Thursday, March 31, 2011
Poor Little Rich Boy
15 Day Atheist Challenge: Day 9
Oh Mr. Speaker!
Who Is Regulating Who
Lefty Left Left Leftist!
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Day 8: 15 Day Atheist Challenge
Gay The Gay Away
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Then They Came For The Wiccans
Day 7: 15 Day Atheist Challenge
Monday, March 28, 2011
Who Is To Blame?
Day 6: 15 Day Atheist Challenge
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Day 5: 15 Day Atheist Challenge
Not that I know of, and no. Would you really want to be friends with someone who refuses to befriend you because of your religion, or lack of religion?
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Day 4: 15 Day Atheist Challenge
Say what? I think religion is unnecessary, but my general take on it is that if it gives you peace, some direction in life, or you are unable to control yourself in public without the threat of hell or promise of heaven, then go ahead and be religious.
Much evil has been done in the name of religion, but I don't think that has anything to do with religious teachings. Evil people have distorted and used many religious beliefs to get people to do their bidding, but that is the fault of those people, and not of religion per se.
Many other people have cited the teachings of their faith to do enormous good, such as building hospitals and schools, and providing relief to those in need. Like any tool, its all in how you choose to use it.
Your Saturday Morning Cartoon
Friday, March 25, 2011
Believing in the company took extreme forms at Bath Fitter of Pittsburgh, according to a federal civil complaint filed Thursday by a former sales representative of the well-known remodeling firm.
Doctrines that were drilled into employees -- for a fee taken out of their commissions -- were explicitly spiritual, insisting that sales representatives open themselves to "Pure Spirit, Love, Total Acceptance, Oneness, Immortality, Truth, Intelligence and Total Tolerance," while shutting out "Fear, Judgment, Separation/Ego, Death, Belief, Insanity," former rep Jo A. Yochum's complaint quoted from training handbooks.
And if you resisted the program, as 54-year-old Ms. Yochum did, you risked being branded "an atheist" and denied sales leads, the complaint filed in U.S. District Court said.
Here's what Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has to say on the matter:
With respect to religion, Title VII prohibits:
treating applicants or employees differently based on their religious beliefs or practices – or lack thereof – in any aspect of employment, including recruitment, hiring, assignments, discipline, promotion, and benefits (disparate treatment);
subjecting employees to harassment because of their religious beliefs or practices – or lack thereof – or because of the religious practices or beliefs of people with whom they associate (e.g., relatives, friends, etc.);
denying a requested reasonable accommodation of an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practices – or lack thereof – if an accommodation will not impose more than a de minimis cost or burden on business operations; and,
retaliating against an applicant or employee who has engaged in protected activity, including participation (e.g., filing an EEO charge or testifying as a witness in someone else’s EEO matter), or opposition to religious discrimination (e.g., complaining to human resources department about alleged religious discrimination).
Here's a bit more from the same site:
Religious harassment in violation of Title VII occurs when employees are: (1) required or coerced to abandon, alter, or adopt a religious practice as a condition of employment (this type of “quid pro quo” harassment may also give rise to a disparate treatment or denial of accommodation claim in some circumstances); or (2) subjected to unwelcome statements or conduct that is based on religion and is so severe or pervasive that the individual being harassed reasonably finds the work environment to be hostile or abusive, and there is a basis for holding the employer liable.
Further along in the Post-Gazette's story, its noted that Ms. Yochum's federal complaint states she was required to participate in training with a firm called Partners Through People. This training was expensive, costing $90,000. Now I'm no expert, but I'm reasonably sure that the bill for job-required training, once you are an employee, is usually footed by your employer, however Ms. Yochum was required to pay for this training herself according to the complaint.
Now here is something interesting. The Post-Gazette identifies Sam Lucci as one of the owners of the local Bath Fitter franchise via FJW Investments Inc. Guess who is listed as the owner, founder, and CEO of Partners Through People? Sam J. Lucci III. Guess who is the Vice President of FWJ Investments? Sam J. Lucci III.
Now, for even more fun, lets look at the Parters Through People's "Testimonials" page. Here we find a testimonial from Frank Witkowski, President of FWJ Investments and locally, the public face of Bath Fitter.
"You owe it to yourself to experience this program. I ran a business for over 30 years, all the while feeling trapped in a big, ugly job. Partners Through People changed all that. I now know how to work on my business instead of in it. My hiring is better. My staff development is better. I won't allow a new employee to work for me without experiencing the program."
"I wont allow a new employee to work for me without experiencing the program." So, participation in this $90,000 program is a condition of employment at Bath Fitter. But there's more! Back to the complaint!
