Friday, December 19, 2008
The default on the Global Bonus 2012 bonds means that Ecuador is also defaulting on Global 2015 and 2030 bonds. The default totals $9.937 billion, 19 percent of the country's GDP. Ecuador has assembled a legal team to fight expected lawsuits and hopes to use the default as leverage to renegotiate the debts.
Civil society organizations have long criticized foreign debt as a means of exploiting impoverished countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The anti-debt organization Jubilee USA says "countries are paying debt service to wealthy nations and institutions at the expense of providing these basic services to their citizens." In addition, lending institutions often use indebtedness to force cuts in social spending and impose business friendly economic policies.
The Confederation of Ecuadorian Kichwas (ECUARUNARI), the powerful Andean branch of the country's indigenous peoples movement, has long called the foreign debt illegal and illegitimate. "We have not acquired any debt. The so-called public debt really belongs to the oligarchy. We the peoples have not acquired anything or been benefited, and thus we owe nothing."
Mainstream analysts immediately predicted the move would hurt Ecuador economically, cutting off access to international credit from banks and multilateral institutions like the World Bank. Enrique Alvarez, head of research for Latin America Financial Markets at IDEAglobal in New York, told the Associated Press, "They were already sort of headed into isolation. Essentially now they've drawn shut the gate." Critics also say that financial institutions will see Ecuador as risky and may be reluctant to loan to the country's private sector.
But Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues that those claims are exaggerated. He says that the government does not currently require foreign funds and that any decision to not lend to Ecuador's private sector would be purely ideological. "Ecuador doesn't need to borrow right now, especially if they're not paying the debt. They haven't been borrowing on international markets recently."
Osvaldo León of the Latin American Information Agency (ALAI) in Quito says that international banks and businesspeople are defending a corrupt and unjust system. "Of course the establishment is going to come out and protest this. This is going to affect the interests of capital. There's going to be an offensive from both inside and out." He charges that business friendly economists and financiers unfairly frame their arguments as scientific and opponents' views as ideologically driven. "Ecuador has decided on a political response to a political problem. They always want things like this to be seen as a technical issue, a problem that only economists can deal with."
Although Ecuador currently has the capacity to pay, dropping oil prices and squeezed credit markets are putting Pre sident Rafael Correa's plans to boost spending on education and health care in jeopardy. Correa has pledged to prioritize the "social debt" over debt to foreign creditors.
Ecuador is undertaking a diplomatic offensive in an effort to win political support. Correa will be attending a summit in Brazil next week with presidents from throughout Latin American and Caribbean. Ecuador has called on Latin America to forge a united response to foreign debt. Venezuela, Bolivia and Paraguay have recently created debt audit commissions. Ecuador has also asked the United Nations to help develop international norms to regulate the foreign debt market.
But relations between Brazil and Ecuador have been tense since the September expulsion of the Brazilian firm Odebrecht over accusations of shoddy work on a hydroelectric plant and contract violations. Most recently, Ecuador filed suit in the International Chamber of Commerce to stop payment on a $286 million debt to the Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), credit that was allotted for Odebrecht's hydroelectric project. Many activists in Ecuador see Brazil as a regional bully.
Last month, a special debt audit commission released a report charging that much of Ecuador's foreign debt was illegitimate or illegal. The commission found that usurious interest rates were applied for many bonds and that past Ecuadorian governments illegally took other loans on. The report also accused Salomon Smith Barney, now part of Citigroup Inc., of handling the 2000 restructuring without Ecuador's authorization, leading to the application of 10 and 12 percent interest rates. Ecuador's military dictatorship (1974-1979) was the first government to lead the country into indebtedness.
Commercial debt, or debt to private banks, made up 44% of Ecuador's interest payments in 2007, considerably more than the 27% paid to multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Daniel Denvir is an independent journalist in Quito, Ecuador and a 2008 recipient of NACLA's Samuel Chavkin Investigative Journalism Grant. He is an editor at www.caterwaulquarterly.com.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Chicago factory occupied by UE Workers
Lee Sustar reports from Chicago on an occupation by workers who want what's theirs from management and the Bank of America.
December 6, 2008
WORKERS OCCUPYING the Republic Windows & Doors factory slated for closure are vowing to remain in the Chicago plant until they win the $1.5 million in severance and vacation pay owed them by management.
In a tactic rarely used in the U.S. since the labor struggles of the 1930s, the workers, members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110, refused to leave the plant on December 5, its last scheduled day of operation.
"We decided to do it because this is money that belongs to us," said Maria Roman, who's worked at the plant for eight years. "These are our rights."
Word of the occupation spread quickly both among labor and immigrant rights activists--the overwhelming majority of the workers are Latinos. Seven local TV news stations showed up to do interviews and live reports, and a steady stream of activists arrived to bring donations of food and money and to plan solidarity actions.
Management claims that it can't continue operations because its main creditor, Bank of America (BoA), refuses to make any more loans to the company. After workers picketed BoA headquarters December 3, bank officials agreed to sit down with Republic management and UE to discuss the matter at a December 5 meeting arranged by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill), said UE organizer Leah Fried.
BoA had said that it couldn't discuss the matter with the union directly without written approval from Republic's management. But Republic representatives failed to show up at the meeting, and plant managers prepared to close the doors for good--violating the federal WARN Act that requires 60 days notice of a plant closure.
The workers decided this couldn't go unchallenged. "The company and Bank of America are throwing the ball to one another, and we're in the middle," said Vicente Rangel, a shop steward and former vice president of Local 1110.
Many workers had suspected the company was planning to go out of business--and perhaps restart operations elsewhere. Several said managers had removed both production and office equipment in recent days.
Furthermore, while inventory records indicated there were plenty of parts in the plant, workers on the production line found shortages. And the order books, while certainly down from the peak years of the housing boom, didn't square with management's claims of a total collapse. "Where did all those windows go?" one worker asked.
Workers were especially outraged that Bank of America, which recently received a bailout in taxpayer money, won't provide credit to Republic. "They get $25 billion from the government, and won't loan a few million to this company so workers can keep their jobs?" said Ricardo Caceres, who has worked at the plant for six years.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE MEMBERS of Local 1110 have a history of struggle. In 2004, they decertified the Central States Joint Board--a union notorious for corruption and sweetheart contracts with management--and brought in UE, a far more democratic organization.
In May of this year, Local 1110 mobilized for a contract by organizing a "practice" picket, and 70 workers used their lunch break to confront the boss with a petition listing their demands. The workers were able to turn back company's effort to win major concessions and won solid pay increases.Now, management is trying to get revenge by pocketing money that belongs to the workers.
UE officials and workers acknowledge that it will be difficult to stop the plant from closing. But they're determined to get the money owed to them--and they believe that by fighting, they can set an example for other workers facing layoffs and plant closures as the recession deepens.
Negotiations are set for Monday, December 8. Whatever happens, however, the workers have already sent a message to employers that if they violate workers rights and the law, they can expect a fight.
"This is a message to the workers of America," said Vicente Rangel, the shop steward. "If we stand together, we will prevail until justice is done, and we get what we're due."
Members of Local 1110 need your support. Make checks payable to the UE Local 1110 Solidarity Fund, and mail to: 37 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607. Messages of support can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call UE at 312-829-8300.
At the Jobs with Justice Web site, you can send a message of protest to Bank of America.
Friday, December 5, 2008
RootsCamps are participant driven events or forums, using the "unconference" or "open space" format that is born from the desire for activists, organizers, leaders and politicians in the progressive sphere to share and learn in a productive, fast-paced, open environment.
Think of it as a cross between an election debrief and grassroots organizing skills share. The progressive community — everyone from the "netroots" to precinct captains to field organizers to national message consultants — come together to share successes, failures, impart old wisdom and new discoveries.
