Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ousted Florida Republicans, including ex-Gov. Crist, say voter suppression was state GOP's goal

From Daily Kos: Ousted Florida Republicans, including ex-Gov. Crist, say voter suppression was state GOP's goal
The former chairman of the Florida Republican Party and former Gov. Charlie Crist, along with two of the party's consultants, say the Grand Old Party curtailed early voting in the state for the express purpose of reducing turnout by Democrats. Although citizen advocates have been saying for more than a year that such efforts in Florida and elsewhere were intended to hurt Democrats at the polls, these insider comments are the strongest evidence yet of the GOP's unAmerican shenanigans directed at curtailing the vote. Not just of Democrats, but of African American voters.

Dara Kam and John Lantigua at the Palm Beach Post quoted Jim Greer, the former state Republican chairman:

“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” Greer told The Post. “It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … ‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,’ ” Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants. [...]

“They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue,” Greer said. “It’s all a marketing ploy.” ...

“The sad thing about that is yes, there is prejudice and racism in the party but the real prevailing thought is that they don’t think minorities will ever vote Republican,” he said. “It’s not really a broad-based racist issue. It’s simply that the Republican Party gave up a long time ago ever believing that anything they did would get minorities to vote for them.”

The law that was passed in 2011 with supermajorities of Republicans in the Florida legislature cut early voting days from 14 to eight, placed restrictions on voter registration efforts that were so onerous the League of Women Voters stopped its efforts in the state and made it more difficult for voters who changed counties between elections to vote, a move that affected minority citizens more than whites.

Greer is under indictment for a campaign fundraising scheme that allegedly put $200,000 into his pocket. He claims party officials knew what he was doing and didn't object and he has sued them for money he says they owe him. The party's current chairman says anything Greer says should be viewed in light of the indictment. In fact, Greer made similar allegations last July during a court hearing on his lawsuit.

The problem with the current chairman's line of defense is that Crist backs up what Greer says. And so do two current GOP consultants, one of whom didn't want his name used:

Wayne Bertsch, who handles local and legislative races for Republicans, said he knew targeting Democrats was the goal.

“In the races I was involved in in 2008, when we started seeing the increase of turnout and the turnout operations that the Democrats were doing in early voting, it certainly sent a chill down our spines. And in 2008, it didn’t have the impact that we were afraid of. It got close, but it wasn’t the impact that they had this election cycle,” Bertsch said, referring to the fact that Democrats picked up seven legislative seats in Florida in 2012 despite the early voting limitations.

Crist said that after he extended early voting hours by executive decree in 2008, some Republicans told him, "You just gave the election to Barack Obama.”

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012 Holiday Season TV Specials

2012 Christmas and Holiday Season TV Specials Schedule
Date, day Time Special Broadcast network Cable network Year
Nov. 21, Wed. 8:00 p.m. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving ABC 1973
Nov. 22, Thu. 9:00 a.m. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade NBC live
Nov. 22, Thu. 8:00 p.m. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving ABC 1973
Nov. 23, Fri. 8:00 p.m. Frosty the Snowman CBS 1969
Nov. 23, Fri. 8:00 p.m. Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown FOX 2011
Nov. 28, Wed. 8:00 p.m. A Charlie Brown Christmas ABC 1965
Nov. 28, Wed. 9:00 p.m. SNL Christmas NBC 1977 - 2012
Nov. 29, Thu. 8:00 p.m. Mickey's Christmas Carol ABC FAM 1983
Dec. 1, Sat. 8:00 p.m. It's a Wonderful Life NBC 1946
Dec. 1, Sat. 8:00 p.m. Elf ABC FAM 2003
Dec. 2, Sun. 5:00 p.m. Elf ABC FAM 2003
Dec. 2, Sun. 7:00 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC FAM 1966
Dec. 4, Tue. 7:30 p.m. Frosty's Winter Wonderland ABC FAM 1976
Dec. 4, Tue. 8:00 p.m. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer CBS 1964
Dec. 4, Tue. 8:00 p.m. Elf ABC FAM 2003
Dec. 11, Tue. 8:00 p.m. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town ABC 1970
Dec. 17, Mon. 9:00 p.m. Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown FOX 2011
Dec. 18, Sun. 8:00 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC 1966
Dec. 20, Thu. 8:00 p.m. A Charlie Brown Christmas ABC 1965
Dec. 21, Fri. 8:00 p.m. I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown ABC 2003
Dec. 23, Sun. 7:00 p.m. The Sound of Music ABC 1965
Dec. 24, Mon. 8:00 p.m. (24 hr. marathon) A Christmas Story TBS 1983
Dec. 25, Tue. 8:00 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC 1966

