Bill Scher

After Iran Letter Debacle, Republicans Want To Write a Climate Letter

When 47 Republican Senators wrote an open letter to the Iranian government designed to undercut President Obama’s negotiating strategy, they not only were excoriated at home for mischievous meddling in foreign policy, they also were humiliated when the gambit didn’t work. The Republicans thought they were informing the Iranians that President Obama needed congressional approval to permanently lift sanctions under our system of government. But the Iranians aren’t stupid. They knew that already, and proceeded with a preliminary deal anyway. The widely held assumption is: Congress or the next president would be hard-pressed to arbitrarily re-impose sanctions if Iran is sticking to the deal and all the other international parties remain on board. Yet Republicans often are gluttons for punishment.

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Gloria Totten

The Right Wing Isn’t Crazy, It’s Strategic

So far this year… ● The Oklahoma House passed legislation to eliminate AP American History classes from public schools because, right-wingers said, the course is too negative about America. ● The Tennessee House voted to designate the Holy Bible as “the official state book,” ignoring an attorney general’s opinion that it would be patently unconstitutional. ● Both Arkansas and Arizona enacted laws requiring doctors to tell patients they could potentially reverse the effects of a medication abortion, an assertion without scientific merit. ● The Mississippi House approved a bill to exempt the drivers of large church buses from the requirement of possessing a bus driver’s license—nicknamed the “Jesus Take the Wheel Act.” With bills like these, it’s easy to dismiss the right wing as just plain crazy.

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Leo Gerard

The Words of Dead Workers

To give voice to 35 workers killed on the job over the past 35 years at a massive refinery in Texas City, hundreds of surviving family members, co-workers and friends gathered there last month to erect white crosses marked with their names. They conducted the ceremony on the 10th anniversary of an explosion that killed 15 workers and injured more than 170, including townspeople. Marathon Petroleum Corp., which bought the refinery from BP two years ago, did its best to shut the mourners up. Marathon uprooted the crosses and tossed them in a box like trash within hours of the commemoration. For years during contract negotiations, the United Steelworkers (USW) union has pressed ungodly profitable oil companies to improve safety. This fell mostly on deaf ears. On Feb. 1, USW refinery workers began loudly voicing this demand by striking over unfair labor practices (ULP).

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Dave Johnson

How TPP Increases Corporate Power vs. Government – And Us

Power is the ability to control, to tell what to do, to get your way. Corporations have a lot of power over working people in our country now, and they might be about to get a lot more. The proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) tell us that it will have unprecedented “progressive” protections for the rights of working people, the environment, even wildlife. So there is likely to be flowery-sounding language in TPP, just as President Obama says. What matters is whether there will be clear and guaranteed enforceability of those words. Enforcement Matters Rules are great; enforcement is greater. Without enforcement, a rule may as well not exist – especially when everyone knows there is not enforcement. We see rules with no enforcement all around us. Here’s an obvious example.

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Richard Eskow

A “College” Closes, But Student Debt Lives On

This week Corinthian Colleges Inc. announced that it had “ceased substantially all operations and discontinued instruction” at its remaining campuses. That should have brought the indebtedness of its many defrauded students to an end. This “educational institution” was nothing more a profit-making scheme, morally on par with the banks who defrauded homeowners on their mortgages. But while Corinthian Colleges has officially shut down, for most of its students and for a generation enchained by student debt, the need for action remains. The Fall of Corinthian Corinthian’s demise was expected, after a series of government actions brought its misdeeds to light and rendered it financially unsustainable. It came on the heels of an order from the state of California to stop enrolling new students.

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Isaiah J. Poole

More Than 2,000 Organizations Declare Opposition To Fast-Tracking TPP

In the continuing battle over whether Congress should pass fast track authority legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch today unleashed the latest salvo: a list of more than 2,000 organizations in opposition to the trade bill that President Obama is trying to push through Congress. The list is part of a letter the organization sent to Congress urging members to oppose the fast-track bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Its release follows come caustic comments from Obama last week directed at opponents of fast track, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and organizations like the Campaign for America’s Future.

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Terrance Heath

Why The GOP Can’t Have It Both Ways on Marriage Equality

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear opening arguments in marriage equality cases challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. The resulting ruling could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. A lot has changed since the Court overruled the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that applied to the federal government. Lower courts have used that ruling to overturn state bans on same-sex marriage. As a result, 37 states have legal same-sex marriage. The tide of public opinion has turned, and now a growing majority of Americans support marriage equality. Perhaps the biggest indicator of how much times have changed is how Republican presidential candidates have responded.

