He’s a soldier, not an academic. He obviously screwed up – but I think it’s totally unintentional.”– Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) in an interview with Politico

General_John_Walsh uniformAn academic review board will meet next month to consider whether to revoke a Master of Arts degree awarded by the United States Army War College to Montana Senator John Walsh, based on revelations of plagiarism first reported last week by The New York Times.

The college’s provost, Lance Betros acknowledged there is “strong reason,” to believe Walsh plagiarized substantial portions of a 2007 paper required for his graduation. However, Betros also noted that the college has only stripped degrees from eight of its graduates in the past 25 years and only six of those were for plagiarism.

  • The 14-page paper was submitted by the Montana Senator to the U.S. Army War College in 2007, when Colonel John Walsh was 46 years old.
  • Walsh cribbed lengthy passages from several authors, including a whole page from a Harvard paper.
  • The six policy proposals presented were also taken without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document.

Honestly, I’m not outraged. Although I don’t condone plagiarism, I was surprised and mildly flattered that Sen. Walsh had decided to incorporate so much of my paper into his, albeit without citing me once.” – Sean M. Lynn-Jones, research associate at the Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Walsh, who was appointed to the Senate less than six months ago, has leaned heavily on his military service in his campaign to keep his seat on Capitol Hill. Television commercials supporting his candidacy use photographs of the former Lieutenant Governor in uniform — including those of him with a soldier under his command who was injured in combat — and show images from the American war in Iraq.

  • Walsh, a 33-year veteran of the Army National Guard, was appointed to the Senate in February by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
  • The paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” extols the virtues of the Bush Doctrine.
  • After The New York Times’ Johnathan Martin broke the news of Walsh’s plagiarism on Wednesday, the college launched an investigation.

In the immediate aftermath of the scandal, Walsh appeared to blame the incident on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brought on by combat in Iraq and the suicide of one of the men under his command. He later walked back that comment, suggesting that PTSD is not an excuse for passing off someone else’s work as his own, but it may have contributed to his mistake.

I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor.” – Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) in an interview with the Associated Press

The “good news” for Democrats, Slate political reporter David Weigel wrote, is that Walsh was unlikely to win election against his Republican opponent, Congressman Steve Daines – even before the allegations of plagiarism surfaced. The “bad news,” Weigel says, is that “The list of people who have recovered from plagiarism charges in the heat of campaigns is blank.”

  • Colonel Walsh was promoted to Brigadier General in 2008 after getting his master’s degree.
  • The Senator resigned his position as Adjutant General of the Montana National Guard in 2012 to run for Lieutenant Governor.
  • He continued to serve as a traditional guardsman until December 2012, when he retried, after his election.

It’s clear there is indeed strong reason to believe this is plagiarism. We are initiating academic review procedures.” – U.S. Army War College Provost Lance Betros in an interview with The New York Times

Walsh’s fellow Democrats in the Senate were quick to defend him without condoning plagiarism. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told Politico “We’re behind Walsh all the way,” adding that his mistake was unintentional. Likewise, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) acknowledged that Walsh had made a mistake, but placed it in context of the campaign by taking a swipe at Daines, saying “He’s got an opponent who’s made a whole bunch of mistakes on his voting record.”

stop supersizing povertyFast food workers and their supporters staged walkouts and rallies across the country to protest low wages in the multibillion-dollar industry on Thursday. Frontline workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell and others walked off the job in more than 100 cities and rallies were staged in 100 more. Thursday’s protests — which came a day after President Barack Obama said income inequality would be the “defining challenge” of his second term — were the largest against the fast food industry since they began at 20 restaurants in New York City in November 2012.

“We are a better country than this,” Obama said Wednesday, calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage from $7.25. “The basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed.”

