Posts Tagged Connecticut

Just Vote! | ThinkProgress


House Republicans Could Open The Government Back Up Right Now

After just five days, the government shutdown is having a real, severe impact. Here are just a few of the many stories of how the shutdown is impacting Americans across the country:

  Leo Finn, a 48-year-old father of three, is unable to get cancer treatment because new clinical trials cannot begin during a government shutdown.

  The 401 National Parks that have shut down are costing local communities $76 million per day.

  The widow of a New Mexico forest firefighter and her three-year-old son have seen their survivor benefits delayed as a result of the shutdown.

  A rescue mission for a missing women was put on hold because workers were furloughed.

  A Head Start program in Bridgeport, Connecticut was forced to shut down completely on Tuesday. The program serves over 1,000 young children.

  Meals for more than 85,000 children in Arkansas: gone. And 2,000 newborns there won’t receive infant formula.

  Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: The shutdown “seriously damages our ability to protect the safety and security of this nation.”

And the list goes on.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Washington continue to offer political spin that nobody else is buying. The initial Republican strategy to defund Obamacare has fallen apart as people successfully enroll in the insurance marketplaces. Their latest, a piecemeal funding strategy, is in fact a reminder of the important role government plays in every American’s life — from nutrition aid and veteran benefits, to national emergency and disaster recovery. But the American people want the shutdown to end for the entire government, and they blame the Republicans for causing it. Republicans aren’t even sure what they stand for anymore. This quote from conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) pretty much sums it up:

“We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

You don’t even know what that is? That’s leadership.

Increasingly, some House Republicans have come out in opposition to this attitude, and in support of a ‘clean’ government spending bill that would re-open the government. In fact, enough have now publicly supported such a bill that it would pass with majority Democratic support. Speaker John Boehner knows this — but is so scared of the extreme right-wing of his party that he won’t even allow it to come to a vote.

BOTTOM LINE: One faction, of one party, in one house of Congress, in one branch of government, has shut down major parts of the government — all because they didn’t like one law. And there are now enough House Republican defectors from this strategy to open the government back up. If John Boehner just allowed the vote to happen, we could stop this unpopular, economically devastating shut down right now.

 Just Vote! | ThinkProgress.

 

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Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Sandy Hook and the Second Amendment


SUSAN BROWN

Sandy Hook and the Second Amendment

 

With emotions running high in response to the heart wrenching events that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School December 14, many of my liberal friends and family members believe now is the perfect time for gun control legislation.

Eric Allie / PoliticalCartoons.com

As heartbreaking as it is that 20 children in Connecticut will not have the chance to open Christmas presents, celebrate birthdays, go on a first date, drive a car, graduate, get married, and have kids, there are millions of kids out there who will. And they are the reason why the rest of us need to fight for the freedoms guaranteed to us in the Constitution which Progressives are so predictably willing to give away.

Before Americans were able to corporately exhale upon hearing the news about the Connecticut shooting, liberals hopped on the gun control bandwagon. One of MSNBC’s many loose cannons, Ed Schultz, went on a rant saying, “Hiding behind the Second Amendment doesn’t cut it anymore,” and described our founders as slave-owning bigots. It’s real hard to wrap your hands around the hypocrisy of those who cry giant crocodile tears over the loss of these 20 precious children (and they should), but care little about millions of children who will never see the light of day due to abortion.

And here we go again; Progressives are manipulating the Sandy Hook massacre as a way to strike down the Second Amendment. Truth is, gun control is like putting a bandage on a gaping wound. Seems to me a better solution is to do something about the culture of violence currently destroying our society from the inside out — and place armed guards in schools in the meantime.  Chances are, had one been at Sandy Hook, I wouldn’t be writing about it today.

I may date myself here, but when I was a kid, I didn’t stay inside playing violent computer games or watching violent movies; I played outside with real people who picked flowers in the spring, climbed trees in the summer, jumped in leaf piles in the fall, and ice skated on frozen ponds in the winter.  And I grew up to be a responsible citizen and gun owner.

As I’ve written before, if you listen to liberals long enough it’s not too long before you find yourself in Bizarro World. And in the case of the Second Amendment, Progressives like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) pretzel it into something it is not. On “Meet the Press” December 16, Feinstein inferred arming school guards is a crummy idea because “the rights of the few” (i.e. the millions who own guns) would, in her world, somehow “overcome the safety of the majority.” Say, what? Bizarro.

