January 8, 2014 archive

Texting Madness

I think I might tell you some more about this research company that I have in the past and my brother currently works for, but what’s relevant today is that one of his most frequent pieces of field work is observing cars to collect statistics on how many people are texting while driving.

Yup.  I expect they’ll turn themselves in now and serve their time.

Just like Ed Snowden.

On This Day In History January 8

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 8 is the eighth day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 357 days remaining until the end of the year (358 in leap years).

On this day in 1877, Crazy Horse and his warriors–outnumbered, low on ammunition and forced to use outdated weapons to defend themselves–fight their final losing battle against the U.S. Cavalry in Montana.

Six months earlier, in the Battle of Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse and his ally, Chief Sitting Bull, led their combined forces of Sioux and Cheyenne to a stunning victory over Lieutenant Colonel George Custer (1839-76) and his men. The Indians were resisting the U.S. government’s efforts to force them back to their reservations. After Custer and over 200 of his soldiers were killed in the conflict, later dubbed “Custer’s Last Stand,” the American public wanted revenge. As a result, the U.S. Army launched a winter campaign in 1876-77, led by General Nelson Miles (1839-1925), against the remaining hostile Indians on the Northern Plains.

On January 8, 1877, General Miles found Crazy Horse’s camp along Montana’s Tongue River. U.S. soldiers opened fire with their big wagon-mounted guns, driving the Indians from their warm tents out into a raging blizzard. Crazy Horse and his warriors managed to regroup on a ridge and return fire, but most of their ammunition was gone, and they were reduced to fighting with bows and arrows. They managed to hold off the soldiers long enough for the women and children to escape under cover of the blinding blizzard before they turned to follow them.

Though he had escaped decisive defeat, Crazy Horse realized that Miles and his well-equipped cavalry troops would eventually hunt down and destroy his cold, hungry followers. On May 6, 1877, Crazy Horse led approximately 1,100 Indians to the Red Cloud reservation near Nebraska’s Fort Robinson and surrendered. Five months later, a guard fatally stabbed him after he allegedly resisted imprisonment by Indian policemen

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The Battle for North Carolina

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

North Carolina Battleground State



Full transcript can be read here

First it was Wisconsin. Now it’s North Carolina that is redefining the term “battleground state.”  On one side:  a right-wing government enacting laws that are changing the face of the state. On the other:  citizen protesters who are fighting back against what they fear is a radical takeover. This crucible of conflict reflects how the battle for control of American politics is likely to be fought for the foreseeable future: not in Washington, DC, but state by state. [..]

At the heart of this conservative onslaught sits a businessman who is so wealthy and powerful that he is frequently described as the state’s own “Koch brother.” Art Pope, whose family fortune was made via a chain of discount stores, has poured tens of millions of dollars into a network of foundations and think tanks that advocate a wide range of conservative causes.  Pope is also a major funder of conservative political candidates in the state.

Pope’s most ardent opponent is the Reverend William Barber, head of the state chapter of the NAACP, who says the right-wing state government has produced “an avalanche of extremist policies that threaten health care, that threaten education [and] that threaten the poor.” Barber’s opposition to the legislature as well as the Pope alliance became a catalyst for the protest movement that became known around the country as “Moral Mondays.”

The Koch brothers aren’t the only ones who can guy a state.

State for Sale

by Jane Mayer October 10, 2011

In the spring of 2010, the conservative political strategist Ed Gillespie flew from Washington, D.C., to Raleigh, North Carolina, to spend a day laying the groundwork for REDMAP, a new project aimed at engineering a Republican takeover of state legislatures. Gillespie hoped to help his party get control of statehouses where congressional redistricting was pending, thereby leveraging victories in cheap local races into a means of shifting the balance of power in Washington. It was an ingenious plan, and Gillespie is a skilled tactician-he once ran the Republican National Committee-but REDMAP seemed like a long shot in North Carolina. Barack Obama carried the state in 2008 and remained popular. The Republicans hadn’t controlled both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly for more than a century. (“Not since General Sherman,” a state politico joked to me.) That day in Raleigh, though, Gillespie had lunch with an ideal ally: James Arthur (Art) Pope, the chairman and C.E.O. of Variety Wholesalers, a discount-store conglomerate. The Raleigh News and Observer had called Pope, a conservative multimillionaire, the Knight of the Right. The REDMAP project offered Pope a new way to spend his money.

