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Category: Society

Burlington College Flap May Prove a ‘Nothing Burger’

News broke over the weekend that Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane had “lawyered up,” having retained a “prominent attorney” to represent Jane in a bank fraud case stemming from her tenure as President of now-defunct Burlington College.

Well, that’s disconcerting. So we took a look at the news stories that had been published from 2010 when the deal was hatched until the school’s closure in 2016. Frankly, we were left shrugging…

The property acquisition was not made unilaterally or in isolation

This was not something any one person did on their own. There was a whole host of players involved. Alphabetically:

  • Burlington College Board of Trustees
  • College of Consultors
  • College of Deans
  • Diocesan Administrative Board
  • Diocesan Finance Council and
  • Diocesan Presbyteral Council

They all signed off on the purchase of the Catholic Church’s property on Lake Champlain.

Additionally, a bond issue was made by the Vermont Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency. They were “in” upon the completion and submission of an 18-page application. They did not take the application at face value, but had it vetted by an independent financial consultant in Boston.

The bonds were then purchased by People’s United Bank; Burlington College agreed to a 10-year term with 30-year amortization. The school’s VP of Finance – who later succeeded Jane Sanders as President, co-signed the loan agreement.

Additionally, $3.5M came as a loan from the Diocese from which the property was purchased.

Burlington College Presidents

College presidents have a number of vital responsibilities for the health and continuation of the institutions they head. One of the key performance measures is attracting and retaining donors.

We weren’t able to lay our hands on any complaint filed in court, so we’re guessing as to the actual accusations being levied from press accounts. But we’re also guessing that Jane Sanders based her projections for enrollment and contributions to the school on pledges made and her plans for achieving the performance metrics.

There were three presidents of Burlington College after Sanders left. These were Christine Plunkett (the VP of Finance who co-signed the bank agreement and concurrently served the school as President and Chief Financial Officer), Michael Smith (interim capacity only), and Carol A. Moore.

Plunkett did not follow Sanders’ plan for growth of the school through enrollment. Instead, she went to China for a week, bringing with her for all her efforts, one student. Instead of enforcing pledges or cultivating other donors, she sold off student housing.

In 2012, Plunkett said in an interview that she’d raised half of the school’s goal for the year. In 2013, one $1M pledge made to Jane Sanders before her resignation was not realized; this year, that million-dollar donor indicated that she’d handed Sanders a check along with a verbal promise that the substantial gift was would be received by the school upon her death, with donations in addition to the bequest in the interim. In 2014, Plunkett’s capital campaign efforts were “put on the back burner”. Over her tenure, most of the confirmed pledges made to the school never materialized; only about $676,000 was ever collected.

Default

An audit of the school’s finances was conducted and released in June 2013. It showed that Burlington College had not paid ANY principal OR interest on the loan. The Diocese had sent notice of default. Recall that Plunkett was both college President and Chief Financial Officer at this time; Sanders had left in 2011.

Likewise, the school did not make any payments on a $500,000 bridge loan from a philanthropist for the purposes of improving the property so that it could be used.

By 2014, the school was in default, on probation and facing loss of accreditation when Plunkett left the school to students’ chants of “hey, hey, ho, ho, Christine Plunkett’s got to go”. It closed in 2016 under “crushing debt” and with an enrollment of only 200 students – about the same number as when Jane Sanders stepped down.

UPDATE (July 2, 2017): VTDigger reports that the allegations arose from a conversation with three bankers around the time the school closed. They were not involved in the loan and no longer employed at People’s United Bank when the conversation took place. A link to that story appears below.

