Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Despite warnings from US Senate leadership that they will not seat a Blagojevich appointee, "embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich plans to appoint Ronald Burris(71), the state's former attorney general, to President-elect Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat, the president of the Illinois state Senate Emil Jones said Tuesday." (AP - MSNBC)
The news of Blagojevich's decision was originally reported by the Chicago Tribune. Blagojevich has scheduled a press conference for 3 pm today.
AP article is here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28435846
Modern day Hoovervilles called tent cities are rising across nation due to foreclosures and unemployment.
While America's elite are celebrating bailouts with champagne, caviar and massages, America's displaced taxpayers, now homeless and unemployed are living in squalor and poverty, with little hope.
"RENO, Nev. - A few tents cropped up hard by the railroad tracks, pitched by men left with nowhere to go once the emergency winter shelter closed for the summer.
Then others appeared — people who had lost their jobs to the ailing economy, or newcomers who had moved to Reno for work and discovered no one was hiring.
Within weeks, more than 150 people were living in tents big and small, barely a foot apart in a patch of dirt slated to be a parking lot for a campus of shelters Reno is building for its homeless population. Like many other cities, Reno has found itself with a "tent city" — an encampment of people who had nowhere else to go."
The entire story can be read here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26776283/
Monday, December 29, 2008
The state of California is running a budget gap of $1.2 million a day. CNBC author Jane Wells tells readers that the deficit has topped $15 billion, and that the state will be out of money by February, and while the Governor has continued to negotiate with state Democratic leaders, there's still no deal.
Here's why: A radio show.
John Kobylt and Ken Champeau host "The John and Ken Show" on KFI AM640 in Los Angeles.
Kobylt and Champeau told Wells that the radio show has "about a million listeners a week, listeners he and Ken have been able to rally to burn up the phone lines to Sacramento to insist the Legislature not raise taxes."
'Both the governor and the Democrats are proposing, however, to do just that: raise taxes. But any attempt has failed so far. You see, in California, you need a two-thirds majority in Sacramento to raise taxes, which requires a few Republican votes. And the Republicans won't budge. One reason may be that John and Ken have threatened to unseat any Republican who breaks ranks."
Last week, the Democrats introduced a bill that replaced some of the proposed tax increases with fees. (Bills that contain fees only require 50% plus one vote to pass the legislature). The measure passed, but Governor Schwarzenegger is not supporting the measure because he feels the fees are illegal and the bill does not do enough to stimulate the economy.
Expect a fireworks display when Republican legislators are forced to deal with the collapse of the state budget. Perhaps shutting down California state government is preferable to raising taxes? Somehow, I don't think that's going to get anyone re-elected.
Personally, I'm looking forward to reviewing Republican proposals for repairing the California state budget without raising taxes.
The entire article can be read here: http://www.cnbc.com/id/28393358
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Highlights of 2008, Federal Bailouts Benefit the Rich while Millions of Americans are in danger of losing their homes
News highlights from 2008. Here's Latte Republic's top pick of the year.
"GEORGE TOWN, CAYMAN ISLANDS—Amid the bleak backdrop of imminent economic collapse, worried observers got some good news last October when executives from the nation's top 10 failing companies celebrated the historic $700 billion government bailout with an ultra- extravagant $800 billion party aimed at restoring confidence and bolstering their resolve.
"It's never ideal for private corporations to rely on public funding, but we would not have been able to survive another week without letting loose and throwing this massive bash," Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain said aboard his newly purchased $22 million yacht, the Excelsior. "We can only hope it's not a case of too little too late."
Three thousand guests were reportedly flown on 750 separate private jets to the Caribbean, where they commemorated the last-minute financial aid package — which saved their companies from the subprime mortgage crisis that has left thousands of Americans without homes — with 4-tons of Beluga caviar, $250,000 bottles of vintage Dom Pérignon served over precious gems, a 36-hour fireworks display, an additional loan of $200 billion to cover the costs of the gala, and a private concert for each attendee with rock legend Rod Stewart."
Excerpt from theonion.com: http://www.theonion.com/content/news/700_billion_bailout_celebrated
Friday, December 26, 2008
From Jib and Jab.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Mix in fond appreciation
Add some giggles and some laughter,
Stir it all with human kindness;
If we use this healthy recipe,
By Joanna Fuchs
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Shovel the sidewalk in front of your house or business. Unshoveled sidewalks are impassible and force children and adults to walk in the streets.
Be a good neighbor. Lend a hand to those who may not be physically able to shovel or who may find walking to the store or bus stop too treacherous because of the snow or ice.
Keep your children safe - don't let them play in the snow piles or on the snow banks at the side of the road. Make sure sledding hills are safe. (Cars and children on sleds, toboggans, inter tubes or saucers do not mix).
When clearing snow, pile it on your property - it should not be shovelled onto the sidewalk or street .
Place your garbage containers and recycling boxes on a cleared area - do not perch them on the top of snow piles.
Help prevent street flooding and icing by clearing snow away from storm sewer catchbasins.
When the weather turns warmer and snow begins to melt it's important that the runoff water gets into the storm sewer. If the catch basin is fully or partially covered by a build-up of snow and ice street flooding can occur. Should the thermometer dip again the street can become an ice rink.
