Sunday, February 28, 2010

Anti-Science Freakazoid Running National Institutes of Health

Here's a nice fact to spit back to anyone who insists President Obama is a mooslin:

His administration is infested with evangelizing freakazoids.

(Francis) Collins has a new book coming out, titled Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith. It's the same old drivel: CS Lewis, old chestnuts re-roasted on a dying fire, nature and science somehow testifying to the truth of faith, moral law, fine-tuning, the Big Bang, etc. Jerry Coyne says it just right:

Enough is enough. Collins is director of the NIH, and is using his office to argue publicly that scientific evidence—the Big Bang, the "Moral Law" and so forth—points to the existence of a God. That is blurring the lines between faith and science: exactly what I hoped he would not do when he took his new job.

And to those who say that he has the right to publish this sort of stuff, well, yes he does. He has the legal right. But it's not judicious to argue publicly, as the most important scientist in the US, that there is scientific evidence for God. Imagine, for example, the outcry that would ensue if Collins were an atheist and, as NIH director, published a collection of atheistic essays along the lines of Christopher Hitchens's The Portable Atheist, but also arguing that scientific evidence proved that there was no God. He would, of course, promptly be canned as NIH director.

Or imagine if Collins were a Scientologist, arguing that the evidence pointed to the existence of Xenu and ancient "body-thetans" that still plague humans today. Or a Muslim, arguing that evidence pointed to the existence of Allah, and of Mohamed as his divine prophet. Or if he published a book showing how scientific evidence pointed to the efficacy of astrology, or witchcraft. People would think he was nuts.

Collins gets away with this kind of stuff only because, in America, Christianity is a socially sanctioned superstition. He's the chief government scientist, but he won't stop conflating science and faith. He had his chance, and he blew it. He should step down.

I note that one of the ways the book is being promoted is by touting the credentials of its editor as "the Director of the National Institutes of Health." Atheists are often told that they are "harming the cause" by being outspoken with their ideas, that it is impolitic for science educators to be forthright about their godlessness, that we should emphasize the compatibility of science and religion (even when we think it is false) — and we're also told that this is part of the virtue of scientific objectivity, since we can't possibly disprove the existence of a god. I should like to see some of those same people and organizations (like, say, the Colgate Twins or the NCSE) to come out and similarly deplore this promotion of medieval nonsense by a supposed scholar of good science.

They won't. It's never been about fairness or diplomacy or objectivity. It's always been about pandering to a delusion held by a majority.

I'll just pile on with this defense of the headline on this post: religion is, ipso facto, anti-science. You can't claim to be a scientist if you insist that an invisible sky wizard created the world. You either believe in superstitious nonsense, or you understand and accept scientific fact.

Francis Collins has chosen to believe superstitious nonsense, which makes him unqualified for any science-related position in a secular government, and he uses his government position to promote said superstitious nonsense, which makes him unqualified to serve in a secular democracy.

How the Liars Get Away With So Much, Part 1

Why are facts and reality always on the defensive? Why do lies - from Iraq's WMDs to creationism to climate change denialism to death panels to "tax cuts increase revenue" always get top billing, despite mountains of proof to the contrary?

There are multiple factors and everyone has his own pet theory, but let's start with one addressed by The Nation in a recent cover story: the infestation of cable news by corporate lobbyists.

These incidents represent only a fraction of the covert corporate influence peddling on cable news, a four-month investigation by The Nation has found. Since 2007 at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials--people paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests--have appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure of the corporate interests that had paid them. Many have been regulars on more than one of the cable networks, turning in dozens--and in some cases hundreds--of appearances.

For lobbyists, PR firms and corporate officials, going on cable television is a chance to promote clients and their interests on the most widely cited source of news in the United States. These appearances also generate good will and access to major players inside the Democratic and Republican parties. For their part, the cable networks, eager to fill time and afraid of upsetting the political elite, have often looked the other way. At times, the networks have even disregarded their own written ethics guidelines. Just about everyone involved is heavily invested in maintaining the current system, with the exception of the viewer.

While lobbyists and PR flacks have long tried to spin the press, the launch of Fox News and MSNBC in 1996 and the Clinton impeachment saga that followed helped create the caldron of twenty-four-hour political analysis that so many influence peddlers call home. Since then, guests with serious conflicts of interest have popped up with alarming regularity on every network. Just examine their presence in coverage of the economic crash and the healthcare reform debate, two recent issues that have engendered massive cable coverage.

Bad news for liberals: the worst violator appears to be MSNBC, and even our beloved Howard Dean is a registered lobbyist for Big Pharma.

Sebastion Jones goes into great detail on the extent and history of this phenomenon, but barely touches on what I see as the real failure behind the dependence on lobbyists:

Substituting pundits and analysts (or what the Rude Pundit calls "analpundits") spouting opinion or corporate spin for reporters reporting facts.

Remember reporters? Wingnuts love to whine about Walter Cronkite's supposedly revealing his liberal bias when he announced live during the CBS evening news that the Vietnam War was unwinnable. But Cronkite didn't get that "opinion" from armchair peaceniks at The New Republic, the way Faux gets its marching orders from the fat-assed warmongers at National Review.

No, Cronkite was a reporter. He went to Vietnam and tramped through the jungle himself, asking questions and listening to what the grunts on the ground had to say, and developed a logical conclusion based on facts, reality, and his own experience of covering other wars.

For (Aaron) Brown, though, the lack of disclosure is symptomatic of larger problems in cable journalism, rooted in the shift to putting numerous analysts and strategists on television as an easy, inexpensive way to fill time. It's "a lot cheaper than sending a correspondent to Afghanistan," he says.

"What I find unconscionable about this is that it's not like a struggling newspaper is looking for an inexpensive way to do journalism because they have no money. These are highly successful profit centers for the corporations that they're spawned from," Brown said.


Jay Rosen, a media critic and journalism professor at New York University, has a different take. "More disclosure is good--I'm certainly in favor of that--but why are these people on at all?" asks Rosen. "They have views and can manufacture opinions around any event at any time."

Rosen echoes something Brown mentioned to me. Watching cable news cover the 2008 election with more analysts crammed at one table than ever before--as if to ask, "How many people can we put on the set at one time?"--Brown said he was "amazed how little they had to offer." He went on, "We live in a time where there are no shortages of opinions and an incredible deficit of facts."

Up until 20, maybe even just 10 years ago, you could count on newspapers, which then still employed more reporters than opinionators, to keep the television analpundits somewhat restrained by printing the facts of the reality-based world.

