Warm Southern Breeze

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Posts Tagged ‘money’

Alabama As A Third-World Nation: How True Is It?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, October 26, 2014

In so many comparative rankings for quality of life within our 50 United States, Alabama and Mississippi seem in a dead heat for last place. In a veritable “Race To The Bottom,” Alabama and Mississippi scrap over being in last place. In fact, it’s been a long-standing joke – with the sad, bitter sting of truth – that Alabama’s State Motto is not Audemus jura nostra defendere,” which has been translated as: “We Dare Maintain Our Rights” or “We Dare Defend Our Rights,” but rather “Thank God For Mississippi.”

And just so we’re singing on the same sheet of music, and on the same verse, a “Third World Nation” is one which were at one time colonies “formally lead by imperialism. The end of imperialism forced these colonies to survive on their own. With lack of support, these colonies started to develop characteristics such as poverty, high birthrates and economic dependence on other countries. The term was then affiliated to the economic situation of these former colonies and not their social alliances to either capitalism or communism.” In a more modern sense however, a “Third World Nation,” is more readily thought of as being one of several “underdeveloped nations of the world, especially those with widespread poverty.” And it is in that sense to which I refer to Alabama as “a Third World Nation.”

In essence, what that term refers to is Quality Of Life. And, there are many aspects of life that can be measured, such as rates and incidences of crime, employment/unemployment, education, health/sickness/disease, responsive & efficient government, availability of clean water, sewerage, utilities such as electricity, natural gas, supporting infrastructure to deliver those utilities, which includes transportation, roads, highways, airports, railways, and access to the same. There is much more to life than the mere availability of food, clothing and shelter. For example, who would want to eat raw meat, wear bearskins, and live in a cave? In context, those three items are certainly fulfilled. And if that’s all there is, then all is well… right?

Demonstrating that, again, there is MUCH MORE to life than the mere availability of food, clothing and shelter.

Consider, for example, Public Health.

Rates of Obesity, and Obesity-related Diseases (also called chronic, or long-term problems) such as Diabetes, Hypertension (High Blood Pressure), Stroke, and certain types of Cancer, in Mississippi and Alabama are among the highest in our United States. While Obesity is quickly becoming an epidemic of significant national proportions, it is particularly problematic in the SouthEast, and in Mississippi and Alabama, especially. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.

To be certain, Obesity and Overweight are two DIFFERENT terms, though they describe the extent of the condition. Obesity is having a Body Mass Index of 30, or greater, while Overweight is having a Body Mass Index of 25 or greater.

What is Body Mass Index?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height, which is a fairly reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. BMI does not

Read the rest of this entry »

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Gone With The Wind: How Alabama’s State Legislature Blew Away $200 Million Of Industrial Development And Jobs

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, October 15, 2014

labama Governor Robert Bentley signed legislation PROHIBITING two out-of-state businesses from investing in Alabama & constructing business operations, and hiring. Total Cost of Loss = $200+ Million

By his refusal to act, Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley allowed legislation to pass which PROHIBITED TWO Out-of-State Businesses from Investing, Conducting Business Operations, and Hiring in Alabama.
Total Cost Loss To Alabama = $200+ Million

Governor Bentley Refused To Reign In Unfounded Fear Mongering By GOP Dominated Legislature

Fueled by unfounded, unscientific constituency fears, Legislators in Alabama’s state Senate and House of Representatives recently authored restrictive regulatory legislation which made it impossible for a Texas-based business to expand operations in Alabama. Not counting the jobs and salaries lost, the investment cost of the loss to Alabama exceeds $200 Million.

Specifically, Pioneer Green Energy, 802 Lavaca St, Austin, TX 78701, (512) 351-3363, planned to spend over $200 Million to build two facilities in Cherokee and Etowah counties to generate electricity, and hire local people to operate and maintain the facilities.

In comparison, Remington Arms – the firearms manufacturer which recently announced relocation to Huntsville, Alabama – will be spending $110 Million, with $38 Million in tax incentives provided by the state.

Pioneer was set to construct 30-45 wind-driven turbines (electricity-generating windmills) in Etowah county at a cost of $160 Million in their NoccalulaWind project. In nearby Cherokee county, they were set to construct 7-8 such windmills, at a cost of $40 Million in their ShinboneWind project.

A series of bills which originated in Alabama’s state Senate, and House of Representatives was effectively, the death knell for the projects.

Alabama State Senator Phil Williams, 10th Senate District, Floor of Alabama State Senate

State Senator Phil Williams, a Republican in Alabama’s 10th Senate District, speaks from the Floor of Alabama State Senate. He authored SB 402 & SB 403, prohibitive regulatory legislation which hamstrung $200 Million in Industrial Development and Jobs.

As reported by Conservation Alabama, April 10, 2014, in a column entitled “2014 Legislative Session recap, “Two local bills opposed by Conservation Alabama did pass. Senate Bills 402 and 403 requiring strict regulations for wind energy conversion systems in Etowah and Cherokee counties passed, eliminating any real chance of wind energy in those two counties. After these local bills passed it was thought that Senate Bill 12, a statewide bill to regulate wind energy conversion systems, would make it through with language that superseded the two local bills and included more reasonable and agreed upon language between the two sides. However, proponents of the bill could not get on the same page. Last minute changes to the bill created additional controversy, and the bill ultimately failed to pass in the House and consequently the two local bills will become law.”