5. Defendant Z&G Enterprises, Inc. t/d/b/a Partners Through People, is a
Pennsylvania corporation with a registered office address of 535 Center Grange Road, Monaca, Pennsylvania 15061 and a registered principal place of business of 101 Pleasant Drive, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania 15001, with other locations in Allegheny County and surrounding areas. Z&G Enterprises is the registered owner of the Pennsylvania fictitious name Partners Through People, which maintains a registered principal place of business of 216 Pleasant Drive, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania 15001. Z&G Enterprises, Inc.
t/d/b/a Partners Through People purports to provide employee training programs to various employers, including FJW Investment, and their employees, including Yochum. Z&G Enterprises additionally trades and does business as Cabinet World, through which it provides cabinetry goods and services for kitchens, bathrooms and other household applications. Defendants Frank J. Witkowski and Samuel J. Lucci III founded and/or own and operate Z&G Enterprises.
HoHo!! So, Partners Through People is run through Z&G Enterprises which was founded by, and is owned in part by Frank Witkowski!! A third defendant, Maribeth A. Lucci is also listed as an officer with Partners Through People and FJW Investment.
If the allegations in the complaint are true, it looks like the entire operation is designed to funnel a portion of sales commissions back into the pockets of the owners through the mandatory training program.
...pursuant to the “Sales Trainee Agreement,” Yochum was required
to pay $90,000 for the purported sales training, which payment would be withheld as a deduction from her sales commissions otherwise payable to her by Bath Fitter. In the event Yochum’s employment with Bath Fitter should terminate before she achieved $3,000,000 in sales (which would generate withholding totaling $90,000), the “Sales Trainee Agreement” required Yochum to pay a “fee” equal to 3% of the shortfall in sales from the $3,000,000 requirement. (Thus, if Yochum failed to achieve any sales, she would owe the entire $90,000 “fee” as compensation for the purported sales training.)
17. During the course of her employment with Bath Fitter/Partners, Yochum
achieved and exceeded the $3,000,000 sales target, and therefore her required $90,000 “fee” was fully paid by way of deductions from her sales commissions. (Once she achieved the repayment of the training “fee” through her sales, however, the employer significantly reduced the sales leads it directed to her, redirecting such leads to newlyhired employees who still owed payment of the training “fee.”)
Anyone aside me have a problem with this? The complaint contains more disturbing allegations:
23. Even after Yochum had been employed for several years by Bath
Fitter/Partners, and consistently achieved high sales production, Defendants Witkowski, Sam Lucci and Marybeth Lucci all insisted that Yochum continue to endure “Break Out” sessions, that is, one-on-one religious indoctrination and brain-washing. When Yochum asked the reasons for the continuing training sessions, given her high sales figures and closing percentages, she was told that the requirement had nothing to do with her sales figures, but was necessary because she “did not have the right idea about God” and her “lack of trust in Him” would affect her “ability to sell” (notwithstanding her actualsuccessful sales performance).
24. When Yochum continued to object to the forced religious indoctrination,
Defendants told her that she would either need to resume the “Break Out” sessions or leave the company.
25. After Yochum’s employment was terminated, Defendant Sam Lucci stated
to other employees that he and Defendants Witkowski and Maribeth Lucci “could not work with” Yochum because she “was an atheist.”
Sure looks like discrimination to me! And what is wrong with people who cannot work with someone because their views on religion don't conform? Why should an employee be subject to this sort of on the job religious harassment? Shouldn't the only issue and consideration be job performance?
I liberally cut-and pasted from the court complaint, but feel free to read it yourself. I'm looking forward to how this one plays out.
Day 3: 15 Day Atheist Challenge
Depends on the issue. In general, I try to live and let live. I don't care what other people believe, or don't believe, so long as they aren't bothering others. I get far more vocal when it comes to things like the separation between church and state, or when people are being discriminated against for their beliefs. Some Christians, I've found, have some strange ideas about what constitutes discrimination. For an example, demanding that public schools refrain from endorsing religion through prayer times is not discrimination or persecution of Christians. Preventing students from engaging in prayer on their own time is, however.
Taxes Are For Little People
General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.
The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.
Its American tax bill? None.
Full disclosure: I own GE stock. Guess who has to pay taxes on dividends earned?
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Looks Like Another Long Season
Pirates right-handed pitcher Kevin Correia will be the starter on Opening Day, April 1 when the club plays the Chicago Cubs, a National League Central rival at Chicago's Wrigley Field.
Left-hander Paul Maholm will start the Pirates' home opener on April 7 at PNC Park against the Colorado Rockies...
This spring, Correia and Maholm have each started five games. Correia has a 1-2 record and 6.38 ERA and has given up 27 hits in 18 1/3 innings; Maholm has pitched 20 innings, giving up 26 hits with an 0-3 record and 4.50 ERA.
