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Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1294   Kublai Khan, the conqueror of Asia, dies at the age of 80.  
1554   Lady Jane Grey, the Queen of England for thirteen days, is beheaded on Tower Hill. She was barely 17 years old.
1709   Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish seaman whose adventures inspired the creation of Daniel Dafoe's Robinson Crusoe, is taken off Juan Fernandez Island after more than four years of living there alone.  
1793   The first fugitive slave law, requiring the return of escaped slaves, is passed.  
1818   Chile gains independence from Spain.  
1836   Mexican General Santa Anna crosses the Rio Grande en route to the Alamo.  
1909   The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is formed.  
1912   China becomes a republic following the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty.  
1921   Winston Churchill of London is appointed colonial secretary.
 1924   George Gershwin's groundbreaking symphonic jazz composition Rhapsody in Blue premieres with Gershwin himself playing the piano with Paul Whiteman's orchestra.  
1929   Charles Lindbergh announces his engagement to Anne Morrow.  
1931   Japan makes its first television broadcast–a baseball game.  
1935   The Macon, the last U.S. Navy dirigible, crashes off the coast of California, killing two people.  
1938   Japan refuses to reveal naval data requested by the U.S. and Britain.  
1940   The Soviet Union signs a trade treaty with Germany to aid against the British blockade.  
1944   Wendell Wilkie enters the American presidential race against Franklin D. Roosevelt.  
1949   Moslem Brotherhood chief Hassan el Banna is shot to death in Cairo.  
1953   The Soviets break off diplomatic relations with Israel after the bombing of Soviet legation.  
1966   The South Vietnamese win two big battles in the Mekong Delta.  
1972   Senator Edward Kennedy advocates amnesty for Vietnam draft resisters.  
1974   The Symbionese Liberation Army asks the Hearst family for $230 million in food for the poor.
1980   The Lake Placid Winter Olympics open in New York.
1987   A Court in Texas upholds $8.5 billion of a fine imposed on Texaco for the illegal takeover of Getty Oil.  
1999   The U.S. Senate fails to pass two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. He had been accused of perjury and obstruction of justice by the House of Representatives.

Bernie Sanders Becomes The First Senator To Boycott Netanyahu’s Speech To Congress

bernie sanders boycott netanyahu speech
Senator Bernie Sanders has joined the growing list of members of Congress who will be boycotting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress.
While speaking at the Brookings Institution, Senator Sanders announced that he would not be attending the speech, “The President Of The United States heads up our foreign policy.The idea that the president wasn’t consulted? That’s wrong….I am not going.”
Senator Sanders joined a growing list of members of Congress who not be attending the speech. The list of Democrats who will not be attending include Representatives Jim Clyburn, John Lewis, Raúl Grijalva, G.K. Butterfield, and Earl Blumenauer. Bernie Sanders is the first senator to announce that he is boycotting the speech in protest of the way that Boehner and Netanyahu have disrespected the president.
Israeli officials are starting to crack under the backlash. Their first move was to try to blame Boehner. After throwing Boehner under the bus didn’t work, Israeli officials are considering changing the format of Netanyahu’s speech to make sure that it does not air on prime-time television.
Reuters reported, “As a result, Israeli officials are considering whether Netanyahu should speak to a closed-door session of Congress, rather than in a prime-time TV address, so as to drain some of the intensity from the event, a source said. Another option is for the prime minister to make his speech at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington the same week, rather than in Congress.”
The outrage and boycott are causing Netanyahu to consider burying the speech. The Israeli Prime Minister still intends to give the speech, but public pressure may force him to abandon the publicity stunt of addressing a joint session of Congress on national television.
Ten House Democrats and Senator Sanders have committed to skipping the speech. No one from the White House will be attending the speech, as the conspiracy to pressure and embarrass President Obama is turning into a humiliating defeat for Boehner and Netanyahu.