A few things you can do to help yourself:
Sometimes it takes several passes with the plow to completely clear the street. Wait until plowing is completed, and you will only have to shovel your driveway once.
When you shovel your driveway, place the snow on the "downstream" (right side) so your driveway won't be filled in the next time the plow comes by.
Things you can do to help the City crews:
Don't park overnight on City streets that are being plowed.
Don't push snow from a driveway or parking lot onto a City street or sidewalk.
Don't park your vehicle at the end of your driveway in a way that would impede the City plow. Don't park your vehicle in a way that impedes your neighbor's view of on-coming traffic.
To help prevent localized flooding, try to keep the catch basin adjacent to your property free from ice and snow.
Don't place garbage or garbage containers where they can be buried, damaged or interfere with snow removal.
Avoid unnecessary spinning of tires at intersections. This practice is dangerous and is hazardous to other motorists. It also tends to "ice up" the intersections.
Avoid installing mail boxes where they can be damaged by plowing operations. The US Post Office can provide guidelines concerning the proper distances mail boxes should be placed from road surfaces. Shovel snow in front of mailboxes to assist the post office in delivering your mail.
"DRIVE CAREFULLY" The City and County attempt to minimize the impact of snow and ice. However, it is each motorist's responsibility to drive according to the road conditions.
If it is slippery, slow down. This includes SUVs. Believe it or not, that SUV your driving is subject to the laws of physics. Don't drive 35 mph in a 25 mph zone on a icy road filled with snow shoveler's, walkers and children! You have a brain. Use it! (PS personal injury lawsuits are EXPENSIVE).
Don't flip off, honk your horn at or yell at walkers or bicyclists. People have a right to walk or bike to the store for groceries, medicine and other necessities.
They also have a legal right to use City streets and roads.
Happy Holidays Sunlighters!
Though the weather outside is frightful, this holiday season we have more reason to spread cheer after all you've DONE to help the Sunlight Foundation spread transparency across the country.
We want to take just one moment to say "thank you."Over the past year, you've been invaluable help in our task to make government more open: you've helped us dig through piles of data and push for real transparency in Congress. You've blogged, commented, tweeted, edited wikis, and spread the word of "sunlight" -- all in the name of greater transparency.
To thank you for everything over the past year, the Sunlight Labs team put together this Holiday card:http://sunlightfoundation.com/holiday2008/
As an added HOLIDAY bonus, Sunlight recently launched a new version of our Congress word-of-the-day site, Capitol Words. Take a look at it over the holidays. The new Capitol Words (http://www.capitolwords.org) provides extensive new features including pages for individual lawmakers and whole state-wide delegations and the words they use the most.
We are excited about 2009. The New Year will bring a lot of new opportunities for you to join with us to work for even more transparency. We have a lot planned and hope that you will join us, as we will join you, in pushing for an open, honest, and connected government.
Happy Holidays from the ENTIRE Sunlight Foundation team!
Monday, December 22, 2008
If possible, try to take the bus or carpool to work with neighbors or co-workers. You can attempt to walk if you don't have bus service. But I can verify that the sidewalks themselves are difficult to navigate in many parts of town because the snow plows are throwing snow on top of them from road clearing.
This link is to the City of Bellingham Severe Weather Page. It proves info on a number of topics in regards to being prepared and even the sanding routes within Bellingham.
Also, warming will make icicles unstable. Every year, dozens of men, women and children are injured or killed by falling icicles around doors and under the eves of houses. Take a few moments to talk to your children about the danger of icicles.
Here is the link to the Washington State Department of Transportation or DOT web page. It will provide you with a number of links of info on road condition, including cameras located throughout Washington State.
Check www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/trafficalerts, for more detail about statewide highway incidents and closures.
Whatcom County does not have any notifications up regarding road conditions or hazards.
The question before the American public is how can Hillary Clinton successfully negotiate international conflicts in the Middle East and other nations when those same nations are bankrolling her husband's non-profit foundation?
No one is denying that the recently released list of private donors to the Clinton Foundation is comprised of influencial financial and government players.
Morris and McGann allege that a number of former President Clinton's Foundation associates, including ultra wealthy Canadian mining finance Frank Giustra, receive lucrative business contracts because of their association with the Clinton Foundation. Giustra was recently granted a juicy contract to mine uranium in Kazakhstan. Shortly after receiving the contract, Giustra personally contributed somewhere between $10 to $25 million to Clinton's foundation and the Clinton-Guistra Sustainable Growth Initiative of Canada donated an additional $1 to $5 million to the Foundation. Do these contributions create a conflict of interest for Hillary?
Other controversial contributions came from Victor Pinchu, the son in law of the former President of the Ukraine and Lakshmi Mittal, a member of the Foreign Investment Council in Kazakhstan.
UNITAD, a French based organization donated $25 million and recent U.S. federal bailout recipients, AGI, Lehman, Citi, Merrill and General Motors have donated funds to the foundation.
The William J. Clinton Foundation's mission is to "strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence."
