Saturday, April 30, 2011

Carnahan Cheers Governor Nixon's Veto of Hyperpartisan Redistricting Map

Press Release from Congressman Carnahan's office:



WASHINGTON, DC --- U.S. Representative Russ Carnahan (MO-03) today released the following statement regarding Governor Nixon’s veto of the partisan, gerrymandered redistricting map sent to him by the Republican-controlled Missouri State Legislature:

“This is a win for the people of Missouri, who will now have another chance at a map that places a higher value on respecting the needs and concerns of families and businesses than on consolidating political power for one party over another.

“There is no question that the map that was vetoed today was a partisan gerrymander that would have been bad for the entire state of Missouri. It sliced and diced the St. Louis region – the economic engine of the state – dividing communities of interest and weakening Missouri’s representation in Washington.

“This veto will provide an opportunity for a map that is better for the people and businesses of this state - one that is more representative of Missouri’s political balance and does not divide communities, counties and regions.

“The people of Missouri deserve nothing less.”

The Missouri State Legislature will now have an opportunity to either make a new attempt at drawing a Congressional map, or to attempt to override the Governor’s veto. In each of three votes already taken on proposed maps, the State House has fallen short of the 2/3 majority needed to override a Gubernatorial veto. During the most recent vote, 6 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the map that was vetoed today.

Friday, April 29, 2011

This Is How Their Game Works

In response to revelations that they shamelessly edited both Judy Ancel and Don Giljim's posts to make it appear that they were saying things they did not say, Breitbart hacks are demanding that people respond to their latest nonsense. Their claim is that because Ancel misquoted a guy in the film, that somehow justifies them taking a claim that she was attributing to others for the sake of class discussion and pretending she was endorsing it herself. The argument is stupid beyond words. But that's not the point. The point is that they doing what they always do, using completely nonsensically idiotic distortions of language and logic to try to take up the time of anyone who argues with them. No matter how idiotically stupid their claims are, they will demand, "why don't you respond to this! This proves we're right!" Not because they actually believe it, but because they think it makes them look better.

So, sadly succumbing to their latest mind-numbingly stupid claims, here are a few obvious points:

  • If they really believed the full quote was an endorsement of violence, then they could have included it in the original video. However, they waited four days and waited until they were called out before manufacturing their ridiculous excuse.

  • Attributing a quote to another person is not the same thing as endorsing that quote. If I say, Dana Loesch says "Breitbart walks on water," I am obviously not saying that I believe Breitbart walks on water. And let's say Dana Loesch actually said, "Breitbart walks on orange juice," but I accidentally misquoted her. It's still quite obvious that I'm not claiming I believe Breitbart walks on water. This is clear to any person who learned the meaning of the term "says" back in Kindergarten

  • They still have provided no explanation whatsoever for why they took words out of the middle of Don Giljim's quote in order to distort the meaning to the exact opposite of what he said. Or why they ignored Giljim saying elsewhere that he rejects the tactics.

  • But honestly, my saying this won't change anything, because all they'll do is try to find some other absurd abuse of the English language to claim that maliciously editing video isn't really the same thing as being dishonest.

    Big Gov. "Inadvertantly" Forgets They Cut Out The Middle of Giljim's Quote

    Big Government has issued the first correction of their smear campaign against Judy Ancel and Don Giljim. As I just pointed out, they falsely pretended to only have edited the beginning and end of Giljim's quote, when in fact they had cut out a section of the middle that changed the entire meaning of his quote. Now they've issued a correction saying that they "inadvertently" forgot that they had cut out the middle of Giljim's quote.

    Nice try. Lots more exposure of their "inadvertent" BS to come.

    Big Government Lies About Edits

    Trying to dispute criticism of their likely slanderous editing of quotes from Judy Ancel and Don Giljim, hacks at Breitbart's Big Government have put up a post claiming they didn't misleadingly edit a couple of the videos (note: there's actually quite a few more misleading edits than the ones they're responding to).

    They attributed, on multiple ocassions, the quote "Violence is a tactic. It should be used when it's the appropriate tactic," to Judy Ancel. In fact, she was quoting someone else for the sake of a discussion in the class. Their defense is that she got the quote wrong from the original movie. That means absolutley nothing. They were attributing a claim to her that she did not make by chopping up the sentence. It was a false representation of her views.

    Then, in defending their shameful editing of Don Giljum's quote to say the exact opposite of what it really said, here was their excuse:

    They can't even get their pathetic excuse right. They claim in the post that they only leftout the first and last parts of the quote. In fact, they chopped the sentence into parts and left out exculpatory portion in the middle of the Giljim's discussion! This is what they left out in the middle of Giljim's quote (with excluded parts in bold):
    ...we’ve had a very violent history, with violent protest and reaction to suppression, OK? But as time has changed, the tactics have changed, or the need for those have changed, OK? Now, you know...
    They literally chopped his sentence into pieces to distort the message.

    And they're idiotically still trying to defend themselves.

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    Judy Ancel's Statements on the Breitbart/Loesch Smear Attacks

    Statement by Judy Ancel, the UMKC professor who was smeared by misleading video posted on Breitbart's websites and aired on Dana Loesch's radio program. Note that she's speaking for herself and not for the universities:
    Andrew Breitbart’s Affront to Democracy and Attack on Students’ Right to an Education
    Statement by Judy Ancel

    I am Judy Ancel, director of the Institute for Labor Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. While my university prepares its response, I feel compelled to answer the attacks by Andrew Breitbart on my character. I am speaking as an individual and certainly not for UMKC. I am speaking out of my strong lifelong commitment to educating working people to better understand the world they live in. Labor education is a vital part of anyone’s education. All Americans, especially our youth, need to understand the contributions working people have made and make in building our communities and nation. Labor education gives them the skills and vision to make a better world.

    My students and I are outraged at Mr. Breitbart’s invasion of our classroom and his attempts to intimidate us and my colleagues at the university. Mr. Breitbart’s chop shop manufactured videos from 30 hours of classroom recordings that were posted for the course, "Labor, Politics, and Society," on the university's Blackboard system. Presumably these were delivered to him by a student, in possible violation of the University Standards of Conduct and the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. These videos were recorded for the use of students enrolled in this course, and for them only. Breitbart disassembled the material, and reassembled it; arranging them to give the appearance that instructors of the class advocate violence. This is in fact the opposite of the position both instructors took in class. Any examination of labor’s past would be incomplete without discussion of violence, (which for the most part was directed at workers) and analysis of its roots. At no time did my co-instructor, Don Giljum, nor I advocate violence.

    There’s no doubt that Breitbart’s attacks are politically motivated, part of a broad agenda to weaken unions and the public sector as well as public education. His fabrications have been exposed numerous times in the mainstream media. Yet he and his echo chamber at Fox News continue to cause great harm to educators and other public servants.

    On April 18th Breitbart announced his intentions on Fox News Sean Hannity show: “We’re going to take on education next, go after the teachers and the union organizers.” It is possible that his attack on the University of Missouri and labor education is his first assault.

    Breitbart is a master of taking quotes out of context, deletion of what doesn’t serve his purpose, and remixing to achieve totally different meaning. For example he has me saying:

    o Breitbart’s version: “Violence is a tactic and it’s to be used when it’s the appropriate tactic.”

    o The real version: After students had watched a film on the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and the assassination of Martin Luther King, they were discussing nonviolence. I said, “One guy in the film. . . said ‘violence is a tactic, and it’s to be used when it’s the appropriate tactic.’ . . . “ The class proceeded to discuss and debate this.

