Progressives to Obama: Go Big or Go Home

Obama Jobs Plan: Progressive Groups Urge President To ‘Go Big’

 The Huffington Post      Posted: 8/30/11 06:10 PM ET

Sixty-seven major progressive organizations have penned an open letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to “go big” as he prepares a new jobs plan, which he will announce in a major speech just after Labor Day.

The groups — including MoveOn, Democracy for America, Rebuild the Dream and the National Council of Women’s Organizations — commend Obama for presenting a jobs plan at a “crucial moment,” but also stress the negative impact of Congress’s failure to provide a fix for the nation’s high unemployment rate:

A problem this serious needs a plan to match it in scope. Tax cuts and incentives for corporations have repeatedly failed to put Americans back to work. It is time to move beyond these half-measures designed to appeal to a narrow ideological minority who have repeatedly shown their unwillingness to negotiate and their disinterest in real solutions. History — and proven economics — tells us that any plan to solve our job crisis needs to be big, bold, and create jobs directly.With 25 million Americans out of work, or only able to find part-time work when they want and need full time jobs, aggressive action is needed. Representative Jan Schakowsky’s “Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act” is an example of the kind of bold step that we need to take as a country and that you should include as part of your broader jobs agenda. It would decrease unemployment 1.3 percent by directly creating more than 2 million jobs, including jobs for construction workers to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and for educators, health care workers, firefighters, and police, to strengthen our communities.

The progressive groups have reservations about Obama’s intention to dedicate part of his speech to deficit reduction, according to a press release from Campaign for America’s Future.

They are also concerned that Obama’s plan may not be large enough to be taken seriously — the plan is expected to be significantly less ambitious than the $825 billion stimulus of 2009.

According to the Associated Press, economists who advocate for government intervention in the economy estimate that it would take a package of at least $300 billion to avoid backsliding, and even more to boost the economy significantly. It is unlikely a plan that large would be accepted by Congress, which was divided on fiscal issues during the recent debt ceiling debate.

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Victory for Planned Parenthood!

Planned Parenthood Kansas Ruling: Judge Orders State To Resume Funding

BY ROXANA HEGEMAN   08/30/11 07:26 PM ET   AP

WICHITA, Kan. — A federal judge ordered Kansas to immediately resume funding a Planned Parenthood chapter on the same quarterly schedule that existed before a new state law stripped it of all federal funding for non-abortion services.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Tuesday rejected the state’s request that it pay Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri monthly and only for services provided.

The judge also declined to order Planned Parenthood to post a bond in the event the state prevailed in the lawsuit.

Planned Parenthood has sued to block a provision of the state budget preventing the organization from receiving any of the state’s share of federal family planning dollars.

Marten wrote in his ruling that the intent of the court’s earlier order was to restore and maintain the prior status quo between the parties, a relationship that was based on quarterly installment payments of the federal money. He said the monthly reimbursement schedule the state wants would have the effect of undermining the clinic’s ability to maintain its current level of services.

Planned Parenthood said last week that it would stop providing services at its clinic in Hays on Friday unless it was told it would soon receive the money. Friday would also have been last day the organization offered a sliding fee scale for low-income patients at its Wichita clinic.

“The court finds no injury to the defendants in maintaining the prior payment schedule, as they will be providing funding in a manner consistent with prior practice between the parties, and to an organization which has consistently provided satisfactory family planning services,” Marten wrote in his ruling.

Even if the court’s Aug. 1 temporary injunction is later overturned or modified, the residents of Hays and Wichita will be best assured of continued family planning services by maintaining the status quo, the judge said.

Planned Parenthood has argued that if it lost the $330,000 a year in Title X funding it would be forced to close its clinic in the western Kansas city of Hays. It contended its 5,700 patients who go to its Wichita and Hays clinics would face higher costs, longer wait or travel times for appointments and have less access to services.

No federal money goes to abortions. At issue in the lawsuit are Title X funds to help low-income individuals with reproductive health care services such as birth control, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

The clinic had argued that Marten’s initial injunction required the state to maintain “the status quo” which would mean quarterly payments beginning in July at the start of the state’s fiscal year.

