Friday, January 31, 2014

PS water board election slated for May 20

By Sam Schwalm
Water for Pine Strawberry
On January 16th the Gila County Board of Supervisors (BOS), Tommie Martin, Ed Pastor, and John Marcanti changed hats into Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District board members and held a PSWID board meeting. Approximately 125 members of the public attended the meeting in the Pine Cultural Center.

There was a presentation by PSWID District Manager Brad Cole on the general state of the water system. There wasn’t much new information in it other than the fact that they have seven meters left to replace. 

It was announced that the purpose of the meeting was to get a sense of whether the community wanted a May or November election. Arguments for November centered around needing more time to educate people and for people to decide to run. Arguments for May revolved around needing to put control back with the community as soon as possible so progress could begin. Also it was argued that the extra time would not calm things down. 

At the end of the meeting, Martin asked for people to stand up for a May election or a November election. There was about 60% for the May election and 40% for the November election for the people in attendance.

The BOS announced during the meeting that they would be holding a special Gila County BOS meeting the next day to decide whether a May election would be held. At that meeting the BOS, Martin voted in favor of the May election.  "Recording of Special GBOS Meeting"

The election date will be May 20Packets can be obtained from:
  • Eric Mariscal, Director of Elections Gila County, Globe, 928-402-8708
  • Tommie Martin Supervisor District 1., Gila County Complex, 610 E. Highway 260, Payson, 928-474-2029
  • PSWID office, 6306 W. Hardscrabble Road, Pine, 928-476-4222

An additional note, a gentleman got up and chastised me for the tone of the last email towards Ray Pugel and Tommie Martin. I will take that as a lesson for future emails.

Strong winds could make driving difficult

Strong winds predicted for today could lead to difficult driving conditions along with periods of blowing dust and low visibility on highways across much of the state, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix has issued a blowing dust advisory until 6 p.m. for parts of central Arizona, including from Phoenix to Casa Grande. Areas of blowing dust and limited visibility have already been reported along Interstate 10 near Queen Creek Road.

ADOT warns drivers that breezy conditions could produce dust channels, which are localized areas of blowing dust where visibility can drop to nearly zero. This kind of wind and dust can occur in dust prone areas between Phoenix and Tucson, including I-10, I-8 and State Route 347.

Weather officials have also issued wind advisories for parts of northeast and southeast Arizona. One advisory in place until 7 p.m. includes most of I-40 between Flagstaff and New Mexico, while a second advisory also in place until 7 p.m. includes I-10 between Willcox and New Mexico.

The advisories forecast winds of 20 to 35 mph with gusts to 45 mph. Winds this strong can make driving difficult, especially for high profile vehicles.

Drivers are advised to stay alert and look out in all directions for blowing dust, especially in desert areas. ADOT urges drivers to avoid driving into a dust storm. Motorists play an important role in their own safety when driving during a dust storm. ADOT and the Arizona Department of Public Safety recommend the following driving tips when encountering a low-visibility dust storm:
  • Avoid driving into or through a dust storm.
  • If you encounter a dust storm, check traffic immediately around your vehicle (front, back and to the side) and begin slowing down.
  • Do not wait until poor visibility makes it difficult to safely pull off the roadway — do it as soon as possible. Completely exit the highway if you can, away from where other vehicles may travel.
  • Do not stop in a travel lane or in the emergency lane; look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
  • Turn off all vehicle lights, including your emergency flashers.
  • Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.
  • Stay in the vehicle with your seatbelts buckled and wait for the storm to pass.
  • Drivers of high-profile vehicles should be especially aware of changing weather conditions and travel at reduced speeds.
  • Be aware that any storm can cause power outages to overhead roadway lighting and traffic signals. Drive with caution and treat all intersections without signals as having stop signs in all directions.
For more information and driving tips, please visit

For the most current information about highway closures and restrictions statewide, visit ADOT’s Travel Information Site at or call 5-1-1.