The Foundation focuses on four critical areas: health security; economic empowerment; leadership development and citizen service; and racial, ethnic and religious reconciliation. The Foundation works principally through partnerships with like-minded individuals, organizations, corporations, and governments, often serving as an incubator for new policies and programs.
The Charity Navigator gives the Clinton Foundation a 66.80 rating. Readers can review the rating at Charity Navigator. The link is posted at the bottom of the page. I found it interesting that a Washington state based foundation called the Evergreen Freedom Foundation was listed just below Clinton's Foundation. The Charity Navigator stated that the two organizations have similar goals.
In closing, Morris and McGann ask three questions; "how could a U.S. Senator possibly serve dispassionately while her husband was collecting money from these donors on this kind of scale? And how could we have almost elected a president without realizing these conflicts existed? And, how on earth can a secretary of State function with these conflicts hanging over her head?
Which raises a fourth question, How can any elected official, who is wholly dependent on campaign contributions from special interest PACs, wealthy business owners and other self-interested supporters be free of conflicts of interest?
If the William J. Clinton Foundation donor list raises the question of Hilary's ability to provide dispassionate service, shouldn't we also be concerned about the negative effects of campaign contributions on our elected officials?
Dick Morris and Eileen McGann can't have it both ways. If they oppose Hilary Clinton's appointment based solely on contributions to a 501 C-3 non-profit, they should also oppose the use of special interest funds and PACs for political campaigns.
What do our readers think? Does $500 million dollars in contributions to the William J. Clinton Foundation create a conflict of interest for Hillary Clinton?
Check out the facts for yourselves.
William Jefferson Clinton Foundation: http://www.clintonfoundation.org/
Charity Navigator Rating: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=6903
Dick Morris and Eileen McGann's article: 500M PROBLEMS FOR MADAME SECRETARY
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan kills legislation mandating a special election of Obama's replacement
Speaker of the House Mike Madigan insists that Rod Blagojevich must chose the new Senator, regardless of pendig corruption charges and voter outrage.
The Illinois state legislature wants to impeach Governor Blagojevich, but there's no guarantee that they can do that before the Governor appoints a new Senator. U.S. Senate appointments do not require legislative confirmation at either the state or federal level. Blagojevich's appointment will be binding and final.
Recent polling revealed that Illinois voters want to pick their own Senator by a margin of 66 to 26.
"Every major spot in Illinois state government is now held by a Democrat," Morris stated in his article. "One party government, by either party, breeds the kind of arrogant corruption and self-seeking of which Blagojevich has become the poster child."
National Poll at Vote.com: Should Illinois Hold A Special Election To Fill Obama’s Vacant Senate Seat? Vote Here Now!
Check out Dick Morris's article: THE FLEECING OF ILLINOIS
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I've recruited a young woman who is majoring in Communications to be Latte Republic's administrator and senior editor. (She has chosen to remain anonymous for the time being).
I'm also very interested in talking with college students or community members who would like to write human interest articles about individuals who are homeless, struggling to find work, finish school or secure affordable medical or dental care.
Other potential public policy or human rights topics:
Local city updates
Retirement issues - including portable retirement accounts
Human Rights issues
Smart Growth Management
Water Resources, drinking water, watershed management and conservation issues.
Brownfield redevelopment including research and clean up of contaminated sites
The role of Employee Unions in the United States
Long Term Health Care
Tips to survive a recession/deflationary economic period
Universal medical insurance coverage for Americans
Transparent and open government
Ethics in Government
Jobs for displaced homemakers and the unemployed
Local or state history
Or? (Please feel free to recommend additional topics)
Again, if you or someone you know is interested in writing stories about politics, public policy issues or third places, please contact the administrator at the e-mail tab posted in the about me section.
Latte Republic is committed to protecting the names of authors and their sources. We will not reveal names or addresses of participants or writers, unless we have written permission to do so. Or, it's OK to remain anonymous!
Yes. There is a recession and dollars are tight. But lawmakers across the nation need to consider the consequences cutting services for abused, runaway children.
Young workers in the oldest profession
Clark County sex trade operates mostly online
Young girls forced to learn and obey brutal rules of the street
Original Post idea: Politics is a blood sport: Raftery goes for the Pulitzer: "Young workers in the oldest profession
Friday, December 19, 2008
Harry Markopolos spent nine years attempting to alert regulators about Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Diligence and a strong moral sense gave him the strength to persevere.
"He followed through on everything he ever did. He never let up," said his mother, Georgia Markopolos. "Some kids just let it go if it's too hard, but he wouldn't do that."
"He feels very sorry for these people that got taken," she added. "It wouldn't have happened if they would have listened to him long ago."
The AP reported that Markopolos waged a remarkable battle to uncover fraud at Madoff's operation, sounding the alarm back in 1999 and continuing with his warnings all through this decade.
The government never acted, Madoff continued his ways, and people lost billions.
Markopolo's mother told interviewers that Harry was a little nerdy as a child, somewhat mischevious, and unfailingly honest.
Harry Markopolos, 52, has declined all offers to be interviewed. (Who can blame him)?
The entire story can be read here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28310980
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The Public Disclosure Commission determined that Governor Christine Gregoire accepted campaign contributions from five out-of-state political action committees that were not eligible to donate because they had not secured sufficient donations from at least 10 residents within the required time period.
