Monday, October 20, 2014
Sunday, October 19, 2014
“There once was a time in history when the limitation of governmental power meant increasing liberty for the people,” TR told his followers in the independent new Progressive Party in 1912. “In the present day, the limitation … of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations, who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.”
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito: Evil or Stupid? And Does It Matter?
Writing the majority opinion in Harris v. Quinn, a decision announced shortly before Hobby Lobby that weakened public-sector labor unions, Associate Justice Samuel Alito actually wrote: “Except in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”
Alito had in mind dues-paying union members whose unions might take political positions to which they object.
Obviously, one could scarcely imagine Alito writing the same sentence in regard to, say, nonreligious taxpayers compelled to subsidize legislatures that open their sessions with sectarian prayer!
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Shame on you, Bill Estep and Herald editors for contributing to the baseless Ebola hysteria instead of using an opportunity to educate people.
In this story on how rural hospitals in Kentucky are preparing to deal with a patient with Ebola, Estep unquestionably accepts the false premise that Ebola is easily contracted and spread.
On Friday, the Mountain Advocate newspaper in Barbourville reported that an ambulance brought a woman to the Knox County Hospital who was concerned she'd been exposed to Ebola. The hospital closed off the emergency room before determining the woman had not been exposed, the paper reported.I suppose it's remotely possible that someone recently in West Africa showed up in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, but I think it's more likely she was suffering from Faux News Overexposure syndrome and imagined that she contracted Ebola through her TV.
Estep misses a huge opportunity there to tell us whether she was actually a likely Ebola victim and to educate his readers on how Ebola actually spreads and the extreme unlikelihood of contracting it if you've never stepped foot outside the county you were born in.
Yes, there's an "About Ebola" sidebar that mentions Ebola cannot be casually contracted. Nobody reads sidebars.
The real danger of Ebola in this country is that hospitals are going to be overwhelmed and wasting money on Faux News Overexposure victims, each case exponentially increasing the hysteria that will end up costing lives far from the nearest Ebola patient.
How come we never hear about all those freakazoids being re-jailed for refusing atheist indoctrination?
A Northern California man was awarded almost $2 million in a settlement after prison officials sent him back to jail for refusing to take part in a faith-based treatment program for drug offenders because he is an atheist.
According to the Redding Record Searchlight, Barry Hazle Jr. will receive $1 million from state officials and $925,000 from Westcare California, the contractor in charge of the program, which called for attendees to submit themselves to a “higher power” and pray.
“I’m thrilled to finally have this case settled,” Hazle said on Tuesday. “It sends a clear message to people in a position of authority, like my parole agent, for example, that they not mandate religious programming for their parolees, and for anyone else, for that matter.”…
Friday, October 17, 2014
From a Gawker takedown of a fashion "Antebellum" revivial, a description of the New Racism:
... the keeping of a caste of humans as property has been reimagined as a comprehensive system of impoverishment, judicial and extrajudicial violence, and de facto subjugation.
Talk to some Kentucky Democratic voters - and those of us who actually vote Democratic are ALL liberal, thank you very much - and what you'll hear is anger. Red-hot, hopping mad fury at Alison Lundergan Grimes for expecting us to vote for a repug-lite, coal-excusing hater of President Obama.
And for pissing away our best chance in 30 years to get rid of McConnell.
Some of us are still going to vote for her, because we are Democratic voters and we are liberals and we're voting against the Turtle. But not all of us. And not enough of us to lift her to victory.
And that is 100 percent her fucking fault.
Sam Youngman at the Herald:
Yarmuth, speaking before Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, did something that Democrats in Kentucky have been going out of their way to avoid doing:
He embraced, defended and praised President Barack Obama.
"Nobody has inherited a tougher job than Barack Obama did," Yarmuth said to wild applause from more than 4,000 Democrats Wednesday night.
As the Grimes campaign has taken on water in recent days for her refusal to say if she voted for Obama and for her decision to run an immigration ad condemned by liberal groups, Yarmuth is working overtime to keep Grimes' liberal base intact.
