Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Idea for Hit Show "Survivor"

I got this as an email from my (not very political) sister and thought it was worth sharing.  Enjoy! -Katie Foley

Next Season on Survivor*

Have you heard about the next planned "Survivor" show?

Governor Scott  (Florida), Kathy Black (NYC Schools' Chancellor), Governor Walker (Wis) and Governor Christie (NJ) will be dropped in an elementary school classroom for 1 school year. Each of them will be provided with a copy of his/her school district's curriculum, and a class of 20-25 students.

Each class will have a minimum of five learning-disabled children, three with A.D.H.D., one gifted child, and two who speak limited English. Three students will be labeled with severe behavior problems.

Each of them must complete lesson plans at least 3 days in advance, with annotations for curriculum objectives and modify, organize, or create their materials accordingly. They will be required to teach students, handle misconduct, implement technology, document attendance, write referrals, correct homework, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report cards, document benchmarks, communicate with parents, and arrange parent conferences. They must also stand in their doorway between class changes to monitor the hallways.

In addition, they will complete fire drills, tornado drills, and [Code Red] drills for shooting attacks each month.

They must attend workshops, faculty meetings, and attend curriculum development meetings. They must also tutor students who are behind and strive to get their 2 non-English speaking children proficient enough to take the SOLS tests. If they are sick or having a bad day they must not let it show.

Each day they must incorporate reading, writing, math, science, and social studies into the program. They must maintain discipline and provide an educationally stimulating environment to motivate students at all times. If all students do not wish to cooperate, work, or learn, the teacher will be held responsible.

Contestants will only have access to the public golf course on the weekends, but with their new salary they will not be able to afford it. There will be no access to vendors who want to take them out to lunch, and lunch will be limited to thirty minutes, which is not counted as part of their work day. They will be permitted to use a student restroom, as long as another survival candidate can supervise their class.

If the copier is operable, they may make copies of necessary materials before, or after, school. However, they cannot surpass their monthly limit of copies. They must also continually advance their education, at their expense, and on their own time.

The winner of this Season of Survivor will be allowed to return to their job.

*Note: This is, of course, satirical.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wachovia and Other Disasters - Where is the Outrage?

a Katie Foley rant

There's a lot of outrage lately. People are outraged that insurance companies may be forced to continue covering someone who gets sick. Others are outraged about the acceptance of things outside of the Biblical mainstream, thinking that the whole "Freedom of Religion" thing was clearly meant as "Freedom of Religion(s that do not threaten Christianity's dominance or freak us out)." Some are outraged that openly gay service members will now be tolerated because their sons may become the targets of sexual assault - never mind that the nation's daughters experience rape while serving in the military at twice the rate of their civilian counterparts. [1]
With so much outrage flying about I think one topic has seriously lacked the attention that it deserves, and that is the lack of penal accountability for the outright fraud committed by many banks over the past decade. Numerous investigations have revealed that that banks cut corners at the front end, misrepresenting information on up to 70% of the loan applications involved in the Early Payment Defaults - those that lost their homes when they could not afford their adjustable rate mortgage anymore. [2]

Then banks didn't agree to negotiate lower payments with mortgagees until Congress told them they had to by establishing the Making Homes Affordable program. [3] Next we find out that banks often could not find the proper legal paperwork for many of the transactions involving the sale of mortgage backed securities, causing  delays in countless foreclosure proceedings.  Then we find out that the documents, though once missing, have been found - except that they are themselves fraudulent.  The fraud spanned from erroneous dates and non-existent mortgage companies to forging the signatures of non-existent bank vice presidents.[4]
These are things that banks did to people's homes.  Now we find out that the actions of one, Wachovia Bank (purchased by Wells Fargo as a result of the 2008 mortgage meltdown) may have actually facilitated murder by laundering billions of dollars for Mexican cocaine cartels.  According to The Guardian, U.S. authorities from multiple agencies 
"uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller's cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts.  Wachovia was put under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering programme. Of special significance was that the period concerned began in 2004, which coincided with the first escalation of violence along the U.S.-Mexico border that ignited the current drug wars."
The criminal charges levied under the Bank Secrecy Act were settled out of court, with punishment being a deferred prosecution agreement (now expired) and "$110 million in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and...a $50 million fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine." [5]
To put this into perspective, let's look at the consequences of cocaine possession.  Under Minnesota law, if you possess enough cocaine to equal the weight of two tablespoons of water (25 grams) you can be imprisoned for up to 30 years.  Wachovia laundered $378.4 billion which helped cover the cost of shipping 22 tons of cocaine and were fined less than 2% of Wells Fargo's 2009 profits [6] So, in review, 25 grams =  30 years in prison; providing the laundering service for $378.4 billion used to ship 22 tons of cocaine = a swat on the rear end (you can't even call it a spanking) and a "shame on you" fine. If we are to accept corporations as persons then I demand that they, too, be treated equally under the law - including laws related to criminal culpability and punishment.
There is evidence of one fraudulent action after another coming out of the banking crisis that lead to the Great Depression 2.0; one family after another watched their American dream shatter into a million pieces because of the greed sitting around bank boardroom tables. Now we find out that at least one bank may have flouted international and federal banking laws to the tune of $378 billion during a time when those benefiting from the bank's actions were engaged in one of the most violent drug-related street wars in recent history.  Not only that, but said bank had reason to know exactly what it was doing.  
No person, corporations included, should be above accountability for his/her/its complicity in a violent criminal enterprise. We give corporations tax breaks, they have the people creating the laws in their pockets and now even the courts have found corporations to be somehow less deserving of punishment for their engagement in conduct that is outright criminal.  Banks are a prime example of how we have allowed corporations to get out of control. 
Where is the outrage? People are shouting about distrusting the government - at least the government has some level of transparency and is accountable to the people.  Rather than blanket distrust of the government we should demand that our government "for the people" encompass only naturally born people, not corporate people.  At the very least we can hold corporations such as Wachovia as accountable as Mark Dayton would be if he helped launder billions of dollars for a Mexican cocaine cartel.  

