day, unloading dining room sets, trampolines, television stands and other imports from Asia that would soon be shipped to Walmart stores.

Even though he often clocked 70 hours a week at the Schneider warehouse here, he was never paid time-and-a-half overtime, he said. And now, having joined a lawsuit involving hundreds of warehouse workers, Mr. Rangel stands to receive more than $20,000 in back pay as part of a recent $21 million legal settlement with Schneider, a national trucking company.

“Sometimes I’d work 60, even 90 days in a row,” said Mr. Rangel, a soft-spoken immigrant from Mexico. “They never paid overtime.”

The lawsuit is part of a flood of recent cases — brought in California and across the nation — that accuse employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws, erasing work hours and wrongfully taking employees’ tips. Worker advocates call these practices “wage theft,” insisting it has become far too prevalent.

More and more wage theft

Some federal and state officials agree. They assert that more companies are violating wage laws than ever before, pointing to the record number of enforcement actions they have pursued. They complain that more employers — perhaps motivated by fierce competition or a desire for higher profits — are flouting wage laws.

Many business groups counter that government officials have drummed up a flurry of wage enforcement actions, largely to score points with union allies. If anything, employers have become more scrupulous in complying with wage laws, the groups say, in response to the much publicized lawsuits about so-called off-the-clock work that were filed against Walmart and other large companies a decade ago.

Here in California, a federal appeals court ruled last week that FedEx had in effect committed wage theft by insisting that its drivers were independent contractors rather than employees. FedEx orders many drivers to work 10 hours a day, but does not pay them overtime, which is required only for employees. FedEx said it planned to appeal.

Julie Su, the state labor commissioner, recently ordered a janitorial company in Fremont to pay $332,675 in back pay and penalties to 41 workers who cleaned 17 supermarkets. She found that the company forced employees to sign blank time sheets, which it then used to record inaccurate, minimal hours of work.

David Weil, the director of the federal Labor Department’s wage and hour division, says wage theft is surging because of underlying changes in the nation’s business structure. The increased use of franchise operators, subcontractors and temp agencies leads to more employers being squeezed on costs and more cutting corners, he said. A result, he added, is that the companies on top can deny any knowledge of wage violations.

“We have a change in the structure of work that is then compounded by a falling level of what is viewed as acceptable in the workplace in terms of how you treat people and how you regard the law,” Mr. Weil said.

His agency has uncovered nearly $1 billion in illegally unpaid wages since 2010. He noted that the victimized workers were disproportionately immigrants.

Guadalupe Salazar, a cashier at a McDonald’s in Oakland, complained that her paychecks repeatedly missed a few hours of work time and overtime pay. Frustrated about this, she has joined one of seven lawsuits against McDonald’s and several of its franchise operators, asserting that workers were cheated out of overtime, had hours erased from timecards and had to work off the clock.

“It didn’t show up in my paycheck”

“Basically every time that I worked overtime, it didn’t show up in my paycheck,” Ms. Salazar said. “This is time that I would rather be with my family, and they just take it away.”

Business advocates see a hidden agenda in these lawsuits. For example, the lawsuit against Schneider — which owns a gigantic warehouse here that serves Walmart exclusively — coincides with unions pressuring Walmart to raise wages. The lawyers and labor groups behind the lawsuit have sought to hold Walmart jointly liable in the case.

Walmart says that it seeks to ensure that its contractors comply with all laws, and that it was not responsible for Schneider’s employment practices. Schneider said it “manages its operations with integrity,” noting that it had hired various subcontractors to oversee the loading and unloading crews.

Business groups note that the lawsuits against McDonald’s have been coordinated with the fast-food workers’ movement demanding a $15 wage. “This is a classic special-interest campaign by labor unions,” said Stephen J. Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association. In legal papers, McDonald’s denied any liability in Ms. Salazar’s case, and the Oakland franchisee insisted that Ms. Salazar had failed to establish illegal actions by the restaurant.

Michael Rubin, one of the lawyers who sued Schneider, disagreed, saying there are many sound wage claims. “The reason there is so much wage theft is many employers think there is little chance of getting caught,” he said.

Commissioner Su of California said wage theft harmed not just low-wage workers. “My agency has found more wages being stolen from workers in California than any time in history,” she said. “This has spread to multiple industries across many sectors. It’s affected not just minimum-wage workers, but also middle-class workers.”

Many other states are seeing wage-theft cases. New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has recovered $17 million in wage claims over the past three years. “I’m amazed at how petty and abusive some of these practices are,” he said. “Cutting corners is increasingly seen as a sign of libertarianism rather than the theft that it really is.”

In Nashville last February, nine housekeepers protested outside a DoubleTree hotel because the subcontractor that employed them had failed to pay a month’s wages. “The contractor said they didn’t have the money, that the hotel hadn’t paid them,” said Natalia Polvadera, a housekeeper. “We went to the hotel manager — he showed receipts that they had paid the contractor.”

Nonetheless, the protests persuaded DoubleTree to pay the $12,000 in wages owed.

Mr. Weil said some executives had urged him to increase enforcement because they dislike being underbid by unscrupulous employers.