    Thus Mr. Breitbart’s editing has literally put words in my mouth that were not mine, and they never were mine.

    Breitbart leaves out a crucial statement by Don Giljum in order to make it appear that he advocates violence. Giljum said,

    o I’m not sure as a tactic today the type of violence or reaction to the violence we had back then would be called for here, and I think it would do more harm than good.” A student then says “and it just legitimizes their dirty tricks.” Giljum agreed with him.

    There are a number of other instances of very creative editing including:

    o A change of clothes by Don Giljum from one sentence to another
    o The insertion of a sentence by me about crisis situations taken from an entirely different class about how governments use crises to launch big unpopular changes. This is inserted into my lecture on collective bargaining to make it appear that I am advocating that unions provoke crises in the workplace. I have never advocated that. In fact I make sure students understand the limits of union and individual action under both law and the union contract.
    o Making it appear that Don advocates sabotage when his point was about the sad state of labor law and the decline of the right to strike.

    These videos are no idle prank. They do real harm. Both Don and I are receiving threats and ugly and scary messages. There are death threats against us on Breitbart’s blog.

    These videos are an attack on higher education and its mission to working adults, putting labor education programs at risk. They create fear and have an enormously chilling effect on freedom of thought and expression. They seek to undermine the academic freedom that is required to study, better understand, and hopefully improve our conditions of life. Sadly, they have already shattered the very positive atmosphere of trust and openness that we worked so hard to create in this class. One of my students told me, with some discomfort, “My boss watches Fox News.” Our students’ identities have been compromised. Their right to privacy has been breached, and none of us gave permission for these videos or our images to be placed on the internet. Another student wrote me, “The classroom provides a safe place, or a ‘free speech zone’, where it's natural that, at times, those of us not used to discussing these topics make inflammatory statements, radical sounding claims etc. that are a part of thinking through the issues and emotions surrounding them. It seems to me that a classroom can be a healthy place to do so, because of the ground rules that are set: everyone gets a chance to speak, respect for opposing views is expected and so on.”

    And of course these posted videos are an attack on the rights of working people and on anything that is public, including public universities. The right of workers to have a voice in their workplaces and in their economic lives is a human right recognized by freedom-loving people around the world. Education about how to best make those rights a reality should be part of every school’s curriculum, certainly in our universities. Yet this attempt to marginalize it and make teachers and students afraid to discuss it is the antithesis of all we stand for.

    These attacks on me, my colleague, and the students in my course are an affront to democracy and must be challenged by citizens, workers and students, or else they will continue.

    More to come...

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Loesch Excuse For Promoting Birtherism: We Don't Do Groupthink

    Though Dana Loesch, as far as I know, has never openly advocated for birtherism, she has played a role in helping to promote it by allowing Donald Trump and Roger Stone to spout nonstop birther nonsense on her show without challenging them. She also happily agrees with the idea that they are "just asking questions."

    Today, Media Matters Senior Fellow Eric Boehlert mocked Loesch over the fact that her site Big Journalism recently published a flaming birther article called "What if the Birthers are Right?":

    Loesch defended the nonsense by saying that the "Big sites" don't require "100% agreement:"

    The fact that Loesch's site is openly posting already-debunked conspiracy theories shows exactly how cynical they are. Of course Loesch doesn't actually believe Obama was born in Kenya, but she's happy to use that rumor to push her ideology.

    Nixon Scorns Puppy Supporters and St. Louisans

    Governor Jay Nixon is helping to ensure that Missouri remains the Puppy Mill Capitol of the world. Despite the fact that a majority of Missouri voters supported the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, and despite the fact that Nixon himself had brokered a compromise with legislators, he decided to project weakness by caving in to bad faith demands that he sign a full repeal before the compromise is considered. Now he has to sit back and twiddle his thumbs while waiting for Republicans to spontaneously decide that they are going to work to round up votes to pass a compromise that's further away from what they were originally advocating for. Or, more likely, Nixon is simply planning on acting "gee shucks" shocked when Republicans say "whoops, I guess we couldn't pass the compromise after all!"

    I understood the initial politics behind this. Nixon has to veto a lot of stuff from this crazy legislature. He's expected to veto a Republican bill that would weaken anti-discrimination laws. He will likely veto attacks on the minimum wage and right-to-work-for-less legislation. I'm grateful that we have someone in office who can block these shameful attacks on workers. Yet Nixon also wants to be seen as a middle-of-the-road compromiser. So it's not surprising that he would throw dogs under the bus.

    However, the politics changed once Republicans demanded that Nixon sign the full repeal before they would "think about" the compromise. Giving in to bad faith negotiators makes Nixon look weak and stupid, and if he thinks he can feign ignorance if it turns out that Republicans don't actually fulfill their end of the bargain, he is sorely mistaken. All Nixon would have had to say by vetoing SB113 is that he respects the will of Missouri voters. Missourians who couldn't take that as an explanation will never vote for him anyway. Now he's completely at the mercy of people who have never done anything to improve conditions for dogs and who have no incentive to do so now.

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Another Attack On Missouri Workers

    The Message of the Day from the Missouri AFL-CIO, noting the extreme cynicism of Republicans attacking public workers immediately after many in the St. Louis area worked day and night over the weekend to help get Lambert Airport up and running after a devastating tornado:
    On April 26 the Missouri House Committee on Workforce Development and Workplace Safety will hear SB202, a “Paycheck Deception” bill sponsored by Senator Jason Crowell. Crowell is the sponsor of many anti-worker bills this session, including an attempt to gut Missouri’s minimum wage law; to raise taxes on renters; and right to work for less, which seeks to eliminate union rights.

    SB202 is called “Paycheck Deception” because the motivation behind the bill isn’t clear at first glance. It means to silence the voices of public workers like nurses, teachers and first responders, including so many that have been working around the clock over the Easter holiday weekend to repair and rebuild after the devastating tornadoes, storms and flooding.

    It is wrong to launch attacks on the public workers who serve our communities after tornadoes and other natural disasters hit, and the thousands of other public employees that protect and serve our families and community.

    The tornadoes and severe storms over the weekend caused such damage to communities across the state including Lambert Airport in St. Louis. Due to warning systems in place, there were thankfully no fatalities and few serious injuries, although there are so many now in need that have lost homes and suffered other damage.

    Missouri union members have been working around the clock to rebuild after the storm, to re-open the airport and to help those injured or in need. That Lambert Airport has already been able get back to work is remarkable and is thanks to the cooperation of local elected officials and the governor, and the dedication of so many public workers that spent a holiday weekend away from their families to protect and serve our families and clean up after such devastation. During and after the storms, public workers risked their own safety to protect our community.

    How ironic it is then that tomorrow the Missouri House Committee on Workforce Development and Workplace Safety is hearing SB202. This politically motivated attack seeks to silence the voices of first responders, nurses, teachers and other public workers. It doesn’t create any jobs or help to rebuild after the tornado but instead means to punish the very workers that serve our communities when the need is greatest. Attacks like SB202 and other legislation meant to take away workers’ rights and ability to collectively bargain are wrong for Missouri. After the events of the weekend, the Missouri House needs to take another look at what’s really important to our community and work with dedicated public workers instead of attacking those working for us.

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Will Nieves and Lembke Save St. Louis From Tyrannical Federal Disaster Relief?