Planned Parenthood President and CEO Peter Brownlie said he was pleased and cautiously optimistic that his group would hear from the state by Wednesday a definitive date when KDHE would resume its funding, as it has been ordered for a month now.

“I can’t imagine that the state would continue to defy a federal court order,” Brownlie said. “I am hopeful that it will do the right thing and resume the funding.”

Neither the Kansas attorney general’s office nor KDHE immediately returned calls for comment.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a new state law which requires Kansas to allocate federal family planning dollars first to public health departments and hospitals, leaving no money for Planned Parenthood or similar groups.

Majority Become the Minority in Several US Cities

Minorities become a majority in Washington region

By  and Ted Mellnik, Wednesday, August 31, 12:04 AM
Washington is among eight big-city metropolitan regions in which minorities became a majority in the past decade, according to a new analysis of census data showing white population declines in many of the largest metro areas.

Along with Washington, the regions surrounding New York, San Diego, Las Vegas and Memphis have become majority-minority since 2000. Non-Hispanic whites are a minority in 22 of the country’s 100-biggest urban areas.

The white population shrank in raw numbers in 42 of those big-city regions. But every large metro area showed a decline in the percentage of whites.

The shifts reflect the aging of the white population as more people get beyond their childbearing years and the relative youth of the Hispanic and Asian populations fueling most of the growth.

“What’s happened is pivotal,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution who conducted the analysis. “Large metropolitan areas will be the laboratories for change. The measures they take to help minorities assimilate and become part of the labor force will be studied by other parts of the country that are whiter and have­n’t been touched as much by the change.”

Racial and ethnic minorities make up slightly more than half of the residents of the Washington region, according to 2010 Census figures. The region was 55 percent white in 2000 and 64 percent white in 1990.

Not every part of the region has been affected equally.

Whites are minorities in the District and in Maryland’s Montgomery, Prince George’s and Charles counties. In Virginia, Prince William County is majority-minority.

With 55 percent of its residents white, Fairfax County could become majority-minority by the next census. So could Loudoun County, which is 62 percent white. Arlington County is one of the few places in the region where the percentage of whites is on the rise.

In most places, the demographic shift has been so rapid that even the officials tracking it have been stunned.

A report this spring by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission noted that the number of students enrolled in the area’s eight school districts grew by almost 119,000 from 1995 to 2010. The number of white students rose by barely 1,000. The rest were minorities.

“What has happened in the past 15 years in the public schools of Northern Virginia is literally mind-boggling,” the report says. “Even for a region accustomed to constant and accelerated change, the spectacularly swift transformation of the racial and ethnic profile of Northern Virginia’s school-aged population is without precedent.”

When the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments wanted to offer tips to homeowners and renters facing foreclosure, it printed brochures not only in English and Spanish but in Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese and Amharic, a language spoken in Ethi­o­pia.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) said the growth in racial and ethnic minorities has helped transform places such as Fairfax from reliably moderate Republican domains to ones where Democrats control the Board of Supervisors and that are represented in Congress and the General Assembly by Democrats.

“You’re going to start seeing that demographic impact politically in the outer suburbs” more and more, he predicted.

The census figures offer a glimpse of the future workforce for high-paying, high-skilled jobs and for lower-paying service jobs, said Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University.

“If we fast-forward to 2020, when we’re out of the doldrums the economy is in today, we’re going to need more workers than we have residents,” he said. “I look at this flow of nonnatives, whether they’re moving here from California or right off the boat from whatever country, as an important source of workers that will enable the economy to grow. “

Fuller said that as more people approach retirement, about 60 percent of the job vacancies created will be filled people who do not live here today. Almost half the jobs will require college educations, but the rest will not. Landscapers, home health aides, waitresses, cashiers and other low-skill positions are often filled by immigrants.