 

© 2017 Poligags

poligags.com

Sources:

http://vermontbiz.com/news/may/burlington-college-buy-vermont-catholic-diocese-property

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/education/2014/08/15/financial-questions-dog-burlington-college/14117505/

https://vtdigger.org/2017/05/04/burlington-college-donor-says-never-signed-pledge/

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/05/26/confused-closing-nonprofit-burlington-college/

Update story: https://vtdigger.org/2017/07/02/source-sanders-bank-pressure-allegations-says-evidence-hearsay

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California Session Can’t Happen for Years – At Least

California secession has been a hot topic since the state’s citizens began collecting signatures at the end of January to place the issue on the ballot before voters. Often citing the fact that California’s economy would rank sixth in the world were it an independent country, about a third of the 40 million residents of the state support the idea.

There’s also been some blow-back, as the founder of the movement lives in Russia half the year and is said to have the backing of a right-wing faction there. He even opened – by his own authority – an “embassy” in Moscow. Secession would require a vast majority of Californians’ support to make it a reality; it is unlikely that this majority would permit an unelected individual to speak and act on their behalf should the movement progress.

Assuming that sufficient support is generated, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. We haven’t found anyone discussing these. Look, for example, at what Great Britain (with a comparable population of 53 million and a current ranking of ninth among world economies) is having to consider with its 2016 Brexit vote. The realities start to come into focus.

While not insurmountable, it will take years for California to extricate itself peacefully from the United States. We offer some of those complexities that occurred to us:

The Military industrial Complex

California is home to 29,594 defense contractors who have, collectively, been awarded 723,841 contractors over the years 2000-2015. These contracts were valued at $537,311,342,851 (1). According to a Deloitte study a year ago, a disproportionate number of the United States’ 1.2 million defense employees are located in California (2).

screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-12-33-34-pm

Making up for the value of those lost contracts would be, at best, difficult. Replacing over 100,000 equivalent jobs would be, as well. There are US defense contractors outside of the United States; presumably California could bid on some of those. Also, as a new country, California would need to have its own defenses. How much could be recouped is beyond the pay grade of this bunch of t-shirt makers, but some of the jobs could be saved.

There are a couple dozen military bases in California and a number of other military properties besides (3). Installations and their nearly 270,000 personnel contribute about 2% of the state’s GDP (4). Several local economies rely on their existence.

Additional Federal Funding

California received an estimated $252.6 billion in federal spending in 2015 – 25% of the state’s revenues (5). Many of these dollars are earmarked for education and Medicaid. The state’s infrastructure plan (6) includes $13.9 billion in federal funds over five years. That plan takes into consideration not only what you’d expect to fall under infrastructure, but also Natural Resources, California EPA, Corrections, Education and more.

Relationships between the state and federal are intertwined and interdependent. The new “smart” power grid relies heavily on new construction in California; that new construction is heavily funded by the federal government. Consider aviation, too. Air Traffic Controllers are federal employees; they all receive their training at one facility – which is not located in California. It might be enjoyable to imagine airports without the omnipresent gray bins, but without sufficient security to comfort the United States and other countries, both California tourism and business would suffer. TSA is, of course, federal.

California is home to one of only a handful of US National Laboratories. There are 11 federal prisons in California. There’s the Border Patrol. And the US Mint in San Francisco. There are a lot of moving parts to consider.

Treaties and Trade

Interstate agreements exist between California and other states. The Colorado River Compact is, importantly, one of them, and involves seven states in total. Upon secession, renegotiation of this agreement would be between the country of California and the US State Department. California had better build its desalination capacity, pronto!

California agriculture represents over 400 different commodities (7) – and already exports more than a quarter of the volume produced. But, of what currently falls under domestic sales, most would, post-secession, be subject to international treaty. Much of what California produces and distributes now is a matter of interstate commerce. The market will, no doubt, remain lucrative, but subject to international trade agreements.

Intrastate Governance

There will be other headaches for the state – again, not insurmountable, but requiring some up-front legwork. For example who’s a citizen of California? Will US residents with a California birth certificate be welcome to “repatriate”? Who, if anyone, is “out”? For those wanting to hightail it for the United States, will there be compensation for property left behind?

Will there be a potential “brain drain” if, say, the whole of Silicon Valley empties out? How will travel visas into and throughout the United States be handled? Will the citizens of California be able to take jobs in the US, like citizens of the EU do throughout the Eurozone?