His agency has begun cracking down on retaliation against workers who complain, suing a Texas company that fired a janitor when he refused to sign a statement that falsely said he had already received back wages due him from a Labor Department investigation.

“This is just not acceptable,” Mr. Weil said. “You can’t threaten people to lose their jobs because they are asserting rights that go back 75 years.”

Posted in 2014-09-02, Newsletter | Comments Off

Understanding What The War Economy Is Really About

“The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking into the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed.” 

– George Orwell, 1984.


Posted in 2014-09-02, Newsletter | Comments Off

New Docs Undermine Walker’s Claims Of Innocence On Criminal Probe

Walker personally solicited funds for WiCFG from billionaire hedge fund managers, mining corporations, and vulture capitalists with the promise that the donations “are not disclosed.” 

By Brendan Fischer
PR Watch (9/1/14)

Despite claims that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is not a “target” in the state’s criminal campaign finance probe, newly-released documents demonstrate that prosecutors are indeed looking at potentially criminal activity by the first-term governor and 2016 presidential hopeful.

The latest round of documents released in Wisconsin’s ”John Doe” investigation shine new light on the stalled inquiry into alleged illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and outside political groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG) during the 2011-2012 recall elections.

The documents show that Walker made personal appeals to out-of-state billionaires and millionaires to raise funds for WiCFG — which spent $9.1 million on the recalls and acted as a “hub” for funnelling millions more to other groups — and evidence indicates that his campaign also worked with WiCFG on how those funds were spent.

The investigation was halted in May in a questionable decision by federal Judge Rudolph Randa — a Republican appointee who regularly attends Koch- and Bradley-funded judicial junkets – on grounds that the omission of terms like “vote for” or “vote against” in WiCFG’s ads put them beyond the reach of long-standing Wisconsin law, including laws governing coordination. Prosecutors have appealed Randa’s ruling to the Seventh Circuit, and some documents filed under seal with that appellate court were accidentally made public on August 22.

Here are three revelations from those documents that have gotten little attention.

1) Walker Himself Is Implicated in the Investigation

For months, Walker has hid behind a statement from John Doe prosecutor Francis Schmitz that the governor is not a “target” of the investigation.

“The prosecutors’ attorney stated that Governor Walker is not a target” of the John Doe, Walker spokesman Alleigh Marre repeated last week rather than responding to questions about the probe.

Yet, as the Wisconsin State Journal has noted, whether Walker is a “target” of the investigation — meaning that prosecutors have gathered enough evidence to file charges — is a separate question from whether he is a “subject” under investigation for possible wrongdoing.

The latest documents indicate that prosecutors are indeed looking at potentially illegal conduct from Walker himself.

When the bipartisan judges on the Government Accountability Board unanimously approved the probe in 2013, they passed a resolution stating: ”the investigation’s purpose is to learn if there is probable cause to believe that Governor Scott Walker, FOSW . . . Wisconsin Club for Growth . . . and other individuals, organizations, and corporations” violated Wisconsin electon law.”

Milwaukee County investigator Robert Stelter’s concluded in an affidavit mentioned in the document release that Walker sought to “circumvent” state disclosure laws by soliciting donations to WiCFG, which keeps its donors secret. The investigation “is about a candidate and his personal campaign committee failing to disclose the funding of such coordinated advocacy,” Stelter wrote, referring to Walker.

In another document, Stelter specifically identified Walker as part of the alleged criminal conspiracy. ”During 2011 and 2012, R.J. Johnson, Governor Scott Walker, Keith Gilkes, and others, conspired to use WiCFG to coordinate political activity in response to recall elections against Wisconsin state senators, as well as Governor Walker.”

“Contributions were personally solicited by Governor Scott Walker to WiCFG, a ’501(c)(4)’ organization in order to circumvent the reporting and contributions provisions” of Wisconsin law, Stelter wrote.

2) Walker Publicly Supported Disclosure, Around the Same Time He Secretly Sought to Avoid It

In December 2012, a few months after surviving his recall election, Walker said that campaign finance disclosure was the best way to reduce the influence of money in politics.

“One of the biggest things is transparency,” Walker told the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. “The more transparency involved, the more people could hold folks accountable, for whether it’s $5 or $500, or whatever the amount may be.”

Yet as Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has noted, those comments came not long after Walker raised millions to benefit his reelection efforts with the express purpose of avoiding transparency.

“The Governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth,” Walker fundraiser Kate Doner wrote in an April 2011 email to R.J. Johnson, a top advisor to both the Club and Walker’s campaign. “Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept Corporate and Personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure.”

An email a few months later from Walker campaign aide Kelly Rindfleisch gave the governor a set of talking points for use in meetings with donors.

“Stress that donations to WiCFG are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits,” she wrote. “Let them know that you can accept corporate contributions and it is not reported.”

By coordinating with dark money groups like WiCFG that accept unlimited and secret donations, candidates can circumvent Wisconsin laws that limit the size of campaign contributions and require that those donations be disclosed.

Yet during the recall elections, the primary benefit of working with dark money groups was secrecy.