RootsCamp is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants. There are NO SPECTATORS. This open format never fails to yield an astounding exchange of information, spin-off projects, and cross-pollination among unexpected partners.
Find out more about RootsCampPittsburgh at http://rootscamppittsburgh2009.pbwiki.com/
When is RootsCampPittsburgh? RootsCamp will be held at the United Steelworkers Building, 5 Gateway Center in Pittsburgh on January 24, 2009.
Who should come to RootsCamp? RootsCamp will be for anyone who played a role in the 2008 elections and/or working in progressive politics. As fellow organizers, we'll be meeting each other, reuniting with team members, discussing the innovations and challenges from this cycle, and most importantly, celebrating!
RootsCamp 2009 will bring together the best and brightest organizers that were engaged in 2008 campaigns, including staff and volunteers from:
Down ballot races
Non-partisan GOTV and voter registration operations
Blogs and other media
Media, message, polling and targeting consultants
At RootsCamp, you will:
· Share stories and knowledge with each other from all over Pennsylvania, especially the western part of the state.
· Teach others from the progressive movement what you did and how you did it. Brainstorm ways that the methods you practiced can be exported to unions, advocacy organizations and community organizations.
· Strategize about how to help progressive institutions to sustain what you've started.
To find out more about RootsCampPittsburgh or to register, go to: http://rootscamppittsburgh2009.pbwiki.com/
by Stephen Crocket
Senator Shelby (Republican-Alabama) has a very negative record when it comes to protecting the economic health of the American nation. He has routinely endorsed every major, so-called “free trade” deal that has been proposed for decades. Shelby has routinely stood in the way of government provided, universal healthcare proposal for decades. Now, Shelby (like most other Republican Senators with similar voting records) is blocking the federal bridge loans to the American auto companies designed to save the American auto industry.
The stakes are huge. A million auto worker retirees have their healthcare and pensions put at risk by Shelby’s unpatriotic and reckless actions. The ripple effect of not approving the loans could destroy one out of ten jobs in the American economy.
Political and economic pundits along with most officeholders have refused to link the economic crisis facing the auto industry to government policy. The situation facing the auto industry is more a result of bad government policy than bad management decisions. The attempt by politicians like Shelby to blame labor unions is factually wrong and, in my opinion, intentionally dishonest. Shelby and his Senate allies created this auto industry crisis by adopting economic policies that have crippled the American economy.
All industrialized nations except the United States has government provided, universal healthcare. Only in America, do we place the costs of workers’ healthcare and their families’ healthcare on the backs of employers. This puts our employers at a huge competitive disadvantage with foreign corporations.
At the same time, foreign governments have helped their auto manufacturing in terms of research and development (R&D) much more than the American government has in recent decades. Senate Republicans have routinely placed the profits of HMO’s, drug companies and insurance companies over the health of American manufacturing. Shelby has undermined both the personal health of hundreds of millions of American citizens and our industrial base for decades.
Our nation spends 17% of our total economy on healthcare. We have 47 million uninsured and many more underinsured citizens. Our industrial competitors in Europe, Asia and Canada spend on 8% of their economies on healthcare. They cover all their citizens healthcare needs.
Without government provided, universal healthcare, it is economic death for American manufacturing to open up our borders to so-called “free trade” with nations who provide such healthcare to their citizens. Shelby and his Republican Senate allies are trying to murder American manufacturing.
The auto industry bridge loans are badly needed. Failure to pass these loans would be more than just irresponsible. It would be a threat to our economic and military national security. We cannot remain a major military power without a vibrant industrial base especially in vehicle manufacturing.
We need to address the long-term government policies that created the current crisis after approving the auto industry bridge loans. We must either adopt government provided, universal healthcare by passing legislation like the Medicare For All Bill (HR 676) or ending tariff free imports in manufactured goods. We need to adopt a Re-Industrialization Policy designed to restore our economic health in the world economy. We must end the political dominance of the economic elite in our federal government by replacing politicians like Shelby with economic patriots who actually care about working Americans and national security.
Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com). Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Phone: 443-907-2367. Email: email@example.com.
Feel free to publish without prior approval.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
So now it’s official. We’re in a recession. People like us have known that for a while. We’ve watched neighbors and family members worry about losing their jobs or their homes. We’ve seen real wages decline for working families. And we’ve watched Congress bail out the banks and finance companies as a way to stimulate the economy.
But in this time of bailouts, there’s one economic stimulus solution the politicians aren’t talking about: Give workers the freedom to form a union without illegal or coercive interference from powerful employers and their special interest backers.
When workers are free to choose to join a union, our economy can work for everyone again. That’s why we need the Employee Free Choice Act—a bill in Congress that would help to level the playing field and give workers the freedom to choose a union.
- According to American Rights at Work, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would:
Help America’s working families improve their standard of living. Workers in unions earn 30 percent higher wages and are 59 percent more likely to have employer-provided health insurance.
- Fix a broken system that gives corporations far too much power. When workers try to organize unions, they are often harassed and intimidated; 25 percent of companies unlawfully fire pro-union workers.
- Restore fairness and the promise of the American Dream, with a robust middle class, economic growth, and shared prosperity.
EFCA is a simple solution that is supported by a bipartisan coalition in Congress that includes Senator Bob Casey.
Unfortunately, Senator Arlen Specter has not chosen which side he’s on. In an article he wrote for the Harvard Journal on Legislation Sen. Specter declared that he has too many questions about allowing workers to freely organize a union in their workplace to better their wages under EFCA.
Keystone Progress wants to help Sen. Specter make up his mind.
Executive DirectorKeystone Progresswww.keystoneprogress.org
Friday, November 21, 2008
Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009
These are important stories ignored by the so-called "liberal" media this year.
#1. Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation
# 2 Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA
# 3 InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business
# 4 ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?
# 5 Seizing War Protesters’ Assets
# 6 The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act
# 7 Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking
# 8 Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly
#9 Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify
# 10 APA Complicit in CIA Torture
# 11 El Salvador’s Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror
# 12 Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From No Child Left Behind
# 13 Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq
# 14 Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste
# 15 Worldwide Slavery
# 16 Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights
# 17 UN’s Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights
# 18 Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers
# 19 Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction
# 20 Marijuana Arrests Set New Record
# 21 NATO Considers “First Strike” Nuclear Option
# 22 CARE Rejects US Food Aid
# 23 FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs
# 24 Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror
# 25 Bush’s Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer
Monday, November 17, 2008
And our other video, showing the dark side from Bethlehem on October 8, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
by Walter Brasch
During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama was called mentally
unstable; his supporters were called unpatriotic. At Sarah Palin
rallies, in newspaper letters-to-the-editor, on conservative radio and
TV talk shows, supporters spewed hatreds, resorting to the Bush tactics
of fear mongering to support their own candidate.
At many rallies, the word "kill" was often shouted. The ultra right
wing, which infiltrated the McCain campaign, told us Obama is a (gasp!)
Muslim, not understanding that not only isn't Obama a Muslim, but that
the Constitution prohibits religion as a test for federal office.
Falsely linking Muslim to terrorist, these ultra-patriots said that
Obama pals around with terrorists. They said Obama is a thief, a liar,
and a scoundrel.
Not so subtly disguised beneath a lot of the hatred is the reality that
Obama is multiracial, and that means he isn't White. Some of the racism
isn't even covert. In comments to newspapers and on radio, Obama was
called "Monkey ears" and other terms that would denigrate every person
of color. At one rally, a McCain-Palin supporter waved around a stuffed
monkey with a blue-and-white headband with one word: Obama. It didn't
even take an investigative journalist to find supporters who brazenly
claimed they just couldn't vote for anyone who's "colored"; many even
used even more derogatory terms.