Other classic Christmas films:
Holiday Inn (1942), Christmas in Connecticut (1945), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Bishop's Wife (1947), Holiday Affair (1949), Scrooge (1951), A Christmas Story (1983), Scrooged! (1988), Home Alone (1990)

Friday, November 23, 2012

WalMart Black Friday Strikes, Protests - Walton Heiress Issues Support

Mid-day, WalMart Black Friday Strikes, Walkouts, Protests update, November 23, 2012:
1:51 pm, from Salon.com: "1,000 Walmart protests across the US: An update on nationwide strikes and solidarity demonstrations" Protests began in 46 states on Thursday, Thanksgiving night.
(Los Angeles County Sheriff officers arrest clergyman at WalMart protest)
Picket in Duarte, Los Angeles County, California

Salon reported:
* Dozens of protesters supported strikers in Miami when they walked off the job last night.
* 500 workers and supporters marched on a Walmart in Landover, MD.
* Striking Chicago workers and their supporters marched on several Walmart stores in Illinois beginning at 5:30 a.m. Friday morning.
* Striking workers in Duarte, Calif. formed a picket lined up in front of their store.
* In Florida, U.S. Rep.-elect Alan Grayson walked a worker off her job Thursday night and then joined workers on the picket line Friday morning.
* Dozens protested with striking workers in San Leandro, Calif.
* Workers in Clovis and Albuquerque in New Mexico, walked off the job.
* In Lancaster, Texas, Dallas police ushered strikers off of Walmart property, but they continued their protest nearby.
* The walkout in Kenosha, Wisc. was amplified by a light show last night. And workers are now on strike in Milwaukee, Wisc.
* In Quincy, Mass. supporters projected a 30-foot “Stand Up, Live Better” message on facade of a Walmart supercenter. They distributed 650 flyers, 500 sets of handwarmers, and 300 “I support Walmart workers’ rights!” stickers to customers waiting in line, along with thank you cards for Associates.

1:14 pm, from America Blog: Billionaire Walmart heiress Alice Walton supports Black Friday strike

Alice Walton closed her art museum for Friday, November 23, out of respect for the strikers, and her Crystal Bridges Museum issued this statement:
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will close on Friday, November 23, out of respect for the Walmart workers engaging in Black Friday strikes, walkouts, and pickets. Alice Walton, Chair of the Board of Directors, also asks all Americans to stay home with their family rather than shop on Thanksgiving, so that Walmart workers do not have to report to work in the middle their Thanksgiving meals on this national holiday. The Museum will reopen on Saturday, November 24.

As Ms. Walton explained, “Since Black Friday is the unofficial start of the Christmas season, and this is the season of giving, I and the staff of Crystal Bridges have decided to stand with the workers of Walmart, the source of my family’s fortune, in their Black Friday strikes, walkouts, and pickets. I recognize this may come as a surprise to both Walmart workers and the American public. I have always assumed these hard-working men and women were being treated well, paid well, and being compensated with proper health benefits and vacation time. On this holiday, I give thanks for the fortune I inherited and for all the workers who earned it for me. They deserve to share its benefits. I was shocked to the point of disbelief when I first learned of the working conditions these decent Americans endure at the company that bears our family’s name. As a Walton, I cannot stomach the thought of our employees working for poverty wages, without sufficient healthcare, on a permanent part-time basis, or under threat of harassment, retaliation, or termination for organizing in their workplace. The workers of Walmart deserve better.”

“However, Walmart’s hostile battle against its own workers and their attempts to organize their workplace, improve working conditions, and earn a living wage, is not the only reason to stay home on Thanksgiving and on Black Friday. In the race to profit from cash-strapped deal-seekers desperate to save a buck, Walmart is now asking its employees to report to work in the middle of the Thanksgiving holiday in order to open stores that evening. This poor treatment of workers and crass commercialization of the holiday stamps ‘Black Friday’ with a whole new meaning: the black mark of shame.”