Good gravy, even for spring those are horrible numbers! The position players seem to be firming up, but you cannot win without competent pitching! We saw this same scenario a few years ago where the Bucs had arguably the best outfield, defensively and offensively in the majors (Bay, McLouth, Nady) solid up the middle (Wilson, Sanchez), meh at the corners (LaRoche, Bautista), OK behind the dish (Paulino). This was the lineup that SHOULD have made the Pirates competitive, but the pitching staff fell apart that year. You simply cannot compete in the Bigs without competent pitching. Looks like we'r in for a replay of 2007.
Oh. My. Gawd.
A deputy prosector in Johnson County, Indiana, has resigned his job after it was revealed that in February, during the large protests in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union bill, he e-mailed Walker's office and recommended that they conduct a "false flag operation" -- to fake an assault or assassination attempt on Walker in order to discredit the unions and protesters.
This is a full fledged assault on working people. This is what "class warfare" looks like.
Now Where Did I Put That Key??
"The problem was apparently somebody didn't tell the staff that the president was coming back to work. The doors were locked.
Look under the doormat Mr. President!
Day 2: 15 Day Atheist Challenge
"Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam," Fischer wrote today.
"The First Amendment was written by the Founders to protect the free exercise of Christianity. They were making no effort to give special protections to Islam.
I certainly don't expect everyone to know all the ins and outs of the background of the First Amendment, but this guy is the group's Director of Issues Analysis, you'd expect he's know something about it. Even if he doesn't (and from his statements is clear that he doesn't) is he incapable of doing the Google?
Campaigning for religious freedom in Virginia, Jefferson followed Locke, his idol, in demanding recognition of the religious rights of the "Mahamdan," the Jew and the "pagan." Supporting Jefferson was his old ally, Richard Henry Lee, who had made a motion in Congress on June 7, 1776, that the American colonies declare independence. "True freedom," Lee asserted, "embraces the Mahomitan and the Gentoo (Hindu) as well as the Christian religion."
In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted with satisfaction that in the struggle to pass his landmark Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786), the Virginia legislature "rejected by a great majority" an effort to limit the bill's scope "in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan."
For those of you not familiar with Virginia's Statute of Religious Freedoms, the 1st Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion is based upon it.
Here's what some of Jefferson's contemporaries had to say (from the same article):
"Let Jews, Mehometans and Christians of every denomination enjoy religious liberty…thrust them not out now by establishing the Christian religion lest thereby we become our own enemys and weaken this infant state. It is mens labour in our Manufactories, their services by sea and land that aggrandize our Country and not their creeds. Chain your citizens to the state by their Interest. Let Jews, Mehometans, and Christians of every denomination find their advantage in living under your laws."
These so-called conservatives who claim that the Founders intended this to be a Christian nation, and that the 1st Amendment's guarantees do not apply to Islam are profoundly ignorant of history at best, and at worst, religious bigots.
As an aside, the AFA is one of the sponsers of the Values Voters Summit. Click the link to see which politicians have no shame with appearing at this forum.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Nice job kids!
Day 1: 15 Day Atheist Challenge
What religion did you grow up with? Did you have positive or negative experiences with religion?
OK, that's technically TWO questions, but why quibble?
I was raised as a Roman Catholic. I was never really "in" to it, I went through the various ceremonies and "life markers" such as confession, first communion and confirmation not because I really wanted to, but because I was expected to, and as a child, you do what you're told. I certainly didn't have any say in baptism!
Other than boredom, I can't say I had any overt negative experiences with Catholicisim. No priest molested me, and no nun rapped my hand with a ruler. So much for the stereotypes. At the time I regularly went to church (the 60's and 70's), the priests were actively pushing the social justice angle, at least at the various parishes we attended. I cannot recall the heavy anti-abortion focus that the church these days seems to emphasize, and even as a young teen, I had issues with the anti-female, patrician style of the Church.
Most of my negative experiences related to religion came from non-Catholic Christians, who would tell me, without a hint of awareness of how rude their comment was, that Catholics weren't "real" Christians, what ever the hell that was supposed to mean! I also had quite few Jewish friends growing up, and I recall some of the snide comments directed at them over the years, the "Christ-killer" insinuation being the most common. It seemed to me at the time, that the more overtly religious the person was, the more likely was the chance of some religiously inspired, bigoted comment being issued, with a total lack of self-awareness on the part of the speaker. That said, I also knew (and know) many deeply religious Christians who embodied everything their religion teaches them.
The parish I attended for most of the time was fairly progressive, and I recall one Sunday school class where the nuns brough in a Protestant minister (can't recall the denomination) and a conservative Rabbi to speak, sort of an interfaith comparitive religion class. I was around 11 or 12 years old at the time, and one of the kids asked the Rabbi why "Jews were all so rich?" My jaw hit the floor. The nun was agast, and the minister's eyes bulged a bit. The Rabbi, however, took it in stride, and spoke for a good 10 minutes about how most Jews value education, and a good education is the key for financial success. Well played!
Kids can be very cruel.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
“I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives,” the Republican governor said the statement. “I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices.”