    Astute observation from Blue Girl and Shark Fu:

    I can only assume that Nieves and Lembke will make sure to resist the tryannical federal government's attempts to enslave Goldman Sachs executives by forcing them to give a portion of the pocket change they pay in taxes to cleaning up the tornado damage in St. Louis. It's almost as oppressive as having taxpayer money go to children in public schools who should be busy working in the mines.

    Missouri Republicans Waste $40,000 in Taxpayer Funds

    Amidst the redistricting kerfluffle plaguing Missouri Republicans, where they've been bickering over which congressional boundaries would best protect their cronies while disenfranchising half the state's population, Post-Dispatch reporter Rebecca Berg made this interesting observation:
    On Monday and Thursday, the House met for only a technical session, during which no floor debate takes place. The body then met for an unorthodox Friday session to take a quick vote on a revised redistricting map.

    The total cost to taxpayers: nearly $40,000 for paying legislators' expenses for three days in which little public work was being done.
    But remember, they really really really care about taxpayer money in the bottom of their hearts.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    How Republican Arrogance Changed The Political Dynamics for Nixon

    Though I'm not at all a fan of the new "compromise" to roll back puppy mill legislation (to see why, check out this chart comparing the various proposals), I've always begrudgingly admitted that the compromise was a good political move for Nixon. After all, he has a strong interest in not offending rural or urban voters, and the Missouri Humane Society signed off on the deal, as well as various agriculture and dog breeder groups. And though I personally think the ethical decision would be to veto the bill, I can honestly understand why Nixon might think the compromise respected the will of the voters and, furthermore, think that if he vetoed the bill but then lost his election, the next administration would proceed to do an even more draconian rollback of the will of the voters.

    However, it seems clear to me now that Republican arrogance has changed this equation. Key Republicans, including House Speaker Steve Tilley and rollback bill sponsor Mike Parson, have called for Nixon to sign the rollback bill (SB113) before they attempt to round up votes for the "compromise." In other words, they are demanding that Nixon gives them everything they want first, and then they will "think about" (as Parson said) the compromise.

    Let's be clear for a second why they are pushing for this. The new compromise sets its own standards, which are different from the original Prop B and from SB113. So if a compromise has actually been agreed to and they have enough votes, there is absolutely no reason to ask Nixon to sign the bill. So the fact that they are asking Nixon to sign tells us something very important: namely, they're not confident that they can get the votes for a compromise. In fact, Parson even said as much:
    You've got to get it through the [legislature] in a short-term period of time, which is a very difficult process to do. We're going to work for that, if that's what the coalition decides.
    So basically they are demanding that Nixon sign SB113 because they don't know if they can actually get the votes for the compromise, so they want the default position to be that if no compromise is reached, Prop B is completely repealed.

    But if Nixon signs it, puppy mill propagandists no longer have any incentive to push for the compromise bill. After all, it would make life more difficult for the breeders (donors) they are working so hard to protect. They will have to, in Parson's words, work on a "very difficult process" just so that they can make changes that their donors don't want to see? Of course they won't want to do that! Oh, I suppose you could pretend that Parson and Tilley will be motivated to "keep their word," like the good Real Americans that they are, but remember that the GOP base voters do not care at all about honesty when it comes to dealing with Democrats. In fact, they would probably cheer if Parson and Tilley outright said, "Ha! We stuck it to Nixon and he was stupid enough to believe us! And now we've saved the farmers from Communist Agression!" Does anyone honestly see Republican voters in today's climate caring if Tilley and Parson double-crossed Nixon? I sure don't.

    What's really scary is that Nixon seems to be considering this terrible idea. Bob Baker of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation (one of the groups that signed off on the compromise) reportedly was called by a Nixon staff member and asked to support Nixon signing the repeal first:
    Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, had signed off on the compromise. Then a member of Nixon's team telephoned to say the governor might sign the Legislature's rollback as a first step toward implementing the compromise.

    "I'm going to have our legal team look at it," Baker said of that twist. "We'd have to reserve judgment."
    Needless to say, no animal welfare group should agree to this terrible idea. You don't give away all of your leverage and then politely ask for extremists and profiteers to please give it back. I hope they hold their ground on this.

    But back to Nixon. Like I said, the original compromise was good politics for him. However, the equation has now changed. Because now signing SB113 would not only be the unethical thing to do, and the anti-Democratic thing to do (since Missouri voters clearly approved of the original legislation), it would also be bad politics. First, it would be rewarding political opponents who negotiate in bad faith, agreeing to one thing first and then changing the terms later. Second, it would show him to be incredibly stupid. If he signed the bill and then Republicans failed to pass the compromise, no one would forgive Nixon for saying, "gee shucks, I really thought they'd uphold their end of the bargain." And similarly, it would show that Nixon is incredibly weak, caving to pressure even when he has leverage, and then being pushed around by people who have no respect for him.

    Though I disagree with the original compromise, it was good politics for Nixon, And perhaps if Tilley and Parson push the compromise through the legislature before Nixon has to decide on SB113, it still could be. However, it is decidedly not good politics for Nixon to sign SB113 before the compromise bill is on his desk. To do so would make him look naive and weak which, in the game of politics in Missouri, is much worse than just looking like a very conservative Democrat.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Tea Party County Executive Sued for Allegedly Firing Prosecutor for "Not Protecting Him Politically"

    The new County Executive in Jefferson County, Ken Waller, is being sued by former county municipal prosecutor Daniel James, who claims that Waller fired him because Waller was afraid that James "wouldn't protect him politically." Waller, who's a member of the Jefferson County Tea Party and who spoke at one of their rallies while he was running for office, reportedly told James that his decision to fire him "had nothing to do with what James did or did not do while James had been County Municipal Court Prosecutor but that Waller needed someone in office who would protect him politically." However, according to the County Charter, the position is a "merit position," which means that James should not have been fired without just cause, and in particular can not be fired because of his well-known affiliation with the Democratic Party.

    Furthermore, James was not given a hearing before being fired, which again goes specifically against the language of the Merit System outlined in the County Charter.

    Thanks to Nicholas Phillips at the RFT, you can read the lawsuit here:
    James v Waller et al

    Jim Hoft: We're All Birthers Now

    Jim Hoft, aka "Gateway Pundit", is frothing at the mouth again, cheering on the fact that a conspiracy theorist is coming out with a new book about Obama's birth certificate. In a post titled "Birther Nation," Hoft proclaims:

    No, I really think we're not, unless by "we" you mean the same crazy 30% of Americans who have always been birthers and who think the moon is made out of Velveeta.

    Confirmed! Repubs Were Negotiating In Bad Faith! VETO the Bill!

    If someone proposes making a deal with you by saying "give me everything I want, and then I'll consider a deal," I have news for you: it ain't a deal!

    If a group forms an agreement with you, and then later changes the conditions so that you first have to give them everything they want before they decide whether they will actually uphold their end of the bargain, they are negotiating in bad faith.

    I wrote yesterday that State Senator Mike Parson had backed out of his deal with Nixon, now claiming that Nixon had to sign his bill to repeal the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act before he would "think about" a compromise. Today it was confirmed that Republicans in the state legislature have no intention of following the agreement. MissouriNet reported:
    House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, tells the Missourinet he will encourage Governor Nixon to sign Senate Bill 113, which he says maintains the intent of the voters in November while fixing some problems with Proposition B. Tilley says, then, the legislature can consider the compromise the Nixon Administration is proposing. According to Tilley, the House doesn’t have a set position and is willing to work with the governor when it can.
    Agreeing is the House sponsor of the bill, Tom Loehner, a Republican from Koeltztown.