Alabama state Senate Bills 402 and 403  were authored and sponsored by Senator Phil Williams, a Republican whom represents Alabama’s 10th Senate District, which includes Etowah and Cherokee counties. By profession, Senator Williams is a lawyer, and in part, he wrote this about himself on his legislative profile/biography webpage: “Phil Williams is the managing member of Williams & Associates, LLC, a law firm based in Gadsden, AL.” His campaign website states this, “His legal focus is largely in the areas of insurance, municipal and corporate defense.” (SB402 may be found online here -or downloaded from this site AL SB402-int- & SB 403 may be found online here  -or downloaded from this site AL SB403-int-)

Here’s Part One of the Grand Hypocrisy. The Alabama GOP website states this about Senator Williams: “One of the most promising freshman Senators in Montgomery is Phil Williams of Rainbow City. He is the proud sponsor of the Alabama Jobs Creation and Retention Act, which provides tax incentives to new or existing businesses that engage in industrial projects. Sen. Williams said, “This Act will help make Alabama a center of gravity for new and existing business growth, and is another example of our Republican-led senate following through on our campaign promises.””

Why would a State Senator whom sponsored the “Alabama Jobs Creation and Retention Act” author legislation that FORBADE the creation of jobs?

Alabama State Senator Phil Williams (R), authored regulatory legislation which hampered $200 Million Industrial Development in Alabama, and cost jobs.

Alabama State Senator Phil Williams (R), in green tie & suit, authored regulatory legislation which lost $200 Million Industrial Development in Alabama, and cost jobs.

According to an article in The Alabama Reporter written by Brandon Moseley, published 07 June 2013, Senator Williams, who hails from Rainbow City, is seeking a second term in office, and made this remark about his candidacy: “It has been a great honor to serve the people of Senate District 10 these past few years. We have accomplished so much of what the people in our communities said they wanted, and my intent is to continue the fight for conservative values and finish what we’ve started.”

Readers may recall that Etowah county is home to disgraced former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore – sometimes popularly known as “The Ten Commandments Judge” – who was removed from office following a hearing November 12, 2003 by a unanimous vote of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Since then, he campaigned for the same office – State Supreme Court Chief Justice – and was elected November 6, 2012.

It certainly seem that folks in Alabama Politics – that’d be the GOP/Republicans – are largely backwards, hypocritical, narrow minded fear mongers who appeal to their equally “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command” constituency.

Because while on one hand, they decry “regulation” and “excessive” regulation which they claim constrains business, and free enterprise – and therefore jobs – in the state, they simultaneously enact the very legislation they decry.

It’s called HYPOCRISY. And to be certain, it’s simply defined as “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.”

This is a HUGE case in point, that an out-of-state business was prepared to construct and expand business operations in Alabama – from the ground, up. Had leased land, obtained easements, and every other necessary preliminary item to conduct business operations… including hiring professional services in Alabama to prepare for business operations.

BUT!

Wouldn’t you know it? The GOP-dominated Alabama State Legislature (House & Senate) enacted legislation, which passed without Governor Bentley’s signature, which PROHIBITED the businesses from even getting the first bulldozer out to clear land. Seriously.

Think I’m joking, exaggerating, or kidding?

Read on.

Oh… and be sure to thank them in November.

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Alabama regs too strict for turbines, says lawyer for wind energy developer

By William Thornton, wthornton@al.com
Twitter: WThorn7
on August 20, 2014 at 11:16 AM, updated August 20, 2014 at 12:03 PM

GADSDEN, Alabama — The lawyer for a Texas-based company abandoning plans for two windmill farms in northeast Alabama said today that recently approved state regulations on wind energy led to the decision.

Charlie Stewart, attorney for Pioneer Green Energy, said the company no longer has plans to develop two wind energy farms in Cherokee and Etowah counties. Groups opposing the development announced yesterday they had received word Pioneer Green was relinquishing land leases for the projects.

Pioneer Green Energy announced last year it planned to develop wind energy projects in the two counties, and said land leases had already been secured. Five Cherokee County residents filed suit in an attempt to stop the development, and a group of Etowah County residents also filed suit.

Pioneer Green planned a $40 million project with seven to eight turbines in Cherokee County. The larger Etowah County project would have had 30 to 45 turbines costing $160 million.

Stewart said the company was ready to begin construction when the lawsuits were filed, and the legislation passed earlier this year, which established setback and noise standards.

That bill required the state’s Public Safety Commission to oversee wind farms, mandated that noise from the turbines not exceed an average of 50 decibels, and laid out a setback of five times the height of the tower from the base to the nearest property line. Last year, a company official said the legislation was too restrictive by making the property line the threshold and not the nearest residence or structure.

Stewart said much of the opposition was fueled by “hysteria.”

“The bill was basically Read the rest of this entry »

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How Successful Is It To Drug Test Public Assistance Welfare Recipients?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, October 5, 2014

There’s a meme which circulates on FaceBook and presumably, in other places as well, which appears similarly as this:

Drug Test Public Assistance Recipients

Drug Test Public Assistance Recipients Meme

Honestly, the idea is a failure.