Only real congressmen assault reporters

(photo: M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico)
(photo: M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico)

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
30 January 14

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." – Mark Twain, circa 1890

"Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I'll throw you off this f**king balcony." – Congressman Michael Grimm, R-NY, January 28, 2014

et's grant that Mark Twain was using hyperbole while committing a verbal insult against a widely despised class of American citizens. But that's not a crime. At least not yet. 

Republican Grimm, by contrast, was using hyperbole (presumably) while committing a verbal assault against a lone, non-threatening American citizen. That is a crime. It's a threat of harm that constitutes simple assault, usually a misdemeanor. Grimm was not arrested, of course, for his illegal, thuggish behavior. As a Congressman, he may even be immune from accountability for such criminal assault as long as he commits it in Congress.

To be more than fair to Rep. Grimm, who is 44, he made his threat in circumstances in which he himself felt threatened by a question from the younger, smaller man he threatened. As a former Marine and a former FBI agent, he also managed to personify the negative Hollywood stereotype of both.

This was immediately after the State of the Union Address on January 28. Congressman Grimm had come up to the visitors' gallery above the House floor to make a quick-reaction comment on the president's speech to Capitol Hill reporter Michael Scotto, of NY1, a Warner cable news channel. The reaction comment over, reporter Scotto tried to get more, saying, "And just finally before we let you go, because we have you here, we haven't had a chance to kind of talk about some of the - "

Rep. Grimm interrupted: "I'm not speaking to you off-topic, this is only about the president." Then he turned and walked away, out of the picture, as the reporter asked, "But what about the - ?" 

So the reporter had to close out the segment.

With Rep. Grimm gone, Scotto stepped into the empty frame and said: "All right. So Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, he refused to talk about that. Back to you. "

Then, with the intensity of the shark from "Jaws," Rep. Grimm sailed back into view, confronting the startled Scotto and backing the reporter across the screen and out of sight as the camera rolled. Scotto had explained to the Congressman that the spot would be shot in one take, to "air it as live."

Ignoring the live camera, which showed only his back, Rep. Grimm ripped into Scotto with quiet intensity, first threatening to throw him off the balcony to the House floor. The exchange was brief, less than a minute, and only partly comprehensible. It ended with something inaudible from Scotto that elicited another threat by the Congressman: "No, no, you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."

With that, Grimm left for good. Later that night he issued a self-exculpatory statement:

"I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests. The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview, because I did not have time to speak off-topic. I verbally took the reporter to task and told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect, especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor. I doubt that I am the first member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I am sure I won't be the last."

Not surprisingly, since this was an assault on a reporter, just about everyone in the media had something to say about it, online and in print. 

When the media pile on for one of their own, they pile on hard. 

And a lot of what they said gave a lot more coverage to various allegations against Grimm than they ever would have gotten if he'd just given a typical non-answer answer to Michael Scotto's pro forma question, instead of losing it.

"This month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Diana K. Durand, a fund-raiser for Mr. Grimm, on charges that she illegally funneled more than $10,000 into his campaign. Mr. Grimm has also faced an ongoing federal investigation into accusations that he or his campaign illegally solicited money from foreign donors," reported The New York Times. "In a separate matter, the FBI is also probing whether Ofer Biton, an associate of a charismatic Orthodox rabbi, collected questionable money for Grimm's campaign from the rabbi's congregation. Many of the rabbi's followers are Israeli citizens. Foreign donations are barred from US campaigns," added the Christian Science Monitor.

"Rep. Michael Grimm's bizarre and scary rant against our Michael Scotto last night is not an isolated incident; it's part of a pattern in which the congressman has tried to avoid questions from NY1 about an ongoing probe into his campaign finances – and then become enraged when we've dared to ask him about a legitimate story," NY1 Political director Bob Hardt wrote and demanded an apology.

