You may have seen videos of two young people impersonating a pimp and a prostitute visiting offices of ACORN, where they got hapless workers to advise them on how to use illicit revenue to buy houses for use as brothels. Edited versions of the secretly-recorded videos have been relentlessly promoted by a conservative website and Fox News, and have added fuel to right-wing efforts to discredit the low-income community organizers. The ACORN workers were foolish to get drawn into discussions with the provocateurs, but ACORN Chief Organizer and CEO Bertha Lewis swiftly condemned the behavior and dismissed several of the employees caught on those videotapes. She also stopped new intakes in ACORN offices until frontline staff gets in-service training and asked for an independent auditor to review all the systems and processes called into question by the videos. Former Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Scott Harshberger, who also is former head of Common Cause, was named (9/22) to lead the inquiry that will include a comprehensive review of the management of ACORNs service delivery to communities.
But as Republicans called for further punitive action and investigations, few Democrats were willing to stand up for a sober review of ACORNs operations. Also, as the House and Senate was rushed to cut off federal funding for ACORN, MediaMatters.org noted that the group actually receives a small amount of government funding compared with other groups. ACORN has received $53 mln in federal funds over the last 15 years an average of $3.5 mln per year while trillions of dollars in public funds have gone to prop up Wall Street investment banks and billions of dollars have vanished in Iraq and Afghanistan, eaten by private contractors such as Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR despite questions about the quality of their work and allegations of criminal activity by employees of Blackwater and other security contractors.
Ryan Grim of HuffingtonPost.com noted (9/22) that the bill to deny funds to ACORN also could catch other federal contractors who have run afoul of federal laws, including defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
MediaMatters.org also noted that stingers James OKeefe and Hannah Giles as well as columnist Andrew Breitbart, who advised them, have claimed that each ACORN office they visited was complicit, but ACORN CEO Lewis said OKeefe and his partner were thrown out of several other ACORN offices. In one case, the director of ACORNs Philadelphia office stated that OKeefe visited that office last July and after OKeefe asked about bringing girls from El Salvador he was told there was nothing they could do to help him and he was shown the door; ACORN later contacted Philadelphia police and filed a report.
The videos also appear to be heavily edited and in at least one case, according to CNN, the filmmakers edited out San Bernardino ACORN employee Tresa Kaelkes statement that ACORN would not associate itself with prostitution. The video included a segment where, after OKeefe and Giles discussed their efforts to start a prostitution operation, Kaelke said she had been involved in prostitution and that she was abused by her former husband and that she shot and killed him. Kaelke later said she was not fooled by OKeefe and Giles, whose costumes and scenario were so outlandish that she couldnt take them seriously. They were not believable, she said. Somewhat entertaining, but they werent even good actors. I didnt know what to make of them. They were clearly playing with me. I decided to shock them as much as they were shocking me. But the film took her statements at face value, and so did Fox News, which repeatedly reported the fake claim that the ACORN employee killed her husband, without checking the allegation, even after San Bernardino police issued a statement that they had checked Kaelkes former husbands and found them alive and well. Kaelke was suspended from her job.
Another video shows OKeefe and Giles apparently discussing with an ACORN worker in San Diego ways to smuggle young girls across the border. But Giles told the counselor, Juan Carlos Vera, that she wanted to get the Salvadoran girls who were to be used as prostitutes away before the pimp has time to bond with them, suggesting that she wanted to rescue them. Indeed, on the video Vera indicated that he planned to contact the local district attorney. He later said he offered to contact a cousin who is a local police officer, but the couple turned down his offer of help. They didnt include that segment in the video. Vera ended up contacting his cousin, who consulted with a federal human smuggling task force before they realized Vera had been duped. But Vera lost his job.