Great Britain has demonstrated the importance of thinking and to planning prior to exiting. These are just a few of many things that will have to be considered before any major move can actually occur.

© 2017 Poligags

poligags.com

Resources:

(1) Defense Contractor Data by year and by county, CA 2000-2015 http://www.governmentcontractswon.com/department/defense/california_counties.asp

(2) Deloitte Defense Study, Feb 2016 

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/manufacturing/us-ad-labor-market-study-2016.pdf

(3) Military bases http://www.militaryauthority.com/wiki/military-bases/nationwide/california/

(4) Economic impact of bases http://www.ncsl.org/research/military-and-veterans-affairs/military-s-impact-on-state-economies.aspx

(5) CA revenues from federal government https://ballotpedia.org/California_state_budget_and_finances

(6) CA infrastructure plan http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2016-Infrastructure-Plan.pdf

(7) CA Agriculture https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/statistics/PDFs/2016Report.pdf

H.Res. 884: Articles of Impeachment, 1st Draft

Let’s forget about voter suppression, whether Independents (who are 43% of the electorate) can participate in primaries their taxes help pay for, reducing the number of polling stations to one-third of usual, vote-flipping machines and all that water under the bridge. Hillary is the Democratic Party nominee.

That, by no stretch of the imagination, means she’s home free. Despite Donald Trump’s incessant, self-sabotaging efforts to shoot himself in the foot, a recently-released Washington Post / ABC poll has HRC ahead by the margin of error. Which can be interpreted as: the two front-runners are statistically tied.

Her problems don’t end there. There’s the specter of war, the Wikileaks dumps and the FBI investigation releases, too. There is heartburn enough to go around several times over, but not to worry: they’ve got their ample derrières covered and took away Julian Assange’s Internet privileges to boot.

There’s still one more thing, though – and it isn’t something the campaign or the DNC can spin away or intimidate anyone into acquiescence over: the prospect of impeachment should HRC become the next President of the United States.

About a year ago, there was a contingent that promised to impeach on “day one” of her presidency. At that time, all they had to work with was the series of Benghazi hearings that had gone exactly nowhere. Since then, numerous cans of worms have been opened and there are actually grounds that rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

And they know it.

Fast forward to September 22 and the introduction of House Resolution 884. This document seeks formal recognition that “Hillary Rodham Clinton violated, ignored, and otherwise chose not to follow legal and ethical obligations and responsibilities expected of the head of any Federal agency of the United States Government during her tenure as United States Secretary of State from 2009 through 2013.” Over the course of a dozen “whereas-es,” the 24 co-sponsors lay out the framework of their case against her.

Fact-checking against the uncontested Wikileaks documents, the interview notes made publicly available by the FBI and Director Comey’s press conference and subsequent congressional hearing appearance, we can find no factual errors in those 12 assertions contained in HRes 884. The evidence supports every claim made; it would take making only one of these “stick” to convict a theoretical President Clinton…sucking up the entire first year of her term and potentially sticking us all with a theoretical President Kaine.

A lot of people approach voting like they would their weekly football pool: to hell with the team I love; I’m picking the one that’ll win! That’s no way to pick a president. Votes should be cast according to who will do the highest good for the country and whose values most nearly align with one’s own. Or, as Eugene V. Debs (who earned nearly a million votes from jail as a WWI conscientious objector) said, “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it, than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.”

House Resolution 884 is the “first draft” of what could become the Articles of Impeachment against Hillary Clinton. Beware what you wish for; you might just get it.

(c) 2016 Poligags
poligags.com

Cornel West , Killer Mike and Nina Turner On The Legacy of Dr King

Originally posted to YouTube by Politics News, this informal discussion between Dr. West, Killer Mike and former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner took place with Senator Sanders in January 2016. The over-arching theme is applying the teachings of Dr. King to the modern political environment.