But you’d rarely – if ever – hear about it’s failures.

Florida was the first state to tread that path. What they learned was surprising. And then, the law was struck down by a Federal court. The states that embark upon Florida’s path will be wa$ting their citizen$ taxe$.

Only 2.6% of Florida applicants failed the drug test.

“Because the Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost, an average of $30, the cost to the state was $118,140. This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test. As a result, the testing cost the government an extra $45,780.”

The purported savings in Florida’s program will be negligible after administrative costs and reimbursements for the drug tests are taken into account.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/us/no-savings-found-in-florida-welfare-drug-tests.html

But it wasn’t limited to Florida. Read the rest of this entry »

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Which are the BEST & WORST States for Nursing Practice?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The nursing industry – like most segments of the economy – is in a state of significant transition under the weight of major overarching socioeconomic dynamics, from the aging U.S. population and the Affordable Care Act to the student loan crisis and concerns about the future of key entitlement programs. It’s therefore understandable if recent nursing school grads aren’t sure where to turn once they receive their diploma.

That concern is not unique among recent graduates, regardless of industry, but both the magnitude of the issue – the nursing industry is expected to grow far faster than the average occupation through 2022 – and the various day-to-day demands placed on nursing professionals – from overstaffing and mandatory overtime to unionization and allegations of systematic disrespect – are indeed profession-specific. With that in mind, WalletHub decided to take stock of the nursing industry in order to help nurses, particularly the newly minted of the bunch, lay down roots in areas that are conducive to both personal and professional success.

We compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of 15 key metrics that collectively speak to the job opportunities that exist for nurses in each market, how much competition there is for each position, differences in the workplace environment, and projections for the future. You can check out our findings as well as Read the rest of this entry »

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Reasons to Oppose Common Core from the Left & Right

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, August 11, 2014

Once, I supported Common Core.

Now, I do not.

Read on to understand why.

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Everything you need to know about Common Core — Ravitch

January 18, 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/18/everything-you-need-to-know-about-common-core-ravitch/

Diane Ravitch, the education historian who has become the leader of the movement against corporate-influenced school reform, gave this speech to the Modern Language Association on Jan. 11 about the past, present and future of the Common Core State Standards.

Here’s her speech:

As an organization of teachers and scholars devoted to the study of language and literature, MLA should be deeply involved in the debate about the Common Core standards.

The Common Core standards were developed in 2009 and released in 2010. Within a matter of months, they had been endorsed by 45 states and the District of Columbia. At present, publishers are aligning their materials with the Common Core, technology companies are creating software and curriculum aligned with the Common Core, and two federally-funded consortia have created online tests of the Common Core.

What are the Common Core standards? Who produced them? Why are they controversial? How did their adoption happen so quickly?

As scholars of the humanities, you are well aware that every historical event is subject to interpretation. There are different ways to answer the questions I just posed. Originally, this session was designed to be a discussion between me and David Coleman, who is generally acknowledged as the architect of the Common Core standards. Some months ago, we both agreed on the date and format. But Mr. Coleman, now president of the College Board, discovered that he had a conflicting meeting and could not be here.

So, unfortunately, you will hear only my narrative, not his, which would be quite different. I have no doubt that you will have no difficulty getting access to his version of the narrative, which is the same as Secretary Arne Duncan’s.

He would tell you that the standards were created by the states, that they were widely and quickly embraced because so many educators wanted common standards for teaching language, literature, and mathematics. But he would not be able to explain why so many educators and parents are now opposed to the standards and are reacting angrily to the testing that accompanies them.

I will try to do that.

I will begin by setting the context for the development of the standards.

They arrive at a time when American public education and its teachers are under attack. Never have public schools been as subject to upheaval, assault, and chaos as they are today. Unlike modern corporations, which extol creative disruption, schools need stability, not constant turnover and change. Yet for the past dozen years, ill-advised federal and state policies have rained down on students, teachers, principals, and schools.

George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top have combined to impose a punitive regime of standardized testing on the schools. NCLB was passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law in 2002. NCLB law required schools to test every child in grades 3-8 every year; by 2014, said the law, every child must be “proficient” or schools would face escalating sanctions. The ultimate sanction for failure to raise test scores was firing the staff and closing the school.

Because the stakes were so high, NCLB encouraged teachers to teach to the test. In many schools, the curriculum was narrowed; the only subjects that mattered were reading and mathematics. What was not tested—the arts, history, civics, literature, geography, science, physical education—didn’t count. Some states, like New York, gamed the system by dropping the passing mark each year, giving the impression that its students were making phenomenal progress when they were not. Some districts, like Atlanta, El Paso, and the District of Columbia, were caught up in cheating scandals. In response to this relentless pressure, test scores rose, but not as much as they had before the adoption of NCLB.