As brokenhearted as we all are over what happened in Connecticut, gun control will not stop those lacking certain emotional filters from doing bad things to children – and others.  Policies in China, for example, make it largely illegal for private citizens to own and sell guns. Possession or sale of a gun can lead to anywhere from a 3 year prison term to the death penalty. I digress to mention that because the Chinese government has little regard for human life, gun laws were devised to protect the tyrannical Chinese government from its citizens rather than the other way around.

Nevertheless, people find a way to do bad things, and in the case of the Chinese, crazy people are still hurting children. Oddly, on the same day the Sandy Hook massacre took place, a knife-wielding Chinese manstabbed almost two dozen children at an elementary school in central China. And he found a way to do it although the Chinese government recently enacted strict knife regulation measures after a spate of deadly knife and cleaver attacks on school children in China in 2010, killing 20 and wounding 50.

Before long, the Chinese will be eating steak with teaspoons, and so will we — if we relinquish our Second Amendment rights to those who would rather steal the rights of the masses than address our society’s moral decline. With that in mind, the best gift we can give our kids this Christmas is a future filled with the promise of freedom.

 Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Sandy Hook and the Second Amendment.

 

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Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Dear God! When Will It Stop?


MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN

Dear God! When Will It Stop?

 

The horrendous news from Newtown, Connecticut has pierced our hearts. Allegedly, a black-clad man in his 20s armed with two semi-automatic handguns entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School and made an elementary school for kindergartners through fourth graders the scene of the worst mass shooting in a public school in American history. Reportedly, 20 children were shot and killed, and seven adults were shot and killed. We don’t yet know how many were wounded. We do know dozens of parents are experiencing the worst nightmare any parent could imagine. We do know more than 500 young children in the school are traumatized.

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch

Once again we are faced with unspeakable horror from gun violence and once again we are reminded that there is no safe harbor for our children. How young do the victims have to be and how many children need to die before we stop the proliferation of guns in our nation and the killing of innocents? The most recent statistics reveal 2,694 children and teens were killed by gunfire in 2010; 1,773 of them were victims of homicide and 67 of these were elementary school-age children. If those children and teens were still alive they would fill 108 classrooms of 25 each. Since 1979 when gun death data were first collected by age, a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517). Where is our anti-war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence here at home?

This slaughter of innocents happens because we protect guns before children and other human beings. Our hearts and prayers go out to the parents and teachers and children and the entire Newtown community that has been ripped apart by each bullet shot this morning. We know from past school shootings and the relentless killing of children every day that Newtown families and the community will never be the same. The Newtown families who lost children today will never be the same. The families of the teachers who were killed will never be the same. Every child at the Sandy Hook Elementary School this morning will never be the same.

Each and all of us must do more to stop this intolerable and wanton epidemic of gun violence and demand that our political leaders do more. We can’t just talk about it after every mass shooting and then do nothing until the next mass shooting when we profess shock and talk about it again. The latest terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School is no fluke. It is a result of the senseless, immoral neglect of all of us as a nation to protect children instead of guns and to speak out against the pervasive culture of violence and proliferation of guns in our nation. It is up to us to stop these preventable tragedies.

We have so much work to do to build safe communities for our children and need leaders at all levels of government who will stand up against the NRA and for every child’s right to live and learn free of gun violence. But that will not happen until mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and neighbors and faith leaders and everybody who believes that children have a right to grow up safely stand up together and make a mighty ruckus as long as necessary to break the gun lobby’s veto on common sense gun policy. Our laws and not the NRA must control who can obtain firearms.

It is way past time to demand enactment of federal gun safety measures, including:

• Ending the gun show loophole that allows private dealers to sell guns without a license and avoid required background checks;

• Reinstating the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004;

• And requiring consumer safety standards for all guns.

Why in the world do we regulate teddy bears and toy guns and not real guns that have snuffed out tens of thousands of child lives? Why are leaders capitulating to the powerful gun lobby over the rights of children and all people to life and safety?

I hope these shocking Connecticut child sacrifices in this holy season will force enough of us at last to stand up, speak out, and organize with urgency and persistence until the president, members of Congress, governors and state legislators put child safety ahead of political expediency. And we must aspire and act together to become the world leader in protecting children against gun violence rather than leading the world in child victims of guns. Every child’s life is sacred and it is long past time that we protect all our children.

Albert Camus, Nobel Laureate, speaking at a Dominican monastery in 1948 said: “Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.” He described our responsibility as human beings “if not to reduce evil, at least not to add to it” and “to refuse to consent to conditions which torture innocents.” It is time for a critical mass of Americans to refuse to consent to the killing of children by gun violence.

 Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Dear God! When Will It Stop?.

 

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A love letter to a N.C. barbecue joint – The Washington Post


A love letter to North Carolina’s Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge

 

By Monique TruongPublished: November 30

Dear Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge,

It’s been 10 years since I last ate at your fine establishment, but I can still see the teal blue vinyl that covers your booths and chairs. It’s a shade of blue that belongs to a different era, which is appropriate, as so do you. And of course, I can smell the hickory smoke and the sharp jabs of vinegar that accompany every tray that emerges from your kitchen.

It was October 2002, and my husband and I were in your home town of Shelby, N.C. — my first trip back there in decades and his first ever — for the wedding of our friends Sean and Kristin. Kristin is a local girl whose parents still live in Shelby. Sean grew up in Connecticut, the same state my husband is from. My husband and I joked that their marriage, like ours, would be a mixed marriage: a Northern boy and a Southern girl, of course.

Back in Brooklyn, where we all lived and still do, Kristin and I had been amazed at and laughed over the fact that I had grown up in neighboring Boiling Springs, and that my parents were both graduates of Gardner-Webb, a Baptist college that is now a university, located in the sleeping heart of that little town. “Town” is perhaps too expansive a word for Boiling Springs. I once called it a “freckle” in an essay. It was the most neutral-sounding, diminutive word I could think of for it. My relationship to Boiling Springs is complicated, but so is my relationship to you and, therefore, the writing of this letter.

Over the course of that long weekend, my husband and I ate at your establishment three times, and that’s really saying something given the packed schedule of meals, receptions and parties that Kristin and her family had arranged for us out-of-town wedding guests. My husband and I attended them all but also made time in our day and room in our stomachs for your Jumbo Plate: pork shoulder, fork-tender from its overnight sojourn on the pit. In the vernacular of your menu, I ordered mine “chopped” with a mix of “white and brown” meat. I didn’t know about the “crunchy brown” option back then, which would have added crispy, fat-rendered bits of skin to the mix. I knew enough, though, to order extra sauce.

As you know, yours is North Carolina Piedmont-style barbecue sauce at its finest. If you’ll forgive me while I slip into the language of food writers (we too have a vernacular of our own), Bridges, your sauce has a top note, a middle and a base. What Italian perfumers call the testa, corpo and fondo. The top is, of course, the vinegar. It’s there to invigorate the taste buds; slap them to attention, if you will. The middle note is undoubtedly tomato, either ketchup or paste. It’s a velveteen, light touch, a make-up kiss after the physicality of the vinegar. The base note is the reassuring warmth of spices easily found in any American kitchen. Nonetheless, it’s your secret, which I’ve tried to uncover in my own kitchen many times since. I’ve a deep appreciation for the elusive, a profound respect for flavors that play hide-and-seek with my tongue. I’ve tried sweet paprika, black pepper, a bit of brown sugar, a wink of cayenne. I’ve come close but have never matched it. The obvious conclusion, of course, is that your sauce — any barbecue sauce worth licking off your fingers, in fact — does not sing alone. Sauce needs its pig. And there’s no way I would try to conjure up your pit-cooked pig in Brooklyn. I’m persistent, but I’m no fool.

But you already know all this about yourself. I suppose I just wanted you to know that I know it as well. It’s important to me that you understand how the taste of your barbecue had made me feel right at home, had comforted me in a way that took me by surprise, and had asked me, just like a childhood friend would: Why have you been away for so long?

Can you imagine all that communicated via a plate of barbecue? Okay, three Jumbo Plates of barbecue.

I wrote earlier that my relationship to you is complicated, and you must have asked yourself: But how could that be? You’re a restaurant — a local institution, really — sitting proudly at your present location on East Dixon Boulevard since 1953; and I’m a customer, like many others, a patron in search of pork enrobed in smoke and sauce. What could be so fraught about that transaction?

In our case, I think the answer lies in the concept of belonging, which is often expressed as “the sense of belonging.” Like the five senses we are born with, the sense of belonging defines the way we experience the world. It demarcates the borders of our known world. “Belonging” is a meaty word, full of meanings, and yet as elusive as the base note of your sauce.

My parents and I lived in Boiling Springs from 1975 to 1978, and yet you and I didn’t meet until October 2002. There are two mysteries here: (1) How was it possible that during those years, my family never once drove the 15 minutes from Boiling Springs to Shelby, parked our silver Chevrolet Nova in your parking lot and gazed up at your neon sign with the word “barbecue” written out in loopy lower case letters, except for the middle “B,” which was a tall, outsize capital, which drew the eye even further upward, like a church steeple? (2) If I had never dined with you before, why did your barbecue taste to me of home, the way dogwoods in bloom or the scent of honeysuckles at dusk always make me think of my childhood in the South?

