Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beshear Restores Voting Rights to 790 Kentuckians

On the grounds that "news" is by definition that which is unusual - man bites dog, not dog bites man - allow us to call to your attention that "Democratic" Governor Steve Beshear has done something progressive and possibly even liberal.

Don't panic; he'll be back sucking repug dick by Monday.

Gov. Steve Beshear has restored the voting rights of 790 felons after streamlining the process implemented by his predecessor, Ernie Fletcher.

Beshear said in March that he was eliminating steps Fletcher imposed, including requiring felons to obtain three recommendations and to write a letter saying why they deserved to have their rights restored.

"As governor, I have re-instituted the process that previous governors — with the exception of Gov. Fletcher — had used to restore felons' rights," Beshear said.

Those rights include the right to vote and to run for public office, said Les Fugate, spokesman for Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

The restoration does not erase convicts' records or permit them to own weapons.


Beshear said his policy still requires confirmation that a felon has fulfilled all sentencing requirements. In addition, he is extending to 30 days, from 15, the time given prosecutors to object.

"So far 56 applicants have been turned down based on the input from prosecutors," he said. "At the same time, those whose rights have been restored have served their time and paid their debt to society."


Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel said he supports Beshear's decision to streamline the process and doesn't oppose restoring rights to felons convicted of murder.

"I was opposed to what Fletcher did to start with," he said. "I think it was a thinly veiled attempt to disenfranchise people, or keep them disenfranchised."

Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville branch of the NAACP, said the organization has been running ads on black radio stations encouraging convicted felons to apply to have their rights restored. The ad also notes that they should apply soon so the process can be completed before the Oct. 6 deadline for registering to vote in the 4general election.

"If even a person convicted of murder has served his time, and is off probation and parole and completed all provisions of his sentence, then he is entitled in my opinion to vote," Cunningham said. "They start paying taxes immediately. Once they come out of the institution they are participating in society. Why not give them full participation?"

A bill filed in this year's regular session of the General Assembly would have allowed voters to decide whether to amend the constitution to restore voting rights automatically upon completion of a criminal's sentence.

What none of the articles about this rights restoration mentions is that according to national statistics, approximately 10 percent of felons are veterans. Although the Kentucky Department of Corrections does not bother to find out which of its inmates are veterans (shame on you, DoC!), we can safely assume that 75 or 80 of those 790 felons whose voting rights Beshear restored are veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

As the Courier-Journal pointed out in an editorial:

The American system of justice assumes that, once a person has paid the penalty for crime, it's in everybody's interest to help that individual integrate productively into society. Prosecutors should understand that, but some don't get it.


To call what Mr. Beshear has done "partial pardons" is to encourage misunderstanding, and to rouse an overreaction by those who prefer revenge to rehabilitation.


Giving convicts a stake in decent society, and its democratic processes, is not only the just thing to do but the smart investment to make.

Amen. Although the CJ's editorial headline: "Beshear Gets It" was both hyperbolic and premature. Beshear has proven over and over and over again since his election last November that he blatantly does NOT "get it," at least if "it" is how to tell the repugs who lost the election that it's their turn to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up.

But as nothing annoys repugs more than anything that makes it easier for non-white, non-wealthy, non-republicans to vote, this is a step in the right direction.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Obama in Kentucky: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

For a minute, it looked like rising unemployment in Kentucky would give Barack Obama's presidential campaign a boost here, but by then he'd blown that opportunity by choosing a speech in Orlando over charming the Midwest at Fancy Farm.

Kentucky's unemployment rate rose to 6.3 percent in June, up from 6.2 percent in May. It's now almost a full percentage point higher than the national rate of 5.5 percent.

More specifically, since June 2007, unemployment has gone up in 108 of Kentucky's 112 120 counties.

The eight counties with the highest unemployment - 9.9 to 11.8 percent - are all in Eastern Kentucky, the exact region where Obama received the fewest votes in the May primary. Obama has a huge opportunity there to make an economic case for his candidacy.

Come to Kentucky, Barack. Look us in the eye and tell us that you're going to reverse the screw-the-middle-class policies of the last seven years. Tell us how you're going to wean us off our dependence on coal industry jobs while you wean the nation off its dependence on coal-burning energy.

You say you've got a 50-state strategy. Kentucky is a state that's yours for the asking.

But you have to ask.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Casualty Count: War on Christmas - Zero. War on Liberals - Two and Counting

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An out-of-work truck driver accused of opening fire at a Unitarian church, killing two people, left behind a note suggesting that he targeted the congregation out of hatred for its liberal policies, including its acceptance of gays, authorities said Monday.

Adkisson "was a man who was hurt in the world and feeling that nothing was going his way," she said. "He turned the gun on people who were mostly likely to treat him lovingly and compassionately and be the ones to help someone in that situation."

Adkisson "stated that he had targeted the church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of the major media outlets," Investigator Steve Still wrote.

Where's a lynch mob when you need one?

String him up, goddamnit. Right here, right now. Dangle him slow-like so it takes a long, painful time to die. Pour gasoline on his privates and let the children of his victims set the fucker on fire.

That was my first, gut reaction. But then I remembered I'm a liberal, and realized there is a far finer and more appropriate fate for Mr. Adkisson.

This guy isn't crazy, and he isn't evil. He is the natural and completely predictable consequence of having a "president" who approves torture of innocent civilians, imprisons citizens without charges, criminalizes dissent, demonizes his political opponents, dehumanizes women, the poor and minorities, and labels liberals "traitors."

Adkisson isn't a criminal. He's a loyal soldier in George Bush's Conservative Christian Army Fighting Dirty Fucking Hippie Commie Terrists.

Give him a medal and send him to Iraq.

Round up all the Adkissons - all the bush-apologists, all the torture-lovers, all the war-cheerleaders - and let them take the place of the surged-out soldiers and Marines stuck in the Iraq catastrophe.

Make them all Martyrs to the Glory of Preznit Smirky and his Limp Dick.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Keeping the Crimes Straight

Having trouble keeping the infinite crimes of the Smitky/Darth maladministration straight? Confused about what and who warrants prosecution, impeachment, pardoning?

Slate to the rescue, with a clickable Venn Diagram that covers all the major players, all their crimes and how they all interact in a single, easy-to-use graphic.

Also in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick explains why both pardoners and impeachers should agree to investigate first.

It says much about the cartoonish ways in which we talk about law and politics that the conversation about accountability for the Bush administration's lawbreaking takes place chiefly at the extremes. The choice, it would seem, is between Nuremberg-style war crime tribunals, broadcast live at primetime in January of 2009, or blanket immunity for everyone, in advance of knowing what they did or why. The men and women responsible for our descent into torture and eavesdropping in the last seven years are cast as either Nazi war criminals, in the manner of Judgment at Nuremberg, or valiant American heroes, in the model of Fox television's Jack Bauer.


... the question for most of us now is not whether laws were broken, but what to do about it. The War Crimes Act of 1996 makes it a federal crime for any American—military or civilian—to cause a "grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions' ban on inhumane treatment for prisoners. U.S. interrogators have been inhumane. Some of them have not only tortured but, in at least 100 cases, killed prisoners. A smattering of relatively low-ranking soldiers have been prosecuted, but in most instances there has been little or no accountability and none whatsoever at the top.