“Let us all stand in solidarity with these decent working Americans. Let us respect their struggle and their strike and not shop at Walmart on Black Friday, let alone on Thanksgiving day. In fact, let us not shop anywhere this holiday. I wish the entire nation a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas.”
12:30 pm: The Nation: protest photos and video from Hanover, MD, outside Baltimore, Maryland: "Black Friday Live Blog: 400 picket, leaflet, mic check, and sing in Maryland" (Updated 2:15 PM)
400-some activists, union members, and striking Walmart workers marched down streets and through a shopping center parking lot this morning before being met by a Walmart manager, and police, across from Hanover, Maryland’s Capital Plaza Walmart at 10 AM . . . .
The Nation also posted a mic check video (posted at right) from the WalMart, one of the few in the metropolitan Washington, DC area:
The Capital Plaza Walmart is the closest of six stores in the Washington, DC suburbs; labor and progressives have so far been successful at keeping the store out of the city itself. Organizers said that 100 workers at those six stores have struck at least once this week; they said at least a dozen are on strike today, but some workers involved in unloading goods decided to participate in Monday's strike instead to have more of an impact.
11:18 am, from Huffington Post:

Never imagine you'd see Walmart workers striking against their employer? Now you can, using the Twitter hashtag "#walmartstrikers," a phrase accompanying many photos tweeted out by the protesters during the Black Friday protests.
Walmart doesn't appear overly concerned. In a Friday morning press release, the retail giant said planned protests haven't affected the company's Black Friday plans so far: "Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates,” Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president and chief executive officer said in the release. “We estimate that less than 50 associates participated in the protest nationwide. In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year."
The strikes are being organized by OUR Walmart, a labor group backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Check out some photos from Twitter below:
In Chicago, IL
In Boynton Beach, FL
In Lakewood, CO

Danbury, CT, 1:22 pm: "At Walmart, Black Friday gains, union protests"District 1199 health care workers arrived at southwest Connecticut WalMart locations to demand improved wages and benefits for WalMart employees.

Detroit Free Press: Scattered Walmart strikes don't dent Black Friday bottom line Despite protests across nine states, WalMart undented, undanuted.

7:43 am, Los Angeles Times: metropolitan Los Angeles, CA: "Unhappy Wal-Mart workers plan Black Friday rally in Paramount"

MOULTRIE, Ga, 1:44 pm. -- Walmart says no one was injured in a frenzy over a Black Friday deal at one of its stores in south Georgia.
One commenter:
I'm told there is no talk of strikes or protests among employees at all. Very sad. The working conditions are terrible. Everyone understands the unfairness. But the culture is such that there is no solidarity among among workers and a fundamental anti-unionism in the overall community of Northern Alabama. People are convinced here that unions are Socialist, even while they are being exploited by low wages, few hours, no benefits, and abusive managers. They won't speak up in Alabama, as far as I know.
In Kalamazoo, MI: Informational protests in southern Michigan city: The 11:47 am Michigan Live article, "Black Friday Walmart protest in Kalamazoo: OUR group says workers need better wages, benefits," opened:
A nationwide informational protest outside Walmart stores included about a dozen people carrying signs on Black Friday morning outside the Walmart store on 9th Street near West Main Street in Oshtemo Township.
“We’re protesting the unfair labor practices of Walmart,” explained Lee Holdridge, of Kalamazoo.
He said the mammoth retailer fails to pay its workers insurance benefits and that leaves them in need.
“Why should we subsidize Walmart with Food Stamps and welfare programs because its people can’t afford insurance?” he asked.
He said the local protesters represented OUR Walmart. The “OUR” stands for Organization United for Respect at Walmart.
According to its website, OUR Walmart “works to ensure that every associate (worker), regardless of his or her title, age, race, or sex, is respected at Walmart. We join together to offer strength and support in addressing the challenges that arise in our stores and our company every day.”
FoxNews: NLRB Evaluates WalMart complaint against protesters: "NLRB still evaluating Walmart complaint against protesters, as retailer calls Black Friday a success" MISCELLANEOUS BLACK FRIDAY MAYHEM: "Black Friday Shoppers Hit By Suspected Drunk Driver In Walmart Parking Lot" (VIDEO) (Covington, suburb of Seattle, Washington) ABC TV News: "Black Friday Walmart Protest for Concerned Pet Owners

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wal-Mart Strike Set to Go on Black Friday, 2012

First, CORE in the Chicago Teachers Union; now, organizing in Wal-Mart, the United States' largest retailer. Is this the new dawn of union activism?
THANKSGIVING, November 22, 2012 update: The strike is still on: WPTV, West Palm Beach, FL ABC affiliate: Walmart Black Friday 2012 strike, protest, walkout update: Workers get ready for massive protest"

From Josh Eidelson, The Nation, November 20, 2012: "Worker Group Alleges Walmart 'Told Store-Level Management to Threaten Workers' About Strikes"

From Nick Copeland and Christine Labuski, Daily Kos, November 20, 2012:

"Behind OUR Walmart’s Black Friday Strike" bynick copelandFollow 72
People curious about what is behind the Wal-Mart Black Friday strikes planned by the members of Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart, (OUR Walmart) consider the story of Cayt Lawley.