“There are an enormous lot of jobs that aren’t great jobs,” he said. “I don’t know who’s going to do the jobs that have to be done unless people have to because they’re newcomers.”

Frey said the changes over the past decade have altered Washington and the way it is perceived.

“It’s not a traditional immigrant magnet,” he said. “Ten years ago, when you thought of immigrants, you’d think of L.A., New York or San Francisco. You wouldn’t think of Washington. Now it’s moved up on the pecking order.

“It’s a precursor of what’s coming in other places.”

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Judge Says No to Alabama Immigration Law

29 August 2011 Last updated at 17:19 ET, BBC News

Alabama immigration law blocked by judge

Opponents of the immigration law spoke to reporters after a hearing on 24 August

A US federal judge has blocked Alabama’s strict new anti-illegal immigration law, saying she needed time to weigh its constitutionality.

The federal government in Washington had challenged the law, set to take effect on Thursday, saying states lack authority to set immigration policy.

Judge Sharon Blackburn said she will issue a longer ruling next month.

Among other provisions, the law would require schools to find out whether students are in the country legally.

In addition, it would make it a crime knowingly to give a lift or rent a room to an undocumented worker.

The state’s police would also get sweeping new powers.

If, in the course of their duties, they come across anyone whose status is suspect, they would be able to detain them without question.

Supporters of the law, passed in June by the Republican-dominated state legislature, say it is the product of growing frustration in state capitals with the inability of the US federal government in Washington to handle the problem of illegal immigration.

It was opposed by Hispanic groups, immigrant advocacy organisations and some churches, who say it is racist and mean-spirited.

In the Alabama city of Birmingham, Judge Blackburn heard arguments on whether to block 1 September implementation.

Similar laws passed this year and last in Utah, Georgia and Arizona have been blocked in whole or in part after challenges by the Obama administration, which argues that only the federal government has constitutional authority to set immigration policy.

An estimated 120,000 illegal immigrants live in Alabama, most of whom work in agriculture.

Muslims Lost Loved Ones on 9/11, Too

For Muslim family, faith complicates grief for loved one lost on 9/11

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
August 29, 2011 12:08 p.m. EDT

Edmond, Oklahoma (CNN) — His smiling image has been cut out of a snapshot and carefully added to a photo of his father, so it looks as if he is standing beside the man. It smacks of a bad Photoshop job, but it gives the two a shared moment, even though they never met.

The boy’s sister, Fahina, is 15 and clings to scant memories and aging photographs. But Farqad, almost 10, has nothing.

She remembers sitting beside their father on amusement park rides, his words — “Look at my daughter; she’s so brave” — soothing her nerves; she still thinks of him whenever she’s on a rollercoaster. She leaned on his legs when he watched basketball on TV and imagined him cheering her on when she played the sport after he was gone. She recalls being driven to see Harvard University, before she even started elementary school, and dreams of attending an Ivy League school to make him proud.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, she woke up extra early on her own. After her father and mother finished saying morning prayers, the young girl took his face in her small hands and enlisted the promise of a Chuck E. Cheese visit. Father and daughter then kissed and said goodbye.

Farqad was born two days later, after terrorists hijacked planes and killed nearly 3,000 — including 38-year-old Mohammad Salahuddin Chowdhury, who worked atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

The Windows on the World banquet server was a degreed physicist in his native Bangladesh and a U.S. citizen who aspired to do so much more in his adopted country. He kept a pager at hand that fateful morning, just in case his wife went into labor.

“I can’t imagine not having any memories,” said his firstborn, Fahina, unable to hold back her sobs. “Someday, Farqad’s going to search online and see everything. I have to help him understand.”

This teen’s uber-sense of responsibility extends beyond what she believes she owes her brother. As a young woman whose father was killed by men who dared to say they shared her Islamic faith, Fahina feels an obligation to speak up, to be the face of her often-misunderstood religion — even if she’d prefer not to be known for what she lost and how she lost it.

“For a Muslim person to go through this, it’s something no one can understand,” she said, the tears still falling. “Extremists used the religion as an excuse to do terrible things. It’s so much easier to be mad at people than to get to know them.”

