Beautiful Homecoming Greeting for U.S. Soldier Back From Afghanistan

Get out your hankies:

From Welcome Home Blog: “Alexis had no idea her daddy would be home from Afganistan when she went to school on June 1, 2011. After lunch her daddy showed up for the surprise of her lifetime!!!”

Why Did Grass Valley City Council Ignore Public Comments on IMM Contracts?

By Don Pelton

Four of the five members of the Grass Valley City Council, in its meeting of November 8th, voted unanimously to approve the proposed contracts with ASCENT Environmental (for the revised Idaho-Maryland Mine EIR) and with Emgold (the reimbursement agreement). Dan Miller was absent.

Before the vote, Mayor Jan Arbuckle allowed public comments, within the following guidelines:

“I’m going to allow public comments on this, but before I do I want us to be clear that what we’re talking about is not the merits of the Idaho-Maryland Mine, whether it should happen or it shouldn’t. This is strictly to award the contract for the revised EIR. So, we’re not going to make a decision on whether the mine should go forward or should not go forward. It’s just to grant the contract for the revised EIR.”

Several of the nearly one dozen speakers specifically addressed contract issues, calling on the city to include some time constraints in the new contract with IMM, and to avoid the sort of unlimited, open-ended agreements that have allowed Emgold to drag-out the process with no action over the last several years.

Other speakers called for a new economic viability study to be provided in the contract for the revised EIR. And still others suggested refraining from entering into the ASCENT contract for the revised DEIR “until Emgold has bonded the money for the completion of the work up-front.”

Notice that these are all business considerations regarding the contracts, not environmental issues regarding the re-opening of the mine itself.

Why, then, did the council members — when all the public comments were complete — vote immediately to approve the contracts, with no discussion of the relevant business concerns raised by these speakers?

There is no way to know what thoughts were in the council members’ minds as they listened to the public comments, although they did appear to be awake.

Had they misunderstood what they were hearing as criticisms of the mine project itself, rather than — as was the case — criticisms of the structure of the proposed contracts with IMM and ASCENT?  Or, also possible, had they simply made up their minds in advance?

One of the speakers in favor of the project, Libertarian Gary Bryant, dismissed all the critics as environmentalists who, he said, he was “sure are doing God’s work, but … ”

David Watkinson, President of Emgold, who — as usual —  contrived to have the last word, also mis-stated these issues of the flawed contracts as environmental issues. He said, “the questions that most of the people brought up tonight will be addressed in the CEQA process.” That is clearly not true, since several speakers called for time-limited contracts.

Here are the videos of most of the dozen or so speakers in the order they occurred.

Note: David Watkinson was the only speaker of the night whom Mayor Arbuckle inexplicably allowed to exceed the 3-minute time limit during the public remarks. He spoke for nearly 6 minutes publicly before being invited by the council to sit down and answer some more questions. I’ve combined both of his opportunities to speak into one nearly 9-minute video below.


Ralph Silberstein
Excerpt:

“I applaud the fact that the city is requiring initial deposits totaling $440,000, but given the past history of IMM, it may be many months or years before the deposit is made. So I am here tonight to ask the city to not create another open-ended contract with IMM. This is not fair to the consultants, and it is not fair to the community.

In summary, what I am asking is a simple common sense approach: put an expiration date in. Require that the contract should specify that the initial deposits are to be made within 30 days, or the contract is canceled. If they are not prepared to make the deposit now, after over 3 years since the project was submitted, then they have no business being here.”


Ray Bryars

Excerpt:

“I wanted to bring the Council’s attention to a recent press release that is on the Emgold web site and to request that no contracts be approved at this time and that Emgold be given a deadline as to when they must fund the DEIR or withdraw their application.”


Tom Grundy
Excerpt:

“As soon as the city signs the contract with Ascent for preparation of the revised draft EIR, Emgold intends to immediately ask for an indefinite deferral before the contract work actually begins – because they do not have the money to pay for it.

“Emgold also specifically spells out the possibility of terminating the application if they cannot get enough money to pay for Ascent’s work.”


Julie Carroll


Bob Bogart
Excerpt:

“Since the tile factory is such an integral part of the project, I ask that an independent study be made of the economic aspects of the tile factory that I have outlined here. And that this study be prepared as part of the RDEIR so that it can be reviewed and commented upon by the community.”