Then along came the Obama administration, with its signature program called Race to the Top. In response to the economic crisis of 2008, Congress gave the U.S. Department of Education $5 billion to promote “reform.” Secretary Duncan launched a competition for states called “Race to the Top.” If states wanted any part of that money, they had to agree to certain conditions. They had to agree to evaluate teachers to a significant degree by the rise or fall of their students’ test scores; they had to agree to increase the number of privately managed charter schools; they had to agree to adopt “college and career ready standards,” which were understood to be the not-yet-finished Common Core standards; they had to agree to “turnaround” low-performing schools by such tactics as firing the principal and part or all of the school staff; and they had to agree to collect unprecedented amounts of personally identifiable information about every student and store it in a data warehouse. It became an article of faith in Washington and in state capitols, with the help of propagandistic films like “Waiting for Superman,” that if students had low scores, it must be the fault of bad teachers. Poverty, we heard again and again from people like Bill Gates, Joel Klein, and Michelle Rhee, was just an excuse for bad teachers, who should be fired without delay or due process.

These two federal programs, which both rely heavily on standardized testing, has produced a massive demoralization of educators; an unprecedented exodus of experienced educators, who were replaced in many districts by young, inexperienced, low-wage teachers; the closure of many public schools, especially in poor and minority districts; the opening of thousands of privately managed charters; an increase in low-quality for-profit charter schools and low-quality online charter schools; a widespread attack on teachers’ due process rights and collective bargaining rights; the near-collapse of public education in urban districts like Detroit and Philadelphia, as public schools are replaced by privately managed charter schools; a burgeoning educational-industrial complex of testing corporations, charter chains, and technology companies that view public education as an emerging market. Hedge funds, entrepreneurs, and real estate investment corporations invest enthusiastically in this emerging market, encouraged by federal tax credits, lavish fees, and the prospect of huge profits from taxpayer dollars. Celebrities, tennis stars, basketball stars, and football stars are opening their own name-brand schools with public dollars, even though they know nothing about education.

No other nation in the world has inflicted so many changes or imposed so many mandates on its teachers and public schools as we have in the past dozen years. No other nation tests every student every year as we do. Our students are the most over-tested in the world. No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Education wants every state and every district to do it. Because of these federal programs, our schools have become obsessed with standardized testing, and have turned over to the testing corporations the responsibility for rating, ranking, and labeling our students, our teachers, and our schools.

The Pearson Corporation has become

Read the rest of this entry »

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Alabama Prison System Teetering on Federal Takover

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, August 7, 2014

Every single word in this OpEd is spot-on.

Alabama is on the verge of a complete takeover of it’s prison system. That is a VERY sad indictment, and fact. Further, most Alabamians are COMPLETELY unaware of the dangers the state faces.

Alabama is a state in crisis.

Fiscal crisis from a failure of long-term management, unwise, unsound policy, unnecessary prolonged and costly legal battles at the state and federal levels over inane laws which have had no positive effect upon the state, from policies and procedures which have only burdened the people, tax giveaways to corporations, funded corporate welfare, an inequitable personal income taxation system which has hampered and hamstrung state growth, and further placed the state’s citizens into poverty.

Face it folks… I don’t give a damn about what political colors you wear, or how or what you describe yourself as politically in Alabama… if everything were peaches and cream in the state, then why in the Hell is the state’s poverty level 18% – 4 percentage points ABOVE the national average?

Why is the state sick in their persons? Of all states, Alabama continually ranks high in rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc., even among CHILDREN!

Why does the state have a high crime rate?

Why are Alabamians largely “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command”?

WHY?

WHY?!?

WHY!?!

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Why Alabama Cannot Wait on Prison Reform: Guest Opinion

Alabama State Senator Cam Ward (center), speaks  speaks to media members during a tour as Kim Thomas, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections (left) and warden Carter Davenport listen at the St. Clair Correctional Facility Fri., March 16, 2012 in Springville, Ala. (The Birmingham News/Bernard Troncale)

Alabama State Senator Cam Ward (center), speaks speaks to media members during a tour as Kim Thomas, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections (left) and Warden Carter Davenport listen at the St. Clair Correctional Facility Fri., March 16, 2012 in Springville, Ala. (The Birmingham News/Bernard Troncale)

Guest opinion By Alabama State Senator Cam Ward
August 06, 2014 at 9:00 AM, updated August 06, 2014 at 9:05 AM

By Cam Ward

Prisons are an issue that would never rank high on any list of priorities for the people of Alabama and understandably so.  With unemployment hovering near 7 percent and many schools in need of repair, people ask me why prison reform should be a major subject at this time. The answer is simple – because our failure to maintain a good corrections system is going to push over a fiscal cliff that we may never recover from.

For years as our corrections system became more crowded the political leadership in Montgomery turned their eyes to issues more palatable to the voters during election time. The general feeling for decades has been “let’s wait and deal with that when we have more money.”

As we waited our system grew to 192 percent capacity and despite this incarceration rate our state has the 8th highest violent crime rate in the country. Both of these statistics point to a failing system of corrections.

In addition to allowing for a broken system to continue down a path of inefficiency we have also created a fiscal nightmare of the likes our state has never seen before. While we spend Read the rest of this entry »

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Misplaced American National Priorities: Fraud in the Department of Defense

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Department of Defense is a bloated organization, rife with fraud, waste and abuse.

