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Despite Improvement, Complaint Backlog at DOL Wage and Hour Division is Worse than Under Bush

The staff of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor are tasked with investigating worker complaints to make sure that workers aren’t being abused by employers who exploit labor laws — by withholding pay, by refusing to grant overtime, by employing child labor, and otherwise exploiting people who are desperate for work.

This is important work to protect the powerless against the powerful in America, but the Wage and Hour Division is suffering from a backlog of cases.  Measured by the average number of days taken to resolve complaints to the Wage and Hour Division, the backlog was cut back in fiscal year 2013 (the last year for which data is currently available), but is still worse than when George W. Bush was the sitting President of the United States:

Graph: Average number of days to resolve complaints with the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, Fiscal Year 2003-2013

Why does the backlog exist?  Adjusting for the cost of expenses by indexing for inflation, the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL has a lower budget than it did in 2003 — and at the same time the population of the United States grew by 9% during that time while the civilian labor force grew by 6.7%, increasing the volume of possible violations.

Is the backlog and funding stagnation liable to improve for the investigators of the Wage and Hour Division in the future?  Well, the Division suffered an 11% budget cut in FY 2013, the last year for which data is available.  What does that tell you?

Disclosure Delayed is Disclosure Denied: Another Year, Another Bill to Bring Senate Disclosure into the 21st Century

S. 366, a bill introduced by Montana Senator Jon Tester, would require senators to file campaign finance reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission, not on paper with the Senate.

This may not sound like an important distinction, but the practical effect of the current system is to delay the processing of campaign contribution reports, often until after an election is over, as FEC staff laboriously type in Senate campaign reports into computer databases.  This means that the discovery of unsavory campaign expenditures to Senators is made more difficult and often practically impossible during the period before the election when such information would matter most.

Tester’s bill, the continuation of a veteran effort by ex-Senator Russ Feingold in previous sessions of Congress, would increase efficiency within the government, increase transparency of information to reporters, and increase the accountability of Senators to American citizens.  Tester himself has brought up the bill numerous times.  In the last two-year session of Congress, the bill was known as S. 375.  Before that, it was S. 219.

Another Congress, the same text, the same dismal odds.  Some members of the Senate support the change to electronic disclosure.  They are a minority.  The majority don’t.

Let’s focus on the Senators who have cosponsored S. 366, who do support meaningful, timely campaign finance disclosure.  They are, along with Jon Tester (listed with date of cosponsorship):

Sen. Cochran, Thad [R-MS]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Leahy, Patrick J. [D-VT]* 02/04/2015
Sen. McCaskill, Claire [D-MO]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Udall, Tom [D-NM]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Boxer, Barbara [D-CA]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Durbin, Richard [D-IL]* 02/04/2015
Sen. King, Angus S. Jr. [I-ME]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Heitkamp, Heidi [D-ND]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Warren, Elizabeth [D-MA]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Donnelly, Joe [D-IN]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Brown, Sherrod [D-OH]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Sanders, Bernard [I-VT]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [D-NY]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Menendez, Robert [D-NJ]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Hirono, Mazie K. [D-HI]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Heinrich, Martin [D-NM]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-RI]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Franken, Al [D-MN]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Klobuchar, Amy [D-MN]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Murphy, Christopher S. [D-CT]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Cardin, Benjamin L. [D-MD]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Peters, Gary C. [D-MI]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Merkley, Jeff [D-OR]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Kaine, Tim [D-VA]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Ayotte, Kelly [R-NH]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Collins, Susan M. [R-ME]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Gardner, Cory [R-CO]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Grassley, Chuck [R-IA]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Scott, Tim [R-SC]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Wicker, Roger F. [R-MS]* 02/04/2015
Sen. Daines, Steve [R-MT]* 02/04/2015

That’s not nearly enough members for the bill to pass.  If your members of the Senate aren’t listed, ask yourself what they have to hide.


The Can Kicks Back Throws Students Under its “Millenial” Bus

Although the DC beltway political corporation called The Can Kicks Back was funded by an elderly billionaire, it says it acts on behalf of the millenial generation of young people just getting their start in life.

Although The Can Kicks Back got started with an advisory board made up entirely of elderly rich white men, it insists that it is a “grassroots” movement for millenials.