Ironically, although the establishment media did an admirable job of
covering speeches, they did a poor job of covering the racial hatred
present at rallies. It was up to sites like Keystone Progress, which
videotaped numerous rallies and posted them on You Tube, to help a
nation better understand not only the political division but the racial
hatreds that still exist in the country. Mike Morrill of Keystone
Progress says that he noted a significant difference not only between
the Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin rallies--"hope versus fear"--but more
racist anger in the rallies where Palin was the primary speaker.
There is still that anger and fear among a part of the conservative
movement, but, something changed with the election.
On television, you'll find there are more Blacks in TV commercials. More
Blacks are being interviewed. The news media have developed a
fascination with Blacks who were in the Civil Rights movement of the
'60s. Blacks whose parents were in the civil rights movement. Blacks who
were first time voters.
Barack Obama's campaign and election have not only revitalized America's
Black population, they have revitalized media interest in minorities.
For a couple of centuries, most newsrooms were staffed only by White
men. And then there were a few women. And then a few other minorities.
Blacks. Latinos. Asian-Americans. Native Americans. Jews. And an
occasional Buddhist or Muslim. Staffing has come a long way. Almost 14
percent of newsrooms have at least one minority, up from 4 percent 30
years ago, according to studies conducted by the American Society of
Newspaper Editors. However, one-third of America is composed of
minorities, so there is still a long way to go. Even today, four decades
after Martin Luther King's murder, and with a heavy campaign by several
journalism organizations, about 40 percent of all newspaper newsrooms
still have no minorities.
In many rural and suburban cities, just about the only time a newspaper
reader sees a minority in a picture is not for an achievement, with the
exception of the sports pages, but during an arrest.
For a long time, radio believed that a white male voice was more
authoritative than a female voice, or a voice that sounded Black. For
most of TV's first 20 years, there were no Blacks on air. And when the
Civil Rights movement in the 1960s shocked America to realize that
Blacks might be just as competent as Whites, TV reluctantly hired
Blacks--as long as they looked, acted, and spoke White.
We're now seeing more coverage of Blacks About Blacks. If it isn't a
"fad," if the media, especially TV, don't return to their never-ending
focus upon celebrities and fluff, maybe in four years there will be more
minorities in our newsrooms, and Americans will understand that most
Blacks aren't on welfare, in gangs, or in prison.
Dr. Brasch is the author of the recently-published Sinking the Ship of
State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available at amazon.com,
bn.com, and numerous independent and chain stores. He is professor of
journalism at Bloomsburg University. You may contact him through his
website, www.walterbrasch.com <http://www.walterbrasch.com/> or by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
Friday, November 14, 2008
Most of us were exhilarated last week at the election results here in Pennsylvania. It was a resounding rejection of the politics of hate and division. It was an affirmation of hope over fear.
Unfortunately, the results were bittersweet, especially in California, where Proposition 8 overturned the right of same-sex couples to marry and wrote discrimination into the state’s constitution.
Even though we are 3,000 miles away, we can show our outrage at the denial of civil rights and express our solidarity with gays, lesbians and their supporters in California who have vowed to fight to overturn Prop 8. Here are 3 things you can do:
1) Join in one of the public protests in Pennsylvania on Saturday November 15.
Philadelphia, 1:30-4:00 PM, City Hall Plaza http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/page/Philadelphia?t=anon
2) Join Keystone Progress’ action alert list to keep informed about this issue and other important progressive news. It’s free and easy to join. Just go to http://www.keystoneprogress.org/ to sign up. While you’re there, sign the petition to reinstate protections for LGBT people in PA. http://www.keystoneprogress.org/page/s/0808pahatecrime
3) Forward this email to everyone you know who cares about equality for ALL people in Pennsylvania and the United States.
Keystone Progress is a grassroots network of progressive activists in Pennsylvania. You can support our work with a financial contribution at http://keystoneprogress.org/page/contribute/kspdonate Keystone Progress is a program of Progress Now Action, a 501(c)(4) organization. Donations are not tax deductible.
Friday, October 31, 2008
(READING, PA)—John McCain’s cousin, Adam Vaulx Boles, today released the following statement:
I’m working with Keystone Progress in the hope that you will forward this email to any friends, family or co-workers who may still be undecided about who to vote for President.
Recently, my father gave me an envelope full of press clippings, which detail the years my cousin, then-Lt. Cmdr. John S. McCain, was imprisoned in North Vietnam. John and I are related through our grandmothers. Katherine Vaulx McCain and Huetta Vaulx Boles, both of Fayetteville, Arkansas, were sisters.
When John threw his hat in the ring in 2000, my father and I were both very proud and encouraged, and not just because he's our relative. This was the first politician in a long time that, on a national stage, was saying things like, "Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer-reaches of American politics."
Jump ahead to the campaign Sen. McCain is currently running. Clearly, a lot can change in eight years.
Where is the straight-talking, commonsense John McCain of 2000? I'm afraid he is long gone, replaced by a desperate version of himself who seems to contradict nearly everything he once stood for. What becomes apparent in his ideological about-face is just how out of touch my cousin John really is with America's working families. A part of me is made very sad to write this email. As I've said, my family has followed John's life and career with no absence of pride. But like many Americans of good conscience, my father and I can no longer consider voting for our own cousin.
Instead, we will be voting for the hope and real change embodied by Barack Obama this Election Day.
Adam Vaulx Boles
Not authorized by any party, candidate or candidate's committee. Keystone Progress is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization that combines cutting edge online organizing and communications with rapid and hard-hitting earned media strategies.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
(POTTSVILLE, PA)—In what has become a regular occurrence, dozens of supporters of Senator John McCain shouted racist and hate-filled speech at about 100 demonstrators yesterday in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
One of the McCain supporters was caught on video shouting “Bomb Obama!” repeatedly. When asked what he meant, he said “Get rid of him. "I've had a number of people in the... when he gets in the White House..."
He then formed a gun with his hand and made a shooting sound.
The incident was reported immediately to Pottsville Police Captain Richard Wojciechowsky, who said it did not sound serious.
The video later was shown to the Secret Service.
The video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/morrillmajority
Yesterday’s video, and similar videos from McCain and Palin rallies around Pennsylvania, were shot and produced by Keystone Progress. Keystone Progress is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization that combines cutting edge online organizing and communications with rapid and hard-hitting earned media strategies.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Both used taxpayer funds for re-election campaign.
Reading, PA – A report released by the House Committee on Government and Oversight Reform shows that Rep. Jim Gerlach and Rep. Tim Murphy directly benefited from the improper and unethical use of taxpayer money to support his 2006 re-election bid.
The House Committee on Oversight has documented that senior Bush political aides used federal funds to support the re-election campaign of Gerlach and Murphy by sending federal officials to their Congressional Districts for campaign events disguised as official business. White House communication records show that the trips were specifically intended to help Gerlach and Murphy win re-election – the very definition of political activity.
