Posts Tagged Chicago

Walmart Has Santa Claus Arrested at Black Friday Protest

Walmart Has Santa Claus Arrested at Black Friday Protest

By: Jason Easley


Friday, November, 29th, 2013, 12:18 pm

Walmart is having workers and their supporters arrested across the country during today’s Black Friday protests. In Southern California, even Santa was arrested.

The arrests are piling up around the country, as 9 supporters of Walmart workers were arrested this morning in Alexandria, VA. Thirteen workers and supporters were arrested in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area according to Our Walmart. In Chicago, ten people were arrested at a Walmart protest.

The ultimate bad publicity came for Walmart when they arrested Santa in Southern California today.




According to Our Walmart, the Santa shown above was soon arrested with a group of Walmart warehouse workers. Walmart will be trying to downplay these protests, but the bad publicity is impossible to avoid. Arresting Santa on their biggest shopping day of the year is not exactly the kind of publicity that Walmart wants.

There are 1,500 protests underway right now. These protests represent a large escalation over last year. Instead of taking the complaints of their workers seriously, Walmart has decided that they are going to crackdown on workers with arrests.

Arresting Santa is the Walmart way. Walmart workers couldn’t afford Thanksgiving dinner, because 800,000 Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year. Walmart workers cost taxpayers $9,000 a year each in food stamp and Medicaid costs.

Santa believes in a living wage. This means that Walmart has to have Santa hauled off in cuffs.

Behind all of the holiday commercials, arresting Santa is the real face of Walmart.

 Walmart Has Santa Claus Arrested at Black Friday Protest.


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How Too Much Parking Strangled the Motor City – Emily Badger – The Atlantic Cities

How Too Much Parking Strangled the Motor City

How Too Much Parking Strangled the Motor CityReuters


By Rob Linn’s count, 39.2 percent of the land in downtown Detroit has been paved over or built up for the purposes of parking. There are surface lots across the street from each other, parking garages around nearly every corner, more than 5,000 spaces alone within the half mile around Comerica Park.

To put that visually, this is downtown Detroit, its garages in orange and surface lots in red:

Rob Linn

A planner by training who now works for the Southwest Detroit Business Association, Linn counted all that parking and constructed that map in his spare time (as we’ve previously written, this is a maddening pursuit in any city given that garages are managed by dozens of entities, and no one officially counts them all).

Many downtowns, particularly in the Rust Belt, now look something like this. But so much parking has played a central role in the Motor City, where an attachment to the automobile – both economically and culturally – has helped cause much of the city to hollow out.

“A lot of residents sort of consider it like their patriotic duty to avoid mass transit, to create auto-focused landscapes,” says Linn, a Detroit native. “In many ways, it’s indicative of the belief that it’s sort of your duty to support all the local companies.”

The Detroit metropolitan area has one of the lowest shares of workers who commute by public transit among the nation’s 50 largest cities, edging out primarily Southern metros like Dallas and Birmingham. Detroit also has the highest percentage of commuters in any major city whodrive to work alone, at 84.2 percent. All those people, of course, need somewhere to park – at the office, at the ballgame, at dinner.

“I think I fall victim to this perception sometimes – being a Midwesterner, being a Detroiter – that when I go downtown, I expect to be able to park within four blocks of where I’m going,” Linn says. Yet he knows he doesn’t have that expectation when he’s in New York or Chicago or Boston. “I think it’s a hard nut to crack because it’s been ingrained in so many of us from such a young age.”

As a result, downtown destinations that might share a garage (or a subway stop) in another city each have their own parking lots in Detroit. Every location is wrapped in a kind of maximum capacity of parking, much of which is, by definition, unused at any given time. And all those empty lots and anonymous facades make the experience of actually walking through the neighborhood feel uninviting, pushing up the premium for a parking spot right next to wherever you’re going.

“This is definitely a self-perpetuating cycle in which you sort of drain the vibrancy out of an area by adding more parking,” Linn says, “which then makes the area seem unsafe, which makes you feel a little more uncomfortable in the space, which makes you add more parking.”