In interviews with the Washington Post and the New York Times, OKeefe, 25, claimed he was a progressive radical, not a conservative, but he told the Post he targeted ACORN because its massive voter registration drives turned out poor African Americans and Latinos against Republicans (although since the Post published that statement, O'Keefe apparently has waffled on it). He claimed the stunt was run on a total budget of $1,300 as he and Giles, 20, drove to ACORN offices on the East Coast and he bought his own $300 plane ticket to California to visit ACORN sites in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego, the Post reported.
Liz Farkas, a Rutgers student and former friend of OKeefes, told the Times she grew disillusioned after he asked her to help edit a Planned Parenthood sting in 2008. It was snippets to make the Planned Parenthood nurse look bad, Farkas said. I said: It has no context. Youre just cherry-picking the nurses answers. He said, Okay and then he just ran it.
Asked whether the left-leaning documentaries of Michael Moore do not do the same, Farkas told the Times: Michael Moore goes after the rich and powerful. James isnt doing that. He goes after low-level bureaucrats and people who are trying to help low-income people.
The videos have been a blow to ACORN, which was founded in 1970 in Little Rock, Ark., to unite the working poor around issues such as improving schools, creating job opportunities, getting benefits for Vietnam veterans and health care for low-income areas. It has grown to about 1,200 chapters and 400,000 members in 75 cities.
Joe Conason noted at Salon.com (9/17), ACORNs troubles should be considered in the context of a history of honorable service to the dispossessed and impoverished. No doubt it was fun to dupe a few morons into providing tax advice to a pimp and ho, but what ACORN actually does, every day, is help struggling families with the Earned Income Tax Credit (whose benefits were expanded by both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton). And while the idea of getting housing assistance for a brothel was clever, what ACORN really does, every day, is help those same working families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.
Perhaps the congressional investigation now demanded by some Republican politicians would be a useful exercise, if conducted impartially. A fair investigation might begin to dispel some of the wild mythology promoted by right-wing media outlets.
Among the most popular canards on the right, repeated constantly by conservative pundits and politicians, is that ACORN has been found guilty of engaging in deliberate voter fraud, using federal funds. In reality, ACORN has registered close to 2 mln low-income citizens across the country over the past five years a laudable record with a very low incidence of fraud of any kind.
Over the past several years, a handful of ACORN employees have admitted falsifying names and signatures on registration cards, in order to boost the pay they received. When ACORN officials discovered those cases, they informed the state authorities and turned in the miscreants. (That was why the Bush Justice Departments blatant attempt to smear ACORN with rushed, election-timed indictments became a national scandal for Republicans rather than Democrats.) The proportion of fraud is infinitesimal. For example, a half-dozen ACORN workers were charged with registration fraud or other election-related crimes in the 2004 election. They had completed fewer than two dozen false registrations out of more than a million new voters registered by ACORN during that cycle. The mythology that suggests that thousands or even millions of illegal registrants voted is itself a fraud.
Conason added, If only the Republicans who have worked up a frenzy over ACORNs alleged crimes were so indignant about real and damaging voter fraud such as the amazing case of Young Political Majors, the firm that ran GOP registration efforts in California, Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona and elsewhere before the authorities in Orange County, Calif., busted its president, Mark Anthony Jacoby, and sent him to jail last year. He had built a lucrative partisan career by teaching his minions to deceive thousands of voters into registering as Republicans rather than Democrats, among other scams. Of course, the only on-air mention of the Young Political Majors scandal on Fox News was made by blogger Brad Friedman and the national media, mainstream and conservative, generally ignored it. They were too busy generating controversy over ACORN.
ACORN HYSTERIA FEEDS FAUX POPULISM. Glenn Greenwald noted at Salon.com (9/17) that the right-wing American Spectators Joseph Lawler has claimed that the tea-party movement is every bit as devoted to combating extreme corporate influences as it is the likes of ACORN (it is the same right wing that uncovered ACORNs crimes that opposed the same marriage of state and big business that Greenwald complains about, Lawler wrote). Greenwald replied: Sorry, but thats just ludicrous. I have no doubt that there are people attending these protests who are non-partisan, non-discriminating and principled in their opposition to government corruption, expansion and excesses. Thats because theres no real coherent message to these protests; its just amorphous anger which likely has numerous causes among the various participating constituents: Ron-Paul libertarians, paleoconservatives, LaRouchians, Southern race resenters, social conservatives, GOP operatives, standard dittohead liberal-haters, etc. Each group has a different agenda, often wildly divergent. The only thing they seem to have in common is that they hate Obama.