It’s Time To Face The Truth That repugicans Are Traitors

Throughout America's short history no group of individuals has exhibited the characteristic betrayal of a traitor more than wingnuts …
Boehner-destroy-the-nationAccording to the dictionary definition, a traitor is one who betrays a person, a principle, or especially their country. It is of no consequence why someone, or a group, chooses to work in opposition to their nation, or fellow citizens’ well-being, because if their intent and result of their actions is to deliberately damage or cause harm to their country or fellow citizens, they are by definition traitors. Throughout America’s short history no group of individuals has exhibited the characteristic betrayal of a traitor more than wingnuts in general, and repugicans in particular. What makes their actions all the more despicable is that their traitorous actions are founded on racial animus for one man; and allegiance to foreigners and one tiny segment of the population.
These repugicans’ malicious, calculated, and concerted acts of betrayal of their country and its people started the evening of Barack Obama’s first inauguration and, despite his overwhelming re-election victory in 2012, they have persisted unabated and in fact continue to grow. Of course the latest blatant example of betrayal is Boehner violating a 216 year-old federal law by “joining with the leader of a foreign nation against his own president.” That was the assessment in a scathing article published in Forbes that rightly asserted that Boehner “seeking to damage any  American President by helping a foreign leader can never be considered something that is best for the nation.” That comment, in a nutshell, elucidates exactly why repugicans are traitors to America; they have no regard whatsoever for “what is best for the nation” or its people. Coupled with their blatant disregard for the Constitution they swore to uphold, their opposition to what is best for the nation has become the defining characteristic of the 21st Century wingnut movement and it is why they are traitors.
The repugican drive to subvert this nation and its people’s well-being began when they met and secretly plotted to undermine economic recovery after they just spent 8 long years creating the Great Recession for the benefit of the rich; including starting two wars of religious aggression. At no time in history has a group of political leaders purposely conspired to destroy the nation’s economic well-being as repugicans did on Inauguration night in January 2009. They ramped up their war on the economy in 2011 when they nearly destroyed the full faith and credit of the United States that the Constitution states “shall not be questioned,” much less deliberately decimated. The constitutional betrayal garnered America’s first credit downgrade in history and a ploy they came precariously close to repeating in 2013 when they shut down the government by betraying their Constitutional mandate to legislate for the “people’s general welfare;” all over their opposition to Americans having access to affordable healthcare. It was a betrayal of their fellow citizens, and their oath to uphold the Constitution that tasks them to pass legislation, not shut down the government or threaten a credit default. Over the past six years, repugicans have shown that their allegiance to the Constitution is as non-existent as their allegiance to this country or their fellow citizens.
The repugicans have compiled a despicable record of betraying Americans by conspiring and plotting to rob them of their wealth and transferring it, by way of tax cuts, to multi-national corporations with American-sounding names; all while assisting them to avoid taxes by protecting their ill-gotten gains in foreign banks. In fact, the repugican drive to enrich another foreign entity, TransCanada, at the expense of America’s environment, the people’s health, and economy is, as Forbes noted, “something that can never be considered in the best interest for the nation;” as if any American traitor ever considered what was in the best interest of the nation. The repugicans also betrayed the Constitution by conspiring with foreigners (Canadians) to undermine the Executive Branch and upset the balance of power to benefit a foreign corporation, other foreign nations’ energy needs, and two un-American John Birch devotees.
Maybe more than anything, repugicans have betrayed America by attempting to destroy the principles in the Constitution they apparently despise as much as the nation and its people. There is no greater example than a massive concerted effort to obstruct and eliminate Americans’ right to vote in states repugicans control with valuable assistance from the wingnut Supreme Court; a wingnut cabal that has as little regard for, or allegiance to, the Constitution or America as repugicans in Congress and the states. In fact, in what is a telling commentary about repugican’s betrayal of the Constitution, a little over a week ago two Democrats in Congress felt the pressing need to propose a Constitutional amendment to “recognize voting as a fundamental American right.” Americans already “had”  constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental voting rights, including two long-established amendments extending the right to vote to women and people of color and not just white 'christian' males. But those Constitutional rights are vanishing due to repugican traitors to the Constitution and America’s representative democracy.
A list detailing the myriad ways repugicans betray the Constitution is extensive beginning with supporting religious fanatics successful efforts to control women, to supporting treasonous armed anti-government militias confronting and threatening federal agents, to giving corporations supremacy over citizens, to legislating discriminatory policies denying other Americans’ their constitutionally-guaranteed equal rights. Two years ago, and many a time since, repugicans called for armed rebellion against the United States government if Americans re-elected Barack Obama as their President; something that anyone would regard as traitorous including calling for for a second revolution, threatening “Second Amendment remedies” against the government, and all manner of repugican-misled state legislation insinuating armed threats against federal officials enforcing federal laws.
Their traitorous acts to destroy the economy and conspire with foreigners to undermine the Separation of Powers and office of the President are also betrayals of the Constitution they swore to uphold. The repugicans’ six year crusade to destroy the nation’s economy is not only traitorous; it is unprecedented in American history and still ongoing.  One wonders, really, if there is anything about America, its Constitution, or its people repugicans will not betray to advance the interests of the rich, foreign nations, and foreign corporations.
The Constitution is very concise and clear as to the job repugicans in Congress are  expected to perform and it is primarily “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” It is not to betray America by working with foreign leaders to undermine the Executive branch, not to assist foreign nations and corporations in their pursuit of profit, and not to dismantle the Constitution for theocrats and corporations. The repugicans are turncoats with no interest whatsoever in what is “best for the nation” or its people. They have done nothing whatsoever over the past six years that was not an act of treachery against the American people, the Constitution, or the nation they show nothing but contempt for and it is because the people elected an African  American man as their President and in doing so exposed repugicans as traitors and enemies of state.