"I also asked Grimm about a 1999 night-club incident in which Grimm, who was an agent at the time, was accused by an off-duty N.Y.P.D. officer of threatening a fellow-patron ("I'll f**kin' make him disappear where nobody will find him," Grimm is alleged to have said), waving a gun at the officer ("I'm gonna f**kin' kill him"), and using racially charged language in the aftermath of the fracas ("All the white people get out of here")," recalled The New Yorker, in a piece titled "Is Michael Grimm Man Enough to Serve?"

"His resume sounded to good to be true. Grimm is a U.S. Marine who served in the first Gulf War, turned FBI agent (colleagues nicknamed him "Mikey Suits" for his sharp outfits) who went undercover to bring down a Mafia ring, turned small businessman. He is Catholic, but raised a boatload of money from people associated with a mystical rabbi who advised LeBron James and spent most of his time in Israel," chimed in the Daily Beast, while noting that Grimm has denied all wrongdoing.

And so it went all day for Rep. Grimm, who plans to seek his third term in Congress this year. Reportedly, Democrats believe his is most likely one of the Republican House seats they can win.

Less than 24 hours after his on-camera shark attack, Rep. Grimm started paddling in the other direction. He called Michael Scotto to apologize (Scotto accepted the apology) and he told other reporters that he hadn't been drinking (actually he said, "That's silly.").

The organization CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, in 2013 listed Rep. Grimm among its thirteen Most Corrupt members of Congress. Rep. Grimm made the bipartisan list last year, too, and in 2011, his first year in Congress.

Before the apology, fellow Republican Rep. Peter King of New York (who is not on the 2013 Most Corrupt list), tried to minimize the incident, telling reporters: "I've fought with reporters myself; it's a contact sport. If you can't take it, get out…. It's different in New York… I think it's hurt him if he backs down."

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

5 from AZ join First Lady at SOU address

TOP: Cristian Avila, 23, met the Obamas last fall when he was fasting in Washington to try to force action on immigration reform. Avila, who was back this week to watch the State of the Union with the first lady, said the Obamas seemed “genuinely concerned” for the hunger strikers. (Cronkite News Service photo by Pei Li)
BOTTOM: Joe Hudy of Anthem, shown here at age 14, is a “maker” who first met President Obama in 2012 when he brought his Extreme Marshmallow Cannon to the White House for a science fair. Now 16, he has been invited back to watch the State of the Union with the first lady. (Photo courtesy Gregory Hayes)

By COLTON GAVIN Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – When she got a call Friday inviting her to come to the White House and meet with first lady Michelle Obama, Gilbert resident Amanda Shelley “thought I was being pranked by my friends.” 

But the call was for real and Shelley was one of five Arizona residents scheduled to sit with the first lady in the Capitol Tuesday evening to watch President Barack Obama deliver his sixth State of the Union address.

The five Arizonans made up a disproportionate share of the 24 Americans invited to join Mrs. Obama because they “exemplify the themes and ideals laid out in the State of the Union,” according to the White House announcement of the guest list.

The Arizona residents included a wounded soldier and his dad from Phoenix, an inventive high school student from Anthem, a Phoenix resident who went on a hunger strike to push for immigration reform and Shelley, a physician’s assistant who was able to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

They were joined by a group that ranged from business executives to elected officials, teachers to firefighters, survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing to one of the first openly gay players in the National Basketball Association.

Inviting special guests to the State of the Union is a tradition going back to the administration of President Ronald Reagan, said Towson University political science professor Richard Vatz in an emailed statement.

“It is invariably to make a political point and to make certain issues and perspectives salient to the viewing audience,” Vatz said.

While it’s traditional for first ladies to invite such issue-related guests, it it not typical to see “five different families or five different individuals from one state being invited,” said Dave Wakeman, principal of the Wakeman Consulting Group.
He agreed that guests are in the gallery to “put real names and faces” to issues that will be highlighted.

“Since there are five Arizonans invited, that leads me to believe that President Obama is going to … push one of two issues: comprehensive immigration reform and/or the successes that the Affordable Care Act has begun having on Arizona families,” Wakeman said in an email.