But look at who the lead supporters are: Rush Limbaugh, the Murdoch-owned Fox News, Glenn Beck, the right-wing blogosphere and talk radio generally, business groups led by Dick Armey. Does anyone actually believe that what motivates them is concern over the excessive, corrupting influence of Wall Street and large corporations in government? Please. They are pure GOP partisans who are exploiting citizen anger to undermine Democratic politicians in order to return the GOP to political power. Its nothing more noble or profound than that. In fact, many of the movement leaders are among the most vocal advocates for unfettered corporate power. From the expansions of the Surveillance State and endless imperial power to strident opposition to lobbyist reforms, they support the very policies that most empower those corrupting groups and further the government-corporate merger. If theyre so concerned about excessive government power, debt and corporate influence and corruption, where were they during the Bush era? Cheering it all on. They didnt discover their small-government principles until Barack Obama was inaugurated and it became a means for undermining his administration and recovering from Republican political ruin.
As for ACORN, nobody is apologizing for them or suggesting that theyve done nothing wrong. Any group that large will have individuals in it who do bad things. The issue is one of proportion. If someone ostensibly opposes government waste and unfairness in tax policy yet spends most of their time focusing on a tiny group that helps the poor and receives a miniscule amount of government money all while ignoring or even revering the enormous, omnipotent industries which eat up trillions in taxpayer waste and dwarf the impact of ACORN by many, many magnitudes then any rational person would question what the real motives are [and the claim that ACORN is Now Eligible for up to $8 billion is pure Beckian deceit; they (like every other group in the US) are theoretically eligible for any stimulus funds in the areas in which they work, but they havent received a penny of it, and the chances theyd receive all or most of it are, and always have been, zero].
Since then, of course, the House and Senate have voted to cut off all federal funds to ACORN. It has not taken similar action for Blackwater, KBR, Citibank, lawbreaking telecoms and other corrupt corporations. Claiming youre worried about large government and taxpayer waste while fixating on ACORN proves the insincerity of the ostensible concern, let alone doing so while cheering on the same Wall Street banks, defense contractors, and insurance industries that control and expand government power for their own benefit, Greenwald concluded.
FAUX POPULIST CELEBRITY. As Time magazine ran a cover story on Glenn Beck that was generally a puff piece despite the headline Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America? (9/17), David Sirota noted at OpenLeft.com (9/21) that Beck last fall championed the Wall Street bailout he now claims to be leading the fight against. In fact, when progressives were fighting tooth and nail against the bailout (and taking significant criticism for doing so) Beck was promoting it, offering criticism only for it not being bigger, Sirota wrote.
ThinkProgress.org noted (9/21) that in his 9/22/08 show, which was then on CNNs Headline News Channel, Beck said, I think the bailout is the right thing do. The REAL STORY is the $700 billion that youre hearing about now is not only, I believe, necessary, it is also not nearly enough, and all of the weasels in Washington know it.
Sirota added, Thats right this is the Beck Bank Bailout. So the next time you hear Glenn Beck railing on government spending and corporate giveaways and the failure to crack down on Wall Street largesse, remember Glenn Beck is railing on the very largesse that Glenn Beck intensely promoted and supported on the national Glenn Beck television show.
