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Is The World Ready For Michael Oatman for President? Is Michael Oatman For President Ready For The World?

michael oatmanIn Tucson, a “computer and internet services consultant” named Michael Oatman ran for President in 2012. You probably missed his campaign while blinking. He ran for the Green Party nomination, but didn’t get close to earning as much support as Jill Stein. Like Jill Stein, Michael Oatman is throwing his hat into the ring again for the 2016 presidential election.

“My platform is about being fiscally conservative and socially progressive,” he writes. “We desperately need massive political reform. I would spend much more on education, less on defense, more on research for developing new technologies which can bring us energy independence, and we can re-tool our manufacturing industries to that end.”

Michael Oatman wasn’t always with the Green Party. In 2008, he ran for President as a Democrat. Who knows what party Oatman will run with this time?

The Libertarian Party seems not to be beyond consideration for Mr. Oatman, who wrote in 2012 that “you are voting against your self-interests if you vote for anyone except Gary Johnson (L) or Jill Stein (G)… Vote Gary Johnson (L) in 2012! I’ll be running again in 2016!”

Roll Call: The Seven Democrats Who Both Voted To Kill The Estate Tax And Voted Against Tax Cuts For Working Americans

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of repealing the Estate Tax – a tax that only applies to estates that are worth more than 5.4 million dollars. The big story was that the Republican Party supported this unjust repeal.

What was almost completely unremarked upon in the corporate press is that the following seven members of Congress joined the Republicans to pass the Estate Tax repeal:

u.s. capitol buildingBrad Ashford
Sanford Bishop
Jim Costa
Henry Cuellar
Collin Peterson
Dutch Ruppersburger
Kyrsten Sinema

These same seven House Democrats were also among those who, just a few weeks ago, helped the Republicans kill the People’s Budget, a progressive budget that would have dramatically cut the deficit and lower the taxes paid by working Americans.

These Democrats support special tax loopholes for the wealthy leisure class, but oppose tax cuts for the majority of hard-working Americans.

Do you think they deserve to be re-elected in 2016?

Is This Former Republican More Progressive Than Hillary Clinton?

Eleven years ago, we took note when Republican U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee declared his intention to vote against George W. Bush’s re-election campaign.

As Senator, Chafee voted against the Military Commissions Act. As Governor of Rhode Island, Chafee signed a declaration of a Day of Reason and approved legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.

That’s all good – and when Lincoln Chafee voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2002, it was great. It’s a decision that Hillary Clinton was not wise enough to make.

That difference makes the Lincoln Chafee for President campaign worth paying attention to. Chafee is now a Democrat, and he’s challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

So, is Lincoln Chafee going to be a reasonable, reliable voice for progressive Democrats who are uneasy about Hillary Clinton’s pro-war record, support for continued reliance on fossil fuels, and alignment with the corporate, conservative Democratic Leadership Council?

I don’t see it. In his time as a Republican, Lincoln Chafee had some good moments, but he had many terrible moments as well. He joined a slim majority in the U.S. Senate, for example, to prevent the creation of a commission to investigate the use of torture under George W. Bush.

GovTrack has analyzed Lincoln Chafee’s record in the U.S. Senate, and compared it to that of his political contemporaries. The analysis, reflected in the graphic below, shows Chafee in about the same position as Hillary Clinton, slightly to the left of center, but not by much.

lincoln chafee not liberal

Lincoln Chafee is no liberal. Left-leaning Americans are going to need to look elsewhere for a strong challenger to Hillary Clinton.

Postscript: Charles Manning asks if we can supply a mark for where Hillary Clinton was marked on the GovTrack chart during her time in the Senate. Yes, indeed we can. This amended chart is below, and as it shows, GovTrack found Hillary Clinton to be less conservative than Lincoln Chafee, though she was still not in the liberal wing of her own political party.

hillary clinton vs lincoln chafee liberal senate

Does Republican Presidential Candidate Jim Rundberg Owe Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Campaign Fines?

As the Federal Election Commission documents, Jim Rundberg is an officially-registered Republican Party candidate for President of the United States, having filed his papers on February 1 2015.  Shortly after that declaration, Peregrin Wood wrote a brief review of Rundberg’s campaign announcement, also noting a January 1 2015 article by political reporter Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.  Ashby declares of Rundberg, who ran for Governor of Colorado last year, that “Rundberg has been fined $50 a day for each of the seven campaign finance reports he did not file between July 1 and the end of December.”

