Members of the U.S. Senate do not respond equally to the views of all their constituents, according to research to be published in Political Research Quarterly next month. Senators overall represent their wealthiest constituents, while those on bottom of the economic rung are neglected. “The fact that lower income groups seem to be ignored by elected officials, although not a new finding, remains a troubling observation in American politics,” Thomas J. Hayes of Trinity University wrote in his study. In all of the five Congresses examined, the voting records of Senators were consistently aligned with the opinions of their wealthiest constituents. The opinions of lower-class constituents, however, never appeared to influence the Senators’ voting behavior. The neglect of lower income groups was a bipartisan affair. Democrats were not any more responsive to the poor than Republicans.
At 6:07 a.m. on April 10, the students inside the Taiwanese parliament voluntarily left the assembly hall while 20,000 people outside showed their support and witnessed the end of the occupation. The students passed sunflowers one by one from the parliament to the crowd to symbolize planting the seeds of democracy in Taiwanese society. This action was followed by a series of lectures and the crowd sang, once again, the Sunflower Movement protest song “Island’s Sunrise” together. Since April 7, when the students announced the end of their protest, the students gradually began to clean up the parliament. They took down the banners on the facade of the parliament, placed the room chair in correct order and cleaned most of the rooms. It was a calm ending to an occupation that had extended for almost a month — a standoff between the Sunflower Movement student protesters and President Ma Ying Jeou’s government.
Cardinal Bernardin said, “Health care is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity, and there is an obligation for society to ensure that every person be able to realize this right.” But nearly two decades later, the realization of the “right to health care” remains elusive…The ACA doesn’t change this picture as much as some might think. People who signed up for private coverage in the exchanges are finding they have substantial cost-sharing, i.e. high deductibles and copayments, proven barriers to seeking care. Patients are also finding themselves squeezed into “narrow networks,” which significantly limit their choice of doctors and hospitals. Accidentally step out-of-network, and your costs soar. The sad truth is that for many health insurance is an umbrella that melts in the rain—when you need it most, it isn’t there. … the business of corporate medicine is doing very well under the ACA. Health insurer profits, stock value, and CEO salaries are all up. In fact, the entire law was written around preserving the gluttonous bottom lines in American health care. The ACA handed private insurers $500 billion in taxpayer subsidies to continue profiteering off illness in our country.
Over one million turn out for action to denounce government policies A 24-hour general strike gripped Argentina on Thursday, bringing many public services to a halt. Unions say over one million workers took part in this second strike the administration of Cristina Fernández has faced. The strike’s focus was to denounce the country’s low wage increases in the face of high inflation, as well as other policies, like cuts in utility subsidies and salary caps, critics say are unfair to workers and are fomenting social unrest. The strike stopped public transportation, forced the cancellation of flights, blockaded roads, and resulted in some clashes between police and protesters. From Spanish news agency EFE: “The strike has been a success from the outset,” labor leader and congressman Nestor Pitrola said, adding that “a new stage has been launched” in the unions’ struggle, “which began with the teachers strike and continues with this strike that seeks to define where the country is heading.” Spearheading the strike was Hugo Moyano, head of the General Confederation of Labor, and former Fernández ally. Moyano said the strike was a sign of people’s “anger and disenchantment,” and that the president must respond to this message from the people.
In the Miami Herald, John Zarocostas reports from Geneva that the U.N. Human Rights Council agreed on Friday, despite strong objections from the United States, to study whether American drone strikes comply with international law. Several NATO allies abstained. The resolution, drafted by Pakistan and co-sponsored by Yemen, both countries where the U.S. has undertaken multiple drone strikes, was adopted on a 27-6 vote, with 14 abstentions. The resolution urges that all “states” using drones should ensure that they are complying “with their obligations under international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular, the principles of precaution, distinction and proportionality.”
In Venezuela, there really isn’t such a peasant movement that’s really pressing to have access to land. It’s small. It’s not–there aren’t that many people in Venezuela that are willing to work in the fields. So that’s a cultural issue. But it’s also the fact that with the relative prices of imports and agricultural production, there’s no way people can make a living out of agriculture unless it’s highly subsidized. And if it’s highly subsidized, then it’s sort of a repeat of the rentier model in which oil finances everything else. So, on the other hand, one of the objectives of the Bolivarian Revolution is the need to have more autonomy in relation to financial capital, to sort of the global capitalist system, etc., etc. But if Venezuela concentrates all its resources into producing more and more of the basic commodity of current capitalism, it will just get more and more connected into the international networks of this capitalist model. There’s no way to break away if you sort of increase and increase and increase production. So you need financing, you need foreign investment, you get into debt, and it’s sort of go deeper and deeper into the network of extractive models of the predatory modes of capitalism.