The Myth Of The “Moderate” repugican pretender candidate

by Manny Schewitz
In Alabama, same-sex couples are flocking to courthouses across the state to get marriage licenses after the Supreme Court refused to issue a stay on a previous ruling which allowed marriages to proceed on February 9th. Despite the protests and outrage from religio-wingnuts including Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, same-sex couples across Alabama are making history in the heart of the bible belt.
While the gay marriage part of the culture wars is all but over pending the Supreme Court’s ruling which is expected this summer, the conservative attack on gay rights isn’t going away anytime soon. Presumed candidates like Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum haven’t softened their tone on same-sex marriage at all. They’ve actually doubled down on the bigotry and prejudice hoping to appeal to the ever-graying wing of the party that still fondly remembers when there was prayer in schools and days before integration.
Boehner has stated that for all intents and purposes, the repugican battle against gay marriage in Congress is over. However, Boehner has completely and willfully ignored the culture wars that repugicans have used to rally support from religio-wingnuts for their candidates for decades. In many wingnut states, repugicans have also blocked the expansion of Medicaid for political purposes. Here in Louisiana, repugicans are allowing a very busy and important Baton Rouge emergency room to close due to a lack of funding.
In Baton Rouge, the Mid City ER, which recorded 45,000 patient visits last year, started facing a crisis in 2013, when it inherited the case load from a nearby ER that closed. According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, Mid City’s losses were projected to hit $25 million to $30 million this year. The Jindal junta stepped in with a promised infusion of $18 million, but that turned out to be a stopgap aimed at staving off an ER closure threatened last summer. Now the ER is set to close within 60 days.
Jindal, who still evidently harbors fantasies of running for pretender, deserves blame for the situation. As other repugican cabal governors have seen the light on Medicaid expansion–10 have reached agreements with the federal government recently–Jindal has become ever more obstinate. 
Bobby Jindal and other repugicans have been in and out of Iowa courting religio-wingnuts, hoping to win the caucus in this state on the usual early primary message before trying to swing back to the middle in the general election.
Some repugican hopefuls are trying not to repeat the same mistakes of 2012 by avoiding taking controversial stands in the primaries which will be ad campaign fodder in the 2016 presidential election for Democrats, and moderates in the state are trying to play more of a role in the selection process to help them along.
Less than a year before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, it appears that every repugican contender is making a serious play to win the state, setting up what is likely to be one of the most active, competitive campaigns here in recent memory.
Political observers in Iowa say that the field is wide open and that numerous candidates have a legitimate shot to win or do well enough to come out with momentum. That is partly because moderates in the Iowa repugican cabal, led by Terry Branstad, have reasserted themselves into the caucus process after watching social conservatives dominate in 2008 and 2012.
The repugican cabal hopefuls, who at the moment number around two dozen, are already battling one another for supporters and potential staff members amid regular visits to the state.
Make no mistake, repugicans know that catering too hard to the fringe and making costly remarks about the 47% or trying to define “legitimate rape” hurts the cabal at a national level, even though it often helps at a state or district level. Like in 2014, the rnc will try to stifle the voices of candidates who run the risk of alienating minorities and moderates.
In 2016, many repugicans will attempt to paint themselves as “moderates” and “friends of the middle class.” They’ll attempt to pretend that they were neutral or even on the side of marriage equality. Some will even attempt to take credit for the successes of Obamacare despite having done everything possible to repeal it and block Medicaid expansion. Don’t let them get away with it.