The Can Kicks Back campus tour puts old rich people on stage and interviews themThree years later after its founding, the advisory board for The Can Kicks Back is still populated by elderly rich white men:
Evan Bayh – Former Democratic Senator and Governor from Indiana

Erskine Bowles – Former Co-Chair, National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform; Chief of Staff, President Bill Clinton

Jonathan Cowan – President, Third Way

Ryan Randall -Director of Public Policy with Passport Capital

Gary Shapiro – CEO, Consumer Electronics Association

Alan Simpson – Retired Republican U.S. Senator from Wyoming

David M. Walker – CEO, Peterson-funded Comeback America Initiative


The closest this big-power, big-money list comes to the millenial generation is 45-year-old hedge fund king Ryan Randall, who is 15 years too old to even rank among the oldest of the millenials.  Everyone else on this list is old, old, old.  But still The Can Kicks Back says it is all about the millenials, with 96 web pages on its website using the word “millenial,” only 3 using the phrase “Generation X,” and only 14 using the phrase “Baby Boomers.”

Although The Can Kicks Back’s campus tour was centered around interviews with elderly rich white men, the corporation insists that it acts in the name of the millenial generation.

In the winter of 2013, The Can Kicks Back vowed it would demonstrate its millenial bona fides by starting up 300 campus chapters by the end of the spring semester of that year.  It flooded campus chapters with money and even flew its student “volunteers” to Washington, DC on junkets to meet with the rich and powerful.  Still, The Can Kicks Back only managed to generate 10 active chapters out of its goal of 300.  It spent $2.4 million on American campuses in an effort to obtain signatures on just 800 cans declaring support for the agenda of budget cuts to social programs — that’s $3,000 per can.  Two years later, in the spring semester of 2015, The Can Kicks Back campus program is defunct.

The Can Kicks Back corporation keeps declaring, despite all evidence, that it is an advocacy group working on behalf of the millenial generation, a generation centered on those who are about to go to, in, or recently graduated from college.  In short, the millenial generation is the generation of massive student loan debt.

And what does The Can Kicks Back support?  Check out their recent tweet:

The Can Kicks Back Posts a Tweet in Opposition to Aid for Student Loans


The opinion piece which The Can Kicks Back encourages everyone to read declares that the government should stop helping college students with their student loan debt because doing so adds a few billion dollars a year to the federal deficit.  Written by a staffer for the pro-corporate, corporate-funded New America Foundation, the opinion piece concluded by declaring that it’s time to cut university budgets.

The Can is Kicking, all right: kicking the millenial generation right under the bus.

Jim Rickards’ Prediction of Dire Economic Collapse has 8 Days Left Before it Expires

Last month, Peregrin Wood noted the many predictions of “economic expert” Jim Rickards that had gone wrong in the past:

“He’s addicted to predicting imminent doom. He’s quoted in an article from October 2014 as predicting that another ‘Great Recession’ is ‘about to strike.’ In September 2013, however, he told a crowd of potential investors in Washington D.C. that the United States would suffer a recession in 2014. He put the chances of the financial crisis in 2014 at ‘100 percent’ – but it didn’t happen. In 2012, Rickards told his followers that the United States was in a recession, though it wasn’t, and that the recession would end in 2014.”

Labeling himself an “authority on U.S. economics,” Jim Rickards posted a video on August 27, 2014 declaring that “economic collapse could begin within the next six months.”  Those six months expire in just 8 days, on February 27, 2015.

How’s the economy been doing over the last six months?  The Dow Jones Industrial Average:

Dow Jones Industrial Average, 2014-2015

The unemployment rate:

U.S. Unemployment Rate, January 2014 - January 2015

A lot will have to happen in the next 8 days to precipitate that economic collapse.

The other possibility is that Jim Rickards is full of baloney.

Wait and see.


Where To Find Out How To Dress Like Doctor Who

The time traveling character in Doctor Who is like no other person you will ever meet. As a consequence of this, fans of The Doctor are eager to dress up in costume to look just like him.

Of course, there have been thirteen versions of The Doctor, so there is some choice of which aspect of the character to imitate. WikiHow has instructions for them all.

dress like doctor whoSome are easier than others. Put on an overlong striped scarf and people will pick up on your attempt to emulate Tom Baker’s incarnation of the Time Lord. BBC America seems to be struggling, though, to reconcile the subdued style of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor with the eccentricity of previous incarnations. “This is a man who wishes you to know that despite being unwilling to transmit his quirks and eccentricities from a first glance, that does not mean he lacks standards,” it explains. So, no funny hats, no jewelry, not even any neckties.