Yesterday morning, Jim Rundberg posted the following demand and threat as a comment to Wood’s review:

“I do not and have not ever owed thousands of dollars in fines. Print a retraction of this article or I will contact my attorney. Jim Rundberg.”

This statement certainly calls for an open examination.  Let’s examine available information:

  • First of all, let’s note that Jim Rundberg hasn’t shared any evidence that the claim is untrue.  I’ve written back to Rundberg, soliciting any such evidence.  I hope he responds.
  • Second, we have Charles Ashby’s article.
  • Third, we have Jim Rundberg’s campaign finance profile with the Colorado Secretary of State, complete with all documents of campaign finance filings and correspondence between Jim Rundberg and the state of Colorado.  You can review it for yourself here.

Here is an image of Rundberg’s complete set of campaign filings:

A complete set of filings for Jim Rundberg's campaign for Governor of Colorado in 2014

As you’ll see, the last filing received was received a day late, on June 17 2014.  After that point, as more information in Jim Rundberg’s campaign finance profile shows, Jim Rundberg stopped filing campaign finance reports:

Filings due from the Jim Rundberg for Governor campaign of 2014

That’s a lot of filings that have been due but that haven’t been filed.  This means there have been a lot of penalties:

Jim Rundberg's Colorado Campaign Finance Penalties

As you can see, Jim Rundberg has only requested a waiver from the penalties once, for a one-day late penalty of $50 in 2013.  The text of Rundberg’s waiver request reads as follows:

Penalty Date: 7/15/2013
Penalty Amount: $50.00
Current Amount Due: $50.00 (after all received payments are calculated in)

Waiver Request Date: 7/16/2013
Request Status: Decision Complete

As you can read in a letter here, the state of Colorado denied Jim Rundberg’s request for a waiver.  Jim Rundberg has applied for no other waivers since, and he also hasn’t paid his initial penalty, leaving the debt to be sent to a collections agency.

Click here to read a set of letters sent to Jim Rundberg on March 24, 2015.  They document a series of accumulating fines. You can check the Colorado campaign finance profile for Jim Rundberg to verify that as of today (April 16 2015) there has been no response or resolution of the situation by Jim Rundberg reported on the site.

To sum up the situation declared by the state of Colorado on March 24, 2015 in those letters, as of that day Jim Rundberg owed the following fines:

For a campaign finance report due on 7/1/2014, 266 days late * $50/day penalty = $13,300 penalty due

For a campaign finance report due on 8/1/2014, 235 days late * $50/day penalty = $11,750 penalty due

For a campaign finance report due on 9/2/2014, 203 days late * $50/day penalty = $10,150 penalty due

For a campaign finance report due on 9/15/2014, 190 days late * $50/day penalty = $9,500 penalty due

For a campaign finance report due on 9/29/2014, 176 days late * $50/day penalty = $8,800 penalty due

For a campaign finance report due on 10/14/2014, 161 days late * $50/day penalty = $8,050 penalty due

For a campaign finance report due on 10/27/2014, 148 days late * $50/day penalty = $7,400 penalty due

For a campaign finance report due on 12/4/2014, 110 days late * $50/day penalty = $5,500 penalty due

Each of those letters indicates that the fines are still accruing, since Jim Rundberg has failed to pay them, so as of April 16 2015 the total fines due are larger.  But as of March 24, 2015 alone the fines appear to have totaled $74,450.

In other words, all available evidence indicates that Jim Rundberg does indeed owe tens of thousands of dollars in fines to the state of Colorado.  The state of Colorado certainly seems to think so.  Instead of paying the fines, Mr. Rundberg has demanded a public retraction and threatened Irregular Times with a lawyer.  We don’t do threat bargains here at Irregular Times.  Rather than a retraction, due attention to the facts seems in order.  If Jim Rundberg would like to share some additional facts that provide additional context, I pledge to share any such facts below…

[Waiting for a response]

… and as you can see below, I’ve reached out directly to him at his active campaign Facebook page, soliciting the supposed missing facts that would show he owes nothing:

I write to Jim Rundberg on his Facebook page, asking for information to assess the truth value of his claims.

If you don’t see any response from Jim Rundberg here, you’ll know that he hasn’t written back.


Student Sit-In Movement for Fossil Fuel Divestment Hits Massachusetts and Virginia

Yesterday, the Green Man reported that students had begun a sit-in protest at Tulane University, pressuring the university’s administration to take endowment funds currently invested in fossil fuel extraction and invest them elsewhere.  The idea is for universities to use their collective endowment weight to leverage change and make the energy sector more responsive to environmental concerns.

