Gov. Cheesehead is as Smooth as a Double-Cream Muenster

If you’re a liberal who screamed bloody murder about ACORN or a conservative who thought using faux pimps as extras in second-rate video was A-OK – and you now feel obliged to jump to the other side of the fence or yank funding from someone – go Googlize yourself now, because this post isn’t for you.

Dude! You’ve been punked!

Wisconsin Governor Scott “Cheesehead™” Walker has run afoul of a liberal newspaper editor running a reverse ACORNization on him. The Big Cheese™ believed he was speaking with conservative gajillionaire/amateur tea brewer David Koch. And judging from the conversation, he poured out his heart to Koch as though channeling Ayn Rand.

Much of what transpired isn’t particularly surprising nor unusual in the political arena – purely standard playbook stuff really. Possibly planting trouble stirrer uppers in the crowd? Meh. Saying the current hoopla is all about Wisconsin’s budget? If so, he’s also hoping the anti-union movement will spread across the country. or, in Chester Cheetos’ words, “Yep, this is our moment.” Imagine that! Two birds with one brick of cheddar!

And his idea of bipartisanship? Well, lure recalcitrant Democrats back to the Capitol and then pass the bill while they’re still in talks. And if you’re a Dem patting yourself on the back about how smooth the Cheese Dems are, remember this: The old “living at a secret undisclosed location” ploy was pioneered by Texas state Repubs and endorsed by Ex-Hammer and soon to be present Prisoner No. BR-549, Tom “Dancin’ as Fast as He Can With Bum Ankles” Delay.

Card Carrying Member of the Cult of St. Ronnie of Reagan

But other things? Other things were, um… Well Gov, perhaps you should have your people call their people at the Mendota Mental Health Institute. Oops, Mendota is a union shop they might be on strike or something. You should call ahead..providing the union switchboard operator at the capitol isn’t out on strike.

It seems Gov. Cheeseburglar is also a huge devotee of the Cult of St. Ronnie of Reagan. According to Scottie, Ronnie’s firing of the air traffic controllers was, “the first crack in the Berlin Wall and led to the fall of the Soviets.”

Um Gov? Ronnie was responsible for lots of things (though contrary to popular belief, not single-handedly bringing down the Evil Empire), but legally firing union workers who had no collective bargain nor strike rights? That he did, according to the letter of the law. He didn’t gut an already legal union. He fired workers conducting an illegal strike by simply following the existing law.

Richer Than a Double-Cream Muenster
Oh, and word to the deunionization hotheads…by firing almost all controllers at the same time we still suffer cyclical  problems with ATC staffing as nearly the entire workforce turns over every 20 years or so. And BTW, almost none of the non-monetary issues – which for many controllers were as important as the money – have been looked at since. The air traffic system is still circa 1981 which was already circa 1941.

It also seems Gov Extra Sharp has a nascent anger management problem. He promised to never give in, preferring the liberal application of “a slugger with my name on it” to get his own way.

Is he misleading the public lying? It would be charitable to answer yes, but so do most politicians. Is he crazy? Perhaps not in the clinical sense, but certainly in that curious way true ideologues are. Do I really think he’d tee up a Dem’s head for an out of the park HR? No, but I bet it gives him morning wood. Hey! Maybe THAT’s the “slugger” he’s talking about!

The false-flagged Koch asked,  “I’ll tell you what, Scott, once you crush these bastards, I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.”

“All right, that would be outstanding,” Walker said. It’s “all about getting our freedoms back.”

Now that’s richer than a double-cream Muenster.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

Weekly Audit: A Recall Fight Brewing in Wisconsin?

 

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Tens of thousands of people continue their peaceful occupation of the Wisconsin state capital to protest a bill that would abolish most collective bargaining rights for public employees. As the protests entered their eighth day, GRITtv with Laura Flanders was broadcasting from Madison, Wisconsin in collaboration with The Uptake.

Flanders interviewed Nation journalist and seventh-generation Wisconsinite John Nichols. Nichols and fellow guest Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive noted that the bill isn’t just an attack on collective bargaining rights. The bill would force public sector unions to hold recertification votes every year, which would put their very existence on the line annually. “The unions realize that this is a threat to their very existence,” Rothschild explained.

A game of chicken

The Wisconsin state Assembly begins debate on the bill on Tuesday, but 14 Democratic senators remain in hiding in Illinois, depriving the Senate of the quorum it needs to vote on the bill. According to an obscure procedural rule, the state Senate can still pass bills on non-fiscal matters.