Should this viewer fail to play, the original is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcDtq993J-E

Mike Huckabee Had A Brain Fart – But We’re Here To Help

Former Arkansas governor and presidential never-gonna-happen Mike Huckabee took to the airwaves in the wake of the Paris terror attack. Although indicating that he knew it was impolitic to be a wing nut bigot and hypocritical Christian publicly, he charged ahead: Muslims leave their worship  “like uncorked animals – throwing rocks and burning cars.”

He is also reported to have said, “I don’t know of any other group of people uniquely that are targeting innocent civilians and committing these acts of mayhem.” Really, Mike?

Slide1

So you don’t recall an America citizen shooting a member of Congress and several of her constituents…or another fine “patriot” who took out a federal building, the ground floor of which housed a day care center? How about the DC Beltway Snipers who took out random targets of opportunity from a hole in the trunk of their car? Surely you recall the neo-Luddite who sent bombs through the mail as well as the US Army veteran who declared “holy racial war” against Sikhs. How about the American-raised (naturalized) citizen who wreaked havoc at the Boston Marathon? And, as in France, even casual dining isn’t safe in the good ol’ US of A, as evidenced by the San Ysidro McDonald’s episode.

These “acts of mayhem” were all homegrown. So maybe you want to dial down the derision and take a more temperate tone about who is “uncorked”.

(c) 2015 Poligags

poligags.com

Are Anti-immigrant Republican Candidates “American Enough”?

It started when then-Senator, Barack Obama first ran for the presidency: the “birther” movement was born. People of this mindset sought to prove that Obama did not meet the constitutional mandate of “natural-born citizen” in order to have him declared ineligible to run. Once elected, however, the focus shifted to removing him from office.

The 2016 campaign started off relatively quietly. Recently, though, in part because immigration is a key issue in the race and because of the expansive field of candidates, the birthers have re-emerged. Some have indicated that FOUR Republican candidates are actually ineligible because they are not, somehow, “American enough”: Cruz, Jindal, Rubio and Santorum.

Where do they get this notion? Our research showed that a significant number of them cite a 1758 text by a Swiss author (Vattel), titled Law of Nations. According to The Free Dictionary’s law dictionary, “[i]t is a system of rules deducible by natural reason from the immutable principles of natural justice, and established by universal consent among the civilized inhabitants of the world”. The birthers believe that it expressly instructs them as to who may become POTUS. This, despite the book having been written before the U.S. became a country.

So who is a citizen? The US Constitution (14th Amendment) says: All persons born…in the United States…are citizens of the United States… This has been further codified in 8 USC § 1401, which says:

The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:
(a) a person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof;

(b) a person born in the United States to a member of an Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or other aboriginal tribe…

(c) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents both of whom are citizens of the United States and one of whom has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions, prior to the birth of such person;

(d) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is a citizen of the United States who has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the birth of such person, and the other of whom is a national, but not a citizen of the United States;

(e) a person born in an outlying possession of the United States of parents one of whom is a citizen of the United States who has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year at any time prior to the birth of such person;

(f) a person of unknown parentage found in the United States while under the age of five years, until shown, prior to his attaining the age of twenty-one years, not to have been born in the United States;

(g) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years..; and

(h) a person born before noon (Eastern Standard Time) May 24, 1934, outside the limits and jurisdiction of the United States of an alien father and a mother who is a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, had resided in the United States.

Some of the candidates themselves would terminate “birthright citizenship” and deport newly-declared non-Americans – nearly all of whom have no connection to or knowledge of the nations to which they do “belong”. But what of people whose ancestry includes members of multiple countries? To which would they be deported? How far back in one’s lineage would we have to go before someone’s family “earned” their citizenship? And which candidates among the Republican field are American enough?

We did some masterful Googling and found the following:

The Winner: Rick Perry

Perry has ancestors on his mother’s side who were members of the Choctaw tribal nation. That’s about as American as you can get. His family has had a presence in Texas since it was Mexican territory. Prior to that, they were in Tennessee.