    “That’s what I would like to see, that he go out and sign 113 and say this is a start, we’ve done this thus far and I think we can do a little bit more with the fix,” Loehner, chairman of the House Agriculture Policy Committee, says. “If we could get that done and an emergency clause, that’s great.”
    This, in my opinion, pretty clearly makes the "deal" null and void. There is absolutely no reason why Nixon should be required to give them everything they want (which by the way is in direct opposition to the will of the voters) before they even "consider" the compromise. In fact, they're pretty clear about the fact that they're not sure the compromise can even make it through the legislature, so a situation where Nixon passes the repeal and they then say "whoops, guess we couldn't round up the votes!" seems to be the most likely possibility (and maybe what they were planning all along) if Nixon signed the bill.

    At this point, it is clear that Nixon should veto SB113. First, this is the only action that would respect the will of the voters, who voted in favor of Prop B in November. Second, to sign the bill or let it pass would demonstrate tremendous weakness and would encourage Republicans to negotiate in bad faith in the future. If they can't abide by the terms of the agreements they came up with, they need to be politically punished, not rewarded. Nixon can honestly tell rural voters who opposed Prop B that he tried to negotiate a compromise, but the people he was speaking with broke their word. It is House and Senate Republicans who screwed everyone in this deal, including the dog breeders.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Barbara Schmitz on Prop B Compromise

    Yesterday, Charlie Brennan interviewed Barbara Schmitz, the Missouri State Director of the Humane Society of the United States, to get her thoughts on the purported compromise on the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. You can listen here:

    In other Prop B news, the Post-Dispatch had a well-written and thoughtful editorial praising Nixon for the compromise. I actually agree with quite a few of the points; however, I think it's worth noting that Nixon would have had pretty solid moral ground to stand on in vetoing the bill by simply saying, as he has in the past, "I think the will of the voters should be respected." And more importantly, as revealed after the Post-Dispatch editorial was published, it is now clear that puppy mill supporters have altered the conditions of the deal to where Nixon has to give them everything they want before they decide whether they will compromise or not. The Post-Dispatch editorial already recommended that Nixon veto SB113, the bill to repeal the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. Now that puppy mill supporters have shown their true colors, this is even more clearly the correct path of action.

    Missouri Workers Get Pink Slips While CEOs Get Raises

    Press release from the Missouri AFL-CIO

    Searchable Online Database Released by AFL-CIO Highlights CEO Compensation Compared to Average Worker Salaries

    Jefferson City, Missouri – April 19, 2011 – While the unemployment rate in Missouri hovers at 9.4 percent, and legislators consider bills attacking the rights and pay of private and public sector workers, numbers released today by Executive PayWatch ( show that Missouri-based chief executive officers haven’t had to worry about making ends meet.

    D. N. Farr, CEO of Emerson Electric based in St. Louis, received over $24 million in total compensation in 2010 – 613 times more than what the average elementary school teacher in Missouri made in 2009.

    And excessive CEO pay isn’t just limited to Missouri. Millions of Americans struggled to get back on their feet after the worst economic downturn in decades, yet CEOs of the nation’s largest companies got an average pay of $11.4 million in 2010 – a 23 percent increase in one year.

    “CEOs making millions upon millions have been using their windfalls to fund politically motivated attacks in the Missouri legislature and in ballot initiatives. Working families lose time and again as politicians fail to stop the bleeding of Missouri jobs overseas and then turn around and cut unemployment insurance. The wealthy are getting richer at the expense of middle class – we’re seeing it at the state legislature in guise of bills like SB202, meant to silence workers voices in Jefferson City, and SB 1, right to work for less.” said Hugh McVey.

    “CEOs here in Missouri are making millions while the state legislature is introducing bills benefiting millionaires and CEOs at the expense of average working Missourians. Doesn’t Senator Pro Tem Mayer think we should make sure corporate CEOs pay their fair share?” asked Joseph Feldmann, a sheet metal worker in St. Louis.

    The release of the searchable online data bank is part of a broad campaign by the AFL-CIO to strengthen Wall Street reform, close corporate tax loopholes and ensure that poor and middle class Americans are no longer required to pay for the greed of corporate CEOs.

    Executive PayWatch’s searchable data bank enables users to get information by state, industry and top-paid CEOs and compare the pay of top CEOs with the median pay of nurses, teachers, firefighters and other workers. For the first time, Facebook users will also have access to the information and to participate in the campaign.

    The AFL-CIO’s CEO pay estimate is based on 299 companies in the S&P 500 Index whose executive compensation data is available for 2010. The 299 CEOs received a combined total of $3.4 billion in 2010, enough compensation to support 102,325 jobs paying median wages. The median wage for all occupations was $33,190 in 2009, according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    DEAL-BREAKER! Mike Parson Says NO COMPROMISE on Prop B Unless Repeal Bill is Signed!

    Yesterday, State Senator Mike Parson was said to have struck a deal with Governor Jay Nixon and others on a "compromise" about voter-approved Proposition B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. However, today Parson is announcing that he won't even consider the compromise unless Nixon signs SB13, a bill that basically completely repeals Prop B, into law:

    This is a deal-breaker! Nixon needs to veto SB13 immediately and he can now honestly tell the voters that he tried to negotiate in good faith but was betrayed by the puppy mill propagandist Parson.

    Update: I should note that Parson did already tell the Beacon that he expected his bill to be signed first and said that the deal would be off it Nixon vetoed the bill (I linked to the Beacon article yesterday to mention this point). However, the difference in today's statement is that Parson is saying that the repeal bill must be signed before they can even "talk about other things." In other words, Parson's claiming that Nixon needs to sign the bill first, then they can talk about a compromise, which seems to be an extremely bad idea!

    Kevin Jackson Vs. The St. Louis Tea Party, Part II

    Yesterday, despite being scorned by conservatives across the state of Missouri, the St. Louis Tea Party had the hubris to announce that they were going to be creating (and presumably directing) a "tea party caucus" of legislators in Jefferson City. And, they announced, they already had a BAZILLION members! This declaration that they would be purportedly speaking for conservatives across the state had a lot of people scratching their heads.

    If you recall, right-wing blogger Kevin Jackson previously blasted John and Gina Loudon as "the two biggest crooks in St. Louis" and unleashed a Twitter barrage in their general direction (this was back when the Loudons were in good standing with the tea party). Jackson, like most Missouri conservatives including Steve Tilley, but unlike the local media, seems to realize that the St. Louis tea party is extremely weak politically (see the results in the County Assessor race for the latest evidence, or ask yourself why they didn't hold either an anniversary rally or a tax day tea party this year), so he let loose in the comments:
    Then work with the MCC, who represents a LOT more of MO than the STL TP. I suggest the STL TP actually do something effective IN the city of St. Louis, before expanding. Failing to get Ed Martin elected is not the track record for expansion.
    Ben Evans of the tea party responded by suggesting that Jackson was just bitter because the tea party wasn't paying him:
    Kevin, if you can stop using STLTPC as a proxy for attacking individuals you disagree with, we would appreciate it. Gary volunteers his time to promote a Tea Party Caucus; sorry STLTPC decided not to pay your lucrative rates to promote such a thing.
    And some guy who calls himself MICK, a REAL PATRIOT also goes after Jackson in the comments:
    I suggest Kevin Jackson do something for the Tea Party other than his constant self-promotion, backbiting, and threats behind the scenes. He sells a nice conservative image to the public but behind the scenes he acts just like a progressive who discovered capitalism.