The report shows that Rep. Gerlach accepted taxpayer-financed help for his 2006 campaign on four separate occasions. The four events were:
1) 3/10/06 – Visit by Commerce Secretary Gutierrez (Exton, PA)
2) 5/15/06 – Visit by Commerce Secretary Gutierrez (Malvern, PA)
3) 9/18/06 – Visit by EPA Administrator Johnson (Pottstown, PA)
4) 10/2/06 – Visit by HUD Secretary Jackson (Reading, PA)
The report shows that Rep. Murphy accepted taxpayer-financed support for his re-election campaign on six separate occasions. The six events were:
1) 1/6/06 – Visit Energy Secretary Bodman, with Melissa Hart (Pittsburgh, PA)
2) 3/17/06 – Visit HHS Secretary Leavitt (Pittsburgh, PA)
3) 5/12/06 – Visit EPA Regional Administrator (Cannonsburg,, PA)
4) 8/25/06 – Visit HHS Secretary Leavitt (Philadelphia, PA)
5) 9/14/06 – Visit Education Secretary Spellings (Pittsburgh, PA)
6) 9/26/06 – Event HHS Secretary Leavitt (Washington, DC)
“Congressmen Gerlach and Murphy have some explaining to do to the people of Pennsylvania,” said Jeff Garis, Executive Director of Penn Action. “Using tax dollars for campaign purposes is clearly unethical. We’re calling on Representative Gerlach and Representative Murphy to reimburse Pennsylvanians the public funds that the Bush White House spent on his campaign.”
Full documentation can be found at http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=2222
Monday, October 20, 2008
McCain is paying a top GOP operative whose tactics include destroying voter registration cards and disenfranchising voters
- Congressman Chris Cannon (R-UT) [Joint Hearing of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law and Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the House Committee, 05/14/08]
Nathan Sproul – Top GOP Dirty Trickster
Sproul Is Former Exec. Director Of AZ GOP, AZ Christian Coalition, And Head Of The Controversial GOP Consulting Firm Sproul And Associates. According to Alternet, Sproul is “the former Arizona Republican Party and Christian Coalition director, has cozy ties to a group of consultants working on the Bush/Cheney campaign. According to a Democratic source well-placed in Arizona political circles, Sproul’s firm, Sproul and Associates, operates next door to the office of Gordon C. James Public Relations (GCJPR) in Phoenix, a Republican PR company which is coordinating various Bush/Cheney campaign events nationwide and has provided PR services for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.” [Alternet, 10/15/04]
Sproul And Associates Scrubbed Its Name To Form A New Company Called “Lincoln Strategy Group.” According to the Arizona Republic, “Arizona Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Jessica Pacheco announced Friday that she’s teaming up with Republican strategist Nathan Sproul in the formation of Lincoln Strategy Group, named for our nation’s 16th president. Employees of Sproul & Associates, including former Arizona GOP spinmeister Garrick Taylor, are joining the new firm, as are a couple of other players whose names can’t yet be announced.” [Arizona Republic, 12/09/07]
Lincoln Strategy Group Website Still Refers To Itself As “Sproul And Associates.” According to the Lincoln Strategy Group website, one member of the staff has the following in her biography: “Chris brings in over 10 years of experience in organization and office management to Sproul & Associates.” [Lincoln Strategy Group website, accessed 10/19/08]
Nathan Sproul Is The Managing Partner Of Lincoln Strategy Group. According to the Lincoln Strategy Group website, “Nathan Sproul is the managing principal of Lincoln Strategy Group.” [Lincoln Strategy Group website, accessed 10/18/08]
McCain Has Hired Sproul For The 2008 Election – And Maintains Close Ties To Sproul’s Firm
The McCain Campaign Paid Sproul’s Lincoln Strategy Group At Least $175,000 This Year For Voter Registration. According to CQ Money Line, “CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY/V8” paid Sproul’s Lincoln Strategy $175,000 on June 9, 2008 for “registering voters.” CQ Money Line notes the California Republican Party/V8 committee is sponsored by “McCain-Palin Victory California.” According to a Sarah Palin fundraiser letter in California, the “McCain-Palin Victory California” committee is a “a joint fundraising committee by and composed of the Republican National Committee, the California Republican Party, and McCain-Palin Compliance Fund.” [CQ Money Line, accessed 10/18/08; Sarah Palin fundraiser letter, accessed 10/18/08; Federal Elections Commission July Disbursement file, accessed 10/20/08; Federal Elections Commission Statement of Organization file, accessed, 10/20/08]
The Republican Party Has Additionally Paid Sproul At Least $37,000 This Year For Voter Registration. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Republican Party paid Sproul’s Lincoln Strategy $15,000 for ‘voter registration’ on February 14, 2008 and $22,000 on April 1, 2008. The Federal Elections Commission shows the Pima County Republican Party committee made the payments. [Center For Responsive Politics, accessed 10/18/08; Federal Elections Commission May Disbursement file, accessed 10/20/08; Federal Elections Commission March Disbursement file, accessed 10/20/08]
Nathan Sproul’s Business Partner Jessica Pacheco Is An Adviser To John McCain. According to a McCain campaign press release, Jessica Pacheco is on John McCain’s National Hispanic Advisory Board. Referring to members of the Board, John McCain said, “I look forward to their support and expertise as I work to take on the tough challenges facing all Americans.” [John McCain campaign press release, via States News Service, 12/09/07]Sproul Employs Former John McCain Staffer Chuck Coolidge. According to the Lincoln Strategy Group website, “Chuck Coolidge joined Lincoln Strategy Group in March of 2006. […] Prior to joining LSG, Chuck worked for Senator John McCain in Tucson and Tempe as the Southern Arizona correspondent and also managed Senator McCain’s Arizona federal grants program and Arizona press articles.” [Lincoln Strategy Group website, accessed 10/18/08]
Sproul Has Donated Nearly $30,000 To McCain’s Campaign. According to CQ Money Line, Nathan Sproul has donated $29,600 to John McCain’s campaign this year. An analysis of CQ Money Line shows Sproul has donated $25,000 to the McCain Victory 2008 PAC, and has donated $2,300 twice to John McCain 2008 Inc. [CQ Money Line, accessed 10/19/08]
Two Key Operatives Who Worked For Sproul In 2004 Now Work For PR Firm Hired By McCain For 2008 Campaign. According to Alternet, “as chairwoman, Lisa James operated directly out of Sproul’s office” and “Meghan Rose, worked with Sproul on a clandestine campaign to get Nader on the Arizona ballot last spring.” According to the Phoenix Business Journal, “Gordon C. James Public Relations is handling logistical work for an April 5 McCain campaign event in Prescott and could plan more events for the Republican candidate.” According to the Gordon C. James Public Relations website, both Lisa James and Meghan Rose are employees of the firm, and John McCain for President is a client. [Alternet, 10/15/04; Phoenix Business Journal, 04/04/08; Gordon C. James Public Relations website, accessed 10/20/08]
Sproul Accompanied Cindy McCain To The 2000 Republican National Convention. According to the New York Times, “Nathan Sproul, executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, said the state’s 30 delegates had unanimously voted for Mrs. McCain to lead them at the Republican convention from July 31 to Aug. 3 in Philadelphia.” [New York Times, 05/15/00]
Sproul Orchestrated Massive Voter Registration Fraud Effort During The 2004 Presidential Election – Systematically Instructing Workers To Illegally Destroy And Discard Democratic Registration Forms
The Republican National Committee Paid Sproul $7.8 Million For 2004 Election Work. According to the East Valley Tribune, “Sproul was paid millions by the Republican National Committee to boost their numbers. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the RNC paid Sproul and Associates more than $7.8 million in 2004 for consulting and various other fees.” [East Valley Tribune, 09/07/06]
In Nevada, Sproul’s Front Company Was Investigated For Destroying Democratic Voter Registration Forms. According to CNN, in Nevada during the 2004 Presidential election, a probe was launched to investigate a “private voter registration firm, Voter Outreach of America, which collected registrations from voters in Nevada, a pivotal presidential battleground state. The company was set up by Sproul & Associates Inc., a Republican political consulting firm based in Phoenix, Arizona.” An employee “Eric Russell, alleged that he saw a supervisor destroy forms collected from Democratic voters. KLAS quoted Russell as saying that ‘we caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, handed them to her assistant, and he ripped them up right in front of us.’” [CNN, 10/14/04]