Suzanne Smith
Excerpt:
Suzanne Smith said she noticed that in Emgold’s revised project description they provided for some shifts to run as long as twelve hours, so she called CAL-OSHA and asked about that issue:

“I called CAL-OSHA and asked, ‘Do you allow mining operations to have their employees work 12 hours, because it seems dangerous to me?’ And he said, ‘Whoa … yeah, they can come in with that proposal, but accidents start happening after 8 hours, and that’s when we step in.'”


Joseph Cochran


Mike Pasner
Excerpt:

“Please protect the people who elected you with a full disclosure statement. As you hire Ascent make sure they know the IMM has already asked for another 60 or 90 day extension and that this is their method of operation … Whenever you are doing business with someone who is deeply in debt, it makes sense to get the money up front and have a drop dead deadline.”


Olivia Diaz


Gary Bryant


Kent Penwarden
Excerpt:

“I’m totally baffled … From a plain business aspect of this thing, it seems very strange to me why you are even considering this business prospect this evening, under the condition that the only person you are dealing with … is a semi-broke in-debt pennystock company from Canada and no one else is even knocking on the door that I’m aware of to try to start this mine … “


David Watkinson

Excerpt:

“The questions that most of the people brought up tonight will be addressed in the CEQA process.”

Bungling Bloomberg Bulldozes Books

The standard bookplate phrase “Ex Libris” is used in the title of the article excerpted below as a double-entendre: “From the library of” Occupy Wall Street, and “Former library of ” Occupy Wall Street.

This would normally be a funny play on words, but it’s not so funny under the circumstances, as lambert strether explains in his guest post at the Naked Capitalism Blog: “Ex Libris: About those 5,554 books in the #OWS library

He writes about the police raid on Occupy Wall Street yesterday, and the zealous destruction of its considerable library.

I’m fond of books, so I take this personally:

“Yes, there were 5,554; here’s the catalog. The eclectic, donated collection, originally cared for by Brooklyn librarian Betsy Fagin, was housed in a tent donated by singer/writer Patti Smith. I say “there were 5,554″ because this morning New York Mayor-for-Life Michael Bloomberg had the library bulldozed, as part of his bungled invasion of Zuccotti Park, already rebounding to Bloomberg’s discomfiture and (hence) the public good. What’s Bloomberg’s problem with books, anyhow? Does he think trashing a library is going to help him buy his way to a third-party presidential run? Is “destroying things never felt so good” really the platform America’s Mayor of the 1% wants to run on?

“Now, let’s be fair. It is true that Bloomberg didn’t actually set the people’s books on fire.Book Burning All Bloomberg did was bulldoze the library, put the books into garbage trucks, and haul them away to a Department of Sanitation facility at 650 West 57th Street in Manhattan — not to be confused with any of these facilities — claiming that they could be picked up today (Wednesday), presumably on presentation of the proper (photo) ID [Of whom?], thumbprint, iris scan, DNA sample, or whatever else the powers that be want from us these days. Some flack then tweeted a putative photo of said books “safe and sound” Alleged OWS books. OccupyLibrary:

“We’re glad to see some books are OK. Now, where are the rest of the books and our shelter and our boxes?

[…]

” … a library is more than its holdings. As soon as Zuccotti Square was re-occupied, Occupiers began immediately began to self-organize the library again.

“Here’s the library at 7:00AM today,” strether says. “And here’s the address where you can send donated books.”

Read the full article by lambert strether of Corrente: “Ex Libris: About those 5,554 books in the #OWS library

The Veterans of the 99%

Reprinted from New Deal 2.0 (November 11. 2011)

By Reese Neader

Our veterans fight for our country overseas. They shouldn’t have to fight for a job when they come home.

It’s Veterans Day 2011, and the Great Recession continues. Just as in years past, American veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home to a country that cannot provide them the basic dignity of having a job or a place to live. But this year something is different: they are marching for justice.

The status quo is grim. The unemployment rate among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is 12 percent, even higher than the unacceptable national average of 9 percent. In 2009, over 130,000 U.S. vets spent at least one night in a homeless shelter. Our veterans should be coming home to a country that honors and respects their sacrifice. Instead, our country’s largest banks, including JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, have been accused of overcharging them on their mortgages.