    It's not wrong that Kevin Jackson's only concern with this movement is how much money he can make from it it's his liberal ideology and apparently expecting people in the grassroots to pay his way and his hostility and outright nastiness towards people when he doesn't get what he wants. It would be a shame to see Kevin turn on this new group they way he has on so many others. He better stop taking stupid potshots at groups that are effective. In case he hasn't noticed, we're in a WAR. In fact, what the hell has Kevin Jackson EVER DONE for grassroots? Organize anything? Spearhead anything? Go door to door? Petition? Phone bank? Lobby? NO. He uses events to sell badly written books and by all the rumors floating around, throws a fit when he doesn't get a check. Who the hell are you Kevin Jackson to call anyone out? What a joke.
    They do know how to entertain.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Compromise on Puppy Mill Cruelty? Why?

    It was announced earlier today that Governor Jay Nixon had brokered a "compromise" between some opponents and proponents of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. The proponents who were said to have signed on included Kathy Warnick, President of the Humane Society of Missouri, and Bob Baker from the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, but I have not yet seen any formal statements from those organizations. However, I think Shelley at presents a pretty solid argument that this "compromise" on reform amounts to anything but reform.

    Basically, all of the changes included in the "compromise" include hedge words that allow everything to carry on the way it always has. The 50 dog limit is now gone. The requirement that feces shouldn't be in the water supply has now changed to a requirement that feces should "generally" not be in the water. Instead of treatment of injury and illness, we now have required treatment of "serious" injuries and illness. And on and on, gutting basically every single substantive change in the original Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, approved by a majority of Missourians in a year where rural voters were disproportionately motivated and urban voters disproportionately apathetic.

    To be honest, it's hard for me to be too shocked at Jay Nixon's decision here. He's a politician, and as such motivated by the goal of being reelected. And it's pretty obvious that this compromise provides the best path for him to do that, considering that he can get by without offending either rural or urban voters. His choice was made particularly easy by the fact that HSMO and MAAL signed on to the compromise.

    But that's where I get confused. Though I understand why Nixon took this path, I don't understand why MAAL and the HSMO sprinkled rose petals along it. National groups like the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Best Friends Animal Society all announced their opposition to the "compromise." This strongly suggests that even if Nixon was cynical enough to sign the original bill revoking the will of the voters, or even if a Nixon veto was overruled by supermajorities, animal welfare groups could have run a new ballot initiative in 2012 that would be likely to win by an even larger margin than the 2010 Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. And though our legislature is pretty shameless, would they really be ridiculous enough to try to overturn the will of the voters a second time on the exact same issue? Or more to the point, would voters stand for them doing so?

    Yet if this compromise goes through, approved by MAAL and HSMO, it's hard to see voters having any desire to revisit the issue in future elections.

    Even with his Grand Bargain, however, Nixon is not completely off the hook. The leaders of the repeal movement are demanding that Nixon not veto their bill to gut the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act while waiting for the compromise to work its way through the legislature:
    State Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, who sponsored SB 113, is listed as one of the compromise's backers.

    "Growing Missouri agriculture and protecting dogs are both important priorities, and this agreement is a win on both fronts," Parson said in a release announcing the agreement.

    But Parson said in an interview that he wanted the governor first to sign SB 113 into law -- and then sign the proposed alternative, should the legislature pass it.

    Parson said the main differences between his bill and the new agreement are the types of veterinarian care required and the square footage of the cages confining the animals.

    Parson said that the agreement would be "dead" if Nixon vetoed SB 113.
    Parson continues:
    "If we're truly going to get this done, we're going to know before this veto happens," Parson said. "I hope the compromise is worked out. I hope everyone at the table can get it done. You've got to get it through the [legislature] in a short-term period of time, which is a very difficult process to do. We're going to work for that, if that's what the coalition decides."

    "But I think to say that we're going to veto [my bill] right off the bat to do this, I don't think we're going to want to use this as a political game," Parson added. "And I hope that nobody's doing that."
    Needless to say, this is complete crap. Republicans (and the absurd Democrats who voted with them) are the ones with the most to lose here, and they should absolutely not be put in a position of power by allowing the repeal to pass and then patiently waiting to see if they fulfill their end of the bargain. With unhinged characters like Nieves and Lembke willing to hold the Senate hostage over things like allowing federal money to go to the unemployed, could there be any worse idea than trusting them with passing a bill that, at least in theory, strengthened protections on dogs? I think the answer is obviously "no."

    In fact, in my opinion, Parson's ridiculous position gives Nixon an out. Nixon should veto the repeal bill, SB 113, immediately. If Parson then says that the deal is "dead," well Nixon can honestly say in good faith that he tried to find a compromise. And by completely accident, maybe the will of the voters would be respected after all.

    Update: OK, here's a statement from Baker:
    "The agriculture groups signed on to it, the dog breeders association signed on to it, and I think everybody's in agreement that this is the best," said Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, one of the groups that signed the agreement.

    " I think it significantly improves conditions for the dogs, and we're very very pleased with this agreement," Baker said.

    Somehow, I don't quite see the value of being in agreement with the same people who said that Prop B was a secret communist plot to take over Missouri and force everyone to eat bean sprouts. I sure hope MAAL or HSMO offers a more detailed explanation than this!

    St. Louis Tea Party: Steve Tilley Sides With "Hardest of Hard Left"

    Other than Dana Loesch and Jim Hoft, the St. Louis Tea party appears to be largely politically irrelevant nowadays. However, they sure do provide some quality entertainment.

    After the St. Louis Tea Party suggested a few weeks ago that House Republican Speaker Steve Tilley is secretly doing the bidding of the New Black Panther Party by supporting local control of the St. Louis Police Department, Bill Hennessy is now suggesting that Tilley is "siding with the hardest of the hard left" because Tilley is listed as a cosponsor of a bill that would allow presidential elections to be decided by the national popular vote. In a post titled Steve Tilley vs The Constitution, Hennessy writes the following:
    Make no mistake: on this issue, Tilley sides with the hardest of the hard left.
    He also wrote that
    Team Tilley strikes out again.
    In a previous post titled, Steve Tilley vs Fiscal Responsibility, Hennessy said this:
    Four men risked their political lives to help solve the problem of our lifetimes, but they forgot to massage Steve Tilley’s monstrous ego...

    According to the

    And Tilley said the House won’t put too much weight on what he believes the Senate wants him to do.
    “I’m not going to be held hostage by a few people,” he said.
    Of course not. Not unless the hostage takers are billionaires.
    That last quote was apparently a reference to Tilley's substantial donations from millionaire Rex Sinquefield.

    Though it's fun to read, there's really not much reason for Tilley to care about these threats. Mike Flynn of Big Government threatened to "go nuclear" on Tilley a few weeks ago if Tilley didn't "massage the tea party's monstrous ego" (my words). Tilley ignored him, and lost nothing by doing so.

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    Indianapolis Tea Party Rally With Dana Loesch Bombs

    Last year, the Indianapolis Tea Party held a tax day tea rally that attracted over 2,000 people according to local news stations. Similarly, the year before they had a rally that was reported to have attracted thousands.