[3] For more information on this communist plot, visit
[4] I recommended watching the clip from 60 Minutes
[5] Both quotes are from

Monday, April 4, 2011

From the desk of Al Franken

The Effects the Proposed Federal Budget Could Have on Minnesotans

SD 50 Chair Bill Krueger wrote to Sen. Al Franken regarding the federal budget and the fiscal priorities being set by the President and Congress.  Al responded to Bill, who asked that the response be posted to this blog.  Al's response is below.  At the end Al refers to H.F. 1, which can be found here:

Dear Bill,

Thank you for contacting me about the federal budget.  I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this matter of critical importance to our nation.

As you may know, our country faces a tremendous challenge in getting our fiscal house in order.  Our debt has grown for decades under Congresses and Presidents of both parties.  And while it's easy to agree that we should cut government spending, it's much harder to agree on what we should cut.  We can't just say, "Let's cut $500 billion" or make vague promises about "increasing efficiency."  Cutting spending means choosing programs we currently spend money on, and deciding to stop spending money on them.  These decisions have real impacts on Minnesotans.

The President's budget does a good job of keeping our priorities in order while getting our deficits under control.  It would freeze non-security domestic spending across the board for five years, which would result in $400 billion in savings over the next decade.  I also believe the President's budget makes the right decision by continuing to invest in education, innovation, and infrastructure-areas key to creating jobs and growing our economy.

That being said, I worry that a few of the specific cuts proposed by the President will hurt Minnesotans disproportionately, particularly cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  These cuts would mean that nearly 50,000 households in Minnesota could lose assistance and have to choose between food or heat next winter.  Anyone who's lived through a Minnesota winter knows that you simply can't go without heat.  As the budget process moves forward, I will fight to keep full funding for LIHEAP.

But while the President's budget generally hits the right mark, the spending legislation recently passed in the House, H.R. 1, puts our entire economy at risk.  H.R. 1 would slash vital programs in an indiscriminate and ideological way.  Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics and advisor to Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, has estimated that H.R. 1 would cause the loss of 700,000 jobs by the end of 2012 if it were enacted.  Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs estimates that 2 percent of our nation's GDP would be wiped out by H.R. 1. During a fragile recovery, we can't be making indiscriminate or ideologically-driven cuts that will cost us jobs when we need them most.

Most troubling of all, H.R. 1 would take a meat cleaver to programs that disproportionately affect Minnesotans. I've heard from tens of thousands of Minnesotans who say these cuts would have a direct impact on their families and their livelihoods.  H.R. 1 would slash funding for job training programs at a time when 3,000 Minnesotans are on a waiting list to get trained and find new employment.  $1.1 billion in funding for Head Start would be cut, denying thousands of Minnesota children the chance to get their educations started right.  $1.6 billion in health research funding would be lost, delaying clinical trials and costing Minnesota good-paying medical research jobs.  All funding for high speed rail would be cut, and transportation grants that have funded projects like the Central Corridor Light Rail would be gutted.  These are cuts we simply cannot afford to make.

As you may know, Congress recently passed legislation that averted a government shutdown for three weeks.  That came after Congress passed a similar bill funding the government for two weeks.  Combined, these two measures made roughly $10 billion in spending cuts to federal programs.  However, making further cuts requires us to look at broader reforms, and I've proposed several that will significantly bring down our long-term deficits.

First, the government doesn't negotiate prices directly with drug companies under Medicare.  The Department of Veterans Affairs does, and for the ten most prescribed drugs, the VA pays about half as much.  Getting rid of the rule preventing Medicare from negotiating would save up to $240 billion over ten years.  Likewise, the oil industry already enjoys enormous profits, and yet still receives huge subsidies and tax breaks.  Many of these tax giveaways don't even help with domestic oil production.  Cutting these would save $64 billion over ten years.  And lastly, when the military says it doesn't need or want something, we should listen.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the military doesn't need the F-35 alternate engine, the Marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, or the Non-Line of Sight Launch System.  Simply not buying these items will save us billions of dollars.

I hope we'll be able to put our differences aside and find a way forward in addressing our nation's long-term deficits.  Minnesotans' jobs-and our place in the global economy-depend on it.

Again, thank you for contacting me, and please don't hesitate to do so in the future regarding this or any other matter of concern to you.


Al Franken
United States Senator