And on and on. Linn’s map, though, actually turned up last week at a Historic District Commission meeting where the city was debating plans to demolish a Gilded Age bank building downtown to construct in its place… another parking garage. This was the developer’s only-in-Detroit logic, via the Detroit Free Press:

Bob Kraemer, a Detroit-based architect representing the owners who want to demolish the bank building, told the commission that demolition was a trade-off to save the equally historic Penobscot skyscraper. Without parking nearby, the Penobscot becomes less economically viable, Kraemer said.

The commission rejected the plan, a small inroads against the 57 existing parking garages downtown. Now Linn doesn’t have to further update the map that may finally be changing peoples’ minds.

 How Too Much Parking Strangled the Motor City – Emily Badger – The Atlantic Cities.


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How Social Media Is Changing The Way We Approach Death – Paul Bisceglio – The Atlantic

How Social Media Is Changing The Way We Approach Death

Death has long been taboo in an American culture that values youth, but an open conversation online can increase our enjoyment of life and understanding of its eventual end.



(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

For a week last month, Scott Simon, the popular radio host of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday,” stayed by his mother’s side in a Chicago hospital as she died. She ate and slept little, and spent her final nights singing show tunes with Simon and holding his hand. “We can get through this, baby,” she told him at one point. “The hardest part will be for you when it’s over.”

I know these intimate details because I, like more than a million others, followed Simon on Twitter when news that he was sharing his hospital experience went viral. From July 22 to 29, @nprscottsimon tweeted about everything from the kindness of ICU nurses to the hassle of finding something comfortable to sleep on to his mother’s tear-inducing deathbed wit.

Since his mother’s passing, Simon’s tweets have stirred up a national debate on social media’s place in mourning and the appropriateness of making a matter as personal (and morbid) as death so public. The consensus seems to be that as social media-savvy generations age, death will creep its way onto platforms like Facebook and Twitter more and more. But questions remain. What will this do to us? How does talking more about death change the way we approach it, both when it’s close at hand and during our everyday, healthy lives?

Pictures of death as public as Simon’s violate a century-old American taboo against the topic, says Lawrence Samuel, author of Death, American Style: A Cultural History of Dying in America. According to him, a handful of factors throughout the first half of the 20th century—World War I, the 1918 flu epidemic, modern medicine and the decline of religion—turned death into “this horrible little secret we have, instead of being the most natural thing in the world. Denial became the operative word, because death is oppositional to our culture’s defining values, like youth, progress, and achievement.”

Death has now been able to make its way back into the conversation, he believes, thanks to “the narcissism of the self-esteem movement”—our culture’s growing enthusiasm for sharing personal information, which opens “a very rare window into a forbidden dimension of life, which makes death part of everyday experience,” he says.

“People are very out and proud about their illnesses,” says Christian Sinclair, a hospice and palliative medicine doctor who co-founded the end-of-life care tweetchat #HPM. “Even before we had social media, we were beginning to see the story lines of ‘I have cancer and this is what it’s like to go through the treatments.’ Social media encourages a lot more of that.”

Sinclair has watched numerous terminal patients turn to social platforms to share what it’s like to live with their conditions, so followers can see their dying process unfold in real time alongside food photos, article links and vacation updates. “Social media is a natural extension of ‘I want to share my illness experience with you,’ because it allows you to develop a social network of both support and attention,” he says.

These online networks often help those suffering serious illnesses face down death in some of their darkest moments.

“The whole process is really therapeutic. Writing a tweet helps me rationalize things or reassure myself,” says Kate Granger, a British doctor who made headlines this year when she decided to forgo treatment for terminal cancer after five rounds of chemotherapy. She started tweeting about the last stages of her illness. Granger had originally taken up Twitter professionally to network and fundraise, but found a home for her struggles as her followers encouraged her to talk openly about her experience with the disease.

Social media support networks tend to enable more frequent and lower-stakes conversations about dying than traditional hospital support groups, which helps stave off the sense of isolation that usually accompanies life-threatening conditions, says Alicia Staley, a three-time cancer survivor and co-founder of the weekly tweetchat Breast Cancer Social Media (#BCSM). During Staley’s most recent treatment, she found herself alone in a hospital bed at 3 a.m., in pain and scared. “Any of my west coast friends up?” she tweeted, and spent the next hour and a half talking through her worries with her followers. In the morning, a nurse told Staley she looked a lot better than the night before.