"I think that is part of my role with her," Yarmuth said Thursday in a phone interview with the Herald-Leader.
The liberal base of Kentucky's Democratic Party is not wholly different than it is nationally — 30 percent of Kentuckians still give Obama a thumbs-up — and Grimes needs every last one of them to show up on Nov. 4 if she hopes to deny U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a sixth term.
But it is a restless base.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Whether it's Ebola, the IRS, ISIS, Benghazi! or the recent Secret Service scandal, Republicans are dedicated to convincing voters they live in a dark, horrible world. Be afraid, little people, be afraid.
The corollary to that is, of course, that the good soldier Republicans will save you if you'll only vote for them so they can roll back time to some time in history (God knows when!) when everything was wonderful.
It's a tactic. Fear as motivation to reject progress is time-honored and Republicans have turned it into a sort of art form -- dark arts, that is. After all, one of the reasons we live in a somewhat scary world is because of what Republicans did; specifically, Republicans George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fear and anger. Fear and bigotry. Fear and selfishness. Classic conservative tactics and monsters of conservative invention for the purely cynical purpose of gaining and consolidating power.
For example, the Ebola virus. President Obama has wisely decided that deploying our military expertise to build medical facilities and help put some infrastructure in Africa to combat the disease is a good thing. But David Vitter objects, claiming it focuses too much on Africa. No funding for efforts to contain the virus and save lives in Africa, Vitter whines, while clutching his pearls and crying about "illegals" crossing the southern border with unnamed but intentional linkage to the Ebola virus. Be afraid!
Fear, baby. It sells. Give them some fear, forget that you refuse to deal with the situation causing the fear.
That's the way capitalism has worked since the Black Plague created a huge labor shortage in feudal Europe that overturned the serf system and forced landowners to pay for labor.
But over the past 30 years, employers have come to insist that they no longer have to pay workers. Employers - especially big corporations - now view workers as sub-human serfs that don't really need, much less deserve, decent pay.
Here's something you don't see every day: a news article about employers who desperately want to hire more people but just can't find workers with the right skills. Oh wait. You do see that every day. What you don't see are articles which make it clear that a willingness to pay higher wages is all it takes to fix this problem:
Manufacturing wages are rising at a rapid clip in some major industrial states as shortages of certain skills and gradually falling unemployment rates force more companies to pay up to attract and retain workers.....“What we mainly need is welders,” said Terry McIver, chief executive and owner of Loadcraft Industries Ltd., a maker of parts for oil rigs in Brady, Texas....Dewayne Roy, head of the welding program at Mountain View College in Dallas, said he recently had a waiting list of about 250 people seeking to enroll. One student, Logan Porter, 22, started working for a metal-fabrication shop in the Dallas area in February and is putting in 55How about that? If you pay more, you attract workers with the right skills. If you pay more, training programs start to fill up. If you pay more, you can steal folks away from your competitors.
to 60 hours a week. He earns $17 an hour, but with time and a half for overtime, his weekly take-home pay typically exceeds $800. “I love the work,” he said. ....Steve Van Loan, president of Sullivan Palatek Inc. in Michigan City, said job hopping is becoming more of a problem. “They get an offer for more money across town, and they’re gone,” he said. Wages on average at his firm, which makes compressors that power drills and other tools, are rising 4% to 5% this year, compared with 2% to 3% in recent years, Mr. Van Loan said.
Pay is the great equalizer. There are always going to be shortages of specific skills in specific times and places. But a long-term nationwide shortage? That just means employers aren't willing to pay market wages. They should read their Milton Friedman. If you pay them, they will come.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
... the War on Voting isn’t just a coolly calculated gambit that would go away if it were not perceived as effective or efficient. It’s closely integrated with contemporary conservative ideology.
