Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rally to Fight "Right to Work" in Michigan

EXCLUSIVE: 35,000 Rally To Fight ‘Right To Work’ In Michigan

As I arrived Tuesday morning, the crowds were assembling in force, and the loudspeakers started getting cheers from folks by asking who was here from the IBEW, CWA, Steelworkers, Nurses, etc. Lots of excitement. As I slowly worked my way through the crowd to get into a good place to shoot a few pics, I had to swallow my claustrophobia. I felt a lot like the kid in the movie Extremely Loud And Incredibly Closeand clutched my camera tightly, maybe even shook it like he did the tambourine.

These are some of the shots I got. I was struck by the number of cops about, some on horseback, some with tear gas, some with dogs. At first, it felt strange to me because the crowd I was with, meaning everyone there, was peaceful and maybe even subdued.

However, I know from the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that sometimes, there are agents in the crowd planted there to start something, and sometimes the cops start it by pushing and prodding a very compact group of people until they push back, or by breaking out the pepper spray or “batons.”

One thing that always bothers me at these rallies and demonstrations is when the crowd starts yelling (at the politicians, the cops, etc.), “Shame! Shame!”

Look, these bastards have no shame. At all. I’d rather be yelling, “FUCK YOU!” and “WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!” and “WE’RE MAD AS HELL, AND WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

But that’s just me.


Corporate Profits Skyrocket while Corporate Taxes Plummet

By Pat Garofalo on Dec 10, 2012 at 11:48 am

Corporate profits are currently at an all-time high (while worker wages as a percentage of the economy have plummeted to record lows). But despite those sky-high profits, corporate income tax revenue is projected to be just 1.5 percent of GDP this year, below the recent average and far below the amount raised by the tax just a few decades ago.

As the Century Foundation noted in this chart, the corporate income tax, as a share of total government revenue, used to track reasonably well with corporate profits. But in the last decade, the two have become decoupled:

As the Century Foundation’s Benjamin Landy explained, “In 1952, the corporate income tax accounted for about one third of of all federal tax revenue. But, over the years, U.S. multinationals have devised increasingly complex tax avoidance schemes, far beyond the ability of the IRS to credibly monitor or enforce. Although the corporate tax rate was also lowered significantly in 1986, tax avoidance is one of primary reasons why corporate taxes supply less than 9 percent of federal revenues today.”

Between 2008 and 2011, dozens of multinational corporations paid no corporate income tax at all, despite making billions in profits. In 2011, the effective tax rate paid by American corporations fell to 12.1 percent, a forty-year low.


Strenghten Social Security

LIKE & SHARE if you agree with Rep. Raul M. Grijalva

"To blame the three programs that we are talking about; Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as the drivers of this deficit is a mistake.

"The drivers happened long ago, two wars on a credit card, a financial institution that abused the American people. Now we are being asked to go back to the same people that have endured this crisis and ask them to pay up again...No."

How About a Bar Exam for Teachers?

Strange article ... The bar exam for lawyers is more rigorous certainly than the praxis, but similar. The difference is that the bar prepares a lawyer to fill out forms, pretty much. A new lawyer takes YEARS as a rule to be allowed to face either a live client or the courtroom (and let us recall that Law School is three years, full time, POST -GRAD. Randi is correct in thinking that a similar period of adjustment would be great for teachers, but fiscal reality means that that adjustment will need to be made in the undergraduate environment ... We need to parallel the changes we're fighting for in our own curriculum -- LESS testing; MORE HANDS-ON.

How About a Bar Exam for Teachers?

OPINION December 9, 2012, 6:40 p.m. ET

To become a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln was required by Illinois law only to "obtain a certificate procured from the court of an Illinois county certifying to the applicant's good moral character." That 19th-century standard, along with Lincoln's self-taught legal training, was sufficient for our extraordinary 16th president. Over the years, however, the legal profession saw the need to include formal training and establish a high standard for entry into its ranks, as did the medical profession.

Every profession worth its salt goes through such periods of self-examination. That time has come for the teaching profession.

We must do away with the common rite of passage whereby new teachers are thrown into classrooms, expected to figure things out, and left to see if they (and their students) sink or swim. Such a haphazard approach to the complex and crucial enterprise of educating children is wholly inadequate. It's unfair to both students and teachers, who want and need to be well-prepared to teach from their first day on the job.

Success in today's economy requires ingenuity and the ability to apply knowledge. Yet America's testing fixation stifles creativity and critical thinking, something that the rich, rigorous Common Core State Standards (which most states have adopted) can change. Raising the bar for students raises it for their teachers as well. To help teachers meet this challenge, the American Federation of Teachers has developed a proposal for an unprecedented leap in elevating the quality of the teaching profession.