Following an unmarked path

Reminders of that terrible day reverberate 1,300 miles from New York, inside a large, modern brick home on a quiet cul-de-sac just north of Oklahoma City.

From framed photographs scattered everywhere, Chowdhury’s dark, gentle eyes and thick lashes peer out at the family he left behind. These were the eyes that captured Baraheen Ashrafi when she first met him at their wedding in Bangladesh nearly two decades ago. She wondered whether she was marrying a movie star.

Theirs was an arranged marriage, and what she got in the match was more than a man with good looks. He had lost his parents and cared about hers as if they were his own. He taught her the value of forgiveness, the beauty of Islam and the gifts that come with love. He told her that she was brought to him through prayers.

She laughs when she remembers how clueless she was in the kitchen when she joined him in his beloved New York — a city she jokingly called “his homeland” — and how he marveled at her culinary progress. Though he didn’t find it funny, she giggles at the memory of putting lipstick on him while he slept and scooping his thick hair up into small ponytails. She smiles when mentioning the staring contests she made him play so he would look deeply into her eyes.

But Ashrafi breaks down when she recalls what he feared.

“He was very afraid of fire, very scared of burning,” she said, describing his complaints after mere steam from hot tea once left a mark on his hand. “He was like a baby.”

In the weeks after September 11, firefighters promised her that Chowdhury died from smoke inhalation before ever feeling a flame.

If there were a roadmap when it comes to grieving, the journey taken by Ashrafi and her children was unmarked.

She watched Muslim men, afraid to stand out, shave off their beards. Women removed their religious head coverings, known as hijabs. But even as she reeled from grief, Ashrafi somehow found the strength to respond differently.

Though she hadn’t worn a hijab in public before, her faith ran deep, thanks to her husband. Two weeks after she lost him, she decided it was time to put on her hijab.

That made her a widow who couldn’t count on the kindness of strangers. Her sadness was compounded by hate. Just months after the attacks, boys screamed “jihad!” at Ashrafi and a confused Fahina on a Manhattan street.

While other surviving parents struggled to explain September 11 to their children, Ashrafi faced an additional challenge: Fahina wanted to know why the TV said Muslims killed her daddy.

Chowdhury was one of 32 Muslim victims on September 11, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. That distinction has put Ashrafi and her children in the spotlight. Adding to the attention, Ashrafi says, is that Farqad is believed to be the first baby born to a September 11 widow. (CNN could not confirm this, but the boy came into this world the morning of September 13, 2001.)

As the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks approaches, Ashrafi has fielded calls from around the world. A documentary unit from the United Kingdom visited their home. A reporter from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates sought a sit-down visit. An Australian TV crew is scheduled to fly to Oklahoma this week.

He was in my heart to do good things, and he watches me.
–Farqad Chowdhury, born two days after his father died on 9/11

All of the attention appears to leave Farqad a little numb. He tears himself away from video games, flops down in a plush sitting room chair and rattles off words he can say but doesn’t seem to fully feel.

Up until a few years ago, he’d heard only that his father died in an accident. He’s still trying to get his head around the truth.

“My dad was in work, and the plane was crashing, and there was a fire there,” he said, staring across the room at his mother. “Then my father died. Then I was born. I was born in New York.”

Does he know who was behind what happened to his dad?

“A bad guy did it,” he said, his eyes still locked on his mother.

“Do you know how many people were with your dad?” she asked.

“Lots,” he answered. “Maybe 20?”

Completing his life

Ashrafi was walking back from Fahina’s school when American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower. She wouldn’t get this news until later. But looking back, she realizes that was the moment she felt a surge rush through her belly.

She wasn’t yet in labor, but the sensation stopped her. She focused on getting home to rest.

The sex of their second child was a secret she’d kept to herself. She’d known for only a few weeks, but in case the sonogram reading was wrong, she stayed mum.

Her husband had told her that having a son would complete his life. She couldn’t wait to see his face when he met their boy.