“It’s hard to explain that kind of comfort,” says Staley. “When you create this virtual community, it’s great because you get a glimpse into people’s everyday lives. You see the good, you see the bad, you see the ups and downs. It’s a great reminder of what life is really all about, how things keep moving, no matter how you’re doing.”

Still, there are concerns that an increasing focus on social media might interrupt the lives of those approaching death more than improve them. “I sometimes worry that tweeting and sharing my experiences may detract my attention from focusing on my family at a crucial time,” says Granger, who has refused multiple requests from documentarians to film the end of her life. Tweeting only two or three times on each of her final days, she hopes, won’t take too much of her time away from those actually by her side. “I want to share my experiences to open up the conversation about dying, and that is going to take a little sacrifice on my part,” she says.

For people following the sick and dying, Jody Schoger, another cancer survivor and BCSM co-founder, worries about the emotional toll of a growing conversation about death. The more you invest yourself in broad online networks, after all, the more deaths you’re going to have to come to terms with. “You’re getting this perception of death that we didn’t have before,” she says. “It can seem like everyone has cancer. This is an aspect of social media that I’m not sure we’re entirely emotionally caught up to.”

Yet for those in good health, Schoger and others agree that the potential benefits of digital talk about death still seem to outweigh its negative consequences.

For one, more conversations about the experience of dying open more channels for spreading accurate information about end-of-life options, says Sinclair. “The asymmetry of information that healthcare professionals hold over the rest of the public is diminishing because of tools on the internet,” he says. “I think where social media has the best possible impact is giving professionals a very easy medium to share good information about healthcare issues with the public at large.”

Schoger believes the more we talk and write about death, the easier dying becomes. “You can’t control everything,” she says, “but if you know what’s going to happen, and how it can happen, you can make some plans, know what kind of questions to ask, make your wishes known so that your family and your doctor know what you want.”

Others suggest that the most profound consequence of a greater openness about death on social media, though, will be less pragmatic, harder to grasp.

“Death is not like in the movies, with last words and your life flashing before your eyes. It is really sort of boring. It’s normal and it happens to everybody,” Samuel says. “The point, I believe, is not that we should just be talking about death or tweeting about it [for its own sake], but that a fuller awareness of one’s death makes life more meaningful. The best use of the technology is to share stories and to reach out to other people in real time. Death is one of the few universals that we have. It brings us together.”

Simon, for his part, still hasn’t given much thought to the larger implications of tweeting about his mother’s death, but says he’s open to the possibility that his 140-character windows into the end we must all eventually face helped pave the way for a conversation that will give our lives a bit more meaning.

“It’s not that I think people should spend a lot of time thinking about death, but that they should spend more time thinking about the fact that our lives are precious and finite,” he says. “If we understand that death is manifest and it’s ahead of all of us, I think that helps us appreciate the fact that every second and every hour is utterly precious, and we should spend it doing things that are worthwhile, that are uplifting, that make things better for those we love and strangers who deserve our care.”

 How Social Media Is Changing The Way We Approach Death – Paul Bisceglio – The Atlantic.


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Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » The Assault Weapons Ban is a Red Herring


The Assault Weapons Ban is a Red Herring


The philosophy behind the quackery known as homeopathic medicine is that “like cures like.” As in: have a burn, apply a hot compress. This widely-panned pseudoscience (oh man, am I going to get letters) in its 300 years of existence has a history of being debunked, going away and then popping up a few decades later.

Adam Zyglis / Buffalo News

But this is the solution the NRA offers: Too many shootings requires more people armed and able to shoot. The problem AND the cure are basically the same: lots of guns.

On the other side is a call for ban of certain types of guns. This immediately gets into the weeds of “weapon-ese.” Semi-auto? Assault weapons? Machine guns? Military-style characteristics? High capacity magazines? Bayonet mount? Flash suppressors?!

Which if you don’t really care about guns (just care about being shot) is a booby trap set by gun enthusiasts. Because if you don’t know what semi-auto actually means (it’s a ridiculously broad term) — they can always tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Which is true. Then the much-coveted conversation about guns in America is over.

Because in America you can’t hate guns. That’s not a legitimate stance. You have to love guns, possibly own a couple and be able to talk about them competently in order to have a seat at the table. Mitt Romney had to say he hunted “varmints.” Really.

