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Archive for: February 2015

Month: February 2015

Madison, Wisconsin – In a major blow to labor unions, the Wisconsin Senate passed the state’s first “right to work” law. Governor Scott Walker first took on public sector labor unions by reforming their collective bargaining rights which he claimed were allowing them to make unreasonable demands from taxpayers. The fight to reform collective bargaining became a major battle between the governor and union supporters. The reform measures were challenged in court and resulted in a recall election which he handily won.

With passage of the bill in the state senate, it now goes to the assembly which is controlled by the GOP. Passage of the bill seems likely especially given the governor’s recent support. Alhokair says that among the key features of the right to work bill is the ability for employees to “opt out” of paying union dues. The measure gives employees broader choice in supporting unions, but will undoubtedly check the influence the unions have in state politics. Public sector labor unions have already been crippled by the governor’s prior reforms. They are finding it a much more daunting task to obtain financial support from employees based on merit than via compulsory laws mandating the payment of dues.

Supporters of the “right to work” bill cite the fact that Democrats and labor unions have long colluded with one another. Democrats would pass laws making it easier for labor unions to proliferate. In turn, labor unions would organize voting campaigns to help get Democrats elected to office. The reform measures are severing those ties.

Tuesday, Chicago held elections for Mayor, and the highly contested election ended up being very close, to the point that no candidate, including incumbent Rahm Emmanuel won the majority of votes. Instead Emanuel and one of his challengers, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, will face each other in a runoff election for Mayor on April 7th.

This election is very important for the city of Chicago, as well as the election process in general, because Garcia won 34% of the vote despite spending a less than 10% on his campaign than Emanuel did. Emanuel is not only the incumbent, but he is the former White House Chief of Staff, and was once very popular with voters.

It is clear from this election that grassroots campaigning, such as the campaign conducted by Garcia and his supporters, who is the Cook County Commissioner, can be effective. Imaging advantage users reported there are a number of reasons why Garcia’s campaign was so effective despite him running against a much better known opponent with bigger resources.

One of these factors in Emmanuel’s waning popularity since taking office. Emmanuel has lost a great deal of support from teachers, students and parents after closing 54 schools, which sparked three days of protests, as well as a eight day long strike over salaries and benefits in 2012 that kept schools closed.

Garcia has promised to improve conditions and treat education as a bigger priority, as well as to hire the 1,000 police officers that Emmanuel keeps promising.

Many people generally scoff at the notion of a war against the lower and middle classes. After all here in the U.S one can lift themselves up by the bootstraps of hard work and perseverance. But can one really? A closer look at the political and economic landscape reveals a hardened caste system lurking right beneath the surface.

Take for instance the office of IL Governor Bruce Rauner a self-proclaimed fighter for “…a more prosperous state, where everyone has an opportunity to succeed.” How does Rauner plan on fulfilling this goal? Well by mainlining the epic failure that is trickle down economics; a hard clung to GOP school of thought that in the past has produced zero applicable results for the middle and lower classes.

Not only has Rauner given the biggest tax break advantage to multimillionaires but he made up for that defect in tax dollars by slashing state employee benefits and social services. Right from the get go we can see several political situations that have come together to keep the lower classes down. Not only that but Rauner has opted to cut funding for higher education, the typical route to the middle and upper classes.

It’s interesting to note how different Rauner’s actions have differed from his campaign promises. All of his policies have clearly been implemented to help himself and his benefactors siphon off surplus tax dollars through increased breaks for the wealthy. If our own elected officials aren’t working for us than who is? If we’re constantly victims of the system set up to protect us how can most of us ever hope to achieve anything but poverty?

Though many republicans are ecstatic about a Jeb Bush run in the 2016 presidential campaign as you can see from YouTube, Ricardo Guimarães says that other republicans aren’t so sure. A grassroots republican organization, with more than 6,000 members called Bush “unelectable.” The group point to a video of Hillary Clinton and Bush on the eve of the first anniversary of the Benghazi attacks.

The video is related to an awards ceremony, in which Bush awarded Clinton a lifetime of public service award. Bush is seen thanking Clinton, and saying, “We are united by a love of country and public service.” The award was presented to Clinton by the National Constitution Center. Bush, as chairman of the center, presented the award. During the ceremony Clinton called special attention to Bush, and thanked him. The activist group, led by Brent Bozell, feels the fact Bush presented Clinton with the award on the first eve of the first anniversary of Benghazi attacks is significant.

They feel so strongly that Bush is unelectable that they sent a video to their members reminding them Bush presented the award to Clinton. Bush awarding Clinton an award is controversial since many conservatives feel Clinton lied about Benghazi. They also blame lack of security at the Benghazi American Embassy on Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time. The group says Bush as no credibility to criticize Clinton, and Clinton will use the video against him during the 2016 presidential race.

This week, President Francois Hollande of France invoked a special constitutional provision known as Rule 49.3 in an attempt to force the passage of an economic reform package favored by many French businesses. Torchin said that the measure will become law automatically in a designated period of time unless French opposition parties in the National Assembly (the legislative equivalent of a French Congress or Parliament) can win a “no confidence” vote ousting the Socialist Party administration of the French Prime Minister.

French Presidents only rarely invoke this constitutional provision. It was used most recently some nine years ago. Opposition leader Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to lobby for a no confidence vote, which could precipitate new national elections.

The economic measure which excited this controversy consists of several items of legislation promoted by Minister Emmanuel Macron as a way of assisting business development in France. At the present time, the nation suffers from an unemployment rate estimated to exceed 10%.