Those topics are important to at least two of the Arizona guests.

Cristian Avila, for example, was on a hunger strike on the National Mall with a group of immigration reform advocates when they were visited by the Obamas in November.
“The first lady and the president were genuinely concerned for us,” Avila said Tuesday in Washington. “It was like they weren’t just our president and first lady, it was like they were our father and mother.”

The Phoenix resident, who ended his fast after three weeks, said he’s still getting over a cold he caught during the fast. But he was “honored to be one piece of something much greater” and said he looked forward to Obama giving the issue of immigration reform “more of a face from his speech.”

Shelley is a success story about the Affordable Care Act, which didn’t have many successes in its early going last year. She said a pre-existing medical condition had made it difficult for her to get health insurance but, after some struggles with the healthcare marketplace website, she was finally able to enroll and get coverage on Jan. 1.

Within days, that coverage was put to the test.

“I started having stomach pains on the third” of January, said Shelley, who usually avoided medical treatment because she lacked coverage. Worried that her health care enrollment might not have been successful, she called “just to make sure I was covered” and was assured that she was.

Shelley wound up in the emergency room the next day and was undergoing surgery two days after that. When National Public Radio did a brief interview with her, it got the attention of the White House, which called her Friday.

She was invited to tour the White House, attend a reception with Mrs. Obama and, finally, sit in the first lady’s box for the president’s speech to Congress Tuesday, when Shelley said she hopes to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act will continue to be trumpeted.

“I was frustrated in the beginning. But I was patient and tried again,” Shelley said of her experience. “Everyone who had a hard time needs to try it again. It’s worth it.”

The first lady requests the honor…

Five Arizona residents were among 24 Americans who were invited to sit in first lady Michelle Obama’s box for the State of the Union address. The White House identifed them as:

- Joey Hudy, Anthem, high school inventor and self-described “maker”
- Cristian Avila, Phoenix, immigration advocate and voter engagement coordinator
- Amanda Shelley, Gilbert, physician assistant and Obamacare enrollee
- Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger who was wounded in Afghanistan, and his father and caretaker, Craig Remsburg, a businessman, both of Phoenix

In Defense of Pete Seeger, American Communist

Pete Seeger sings with fellow activists at a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) rally in Greenwood, Mississippi, 1963. (photo: Adger Cowans/Getty Images)
Pete Seeger sings with fellow activists at a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) rally in Greenwood, Mississippi, 1963. (photo: Adger Cowans/Getty Images)

By Bhaskar Sunkara, Al Jazeera America
29 January 14
Like his party associates, Seeger was

consistently on the right side of history

hen the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger died Monday at the age of 94, remembrances of him, unsurprisingly, focused less on his music than on his social activism. All the better - Seeger, the epitome of tireless commitment to "the cause," would have liked it that way.

Some comments were laudatory, praising every aspect of his advocacy. But most of them struck the balanced tone of The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews, who tweeted: "I love and will miss Pete Seeger but let's not gloss over that fact that he was an actual Stalinist."

Such attempts at balance miss the mark. It's not that Seeger did a lot of good despite his longtime ties to the Communist Party; he did a lot of good because he was a Communist.

This point is not to apologize for the moral and social catastrophe that was state socialism in the 20th century, but rather to draw a distinction between the role of Communists when in power and when in opposition. A young worker in the Bronx passing out copies of the Daily Worker in 1938 shouldn't be conflated with the nomenklatura that oversaw labor camps an ocean away.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, time after time American Communists such as Seeger were on the right side of history - and through their leadership, they encouraged others to join them there.