Thanks to a quirk in Wisconsin law, Walker and other candidates facing recall were exempt from campaign contribution limits and could accept unlimited donations. Walker’s campaign received 24 donations between $100,000 and $510,000 in advance of his June 2012 recall election, for example. But, those donations were still subject to disclosure laws.

Because Walker could accept unlimited contributions during the recalls, there was little reason to route money through WiCFG, other than to keep the public in the dark about the governor’s true sources of support.

The problem with such secrecy is obvious. It means the public cannot, in Walker’s words, ”hold folks accountable” when their elected officials later give donors special treatment, since those donors are not publicly known.

This sentiment is supported in the preamble to Wisconsin’s campaign finance statutes: “When the true source of support or extent of support is not fully disclosed, or when a candidate becomes overly dependent upon large private contributors, the democratic process is subjected to a potential corrupting influence.”

The most obvious example of that “potential corrupting influence” came from asecret $700,000 donation to WiCFG from Gogebic Taconite, an out-of-state corporation that wanted to build a controversial open-pit iron ore mine in an environmentally sensitive region in northern Wisconsin.

After Walker won his 2012 recall election, his top legislative priority for the 2013 legislative session was to pass a mining bill drafted by Gogebic Taconite. During the hotly-contested debate over the proposed rewrite of Wisconsin’s environmental laws – a proposal met with protest from environmental groups, conservationists, and Native American tribes – the public never knew that the same corporation that stood to profit from the law’s passage had secretly funnelled $700,000 into WiCFG, a number nearly 22 times the roughly $32,000 that Gogebic Taconite had disclosed in donations to Wisconsin candidates.

3) There Is Evidence of Coordinated Spending, Not Just Coordinated Fundraising

In the wake of the document release, the primary focus has been on the revelation that Walker personally solicited funds for WiCFG from billionaire hedge fund managers, mining corporations, and vulture capitalists with the promise that the donations “are not disclosed.” One check to WiCFG, from billionaire commodities king Bruce Kovner, even notes in the memo line that its purpose was for “501c4-Walker.” A set of fundraising talking points for Walker referred to WiCFG as “your 501c4.”

Oddly, WiCFG director Eric O’Keefe asserted in court filings that “none of WCFG’s … donations related to Walker’s campaign efforts.”

Walker’s allies have claimed that raising funds for an outside group is no big deal, although in April Walker called it “disturbing” when a state senator discussed fundraising for a Super PAC in a secretly-recorded conversation. WiCFG and its high-powered attorneys have drawn comparisons between Walker raising funds for WiCFG and President Obama soliciting funds for the “independent” Priorities USA Super PAC (which, in contrast with WiCFG, must disclose its donors).

“Everything we’ve done is completely legitimate,” Walker said on August 23.

Yet, there is evidence that the Walker campaign not only coordinated fundraising with WiCFG, but also coordinated spending. Coordinated expenditures are counted as donations to the campaign and must comply with disclosure laws and contribution limits.

For purposes of campaign finance law, “coordination” is present if a communication is made at the request or suggestion of a campaign, or when, according to Wisconsin’s elections board, ”there has been substantial discussion or negotiation” over a communication’s contents, timing, audience, or placement.

“Substantial discussion or negotiation is such that the candidate and the spender emerge as partners or joint venturers in the expressive expenditure, but the candidate and spender need not be equal partners,” the board has advised.

The new documents indicate that prosecutors have at least a prima facie case that the Walker campaign coordinated with WiCFG and other groups on ad expenditures. The investigation was halted at a preliminary stage, and prosecutors are arguing that the probe should be allowed to carry on so they may continue gathering evidence.

In one email, Walker’s fundraiser, Kate Doner, communicated the governor’s view that the content of WiCFG’s ads would be consistent with his campaign’s messaging.

“As the Governor discussed … he wants all the issue advocacy efforts run thru one group to ensure correct messaging,” Doner wrote to Walker/WiCFG advisor RJ Johnson in an April 28, 2011 email.

Other evidence from prosecutors suggests that members of the Walker campaign and WiCFG worked together on approving the content of ads.

In a January 2012 email, media production company Nonbox sent a preliminary ad to Johnson, Deb Jordahl, and Keith Gilkes for review. Johnson worked for both WiCFG and the Walker campaign, but Jordahl worked only for WiCFG, and Gilkes was Walker’s campaign manager. It is not clear from the documents whether the ad was to be aired by WiCFG, the Walker campaign, or another group — but it seems clear that the Walker campaign and WiCFG worked as partners on developing and approving the message.

Prosecutors also uncovered evidence that Johnson approved and signed-off on the content of ads for both the Walker campaign and WiCFG, further indicating overlap between the campaign and WiCFG on ad expenditures.

WiCFG never ran ads explicitly supporting Walker, but it funnelled money to groups that did, such as $2.5 million to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. (The Center for Media and Democracy uncovered this shell gamelast November). WiCFG’s donations coincided with WMC’s payments to an ad agency that produced ads supporting Walker and attacking his opponent.

Johnson also appears to have been involved with the expressly pro-Walker ads from WMC.

The firm that created the ads for WMC, the Virginia-based Ten Capitol Inc, paid Johnson $50,000 around the time WMC’s ads were run, which prosecutors say was “consistent with a commission for ad placement.”