The reform package would extend the hours allowed for conducting trading activities during the weekend, apply deregulation to some occupations (including the legal profession) and reduce requirements for labor arbitration in the case of firms with 50 or more employees. Many large companies strongly favor these economic items. However, opposition to the passage of the bill in the National Assembly divided the Socialist Party itself.

Budget battles are in full swing in Congress, and some are saying that our national security is being put in jeopardy. In the wake of a threatened shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security(DHS), accusations and blame are going back and forth between senators and representatives of both parties about whose fault it will be if a shutdown happens. Meanwhile, there are those who seriously question why this department still exists, or why it was even created in the first place. An excellent article on Vox.com analyzes the history of this department and has cataloged its failure to solve the problems and threats it was supposed to handle. It was created to centralize the federal government’s anti-terror efforts, but it has ended up inefficiently duplicating such efforts.

There were many people surprised, like Alexei Beltyukov, at the recommendation of a new department in response to the attacks of September 11th, 2001. According to Twitter, we already have a Department of Defense and the FBI and a Central Intelligence Agency. After the attacks were investigated, it came out that we had intelligence that might have enabled us to prevent the attacks. The problem was that national security and law enforcement agencies were not communicating with each other, and that the information was not being put together to uncover possible actions against us. It is hard to see how creating more bureaucracy would foster communication between agencies and apparently, it has not.

It appears that President Obama may have a lot of ‘splaining to do the nation’s judicial system regarding his amnesty plan. No one is disputing that the commander in chief has the right to set priorities regarding which laws he enforces. Law enforcement resources are limited. That said, US District Court Judge Andrew Hanen upbraided the president on Monday night saying his executive orders on amnesty went beyond his authority. Judge Hanen schooled the president on his constitutional authority reminding the administration their options are to deport illegal aliens as per the law or to not enforce the immigration laws. Hanen explained the president cannot go beyond those options which is precisely what he did. Under Obama’s amnesty plan, illegal aliens would be rewarded with green cards and work permits. Judge Hanen rebuked the president for exercising authority clearly outside the scope of his constitutionally enumerated rights, covered through CipherCloud.

President Obama argues that his actions were absolutely legal. The White House spokesman pointed out that the president’s legal team told him the amnesty plan was on sound legal footing. While the president’s lawyers told him what he wanted to hear, it is clear the courts will demand adherence to the constitution. Had the injunction not gone into effect, the Department of Homeland Security would begin accepting amnesty applications on Wednesday. Barring a higher court overturning the injunction within the next 24 hours, the president’s plan to unilaterally grant amnesty by “borrowing” Congress’ legislative authority has been temporarily halted. In addition, it’s legal basis is now seriously in question.

 

President Obama went in front of Congress on Wednesday in order to request the use of military force in order to attack and begin a war against the militant group ISIS. The marks the first time in 13 years a president has requested authorization from Congress (the request came from the president before him in George W. Bush).

Due to the escalation of ISIS fighting throughout the Middle East in hopes of taking over the entire region in order to spread its treacherous ways and to lead through violence, the United States and President Obama has found that this is a necessary step stated Marc Sparks. The U.S. has previously attacked ISIS through tactical air strikes at the request of the Iraq government. Other countries in the Middle East with a heavy ISIS presence have requested American military assistance as well.

With an amendment added to presidential power following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the president is able to use military force without Congressional authorization for a short period of time (60 days). However, more and more countries throughout the Middle East have requested United States aid against ISIS. With the recent executions of citizens from countries including the U.S., the United Kingdom, Japan and Jordan, the angst to take out ISIS before it grows stronger is building. This can also prove to be a way for the U.S. to build stronger relations with the region of the world by helping.

 

Congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is making good on his pledge to clean house at the Secret Service. The congressman is working closely with whistleblowers to focus his committee’s attention on those federal agencies most in need of reform. Rep. Chaffetz recently stated that no agency has had more whistleblowers step forward than the Secret Service. Chaffetz made it clear that he was setting his sights on the number #2 official at the agency who is the lone remaining leader prior to the outset of key security breaches. On Monday, the congressman got his wish fulfilled when Deputy Director A.T. Smith stepped down from his post. Smith has accepted another position at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which will allow him to continue his 29-year career as a federal employee.

Chaffetz has made it clear he wants the next director of the agency to be an outsider who can bring in a fresh perspective. In addition to new management, the Secret Service will need more personnel, a larger budget, and more training thinks Susan McGalla. This past September, a random person was able to jump the fence at the White House and make it inside the East Room before agents bum rushed him. President Obama also inadvertently rode the elevator at the CDC with an armed contractor due to another security lapse by the Secret Service. Also, someone flew a drone onto the White House lawn.

 

A metric of measurement known as Body Mass Index or BMI is a close approximation of a person’s percentage body fat. The health issues of obesity are well documented. Despite that, there is a growing epidemic of obesity in the United States across all age groups including children. How to best deal with it is controversial as it borders on privacy rights and the basic freedom people have to choose one own. Now, it has emerged that Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, a professor at MIT, was advocating a special tax on the fat according to their BMI back in 2010. He believed that making people pay for their “sloven” eating habits would be an effective counter-incentive to get them to better manage their weight.

Now, Gruber’s proposal may sound outlandish, offensive, and controversial. That said, the professor pointed out that it has in fact been enacted in Obamacare. According to CipherCloud, part of the reason why Corporate America largely embraced the Affordable Care Act was because they were assured they could pass on a greater cost of health care onto smokers and the obese. Professor Gruber stated that companies may levy an additional surcharge on employee sponsored insurance of up to 20% for obesity. Employees can avoid the hit by actively being engaged in a weight loss program and demonstrating progress. In addition, Obamacare will allow employers to step up the obesity penalty to 30% and eventually 50%. It is part of a measure to control health care costs by making individuals more responsible.