Now veterans across the country are joining the Occupy movement to protest economic inequality, denounce corporate greed, and demand jobs. Many of these brave heroes have also challenged law enforcement in their local communities for attacking unarmed civilians. But some of these veterans have also been attacked by police for exercising their own freedom of speech.

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When Scott Olsen, an Iraq War veteran and Marine, demonstrated at an Occupy rally in Oakland, he was shot with a tear gas canister and sustained severe head injuries. In response, hundreds of veterans marched silently through lower Manhattan (from Vietnam Veterans Park to Zuccotti Park) to protest his mistreatment and show solidarity for the Occupy movement. Since then, another veteran has been hospitalized in Oakland, this time with a ruptured spleen from being beaten by the police. Despite this backlash, the Occupy Veterans movement is growing as men and women who have served in our armed forces continue their fight on behalf of American citizens and their constitutional rights.

Some progress has already been made. The Move Your Money campaign is taking money away from the multinational corporations that are putting our veterans out in the street and redirecting it to credit unions that will invest in our communities. A proposed Veterans Jobs Bill would provide tax breaks for companies that hire jobless veterans and veterans with service-oriented disabilities. But there is much more to be done. While we take today to honor veterans’ service, we must remember that we cannot tolerate a financial and economic system that leaves them broke, homeless, and in debt.


Reese Neader is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network’s Policy Director.


Why Businesses Love Complex Regulations

Kevin Drum, writing in Mother Jones, makes one of those points that seems obvious in retrospect.

Businesses, he says, when they are unable to defeat regulations (like the “Volcker Rule” embedded in Dodd-Frank) work relentlessly to render them ineffective through the complexity of copious exemptions and loopholes. (The Dodd-Frank pre-amble alone is 215 pages, with 381 footnotes).

But businesses don’t like simple rules, because simple rules are hard to evade. So they lobby endlessly for exemptions both big and small. This is why we end up with tax subsidies for bow-and-arrow makers. It’s why we end up with environmental rules that treat a hundred different industries a hundred different ways. It’s why financial regulators don’t enact simple leverage rules or place firm asset caps on firm size. Those would be hard to get around and might genuinely eat into bank profits. Complex rules, conversely, are the meat and drink of $500-per-hour lawyers and whiz kid engineers. If the rules are complicated enough, smart lawyers can always find ways around them. And American corporations employ lots of smart lawyers.

Keep this firmly in mind the next time you hear someone from the Chamber of Commerce complaining about how many thousands of pages of regulations they have to comply with.

Read full article: “Corporations Hate Regulation, Until They Love It


The Right Wing’s 2011 Shellacking

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

This week’s elections around the country were brought to you by the word “overreach,” specifically conservative overreach. Given an opportunity in 2010 to build a long-term majority, Republicans instead pursued extreme and partisan measures. On Tuesday, they reaped angry voter rebellions.

The most important was in Ohio, where voters overwhelmingly defeated Gov. John Kasich’s bill to strip public employee unions of essential bargaining rights. A year ago, who would have predicted that standing up for the interests of government workers would galvanize and mobilize voters on this scale? Anti-labor conservatives have brought class politics back to life, a major threat to a GOP that has long depended on the ballots of white working-class voters and offered them nothing in return.

In Maine, voters exercised what that state calls a “people’s veto” to undo a Republican-passed law that would have ended same-day voter registration, which served Maine well for almost four decades. What’s often lost is that the conservative Republicans elected in 2010 aren’t simply pushing right-wing policies. Where they can, they are also using majorities won in a single election to manipulate future elections—by making it harder for young and minority voters to cast ballots, and by trying to break the political power of unions. The votes in Maine and Ohio were a rebuke to this strategy.

[…]

Read the full article in Truthdig: “The Right Wing’s 2011 Shellacking

“Onward to the Edge” (Symphony of Science)

The latest installment in the Symphony of Science series.

Why Didn’t Right-Wing Cheating Work in Ohio?

The right-wing used its traditional tried-and-true methods of cheating in yesterday’s election in Ohio (voting restrictions, deceptive ads, misleading instructions, etc.) and still they lost.

They lost big.

What gives?

Could it be that people are waking up?