The repugican War on Education

“Public education is under attack. We are living through a movement in which schooling is being radically re-envisioned as a private rather than a public enterprise, with little debate over whether the ideology of the free market belongs in American schools in the first place.”
Diane Ravitch – Former US Assistant Secretary of Education
The Republican War on EducationPublic Education is under attack in a coordinated, multipronged assault by the repugican cabal and its right wing benefactors in what can only be called thr republican War on Education.
The Direct Assault – Defunding the schools
Having bankrupted his state with tax cuts over the last four years, Kansas’ repugican Sam Brownback, proposed on Feb. 5th to fill his budget gap by cutting $45 million from Education. That same day in Louisiana, teabagger darling Bobby Jindal faced an even larger shortfall, and for the same reason. He proposed cutting education by as much as $300 million. These cuts are more than just the ill-advised application of faulty economics the GOP is famous for; they represent the latest aspect of the Republican War on Education.
In New Jersey, repugican cabal 2016 pretender hopeful Chris Christie didn’t wait for the state to run out of money. He made attacking the education budget one of his first priorities. In 2009, a millionaire’s tax was allowed to sunset under the previous administration. Democrats proposed to revive it. The tax increase on the state’s top earners would have produced $800 Million in revenue. Christie said it wasn’t needed. Just weeks later, though, he cited a budget crisis and cut the education budget by… you guessed it, $800 million. Five days later, he vetoed the Democratic tax bill.
In Iowa, repugican Terry Branstad resorted to a sleight of hand approach. He cut education funding while appearing to maintain previous levels by inserting $50 million in “teacher leadership” funding which does not go towards the cost of running the schools. So, while it appears he is spending just as much on education as a whole, he will leave 80% of the state’s schools without adequate funding for operations. Bob Cue, Superintendent of North Tama Schools, wrote a guest column in The Gazzette:
“The educational impact will be fewer teachers, counselors and associates working with our children, eliminating educational programs, eliminating fine arts and other activity programs, delaying curriculum and technology purchases.”
Not to be outdone, Koch-supported Wisconsin repugican Scott Walker is proposing a whopping $300 million in cuts to the state university system – while simultaneously proposing $200 million in public bonds to finance a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks. Think he knows any good developers?
Defunding public education is not a new phenomenon, nor is it confined to the states mentioned. Compared to 2008, before the onset of the shrub recession, spending on education was down in 35 states. Seven more increased spending by 2.3% or less, not enough to keep up with inflation. That’s more than four-fifths of the country.
Cutting spending on education does not, by itself, make for a war. Especially given the repugican mantra – “Cut Taxes, Cut Spending.” They will cut anything and everything if given the chance. Everything, that is, except the military. And they’d rather not come off as against the idea of education. In the middle of his speech calling for those massive cuts, Bobby Jindal went on lauding about the need for an educated population. So most of their actions are shrouded in language of reform and improvement.
The Right Flank – Diverting Funds
One way the repugicans can continue talking like they want better education for our children while at the same time crippling public education is to divert money from the school budget into Charter schools. Begun as an attempt to find ways to better educate students in places where public schools have a long history of inadequacy, these independently run schools were seen as the great hope for the future. The reality has been quite a different story.
These schools operate free from the influences of the teacher unions, are given free rein to experiment with different methods of instruction and curriculum, and cut out unnecessary levels of bureaucracy. The charters were supposed to present a huge advantage over traditional schools. That advantage has not materialized. What they have been is a drain on the already-stretched resources of troubled schools. Every dollar spent in a charter is one less spent in a regular public school.
In Philadelphia, a city in the midst of a massive shift to charter schools after a takeover of the school system ordered by then governor Mark Schweiker (repugican), charter schools today are overfunded while the remaining public schools go wanting.
Mary Lindquist President of the Washington Education Association, said this about charters:
“Washington’s educators are already offering creativity, flexibility and choice for all students in all public schools. Instead of diverting scarce resources from existing public school classrooms and spending it on unaccountable charter schools for a few students, we should be investing more in the innovative public schools we already have.”
What would be the problem in that, though, if the charters do a better job? Wouldn’t the money be better spent there? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Given plenty of time and opportunity to prove themselves worthy of the funding, charter schools have failed time and time again.
In Ohio, where a state law passed in 1997 allowing charter schools to operate in the state’s most needy district, the Education Opportunity Network said this:
“Almost 84,000 Ohio students — 87 percent of the state’s charter-school students — attend a charter ranking D or F in meeting state performance standards.”
In New Orleans, public schools have been almost completely supplanted by a charter system in the post-Katrina renewal. Proponents of charter schools have hailed it as a shining star for the charter movement. Rick Hess, a spokesman for the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, said,:
“New Orleans continues to be the new frontier of school reform, with enormous improvements fueled by the dramatic post-Katrina expansion of charter schooling.”
But detractors disagree. As Salon reported,
“any evidence of the improvement of the educational attainment of students in the New Orleans all-charter system is obtainable only by ‘jukin the stats.'”
“Jukin’ the stats” is a euphemism for massaging the data until it proves things that are not true.
It’s bad enough to pull sorely needed funding from public school systems and throw it away on charters that are no better and often worse. But a study in May of 2014 by the Center for Democracy & Integrity in Education, a non-profit watchdog organization, looked into reports in 15 of the 42 states that allow charter schools and cited over $100 million in fraud and abuse.
Not all charter schools are fraudulent. Nor are they all under-performing. Just as there are thousands of traditional public schools that do very well, there are many charter schools that have proven their value. But they are no panacea, and they are all a drain on resources.
Another way that money can go into the school budget without paying to run the schools is through expansion of standardized testing. There will always be a need for some testing, but under the banner of accountability, standardized testing has grown into a $1.7 billion a year behemoth sucking the lives out of budgets with their direct costs and disrupting the school year in their implementation.
Carol Burris is a former High School Teacher of the Year in NY. She wrote,
“The unintended, negative consequences that have arisen from mandated, annual testing and its high-stakes uses have proven testing not only to be an ineffective tool, but a destructive one as well,”
Critics of testing say the tests add unnecessary stress on students and take time away from instruction. Teachers pressured to improve test scores increasingly alter their planning to teach to the test, instead of maximizing understanding. Worst of all, some say the tests are fraught with bias, making them more a barometer of culture and affluence than of education.
The Left Flank – Attacking the Professionals
The repugicans have been attacking unions for decades, and the teachers union is high on their target list. As such, it is easy to discount this avenue of attack, but the two are inseparable. The repugican cabal attack on teacher unions is more than an attempt to negate their political power or to erode the labor movement as a whole. It is an attack on the profession of education.
In this post-shrub economy, teachers have been a convenient scapegoat for wingnuts in both media and politics who readily point out to workers having a hard time that teachers make more than they do and still get the summer off. Lost from the conversation is the fact that teacher salary increases since 1999 were less than the rate of inflation in that period, or that CEO salaries in the last 35 years have increased 3 times as much as teacher salaries.
Money is tight for everyone these days, and losing ground in salary hardly constitutes a war. Then again, the repugican cabal is hardly content to only go after teachers’ pocketbooks.
Under the guise of “working to improve education,” repugican cabal reforms are going after the teachers themselves. New rules are in place all across the country to increase “accountability” with new standards for evaluation and reform of the existing tenure system. Much of the evaluation system is tied to student performance on standardized tests, putting the same kind of pressure on teachers as those tests do on the students. And since there are already problems with the validity of the tests in evaluating students, this goes for teacher evaluations, in spades.
In a study by Vanderbilt University on offering teachers bonuses based on improvement in test scores, it was found that teachers who were offered bonuses for improving student test results produced no more improvement than the control group. Tying those to evaluations will have the same results.
What it will do, along with other reforms in the teacher evaluation system, is offer administrators a tool to force good experienced teachers — those with higher than average paychecks — into early retirement or even out of the profession, short of that goal.
Between vilifying teachers in the media, chipping away at pay and other benefit packages, and a new evaluation system that empowers administrators who would arbitrarily terminate good teachers to meet their budgets, the teaching profession is becoming less desirable. The only thing keeping enough teachers in the system is a lousy economy, and that’s been improving the last several years. If it continues to do so, filling those mounting vacancies with qualified personnel will prove difficult. Our new higher standards will only exacerbate that.
Rearguard Action
No war on education would be complete without an attack on the idea itself. The republicans have been doing their best to malign science for years. First they went after the theory of evolution. Since the ’60s, they’ve also tried to discredit research pointing to health hazards from cigarettes and asbestos. Now, the biggest target is Global Climate Change.
Evidence continues to mount against the deniers with 2014 coming in as the warmest year ever. Climate deniers have reacted by softening their stance. Since they lack a scientific basis with which to bolster their point of view, they preface their comments with “I’m not a scientist, but…” After which, they feel free to offer whatever unsubstantiated malarkey they please. The implication being that their opinion based on ideology alone is just as valid as any scientific conclusion based on data, study and research.
The effect of all of this is to devalue education beyond basic literacy and arithmetic. A population which does not value education won’t fuss when it disappears.
The repugican goal ultimately isn’t to eliminate education completely, but only for those who cannot foot the bill for its cost on their own. Even then they will be happy to leave a vestige of it standing, though diminished, as a conduit through which to funnel our tax money into the coffers of their corporate benefactors. When they are done, education as we know it today will be a privilege for the wealthy.