In Nevada, People Who Registered As Democrats With Sproul Found Their Names Absent From The Voter Registration Rolls. According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, “Eric and Traci Amberson went to the Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday, claiming a Republican-financed voter drive either lost or destroyed their registration forms.” The article notes, “The Ambersons’ voter registration receipts show their forms were among a batch assigned to Voter Outreach of America, which is operated by Sproul & Associates of Phoenix.” Additionally, the article reports, “The Ambersons registered as Democrats on Oct. 2 with a canvasser outside the Wal-Mart story on Kietzke Lane. The couple didn’t give it a second thought until they didn’t get their sample ballots in the mail.” [Reno Gazette-Journal, 10/29/04]
In Oregon, Sproul Was Investigated For Destroying Democratic Voter Registration Forms. According to KGW News, canvassers “collecting signatures in downtown Portland, who said he was instructed to only accept Republican registration forms. He told a KGW reporter that he ‘might’ destroy forms turned in by Democrats since he was being paid by the Republican party.” County Clerk Barbara Nielson “said she had gotten calls from Roseburg-area voters who said that canvassers from the Sproul group had implied that their cards wouldn’t be turned in if they registered as Democrats.” Additionally, “a librarian was approached by a group claiming to be affiliated with the progressive, nonpartisan America Votes organization, with a request to set up registration booths in the library. […] When librarian Megan O’Flaherty probed into the group, she found that instead, they were part of Sproul & Associates, and had nothing to do with America Votes.” [KGW News, 10/13/04]
In Minnesota, Sproul Was Accused Of Firing Workers For Bringing Back Democratic Registration Forms, Incentivizing Discrimination Against Democratic Registrations. According to the Star Tribune, “Three former canvassers for a company working in Minnesota to reelect President Bush have come forward to say they were paid bonuses for registering Bush supporters but got nothing for registering voters who favor challenger John Kerry. One man, who worked for only a few hours for the company, Sproul and Associates, said it was implied that he could be fired for coming back with only Kerry registration cards.” Other canvassers said they were paid “$13 an hour, with the $3 bonus for every Bush, undecided or Ralph Nader voter registration. Canvassers returned that information, and verifiers called those who registered to confirm their support for Bush. In one case, Banse said, he registered his brother, who is a Kerry supporter. When the verifiers called to check the brother's support for Bush, the brother lied to get Banse the bonus.” [Star Tribune, 10/27/04]
In Pennsylvania, Sproul Was Accused Of Instructing Workers To Avoid Registering Democrats. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Sproul & Associates, a consulting firm based in Chandler, Ariz., hired to conduct the drive by the Republican National Committee, employed several hundred canvassers throughout the state to register new voters. Some workers yesterday said they were told to avoid registering Democrats or anyone who indicated support for Democratic nominee John F. Kerry.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/20/04]
In West Virginia, Sproul Was Accused Of Instructing Workers To Avoid Registering Democrats. According to the Charleston Gazette, Sproul’s “employees were to approach One Stop customers and ask if they favor George Bush or John Kerry for president. If Bush was their answer, they were then to inquire if the person was registered to vote and offer them a voter registration card. If the person supported Democrat Kerry, they were only to say thank you and give them a registration card only if asked.” [Charleston Gazette, 08/20/04]
Sproul Systematically Employed Deceptive Tactics To Only Register Republicans, And Told Workers To Turn Away Democrats. According to Salon, Sproul’s “canvassers were told to act as if they were nonpartisan, to hide that they were working for the RNC, especially if approached by the media.” The article also notes, “if the respondents to this pretend poll said that they were Bush supporters, canvassers were told to offer to help them register to vote. If they said they were Kerry supporters, the canvassers would politely walk away.” [Salon, 10/21/04]
Sproul Deceived Libraries, Claiming To Be From America Votes, –To Set Up GOP Voter Registration Efforts. According to the Main Tribune, “Meghan O’Flaherty, headquarters library manager, contacted Kevin Looper, who informed her America Votes did not hire the firm. That’s when she learned that Sproul & Associates, Inc. is a political consulting firm headed up by former Arizona state Republican Party executive director Nathan Sproul. […] Sproul & Associates, Inc. of Phoenix, Ariz., phoned and mailed the library in September, saying it had been hired by America Votes. That came as news to America Votes..” [Main Tribune, 09/21/04]
Republican Congressman Chris Cannon (R-UT): “The Difference Between ACORN And Sproul Is That ACORN Doesn’t Throw Away Or Change Registration Documents After They Have Been Filled Out.” According to a Congressional Hearing transcript, Congressman Chris Cannon said, “the difference between ACORN and Sproul is that ACORN doesn't throw away or change registration documents after they have been filled out.” [Joint Hearing of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law and Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the House Committee, 05/14/08]
Oregon State Investigation “Confirmed Suspicions That Some Disturbing Things Happened,” But Lack Of Evidence Halted Criminal Prosecutions. According to the Associated Press, “State Elections Director John Lindback said Friday that while the state’s investigation did not turn up large numbers of forgeries or alterations of voter registration cards, ‘it did confirm suspicions that some disturbing things happened.’ Myers and Bradbury, in a joint release, said the state’s inquiry "confirmed instances of wrongdoing by some persons" involved in the voter registration solicitation efforts. However, they said, the state's investigation ‘was thorough and comprehensive and concludes that insufficient evidence exists to commence criminal prosecution against the organizations and individuals named in the complaints.’ Still, the two officials said the problems in 2004 underscore the need for the Legislature to make it illegal for canvassers to be paid for each voter registration card they collect a system that they say encourages fraud and abuse.” [Associated Press, 09/22/06]
Bush Administration’s Department of Justice Refused To Investigate Sproul; Instead Invited Him To The White House Christmas Party Following The Election. According to House Judiciary Congressional Testimony, New York University Law Professor Mark Miller noted, “Sproul & Associates clearly merited a full investigation by the Justice Department; and yet the DoJ did nothing. If there has been a federal probe of Sproul's activities, I've never heard of it. Far from coming under federal suspicion, Nathan Sproul, the firm's director, was invited to the Christmas party at the White House two months after the election.” [House Judiciary Congressional Testimony, 05/14/08]
Sproul’s Dirty Tricks Extended To Other Campaigns
During 2006 Midterm Elections, Wal-Mart Banned Sproul’s Partisan Voter Registration Efforts In Tennessee. According to the Associated Press, “The Republican National Committee confirmed Wednesday that it hired a voter registration group that was banished from Tennessee Wal-Mart stores for failing to meet the retailer’s standards of nonpartisanship. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. told Liberty Consultants a group paid by GOP operative Nathan Sproul to sign up voters that it could not set up voter registration stands on its properties last week.” [Associated Press, 08/24/06]
In Arizona, Sproul Employed Deceptive Tactics To Gain Signature For Anti-Clean Elections Referendum. According to Salon, Sproul “was hired by No Taxpayer Money for Politicians to conduct a signature drive to get the anti-Clean Elections bill on the ballot.” Sproul’s petitioners would “routinely just lie about the nature of the bill they were hawking. Even though their measure repealed Clean Elections, canvassers would say either that the measure didn’t alter Clean Elections in any way, or that it actually helped Clean Elections.” [Salon, 10/21/04, emphasis original]
Sproul Was Behind GOP Efforts To Place Nader On The Ballot. According to the American Prospect, “In addition, according to several sources, the Nader campaign was assisted in its petition drive by an unlikely figure: the ultra-conservative former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, Nathan Sproul. Sources say Sproul -- who is also spearheading an initiative to block public funding from political campaigns in the state -- made payments to the petition contractors working on his public-funding initiative to gather signatures for Nader as well.” [American Prospect, 06/25/04]
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
By starting the calls that way, the receiver of the messages would think that the calls were coming from the Murphy campaign, when in fact they were pro-Gerlach, anti-Murphy calls.