Beck angered some conservatives and confused liberals in an interview with CBS News Katie Couric (9/21) in which he said he would have much preferred Hillary Clinton for president, and added, I think John McCain would have been worse for the country than Barack Obama. It makes sense to Greenwald, who wrote at Salon.com: Ultimately, Beck himself is just a histrionic intellectual mess: willing to latch onto any hysterical accusations and conspiracy theories that provide some momentary benefit, no matter how contradictory they might be from one moment to the next. His fears, resentments and religious principles seem fixed, but not his political beliefs. Like the establishment leadership of both political parties, he has no core political principles or fixed, identifiable ideology. His description of himself as a rodeo clown might be the most perceptive thing hes ever said. Attempts to classify him on the conventional political spectrum are destined to fail, and attempts to demonize him as some sort of standard Republican bogeyman will inevitably be so over-simplified as to be false. Such efforts assume far more coherence than he possesses.
COMMISSION STARTS MELTDOWN PROBE. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, modeled after the New Deal-era Pecora Commission, has started its investigation into misconduct by the financial sector causing last years market meltdown (9/17). Americans for Financial Reform (ourfinancialsecurity.org), a coalition of 200 state and national groups interested in banking reform that includes the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, Campaign for Americas Future, Common Cause, MoveOn.org and Public Citizen, called upon the commission, chaired by Phil Angelides, to hold public hearings, reveal records and subpoena documents and miscreants from Wall Streets leaders to mortgage brokers and it urged the commission to make criminal referrals where appropriate.
GM GRUDGE AGAINST MOORE. When Michael Moore showed a sneak preview in Detroit of his new film, Capitalism: A Love Story (9/20), at theaters in the Renaissance Center, which is owned by General Motors, he found out that GM insisted that he could not be in attendance, and neither could any local media. Jessica Nunez wrote at MLive.com, the website of Detroits MetroTimes, Apparently, GM has not forgotten Moores stab at the company in his 1989 film, Roger & Me, which was critical of GMs management. I would get over it, if I was them, Moore said of GM, in an interview with Detroits TV Channel 4. Twenty years ago I tried to warn them, tried to warn the rest of the country, really, about what was going to happen to GM and cities like Flint, Moore said. Then it happened, and its like, well, OK, I didnt want it to happen and I still have some decent ideas on how to restructure some things to have a transportation company for the 21st century. Moore noted that he does mention GM in Capitalism, and has ideas on how to help the company rebuild. (ThinkProgress.org noted 9/22 that Moore snuck into the theater anyway to talk about the film after the credits rolled.)
FCC CHIEF PUSHES OPEN NET. Julius Genachowski, new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, articulated an ambitious vision for the future of the Internet that includes net neutrality as the centerpiece of open-access principles in a speech at the Brookings Institution in D.C. (9/21). Genachowski said the FCC must be a smart cop on he beat preserving Net Neutrality against efforts by providers to block services and applications over both wired and wireless connections. If we wait too long to preserve a free and open Internet, it will be too late, Genachowski said, citing a number of recent examples where network providers have acted as gatekeepers. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) co-author of legislation that would establish national broadband policy, praised Genachowskis announcement and said rules to establish openness, transparency and non-discrimination as guiding Internet principles would complement the Internet Freedom Preservation Act (HR 3458), which he and Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) are sponsoring. See FreePress.net for details.
MASS. CLEARS INTERIM SENATOR. The Massachusetts legislature has repaired one of the excuses US Senate Democrats had for not passing health reform as the state Senate (9/22) agreed with a House bill to allow Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to appoint a temporary successor to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) to serve until a successor is elected (1/19/10). Patrick quickly named Paul Kirk, a Kennedy confidant and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, as the interim senator, so Dems will have 60 votes in the Senate, enough to shut down GOP filibusters if the Dems and their independent caucusmates stick together (and stay healthy). The condition of 91-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), who has been in ill health and was admitted to a Washington-area hospital after a fall at home (9/22), remains a question mark.