In New York’s Foley Square, near City Hall and across the street from a federal court house, hundreds of workers rallied in support of low-wage employees in the fast food industry. Those workers were joined by union members from the United Federation of Teachers, the Hotel Trades Council, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Communication Workers of America and the Teamsters Airline Division

 

According to a study released this week by the Institute for Policy Studies:

  • During the past two years, the CEOs of the top six publicly held fast food chains pocketed more than $183 million in fully deductible “performance pay,” lowering their companies’ IRS bills by an estimated $64 million.
  • YUM! Brands enjoyed the biggest taxpayer subsidy for its CEO pay largesse. This firm, which owns Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut, paid CEO David Novak $94 million in fully deductible “performance pay” over the years 2011 and 2012. That works out to a $33 million taxpayer subsidy to YUM! – just for one executive’s pay.
  • McDonald’s received the second-largest government handout. As CEO in 2011 and the first half of 2012, James Skinner pocketed $31 million in exercised stock options and other fully deductible “performance pay.”
  • Incoming McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson took in $10 million in performance pay in his first six months on the job. Skinner and Thompson’s combined performance pay translates into a $14 million taxpayer subsidy for McDonald’s.

“It’s very difficult to live off $8.07 an hour,” Simon Rojas, 23, who works at a McDonald’s in South Central Los Angeles told The New York Times noting that he is often assigned just 20 or 25 hours of work a week. “I have to live with my parents. I would like to be able to afford a car and an apartment.”

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“If you look back at America 30 years ago, most of your minimum wage workers were teenagers, or they were women who didn’t have to work but actually had some spare time,” Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, told CBS Sunday Morning. “Today, your typical low-wage or even minimum-wage worker is an adult over 25 years old. Twenty-five percent of those low-wage workers have children.”

EPI-low-wage-workers-reality-8-28-2013-2-54-01

The Nation’s Allison Kilkenny, who has covered the fast food protests since workers began striking in New York City in November 2012, spoke to a worker in Milwaukee ahead of today’s strikes.

Mary Coleman, known to her co-workers as Ms. Mary, works at a Popeye’s in Milwaukee for $7.25 an hour. Coleman, 59, lives with her daughter, who has a heart condition, and her two grandchildren. She also relies on food stamps to make ends meet and says she would gladly trade in her Qwest card for higher wages. Thursday marks Mary’s fourth strike. Previously, she walked off the job on May 15, August 1 and August 29.

“I’m tired of working for $7.25,” Coleman says. “I can’t take care of my household, I can’t even take care of myself.”

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According to a study released in October by researchers at the University of California Berkeley Labor Center and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

  • More than half (52 percent) of the families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs, compared to 25 percent of the workforce as a whole.
  • The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry is nearly $7 billion per year.
  • At an average of $3.9 billion per year, spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) accounts for more than half of these costs.
  • Due to low earnings, fast-food workers’ families also receive an annual average of $1.04 billion in food stamp benefits and $1.91 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit payments.
  • People working in fast-food jobs are more likely to live in or near poverty. One in five families with a member holding a fast-food job has an income below the poverty line, and 43 percent have an income two times the federal poverty level or less.
  • Even full-time hours are not enough to compensate for low wages. The families of more than half of the fast-food workers employed 40 or more hours per week are enrolled in public assistance programs.

WALMART

From California to New Jersey, more than 100 protesters were arrested at Black Friday demonstrations against retail giant Walmart this holiday weekend. The protests came just a week after two Ohio Walmarts made the news for having food drives for its employees who couldn’t afford a Thanksgiving dinner on the wages paid by the nation’s largest grocer.

Many observers noted that it was bad enough that the American taxpayer is forced to subsidize Walmart’s profits by paying for its employees to get food stamps, housing benefits and other government assistance: now the corporation is begging its customers to donate food to its low wage workers too?

On Friday protesters called on Walmart, which is poised to rake in $469 billion this year, to raise wages and provide more benefits to its 2.2 million employees. Thousands of demonstrators — which included Walmart workers, their supporters and union organizers — also called on the corporation to stop retaliating against workers who complained or protested. Last month the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that the company had violated its workers’ rights for cracking down on employees who participated in Black Friday protests in 2012.

Even more demonstrators participated in this year’s protests, which also drew more media attention as a result of the food drives and the NLRB decision.