    This year, they got the bright idea to ask Dana Loesch to keynote their tax day rally and, well, things didn't work out so well. Even Indiana tea partiers only reported "300" people, and photos suggest that even that estimate is being generous:

    In fact, conservative blogger Fuzzy Conservative, who took the photo, called it "low attendance" and made excuses for the poor showing:

    Um, yeah. They all had hair appointments, or something.

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Nixon Should Veto The Prop B Repeal, For St. Louis and Missouri

    I was thinking of writing a post pointing out that a lot of people in St. Louis have been frustrated with Governor Nixon and that a good way for him to show that he's committed to our city and not only to the rural parts of the state would be to veto the recent bill rolling back the voter approved Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, but it looks like the Post-Dispatch editorial board beat me to the punch:
    Mr. Nixon should veto the bill....

    Missouri’s rural lawmakers — mostly Republicans — do a disservice to the value of elections when they override the will of the voters and send a message that voters’ opinions don’t matter. It undermines their credibility when they say, as Rep. Tom Loehner, R-Koeltztown, and others have, that city voters didn’t know what they were passing and that they don’t understand agriculture.

    Indeed, city voters understood the issue well. They understood that every time a rogue puppy mill was shut down, their shelters in the cities and suburbs took in scores, if not hundreds, of malnourished, abused puppies left to die by scofflaws who flouted the law with a lack of human decency. They also understood that the measure had nothing to do with farm animals.
    I know that the desire to appease the rural parts of the state make this a tough political decision for Nixon's people, but there's really an simple idea to appeal to in order to defend a veto: respecting the will of the voters. The current legislature has been going nuts trying to roll back every voter approved initiative that clashes with their extreme views. But while people in rural areas might disagree with a Nixon decision to veto the bill, could they really have any serious argument against the simple idea of protecting a bill that state voters approved? Nixon should do the right thing and not throw St. Louis, puppies, and the majority of voters in the state under the bus for cynical political expediency.

    For more on this issue, please read Shelley's excellent response to the the Post-Dispatch editorial. Also, you can contact Nixon's campaign about this here.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Craig Cheatham vs Dick Fleming

    Chad Garrison at the RFT flagged a pretty fascinating confrontation between KMOV reporter Craig Cheatham and Regional Chamber and Growth Association President Dick Fleming. Chad offers some color commentary and a poll about who makes out better, but all I really have to say is, "Wow."

    Dana Loesch Reverses Position on "Birfers"

    Dana Loesch used to claim that it was hypocritical for conservatives to expect to get a pass for being a "birfer" and compared the position to being a 9/11 truther. In a blog post a little over a year ago, she quoted Erick Erickson as saying the following:
    We should be willing to show each other good grace and a measure of understanding in dealing with the troublesome fringe. We should also remember it was the Clintonistas who started the birfer rumor and the most vocal truthers live in Hollywood and voted for Obama. That is not, however, an excuse for us to associate with the nuts....We must be vigilant. We must be willing to draw a line in the sand and stand against fatuous nonsense that opens up the right to attacks by a left-leaning media intent on embarrassing the good people who have developed through the tea party movement a renewed sense of civic involvement.
    Loesch added:
    It’s a waste of time to focus on anything other more convicting of character than say, the abuse of the Commerce Clause in fauxcare, the unconstitutionality of nationalizing huge chunks of the private sector, the appointment of extremists to positions of power, the list is endless.

    I’m fully aware and accept that there are extremes on both sides of the political spectrum. What I don’t accept is the complete and total hypocrisy that comes from demanding Van Jones’ resignation for the exact same thing while expecting other conservatives or activists to give them a pass because they are conservative.
    So I'm sure it will come as a huge surprise to find out that Loesch is now happy to "associate with the nuts" and to "give a pass" to the birther conspiracy theorists. On her show yesterday, she let Donald Trump rant unchallenged about Obama's birth certificate:

    CNN sure has high standards!

    Lembke Uses Tea Party Blog To Whine About How Misunderstood He Is

    After leading a group of grandstanding state senators fillibustering to deny money for healthcare, education funds, and unemployment benefits (and demonizing the unemployed as lazy in the process), Jim Lembke has searched his heart and finally found some sympathy. For himself.

    Lembke apparently is feeling quite victimized over the fact that no one appreciates what a great guy he is for trying to defund our schools and kick sand in the eye of people struggling to pay the bills, and seems to be using the St. Louis Tea Party blog to vent his frustrations.

    A little context before getting to the tragic story of our state's most misunderstood man. Lembke was apparently behind the push to get Chip Wood selected as the Republican County Assessor candidate:
    Chip Wood’s horrid performance – taking only 34% - in the St. Louis County Assessor race has Republicans finger pointing, mainly at the process which chose their flawed candidate. One operative says that it was Sen. Jim Lembke’s people, led by Republican committeeman John Judd, who pushed for Wood over Gene McNary.
    So, with that in mind, you can see how Bill Hennessy's recent post about the "selfishness" of the Missouri Republican Party is nothing more than a long list of Lembke complaints about how he doesn't get more respect while he's drinking port and smoking cigars at the good old boys club:
    How selfish were these Republicans?
    • One State Senator from St. Louis County attended a $150 per person fundraiser for the candidate but paid only $100. And if you think it had something to do with Chip’s property tax issue, think again. This Senator from an affluent area never asked for the money back after the story broke.
    • A rising star in the GOP House (who hopes to be Speaker one day) is busy amassing over $1 million for his re-election to the House. A million bucks for a race in which he’s likely to run uncontested. He’ll spread that wealth around next year—to buy votes for the Speakership. With tons of cash in the bank, this bright young man did little or nothing for the assessor race—yet his constituents will be disproportionately damaged when the elected Democrat assessor uses his power to redistribute wealth in St. Louis County.
    • In his race for the Senate, Jim Lembke worked tirelessly to win in a very tough district. But the Missouri GOP did almost nothing to help. In 2010, the Missouri GOP did as little as possible in St. Louis County. The result: two state-wide Republican candidates who won their elections handily lost landslides in St. Louis County.
    So, to summarize:
    • Boo hoo, a state senator only paid $100 for a fundraiser for Lemke's candidate.
    • Boo hoo, a "rising star" didn't give Lembke's candidate any money.
    • Boo hoo, nobody helped poor, "tireless" Jim Lembke.
    I'm sure that schoolchildren, the unemployed, bus riders, and people who would benefit from health care infrastructure are all crying their eyes out at this tale of woe from Lembke, the Most Misunderstood Man in Missouri.

    McCaskill Lobbying for High Speed Rail

    An encouraging (though not particularly surprising) report from PoliticMo:
    “The projects are essential to creating and supporting jobs that deliver both economic and transportation benefits to the heart of our country. The goal of the projects is to improve on-time performance and the future ability of trains to move at much faster speeds than the track allows,” McCaskill wrote in letter to Secretary Ray Lahood, McCaskill. “I support the efforts of MoDOT and will work to see that the high-speed rail funding goes towards creating jobs, improving passenger rail and growing our economy.”