For one thing, what makes the governor think that these women haven't already considered other alternatives? And I guess we all can infer what he means by "good choices," its the choice the governor wants you to make, not the choice that might be best for your health. Given that, do you really have a choice anymore?
All this law does is throw another obstacle in the path of someone seeking a legal medical procedure. There is only one clinic in the state that provides abortion services, so women in South Dakota are now subject to additional expenses (time missed from work, lodging, meals) in order to terminate a pregnancy.
This is actual interference by the government in a person's health care, something that the right wing was up in arms about when it came to health care reform. Apparently, its OK for the state to intervene in some medical decisions.
This law, which will probably cost the state a bundle in legal fees as a lawsuit is inevitable, was passed at the same time South Dakota is slashing funding for education, more evidence that the right cares more about fetuses than it does for children.
Remember, its TYRANNY if the government wants you to wait 24 hours before buying a firearm, but it is prudent consideration to make someone wait 72 hours for medical care.
Hell Freezes Over
The freshman Republican said it was not clear to him what U.S. interest was being served by the attacks and said that while he was not a defender of the Libyan strongman, he was "not the only despicable character" on the international scene.
I suspect Toomey's questioning of policy has more to do with the President being a Democrat than any principled opposition to the use of force to enact regime change, for the simple reason that I can't recall Pat getting worked up over the Iraq invasion.
15 Day Atheist Challenge
Fallen Heroes Memorial
Happy. Birthday. Bill!
An All Too Common Occurence 'Round These Parts
Monday, March 21, 2011
The charges also allege the Vernons plotted to kill an IRS agent, also likely related to the court case over $165,000 in taxes, interest and penalties that the government says they owe.
The second indictment alleges that Schaeffer Cox, the leader of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, Lonnie Vernon and Coleman Barney conspired to possess illegal weapons. Cox is also accused of illegally possessing a Sten sub-machine gun and a silencer.
Of course, these people cannot by any stretch be considered terrorists, because they aren't mooslims, right Mr. King?
U.S. fires 110 tomahawk missiles, each costs $569,000. That’s more than 5 years of NPR federal funding in less than an hour.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Just Another Isolated Incident
A Useful Chart
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Your Saturday Morning Cartoon!
Friday, March 18, 2011
Friday Night Python!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Is This Really A Good Idea?
Labels: rumours of war
A survey by Franklin and Marshall College showed 78 percent of respondents oppose reducing state funding for local school districts, and 67 percent rejected the governor's proposal to cut support to public universities in half.
Another 70 percent said they do not support proposed cuts to state funding for "Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income residents.
Everyone Must Sacrifice
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee wants to cut the top U.S. tax rate to 25% for individuals and corporations, and cut or eliminate many popular deductions.
Remember, teachers and other public employees making 30k to 60k a year are lazy, greedy unionized socialists living on the gravy train and sucking the public teat, while the poor, oppressed and overly burdened "job creators" who are paying historically low taxes, require even more assistance from the government.
Labels: class warfare
Newt Gingrich Is Moral...
Gingrich was cheating on his wife, but it's OK — because he also tells us that it was wrong and inexcusable, and then he wraps it all up in God and country to make excuses for it. Hypocrisy is acceptable as long as the right words are said to reinforce the public face of propriety.
Now look at those dirty rotten hippies, like me. We say the ties between a couple should be made with respect and affection, not the strictures of law and precedent; letting gays marry, for instance, strengthens the public approval of our kinds of bond, while weakening the authoritarian bonds. Our ideal is a community of equals, while theirs is a hierarchy of power, a relic of Old Testament values in which marrying a woman was like buying a camel, a certification of ownership, and nothing must compromise the Big Man's possession of properties.
Labels: culture wars
Gaelic Storm -- Kiss Me I'm Irish
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Wolfe Tones - Wearing OF The Green
We'll Fight for Uncle Sam
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I Have Nothing...
see more Funny Graphs
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Just Another Isolated Incident
Glad to know these are all unrelated to each other.
Some additional background here, if you think these people are harmless, all-talk-no-action cranks, you are seriously mistaken. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it gets worse.
A Second Front
And the upper classes' strategy of total war on the middle and lower classes continues.
There's much, much more here at Crooks&Liars, including numerous graphics and charts illustrating that the so-called "right to work" states trail the nation in income levels, educational opportunity, and overall health.
Goo Goo G' Joob!
Monday, March 14, 2011
Keep It In Perspective
Over the past few decades, however, a series of studies has called these stereotypes into question. Among the surprising conclusions: the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy...
...estimated radiation doses ingested by people living near the coal plants were equal to or higher than doses for people living around the nuclear facilities. At one extreme, the scientists estimated fly ash radiation in individuals' bones at around 18 millirems (thousandths of a rem, a unit for measuring doses of ionizing radiation) a year. Doses for the two nuclear plants, by contrast, ranged from between three and six millirems for the same period. And when all food was grown in the area, radiation doses were 50 to 200 percent higher around the coal plants.