Even then-Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) Donald Rumsfeld remarked on Monday, September 10, 2001, that, According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions. … We maintain 20 to 25 percent more base infrastructure than we need to support our forces, at an annual waste to taxpayers of some $3 billion to $4 billion. Fully half of our resources go to infrastructure and overhead, and in addition to draining resources from warfighting, these costly and outdated systems, procedures and programs stifle innovation as well.”
ref: http://www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=430

More recently, on December 21, 2010, the Governmental Accountability Office wrote that they “cannot render an opinion on the 2010 consolidated financial statements of the federal government, because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations.”
ref: http://www.gao.gov/press/financial_report_2010dec21.html

In his capacity as Acting Comptroller of the United States, Gene Dodaro wrote that, “(1) serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that have prevented DOD’s financial statements from being auditable, (2) the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies, and (3) the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.”
ref: http://www.gao.gov/financial/fy2010/10gao1.pdf

Included in that scathing report of fiscal recklessness and laziness were “material weaknesses involving an estimated $125.4 billion in improper payments, information security across government, and tax collection activities,” which were rife in “three major agencies— DOD, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor— did not get clean opinions. Nineteen of 24 major agencies did get clean opinions on all their statements.”
ref: http://www.gao.gov/press/financial_report_2010dec21.html
ref: http://www.gao.gov/financial/fy2010/10gao1.pdf

No entrepreneur, accountant, fiscal analyst, businessman or Chief Financial Officer in their right mind would tolerate what has been allowed to happen with it. Consider the F-35 Lightning II aircraft as a case in point.

At a cost now exceeding $400,000,000,000 ($400 Billion – that’s very nearly 1/2 Trillion), it is by far, THE most costly program EVER to have emerged from the DoD. Among the numerous reasons why it is THE most expensive program ever, are Read the rest of this entry »

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To What Extent is the American Economy Propped Up by Arms Sales?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What should one expect when the whole damn defense industry has been whored out to arm the krazees of the world?

In a very prophetic manner, in his Farewell Address to the nation, January 17, 1961, then-President Dwight David Eisenhower warned about the “military industrial complex,” saying:

“We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United State corporations.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

US sells $11 BILLION worth of arms to Qatar

Published time: July 15, 2014 09:46
Edited time: July 16, 2014 12:55

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) and Qatar's Minister of State for Defense Affairs Hamad bin Ali al-Atiyah (C) arrive for a weapons sales signing ceremony at the Pentagon on July 14, 2014 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) and Qatar’s Minister of State for Defense Affairs Hamad bin Ali al-Atiyah (C) arrive for a weapons sales signing ceremony at the Pentagon on July 14, 2014 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) and Qatar’s Minister of State for Defense Affairs Hamad bin Ali al-Atiyah (C) arrive for a weapons sales signing ceremony at the Pentagon on July 14, 2014 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)

Washington and Doha have signed the largest arms deal of the year, preparing to enhance Qatar’s military capabilities with $11 billion-worth of Apache assault helicopters, PAC-2 missile defense complexes and Javelin man-portable anti-tank missiles.

The deal has been signed on Monday in Pentagon by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Qatari Defense Minister Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah. Altogether Qatar is buying 10 batteries of Patriot missile defense systems and 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles manufactured by US defense industry giants Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and 24 Apache helicopters made by Boeing, an anonymous US official told the AFP.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Congressional Pay: Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, July 7, 2014

Years ago, I said “build a Federal Barracks for members of Congress, and have them march to work.” I still think having modest Federal Housing for members of Congress is a good idea.

Regarding their level of pay/compensation, the article’s point – that D.C. is an expensive place to live – is well taken, and it is my considered opinion in light of that fact which gives further credence to the idea of modest Federal Housing for members of Congress. In fact, if their salaries were, by law, capped at twice the median American household income (which, according to the article is now approximately $51,000), it could be an even better idea.

And, the value of the housing they would receive from the Federal Government could also be be considered a type of income. Perhaps even they could be paid a Basic Allowance for Housing in a similar fashion to our military service members for such housing.¹ An apartment building complex would most likely be the best option for in-town accommodations, which could be convenient to their work location, and it could be jointly managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Park Service.

However, with this present miasmatic congress, I hold out little hope for any such creative laws limiting congressional compensation, or introducing Federal Congressional Barracks/Housing to be introduced – though I believe it should be done, and is long overdue, along with Term Limitations. A total of 20 years elected federal service is long enough for anyone. Two terms in the Senate (12 years), and four terms in the House (8 years) should be enough for anyone, would reintroduce vibrancy into the process of national governance, and introduce more people to the process of elected public service.

Congressman’s Lament: $174,000 Isn’t Enough To Make Ends Meet

by Liz Halloran
April 04, 2014 3:05 PM ET

In what world does an annual salary of $174,000 meet the definition of underpaid?

That would be in the nation’s capital, where soon-to-be-retired Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., said Americans should know that their members of Congress — as the board of directors for the “largest economic entity in the world” — are underpaid.

The longtime congressman made his comments Thursday after the House voted for the sixth straight year to deny members an automatic cost-of-living raise they’re entitled to under law.

Not surprisingly, reaction to Moran’s assertion was Read the rest of this entry »

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Pitchfork in the Road: America’s Economic Future – Poverty & Insurrection, or Abundance & Peace?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, June 28, 2014

“How much is enough?” is a qood question to ask many folks, especially some among the Wall $treet crowd.