We’ve met now, but maybe it’s time for me to introduce myself properly. I tell the story of how my parents and I came to Boiling Springs in different ways. There are many places to begin our story, but let’s begin this time with our names:

In the summer of 1975, when I was 7 years old, my parents and I began using our baptismal names: Charles, Angela and Monique. Vietnamese Catholics all have additional French names chosen from the roster of saints. The names were required by the church but rarely used in our day-to-day life in South Vietnam. Charles, Angela and Monique, however, were no longer in Vietnam. In April of ’75, we had lost our country after a protracted civil war, escaped as refugees and had been living in limbo on U.S. military bases repurposed as and renamed “relocation camps.”

We were not homeless anymore, though. We had been sponsored by an American family whose home, and thus our home for the next several years, was the small town of Boiling Springs, which as you know is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, toward the western tip of North Carolina. We needed easy-to-pronounce names for this new and unexpected geography. I think that the switching of names was also an act of magical thinking, or perhaps faith. All acts of renaming are about transformation, and all transformation requires faith: in our case, the faith that we would blend in better and be less conspicuous with these Western monikers. “Charles” and “Angela” had the best hope of that; I’m sorry to say that “Monique” remained hopelessly foreign-sounding.

In 1975, Boiling Springs had a Baptist college but little else. A short drive away was Shelby, whose signs proudly proclaimed it “The City of Pleasant Living” and the seat of Cleveland County. Shelby was where we attended our churches (for a while, we alternated between a Catholic and a Baptist church because Charles and Angela didn’t want to offend either congregation, which had both so kindly welcomed us with donated food, clothing and an exuberant niceness that I would later learn had a name: Southern hospitality). Shelby was also where we went to buy our groceries and shop for the odds and ends of our new life.

After our first year in the Boiling Springs-Shelby area, my father went to Boston to study for his MBA. My mother was a nursing student at Gardner-Webb, and I was in Boiling Springs Elementary getting the spirit kicked out of me every day. At first I thought my classmates were simply confused by my country of origin, but I soon realized that “Chink” and “Jap” had little to do with China and Japan. They were words meant to wound me, not to identify me. My mother and I sought solace, distraction and entertainment in our occasional meals out. There wasn’t much else that a 33-year-old Vietnamese woman and her 8-year-old daughter could do together.

When we headed for Shelby, we gravitated toward the fast-food chains with the commercials and jingles that were familiar to us from television. To this day, I’ve never met another person who savors an Arby’s roast beef sandwich the way my mother did. She even liked that neon yellow cheese sauce that coated your teeth like glue. Angela was on a tight budget, so we also found ourselves at the all-you-can-eat night at Pizza Inn, an outpost of the national pizzeria franchise, jockeying for position with young men with large appetites.

Angela knew a bargain when she saw one, and the combination of the all-you-can-eat pizzas with that American thing of wonder known as the “unlimited salad bar” was irresistible to her. In Vietnam, Angela had been a lady of leisure. Her parochial school education had taught her fluent French and English, and she had traveled to Europe and returned home with suitcases full of French lingerie and other nonessentials. In Shelby, she was a woman in search of a bargain, in search of American food on a plastic tray or in a paper bag. What Angela was also looking for, perhaps, was the kind of anonymity that these nondescript restaurants offered the two of us. Often located near the highway, these places didn’t serve anything besides food, fast and cheap. There was no conversation, no community, no shared history and no sense of belonging. In that void, there existed instead a kind of parity among the customers. No conversation, community, history nor belonging meant that no one was included, and no one was excluded.

Now, Bridges, I’m not suggesting that back in the mid-’70s you wouldn’t have welcomed us with a smile and the small slip of paper that you call a menu. What I am suggesting is that we feared that you wouldn’t, or maybe that some of your patrons wouldn’t, and I stand by that fear, because you know that the children whom I went to school with in Boiling Springs weren’t born with those ugly racial epithets in their mouths. Someone put them there, and those someones were most likely the adults in their lives. Maybe even some of your best and most loyal customers.

Southern hospitality, my mother and I had learned, had its flip side, and we did what we could to avoid running headlong into it. This protective instinct made Boiling Springs and Shelby even smaller for us. One of the consequences of our proscribed world was that we never had the pleasure of enjoying a Bridges Jumbo Plate together. It would have been a splurge for Angela, but one that I know she would have found addictive. I can assure you that my mother and I would certainly have joined the ranks of your best and most loyal customers.