Pre-colonial Roots – American enough?

Jeb! Bush

John Ellis Bush (J.E.B. – get it?) comes from a family of primarily English and German descent. However, the last traceable European ancestor was one John Bush, who lived from 1593-1670. Bush family members are among those who dwelled in the Plymouth Colony, according to Wikipedia.

Mike Huckabee

Someone went to a lot of trouble to document Mike Huckabee’s ancestry: http://www.wargs.com/political/huckabee.html Members of his family have been on this continent since the 1600s. They migrated to Arkansas in the 1800s.

Rand Paul

Likewise, the Paul family has been on this continent since the 1600s.

Antebellum Period

Ben Carson

Through a PBS series called “African American Lives,” Carson’s lineage was traced back to before the Civil War.

Cara Carleton “Carly” (Sneed) Fiorina

Like the Bush family, Fiorina’s heritage is mainly English and German. She was born in Texas and her traceable family roots date back to the Civil War. In fact, her name came from one of those who died in that war. Although biographies are careful to omit for which side, the Sneeds mostly resided in Texas and Tennessee. See: http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=PED&db=nancybesspeyton&id=I1886

Lindsey Graham

While he’s actually been for immigration reform in the past and called other candidates’ positions on the issue “gibberish,” apparently Lindsey doesn’t like birthright citizenship, either. His family have been in the US since at least 1850.

Jim Gilmore

We found it very curious that the former Governor of Virginia has almost nothing that we could find about his family history beyond his parent generation. He appears to be a Virginian through ‘n’ through, though, so we lumped him in this category.

More Recent Arrivals

Chris Christie

Christie’s father is of German, Scottish, and Irish descent. His mother was of Sicilian ancestry. Little is published beyond that much. We’re going to peg him at second generation American.

John Kasich

Kasich’s father was the son of Czech immigrants. His mother was the daughter of Croatian immigrants. So he’s “only” second-generation American.

George Pataki

Pataki’s paternal grandparents were Hungarian and came to the US in the early 1900s. On his mother’s side, his grandfather was Italian-born and married a woman who emigrated from Ireland. Pataki, too, is a second-generation American; when he’s deported, to which country do we send him?

Donald Trump

Trump’s grandfather emigrated to the US in 1885 and became a naturalized US citizen in 1892. His son (Donald’s father) married an English immigrant who gave birth to Donald ten years later. So he is first-generation American on his mother’s side and second-generation on his father’s. And, although he’s made quite a fuss about the immigration topic, three of his children have a Czech-born mother. A fourth child has a Slovenian-born mother.

“Anchor Babies”

Finally, we get to those to whom some might apply the derogatory term “anchor baby”. These would be defined as children born to a non-citizen mother in a country having birthright citizenship.

Rafael “Ted” Cruz

Ted was famously born in Canada of a Cuban father and American mother. Now we ask you to return to 8 USC § 1401(d); whether he is a “natural” citizen of the US is entirely predicated on his mother’s status and residence around the time of his birth. A formal request has been made by birthers for information on this subject. We’ll see how it plays out.

Piyush “Bobby” Jindal

Jindal’s parents were both living in the US – legally, on visas – when little Bobby was born. According to the US Constitution and 8 USC § 1401(a), he is a natural-born citizen, eligible to run for the presidency. Birthers call him an “anchor baby” and further cite that, under the Law of Nations, he and/or his family would necessarily have divided loyalties.

Marco Rubio

Despite his own lack of clarity on the subject, it is well documented that his parents applied for visas to leave Cuba in May 1956. Like Jindal, Rubio would ordinarily be considered a natural-born citizen under the Constitution and 8 USC 1401(a), but some birthers define him as an “anchor baby” with the potential for divided loyalties to a commie country.