The Complaint was filed by the state Republican Party in October and Gregoire's campaign returned the $12,000 in question right away. The Governor was fined $500.00 with $250.00 suspended.
The Commission imposed a fine of $100 for each of the five PACS that had contributed illegally and then cut the fine in half, as long as the Governor does not have another campaign violation during the next four years.
I can not find a report of Investigation at the PDC site for this case.
Senator Karen Fraser:
Was fined $100.00 for not filing a PDC report on October 28, 2008. It was the Senator's first violation since she began filing reports in 1974. Her Treasurer was on vacation and the report did not get filed.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
This has been a very interesting discussion.
I believe what's going on here is a battle between being "Republican" and being "party". One could say that a Republican fights to defend the constitution. Which would mean defending the public from the government since the constitution was expressly written to define what the federal government COULD do and therefore implicitly what it should not do.
Whereas a "party member" is someone who believes in the strength of the voting block and wishes to throw their hat in whenever the party leadership chooses to wield the power of the majority. Others are needed for success but the latter unfortunately attracts those who wish to control the party at the state or national level.
It is those at the state level that are disenfranchising the Ron Paul supporters by holding to the 10% rule illegally. Whatcom county is just caught up in the collateral damage of such a power play by the party 'elites' (as I'm sure they like to think of themselves). I believe the problem with the republican party is that is should be at least two parts Republican and one part party but they've got the mix backwards. And the ones that love to wield the power of the voting block don't want to give in to the liberty of the individual. That's not to say that individuals in the party aren't conservative, just that when conservatism meets partisanship they choose political power over principle even if it means supporting someone who is undeniably un-republican.
After all isn't it clearly more republican that representation of a precinct comes from the precinct? i.e. ANY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL within the precinct should have more authority over their own representation than ANYONE outside the precinct. Their election should be their own.
Now THAT's the way a republic should operate.
You have raised a number of issues that I would like to see discussed across the state.
Thank you for taking the time to comment!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I am writing to remind you that we only have 15 days to raise our goal of $200,000 to receive a matching gift of an additional $100,000. This will not be a windfall. This is an amount of money that will help us meet a bare-bones budget as we deal with a very difficult economic situation.
This is also crucial time for the Sound. As we wage battles such as the fight to protect Maury Island's whale and salmon habitat, we are also - finally - at a point when the state has adopted a new action agenda for the Sound.
We will be there in the legislature to make sure that the Sound isn't forgotten amidst all of the state's important issues. Seven of our resident orcas died this past year, suffering from insufficient salmon to eat and excessive toxic pollution in their bodies. We - and they - don't have a lot of time left. We’ve raised $101,007 as of December 15th (track our progress at pugetsound.org). You can help us close the gap by donating today.
Every dollar helps - if every member of this cause donated just $5 that would raise an additional $1205 to help Save Our Sound. I know I can count on you, friends. Donating on facebook is 100% secure through Network For Good.
If you prefer to give directly just go to pugetsound.org/donate or call me at the office: 206.382.7007
Thank you VERY much.
Creative Director People For Puget Sound
911 Western Avenue, Suite 580 Seattle, WA 98104
Thanks,The Causes Team
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Yesterday, at the December Whatcom County Republican Party re-organization meeting, I observed former and current party leaders informing certain newly elected Republican PCOs that they will not be seated or allowed to participate in local meetings, despite the fact that each candidates election has been certified by the Whatcom County Auditor. The majority of these candidates were write-in candidates. In other words, no one filed to run for the Precinct Committee Seat in their precinct and voters, who reside in that precinct, wrote in the names of individuals that they believed could represent them at the Central Committee meetings.
Some of the write in candidates tied with write in opponents. For those who could not attend the coin toss at the Whatcom County Auditor's office, party members stepped in to represent them.
For those who have not been following this issue, I have posted a link at the bottom of the page to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that led to the impasse.
It is my understanding, after speaking with Shirley Forsloff, (Whatcom Co. Auditor) that the WA State Legislature intends to re-adopt legislation to re-enact the 10% requirement to be elected as a PCO." A state law that Mrs. Forsloff stated was nullified by the U.S. Supreme Court decision issued in March of 2008.
One of the reasons cited by the political parties for wanting to control candidate self-identification in the lawsuit is the desire to avoid the embarrassment of one party or the other being saddled with a "David Duke-like candidate." You know, someone who is associated with the Ku Klux Clan or a similar organization.
For the record, I did not observe any "David Duke-like candidates" sitting in the back row with the rejected PCOs. However, I did meet a number of sincere, earnest, law-abiding young men (two who are in their 80's) who attended the meeting because they want to participate as Republicans.
What is their crime? They are former Ron Paul supporters.
And here lies the heart of the problem. The Whatcom County Republicans appear to want to determine who is and who is not considered a Republican, based on which candidate an individual supported in the last Presidential election.
Hm. Last time I checked, Ron Paul was listed as a Republican. Albeit, a conservative Republican. But nevertheless, a Republican.