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Robert Reich

Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless

A security guard recently told me he didn’t know how much he’d be earning from week to week because his firm kept changing his schedule and his pay. “They just don’t care,” he said. A traveler I met in the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport last week said she’d been there eight hours but the airline responsible for her trip wouldn’t help her find another flight leaving that evening. “They don’t give a hoot,” she said. Someone I met in North Carolina a few weeks ago told me he had stopped voting because elected officials don’t respond to what average people like him think or want. “They don’t listen,” he said. What connects these dots? As I travel around America, I’m struck by how utterly powerless most people feel. The companies we work for, the businesses we buy from, and the political system we participate in all seem to have grown less accountable.

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Robert Borosage

On Fast Track: Obama’s Scorn Forces Hillary Clinton’s Hand

Will Hillary Clinton oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and the fast track authority designed to ramrod it through the Congress? She’s been noncommittal to date, with many assuming she will eventually support the president who she served as secretary of state. But by calling out his opponents, President Obama has turned the escalating battle over fast track and TPP into an intra-party back-alley knife fight. As someone seeking to lead that party, Hillary can’t remain on the sidelines for long. And, if she adheres to the standards that she put forth for the agreement, she might well end up joining the opposition. The president has lined up with the Republican congressional leadership, the Chamber of Commerce and the business lobby to pass “fast track” trade authority to ease the passage of the 12-nation TPP.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Gay Panic

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in same-sex marriage cases that could result in a ruling that makes marriage equality the law of the land. Naturally, wingnuts have already worked themselves into a panic. Lawyer and former Antonin Scalia law clerk Gene Schaerr wrote at the Heritage Foundation’s “Daily Signal,” that gay marriage will cause 900,000 more abortions. According to Schaerr, gay marriage “undermines” traditional marriage, leading to lower marriage rates. Lower marriage rates means more unmarried women. Unmarried women have more abortions than married women. Thus, gay marriage leads to more abortions. Mike Huckabee drew connections between gay marriage and the ISIS threat.

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Dave Johnson

Obama Says Critics Of Trade Deal Sound Like Palin Touting Death Panels

President Obama, speaking to the Organizing for America (OFA) Summit Thursday, said that people who have concerns about the Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority process and the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “don’t know what they’re talking about,” and compared them to conservatives like Sarah Palin, who claimed that the Obamacare health care reform contained “death panels.” Then, on a Friday conference call with reporters the President complained about people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders saying, “Every single one of the critics who I hear saying, ‘this is a secret deal,’ or send out emails to their fundraising base saying they’re working to prevent this secret deal, can walk over today and read the text of the agreement.

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Emily Schwartz Greco

The Divestment Dividend

As Earth Day approached, fossil-fuel divestment actions rattled college campuses large and small. Targets ranged from Harvard University’s $36-billion endowment to the University of Mary Washington’s $46-million nest egg. That’s only natural: Students, professors, and alumni are increasingly telling their schools to put their money where their mission is by shunning oil, gas, and coal assets. And there’s no more symbolic time of year to make that kind of statement. Conservative icon George Will, realizing this is a thing, ridiculed Syracuse University’s recent decision to sweep all dirty-energy holdings out of its $1.2-billion endowment. Even for fossils like the widely syndicated columnist, it’s too hard to ignore the growing movement to make universities — and everyone else — lock these industries out of their investments.

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Dave Johnson

A ‘Path To Yes’ On Trade, But Paul Ryan Blocks It

The “fast track” trade bill introduced last week by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has a number of problems. It sets aside Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution and essentially pre-approves the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the public and most of Congress even sees it. Unfortunately, the Senate bill does not specify firm and sufficient objectives to make TPP a trade bill that could work for 99 percent of Americans. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, on Thursday offered an alternative, the Right Track for TPP Act of 2015. (Summary here, full text here.) This bill is a fast track process for doing trade right — or at least for modifying the secretly negotiated TPP so it can be somewhat palatable to more of us than just the 1 percent.

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Jim Hightower

Where Are the Populist Democrats?