Richard John “Rick” Santorum

Santorum’s father arrived in the US from Italy at the age of seven; his mother is of Italian and Irish ancestry. Some birthers take issue, apparently, with his father having been an immigrant; even they, though, admit their case against him is weak. Other birthers have decided he’s “American enough”. http://www.birtherreport.com/2015/01/attorney-rick-santorum-is-article-ii.html

© 2015 Poligags
poligags.com

Beat The 1% At Their Own Game

Guest post by X382163

They control every aspect of your life: when you get up in the morning, what you do during the course of the day, what you eat and how (or whether) foodstuffs are labeled, the commodities you can buy, what media you can take in. In some instances, they tell you who to vote for or even “buy” elections outright. They profit from your labor and impinge on your “off” hours, expecting a reply to their every email, call and text, regardless of how you might be spending “your” time.

They’re the 1%. And they “own” you.
After all: without them, you don’t have an income.

Capitalism goes through cyclical crises every 40 or 50 years. These are often triggered because the avenues for accumulating more wealth cease to be productive enough and the system has to be “restructured” in order to keep the Almighty Dollar coming in. The TTP and TTIP “trade” agreements are evidence of a very typical effort to rein in social welfare programs and re-subordinate labor through deregulation, union-busting and the creation of the “flexible” workforce.

Former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich believes that the “flexible economy” or “gig economy” or “share economy” – it’s known by several names – assures a return to sweatshop conditions, because those living it operate in a variable cost sphere while existing in a fixed cost world. While the latter part of that statement is true enough, it doesn’t have to portend a return to the 19th Century.

A recently-released GAO survey demonstrates some confusion who to – and who to not – classify under the heading of “contingent worker”. The GAO surmises that “flexible” workers comprise somewhere between 5 and 33% of the workforce. That’s quite a spread. They also assume that “flexible” workers are under-educated and impoverished as a class.

Yet the “flexible economy” is exactly where we can beat them at their own game.

Freelancers Union and Elance/o-Desk teamed up to conduct their own survey. In the process, they learned that 53 million people – a third of the workforce – were engaged as so-called contingent workers some or all of the time. This segment of the population already contributes an estimated $715 billion to the economy. While fully half of the respondents indicated that lack of a stable income was a concern, technology continues to make freelancing an entirely viable means of earning a living. Groups such as Freelancers Union, The Next System Project, Collaborative Commons and others are springing up to address the need for and to support the members of this burgeoning community.

Uniting 53 million people represents a lot of economic clout. Economic clout is what the 1% understands. Through commoning, co-ops, employee-owned enterprise, commerce can shift from corporate entities to worker-centered businesses. The 1% do not seem to grasp that the very people they disdain and marginalize are the same people who make for and buy from them and elevate them to positions of privilege. By withholding productivity from them, workers can disrupt the existing power dynamic in favor of one in which the profits remain in their hands.

Begin by uniting with and patronizing other independent contractors, consultants, freelancers, co-ops, commons and virtual workers whenever the opportunity rises. A free-to-join and free-to-access directory is being compiled, with the first edition scheduled for release by Independence Day. Celebrate your independence by beating the 1% at their own game.

Dear PayPal – you really blew it this time!

PayPal recently announced that, beginning on July 1, there would be a new Terms of Service going into effect. This is because baby bird is finally leaving the nest and its parent company eBay. They will be entirely separate companies.

New Terms of Service. Yawn, right?

Well, let’s start with the fact that this Terms of Service is 60 pages long! Who needs 60-page Terms of Service? You know at the get-go that there has to be a lot of stuff buried in there that can’t be good for the consumer.

One of those things can be found on page 53 – a point long past which narcoleptics fell asleep with their finger on the “Agree” button:

PP ScreenShot

That’s right. By agreeing, PayPal gets forever rights to your intellectual property posted and tied to a PayPal account. To use if they want, when they want and how they want. You have no say in the matter and (per the paragraph that follows) and you will not receive any compensation or royalties. Oh. And they can resell any or all of it to anyone they want.

And eBay, the separate company? They have the identical language in their Terms of Service, which already went into effect!