For one thing, the highly prominent Constitutional Conservative wing of the GOP considers democracy itself—if it aims at or even allows erosion of the Ideal Governing Scheme of states rights and property rights and religious rights (and for many ConCons, fetal rights) established by the Founders—as essentially un-American (This is a republic, not a democracy, they never tire of saying) and requiring significant restrictions.
Anything that makes exercise of the franchise more difficult—especially by those people who so poorly resemble the white yeoman farmer property owners of the early Republic—is presumed to be a good idea in itself.
But even short of the Con Con ranks, the kind of thinking that produced Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remarks is deeply entrenched in the GOP, and its root idea is that voting by people who benefit from an active federal government (and don’t pay income taxes!) is corrupt. So you can talk all day about the non-existence of voter fraud in the legal sense of participating in elections without eligibility. For a large number of Republicans, “voter fraud” means Democrats trading other people’s money (their money) for votes, and being technically eligible to cast a ballot cuts little or no ice.
So long as these habits of thinking persist on the Right, then the War on Voting will persist as well, whether or not it’s “working” in the sense of producing a tangible positive net effect for the Republican Party.
Steve M. says President Obama will probably send ground troops to the Syria/Iraq Permanent Hellhole of Futility after the election.
I think he's right, and I think the only way to stop it is to turn the real trouble-maker in the region into a giant sheet of glass.
Punch the fossil fuel industry in the nuts, maybe long enough to get renewable energy really off and running? Nuke Saudi Arabia.
Eliminate the economic, social and religious source of the 9th-century backward bullshit that enslaves a billion women and children around the world? Nuke Saudi Arabia.
I don't think the world has a Muslim problem. It has a Saudi Arabia problem. The closer a country is to the warped influence of Saudi Arabia, the more violent and illiberal it is. Go west to Tunisia and Morocco and Islam becomes more moderate. Go north to Turkey and it becomes more moderate. Go east to India and Indonesia and it becomes more moderate.
Obviously this is hardly a perfect correlation. If you want to find exceptions, you can. But generally speaking, Saudi Arabia is the epicenter of Islam's problems, a country that stands for virtually everything that the liberal West condemns. It is almost feudally anti-democratic. It is corrupt. It is theocratic. It treats women and gays horribly. Its legal system is barbarous. It is intolerant of any religion other than its own fundamentalist strain of Wahabi Islam. It is no coincidence that 15 of the 19 terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia and the rest came from nearby countries. Saudi Arabia is a country that, by rights, should be shunned by every government on the planet.
But they're not. For historical reasons, we've instead forged a longtime alliance with the princes of Riyadh. The world is paying a high price for this.
Why? The Rude Pundit explains:
Nearly every election, we've gotta go through this. We gotta watch as Democrats desperately try to portray themselves as salt-of-the-earth right-wingers (cue the ads of Democrats shooting shit). This time around, like in 2010 and 2014, we get to see them do the distancing dance, saying that they're not nigger-lovers, oh, no. They're "Clinton Democrats," as Grimes and others have called themselves, which is one of the most bullshit, racist phrases the Rude Pundit's seen since "urban youth." Once more, we're watching Democrats try to appeal to the yahoos when they should just rip the heads off their opponents and use the head to suck them off or eat them out like a fuck puppet.
And then, if someone does put out an ass-kicker of an ad, Democratic pussies run away, acting like their delicate sensibilities were just offended. Take, for instance, Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis's ad against her wheelchair-bound opponent, the odious scum-eater, Greg Abbott. In "Justice," we see an empty wheelchair as a serious narrator tells us that Abbott sued the fuck out of someone whose tree fell on him and won millions of dollars and then, as a lawyer, fought against others receiving compensation for their injuries. Yeah, Abbott's that special kind of hypocritical bastard, one who loves the taste of the sweat and tears of others: he speaks out against lawyers who try to get money for their injured clients.
So while Abbott gets to roll away from the substance of the ad, Davis gets excoriated.