In contrast, what do the Whatcom County Democrats have to say in regard to party membership? "The Central Committee shall be open to all who support the party and wish to be known as Democrats. All members shall enjoy equal rights, protections and opportunities in all proceedings. Discrimination on the basis of sex, race, age (except where state or federal law precludes participation), religion, sexual orientation, economic status or ethnic origin is prohibited in the conduct of Central Committee business."
Which brings us back to my original question. What is the role of a political party? Political parties traditionally provide voters who share similar ideas the ability to join with others to express their opinions.
Americans have a long-standing tradition of political self-identity. Individual voters, (people, not political parties), determine individual political and party affiliations. Or, lack thereof.
In other words, we are not assigned a political affiliation or ideology with our social security cards at birth.
Factions and parties form because people disagree philosophically; conflict and differences of opinion seem to be a natural part of the political process and allow factions to work together to build political coalitions, party platforms and elect like-minded candidates.
Suppressing disagreement, or prohibiting peaceful forms of conflict, can often lead to a loss of liberty. If dissenting views are denied the right to be heard, then a party runs the risk of becoming dysfunctional and dissenting views are crushed before anyone has time to examine them.
Brenda Wahler, of Montana State University says, "The genius of the American model of democracy allows people to freely express what they think, thus working out conflicts with words instead of weapons. By necessity, consensus and compromise are embedded into the American system.
No one side will always win, and some people will disagree with the majority. But, if everyone has had a say, and the rights of the minority are respected, then most people are willing to accept the decisions made, using peaceful means to express any differences that may remain."
The old guard Republicans in charge of the meeting (who are also self-identified Republicans) not only refused to allow the newly elected Republican Precinct Committee Officers to participate in the December re-organization meeting. They refused to allow all disenfranchised PCOs (even one of their own former party vice chairs) the right to address the group during the floor discussion regarding this matter.
First, censoring individuals who had expressed a sincere interest to participate in local party politics; and, second, thwarting the voter's right to freely choose candidates to represent them at the Whatcom County Republican Party Central Committee.
Which brings to mind two quotes on the act of censorship of ideas:
If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all." ~ Noam Chomsky
"Thought that is silenced is always rebellious. Majorities, of course, are often mistaken. This is why the silencing of minorities is necessarily dangerous. Criticism and dissent are the indispensable antidote to major delusions." ~ Alan Barth (served on the editorial board of the Washington Post for 30 years).
FYI: when minority factions are denied the right to be heard, they can and sometimes do, form third parties.
In fact, this is how the modern day Republican Party became a majority party back in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln was elected as President of the United States. The original Republican Party was a "third party" formed out of frustration with the status quo and a growing desire to reform existing public policy.
I can't help but ask, is history about to repeat itself?
And, here's my question for state party officials - (who adopted a resolution to prevent newly elected PCOs who did not receive 10% of the vote from taking office). What on earth are you afraid of? Is your hold on leadership within the party so weak, that you literally fear the introduction of new people or ideas?
Young, vibrant ideas that could help the Republican party re-connect with Washington voters?
What a sad day for Washington State Republicans!
U.S. Supreme Court Syllabus of Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party No. 06-713 Argued October 1, 2007, decided March 18, 2008.
Scotusblog: McKenna's petition for a writ of certiorairi
Other documents of interest:
The Role of the Political Party: http://home.mcn.net/~montanabw/polisci101.html
Friday, December 12, 2008
Lisa Madigan, Attorney General of Illinois, filed a motion with the Illinois State Supreme Court asking the court to strip Gov. Rod Blagojevich of his powers. "The pervasive nature and severity of these pending charges disable Mr. Blagojevich from making effective decisions on critical, time-sensitive issues," the filing said.
The filing asks that the lieutenant governor assume Blagojevich's powers.
The motion highlights the need for state's to draft legislation to remove corrupt elected officials from office.
MSNBC reports, "Illinois’ official slogan is the “Land of Lincoln,” but an equally apt descriptor would be the “Land of Greased Palms.”
The state, Cook County and its governmental seat, Chicago, have a long history of corruption by elected and appointed officials. 79 elected officials have been convicted of wrong doing since 1972. Click here for the : State's sorry history of public corruption
Once again, this case highlights the importance of ethics and strong personal values for elected officials. It also highlights the importance of citizen complaints. Complaints filed by citizen watch dogs (individuals who are involved in the political process) provide a ray of sunlight that exposes bad political behavior, before it becomes out of hand.
Additional Information can be found at the links below.
Illinois may call special election for Obama seat
NYT: Illinois Gov: Vengeful and profane
Newsweek: 'A Senate seat on Ebay'
Illinois governor's words 'beyond greed'
Read the full criminal complaint (PDF)
Blagojevich has a Gary Hart moment
MSNBC Article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28141995/
Thursday, December 11, 2008
"Campaign finance laws can be crafted to promote more open, honest, and accountable government and to bring the constitutional ideal of political equality closer to reality." (The Brennan Center).
Governor Rod Blagojevich's recent arrest for bribery just highlighted what's wrong with the American electoral system: Government is auctioned off publicly and sometimes behind closed doors to the highest bidder.
The high bidder in any political campaign wins power to influence the appointment of public officials and influence legislation. Do we really need any more proof of this fact than the unfolding Blagojevich scandal?