Early voting was shut down by fiat on Friday, even though early voting traditionally runs through Sunday. Robo-calls by an Iowa-based Republican group targeted Ohio Democrats announcing the wrong day for the vote. Racially-charged flyers were distributed by a Virginia group led by Dick Cheney’s daughter, Liz. And an organization funded in part by billionaire David Koch’s Americans For Prosperity even ran ads with deceptively-edited video of a pro-labor advocate designed to make it look like she supported Ohio’s Senate Bill 5, the law that would have virtually ended collective bargaining for public employees. But none of it worked.

Read Adele Stan’s full report on the Ohio election here:  “Ohio: Koch-Backed Anti-Worker Bill Resoundingly Defeated By Voters

Why Mitt Romney’s Entitlement-Privatization Plan Is Crazy

By Matt Taibbi

“David Brooks, the [gratuitous insult deleted], wrote this this morning entitled “Mitt Romney, the Serious One.” In it, he explained how Romney’s recent decision to unveil a plan for reforming the entitlement system “demonstrates his awareness of the issues that need to define the 2012 presidential election.”

Romney grasped the toughest issue – how to reform entitlements to avoid a fiscal catastrophe – and he sketched out a sophisticated way to address it.

“So we had a giant financial crash in 2008 that necessitated a bailout costing a minimum of nearly $5 trillion and perhaps ultimately costing $10 trillion more, we have foreclosure crisis with more than million people a year losing their homes, and we have a burgeoning European debt disaster that threatens to devastate the global financial system – and the chief issue facing the country, according to Brooks and the Times, is reforming the entitlement system?

“The column goes on to throw bouquets on Romney’s plan to semi-privatize Medicare and Social Security. Romney’s ideas are not as draconian as Paul Ryan’s, but they do pave the way for Wall Street’s ultimate goal – full privatization of Social Security and Medicare.

“Think about what such reforms might mean. Your typical Medicare/Social Security recipient might already have been ripped off three different ways in this era.

“He might have been sold a crappy mortgage or a refi by a Countrywide-type firm (which often targeted the elderly). He might then also have unwittingly become an investor in such mortgages and seen the value of his retirement holdings devastated (many of the banks sold their crappy mortgage-backed securities to state pension funds).

“Lastly, if he paid taxes, he saw part of his tax money go to pay off the bets the banks made against these same mortgages.

“So now that Wall Street has ripped off this segment of society three times, it makes all the sense in the world that Mitt Romney – a former Wall Street superstar who was a chief architect of the modern executive-compensation-driven corporation – is coming back and telling us that we need to cut their Medicare and Social Security benefits in order to defray the cost of the previous three scams.”

Read full article here.

All Things Considered Falls for Pew’s Phony Generational War Story

Reprinted from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (November 7, 2011)

By Dean Baker

All Things Considered did a major piece on a study from the Pew Research Center which showed substantial increase in the median wealth of people over age 65 from 1983 to 2009, while wealth among those under 35 actually fell. The Pew study was seriously misleading for several reasons.

First, the wealth of all groups except the young rose. In other words, it is not just the wealthy who saw an increase in their wealth over this period. The Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finance (a different survey) shows that the median wealth of households aged 35-44 rose by almost 25 percent over this period, median wealth for households between the ages of 45 to 54 rose by 60 percent, and more than 100 percent for people between 55 and 64. Of course much of this wealth is simply defined contribution pensions (which do get counted) displacing defined benefit (DB) pensions, which don’t get counted.

It is remarkable that the researchers at Pew did not make a point of discussing the role of DB [Defined Benefit] pensions since it is likely that the decline of DB pensions likely offsets much of the rise in wealth. It is also very misleading to highlight the percentage decline in the wealth of the young, since they had very little wealth even in 1983. If the median young household had $10 in wealth in 1983 and this fell to $1 in 2009, this would be a 90 percent drop in wealth. However, it would be foolish to highlight this decline. The basic story is that young people had little wealth in both periods.


Dean Baker is the author of The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive, Taking Economics Seriously, False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy, Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy, The United States Since 1980, The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer, Social Security: The Phony Crisis (with Mark Weisbrot), and The Benefits of Full Employment (with Jared Bernstein). He was the editor of Getting Prices Right: The Debate Over the Consumer Price Index, which was a winner of a Choice Book Award as one of the outstanding academic books of the year. He appears frequently on TV and radio programs, including CNN, CBS News, PBS NewsHour, and National Public Radio. His blog, Beat the Press, features commentary on economic reporting. He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan.

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