Content

When providing us with content or causing content to be posted using our Services, you grant us a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise any and all copyright, publicity, trademark and database rights and other intellectual property rights you have in the content, in any media known now or developed in the future. Further, to the fullest extent permitted under applicable law, you waive your moral rights and promise not to assert such rights or any other intellectual property or publicity rights against us, our sublicensees, or our assignees.

You represent and warrant that none of the following infringe any rights mentioned in the preceding paragraph: your provision of content to us, your causing content to be posted using the Services, and use of any such content (including of works derived from it) by us, our users, or others in contract with us that is done in connection with the Services and in compliance with this User Agreement.

We’ll be making some changes. Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled before hitting that “Agree” button!

© 2015 Poligags
poligags.com

UPDATE (May 27): Just in case you think we’re being paranoid, check out this article. Some people are turning others’ posts into “art” and selling them for $90,000: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2015/05/25/a-reminder-that-your-instagram-photos-arent-really-yours-someone-else-can-sell-them-for-90000/?postshare=9371432648650700

The “Malling” of America – Mega-Mall Proposed for the Grand Canyon

Teddy Roosevelt ascended to the presidency in 1901 and used his authority to create the U.S. Forest Service and establish 51 federal bird reservations, four national game preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks. He used the 1906 Antiquities Act to establish 18 National Monuments. In total, Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land, proclaiming, “people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Some people’s ideas of “forever,” “beauty” and “unmarred” are a bit different than Roosevelt intended. A group called Confluence Partners is proposing a mega-mall and theme park (including trams and an IMAX theater) for one of the most iconic sites in the US: the Grand Canyon. Don’t believe us? They have a website detailing the entire plan and explaining their year-long silence while “negotiating” with the Navajo Nation: http://grandcanyonescalade.com/

Of the partners, there are several stand-outs:

You can “just say no” to this ill-conceived plan and those promoting it via a SumOfUs petition: http://action.sumofus.org/a/grand-canyon/?

© 2015 Poligags
poligags.com

The Fight for $15: Legislative Update

There are a few bills in play or being drafted in some state legislatures that aim to address the plight of low-wage workers. As near as we can tell, their main intent is to apply pressure to major employers – those that directly employ a certain number of people within that state who earn less than the strived-for threshold of $15 per hour – to voluntarily adopt paying a living wage.

Across the country, full-time minimum wage earners find themselves having to apply for food stamps and other forms social assistance. Their employers encourage them to; their employers show them how. The public subsidizes these bad players through their taxes.

So, you would think we would welcome an effort in Connecticut that proposes to force employers with 500 or more direct employees and paying less than $15/hour to pay an assessment of $1 per employee as described in the Hartford Courant. The truth is, we’re not so sure about it as it is written.

The Courant did not, in its roughly 1150-word article, mention the bill number. So we did the research. It turns out that there are actually two similar bills – one in each chamber of the state’s General Assembly.

The one mentioned in the article corresponds to SB 1044. If passed, it would apply to employers of 500 or more people, and would impose a tax / fee / fine on every one who is not paid $15 per hour or greater. The money would go straight into the General Fund to be re-distributed to state social service agencies “to support and improve the quality of state-supported consumer-directed services for elderly and disabled persons” and to increase access to “school readiness programs, the child care subsidy program…Head Start, Early Head Start or other programs…” Funds would also be allocated for administering and enforcing the law.

The second piece of legislation is HB 6791. This one would apply to employers of 250 or more direct employs. Like SB 1044, a wage threshold is established, as is an assessment for every person not being paid at or above that rate. Again, the money goes to the state treasury. And, after that, it seems to do nothing other than pay for the program itself!

There is not one word in either of these bills about direct assistance to the affected workers on whose backs these funds would be generated. Elder and child care are certainly worthy social services, but if a low-wage worker has neither elderly relatives nor young children requiring these programs, how are workers’ lives in any way improved by these bills?

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