Government, what would we do without it?  (Oh, maybe actually hold people accountable.)

(Source: upworthy)


Sixty troops have been fired as sexual assault counselors, recruiters or drill instructors after the military investigators found they had committed violations ranging from alcohol-related offenses to child abuse and sexual assault, USA TODAY has learned.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered that the records of recruiters and sexual assault counselors be examined on May 17. That action came in light of the Pentagon’s report in May that estimated 26,000 troops had been sexually assaulted in 2012, a 35% increase since 2010, with offenses ranging from groping to rape. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called sexual assault in the military a crisis.

The records of at least 35,000 troops have been screened or are under review, according to the services.

Each of the services appears to have interpreted Hagel’s directive differently. The Marines screened recruiters, for example, against a public database, while the Army considered criminal records for sexual assault, child abuse and alcohol-related offenses.

The Army has suspended 55 soldiers, according to figures compiled through mid-July, said George Wright, an Army spokesman. In all, it is looking at 20,000 recruiters, sexual-assault counselors and drill instructors and expects to have completed its screening by Oct. 1. More suspensions could occur as the review continues.

It is unclear whether the suspended soldiers have been discharged, Wright said, or if they can be reassigned to other units.

"We only want the very best to be in these positions of special trust," Wright said. “The steps we are taking are in keeping with our commitment to maintaining the special bonds of trust and confidence between the leader and his or her soldiers."

The Navy disqualified three of 5,125 recruiters it reviewed, and two of 4,739 counselors. It reviewed records of 869 recruit instructors; none of them was disqualified.

"We are committed to this process and routinely screen personnel for any conduct that could warrant decertification," said Tammy O’Rourke, the Navy’s sexual assault prevention and response program manager.

The Air Force reported no airmen were disqualified but did not report an overall number. The Marines screened its recruiters against the National Sex Offenders Public website, according to a memo, and found no matches. About 6,000 Marine recruiters were screened.

Several high-profile sex scandals have rocked the military this year. The Air Force relieved the lieutenant colonel in charge of its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office following his arrest in May after police said he drunkenly groped a woman outside a bar not far from the Pentagon.

Also in May: The Army announced that it was investigating a sergeant in charge of a battalion’s sexual assault prevention program at Fort Hood for suspicion of sexual assault. He is suspected of running a small-scale prostitution ring there, according to sources briefed on the case.

Congress summoned the service chiefs to Capitol Hill to explain their response to sexual assault, and a number of measures to address the issue could become law. Among them is a proposal to enhance oversight of commanders who make decisions about prosecution and discipline in sex crimes.

(Source: thepoliticalfreakshow)


The New York State attorney general is investigating widespread practices of wage theft and other pay violations by fast food companies in the New York City. The investigation was announced as a new report released today reveals that the vast majority of New York City fast food workers say they work for below the minimum wage, don’t get paid for overtime hours or are never reimbursed for work expenses like gas for deliveries.

The investigation comes amid a wave of fast food strikes in five cities around the country. Workers in these cities are demanding raises to $15 an hour and the right to unionize.

According to the report commissioned by the group Fast Food Forward, which organized two strikes in New York since November, 84 percent of the 500 McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Papa John’s workers in the poll report wage theft of some kind. Nearly half of workers interviewed in the poll said they experienced at least three instances of wage theft. The report, which was conducted by the polling firm Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, found that 100 percent of fast food bike and car delivery workers were subjected to wage violations, including not being reimbursed for delivery costs.

Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, issued subpoenas to several fast food franchises in New York and at least one parent company, for precisely these violations. A spokesperson for the attorney general, Damien LaVera, would not say which companies were under investigation.

In a statement LaVera said, “The findings in this report are deeply troubling and shed light on potentially broad labor violations by the fast food industry which employs thousands of New Yorkers.”

“We take the allegations seriously, which is why our office is investigating fast food franchisees,” LaVera added. “New Yorkers expect companies doing business in our state to follow laws set up to protect working families.”