“He told me he’d be the happiest man in the world,” she said, crying. “I was dreaming how his face would be. … Why did I not tell him?”

She was resting in bed when one of her sisters called to ask Ashrafi where her husband was. “At work,” she answered, matter-of-factly. Her sister screamed.

Family and friends soon filled the Queens home. They kept Ashrafi away from the television because the late stages of pregnancy already had pushed her blood pressure too high.

Someone picked up Fahina from school. Just 5 at the time, she remembers seeing all the shoes outside their home’s front door and struggling to understand the standing-room-only crowd inside.

Two days later, in the hospital, Ashrafi still expected Chowdhury to walk into the room. She clung to the far-fetched plotlines of romance films. He simply had amnesia and was wandering, lost, she told herself. With time, they’d find each other.

Her sisters surrounded her during a C-section deemed necessary by doctors given the circumstances. When they brought Farqad to her, she looked into the big dark eyes of her husband.

“Daddy wants that, too”

Before he could even speak, Farqad admired himself in mirrors.

“He was such a cute baby, and he knew it, too,” Fahina said, flipping through photos.

Their father wasn’t so different. Fahina points out pictures of him posing, often alone. For a time, when Farqad saw images of his father holding children, he would scream, “That’s me!”

Later, the boy discovered the few pieces of Chowdhury’s clothing that his mother had saved. After school, Farqad would change into a dark red T-shirt that dwarfed his small frame. Nowadays, his mother sometimes catches him saying good night to his father’s photograph.

“He was in my heart to do good things, and he watches me,” the boy said.

“If someone’s mean to you? What do you say?” his mother asked. “What does mommy tell you?”

He peers at her and shrugs.

“To be nice to people,” she told him.

“I don’t want to be nice to mean people,” he said.

She smiles. “But that’s the way they’ll learn to be nice. And Daddy wants that, too.”

This was a lesson she says her husband exemplified. She tries to live it herself.

When a man behind her in a Wal-Mart checkout line muttered something about Muslims, she didn’t flinch. She felt sorry for the boys who pelted her car with soda cans while screaming “Hey, Muslim!” And she shook off the sting after a woman in a wheelchair, struggling to reach an item on a grocery store shelf, refused Ashrafi’s offer of assistance.

“I don’t want any help from a Muslim,” the woman snapped.

The truth is, she can handle occasional insults in Oklahoma. She couldn’t bear them in New York, where everywhere she turned, she was reminded of what was gone.

She and the children moved away in 2002, opting for a simpler, more affordable life near one of her sisters.

Ashrafi says she had to start anew, even if she still cleaves to the past.

Sacrifices and dreams

Ashrafi’s focus narrowed after September 11.

“My whole world is this house and my kids,” she says. “God chose me to be given these two kids and for me to raise them on my own. … I want to enjoy every moment with them.”

She has no plans to return to her job in a bank. She rarely socializes beyond her family. At 39, she vows to die Chowdhury’s wife.

So when people, including family members, tell her they’re praying she’ll meet someone, she shoots back, “Please don’t pray that for me; that would be a curse!”

She lost her own father in 1997. Her mother, who moved in with Ashrafi and her kids for five years after September 11, often tells Ashrafi to do something for herself. Her response is to say that when Farqad goes to college, maybe she will go to school, too.

Her husband always told her she should be an interior designer. Her home is full of floral arrangements she created, unique decorative pieces she seized on sale and furnishings fit for a showroom.

Chowdhury planned to complete a degree in computer information systems. But with another child on the way, he hadn’t yet walked away from the good money he was making at Windows on the World.

I still feel blessed. I’m just trying to make my dad proud.
–Fahina Chowdhury, who was 5 when her father died in the terror attacks

He envisioned great success for his offspring, and Ashrafi does, too. She boasts about their grades, has hired a tutor to help Farqad with his homework — so she and Fahina don’t have to be “the bad guys” — and encourages her children to aim high.

Fahina, who wants to be a doctor, says she doesn’t need to be prodded.

