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It's a measure of the failure of Mike Pence as Governor of Indiana that he is suddenly vulnerable to defeat in the 2016 elections.

People from outside the state have this idea of Indiana as an unrepentantly Republican.  Yet in the last 25 years, Democrats controlled the House for 17 years, and the Governor's office for 14 years. With the exception of the Senate, Indiana has been a competitive state for Democrats at the state and local level.  Which is why the "unexpected" vulnerability of Governor Mike Pence feels all but that to people who've followed Indiana politics for long enough.

Which is why news the former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg is running has been greeted with considerably more enthusiasm nationally than in the Hoosier state.  Mike Pence's relationship with the Koch Brothers political network is well know.  His willingness to front for awful ALEC model legislation has been making progressive Hoosier facepalm since long before this RFRA mess caught the rest of the country's attention.

The problem is that Pence's prospective opponent John Gregg has a Koch problem, or more to the point ALEC problem too.

If John Gregg wants to prove that he's not PWNED by the Koch Brothers/ALEC, he's got to own up to the fact that he has this ALEC connection.  He hasn't.  Forgive me if my enthusiasm for replacing Pence with another Koch pawn is lacking.

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The Heartland Institute (@HeartlandInst) is preparing to picket Pope Francis. Yes, you read that right. They are actually going to Rome in order to picket the Pope.

These are the same people who put up a billboard comparing climate change scientists to the Unabomber, so I'm sure that this picket will be super tasteful.

Actual Heartland Billboard

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It seems that the rest of the world is just now catching on to something I could have told them in 2002.  Mike Pence is super sketchy.  The present scandal about RFRA doesn't even touch the full extent to which this man is prone to hypocrisy and pandering to the lowest common denominator.  I know Mike Pence.  Back in 2002, I worked on the campaign of the woman who ran against him for Congress.  Because the rest of the campaign was based in Greensburg, and I was in Muncie, I got tasked with opposition research/tracking for Pence.  Up close, and personal, I got to see just how sketchy the man was.  

How sketchy is Mike Pence?  Let me count the ways.

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There's a diary on the recommended list right now lauding Angie's List for their threat to halt expansion in the state.  A lot of people are jumping on this as a reason to support the company.  Folks, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Sometimes people do the "right" thing for the wrong reason, and this isn't something for which they should be praised.

Let me explain.  Angie's List may be threatening to pull out of Indiana now, but it's highly likely this has nothing to do with opposing RFRA.  It's far more likely that Angie's List is speaking up up now in order to coerce taxpayers into forking over the cash to fund their corporate expansion.

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Tell me.  Does this tweet strike you as the least bit racist?

Much to my surprise, I opened Facebook this morning to find this on my feed from a friend involved in Democratic politics in Indiana.  And, much to my disappointment, I found "liberal" folks questioning how this could possibly be racist.

If you follow me past the curlicue, I think that you'll agree that it perpetuates a racially pernicious stereotype of African American women.

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Earlier this week, a report came out from ProPublica, describing the destruction of the worker's compensation in this country.  As I wrote at that time this system emerged as a compromise, whereby workers surrendered the right to sue in exchange for the relative certainty of compensation when injured on the job. This compromise has been broken, and the consequences are only now being truly accounted for.

On the heels of Propublica's report, OSHA released one of its own.  Linking rampant worker misclassification,and general evasion of responsibility by employers, to increasing economic inequality in this country. Most emblematic of this risk shift from those who benefit from the wealth of out nation, to those who worked to create it, is the fact that worker's comp currently covers little more than 1/5th the cost of on the job injures, as laid out in the pie graph below.

 

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Thu Mar 05, 2015 at 07:41 AM PST

The Satanic Mills Rise Again

by ManfromMiddletown

By this time next week, Wisconsin will likely have joined the ranks of "right to work" states.  In the wake of similar transformations in Indiana and Michigan, this movement takes on the appearance of a wave threatening to overtake the nation. Washing away what remains of the legacy of worker protections instituted in a different time when more than 1 in 3 American workers had the benefit of union representation.

Despite the calamitous decline of labor in this country, at present fewer than 1 in 15 private sector workers have union representation, we are told that everything is ok.  There was a time for unions, and now that time has passed, a sentiment aptly expressed in this recent letter to the editor from the Chicago Tribune:

Many letter writers have written to the Tribune’s Voice of the People in favor of unions. I agree that in much earlier times, unions were beneficial to correct wrongs such as low wages, no benefits and sweatshop conditions. But in more recent times, the pendulum has swung too far.

This sentiment, while prevalent, could not be further from the truth.  We all know that low wages, and no benefits, are a serious problem in this country, however I'd gather that few of us fully understand the extent to which the most egregious violations against workers as fellow human beings have reemerged.  That is, unless we've had the misfortune to learn the truth.