Vietnamese people honor the pig. In fact, we honor one another by bestowing a pig. A wedding engagement, for instance, is not complete until the groom’s family brings a whole roasted pig to the house of the bride’s family. My Connecticut-born husband and his family did not fulfill this obligation. This is why, when I’m feeling ornery and wicked, I tell him that our marriage is technically null and void. No pig, no marriage.

Now for the second mystery: the homecoming that the taste of your barbecue bestowed upon me. Some may argue, and I hope you won’t, Bridges, that my family and I didn’t live in Boiling Springs long enough to make it our home nor to make me a Southerner. But 1975 to 1978 were years that formed me. These were the years when I acquired a new language, the third of my young life. English is now the only language in which I can claim fluency. In Vietnamese and French, I’m at best a writer of haikus or of unintentionally experimental, disjointed prose. In English, I’m a novelist.

The Belgian-born French novelist Marguerite Yourcenar once wrote that “the true birthplace is . . . [where] for the first time one looks intelligently upon oneself. My first homelands have been books, and to a lesser degree schools.” Yourcenar is right that for some of us, the word “homeland” isn’t singular but plural. She’s also right about the critical self-recognition that books can allow us to experience. How else can I explain the homecoming that I’ve felt on the pages of novels by Harper Lee, Carson McCullers and William Faulkner? I think there’s a connection between how these books and how your barbecue seem like longtime friends to me. Yes, Bridges, I just compared you to Lee, McCullers and Faulkner. You’re very welcome.

The words “homeland” and “home” can refer to a place that may be on a map but does not necessarily exist yet within your heart; a place you have to learn, slowly and with trepidation, to claim because you’re afraid that it never claimed you; a place that lies dormant within you, like a seed or a song, waiting. Waiting for words like these to wake it up: “I could smell the curves of the river beyond the dusk and I saw the last light supine and tranquil . . .” (Faulkner, “The Sound and the Fury”). Or waiting for the alchemy that occurs when patience, heat and smoke coax forth every ounce of flavor that a slab of pork has to give.

Bridges, I’m a writer and I’m food-obsessed, so it makes perfect sense to me that homelands — whether dormant or active — can be found in books and in flavors. So much so that I wrote my second novel, “Bitter in the Mouth,” about a young girl who has a neurological condition that causes her to experience the sensation of taste when she hears or speaks certain words. Her name is Linda Hammerick, and she’s from the Tar Heel State.

Bridges, I hope you don’t mind, but you have a cameo — actually several cameos — in my second novel. I took some liberties: I shortened your name a bit; I referred to your barbecue as “pulled” pork, as opposed to “chopped;” I added perhaps a couple more pigs to your neon sign; and I renamed myself Linda Hammerick and imagined a different life and family for her in Boiling Springs. But otherwise it’s a story about tasting and claiming a home in the American South.

I hope you’ll like it as much as I liked you.

Yours truly,

Monique

 A love letter to a N.C. barbecue joint – The Washington Post.

 

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Education and Training Has Not Kept Pace With the Skills Gap – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com


Education and Training Has Not Kept Pace

Cecilia A. Conrad

Cecilia Conrad, an economist, is the vice president for academic affairs and the dean of Pomona College. She is the editor of The Review of Black Political Economy.

UPDATED JULY 10, 2012, 11:12 AM

 

Even at the peak of economic prosperity, there were indications of a gap between the skills demanded by employers and the skills possessed by U.S. workers. The 2007 National Academy of Sciences report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” warned that unless the U.S. addressed the shortfall of workers with the math and science background increasingly required for high-tech jobs, it would lose its competitive advantage in science- and technology-based activities.

Employers, like all good shoppers, know that in a down economy they can look for bargains. But this isn’t evidence of a widening skills gap.

The skills gap originated with the tectonic change in the economy that began in the 1970s: increased offshore competition for traditional manufacturing jobs and technological innovations that changed the content of remaining jobs. The comparative advantage of the United States in global markets shifted to knowledge-based, science and technology intensive activities, but our education and training infrastructure did not keep pace with the needs of these industries. And we are not just talking about a need for more Ph.D. scientists and engineers. Some jobs in high demand, like computer support specialists and civil engineering technicians, may require no more than an associate’s degree or other technical certifications.

Employers do appear to be using the slack labor market to upgrade the skills of their work forces. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper finds that employers are not recruiting as intensively as before the recession and are slower to fill openings. Any good shopper would do the same in a down economy: look for bargains — high quality at a low price. This is not evidence that the skills gap has widened.