LACK OF HEALTH INSURANCE KILLS 44,000. The Institute of Medicine in 2001 estimated that more than 18,000 Americans between the ages of 19 and 64 died annually because of a lack of health insurance. That number has been cited throughout the debate on healthcare reform. However, Charles Lemos noted at MyDD.com (9/18) a study set to be published in the December American Journal of Public Health by Harvard Medical School researchers finds that statistic woefully underestimates the true mortality rate. The uninsured have a 40% higher risk of death than those with private insurance, which leads to as many as 44,789 deaths per year in the US.
FLA. HEALTH PLANS GO SLOW. Florida Health Choices, pushed by Republicans as a solution to the states high rate of uninsured last year, still has no insurers or businesses signed up. That makes it even less successful than the program created at the same time, Gov. Charlie Crists Cover Florida, the Associated Press reported (9/16). At the end of July Cover Florida, which offers stripped-down health plans for stripped-down prices, had about 4,130 policies, while recent census data show the number of uninsured Floridians has grown to 3.6 mln. Florida Health Choices, which was sponsored by House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is running against Crist for an open US Senate seat, promised employers a free market where any package of care could be sold by approved providers, including chiropractors, dentists and other non-traditional sources of insurance. Benefits would be paid for with pre-tax dollars. But organization has been delayed and there is no guarantee that insurers will want to participate. The results so far mean neither Crist nor Rubio can use the states efforts on the uninsured as campaign fodder in their Senate race, AP noted.
IF HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES RAN THE MAIL. In spite of the right-wing ideology that private enterprise is more efficient than the government, critics of a national health insurance program have complained that a public insurance option would drive private insurance companies out of business. That got Hunter at DailyKos.com thinking (9/22) about how private companies like UPS and FedEx which already compete perfectly well with the socialist front that is the United States Post Office, would do if they acted a little more like health insurance companies.
First off, if health insurance companies ran the mail service you couldnt actually expect to send mail anywhere. You would have a list of addresses it was OK to send mail to, and if you wanted to send your packages anywhere else youd have to deliver it your own damn self.
If health insurance companies ran the mail service, you wouldnt know what it would cost to mail a package, because nobody involved would be able to tell you, even if you spent the better part of a week on the phone with them. You would know what it cost you one only after you received the bill for mailing it....
If health insurance companies ran the mail service, it would cost you money to mail a package, but it would also cost you money to not mail a package. ... and it would go up by 20% every year under the just because clause of your contract.
If health insurance companies ran the mail service, your contract to have packages delivered would stand a chance of being revoked if you actually mailed one.
If health insurance companies ran the mail service, between 20% and 40% of packages simply wouldnt arrive at their destination because delivering them wouldnt be cost effective, so bite us.
And your package delivery service wouldnt just idly sit by and send what you wanted them to send. Theyd *tell* you want you wanted to send. Flowers are nice, but couldnt you just send a card? Cookies are a bit much, dont you think?
If health insurance companies ran the mail service, sometimes youd ask to mail a package to your aunt in Philadelphia but instead youd be told you had to mail it to her in Chicago, because Philadelphia would cost more. On the bright side, itd be good for her to get out of the house more often.
Your aunt couldnt just get the package, in any case. That requires a separate form. No I mean this other form. And you need to fill it out this way, not this other way. And now its two days late, so everything is canceled and were taking your package, the one that we waited six months to deliver anyway. The cookies were stale, by the way, so try harder next time.
Of course, all this is nonsense, because you cant really make credible comparisons between delivering a package and providing a service that has responsibility for the health and welfare of every person in the country. Delivering packages is important.