The problem with the assault weapons ban is that it’s something. It’s something for a nation, in the wake of Sandy Hook, crying out for some kind of SOMETHING. Anything but the bogus and tone-deaf prescription for more weapons on the streets made by Wayne LaPierre of the NRA.

There’s a perfectly understandable cry for more gun control, which the assault weapons ban claims to be. It bans certain types of purchases on future weapons but it’s not (in reality) a good law. It won’t actually (as gun enthusiasts love to point out) affect gun deaths. Most gun deaths are by handguns. It’s the legislative equivalent of banning large bags of candy to curb obesity, when the real issue is the wide availability of said candy.

Gun lovers gleefully pointed out last week that Chicago, with its assault weapons ban, police-issued Firearms Owners Identification Card mandate and its refusal to issue open carry permits plus its ties to President Obama, had their 500th homicide of 2012. If we cherry pick this information (disregarding the fact Louisiana and Mississippi with their lax gun laws actually consistently lead the nation in murders per capita) it appears gun control is futile.

Recently the Chicago Police Department requested the University of Chicago Crime Lab researchers study the guns used in crimes. In a groundbreaking report they found those guns were bought legally and locally in Cook County (where Chicago is located). Even more specifically from Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale. The Sun-Times reported, “From 2008 to March 2012, the police successfully traced the ownership of 1,375 guns recovered in crimes in Chicago within a year of their purchase.” They continued, “Of those guns, 268 were bought at Chuck’s — nearly one in five.”

“How do the guns get on the street?,” the study asks. Straw purchasers. People without a record legally buying a weapon and then selling it. Which is outrageous and illegal. But the ATF — the law enforcement organization that would crack down on these sales — the Sun-Times points out, has been largely budget-cut out of business and doesn’t have the resources to track it or prosecute those crimes. It’s an agency that hasn’t had a full-time director in six years thanks to Congress insisting it requires a Senate confirmation. In short: In Cook County, Illinois (as with the rest of the country) it’s easy to get a gun and easy to sell a gun.

This leads me to one plea: If we get one bite at the proverbial gun safety apple, don’t make it the largely cosmetic assault weapons ban.

Federalize background checks, waiting periods and databases. Close the secondary market loopholes. These are things even card carrying NRA members agree with. Slow the flood of guns. But most importantly give the agency responsible for enforcing those laws a director and funding.

Then we can all learn weapon-ese and it’s not completely useless.

 Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » The Assault Weapons Ban is a Red Herring.


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McDonald’s Worker Makes $8.25 an Hour, McDonald’s CEO Made $8.75 Million Last Year | Alternet

McDonald’s Worker Makes $8.25 an Hour, McDonald’s CEO Made $8.75 Million Last Year

The CEO makes almost 600 times as much as one Chicago worker.

December 12, 2012




Bloomberg has an article today highlighting the pay gap at McDonald’s. The whole piece is worth a read but the beginning is particularly striking. It highlights Chicago man Tyree Johnson, who holds positions at two different McDonald’s. Between shifts he has to give himself a quick scrubbing in one of the restaurant’s bathrooms because he can’t even show up for work at a McDonald’s smelling like a McDonald’s.

“I hate when my boss tells me she won’t give me a raise because she can smell me,” he said.

Johnson, 44, needs the two paychecks to pay rent for his apartment at a single-room occupancy hotel on the city’s north side. While he’s worked at McDonald’s stores for two decades, he still doesn’t get 40 hours a week and makes $8.25 an hour, minimum wage in Illinois.

This is life in one of America’s premier growth industries. Fast-food restaurants have added positions more than twice as fast as the U.S. average during the recovery that began in June 2009.

Johnson’s circumstances look particularly grim when they’re compared, as Bloomberg does, to the compensation enjoyed by executives whose pay gives a whole new meaning to “McJob.”

Johnson would need about a million hours of work — or more than a century on the clock — to earn the $8.75 million that McDonald’s, based in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, paid then- CEO Jim Skinner last year.

… Twenty years ago, when Johnson first started at McDonald’s, the CEO’s compensation was about 230 times that of a full-time worker paid the federal minimum wage. The $8.75 million that Thompson’s predecessor as CEO, Skinner, made last year was 580 times, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

 McDonald’s Worker Makes $8.25 an Hour, McDonald’s CEO Made $8.75 Million Last Year | Alternet.