  • 13 protesters were arrested outside a Secaucus, NJ Walmart
  • 20 people were arrested in California’s Bay Area; 15 at a store in Roseville, 5 in San Leandro
  • 13 protesters were led away in handcuffs at a store in Balch Springs, Texas (outside Dallas)
  • 26 people were arrested for protesting outside a Walmart in St. Paul, Minn.
  • 15 protesters each were arrested in Sacramento, Calif. and Seattle, Wash.
  • 10 people were arrested near a Walmart in Ontario, Calif.
  • Arrests were also reported in Washington D.C. and Chicago
  • Union leaders who helped organize the protests told the Associated Press that 110 people were arrested at 1,500 protests nationwide
  • A Walmart spokesman told the AP only 20 of its stores were targeted for protests

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I’m here to tell Wal-Mart corporation to stop bullying the associates, starting giving us a living wage so we can provide for our families,” said Daniel Coles, 50. “Also to stop them from telling people that we make 25k.”Coles told the Los Angeles Times he supports his 75-year-old mother and 54-year-old sister.”I am the only one who is working in my family. I’m the sole provider,” he said. “We [Walmart employees] struggle to make it. Struggle to pay the bills, pay my rent on time, put food on the table.”

Black Friday is a big stage, and we’re one of the biggest players in the retail industry,” David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, wrote in a statement. “We’re not surprised that those trying to change our industry are using this platform to get their message out, and we respect their right to be heard.”

I think we got our message across, and people listened,” Isaiah Beaman, 21, told The Guardian. Beaman is a Walmart worker in Landover, Maryland, who travelled to Alexandria in Virginia to join about 200 protesters there. “All we want is for Walmart to give us a living wage and show us some respect – that’s not too much to ask from a multi-billion dollar company.”

Norma Torres, a Democratic state senator in California who took part in a rally outside a Walmart store in her district of Pomona, told The Guardian that the workers “refuse to live in fear and refuse to accept the scraps which they are being paid. They don’t want a hand-out, they want a decent wage for their hard work.”

We’re here to support Walmart workers, to help them get a living wage for their families, to be able to get days off on the holidays without being fired like everyone else has,” SEIU Local 668 Chairman William Wilson told The Patriot-News. “They were open at 6 p.m. last night when people should be eating their Thanksgiving dinner. Their CEO needs to have respect for the workers who make them millions of dollars.”

I make enough to support my daughter,” Walmart customer service manager Crystal Zerr told The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, “I have a roof over my head, food on the table and I still have enough left over at the end of the month for little extras.”

Those Walmart employees are courageous because they are taking a great risk and they are stepping up and bringing the truth about the plight of millions of workers to the American people,” Bob Herbert, distinguished fellow at Demos in New York told the International Business Times.

We are out in force today,” Dorothy Halverson, a Walmart worker based in Placerville, Calif., told Al Jazeera America. “Our voices are stronger than ever before. I am nervous, but I refuse to live in fear. And we refuse to continue trying to make it on Walmart’s low pay, manipulative scheduling and retaliation.”

A message needs to be sent to the company,” said Robin Edwards, a former Wal-Mart employee who spoke at a protest in suburban Detroit. “We’re standing with the Wal-Mart workers and support them — and we’re here to fight for a higher minimum wage.”

For our part, we want to be absolutely clear about our jobs, the pay and benefits we offer our associates, and the role retail jobs play in the U.S. economy,” David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, wrote in a statement. “Walmart provides wages on the higher end of the retail average with full-time and part-time associates making, on average, close to $12.00 an hour. The majority of our workforce is full-time, and our average full-time hourly pay is $12.81 an hour. We are also proud of the benefits we offer our associates, including affordable health care, performance-based bonuses, education benefits, and access to a 401K.”

Tony Rohr.Pizza Hut.ThanksgivingAfter more than 10 years on the job, a manager at an Indiana Pizza Hut and working-class-hero Tony Rohr, lost his job for refusing to open his store on Thanksgiving. Rohr worked at a store owned by a franchisee, who rehired him after the corporation strongly encouraged them to do so.

I said, ‘Why can’t we be the company that stands up and says we care about our employees, and they can have the day off?’ Rohr told local CBS affiliate WSTB. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days that they’re closed in the whole year, and they’re the only two days that those people are guaranteed to have off and spend it with their families.

The franchise owners didn’t like Rohr’s defiant tone. They told him he could either open the store or write his letter of resignation. He refused, instead writing a letter of protest explaining why he wouldn’t voluntarily resign or comply with an order to open his store on Thanksgiving.

I am not quitting. I do not resign, however I accept that the refusal to comply with this greedy, immoral request means the end of my tenure with this company. I hope you realize that it’s the people at the bottom of the totem pole that make your life possible.

The corporation distanced itself from the franchise owners after Rohr’s story went viral, saying the situation “could and should have been avoided,” adding “We fully respect an employee’s right to not work on a holiday.” Rohr’s story, was picked up by national news outlets after a local news station ran a piece featuring him, prompting Pizza Hut to issue this statement on Thanksgiving morning:

As follow up to the situation in Elkhart, IN, we feel strongly that the situation involving our independent franchisee and the local store manager could and should have been avoided. We fully respect an employee’s right to not work on a holiday, which is why the vast majority of Pizza Huts in America are closed on Thanksgiving. As a result, we strongly recommended that the local franchisee reinstate the store manager and they have agreed. We look forward to them welcoming Tony back to the team.

ronald mcdonald makes baby cryMcDonald’s – which rakes in billions of dollars in profits each year and notoriously pays its 700,000 workers poverty wages — is offering employees some advice for staying afloat, since the corporation can’t afford to raise their pay.

Before you watch the video below, see if you can guess which one of these callous suggestions the fast-food juggernaut did NOT offer its employees as helpful tips for surviving on minimum wage:

  • Are you stressed out from working two or three fast-food jobs and still not earning enough to feed, clothe and care for your family? Try taking two vacations each year. Taking time off work reduces stress and improves heart health.
  • Oh, wait… You can’t really afford to take time off work because you’re a wage slave. Have you tried singing? That can help take the edge off.
  • We know you can’t make ends meet. Hell, that’s our fault. But have you considered selling some of your possessions on Craigslist or eBay?
  • What’s that? You’ve already sold everything except the clothes on your back and the fillings in your teeth? I guess if you want those luxuries, there’s only one thing left to say: Quit complaining. Griping about your lot in life doesn’t improve anything, it only adds to your stress level.

Hey! You cheated. You already watched the video, so you know that these unbelievably out-of-touch suggestions all come straight from a McDonald’s Web site.

Aaron AlbrightAaron Albright, Communications Director for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has been tapped by the Obama administration as the new spokesman for HeatlhCare.gov.

Albright has a degree in journalism from The George Washington University.

The Indiana native also has questionable taste in film.

And cuisine.

HealthCare.gov gets new spokesman – POLITICO.com.

spn_exposed_mapThe Center for Media and Democracy did a press call this week about its investigation into The State Policy Network. “What we uncovered through our investigation is that SPN along with its affiliates amount to $83 million just flooding into the states to push and promote this agenda …,” CMD director Lisa Graves told reporters on a Wednesday call. “And that money is on the rise.”

Josh Eidelson at Salon gave a nice summary of the CMD report.

budget

In a bid to avoid a possible government shutdown, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on a budget bill that leaves funding in place for the nation’s new healthcare law.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted on a budget last week that stripped funding from the program, which establishes insurance exchanges that allow individuals to purchase group health plans without going through their employer or union. Those exchanges are set to open Tuesday, the first day of the 2014 Fiscal Year. Individuals will have until March of 2014, to get health insurance either on their own, through their employer or union, or from one of the marketplaces set up by the law — or pay a fine.

The Senate, which is dominated by Democrats, won’t pass a budget without it. And of course, President Barack Obama isn’t going to sign a bill that guts funding for his signature health care law, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”

Congressional Republicans are bluffing. They’ve taken the economy hostage and they’re threatening to shoot it in the head unless Democrats agree to defund The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — the bulk of which is set to roll out Tuesday, at the start of the new fiscal year.

On the one hand, the Tea Party wing of the GOP wants us to believe that their opposition to “Obamacare” is so strong that they’re willing to pull the trigger — they’ll let the government shutdown for lack of a budget and they’ll wreck the economy further by not raising the debt ceiling, causing the government to default on debts Congress has already racked up. Never mind that neither one of those disastrous decisions would have the desired effect of putting a stop to the new healthcare law.

That’s their stated goal. And they know shutting down the government and defaulting on its debts won’t get them any closer to it.

This week, the futility of Tea Party resistance to Obamacare was symbolized by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) On Tuesday, Cruz took the floor for a sort of filibuster against the law.

He can’t technically claim that title for his opposition — even though it lasted more than 21-hours — because the law passed in 2010 before Cruz was even a Senator and his long-winded speech was ended at noon on Wednesday by Senate rules. But most importantly, Cruz’ diatribe on Duck Dynasty, Dr. Seuss and Darth Vader wasn’t really a filibuster because when it came down to it, he joined all 99 other Senators by voting to move ahead with debate on a bill that left funding for Obamacare intact.