Communists ran brutal police states in the Eastern bloc, but in Asia and Africa they found themselves at the helm of anti-colonial struggles, and in the United States radicals represented the earliest and more fervent supporters of civil rights and other fights for social emancipation. In the 1930s, Communist Party members led a militant anti-racist movement among Alabama sharecroppers that called for voting rights, equal wages for women and land for landless farmers. Prominent and unabashedly Stalinist figures such as Mike Gold, Richard Wright and Granville Hicks pushed Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal to be more inclusive and led the mass unionization drives of the era. These individuals, bound together by membership in an organization most ordinary Americans came to fear and despise, played an outsize and largely positive role in American politics and culture. Seeger was one of the last surviving links to this great legacy.
"Stateside Communists were the underdogs, fighting the establishment for justice - the victims of censorship and police repression, not its perpetrators."
American communism was different during those years. It wasn't gray, bureaucratic and rigid, as it was in the U.S.S.R., but creative and dynamic. Irving Howe thought it was a put-on, a "brilliant masquerade" that fought for the right causes but in a deceptive, opportunistic way. But there was an undeniable charm to the Communist Party - an organization that hosted youth dances and socials, as well as militant rallies - that first attracted Seeger. One need only reread the old transcripts from his 1955 run-in with the House Un-American Activities Committee to see the difference between the stodginess of the interrogators and the crackling wit of the young firebrand.

Stateside Communists were the underdogs, fighting the establishment for justice - the victims of censorship and police repression, not its perpetrators.

Seeger, like other party members, came to regret the illusions he held about the Soviet Union. He apologized for thinking that "Stalin was simply a 'hard-driver' and not a supremely cruel misleader." But he never abandoned his commitment to organized radical politics. Along with Angela Davis and other prominent former Communist Party members, he helped form the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a democratic socialist group, in 1991.

Remarking on Seeger, Bruce Springsteen once said that "he'd be a living archive of America's music and conscience, a testament to the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends."

In stark contrast to the role played by state socialists abroad, that's a good way to describe the legacy of the Communist Party at home, a legacy Seeger never recanted.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Beeline construction - Rye to AZ188

Pavement project on SR 87 between SR 188 and Rye begins this week

Drivers should see intermittent lane restrictions with minimal delays 

The Arizona Department of Transportation has begun a six-mile repaving project this week on State Route 87 between the junction of SR 188 and Rye (mileposts 235 to 241).

The work will include a new layer of smooth rubberized asphalt, guardrail improvements, new signage and turn-lane enhancements.

Work hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Drivers can expect intermittent lane and shoulder closures within the project work zone during work hours. The speed limit will be reduced to 55 mph during work hours.

The $3.5 million project is scheduled for completion this summer.

ADOT advises drivers to proceed through the work zone with caution, slow down, and be alert for construction equipment and personnel.

For more information, email or call the ADOT Project Hotline at 1.855.712.8530. To stay up-to-date with the latest highway conditions around the state at any time, visit the ADOT Traveler Information Center at or call 511.

Clintonian speech delivered by cool Obama

Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker John Boehner during the State of the Union. (photo: Doug Mills/New York Times)
Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker John Boehner during the State of the Union. (photo: Doug Mills/New York Times)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
29 January 14

ere are two takeaways from the most Clintonian speech Barack Obama ever gave. 

1) When all the cheering for Cory Remsburg, the grievously wounded Army Ranger, died down didn't you stop for a moment and think, "Damn, 10 deployments." What the hell have we been doing there?

2) The whole chamber couldn't rise as one and cheer the notion that people shouldn't have to raise their families in poverty? That got him about half the hall, from the way it looked on TV. I know that a good portion of his political opposition believes that poor people are marked by god and their own insufficiencies of character to be poor, but at least couldn't they all have pretended that at least the notion of poverty was something we universally deplore?