And to be certain, the two principles of “the worker is worthy of their hire,” and “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain” are equally compelling ethics.

As those two ethics concern our nation’s economy, we can point to times in history where various nations suffered revolution, and the most common causes of revolution.

In fact, I wrote at length about it in this blog in 2011, and observed in part that, “…it’s not as if uproars have never happened before. They happen with great regularity and frequency. In fact, they’re quite predictable. Yes, predictable. It’s called “history.” The maxim goes something like this: “Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.” And so, any reasonable or prudent person should ask, “What are the lessons of history?””

Just remember this: Food, Clothing, Shelter. If you can’t get them with what you have, you’ll fight, kill, go to war, or civil insurrection, to obtain the basic necessities of life.

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

By NICK HANAUER
Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entrepreneur.

July/August 2014

Memo: From Nick Hanauer
To: My Fellow Zillionaires

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.

Nick Hanauer

Nick Hanauer
With over 30 years of experience across a broad range of industries including manufacturing, retailing, e-commerce, digital media and advertising, software, aerospace, health care, and finance. Hanauer’s experience and perspective have produced an unusual record of serial successes. Hanauer has managed, founded or financed over 30 companies, creating aggregate market value of tens of billions of dollars. Some notable companies Include Amazon.com, Aquantive Inc., (purchased by Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion), Insitu group (purchased by Boeing for $400 million), Market Leader (purchased by Trulia in 2013 for $350 million). Some other companies include Marchex, Newsvine, Qliance, Seattle Bank and Pacific Coast Feather Company. – Photo by Robbie McClaran

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are Read the rest of this entry »

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Is a college education ~really~ all it’s cracked up to be… anymore? Or, why has tuition increased 300% in 30 years?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, June 24, 2014

College costs expose the false meritocracy of the American dream

The cost of an education in America has risen so much that only the wealthy and indebted can attend. The system doesn’t work

Post by Chris Arnade Photography.

 Chris Arnade received his PhD in physics from Johns Hopkins University in 1992. He spent the next 20 years working as a trader on Wall Street. He left trading in 2012 to focus on photography. His "Faces of Addiction" series explores addiction in the south Bronx neighbourhood in New York City. Follow him on Twitter: @Chris_arnade


Chris Arnade received his PhD in physics from Johns Hopkins University in 1992. He spent the next 20 years working as a trader on Wall Street. He left trading in 2012 to focus on photography. His “Faces of Addiction” series explores addiction in the south Bronx neighbourhood in New York City. Follow him on Twitter: @Chris_arnade

theguardian.com, Wednesday 18 June 2014 07.30 EDT

watermelons

As a college student, Chris Arnade picked Florida watermelons to pay for school. His daughter can’t do the same.
Photograph: Alamy

When I entered Wall Street in 1993 with a PhD, I was an anomaly. One of my bosses was a failed baseball player, another a frustrated jazz musician. One of the guys running one of the most profitable businesses, in both my firm and all of Wall Street, was a former elevator repairman. Their college degrees – if they even had them – were from all sorts of schools, not simply the Ivy leagues.

By the time I left Wall Street a few years ago, the only people being hired were the “play it safe kids”. The ones with degrees from Princetons and Harvards. You know, the ones who had organized a soup kitchen in eighth grade (meaning, really their parents had) to load their resumes. The ones who had gone to the state science fair (meaning their parents or nannies had spent many weekends and nights helping with a science project).

 Few of these hires where rags-to-riches stories. Most had parents very much like those already working on Wall Street – wealthy and dedicated to getting their children whatever they needed, regardless of cost. Many were in fact the children of Wall Street parents.

It is not just Wall Street. Most of the best paying jobs now require a college degree, or post-college degree, and still rarely hire from state schools. They want Ivy schools, or similar. That feels safe.

This is a problem. Businesses have abdicated their primary role in hiring, handing it over to colleges, which have gladly accepted that role, and now charge a shit-load for it. Want a job kid? Pay $60,000 a year for four years. Then maybe pay for another two to get a MBA.

Yet, those best schools do not teach kids anything radically different from what the average colleges do. They do not prepare them better for the day-to-day work of Wall Street. Those finance skills are learned with experience and instinct after two years of training – on the job.

Rather, a prestigious education is a badge given to students who can follow the established rules, run through the maze, jump through hoops, color between the lines, and sit quietly. It shows that they really, really want to be a grown-up. For that, they pay $60,000 per year.

It has become a test. Are you part of the meritocracy?

It also has become a barrier of entry to professionalism – a very costly barrier of entry.

Harvard University
A rigid system of ‘feeder’ schools is in place for parents who want their children to attend schools like Harvard, which have a reputation for then ‘feeding’ major Wall Street firms. Photograph: Porter Gifford/Corbis

Read the rest of this entry »

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Who Pays Unskilled Labor US $80,000/year?!

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, June 22, 2014

“For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
-1Tim5:18

Lately, much has been made of raising the Minimum Wage, which does nothing more than establish a minimum standard.

But who cares about minimums?

We should strive to exceed!

Some well-known, publicly-traded, highly profitable firms, however, revel in greed, and wallow in the slop, when they can do far better for the employees who operate their businesses.