It turns out that Tulane isn’t the only American university at which divestment sit-ins are happening.  At Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, students are sitting in to exert pressure on their President Faust right now.

Divest Harvard Students are sitting in to push Harvard into divesting away from fossil fuels.

And University of Mary Washington students just had their amazing 21 day sit-in ended when the police came to haul them away.  21 days — that’s commitment:

University of Mary Washington Students Hauled Away in Cuffs after 21 day Sit In

What other sit-ins do you know about?  Magnify the effectiveness of these students’ protests.  Spread the word.

House Republicans Vote To Revive Predatory Loans For Mobile Homes

Republicans in the House of Representatives call H.R. 650 the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act. Who does the legislation grant access to Manufactured Housing, and for what purpose? The Republicans don’t like to talk about that.

H.R. 650 would dismantle financial reforms passed by Congress just a few years ago. It used to be that financial services companies were allowed to hit people buying mobile homes with predatory interest rates on what are called “chattel loans”. Current laws protect mobile home buyers from these predatory rates, but H.R. 650 would remove these restraints. The Corporation for Enterprise Development estimates that in current market conditions, mobile home owners would pay 10 percent more interest every year on their home loans than people with traditional mortgages would.

The so-called Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act wouldn’t help economically-vulnerable people to buy mobile homes. It would help predatory lenders to squeeze more money out of mobile home buyers.

Despite what the House Republicans would have you believe, the mobile home industry is doing just fine under the current regulations. The number of mobile homes manufactured and shipped were higher every month last year, compared to the year before. New factories to make mobile homes opened in the United States last year to deal with the demand.

The only real purpose of H.R. 650, the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act, is to help a small number of people make a great deal of money from exploiting people who live near the predatory loan. Just five corporations issue the majority of chattel loans.

Yesterday, every Republican in the House of Representatives except one, Walter Jones of North Carolina, voted in favor of the financial exploitation of H.R. 650. They weren’t alone, though. They were joined by 22 House Democrats. These Democrats, listed below, seem to agree with the Republicans that it’s a fine thing for powerful corporations to gather high profits from high interest rates imposed on the people who can afford it least.

predatory mobile home loansDemocrats in Congress Who Helped Republicans Pass A Law Allowing Financial Firms To Squeeze Money From Mobile Home Owners:

Brad Ashford
Sanford Bishop
John Carney
Wm. Lacy Clay
Jim Cooper
Jim Costa
Henry Cuellar
Peter DeFazio
John Delaney
Gwen Graham
Ron Kind
Ann Kirkpatrick
Gregory Meeks
Seth Moutlon
Gary Peters
Collin Peterson
Jared Polis
Kathleen Rice
David Scott
Terri Sewell
Brad Sherman
Kyrsten Sinema

The Maine Airport Coffee Economy

Maine has its faults, but this is one of the reasons I love living here:



This is how you get coffee at the local airport:


The tin-can economy is a great antidote to my gloomy cynicism.

Fossil Fuels Divestment Protest Hits Tulane

divest tulane investmentsAcross the United States, students are rising up to demand that the universities to which they pay astounding piles of money in tuition find more creative ways to invest that money than giving it to big coal and oil companies. There are plenty of kinds of business that provide a good return on investment without spewing out the massive amounts of carbon dioxide and other forms of pollution that comes from fossil fuels.

Today, students down in New Orleans, which has seen more than its share of extreme weather, are protesting at Tulane University, pushing the school’s administration to stop bringing dirty money from Big Oil into its endowment. More than 70 students from Divest Tulane occupied the office of the university’s president in a protest this morning. “Only in New Orleans do French-Creole cuisine, jazz music, second lines, Mardi Gras Indians, French, Spanish and early-American architecture, Creole ethnicity and Sazerac cocktails come together to create a culture that is unique and irreplaceable. The prospect of dramatic sea level rise due to anthropogenic climate change threatens this way of life. Tulane stands as a leader of New Orleans and has a responsibility to preserve it, one way to do this is to divest from fossil fuels,” the group says.

Tulane University faculty have also sent a letter to the school’s president and board of trustees, stating, “we call on Tulane University to freeze new investment in the Carbon Tracker 200 fossil fuel companies, and to divest within five years from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds.”

Canadians Who Seek To Censor Talk About Sex Complain They Have No Voice

people have no voice sex ed protestIn Toronto today, a small group of people gathered in a public park to protest against a sex ed program. They demanded that teachers be censored from speaking about certain topics related to sex.