But even the Gray Lady herself has turned into a pox-ridden whore for the military-industrial complex, as evidenced by the Times allowing Judith Miller to fuck and lie this country into the Iraq catastrophe.

The most terrifying part is that there is no longer anyplace anyone can go to find actual facts that are accepted as such by a majority of the population. If Faux reported that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, liberals would go outside to double-check. And if MSNBC reported that burning coal cures cancer, wingnuts would suspect a conspiracy.

A popular liberal trope today is "you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts." But if the only "facts" we have are derived from opinions, then reality itself has no place to stand.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Celebrate Music Freedom Day March 3

Because what's a revolution without music hated by The Man?

Musicians in this country don't have it easy with the implosion of the music industry making it difficult for new acts to get paid for the work they produce. But, at least at the moment, they're free from the death threats, imprisonment, intimidation and censorship afflicting their counterparts around the globe.

Recent examples include the five people killed when ten music shops were damaged in a bomb blast in Pakistan; the musicians banned from performing in Somalia and Iran officials for their ‘un-Islamic' music, and the Mexican legislators working to ban "drug ballads."

All around the world, threats to freedom of musical expression are growing. In response, Freemuse, an independent international organization working to defend freedom of expression for musicians and composers, started Music Freedom Day, a truly global happening which inspires increasing numbers of musicians and concert organizers to highlight violations of one of the oldest forms of expression. This March 3, the fourth annual Music Freedom Day will take place with major events planned in Mumbai, Kabul, Cairo, Amman, Gdansk, The Hague and New York, among many other places.

Celebrations include concerts, special radio programs, seminars, and workshops worldwide. In ,The Hague, Holland, a two-day event focusing on rap and hip-hop culture is being organized and in Mumbai, French singer Barbara Carlotti will be offering a live performance. In New York, Brooklyn-based Cruel Black Dove will play covers of "illegal" Iranian band The Plastic Wave, an electronic band founded in Tehran by two young musicians, Natch and Maral Afsharian, as part of "The Impossible Music Sessions," a new project looking to provide a space for censored artists. In Germany, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and Kabul, radio and TV stations will present special programmes on music censorship and freedom of expression.

Check out what other people are planning on March 3 and stage your own event celebrating freedom of musical expression if there's nothing going on in your area. You can also support Freemuse in a variety of ways, including joining the network, spreading the word and reporting violations.

If D.C. is the Olympics, Repugs Are the East Germans

And thanks, repugs, for showing the country your ass live on the tee-vee.

Full transcript here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

This Shouldn't Be News, But It Is

Take down the Nancy Pelosi bull's-eyes, boys, there's a new sheriff in town.

Elizabeth A. “Betsy” Fries has been appointed special agent in charge of the FBI’s Louisville Division, which covers most of Kentucky.

Her appointment was announced by national FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Fries most recently has been serving as a special assistant to the associate deputy director at FBI headquarters in Reston, Va.

She will be the first woman to lead the Louisville field office, and will replace Timothy Cox, who is retiring. Fries is expected to start her new position in about a month.

Fries began work as an FBI special agent in 1991. Upon completion of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., she was assigned to the Indianapolis Division, where she worked a variety of cases, including public corruption and bank fraud.

Shameless Magic Buggy Whip Industry Demanding Yet More Special Favors

Hey, KY lege: if you're gonna hand out millions in tax dollars to every deadbeat who asks, I'd like to demand a law requiring every business in Kentucky to buy ad space on my blog.

A Louisville company that's planning to build a coal-to-natural gas manufacturing plant in western Kentucky wants a state law that would require utilities to buy electricity from facilities like theirs.

A reprehensive (sic - ohmydog now THAT's a freudian slip for the ages) of the Erora Group told a legislative committee Thursday that it would be able to complete financing for its Cash Creek Project if utilities were compelled to buy electricity from producers of renewable and alternative forms of energy.

The Cash Creek Project is designed to gasify 2.8 million tons per year of Kentucky coal to produce natural gas that would be sold through an interstate pipeline and burned to produce electricity.

The House has already passed a separate bill that would let one of its business partners condemn private property for a pipeline that would send its carbon dioxide to Texas to be used to help extract oil and natural gas from the ground there.

Also, I'd like a few hundred million bucks in subsidies to start my unicorn ranch. Unicorns being slightly more realistic than labeling any kind of coal-based energy as "clean," "renewable" or "alternative."

Stop This Feakazoid Abomination Now

Yep, it passed the state Senate with all but one of the "Democrats" going along with Kentucky's Xian Taliban.

The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday that would give public schools guidelines for teaching the Bible as an elective social studies course.

One senator, Democrat Kathy Stein of Lexington, voted against Senate Bill 142.

Stein said she knew proponents of the measure had the best intentions but questioned its constitutionality. She also said public schools already teach comparative religion courses.

The primary sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. David Boswell of Owensboro, said it would let the state Board of Education come up with regulations to guide public schools as they “teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture.”

Boswell said school-based decision-making councils would decide whether the course would be taught. He said it is needed to make children more aware of the role of the Bible in history, literature and culture.

Some critics of the bill have said it is “a back-door approach” to teach religion.

I'd call it more a reaming with an unlubricated barbed giant dildo up the ass of the Constitution. And only the state House can stop it now.

Don't count on those cowards who pretend to be Democrats - start calling and writing now:

Find toll-free numbers to call your legislators here.

Email your legislators here.

Find out who represents you in the house and senate here.

KY Lege Steps Up Where Congress Failed

If Democratic majorities in Congress are still wondering about the bipartisan popularity of massive jobs bills financed with debt, they should look to Mitch McConnell's own red-state home.

In Kentucky, legislators facing a $1.2 Billion budget shortfall are proposing going further into debt to finance - gasp! - government jobs.

House leaders are considering adding to the state’s debt in an effort to put more Kentuckians to work replacing school buildings, roads and water lines.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Thursday that House leaders are considering adding additional capital projects to their two-year budget proposal and will borrow money to pay for them.

“We believe that the way we put Kentucky back to work is that we create jobs,” Stumbo said. “We believe that a jobs bill is important.”

No, Greg, it's not important; it's the only thing that will save the economy and the Democratic Party.

Find toll-free numbers to call your legislators here.

Email your legislators here.

Find out who represents you in the house and senate here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Choice of True Courage

I can't improve on Katha Pollitt's brilliant shredding of Pam Tebow's lies and hypocrisy, so read the whole thing.