Link to Story




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Even A Busted Clock Is Right Twice A Day: Michele Bachmann Was Right

By Ben Jacobs
The Daily Beast (8/31/14)

Michele Bachmann
 was right.

No, the HPV vaccine still doesn’t cause retardation and historians have yet to uncover evidence that the American Revolution actually began in New Hampshire.  But it turns out the Minnesota Republican was dead on when she claimed that a supporter of her 2012 presidential bid was bribed to defect from her campaign and back Ron Paul instead.

In the days before the Iowa caucuses, the news that State Senator Kent Sorenson had jumped ship to back Paul wasn’t viewed as a potential scandal. At the time Sorenson said that his motivation was “to defeat Mitt Romney” and that Paul was the best candidate to do so. In contrast, Bachmann claimed to reporters that Sorenson “told me that he was offered money.”  She went on to elaborate that “He was offered a lot of money by the Ron Paul campaign to go and associate with the Ron Paul campaign.” The state senator’s story seemed far more credible. After all, Bachmann has acquired a reputation for exaggeration throughout her career and it seemed to defy logic that a campaign would risk a myriad of legal repercussions to buy the endorsement of an obscure state senator.

It also made sense for Sorenson to ditch Bachmann for entirely political reasons. The Minnesota Republican had sunk in the polls since winning the Ames Straw Poll in August and was heading towards a last place finish. In contrast, Paul was gaining momentum and the Libertarian icon seemed poised to pull a potential upset.  The natural assumption was that Sorenson was just trying to back a winner. Now, after a guilty plea in federal court, it turns out he backed Paul in exchange for $73,000 in secret payments. It also developed that Bachmann knew what she was talking about when it came to buying Sorenson’s support with under-the-table money. Her campaign had been secretly paying Sorenson first.

The ensuing scandal has since enveloped a number of figures in Ron Paul’s orbit including Jesse Benton, the campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who was a top staffer for Paul’s 2012 campaign. Benton resigned his position with McConnell on Friday.

It also raises a far more disturbing prospect. Shady political operatives and campaign finance scandals are commonplace. But how often is Michele Bachmann right?

Link to Story

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Obnoxious Drunk White Guy Jaywalks With Assault Rifle, No ID, Refuses To Give His Name, Talks Revolution, Resists, Obstructs, Cusses The Cops … Guess What Happens?

You’re being aggressive, but hey, I guess, what the heck…

(Editor’s Note: Just imagine what would have happened if this had been a black man. You don’t have to imagine, the police across America play out that answer daily. — Mark L. Taylor)

By Daily Kos Staff
The Daily Kos (8/31/14)

When I saw this video posted here recently, I had to go back and look at it again.

I saw a white man with a gun.

I heard a policeman saying, “Place the weapon down on the ground, please. … are crossing the street illegally … I need you to put the gun down before I talk to you. … You have committed a crime … you are jaywalking. … I don’t want to shoot you, I’m not here to do that. … Why are you so angry. … Why are you cursing at me?”

Watching the whole incident all I could think of were those dead (unarmed) black men and boys who never had the opportunity to be “talked down,” called “sir,” and were murdered by police.

Or they were leaning on a toy gun in Walmart. Like John Crawford III.

I wanted to find out what happened to this white man who defied police, made obscene gestures at them and who cursed them out.

The man, Joseph Houseman, is a gun rights advocate. He got his 15 minutes (more like 40 or 50) of fame and walked.

In the Department of Public Safety’s decision not to pursue charges, Webster said later that even though Houseman did not have the rifle in a sling and was  ”fidgeting” with it, it was not evident that he was “brandishing” it.

This news got covered as a “gun rights” story.

From my perspective it’s a “white rights” story.

Does anyone honestly believe a black man, or teen, or boy would have walked away from this alive?

Follow me below the fold for more.

I know what happens in this country to black men with guns.

See how fast gun laws were changed in the U.S. when the Black Panther Party decided to patrol the police in their community, after the police murder of unarmed black construction worker Denzil Dowell. In “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” Edward Wyckoff Williams wrote:

The Panthers responded to racial violence by patrolling black neighborhoods brandishing guns — in an effort to police the police. The fear of black people with firearms sent shockwaves across white communities, and conservative lawmakers immediately responded with gun-control legislation.Then Gov. Ronald Reagan, now lauded as the patron saint of modern conservatism, told reporters in California that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” Reagan claimed that the Mulford Act, as it became known, “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.” The NRA actually helped craft similar legislation in states across the country.

I know what is done to black men who arm themselves in self-defense against the occupying army you call police, and if you are white, you may not fear.

You see, I remember Elaine Brown singing in “The End of Silence,” ”we’ll just have to get guns and be men.”

I also remember many Panthers shot down like dogs, some asleep like Fred Hampton.

The NRA is all about gun control. As long as those guns are in white hands.

From my black perspective, I get real angry when I watch the Bundy Bunch get away with whatever they fuc*ing feel like and nothing happens to them. I watch white serial killers, and mass murderers explained away as “loners,” and “disturbed individuals.” I watch my young brothers executed and shot down in cold blood by cops and vigilantes, and the media noise machine pumps up the vilification volume, ’cause we’re just thugs and animals.