The slack economy offers an opportunity to upgrade the skills of unemployed workers as well. An education and training program is less costly when the time spent in the classroom is not a foregone hourly wage. Increased public funding for student loans, training vouchers and community college programs might make this skills upgrade financially feasible for the individual worker and would strengthen the foundation for long-term economic growth. 

Join Room for Debate on Facebook and follow updates on

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 Education and Training Has Not Kept Pace With the Skills Gap – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com.

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Government and Industry Must Invest – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com


Government and Industry Must Invest

Elaine L. Chao

Elaine L. Chao, the secretary of labor from 2001 to 2009, is a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

UPDATED JULY 9, 2012, 10:11 PM

It may be hard to believe that in this dreadful economy there are a significant number of job openings going unfilled because employers are having difficulty finding qualified applicants. This phenomenon had been a growing concern among employers and some policy makers even when the economy was booming in the last decade. The situation has been alleviated by overall growth in unemployment, but it has not disappeared.

Why should anyone who is not one of these employers care? Because when so many millions of Americans have been unemployed for so long (43 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than 27 weeks), it is tragic that any job openings are going begging for applicants.

Policy makers need to acknowledge that job training programs could improve and employers should overcome a myopic focus on quarterly earnings.

And many of these unfilled job openings are in higher-growth industries. As we have been painfully reminded these past few years, decline in one economic sector (housing) can be disastrous for the entire economy. Conversely, growth in one area of the economy reverberates positively across other sectors.

An annual survey of employers by the Manpower Group, released in May, found that 49 percent of employers in the United States are having difficulty filling certain positions. Information technology, engineering and skilled trades positions are cited as among the most difficult to fill. Among the top reasons employers cited for being unable to fill openings was lack of applicants, technical skills and experience. Drilling down into the data in this and other surveys it is apparent that other factors are also in play. These contributing factors include unwillingness on the part of employers in some cases to raise starting salaries significantly or invest in on-the-job training and less mobility among potential applicants who are underwater on a mortgage.

Though the situation is less serious than before the recession, at some point in the future the economy will improve and the labor market will tighten (partly because of baby boom generation retirements). To better deal with shortages of qualified applicants now and in the future, government policy makers need to acknowledge that government job training programs could stand improvement. Employers should overcome a myopic quarterly earnings posture and focus on long-term strategies for growth that include investing in their own skills-training efforts to enable a broader pool of applicants. To maintain their own competitiveness, workers need to attain and stay current on the qualifications needed to advance in a constantly evolving economy.

America’s competitive advantage lies in its human talent. All of us should be doing everything we can to cultivate and develop our work force.

 Government and Industry Must Invest – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com.

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Connecticut’s death penalty message – The Washington Post


E.J. Dionne Jr.

E.J. Dionne Jr.

Opinion Writer

Little Connecticut’s big message on the death penalty

By E.J. Dionne Jr., Published: April 29

GREENWICH, Conn.

Since the 2010 elections, newly empowered conservative and Republican state legislatures have gained national attention with their wars on public employee unions, additional restrictions on abortion and new barriers to voting.

Against this backdrop, the little state of Connecticut has loomed as a large progressive exception. Last year, it became the first state to require employers to grantpaid sick leave. It also enacted a law granting in-state tuition to students whose parents brought them to the United States illegally as young children.

And last week, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy signed a law repealing the state’s death penalty. There are now 17 states without capital punishment, Illinois havingjoined the ranks last year. What happened in Connecticut brings home the flaw in seeing everything that has happened in the states since the midterm vote as embodying a steady shift rightward.

Where they hold power, progressives have also been using their states as laboratories, and Malloy is part of an impressive group of mostly smaller-state Democratic governors who have combined a moderate, business-friendly style with progressive policymaking. Their ranks include, among others, Govs. Jack Markell in Delaware, Martin O’Malley in Maryland, John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Deval Patrick in Massachusetts and outgoing Gov. John Lynch in New Hampshire.

After the 2012 election, a key front in the battle for America’s political future will involve how the various left and right experiments in the states are judged. Aggressive conservatives such as Govs. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio are in the headlines now, and the recall Walker faces will keep him there for a while. But there will be a quieter and more comprehensive reckoning down the road.