Will a sorting and allocating of responsibility for torture and other acts of lawlessness tear the country apart, or is it a necessary step toward repairing our image in the world? Is punishing wrongdoers a partisan witch hunt? Or is the failure to punish its own kind of lawlessness?


I am not arguing for instant war crimes prosecutions or for criminal indictments. The vital lesson of the past seven years is that hasty legal judgments are often bad ones and that criminal cases are difficult to build for a reason; questions of intent and knowledge really do matter more than conclusory labels. So this time, let's allow those legal processes to work.

On the other hand, we need careful investigation before we take the possibility of criminal prosecution off the table. To immunize or pardon everyone from John Yoo to David Addington to Monica Goodling, before we've seen critical classified memos or heard the conclusions on several fronts of the Department of Justice inspector general, is to remedy the reckless and dangerous decisions of the past with more dangerous recklessness. Criminal investigations aren't just about revenge, whatever Mukasey may think. They are a means of obtaining information and ultimately truth.

I also want to suggest that the wrong way to talk about legal accountability for the Bush administration is to cast it as something America owes the rest of the world. Sure, it's critically important to show our allies and enemies alike that the rule of law still means something here. But it is far more important to have this legal reckoning for America. Not because of some deranged liberal bloodlust, but because we need to understand that there just aren't two sets of law in America, one of which—like the good linen—we keep for special occasions. There isn't one set of laws for when we're panicky and reckless and another for tranquil times. There isn't one set of laws to punish the soldiers in the field and another for the commanders at the top. It's not just the president who seems to have forgotten this lesson in the last seven years. Most of us have. Worse yet, we've forgotten why it matters. We owe it to ourselves to begin to remember.

Read the whole thing.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bruce Lunsford's Energy Plan: Strip-Mine the Bluegrass

I'll give Bruce Lunsford this much: he's not so much of an energy panderer that he promotes the myth of "clean coal" or the catastrophe of mountain-top-removal the way Steve Beshear does.

No, Bruce Lunsford is a visionary; he wants to strip-mine the horse farms and rolling hills of Central Kentucky's Bluegrass Region.

To lure voters weary of high gas prices, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Lunsford is embracing a GOP-led push for oil shale drilling, one policy goal Congress already achieved and one proposal that received mixed reviews from both parties.

Lunsford, who is challenging Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in the November election, unveiled an eight-point strategy to reduce prices at the pumps in the short and long terms.

”I want action. The public wants action,“ he said at the United Auto Workers local union 862."

Lunsford neglects, however, to mention where one might find oil shale. It's not just out west in desert that not many Kentucky voters care about. It's right here in the Bluegrass.

The Knobs, the semi-circle of low hills that curve around the east, south and west sides of Lexington are chock-full of oily shale.

Lunsford knows this because he was an aide to Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown in the early 1980s, when high gas prices sent the state scrambling for possible alternatives. Brown's Energy and National Resources Cabinets both investigated oil shale mining and produced reports on its viability in Kentucky.

Short version of the results: Gas prices were almost high enough to make oil shale economically competetive.

But only if you didn't count the astronomical cost of filling the Bluegrass region inside the Knobs with mountains of post-extraction waste rock - waste 10 times the volume of the mined shale.

Yes, Lunsford is discussing oil shale "drilling," which is theoretically less destructive than strip mining. But in Kentucky we're still blowing the tops off mountains to get to coal. When it comes to fossil fuels, we don't do "safe" or "clean." Environmentally sound is for wimps.

One of the prettier highway drives in Central Kentucky is the Bluegrass Parkway between Lexington and Elizabethtown. As you drive west from Lexington, you'll see a line of low hills rise up in front of you. Those are the Knobs. The oil-filled shale Knobs.

Now imagine the view of the oaks, hickories, maples, dogwoods and redbuds covering those hillsides replaced by mountains of gray, dead, sterile waste rock sucked dry of its oil.

At that very point on the parkway is a sign that reads: "Welcome to Hardin County. A Clean County."

Not for long, if Bruce Lunsford has his way. Not for long.

Taylor Shelton of Green KY nails Lunsford on the self-destructiveness of his "let's use more fossil fuels!" energy plan, but then gives him absolution:

I would personally like to see a little more leadership from Lunsford here, as this is where I think he really shows himself to lack the progressive credentials that alot of Kentuckians and alot of Democrats are looking for these days. While I don’t agree with Lunsford’s new energy plan, make no mistake that voting for Mitch McConnell in November is a vote against the environment, a sound energy policy, a healthy, green economy and thriving communities in Kentucky.

And when the new Senator Lunsford from Kentucky persuades his "Democratic" colleagues that strip-mining the Bluegrass is the solution to our energy problems, Taylor, will you still think he's an improvement over McConnell?

Shelton does a great job at Green KY of keeping Kentucky's many and serious environmental issues near the top of the blogosphere agenda, and I'm grateful for and appreciative of his work.

But at some point, we have to stop pretending that Bruce Lunsford is really a progressive Democrat in his heart.

All evidence to the contrary.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Campaign Swag Shark-Jumping

It appears someone on the McCain staff has mistaken The Onion's story guidelines for a campaign strategy. Via TPM.

See more here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You're on Your Own, Suckers

Brace yourslef. The starvation state budget has kicked in and agencies have started announcing the taxpayer-funded services that you can't have any more.

First the state's public defenders announced they'd have to let runaway teens and indigent suspects take their chances in court without lawyers.

Then Kentucky State Police announced the end of roving patrols on the highways in favor of checkpoints to catch speeders and drunk drivers. Checkpoints may work better to catch drunk drivers, but if you're ever driven on the interstate, you know nothing slows traffic down to the speed limit faster than a cruiser patrolling the fast lane.

On Tuesday, the Transportation Cabinet announced they would stop installing drainage pipes under driveways connecting to state highways. Big whoop, you say? Tell me that again when your car is stalled out in the flood caused by water overflowing an un-piped driveway. Next time you're out driving, count the private driveways between your house and your work, your school, your shopping, your doctor. Check the drainage ditch between them. Imagine it blocked. Imagine the standing water on the road, the hidden branches, the ice.

“Although this has been a service that we’ve taken on to assist area residents and to make sure it was done correctly, it’s just not a critical service,” Transportation Secretary Joe Prather said. “Our budget situation has forced us to look at all of our activities, determine where we can become more efficient and ensure the activities we are undertaking are critical.”

The cabinet hopes to save approximately $3.5 million with the changes. The savings can be shifted to other needed services, such as highway maintenance, striping, lighting or signage, the secretary said.

Driveway drainage is one of those invisible services for which our tax dollars pay, that we take for granted, that agencies like the Transportation Cabinet know they can cut because nobody will notice for possibly years, until the lack of proper drainage starts to accumulate in neighborhoods, going unacknowledged until that big spring storm hits.

Still not too worried? Legal representation and drainage pipes are at the top of a long, nasty list of things Governor Steve Beshear has decided Kentucky can't afford any more. Rumored targets include prison space for non-violent offenders, safe homes for abused children, state parks that don't pay for themselves, staff for field offices outside Frankfort.

What's your favorite state service? Restaurant health inspections? Filling potholes on city streets? Drinking water standards? After-school programs for kids? Hospital staffing requirements? Lifeguards at the public pool?

Care to bet how long you'll still have it?