Once again, he was the only obvious president in the room, much good may that do him. He did not rile up the base. He was not combative. He did not dwell on issues that his base wanted to hear. (If you had "Keystone XL," or "NSA," or "TPP" in your State of the Union drinking game, you probably wound up as the designated driver.) But he was firm on one thing. He is not going to be a lame duck as long as he can still walk. There were a lot of sentences that began with some variation of, "If Congress won't act..." And he can still throw a sneaky right hand over the top.
Now, I do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people are not interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice, tell America what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up. But let's not have another 40- something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of Americans like Amanda.
This promise to use the powers of his office is what likely is going to raise all those hackles that were going to be raised in any case unless he got up there and abdicated in favor of Mitt Romney but, really, he couched these assertions in the mildest fashion, making of himself just a guy who was just trying to do the job to which he had been elected. He would like to have done it a different way but, darned it, the regular way just didn't work, and now it's time to take out the tire iron and give the old machine a good bash. There wasn't a scintilla of anger in his voice all night.

There was just a rueful tone to it, as though he had finally gotten the joke that history had played on him with the election in 2010 of the opera boufee that is our current House of Representatives.

The speech was Clintonian in three basic ways. First, and most obviously, it was long, almost 7000 words, and he delivered it very, very carefully. (John Boehner's face seemed to darken as the evening went along, like the side of a mountain that faces the sunset.) Secondly, it made a conscious, and largely successful, effort to argue policy positions from anecdote. The opening passage was a list of his administration's accomplishments folded into what appeared to be parable form:
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, my fellow Americans, today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it and did her part to lift America's graduation rate to its highest levels in more than three decades. An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years. (Applause.)An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years. An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil. A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history.A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. (Applause.) A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities all across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades and give thanks for being home from a war that after twelve long years is finally coming to an end.
And all of them still live in a place called Hope.

And finally, and most important, the speech was undeniably partisan while remaining conciliatory. This is a wire-walk of which Bill Clinton was the master, and this president has learned to stay up there pretty deftly himself. For every dark caution about what he'd do if they didn't, he pitched to Congress the idea that they all ought to get together and do something because the country was getting pretty pissed at all of them. He even pitched Boehner, whose balls are buried in a Mason jar somewhere in a spot only Eric Cantor knows, and who, I suspect, would like to leave a legacy behind as Speaker that consists of something more than keeping the likes of Louie Gohmert -- and Twitter's new star bullgoose Texas loony, Randy Weber -- in four-point restraints, a lovely little lifeline while doing so. 

The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That's what drew our forebears here. It's how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America's largest automaker. How the son of a barkeeper is speaker of the House. How the son of a single mom can be president of the greatest nation on Earth. 

He was extraordinarily strong in spots, particularly on voting rights, where he plainly had a lot to say, and said it all, and on the process of getting the country off what he rather daringly described as the "permanent war footing" it had been on since 2001. Some of the economic ideas, particularly the expansion and strengthening of the Earned Income Tax Credit, were sound and worthy of immediate action, which they won't get. I'm still a little vague on the MyRA thing, which smacked a little bit of the gimmick, and which, in any case, is just another stop-gap by which the country can forget that, once, everybody had a guaranteed pension, before the unions broke down and the sharpers on Wall Street looted what was left.

But, if this speech burned no barns, it didn't sound anything like a last chance, either. The president seemed to have a pen and one hand, and that well-worn olive branch still in the other. He is what he always has been, the coolest head in the room. You can never say he isn't that.

State of the Union minus corporare influence

By Dennis Trainor, Jr.

Acronym TV / Video Report

Published: Wednesday 29 January 2014

"In some alternative universe, not only am I the speechwriter for President Obama, but I’ve actually convinced him to deliver the following as the 2014 State of the Union.”  

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, fellow citizens- 60 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his annual State of the Union Address to the Nation as a Fireside Chat from the White House in which he outlined a proposed second bill of rights that would to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known.

The power elite have been guiding this country in a direction in the exact opposite of the spirit behind that second bill of rights ever since. It is because of this- the outsized influence of a few rich people and multi-national corporations that I must report to you that the state of our Union is in tatters, and if allowed to continue on its present trajectory, presents an existential threat to human life both at home and abroad and to the only habitat that human life has ever existed on: planet earth.

Tonight, I’m announcing that I will issue an executive order that will raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.