The big news is all about the Ukraine. And it’s about the events that happened in the shootings on February 20. Late last week, the German television program ARD Monitor, which is sort of their version of 60 Minutes here, had an investigative report of the shootings in Maidan, and what they found out is that contrary to what President Obama is saying, contrary to what the U.S. authorities are saying, that the shooting was done by the U.S.-backed Svoboda Party and the protesters themselves, the snipers and the bullets all came from the Hotel Ukrayina, which was the center of where the protests were going, and the snipers on the hotel were shooting not only at the demonstrators, but also were shooting at their own–at the police and the demonstrators to try to create chaos. They’ve spoken to the doctors, who said that all of the bullets and all of the wounded people came from the same set of guns. They’ve talked to reporters who were embedded with the demonstrators, the anti-Russian forces, and they all say yes. All the witnesses are in agreement: the shots came from the Hotel Ukrayina. The hotel was completely under the control of the protesters, and it was the government that did it.
Oklahoma residents who produce their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property will now be charged an additional fee, the result of a new bill passed by the state legislature and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R). On Monday, S.B. 1456 passed the state House 83-5 after no debate. The measure creates a new class of customers: those who install distributed power generation systems like solar panels or small wind turbines on their property and sell the excess energy back to the grid. While those with systems already installed won’t be affected, the new class of customers will now be charged a monthly fee — a shift that happened quickly and caught many in the state off guard. “We knew nothing about it and all of a sudden it’s attached to some other bill,” Ctaci Gary, owner of Sun City Oklahoma, told ThinkProgress. “It just appeared out of nowhere.”
Gov. Patrick Deval said in a radio interview on April 15, 2014 that “I respect the authority of the Supreme Court to make those decisions” like McCutcheon. I write the Governor to clarify his position, and to express opposition to his statement. To “respect” authority in the abuse of its power is to align oneself with and further enable that same abuse. Experience shows that contesting that authority, especially in the case of the Supreme Court, has the effect of curbing it. Converting a democracy into a plutocracy is a task of constitutional dimensions. If the Governor does sincerely believe that the Roberts Court legitimately has the power to amend the Constitution, I would like to have him point out to me where precisely the Constitution gives that power to an unelected Court to exercise in a 5-4 vote? Article V seems to have a different, much more difficult, process in mind, involving a 2/3 vote of each house of Congress, and then ratification by ¾ of the states. The elected representatives of both Congress and the states, through their legislative acts, have expressed an entirely different view than five judges on the Supreme Court about the constitutional importance of keeping big money out of politics.
Rank and file labor leaders announced for the first time the creation of the Network for Social Justice Unionism (NSJU), a new infrastructure that unionists concerned with advancing social justice beyond the workplace hope to use to organize for a shift in the way the labor movement operates. The NSJU seeks to encourage the creation of social justice caucuses in union locals across the nation and to establish working relationships between those caucuses to be able to support each other’s struggles. Together, these caucuses hope to create an movement inside of organized labor that pushes union leaders across the country to do more to see that union power benefits not just workers themselves, but also the communities that unions are embedded in and rely upon. The NSJU effort has its roots in recent struggles for change led by teachers, but seeks to encourage workers of all kinds to commit to lending their knowledge, resources, and influence to other ongoing struggles for justice beyond their workplaces.
Representatives of the Fund Our Communities Maryland coalition “flew” an F-35 in Bethesda on April 16 to celebrate tax day. The plane fell apart—exhibiting the absurdity of using our taxes on a plane that doesn’t work and isn’t useful for our defense but that will end up costing us $1.5 trillion, more than the cost of the Korean and Vietnam wars combined (in inflation-adjusted dollars). For the cost of this one weapons system, we could give every unemployed American a $50,000/year job for the next four years. Activists distributed a satiric newspaper to passers-by, with these headlines: “Bethesda-Based Lockheed Martin Acknowledges Role as Stealth Peace Group,” “Lockheed Martin Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize,” “Peace Action Salutes the F-35: The Jet That Ate the Pentagon,” and “Lockheed Martin Absolved of Corporate Welfare Charge.”
Spring is here, and with it comes a new campaign to hold the U.S. government accountable for its support of corporate colonialism. We’re joining allies across the U.S. and across the world to change the narrative around President Obama’s upcoming trip to Asia, during which he’ll work to finalize the TPP. Our action has helped to hold off Fast Track for now, but Obama’s visit proves that the Administration and “free trade” proponents won’t stop pushing their corporate agenda – and we can’t stop pushing against it. Help keep up the momentum for trade that puts people and the planet before profit! Check out the details of the call to action below, and join in any way that works for you. If you’ve got a local rally or event planned, be sure to let us know [email protected]
In late February, the City University of New York announced that it had tapped Princeton economist and New York Times blogger Paul Krugman for a distinguished professorship at CUNY’s Graduate Center and its Luxembourg Income Study Center, a research arm devoted to studying income patterns and their effect on inequality. About that. According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative.” It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman was able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up” entails. It’s certainly not teaching. “You will not be expected to teach or supervise students,” the letter informs Professor Krugman, who replies: “I admit that I had to read it several times to be clear … it’s remarkably generous.” (After his first year, Krugman will be required to host a single seminar.)