That fall, in the remote western corner of the state, John Snow, a retired Democratic judge who had represented the district in the State Senate for three terms, found himself subjected to one political attack after another. Snow, who often voted with the Republicans, was considered one of the most conservative Democrats in the General Assembly, and his record reflected the views of his constituents. His Republican opponent, Jim Davis-an orthodontist loosely allied with the Tea Party-had minimal political experience, and Snow, a former college football star, was expected to be reëlected easily. Yet somehow Davis seemed to have almost unlimited money with which to assail Snow.[..]

Bob Phillips, the head of the North Carolina chapter of Common Cause, an organization that promotes campaign-finance reform, said that Snow’s loss signals a troubling trend in American politics. “John Snow raised a significant amount of money,” he said. “But it was exceeded by what outside groups spent in that race, mostly on commercials against John Snow.” Such lopsided campaigns will likely become more common, thanks to the Supreme Court, which, in a controversial ruling in January, 2010, struck down limits on corporate campaign spending. For the first time in more than a century, businesses and unions can spend unlimited sums to express support or opposition to candidates.

Phillips argues that the Court’s decision, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has been a “game changer,” especially in the realm of state politics. In swing states like North Carolina-which the Democrats consider so important that they have scheduled their 2012 National Convention there-an individual donor, particularly one with access to corporate funds, can play a significant, and sometimes decisive, role. “We didn’t have that before 2010,” Phillips says. “Citizens United opened up the door. Now a candidate can literally be outspent by independent groups. We saw it in North Carolina, and a lot of the money was traced back to Art Pope.”

At Bill Moyers and Company, John Light and Laura Macomber give a synopsis of events in North Carolina:

In 2012, North Carolinians elected a Republican to the governor’s office. That same year, the Republican majority in the General Assembly – first elected in 2010 – grew to a supermajority. The result was that conservatives won the power to change state law dramatically – and over this last year, they used that power. The new legislation included ending benefits for the long-term unemployed; declining the Obamacare Medicaid extension; eliminating the earned-income tax credit; and passing what some observers call the worst voter suppression law in the country. In response, those critical of the right-wing legislative agenda united around protests at the state legislature on Mondays, part of a growing citizen movement that has come to be known as “Moral Mondays.” So far, the movement, however ambitious, has done little to slow the state’s Republican majority from pushing through its agenda.

But this story didn’t start on Election Day 2012 – its roots run deep. And a similar situation could unfold in any of America’s 50 states.

The writers also provide a reading list of articles that follow the money trail that paid for redistricting and the extreme right wing legislative agenda.

Free Trade Insanity

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpg Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When it comes to free trade agreements the US government fits Einstein’s definition to a tee. Twenty years ago congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with expectations that it would improve the working conditions for the poorest workers in southern partner, Mexico. NAFTA is being touted by economists as a great success but for workers, both south and north of the border, NAFTA has been a massive failure (pdf) with hundred of thousands of jobs lost, mass displacement and instability in Mexico and corporate attacks on environmental and health laws. Mexico is NAFTA’s biggest lie.

Currently, the US is in secret negotiations to pass a massive “free trade” agreement with fourteen Pacific Rim nations that would radically change international rules to favor multinational corporations. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been called “NAFTA on Steroids” that could significantly hurt not only workers but their families as well due to watered-down safety provisions when it comes to food and products. It could also drive up prescription drug prices, hurt the environment and reduce Internet freedom. Despite the evidence of the damage that NAFTA has done and breaking his 2008 campaign pledge to oppose such agreements, President Barack Obama is now asking congress to “fast track” passage of TPP which would prevent debate or amendment of the agreement. NAFTA, too, was “fast tracked.” This is just repeating the same mistakes that were made by NAFTA only on a larger scale. In an article at Huffington Post, James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, explains the damage that preventing debate and amendment can bring:

The problem with the TPP is that as it stands, the public doesn’t know what’s in it. Which raises the question how can constituents discuss the proposal with elected officials when they don’t know what they should be concerned about? That, however, seems to be of little consequence to some in Congress.

Congressional committee chairmen who favor free trade have agreed to move forward with considering fast track soon after they return to Capitol Hill this month. They obviously believe they are doing the right thing for America. But is it right that corporations take in all of the gains while hard-working Americans get all of the pain? Is that what this country is really all about?

No one is against trade, just unfair trade. We’ve seen enough lost jobs, shuttered plants and abandoned communities. It’s time to make things in America again. When is the U.S. going to approve an agreement that actually helps its own workers?

Letting people see what is included in the TPP is the first step towards letting them decide which direction the nation should take. The next step is to derail the old fast track and replace it with a process that allows Congress to fully debate the deal and make the TPP work for working families.

The last thing that Americans need is another hit to the working class, we need to tell our representatives to stop the “fast track” of the TPP. End the insanity. Don’t Let Congress Fast-Track TPP.