This white problem affects not just community members, but it affects officers of the law who are not white. See the case of New York State parole officers who were held at gunpoint by white cops in Ramapo while on duty. Blacks in Law Enforcement of America and other black and Latino police groups have spoken out. Far too often being a cop of color is a death warrant from other police, who are white. Police Departments call them “fraternal shootings,” but there is nothing brotherly about white cops “accidentally” killing black and Latino officers.

Latinos also smell the cafe sin leche. Some national Latino groups are speaking up, andjoining the outcry around Ferguson. In New York, Anthony Baez’s family sees parallels with the recent police murder of Eric Garner.

There is no way in hell black people and Latinos and Native Americans can “fix” America’s “race problem.”

More white folks have to step up to the plate. Systemic racism in police departments across America, in the criminal injustice system, in housing, education, and health care has got to go.

I’m tired of hearing about “the race problem,” as if we are an equal partner in this mess we didn’t make.

America’s got a problem with white racism, and y’all need to clean house.

Link to Story and 10+-Minute Video

Posted in 2014-09-02, Newsletter | Comments Off

Funny or Die, “Cop vs. Black Guy” (Armed With An Ice Cream Cone)

Sad to say but there is more truth to this comedy clip than a rational American who believes in the ideals of a just nation would like to admit.

3-Minute Video

Posted in 2014-09-02, Newsletter | Comments Off

Tuesday / September 2, 2014

“Terrorism will never cease in a country where the so-called leaders are criminals and terrorists in disguise.” 

― Michael Bassey Johnson

(See “Criminal Probe”, below.)

Posted in 2014-09-02 | Tagged | Comments Off

Monday / September 1, 2014

“The larger the group, the more toxic, the more of your beauty as an individual you have to surrender for the sake of group thought. And when you suspend your individual beauty you also give up a lot of your humanity. You will do things in the name of a group that you would never do on your own. Injuring, hurting, killing, drinking are all part of it, because you’ve lost your identity, because you now owe your allegiance to this thing that’s bigger than you are and that controls you.” 

― George Carlin, Last Words.

(See “Don’t Doubt It For A Nanosecond”, below.)

Posted in 2014-09-01 | Tagged | Comments Off

Iowa Probe: A Ditch For Mitch?

(Illustration by Seth L. Taylor, 2014.)
By Howard Fineman
The Huffington Post (8/30/14)

WASHINGTON — The five words a senator least likes to hear are not “you have lost the election.” They are “the federal investigation is ongoing.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky might have a reason to be concerned that the second sentence could lead to him hearing the first.

On Wednesday, a federal investigation in Iowa forced a state senator there to plead guilty to obstruction of justice charges stemming from $73,000 in bribes he admitted taking from Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign in 2012.

A key figure in that 2012 Ron Paul campaign (and the 2008 Ron Paul campaign as well) was Jesse Benton. He ran the 2010 Kentucky Senate race for Rand Paul — a fitful McConnell ally. And until yesterday, he was officially (but not recently, in fact) running McConnell’s 2014 race.

Benton has not been accused of wrongdoing. The McConnell campaign issued a terse statement Friday morning dismissing the Iowa probe as unconnected to the senator or his circle, and Benton has denied any knowledge of or involvement in the bribe or efforts to cover it up.

This is probably not the end of the story. The plea was based in part on two sealed documents, and the U.S. Department of Justice has said that the probe is ongoing.

Locked in a close race with Alison Lundergan Grimes, a feisty Democrat less than half his age, 72-year-old McConnell was fighting for his political life even before news broke Friday night that Benton had resigned.

In a textbook attempt to bury the news, Benton issued a statement to an accommodating local news outlet at the 6 p.m. start of a three-day holiday weekend. But within the world of electoral politics, the information was too explosive to stay buried. The McConnell-Grimes race is arguably the most important this year: If McConnell hangs on and Republicans surge elsewhere, he could wind up the new Senate majority leader on election night.

A victory by the 35-year-old Grimes, a young lawyer whose first and only political job is Kentucky secretary of state, would be a sensation — and could be the deciding vote in keeping the Senate in Democratic hands next year. The race is also likely to be the most expense Senate contest in history.

Privately, McConnell aides said that Benton had been sidelined for months in a reorganization of the campaign after the GOP primary season, and that former McConnell Chief of Staff Josh Holmes has been effectively in charge since.

But the Grimes campaign, adopting the Watergate mantra, quickly demanded to know “what McConnell knew and when he knew it.” And there are a series of questions that inevitably arise, especially since Benton has been a central hub in the political affairs of both the Pauls and McConnell.

Here are some:

    • McConnell is a famously meticulous and wary lawyer-pol. His decision to bring Benton aboard as his campaign manager last year was motivated by the need to build bridges to the libertarian/tea party wing of the GOP. But the Iowa investigation was already underway. Did he or anyone in his camp ask Benton about the 2012 caucus probe before hiring him?