We interviewed Cayt today to share her story about life as an OUR Walmart associate. This diary was co-written by Nick Copeland and Christine Labuski

People curious about what is behind the Wal-Mart Black Friday strikes planned by the members of Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart, (OUR Walmart) http://forrespect.org/... consider the story of Cayt Lawley. Cayt, who is 22 and has a high school education, worked for three separate Walmart stores over a total of almost three years; the most recent was in Searcy, Arkansas. Although her wages never broke $9/hour, and she believes that a manager’s refusal of her request for light duty led to a miscarried pregnancy, she loved the family vibe at Walmart almost as much as she loved serving its customers. Ironically, it was only after hearing negative things about OUR Walmart during a store training session that she researched them online. And she liked what she saw: demands for an across the board raise to $13/hour, more affordable health insurance, full-time hours, and predictable scheduling—in a word, respect.

After being an underground member for months and educating herself online about her rights as a worker, Cayt eventually “came out” to her manager, a necessary step to gain support from the organization. At first, Cayt questioned whether the $5 monthly dues was really worth it, her suspicion fueled by managers’ aggressive portrayals of unions as “greedy” organizations from whom her “money and signature” needed to be protected. Later, when angry about having been passed over for a 40-cent raise after a questionable performance evaluation, she turned to OUR Walmart for advice, which they provided. Afterwards, she trusted OUR Walmart as an extra support group in the Walmart family.

But she discovered that membership in OUR Walmart was not without risks. She began to notice extra attention from managers, who scrutinized her work for small mistakes. She was eventually fired two weeks after attending an OUR Walmart demonstration at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville this past October. Managers cite performance issues, but Cayt is certain she was retaliated against. She is now fighting to be reinstated in her previous position, and joining OUR Walmart’s call to stop retaliation against their members. http://makingchangeatwalmart.org

Wal-Mart claims that they provide good jobs, and paint Cayt and other members of OUR Walmart as a disgruntled minority, propped up by self-interested unions. But OUR Walmart members insist that their demands are widely shared by co-workers, many of whom are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs; Cayt herself knows several silent OUR Walmart sympathizers who remain too frightened to talk. Both presidential candidates in our most recent election promised “good jobs.” But at $7.95 per hour, the wage she was paid when she was fired, Cayt’s annual salary (assuming a 40 hour work week, a schedule that Walmart often promises but seldom delivers) amounted to $16,500—hardly a route to the middle class.

Stories like Cayt’s, not union manipulation, are behind OUR Walmart. Walmart workers belong to a society that promises its members inclusion in the middle class and social mobility through hard work. Hard-working Walmart associates find that the ladder to success is broken, and that the vast majority of Americans are stuck at the bottom rungs. These are the faces of America, the hundreds of millions of low-wage workers who feel themselves locked out of the American Dream, in an era when the wealthiest Americans are doing better than ever. OUR Walmart associates are joined by warehouse workers, hyper-exploited but invisible components of the supply chain who are also organizing for better conditions. http://www.warehouseworker.org/

If, as many have suggested, Walmart owes their remarkable success to society’s failure to fully deliver on the American Dream, then OUR Walmart owes its success to the hollowness of Walmart’s promise to make that same dream available to all of their associates. The Black Friday protests do not only concern Walmart workers; they speak to the concerns of everyone struggling to earn a living on hourly wages in an increasingly unforgiving and unequal economic system, one conspicuously marked by a decline in union power, on the one hand, and the skyrocketing of CEO salaries, on the other. Labor rights issues affect not only American workers, but manufacturers throughout Walmart’s global supply chain, who are squeezed by Walmart’s extraordinary buying power to produce goods at extremely low costs. As you shop for the holidays, please remember millions of employees like Cayt, whose meager earnings and uncertain futures may make our Thanksgiving dinners and gifts less expensive, but undermine the spirit of the season.

Nick Copeland and Christine Labuski are anthropologists working in the Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech University. They are also the authors of The World of Wal-Mart: Discounting the American Dream
Black FridayLaborOUR WalmartWalmart

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rev. Jackson: ‘Fiscal cliff’ scare just a fake crisis

From Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. of Rainbow PUSH Coalition:
‘Fiscal cliff’ scare just a fake crisis

November 19, 2012

Why do imaginary phantoms terrify, while real-life horrors seem normal? Why do our elected representatives act in ways that trample the values of those who elected them?

Consider the current debate in Washington. The city is in full uproar about the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the deep cuts in spending and hikes in taxes scheduled to take place at the end of the year. To listen to this debate, you would think the end of the world will come if Congress and the president don’t reach an agreement to cut Medicare and possibly Social Security and increase taxes over the next 10 years to avoid going over the cliff.