Many of the top search results for dressing like Doctor Who actually share recommendations for how to dress like Clara Oswald, the cuter-than-a-button current companion of The Doctor. Step one: Be cuter than a button. Fashion Of Doctor Who expects us to believe that we can be seen as dressing like Clara Oswald if we wear a dowdy green parka, though.

On Pinterest, the concept gets stretched, showing how to wear women’s clothes but still be dressed as The Doctor, or how to dress like The Tardis, or a Dalek, or a sonic screwdriver.

A fellow named Neil begins from the outside, and heads in, considering how to dress like Matt Smith’s Doctor as he compiles a list of ways to live like the Doctor:

– Take action
– Be playful
– Ask questions
– Smile
– Feel compassion
– Wear whatever you want
– Observe
– Embrace change
– Know when to say no
– Dive into the unknown
– Be positive

Of course, these choices may be easier if you are born on the planet Gallifrey and have more lives than a cat, than if you are a human with only one lifetime.

The $140 Humidifier, Minus $110

The Sharper Image is trying to sell me a small one-room humidifier for $140:

a small scale humidifier for $140 is $110 too expensive

What am I missing? I could spend $140 on this gadget, or buy a $15 teakettle and a $15 pot (and chances are, between you and me, that I already have these in my kitchen. With the teakettle, I could humidify the air with its “teakettle” setting, and if I set the pot to boil it will humidify in “volcano” mode. Add a few drops of “essential oils” (whatever they are) into these mundane humidifiers and I’ll get the same smells in the air. The only thing my teakettle and pot don’t have is a plastic part that looks like an avocado nipple. I’ve never seen an avocado nipple responsibly priced at $110.

For Jeb Bush, A Very Different Class Of Kickstarter

Across America, people are working hard to raise a bit of money to support projects that will make the world a better place. They aren’t asking for huge donations – just a few dollars here and there. In return for these donations, they are providing concrete products and services. However, they’re struggling to get just a bit of what they need.

Kragnes Family Farms is seeking seven thousand dollars in crowdfunding to build a greenhouse in which to grow seedlings for food crops. They have successfully reached out to 37 small donors, but with just nine days left in their effort, they have less than half the money they need.

GlobalPost is running a Kickstarter effort to finance the hiring of an editor for its reporting on the human impacts of war. So far, the publication has raised just over five thousand dollars, from pledgers promising between ten and one hundred and fifty dollars.

Nation Of Change has begun a fundraising campaign to finance a documentary film about the corrupt influence of dark money in American politics. “End Dark Money is a new campaign designed to expose the truth to millions of Americans via the internet. We are creating a documentary-style film that outlines the shocking realities of corporate money in the American political system,” the group explains. So far, the group has raised three dollars to support the project.

Then there’s Jeb Bush. Today, Jeb Bush is going to two fundraising events in Illinois. He’s asking for money so that he can promote himself and gain the power of the President of the United States in 2016.

At his first fundraiser today, at a club in Chicago, Jeb Bush is being hosted by William Kunkler, vice president at CC Industries, a company that is helping wealthy American families to invest their money in factories in China, instead of in jobs in the USA. At this event, Bush is demanding one thousand dollars in exchange for the right to stand in the same room as him.

That’s nothing compared with the price of attendance at the fundraising dinner Jeb Bush is holding in Lake Forest, Illinois this evening. The cost of attending that dinner is a $25,000 donation.

That’s ten thousand dollars more than a low wage worker makes in an entire year.

jeb bush 25 thousand dollar dinner

“What Global Warming?” asks North Country New York. This Global Warming, answers NASA.

In a February 12 2015 letter to the editor of New York State’s North Country Now, an anonymous reader asks, “What Global Warming? Whatever happened to global warming?  I feel short changed!”

You see, it’s been cold lately.  How could that be if we’re experiencing global warming?

There are two answers to that question.  The first answer is that even if the globe is warming, winter will be colder than the summer.  That’s how winter works.  But winters have been getting warmer, not cooler, over time.  In the NASA dataset of global temperature measurements from 188o to 2015, the 10 warmest winters have all occurred in the last 20 years, and the 10 coldest winters all occur before 1920.  We just don’t remember that winters used to be colder because most of those experiencing the coldest winters are dead.