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Free Wood Post – Paul Ryan: “Did I Miss the Physical Challenge Portion of the Race?”

Paul Ryan: “Did I Miss the Physical Challenge Portion of the Race?”

October 27, 2012

By Molly Schoemann


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This week Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan expressed concern that the ‘physical challenge’ portion of the presidential race had not yet taken place.

“To my knowledge, that segment has yet to be scheduled,” he told reporters during a campaign stop in Chicago.  “Unless I was simply not notified of the date.  I wouldn’t put that past the Obama administration, frankly.  I’m sure they realize I present quite a challenge to Joe Biden, at least when it comes to that event.”

Asked for clarification on what he meant by the term “physical challenge”, Ryan appeared incredulous.

“It’s the part of the presidential race where the  candidates compete against each other in an obstacle course,” he said.  “Usually there’s some sort of climbing wall, a set of monkey bars and sometimes a ball pit.  Whoever has the best time and is the first to grab the flag, wins.  Do you guys really not know what I’m talking about here?”

Ryan admitted that in the days leading up to the Vice Presidential debate, he had been under the impression that the physical challenge would be directly following it.

 “I thought they were going to sort of spring it on us in a surprise move,” he said.  “Did you guys see me drinking all that water during the debate?  That was why.  I was trying to stay hydrated.  Also, if you noticed me sweating a lot, it’s because I was wearing these special moisture-wicking jogging clothes under my suit in preparation.  They were kind of making me overheat.”

 He added, “An athlete is always prepared.”

According to Ryan, the physical challenge is a huge part of why he was tapped for VP.

“I mean, look at me,”  he said.  ”With my hardcore P90X routines and my sub 3-hour marathon time, am I the guy you’d turn to for policy decisions, or the one you’d want by your side at the beach, helping you kick sand in Russia’s face?”

“I don’t want to let Romney down, so I’ve been training hard for months,” Ryan added.

 ”When I’m not campaigning, I’m spending long days at the gym, blasting my quads and ripping my delts.  Sometimes while I’m doing bicep curls I’ll look at flash cards about laws and foreign policy and stuff, but my main focus is on winning that physical challenge,” he said.  ”You’ve got to keep your eyes on the prize.”

 Free Wood Post.


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Jack Welch says tweet on unemployment numbers should have included question mark


Jack Welch: I Should Have Added a Question Mark to Tweet About Friday’s Jobs Numbers

By Daniel Politi | 

Posted Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, at 12:32 PM ET



Jack Welch says the latest job numbers seem “implausible”

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images


Former GE CEO Jack Welch sort of wishes he could go back in time to edit his now-infamous tweet that strongly suggested President Obama’s campaign managed to somehow manipulate the job numbers released Friday that showed a decrease in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent. That’s not to say he disagrees with what he wrote. Welch just thinks he should have made it clear he wanted to imply something, not state it outright, which obviously makes sense considering pretty much everyone agrees it’s a ridiculous assertion, as the Associated Press points out.

When CNN’s Anderson Cooper questioned him on what evidence he had to write what he did, Welch acknowledged that “A question mark would have been better,” before quickly adding that, “I stand by that these numbers have to be examined.” (Transcript available here.)

Welch, who frequently criticizes Obama’s administration, wrote early Friday on Twitter: “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.”

When CNN’s Ali Velshi pushed Welch on the inaccuracy of the tweet, Welch fired back: “I should have had a question mark, Ali, at the back of it, let’s face it, OK?”

Velshi started out saying that Welch is “the best CEO in America” before harshly criticizing him: “To say something like this is like Donald Trump saying that president Obama is not an American citizen without any proof.”

Throughout the CNN interview Welch emphasized that what he was questioning was how “implausible” the numbers seemed considering they amounted to the “highest numbers of household employment since June of 1983, the biggest year of the Reagan recovery.” But he also was careful to emphasize that he was “not accusing anybody of anything.”

The New York Times’ Joe Nocera writes that while it’s “ludicrous” to suggest that “a handful of career bureaucrats” would manipulate unemployment data, it is true that there’s “something a little strange about the way the country derives its employment statistics.” But the lesson in this questioning of the jobs data needs to be that it’s a bit “absurd” to think that a presidential race could be decided on the unemployment rate. It’s not just because the short-term numbers aren’t really reliable, but also because no president has such a strong grip on the economy.