A sign that they carried declared that: “People have no voice!”

What these people want to do is to stop teachers from using their voices. They don’t want teachers to mention same-sex sexual relationships. They don’t want teachers to be able to talk about masturbation. The protesters want teachers to be quiet about online bullying, and to be silent about sexting.

The sex ed program was developed by a democratically-elected provincial government, actually. The people had a voice when they chose to elect that government.

If people have no voice, what were those protesters doing out on the street, yelling about sex ed today?

If the protesters want people to have a voice, how come they’re trying to censor people from using their voices to teach the next generation the facts about sex?

Is what these people want for people to have sex, but silently, without voices?

Do they think that, if people just stop talking about sex, no one will have sex any more?

No one is stopping the Canadian sex-phobic protesters from talking. They can go on and use their voices all they like. That doesn’t mean anyone will respect what they have to say.

Hedge Fund Hacks Confronted By Hedge Clippers

At the Crowne Plaza hotel in Manhattan yesterday, hedge fund insiders were meeting at a session to organize methods for thwarting shareholder activists. Edward Garden from Trian Partners, which controls two seats on the Board of Directors of Wendy’s the chain of fast food restaurants, was there. Along with his billionaire father-in-law, Nelson Petz, Garden has pushed for lower wages for Wendy’s workers.

Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management was also in attendance. Ackman has used his power as an investor to push for low wages at Burger King.

Jeffrey Smith from Starboard Value was there, too. Starboard Value wields control over Darden Restaurants brands such as Olive Garden and Lone Star Steakhouse, forcing franchise owners to provide high profits by keeping worker wages low.

When these hedge fund managers began to ways to evade accountability to shareholders who seek to keep corporations socially-accountable, activists from Hedge Clippers showed up to offer a different voice. They entered the Crowne Plaza, and for 20 minutes, spoke for the workers at the low-end restaurants run by the hedge funds. They demanded a 15 dollar per hour livable wage.

“Franchising is the sort of business model that makes perfect sense to hedge fund managers, who spend their careers several steps removed from the predatory practices that they push for and profit from,” Hedge Clippers writes, explaining why they targeted the meeting of hedge fund managers who squeeze restaurant franchises. “The consequences of the franchise model are significant for the biggest low-wage workforce in the country.”

The hedge fund managers threatened to have them sent to jail.

hedge clippers

Have St. Cloud Crime Rates Doubled Since Somalis Came to Town? The Answer Rhymes with Heck, Snow.

Steve Platy writes in response to an article showing that crime hasn’t worsened in Minneapolis since Somalis’ arrival:

“What you would find is that Minneapolis did indeed, still experience a moderate drop in crime between 200 and 2012.

But that is only half-relevant to this article because they primary Somali refugee community is in St Cloud. Even at the time covered in your statistics, it’s common knowledge that more than 1.4% of the population was Somali then. However, as acknowledged by Somali community activists/advocates, they believe the area has over 20,000 now, and they call that a conservative estimate…

“Please look at today, not 11 years ago. And look at the correct city. If you did, you’d see that crime in St Cloud, host of “Little Mogadishu,” has more than doubled in almost all categories, the sharp increase starting in 2001. Now be a good investigator and look for the correlation between what happened in 2001 in St Cloud, and draw a logical conclusion that’s not based on the narrative that you are premeditatedly hoping to see.

First off, Minneapolis actually is the home to the largest Somali population in the United States, not St. Cloud. See also the U.S. Census bureau’s declaration on the subject: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/acs/acsbr12-16.pdf.  So Minneapolis is the most relevant city to study for crime rates.

Second, let’s look at St. Cloud.  Have crime rates in St. Cloud doubled since Somalis began to immigrate to the city?  Let’s look at violent crime rates and property crime rates using Uniform Crime Reports data from the FBI’s Crime in the United States.  Unfortunately, since Minnesota was not in compliance with the FBI’s standards in reporting violent crimes, violent crime data is missing from 2005 to 2012.  Fortunately, 2013 data is in that allows for the calculation of violent and property crime rates again.  So let’s see what happened in St. Cloud, to which Somali immigration began in 2001.  Here are the trends:

Chart: St. Cloud Minnesota Property Crime Rate Trends

Neither the property crime rate nor the violent crime rate has done anything like doubling since the arrival of Somali immigrants.  The 2013 violent crime rate levels are roughly consistent with patterns in St. Cloud in the decade before Somali immigration to St. Cloud began, and 2013 property crime rate levels represent a decrease from the decade before Somali immigration.