Most people didn't hear the rest of the call because they hung up. The calls were made around the clock, waking up voters and irritating many to the point where they said they wouldn't vote, or they would never vote for someone (Murphy) who would make so many calls disrupting their lives. Some have said that this tactic tipped the scales and allowed Gerlach to eke out a victory last cycle.
It appears that the GOP is using this vote suppression tactic again. In an email I received today, the writer says the following:
The other night I was awakened at 3 am by a phone call from what at first seemed to be a "robo-call" from the Obama campaign. However, the voice sounded like an Obama impersonator, and at the very end of the message I was informed that it was actually sent by the republican party. Apparently this is being done on behalf of the McCain campaign to make people angry at Obama for being awakened by a late-night phone call. Had I not listened to the entire message I would not have known that it didn't come from Obama's campaign. I'll say one thing though, the call did help me make up my mind about who I'll be voting for... Barack Obama.
[Name withheld at writer's request]
This is the only instance I have heard of this tactic so far. If this has happened to you, please let me know so we can build a case for the media. This is an illegal and unethical tactic, if it is indeed happening again, and it must not be allowed to happen again. (All political calls must cite the origin of the call at the beginning of the call.
If this has happened to you, please email us with your contact information and the date and time of the call(s). Please try to record the call or save it if it's on your voicemail. Send the information to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, October 9, 2008
On Wednesday, October 8, your intrepid diarist stood in line with McCain supporters in Bethlehem, PA. While they were waiting in line to see Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin, they threatened protesters, called Obama a terrorist and repeatedly told the protesters to go home.
One McCain supporter hit the lowest point, IMHO. When a protester asked how the McCainites would feel if a friend of theirs had to pay for her own rape kit, one of them shouted back "She should die!"
Meanwhile, McCain and Palin continued to incite audience inside (no video available here). And the County GOP head twice called him "Barack Hussein Obama."
Truly horrendous, scary and revealing stuff.
If you've had enough of this sleaze, sign the petition:
We'll deliver it to McCain the next time he's in PA. And we'll bring cameras!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
(HARRISBURG, PA) – It’s been seven years in the making, but on Wednesday, legislation against mandatory overtime for health caregivers passed its last hurdle on its way to the Governor’s desk.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a concurrence vote on House Bill 834, accepting amendments made in the Senate. Governor Rendell has pledged to sign the bill.
“This is one big positive step forward for patients and nurses across Pennsylvania,” said Kathy Magaro, RN, Coordinator of the SEIU Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania. “We had champions in both the House and the Senate, but the real heroes are the nurses and other direct patient caregivers who met with legislators again and again to tell them the reality of mandatory overtime and why this ban is so important to them and their patients.”
Twelve other states have also passed laws banning mandatory overtime, including neighboring New Jersey, New York and West Virginia.
Extensive research has demonstrated the link between overtime in health care and medical errors, including a 2004 study by University of Pennsylvania Researcher Ann Rogers finding that the risk of errors increased when nurses worked overtime or worked more than 40 hours per week. In fact, the risk of error was 3 times higher when a nurse worked 12.5 hour shift or longer.
A more recent study published in January of 2008 in the journal, Sleep, links long work hours to incidents of drowsy driving by nurses leaving their scheduled work shift. Two-thirds of nurses reported at least one episode of drowsy driving during the 4-week research study period.
“I’m so proud of the work our members did all across the state to support this bill. Many nurses in our union already have protection against mandatory overtime in their union contracts, but they reached out again and again to stand up for all patients and nurses who don’t have the benefits of a union,” said Neal Bisno, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “Because of them, now all nurses and patients in Pennsylvania are protected.”
The passage of this bill will make it the first piece of legislation passed in years that protects nurses and patients and marks a huge step forward for nurses and their union.
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the Commonwealth’s largest and fastest-growing union of nurses and other health care workers, representing over 20,000 members in hospitals, nursing homes, home care, and state health facilities. For more information go to: www.seiuhealthcarepa.org.
The Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania is an affiliate of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, uniting over 10,000 nurses across Pennsylvania in our commitment to provide the safest and highest quality of care for our patients and the public we serve. For more information visit: www.NurseAlliancePA.org
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
The Republican Party has reached a new level of sleaziness, unseen even by veteran political reporters. On Monday, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, Robert A. Gleason, Jr., sent a news release to media across the state headlined “PAGOP: OBAMA - A TERRORIST’S BEST FRIEND.”
Will Bunch, a columnist with the Philadelphia Daily News, said “I've been writing about political campaigns for more than a quarter-century now, and it really takes a lot to surprise me, but I am absolutely stunned at the depths that the Republican Party is willing to sink to try in win this election.” http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/30547939.html
We agree. This shows real desperation from the Republicans and the McCain campaign.
But more important, this shows who really lacks character. The issue of Senator Obama’s relationship to 1970’s radical Bill Ayers has been scrutinized by news organizations of every political stripe. All have concluded that there has never been a substantial relationship between Obama and Ayers. However, facts are unnecessary for the PA GOP when spreading sleaze.
If you’re tired of the lies and sleaze, click here to tell John McCain to apologize and stop his party’s desperate and despicable descent to what the Will Bunch calls “truly a rock bottom moment in American politics.”
Friday, October 3, 2008
Have you looked at John McCain's proposals for healthcare? They are so scary you might get cardiac arrest. If so do it before the inauguration. After that may be too late for your health.
The centerpiece of McCain's healthcare plan is taxation. He revokes the deduction businesses and corporations currently get for providing you coverage and adds a tax on those benefits for you, if you receive employer based health care coverage. This means companies will no longer pay for your coverage from pre-tax earnings. Estimates are that millions of Americans may lose this coverage if businesses opt to no longer provide such benefits.
On top of this you will now pay income tax on the value of your benefit should your company choose to keep offering it to you. An average family plan costs $12,600. This means McCain will add $12,600/year to your taxable income. This translates to about $1,200/year in taxes. On the other hand he'll give families a $5000 tax credit and $2500 for individuals.
Read the entire article and see videos from the Keystone Progress/Center for American Progress news conference at the Pennsylvania Progressive.
(Harrisburg) – Sierra Club and Clean Water Action released today a “Pennsylvania General Assembly Environmental Scorecard” which rates state legislators on their voting record on environmental issues in 2007 and 2008.
The Scorecard covers a range of environmental issues tackled by both the State House and State Senate over the past legislative session. Votes on the Scorecard include ones on air quality, energy, climate change, open space, transportation, and environmental funding.
The Scorecard is available for download at either www.cleanwateraction.org/pa or at www.pennsylvania.sierraclub.org/pa_environmental_scorecard.pdf .
Myron Arnowitt, State Director for Clean Water Action, stated, “The state legislature tackled some important environmental issues over the past two years, including funding the cleanup of our toxic waste sites, and funding alternative energy programs. However, critical work is left undone, including helping residents save on their energy bills through energy efficiency, and protecting the safety of our drinking water supplies.”
Dennis Winters, Political Chair of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, said, “Many of the issues included in this Scorecard affect the health, safety of Pennsylvania’s citizens and the environmental we all depend on. We believe that the public has the right to know how their elected officials vote on these matters, so they can hold their legislators accountable. The public interest is better served when these decisions are exposed to daylight.”