The fast food workforce in New York is overwhelmingly people of color. Organizers with the group say nearly every worker who went on strike was black or Latino. Last month, three of these workers from a Brooklyn Wendy’s told me their checks regularly bounced. Shalema Simpson, a 24-year-old mother of a three-year-old girl, said, “I’ve worked at McDonalds, Hale and Hearty, Shake Shack and they are all bad but right now this is the worst establishment. Sometimes our checks bounce.”

Two other workers from the same restaurant said their checks also bounced.

A Wendy’s spokesperson told CNN that the company was unaware of bounced checks at its franchises.

Fast Food Forward has organized two worker strikes to call attention to abuses by the fast food industry and demand higher wages and union rights. Similar strikes emerged in four other cities since the initial New York walk-out late last year. Earlier this week, fast food and retail workers went on strike in Milwaukee.


Last year, we told you about how former Lockheed Martin executive Ann Sauer had been hired to be the top Republican staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sauer got $1.6 million from Lockheed, including a buyout, before being hired by Sen. John McCain to come back to Capitol Hill, where she had previously worked as a staffer. Watchdogs cried foul.

With McCain stepping down as ranking member of the committee, Sauer left the job on the Armed Services Committee earlier this year and now works as a federal budget expert for hire.

Her replacement? Another former Hill staffer who went to work with large military contractors — including Lockheed.  

John Bonsell, the new staff director for the Republicans on the committee, spent five years as a lobbyist for military contractors such as Boeing, GE Aviation, BAE Systems, and SAIC. He made $276,400 in 2011, his final year as a lobbyist, a disclosure form shows. Bonsell did not respond to our requests for comment.

Bonsell takes the Armed Services Committee job at an especially fraught time for military contractors: the industry has been fighting — so far unsuccessfully — budget cuts that kicked in under sequestration last month.

Before working as a lobbyist, Bonsell had a two-decade career in the Army including a stint as chief of concepts and doctrine on the Army staff at the Pentagon. After that, he became a legislative assistant to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., in 2001.

In 2007, he joined Robison International, a lobby shop focusing on military issues that is led by a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs named Randall West.

After five years as a lobbyist, Bonsell rejoined Inhofe’s staff in 2012 as legislative director. Earlier this year, when Inhofe took over from McCain as ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, he hired Bonsell to be staff director.

Asked if Bonsell’s previous role as a lobbyist for industry players presents any conflict, Inhofe spokeswoman Donelle Harder said the senator views that work as a plus.

“Due to his 20 plus years of service in the U.S. Army and his post-retirement career, Sen. Inhofe finds John Bonsell uniquely qualified to understand the perspective of both the government and the private sector as the committee works to address unprecedented challenges with the future of our national defense,” she wrote in an email.  

Inhofe has said that his top priority is to avoid military budget cuts.


The same massacres happened to the Indians 100 years ago. Germ warfare was used then. The put smallpox in the Indians’ blankets…
I got to know the Vietnamese people and I learned they were just like us… What we are doing is destroying ourselves and the world.

I have grown up with racism all my life. When I was a child, watching cowboys and Indians on TV, I would root for the cavalry, not the Indians. It was that bad. I was that far toward my own destruction…

Though 50 percent of the children at the country school I attended in Oklahoma were Indians, nothing in school, on television, or on the radio taught anything about Indian culture. There were no books on Indian history, not even in the library…

But I knew something was wrong. I started reading and learning my own culture…

I saw the Indian people at their happiest when they went to Alcatraz or to Washington to defend their fishing rights. They at last felt like human beings.


— Oklahoma Indian and Vietnam veteran Evan Haney testifying at the Winter Soldier Investigations in Detroit, 1971, from Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” (via earthisalie)


It was no surprise that North Carolina Republican state lawmakers would be introducing voter ID legislation this year, after a Republican governor was elected in November. But they attempted a head fake last month by suggesting they would take a tempered, “slow-walk“-ed approach to fashioning voter ID legislation. Instead, state Republicans in the House and Senate unleashed one of the most extreme voter restriction packages in the nation.