Keep in mind the chance of harmful radioactive contamination from either source, fly ash or nuclear fuel, is remarkably low. From further in:
The chances of experiencing adverse health effects from radiation are slim for both nuclear and coal-fired power plants—they're just somewhat higher for the coal ones. "You're talking about one chance in a billion for nuclear power plants," Christensen says. "And it's one in 10 million to one in a hundred million for coal plants."
And then there's this:
Energy Source Death Rate (deaths per TWh)
Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China 278
Coal – USA 15
Oil 36 (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)
Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro - world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)
Bottom line, what we are really learning from Japan is that building nuclear power plants in active seismic zones probably isn't a very good idea, unless they're build really, really, really well. I'll add that I'm less worried about the effects of radiation contained in fly ash, than I am with the widespread and well-known adverse health effects from stack emissions and the more likely case of ash impoundment failure versus the more remote chance of radiation "leakage" from deep waste storage of spent nuclear fuel. Never mind the enviromental impact of acid mine runoff, mountaintop removal, and the inherent danger to miners in extracting coal.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
They Are Who We Thought They Were
In light of this huge wave of cuts, Sharon Omand, a community health care center manager and resident of Stafford, New Hampshire, called her state senator Martin Harty (R) recently to request more funding for community mental health programs and for the homeless. Omand was shocked by Harty’s response. The state senator told her “the world is too populated” and that there are too many “defective people.” When Omand asked what should be done with these “defective people” that are mentally ill, Harty suggested sending them to Siberia, something that he said Hitler was “right” to do.
What did the Republican Speaker in that state do? Did he condemn Harty's remarks? Nope, he defended the bigot.
Republican State House Speaker William O’Brien said that “at Harty’s age [90 years old], he has earned the right to say what he thinks, but ‘he needs to appreciate that as a representative, he will be held to a higher standard.’
It would appear that old age is carte blanc to be outrageous in New Hampshire.
Your Saturday Morning Cartoon!
Seems appropriate, as Pittsburgh's St. Patrick's Day parade is today.
Friday, March 11, 2011
ABC News Asks A Stupid Question
The answer is "no." That a major broadcast news organization would devote airtime and two pages on the intertubes to such a ridiculous idea shows how absurd the "news" has become.
Myth v. Facts
UPDATE: Hundreds dead in Japan, many, many more are missing. The quake lasted five minutes, which is an incredible amount of shaking. Scores of powerful aftershocks. The images and video from Japan are stupifying.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
I'm stunned. And honored.
I'm not a particularly good writer, this blog mainly exists to give me a platform to rant and blow off steam, because:
A: I can't rant at work for a number of reasons.
B: My wife is sick of hearing about it.
Nice to know that someone other than Lsqrd and Lefty noticed!
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
George Carlin ~ The American Dream
In light of tonight's travesty in Wisconsin, and Governor Corbett's public education killing budget, the words of the late, great, George Carlin seem appropriate.
It Was Never ABout The Money
Alleged White Supremacist Arrested in MLK Day Plot
A man the Southern Poverty Law Center reports has ties to the neo-Nazi group National Alliance was arrested in an FBI raid on his home in Addy, Wash., Wednesday morning in connection with the attempted bombing of the Unity Parade on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
Kevin William Harpham, 36, of Addy, was taken into custody Wednesday morning at his Addy home. He was scheduled to make a first appearance in federal court in Spokane at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday...
The FBI has not commented on the raid, but the criminal complaint against Harpham, filed Tuesday in U.S. DIstrict Court in Eastern Washington, alleged that on or about Jan. 17, Harpham "did knowingly attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction" in that he placed an improvised explosive device along the Unity March parade route on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
Just another one of those isolated incidents. Wonder if Representative Pete King will hold hearings on the terrorism dangers posed by bitter white guys?
Contracts for Wall Street bankers are sacrosanct while contracts for union workers are socialism. Annual salaries in the billions for hedge fund managers are an honest day's wages while $50,000 for teachers are awful. Tax cuts for those billionaires are off the table while pay cuts for workers are required.
But don't you DARE call them racist!
(via Jesus' General)
Like many states, Georgia is facing a budget shortfall. To address the problem, the legislature is considering a bill that would expand the tax base by doing things like reinstating a sales tax on food and raising the tax on gasoline...
But while Girl Scouts and anyone who buys groceries and gasoline is forced to sacrifice, domestic and foreign corporations in Geogia are being lavished with a tax break. The same bill that raises taxes on Girl Scouts Cookies lowers tax rates on corporate income, from 6 percent this year to just 4 percent in 2014.
That is how you transfer wealth from the lower and middle classes to the upper crust, via highly regressive taxation.