In the state of Washington, Washington Public Campaigns (WPC) tells citizens, "Justice is not for sale."
The Judicial Selection Coalition recently sponsored a conference that examined the way the state elects judges at the University of Washington. Speakers included James Sample from the New York based Brennan Center who talked about extreme efforts to "buy" elections in other states such as W Virginia, Michigan and Alabama. David Brady, A WSU researcher reported that he conducted opinion polling that shows public support for using some kind of a commission system for electing judges.
WPC is working hard to pass legislation that will require campaigns for supreme court to be financed by citizens - not by special interests. In support of this effort, they offer voters the following analysis of judicial elections:
In 2006, $4.5 million was spent trying to win just 3 seats for the Washington state supreme court. It's outrageous! We must change the system - so that judges are never suspected of influence by financial backers.
Read "Justice for Sale" Wall Street Journal, by James Sample, at the Brennan Center for Justice (NY University School of Law).
State Representative Mark Liias is drafting a bill that will provide a foundation for a public financing system for court races. He plans to introduce it during the 2009 legislative session.
Alex Hayes of Justice for Washington told attendees that trial lawyers and other left leaning interests have too much influence on Washington Courts. (In fact, author John Grisham, a former state legislator, recently wrote a book called The Appeal that discusses in detail the corrupting influence of Special Interest money in state supreme court judicial races).
To date, Maine, Arizona and North Carolina have adopted some version of a public financing system for campaigns and The Olympian reports that Governor Christine Gregoire embraced the concept for judicial races in 2006 after that year's nasty court campaigns. But the Governor was unable to find a funding source, even in good economic times.
Connecticut is the only state to enact a program of full public financing for statewide and legislative races through legislative action (rather than through citizen initiative, as in Maine and Arizona).
WPC said, let's have public funding for supreme court campaigns. Washington Public Campaigns - together with the League of Women Voters and many other organizations - is proposing a bill to the 2009 legislature, for public financing of campaigns for the state supreme court. DETAILS
We know the state faces a budget shortfall, but we cannot afford justice for sale. Together with sponsors in the Senate and House, we are proposing a modest-cost bill, that will achieve our goals: integrity for the supreme court, through public financing of campaigns.
It won't be a cakewalk, and we need all hands on deck for a grassroots movement. We must educate the public, and lobby our legislators, with a disciplined and powerful grassroots advocacy campaign. Join the movement: Become a citizen lobbyist! Write to: email@example.com, with your offers to help."
Washington Public Campaigns: http://www.washclean.org/blog.htm#not4sale
Voting for Judges: http://www.votingforjudges.org/
Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns: (Washington State). http://www.judicialselection.us/uploads/documents/WA_Judicial_Oversight_Committee_pur_C8A394361F451.pdf
The Olympian: http://www.theolympian.com/legislature/v-print/story/672311.html
The Brennan Center for Justice:http://brennancenterevents.com/
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Chances are, you are not included in the Bureau of Labor unemployment statistics and you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
Employers who may have accidentally misclassified employees as 1099 employees are receiving considerable attention from states who are investigating if employers are using 1099 status to avoid payroll and social security taxes for W-2 employees.
Those who legitimately receive 1099 income come from diverse backgrounds. Actors, artists, novelists, freelance writers and similar creative artists are generally compensated on a "per job" basis, and are not treated as W-2 employees by employers or the IRS.
More and more businesses are bringing in independent contractors to work on a similar "per job" basis, as this helps keep the employer costs down since the employer does not have to pay for such things as health and life insurance, as well as make contributions to retirement plans. After the job is completed, the employer can cut the cord and simply issue the independent contractor a 1099 Form. (wisegeek)
But, if you are not a "per job" worker, in other words, if you provide the same service over and over again under the supervision of an employer, you may be misclassified as a 1099 employee and entitled to unemployment and other employment benefits.
This rule could apply to millions of current and former construction, finance industry and IT employees whose work was supervised by a broker, company owner or manager. It applies even if you have already paid social security and other state and federal taxes on your own.
Here's some background information for your review:
Construction Workers: http://www.carpenters.org/misclassification/UBC%201099%20Summary%20Document1.pdf
Finance Industry (loan officers) : http://www.wwlaw.com/tamik.htm
Where to find more information of file a complaint: WA State Department of Labor and Industries:
Spotting the red flags (Courtesy of WA State Department of Labor)
Below are a few of the behaviors that might indicate that an employer is not paying industrial insurance/workers' compensation for their employees.
Is operating a business without the proper license or registration and has workers.
Pays workers in cash and doesn't give them any kind of payroll stub.
Gives workers a 1099 form instead of the standard W-2.
Submits bids on jobs well below the industry standard.
Pays workers other than in cash or check, by such things as free rent, reimbursement of expenses, barter, etc.
Has a large number of corporate officers listed for the firm, and all work at the firm.
Does not maintain or report complete and accurate employee payroll information.
Pays workers on a piece work basis and does not record hours.
Requires employees to work long hours but turns in fewer hours than they actually worked.
Has a worker who gets injured on the job, and the employer promises to pay the doctor and medical bills rather than report the accident to L&I.