The second answer is even on a warming globe, some places can be locally cooler.  In other words, local weather is not the same as global climate.  NOAA’s most recent global temperature anomaly map shows a local cool spot hanging right over New York’s North Country.  The letter writer doesn’t know that in most other places around the globe, it’s getting hotter, making for a general trend of global warming.

The trend extends through data newly released by NASA, showing that after the record-hot year of 2014, January 2015 is the second-hottest January in its records, topped only by January 2007.  Even in the winter, this is what global warming looks like.

P.S. I hear some other New Yorker under the local cold spot has been asking the same question.  He goes by the name of Don:

Donald Trump denies global warming.  What a buffoon.

12,000 Strong March in North Carolina against the Politics of Exclusion

Women have no right to control their own bodies.

Workers have no right to earn enough to live on.

Children have no right to eat.

Unprivileged citizens have no right to vote.

People of color have no right to organize.

Same-sex couples have no right to marry.

Those are the policy priorities of the right wing in North Carolina. Taken together, they exclude a supermajority of the people of North Carolina.  North Carolina has a long history of political rule that privileges straight, rich, white men at the exclusion of other groups, but it also has a history of building alliances across lines of race and class to pursue a more inclusive vision.  In the 1890s, populists and Republicans joined together in a strategy dubbed “fusion politics” to promote policies of greater racial and economic equality.  That movement was eventually undone by waves of white supremacist violence and intimidation, but 120 years later fusion politics re-emerged in the “Moral Mondays” movement.  Centered around the NAACP but bringing in feminists, progressive religious groups from multiple Christian and non-Christian faiths, LGBT groups, Greens, labor unions and more, this new fusion politics is in many ways broader than the fusion politics of old, embracing an agenda of equal political rights across lines of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

When all the different groups excluded from the conservative North Carolina power base are put together, they create impressive numbers.  Blogger DocDawg attended a Moral Movement March in Raleigh this past Saturday, and he documented attendance in pictures…

DocDawg image: Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina, February 2015

But more importantly, he documented numbers.  In his article he declares that “we were 12,000 strong by my calculation,” and in private conversation he explained that:

“you can take that number to the bank (or to the State Capitol). I get so pissed off by wildly inaccurate estimates of turnout, so decided to do it right. I ran up ten flights of stairs to the top of a parking structure beside the parade route, photographed the whole length of the march, then took those pictures home, analyzed the mean packing density of the marchers, google-mapped the precise length and average width of the route, and thus came to that number.”

Twelve thousand voices raised in protest on a cold winter’s day in Raleigh should be heard. Will North Carolina’s Republican-dominated legislature listen?

Go Volotic

volotic music makerToday, it’s Presidents Day, the day we celebrate the accomplishments of overachievers by not going to work. This discrepancy edges in the direction of irony, but fails to hit that high mark, and ends up slamming into befuddlement. Besides that, it’s cold and snowy, which makes the idea of rising to meet the day with determination laughable.

So, today, I shall offer no deep observations. I shall call no alarms. I shall bring attention to no neglected corners of anything that has corners.

Instead, I will merely note that I have discovered a really fun program (I would call it an “app” if it were not for the fact that whenever I say the word “app”, I sound like a cat that is about to spit up a hairball) called Volotic.

Volotic is a visual music-maker. The user makes loops of the sort that one might hear in the background of a video game by placing icons on a grid, and hurling balls of musical mojo at them.

Go back to bed. Make a tune. Fall asleep feeling as if you have gotten something done.

American Muckraking Tool #47: Corporate Entity Searches for the 50 States

There are many secrets held by corporations in the United States, but it’s surprising how much you can find out about these centers of power if you only know where to look.  Whether they exist for a profit or non-profit purpose, corporate entities must register in order to carry out their business in a state.  This provides a point of advantage for the individual citizen, because those registration documents describe the activities, locations and leadership of corporate groups, often in a way that illuminates contradictions of a corporate group’s PR story about itself.  To name just a few examples:

In a few states, such as FloridaNevadaRhode Island and West Virginia, it’s also possible to make searches by the names of corporate officers.  This is a great way to find front groups that appear to be supporting an issue “independently” of one another but that are actually acting as sock puppets for one another.

Corporate registration searches are handy for uncovering information, but carrying out corporate registration searches can be difficult, considering that each state has its own unique website for searching corporate registrations.  To make the task a bit easier, I’ve assembled a list of corporate registration search websites for each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.  One notable exception is Louisiana, whose corporate registration disclosure system has been ground down by malfunction.