(via gyma at Spork)
Eating The Seed Corn
The governor's proposed budget also would affect school districts across the state. Pittsburgh Public Schools estimated its loss at $34.1 million. Mr. Corbett also called for a public school employee wage freeze and sought greater freedom to furlough teachers.
A news advisory from Penn State University called the cuts "catastrophic."
The 50 percent loss in state funding applies to the 14 state-owned universities -- including California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock -- as well as four state-related schools: the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities.
If enacted, they likely would amount to the largest single-year cut ever in American public higher education, according to the Washington D.C.-based American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
"There have been some very large proposed cuts from governors this year, but this is so far off the charts it doesn't even seem plausible," said Daniel Hurley, the association's director of state relations and policy analysis...
At Pitt, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg called the proposed cuts "stunningly deep." He said the subsidy that the governor wants to chop in half has enabled his school to keep base undergraduate tuition nearly $10,000 lower for Pennsylvanians.
"It would be virtually impossible for us to maintain the size of differential that exists today," he said. "There would have to be a very significant increase in the in-state tuition
Mr. Nordenberg said Pitt also stands to lose $9 million in biomedical research support from the tobacco settlement fund on top of more than $7.5 million in federal stimulus funding that expires this year.
Noting that Pitt attracts $800 million annually in research that supports 28,000 jobs directly or indirectly, he said the proposed budget was a "puzzling retreat" from the governor's own agenda of job creation.
"If government is here to share the taxpayer's wealth then everyone needs to share in the sacrifice," said the new governor, whose relaxed posture and shock of white hair threw off an aura of imperial calm, even as he metaphorically jabbed a budget dagger so sharp that would have made Caligula proud. "Educators, Pennsylvanians await your decision."
But there's another group that's tapping into big-time wealth - a buried treasure right here in Pennsylvania -- that isn't facing those kinds of tough decision that causes a pay-frozen schoolteacher's family to cut back on groceries or cancel a weekend down the shore.
That would be the economically booming, mostly out-of-state natural gas companies and their multi-millionaire CEOs, who continue to rapidly expand their aggressive form of drilling known as hydrofracking, or simply "fracking," across large swaths of upstate Pennsylvania. The companies take in hundreds of millions of dollars without paying any dedicated Pennsylvania tax -- even as such levies are imposed in the other 14 of the top 15 gas-producing states, even in red-state bastions of free-market libertarianism like Dick Cheney's native Wyoming and George W. Bush's Texas.
In a remarkable coincidence, 2010 gubernatorial candidate Corbett received a whopping $835,720 from oil-and-natural gas interests, including his largest single contributor - Marcellus Shale driller Terry Pegula and his wife Kim, who gave $305,000 to the Republican's campaign at the same time Pegula was selling his exploration firm to Royal Dutch Shell and pocketing a $3 billion check. Indeed, Corbett's career in elective Pennsylvania politics was launched in 2004 when an Oklahoma gas driller - Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy - funneled most of the dollars for an eye-popping $480,000 donation that went to Corbett's attorney general campaign from an obscure GOP fund.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Corbett Guts Education
Because we just can't have an extraction tax on natural gas. Everyone must suffer, except the well off.
Pennsylvania's flat income tax: 3.07%
West Virginia: Ranges from 3% to 6.5%
Ohio: Ranges from .587% to 5.295%
New York: Ranges from 4% to 6.85%
Maryland: Ranges between 2% and 6.25%
New Jersey: Ranges from 1.4% to 8.97%
Delaware: Ranges between 2.2% and 5.95%
(tax data obtained here)
Note that every state surrounding Pennsylvania has a progressive income tax system (although NY, while it has a progressive tax structure, effectively has a flat tax). Only PA has a flat tax. If you look at the brackets for the median income range, you'll find that Delaware taxes income at 5.55%, NJ at 5.525%, NY at 6.85% (NY taxes all income above 20k at this rate, which is why it is effectively a flat tax), Ohio 4.695%, and WV at 6%, all substantially higher than PA's flat 3.07%. Compared to our neighbors, Pennsylvanians do not pay a heavy income tax burden to Harrisburg.
Just look at some of the stuff that will get no funding at all.
Some programs would get no funding at all, if Mr. Corbett has his way. Those include the Science is Elementary Program introduced by former Gov. Ed Rendell, teachers' professional development for the arts, flood control projects, regional cancer institutes, poison control centers and programs for people with diabetes, lupus and epilepsy.
The cuts to higher eductation have the potential to put a college education out of reach for middle class families:
Penn State President Graham Spanier scheduled a news conference tomorrow to discuss what the university described as "the Commonwealth's apparent push toward privatization of public higher education, which will force a significant tax on all tuition-paying families of in-state students" attending Pennsylvania's public universities.
"A funding gap this large is going to fundamentally change the way we operate, from the number of students we can educate, to the tuition we must charge, to the programs we offer and the services we can provide, to the number of employees and the research we undertake," Mr. Spanier said.