“There is rough justice in the way things are playing out,” writes Nocera. “Having spent the last year wrongly blaming the president for high unemployment, Republicans can only stand by helplessly as the unemployment rate goes down at the worst possible moment for them.”

 Jack Welch says tweet on unemployment numbers should have included question mark.


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Chicago Public Schools Celebrate Third Straight Day Without Any Student Violence | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source


Chicago Public Schools Celebrate Third Straight Day Without Any Student Violence

SEPTEMBER 12, 2012  

CHICAGO—Jubilant Chicago Public Schools officials announced Wednesday that, for three straight days now, there has not been a single act of student violence in any of the city’s 675 public schools. “Our classrooms and hallways are safer now than they’ve ever been,” said CPS chief executive Jean-Claude Brizard, happily noting that there have been no reported instances of beatings, stabbings, sexual assaults, or shootings in any of the city’s public schools this week. “We’ve had no incidents of weapons being brought onto school property, nor has anyone had to break up a fistfight between students. We’ve all had to work together for this, but it’s paid off. Let’s keep it up!” At press time, a gunfight on Chicago’s South Side had reportedly claimed the lives of three 16-year-old boys.

 Chicago Public Schools Celebrate Third Straight Day Without Any Student Violence | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.


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Cagle Post » The GOP Wants Fewer People to Vote for Them



The GOP Wants Fewer People to Vote for Them


The Republican primary has been over for months now but it’s hard to tell. The presumptive nominee (I’ll get to stop writing that phrase in a couple of weeks … hopefully), Mitt Romney, is still campaigning like he’s trying to convince his own party he’s Mr. Right, Mr. Right-Enough—or in his case Mr. Right…Now.

John Cole / Scranton Times-Tribune

“What America is not is a collective where we all work in a kibbutz,” Romneysaid at a fundraiser in Chicago this week. “Instead it’s individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises which employ others and they become inspired as they see what has happened in the place they work and go off and start their own enterprises.”

America, not a collective: Not a place where people work together, according to Romney. Just a place where bosses are untethered by the shackles of pensions, environmental concerns or worker safety regulations so they can create magical towers of tax-free enterprise which “employs others.”

Willard M. Romney, the Everyman.

Romney is not trying to be popular; he’s running for president on the Republican ticket. He’s still trying to get Republicans to like him and Republicans now make up less than35 percent of Americans. Reaching outside of their “big tent,” Romney spoke at an NAACP event, and after being booed by the crowd he explained it was because the attendees at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People want free stuff. He loves free stuff (like tax-free!) but finds it distasteful in people not clever enough to borrow money from their parents for college. Romney’s international tour was of a whopping three countries. Notably at least one didn’t boo him. In the immortal words of George W. Bush, “Don’t forget Poland!”

Romney doesn’t appear to be trying to win the support of the majority of Americans (or the world for that matter). He appears to be playing for the affections of a few key shareholders. Romney is a niche candidate of a tiny percent of Americans who think working for a living describes what your money does for you.


Let’s take stock of the groups Republicans are no longer attempting to appeal to: Wage earners. Women in their child-bearing years. People with pre-existing conditions. Unions. Public workers. The unemployed. Monogamous gay couples. The under-employed. Moderate Republicans. Muslims. Latinos. Oh and independent voters. We’re not going to see a “Romney Democrats” group pop up before November, save maybe a political wonk’s Halloween party.

Romney is nominee no one really likes. Fewer people will vote for Mitt. The only chance for a mediocre candidate to win the majority of votes is for fewer votes to be counted. Voter ID laws have become vogue in states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Carolina and Indiana. All of a sudden the Grand Old Party is concerned about voter fraud, which even the Republican National Lawyer Association in a stretch of their data claims only 311 cases in the last decade. Other estimates put the number in the tens. Way more Americans have won gold medals than have voted fraudulently. So Republicans must “fix” this non-problem (in places which just so happen to swing states/counties/districts) by making it as difficult as possible to cast a ballot. On ABC’sThis WeekWashington Post columnist George Will called early voting “deplorable” because it interferes with campaigning. The horror! You know what interferes withvoting? Having a j-o-b. Early voting is the easiest way for blue-collar workers to be able to have their vote counted. Less early voting, fewer people who earn a paycheck at the polls. And that’s deplorable if you’re a Republican in the 2012 election cycle.