Part of this reckoning will be a remarkable pivot in the politics of the death penalty, the premier issue on which an overwhelming consensus favoring what’s taken to be the conservative side has begun to crumble.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, capital punishment was a staple of Republican campaigns against a handful of liberals who bravely stuck with their opposition to the ultimate punishment. George H.W. Bush used the issue effectively against Democrat Mike Dukakis in the 1988 presidential campaign. Republicans also used it in their 1994 electoral sweep, notably in defeating three-term Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo in New York. And no wonder: In 1994, support for the death penalty hit its peak of 80 percent nationwide.

But a Gallup survey last fall showed how much things have changed: Support for capital punishment was down to 61 percent. Among the many reasons for the drop are a decline in crime rates, which has increased public confidence in the criminal justice system, and a stream of reports casting doubt on the guilt of some who were executed. In addition, significant groups of libertarian Republicans and opponents of abortion have crossed to the repeal side. An important test of the new politics of capital punishment will come this November in a California death penalty referendum.

For all this, it still takes political courage to end capital punishment. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week as Malloy signed the death penalty repeal found 62 percent of Connecticut voters still favoring executions of those convicted of murder, with only 30 percent opposed. Just 29 percent of those queried approved of the legislature’s handling of the issue, while 51 percent disapproved.

But (and it’s a very important but) support for the death penalty, in Connecticut and elsewhere, is not as robust as it looks. When Quinnipiac posed a different question — “Which punishment do you prefer for people convicted of murder, the death penalty, or life in prison with no chance of parole?” — only 46 percent favored the death penalty. An equal number chose life without parole. Death penalty opponents have an opening they haven’t had for some time.

Moreover, voters aren’t as agitated by the issue as they once were. Only 37 percent of Connecticut voters told Quinnipiac that the issue would be “extremely” or “very” important to how they cast their ballots in legislative elections.

Malloy is under no illusions about the strong residual opposition to repeal. When he signed the repeal bill last Wednesday, he did so with little ceremony, carefully observing that “many people whom I deeply respect, including friends and family … believe the death penalty is just.”

Nonetheless, what Malloy did was historic, and it was a sign that despite the dreary polarization that characterizes our debates, American politics is still capable of springing surprises.

ejdionne@washpost.com

 Connecticut’s death penalty message – The Washington Post.

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EFF Says Cyber Security Bills Open Door To Government, Corporate Abuse | threatpost


March 24, 2012, 7:30AM

EFF Says Cyber Security Bills Open Door To Government, Corporate Abuse

 

by Brian Donohue

EFF logo with text

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is sounding alarms about a collection of overly vague cyber-security bills making their way through Congress.

EFF looked at two bills making their way through Congress: The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (S. 2105), sponsored by Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) of Connecticut and the Secure IT Act (S. 2151), sponsored by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) . The digital rights group claims that the quality of both bills ranges from “downright terrible” to “appropriately intentioned.” Each, however, is conceptually similar and flawed, EFF said. 

With public awareness about cyber legislation high after the dramatic failure of Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), interest in- and skepticism of new cybersecurity legislation is on the rise.

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All three bills seek to facilitate cooperation among branches of the U.S. government and between the government and the private sector. Their failing, according to a blog post written by EFF Staff Technologist, Dan Auerbach and EFF Senior Staff Attorney, Lee Tien is in failing to define “the threats which are being defended against and the countermeasures that can be taken against those threats.”

A lack of concrete definitions and transparency could give way to expansive interpretations of any bill that passes, leading to government and corporate abuses, which, in turn, could impinge upon civil liberties, EFF warned.

As an example, Auerbach and Tien note that the Lieberman bill defines a “cyber security threat indicator” as any action that might be construed as “a method of defeating a technical [or operational] control.” That overly broad definition, EFF notes, could apply to anything from a DDoS attack to a port scan to the use of encryption or an anonymization service like ToR to protect the privacy of online activity and communications. Everything would depend on how the government and law enforcement chose to interpret it.

In an e-mail conversation with Threatpost, Auerbach of EFF characterized the bills as “alarming.” Of particular concern: a section in both the Lieberman bill and the McCain bills that authorizes monitoring by private firms of any traffic that transits their networks. Ostensibly intended to facilitate private-public information sharing, the passage would grant complete private sector immunity for data monitoring and sharing practices. Private entities would be unbound from the Wiretap Act and other legal limits and immunized against a swath of questionable monitoring practices, EFF claims.

Furthermore, Auerbach and Tien worry that the bills’ definition of a “cyber security threat” is too broad, and could cover everything from stealing passwords from a secure government server to scanning a network for software vulnerabilities. Similarly, the bills calls for more ISP traffic analysis and monitoring could bring about more civil liberties violations. For example, ISPs could simply block Tor, cryptographic protocols, or traffic on certain ports under the guise of defensive countermeasures, the EFF speculated.