Like all hostage takers, Cruz and his ilk are desperate and craven. Neither he nor his Tea Party bretheren were in Congress when the Affordable Care Act was passed, but that won’t keep them from trying to put the kibosh on it any way they can dream of.

Congress Dome

Members of Congress who would kill Obamacare won’t stop short of gumming up the budget process and causing a government shutdown if a bill doesn’t pass by Monday at midnight. And if that doesn’t do it, they’ll stand in the way of raising the debt ceiling, causing the government to stop paying its bills.

Or so they would have us believe. But like I said, they’re bluffing. And now the White House is calling that bluff. All along, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), has said nobody in his party wants the government to shut down. He’s not willing to to drive the country off the fiscal cliff, he says, but Boehner’s talk doesn’t match up with what members of his party in both houses of Congress are saying and doing. They’ll be in Washington all weekend “negotiating” a budget deal. But so far, President Obama has rejected all of their alternatives, insisting on a “clean budget bill” that leaves funding for Obamacare intact.

Boehner says the House won’t go for that. He floated the idea of a continuing resolution that would delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act and allow the government to continue operations. Obama rejected it. The President has also said that he won’t negotiate on raising the debt ceiling, which needs to be done by mid-October to ensure the government can continue to pay its bills.

McDonald’s To Test ‘Dollar Menu And More’ Menu.

Does anyone else think this might be a threat aimed at the consumer? Is McDonald’s trying to say, “If public pressure forces us to voluntarily raise wages for our employees, we’re going to make the public pay for it”? Is it posturing for Congressional Democrats, as in, “If the government increases the minimum wage we’re going to make the public pay for it”?

A protester in Chicago held up this sign outside a McDonald's on August 29, 2013. Fast food workers in 60 U.S. cities went on strike that day calling on the industry to raise worker pay.

A protester in Chicago held up this sign outside a McDonald’s on August 29, 2013. Fast food workers in 60 U.S. cities went on strike that day calling on the industry to raise worker pay.

Maybe this has been in the works for a long time, but it seems threatening to raise prices, and the recent release of the “McBudget” are part of a timely strategy aimed at putting down worker protests and public support for striking workers.

An industry analyst told Bloomberg, that it has to do with the price of beef and other ingredients increasing, and from more competition in the fast food market:

“It just sounds like they’ll be raising prices,” Peter Saleh, a New York-based analyst at Telsey Advisory Group, said in an interview. The industry’s “definition of value has moved up from the Dollar Menu to $1.50 or $2.”

Restaurants including McDonald’s have faced higher beef prices after a drought last year made it more expensive for farmers to feed cattle.

“You can’t sell a burger for $1 anymore because the cost of beef has gone up so much,” Saleh said.

Introduced in 2002, the Dollar Menu features 13 items, including hash browns, coffee, McChicken sandwiches and side salads, according to the company’s website. McDonald’s last year introduced a mid-tier priced menu in U.S. stores, raising prices for small French fries and drinks.

The McBudget, in case you haven’t heard, is a financial management strategy McDonald’s proposed to its employees in July. The best suggestion for making ends meet on a McDonald’s paycheck offered by the McBudget is simple: Get another job.

Leonard Pitts took the company to task for that, and other “insulting suggestions,” in a column in the San Jose Mercury News:

McDonald's Workers StrikeThe most vexing thing about that budget is its condescension. Take it from this welfare mother’s son: If there’s one thing poor people do not need, it is lessons in how to be poor. To the contrary, you will never meet anyone who can wring more value from a dollar.

We’re talking every trick of layaway and 2-day-old bread, coupon clipping and off-brand buying, Goodwill shopping, Peter robbing, Paul paying and plain old going without. You ever hear of a jam sandwich? That’s when you jam two pieces of bread together and call it lunch. Heck, if you handed the federal budget over to a couple of welfare mothers, we’d be in surplus by December.

However they got into poverty they all need — and deserve — the same things: a way to work their way out and to be accorded a little dignity while they do so. The former comes with paying a living wage, the latter by treating people with respect and not presuming to teach them what they could teach you. McDonald’s fails on both counts.

The McBudget is a McInsult.