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Modern Day Hog Farms Are Horrible

    I hate modern day hog farms because they're inhumane, have horrible working conditions, and are environmental disasters. But, of course, they also suck pretty bad just because of the smell:

    h/t Missouri News Horizon.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Discussions of Merged City/County Services Taking Place Behind Closed Doors

    I could have sworn that Mayor Slay and his advisors were saying that they wanted to plan the city's future along with "the people." Mayor Slay:
    Over the spring and coming summer months, I plan to continue the conversations with City voters that began in the successful campaign for passage of Proposition E. And I will ask other city officials to join the discussion and to work with me on a systematic review of government - what we do, why we do it, and how much it costs.
    And his Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford:
    And the key here is the voters. The voters in the City and the County are going to have a say in how much they want us doing business together and I think they've got to be part of the conversation and be brought in to the conversation.
    Yet, KMOX reports that meetings have been taking place behind closed doors, and that not even Aldermanic President Lewis Reed knew about them:
    A top St. official says there needs to be some legal ‘sunlight’ cast on the continuing merger talks between St. Louis City and County, which have been taking place out of public view.

    Aldermanic President Lewis Reed says he was shocked to learn in earlier news reports that city and county officials have been meeting to talk about dovetailing economic development, construction codes and healthcare. “I am not in the loop at all on any of this,” Reed said. “I found out in the news paper like everyone else.”
    Reed requested that he and the comptroller be brought into the conversations "as a bare minimum:"
    Reed says the Mayor’s office alone should not be at the table in the merger talks. He wants his office and the comptroller in on any future negotiations. “At minimum today, or as soon as possible, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment should get an update on what is going on,” Reed said. “And that would be the bare minimum.”
    Rainford responded to the story on Twitter as follows:

    But this seems to miss the point. I don't think peopler were criticizing the idea of meeting behind closed doors to plan a merger because what they really wanted was for the officials to meet behind closed doors and declare that there wouldn't be a merger. The point is that this should be a transparent and open process where citizens are given an opportunity to help shape the discussions rather than a group of suits meeting behind closed doors before bringing "The Answers" out on stone tablets to be voted on.

    Community Organizations React to Koster's Cowardice

    Community Organizations Decry Attorney General Koster’s Brief as More Political Gamesmanship Around Health Care Law

    Groups Point Out that Affordable Care Act is Benefitting Tens of Thousands of Missouri Seniors and Families.

    Missouri Jobs with Justice, a coalition of more than 100 labor, community, faith and student organizations, expressed disappointment that Missouri’s Attorney General is contributing to the politicization of the Affordable Care Act.

    Jobs with Justice and other community groups previously praised Attorney General Koster for staying out of politically-motivated lawsuits, despite pressure from Republican lawmakers urging Koster to sue the federal government.

    “Attorney General Koster is late to this game,” said Amy Smoucha, health care organizer with Missouri Jobs with Justice, “and his action can only be seen as joining the political circus.” Smoucha points out that Missouri cannot join the Florida lawsuit because it is on appeal and Koster’s brief will have almost no impact on the case. “These games have high stakes for Missourians,” Smoucha maintains. “While Missourians are more concerned about jobs and while tens of thousands of Missouri seniors, small businesses and families are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, Attorney General Koster just demonstrated he’s more interested in politics.”

    Mary Clemons, a resident of Kirkwood and a senior citizen on Medicare, spoke about the law’s immediate benefits. “People with health insurance pay higher premiums to cover those who have none,” Clemons said. Clemons, who is a member of the group Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, also expressed disappointment in Attorney General Koster’s decision to file an amicus brief in the Florida case. “We believe that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and should be upheld and implemented in its entirety. Missouri citizens are already enjoying the benefits of the law, and we support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” Clemons stated.

    Jobs with Justice cites the immediate benefits of the Affordable Care Act that lawsuits may put in jeopardy, including

    • More than 82,000 senior citizens who are getting help with prescription drugs
    • Nearly 3.3 million residents of Missouri with private insurance coverage who are now protected from lifetime limits placed on how much insurance companies will spend on their health care.
    • 961,000 seniors in Missouri who have Medicare coverage would be forced to pay a co-pay to receive important preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies.
    • 118 Employers receiving help from the Early Retiree Reinsurance ProgramThousands of Missourians who now have health insurance coverage because of the ACA provisions for children, young adults and people with pre-existing conditions.

    Activist Hub Radio 4/10/2011

    This week Adam and I interviewed Fifi and Sandra from the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC). We talked about the prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine, and the controversy over Marvin Casey, an Israeli Cultural Ambassador, and Wash U's Universal Beatz.

    Also we are on itunes so please subscribe Activist Hub Radio on Itunes.

    St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee Website
    St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee on Facebook
    The Palestine Papers

    Chris Koster Should be Primaried

    Chris Koster has announced that he is supporting the Republican lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act:
    After months of remaining publicly neutral on the issue, Koster, a Democrat, filed a friend of the court brief Monday in a federal case in Florida where several states have joined together to combat President Barack Obama's health care plan.

    The attorney general's move against the health care mandate is sure to raise eyebrows among progressives, some who have been wary of Koster's party credentials since he defected from the GOP a year before running statewide.
    Though he technically is not "joining" the lawsuit, but rather filing a "friend of the court" briefing, he is basically undermining the defining piece of legislation of the Democratic administration of the past two year: a change that was fought tooth and nail by greedy insurance companies who maximize profits at the expense of the American public. And Koster is doing so despite the fact that Republicans have made clear that they won't vote for him even if he flip flops.

    I don't think the Democratic party should tolerate statewide officials undermining the party. I have no interest in voting for Koster after this pathetic pandering. I hope people who actually believe in the values of the Democratic party can find a good primary challenger who would at least give us a decent candidate to vote for in November 2012.

    Birthday Wish: Raising Money for JwJ and ForwardSTL

    Last year for my birthday, I raised $942 from 34 people for the amazing organization Missouri Jobs with Justice. My fundraising was in part a response to the intense media coverage provided to the tea party's anti-transit campaign despite the fact that the campaign only ever had 25 people at a rally and could only raise $750 for their cause .

    This year, I'm doing something a little different, but related. First, I am again raising money for Missouri JwJ, because I still believe them to be the most effective group at strategically working for change that protects and improves the lives of working families. Here's what I wrote about them last year:
    First of all, Missouri Jobs with Justice is an amazing group. They do not just fight against symptoms, but work to address the structural problems that lead to economic injustice in our society. They led the effort to raise the Missouri minimum wage back in 2006 and have defended it from right-wing attack in the state legislature every year since. They stopped Ward Connerly from even being able to get enough signatures to get an anti-Affirmative Action initiative on the ballot. They helped coordinate the Missouri push for health care reform. And they've trained thousands of people to organize for social change. Any money that goes to Missouri JwJ will be used strategically and thoughtfully to fight for a more just society.
    This past year, JwJ played a crucial role in educating voters in St. Louis and Kansas City about the importance of the Earnings Tax and the disastrous consequences of eliminating it. They have also been working hard to protect the minimum wage, to protect workers' right to organize, and to fight against plans to put in place tax structures that primarily punish the poor and middle class while lowering taxes on the wealthy.

    However, in addition to raising money for JwJ, I am also raising money this year to pay for facebook advertising costs for a new venture, ForwardSTL was created by local bloggers based on the idea that our local media does not give enough of a voice to progressives, activists, and people who are interested in using new approaches to move the region forward. The site serves as a vehicle for highlighting interesting news and analysis not only from mainstream media sources, but also from citizens who write about their own experiences with activism, who share their analyses of politics, or who take video and photos of local events. In short, it's a way of building up our own citizen's media that will help to give a voice to perspectives that are not adequately covered in the traditional media. It is not competition against the local media, but rather a way of filling the holes in the coverage (such as, for example, the fact that many in the local media ignored a 4,300 person pro-union rally several weeks ago). And, I think you will find, it is something that is available to benefit any local social justice organization or any activist, as the site is specifically designed to share the content that you create!