Despite no inkling of voter fraud in the state, Republicans introduced the following bills this week:

  • HB 451 and SB 428: Cut a full week from the early voting period.
  • HB 451 and SB 428: Repeal same-day voter registration during the early voting period.
  • HB 451: Bans all early voting on Sundays.
  • SB 666: Prohibits the child dependency tax deduction ($2,500) for parents if their child registers to vote at a different address, such as the town or city where they attend school.
  • SB 666: Allows poll observers to move about more freely in the polling place, which creates more opportunities to intimidate poll workers and voters.
  • SB 721: Requires strict government-issued photo ID to vote.
  • SB 721: Enforces a 5-year waiting period, after a person convicted of a felony has served their time, before they can get their voting rights back (having their rights restored must also be approved unanimously by their county board of elections).
  • SB 668: Amends the state constitution to disqualify voters deemed “mentally incompetent.”

The call for erasing Sunday early voting—a direct attack on African-American led “Souls to the Polls” get-out-the-vote campaigns—comes despite the fact that courts invalidated similar laws in Ohio and Florida last year. If the SB 721 felony disenfranchisement bill passes, it would make it harder for the formerly incarcerated to vote at a time when other conservative governors, like Virginia, are advocating to restore voting rights for those with felonies.

According to The Advancement Project, the proposed laws are most shocking given North Carolina’s voting record. Between 2004 and 2008, the state had the largest increase in voting in the nation. In 2012, North Carolina ranked 11th among all states in voter turnout. More than half of North Carolinians who voted in 2012 used early voting—including 70 percent of the state’s African-American voters. African Americans in North Carolina also used Sunday voting twice as much as white voters.

Over at Facing South, Chris Komm reports that these bills all come courtesy of Republican state law-makers financed by conservative mega-donor Art Pope, who is to North Carolina’s GOP team what Mark Cuban is to the Dallas Mavericks. Writes Kromm:

Pope has also played a central role in North Carolina’s voting wars as the chief benefactor behind an array of policy groups that have been the leading advocates for sweeping changes to state election laws.

The John W. Pope Civitas Institute, which receives more than 90 percent of its funding from Pope’s family foundation, has been the state’s leading policy advocate for voter ID restrictions and dismantling the state’s clean elections programs.

Americans for Prosperity and the John Locke Foundation have also targeted the judicial and Council of State public financing programs, castigating them as “welfare for politicians.”

From his perch as Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget director, Pope himself unveiled a budget last month that specifically targeted the judicial public financing program, as well as the tax check-off for political parties, for elimination.

This comes the same week that Arkansas passed a strict voter ID bill.


Two Swedish members of Parliament are warning that the government must continue to sterilize transgender people or risk the advent of a “third gender” or “third sex” of humans.

The Local reported on Tuesday that two Christian Democrat MPs had offered a counter proposal to a government plan to remove requirements that transgender people must be sterilized before undergoing gender reassignment procedures.

“The [government] proposal would have far-reaching consequences,” conservative MPs Tuve Skånberg and Annelie Enochson wrote in an op-ed for the Christian newspaper Dagen. “The key consequence being that Sweden would introduce the possibility of creating a third gender, called ‘person’ in the law books – men who give birth.”

The Local noted that the current sterilization law was effectively unenforceable after a Stockholm administrative court ruled in December that the practice violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

And “patients who move on from the psychological evaluation and hormone therapy to undergoing gender reassignment surgery have faced de facto sterilization as their ovaries or testicles were removed in addition to the outer genitalia being taken away and, as far as possible, re-sculpted,” the report said.

But there are also a small number of Swedes who have chosen to keep their ability to reproduce after gender reassignment.

Earlier this year, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) pledged to file a complaint on behalf of transgender Swedes who are demanding the government pay damages for the forced sterilizations.

(Source: govtoversight)

"Everyone across the political spectrum believes there is a legitimate role for the federal government in national security and defense: There is almost no other issue where such wide consensus exists. Ironically, this consensus has resulted in our national security budget being among the most bloated and unaccountable."

-Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

See the full piece for 5 principles, with specific examples, that we can use to cut federal spending by reducing the Pentagon’s budget.

(via govtoversight)

(via govtoversight)