Then watch how a truly courageous woman explains her choice, via PZ Myers.

Angie the anti-theist is getting an abortion — good for her for being bold enough to put a human face to the issue.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Number 89 - and Two Too Many

Two Kentucky Marines in one day.

25-year-old Adam Peak this morning, and now Lance Cpl. Matthias N. Hanson, 20, of Buffalo, Ky., a small town just outside Hodgenville, the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.

They both died Feb. 21 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. They were both assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Hanson moved to Kentucky from Michigan three years before graduating from high school, as the Greenville, MI, paper explains:

When Lance Cpl. Matthias Hanson joined the Marines in 2007, he was following a long family history of military service.

His father had served in the Gulf War, his stepfather in Vietnam. His brother currently is serving in the Army. And the family has relatives who served in both World Wars.

But on Sunday, Hanson, a 20-year-old who formerly attended Greenville High School, became the first member of his family to be killed in combat when he was shot in Afghanistan, according to his uncle, Max Watts of Greenville.

Hanson joined the Marines out of high school, thinking, "'OK, I'm going to show them. I'm going to be a Marine. I'm going to do them all better,'" Watts recalled. "He wanted to be the best. He wanted to show everybody he could be the best."

In 2005, Hanson moved to Hodgenville, Ky., where he graduated from Larue County High School in 2008. His mother, Mary Huff, father, Lowell Hanson II, and sister, Megan Dohn, all live in Kentucky. His brother, Lowell Hanson III, who is stationed in Germany, is flying back for the funeral, which will be held in Kentucky.

Hanson also has a handful of other relatives in West Michigan and Kentucky.

"He was just the most cheerful kid that you'd ever seen," said his aunt, Jennifer Harding of Greenville. "He was always a big part of the family."

Two Kentucky marines in one day. To accomplish nothing in a worthless wasteland where everybody hates us. It's a crime.

Number 88

Kentucky's third Afghanistan casualty in three weeks is a Boone County High School graduate.

Adam Peak, of Florence, was a Marine infantryman who was killed by an improvised explosive device yesterday. According to his father, Bruce Peak, he was part of a perimeter team which was responding to a previous IED explosion.

"He was a big-hearted man," Bruce Peak said.

Peak's mother Diana Peak confirmed his death on Peak's Facebook page last night at 6:53 p.m. Since then condolences from friends and family have flooded the page.

"He loved his family - especially his sisters," Bruce Peak said.

Peak has two sisters and a brother who is also serving in the military. Peak graduated from Thomas More College where he was a member of Alpha Delta Gamma fraternity.

Lance Cpl. Adam D. Peak, 25, died Feb. 21 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Don't Fall for Repug Rope-a-Dope on Jobs Bill

For pity's fucking sake dems! Do not, Do Not, DO NOT fall for this.

After a year of solid-block, no-defections obstruction by republicans in the Senate, and just when dem criticisms of the repugs as the party of no are starting to get traction in the media and across the country, now, all of a sudden, on a teeny-tiny worthless "jobs bill," five repug senators break ranks and vote with the dems?

Because they think it's the right thing to do?

If you believe that, I have an oil well in my back yard you can invest in.

Trust me: Mitch McConnell is closeted this morning with George, Olympia, Susan, Kit and Scott, pouring the bourbon and toasting their successful destruction of the dems best weapon against the repugs.

After Thursday's health care reform "summit," when the dems try to paint repugs as reflexive obstructionists who will never support any administration initiative, and that therefore Congress should move forward on Democratic-votes-only legislation, the Villagers and their Blue Dog allies will scream "not true! Look at the jobs bill! Five republican votes! See, repugs will vote for dem bills if they're repug enough! Dems just have to be more bipartisan!"

And once again health care reform will die in screaming agony on the altar of bipartisanship.

Here's how you get Democratic legislation passed and as a bonus guarantee Democratic majority increases this November:

Present the leftiest version imaginable of every bill. Announce that because this is the legislation vast majorities of Americans want, liberal Democrats will keep the credit for it all to themselves. Neither repug nor Blue Dog votes are welcome. Nuke the filibuster in the Senate, and mobilize the liberals in the House. Majority rule, motherfuckers.

Then sit back and watch the stampede to vote yes.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Three Versions of Health Care Reform

You've probably heard or read that President Obama's proposed health care reform compromise is either a brilliant or Frankensteinian combination of the already-passed Senate and House health care reform bills, plus some embellishments of his own.

Wishing for a simple, straightforward comparison of the three proposals? Granted!

Igor Volsky at Think Progress has a table comparing the three plans.

Polls be damned: a million Kentuckians desperately need the Public Option

It's not speculation any more. It's a fact - backed by scientific research - that nearly one-fourth of Kentuckians need health care reform with a strong public option.

A third of adult Kentuckians below Medicare age — nearly 900,000 people — don't have health insurance, a poll has found. And researchers say the recession and the resulting rise in unemployment are to blame.

The survey, which the University of Cincinnati conducted in October and November for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and a similar Cincinnati group, found a sharp increase in uninsured adults since a similar poll last year: 33 percent of Kentuckians ages 18 to 64 lacked insurance, compared with 23 percent in early 2008.

During the same period, Kentucky's jobless rate rose from just shy of 6 percent to about 11 percent.


Susan Zepeda, executive director of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said the results underscore that reform efforts must consider the unemployed and those who can't buy insurance through their jobs.

In other words, public option, motherfuckers.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hope, Recovery and Ingratitude

Superb medical news out of Louisville:

It strikes thousands of African Americans every year, clogging blood vessels with sickle-shaped cells — causing strokes, blindness and excruciating pain as it damages the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys.

Half of its victims die by age 40.

But University of Louisville researchers are testing a revolutionary cure for sickle cell disease, giving hope to a new generation of families that carry the potentially fatal gene.

Amos Igwe, 13, believes the procedure has given him a future.

Before getting a bone-marrow transplant from his sister in 2006 as part of the experiment, Amos was often so sick that he had trouble breathing and could barely leave the living room couch.

Today he plays quarterback on a football team at St. Albert the Great, where he's an eighth-grader, is preparing to go to Trinity High School next year and hopes to one day become a dentist or heart surgeon.

Read the whole package.

Here's the ingratitude:

“We are grateful to God,” said his father, Tony Igwe of eastern Louisville. “It's really a miracle.”

Shame on you, Mr. Igwe. Your mythical sky wizard had nothing to do with it. If you had really thought "god" practiced medicine, you would have sat beside your son, praying nonstop while he died slowly in excruciating pain.