Instead of the current hodgepodge approach to teacher certification and licensing, we propose that all prospective teachers in the United States take a rigorous bar exam that gauges mastery of subject-matter knowledge and demonstrates competency in how to teach it. The process could be modeled after the bar exam for lawyers or the board certification of medical doctors.

Teacher preparation is a high national priority in the countries that consistently top international academic rankings. It is past time for the U.S. to follow a similar path. Practicing teachers in K-12 and higher education should own responsibility for setting and enforcing the teaching profession's standards.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards could lead in establishing common professional standards, aligning teacher-preparation with those standards, and assuring that candidates meet them. The way to do that is through a teachers' bar process.

I have worked as both a teacher and a lawyer. I was utterly petrified the first day I taught my own high-school students, whereas I was quite confident the first time I represented a client in a courtroom. My legal training included three years of formal study, clinical experience with established lawyers on real-world cases, and passing a grueling bar exam that the legal profession had deemed demonstrated the knowledge and ability to serve successfully as a new lawyer.

As an alternatively certified teacher, my preparation consisted of condensed coursework and valuable but limited student teaching—far less than I needed. Surveys of teachers show that many who go through traditional teacher-preparation programs feel they aren't adequately prepared to manage and teach students early in their career. Alternatively certified teachers feel even less prepared. Yet teachers assume an enormous responsibility from day one. And when they struggle, the response is too often the threat of termination, not an offer of assistance.

Setting a bar for entry into the teaching profession requires strengthening and aligning many components. Standards for admission to and completion of teacher-preparation programs should be appropriately high. Curricula should address the specific knowledge and skills that competent beginning teachers need. Preparation must include extensive experience in actual classrooms working with accomplished teachers. Mastery should be demonstrated not just through a written exam but also through demonstrations of a candidate's ability to teach. High standards for entry into the profession should apply to all prospective teachers, whether they pursue traditional or alternative certification.

The teaching profession is full of dedicated, talented teachers, but much of their expertise is developed only once they're on the job. Better preparing teachers for entry into the profession will dramatically reduce the loss of new teachers—nearly half of whom leave after fewer than five years—and the loss of knowledge that goes with it. As widespread teacher retirements sweep across the nation's schools (1.6 million in the next decade alone), our proposal will help create a constant supply of well-prepared educators ready from day one to help children achieve at high levels.

Ms. Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers.


Analysis: Why America's unions are losing power

Analysis: Why America's unions are losing power

By Josh Levs, CNN

updated 6:55 PM EST, Tue December 11, 2012


(CNN) -- Michigan has dealt a tremendous blow to unions, approving a right-to-work measure in the heart of organized labor's industrial stronghold.

The new law -- passed by legislators and signed hours later on Tuesday -- not only signals a change in America's so-called Rust Belt, but is also the latest sign that the power of organized labor is shrinking in the United States.

American unions already have a fraction of the influence they did a few decades ago. Only about 12% of workers are union members, down from 20% in 1983, according to federal data. In the private sector, the plunge has been even steeper: union membership has dropped from 17% in 1983 to 7% today.

That's partly because certain unionized industries have become a smaller part of the overall work force, particularly in manufacturing. It's also a result of government action.

Michigan has become the 24th state to adopt a right-to-work law, which removes the requirement for people to pay unions to work at unionized agencies, effectively decreasing union funding and making it less likely that workers choose to organize.


Union supporters in Michigan didn't go down without a fight. They staged a rally outside the state capitol in Lansing as lawmakers voted.

"People need to wake up and fight," teacher Sarah Zigler said at Tuesday's rally. "People need to realize what unions have done for them. Who gave people the 40-hour work week? Who fought for workplace safety? Who brought you the weekend? Who brought you workers comp? Who gave people overtime pay?"

"Unions!" protesters shouted after each of her questions.

For much of American history, unions have been credited with helping millions achieve the American dream and criticized for "heavy-handed" operations (They were also reviled for corruption in the days of Jimmy Hoffa.).

But unions have long remained a force to be reckoned with. Today, Michigan becomes the latest state in the Rust Belt, the heart of America's manufacturing industry, to chip away at their power.

Earlier this year, Wisconsin had its own showdown over the power of unions when Gov. Scott Walker -- who opposes unions -- overcame an attempt to recall him from office. The failed recall vote was fueled by anger over laws he pushed that stripped collective bargaining rights from most public unions. Indiana also passed a right-to-work law this year.

While there have been moments of good news for organized labor, including pay bumps for GM autoworkers, industry analysts agree that organized labor no longer holds the sway it once did among America's workers.

So why the downfall of American unions? That depends on who you ask.

Blaming big business

Big businesses are behind campaigns to squelch organized labor, and they are seeing some success, according to Gordon Lafer, a political science professor and opponent of right-to-work laws.

"The anti-union campaigns of the last three years, starting with Wisconsin, have really been driven ... by big national organizations and money," said Lafer, a union member and who teaches labor studies at the University of Oregon.

"I think an important question to think about is: Why are big private companies spending a lot of money and energy fighting public sector unions?

"They want more free trade, lower minimum wage, the right not to pay sick leave, and all those things which are not per se about union contracts. But the biggest single opponent they have is the labor movement, even in its shrunken and weaker state."

Lafer blames businesses and key business figures for lobbying to push such laws "not because of what unions are doing now for their own members but to get them out of the way on issues that will affect everybody else."

These campaigns stigmatize unions and encourage people who are unemployed to resent unions rather than big business leaders, he argued.

"Their fear is populism," he said, referring to those who are "at the top of the economy, during downward mobility."

"They want the discontent to not be aimed at people running the economy."

There's also an element of fear among those who have jobs, he said. In this time of economic uncertainty, workers are afraid to organize because they don't want to upset their employers and lose their jobs.

It's the economy

For businesses to recover from the recession and build jobs in America, they need to get out from under organized labor, according to some analysts. And that has led to the decline of union power -- which is good news, they say.

"Unions have lost power in the private sector over time because of competition, globalization, and the fact that they don't add any value to worker productivity," said Chris Edwards, an economist with the Cato Institute and a fan of right-to-work laws.

Businesses are responding to today's realities and "can't pay above-market wages forever," he said. "So either they will move work abroad or they will automate to try to get rid of as many workers as they can."

To build jobs in America, Edwards said businesses can't be beholden to mandatory collective bargaining, which can increase wages and expenses without increasing profits.

In recent years, the retirement of baby boomers has fueled anti-union sentiment as some companies struggle to pay pensions as well as health care for the aging population -- benefits that were negotiated through collective bargaining. And, Edwards notes, that pressure comes on top of the economic downturn.

"Unions are going the way of the dinosaur in the U.S. private sector, which is a good thing for workers and businesses because it will make America more competitive," he said. "If right-to-work laws extend to the 50 states, then private sector unions will be dead in America."

How does Edwards feel about the death of all private sector unions?

"Good riddance," he said.

Is it all about red vs. blue?

The decline in union strength is also tied to the political battle between Democrats and Republicans.

"There has been a recognition by both the unions and people who are not happy with unions in the last 12 years or so that unions have been fundamentally the powerhouse between the Democratic party and their electoral math," said Linda Kaboolian, lecturer on public policy with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Unions provide money and put "boots on the ground" to get Democratic candidates elected. If they shrink, so will the money and power of that central blue voting bloc, Kaboolian said, adding that "it's a perfectly rational point of view" for right-wing organizations to take.

Union organizers did a great deal to push for President Barack Obama's re-election in key states, including Michigan. The president himself paid a visit to the state this week, voicing his opposition to the state's right-to-work measure.

"What we shouldn't do is take away your rights to bargain for better wages," Obama told workers. "These so called right to work laws don't have to do with economics, they have to do with politics."

Kaboolian insisted that economic arguments for slicing union strength don't add up. Even if unionized workers cost more, they can often prove to be a higher-quality work force that will last, grow and learn new skills, she says.

Kaboolian speaks of her own experience, having served as a union officer at the University of Michigan. She was also a manager and a worker in both unionized and non-unionized agencies. She said she does not advocate for or against right-to-work laws.

James Sherk of the conservative Heritage Foundation rejected the idea that unions' decline are tied to American politics.

He said the changes are being driven "by efforts to attract business," not an underhanded political effort, he says.

"We're coming out of a pretty nasty recession ... Businesses understandably don't want to be unionized."


Black in America: It's not just about the color of your skin

Black in America: It's not just about the color of your skin

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) – What is black? Race. Culture. Consciousness. History. Heritage.

A shade darker than brown? The opposite of white?

Who is black? In America, being black has meant having African ancestry.

But not everyone fits neatly into a prototypical model of "blackness."

Scholar Yaba Blay explores the nuances of racial identity and the influences of skin color in a project called (1)ne Drop, named after a rule in the United States that once mandated that any person with "one drop of Negro blood" was black. Based on assumptions of white purity, it reflects a history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

In its colloquial definition, the rule meant that a person with a black relative from five generations ago was also considered black.

One drop was codified in the 1920 Census and became pervasive as courts ruled on it as a principle of law. It was not deemed unconstitutional until 1967.

Blay, a dark-skinned daughter of Ghanian immigrants, had always been able to clearly communicate her racial identity. But she was intrigued by those whose identity was not always apparent. Her project focuses on a diverse group of people – many of whom are mixed race - who claim blackness as their identity.

That identity is expanding in America every day. Blay's intent was to spark dialogue and see the idea of being black through a whole new lens.

"What's interesting is that for so long, the need to define blackness has originated from people who were not themselves black, and their need to define it stemmed from their need to control it," says Blay.

Blackness, she says, isn't so easily defined by words. What is blackness for one person may not necessarily be that for another.

"And that's fine," Blay says. "Personally, my blackness is reflective of my ancestry, my culture and my inheritance."

"Black," in reference to people and identity, she says, is worthy of capitalization. Otherwise, black is just another color in the box of crayons. (CNN, like other news organizations, does not capitalize black or white.)

CNN interviewed some of the people who participated in Blay's project to find out how they view themselves. What follows are their insights into race and identity

To read more click on the following link:


'Proud of you': How parents, kids interact on Facebook

By Brandon Griggs, CNN

(CNN) -- As they move from their early teens to their late teens, kids no longer want to be pals with Mom and Dad. Teenage boys are much less likely than girls to initiate conversations with their parents. And moms baby their sons.

Not exactly news flashes, you say? But we're not talking about real life here, exactly. We're talking about Facebook.

The world's largest social network released new data Thursday about how parents and their children interact online. But the findings, from Facebook's data science team, also illustrate how personal interactions on Facebook can mirror those in the so-called real world.


"With the holidays approaching, and families gathering all over the world, we wanted to understand how parents and children on Facebook communicate," says the post, which crunches friend requests, conversations and other Facebook data from the past two months.


"We are happy to see that our data surfaces the affection, care, and closeness of family ties."



Here are the highlights of what Facebook found:


Who friends whom: More than 65% of friendships between 13-year-olds and their parents are initiated by the child. But the older the teenager gets, the less likely he or she is to be the one sending the friend request. By the time kids are in their early to mid-20s, their parents are initiating friend requests with them 60% of the time.

As kids grow into their 30s and 40s, however, they begin friending their parents more often again.


"This overall trend follows the rough arc of children seeking distance from their parents as they prepare to leave the nest, and then gradually gravitating back as they accomplish their own milestones in life," says the blog post.



Who talks to whom: Moms and dads initiate parent-child conversations more often than their teenage kids. For daughters, this imbalance evens out by the time they hit 30 and are messaging their parents as often as they receive messages in return. Sons, however, however, take twice as long -- until age 60 -- to come around.


What they say: The data team studied hundreds of thousands of public Facebook messages between parents and children to identify the words and phrases that appeared most often. Based on the results, Mom and Dad are very proud of their kids.

Among the most common phrases from parents: "I'm so proud, "all my heart," "well done," "proud of you" and "call me."

Moms and dads use language much differently when messaging with sons, though. Mothers preferred endearments like "my handsome son" and "my little boy," while dads used profanity and words like "buddy" and "dude."


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Homes, cars, jobs: Americans already making big decisions over fiscal cliff

(CNN) -- Across the country, a sudden shift is taking place.
Bobbie Cleave, a retired teacher in Utah, has put off plans to get a badly needed car.
Brian Chandler, a data manager in metro Atlanta, is delaying buying a house, despite needing space for his second child due any day now.
Retired police officer Richard Huffman of Michigan may ditch plans to re-enter the work force.
And several families CNN spoke with said they're shrinking the gift pile beneath the Christmas tree.
As the nation approaches the so-called "fiscal cliff," people are taking steps to cushion their families from the plunge.
To them, the threat to the nation's economy requires preparation -- particularly with President Barack Obama warning that going off the cliff could cost the average family of four more than $2,000.
But some say the fears are just hype.
And others see an upside.
"We need to go over the cliff," says Valerie Stayskal, 58-year-old owner of two small businesses in Addison, Illinois.
As Congress and the White House battle over the $7 trillion worth of tax increases and spending cuts that could start to take effect in January, CNN reached out to people in various walks of life to find out how they're already being affected.