    Anyway, I hope my friends and fellow fighters of the good fight can help pitch in to two endeavors that I believe can fundamentally change the St. Louis region for the better by clicking the donate button. The ability to effectively organize and the ability to effectively communicate are two necessary components of any movement designed to facilitate positive change. We have all of the talent, energy, and experience we need to make St. Louis better: we just need to do it.

    Thank you for your consideration,


    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Shocker! Recipient of Sinquefield Donations Wants to Deprive Public Schools of Funding!

    Great catch by Sean at FiredUp of some more craziness from State Senator Brian Nieves. Nieves is off his rocker as usual, so you should read the full post for pure entertainment value if nothing else, but the issue that set Nieves off is pretty interesting. Basically, Nieves has been threatening to block $200 million dollars in federal education funds for Missouri Schools. And, as pointed out by Union R-XI School Superintendent Steve Bryant, Nieves is also the recipient of campaign contributions from Missouri's favorite millionaire voucher evangelist Rex Sinquefield:
    “His (Nieves) idea is that we need to work on federal spending, but I just don’t feel this type of political stunt is how we accomplish that,” said Bryant. “It seems likely that his philosophy centers around major contributors like Rex Sinquefield.”
    And more:
    “I certainly understand the point that Sen. Nieves is trying to make in curtailing federal spending, and I don’t think anyone disagrees that we need to make more changes at the federal level, and at the same time, I understand the financial needs of this state,” Bryant said.

    “This money is being put out regardless. It is already in the pipeline. He certainly has the right to make a point, but that money won’t be sent back to the federal government — it will be redistributed to other states,” Bryant added. “It really puts a big hole in the already strained budget of Missouri.”

    “That jobs bill was to plug a hole in the state education budget. I think it is a real detriment in out ability to serve kids,” Bryant said,
    Another superintendent shared Bryant's views on the fillibuster:
    “It really was on the verge on ridiculous, but this latest change of events appears to be good news for public school districts,” VanLeer said. “I understand the principle of the matter, but it’s at the expense of schoolchildren.”
    Just another day of common sense and basic decency being trumped by dogmatic extremism built on the foundation of free-market mumbo-jumbo.

    For an example of biased “journalism” see: Earnings Tax is tip of broader debate on city’s future by David Nichlaus of the Post Dispatch

    Adam wrote on April 6 about the mayor of St. Louis planning for the demise of earnings tax despite the overwhelming support it received. . As any good journalist would, he pointed out that Rex Sinquefield's donations to the mayor raised the possibility of conflict of interest. Today David Nicklaus of the Post Dispatch took up the effort to repeal the earnings tax in opposition to the voters.
    Mr. Nicklaus acknowledges that the voters overwhelmingly approved the tax. How could he do otherwise? However he asserts that the earnings tax is what prevents the city from being competitive. How did he arrive at such a conclusion? He based it on this statement by a contractor working for the Missouri Council for a Better Economy which is funded by Rex Sinquefield. So Randy Bauer, a man currently working for Rex Sinquefield, says
    “We do a lot of work in a lot of cities, and I cannot think of another metro area where the suburb of 20,000 has a skyline like Clayton has. There is a reason all those companies have decided to go there.”Mr. Bauer does not say what the reason is but David Nicklaus assumes he means the earnings tax.
    Maybe Mr. Bauer does not give a reason because like Mr. Nichols he has not studied the issue. Perhaps Mr.Bauer has standards of honesty and professionalism that preclude such a statement ? David Nicklaus is not burdened with such standards so he can say anything.
    So if one wanted to honestly study such a phenomenon he or she might begin with some research before performing analysis.
    How many cities have earnings taxes in the U.S.? answer 14 states and the district of Columbia a list encompassing hundreds of cities.

    Has there ever been a documented scientific study that demonstrates that employers avoid such cities? In truth I do not know. Nor apparently does Mr. Nicklaus. Mayor Schoemehl did tell me personally that studies showed no correlation but I cannot speak from personal knowledge.
    Of those how many like St. Louis have a competing burb like Clayton? Admittedly I have done no research but according to David Nicklaus's expert Randy Bauer, none. I will take him at his word.
    How many cities that have a competing burbs like Clayton are a city which is also a county? If we assume that Mr. Bauer's assertion about no other city being like St. Louis, I would have to assume that St. Louis is the only city with only 72 square miles incorporated competing with its own county. (sloppy scholarship I admit but I make no claims)
    Having dismissed Mr. Nicholas unsupported assertion that the earnings tax is THE reason lets go on with the rest of his article which is about the “excellent study “commissioned by Rex Sinquefield to explore how the replacing Earnings Tax can be accomplished.
    According to David Nicklaus the study makes suggestions that will “anger powerful interest groups.” You know those interest groups, aka special interest, the people who unlike Rex Sinquefield and his toadies don't have the city's’ best interest at heart. The powerful interest groups include :

    Homeowners : Nicklaus, Mayor Slay and Rex Sinquefield want to raise property taxes but those selfish homeowners may not think that is fair. The homeowners fear losing their homes, the renters higher rents and everyone fears paying a dispropotionate amount.

    Small business owners and consumers: Rex Sinquefield et al want to raise sales taxes but those selfish business owners fear losing their businesses and the consumers skyrocketing prices or being forced to shop outside the city.

    Hotel and entertainment industry: these selfish folks are concerned about scaring away tourist and conventions thus costing us millions in economic activity and thousands of jobs.
    Not for Profits: The city’s largest employers feel that their not for profit status is deserved and that they should be rewarded for what they bring to the community not penalized. Evil Not for Profits.
    Now I will say that Mr. Nicklaus makes one argument that may be valid. He says that a large reliance on one revenue source is not balanced. However I must ask; Is the earnings tax dependent on one revenue source or is every business is the city plus every business a city employee works in a fairly diverse source. Plus is 30% too great in one source?
    The article ends “Just because something is difficult does not mean it is not worth pursuing. “ I must agree but is there any evidence that this change is worth pursuing? I mean besides the benefit to Rex Sinquefield?

    Prop A Anniversary (Video)

    Thanks to Damien Johnson for grabbing some video of the panel assembled for the anniversary of Proposition A, the ballot initiative that saved public transportation in St. Louis. My fellow panelists included Nancy Cross of SEIU, Dr. Suggs of the St. Louis American, Tom Shrout the former director of Citizens for Modern Transit, Rose Windmiller of Washington University, and John Nations, at that time the leader of the campaign and the Republican Mayor of Chesterfield. The panel was moderated by Eddie Roth of the Post-Dispatch. Unfortunately, it looks like Damien didn't catch my introduction from Eddie, which about knocked me off my chair because it was so nice, but you can catch a good chunk of my comments on the role of social media and student involvement here:
    Damien also got some video footage of Nancy Cross from SEIU discussing how they helped out in the campaign:
    And John Nations:

    UMSL Professors David Kimball and Todd Swanstrom (along with Tom Shrout) put together a nice report analyzing the campaign and suggesting some lessons for the future.

    Other bloggers in attendance: Justin Chick of Transit Turning Point, Court Sloger of NextStop STL, and Steve Patterson of Urban Review STL.