But instead of putting your son's life where your ludicrous superstition is, you let human, reality-based medical science treat your son, then gave the credit to a Bronze Age desert fantasy.

For shame.

Becoming the Evil We Used to Fight

If you're having trouble remembering who we used to be, and why it mattered, and why what President Obama's Justice Department has done is a catastrophe, go watch "Judgement at Nuremburg."

The Phrase You're Looking for, Mr. President, is "Evil Fuckers."

As in, "Thank you, you evil fuckers, for being arrogant and stupid enough to hike insurance rates before health care reform was really, truly and completely dead."

Read the transcript here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Millions for coal subsidies; not a penny for human services

Abused children, unemployed workers, and homeless families would not have these problems if they would just get with the program and buy themselves a few key lawmakers.

But until they do, they're always going to be the easy and obvious target for budget cuts.

Kentucky’s 15 domestic violence shelters have raised funds with chili suppers, softball tournaments, candle sales, motorcycle rallies and telethons.

But it’s still a daily struggle to meet rising expenses, such as food and utilities, Ann Perkins, president of the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, told a legislative committee this week.

“Funding to provide even basic services is getting more difficult to secure,’’ said Perkins, director of the Safe Harbor shelter in Ashland.

Even if most human services are spared cuts in the next-two year budget — as House leadership suggested Thursday — most will still face serious shortfalls that could lead to severe cuts in programs and possible employee layoffs, according to advocates for services ranging from community mental health to local health departments.

“The shelters are in trouble,’’ said Sherry Currens, executive director of the domestic violence association. “All the social services are in trouble.”

And there’s no guarantee lawmakers won’t have to cut human services as they begin working out details of the plan to cope with a projected $1.5 billion shortfall over the next two years, according to Rep. Jimmie Lee, the Elizabethtown Democrat who is chairman of the House human services budget subcommittee.

Find toll-free numbers to call your legislators here.

Email your legislators here.

Find out who represents you in the house and senate here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Whining, Self-Pitying Domestic Terrorism

Zandar has the catch of the day:

Best comments on the Joe Stack plane crash story today from nurtz Kidd at Rumproast:

Carefully dissect his story—he didn’t like the unfairness of the tax code, so he tried to cheat the IRS—using dodges he believes other organizations get away with.

He got caught, he lost his savings. Boo Hoo.

Then the Government cut back on unnecessary costs (hooray) on account of which he lost his job. (Tough titty.) So he relocates to Austin, where he finds you get worked over by large organizations and don’t get a huge salary.

Boo Hoo number 2.

Then he signs an Income Tax declaration with his wife, not disclosing her under-the-table income. He goes to a hearing of some kind, and the accountant to prepared the phony docs rolls on him. Given his background as a deliberate tax fraud/cheater, he has to pay again. Boo Hoo number 3.

Then, during a recession, he starts a business and is not immediately successful. (Though he’s successful enough to retain a private plane, which most of America can’t dream about buying.)

Boo Hoo number 4.

He’s mad at the IRS because he tried to cheat on his taxes and got caught. He’s a failure as an engineer, a husband, and a tax cheat.

And as a domestic terrorist, I might add. Those who are arguing if he was a Teabagger nutjob or a Leftist crackpot are missing the point: he's a good old fashioned failed domestic terrorist, and America has plenty of them.

I'd just add that this guy is neither conservative nor liberal; he's an entitlist.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kentucky Flunks Moral Test of Government

The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped. --- Hubert H. Humphrey

Moral, schmoral - you want an easy way to fill a budget gap, use the hides of people too old, weak and sick to object.

With tears in his eyes, James Cheely paused before a House budget subcommittee on Wednesday as he tried to explain his most important job title.

“I’m the father of a 21-year-old son, Bryan, that has a developmental disability,” he said.

Cheely, a coordinator with the Special Olympics of Kentucky and a member of an association for the mentally handicapped in Barren County, was among dozens who asked legislators during a budget hearing Wednesday to spare the mentally ill, mentally handicapped, elderly and chronically ill from budget cuts.

Later on Wednesday, the 874 Coalition — named for the estimated 874,000 people with disabilities in Kentucky — held a rally to repeat that message to lawmakers.

The rally came as House leaders are poised to unveil in coming days a two-year state budget that deals with a projected $1.5 billion shortfall in the General Fund. That plan does not include any major cuts to social services, said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

However, the plan does remove about $220 million in General Fund dollars from the state’s Medicaid program in hopes that Congress will approve more federal funds for the program by January 2011. If that doesn’t happen, Gov. Steve Beshear told those at the 874 rally that the state could lose $600 million in matching money from the federal government for Medicaid.

So when Kentucky's own Mitch McConnell stops Congress from approving more federal funds for Medicaid to replace what the General Assembly took away from our most vulnerable citizens, it'll be the fault of ... Democrats.

Funny how that works.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Good Germans and Crap Christianity

The freakazoids thrive in this country despite being a tiny minority. They thrive because their vicious hatefulness receives cover and credibility from non-freakazoid christians who are the majority.

I have family members who are extremely intelligent, highly educated, enormously well-read, wordly and sophisticated, who break my heart daily by insisting on labeling themselves "christian."

These people are about as far from freakazoids as it is possible to get short of atheism. They are scientists, for pity's fucking sake, who understand and accept evolution, who reject the entire Old Testament, who are pro-choice, pro-gay-rights, flaming liberals who make Bernie Sanders sound conservative.

Their values are less Jesus than straightfoward secular humanist ethics, yet they will not let go of that label "christian." To them, bleeding-heart, reality-based liberalism is christianity.

They will not admit that they are "good Germans," enabling, strengthening and promoting the evil done in their name.

Ken at Down With Tyranny explains:

By Crap Christianity what I mean, in case it isn't obvious, is basically the Christian Right, in which small groups of people seek to control the thinking and behavior of (they hope) much larger groups of people, in the interest of the controlling group's egos or thirst for power or greed for wealth. It is fundamentally an authoritarian system, and in all its facets it's about control.