Our Galtian overlords have no use for or need of public colleges and universities, so no great loss there, eh?
Monday, March 07, 2011
...a similar analysis could be used to authenticate or debunk several handwritten directives that Orie said she gave Pavlot to prohibit campaign work on state time. In general, Orie testified to writing the directives on dated faxes, letters or printouts of e-mails.
Lyter said U.S. ink companies stopped tagging in 2005, although experts can sometimes determine when an ink was made because manufacturers track the dates when they change ink formulas. But before 2005, about half the ink in pens used by most Americans was made by a handful of companies that still used chemical tags. That means if investigators chose to examine documents Orie testified she wrote before then, there's about a 50 percent chance the ink would contain a chemical tag, Lyter said.
If tests show, for example, that ink Orie used to write an order to Pavlot on a 2002 e-mail wasn't manufactured until a later year, Burkoff said, the senator would have essentially implicated herself by her prior testimony.
"If that happens, it's game over," Burkoff said.
Of course, there's a equal chance that the ink isn't tagged.
A close look at state and local pension plans across the nation, and a comparison of them to those in the private sector, reveals a more complicated story. However, the short answer is that there's simply no evidence that state pensions are the current burden to public finances that their critics claim.
Pension contributions from state and local employers aren't blowing up budgets. They amount to just 2.9 percent of state spending, on average, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College puts the figure a bit higher at 3.8 percent.
Though there's no direct comparison, state and local pension contributions approximate the burden shouldered by private companies. The nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that retirement funding for private employers amounts to about 3.5 percent of employee compensation.
Nor are state and local government pension funds broke. They're underfunded, in large measure because — like the investments held in 401(k) plans by American private-sector employees — they sunk along with the entire stock market during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. And like 401(k) plans, the investments made by public-sector pension plans are increasingly on firmer footing as the rising tide on Wall Street lifts all boats.
As the saying goes, read the whole thing.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Phil Collins Retires, Apologizes.
Citing health problems, the famed Genesis drummer and vocalist is calling it quits from the music biz. He tells FHM that years of hunching behind his drum kit has left him with an array of medical problems, from hearing loss to a dislocated vertebra, and nerve damage in his stick-clutching hands make playing painful.
"I'm sorry that it was all so successful. I honestly didn't mean it to happen like that.
I don't think he needs to apologize for his success. He only needs to apologize for "Sussudio." And "Duke."
Saturday, March 05, 2011
Your Saturday Morning Cartoon!
Friday, March 04, 2011
Quotation Of The Day
"These are the values inspiring those brave workers... They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost."
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?
Friday Night Python!
After being shot down earlier this week, the Arizona State Senate revived and successfully passed a bill that would create a mechanism for the state to nullify federal laws.
I thought these people were the "strict Constitutionalists?" Gotta wonder what part of Article VI these clowns do not understand.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
They are certainly free to challenge the Constitutionality of any Federal law, but nullification is illegal, and any elected official that engages in it is in violation of the oath of office.
Secretary of State Charlie White, the top election official in Indianapolis, is facing seven felony counts, including voter fraud, perjury and theft, all connected to what a prosecutor said was an attempt to hold on to his seat on the town council even though he was living outside of his designated district.
White was indicted by a grand jury in Hamilton County on three counts of voter fraud for allegedly lying about his address when he voted in last year's Republican primary, the Courier-Journal reports. In addition he's facing charges of perjury, fraud on a financial institution (for lying about his address) and theft for keeping the salary he received as a member of his town council after he moved out of his designated district.
Nary an ACORN to be found.
Its The Coverup That Gets You
Judge Manning repeatedly excoriated the defense after prosecutors presented evidence that the signature of Jamie Pavlot, Ms. Orie's former chief of staff and a key prosecution witness, had been forged on two documents...
Unlike most of the evidence, which was exchanged by the two sides in pretrial discovery, that collection of papers was not presented until late in the trial and the papers were not available to the prosecution until a few days ago. They represented a significant part of the senator's defense. Mr. Costopoulos had shown them one by one in his cross-examination of Ms. Pavlot. Then, as well as in his final arguments, he mocked the fact that the former chief of staff said she didn't recognize them.
Orie, 49, and her sister, Janine Orie, 56, will likely face a retrial on accusations that they ordered the senator's staff to do campaign work, after prosecutors investigate the signatures, Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus told the judge.
"I think you ought to look in your own house for the culprit," Manning told defense attorney William Costopoulos...
Thursday, March 03, 2011
We're Broke! But Why?
A country with a deficit is not necessarily any more “broke” than a family with a mortgage or a college loan. And states have to balance their budgets. Though it may disappoint many conservatives, there will be no federal or state bankruptcies.