The question is often asked “why pay unskilled workers $10 or even more per hour?”

It’s a valid question, and deserves a genuinely thoughtful response.

So, let’s pose that question to BIG OIL COMPANIES in Williston, North Dakota, where…

“oilfield companies pay unskilled 19 year-olds $80,000 a year.”

 

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/economy/mall-middle-what-used-be-nowhere

by Dan Weissmann
Monday, June 16, 2014 – 15:21

Williston, North Dakota, has the nation’s highest rents. Thanks to the fracking boom, a basic apartment in Williston costs more than something similar in New York or San Francisco. And it comes with a lot fewer amenities.

For instance, shopping. If Walmart doesn’t have it, the nearest outlet is at least two hours away. Now, a Swiss investment firm has announced plans to Read the rest of this entry »

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*!* ATTENTION ALABAMA RESIDENTS *!*

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, June 14, 2014

ATTENTION ALABAMA RESIDENTS:

Please continue to fund out-of-state K-12 schools, and send Tennessee, Georgia & Florida kids to college by purchasing Tennessee, Georgia & Florida Lottery tickets.

• Today, in Tennessee, over 100,000 students benefit annually, and Republican Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill written by Republican TN legislators which will pay for 2 years of community/junior/technical college education for every Tennessee high school graduate.

• In Georgia, over 1,600,000 students have benefited from Georgia Lottery.

• In Florida, over 650,000 students have received over $4,290,000,000 since 1986 to attend higher education.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Cry Me A River

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Oh, PLEASE!!!

“The response claims that it would cost Sterling $300 million to $500 million in capital gains taxes if he is forced to sell now rather than pass the team to his heirs.”

According to Forbes magazine, Donald Sterling has a net worth of US$ 2BILLION, and the Value of the Los Angeles Clippers team, Read the rest of this entry »

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Why the LGBT community should support Shirey Ice Cream in Florence, Alabama

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Edwin Markham, American poet,

Edwin Markham, American poet

Outwitted

He drew a circle that shut me out–

Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!

by Edwin Markham, April 23, 1852 – March 7, 1940

That brief poem, or epigram, by Edwin Markham summarizes succinctly the idea upon which I will expound in this entry.

In the past several days, it came to light that a Shoals area Alabama entrepreneur, Garrett Shirey – who, with his brothers Reese & Austin, are founders and co-owners of Shirey Ice Cream in the northwest Alabama town of Florence, population 39,447 – had Tweeted at least two uncharacteristic and very unbecoming messages. The specific dates and times they were made, and the content can be seen in the screen shot images of the Tweets, both which appear later in this entry.

First, some background.

Read the rest of this entry »

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What is it like to be a Woman Business Owner & Inventor Terrorized & Threatened by Right Wing Extremist Gun Owners?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, May 3, 2014

More power to you!

The GOP has been hijacked by extremist elements.

It’s time to put those sorry, low-life punks in prison for collusion, terrorism and anti-American activity.

***

***

‘Smart’ Firearm Draws Wrath of the Gun Lobby

By JEREMY W. PETERS
APRIL 27, 2014

Belinda Padilla is trying to market a new .22-caliber handgun that uses a radio frequency-enabled stopwatch to identify the authorized user so no one else can fire it.  Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Belinda Padilla is trying to market a new .22-caliber handgun that uses a radio frequency-enabled stopwatch to identify the authorized user so no one else can fire it.
Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Belinda Padilla does not pick up unknown calls anymore, not since someone posted her cellphone number on an online forum for gun enthusiasts. A few fuming-mad voice mail messages and heavy breathers were all it took.

Then someone snapped pictures of the address where she has a P.O. box and put those online, too. In a crude, cartoonish scrawl, this person drew an arrow to the blurred image of a woman passing through the photo frame. “Belinda?” the person wrote. “Is that you?”

Her offense? Trying to market and sell a new .22-caliber handgun that uses a radio frequency-enabled stopwatch to identify the authorized user so no one else can fire it. Ms. Padilla and the manufacturer she works for, Armatix, intended to make the weapon the first “smart gun” for sale in the United States.

But shortly after Armatix went public with its plans to start selling in Southern California, Ms. Padilla, a fast-talking, hard-charging Beverly Hills businesswoman who leads the company’s fledgling American division, encountered the same uproar that has stopped gun control advocates, Congress, President Obama and lawmakers across the country as they seek to pass tougher laws and promote new technologies they contend will lead to fewer firearms deaths.

Lately, there has been little standing in the way of the muscle of the gun lobby, whose advocates recently derailed Mr. Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, a Boston doctor who has expressed alarm about the frequency of shooting deaths.

And despite support from the Obama administration and the promise of investment from Silicon Valley, guns with owner-recognition technology remain shut out of the market today.

“Right now, unfortunately, these organizations that are scaring everybody have the power,” Ms. Padilla said. “All we’re doing is providing extra levels of safety to your individual right to bear arms. And if you don’t want our gun, don’t buy it. It’s not for everyone.”

In Georgia on Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law a bill that allows people to carry guns in bars, government buildings and even some churches. The National Rifle Association called the measure historic.