Here's how I put it in what was basically a music post last September, "Bach's faith rouses devotion, not ennui (or ridicule), in this nonbeliever -- his Jesus isn't the Right's 'macho Jesus'":

Bach's belief in Jesus as a representation of the best in us, the fullest and most meaningful humanity of which we are capable, the Prince of Peace, doesn't require much of a stretch for me. In fact, that belief, not to mention the actual teachings of Jesus, is what makes me crazy in the incessant braying of modern-day crap Christianity. Longtime DWT readers have heard both Howie and me sound this theme frequently. The ignorant, lying, bellicose, immoral crap Christians not only seem blitheringly unaware of what Jesus actually preached, but represent something very close to the forces of oppression and inhumanity that were Jesus's lifelong antagonists.

By coincidence (or is it coincidence?), in the Introduction to Max Blumenthal's book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, I just encountered this remarkable description of the "macho Jesus" central to "the authoritarian mindset driving the movement that has substantially taken over the modern Republican Party: the Christian Right," as he experienced it personally in five years of interviewing hundreds of its leaders, attending dozens of rallies and conferences, listening to "countless hours" of radio broadcasts, and sitting "in movement-oriented houses of worship where no journalists were permitted."

As I explored the contours of the movement, I discovered a culture of personal crisis lurking behind the histrionics and expressions of social resentment. This culture is the mortar that bonds leaders and followers together. . . .

The movement's Jesus is the opposite of the prince of peace. He is a stern, overtly masculine patriarch charging into the fray with his sword raised against secular foes; he is "the head of a dreadful company, mounted on a horse, with a double-edged sword, his robe dipped in blood," according to movement propagandist Steve Arterburn. Mark Driscoll, a pastor who operates an alternative Christian rock venue from his church, stirs the souls of twenty-something evangelical males with visions of "Ultimate Fighting Jesus." This same musclebound god-man starred in Mel Gibson's blood-drenched The Passion of the Christ, enduring bone-crushing punishment at the hands of Jews and pagans for two hours of unrelieved pornographic masochism.

A portrait of virility and violence, the movement's omnipotent macho Jesus represents the mirror inversion of the weak men who necessitated his creation. As [psychologist Erich] Fromm explained, "the lust for power is not rooted in strength but in weakness [italics in original]. It is the expression of the individual self to stand alone and live. It is the desperate attempt to gain secondary strength where genuine strength is lacking."

No indeed, Bach's Jesus has nothing in common with this macho Jesus. And I imagine Bach's deep Christian faith must be an irrelevance if not an outright outrage to the crap Christian worshippers of macho Jesus. Indeed, having come this far with Max, we need to continue on at least one more paragraph:

The movement's macho Jesus provided purpose to Tom DeLay, a dallying, alcoholic Texas legislator transformed through evangelical religion from "Hot Tub Tommy" into a dictatorial House majority leader known as "The Hammer." Macho Jesus was the god of Ted Haggard, a closet homosexual born-again and charismatic megachurch leader, risen to head of the National Association of Evangelicals, preaching the gospel of spiritual warfare and anti-gay crusades. And he was the god of Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., an eccentric millionaire whose inheritance of massive wealth literally drove him mad, prompting his institutionalization, who found relief as one of the far right's most reliable financial angels. Macho Jesus even transformed the serial killer Ted Bundy, murderer and rapist of dozens of women, who became a poster child for anti-pornography activists with his nationally televised death row confessional. . . .

Crap Christians don't believe in Jesus or his teachings, on which they basically defecate.

So don't defend your "christianity" by claiming you're not one of "them," the jayzus-shitters. Unless you are out front condemning them at the top of your lungs, you're one of them.

Pecholes (Welcome)

The record snow and near-record cold greeting them could not be worse, but the welcome is still warm.

A month ago, Guilene Honore was pulled from the rubble of her Port-au-Prince apartment — only to learn that Haitian hospitals couldn’t repair her shattered hip.

On Tuesday, three weeks after undergoing surgery in Miami, she clutched her scarred arm as her wheelchair was pushed through Louisville’s airport, and toward her new home.

Noticeably thin and still recovering, Honore, 24, accompanied by her 58-year-old mother, Alice Michaud, were met by a group of local Haitians and Kentucky Refugee Ministries officials, who are resettling them at least while she recuperates.

The mother and daughter are the first of what could be a dozen or more injured Haitian earthquake victims evacuated to Florida hospitals who are being resettled by Kentucky Refugee Ministries while they recover. Catholic Charities is also awaiting word on whether they’ll be asked to bring dozens of injured Haitians to Louisville in the coming months, officials said.

Read the whole thing.

Playing Political Budget Hardball

Speaker of the Kentucky House Greg Stumbo shows how it's done.

House leaders are poised to unveil a state budget proposal in coming days that cuts more than 250 political appointees, trims spending on private contractors, tinkers with the state health insurance program and delays some construction projects.

Appointing friends, campaign contributors and various idiot nephews to high-paying no-show government jobs is a traditional perk of Kentucky governors. Everybody condemns it but nobody ever really puts an end to it because in four years it might be your unemployable relatives getting those "jobs."

But the combination of the worst budget crisis in seven decades and a governor who embodies incompetence has pushed the General Assembly to extremes.

The first year of the budget, which begins July 1, does not include any cuts to the main funding formula for schools or cuts to the state Medicaid program, Stumbo said.

However, it does call for reducing the number of state workers to 2007 levels across the judicial, executive and legislative branches, Stumbo said.

Specifically, Stumbo said there are about 250 non-merit positions — political appointees — that have been added to the executive branch since 2007.

Stumbo said the reductions could likely be accomplished through attrition, but acknowledged that layoffs are possible. “It doesn’t matter how you get there, you just get there,” he said.

The key will be writing the legislation tightly and specifically enough to prevent the governor from keeping his 250 overpaid "advisors" while firing thousands of front-line workers in schools and hospitals and police stations.

Because if the General Assembly leaves the choice to Beshear, that's exactly what he'll do.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kentucky Courts Strike Another Blow for Reality

The biggest problem with the freakazoids has always been not their ridiculous belief in an invisible sky god, but their insistence that such belief exempts them from obeying secular laws.

"Religious freedom" means you get to believe whatever idiocy you want to believe, and reveal your idiocy at the top of your lungs if you insist. It does not mean your idiocy entitles you to special privileges or exemption from the laws.

As a Kentucky court tried in vain to explain:

Two billboards proclaiming “hell is real” and other religious messages along Interstate 65 in central Kentucky must be removed after standing for nearly five years without a state permit, a judge has ruled.

Senior Judge Geoffrey P. Morris gave those responsible for the billboards 60 days to remove them in a case filed in 2008 by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

He said the problem is not the religious content of the billboards, but rather the state's right to regulate billboard placement to preserve highway safety and scenic beauty.