    • Benton, a friendly and confident player in the political and media wars, has been less visible, and visibly in control, in recent months. For example, his most consequential role at the famous Fancy Farm political picnic in Western Kentucky in August seemed to be organizing a cheering section in the audience. McConnell aides in recent months have played down Benton’s role, touting instead the leadership of Holmes, McConnell’s former Senate chief of staff. But was Benton really shoved aside because his work in pacifying the tea party was done when the senator easily won the GOP primary against a tea party foe? Or was it because the campaign had reason to be wary of what was going on with the feds in Iowa?


    • Benton has been the key to the tenuous alliance between McConnell and Rand Paul. Will Benton continue to play the role of a key adviser to the junior senator as he ramps up what seems certain to be a presidential bid? Or will Paul decide that he has to distance himself as well? And if Paul does back off, will Benton — until recently a central figure in the parallel rise of the two Kentuckians — quietly disappear? Is that really likely?


  • And where does the federal probe go from here? Is Benton’s name in the sealed documents? And even if the McConnell and Paul camps knew nothing about the Iowa probe early on, what, if anything, do they know now?

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Would The US Military Really Fire On American Citizens? Don’t Doubt It For A Nanosecond

Will the US military fire on US citizens? Of course; to believe anything else is simply naive.


(Editor’s Note: Some might find the headline and conclusion of this story offensive … over-the-top. To those folks I say: May 4, 1970. Actually, government troops gunning down citizens has a long tradition in America. Check out April 20, 1914. — Mark L. Taylor) 

By Justin King (8/28/14)

In light of the recent Ferguson unrest, the debate over police militarization has reached an all time high, but the discussion brings the reader face to face with another and more frightening question: would US troops really open fire on the public? 

The best place to begin a prediction of the future is in the past. Historical examples are often discounted for various reasons. A mention of Nazi Germany is immediately discounted because “those people were just evil.” Situations in Eastern Europe are discounted because of the communist or totalitarian regimes that existed there in the past. Bringing up the times militaries in the Far East, Africa, or Latin America opened fire on their citizens triggers the unconscious racist part of some brains that says “well those countries aren’t white.” Instances from US history are dismissed because they were “isolated incidents” or the patriotism gene kicks in and somehow “the citizens deserved it.”

This belief that some group or another “had it coming” is critical in the discussion because the order to fire on citizens has never been historically given without a wave of propaganda first occurring that convinces people those gunned down were the enemy.

The British lesson

Since almost all comparisons are off limits, the reader can only examine the country with the closest cultural ties to the United States; a country that shares a common language, a common economic system, a common dominant demographic, and a common culture. Of course, that means the United Kingdom.

The British Army staged an occupation of their own soil for almost forty years in Northern Ireland under the pretext of combating the Irish Republican Army. British troops conducted raids on homes, opened fire on unarmed civilians, conducted checkpoints that harassed the average citizens, assassinated undesirables, and supplied “loyalist paramilitaries.” The paramilitaries were conducting the same types of operations as the IRA, but were not labeled as terrorists by the media because it didn’t fit with the required propagandized narrative. It became important to the war effort of the British to cast their citizens of Irish heritage as terrorists. After all, it just wouldn’t do to have the BBC report that the Special Air Service was running around killing British citizens. This is despite the fact that the people in Northern Ireland are, in fact, British citizens. This isn’t ancient history; the occupation ended just seven years ago.

Now that it is established that even the most civilized and culturally-linked nations will turn its military against its own people, the reader can entertain the possibility a little better.

Just doing their job

Historically, once the demonization of the targeted group has been successfully cast as ethnically inferior, invaders, criminals, or domestic terrorists (to use the modern buzzword), the military is deployed under the guise of keeping the peace or protecting the people from themselves. In many cases, the masses applaud or beg for the deployment. Once deployed, the military functions as it is intended. The enlisted rank and file take orders from the non-commissioned officers, who take orders from the field officers, who take orders from the generals, who take orders from the politicians. Once the forces are on the streets, it is rarely questioned either out of legitimate fear of the authorities or out of fear of seeming unpatriotic.

In almost all cases there is a tiny fraction of  one percent of soldiers that dissent. Most simply fail to reenlist, some wander away into the ether of desertion, a smaller number steal weapons and join the resistance, and an almost negligible number stay and provide intelligence to the resistance. The vast majority of soldiers, however, stay on and do what they perceive as their duty.

This isn’t because they are evil or dumb. It is because they are simply “doing their jobs,” and the government has fed the propaganda to the public that allows the soldier to feel supported. They function as a cog in the wheel of eventual tyranny.

This journalist is aware of three separate groups in the US military whose members swear to break ranks if they are ever ordered to disobey the Constitution or use force on the American people. Two of those are clandestine in nature, and will be left out of the discussion. The other is a nationally-recognized group known as the Oath Keepers.

Talking big. Doing little. 

The Oath Keepers are primarily made up of current and former military and law enforcement. My personal opinion of the Oath Keepers is favorable to say the least; it is an organization that is at least attempting to establish a network of opposition to military rule. However, there exists a burning question. While there has been much condemnation on the Oath Keeper website of the government’s actions in Ferguson, where are the officers and National Guardsman that should have disobeyed their orders? It is impossible to believe an organization with tens of thousands of adherents do not have at least one member serving in an affected agency?

