May 11, 2015


The new debtors prisons: Pennsylvania mother dies while jailed for truancy fines. If you thought debtors prison was something straight out of Charles Dickens—and something long ago left behind us—think again. Debtors prison is becoming very much a part of the American prison-industrial complex, and on Saturday, a Pennsylvania mother of seven died there: Eileen DiNino, 55, of Reading, was found dead in a jail cell Saturday, halfway through a 48-hour sentence that would have erased about $2,000 in fines and court costs. The debt had accrued since 1999, and involved several of her seven children, most recently her boys at a vocational high school….. While dying in jail over truancy fees may be rare, going to jail over truancy fees is all too common, and it disproportionately hits women.  Daily Kos

Keep America’s public lands in public hands. Polls consistently show that Americans care about public lands and the environment and nowhere is that more true than in the very states where some state and federal lawmakers are targeting our outdoor heritage. A recent bipartisan survey by Colorado College shows that 96 percent of the voters in six Western states said protecting public lands for future generations is a priority and favor ensuring access to those lands for recreation. Despite this strong public support, state legislatures throughout the Rocky Mountain West have spent the last several weeks and taxpayers’ money debating proposals that would harm wildlife, our public lands, and the local economies that depend on hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation, and tourism. The Hill (blog)

DeGroot: Federal land transfer: The downside of local control. . . History strongly suggests that state and local control would result in more self-serving land management decisions. Profitable activities like oil and gas drilling, timber harvest and cattle grazing would likely proliferate at the expensive of less profitable activities such as recreation.mIn addition to the increased for-profit activities, land sales would likely spike. Many transfer proponents assert that privatization is not their main goal. They ask the public to “trust” them on this. History portends a different outcome. For example, the State of Nevada has sold almost all of the 2.7 million acres of state lands it was granted at statehood. Also, most public land in the eastern United States has been sold. With many state and local governments under pressure to produce additional revenue, it is hard to “trust” that significant acreage would not be privatized.mWith the combination of more for-profit activities and an unstoppable trend toward privatization, recreational opportunities for millions of Americans would be lost forever. Casper Star-Tribune Online

The Financial Road to Ruin. . . The Colorado toll road is of particular importance. The 50 year contract, covering 18 miles, was approved by the Senate on 20 February 2014. Under the terms of the contract, the Colorado Senators and Representatives were not allowed to read the contract prior to signing, or to amend or vote on the contract. Goldman Sachs is not spending a dime funding the project, instead the $552 million is pocketed from tax payer dollars, while the company will secretly profit from hiked up toll charges. The challenges are monumental but futile unless there is a political will, to stand against corporations buying their way out of justice. CounterPunch

Letting deadly bosses off the hook. . . They’ve launched a new coalition — the so-called “Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation” — to gut our nation’s workers compensation program by allowing companies to opt out of it. . . . Workers comp insurance is a social contract between injured employees, who give up the right to sue their companies for negligence, and employers, who pay for insurance to cover a basic level of medical benefits and wages for those harmed on the job. Administered by state governments, benefits vary, and they usually fall far short of meeting the full needs of the injured people. But the program has at least provided a measure of help to assuage the suffering of millions. But even that’s too much for these avaricious, multibillion-dollar corporations. Why pay for insuring employees when it’s much cheaper to buy state legislators who are willing to privatize workers’ comp? This lets corporations write their own rules of compensation to slash benefits and cut safety costs — and earn thieving CEOs bigger bonuses. The Star Democrat

TX: Texas toll roads could be a thing of the past. Rep. Joe Pickett has introduced a bill that would begin the elimination process of toll roads in Texas. Pickett said that the reason the bill is important is because there have been toll roads popping up all over the state. “The purpose is to end the toll lanes and the number could be quite, quite large but we’ve never gone through the process so it hasn’t been looked at as to what the possibilities are going into the future,” Pickett said. Pickett said drivers are experiencing “toll road fatigue” and he believes it is time to go back to the pay-as-you-go The Cesar Chavez toll road opened its lanes in January of last year and it was billed as the quicker commute. KFOX El Paso

TX: Arlington, Texas Voters Dump Cameras And Pro-Camera Mayor. Anti-camera activistsVoters in Arlington, Texas took matters in their own hands Saturday and outlawed the use of red light cameras. The ballot proposition terminating the city’s photo ticketing program was adopted with 60 percent of the vote. By nearly the same margin, voters also ejected pro-camera Mayor Robert Cluck in favor of Jeff Williams, a staunch opponent of automated ticketing machines. . . . American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the private company in charge of the photo ticketing program, had done everything in its power in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to sway the public into accepting cameras. Through a series of front groups, the firm hired outsiders at $18 an hour to give the appearance of grassroots support for photo ticketing. The firm also paid for flyers to be mailed to residents describing the recent death of a woman killed by a red light runner.

LA: Louisiana healthcare on the state budget chopping block . . . The decision by House leaders to fund higher education next year means that the state’s health care system is at least $200 million short of the money needed to keep providing the current level of service for patients. That not only is putting at risk a health care system that already ranks among the worst in the country but also threatens the agreements Gov. Bobby Jindal made with private companies to manage Louisiana’s public hospitals. Rupturing those deals would cause havoc with health care for poor children and their mothers, the developmentally disabled, the working poor who don’t have health insurance and the elderly living in state nursing homes — and that would cause a ripple effect throughout the entire health care system. The Advocate

IN: Dunes pavilion plan draws criticism. Construction crews are already at work turning an 85-year-old pavilion serving as a beachfront snack shack and shower house on Indiana Dunes State Park into a restaurant and, eventually, a two-floor banquet and conference hall. . . . But the plan, which includes a minimum 35-year lease with a private company, has outraged local opponents. They say they’re deeply troubled by an agreement the state quietly finalized this winter with a group of local developers. They say it lines their pockets at the expense of the environment and the public, and could open the door to a future marina or a hotel at one of Indiana’s most fragile natural landscapes. State officials say there’s no other development plans in the works. Local opponents, who urge the state to put the project on hold for further review, got a boost Friday when an array of statewide environmental and consumer-advocacy groups joined their cause. Indianapolis Star

OK: The Privatization of Oklahoma (Outsourcing Oklahoma Dollars). In recent years at the Legislature we have privatized one entity at a time. We have private prisons, and we have been sending Oklahoma dollars out of state to virtual private schools. Skiatook Journal ($)