Davis is losing, so you could call it a "hail Mary," but it's a gut punch. Why are we not getting ads from Grimes saying that McConnell will take away people's health insurance? Is it because it will force Grimes to mention the-Negro-who-shall-not-be-
The failure of Democrats to show that Republicans would take away health care from millions of people and are responsible for our crumbling infrastructure and slow jobs recovery is a failure of imagination, messaging, and leadership. It's cowardice, purely and simply, and it's once again allowed Republicans to set the rules of engagement. Texas could have used a leader for the 21st century, not the mid-20th.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
There is a long, blue river of sadness running through the words of that dissent. It runs under the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama. It pools into a lagoon of sadness behind an earthen dam in Mississippi. The survivors of the generation that fought and bled for the right to vote are getting old and dying off right now. John Lewis is 74. Soon, there won't be any of them left. But it always was thought that the victories they won would survive them. That the real monument to their cause would be lines of the historically disenfranchised suddenly empowered, swamping the system, and realizing that elections in this country are meant to be the most powerful form of civil disobedience there is. And now, it looks very much as though powerful interests are in combination to make sure their victories die with them, here as we celebrate John Roberts's Day of Jubilee. There is a long blue river of sadness running through those words, and a darkness spreading across its surface, and a long night is falling on the face of the water.
While Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes fight over which one embraces the decomposing corpse of coal more ardently, the company that is Kentucky's future is quietly and determinedly working to save the world.
Laura Ungar at the Courier:
As Ebola continues to ravage West Africa and spreads for the first time in the United States, a Kentucky company is putting all other work aside to concentrate solely on producing the experimental medicine ZMapp.
The goal: To ramp up production and get it to people more quickly.
Kentucky BioProcessing, contracted by San Diego-based drug maker Mapp Biopharmaceutical to produce ZMapp, makes the compound using tobacco plants, which act as "photocopiers" to mass-produce proteins.
"We have essentially put all of our resources around the ZMapp compound," said David Howard, a spokesman for Reynolds American Inc., which acquired Kentucky BioProcessing in January. "It's our entire focus. ... We're trying to do what we can to address this epidemic."
Howard said the company is hiring more staff and working on the compound 24 hours a day, seven days a week at its Owensboro facility, which has 32,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Although the compound takes about three months to make, he said, limited supplies are available, and he expects to keep producing more on a rolling basis. He said this increased production may help speed up the drug-approval process.
Working toward U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval is also the federal government's goal. In September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to accelerate development of ZMapp under an 18-month, $24.9 million contract with Mapp, which could be extended to $42.3 million.
Have you ever not been able to breathe? Maybe after diving into too-deep water and inhaling too soon? Or in an asthma attack? Remember the terror you felt, unable to make air move into or out of your lungs? Now imagine feeling that every minute of every day of your life forever.
Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money:
I, for one, am glad that some doctors out there are brave enough to hold back the tide of “black lung” addled coal miners/parasites who are threatening the profitability of our coal companies and our insurance companies:**Yes, of course he's being sarcastic.
After working underground in the coal mines of southern West Virginia for almost 35 years, Steve Day thought it was obvious why he gasped for air, slept upright in a recliner, and inhaled oxygen from a tank 24 hours a day.More than half a dozen doctors who saw the masses in his lungs or the test results showing his severely impaired breathing were also in agreement.The clear diagnosis was black lung.Yet, when I met Steve in April 2013, he had lost his case to receive benefits guaranteed by federal law to any coal miner disabled by black lung. The coal company that employed the miner usually pays for these benefits, and, as almost always happens, Steve’s longtime employer had fought vigorously to avoid paying him. As a result, he and his family were barely scraping by, sometimes resorting to loans from relatives or neighbors to make it through the month.Like many other miners, he had lost primarily because of the opinions of a unit of doctors at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions that had long been the go-to place for coal companies seeking negative X-ray readings to help defeat a benefits claim. The longtime leader of the unit, Dr. Paul Wheeler, testified against Steve, and the judge determined that his opinion trumped all others, as judges have in many other cases.