The two online privacy experts also worry that the bills do too little to balance the public interest against the government’s need to secure the Internet.

“The cyber security bills completely skirt the issue of the intelligence community stockpiling so-called “zero-days” — new and unknown software vulnerabilities — for offensive cyber attack purposes,” Auerbach said via email. “Allowing the intelligence community to hold on to these vulnerabilities without patching them makes all of us less safe, and a good cyber security bill would explicitly disallow this practice.”

That’s a potent concern these days, after the security firm Vupen raised the ire of a number of security experts for their controversial business model which allegedly involves the buying and selling of these zero-days to the highest bidder, malicious or otherwise.

Rather than scrap the bills altogether, the EFF is calling on Senators to open up the conversation about the pending bills as they refine them. To create a better bill, the EFF believes specificity is key. Detractors will say that specificity limits the life-span of such bills, but the EFF sees this as an advantage. A short-living bill would force legislators to revisit it and make modifications necessary to address a rapidly changing and dynamic security ecosystem.

 EFF Says Cyber Security Bills Open Door To Government, Corporate Abuse | threatpost.

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Judge Orders Divorcing Couple To Swap Facebook And Dating Site Passwords – Forbes


11/07/2011

 

Facebook i iPhone

Should judges be ordering people to turn over their social networking passwords?

Most divorces require spouses to part with some of their property, but in Connecticut, a soon-to-be ex-husband and wife are being asked to give up more than just investments, cars, TVs, kids, and pets. They have to hand over their social networking passwords. At the end of September, Judge Kenneth Shluger ordered that the attorneys for Stephen and Courtney Gallion exchange “their client’s Facebook and dating website passwords.”

Everyone knows that evidence from social networking sites comes in handy for lawsuits and divorces. Attorneys usually get that material by visiting someone’s page or asking that they turn over evidence from their page, not by signing into their accounts. But judges are sometimes forcing litigants to hand over the passwords to their Facebook accounts. Should they be? What was the reason behind the court-authorized hacking in the Gallion case?

I spoke with Stephen Gallion’s divorce lawyer, Gary Traystman, who amazingly has no computer or e-mail account. “I see the information people can get from computers, in lawsuits and through hacking,” says Traystman. “They scare the hell out of me.”

Traystman tells me that his client saw a few incriminating things on the computer he shares with his wife at home that made him suspect that there would be more evidence in her social networking accounts. Traystman says there was evidence there of how she feels about her children and her ability to take care of them, and that it would help his client in arguing for full custody. During a deposition, Traystman asked Courtney Gallion for the passwords for her Facebook account, as well as EHarmony and Match (which she had apparently already joined). She initially refused but was then counseled by her lawyer to hand them over (Ed. note: questionable legal advice there).

Traystman says she immediately texted a friend and asked that person to change the passwords and delete some of her messages. That’s when he got the judge involved, to issue an injunction that she not delete any material and order the attorneys to exchange passwords for both spouses so that they could conduct discovery. Traystman says he reviewed his own client’s accounts before doing this and knew he had nothing to hide. I suggested to Traystman that it must have been painful for his client to go through his wife’s dating site communications. “It would be painful for many spouses to see what their spouses are doing,” he replied.

In “normal” discovery, a litigant is usually asked to turn over “responsive material” not the keys to access all that material and more, but it seems that judges are applying different standards to social networking accounts. Lawyer and tech blogger Venkat Balasubramani has written about several other civil cases 1) where judges have issued similar orders, including a personal injury case, 2) where judges have taken it upon themselves to sign into someone’s Facebook account and look for evidence, 3) as well as cases where judges have smacked down lawyers who asked for opposing litigants’ passwords, as in an insurance case involving State Farm,

While all may be ‘fair’ in love and war (and personal injuries), password exchanges like this are not kosher according to Facebook’s terms of service. I wonder if Judge Shluger is aware that his order violates Facebook’s TOS, which require that users not hand over their passwords to anyone else. Shluger did, at least, try to limit the privacy invasiveness of his order by telling the parties not to prank each other.

“Neither party shall visit the website of the other’s social network and post messages purporting to be the other,” he included in the order.

Being forced to hand over social networking passwords seems highly privacy-invasive given the ability to then root around for whatever one wants in an account, but the Gallions are certainly not the first to be subjected to this (and likely won’t be the last).

 Judge Orders Divorcing Couple To Swap Facebook And Dating Site Passwords – Forbes.

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