On Food Stamps, repugicans Eat Their Own

On Food Stamps, Republicans Eat Their OwnFood stamps are a favorite target of the Republican party – whether by slashing benefits, adding Byzantine requirements to qualify, or by flat-out calling for their elimination. Here’s the funny thing – if you look at food stamp participation rates across the country, the states with the highest rates tend to trend repugican. Hell, the “Food Stamp Capital” of the U.S. is 95% repugican. So, in a familiar twist, repugicans in Congress are turning on the very people who elected them. And those same people, suffering from an advanced case of cognitive dissonance, keep sending people to Congress who will stab them in the back.
But I would submit that a far nastier case of cognitive dissonance is being suffered not by the electorate, but by those repugicans in Congress. Their patchwork of stances on social issues – from food stamps to reproductive rights to drug policy – is incoherent drivel, with each individual piece undermining the others. The notion that repugicans only care about children up until they are born comes to mind, but things are a bit more complex (and moronic) than that. Consider: with birth control more difficult to obtain, and restricted access to abortions, more children will be born into poverty. Those same impoverished children will have their food stamp benefits slashed to save money for corporate tax cuts or 2% of a stealth fighter. And then, should those children grow up and respond to their abysmal situation by turning to drugs or crime, they will be shuffled off to an overcrowded prison system. One might be tempted to see this all as a vast conspiracy, in which repugicans are deliberately breeding and feeding able bodies into a prison-industrial complex. I think that gives the party a bit too much credit. They are simply unable to look at their positions in a systematic fashion, constructing each position in isolation, lacking the cognitive ability to see just how incoherent and counter-productive their stances have become.
And so, getting back to food stamps, it becomes easy to see how the party can advocate a position so harmful to its constituents. Taken in isolation, the very idea of food stamps is seen by the party as offensive to its central myth of rugged, by-your-own-damned-bootstraps, individualism. Did jesus need food stamps? Abraham Lincoln? No? Then neither should you. After all, food stamps aren’t about anything so banal as, you know, making sure people don’t go hungry. Oh no. According to repugican court jester Ted Cruz, they are about “trapping millions in long-term dependency.” This is – as with most of the sounds Cruz produces – nonsense. The average length of time a recipient spends on food stamps is between 8 and 10 months. It also manages to ignore to obscure a vital fact about the food stamp program: this is not money that is being sucked away to oblivion. By their very nature, food stamps inject money back into the economy, as recipients use them to buy, duh, food. Every dollar spent by the government on food stamps translates into $1.73 in economic activity:
Just one dollar of SNAP/Food Stamp benefits creates a “ripple effect” through the economy. A study by industry research firm Moody’s Economy.com looked at the potential impact of each stimulus dollar. According to economist Mark Zandi, “some provide a lot of bang for the buck to the economy. Others … don’t.” Zandi said that the study shows the fastest way to infuse money into the economy is through expanding the SNAP/Food Stamp program. “If someone who is literally living paycheck to paycheck gets an extra dollar, it’s very likely that they will spend that dollar immediately on whatever they need – groceries, to pay the telephone bill, to pay the electric bill,” he said. That single dollar helps to pay the salaries of the grocery clerks, pays the truckers who haul the food and produce cross-country, and finally goes to the farmer who grows the crops.
But all that aside, there is a fundamental cruelty in the repugican stance on food stamps. Telling someone that it is better for them to go hungry than to enter a “cycle of long-term dependency,” is a remarkably callous statement. Such callousness is all part of the package though, despite the telling fact that a huge percentage of those on food stamps are the veterans and the elderly, both groups that repugicans allege to care about. But the repugican cabal clearly sees little wrong with simultaneously making lots of noise about caring for veterans or the elderly while turning around and stabbing them in the back. Again, the cruelty and hypocrisy involved is breathtaking. There is, yes, no small irony in the repugican electorate repeatedly voting against their own interests, receiving food stamps while electing the very people who will try to take those food stamps away. I take no pleasure in this irony – instead I find the rank hypocrisy of congressional repugicans, who exploit and harm their own misguided electorate, to be infuriating.

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New Evidence That Half of the US Is Broke