Don’t fall for the hype.

The fiscal cliff is not a product of nature. It is rather a dangerously foolish austerity bomb created by Congress in the debt-ceiling negotiations 18 months ago. Essentially, Congress is threatening to blow up the economy unless Congress agrees not to blow up the economy. The threat is used to extort agreements that would otherwise simply be unacceptable — such as cutting Medicare and Social Security, the basic pillars of family security.

And the supposed underlying threat of out-of-control deficits is equally imaginary. Deficits are down, as a percentage of the economy, by 25 percent since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009. They will continue to come down if the economy continues to grow. That is endangered not by homemade bombs, but by a world economy that is headed back toward recession. And growth is also endangered if Congress cuts deficits too rapidly by slashing spending and raising taxes — kneecaping an already-faltering recovery. Interest rates on U.S. Treasury notes are at near-record lows. Markets — investors — are telling us that the threat isn’t out-of-control deficits and inflation; the threat is slow growth or worse.

While everyone is in hysteria about phantoms, the real horrors are ignored. Record numbers of Americans have already gone over the cliff with no help in sight. More than 20 million people are in need of full-time work, and Washington is focused on cutting deficits, not creating jobs. Poverty is at near-record levels and inequality at new extremes, and Washington is talking about cutting programs for the vulnerable. Racial and gender inequity still throws hurdles in front of a majority of the country, but isn’t on the agenda. Violence still haunts our streets, but receives no attention.

These things are real, not imaginary. They exist now, not as phantom fears. And they cost big-time.

Poverty costs in dreams crushed, hopes stunted, lives lost. It costs more to live in poverty. Food is more expensive, transportation is harder, illness is unaffordable. The loss of a job, the theft of a paycheck, the illness of a child can sink a family struggling to stay afloat.

Poverty, violence, and racial and gender inequities also cost the country big-time. We won’t put up with mass starvation. The unemployed collect food stamps; the employed pay taxes. This country will pay big-time for a generation raised in poverty on mean streets.

We need action on jobs, a plan to put people to work. We need action on inequality, a plan to ensure that workers share in the profits they help to create. We need action on racial and gender discrimination, so that equal opportunity is more than a slogan. We need action on poverty and hunger, so that every child has the opportunity to soar.

These are real-world challenges that cannot be ignored because of congressionally invented phantoms.

Keep up with Rev. Jackson and the work of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at www.rainbowpush.org.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bernie Sanders in a Fiery Speech: Do Not Cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid | Alternet

Bernie Sanders in a Fiery Speech: Do Not Cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid | By Alternet staff
Bernie Sanders in a Fiery Speech: Do Not Cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid The progressive stalwart says we can't balance the budget on the backs of the poor. November 16, 2012

A coalition of lawmakers led by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders joined yesterday to demand there be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid made during deficit reduction deals.

Sanders said:
Deficit reduction is a serious issue, but it must be done in a way that is fair. We must not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children or the poor.
Sanders also explained why Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit, as it is independently funded by payroll tax.
Click to video at right for Sen. Sanders' defense of social programs in the face of budget talk threats.

The National Memo » 5 CEOs Who Are Punishing Employees For Obama’s Re-Election

The National Memo » 5 CEOs Who Are Punishing Employees For Obama’s Re-Election

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Uncounted Absentee Ballots Prevent Determining Partisan Control of NY Senate

Highlights from a November 7, 2012 blogpost at All Over Albany after the November 6 general election:
Obama wins second term, NY Senate control in question, Amadore & Tkacyzk both claim victory in 46th, Gillibrand wins 1st full term, confusion at UAlbany polling place posted Nov 7, 2012 Morning Blend

Barack Obama has won a second term. [TU]

Here are election result highlights for Capital Region races. [AOA]

It's not clear which party will control the state Senate because of a handful of close races. In the new state Senate 46th -- which includes the southwest part of the Capital Region -- both George Amadore and Cecelia Tkacyzk have declared victory (they're separated by a little more than a hundred votes). And in the Hudson Valley, Poughkeepsie Republican Steve Saland -- one of four Republicans to break ranks and vote for the Marriage Equality Act -- appears to have lost by a small margin to Democrat Terry Gipson. It could be weeks -- and lots of absentee ballot counting -- before it's clear which party will control the Senate. [YNN] [NYT] [Saratogian]

It appears that Democrats have picked up at least two US House seats in New York State. [NYT]
Return to All Over Albany post for the article's other links. Other news: voters in the New York City borough of Queens elected Grace Meng (Dem.), the first Asian congressperson from New York, let alone the east coast of the United States.