Reports hours on injured worker's accident report that do not match the hours the employer reported to L&I.
Has workers who find they do not qualify for unemployment insurance because the employer under-reported their hours.
Hires their own kids to work for the firm (other than on a family farm).
Has several "corporate officers" who do not exercise control of the business operations.
If you feel that you were misclassified as a 1099 employee, please contact Fraud Investigations staff at 1-888-811-5974 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Defiant Republicans refused to support the bill without hefty concessions from autoworkers and creditors, and are furious about an environmental mandate House Democrats insisted on including in the measure.
The plan would provide money within days to cash-starved General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC. While Ford Motor Co., which has said it has enough liquidity to stay afloat — would be eligible for federal aid as well.
Key points of Bailout Legislation:
$14 billion in low-interest loans made available to General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co. GM and Chrysler are expected to apply for loans. Ford says it will not.
Companies receiving taxpayer assistance must develop plans by March 31, 2009 to restructure their businesses into viable enterprises. Failure to do so would require repayment of the loans within 30 days.
Create an Office of Car "czar:"
President Bush will name a so-called car czar to facilitate negotiations among stakeholders such as the companies, the United Auto Workers Union, creditors, retirees, suppliers and automobile dealers to develop long-term plan for viability.
Taxpayers would be first in line to be paid back — ahead of other creditors.
The United States government would have the right to purchase non-voting shares in the companies.
The bill creates the office of “car czar,” to be named by President George W. Bush to dole out the loans, with the power to force the car makers into bankruptcy next spring if they didn’t cut quick deals with labor unions, creditors and others to restructure their businesses and become viable.
“To give up on the auto industry now would be to condemn the American economy at one of its most vulnerable periods in our economic history to a degree of further hurt,” said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass, the Financial Services Committee chairman.
Opposition from Republicans reflected the tricky task of enacting yet another federal rescue in a bailout-weary Congress, with Bush’s influence on the wane.
“People realize that this bill is an incredibly weak bill, (and) is the product of an administration that wants to kick the can down the road and let somebody else deal with it,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
The only other major item that could keep members through the week is if the President and his team request additional funds from the $700 billion economic rescue program which may need Congressional approval."
Source: AP News - click title of post for additional information.
CSPAN Junkie video coverage of floor activity: http://cspanjunkie.org/
More information about this bill can can eventually be found at: http://www.opencongress.org/blog
Msnbc.com has obtained a memo from a HUD official that demonstrates concern within the agency over waivers granted by HUD officials and the fund diversions, and raises the specter that they could violate civil rights laws.
Attorneys point out that spending $600 million on the port, which already received insurance money for damage it suffered in the storm, cannot be considered hurricane-related repair because it is more than four times the $127.5 million the port was valued at before Katrina.
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour stated that a certain amount of the Community Block Grant funds were always intended for economic expansion of Gulfport. But this claim is not substantiated by his earlier testimony before Congress.
The plaintiffs contend that the funds were intended to provide housing for individuals and families who were victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Photo: Governor Barbour addressing the participants of the 2008 Health Insurance Summit, where he discusses the creation of a Mississippi Health Insurance Exchange Program, a major step toward giving employees of small businesses more access to health insurance at more affordable rates.
The entire story can be read here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28143777/
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Bryner writes that the results of the study, "detailed in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, also suggest powerful people, such as CEOs and other higher-ups, including Obama, might be protected from corruption, especially if it goes against their personal values." http://www.livescience.com/culture/081205-power-influence.html
"People want leaders who are ideally beyond reproach, someone who is a good and moral person and will do the right thing even when bestowed with this tremendous power." Said Daniel Kruger, a social and evolutionary psychologist a the University of Michigan's School of Public Health in a second article in Live Science.
No doubt about it, with power, comes responsibility. A good and moral leader may handle power more responsibly than a leader who does not possess strong values.
Sunlight’s Bill Allison, at Real Time Investigations, links to a Many Eyes presentation of the Blagojevich criminal complaint.
He tells us that the visualization makes one thing clear: while the selling of the Senate seat is by far his most audacious activity, the rest of the charges are actually far, far worse.
The imperious pressure the Governor put on the Tribune Company to fire editorial board members and staff is reminiscent of a third world dictator.
The pay-to-play contract rigging is also horrific.
Allison says, Just look at this:
"On October 8, Blagojevich told Individual A that he wanted to obtain a $50,000 contribution from Hospital Executive 1, the chief executive officer of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which had recently received a commitment of $8 million in state funds. When the contribution was not forthcoming, Blagojevich discussed with Deputy Governor A the feasibility of rescinding the funding."
The Governor threatened to close a Children’s Hospital over a lousy $50,000 campaign contribution. http://blog.sunlightfoundation.com/2008/12/09/many-eyes-and-blago/
Apparently, ethics and behavior play a roll in the quality of representation we receive from elected officials.
The FBI used wire taps to record Blagojevich's conversations. A transcript is included in the criminal complaint listed below.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald alleged that the governor wanted "tangible and up front" cash in return for appointing Obama's successor.
Fitzgerald accused Blagojevich of "appalling conduct" and said the governor "has taken us to a truly new low".