UNSTOPPABLE BIRTHER. Apparently nothing can stop Orly Taitz, the dentist-lawyer who has been pursuing lawsuits seeking to prove that Barack Obama is ineligible to be president. Taitz argues that the certificate of live birth issued by the state of Hawaii that shows Obama was born in Honolulu in 1961 is insufficient proof of birth, but ran into problems finding clients who had standing to sue that is, a plaintiff who could show they were injured. So she has been finding members of the military who claim they are concerned they might be following illegal orders if Obama isnt really president. US District Judge Clay Land, an appointee of George W. Bush, wrote a 14-page order throwing out Taitzs lawsuit on behalf of an Army captain questioning Obamas authority to order her to Iraq. Judge Land denounced Taitz and warning her against further frivolous lawsuits. Taitz told a Columbus, Ga., TV station that Land should be tried for treason with Obama. She told TalkingPointsMemo.com Judge Land is a typical puppet of the regime just like in the Soviet Union. Then she filed an emergency request for stay of deployment (9/17) for Taitzs client, Army Capt. Connie Rhodes. Instead of scheduling a hearing on that request, Land (9/18) gave Taitz 14 days to explain why a $10,000 sanction for misconduct should not be imposed.
Rhodes, an Army doctor, faxed a letter to the judge before leaving for Iraq (9/18) saying she did not authorize the motion to be filed, she respected his ruling and she intended to follow her orders to deploy to Iraq. She renounced her ex-counsel and said she intends to file a complaint against Taitz with the California bar. Taitz told TalkingPointsMemo.com (9/21) she didnt know if the letter really came from Rhodes, but she stated that she was authorized to proceed with the legal action and the attorney is not required to get approval from the client for a motion for reconsideration. Anyway, she said, This threat of sanctions gives me an opportunity to demand rule 11 discovery and get all of Obamas records through the back door.
NEW AG CHAIR GIVES GREENS THE BLUES. When Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) gave up the gavel at the Senate Agriculture Committee to take over Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) was next in line to take over Ag, which is bad news for environmentalists, Jill Richardson noted at LaVidaLocavore.org. In remarks at the National Cattlemans Beef Association, Congress Daily reported (9/15), Lincoln said she said she does not support the House-passed climate-change bill because it picks winners and losers and places a disproportionate share of the burden on her home state of Arkansas in particular and rural and poor America in general. She calls the estate tax an absolute disadvantage to farm and ranch families and has concerns that provisions in the Clean Water Restoration Act passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that expands coverage from navigable waters to the waters of the United States needs to be amended so EPA does not cover all waters. Weve seen in the past where the imagination can be stretched, Lincoln said. We dont need the imagination to be stretched right now. On free trade, she urged the Obama administration to push the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration and make it easier to sell US products in Cuba.
Lincoln is considered more in step with agribusiness interests than Harkin, who was friendly to farm interests but called for shifting money from traditional farm subsidies into so-called green payments subsidies that would be tied to environmental performance rather than crop production, Philip Brasher noted at the Des Moines Register (9/20), but Lincolns ability to make a mark on farm policy will be limited for now, since the next farm bill isnt due to be written until 2012.
VAN JONES: CHANGE IS BEST REVENGE. Van Jones, who quit his White House job as special adviser for green jobs at the Council for Environmental Quality (9/6) after he was criticized for signing a petition calling for a review of the 9/11 Commissions work and for using a coarse anatomical term to describe Republicans, issued an open letter (9/15) to his friends and supporters who were wondering how they can help. The main thing is this: please do everything you can to support both President Obama and the green jobs movement. Winning real change is ultimately the best response to these kinds of smear campaigns. He also recommended reading his book, The Green Collar Economy.
The entire letter can be found at grist.org. Jones concluded, I want to be clear that I have nothing but love and admiration for President Obama and the entire administration. White House staffers are there to serve and support the President, not the other way around. At this critical moment in history, I could not in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. The White House needs all its hands on deck, fighting for the future.
Of course, some supporters actually think I will be more effective on the outside. Maybe so. But those ideas always remind me of that old canard about Winston Churchill. After he lost a hard-fought election, a friend told him: Winston, this really is just a blessing in disguise. Churchill quipped: Damned good disguise. I can certainly relate to that sentiment right now. :)
Nonetheless, we must keep moving forward. Lets continue our work to make an America as good as its promise. These are historic times. And we have a lot more history to make.