“Our courts will not regulate nor impose their religious beliefs on any party,” Morris wrote in an opinion he filed on Friday in LaRue Circuit Court. But “legislative bodies may regulate … the placing of billboards on our highways. … One can well imagine the obvious trashing of our highways if there was no regulation in place and every resident that happened to live beside a highway was free to place whatever size sign that he/she wished to place.”

But Jimmy Harston of Scottsville, Ky., who installed the billboards in Hart and LaRue counties with the landowners' permission, said he hopes to appeal the case after conferring with his attorney.

He contends the state is censoring religious speech.

If only.

Appalachian Voices Sing the Blues

Lu-Ann Farrar in the Herald has some good music news:

Smithsonian Folkways has issued a compilation recording, Classic Appalachian Blues. The Washington Post reviewed the CD:

"Generally lighter and more lyrical in tone than its brooding Mississippi counterpart, the blues that emerged from the Appalachian Mountains during the Great Depression ranged widely in type, encompassing barnyard stomps, ragtime, piano-driven boogie-woogie and proto-rock-and-roll. Much of it, as the Smithsonian set reveals, became an enduring part of the American musical vernacular, figuring prominently in the repertoires of rock-era luminaries such as Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Grateful Dead."

Bayh Begins Blue Dog Breakdown

Rejoice, all ye true Democrats! The march of Blue Dog DINOs out of Congress and back to the repug swamps in which they spawned has begun.

Fitting that the first to go is one of the worst: corporate-owned Evan Bayh.

Sen. Evan Bayh's (D-Ind.) retirement is a shocker, leading many to wonder what on earth a popular incumbent with plenty of money and a big lead in the polls is thinking. Bayh alluded to his frustrations on the Hill as part of his rationale.

"Two weeks ago, the Senate voted down a bipartisan commission to deal with one of the greatest threats facing our nation: our exploding deficits and debt. The measure would have passed, but seven members who had endorsed the idea instead voted 'no' for short-term political reasons," he said. "Just last week, a major piece of legislation to create jobs -- the public's top priority -- fell apart amid complaints from both the left and right. All of this and much more has led me to believe that there are better ways to serve my fellow citizens, my beloved state4 [sic] and our nation than continued service in Congress."

This sounds a bit like Bill Bradley's rationale in 1996 -- politics on Capitol Hill has become ugly and difficult, so I'm walking away.

But it's not exactly a compelling explanation. To hear Evan Bayh tell it, Republicans have made it impossible for Congress to work on issues important to him ... so he's decided to make it easier for the Republican caucus to have more power.

When the going gets tough, the conserva-Dems pack up and go home?

What's more, while I'm hardly familiar with Indiana's election procedures, reliable sources report that the filing deadline for candidates interested in the Senate race is this week, meaning Dems will have to scramble. If these reports are accurate, it would appear Bayh is hurting Democrats twice -- once by walking away when they need his vote, and again by making it extremely difficult for the party to find, recruit, and qualify a top-tier candidate to run in his stead.

Yes, of course Bayh lied about his intentions, soaking up campaign cash and timing his departure in a way to maximally ass-fuck the Democratic Party. That Indiana and national Democrats expected anything better from him is yet more evidence of their terminal naivete.

All due respect to Steve Benen, Bayh quitting is not a surprise if you look at it from the appropriate kindergarten perspective.

Forty-one set-in-concrete repug votes in the Senate means that neither the repugs nor the Democrats have any use for Evan "My ass is for sale" Bayh. Either the Democrats are going to keep letting the repugs block everything with fake filibusters, or they're going to eliminate the filibuster and return the Senate to majority rule.

Either way, Bayh and his fellow Blue Dogs - Lincoln, Baucus, Nelson, Landrieu, Pryor, McCaskill and Lieberman are now irrelevant. They have no leverage, no power, no respect.

They'll either take their marbles and go home in a snit, or fall to primary defeat at the hands of Real Democrats.

But assume the worst - or rather, best: All eight of them quit or lose, and repugs take their seats, leaving the Democrats with 51 votes in the Senate. As long as the dems keep caving to fake repug filibusters, 59 is the same as 51 - it still gives repugs the power to stop everything with their minority of 41.

But if the Democrats call the repugs out and manage to restore majority rule, then 51 is not only just as good as 59, it's better.

No more gutting good liberal legislation to please Blue Dogs. No more adding poison pills to please repugs. No more betraying the American people's desire for single-payer healthcare, heavy regulations on Wall Street, massive jobs programs and renewable energy.

I'll take 51 reliable Real Democratic votes over 60, 70, even 90 votes that include Blue Dogs like Bayh.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"We need a spinal transplant in the Democratic Party to play hardball."

Do I really have to tell you who said that? If you still don't understand the difference between Rahm Emmanuel's rhetorical fake-tough and the genuine toughness of Howard Dean, watch this:

Full transcript here. (Scroll down for Dean interview.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Number 87

Kentucky's most recent Afghanistan casualty is not yet in the ground, and we have to face another.

A 23-year-old soldier from Louisville has died in Afghanistan after a bomb attack on his unit.

The Defense Department says Sgt. Adam J. Ray died Tuesday in southern Afghanistan from wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device.

Ray was on his first combat deployment and had been in Afghanistan since July, according to an Army press release.

The Army promoted him posthumously to sergeant from his previously held rank of specialist.

He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.


During his service, Ray received several military honors, including the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal-Army Service Ribbon.

According to the Associated Press, as of Friday at least 902 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in late 2001.

Promoting Pay-Go

This week, President Obama discusses the pay-go budget principle, recently rejected by republicans in Congress.

Read the full transcript here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

How It Works

Via Rumproast, the real explanation of why President Obama seemingly can't get anything done, and who's really to blame, in clear, simple language.

Go read the whole thing right now, but here's the conclusion:

And then, quietly, the bill that James and I and the majority of the House, Senate, and American people all agree would be a good thing, slowly and without any dignity dies. The beltway pundits, feeling no shame for their part in amplifying the bullshit from the noise machine, would then begin 100,000 horse race pieces discussing how this is bad for Obama and good for Republicans, and what role this will play in the 2010 elections.

Most frustrating of all, when you point this all out to reasonable conservatives like James Joyner, that Republican obstinacy is keeping legislation that even they in the past have supported from passing, they’ll just dismiss you and say the Republicans are just playing hardball politics.

And that sick feeling you have in your stomache right now? That just means you know I am right.

Read it all, then pass it along to everyone you know.