Republicans are working very hard to get fewer votes. Instead of stacking the deck they’re just trying to disenfranchise all the cards who disagree with them (you know, the majority of the country). It’s a reasonable strategy as their presumptive nominee (gah!) brands himself as the small government/voting bloc candidate who likes being able to fire people.

 Cagle Post » The GOP Wants Fewer People to Vote for Them.


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Corn for Food, Not Fuel –


Corn for Food, Not Fuel


Published: July 30, 2012


IT is not often that a stroke of a pen can quickly undo the ravages of nature, but federal regulators now have an opportunity to do just that. Americans’ food budgets will be hit hard by the ongoing Midwestern drought, the worst since 1956. Food bills will rise and many farmers will go bust.

Mark Pernice

An act of God, right? Well, the drought itself may be, but a human remedy for some of the fallout is at hand — if only the federal authorities would act. By suspending renewable-fuel standards that were unwise from the start, the Environmental Protection Agency could divert vast amounts of corn from inefficient ethanol production back into the food chain, where market forces and common sense dictate it should go.

The drought has now parched about 60 percent of the contiguous 48 states. As a result, global food prices are rising steeply. Corn futures prices on the Chicago exchange have risen about 60 percent since mid-June, hitting record levels, and other grains such as wheat and soybeans are also sharply higher. Livestock and dairy product prices will inevitably follow.

More than one-third of our corn crop is used to feed livestock. Another 13 percent is exported, much of it to feed livestock as well. Another 40 percent is used to produce ethanol. The remainder goes toward food and beverage production.

Previous droughts in the Midwest (most recently in 1988) also resulted in higher food prices, but misguided energy policies are magnifying the effects of the current one. Federal renewable-fuel standards require the blending of 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol with gasoline this year. This will require 4.7 billion bushels of corn, 40 percent of this year’s crop.

Other countries seem to have a better grasp of market forces and common sense. Brazil, another large ethanol producer, uses sugar instead of corn to make ethanol. It has flexible policies that allow the market to determine whether sugar should be sold on the sugar market or be converted to fuel. Our government could learn from the Brazilian approach and direct the E.P.A. to waive a portion of the renewable-fuel standards, thereby directing corn back to the marketplace. Under the law, the E.P.A. would first have to determine that the program was causing economic harm. That’s a no-brainer, given the effects of sharply higher grain prices that are already rippling through the economy.

The price of corn is a critical variable in the world food equation, and food markets are on edge because American corn supplies are plummeting. The combination of the drought and American ethanol policy will lead in many parts of the world to widespread inflation, more hunger, less food security, slower economic growth and political instability, especially in poor countries.

If the E.P.A. were to waive the rules for this year and next, the ethanol industry and corn farmers, who have experienced a years-long windfall, would lose out. Wheat and soybean farmers would also lose, because the prices of those crops have also been driven up: corn competes with soybeans for acreage and is substituted for wheat in some feed rations.

Any defense of the ethanol policy rests on fallacies, primarily these: that ethanol produced from corn makes the United States less dependent on fossil fuels; that ethanol lowers the price of gasoline; that an increase in the percentage of ethanol blended into gasoline increases the overall supply of gasoline; and that ethanol is environmentally friendly and lowers global carbon dioxide emissions.

The ethanol lobby promotes these claims, and many politicians seem intoxicated by them. Corn is indeed a renewable resource, but it has a far lower yield relative to the energy used to produce it than either biodiesel (such as soybean oil) or ethanol from other plants. Ethanol yields about 30 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline, so mileage drops off significantly. Finally, adding ethanol actually raises the price of blended fuel because it is more expensive to transport and handle than gasoline.

As the summer drags on, the drought is only worsening. Last week the International Grains Council lowered its estimate of this year’s American corn harvest to 11.8 billion bushels from 13.8 billion. Reducing the renewable-fuel standard by a mere 20 percent — equivalent to about a billion bushels of corn — would offset nearly half of the expected crop loss due to the drought.

All it would take is the stroke of a pen — and, of course, the savvy and the will to do the right thing.

 Corn for Food, Not Fuel –


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