In West Virginia, one of several Read the rest of this entry »

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More Government Cheese Bhurger, sir? Welfare Cattle Ranching: Digging into the Cliven Bundy ordeal

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, April 25, 2014

I’m not a funnyman like Jon Stewart of the Comedy Channel.
However, Stewart does a good job – indeed, an excellent job – of excoriating right-wing zealot Sean Hannity over his inconsistencies of argument in support of Cliven Bundy… the man who knows everything about the Negro.
In fact, Stewart does a damn fine job… in a manner that perfectly shines a light upon Mr. Hannity’s hypocrisy.

If you’d like to take a few minutes to be entertained and educated, here’s the URL for the episode in which Stewart skewers Hannity.
http://thedailyshow.cc.com/full-episodes/ig155d/april-21–2014—gina-mccarthy

And, if you’re kinda’ froggy, and like to get the facts (just the facts, ma’am… just the facts), here’s some research I performed for my benefit.
Yeah.
I’m selfish like that.
I didn’t do it for anyone else but me.

Enjoy!

***

At issue is Cliven Bundy’s claim to land use – not ownership.

The area in question is 150 square miles in the 500,000 acre Gold Butte area along the Virgin River in Nevada.

Bundy claims that his family “homesteaded” that land since 1877, and by virtue of that claim, unlimited right of use to the land belongs to him.

In essence, Bundy claims a right to graze the land where he has allowed his cattle to roam – and therefore, because his cattle have been there, he claims unlimited use of the land belongs to him, although he cannot produce any document demonstrating any essence or component of such claim, nor of ownership – such as a survey, easement, bill of sale, quitclaim deed, bills for taxes, or taxes paid.

For over 20 years, Bundy has allowed his cattle to graze on that tract of Federal land – land to which he has no ownership, deed or right of use – and since 1993 has ceased paying grazing fees, which, by his own admission, is in arrears at least $300,000.

Here’s a partial time line to the current date which highlights significant events in the ordeal.
1973
■ Cliven Bundy pays grazing fees to the BLM for the next 20 years.
1993
■ The BLM modifies Bundy’s grazing permit by reducing the size allowed for his herd to 150 and restricts where his cattle can graze in the Gold Butte area. He refuses the permit and stops paying grazing fees. The BLM cancels his permit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Congressional Budget Office: Offshore Corporate Tax Havens Cost each Citizen $1259

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, April 17, 2014

Historically, our nation has prospered when tax rates on the ULTRA wealthy and corporations were highest.

In the period following World War II, under President Dwight David Eisenhower – a Republican, and former Supreme Allied Commander / 5ive Star General – Corporate Tax rates have continually declined.

Now, during the Obama administration, they are at the LOWEST they have EVER been.

Corporate Income Tax Rates have continually declined

Corporate Income Tax Rates have continually declined the peaked during the Eisenhower administration. The formula is: b/(a+b) Where (a) Corporate Profits After Tax (without IVA and CCAdj), Billions of Dollars, Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (CP); And (b) Federal Government: Tax Receipts on Corporate Income, Billions of Dollars, Not Seasonally Adjusted (FCTAX)

Tax Havens Leave U.S. Filers $1,259 Tab Each, Report Says

U.S. taxpayers would need to pay an average of $1,259 more a year to make up the federal and state taxes lost to corporations and individuals sheltering money in overseas tax havens, according to a report.

Tax haven abusers benefit from America’s markets, public infrastructure, educated workforce, security and rule of law -– all supported in one way or another by tax dollars -– but they avoid paying for these benefits,” U.S. Public Interest Research Group said in the report released today, the deadline for filing 2013 taxes.
ref: http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/picking-tab-2014

“Instead, ordinary taxpayers end up picking up the tab, either in the form of higher taxes, cuts to public spending priorities, or increases to the federal debt,” it said.

In total, the U.S. loses $150 billion in federal revenue and another $34 billion in state revenue annually because of money parked in tax havens, the Boston-based consumer advocacy group concluded.

That’s almost Read the rest of this entry »

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Perspective – By the Numbers: How has Job Loss under Governor Bentley & the GOP affected Alabama?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, April 14, 2014

It’s easy to talk about “the jobs situation” in Alabama. It’s especially easier to talk about it when it doesn’t affect you… directly. It’s like armchair quarterbacking.

There’s probably much truth to the statement that Alabama’s legislators aren’t directly affected by job loss in the state. They have jobs. As musician Steve Miller sang in his song “Take the Money and Run,” they make their “living off other people’s taxes.” That goes for Republicans AND Democrats. Such an observation, of course, is not to demean those who do “make their living off other people’s taxes,” because our military, public safety and others vital to our local, state and national well-being are among them. It is however, an acknowledgment of, and call to responsibility – not merely accountability – because accountability is the only remnant once responsibility has departed. And that is how the “Blame Game” is played.

In the previous entry entitled “Analysis – Examining the Record: Is Alabama Governor Bentley a “Jobs Creator” or a Drag on the State Economy?,” we looked at facts & figures about job loss & job creation during Governor Bentley’s administration.

In this entry, we examine some details on the extent of the damage done to families & individuals under his administration.

And so, let’s again refer to some previously-mentioned facts & figures, and introduce some new ones so that we can better understand the nature, scope and and extent of the situation, and corresponding problems Read the rest of this entry »

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