It’s futile to hope that the GOP’s gaggle of corporate-hugging, right-wing presidential candidates will seriously address the issue of rising inequality in our land. How about the Democrats? Well, Hillary Clinton has warned that “extreme inequality has corrupted other societies.” Uh…yes. But what about our society? Clinton says: “We have to have a concerted effort to meet a consensus about how to deal with this.” Huh? That’s not an answer, much less a solution. It’s a political tap dance around a crucial matter facing America. Why would she dodge a chance to swing away at a down-the-middle issue that’s right in the wheelhouse of her party’s populist strength? After all, recent polls show majority public support for direct government action to reduce the wealth gap, from raising taxes on the superrich to raising the minimum wage above the poverty level.

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Jeff Bryant

An Alternative To Failed Education ‘Reform,’ If We Want One

The movement to boycott standardized testing has caught the media totally by surprise. The mostly parent-led effort that started with Facebook pages and neighborhood meetings has grown into a firestorm of resistance. As the Associated Press reported this week, “This ‘opt-out’ movement remains scattered but is growing fast.” The article points to New York – where perhaps as many as 200,000 students recently sat out the standardized tests – but also mentions strong opt-out movements in New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Even education policy influentials who have long advocated for an accountability system driven by standardized tests have been shaken by the resounding opposition to their policies. Meanwhile, in Washington, momentum is growing behind a U.S.

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Jeff Bryant

Atlanta’s School Teachers Aren’t Alone In Their Attempts To Cheat

No one likes a cheater. So you’d think plenty of people would be pleased to hear that educators in Atlanta, on trial for cheating on standardized tests, were found guilty of those charges and sentenced “harshly,” according to the New York Times. As CNN reports, of the 12 educators who went on trial for “inflating test scores of children from struggling schools,” 11 were convicted of racketeering—a crime normally associated with mob bosses—and other lesser crimes. Of those who have been sentenced so far (one sentencing has been postponed), eight have been given jail or prison time and three will serve at least seven years. Only those who admitted guilt and waived appeals were spared. But even before the sentencing was finalized, there was widespread condemnation of the idea that prison terms were even in consideration. An “outrage” one commentator called it.

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Robert Borosage

Government Sweatshops: A Time for the President to Act

This week in Washington, hundreds of low wage federal government contract workers walked off their jobs, demonstrating for a living wage and a union. They included Senate janitors and food service workers – the workers who serve the senators their food and clean up the messes they leave. Carrying a sign reading “Hiring: A President who will sign a $15 +Union Executive Order,” these workers are calling on President Obama to lead and put government on the side of workers. They want an executive order that would give preference in government procurement and licensing to companies that pay a living wage with benefits, and respect their workers’ right to organize.

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Miya Pontes

Government Contract Workers Strike For Better Pay

More than 600 federal workers went on strike today, including about three dozen Senate employees, in a protest over low pay by federal contractors. The strike won support from members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), who joined the U.S. Senate contract workers who were protesting low pay. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) highlighted the growing disparity between the rich and the poor and the disappearing middle class. “We have billions of working people living in poverty, and 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. That is not what America is supposed to be about. What America is supposed to be about is if you work 40 hours a week, you earn enough money to take care of your kids, and your family,” Sanders said.

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Terrance Heath

Study: “Right-To-Work” Lowers Wages

A new study published by the Economic Policy Institute confirms that “right-to-work” laws aren’t about protecting worker’s rights. “Right-to-work” laws lower workers’ wages, no matter how you look at them. That’s the conclusion of “‘Right-To-Work’ States Still Have Lower Wages,” a EPI briefing paper by Elise Gould and Will Kimball. The briefing paper is a follow-up to, and a response to criticism of a 2012 study by Gould and Heidi Shierholz. The 2012 study found that wages in “right-to-work” states were 3.2 percent lower than in non-“right-to-work” states. The current study confirms this, finding that wages in “right-to-work” states are 3.1 percent lower than in non-“right-to-work” states, which translates into $1,558 less in annual wages for workers in “right-to-work” states. Currently, 25 states have “right-to-work” laws.

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Terrance Heath

Will Marriage Equality Opponents Take Us Back To The “Green Book” Era?

Last week, my husband and I visited the US Postal Museum. In the exhibit, “Freedom Just Around the Corner:Black America From Civil War To Civil Rights,” I came across a copy of the 1966–67 edition of the Travelers’ Green Book International Edition, or the Negro Motorists’ Green Book, commonly called the “Green Book.” Published by New York City postal carrier Victor H. Green and his wife Alma from 1936 to 1966, the “Green Book” served — as an editorial in the 1956 edition explained — “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.” The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, Spring 1956 Edition.

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