To expand on the question, there are dozens of other situations in which the Oath Keepers should have disobeyed orders. Are there no Oath Keepers in the TSA? Manning the checkpoints in the “Constitution-Free Zone?” Interrogating US citizens in the interest of “national security?” Exploiting NSA surveillance? Using Stingray surveillance devices? Piloting drone attacks on US citizens?

These are all situations in which an Oath Keeper should have followed through with his or her declaration and disobeyed orders, but there is no record of anyone doing so.

The reason is simple. These violations of the Constitution are against people the government has successfully painted as the bad guys. That will be the situation when US forces are deployed against US citizens. It will be viewed as OK by the populace because it isn’t happening to them, but to somebody the government has classified as a “domestic terrorist.”

2014 report from the U.S. Army regarding the use of deadly force against American citizens has recently been leaked to Public Intelligence. The report details when the use of deadly force could be used. (Figure 1)



The reader understands that this is not a topic in which one can adopt the patriotically misguided belief that “it can’t happen here.”

Before a deluge of hate mail arrives, I have a challenge to the would-be defender of the idea that the US military would never do such a thing. I can present hundreds of historical examples of soldiers following orders and attacking their own citizens, I ask you to present me with one example where even just 10% of a military disobeyed.

To answer the question directly; will the US military fire on US citizens? Of course; to believe anything else is simply naive.

This article is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author Justin King and Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive our latest articles.

Posted in 2014-09-01, Newsletter | Tagged | Comments Off

Happy Labor Day, America (Not!) — 116 Million Full-Time Workers Doing The Work Of 136 Million People

By Jim Puzzanghera
Los Angeles Times (8/30/14)

Full-time American workers labor the equivalent of nearly an additional day each week, averaging 47 hours instead of the standard 40, according to Gallup poll results released Friday.

Just 42% of full-time employees work 40 hours a week, the traditional total based on five 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. workdays, Gallup said of findings it released ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

Nearly the same percentage — 39% — say they work at least 50 hours a week. And almost one in five Americans, or 18%, said their workweek stretched 60 hours or more.

“The 40-hour workweek is widely regarded as the standard for full-time employment, and many federal employment laws — including the Affordable Care Act, or ‘Obamacare’ — use this threshold to define what a full-time employee is,” Gallup said.

“However, barely four in 10 full-time workers in the U.S. indicate they work precisely this much,” Gallup said.

Salaried employees work an average of 49 hours a week, compared with 44 hours for people paid by the hour. A quarter of salaried workers said they spend 60 or more hours a week on the job.

The overall 47-hour average workweek has held roughly steady for 14 years, Gallup said.

But the percentage of workers with full-time employment now is 43%, down from about 50% before the Great Recession.

Part-timers are about 9% of the adult population, also consistent with poll results over the past 14 years, Gallup said.

The results are based on surveys of 1,271 adults in Gallup’s 2013 and 2014 Work and Education Survey.

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Obama Administration To Reward Student Loan Company Accused Of Cheating Troops

By Shahien Nasiripou
The Huffington Post (8/29/14)

The Obama administration plans to reward Navient Corp, the student loan specialist formerly owned by Sallie Mae, with new business some three months after federal prosecutors accused the company of intentionally cheating troops on their federal student loans, according to three sources familiar with the administration’s plans.

The move is likely to stoke comparisons to recent multi-billion-dollar settlements reached between big banks and federal authorities over financial crisis-era misdeeds. Banks agreed to pay sizable sums, but public interest groups have criticized the settlements because the banks suffered few business consequences and their executives escaped criminal and civil charges.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Jason Collette, national organizer for Alliance For A Just Society, a network of state-based advocacy groups. “Until a company loses its federal contracts or a senior executive is punished, these fines are just the cost of doing business.”

In May, Navient and its former parent, Sallie Mae, agreed to pay a combined $139 million to resolve Department of Justice allegations that the two companies had swindled up to 60,000 service members out of tens of millions of dollars and forced other borrowers to pay unfair fees on their student loans. At a news conference announcing the settlement, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he had instructed his staff to immediately conduct a review to determine “what appropriate actions, if any,” should be taken against Navient in response to the allegations.

Asked then if the Department of Education would cancel Navient’s lucrative contract, Duncan said, “Every option is on the table.” During the ensuing months, the Education Department considered punishing Navient, according to people familiar with the matter, by excluding it for a year from the group of companies allowed to service American college students’ federal loans.

Instead, Duncan’s department is expected to announce as early as Friday that it will require more college students to deal with Navient, rather than the department’s numerous other loan servicers, according to people familiar with the matter. As a result, more taxpayer funds will flow to Navient. The company already handles 5.8 million student loan accounts under its contract with the Education Department.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama boasted to veterans at an American Legion convention about how his administration had made it easier for troops to access the same benefits the Justice Department accused Navient of willfully preventing soldiers from enjoying. Dorie Nolt, an Education Department spokeswoman, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Companies and government agencies often make public potentially embarrassing news on Friday afternoons, especially before holiday weekends.

