As part of his plan to address California’s fiscal crisis, liberal Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has proposed abolishing California’s 400 local “redevelopment agencies,” which would save the state some $ 1.7 billion per year, an important step towards closing the state’s $ 25 billion annual deficit. Unfortunately, his plan has so far been stymied by opposition from California Republicans, all but one of whom voted against it in the California Assembly. Under the California state constitution, passage of the bill requires a two thirds majority in the state Assembly, and Brown fell one vote short.
The GOP’s stance on this issue is extremely unfortunate, and at odds with the Party’s supposed devotion to free markets and property rights. As Steven Greenhut, an expert on California property rights issues points out in a recent Wall Street Journal op ed, the redevelopment agencies are notorious for their abuses of the power of eminent domain for the benefit of powerful private interest groups:
[I]n the last 60-some years, redevelopment agencies have become fiefdoms that run up enormous debt and abuse eminent domain by transferring private property to large developers promising to build tax-generating bonanzas. Today, there are 749 such projects. In the late 1950s, there were only nine. According to the state controller, redevelopment agencies consume about 12% of all state-wide property taxes—money that would otherwise go to critical public services….
Palm Desert’s redevelopment agency proposed to eliminate so-called blight by spending nearly $ 17 million on revamping a municipal golf club that remains one of the nation’s premier golfing locales.
In the 12 years I’ve spent reporting on this issue, I’ve seen an agency attempt to bulldoze an entire residential neighborhood and transfer the land to a theme-park developer. I’ve witnessed agencies declare eminent domain against churches—which pay few taxes—in order to sell the property at a deep discount to big-box stores that promise to keep city coffers flush. Working-class people and ethnic minorities often are the victims of this process since they often live in the vulnerable neighborhoods, and they have less muscle than big business developers.
The trouble is that blight is an amorphous concept, easily abused by government officials and redevelopment agencies. Once “blight” is found, the agency creates a project area and can then begins selling bonds (incurring debt) without a public vote. In 1995, one area of the city of Diamond Bar, where I lived, was declared blighted because there was chipped paint on some buildings….
While economic development and local control are crucial issues, it’s hard to understand why any Republican would believe that a regime of government planning and subsidy is the best way to achieve those goals. They should be standing up against the abuses of property rights and the fiscal irresponsibility inherent in the redevelopment process and championing market-based alternatives to urban improvement—even if it means defending a proposal from a Democratic governor they often disagree with.
As I have often pointed out in previously, dubious “blight” condemnations are one of the most serious threats to property rights in the United States today. They are especially likely to be used to victimize the poor, ethnic minorities, and the politically weak.
For these reasons, among others, Jerry Brown’s proposal should be supported not only because it will save the state money, but because it will protect vulnerable property owners against abusive takings. It’s also worth noting that these kinds of blight condemnations not only cause great harm to their victims, but also generally fail to produce the economic growth that supposedly justified them in the first place.
Overall, I have been skeptical about the prospects for “liberaltarianism,” the proposed political coalition between liberals and libertarians. On this issue, however, the two groups have an obvious common interest. The libertarian goal of protecting property rights overlaps here with several liberal objectives, including helping ethnic minorities and supporting one of the nation’s most prominent liberal governors.
ThinkProgress filed this report from the Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines, IA.
Earlier this week, Cain gave an interview to Christianity Today in which he declared that, “based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them.”
ThinkProgress caught up with the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza today at the Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, to discuss his comments further. We asked him, in light of his statements on Islam, would he be comfortable appointing any Muslims in his administration. Rather than skirting the question or hedging his answer, as most presidential aspirants are wont to do, Cain was definitive: “No, I would not”:
KEYES: You came under a bit of controversy this week for some of the comments made about Muslims in general. Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim, either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?
CAIN: No, I would not. And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. This is what happened in Europe. And little by little, to try and be politically correct, they made this little change, they made this little change. And now they’ve got a social problem that they don’t know what to do with hardly.
The question that was asked that “raised some questions” and, as my grandfather said, “I does not care, I feel the way I feel.” I was asked, “what is the role of Islam in America?” I thought it was an odd question. I said the role of Islam in America is for those that believe in Islam to practice it and leave us alone. Just like Christianity. We have a First Amendment. And I get upset when the Muslims in this country, some of them, try to force their Sharia law onto the rest of us.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Cain’s apparent rationale for refusing to even consider a Muslim nominee for any position in his administration is as simple as it is abhorrent: he believes all Muslims would try to “force their Sharia law onto the rest of us.” This type of bigotry has been promoted by conservative figures like Frank Gaffney and Brigitte Gabriel for years. Now, it appears to be seeping into the presidential race via Herman Cain.
The Republican pandering to social conservatives continues apace, with Haley Barbour being the latest potential 2012 candidate to say that Don’t Ask, Don’ t Tell should be reinstated:
Barbour: Let’s look at the best evidence that we have. They did research to see what military people thought about this idea. The closest to the ground, the soldier on the ground, was the most opposed to this. And it’s not necessarily over homosexuality. Its over the fact that when you’re under fire and people are living and dying of split-second decisions you don’t need any kind of amorous mindset that can affect saving people’s lives and killing bad guys. You look at the data and it is the foot-soldier that is the person who is out there, boots on the ground, who was most against this. And it’s because they live or die with this and that’s who we ought to be listening to, that’s who we ought to be caring about and that’s why I am against it. I think it ought to be rolled back. I just don’t see how you can take any other position if the person you are trying to protect is the soldier who is actually in combat.
There are several rather bizarre things about this entire meme that’s circulating through GOP circles. First, there’s simply no evidence to support the assertion that the presence of openly gay soldiers in front line units would have the impact fears, especially since they are already there even if their fellow soldiers don’t know they’re gay. This idea that gay soldiers are going to be too busy lusting after the guy in the next foxhole to do their job actually says more about the people who put forward the theory than it does about gay soldiers. Second, politically it’s just a stupid position for the GOP to be associated with. Yes, it appeals to the social conservatives in the Republican base, but they are a distinct minority on this issue considering that the vast majority of Americans supported the repeal of DADT. Letting themselves be tied to the extremist positions of the evangelical right might be good for primaries, but it’s going to hurt the GOP in a general election.
Buried Provision In House GOP Bill Would Cut Off Food Stamps To Entire Families If One Member Strikes
All around the country, right-wing legislators are asking middle class Americans to pay for budget deficits caused mainly by a recession caused by Wall Street; they are attacking workers’ collective bargaining rights, which has provoked a huge Main Street Movement to fight back.
Now, a group of House Republicans is launching a new stealth attack against union workers. GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (OH), Tim Scott (SC), Scott Garrett (NJ), Dan Burton (IN), and Louie Gohmert (TX) have introduced H.R. 1135, which states that it is designed to “provide information on total spending on means-tested welfare programs, to provide additional work requirements, and to provide an overall spending limit on means-tested welfare programs.”
Much of the bill is based upon verifying that those who receive food stamps benefits are meeting the federal requirements for doing so. However, one section buried deep within the bill adds a startling new requirement. The bill, if passed, would actually cut off all food stamp benefits to any family where one adult member is engaging in a strike against an employer:
The bill also includes a provision that would exempt households from losing eligibility, “if the household was eligible immediately prior to such strike, however, such family unit shall not receive an increased allotment as the result of a decrease in the income of the striking member or members of the household.”
Yet removing entire families from eligibility while a single adult family member is striking would have a chilling effect on workers who are considering going on strike for better wages, benefits, or working conditions — something that is especially alarming in light of the fact that unions are one of the fundamental building blocks of the middle class that allow people to earn wages that keep them off food stamps.
This is who they are. Time and time again, they are showing you who they are. They have absolutely nothing but contempt for the working man and woman that doesn’t want to spend their lives as serfs to companies, and want to fight for a decent wage. This isn’t a shock…because this is just another example of how these lowlifes operate.
Thinking of playing the Mega Millions lottery tonight?
If you win and you live in Connecticut, you could actually help contribute to closing Connecticut’s state budget deficit.
The winner would pay the top rate of 6.5 percent on the state income tax on the amount above $ 1 million, which is proposed to increase to 6.7 percent if Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan is approved by the Democratic-controlled legislature.
Already the bellwether of radical policy, the Arizona legislature is now poised to outdo other GOP-led states in the competition for most extreme gun legislation. Yesterday, a House panel approved a bill to let anybody bring their guns into “public establishments” and “public events.”
While current law allows public agencies to declare buildings as gun-free zones by “putting a sticker on the door,” SB 1201 will allow public buildings to keep guns out “only if there are metal detectors at each entrance with a security guards.” Without those measures, which can cost over $ 100,000, anyone may bring in their own gun.
Under the bill, “public establishments” and “public events” include buildings owned or leased by the state (including courts and libraries) and events conducted with a license or permit from a public entity. While the law exempts events or facilities that serve alcohol — making them provide “gun lockers” if they want to ban guns — events without alcohol would likely have to allow firearms without restriction. Such public places would include “major events such as Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Suns games or rock concerts.” Or, as one major concert promoter noted, “Sesame Street Live” and “Disney On Ice”:
[President of major concert promoter Live Nation Southwes Terry] Burke said it appeared the bill would allow guns at family shows that don’t serve alcohol, such as “Sesame Street Live” or “Disney on Ice.”
Bob Merlis, an agent for rock stars John Mellencamp and ZZ Top, “couldn’t imagine” an artist agreeing to perform in front of a gun-toting audience. “The fear of every performer onstage is that some nut will shoot them,” he said. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce also balked, saying the legislation “could infringe on the rights” of building owners “to keep guns out.”
Sports and entertainment executives said the bill could affect venues like Phoenix’s Chase Field, US Airways Center, Comerica Theatre, Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion, Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium, and the Mesa Arts Center — all “facilities are owned, leased, operated or controlled with an element of public funding.” Incidentally, Comerica Theatre will be home to Sesame Street Live this spring.
Defending his bill, state Sen. Ron Gould (R), the bill’s sponsor, said “stickers don’t really protect anybody” because they “[do] not really keep a criminal or a psychotic from walking into this meeting and shooting each and every one of us dead.” But letting anyone and everyone walk into the room with a gun somehow does.
Cease-fire: a suspension of active hostilities
Websters Online Dictionary
An earlier post this week, New York Times: 600+ Rockets And Missiles Fired Into Israel by Hamas = Cease Fire, looked at how loosely The New York Times defined a “cease fire”.
But let’s face it: The New York Times is neither the only one nor the first to report a truce in the midst of rockets, mortars and bombs-you can see the same tactic at work back in 2005.
- February 8, CBS: Sharon, Abbas Hail Cease-Fire
- March 4, Baltimore Chronicle: The Israeli/Palestinian Cease Fire “…The Israeli/Palestinian cease-fire is cause for celebration“.
- April 25, USA Today: Abbas Mired In Struggle …”Mr. Abbas has succeeded in forging a crucial cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants. In March and April, there have been no Israeli fatalities, the longest such stretch since the intifada started in 2000.”
- May 22, Seattle Times: Hamas to renew Gaza cease-fire, Palestinians say: “…Palestinian militants of Hamas have agreed in talks with the Palestinian Authority to stop mortar and rocket attacks on Israeli settlements and towns near the Gaza Strip, apparently restoring a three-month cease-fire, a Palestinian official said yesterday.”
- June 2, CBS: Israel Frees Palestinian Prisoners “…Israel freed the 398 prisoners under a cease-fire agreement reached four months ago, with the aim of strengthening moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.”
- July 6, New York Times: Investing in Gaza “…The Palestine Securities Exchange, located in the West Bank town of Nablus, has skyrocketed since the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire went into effect in February.”
- August 29, Fox News: Palestinian Groups Say They’re Committed to Cease-Fire: “…Palestinian militant groups told an Egyptian envoy Monday they remained committed to a cease-fire with Israel, a day after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an Israeli bus station, Palestinian officials said.”
- September 10, USA Today: Israel pledges tough reaction to attacks from Gaza: “…While Israel has in the past used airstrikes and tank assaults against militants, it declared a policy of relative restraint after a February cease-fire.”
- October 6, Arab News: Abbas Set to Meet Sharon Next Week: “…Sharon and Abbas held their first summit in February, soon after Abbas was elected to succeed late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and declared a cease-fire which paved the way for the Israeli withdrawals.”
- November 23, Jewish World Review: The Blame Game Continues: If there were no Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israel — and the terror groups were not using the Israeli withdrawal and cease-fire to strengthen their “military positions” — then there would be no Israeli demands for tight controls on the borders.
- December 12, Arab News: Editorial: Cease-Fire Under Threat: “…An announcement from the political leader of the Palestinian activist group Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has raised some serious concerns about the future of the peace process. The disturbing announcement is that Hamas will not renew its cease-fire with Israel which expires at the end of the year. “
But in 2005 there were a total of 29 Palestinian terrorist attacks in 2005 resulting in 57 Israeli deaths and 281 injuries. If we count just those terrorist attacks after the ‘truce’ there were 23 terrorist attacks in 2005 resulting in 46 deaths and 260 injuries.[see chart with dates and descriptions]
In addition to the terrorist attacks, during 2005 Palestinian terrorists fired 197 Kassams, 281 mortars and 1 Grad rocket into Israel.
Throughout 2005, the media was so enthralled with the idea of a cease-fire, that the terrorist attacks stopped being the focus. Instead, according to the media, there was a ceasefire during the year-and they would report on the rockets and terrorists attacks that occurred during the cease-fire. It never seemed to occur to the media that the continued rockets, mortars and terrorist attacks throughout the year demonstrated that the cease-fire was a sham and never actually existed.
By the time The New York Times decided that you can have a cease-fire in the midst of 600+ rockets and mortars being fired into Israel-the path had been well prepared.
This may be a sign of the media’s optimism and hope for peace-but it is an insult to the people who live with the threat of terrorism.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says he is hoping for success in the high-stakes concession talks with state employee unions because the alternative would be “nasty and ugly.”
Malloy is seeking $ 1 billion per year in savings from the unions, which represent about 45,000 state employees, in order to help close the state’s projected budget deficit of $ 3.3 billion for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
But Malloy reiterated Friday that he is preparing an alternative budget in case the ongoing talks break down. The lack of a deal could lead to the layoff of thousands of state employees and deep cuts to “safety net” programs for the poor.
“I hope we don’t have to go there,” Malloy told reporters after the meeting of the State Bond Commission. “It would be nasty and ugly.”
Malloy was responding in part to a story in Friday’s Hartford Courant that provided details of a questionnaire circulated by a state union about the concessions. The questionnaire, dated March 16, by the Administrative and Residual Employees Union outlined 11 possible concessions, including a two-year wage freeze and raising the retirement age to 65 for new employees who are hired after July 1. Employees were asked which concession “would be so objectionable that you would vote against any concession agreement” offered by Malloy’s administration.
The level of detail mentioned in the questionnaire – including whether employees would agree to pay $ 60 more per month for their health care – made some insiders predict that the 11 potential concessions are clearly still on the table in the closed-door talks.
When asked if he was satisfied with the progress of the ongoing discussions, Malloy responded, “They’re not over, so I’m satisfied.”
The union questionnaire opened a window into the secretive talks, which have been conducted over the past three weeks. The talks have been so secret that the two sides have refused to release the times, dates, or locations of the sessions.
Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) has joined fellow potential Republican presidential contenders Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) and Mike Huckabee (R-AR) in supporting the reinstatement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, telling America Family Foundation’s Brian Fischer that he supports rolling back repeal out of fear that “amorous mindsets” would interfere with “saving people’s lives and killing bad guys”:
BARBOUR: Let’s look at the best evidence that we have. They did research to see what military people thought about this idea. The closest to the ground, the soldier on the ground, was the most opposed to this. And it’s not necessarily over homosexuality. Its over the fact that when you’re under fire and people are living and dying of split-second decisions you don’t need any kind of amorous mindset that can effect saving people’s lives and killing bad guys. You look at the data and it is the foot-soldier that is the person who is out there, boots on the ground, who was most against this. And it’s because they live or die with this and that’s who we ought to be listening to, that’s who we ought to be caring about and that’s why I am against it. I think it ought to be rolled back. I just don’t see how you can take any other position if the person you are trying to protect is the soldier who is actually in combat.
Despite Barbour’s rather insulting concerns about “amorous mindsets” in the ranks, a majority of servicemembers who participated in the Pentagon’s survey of the policy — upwards of 70% — didn’t believe that gay troops would undermine unit morale or cohesion. According to the report, combat units expressed more negative views about open service (40–60% in the Marine Corps and in various combat arms specialties) because of inexperience with gay servicemembers — opposition that would likely deteriorate with proper leadership and training.
Of the three Republicans who have publicly called for reinstating the ban, only Pawlenty has called for recalling the funds necessary for implementing repeal. None of the presidential hopefuls explained how bringing back the policy would actually play out operationally, however. (H/T: Right Wing Watch)
When Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) gave his annual state address, he promised that his plan to fill the Lone Star state’s $ 27 billion budget gap without raising any new revenue would lead to economic prosperity and job growth. “Balancing our budget without raising taxes will keep us moving forward out of these tough economic times, creating more jobs and opportunity and leaving Texas more competitive than ever,” he said. “As other states flounder about, oppressing their citizens with more taxes and driving away jobs with bad policy, Texas will make the right decisions, and emerge stronger.”
However, the bipartisan Legislative Budget Board found that the budget before the legislature could cause the state to lose 600,000 jobs, including more than 260,000 in the private sector:
Texas could see more than 600,000 jobs disappear if lawmakers adopt the $ 83.8 billion budget that will go before the state House late next week, according to a state agency. Harsh spending cuts in the budget could cost more than 263,500 private sector jobs and 343,000 government positions over the next two years, according to estimates released Wednesday by the Legislative Budget Board, a bipartisan committee.
The Budget Board emphasized that “many of these job losses can be attributed to the steep downturn of the Texas economy during the past several years.” This just reaffirms the folly of instituting draconian budget cuts at a time of economic weakness. “The voters did not elect us to eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs,” said state Rep. Mike Villarreal (D).
The cuts in the Texas budget fall especially hard on the state’s already hard-hit education and health care sectors. Earlier this month, Perry was talking up the virtues of education and job creation at the same time that he was proposing deep education cuts and teacher layoffs.
700 of the positions that the Texas budget would eliminate would be in child protective services. Texas already has a sky-high child poverty rate and as Prof. Vivian Dorsett explained, “if you cut child services on the front end, then the state’s going to be paying for it on the back end,” due to foster care and prison costs.
The closed-door state union negotiations have been wrapped in a shroud of secrecy as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is seeking $ 2 billion in savings from the state employee unions that have a benefit contract that does not expire until 2017.
But an internal questionnaire from one union provides a glimpse of the types of wage, benefit, and retirement issues that are being discussed behind closed doors.
The questionnaire asks employees from the Administrative and Residual Union to cite which concession would be so objectionable that it would prompt them to vote against an overall union concession agreement. The list of 11 possibilities includes similar points that have been mentioned publicly by Malloy and are likely to be crucial to the talks.
The first question asks, “Are you willing to make some concessions to avoid layoffs?”
The one-page memo, obtained by Capitol Watch, also asks if the employees would vote against a one-year wage freeze or a two-year wage freeze. They are also asked if they would oppose allowing the state to switch to a 401k retirement program for all new employees who are hired after July 1 – instead of the lucrative pension system that the current employees receive.
Other issues include:
*”Raising the retirement age to 65 for employees hired after June 30.”
*Creating a new, Tier III pension plan for new employees with a defined benefit, such as the current system.
*Charging an additional $ 60 per month – or $ 720 per year – for health insurance. An alternative would be an increase of $ 30 per month.
*Switching to the same type of health benefits plan as federal employees, which Malloy says would save more than $ 100 million over two years.
*Requiring all state employees to pay 3 percent of their salary to help pay for retiree medical insurance
Michael Winkler, the first vice president of Newington-based A & R, confirmed that the union has been surveying its members at a series of meetings around the state. The surveys are not always the same, but the version obtained by Capitol Watch is the latest version.
“We want to know what our members can and cannot accept,” said Winkler, the former union president who has been an official at the union for the past 12 years.
Concerning the 11 possibilities on the questionnaire, Winkler said that the union needs to know “which ones are the least palatable” to the membership.
In Biden’s own words:
“…the president has no Constitutional authority to take this nation to war…unless we’re attacked, or unless there is proof that we are about to be attacked. If he does, I would move to impeach him.”
OK, Mr. Vice President, when do we get started?
(h/t): Joe Schoffstall
Coach K would again turn down shot at coaching Lakers
In 2004, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski turned down an offer to coach the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2011, with Lakers coach Phil Jackson saying he will retire after the current NBA season, would Krzyzewski reconsider a move to the …
Rumor: Coach Krzyzewski not interested in coaching Kobe and Lakers?
Coach K almost came to Lakers in 2004; will not now
Mike Krzyzewski still won't leave Duke Blue Devils to coach Los Angeles Lakers
In 22 states across the country, Republican lawmakers are ginning up the specter of voter fraud to pass highly restrictive photo identification laws that would severely restrict the voting rights of millions. But yesterday, the Republicans in the Ohio House secured passage of “what could become the nation’s most restrictive voter identification law.”
In just eight days, House Republicans hustled through HB 159, a bill that would require voters to show one of five forms of ID to vote in person: an Ohio driver’s license, state ID, military ID, U.S. passport, or “a new, free photo ID that State Bureau of Motor Vehicles would dispense to indigent citizens who qualify.” Currently, voters must show a photo ID or present a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government document with a current name and address. Unlike other states’ photo ID laws, HB 159 would not even allow students to use IDs issued by state colleges.
The bill sponsor, state Rep. Bob Mecklenborg (R) “said the bill is necessary to combat voter fraud and the perception of fraud.” But after failing to produce any actual evidence of such voter fraud, Meklenborg defended his theory with the inexorable proof that “I believe it happens” and “it’s impossible to prove a negative”:
While Republicans produced no evidence of voter fraud from impersonation, Mecklenborg and other GOP leaders say they believe it is going on unreported. “I believe it happens, but it’s proving a negative,” Mecklenborg told reporters after the vote. “It’s impossible to prove a negative. How do you prove that fraud doesn’t exist there?”
However, Cuyahoga County Board of Elections head Jane Platten, a Democrat, said she has never seen a case of voter impersonation in the seven years she has been with the local elections board.
Despite his belief, representatives from the Board of Elections, the League of Women Voters, and the former Secretary of State office “have never even heard of one” instance of voter impersonation in Ohio. As the Brennan Center for Justice notes, a statewide survey found four instances of ineligible persons voting or attempting to vote in 2002 and 2004 out of 9,078,728 votes case — “a rate of 0.00004%.”
However, bills like HB 159 stands to severely restrict or exclude millions (at least 12%) of America’s voting population, most notably seniors, the disabled, low-income voters, students, and people of color. As Ohio Democrats noted, an estimated 890,000 voting age Ohioans do not currently have a government-issued photo ID, including significant numbers of blacks and people older than 65.” What’s more, the GOP bill would actually cost the state “up to $ 20 million to implement.”
The Toledo Blade called the bill a “ruse” that’s “true intent seems to be to make it harder for some Ohioans to vote” and is “correctly” called “the 21st-century equivalent of a poll tax.” “If [the bill] were supported by any evidence of election-day fraud, then I could understand the legitimacy of our conversation,” said Rep. Dennis Murray (D-OH). “But the complete absence of evidence means the legislation is gasoline on the fire of elitist prejudice.” The bill now heads to the GOP-led Ohio Senate.