Saturday, April 18, 2015

Conform and Obey, or Suffer the Consequences

Can you really say with confidence that there is absolutely nothing in your life that collected and misinterpreted could be used to arrest, imprison or otherwise destroy you?
 
Digby:
I'm going to guess that everyone who thinks mass government surveillance for "terrorism" is a-ok must think this is ok too?
Secret mass surveillance conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration is falling under renewed scrutiny after fresh revelations about the broad scope of the agency’s electronic spying.
On Tuesday, USA Today reported that for more than two decades, dating back to 1992, the DEA and the Justice Department “amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking.” 
This is the thing I've never understood about people's casual attitude about all this surveillance. They seem to think that the Al Capone logic of government agents finding any crime they can to put someone behind bars couldn't possibly apply to them and will only be used against real "bad guys." But the Drug War should show if nothing else does that these agencies have a need to perpetuate themselves and will use whatever means at their disposal to ensure a steady supply of bad guys. These mass surveillance programs basically give them a permanent record of everyone's activity just in case they need to find some evidence of something against a person they want to target. And you may never even know that's what they did since they routinely lie about how they were informed of certain crimes citing the need to protect their confidential informants which can very well be the secret government program that's collecting all your information.

It's crazy. If you don't think the government should be allowed to scan every piece of mail that goes through the post office and keep it on file just in case they might "need" to sift through it and find something in your past or among your associations to use against you, you shouldn't be so sanguine about this stuff. These things could happen. They have happened.

"There's no greater threat to our planet than climate change."

The threat, Mr. President, is not to the planet.  The threat is to human civilization. A planet too volatile and extreme to allow human survival will get along just fine without us.

Video is not yet available.

Full transcript here.

Motherfrackers Get Permit to Start Destroying Kentucky's Drinking Water

Nice to know that Kentucky's fossil fuel "regulators" are not biased in favor of coal.

They'll let anybody come in and kill us.

Brad Bowman at the State-Journal:

The Kentucky Oil and Gas Conservation Commission gave the green light for Kentucky’s first horizontal deep-well fracturing operation in a special meeting Thursday
 
The commission granted a drilling permit to Horizontal Technology Energy Company of Pennsylvania that will set up an oil and natural gas drilling operation in Johnson County. 
Based on a recommendation by hearing officer Gordon Slone, the company will drill at a target depth of 11,200 feet and has been approved for a vertical depth of 15,000 feet. 
 
The well will tap into the Rogersville Shale that is a part of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.  
Kentucky residents will have a chance to voice their concerns on oil and gas development in the state at three public meetings hosted by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. Meeting locations have been set for Hazard, Somerset and Madisonville, but dates and times for the meetings are undetermined. 
 
According to EEC Secretary Len Peters, the meeting format will include time for brief public comments and the cabinet will also accept written submissions. 
 
In a press release from Dick Brown, spokesperson for the cabinet, Peters said at the meetings there will, “be no debate between those on each side of the issue. These will be ‘listening sessions’ for the cabinet to receive comments on a wide array of issues surrounding the Kentucky oil and gas industry,” and comments will be recorded on video and submitted into a report to the oil and gas workgroup. 
 
According to the release, the report will be available to lawmakers and the Governor’s Office for possible action and the “…input from the general public is extremely valuable as this group moves forward,” Peters said. “We want to be certain future legislation addressing oil and gas exploration, especially fracking, takes into account all points of view.”
 
Despite legislation passed during the recent short session updating oil and gas regulations with environmental impact safeguards, it won’t affect this operation.
 
Senate Bill 186, sponsored by Frankfort Sen. Julian Carroll (D-Frankfort) won’t effectively become law until June. It requires high-volume horizontal fracturing operations to conduct baseline water testing before and after drilling operations begin and disclose the type of chemical used in the fracking process for example. 
 
Given the company could receive its permit as early as today, the new regulations won’t affect it.
Johnson County is high in the Eastern Kentucky mountains.  Right above the Kentucky River watershed, which supplies drinking water to more than a million Kentuckians in Central Kentucky before it dumps its load of deadly fracking chemicals into the Ohio River, from which millions more people drink.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fuck This Poll: Abortion is a Human Right Not Subject to Public Opinion

They don't poll on the popularity of slavery, because even if a majority of Americans approved of it, their opinion is irrelevant.

They don't poll on the humanity of women, because even if a majority of Americans think women are sub-human (hello, Ann Coulter!), their opinion is irrelevant.

And they don't poll on the right of parents to kill their children for disobedience, because even if a majority of Americans approved of it, their opinion is irrelevant.

So stop fucking polling people on abortion.


Their opinion is irrelevant.

A Good Question for AynRandy

What - exactly - is his definition of "small government?"
 
I like to pose the Goldilocks question:

How much government is too big, how much government is too small, and how much government is just right?

For the Scott Walkers and the Sam Brownbacks and the Pat McCrorys and the John Kasichs and the Ricks Snyder and Scott, this is not a trivial question. Since a "right-sized" government does not seem to exist in their universe, these are questions the right seems completely unprepared to address. Asking the question generally leaves them with their mouths hanging open.

Originalists among the T-Party typically fall back on Article 1, Section 8 enumerated powers in the Constitution. Of course, there is no Air Force in there — it's neither an Army nor a Navy. Therefore, no satellites, no telecommunications, no GPS. (Sorry, fishermen.) No system of lake, river, coastal, and aeronautical aids to navigation. They're not exactly military, nor law enforcement, nor commerce — and there's not really a market for trade in buoys, range markers, lighthouses, radio beacons, and air traffic control. No interstate highway system in Article 1, Section 8 either.

We ought to demand that our friends on the right define what their anti-big-government utopia looks like. Paint us a picture. Compare and contrast the life we live today with the one you promise your policies will provide. How about you start, Sam Brownback?

If you believe the lives we live right now are manacled by big, bad government, what would you demolish? What should go away? How much smaller should the military be? Is half a million installations worldwide too big? Is nearly 900 overseas bases too big? Would the Founders have considered that big government? Is Social Security big government? What's your plan for demolishing it? Do you propose privatizing the interstate highways? Should there be tolls on all of them?

And no, no more abstract blather about more freedom and more choices and fewer taxes. Paint us a picture. Describe for us, in detail, what your small-government utopia will look like in day-to-day, physical terms. Lowly fiction writers can do that.

How much government is too big, how much government is too small, and how much government is just right?

Voter Registration Deadline MONDAY

From KFTC:

There are only a few days left to register to vote in the May primary election!
Primary Voter Registration
To be eligible to vote in the May Primary Election your voter registration form must be completed at your local County Clerk's office or mailed and postmarked by Monday, April 20.
Not yet registered or need to update your registration?
Visit your local County Clerk's office or download a voter registration card and mail it in by April 20. For answers to common voter registration questions please see “Voter FAQs” below or visit KFTC's website.

JOIN THE FUN AND HELP US REGISTER KENTUCKY VOTERS!
Many KFTC chapters have scheduled voter registration outreach events leading up to the deadline, so contact your local KFTC organizer to see how you can pitch in. 
Voter FAQs:
  • How can I check if I am registered to vote and what party I am registered with?
  • Where do I register?
  • When are the Primary Election and the General Election?
    • Primary Election Day is May 19 and the General Election Day is November 3
  • Can I update my political party, address, and/or name?
    • YES! For name and address changes, complete a voter registration form and submit by April 20. For political party changes please read below:
      • Kentucky has closed party primary elections. This means you can only vote for candidates that are running within the party you selected to register with when completing your voter registration form.
      • The deadline for Kentucky voters to change their political party for the 2015 Primary Election was on or before December 31, 2014. If you are not registered with the party you cast your vote for during the Primary Election you forfeit the right to vote in either party's Primary. However, if you are registering as a new Kentucky voter this rule does not pertain to you. To find where you are currently registered and what party you are registered as, visit the Voter Information Center here.
  • How old do I have to be?
    • You must be 18 years of age on or before November 3, 2015. 17-year-olds may register and vote in the May Primary as long as they will turn 18 before November 3, 2014
For more information regarding voter registration rules and regulations please visit the Voter Empowerment section of our website.
Attention College Students!
You are legally allowed to register to vote in the county where you live and attend college. If you are still registered in your home county here are your 3 options for voting:
1) ABSENTEE BALLOT:
  • You are eligible if you will not be in the county you registered to vote
  • Absentee ballot request must be submitted to your County Clerk 7 days before the election
  • Send request to your County Clerk by email, mail, in person or fax:
  • Your absentee ballot must be received by the close of polls, 6pm, on Primary Election Day, May 19th
2) EARLY VOTING:
  • You are eligible if you will not be in the county you registered to vote
  • A voting machine at the County Clerk’s office is available during the last 12 (or more) working days before the election for qualified voters.
3) ELECTION DAY VOTING:
  • Primary Election Day is May 19, 2015
  • Click HERE to check your voter registration status and voting location at or 1-800-246-1399
  • The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., local time

Just Say No: to the Entire Middle East

Yes, the Iran deal is a huge accomplishment and should be an irrefutable proof that diplomacy works and war doesn't.

But the truth is that peace is not indigenous to the Middle East and has never thrived there. Even if our own repugs were not slavering for more permanent war.

Enough.

Disengagement should now be our policy with both Israel and the Arab world. We Americans should urge our government to end all arms sales to any Arab nation ruled by a general, dictator or king. We need to isolate and diplomatically contain any Arab regime that has demonstrably killed unarmed protesters, as in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. We should also close our military installations in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.
Such a dramatic, categorical and evenhanded withdrawal of American arms and treasure would deal a bracing shock to the region’s ruling elites. But it would be a good and decent thing for all concerned. The so-called experts, our TV talking heads, will be quick to object that such a withdrawal would only open the gates to the barbaric head-choppers. These experts are wrong: the Salafist nihilists operating under the black flag of a farcical caliphate have bitter enemies all around them. They have no real future in the twenty-first century. And in any case, these sectarian wars are not ours—and our government has no business sacrificing young American men and women in such an ephemeral mission.
The experts will call disengagement quixotic. They will speak in Kissingeresque bass tones about America’s “strategic” interests in Arabian oil. But I don’t care about oil, a fungible commodity that will be sold in any event on the global market by any regime that controls such carbon resources—especially since, given our climate peril, we should be focusing on renewable and sustainable energy. And I don’t care about the “strategic” consequences: they cannot be worse than the Middle East we have mismanaged.
We Americans must have a lower profile in the Middle East. Of course we can provide humanitarian assistance. But the Arabs are weary of our shallow promises of security and democracy, and all our flaccid diplomatic efforts to sustain the “peace process” in reality seem only to sustain a dead-end status quo. Enough.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

More Behavior That Is A Crime Only When Black People Do It

Even middle-class black people. Probably because they are also public employees and teachers: obviously commies and terrorists.

The teachers who had to choose between cheating and losing their livelihoods have been sentenced to years in prison. White teachers who did the same would have gotten probation if they were even brought to trial.

I don’t condone the behavior of the Atlanta teachers and administrators who cheated on high-stakes tests, although I also think that the cheating was foreseeable given the incentives (and this can’t be an isolated case.) But this is a classic case of vastly disproportionate punishment:
On their eighth day of deliberations, the jurors convicted 11 of the 12 defendants of racketeering, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. Many of the defendants — a mixture of Atlanta public school teachers, testing coordinators and administrators — were also convicted of other charges, such as making false statements, that could add years to their sentences.
Judge Jerry W. Baxter of Fulton County Superior Court ordered most of the educators jailed immediately, and they were led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Judge Baxter, who presided over a trial that began with opening statements more than six months ago, will begin sentencing hearings next week.
Hopefully the sentences won’t reach 20 years, but the fact that they were sent to prison immediately suggests that many years of hard time will be involved. It strikes me that more than token jail time for this offense is absurd, particularly in a country where the de facto punishment for torture and economy-destroying financial fraud is “nothing.”

Dangerous as Hell

Digby

But the dreams of All American omnipotence and glory are hardwired into the right and very strong in the culture at large. And it's dangerous as hell. Everyone should want to negotiate peace as the default position. If there's anything on earth that should be avoided unless there is absolutely no other choice, it's war. You'd think that would be common sense but this rather silly belief in America's godlike military power is leading a whole lot of people to take us into some very dangerous territory.

Yep, Roundup Causes Cancer. Monsanto is Literally Killing Your Children

Thinking about getting rid of those spring weeds in your yard before they get well-established? Go with plain white vinegar.

Think Progress:

The most popular weed-killer in the United States — and possibly the world — “probably” causes cancer, according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Published Thursday in the journal The Lancet Oncology, the report focuses on a chemical called glyphosate, invented by Monsanto back in 1974 as a broad-spectrum herbicide. It’s the active ingredient in Roundup, a popular product used mostly in commercial agriculture production. Roundup is particularly good for genetically modified crops, which can be bred to resist damage from the product while it kills the weeds surrounding it.

In the U.S., glyphosate is not considered carcinogenic. The Environmental Protection Agency’s current position is that “there is inadequate evidence to state whether or not glyphosate has the potential to cause cancer from a lifetime exposure in drinking water.” In the wake of Thursday’s report, however, the EPA said it “would consider” the U.N. agency’s findings.

The new report, crafted by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), puts glyphosate at the second-highest level of the agency’s classifications for cancer. There are four classifications for things that could cause cancer: known carcinogens, probable or possible carcinogens, not classifiable, and probably not carcinogenic. It noted that glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, indicating that it is absorbed by the human body.
The next week,  EPA announced it would regulate glyphosphate.  That doesn't mean Roundup is safe; it means the EPA will spend the next 20 years writing rules that will reduce the amount of glyphosphate in Roundup to the exact amount that is still lethal to children and other living things, but is cut enough to give Monsanto justification to piss and moan and bitch about Big Gubmint killing free enterprise and JERBS.

And the week after that:
An employee of Monsanto admitted there is a department to discredit any scientist opposed to them.
 The Roundup Hit Squad.

No More Moochers: Tell Congress to Save and Increase the Estate Tax

The Koch brothers got their start with a few billion inherited from daddy.  That's all the reason you need to stop congressional repugs from eliminating even the tiny estate tax we still possess.

Ed Kilgore at Political Animal:

Since payment of estate taxes are not required until 9 months after death, and (a) there’s a total exemption for spousal inheritances and (b) a $5.4 million exemption for all inheritances, with additional deductions available, this scenario of the grieving family trying to figure out how to stay out of the poor house is more than a bit overwrought. And obviously, the size of estates we are talking about are generally the subject of estate planning, which means said weeping survivors typically won’t have to make any decisions at all.

In any event, progressives should be quite aggressive in welcoming this debate. They have plenty of ammunition, including the passionate arguments of the father of the federal estate tax, Theodore Roosevelt. And they really do need to counter the mythology of the small struggling business or farm being taken away by a socialistic Uncle Sam. This is all a cover for the real beneficiaries, the wealthiest people in America, who hardly need the kind of protection against taxes in death they’ve managed to secure in life. Large inheritances are and have always been an enormous factor in long-term inequality, and an offense to the presumed morality of capitalism, in which material rewards follow market utility or economic “virtue,” not birth lotteries.

Beyond that, it’s fun, if not especially charitable, to mock the tears of the undeserving heir at the indignity of having to share his or her windfall with the commonwealth.
Tell your congressional representatives to save and increase the estate tax.  No more moochers!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fascism in Defense of Jingoism

It's demoralizing to see how public displays of worship toward national symbols have displaced public service and loyal dissent as proof of patriotism.

People who truly hated this country, who truly want to see its democratic government torn down and replaced by plutocratic and Dominionist rule would protect themselves with the most blatant demonstrations of symbol-worship.

Those are the dangerous ones.

Digby:

Here's some of that tolerance on display:
"I attempted to get up to use the restroom, rather urgently, during the 7th inning stretch as God Bless America was beginning. As I attempted to walk down the aisle and exit my section into the tunnel, I was stopped by a police officer. He informed me that I had to wait until the song was over. I responded that I had to use the restroom and that I did not care about God Bless America.

"As soon as the latter came out of my mouth, my right arm was twisted violently behind my back and I was informed that I was being escorted out of the stadium. A second officer then joined in and twisted my left arm, also in an excessively forceful manner, behind my back. I informed them they were violating my First Amendment rights and that I had done nothing wrong, with no response from them.

"I was sitting in the Tier Level, and of course this is the highest level of the stadium and I was escorted in this painful manner down the entire length of the stadium. About halfway down, I informed them that they were hurting me, repeated that I had done nothing wrong, and that I was not resisting nor talking back to them. One of them said something to the effect that if I continued to speak, he would find a way to hurt me more.

"When we reached the exit of the stadium, they confiscated my ticket and the first officer shoved me through the turnstiles, saying 'Get the hell out of my country if you don't like it.'
I think we all know what happened to those Dixie Chicks when they dared say they were ashamed of the president.

So really, all this whining about liberal intolerance and Stalinist authoritarianism because a couple of cretinous bigots want to be able to refuse to serve gays is just a teensy bit over the top considering the furious reaction one gets for saying anything the right doesn't like about guns, God or the flag around these people.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Poor Work While the Rich Steal Their Wages

If it were ever true that the American economy depended on the rich for capital to keep running, it hasn't been true for a long time.


Robert Reich:

In reality, a large and growing share of the nation’s poor work full time — sometimes sixty or more hours a week – yet still don’t earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. 
It’s also commonly believed, especially among Republicans, that the rich deserve their wealth because they work harder than others. 
In reality, a large and growing portion of the super-rich have never broken a sweat. Their wealth has been handed to them. 
The rise of these two groups — the working poor and non-working rich – is relatively new. Both are challenging the core American assumptions that people are paid what they’re worth, and work is justly rewarded.
SNIP
That widening inequality — combined with the increasing numbers of people who work full time but are still impoverished and of others who have never worked and are fabulously wealthy — is undermining the moral foundations of American capitalism.

No Water for Anybody But Fossil Fuel Frackers

Kentucky's precipitation is up eight inches over the average for this point in the year, which means there will be plenty of nice, clean drinking water for the motherfrackers to poison and pour back into the water system for the rest of us to choke to death on.

Because nothing - not even a 10,000-year drought - is enough to stop water-destroying fracking.

Wonkette on Jerry Brown's counter-productive attempt to save California from dying of thirst:

The water shortage can’t be real anyway, since there seems to be plenty of water for agriculture, which uses 80 percent of California’s water but only accounts for 2 percent of the state’s GDP.
But even the thieving bastards of Big Ag are pikers compared to California's frackers.

KeninNY at Down with Tyranny:
What About Fracking, Governor Brown?

Fracking, like almond-growing, is also notoriously thirsty. Just one example:
“At the height of California oil production in 1985, oil companies in Kern County pumped 1.1 billion barrels of water underground to extract 256 million barrels of oil—a ratio of roughly four and a half barrels of water for every barrel of oil,” according to Miller. “In 2008, Kern producers injected nearly 1.3 billion barrels of water to extract 162 million barrels of oil—a ratio of nearly eight barrels of water for every barrel of oil produced.”
Again, by that measure, the ratio is eight to one — eight barrels of water produces one barrel of oil. Whom does fracking benefit? The owners of Big Oil:
Clean Water Action has the scoop on which companies have the biggest stakes in the Monterey [California] Shale [oil fields]:

Occidental Corporation (Oxy) is the largest holder of land/mineral rights in California, holding rights to drill over 1.6 million acres of land in the Monterey Shale. In a presentation to shareholders in 2010, Oxy officials stated that “in 10 years, California shale could become Oxy’s largest business unit.”

Venoco Inc. has one of the largest stakes in the Monterey Shale with rights to drill in over 300,000 acres. There are more than 10 billion barrels of oil available for extraction at its current sites. In its 2011 report to shareholders, the company stated that it continues to expand its onshore Monterey acreage lease holdings across three basins: Santa Maria, Salinas Valley, and San Joaquin (which includes the Sevier discovery). ...
And so on. Why does fracking, like big agriculture, get a pass? Maybe this is the reason:
The oil and gas industry gives millions of dollars to California’s elected officials to ensure their interests are served in Sacramento. Governor Brown is one of these recipients, having accepted at least $2,014,570.22 [$2 million] from fossil fuel interests since his race for Attorney General in 2006.

As the public awakens to the dangers of fracking in California, the fossil fuel industry is spending as much money as it takes to protect their dirty interests. Billions of barrels of untapped oil are sitting in the Monterey Shale and Big Oil is pushing to make sure it all stays on the table.

State campaign finance laws prohibit any company or individual from contributing more than $27,200 per candidate, per election — but many of these companies have found loopholes that let them flood the system with their petro-dollars, making sure our elected leaders, and Governor Brown in particular, protect their interests.

The fossil fuel corporations and associated industries at the top of the dirty money pile include: Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, Southern California Edison, Valero Energy, Tesoro Corp, Plains Exploration and Production, Venoco, Conoco Phillips, and Aera Energy (owned jointly by Shell and ExxonMobil). 
So the opening question comes back at the bottom: So what about fracking, Governor Brown? And what about agriculture as well? It's not just us asking, we in the nation waiting our turn. It's your own residents, on whom you're putting the squeeze so ... it has to be said this way ... wealth can be served. The tighter the squeeze, the more urgently the question will be asked. The Social Contract, the glue that holds a society cooperatively together, can be bent, but only so far. At some point it breaks.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Strip-Mining Human Beings for Profit

You could make a good argument that everything about capitalism strip-mines human beings for profit, but it's rarely as blatantly an argument for indentured servitude as this.


Undercover Blue at Hullabaloo:
Jeff Bryant's alarming post at Salon details some of the financial services sector's inventive, new schemes for funding education. Wall Street already saw K-12 schools as "the last honeypot," a steady, recession-proof, government-guaranteed stream of public tax dollars just waiting to be tapped by charter schools. It first had to convince states to increase competition – meaning eliminating teachers and other public employees standing between investors and their money.

One could argue that the right's small government, low taxes mantra always had as its goal eliminating the "creeping socialism" of government providing education and other public services on a not-for-profit basis. (What, no middle-man markup?) "Starving the beast" was never about the size of government, but about eliminating public-sector competitors and making sure the right people take a percentage of vital services funded at taxpayer expense.

Since the collapse of the housing market, the giant pool of money is looking for other places to invest. So it's out with the NINA loans and the CDOs and in with the SLABS, CABS, PPPs, and ISAs. Jeff Bryant writes:
It’s not hard to see the allure of SLABS [student loan asset-backed securities]. Student loans seem to be an endless stream of revenue as colleges and universities continue to increase tuition, economic conditions and employment transience feed the unemployed back into continuing education, and political leaders urge everyone to attend college. The income stream is nearly guaranteed to pay off because the loans are next to impossible to discharge in bankruptcy.
A Huffington Post article by Chris Kirkham states, SLABS offer “seemingly unlimited growth potential at virtually zero risk. The burden of college loan repayment falls entirely on students’ backs, shielding corporations from the consequences of default.”
Remember when mortgage-backed securities were a guaranteed, sure thing? There's much more here: ‘capital appreciation bonds’ (CABs) for financing public schools, “public-private partnerships (P3s) where developers provide capital to build schools they then lease to universities (as happens with K-12 charters). Don't get me started on P3s.
The ultimate solution in the private edu-debt sphere emerged recently when conservative ex-governor of Indiana, now president of Purdue University, Mitch Daniels proposed to the U.S. Congress that, “Instead of taking out a traditional college loan, students would have the option of finding an investor – possibly a Purdue alum – to finance their degree in exchange for a share of their future income.”
If you read that and said out loud, "indentured servitude," so did I. Daniels' (and others') first swing at these Income Share Arrangements (ISAs) whiffed, Bryant explains. But?
But like what so often happens, quirky proposals from conservatives that appear like blips on the outer edge of the crazy radar, actually have a huge think tank machinery behind them. As a report from an Indiana news outlet explains, the financial vehicles Daniels alluded to are what’s known in the biz as Income Share Arrangements (ISAs). The reporter sourced the concept of ISAs to 1955 and University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, the god of right-wing privatization advocates.
Beth Akers, a fellow with centrist think tankBrookings, has argued ISAs should “play a role” in financing student loan debt. She posits that the central problem with higher education is there is “almost no incentive” for students to choose schools and courses of study that pay off down the road in terms of lucrative salaries. A broad market for ISAs could change that by enabling students to “collateralize their financing with future earnings, just as home buyers collateralize their mortgage with the house itself.”
Except here, humans themselves are the collateral. This financial Matrix bypasses all the intermediate messiness of productive capitalism. Why should "job creators" bother with the inefficiency of trading in actual products and services when, by plugging them into a matrix of derivatives, you can change a human being into revenue?

Old White Guy Retreads Saving the Country

Nancy LeTourneau at Political Animal:




It's California, too, with that sixties throwback Jerry Brown in charge. 

Wanna attract disillusion Democratic voters back to the polls, Jack Conway?   Tell them you'll follow the proven path to economic growth: taxes on the wealthy and a higher minimum wage.

It's the Only. Way. you're going to get elected governor.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

How Union Solidarity Brings Victory Even for the Least Powerful Workers

You know why the number one priority for the repugs and the freakazoids and the Wall Street thieves and the corporatists and the privatizers and the plutocrats is to destroy the last vestiges of labor unionism?

Because when workers band together to demand their rights from the bosses they win.  And they win because that kind of solidarity is the most powerful force on the planet.

Apologies to Zandar for excerpting his entire superb post:

Today's long read comes from San Francisco Magazine, a story about how even in arguably the most liberal large city in America, there's problems with wage theft for service workers.  The good news is that these workers banded together and fought back to the tune of $4 million.
Even after Zhen Li leads a rousing chant—“Workers organize, everybody wins!”—no one else wants to step up to the microphone. Tiny and bespectacled, her hair in a jet-black bob, Li has the look of a Chinatown matron, one of those tenacious hagglers who elbows her way through the crowds on Stockton Street to purchase jade-green gai lan and silvery carp. Wearing jeans, sturdy black shoes, and a puffy striped jacket, she exhorts her fellow proletariats to join her up front and holds out the mic to a nearby woman. The woman tries to beg off, pleading, “I’m sick—my throat hurts,” but cheers draw her to her feet, and she sheepishly echoes Li’s rallying cry.

On this rainy evening in early December at the Chinese Cultural Center, Li and dozens of workers—mostly women, mostly middle-aged and older— are celebrating with greasy takeout, cake, a slideshow, and speeches. While some are clearly shy about speaking in public, they are no longer scared. They’ve already achieved the impossible: Their solidarity has won them an astonishing sum—$4 million—from a powerful employer that had systematically undercut their wages, pocketed their tips, and forced them to work under brutal conditions. And it wasn’t just any business that Li and her comrades had taken on: It was Yank Sing, San Francisco’s most lucrative and popular purveyor of dim sum, those small plates of har gow, siu mai, and other doll-size delicacies that the restaurant serves to more than 1,200 customers a day (and that’s a slow day).

The journey to restitution for Li and her coworkers began two years ago, when Li discovered that she wasn’t alone in feeling abused and underpaid. Her official work hours were 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but often, she says, her bosses forced her to stay, unpaid, an hour or two longer to prepare food and take care of her station. Unbeknownst to Li, a few coworkers had been meeting with the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA)—a scrappy and strategic advocacy group that’s been organizing low-income laborers for decades—in an effort to bring change to Yank Sing. One of her coworkers approached her, saying, “We need your help.” When Li discussed the idea with her husband, he tried to stop her from joining the nascent campaign. “What if you don’t win? What if you lose your job?” he asked. “Your employer is so wealthy, so powerful.”

Despite his resistance, Li persisted. “I was pretty scared. It was just a few of us going to meetings,” she tells me, speaking in Cantonese through a translator. “But with all the support and encouragement, I started to have more courage.” Before long, she would prove her mettle, becoming one of the insurgent group’s most stalwart leaders.
While you read Zhen Li's story, think about how the vast majority of America views organized labor in 2015: as an economic disease that must be eradicated, and that poor working conditions, low wages, and wage theft are 100% the fault of the people who choose to work these service jobs.  If you wanted a better job, a better life, you would be a good enough person to earn a better job.  The fact you're working for minimum wage in a kitchen, the argument goes, is proof you are unskilled, lazy, stupid, uneducated, and most of all, undeserving of dignity.

Organized labor upsets this natural balance of the Invisible Hand of the Free Market.  It gives these "undeserving" people hope that they matter, that they are worth something more than the wage they get per hour where in America your sole measure of worth is your paycheck.  These people, the story goes, get more than they deserve by stealing from the rest of us when they form those evil unions.  Most of all they force our most precious resource, Business Owners, to spend money on greedy union workers when they could be hiring more of us for cheaper wages instead.  Unions cost jobs, you see.

Never mind that the mythical American middle class doesn't get paid enough these days to be able to afford to buy products we make or sell, and business owners are sitting on billions in profits in cash used to prop up share prices through stock repurchase plans and trillions in offshore profits that never get taxed in the US.

Funny how businesses are making the greatest profits in American history, but somehow can't afford to pay taxes or raise wages.

Surely that's the fault of kitchen workers in San Francisco.

Where It's Illegal to Discriminate Against Atheists

Because otherwise anyone who claims a religious affiliation could legally deny any and all rights and services to an atheist.

Here in Kentucky, I can legally be fired, lose my mortgage and my car loan, denied a hotel room, restaurant meal or health care - even in an emergency.

There is literally nothing that a freakazoid cannot do to me, an atheist, that any cop or court in the state would so much as blink at. 

On (Mar. 31), the city of Madison, Wisconsin announced that it is now against the law to discriminate against atheists, making it the first city in the country to grant explicit legal protection to people who do not believe in a God.
According to Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist blog, last night the Madison city council voted unanimously to add atheists to a list of protected groups in the city’s equal opportunity ordinance, an anti-discrimination law. The move, which inserts the phrase “religion or atheism” into the legal code, prevents atheists from being denied equal opportunity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
“This is important because I believe it is only fair that if we protect religion, in all its varieties, we should also protect non-religion from discrimination,” Anita Weier, an Alderwoman in Madison and sponsor of the ordinance, told local news affiliate Chanel 3000.
The ordinance also outlaws discrimination based on a number of other factors such as sex, race, citizenship status, arrest record, sexual orientation, gender identity, or anyone who declines to disclose their social security number, among many others. Reportedly, no one at the council meeting voiced disagreement with the proposal to include atheists.
The new law is part of a growing movement to claim formal protection for atheists, who often face explicit or implicit discrimination for their non-belief. Although the U.S. Constitution expressly prohibitssubmitting candidates for office to a religious test, people who do not believe in God are currently legally barred from holding office in seven states: North Carolina, Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. These statutes are, of course, unlikely to hold up in court, but atheists also face substantial hurdles at the ballot box, as a 2012 Gallup poll found that Americans are more likely to vote for Mormons, Muslims, or gay people than atheist candidates.

AynRandy: No Gay Rights or Religious Rights Either

Or gun rights or property rights or voting rights or any other right based on what you do.  Seriously.

Steve Benen at Maddowblog:

The senator’s comments suggest Rand Paul doesn’t recognize gay rights as a real issue at all because, in his words, rights based on “behavior” lack legitimacy.
 
The Kentucky Republican may not have thought this one through.
 
By Rand Paul’s reasoning, gun rights don’t exist because buying, carrying, and/or firing a weapon is a “behavior.”
 
By Rand Paul’s reasoning, religious rights don’t exist because embracing a faith tradition, practicing its tenets, and attending services is a “behavior.”
 
By Rand Paul’s reasoning, free-speech rights don’t exist because expressing one’s opinions and speaking one’s mind is a “behavior.”
 
By Rand Paul’s reasoning, voting rights don’t exist because participating in an election and exercising the franchise is a “behavior.” 
There are a great number of issues the unannounced presidential candidate claims to take seriously, but he does not seem to understand beyond a superficial level. Paul has largely gotten away with this so far – much of the Beltway media is too preoccupied with how “interesting” they find him to notice his confusion – but once he’s a candidate for national office, this will become much more difficult.
 If only repugs gave a flying fuck about logic.

Southern Equality

Southern Poverty Law Center Via Juanita Jean


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Penny Touting Science

Divine Irony

First US penny touts science, not God. 
“Liberty Parent of Science and Industry” 

whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/the-first-u-s-penny-touts-science-not-god/

First US penny touts science, not God.

“Liberty Parent of Science and Industry”

whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/the-first-u-s-penny-touts-science-not-god/