She sees her mother’s sacrifices and knows her father worked as a waiter for them and not because that was his dream.

“I know if he was here, he’d be pushing me. So I try to push myself,” she said. Even with all her family has endured, “I still feel blessed. I’m just trying to make my dad proud.”

Honoring without ceremony

On September 11, Ashrafi and her kids will not join other victims’ families in New York. They aren’t drawn to large public ceremonies. They remember the anniversary every day, they say, and would rather continue doing so privately.

Fahina says she prays extra hard for her father on these anniversaries.

She is a young woman with faith beyond her years. Before she was 5, she swore off McDonald’s. While other kids clamored for Happy Meals, she insisted on eating only meats certified as halal, acceptable according to Islamic law. By the time she was 9, she wanted to fast during Ramadan. She began praying at 11 and brings her prayer mat with her when she stays with friends.

Ashrafi takes great pride in the diversity that surrounds her children and in their open-mindedness. She loves that one of Fahina’s best friends is Jewish, that she’s grown up attending sleepovers with girls of all religious backgrounds and that her high school honors Fahina’s upbringing, too.

When a fringe Florida pastor first threatened to burn the Quran during last year’s September 11 anniversary, Fahina came to school to find classmates wearing green to honor Islam. On a student’s Converse sneakers, she spotted the scrawled words “I love the Quran.”

On September 11, Ashrafi says, prayers will be said for her husband in his brother’s home in Bangladesh, as they are every year on this date. And just as she’s done on each anniversary, Ashrafi will send money to Bangladesh to uphold a family tradition of honoring the dead by bringing food to orphanages. Chowdhury’s brother will make the delivery.

Ashrafi does not attend a mosque. She says she finds all she needs in the confines of her home and in her Quran. But every Saturday, she sends her children to a small mosque to learn about the Quran and Islamic history.

Fahina feels a strong commitment to her religious education. She says she needs answers for the questions about her faith that she suspects she will face for a lifetime.

“Who knew it would never be filled”

Farqad is splayed across a sofa, fighting ninjas on his handheld gaming system. His mother and sister leaf through an old pink scrapbook, the one Ashrafi started when she began her life with Chowdhury.

The first pages, slightly yellowed, are a celebration of their wedding. Floral stickers frame a large picture taken during the ceremony.

She was so young, just shy of 20, when she met him that day.

She flips ahead to a page marking six months after their marriage, when she joined him in New York. A snapshot captures their first date in the big city. Her husband, who loved cars, took her to an auto show.

“How romantic!” Fahina said with a laugh, rolling her dark eyes.

Other pages mark their first anniversary. Ashrafi poses with her newborn daughter, and Chowdhury proudly holds his little girl.

Ashrafi turns toward the back of the book. The pages are blank. This is where she would have illustrated their “happily ever after,” she says, the days when she and her husband would have celebrated the completion of their family with their newborn son.

“Who knew it would never be filled,” she said quietly.

Hearing her words, Fahina cries again — for what her mother lost, what she lost and what her brother never knew.

Irene’s Aftermath

Farewell, Irene

By Editorial, Published: August 28, The Washington Post
HURRICANE IRENE’S rampage through the Washington area proved less destructive than had been predicted, but that doesn’t mean that officials were wrong to prepare meticulously and issue dire warnings. The casualty toll could have been much higher had officials not treated this monster storm so seriously.

Irene may not have triggered the apocalypse intimated by television soothsayers, but some of that is luck: a shift a few miles to the west, a tick more ferocity in the winds, and the results might have been far different. As it was, the storm was no picnic. At least 15 people in six states were killed in the storm, and as always the casualties seem heartbreakingly random: an 11-year-old Newport News boy dead when a large tree crashed into his apartment; a 15-year-old girl killed in a North Carolina car crash; a Maryland woman struck fatally when a tree toppled the chimney of her house.