The federal deficit is too large for comfort, and most states are struggling to balance their books. Some of that is because of excessive spending, and much is because the recession has driven down tax revenues. But a substantial part was caused by deliberate decisions by state and federal lawmakers to drain government of resources by handing out huge tax cuts, mostly to the rich. As governments begin to stagger from the self-induced hemorrhaging, Republican politicians like Mr. Boehner and Mr. Walker cry poverty and use it as an excuse to break unions and kill programs they never liked in flush years....
Before the union uprising, Wisconsin voters might not have noticed when Mr. Walker approved business tax cuts earlier this year that made his budget gap worse. But now, with his cries of being “broke,” they should listen more closely. On Tuesday, he unveiled a budget that would cut aid to school districts and local governments by nearly $1 billion over two years, while preventing those jurisdictions from raising property taxes at all to make up for the loss.
Its all part of the plan. These people are fundamentally opposed to government working to help anybody except the very wealthiest, who can afford to live in gated communities, hire private security, and send their children to private schools. What use are public services to our Galtian overlords?
Hate Comes to Orange County
This is one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen.
An Interesting Development
Jury deliberations in state Sen. Jane Orie's corruption case were halted this morning when the judge presiding in the case said he suspects that two defense documents were altered.
I haven't had anything to say about the defense portion of this case, but in a nutshell, Orie is blaming her chief of staff, Jamie Pavlot.
UPDATE: Mistrial declared. And it looks like more bad news for the Orie sisters.
The order this afternoon by Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning followed his earlier order to suspend deliberations after the prosecution accused the defense of having submitted altered documents among its exhibits.
Prosecutor Lawrence Claus displayed three documents that he said showed evidence that the signature of Jamie Pavlot was cut and pasted from one document to another. Ms. Pavlot was Ms. Orie's top aide in the North Hills office and a major witness for the prosecution.
Defense attorney William Costopoulos said "these were not doctored."
A clearly irate Judge Jeffrey Manning rejected the protest.
"Ray Charles could see that signature was doctored," he said, pointing to an image of one document projected on the wall. The three documents are 101A, 101B and 110. They are part of a package of 50 documents introduced into evidence.
Judge Manning ordered deliberations halted and the documents retrieved from the jury room. He ordered that a forensic document analyst be brought in to examine the papers.
You can view the documents here.
I would not be at all surprised to see additional charges brought.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Sen. Mary Lazich, R-Waukesha, and Rep. Mark Honadel, R-Milwaukee, authored a bill that would prohibit tricking the call’s recipient into believing the caller is someone they are not for malicious purposes.
“While use of spoofing is said to have some legitimate uses, it can also be used to frighten, harass and potentially defraud,” Lazich and Honadel said in an e-mail to legislators.
The bill language forbids a caller from intentionally providing a false phone number and convincing the person receiving the call that it comes from someone other than the actual caller.
You think this has anything to do with Governor Walker sounding like an ass when he thought he was sucking Koch?
Next up, legislators to consider criminalizing the whoopie cushion.
Things I Did Not Know
Wisconsin has palm trees.
Thank you Fox News!
Happy Birthday Lou!
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
They Never Seem To Get It Right
...members of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Floyd County High School say administrators tore down taped copies of the Ten Commandments from more than 50 lockers on Wednesday.
"We really wanted to set it up as an example," said FCA member Andrew Harris.
Harris plays golf for Floyd County High School and is one of the students who posted the Commandments to his locker.
"Birthday wishes, things like that seem to go up without an approval stamp," said Harris.
School officials would not confirm to WSLS what happened, but did reveal their policy on posting to lockers. Principal Barry Hollandsworth said while approval is needed for flyers and announcements, he said notes such as happy birthday and well wishes for sports games do not need approval.
David Corry, the senior litigation counselor for the Liberty Counsel, thinks that if students can post things like birthday wishes and any other sort of well wishes, that all religious speech should be allowed.
Guess who else agrees? The ACLU!
The ACLU of Virginia has come to the defense of a group of Christian athletes in Floyd County.
In an e-mail sent Friday afternoon, the civil liberties group said it had e-mailed the principal of Floyd Co. High School (FHS), and urged him to allow students to post their personal views, including copies of the Ten Commandments, on the lockers.
Its really quite simple, and I don't understand why so many school administrators do not get it. The School, as an arm of the government, cannot compel, coerce, or encourage one religion or another over any other belief system, or lack of religious belief. They also cannot prevent the students from exercising their religious rights, so long as those expressions of religious belief aren't disruptive. If the school allows personal messages on a student's locker, then the student is free to put up a religious affirmation on the locker as well. Its the same with the facilities. If the school starts the day with a prayer, or a moment of silence, its a violation. If a group of students wishes to gather before school, or during free time, or after school to engage in prayer, or bible study, or whatever, they're allowed to.
You'd think that people with college degrees could grasp this rather simple legal concept.