The result is that a game of chicken is about to begin, in which the Republicans will attempt to pass as many non-fiscal bills hated by Democratic senators as possible, such as legislation mandating photo ID for voters, in an attempt to provoke their colleagues into coming back home to vote on the fate of public sector unions.

The Democrats don’t control the state Senate at the best of times, so it’s not clear why they would be more eager to come home to lose on voter ID and public sector unions. As of Tuesday, the legislators in exile showed no signs of wavering, telling CBS that they were waiting to hear from the governor.

“I think if this [bill] gets pushed through, we’re going to have a recall effort and take this governor out,” Rothschild predicted.

Solidarity

An estimated 80,000 protesters gathered in Madison, Wisconsin to protest a Republican-backed budget bill that would abolish collective bargaining rights for most public employees, Democracy Now! reports.

The bill would spare the bargaining rights of unionized police officers and firefighters. However, Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters Association, tells host Amy Goodman that Wisconsin’s firefighters and police officers stand with other public sector workers. “An assault on one is an assault on all,” Mitchell said.

Union busting, not budget fixing

Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive argues Gov. Walker’s real agenda is union busting, not budget repair. Walker claims that he is forced to abolish collective bargaining rights because the state can no longer afford them. But this is a matter of priorities, not a true fiscal emergency. Walker is asking working people to pick up the tab for his economic agenda. During his brief tenure in office, Walker refused $800 million in federal funds for high speed rail, which would have created jobs and stimulated the economy. He has also pushed through $117 million in tax breaks.

The captain of the Superbowl-winning Green Bay Packers, the NFL’s only non-profit team, has come out in solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin, Dave Zirin reports in The Nation. Captain Charles Woodson said in a statement:

Last week I was proud when many of my current and former teammates announced their support for the working families fighting for their rights in Wisconsin. Today I am honored to join with them. Thousands of dedicated Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. These hard working people are under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work.

“Budget crisis” theater

Forrest Wilder in the Texas Observer notes that the Lone Star State is facing a $27 million shortfall of its own. He argues that Republicans are construing this relative small shortfall as a “budget crisis” in order to imbue their crusade against public services with a false sense of urgency. The budget gap could be bridged with a small and relatively painless tax increase, Wilder notes, but Republicans only want to talk about cuts.

Raise our taxes

Fifteen thousand Illinoisans massed in the state capital with an unusual demand for their state legislators: Raise our taxes! The Save Our State rally was one of the largest citizen assemblies in the history of the state legislature, David Moberg reports for In These Times. The event was organized by the Responsible Budget Coalition (RBC), an alliance of more than 300 organizations including social service agencies, public employee unions, and religious and civic groups. The RBC is calling on legislators to fix flaws in the Illinois tax structure that threaten essential services and the long-term financial health of the state.

No help for 99ers

Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-CA) bid to attach a 14-week unemployment insurance extension for Americans whose benefits have run out (known as 99ers because they have already been unemployed for at least 99 weeks) to the continuing resolution to fund the government proved unsuccessful last week. Ed Brayton of the Michigan Messenger reports that the provision foundered late last Wednesday due to a procedural objection.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

On the Ground in Ohio

cross-posted from Sum of Change

COLUMBUS, OH: I am on the ground in Ohio, here to cover the protests for the couple days that I can afford to be away from DC. Today, despite a persistent rain, demonstrators lined the sidewalk outside of the Capitol Building in Columbus to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 5 which threatens state employees' bargaining rights. Today's protest was a lead up to tomorrow, when thousands are expected to descend on Columbus.

I also want to include the full interview I did with one of the teachers:

Some helpful facts about Ohio and collective bargaining (from the Examiner , not directly quoted)

• Ohio public employees make the same or less than their counterparts in the private sector (although a higher percentage of state workers have college degrees)
• In the last 9 years, state workers have taken 5 years of pay freezes (that's with collective bargaining)
• Budget gaps are higher, on average, in states that do not allow collective bargaining
• State employee payroll in Ohio equals only 9% of the state budget

We'll be here for part of the protest tomorrow too!

The Weekly Pulse: Michael Pollan’s Rules for Thanksgiving, Plus Whole Foods’ Healthcare Lies

Editor’s Note: Happy Thanksgiving from the Media Consortium! This week, we aren’t stopping The Audit, The Pulse, The Diaspora, or The Mulch, but we are taking a bit of a break. Expect shorter blog posts, and The Diaspora and The Mulch will be posted on Wednesday afternoon, instead of their usual Thursday and Friday postings. We’ll return to our normal schedule next week.

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Wednesday is the heaviest travel day of the year in the United States, as millions of Americans head home to celebrate Thanksgiving. Some of you are probably reading this dispatch on PDAs as you wait in an interminable line at airport security. Here’s some food for thought.

At Grist, food writer Michael Pollan officially declares himself a Rules Guy. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean he won’t accept a Friday dinner invitation offered after noon on Wednesday. Pollan thinks that our healthy eating skills are passed down to us as part of food culture. In this era of drive-through windows and meal replacement bars, a lot of the old wisdom is falling by the wayside and Americans are finding themselves adrift in a sea of calories. On the eve of Thanksgiving, Pollan provides some helpful guidelines for avoiding the food coma:

[M]any ethnic traditions have their own memorable expressions for what amounts to the same recommendation. Many cultures, for examples, have grappled with the problem of food abundance and come up with different ways of proposing we stop eating before we’re completely full: the Japanese say “hara hachi bu” (“Eat until you are 4/5 full”); Germans advise eaters to “tie off the sack before it’s full.” And the prophet Mohammed recommended that a full belly should contain one-third food, one-third drink, and one-third air. My own Russian-Jewish grandfather used to say at the end of every meal, “I always like to leave the table a little bit hungry.”

But wait, there’s more!

  • Unions representing airline pilots and flight attendants are advising their members to avoid the the TSA’s new backscatter x-ray scans because of concerns about the long-term health effects of x-ray radiation. Crew members who refused scans have been subjected to new “enhanced” pat-down searches. This week, the TSA granted an exception to pilots, but not to flight attendants. As I reported for Working In These Times, all crew members go through the same FBI background check and fingerprinting process. “Don’t touch my junk!” has become a rallying cry for passengers, particularly white men, who are not accustomed to being asked to give up any part of their body’s autonomy for the greater good. Is it a coincidence that 95% of pilots are men and three-quarters of flight attendants are women? [Update: The TSA has relented. The agency announced Tuesday that flight attendants will now get the same exemption as pilots.]
  • Adam Serwer argues in The American Prospect that it’s easy to demand tough security measures when the presumed targets are faceless Muslims in a distant country. When air travelers are asked to compromise their own privacy in the name of security, the tradeoff suddenly seems very different.
  • Employee health insurance deductibles are skyrocketing at Whole Foods and CEO John Mackey is trying to blame the increase on health care reform. “This is very important for everyone to understand: 100% of the increases in deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums in 2011 compared to 2010 are due to new federal mandates and regulations,” Mackey wrote in a corporate memo. In fact, as Josh Harkinson reports in Mother Jones, Mackey’s memo is pure, organic BS. The provisions in the Affordable Care Act that might increase costs won’t go into effect until 2014, so it’s hard to figure out how federal policies could be responsible. Health insurance costs were rising by about 5% per year, year after year, before the Affordable Care Act passed. The truth is that health insurance is getting more expensive because health care is getting more expensive. As Harkinson points out, one of the reasons that health care is getting more expensive is because corporations like Whole Foods are pushing more of their employees into part-time work to avoid covering them. Of course, when those workers get sick, someone has to pick up the cost of their care. So those who have insurance, including some of Whole Foods’ own employees, have to pay more to make up the difference.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Coal and West Virginia: Don Blankenship's Unholy Rule

I'm sure that by now, everyone who reads this will know about the disaster in Raleigh County, WV with the Massey Energy Coal Mine disaster.

MONTCOAL, W.Va. — A huge underground explosion blamed on methane gas killed 25 coal miners in the worst U.S. mining disaster in more than two decades.

Crews bulldozed an access road Tuesday so they could drill 1,000 feet into the earth to try to find four others missing and feared dead after the Monday afternoon blast.

Rescuers were held back by poison gases that accumulated near the blast site, about 1.5 miles from the entrance to Massey Energy Co.'s sprawling Upper Big Branch mine. The mine, about 30 miles south of Charleston, has a history of violations for not properly ventilating the highly combustible methane, safety officials said.

This was the deadliest mining accident in a quarter century.  25 brave men gave their lives so far, with numbers still unknown for the rest.  I speak for the entire mountain state when I say that we consider all the men and women working in coal mines as our family.   Our hearts go out to them, our prayers are with them, and our souls are crushed at this news.  The purpose of this diary is not only to mourn the lost, but to bring light to the dark situation of coal and Massey Energy in West Virginia and across Appalachia.  I love this state, and I love the people of this state so I hope this will be taken as insight and not out of disrespect for anyone.  

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will be happy to tell you all you need to know about Don Blankenship and Massey Energy. His constant advocacy for the state of West Virginia's well-being in recent years has been a refreshing thing, at least from my perspective. The 122 mining violations against just that particular Raleigh Co. site since January (and 52 in the month of March nearly speak for themselves).  Lawsuits against Massey have been filed in the past (specifically for the location where the disaster occurred) saying that it endangered the local folk around them.  

In February 2003 a judge ordered Massey to pay the residents of Sylvester, West Virginia $473,000 to settle complaints that coal dust from Massey's Elk Run Processing Plant had caused health problems and lowered property values in the nearby town. The judge also ordered Massey to construct a cloth dome over their facility to reduce the dust.

 

Massey Energy has also had legal disputes involved with standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Thousands, literally thousands, of violations against the Clean Water Act had Massey and Grandmaster Blankenship forking out 20 million in penalties.  The method of mining known as Mountaintop Removal could have a book written about it completely filled with environmental hazards and violations alone.  

Mine safety is a stated top priority by Massey Energy, but has yet to be seen as carried out efficiently

On October 8, 2008 Steven Cain, 32, of Comfort, West Virginia was killed at Massey Energy's Independence Coal Justice No. 1 Mine when he was crushed by a railcar. A Mine Safety and Health Administration report  concludes Cain was killed because Massey managers assigned him a dangerous job, although he had “little mining experience and minimal training.”

Top priority Blankenship?  Blankenship and Massey Energy was fined roughly $400,000 last year for improper mining ventilation.  

Unionized Labor in this country is sometimes looked upon with a scowl.  Unions are known to be one cause of unemployment in this country.  The higher wages earned are seen as a problem from outsiders to the unions.  However, unionized labor has several benefits.  Labor Unions have the ability to challenge the corporation and big companies that they work for for higher wages and better benefits.  Instead of meeting one-on-one with an employer (like in a traditional job environment) labor unions act sort of as a group to meet with the employer.  They negotiate wages for them and their union fellows to work by, and have the ability to organize labor strikes if what they are getting they deem is unfair and unjust. 

Massey Energy is almost completely non-union based.  Don Blankenship (Chairman/CEO of Massey Energy) runs it as he pleases and is a man that likes to make his money.  The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) is the large union for miners across the country and has a presence in the state.  UMWA fights for fair regulations, but also fights for safer mines.  

Nobody knows better than miners the need for good healthcare and safety regulations in coal mines.  

Blankenship is Anti-Envrionmentalism and Anti-Union.  He has done everything he can to block environmental efforts to help save the state.  

"Environmentalists are are overly emotional and rely on extremist rhetoric rather than facts and cool reason"

"America doesn’t need Green jobs – but Red, White, & Blue ones."

"The Sierra Club filed 983 lawsuits against the fed gov't over 9 years. They tie up the legal system AND private industry w/ frivolous suits."

Just look him up on twitter if you want any more of these folksy comments.

Blankenship believes in buying political gains and using his large wallet to get whatever it is he wants.  This was quoted back in Oct. 2008 from Dorothy Kosich

After he spent $3 million to unseat incumbent State Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw in 2004, Blankenship has now set his sights on spending “whatever it takes” to help win a Republican majority in the state legislature. Democrats have controlled the West Virginia Legislature since the 1930s.

In 2005, Blankenship fought the governor’s effort to finance worker’s compensation through a hike in the coal severance tax. Later that year, he also opposed another gubernatorial plan to sell $5.5 billion in bonds to cover state pension programs. Nevertheless, Blankenship has no interest in running for office and insists that he is not politically motivated.

Warren McGraw was a fearless advocate of mine-safety and one of Blankenship's enemies.  This is corruption at its finest. 

"If the White House wants to create US jobs, they can start by approving hundreds of mining permits. Coal employs more workers then wind."

Blankenship's Mountaintop Removal strategy has cost several jobs.  Employing wind power would help create more jobs, not lose them to MTR mining.

I'm not trying to denigrate and denounce the workers of Massey Coal Mines in West Virginia and across Appalachia, much to the contrary.  Coal miners are the backbone of West Virginia.  I have the utmost respect and adoration for coal miners, they perform a job I would never have the bravery to perform myself.  They sacrifice health and life every day to support their families, their state, and their country.  The brave souls who lost their lives in the mining disaster will be forever remembered and hold a special place in every West Virginians heart.

The purpose of this diary is to expose the truth about Don Blankenship and the company he runs.  In wake of this disaster I believe it is important for those new to the subject to be informed.  Don Blankenship is a scourge to the state, and he uses his wallet to do as he pleases.

Please understand the purpose of this diary and not misconstrue it as negative sentiment towards the miners and their families. This is simply to inform.  The country needs to know about the underlings who run these large corporations, and the slime that inhabits the corner office at Massey Energy.

I urge everyone to keep the coal-miners and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  

Diaries

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