Two State Senators, Vincent Hughes (Philadelphia) and Michael Stack (Philadelphia) got perfect 100% scores. Close behind were Senators Ferlo (Allegheny), Fontana (Allegheny), Kitchen (Philadelphia), Tartaglione (Philadelphia), and Anthony Williams (Philadelphia) with 90% scores. The highest scoring Republican Senator was Stewart Greenleaf (Bucks) with an 80% score.
Sixteen State House members scored a perfect 100%: Bennington (Allegheny), Casorio (Westmoreland), Freeman (Northampton), Hanna (Centre), Josephs (Phila.), Kessler (Berks), Leach (Montgomery), Lentz (Delaware), Mundy (Luzerne), Roebuck (Phila.), Samuelson (Lehigh), Santoni (Berks), Taylor (Montgomery), Vitali (Delaware), Wagner (Allegheny), Walko (Allegheny). The highest scoring Republican Representative was George Kenney (Phila.) at 90%.
The lowest scoring Senators were Mike Folmer (Lebanon) at 10% and John Eichelberger (Blair) at 20%. The lowest scoring House member was Bob Bastian (Somerset) who scored a 0%.
Sierra Club is national environmental organization that was founded in 1892. It has 10 local Groups in Pennsylvania, representing over 27,000 members. The Sierra Club works to protect and restore the natural and human environment through education and advocacy.
Clean Water Action is a national, member supported, environmental organization working to protect our waters, build healthy communities, and make democracy work for all of us. Operating in Pennsylvania for 25 years, Clean Water Action has over 100,000 members in the state.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
"As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where– where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border."
Sarah Palin to Katie Couric on CBS News.
From Daily Kos
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
McCain: "I Don't Pretend To Be An Expert On" The Stock Market. During a Republican debate in 2000, McCain was asked if the stock market was in a bubble. He said, "Oh. I'm afraid that it's becoming that, but I don't pretend to be an expert on that. I am very concerned about this rapid rise. I think all of us who observe it are, but I do have enormous faith and confidence in Mr. Greenspan, and I would heed any warnings that come out of his mouth, and I will pay close attention." [Fox News, Republican Debate, 12/2/99]
McCain: "I Don't Claim To Be Smart Enough" To Solve The Housing Crisis. The magazine American Banker reported, "Sen. McCain has offered occasional comments on the [housing] crisis, including hinting for a broader government role in combating it. In advance of the New Hampshire primary in early January, he repeatedly voiced concern for borrowers facing foreclosure, and suggested increased government intervention may be needed if Treasury's plans fall short. 'Obviously, the worse it gets, the more there is a role for government,' he told one local newspaper. 'But I can't come down yet and give ... a specific solution, because I don't claim to be smart enough.'" [American Banker, 3/11/08]
McCain On Bernanke: "I Don't Have The Kind Of Expertise To Know Exactly Whether He Has Cut Interest Rates Sufficiently." During an MSNBC Republican Debate in Michigan, Maria Bartiromo asked, "Senator McCain, has Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke cut interest rates aggressively enough? Has Ben Bernanke cut rates aggressively enough?" McCain answered, "I don't have the kind of expertise to know exactly whether he has cut interest rates sufficiently or not. And that's why we put that responsibility in the hands of the head of the Federal Reserve. I do know that this nation has faced some pretty good blows in the last month or so with the credit crunch and the subprime lending. I'm glad whenever they cut interest rates. I wish interest rates were zero. But we leave those responsibilities to the smartest people we can find, and I think that so far he's done a good job." [MSNBC, Republican Debate in Michigan, 10/9/07]
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The GoggleWorks refused to show the film Third Term in Reading, PA, cancelling tonight's scheduled showing because it is "too political." To make sure that angry people didn't show up at the theater tonight, they paid for this ad in today's Reading Eagle.
We think the ad is prophetic.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
Keystone Progress has clearly represented the content and the purpose of the film since we first contacted the GoggleWorks about renting the theater for the showing. They had viewed the trailer and had all of the written materials that went out to the public (see original email below). Their representatives never expressed any concerns about the content in any of our discussions, until today’s call when they cancelled the showing.
Make no mistake – the GoggleWorks wasn’t “donating” the space, we were paying them for it. The GoggleWorks decided to stifle our point of view, even though this is a community-funded organization created to support the arts. Are they going to start dictating to artists what subjects are acceptable to paint or sculpt?
We’re simply and utterly disappointed by the management of the GoggleWorks, for cowing to whoever is urging them to play it “safe.” In this election season, we need the truth, and we need it now.
Keystone Progress will not be seeking a new venue for the premiere. Instead, we will be working with the producers to distribute it free to anyone who wants to see the truth about what John McCain’s right-wing policies will mean for America.
Please check this space on Thursday for more details about how you can obtain your own copy of Third Term.
Michael Morrill, Executive Director
Sunday, September 21, 2008
There are an expected 45,470 subprime foreclosures between the third quarter 2007 and the end of 2009.[i] Over this same period of time, the subprime mortgage-related foreclosures will cost Pennsylvania $2.42 billion.[ii] The impacts of this devastating crisis are being felt not only by the families themselves, but also by neighborhoods, cities and our economy as a whole as the number of vacant properties is growing, the property values of nearby properties are declining, and cities face a loss in property taxes. Many of these foreclosures are the direct result of predatory lending - cases where brokers and/or lenders convinced borrowers to take out a risky, soon to be unaffordable, loans.
The economic and social costs of this crisis to our state are serious enough to warrant emergency action to stem the tide of foreclosures. Many foreclosures are preventable, particularly in the current climate in which mortgage servicers are being pressured by elected officials, from the federal government on down, to make loan modifications in order to achieve affordable mortgages for borrowers. Additionally, when a qualified housing counselor negotiates on behalf of a borrower, a better resolution is often achieved. However, these loan “workouts” take time, as they require a case-by-case review of a borrower's financial situation. And time is something that, by all accounts, neither the mortgage servicers or the housing counselors have enough of, given the huge number of borrowers going into default and foreclosure.
Therefore, It is in Pennsylvania’s interest to “stop the clock” for a period of time to allow families to get back on their feet financially and to encourage negotiated settlements – loan workouts - that move people into more affordable loans and thereby reduce the number of foreclosures. Reform proposals being advanced nationally are necessary, but not sufficient. The depth of the crisis and the costs to the state argue for a moratorium as the only sure way to put a brake on the hemorrhaging and buy parties the needed time to work out viable alternatives to foreclosures.
ACORN is calling on policy makers to follow the lead of New York, Minnesota, & others and implement a moratorium on foreclosures involving subprime mortgages that were recklessly and inappropriately underwritten and call for the lenders to make new affordable loans to these customers.
● This would include Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) for which the borrower was qualified using the starting interest rate and ARMs which were made to borrowers on fixed incomes. In both these types of cases, the lenders should convert the adjustable rates to a fixed rate loan at the starting interest rate.
● It would also include so-called stated income loans which were unaffordable from the beginning of the loan. In these cases, the lenders should reduce the interest and/or balance of the loan in order to make it affordable based on the borrower’s real income.
Several reform proposals in the PA general assembly are a good start: including McGeehan’s HB 2694, to create a statewide diversion program based on the successful Philadelphia Diversion program, and John Taylors HB that follows the lead of Minnesota’s model legislation. For more information on the specifics of the legislation, please contact PA ACORN Legislative Director Ian Phillips 35 406 4386.
[i] Mortgage Bankers Association, Joint Economic Committee of Congress, October 25th Subprime Lending Crisis Report
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Pennsylvania Premiere, sponsored by Keystone Progress
201 Washington St., Reading
Wednesday, September 24, 8:30 PM
To counter the millions conservatives will invest in books, ads and movies this year to vilify progressive leaders and policies, Media Matters Action Network and Center for American Progress Action Fund, through their joint project Progressive Accountability, bring you Third Term - a documentary detailing what Senator John McCain's right-wing policies would mean for America.This feature-length documentary, narrated by Paul Begala, examines how on every major issue this year, from the war in Iraq, to the economy, to health care, to our energy crisis, Senator McCain has been on the wrong side, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with President George W. Bush.