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Necessity is the narrative that austerity dictates. Or, so the story goes.  Despite improving economic fortunes, in states across the country the cry for further budget cuts is ringing out.

At least 16 states are projected to run budget shortfalls in the next year or two, according to an informal count maintained by State Budget Solutions, a watchdog group. Those gaps range from lows of $17 million in Vermont and $34 million in Rhode Island to $4 billion in Washington State over the next two years and $2.2 billion in Wisconsin next year alone.
In their latest report State Budget Solutions counts nearly $21 billion in state budget shortfalls.  From this, they have drawn up a list of budget savings strategies for states: rejecting Medicare expansion, raiding state workers pensions, and privatization.

The mantra is simple: There is no alternative. Necessity dictates further austerity. But ... what if real alternatives, really exist? What if necessity is only a narrative?

Sure, you say, but show me the money.

Dollar, dollar bill y'all.

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In the post Citizens United world, it's a fact of life that the sums of money circulating in politics not only far surpass the resources of ordinary Americans as individuals, but even more surpass the resources of ordinary Americans as a whole. While the 2010 Citizens United ruling put the final nail in the coffin of a regulatory (aka let's limit contributions) approach to campaign finance, the writing has been on the wall since the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo case in which the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech.

This having been said, what if there were a way to fight the power of the monied classes in politics, while not challenging the proposition that money is speech?  Well, there is.

Representative John Sarbanes, a Democrat from Maryland, has been grappling with these questions. His idea: Pass a bill that will solve two related problems—voter cynicism and the influence of special interest money—with one set of reforms. First, give every citizen a $25 “My Voice” tax credit (if you contribute $25 to a campaign, you get $25 off your tax bill). Next, create a 6-to-1 “Freedom from Influence” matching fund (for every $1 you spend, the government kicks in $6 in public funding). Then watch political fundraising change for the better.
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I love my Indiana home, but dear God, do I despise the detestable few who turn us into a punchline.  A few weeks back, I wrote about how the Indiana House was considering a bill to bring back the company store.  The crazy train is still rolling.

Today, one of my FB friends posted another story from the General Assembly. About how the Indiana Senate is now considering a bill that would effectively introduce a literacy test for absentee voters in the latest front they've opened in their war on voting:

Senate Bill 535 (SB535) targets those who vote by absentee ballot, which disproportionately affects the elderly, handicapped, disabled. SB 535, written by State Senator Michael Young who wrote the bill that stripped Indianapolis residents from having four at large City-County Councillors and took rights and authority away from the Council to give to the Mayor. Sen. Young’s bill would require that anyone applying for an absentee ballot to enter their “Voter Identification Number” on their absentee application.  This Voter ID Number is a number provided a registered voter by their County Clerk’s Office, but is not a number the voter if familiar with or even knows where they can find it.  Sen. Young has provided no explanation or rational for this change.  But the effect would be to dramatically reduce persons voting absentee, which would keep the elderly, those living in nursing homes or rehab facilities, or those homebound because of injury or illness from voting.
Before you shrug this off, that's just Indiana, you should know that it was in Indiana that the photo voter ID laws got their start before ALEC helped spread them around the country. Are literacy tests coming soon to a state near you?
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Late last year, Walmart courted controversy by making employees buy new uniforms.  As Think Progress noted at the time:

At first glance, making Walmart workers pay for their work outfits seems illegal. Under federal labor law, employers can’t make their workers buy uniforms with their own money if doing so would drop their wages below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Given that reports put sales workers’ pay at about $8.80 an hour, paying for new clothes out of that figure would likely bring their wages too low. (The company claims full-time workers make $12.78 an hour.)

But, under the language used by the company, the new clothes aren’t “uniforms.” Instead, they’re part of a new “dress code.”

As horrible as this was, the Indiana GOP is planning a whole new level of awful with a bill scheduled to go before the House Judiciary committee today.

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If this is true, then David Duke just dropped a bombshell on Louisiana politics. In a statement his relationship with Scalise, Duke said he:

... was rather flabbergasted by the new focus on Scalise. He said he has hosted both Democratic and Republican legislators at everything from conferences to his children’s birthday parties. He said he has met with Democratic legislators at least 50 times in his political life.

And he delivered a warning to both Republicans and Democrats: Treat Scalise fairly, and don’t try to make political hay out of the situation. Or he said he would be inclined to release a list of names of all the politicians — both Republicans and Democrats — with whom he has ties.

“If Scalise is going to be crucified — if Republicans want to throw Steve Scalise to the woods, then a lot of them better be looking over their shoulders,” Duke said.

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