Most people on the right will take their cue form mister tan and spray sitting behind me and frown, arms folded, and most people on the left stand and applaud like a bunch of fan girls at an anime convention, but both sides of the aisle know this: if those of us in service to the power elite (and if you got elected, about 98% are in that group) don’t at least make an attempt to keep up the illusion of the American Dream, then the whole House of Cards could come down.

Count how many times the phrase “middle class” gets uttered in the state of the union. The truth is, when you aspire to or have a attained the label of American middle class know that – first, the label itself was probably made in Bangladesh, and more importantly, the existence of a middle class, which by definition requires a poor class is, in the richest country in the world, immoral.

So we will do this $10.10 an hour thing, and not only will we NOT jail Jamie Dimon, but we will secretly admire him for getting a raise while serving as a CEO of a company that had to shell out more in legal settlements that the GDP of several continents combined, and just like the magic show that wowed you as a kid the don’t watch the left hand watch the show hand and wham bam thank you sir the neoliberal hungy hungry hippo machine gobbles up all the marbles and leaves the rest of us begging for crumbs like some bit player in a Dickensian pageant.
Speaking of Dickens!

It is time to admit we lost the industrial revolution. The lifestyle it has created, which we now think of as non-negotiable of a the middle class lifestyle that the $10.10 is supposed to help more of us attain, is generating increasing ratios of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to the point where even US Navy scientists are predicting an ice free arctic summer by 2016.

So- ice won’t reflect sun; the Arctic Ocean will absorb the suns rays, warming things up in a way that will alter jet streams and maps. Do you know the last time we had an ice-free arctic summer? Never before in human history. I could tell you all to start composting and stop buying plastic water bottles but the truth is the greatest climate polluter is the US military.

Yes, the 600 hundred pound homicidal blowback inducing elephant in the room. The thing is, overreaching is part of our DNA as Americans. As an infant country, we expanded through a brutal campaign of genocide we condone in our high school history curriculum with the phrase Manifest Destiny.  All these years later, Manifest Destiny has grown up and given birth to a child. 

Manifest Destiny’s Child.

This child still governs our foreign policy decisions, it serves as the justification for the over 700 military bases we keep around the world. It serves as the justification for extrajudicial drone killings in countries that have not declared war on us and pose not threat to us. It serves as the justification for the massive spy agencies that we need to protect us.

Ask yourself this, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress and viewers playing along at home: how much resources do the Swiss have to expend on protecting themselves from terrorists? Is there such a thing as an anti Swiss terrorist network?

Chew on that.

Manifest Destiny’s Child is a threat to all living things, and must be euthanized immediately.

It is customary to close with “God Bless these United States”, but in the interest of fairness we will minimize the role of man made all knowing creators of the Universe and his influence over our affairs and say simply, peace.

Highlights of Obama's vision for 2014

By Robert Borosage

Minimum Wage Center Stage in SOTU

Minimum wage centerpiece of 2014 agenda. CNN: “[President Obama] asked Congress to get on board with a Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum to $10.10 per hour. But he also urged everyone from companies to small businesses, mayors, governors and state legislators not to wait for Congress … Obama also promised an executive order to raise the minimum wage for some government contract workers. While the action is relatively narrow and affects less than half a million people, the hope is that this will spur Congress to follow suit for all low-wage workers in the U.S. … If the legislation passed, a full-time minimum wage worker would see a bump in pay from about $15,000 a year to roughly $21,000. That could lift a family of three above the poverty line.
The increase directly and indirectly could raise pay for up to 28 million workers…”
Obama announces 12 executive actions in SOTU. “Raising the Minimum Wage through Executive Order to $10.10 for Federal Contract Workers … A New Starter Savings Account to Help Millions Save for Retirement … four new [manufacturing] institutes through executive action this year … Government-wide Review of Federal Training Programs … the President will convene a group of CEOs and other leaders around supporting best practices for hiring the long-term unemployed …”
And urges passage of infrastructure legislation. The Hill: “Lawmakers in the House and Senate are currently conferencing on an $8.2 billion bill to boost ports and waterways known as the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The chambers are also in the early stages of considering a renewal of the current surface transportation bill, which authorizes the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax that pays for most federal transportation projects. There is an approximately $20 billion shortfall between the amount of revenue the gas tax brings and the $54 billion per year that is currently being spent by the federal government on road and transit projects. Obama suggested on Tuesday night that lawmakers ‘take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes…’”
Obama to highlight state-level minimum wage initiatives. AP: “An appearance this morning (Wednesday) at a Costco in Lanham, Md ., gave Obama an opportunity to highlight efforts that many states are undertaking to try to improve wages for their workers. Maryland’s Democratic governor is pushing to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10.”

GOP displays grumpiest faces ever

The Borowitz Report

January 28, 2014

Republicans Respond to State of Union with Sourest Pusses Ever

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — As President Obama prepared to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday night, congressional Republicans promised to respond with what they call their grumpiest faces ever.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) confirmed that the G.O.P. had been practicing in front of mirrors for weeks in the hopes of creating just the right grouchy-face look for the TV cameras.

“Tonight, President Obama is going to lay out his vision for this country,” he said. “We owe it to the American people to look like someone just pissed in our cornflakes.”

For some, the task of looking crabby “is just another day at the office,” said Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), widely viewed by his fellow-Republicans as the reigning sourpuss in Congress.

“It’s a gift I have,” he said. “It’s one of the perks of being a steaming cauldron of spite.”

Perhaps the most sustained performance of sulkiness fell to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who was seated behind the President and therefore on camera for the entire duration of the address.

“There’s a lot of pressure on me to look sullen for an entire hour, but I’m up to it,” he said. “It helps that I will be in the same room with so many people I despise.”

Photograph by J. Scott Applewhite/AP.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Wealth Gap - what it is, why it matters

From the Associated Press in today's (Jan. 28) Arizona Republic:

What's new is the widening gap between the wealthiest and everyone else.  Three decades ago, Americans' income tended to grow at roughly similar rates, no matter how much you made.

But since roughly 1980, income has grown most for the top earners.  For the poorest 20 percent of families, it's dropped.  

Incomes for the highest-earning 1 percent of Americans soared 31 percent from 2009 through 2012, after adjusting for inflation, according to data compiled by Emmanuel Saez, an economist at University of California - Berkeley.

For the rest of us, it inched up an average of 0.4 percent.

Wal-Mart loses unlawful retaliation lawsuit

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Wal-Mart Associates, Inc., and Wal-Mart 
Stores East, Inc., L.P., doing business as Walmart stores in
Albuquerque, will pay $87,500 andfurnish other relief to settle a
lawsuit for retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Walmart Store #835 on Eubank
in Northeast Albuquerque refused to hire Ramona Bradford’s
adult son and daughter for entry-levelpositions because Ms.
Bradford had filed a sex discrimination charge against Wal-Mart
with the EEOC.

Retaliation against an employee because of her opposition to
discrimination and/or participation in protected activity, such
as filing a discrimination charge, violates TitleVII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC also alleged that Ramona
Bradford was avictim of retaliation because her two adult
children were being denied employmentbecause of her
complaints about discrimination and her charge filing.

In addition to monetary relief for the Bradfords, the consent
decree settling the suit provides for other important relief, 
including an injunction prohibiting retaliatory practices; 
training for managerial employees on retaliation; and the 
posting of a noticeadvising employees of their rights under
Title VII.

“This case involved an interesting and instructive fact pattern --
retaliation against family members because their mother had
filed a discrimination charge,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo
O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “The United States
Supreme Court in Thompson v. North American Stainless held
that employers cannot take adverse actions against employees
or their relatives or others close to them because the applicant
or employee did the right thing and complained of unlawful
conduct in the workplace.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment
discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available
on its web site at

The Phoenix District Office of the EEOC has jurisdiction over
Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah.