Monday, February 6, 2012

Off-Shoring America's Hi-Tech Jobs

by Mark Karlin, Editor Of Buzzflash At Truthout

A short time ago, BuzzFlash at Truthout ran a commentary on how US global corporations don't give a hoot about increasing jobs in America.

In it, we included a section about how Silicon Valley high-tech companies, particularly Apple, use overseas contractors to manufacture their latest technological consumer products. It has been documented that some of these contractors create such harsh conditions and pay such low wages that workers have been driven to suicide, as The New York Times and other publications have detailed.

In a two-part Times expose, an Apple executive claimed: "We [Apple] don't have an obligation to solve America's problems." That was in response to Apple shipping so many potential US jobs overseas to these slave-wage sweatshops; e.g., "90 percent of the parts of an iPhone are made outside the U.S."

But there's another insidious way that the high-tech industry denies jobs to US citizens. It's called the H-1B visa, which allows America's technological firms - and other specialized employers - to bring in foreign employees, frequently at a lower wage package than might be paid to an individual with the same qualifications who is an American citizen. There are many arguments against the program, primarily the allegation that there is generally no actual shortage of US citizens with high-tech skills for the work done by H-1B visa holders.

President Obama appeared blindsided by a question on a Google Plus interactive town hall the other day from a woman whose husband had been laid off by Texas Instruments:

Jennifer Wedel was the second to question Obama, and the four-minute exchange was among the most memorable of the 50-minute online event.

"My question to you is to why does the government continue to issue and extend H-1B visas when there are tons of Americans just like my husband with no job?" she asked.

Obama offered that industry leaders have told him that there aren't enough of certain kinds of high-tech engineers in America to meet their needs. Jennifer Wedel interrupted him to explain that that answer didn't match what her husband is seeing out in the real world.

"Jennifer, can I ask what kind of engineer your husband is?"

"He's a semiconductor engineer," she told the president, who seemed genuinely surprised.

"If you send me your husband's resume, I'd be interested in finding out exactly what's happening right there," he told her. "The word we're getting is somebody in that high-tech field, that kind of engineer, should be able to find something right away. And the H-1B should be reserved only for those companies who say they cannot find somebody in that particular field."

Of course, the high-tech companies are telling the White House and Congress that they can't find US citizens for the H-1B jobs, but many critics argue that many high-tech companies hire H-1B workers without even offering the positions to Americans. On top of that, after the H-1B workers are sent back to their native nations, there are reports that they are rehired by US companies abroad to start offshore high-tech offices that move more US jobs overseas. In short, the H-1B visa could be seen as an outsourcing training program at the expense of highly skilled US professionals.

It was nice of the president of the United States to offer his personal job placement services to Jennifer Wedel's husband, but it's a bit disturbing that the White House appears to have fallen for the Silicon Valley canard.

When it comes to the H-1B visa, it's the same old story: follow the profits.

Keep Politics Out Of Women’s Health?

RH Reality Check by TrustingWomen

In the extraordinary amount of activity surrounding the Komen’s foundation decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood for mammograms, you have probably heard something along the lines of “keep politics out of women’s health.” Komen was frequently criticized for making a politically-motivated move.

Of course it was a politically-motivated move. My question to us all: is it not also a political move to restore the funding? Is not funding mammograms for poor women inherently a political act?

You see, I believe that the personal is always political. I believe that all of our acts are rooted in our values and deepest held beliefs about good and bad, right and wrong. It’s impossible not to be ‘political.’ What you do as a human being on this earth inevitably makes a claim on what you believe and what you believe is good and right, and what you believe is harmful and wrong. ...

... You see, it’s impossible NOT to have religious or spiritual beliefs (humanism and atheism included) affect decisions, whether you are a toll-booth operator or a politician in office. Perhaps this is why Obama said his Christian faith guided his policy decisions.

Furthermore, statements about keeping religion out of women’s health seems to assume that all religion is antagonistic to women’s health. But what if my values, morals, even my religion is exactly what commands me to support contraception, mammograms, and accessible abortion, particularly for those impoverished and marginalized? Once again, the Left implicitly cedes the ground of ethics, morality, religion and spirituality to conservatives.

I get so frustrated as I routinely see Liberals and Lefties clutch onto the crumbling modern tenets of the secular vs. the religious. ...

... The Left will not achieve it’s goals by making dated and problematic arguments regarding secular and the religious, or by arguing for keeping “politics” out of women’s health. We will not achieve our goals by arguing that we are somehow universally right. We will win by arguing that our policy proposals are most effective at minimizing unnecessary suffering in this world.

Women’s health is inherently political. And dare I say, women’s health is inherently religious.

Read the full article @ RH Reality Check

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Attorney General Eric Holder: Justice Department Can’t Do It Alone On Voter Rights

On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at Tulane Law School. He noted the Justice Department can’t do it alone:

"But the Justice Department can’t do it alone.

For every citizen, protecting the right to vote, ensuring meaningful access, and combating discrimination must be viewed, not only as a legal issue – but as a moral imperative. And every citizen, in every state, must be part of this work.

You have the ability – and the responsibility – to help ensure that our election systems are free from fraud, discrimination, and partisan influence. And, no matter where you live, you can support – and call for – policies aimed at modernizing our voting systems; at making certain that all eligible citizens have access to complete, accurate, and understandable information about where, when, and how they can cast a ballot; and at preventing and punishing fraudulent voting practices. Let me reiterate that last point. Although we know that in-person voter fraud is uncommon, any instance of it is unacceptable – and will not be tolerated by this Justice Department.

As someone who began his career investigating and prosecuting voting-fraud cases, for me, this is a personal priority. But let me be very clear: new state rules requiring photo identification to cast a vote too often appear to make a mockery of the promise of real participation in our electoral system. We will be ever vigilant if these laws disproportionately negatively impact the young, people of color, and seniors because that is not acceptable, not in keeping with who we say we are as a nation. Where this Department of Justice finds these rules to be violative of the federal law we will, as we have, act aggressively and oppose such laws."

Prepared text of Attorney General Eric Holder's Speech
Tulane University Law School, New Orleans ~ Friday, February 3, 2012

Republicans Unhappy With Good Employment News

This week, the nation got some very encouraging news about our economy. For the 23rd consecutive month, the number of new American jobs has continued to grow. January saw an additional 257,000 private-sector jobs, bringing us to nearly 3.7 million cumulative private-sector jobs under this administration.

This is positive news, and it's a sign that the job-creation policies that President Obama and Democrats in Congress have fought for and implemented — despite near-universal Republican obstruction — are working.

When the Republican's won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2010 mid-term elections, they decided that a stalled American economy would be just the thing to ensure Pres. Obama's re-election defeat in 2012.

It is not surprising then that the Republican reaction to the better-than-expected job news Friday and the fact that unemployment had dropped for the 5th month in a row was hardly an occasion for celebration. Some of the GOP reaction:

Romney's Housing Plan: You're On Your Own

As Mitt Romney campaigns in Nevada, a state hit hard by the housing crisis, he has yet to offer a single proposal to lend a hand to America’s struggling homeowners, make it easier for them to refinance their homes, or help them avoid foreclosure. Or, as Rep. Jan Schakowsky put it in a call slamming Romney's housing policies (or lack thereof) today: "He hasn’t offered any ideas to help these families recover their piece of the American dream and the dignity that comes with having a home to raise a family in."

Instead, he believes the foreclosure process should just "run its course and hit the bottom." In other words, Romney would let homeowners lose their homes and let the banks make a quick buck from the wreckage of American middle-class families. And he had the gall to tell underwater Florida homeowners that the banks are "feeling the same thing" they are.

If you’re a homeowner in this country trying to make ends meet, Romney has four simple words for you: You’re on your own.

Banks, on the other hand…

Planned Parenthood Saved Me: Women Tell Their Stories

Social media and tech guru Deanna Zandt created a tumblr this week at which women are telling their stories about how Planned Parenthood saved their lives through early cancer detection and other means.

This is but one of many stories that are being told on the site:

When I was 21, just out of college, I had a wonderful job that, unfortunately, didn’t provide me with health insurance. I had never before considered Planned Parenthood for gynecological services because I had always been insured under my parents. Now, I had no other options for routine care. I made peanuts, and couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit.

During my visit to the PP in Richmond Va., I was shocked when the nurse practitioner discovered a breast lump. She told me it was probably harmless, but that I would need to follow up with a doctor. I realized the long-term implications of this. So, I got a new job, with health insurance, got a doctor, got a sonogram, and got surgery. I would never have discovered what was hiding just beneath the surface of my skin if I hadn’t been able to access inexpensive health care services provided by Planned Parenthood.

I’m incredibly lucky that I’m 100% healthy. I know that many many other men and women are out there right now, with no access to the nurses, doctors and tests that could catch this cancer early.

Planned Parenthood doesn’t care about how much money you make, where you grew up, how much education you had, or what you look like. They will treat you the same as everyone else.

I will always be grateful for the services they provide, and will show my support with my donations.

Go here to read the rest and, if you have a story, enter your own.