Moreover, all danger hasn’t passed. Additional areas could yet flood and more trees tip over where rivers are running high and the ground is saturated from heavy rains. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) warned that half of the state’s 30 fatalities attributed to Hurricane Isabel in 2003 occurred after the storm, as a result of exposure to electric wires, overexertion or accidents with chain saws.

Irene might have claimed more lives but for intelligent decisions to evacuate residents from low-lying areas, curtail travel and impose curfews. People at all levels of government — from federal emergency officials to governors to police in the smallest municipality — cooperated in formulating and communicating those decisions both before and while the massive storm lumbered up the coast with its furious rain and winds. With few exceptions (the foolish New York City kayakers who had to be rescued come to mind), the public wisely heeded the warnings and stayed off the streets.

Clearly, the storm’s most widespread impact is the loss of electricity. More than 1 million customers in the Washington region were without power Sunday, and restoration efforts in Virginia were said to be second only to those experienced during Isabel in the extent of the challenge. Pepco, as of Sunday morning, reported fewer outages (197,703) than Dominion Power (1.1 million) or BG&E (472,306), but — in light of criticism about its lack of responsiveness and reliability — Pepco has more at stake in showing it has learned from its previous mistakes. Early reviews were encouraging, as the utility reached out to customers before the storm hit, called in extra crews, and answered calls to its hotline promptly and courteously. Customers won’t issue a final grade until the last home gets its lights back on.

Which could be a while: Outages extend up and down the East Coast, and officials are suggesting it could take as long as a week to restore service to everyone. That means people will have to be patient and understanding, which shouldn’t be a problem; those tend to be the traits Americans summon when confronted with a common hardship.

You’re Not Invited, GOP

Republican Politicians Banned From Labor Day Parade In Wisconsin

First Posted: 8/29/11 08:34 AM ET Updated: 8/29/11 05:24 PM ET, The Huffington Post
Sean Duffy

WASHINGTON — A group of Wisconsin union officials has voted to ban Republican politicians from a local Labor Day parade, underscoring how partisan the state has become in the wake of this year’s clashes over collective bargaining rights.

The Marathon County Central Labor Council, which sponsors the parade, includes some 30 local unions.

Council President Randy Radtke said in a statement on the group’s website that politicians are only welcome at the festivities if they have demonstrated support for workers’ rights.

“It should come as no surprise that organizers choose not to invite elected officials who have openly attacked worker’s rights or stood idly by while their political party fought to strip public workers of their right to collectively bargain,” Radtke said. “It is a time for working families to come together to celebrate their hard work and a time where we recognize the labor movement for all they have given us — the weekend, the 40 hour work week, child labor protection, a safe work environment.”

In February, the 14 Democratic members of the Wisconsin state Senate left the state to deny their GOP colleagues a quorum and prevent them from pushing forward Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) controversial budget repair bill, which stripped most of the collective bargaining rights from public employees. Through a last-minute budgetary maneuver, Republicans were able to pass the measure. All but one GOP state senator voted for it.

On the federal level, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) represents Wausau. In a statement to local ABC affiliate WAOW, Duffy’s office decried the labor council vote. “Having walked in this parade in past years, Congressman Duffy was hoping that for a moment, we could set our differences aside and simply have some fun in a family-friendly event,” a Duffy spokesperson said.

“[The congressman] walks in a lot of parades, and staff called to register a spot last week and was informed in colorful language that no Republicans were being allowed to participate this year,” added Duffy Chief of Staff Brandon Moody in an email to The Huffington Post.

During the winter’s budget fight, the congressman praised Walker but tried to keep his distance from the governor’s stance on collective bargaining. In February, the editorial board of the Wausau Daily Herald called his reluctance to weigh in “just plain lame.”

Radtke said the reaction to his decision has been mixed, with “some negative comments but mostly it has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Other politicians who won’t be welcome at the parade include state Sen. Pam Galloway (R-Wausau) and state Rep. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon).

This story was updated with additional comment from Duffy’s office.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report incorrectly identified the broadcast network with which WAOW is affiliate. The station is an affiliate of ABC, not NBC.