TEABAGGERS GRIPE ABOUT PUBLIC TRANSIT. The weekend of 9/12, tens of thousands of right-wing protesters invaded Washington, D.C., for the 912 Tea Party March against President Obamas plans for health care reform and register their opposition to socialism, government-run services, and too much taxation. Many of the teabaggers relied on the D.C. transit system to get around town but the DC transit authority reported that on 9/12 metrorail ridership was double compared to an average Saturday. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) wrote a letter to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority complaining that the service wasnt good enough for his tea baggers:
These individuals came all the way from Southeast Texas to protest the excessive spending and growing government intrusion by the 111th Congress and the new Obama administration, Brady wrote, with no apparent irony. These participants, whose tax dollars were used to create and maintain this public transit system, were frustrated and disappointed that our nations capital did not make a great effort to simply provide a basic level of transit for them. Brady complained that overcrowding on the metro trains forced an 80-year-old woman and elderly veterans in wheelchairs to pay for cabs in other words, to rely on the non-government-run transportation system, which teabaggers presumably would want to support.
ThinkProgress.org noted (9/17) that a large part of the reason that the D.C. Metro has had so many problems in recent years is that it doesnt have dedicated tax revenue. John Cole points out at Balloon-Juice.com (9/17) that when a bill containing $150 million for emergency maintenance funding for the DC Metro system came up this summer, Brady voted against it.
JUSTICE PROBES EX-OFFICIALS TIES TO SHELL. The Justice Department is investigating whether former Interior Secretary Gale Norton violated the law by granting valuable oil leases to Royal Dutch Shell around the time she was considering going to work for the oil company, the New York Times reported (9/18). Officials told the *Times* investigators had information suggesting that Norton had discussions while in office with Royal Dutch Shell about future career opportunities. In early 2006, her department awarded three tracts in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary for shale exploration. In December 2006, she joined Shell as the companys general counsel in the US for unconventional oils.
CORN GROWERS NEED HEALTH CARE. International trade and jobs are two key reasons farmers need Congress to pass healthcare reform this year, said Keith Bolin, president of the American Corn Growers Association (9/18). Americas farm and ranch families now compete in a global economy, Bolin said. We are constantly seeking to keep a level playing field on which to compete in this global economy. But when we review issues that tilt that playing field of competition, healthcare must be addressed. He said farm families in Canada have a sizable competitive advantage because of their national healthcare system, while many times a farm spouse must take a job in town just in order to acquire healthcare coverage for the farm household. He added that there is always plenty for both spouses to do on the farm but more importantly the off-farm job taken by a farmer is a good job or it would not have healthcare benefits. Therefore, that farm spouse is taking a job from someone else just because of the healthcare benefits. When viable healthcare option is provided to farm households, those good off-farm jobs would be available to others in our rural communities.
ACGAs Board of Directors passed a resolution supporting national healthcare reform, including a public option. See acga.org.
AFL-CIO BACKS MEDICARE FOR ALL. The AFL-CIO, the nations largest labor federation representing 11.5 mln workers in 57 international and national unions, has endorsed a single-payer health care system as the best way to guarantee healthcare to everyone. The unanimous vote came immediately after President Obama addressed the convention in Pittsburgh (9/15).
Resolution 34 states: The experience of Medicare (and of nearly every other industrialized country) shows the most cost effective and equitable way to provide quality healthcare is through a single-payer system. It continues: We reiterate our longstanding call for congressional leaders to unite behind such a plan. It singles out HR 676, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) as one of a number of single-payer bills introduced in Congress and states: The single-payer approach is one the AFL-CIO supports and that merits dedicated congressional support and enactment. The resolution concludes by stating: Whatever the outcome of the current debate over health care reform in the 111th Congress, the task of establishing health care as a human right, not a privilege, will still lay before us.
More than 575 labor organizations, including 136 central labor councils, 22 international and national unions, and 39 state federations have endorsed HR 676, which has 87 sponsors in the House of Representatives, according to the All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care (unionsforsinglepayerHR676.org).
From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2009
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