“If the Education Department is really allocating Navient new loans after its history of unlawful practices, it shows that the department isn’t prioritizing the safety of borrowers. Instead, they’re prioritizing their contractors,” said Chris Hicks, an organizer who leads the Debt-Free Future campaign for Jobs With Justice, a Washington-based nonprofit that has called on Duncan to suspend the department’s contract with Navient …

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Posted in 2014-09-01, Newsletter | Comments Off

Walk With Labor Today!

Show your support for labor’s hard earned holiday in solidarity.

Pete Flesch will be marching in the following parades tomorrow:

Wauzeka  10 a.m. 

Hillsboro  10:30  

Readstown  2 p.m.


Look for Pete Flesch for Assembly signs.

Dennis Brault, Chairman

Vernon County Democratic Party

Authorized and paid for by Mark L. Taylor, Genoa, WI., and not a campaign committee.
Posted in 2014-09-01, Newsletter | Comments Off

What White People Can Do About The Killing Of Black Men In America

“If the police feel they are above the law with any one group, they will feel they are above the law with others.” 

By Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
The Huffington Post (8/14/14)

‘Can we switch for just one day?’ my friend Sean jokingly asked me as we were working out at the gym. ‘No, way’ I said firmly. You see, Sean is black and I am white and Sean was suggesting that we swap races. In his plea, Sean was none-too-subtly commenting that living life as a white man might be easier than living as a black man. In my unwillingness to switch, I acknowledged the privilege — and safety — that comes with being a white person in 21st century America.

There are a lot of events vying to occupy the American mind these days such as Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine, the immigration crisis, hate crimes against Sikhs, Ebola, and Robin Williams’ death. But in one way, the ability to switch among these traumas is a white person’s ‘luxury.’ For Sean, and for many black Americans, the recent spate of black male deaths at the hands of police in America is forced to occupy the primary place.


There is an epidemic in this country and its victims are black men. Eric Garner died after being put in a stranglehold in Staten Island in New York City, Michael Brown, was an 18-year-old teenager killed in Ferguson, MO, and Ezell Ford was killed while reportedly lying down in the street in Los Angeles.

Black Americans are rightfully outraged, but it will require all Americans to be mobilized before the racism that undergirds these killings will end and the deaths along with it. White Americans like me have to stop channel surfing all the outrageously bad news from around the world and focus on the death that is happening in our own cities to our fellow Americans.

I spoke to Rev. Tony Lee who is an African-American pastor at Community of Hope AME Church in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Rev. Tony and I went to seminary together and he has been a colleague I trust to speak the truth to me about race in America. He called the recent deaths ‘disturbing but not surprising.’

“The reason people are responding so strongly is that these are examples of daily antagonisms felt by black people on the street. This is part of a wider school-to-prison pipeline and the ghettoization and de-humanization of black bodies. Social media gets the word out much quicker and people are responding to dead black men on the streets in LA, Ferguson and NYC by saying ‘wait, that is going on in our streets too.’”

We need a movement, not a moment

But social media is part of the problem according to Rev. Lee. “The challenge is for this to become a movement not just a moment. People are expressing outrage with hashtags but they are not organizing. Movements need organizing.”

Given that we are both pastors, I asked Rev. Lee what the church should do and he offered some very practical steps, including becoming advocates for police training, holding police departments legally accountable for deaths, and connecting with the efforts at a community level. Rev. Lee also pointed out positive organizations that are doing great ‘movement’ work like Black Youth Project that churches should be supporting and partnering with.

Rev. Lee was quick to mention that his church has positive relations with the local policing because they have been proactive in creating encounters where police can meet the community and the community can meet police — not only in crucial moments when tensions are high — but also during normal times when the two can see the best of each other.

According to Lee, the church also needs to reclaim and proclaim the narrative about the worth of black lives in the face of the criminalized depiction of black people on TV, movies and in music. The wider church should be involved in the celebration of the breadth and richness of the black experience.

I asked Rev. John Vaughn, Vice-President of Auburn Seminary, what kind of response he would like to see from white Americans. Rev. Vaughn responded via email that he hoped his white friends would be vocal and articulate why these killings are not ‘yet another isolated incident’ and ‘explore the premise that racism is not a thing of the past.’ Perhaps most importantly: “Listen to your friends and colleagues of color about their experiences and analysis of racism in America.”

I also pressed Rev. Lee on what he would like to tell white Americans on how to show solidarity. I was humbled by his response:

We need to lock arms amidst all of this. If the police feel they are above the law with any one group, they will feel they are above the law with others. We need to learn from the civil rights movement. It wasn’t just black folks, it was everybody, because it wasn’t a black problem it was a moral issue. We are remembering 40 years after the Freedom Summer. That wasn’t just black people risking their lives, it was a community that went down to Mississippi because they knew that when any group within the nation is marginalized then we can’t be the nation we want to be.

The way I translate Rev. Lee’s generous invitation is ‘show up.’ White people need to get off the computer and get involved with our voices, feet, votes and resources to help make sure that this epidemic of black deaths in America ends. This is not a ‘black problem,’ it is an American problem and it will take all of us working together to solve it.

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