On the same subject, Steve Benen has the quote of the day:

COLLINS 1, BROOKS 0.... I hadn't heard about this, but apparently every Wednesday, New York Times columnists David Brooks and Gail Collins have a little chat about current events, writing their exchange for everyone to see. Yesterday's discussion made for some fun reading.

David Brooks: Gail, there I was watching the snow drift down on the Brooks estate in suburban Maryland last Saturday, when suddenly, after some spluttering and coughing, I was without power. Now I know how the Republicans feel.

Gail Collins: David, I think the Republican analogy would work only if your next step was to barricade yourself in the power station, turn off service to all the people who did have power and announce that nobody was going to do anything until the company promised to build its next generator on your block and employ all your family, friends and neighbors at handsome salaries to do the assembling. But I'm sorry, you were saying about the snow...

This is my kind of chat.

There's lots more. Read it all, and pass it along.

Calling General Dean

Cenk Uygur has a little history lesson with some superb advice:

General George McClellan had built a huge army during the Civil War. It was known as the Army of the Potomac. The problem was he built it and built it. And almost never used it. It seemed as if his objective was simply to make his army larger rather than actually using it to win the war. Eventually Lincoln had to fire him.

The parallels are striking. Rahm Emanuel seems to think his job is to grow the Democratic Party larger and larger, but he’s forgotten that his real objective is to win the war. We’re supposed to be aiming for real policy changes in the end. If we don’t get those policies, then Rahm’s Army of the Potomac will be useless.

The Democrats had huge majorities in the House and 60 senators, but Rahm kept telling us it’s not enough. There are too many conservative Democrats in the Senate, we need more than sixty we were told. That if we just gave Rahm a little larger army then he could engage the enemy. Now we’re down to 59 senators and I can guarantee you, we’re going to get the same argument but even louder. Build my army, build my army!

Fifty-nine senators is a perfectly sufficient army. Go forward. Engage. Fire. You have a colossal 18 senator lead. If you don’t fight with that kind of lead, you’re never going to fight and obviously you don’t know how to win.

It’s a really sad day when you turn Mitch McConnell into General Robert E. Lee. Obama has to at some point come to the same conclusion that Lincoln did when he said, "If General McClellan does not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time."

At some point we have to fight this war. I hope Obama gets there a little quicker than Lincoln did. I also hope he doesn’t go through the same kind of generals for years on end before he realizes he should bring in a guy like Ulysses S. Grant who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, using his troops and winning the war.

So, who is our Ulysses? If you ask me, it’s General Dean. You might be thinking it’ll be a cold day in hell before the placid Obama brings in a real fighter like Dean. I agree, except if the war is almost lost and you’re desperate for someone who can actually get the job done.

How do I know Howard Dean can get the job done? While he was at the DNC in the 2006 and 2008 campaigns, he was the one that whipped the Republicans and built that Democratic Army of the Potomac in the first place.

I'd just add that if the wingnuts want a war for the hell of it, what could be more entertaining than Howard vs. Rahm?

A Merger to Make Time/Warner/AOL Look Like Genius

Rather than continuing to create yet-more-impossibly-humongous-than-ever-before corporate monstrosities to destroy the economy, it's time to start smashing the conglomerates into teeny, tiny pieces.

The Distinguished Gentleman from Minnesota fires the first salvo:

The "I will mess you up" Senator is what Keith Olbermann is now calling Al Franken. He also added that "orientation" for Minnesota's Senator is now over.

Franken's toughness and savvy was on display last week at a hearing on the proposed $30 billion mega-merger between Comcast and NBC Universal.
In his feisty opening statement, Franken said: "I worked for NBC for many years. And what I know from my previous career has given me reason to be concerned--let me rephrase that, very concerned--about the potential merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. The media are our source of entertainment, but they're also the way we get our information about the world. So when the same company that produces the programs runs the pipes that bring us those programs, we have a reason to be nervous.... You'll have to excuse me if I don't just trust their promises and that is from experience in this business."

The former SNL star and entertainment industry insider-turned-Senator is dead on with his concerns. As Free Press--the media reform advocacy organization founded by The Nation's John Nichols, media scholar Robert McChesney, and current executive director Josh Silver-- points out, the merger would result in Comcast controlling one in every five television viewing hours. It would lead to fewer choices of what you can watch and how you can watch it. Those cable bills that continue to rise would rise even higher, and if you don't use Comcast you might have to pay a premium to get NBC's shows. There will be even less access to local and independent programming as Comcast would promote NBC's shows at their expense. And, finally, there's the even larger issue of concentrating power and limiting access to free public interest media.

"Senator Franken is right to be outraged--and the public needs to get outraged, too," Silver told me. "We need to say no to the Comcast takeover of NBC. This would be one of the biggest media mergers ever--and the first to concentrate this much power over not just content but distribution of that content. That's too much power for one company, and it's a threat to competition and independent voices, not to mention the higher prices we'll all be paying every month."


We've seen clearly over the last quarter-century the need to be vigilant in fighting for an open and free media. What always brings that home to me is listening to Michael Copps--a Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (whose term sadly expires at the end of 2010)--when he makes his twice-a-year visit to The Nation and says, "A lot of people say their number one issue is the war, or healthcare, or education. That's fine, but you'd better make media reform your number two issue, because without number two, you're never going to get to number one."


Whether your first issue is healthcare, jobs or global warming, now is the time to get involved in another fight that's far more important than just Comcast and NBC--this is a fight over the character of our democracy.

Read the whole thing.

There's a Time to Drive, and a Time to Build Snowmen

This is my favorite photograph of the east coast snowstorm. Ignore the stop light, and it could have been taken 150 years ago.

David Kurtz at TPM, which provided the superb photo above, on the transformative power of paralzying amounts of snow:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), on DC during this epic winter:

A city that was designed for travel by foot and horses loses some of its charm with modern traffic congestion. A deep snowfall is the perfect antidote, as it adds beauty, muffles sounds and discourages automobiles. The broad streets and sidewalks reveal their grandeur when covered with snow instead of cars.

Saturday evening at dusk, just after the week's first gargantuan snowstorm had abated, my wife and two kids and I had a magical walk down Connecticut Avenue to eat dinner at our friends' place. Only a handful of cars came by. Dogs were cavorting off-leash. Without engine noises, you could hear the pleasant patter of other pedestrians. People paused to watch the sunset.

Other old-fashioned niceties have emerged, too: impromptu visits from neighbors, meals lingered over because there's no place else to go, an ephemeral sense of community that passes even between strangers on the street. As the accessible world has shrunk, it's also become more pleasant.