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DCCC Ad Buys Ignore KY-1, KY-2, KY-4

TPM Election Central has the latest list of swing district Congressional races to which the Democratic National Committee has allocated ad money, and it mostly ignores Kentucky.

The latest list, which adds up to $17.6 million in 20 districts across the country, paints an extraordinary picture of just how grim the GOP's outlook is in House races: About three fourths of the money the DCCC is plunking down is going to races for seats that the GOP currently holds and now has to defend.

But the new list, as well as the previous list, ignores three GOP-held seats being challenged by Democrats in Kentucky.

Heather Ryan in the First, David Boswell in the Second and Michael Kelley in the Fourth don't make the DCCC's lists of races worth spending money on, even though Boswell is running for an open seat and recent polls showed him slightly ahead.

Now I'm no fan of Boswell's, but the Second is a probable dem pickup - certainly more likely than the First or Fourth, even though Ryan and Kelley are far better Democrats as far as I'm concerned.

What's more, some of these districts where Dems are vying to knock off GOP incumbents are historically hostile territory for Dems, such as the open Second District in Alabama, or the Idaho seat now held by right-wing Rep. Bill Sali.

But in Kentucky, the DCCC is playing it safe by supporting only John Yarmuth, incumbent in Louisville's Third District, who is up by double digits over two-time loser Anne Northup.

I realize that even in this year of Democratic campaign wealth, the DCCC's resources are limited, and I am grateful that the DCCC is actually fighting to win in 50 districts, as opposed to its usual 10 or 12.

But I can't help but resent that national Democratic resources are being sunk into Idaho, of all the dem-forsaken places, when a courageous Navy veteran like Heather Ryan, who personally challenged Mitch McConnell, fights a tough campaign with chewing gum and paper clips.

Check out the full listing.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Obama's New Peeps

Polite smiles and handshakes from service members trained to be courteous is one thing; this is something else entirely.

HuffPo has the excerpt from ABC of Obama in Bagdad getting mobbed by cheering GIs and embassy employees.

That's right, the GIs McCain supposedly has in the bag; the embassy staff supposedly full of "loyal bushies," screaming, snapping pictures, straining and pushing to shake Obama's hand.

This is what he told them:

So I don't care whether you are a Sailor, a Soldier, an Airmen, or Marine. A National Guard, a Reservist, active duty, we just want to say thank you," Obama said.

"Back home, as I travel all across the country, every single day I meet your friends, your family members, your co-workers, and the main thing they want me to communicate is how proud they are of you," Obama continued. "They may disagree on politics. They may disagree on the issues. But the country is absolutely united in the excellence, the devotion, the dedication with which you have performed your duties, here."

Watching it made my whole day.

Apologies for the lack of an embed; click the link.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wave Bye-Bye to Starbucks

Six Central Kentucky stores are among the 600 Starbucks locations closing around the country.

Hard to believe that the Frankfort Starbucks is staying open while the Starbucks at Euclid and Upper near UK in downtown Lexington is closing, but that's what the list says.

Two stores in Louisville, and one each in Danville, Paris and Somerset are also getting the ax.

  • 11755 HWY 27 & JEFFERSON 2049 S HWY 27 SOMERSET KY

When Has Even a Blue Dog Democrat Crossed the Line?

On June 24, I sent State Senator David Boswell, the Democratic candidate for retiring Rep. Ron Lewis' Second District Congressional seat, an email asking Senator Boswell his position on five issues. The last issue was this:

Publicly endorsing Barack Obama and enthusiastically campaigning for him.

On July 11, I received Senator Boswell's response. His answer to the last issue, on publicly endorsing Barack Obama and campaigning for him, is, in full:

"I am proud to be a Democrat."

Really, Senator? More than a month after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination and received Senator Hillary Clinton's strong endorsement, that's all you have to say?

"I'm proud to be a Democrat"? Really? Because Kentucky's Democrats sure as hell aren't proud to have you as a Congressional candidate.

Kentucky's Second District may poll conservative - although that may also be an artifact of not having a real Democratic choice for the past 15 years - but does Boswell really think rejecting his own party's Presidential Nominee is going to endear him to Second District Democrats?

Boswell's fundraising has been weak since his May 20th primary victory, and public response to his candidacy indifferent, to put it politely.

A recent fundraiser in one of the more prosperous communities in the rural Second District had to be re-named a "reception" because of the reluctance of invitees to commit to making a donation. Even so, fewer than 40 of the anticipated 100 attendees actually showed.

Boswell struggled to connect with the guests, and his short speech drew barely polite applause at the end. Perhaps that's because he spent most of the time telling irrelevant stories about A.B. "Happy" Chandler and Earle Clements, two former governors who were rivals more than 50 years ago.

The closest Boswell came to discussing the issues of the campaign was to say:

"I don't have to tell you what the issues are, because you know what they are."

Yes, Senator, WE know what WE think the issues are; we want to know what YOU think the issues are.

In answer to other emailed questions, Boswell said he was

  • against the FISA amendments that "give unlimited
    unConstitutional warrantless wiretapping powers to the president, and gives amnesty to lawbreaking corporations." Easy to say now that the vote is over.
  • supported "withdraw without time line" from Iraq
  • supports "cutting taxes on wage earnings below $50,000 per year," although he failed to respond to a question about increasing taxes on those earning above $200,000 per year
  • "supports" establishing single-payer health insurance comparable to that enjoyed by members 0f Congress
  • and of course, with regard to his own party's nominee for President, Boswell is "proud to be a Democrat."

    If only he really were one.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

  • Thursday, July 17, 2008

    Everything Old is New Again

    Al Gore's call today for an immediate and massive program to replace all U.S. fossil fuel electricity production with renewables is brilliant, courageous, and the absolute minimum required to save - not the planet, but the economy.

    It's also a deeply painful reminder to those of us of a certain age who remember a president who recommended essentially the same program. Recommended it at a time when our dependence on foreign oil was half what it is today. At time when such an emergency program to switch to renewables would have cost a far smaller percentage of GDP than Gore's plan will.

    In a speech that is remembered today not for its far-sightedness, not for its vision, not for its wisdom, but for the wimpyness of a phrase he never uttered - "national malaise."

    As Joseph Wheelan writes, Carter was right.

    He was right in seeking to raise the fleet auto mileage standard to 48 miles per gallon by 1995. (Even U.S. automakers admitted at the time that they could easily achieve 30 mpg by 1985.)

    Carter was right in exhorting Americans to turn down their thermostats, even if he did look nerdy in a cardigan while urging us to do so.

    In his July 1979 speech, he was right when he said, "I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 —- never." That worthy goal quickly went by the board.

    He was right to encourage fuel conservation by proposing a 50-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline and a fee on imported oil —- in effect, a floor for fuel prices.

    Invoking the pioneering spirit of the 1960s moon mission, he was right to recommend a tax on windfall oil profits to finance a crash program to develop affordable synthetic fuels.

    Carter was correct, too, in setting a goal of obtaining 20 percent of our energy from solar power by the year 2000.

    We balked, and his energy program, which was new and demanding, shriveled up and died. When oil prices began declining in the 1980s, the justification for change vanished altogether. The Reagan administration junked the proposed 1995 mileage standard and the rest of the Carter agenda.


    And now we are in the exact bind that Carter tried to prevent three decades ago.

    An energy crisis is again upon us. Soaring gasoline prices and oil imports are daggers aimed at the heart of our stumbling economy.


    It is time to give Carter's proposals a second hearing.

    This is what he said in July 1979: "You know we can do it. We have the natural resources. We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias. We have more coal than any nation on Earth. We have the world's highest level of technology. We have the most skilled work force, with innovative genius, and I firmly believe that we have the national will to win this war."

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    El Desaparecido

    (WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 28, 2009) The Obama administration refused again today to confirm or deny rumors that it has secretly detained former president George W. Bush as an enemy combatant.

    Mr. Bush, 62, disappeared five weeks ago shortly after Mr. Obama's inauguration. He boarded Marine One at the White House to fly to Crawford, Texas, but never arrived at the faux ranch that has been on the market since November 5.

    His absence went unnoticed and unremarked by even his family and closest friends, however, until yesterday.

    "We've all just been so busy decorating the new house," former first lady Laura Bush, sounding uncharacteristically relaxed, said by satellite phone from Asuncion, Paraguay. "I'm sure he'll turn up soon."

    Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh accused President Obama of ordering military forces to spirit former president Bush to a secret prison and prevent him from communicating with anyone outside the prison.

    "Don't be ridiculous," said Attorney General John Edwards. "It's unconstitutional to imprison American citizens indefinitely without charges."

    "Not since Padilla and al Marri!" spat Berkely Law School professor John Yoo. "Just last July, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed the president's right to declare any citizen an enemy combatant and imprison that citizen without charges, forever if he wants!"

    A bemused-looking General Edwards responded: "Really?"

    In other White House news, last night a weighted Starbucks Travel Cup was thrown through a window in the residence. The Secret Service determined the cup did not present a threat, but declined to comment further. White House insiders, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss premium lattes, claimed the cup had an attached note which read:

    Dear Barack, All is Forgiven. Love, The Left.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Number 73

    Kentucky's 73rd casualty of the Iraq/Afghanistan catastrophe is 21-year-old Private First Class Sergio S. Abad.

    The former Job Corps student in this rural western county on the Ohio River was one of nine soldiers who died of wounds suffered when their outpost was attacked by small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades from enemy forces in Wanat, Afghanistan, on July 13.

    They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy.

    Abad is the third Kentucky Iraq/Afghanistan casualty in a month, the fourth in 2008, the 11th to die in Afghanistan.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    In Steve We Don't Trust

    "And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together." - James Madison, "Father of the Constitution"

    FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Gov. Steve Beshear said yesterday that he will push for legislation next year authorizing an "In God We Trust" license plate.

    Tell ya what, Stevie boy: If you authorize another free plate reading "Atheists RULE," I won't sue your ass off.

    Beshear said vehicle owners could get the plates -- which have been controversial in other states, including Indiana -- as an alternative to the current standard-issue "Unbridled Spirit" plate at no extra cost.

    " 'In God We Trust' is essentially our national motto," he said in an interview. "And that national motto belongs to every American and indeed every Kentuckian. In my opinion nobody should have to pay extra to have that national motto reflected on their license plate."

    Is it too much to ask that elected officials know a smidgeon of American history? "In God We Trust" did not become the national motto until 1956, when McCarthyist witch hunts intimidated Congress into replacing the 174-year-old motto adopted by the actual Founders in 1782: "E pluribus unum," or for those of you who flunked Latin, "Out of many, one," a reference to the federalism that unites diverse states.

    It was during the commie scares of the 1950s that "Under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance (which, by the way, was written in the 1892 by a Socialist who wanted a secular substitute for the prayers recited by children in Catholic schools), and that "so help me God" was added to the oath to tell the truth in court.

    The Founders, who deliberately and decisively kept all mention of god out of the Constitution, would have been horrified.

    "In God We Trust" was added to coinage during the Civil War, in a blatant and futile attempt to pacify Southerners who were, at the time, claiming divine christian justification for slavery.

    The proper interpretation of the "In God We Trust" phrase on our money is: "God says n*****s aren't human, so we can enslave, starve, beat, rape and murder them all we want."

    How about that one, Stevie? How about a license plate that reads: "God says n*****s aren't human, so we can enslave, starve, beat, rape and murder them all we want."

    In Indiana the 2006 General Assembly authorized an "In God We Trust" plate, prompting a lawsuit by the state's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.


    Carl Wedekind, treasurer of the ACLU of Kentucky, said yesterday that he did not know whether the organization would challenge the license plate in court if it becomes available.

    And if you don't, Carl, you can cancel my membership and refund all my donations for the past seven years. The ACLU's stated mission, Carl, is to defend the Bill of Rights. This license plate violates my First Amendment rights, Carl. Get off your ass and do your fucking JOB, Carl.

    Kentucky currently offers 99 - count 'em, that's one fewer than a solid hundred - different license plates in 11 different categories. They range from the special military plate for recipients of the Medal of Honor, of which there are currently a grand total of two in the entire state, and the "Choose Life" plate, which is an inexcusable discriminatory slap in the face to those of us who Choose Suicide.

    In a coincidence that absolutely was not arranged by an invisible wizard in the sky, the July-August issue of Church and State, the magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has a cover story on the orgnization's lawsuit against South Carolina's "I Believe" license plate.

    If the ACLU doesn't step up to the plate in Kentucky, I trust Americans United will.

    One more thing, Steve. Pandering to the freakazoids never works. They grab everything you're got, demand more and vote against you anyway.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Monday, July 14, 2008

    Why the New Yorker "Satire" Didn't Work

    On AlterNet, Don Hazen explains why satire that accepts the repug frame causes so much damage.

    One essential point is that drawing attention to negative frames and reprehensible media figures, even in an attempt to answer them, can have the effect of reinforcing them. It is almost always better to frame one's own positive message and not mention the bad frame or framer.

    In other words, repeating the lie, even in the process of refuting it, merely serves to reinforce the lie.

    Read the whole thing.

    Meanwhile, Hillbilly Report's Jim Pence knows how to deal with the destructive New Yorker cover: Don't Get Mad, Get Even!

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Number 72

    Kentucky's 72nd casualty of the Iraq/Afghanistan catastrophes is yet another Lexington boy: Specialist William L. McMullan III, 22. An Army medic, he had recently
    received the Bronze Star.

    He died July 8 in Bagdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his patrol was struck by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

    He married Elizabeth, a student at the University of Kentucky, just last year.

    McMillan followed his father, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, into the military, and his mother, a nurse, into the medical field.

    McMillan, 22, was seven months into his first tour in Iraq, his family said. He had received the Bronze Star, his mother said, the fourth-highest combat award in the service, which is unusual for his position. His mother said McMillan seemed almost genetically inclined for his position in the Army. “It's almost like this is what he was born to do, you know? It was definitely in his blood.”

    Specialist William McMillan is Lexington's second Iraq/Afghanistan loss in three weeks.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    If Dems Can Make It There, They Can Make It Anywhere

    Man, if Texas goes blue this November and Kentucky doesn't, a certain state party is going to look really fucking stupid.

    And I don't mean Texas Republicans.

    Independent Takes On Safe GOP Incumbent in Kentucky

    The most electorally secure member of Kentucky's Congressional delegation, republican Hal Rogers of the Fifth District (Appalachia), finally has an opponent.

    But it's not a Democrat. Jim Holbert is an Independent.

    The only one of the five incumbent congressmen running for re-election who didn't draw a Republican or Democratic challenger now will face independent Jim Holbert of London, who officially filed his paperwork with the Secretary of State's office July 7.

    Holbert is a helicopter pilot. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear recently appointed him to the Kentucky Airport Zoning Board to fill a term that expires Aug. 8, 2008.

    Rogers, one of the most senior members of the U.S. House appropriations committee, is seeking his 15th two-year term in Congress. He has easily won his seat back in recent elections.

    Rogers originally won election and re-election in the "Old Fifth," the deeply republican counties of south-central Kentucky. But when the 1991 redistricting added the most solidly Democrat counties of the former 7th district of eastern Kentucky to the new Fifth, Rogers was suddenly vulnerable. He won Appalachia's loyal democrats the old-fashioned way: pork. Bacon jobs, ham steak roads, tenderloin water plants.

    Today, thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars in pork Rogers delivered to the mountains, he's as insulated from party identification as any republican in Congress. That's why he rarely draws serious Democratic opposition. This year, he didn't draw any Democratic opposition at all.

    You know your state Democratic Party is in deep trouble when the independent candidate who had the balls to challenge the most secure Republican in the state has a platform that is more progressive, liberal and what used to pass for Democratic than the state party's own platform.

    Holberts wants to withdraw immediately from Iraq, restore the Constitution, repeal NAFTA, stop globalization, stop imprisoning non-violent offenders, create jobs, support renwable energy, balance the budget. Of course, he's also anti-immigrant and pro-flat tax, and believes in the myth of "clean coal," but that still positions him to the left of Blue Dog Democrats.

    Rogers' district is chock-full of experienced, well-known Democratic politicians who certainly had a better chance of knocking off Rogers in this Democratic year than novice Heather Ryan has of beating incumbent Ed Whitfield in the First District. Or than John Yarmuth had of beating incumbent Anne Northup in the Third District in 2006, which he did handily.

    Yet come the filing deadline on January 30, they were nowhere to be found.

    Nor will they be anywhere to be found come November 5, if the anti-incumbent tsunami hits eastern Kentucky and sweeps Independent Jim Holbert into the seat Democrats could have had.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Barack Obama: Authoritarian Populist

    In the 1920s and early 30s, Huey Long was the King of Louisiana. The actual elected offices he held - Public Service Commissioner, Governor and Senator - were mere formalities. Long ruled Louisiana with absolute power.

    He rigged his share of elections, but once in power he really didn't have to - he got all the votes he needed by bribing people. Not with money or jobs (though he used those, too), but with populism.

    The Kingfish was for the little guy, and he proved it with lots of laws, policies and programs that started to lift Louisiana out of its 18th-century mudhole and alleviate some of the worst of its poverty.

    But the price Louisianans paid for a small improvement in their standard of living was losing the liberty to hold their benefactor accountable. Their votes had put him in position to grab so much power they couldn't get rid of him.

    An assassin put an end to the career that might have taken the Kingfish to the White House, so the question of whether Long was a genuine American Fascist or simply the most powerful Populist in American history remains unresolved.

    Today, however, we have before us the spectacle of a political debate in which self-proclaimed "liberals" and "progressives" are defending Barack Obama's profoundly un-American and un-Constitutional vote to dismantle the Fourth Amendment. They defend Obama on the grounds that - wait for it - he's a Populist.

    Well, of course he is. That's the way - the only way - a Democratic candidate gets elected president.

    But today, by voting to gut the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, Barack Obama proved himself an authoritarian willing to do whatever it takes to gain and hold power.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm voting for Obama in November and encourage everyone else to do so, too. But let's elect him our 44th President with our eyes wide open about his Authoritarian Populism.

    Obama has taken strong progessive stands on issues dear to Democratic and Liberal hearts, including:

    • Come out against the California gay marriage amendment
    • Promoted details of a tax plan which would cut taxes for the working poor and middle class by thousands of dollars each, while massively increasing taxes on the wealthy
    • Condemned bad trade deals, enough to raise the ire of the news pages of the Wall Street Journal (which under Murdoch are morphing into as rightwing as the old editorial pages) which characterized his stance as "likely to rile allies."
    • And just yesterday called for overhaul of the 2005 bankruptcy bill and denounced McCain for his support of the bill and the banking industry "at the expense of hardworking Americans."

    But not since Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent thousands of American citizens to prison camps for the crime of choosing their ancestors poorly has a Democratic presidential candidate so blatantly attacked the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

    As Glenn Greenwald put it in just the latest of his many superb and passionate posts on the FISA abomination:

    Today, the Democratic-led Senate ignored those protests, acted to protect the single most flagrant act of Bush lawbreaking of the last seven years, eviscerated the core Fourth Amendment prohibition of surveillance without warrants, gave an extraordinary and extraordinarily corrupt gift to an extremely powerful corporate lobby, and cemented the proposition that the rule of law does not apply to the Washington Establishment.

    I still hold out hope that Obama is playing a very deep game and will tack back to the true American majority after he is elected.

    But as the Kingfish discovered, authoritarian power is, in the end, incompatible with American Democracy.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Tuesday, July 8, 2008

    Frankfort Riverfront Commission: Don't Screw This Up

    Governor Beshear has announced a $150,000 grant to the Frankfort/Franklin County Tourist Commission to study development along the Kentucky River in Frankfort

    A "Riverfront Development Study" is the kind of thing which, if not monitored carefully, leads to us waking up one morning and discovering we cannot see the River at all for the exclusive condos, office buildings and flood walls blocking the view.

    Instead of meeting in windowless rooms to divvy up "development" money among corporate criminals like the Webb Brothers, may I suggest that the Commission take a walk along both banks of the riverfront it proposes to "develop" and look at what works and what doesn't?


    • riverfront parks
    • the Farmer's Market
    • restaurants like Glen Willis, the Dragon and Jim's Seafood with river views and outdoor eating on the riverbank
    • funky old neighborhoods like Belleview
    • colorful relics like the Singing Bridge
    • tree-filled yards sloping down to the water
    • restored old homes
    • easily accessible marinas
    • greenspace like that in front of the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

    Doesn't Work:

    • gray concrete abominations like the Capital Plaza Tower, Fountain Place and the Capitol and Main Street parking garages
    • "flood walls" that may keep South Frankfort dry but destroy its riverene character
    • "flood walls" that just move the high water back upstream to drown other communities
    • abandoned hulks like the old YMCA next to the Singing Bridge that should have been restored 20 years ago.

    Now that we know what works and what doesn't, here are some ideas for minimizing Things That Don't Work and increasing Things That Do Work:

    • Ban construction that blocks public view of the River.
    • Preserve existing greenspace.
    • Create a Walk/Bike Path along at least one side of the river, uninterrupted from the Connector to the Distillery.
    • Encourage boat tours up and down the River.

    As the Frankfort Tourist Commission should, but probably doesn't, know, every dollar invested in projects that increase tourism returns seven dollars in revenue to the community. Every dollar invested in industry returns no more than two dollars to the community. A rough extrapolation from those proven numbers implies that every dollar invested in butt-ugly, half-empty monstrosities like Fountain Place probably costs the community revenue.

    Naturally moving water is a priceless attraction and tourist draw that most cities would kill for. If Frankfort really wants to move out of the bottom tier of capitol cities, prevent state workers from fleeing town at 4:15 p.m. and establish a sustainable economic base that will last for generations, it'll keep the riverfront green, clean and accessible.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    If You Think FISA Doesn't Matter

    Tomorrow the U.S. Senate will vote to take away the last shred of your protection against the government spying on your every move, without a warrant.

    If you can't be bothered to follow Glenn Greenwald's impeccable arguments, if you still hold Judith Miller against the New York Times, then please take a few seconds to read a four-line poem from an Obama supporter opposed to his FISA cave:

    When politicians continue to play fast and loose with the Bill of Rights, it's more than a core issue. It's a violation of their oath of office to uphold the Constitution. If you don't value those rights, that's fine. But there will come a time when you may have a need of those rights. Don't think that the government will just give those rights back once they take them. Martin Niemöller's poem comes to mind. If you will allow me a slight variation (Original Poem):

    First they came for my right of protection against illegal searches and seizures,- but I had nothing to hide, so I did not speak out.
    Then they came for my right to due process,- but I was not accused, so I did not speak out.
    Then they came for my right of habeas corpus,- but I was not locked up, so I did not speak out.
    And when they came for my freedom of speech, there was no way left for me to speak out.

    Slippery slope, people. Slippery slope.-Alexis N. Mueller

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Sex Crimes in the White House

    No, that is not a teaser headline. At HuffPo, Naomi Wolf gathers the evidence, including public confessions by the perpetrators, and makes the case.

    Sex crime has a telltale signature, even when those directing the outrages are some of the most powerful men and women in the United States. How extraordinary, then, to learn that one of the perpetrators of these crimes, Condoleezza Rice, has just led the debate in a special session of the United Nations Security Council on the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.


    We now know that the torture of prisoners was the result of a policy set in the White House by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Rice -- who actually chaired the torture meetings. The Pentagon has also acknowledged that it had authorized sexualized abuse of detainees as part of interrogation practices to be performed by female operatives. And documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union have Rumsfeld, in his own words, checking in on the sexualized humiliation of prisoners.

    The sexualization of torture from the top basically turned Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay into an organized sex-crime ring in which the trafficked sex slaves were US-held prisoners. Looking at the classic S and M nature of some of this torture, it is hard not to speculate that someone setting policy was aroused by all of this. And Phillipe Sands' impeccably documented Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values, now proves that sex crime was authorized and, at least one source reports, eroticized: Diane Beaver, the Staff Judge Advocate at Guantanamo who signed off on many torture techniques, told Sands about brainstorming sessions that included the use of "sexual tension," which was "culturally taboo, disrespectful, humiliating and potentially unexpected."

    "These brainstorming meetings at Guantanamo produced animated discussion," writes Sands. "'Who has the glassy eyes?" Beaver asked herself as she surveyed the men around the room, thirty or more of them. She was invariably the only woman in the room, keeping control of the boys. The younger men would get excited, agitated, even: "You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas" [reported Beaver]. A wan smile crossed Beaver's face: "And I said to myself, you know what, I don't have a dick to get hard, I can stay detached."' [Sands, p 63]


    Though we can now debate what the penalty for waterboarding should be, America as a nation, maintaining an odd silence, still cannot seem to discuss the sex crimes involved.


    Silence, and even collusion, is also typical of sex crimes within a family. Americans are behaving like a dysfunctional family by shielding sex criminals in their midst through silence.

    Just as sex criminals -- and the leaders who directed the use of rape and sexual abuse as a military strategy -- were tried and sentenced after the wars in Bosnia and Sierra Leone, so Americans must hold accountable those who committed, or authorized, sex crimes in US-operated prisons. Throughout the world, this perverse and graphic criminality has added fuel to anxiety about US cultural and military power. These acts need to be called by their true names -- war crimes and sex crimes -- and people in America need to demand justice for the perpetrators and their victims. As in a family, only when people start to speak out and tell the truth about rape and sexual assault can the healing begin.

    Read the whole thing, if you think you can stomach the details.

    Wolf doesn't say so explicitly, but those who study the use of torture know that the real purpose of torture is the sexual satisfaction of the torturer. Military leaders have known for decades that torture is worse than useless for gathering intelligence. Torture borders on counter-productive even as punishment, in that it tends to create martyrs and increase resistance by the population at large.

    No, torture of defenseless prisoners is nothing more than a way for sexual deviants and impotent perverts to get their rocks off.

    Just watch Smirky's face when he's making the "ticking bomb" torture defense: the glassy eyes, the lip-licking, the flared nostrils. You just know the only way he can get it up for Laura is by pretending she's a 10-year-old Iraqi boy.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Friday, July 4, 2008

    "Pomp, Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever."

    I'm a sucker for the American Revolution. Stories of the doomed valor and inexcusable waste of the Civil War bore me to tears, but any dozen lines of debate about independence from the First Continental Congress always send shivers down my spine.

    The quote in the headline is from Founder John Adams' letter to his wife Abigail after Congress voted to declare its independence from Great Britain. The actual Declaration was signed and read out in public the first time two days later - on July 4. Adams got the date wrong, but he knew an important holiday when he created one.

    The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

    Do not miss the fireworks tonight. However far you must drive to see them, do not miss them. And as you watch them, remember that the last line of the Declaration:

    "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

    was neither rhetoric nor hyperbole. Every single one of the 56 men who signed the Declaration had publicly confessed to treason against the Crown.

    Treason. For which the penalty was death by hanging.

    Remember what they risked while you watch the fireworks. Realize that citizenship today requires so little of you only because they sacrified so much. And ask yourself what you have done to ensure the republic they created never dies.

    New Laws Take Effect July 15

    In this presidential election year, Fourth of July is a good time to remind ourselves that the laws that have the biggest impact on our daily lives are passed not in Congress and signed by the president, but are passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor.

    The 2008 General Assembly session may not have gotten the big issues settled - no casino gambling, a budget on the verge of shutting the state down - but it still passed a shitload of new laws that mostly flew under the radar.

    Starting July 15, here are some of the new rules:

    Adventure Tourism. Senate Bill 196 will boost the Kentucky's adventure tourism industry by allowing the state to enter agreements with private property owners for the use of their land for recreational activities. The agreements would allow property owners to permit public use of the land without facing the liability issues they otherwise would.

    Alcohol vaporizers. House Bill 202 will ban the sale, purchase or use of alcohol vaporizing devices, which can be used to inhale intoxicating fumes of alcohol.

    Amusement park safety. SB 203 will require more frequent inspections of amusement park rides and prevent anyone under 18 from operating the rides.

    Animal cruelty.
    SB 58 will increase penalties for those who torture dogs or cats. Causing physical injury to a dog or cat as a result of torture would be a Class A misdemeanor that carries up to a year in jail, while causing serious physical injury or death would be a Class D felony punishable by 1-5 years in prison. Currently, all torture cases involving a dog or cat are Class A misdemeanors for a first offense.

    Blood donations. HB 139 will allow 16-year-olds who weigh at least 110 pounds to donate blood with written parental or legal guardian consent. The bill was crafted to help address blood shortages.

    Booster Seats. SB 120 will require young children who are too big for infant car seats to be placed in booster seats when riding in vehicles. The bill states that children under 7 years old and between 40-50 inches tall must use the boosters. (Police will only issue courtesy warnings to violators until July 1, 2009. After that, a violator will face a $30 fine, which can be dismissed if the violator shows proof that a booster seat has been acquired.)

    Bullying. HB 91 will require local school authorities to alert law enforcement when school harassment involves a potential felony. Yearly reports on school harassment will be made to the Department of Education and the Legislature.

    Early voting.
    HB 479 will give citizens greater access to the voting process by allowing them to request absentee ballot applications via email. The bill also allows members of the military to return unused absentee ballots and still be allowed to vote on Election Day.

    Elections. HB 370 will erase the requirement that runoff elections be held in gubernatorial primary races if no candidate receives at least 40 percent of the vote.

    Golden alert. SB 125 will create a "Kentucky Golden Alert" to make local media aware when an impaired adult, such as a person with Alzheimer's, is reported missing. The program will be similar to the Amber Alert program, in which cases of missing children are publicized so that more people will be on the lookout for the missing person.

    Military. HB 168 will allow active duty military serving outside the state up to 90 days to renew their driver's licenses after returning to Kentucky. They could not be cited for driving without a license during that period.

    Sex offenders. HB 211 will broaden Kentucky's child sex abuse laws while increasing penalties for abusers and those who fail to report abuse. The bill will include older children under state laws that protect minors from first-degree sexual abuse by raising the age of children covered by the law from 12 to 16, or 16 to 18, if the perpetrator is in a position of trust or authority.

    Stolen Valor Act. HB 110 will make it a Class A misdemeanor for anyone to falsely apply for a special military license plate or misrepresent current or former military status with an intent to defraud, obtain employment, or be elected or appointed to public office.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Thursday, July 3, 2008

    Who Hates Liberals More Than Republicans? Democratic Candidates

    Everybody's got a theory to explain national Democrats' inexplicable and infuriating insistence on caving to republicans and abandoning Democratic values to campaign as "centrists": they've got battered-dem syndrome, they're just republicans at heart, they've been bought off or blackmailed, they're spineless cowards, they've got a Secret Plan to Win the Election, they're just pussies.

    None of those theories explain why Democrats indulge in the most self-destructive tactic of all: losing elections by running away from their base.

    Digby explains why Democratic candidates hate Liberals.

    And that raises an important question: if these rich, pampered celebrities are spokesmen for the Everyman, then who are the elites? Well, they're us, the liberal base of the Democratic party. And that's what this "run to the center" is really all about --- putting as much distance between the politicians and us as they can. It's not about being "serious" on national security or crime or family values. It's not even about appealing to swing voters. It's about repudiating liberalism. You can have a right wing zealot on the team who is so out to lunch that he writes books recommending you beat your children like he beats his dog. But associations with anything remotely culturally liberal or politically progressive are considered poisonous if you care to be taken seriously by the likes of Target shopper Brian "Everyman"Williams or the policeman's daughter Maureen "Everywoman" Dowd.

    Repudiating liberalism is a symbolic gesture required of Democrats by the political establishment to prove that they are not elitists. And it goes beyond mere posturing on gay marriage or abortion. The national security challenge is always not to appear to be "an appeaser." The way you prove that is by refusing to appease the Democratic base. The economic challenge is to walk very carefully on taxes because it "costs jobs" for the hard working man and the struggling businessman alike who are in this thing together against the liberal elites. The cultural challenge is to not appear to be too friendly to blacks or too unfriendly to socially conservative religion in order to prove that that you are not beholden to the "extremists." The entire construct is based upon Democrats distancing themselves from their most ardent supporters (which is quite convenient for Republicans.)

    Read the whole thing.

    Glenn Greenwald explains why holding Democratic candidate's feet to the fire is the only way to reverse Democratic losses.

    One of the primary reasons that blogs emerged over the last seven years was as a reaction to, an attempt to battle against, exactly this narrative which the media propagated and Democratic institutions embraced -- that it is the duty of every Democrat to repudiate and attack their own base; that the truly pernicious elements are on the "Far Left", whose values must be rejected, while the Far Right is entitled to profound respect and accommodation; that "Strength" in National Security is determined by agreement with GOP policies, which is where "the Center" is found; that Seriousness is demonstrated by contempt for the liberal masses; that every Democrat must apologize for any statement over which Republicans feign offense.

    Plenty of Beltway institutions already existed for the purpose of cheering on any and all Democrats no matter what they do. If that's all that blogs are supposed to do, then there is no need for them.

    From the beginning, blogs have been devoted to opposing Democratic complicity and capitulation -- to protesting the lack of Democratic responsiveness to their supporters -- every bit as much as opposing GOP corruption and media malfeasance. That role is at least as important as the others.

    A presidential election is a unique time when Americans are engaged in a discussion over our collective political values (at least more engaged than any other time). Why would anyone watch the Obama campaign use this opportunity to perpetuate and reinforce this narrative, and watch Obama embrace polices that are the precise antithesis of the values he espoused in the past, and not criticize or object to that? Criticisms of that sort aren't unhealthy or counter-productive. They're the opposite. Of course one ought to object if a political candidate -- even Barack Obama -- is advocating policies that trample on one's core political values or promulgating toxic narratives. That's particularly true since his doing so isn't necessary to win; it's actually more likely to have the opposite effect.

    Meanwhile, you can still join the rapidly growing group to pressure Obama on FISA.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Wednesday, July 2, 2008

    The Fine, Fine Wine of Home

    If you wine-drinking elite liberals have not yet discovered Kentucky's own home-grown vino, now you've got no excuse: Four Kentucky wineries won Gold Medals at an international wine competition.


    FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky wineries struck gold six times at the Indy International Wine Competition June 26-28 in Indianapolis.

    The haul for Kentucky winemakers included four concordance golds, meaning the judges who evaluated that wine unanimously agreed that it was worthy of a gold medal. Kentucky wineries also brought home seven silver medals and 15 bronze medals. Eight different Kentucky wineries earned medals, and four brought home gold.

    The Indy International Wine Competition attracted more than 3,200 wines from 15 countries.

    ... Wight-Meyer Vineyard and Winery won two of the four concordance golds. The Shepherdsville winery was honored in American Blush/Rose for its Kentucky Rose and in White American Varietal for its Diamond wine. The other concordance golds went to Equus Run Vineyards of Midway for its cabernet sauvignon and Jean Farris Winery of Lexington for its Tempest wine in the Red Vinifera Blend category. Chrisman Mill Vineyard of Nicholasville struck gold in Red French-American Blend for its Sweet River Bend Red, and Jean Farris’ Petite Syrah also earned a gold medal.

    Other medal-winning Kentucky wines were:

    Chrisman Mill, bronze, First Vineyard Reserve (Chambourcin) and Ensemble (Vidal Blanc)
    Jean Farris, silver, Viognier, and bronze, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay
    River Valley Winery, Carrollton, silver, Mendovina (Pure Honey Wines/Meads) and bronze, Bobby’s American Blush (American Blush/Rose), Cabernet Sauvignon and Cynthiana
    Shandio Valley Winery, Carrollton, bronze, Bear’s Blush (American Blush/Rose) and Riesling
    StoneBrook Winery, Melbourne, silver, Honey (Pure Honey Wines/Meads) and bronze, Blackberry (Berry), Pomegranate (Tropical/Citrus) and Estate Reserve (Vidal Blanc)
    Talon Winery, Lexington, silver, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and bronze, Blackberry (Berry) and Traminette.
    Wight-Meyer Vineyard and Winery, silver, Pine Creek Summer (Traminette) and Kentucky Vignoles, and bronze, Sweet Berry (Berry).

    Most of these wines are available at Liquor Barn, and if you don't find them at your local liquor store, ask for them.

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Video of the Year

    Christopher Hitchens, apologist for the Iraq catastrophe and the Smirky/Darth maladministration in general, who has specifically pooh-poohed the idea that waterboarding could possibly be considered torture, recently got himself waterboarded for Vanity Fair.

    No, I haven't watched it. Much as I have pined for Hitchens to get his richly deserved comeuppance, based on the descriptions given by people who have actually experienced it, I wouldn't wish waterboarding on anyone - even Hitchens.

    Spencer Ackerman's description of the video is harrowing enough.

    It took bare seconds for a desperate Hitchens to give the signal to stop the torture. But here's the real question: how long is it going to take Hitchens to recant?

    h/t TPM

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    Obama Should Do What Bush Did

    Here's hoping Obama follows George Bush's example as President.

    Campaign as a centrist, moderate, new kind of politican, then turn around and govern to the far extreme of his own party.

    (Although what the MSM labels "extreme left" is actually the real "center" because it's what the majority of Americans have been telling pollsters they want for a couple of decades now.)

    I'm fine with Obama playing nice with the DINOs and Blue Dogs right up through November 4, as long as first thing in the morning November 5, he tells them:

    "Thanks for your votes, bitches; now sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up."

    I want to hear an Inaugural Address that demolishes Reagan/Bush America in a single blow. I want Obama to announce:

    • Immediate Withdrawal from Iraq
    • Eliminate Aid to Pakistan Until They Cough Up Bin Laden
    • Get Reparations from Saudi Arabia for 9-11 (15 of 19 terrorists, remember?)
    • Single-Payer Health Insurance
    • Double the Minimum Wage
    • Promote Unionization
    • Progressive Taxation - Soak the Rich
    • Repeal NAFTA and CAFTA
    • Repeal Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act, FISA and every other law that infringes on civil liberties
    • Restore the Clean Air, Clean Water and Superfund Acts and fully fund their implementation
    • $1 Trillion Crash Program to Rebuild Nation's Infrastructure
    • $1 Trillion Crash Program to Replace Fossil Fuels with Renewables (Not Nuclear)
    • Outlaw Vote ID requirements
    • Cancel the Drug War and use the money to create 10 million treatment beds.
    • Eliminate Aid to Israel until they abandon all the West Bank settlements and cut a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians.

    And I almost forgot:

    • Arrest George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, David Addington, John Yoo, and Alberto Gonzales, charge them with treason, convict their guilty asses and throw them in a SuperMax prison for the rest of eternity.

    I want Obama to lean on Congress so hard he makes the Full Johnson seem like an air kiss. I want him to make Blue Dogs such pariahs that even lobbyists won't speak to them. I want him to appoint federal judges so liberal they make Dennis Kucinich look conservative. I want Antonin Scalia's head to explode. I want Samuel Alito sobbing in despair on national television. I want Clarence Thomas to get "race traitor" tattooed on his forehead.

    If Obama does all that, I'll forgive him every stupid, self-destructive, un-democratic campaign pander.

    That's hypocrisy I can get behind.

    (No, I don't think Obama's going to announce all that, much less actually do it. But I am sure he's going to get miles closer to those goals than McCain would.)

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.

    Respect the Service; Confront the Man

    Quick way to explain the difference between what the Swift-Boat Liars did to John Kerry and what Gen. Wesley Clark is saying about John McCain:

    "Swift-boating" attacks the man by lying about the service. Clark respects the service, but questions its relevance to the office sought by the man.

    Salon has the video of Clark making his case, and Steve Benen comments:

    Perhaps because of the four stars on his shoulder, retired Gen. Wesley Clark is bolder than most when it comes to criticizing John McCain's efforts to connect his military experience with his presidential qualifications. Indeed, Clark has been tougher than most in pushing back against the Republican nominee's pitch.


    It's not especially surprising that Clark's remarks aren't going over well on the right. Several conservative bloggers have the outrage meter turned up to 11, and the McCain campaign issued a statement accusing the Obama campaign of wanting to "question John McCain's military service," and allowing Obama's campaign surrogates "to demean and attack John McCain's military service record."

    This morning on MSNBC, Mika Brzezinski and Andrea Mitchell admonished Clark, insisting that his remarks weren't "fair." Yesterday, CNN's Rick Sanchez accused Clark of trying to "Swift boat" McCain.

    I can appreciate the fact that Clark's comments might seem intemperate, but the reaction is more than a little over the top.

    First, there are no similarities between Clark's remarks and the Swift boat attacks. Clark never said, and wouldn't say, that McCain lied about his service, or won medals he hadn't earned.

    Second, did Clark say anything that was, you know, false? To be sure, McCain served heroically, and endured torture and abuse that I can hardly imagine as a POW. The nation will always owe him a debt of gratitude for what he endured. But Clark's point is that this service, four decades ago, does not necessarily constitute a presidential qualification today. We don't hear that often, but that doesn't make it outrageous.

    And at HuffPo, John Soltz of VoteVets bolsters Clark's argument and offers a way to express support for General Clark.

    This wasn't a swift boating, or any low politics. General Clark called McCain a hero to millions for his sacrifice. And, that's a pretty big statement coming from a man who, himself, left Vietnam on a stretcher. But, facts are facts:

    • Senator McCain's service and experience, both as a POW and as a Senator apparently hasn't infused him with a dose of good judgment.

    • Senator McCain's experience hasn't led him to realize that the war in Iraq and it's continuance has empowered and emboldened Iran, and destabilized the region.

    • Senator McCain's experience hasn't caused him to recognize that we're losing ground in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden is still out there, plotting.

    • Senator McCain's experience didn't lead him to support the 21st Century GI Bill -- he opposed it. It didn't even make him feel the need to get back to Washington to vote on this -- one of the most important veterans' bills this Congress. He twice skipped votes on the GI Bill, to fundraise.

    • Senator McCain's experience didn't help him empathize with troops are overstretched and overdeployed, when he voted against the bipartisan Webb-Hagel "Dwell Time Amendment," which would have given troops as much time at home as in the field.

    Senator McCain is running on his experience, saying it makes him ready to lead right away. By doing so, he is asking people to look at what that experience taught him. By looking at Senator McCain's positions and votes (or lack of them), it seems that experience has not given him the right judgment on important issues of our time. And, while we should all honor Senator McCain's service, that doesn't mean we should necessarily honor it by putting him in the White House to take up George W. Bush's third term.

    So, General Clark is 100 percent absolutely right, and he should not back down. I'd hope that some of the so-called progressives on television back him up on this, and not get intimidated by the media and McCain campaign press releases. These are important times, and deserve a blunt and honest debate.

    In some circles, that's just called 'straight talk.'

    UPDATE: Since a lot of you are sending words of support on here for General Clark, we started a petition where you can sign to thank him, and tell him to keep it up. We will take the petition to General Clark, personally. Also, it's important to sign, so we can show the media that we've got his back.

    Sign the petition, and don't let anyone get away with calling Clark's straight talk "swift-boating."

    Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.