Indiana Election Chief Found Guilty Of Voter Fraud

Indiana’s Republican Secretary of State Charlie White could lose his freedom after jurors convicted him of multiple voter fraud-related charges on Saturday, leaving in flux the fate of one of the state’s most powerful positions. According AP and Politico, a Hamilton County jury found White, Indiana's top elections official, guilty of six of seven felony charges, including false voter registration, voting in another precinct, submitting a false ballot, theft and two counts of perjury.

Indiana was the first state to implement a strict photo ID requirement at the polls, where only narrow forms of government-issued photographic identification are acceptable to vote. The law is narrowly focused on in-person voting voter impersonation fraud. Texas passed nearly identical photo ID legislation (Senate Bill 14) in 2011.

Jobsanger: Komen - It's A Matter Of Trust Now

The Democratic Blog News joins with Jobsanger blog in expressing our disappointment in the Komen Foundation. While we are happy the Komen Foundation eventually made the right the decision to continue its funding grant to Planned Parenthood, our trust in Komen's leadership has been shaken.

From Jobsanger blog:

Yesterday I joined many other bloggers, individuals, and organizations in condemning the Komen Foundation for their putting right-wing ideology over the early detection of breast cancer among poor women -- a mean-spirited move that could have cost the lives of some women. They did this by cutting off funds for the breast cancer screening program of Planned Parenthood.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Republican Party of Texas Doubtful On Unified April Primary Election

Echoing an advisory from Texas Democratic Party chair earlier this week, the Republican Party of Texas chair has today issued an advisory to party members cautioning that it may not be possible to have an unified April 3 - or even April 17 - primary. The advisory said in part:

"The schedule put forth by the court today does not lend itself to an April 3rd unified primary date," the release said. "While it is still theoretically possible to have an April 17th primary date (if the court issues a very quick decision after the February 15th hearing and immediately drew new maps), in all likelihood, this new schedule means that a new single unified primary date could not be held until at least April 24th."

Texas county election officials have already informed the San Antonio court that they are unable to accommodate an April primary after April 17 because they must begin programming and testing voting equipment for municipal elections. Early voting for municipal elections is scheduled to begin on April 30.

While it is still theoretically possible (barely) to have a unified primary on April 17, if the San Antonio court issues new interim districts maps by about Feb 17th and a few other things quickly line up, all parties have all but lost hope in that outcome.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Coming Bitter And Divisive Super-PAC Driven Anti-Obama Media Tactics

The Democratic Strategist

The Republican primary campaign has provided a foretaste of the bitter and divisive super-PAC driven media tactics that will be used against Obama in the fall. The fundamental and inescapable fact is that Democrats will be on the receiving end of a propaganda campaign of a scope and ferocity unparalleled in American history. Democrats must begin planning now how they will respond.

The attack will be three pronged:

First, there will be a "high road" attack directly sponsored by the Republican presidential candidate - now almost certainly Romney - and the RNC. It will be based on sanctimoniously accusing Obama of having "failed" -- that he has not fulfilled his campaign promises and that his policies have proved ineffective.

Second, is a feverish invocation of the culture war narrative -- one that will far excel Sarah Palin's sneering and divisive "we're the real, the good America; they are the degenerate coastal elites" framework that she used in the 2008 campaign. The ads - which will come from Super-PAC's more than official sources -- will be ugly and distasteful: they will portray Obama as deeply "un-American" - foreign and alien to the heartland values and daily life of the "real" America. Romney and the Republicans have already made this the centerpiece of their "hardball" attack.

Third, is a flagrantly dishonest and utterly propagandistic "low road" attack - one that will be conducted both above and below the radar. The below the radar attack will be the most important and destructive change in 2012 will be in the vastly expanded online networking dissemination of anti-Obama propaganda person to person through social media, e-mail lists, discussion boards, and comments by trolls across the spectrum of online media publications, in addition to traditional robo calling and snail mail circulars.

In 2008 the low road attack on Obama was conducted largely outside the official candidate and Republican party media or the major PAC'-s (one clumsy ad by the McCain campaign that attempted to make a "dog-whistle" suggestion that Obama was the anti-Christ was a notable exception). Most of the 2008 low road attacks circulated under the radar - through distribution to informal e-mail lists and comment threads, through micro-targeted direct mail, through robo-calls and through phone banks run by shadowy outside firms. Within these closed communication channels the claims were widely circulated that Obama was a secret Muslim, a radical/communist, a sympathizer with domestic terrorist bombers, and that he was behind a range of "Birtherist" and other conspiracies.

It may seem premature to predict an attack of this extraordinarily grotesque character but there are two reasons why a massive "low-road" campaign of this kind is quite literally inevitable.

Continue reading the full article @ The Democratic Strategist