Here’s the list; I hope you find it useful.

State Corporate Registration Search Website
Alabama http://www.sos.alabama.gov/vb/inquiry/inquiry.aspx?area=Business%20Entity
Alaska http://commerce.state.ak.us/CBP/Main/CBPLSearch.aspx?mode=Corp
Arizona http://starpas.azcc.gov/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=wsbroker1/connect.p?app=names-report.p
Arkansas http://www.sos.arkansas.gov/corps/search_all.php
California http://kepler.sos.ca.gov/
Colorado https://www.sos.state.co.us/biz/BusinessEntityCriteriaExt.do
Connecticut http://www.concord-sots.ct.gov/CONCORD/online?sn=PublicInquiry&eid=9740
DC https://corp.dcra.dc.gov/Account.aspx/LogOn?ReturnUrl=%2f
Delaware https://delecorp.delaware.gov/tin/GINameSearch.jsp
Florida http://search.sunbiz.org/Inquiry/CorporationSearch/ByName
Georgia https://cgov.sos.state.ga.us/Account.aspx/LogOn?ReturnUrl=%2f
Hawaii https://hbe.ehawaii.gov/documents/search.html?mobile=N&site_preference=normal
Idaho http://www.accessidaho.org/public/sos/corp/search.html
Illinois http://www.ilsos.gov/corporatellc/
Indiana https://secure.in.gov/sos/online_corps/name_search.aspx
Iowa https://sos.iowa.gov/search/business/(S(ktdgqu3jkerl5knoogphnu45))/search.aspx
Kansas https://www.kansas.gov/bess/flow/main?execution=e1s3
Kentucky https://app.sos.ky.gov/ftsearch/
Louisiana website defunct
Maine https://icrs.informe.org/nei-sos-icrs/ICRS?MainPage=x
Maryland http://sdatcert3.resiusa.org/ucc-charter/Pages/CharterSearch/default.aspx
Massachusetts http://corp.sec.state.ma.us/corpweb/CorpSearch/CorpSearch.aspx
Michigan http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/bcs_corp/sr_corp.asp
Minnesota https://mblsportal.sos.state.mn.us/Business/Search
Mississippi https://corp.sos.ms.gov/corp/portal/c/page/corpBusinessIdSearch/portal.aspx
Missouri https://bsd.sos.mo.gov/BusinessEntity/BESearch.aspx?SearchType=0
Montana https://app.mt.gov/bes/
Nebraska https://www.nebraska.gov/sos/corp/corpsearch.cgi?nav=search
Nevada http://nvsos.gov/sosentitysearch/CorpSearch.aspx
New Hampshire https://www.sos.nh.gov/corporate/soskb/csearch.asp
New Jersey https://www.njportal.com/DOR/BusinessNameSearch/default.aspx
New Mexico https://portal.sos.state.nm.us/corps/(S(zhxyjbja2zuhllwrw230kxyr))/corplookup/Lookdn.aspx
New York http://www.dos.ny.gov/corps/bus_entity_search.html
North Carolina http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/corporations/csearch.aspx
North Dakota https://apps.nd.gov/sc/busnsrch/busnSearch.htm
Ohio http://www2.sos.state.oh.us/pls/bsqry/f?p=100:1:0::NO
Oklahoma https://www.sos.ok.gov/corp/corpinquiryfind.aspx
Oregon http://egov.sos.state.or.us/br/pkg_web_name_srch_inq.login
Pennsylvania https://www.corporations.state.pa.us/corp/soskb/csearch.asp
Rhode Island http://ucc.state.ri.us/CorpSearch/CorpSearchInput.asp
South Carolina http://www.sos.sc.gov/Search%20Business%20Filings
South Dakota https://sos.sd.gov/business/search.aspx
Tennessee https://tnbear.tn.gov/ecommerce/filingsearch.aspx
Texas https://mycpa.cpa.state.tx.us/coa/Index.html
Utah https://secure.utah.gov/bes/
Vermont https://www.vtsosonline.com/online/BusinessInquire
Virginia https://sccefile.scc.virginia.gov/Find/Business
Washington http://www.sos.wa.gov/corps/corps_search.aspx
West Virginia http://apps.sos.wv.gov/business/corporations/
Wisconsin https://www.wdfi.org/apps/CorpSearch/Advanced.aspx
Wyoming https://wyobiz.wy.gov/business/filingsearch.aspx