Using footage of his own words, interviews and expert analysis, Third Term exposes McCain's radical policy agenda.Third Term features interviews with experts like: Rand Beers of the National Security Network; Ellen Malcolm of Emily's List; Paul Waldman of the Media Matters Action Network; Larry Korb of the Center for America Progress Action Fund; Thea Lee of the AFL-CIO; Ezra Klein of the American Prospect; and Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation. The documentary has been scored by Grammy-award winning producer/composer Art Hodge.
THIRD TERM: How John McCain promises to continue George Bush's failed policiesNarrated by Paul BegalaScored by Art Hodge72 minutes
Michael Morrill, email@example.com
Five US Senators were involved in an influence-peddling scandal, improperly trying to steer regulators away from Charles Keating’s troubled Lincoln Savings and Loan. John McCain was one of the Keating Five.
McCain’s involvement is vitally important as our nation struggles with the current financial crisis because it testifies to his lack of judgment and his inability to make decisions in a time of crisis. The US Senate investigation that followed the scandal cited McCain’s “poor judgment.” McCain agreed with that assessment.
What was his poor judgment?
· Meeting with regulators with the clear intention of steering them away from investigating Keating.
· Accepting $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and associates.
· Getting into business with Keating. Cindy and her father invested $359,100 in a shopping center scheme with Keating.
· Taking nine trips, including 3 to the Bahamas, on Keating’s dime. McCain brought his family and babysitter on these trips.
The Arizona Republic ran a series on its home state senior senator in March of 2007. The following are excerpts from the portion of the series on McCain’s involvement in the Keating Five scandal.
The whole story can be read here:
· "McCain's a wimp," Keating replied, according to the book Trust Me, by Michael Binstein and Charles Bowden. "We'll go talk to him." Keating had other business on Capitol Hill and did not reach McCain's office until 1:30. A DeConcini staffer already had told McCain about the "wimp" insult. When he arrived, Keating presented McCain with a laundry list of demands for the regulators.
· In an interview with The Republic, Black said the meeting was a show of force by Keating, who wanted the senators to pressure the regulators into dropping their case against Lincoln. The thrift was in trouble for violating "direct investment" rules, which prohibited S&Ls from taking large ownership positions in various ventures. "The Senate is a really small club, like the cliche goes," Black said. "And you really did have one-twentieth of the Senate in one room, called by one guy, who was the biggest crook in the S&L debacle." Black said the senators could have accomplished their goal "if they had simply had us show up and see this incredible room and said, 'Hi. Charles Keating asked us to meet with you. 'Bye.'"McCain previously had refused DeConcini's request to meet with the Lincoln auditors themselves. In Worth the Fighting For, McCain wrote that he remained "a little troubled" at the prospect, "but since the chairman of the bank board didn't seem to have a problem with the idea, maybe a discussion with the regulators wouldn't be as problematic as I had earlier thought."McCain concedes that he failed to sense that Gray and the thrift examiners felt threatened by the senators' meddling.
· According to nearly verbatim notes taken by Black, McCain started the second meeting with a careful comment. "One of our jobs as elected officials is to help constituents in a proper fashion," McCain said. "ACC (American Continental Corp.) is a big employer and important to the local economy. I wouldn't want any special favors for them. . . . "I don't want any part of our conversation to be improper." Black said the comment had the opposite effect for the regulators. It made them nervous about what might really be going on. "McCain was the weirdest," Black said. "They were all different in their own way. McCain was always Hamlet . . . wringing his hands about what to do."
· As the investigation dragged through 1988, McCain dodged the hardest blows. Most landed on DeConcini, who had arranged the meetings and had other close ties to Keating, including $50 million in loans from Keating to DeConcini's aides. But McCain made a critical error. He had adopted the blanket defense that Keating was a constituent and that he had every right to ask his senators for help. In attending the meetings, McCain said, he simply wanted to make sure that Keating was treated like any other constituent. Keating was no ordinary constituent to McCain. On Oct. 8, 1989, The Arizona Republic revealed that McCain's wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators. The paper also reported that the McCains, sometimes accompanied by their daughter and baby-sitter, had made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, sometimes aboard the American Continental jet. Three of the trips were made during vacations to Keating's opulent Bahamas retreat at Cat Cay. McCain also did not pay Keating for some of the trips until years after they were taken, after he learned that Keating was in trouble over Lincoln. Total cost: $13,433. When the story broke, McCain did nothing to help himself. "You're a liar," McCain said when a Republic reporter asked him about the business relationship between his wife and Keating. "That's the spouse's involvement, you idiot," McCain said later in the same conversation. "You do understand English, don't you?" He also belittled reporters when they asked about his wife's ties to Keating. "It's up to you to find that out, kids." The paper ran the story. In his 2002 book, McCain confesses to "ridiculously immature behavior" during that particular interview and adds that The Republic reporters' "persistence in questioning me about the matter provoked me to rage."
· In the book, DeConcini reiterates his allegation that McCain leaked to the media "sensitive information" about certain closed proceedings in order to hurt DeConcini, Riegle and Cranston. It's a fairly serious charge. The Boston Globe revisited the Keating Five leaks in 2000. The story paraphrased a congressional investigator, Clark B. Hall, as personally concluding that "McCain was one of the principal leakers." The newspaper also reported that McCain, under oath, had denied involvement with the leaks.McCain owns up to his mistake this way: "I was judged eventually, after three years, of using, quote, poor judgment, and I agree with that assessment."
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
ACORN Members call on McCain to Back Fannie/Freddie Foreclosure Freeze
Philadelphia –About 2 dozen ACORN members gathered to call on Presidential candidate Senator John McCain to join his colleagues in calling for a freeze on foreclosures of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac portfolios which were recently placed into conservatorship by the federal government. Recently, Senators Charles Schumer, Sherrod Brown, Bob Menendez, and Bob Casey called on the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the two Government Sponsored Enterprises to institute a 90 day moratorium on foreclosures of loans owned by the mortgage giants. “We think it’s long overdue that the McCain campaign actually get serious about what they’re going to do to help hard working American families.” Said ACORN member Christina Jones, who is struggling with an adjustable rate mortgage.
ACORN is also demanding that all delinquent loans owned by Fannie and Freddie be pulled from their securities and modified to a fixed rate interest and a monthly payment that is affordable to the homeowner, and will call upon Senators McCain and Obama to join in this demand to ensure that American homeowners will share in the benefits of the recently announced federal takeover. ACORN leader Junette Marcano said, “It’s tough for me to understand how John McCain can own 7 luxury homes, but doesn’t think it’s important to help working families save their homes.”
The rally was part of ACORN’s statewide “Stop Foreclosure” campaign; most recently, ACORN members won a new program, the Philadelphia Sheriff Sale Diversion Program, that has saved 100s of homes in the past three months. In addition to this event, activists from across the state will travel to Harrisburg for a statewide “Stop Foreclosure Day of Action” on Thursday September 18th. During the day of action, activists will attend a hearing in support of McGeehan’s bill to replicate the Philadelphia diversion program statewide and protest the Republicans planned use of the foreclosure filings to suppress the November vote.
ACORN is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families with over 400,000 member-families organized into 1200 neighborhood chapters in 103 cities nationwide. Since 1970, ACORN has taken action and won victories on issues of concern to our members, including better housing for first-time homebuyers and tenants; living wages for low-wage workers; more investment in our communities from banks and governments, and better public schools.