NEWS DAY | Barnum & Bailey and health care reform / MN-Somali war death / New Flyer takes a dive

<a href=Barnum & Bailey and healthcare reform Bill Moyers, as usual, gets it really right:

Forget what you learned in civics about the Founding Fathers — we’re the children of Barnum and Bailey, our founding con men. Their freak show was the forerunner of today’s talk radio….

[Media scholar Henry Giroux] describes the growing domination of hate radio as one of the crucial elements in a “culture of cruelty” increasingly marked by overt racism, hostility and disdain for others, coupled with a simmering threat of mob violence toward any political figure who believes health care reform is the most vital of safety nets, especially now that the central issue of life and politics is no longer about working to get ahead, but struggling simply to survive…

[Josh Marshall has] offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan — one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you’re 65?

As Congress returns, the prospects for real health care reform seem ever dimmer. And neither Congress nor the White House is seriously talking about legislation to address the other, on-going crisis of a “jobless recovery.” Bob Herbert warns in the op/ed pages of the New York Times:

Politicians talk about it, but aggressive job-creation efforts are not part of the policy mix.

Nearly 15 million Americans are unemployed, according to official statistics. The real numbers are far worse. The unemployment rate for black Americans is a back-breaking 15.1 percent.

Five million people have been unemployed for more than six months, and the consensus is that even when the recession ends, the employment landscape will remain dismal.

MN budget cuts hit courts, schools, counties Without money to cover state judicial system needs, five Minnesota counties will begin sharing judges this week. Freeborn, Steele and Winona counties will share judges with Mower and Olmsted counties for a year, reports the Star Tribune. Winona County also has a waiting list for public defenders to represent defendants in criminal cases.

Charter schools are also feeling the pinch, because of delays in funding implemented by Governor Tim Pawlenty. The Star Tribune reports that many charter schools will have to borrow and pay interest on loans. So will public district schools, but they at least have an option of asking for increased tax levies.

Delayed payments are an annual part of the school funding landscape; 10 percent was deferred last year, for example. But as part of the state’s budget-balancing act this spring, 27 percent of what’s allocated for schools this year won’t be paid until next year, a scenario that will repeat itself again in 2010.

And in Stearns County, some workers required to take an unpaid furlough day were gone from their jobs on Friday and others will be gone on Tuesday. The Strib reports that county workers were given the options of taking their furlough days around the July 4 or Labor Day weekends. MPR reports that rural Minnesota is seeing another looming shortfall, with already-scarce public transportation being cut:

No shortage of demand but a definite shortage of money. Already Mn/DOT has cut $400,000 to rural transit providers. Another cut of a million and half dollars is on the horizon….

If people resist paying more taxes to supply rural transit and if enough volunteers can’t be found, there are still other options.

The most obvious is people moving to areas with more transit options.

Another MN-Somali youth dies Laura Yuen at MPR reports that a fifth MN-Somali youth has died in fighting in Somalia. Mohammed Hassan, age 23, had been a student at the U of M and spent much of his time caring for his aged grandmother. Hassan was working on an engineering degree at the U of M, and had been voted “most friendly” of his Roosevelt High graduating class in 2006. He was the fifth of 20 young Minnesota-Somalis to die in the civil war in Somalia after leaving Minnesota and going to Somalia over the past two years.

MN Job Watch New Flyer bus company, headquartered in Winnipeg but with a large operation in St. Cloud, was supposed to be recession-proof. New Flyer makes the energy-efficient hybrid buses sought by mass transit companies across the country. But now it is laying off 320 workers. The reason, according to the New York Times:

The layoffs at New Flyer are a vivid illustration of the way that some of the economic impact of the $787 billion federal stimulus law is being diluted by the actions that state and local governments are taking to weather the recession. …The stimulus will spend $27.5 billion in federal money on highway projects, but at least 19 states are planning to cut their highway spending this year, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, a trade group. And as the stimulus devotes $8.4 billion to mass transit, transit systems across the nation have been forced to cut service, raise fares and delay capital spending.

According to the St. Cloud Times, about 70 of the layoffs (13% of the work force) will come in St. Cloud by December. Prairie Business reports that the Crookston plant will lose about 60 jobs. Most of the 320 jobs will be cut from the Winnipeg headquarters.

War Report | Afghanistan The U.N. Commission overseeing the Afghan election has ordered a partial recount, AP reports, beginning with polling places “showing 100 percent turnout or with a presidential candidate receiving more than 95 percent of the vote.” With widespread and credible allegations of massive fraud, President Hamid Karzai’s lead is approaching the 50 percent plus one needed to avoid a run-off election. The Afghan election commission has thrown out about 200,000 ballots from 447 stations because of fraud. An additional 224,000 ballots were disqualified for other reasons, bringing the total number of ballots eliminated to almost ten percent of the 4.3 million ballots cast.

In a statement as insulting as it was inaccurate, U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke compared the Afghan election fraud to Minnesota’s senatorial recount:

We recently had a senatorial election in Minnesota which took seven months to determine the outcome, there were so many charges of irregularities. It certainly won’t take that long in Afghanistan, but that happens in democracies, even when they are not in the middle of a war.

Meanwhile, reports AP, NATO acknowledged that its air strike last Friday that killed more than 60 people in a crowd around two hijacked and disabled fuel tankers did, in fact, kill civilians.

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