"He wasn't against a corrupt deal, he was against being stiffed in a corrupt deal," Fitzgerald added.
Charges listed in U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's statement:
CNN reports that Blagojevich is alleged to have discussed obtaining:
a substantial salary for himself at either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;
a spot for his wife on paid corporate boards, where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;
promises of campaign funds -- including cash up front;
a Cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
Don't Miss (Courtesy of CNN and WLS TV)
WLS video: Gov. Blagojevich taken into custody
Transcript of Criminal Complaint Read the criminal complaint (PDF)
Background information on two other Illinois Governors arrested for corruption:
According to a AP Report: two former Illinois governors have gone to prison in the past 35 years on political corruption charges:
Otto Kerner, a Democrat who was governor from 1961 to 1968, served less than a year of a three-year sentence after his 1973 conviction on bribery, tax evasion and other counts. He was convicted of arranging favorable horse racing dates as governor in return for getting horse racing association stock at reduced prices. Kerner died in 1976.
George Ryan, a Republican who was governor from 1999 to 2003, was convicted of corruption in 2006 for steering state contracts and leases to political insiders while he was Illinois secretary of state and then governor. He is serving a 6 1/2-year prison term. In addition, William Stratton, governor from 1953-1961, was later indicted but then acquitted on charges of income tax evasion.
ABC Political Punch Blogs: http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/12/questions-arise.html
A Picture of political corruption from an average citizen's perspective: Apeblog - http://letsgoape.com/blog/2007/10/09/a-picture-of-political-corruption/
Monday, December 8, 2008
New York, 2008: The League of Women Voters released a comprehensive campaign finance reform proposal to set a benchmark for measuring reform legislation. The League was joined by Common Cause and NYPIRG in calling on Governor Paterson to convene a Public Leaders Meeting to discuss campaign finance and ethics reform before the legislative session concludes as scheduled on June 23, 2008.
The Governor released a campaign finance proposal last week that makes a promising start—albeit late, but falls short of real reform, particularly on vigorous independent enforcement. As the Governor knows from his years in the Legislature, it takes much more than proposing a bill to make reform happen. Real leadership requires investing political capital and, for issues like campaign finance reform, holding direct negotiations to enact a meaningful law.
In light of the failure of state leaders to move real reform, the League of Women Voters of NYS unveiled today a comprehensive campaign finance reform proposal to set minimum standards for what qualifies as campaign finance reform in this state. This proposal sets contribution caps at the same levels that presidential candidates and U.S. senators must follow. It shuts loopholes that rank Albany’s campaign laws among America’s weakest. Critically, the proposal would provide the independent enforcement and tough penalties needed to deter violations and end Albany’s blind-eye culture so that campaign finance laws will be fairly and vigorously enforced.
While the groups continue to urge state leaders to enact meaningful campaign finance reform while there is still time, civic groups vowed a concerted effort to ensure voters are well-informed about where candidates stand on real campaign finance reform if the 2008 session ends without enactment of a reform law that meets the minimum standards announced today.
The League called on the leaders to state publicly their positions on the plan’s elements and to use the plan as a template for a genuine reform law the Legislature can pass and Governor Paterson can sign before adjournment. If the 2008 session ends this month without real campaign finance reform, the Legislature and Governor Paterson will have failed to deliver the reform New Yorkers voted for in 2006.
Rep. Waxman, the House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman, is requesting changes to the Hatch Act, which prohibits the use of "federal resources for partisan politics, so taxpayers aren’t paying for White House staffers’ salaries while they engage in political activities."
“Officials were directed to make hundreds of trips — most at taxpayer expense — for the purpose of increasing the electability of Republicans,” Waxman said in a draft report, released Wednesday." quote from an article printed in the Federal Times by Rebecca Neal.
Background info about that obscure, rascally law known as the Hatch Act:
Federal Times Article: http://www.federaltimes.com/index.php?S=3774524
The History of the Hatch Act (an excerpt from the report posted above)
"Efforts to restrict the political activities of executive branch employees date back almost to the beginning of the Republic. President Thomas Jefferson first articulated the doctrine of political neutrality for federal government employees in 1801.1
In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order that provided:
No person in the Executive civil service shall use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or affecting the result thereof.
Persons who by the provisions of these rules are in the competitive classified service, while retaining the right to vote as they please and to express privately their opinions on all political subjects, shall take no active part in political management or in political campaigns.2
In 1939, Congress passed the original Hatch Act, codifying longstanding executive branch practice. A coalition of Republicans and conservative southern Democrats passed the legislation to ensure that President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not use the expanding civil service as an army of campaign workers if he sought a third term in 1940.3
Under the modern day Hatch Act, all executive branch employees, except for the President and the Vice President, must follow certain rules concerning their involvement in partisan political activity. Executive branch employees other than the President and the Vice President are prohibited from using their "official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election."4
The Hatch Act also prohibits an executive branch employee from engaging in "political activity … while the employee is on duty [or] in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed or holding office in the Government of the United States."5
An exemption to this provision applies to officials "the duties and responsibilities of whose position continue outside normal duty hours and while away from the normal duty post; and [who are] … paid from an appropriation for the Executive Office of the President; or ... an employee appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate."