“Right to Vote” Constitutional Amendment Introduced

Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chair Congressional Progressive Caucus
Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chair Congressional Progressive Caucus

Representatives Pocan and Ellison Introduce “Right to Vote” Constitutional Amendment

Saturday, 18 May 2013 11:25 By Brendan Fischer, PRWatch | Report

“The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected,” wrote Thomas Paine in 1795.

Yet contrary to popular belief, there is no affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. This gap in our founding document has provided an opening for the wave of voter suppression measures that swept the country in recent years, and before that, the poll taxes and Jim Crow restrictions that disenfranchised millions. This week, two Congressmen — both from states at the epicenter of today’s voting rights struggles — are seeking to fix that.

“The right to vote is too important to be left unprotected,” said Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who is co-sponsoring an amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing the right to vote.

“Even though the right to vote is the most-mentioned right in the Constitution,” added Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the bill’s other sponsor, “legislatures across the country have been trying to deny that right to millions of Americans, including in my home state of Minnesota. It’s time we made it clear once and for all: every citizen in the United States has a fundamental right to vote.”

U.S. Constitution Does Not Protect Voting Rights

Under the U.S. Constitution, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments ensure the vote cannot be denied on the basis of race, the Nineteenth prohibits discrimination based on gender, the Twenty-fourth outlaws the poll tax, and the Twenty-sixth Amendment extends voting to age 18. When the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the franchise was limited to white, property-owning men, and these amendments have edged the document closer to its democratic aspirations.

But beyond those amendments — and a few federal statutes, like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which might be neutered by the Supreme Court this term — the right to vote is mostly a matter of state law. And states in recent years have hardly been careful about protecting access to the ballot box.

After Republicans gained new statehouse majorities in the 2010 elections, a majority of states introduced proposals to enact restrictions on the right to vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 25 laws and 2 executive actions passed in 19 states between 2011 and 2012 to impose strict ID restrictions, or shorten early voting, or limit registration drives, among other measures. More restrictive bills have been proposed in 2013.

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Banks in Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever

PriceFixingEverything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever

April 25, 2013 1:00 PM ET

(excerpt)

The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.

You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it “dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.”

That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world’s largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world’s largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.

Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It’s about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget.

It should surprise no one that among the players implicated in this scheme to fix the prices of interest-rate swaps are the same megabanks – including Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland – that serve on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. In fact, in recent years many of these banks have already paid multimillion-dollar settlements for anti-competitive manipulation of one form or another (in addition to Libor, some were caught up in an anti-competitive scheme, detailed in Rolling Stone last year, to rig municipal-debt service auctions). Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture.

Military spending is not right way to boost America’s economic security

By Michael Shank& Elizabeth Kucinich

Beaver County Blue via Fox News Opinion

May 15, 2013 – That Washington is holding defense cuts responsible for slow economic growth is a specious argument at best. War spending is unproductive and inflationary. Modern defense costs are capital intensive, not labor intensive, making the industry inefficient as a job creator.

The defense industry has a presence in congressional districts across this country, so cuts affect every member. But every district in the U.S. has pressing infrastructure, education, health and environmental needs, and the return on the taxpayer’s dollar is much higher when invested on these areas.
Instead of concentrating money on capital intensive, military hardware purposed for destruction, and causing long term economic drain, our very limited and valuable economic resources should be invested in building the true strength and capacity of our economy, our nation, and her people.

During the heightened banking crisis in 2009, Rep. James Oberstar, then Chair of House Transportation Committee, called for a massive Eisenhower-level of investment in transportation infrastructure. He was right.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. requires $3.6 trillion in infrastructure investment by 2020 to bring our grade D+ standards to safe standards.

This is exactly what we need: to put bridge-builders to work rather than funding technology and personnel to destroy bridges, and to take tank-making factories and repurpose them to build high-speed trains.
In prioritizing military spending, Congress is cutting the very programs that can actually strengthen our economy: Cutting federal assistance to the states, forcing them to lay off teachers, firefighters, and social workers; cutting opportunities for job creation, training, and placement programs; and eviscerating funding for children’s programs and assistance for seniors.

These actions make no economic sense.

Continue reading Military spending is not right way to boost America’s economic security

Banksters Devouring Our Future: Student Loan Crisis is Coming to a Head

BY JESSE JACKSON
Beaver county Blue via Chicago Sun-Times

May 13, 2013 – The student loan burden is reaching crisis proportions. Young Americans are being saddled with unsustainable debts. A New York Federal Reserve Bank study found that a stunning 43 percent of 25-year-olds had student loan debts in 2012. Debt now averages over $25,000 for graduates of four-year colleges.

Student loan debt now is about $1 trillion. The only kind of household debt that continued to rise through the recession, student loans now exceed credit card debt and rank second only to mortgages. The percentage of borrowers who are more than 90 days delinquent has risen to 17 percent, up from 10 percent in 2004.

These are the young people who’ve done everything we told them to do. They worked hard, stayed out of trouble, got admitted to college and sacrificed to succeed. Then they graduated, burdened with staggering debt, into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Many can’t find jobs; those who do often end up with low-wage and part-time work and debts they can’t repay.

Student debt is itself a huge obstacle to the recovery. Unless their parents have money, young Americans who achieve the most can’t begin to save for a down payment on a home, start a business or save for retirement.

This crisis stems from the successful conservative efforts to starve government. Cash-strapped state governments cut the contributions made to public colleges and universities. The cost of college was slowly privatized, with more and more left to the student. Those with affluent parents had no problem; those with working parents had to take on debt.

Now the crisis is coming to a head. The sequester and other budget cuts are forcing further cutbacks.

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Associated Press Union Demands Government Return Phone Records

sealNewspaper Guild-CWA demands Justice Dept. return telephone records taken of AP reporters’ phone calls

May 13, 2013
Guild demands Justice Dept. return telephone records taken of AP reporters’ phone calls

 http://www.newsguild.org/node/3129

For immediate release: Contact, Bernie Lunzer, TNG-CWA President,
202-258-3231, bernielunzer@gmail.com
The Newspaper Guild-CWA and its local that represents AP journalists, The News Media Guild, demands that the U.S. Justice Department return all telephone records that it obtained from phones — including some home and cell phones – of Associated Press reporters and editors.
The collection of these records is egregious and a direct attack on journalists, and the Justice Department needs to cease and desist such investigations. The ability of journalists to develop and protect sources is vital to keeping the public informed about issues affecting their lives.
There could be no justification or explanation for this broad, over-reaching investigation. It appears officials are twisting legislation designed to protect public safety as a means to muzzle those concerned with the public’s right to know.
The suggestion that the news story ‘scooped’ an announcement for partisan political purposes only exacerbates the damage such actions can have on a free press. This investigation has a chilling effect on press freedom in the United States – a right enshrined in the Constitution. Please contact your representatives and the White House to tell them to stop this outrageous, abusive investigation now.

Global carbon dioxide in atmosphere passes milestone level

by Randy Shannon

Have you ever almost wrecked your vehicle and gotten it under control at the last moment before disaster. I’ve had several close calls with bikes and cars.

100% of scientists say that Earth is on the verge of a disaster. The corporate media is telling you there’s a controversy; there is none. CO2 levels are at 400ppm, a new milestone, and rapidly rising. If CO2 emissions are not curbed quickly now many of Earth’s major cities will be under water in our lifetime.

Corporate-owned politicians must be replaced with brave souls who will stand up to oil, gas, coal, and Wall Street. Get organized or our children and grandchildren will curse us.

Global carbon dioxide in atmosphere passes milestone level

Climate warming greenhouse gas reaches 400 parts per million for the first time in human history

MAUNA LOA OBSERVATORY

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa observatory, where record CO2 increases are being documented. Photograph: Richard Vogel/AP

For the first time in human history, the concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed the milestone level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time so much greenhouse gas was in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today.

These conditions are expected to return in time, with devastating consequences for civilisation, unless emissions of CO2 from the burning of coal, gas and oil are rapidly curtailed. But despite increasingly severe warnings from scientists and a major economic recession, global emissions have continued to soar unchecked.

“It is symbolic, a point to pause and think about where we have been and where we are going,” said Professor Ralph Keeling, who oversees the measurements on a Hawaian volcano, which were begun by his father in 1958. “It’s like turning 50: it’s a wake up to what has been building up in front of us all along.”

“The passing of this milestone is a significant reminder of the rapid rate at which – and the extent to which – we have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” said Prof Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which serves as science adviser to the world’s governments. “At the beginning of industrialisation the concentration of CO2 was just 280ppm. We must hope that the world crossing this milestone will bring about awareness of the scientific reality of climate change and how human society should deal with the challenge.”

The world’s governments have agreed to keep the rise in global average temperature, which have already risen by over 1C, to 2C, the level beyond which catastrophic warming is thought to become unstoppable. But the International Energy Agency warned in 2012 that on current emissions trends the world will see 6C of warming, a level scientists warn would lead to chaos. With no slowing of emissions seen to date, there is already mounting pressure on the UN summit in Paris in 2015, which is the deadline set to settle a binding international treaty to curb emissions.

Continue reading Global carbon dioxide in atmosphere passes milestone level