The argument for a barely surviving half of the US has been made before, but important new data is available to strengthen the case.
by Paul Buchheit
Happy Monday! S&P 500 now up 10% for year --CNN Money
Third-quarter U.S. economic growth strongest in 11 years --Reuters
The U.S. economy is on a tear --Wall Street Journal
Half of our nation, by all reasonable estimates of human need, is in poverty. The jubilant headlines above speak for people whose view is distorted by growing financial wealth. The argument for a barely surviving half of America has been made before, but important new data is available to strengthen the case.
1. No Money for Unexpected Bills
A recent Bankrate poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans didn't have savings available to cover a $500 repair bill or a $1,000 emergency room visit.
A related Pew survey concluded that over half of U.S. households have less than one month's income in readily available savings, and that ALL their savings -- including retirement funds -- amounted to only about four months of income.
And young adults? A negative savings rate, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Before the recession their savings rate was a reasonably healthy 5 percent.
2. 40 Percent Collapse in Household Wealth
Over half of Americans have good reason to feel poor. Between 2007 and 2013 median wealth dropped a shocking 40 percent, leaving the poorest half with negative wealth (because of debt), and a full 60% of households owning, in total, about as much as the nation's 94 richest individuals.
People of color fare the worst, with half of black households owning less than $11,000 in total wealth, and Hispanic households less than $14,000. The median net worth for white households is about $142,000.
3. Cost of Living Surges as Income Falls
Official poverty measures are based largely on the food costs of the 1950s. But food costs have doubled since 1978, housing has more than tripled, and college tuition is eleven times higher. The cost of raising a child increased by 40 percent between 2000 and 2010. And despite the gains from Obamacare, health care expenses continue to grow.
As all these essential costs have been going up, median household income has been going down since 2000, with the greatest drop occurring since 2009, as 95 percent of the post-recession income gains have gone to the richest 1%.
4. Lots of New Jobs (Below Living Wage)
'Amazing' jobs report, apart from wages --Marketwatch
Amazing at the top and at the bottom. According to the Federal Reserve Bank, there have been job gains at the highest paid level -- engineering, finance, computer analysis; and there have been job gains at the lowest paid level -- personal health care, retail, and food preparation.
But the jobs that kept the middle class out of poverty -- education, construction, social services, transportation, administration -- have seen a decline since the recession, especially in the northeast. At a national level jobs gained are paying 23 percent less than jobs lost.
Worse yet, the lowest paid workers, those in housekeeping and home health care and food service, have seen their wages drop 6 to 8 percent (although wages overall rose about 2 percent in 2014).
5. Our Greatest Shame: Half of the Children Feeling Poverty
Over half of public school students are poor enough to qualify for lunch subsidies. There's been a stunning 70 percent increase since the recession in the number of children on food stamps. State of Working America reported that almost half of black children under the age of six are living in poverty.
The celebratory quotes about a booming economy seem so far away.

Police remind motorists that flashlights aren't headlights

The Knoxville Police department in Tennessee are reminding motorists that flashlights are not headlights. Flashlights are great for providing light at night, but not as vehicle headlights, they say.
This follows a Sweetwater resident being stopped not once, but twice in an eighteen hour period for driving his vehicle after dark while only using flashlights to light up the roadway. The motorist had strapped flashlights onto his bumper with a bungee cord.
The motorist was first stopped at approximately 2:00am on February 2, 2015, in East Knoxville. The same vehicle was stopped by another officer at approximately 8:00pm on the same day in North Knoxville.
In both traffic stops the driver was cited for Improper Headlights, Violation of the State Registration Law, and Driving Without Insurance. Bungee-cording two flashlights to the front bumper of a vehicle is not acceptable as proper headlights and is very dangerous to the driver and other vehicles sharing the road, they add.

Burglar was so drunk he passed out then asked victims to roll him a cigarette and get him a drink

A burglar was so drunk he passed out on the job then asked his shocked victims for a glass of water and a cigarette. Paul Nolan sneaked into a family home in Kenton Bar, Newcastle, as two young children and their parents slept. But after gathering some valuables together, he collapsed on the floor of a bedroom, where he was found by the woman of the house. The victims were left bemused when the burglar then asked them to roll him a cigarette and get him a drink.
A court heard they obliged but told Nolan he had to go outside to smoke then took the opportunity to ring police. Nolan left but was traced by a police tracker dog, who found him nearby. Now the 28-year-old, of Monkseaton, North Tyneside, has been jailed for 13 months after he admitted burglary. The female victim told in a statement to Newcastle Crown Court how the break-in caused her and her family distress and worry. She said: “He didn’t accept responsibility for four months and we found it difficult to cope. The main thing to upset us was he entered my home while we were in with our young children.
“I would like the judge to know of the long-term distress he has caused and I want that to be reflected in the sentence.” The burglary happened on September 16 last year at around 11pm when at the three-story town house in Kenton Bar. The woman was woken by the sound of Nolan in the house and found him slumped on a bedroom floor with a number of items by hit feet. Paul Currer, prosecuting, said: “He got up from the floor and sat on the bed talking to them. He appeared to be heavily under the influence of drink or drugs and said he was in the wrong house.
“He asked the male victim for a drink and to roll him a cigarette and he said he would do that if he stepped outside.” Nolan made off but the couple had called police and he was tracked down by a police dog nearby and arrested. Tony Hawks, defending, said: “One can understand entirely the distress it must have caused these people but it was fairly incompetent. He effectively passes out in the house then has to sit down and asks for a drink of water and a cigarette. However this lady did face a complete stranger in a bedroom of her house and the defendant has to take the consequences. Drink is his principle problem.”

Non Sequitur


Magna Carta Found

The tattered document dates back to 1300, 85 years after King John of England was compelled to sign the first agreement limiting the rights of kings.

Drilled Skull

Apparently ground up bone powder from the skulls of martyrs was an ingredient in sought after medicines.

The Psychology of False Memories

NBC News anchor Brian Williams has apologized for telling a story that wasn't true. But psychologists have suggested it may not be a lie.

Happy Languages

Some languages are happier than others, according to a new study that ranked languages based on the emotional content of words and other factors. Wondering where English falls?



From Russia With Love

People in Washington, Oregon and Idaho are pondering the origin of a mysterious ash shower last week.

Cosmic Cappuccino

In this dreamy observation, staring down on Mars' south polar icecap, a European spacecraft has captured stunning ruddy swirls frozen in Martian ice, like cinnamon sprinkles and coffee mixing with the frothy milk atop a rich cappuccino.

White Dwarf Stars

Astronomers have discovered a stellar rarity deep inside an oddly-shaped nebula -- two white dwarf stars on the verge of a cataclysmic merging event.

Does Historic Snow Mean Global Cooling?

Is all the snow this year proof that climate scientists have it wrong, and the Earth actually is cooling? In a word: no.

The Final Denial


Man accused of smuggling $235,000 worth of exotic fish in his luggage

A Singaporean man accused of smuggling $235,000 worth of exotic fish into Australia in his luggage has appeared in the Adelaide Magistrates Court. Customs officers allegedly found 20 plastic bags containing live and dead endangered fish concealed in the man's luggage when he arrived at the Adelaide Airport on a flight from Singapore on February 2.
Around 26 of the fish were listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The Adelaide Magistrates Court heard Kuok Weai Alex Chang, 44, may plead guilty to importing a protected species at his next hearing in three weeks. He was held in custody because a suitable bail address was unable to be found. His lawyer Jessica Kurtzer said she had contacted Chang's employer in Singapore who was providing him support and was hoping to find a suitable place for him to reside on bail.
The court heard the find sparked an international investigation and the charge against Chang may be amended in light of further evidence. The prosecution told the court it appeared that many of the fish had been micro-chipped, a practice common for rare and exotic species in parts of Asia, but not in Australia. It was alleged a search of two properties linked to Chang in Adelaide resulted in more exotic fish being located, including one Asian Arowana, valued at almost $30,000.
The owner of those properties was arrested and bailed to appear in court at a later date. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service's central regional commander James Watson said illicit wildlife trafficking was a horrible trade, but that working together with partner agencies was the best way to stop it. "These arrests should send a strong message to anyone involved in wildlife smuggling: Customs and Border Protection is serious about working with our law enforcement partners to target you," Mr Watson said.

Family surprised to see rare 'South American coati' in their Buckinghamshire back garden

A family were surprised when they discovered a furry mammal seen climbing a tree in their garden was a “South American coati”.
Anna Shearer from Marlow in Buckinghamshire initially thought it was a dog, until the mysterious creature scampered up a tree. Capturing the small mammal on video, Shearer contacted an animal welfare charity for advice.
Initially, the organisation believed the animal was a baby bear that had escaped an enclosure nearby. However, on closer inspection of the footage, it was revealed that the animal was in fact a “South American coati”.

Attempts to capture the coati, usually found in subtropical rainforests, have so far been unsuccessful, and experts are warning Buckinghamshire residents not to approach the animal as it may bite.

Killer Shrimp

Creatures that indiscriminately slay other animals without eating them, may soon join the list of invasive species living in the region.

Pet Sweaters

You probably think either "Awwww!" or "Good grief!" when you see a pet in a cute sweater. (There's not a lot of room for apathy when faced with a dog with a wardrobe.) Do they really help? Find out which breeds may benefit from all that fashion.

Puppy-Sized Spider

Set aside your fears, arachnophobes, and check out our collection of downright strange spiders. See what tricks these special creatures use to keep themselves safe and fool their prey into making fatal missteps.

Bee Stress

The bees start foraging when they are too young to do the risky job, new research suggests.

Sunbathing Fish

The ocean sunfish basks in surface light to regulate its body temperature and prepare for chilly dives.

Animal Pictures