I'll be fine if the thaw doesn't come right away.

If you have snow where you live, go out and enjoy it. It never lasts.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Celebrate Darwin Day Friday

Because scientific discovery and rational thought are, always have been and always will be the height of human achievement and the purpose of human existence, remember on the 201st anniversary of his birth the man who made it possible.

Celebrations are an important part of every culture. They provide a tradition and a common bond to be shared among those who make up their culture, permitting them to experience a meaningful connection to one another and to the principles to which they subscribe. Unfortunately, most celebrations are based on ancient traditions that are relevant to only a specific country or culture, and they have often been, and continue to be, the source of serious conflicts.

At this juncture in history, the world has become so small and interdependent that we need a Global Celebration to promote a common bond among all people. The Darwin Day Celebration was founded on the premise that science, like music, is an international language that speaks to all people in very similar ways. While music is both intellectual and entertaining, science is our most reliable knowledge system, and it has been and continues to be acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity.

Moreover, evolution via genetic variation and natural selection, introduced by Darwin, has become the central organizing principle in biology. In addition, evolution also plays a central role in astronomy and cosmology, where it refers to the way that stars, galaxies and the entire universe 'change over time.' To study biology while neglecting evolution would be like studying physics without Newton's laws that govern the universe or chemistry without the periodic table. Clearly, Darwin himself has become an internationally acclaimed figure, whose influence on progressive modern thought continues to be both profound and pervasive (Ernst Mayr, Darwin's Influence on Modern Thought, Scientific American, July 2000).

Current research in the field of genetics, including that on the human genome, has conclusively shown that all humans are essentially identical and that we are genetically related to all other living things on this planet. Thus an enlightened view of genetics is one of unity and equality among all humans and also one that fosters a deeper sense of respect and appreciation for all life. Today the validity of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection rests in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of genetics. Therefore, we conclude that Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol on which to focus, in order to build a Global Celebration of Science and Humanity that is intended to promote a common bond among all people of the earth.

What's a "Most Valuable" Democrat?

What if I told you that some crazy blogger, using some fancy math, had figured out that the 10th Most Valuable Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives is ... Kentucky's own Despicable DINO Blue Dog Cowardly Worm Ben "Wire Hangar" Chandler?

Yeah, that's what I thought you'd say. But what if then I told you that the "crazy blogger" referred to is none other than the God of the Political Numbers Nate "Nate Silver is Always Right" Silver? What would you say then, huh?

No, I'm not telling you what I'm on and no, you may not have any.

Seriously. Silver apparently cooked up some meth on that blog of his, fed it to his numbers et voila!

What makes a congressman valuable to his party? One fairly intuitive answer is that it's someone who votes with his party on key pieces of legislation more often than a typical congressman from his district would.

I have, therefore, compiled roll call votes on ten key pieces of legislation -- in my opinion, the ten most important pieces of legislation -- that came before the House of Representatives this year. These items are: the stimulus package, the FY 2010 budget, the health care bill, the Stupak Amendment to the health care bill, the jobs bill, the financial regulation package, the cap-and-trade bill, the Fair Pay Act, the Guantanamo detainee transfer vote, and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was attached to a defense appropriations bill. This is a little heavy on economic policy versus social policy or foreign policy, but that's how the House's agenda been this year. The Democrats won each of these votes in the House, except for the Stupak Amendment, although several of the policies have yet to pass the Senate.

What I then did was to run a logistic regression for each vote, comparing each representative's vote to his predicted vote based on his district's PVI. For example, a congressman in a district with a PVI of R+6 had a .37 likelihood (37% chance) of voting for the stimulus package. A congressman from such a district who voted for the stimulus package would be rated positively for his vote: specifically he'd receive a score of 1 less .37, or +.63. If the congressman voted against the stimulus package, on the other hand, he'd receive a score of -.37. I then added up each representative's score across all 10 votes.

This is pretty simple, really. Note that the method does not account directly for a congressman's party. This is deliberate. It's not proper, for instance, to compare Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, the moderate congresswoman from South Dakota, to a typical Democrat, or even a typical Democrat in a conservative district, because if she were to retire, we can't take for granted that a Democrat would replace her. In fact, in South Dakota, she would probably be replaced by a Republican. Is Herseth-Sandlin -- even though she breaks with her party somewhat frequently -- more valuable to the Democrats than a typical congressman from South Dakota would be? That's what we're trying to get at.

Abstentions and votes of present are not counted as either positives or negatives. I also threw out a handful of "liberal no" votes; this is a situation where a congressman opposes a policy from the left when most of the opposition comes from the right. The liberal nos I identified were: Kucinich and Kaptur on financial regulation, Kucinich and Massa on health care, Kucinich, Stark and DeFazio on cap-and-trade, Kucinich on budget, and six representatives (Kucinich, Stark, Jackson Jr., Conyers, Filner and Welch) who objected to the defense language in the hate crimes bill.

Here, then, are the 25 most valuable Democrats, relative to their districts:

Read the whole thing.

What we've got here is the classic Conscience vs. Constituents vs. Party battle. As an elected official facing a controversial vote, do you do what your conscience tells you to do, what your constituents want you to do or what your political party leaders tell you to do?

We'll leave aside for the moment that no House member really knows what his constituents want, unless he has personally spoken to all 800,000 of them and asked.

You think you know what they want, but what if what you think they want is really, really stupid and you know for a fact that what they say they want would end up hurting them very, very badly? Like privatizing Social Security?

Or what if your constituents actually want the same thing that the facts and your conscience tell you is the right thing to do, but your party leaders demand you defy both of the them, or else lose all party support in the next election?

What if your constituents, your conscience and your party leaders all agree, but your biggest campaign contributors, the ones without whom you cannot win re-election, and the ones to whom you have made sincere promises, tell you to vote the other way?

All due respect to Nate Silver, this is more complicated than the numbers he uses to define the political leanings of single congressional districts or to characterize votes.

I realize Silver, who really is almost always right, is discussing just value to party here, and he did make allowance for votes of conscience like those of the liberals who voted against health care reform because it wasn't strong enough.

But I don't find "value" in any elected official who fails to provide leadership in terms of educating his constituents on good policy, good politics or his own conscience.

So tell us, Ben, which won out on the Stupak and health care reform votes? Was it your conscience, your constituents or your party that made you vote to restore Back Alley Abortions, then to deny affordable health insurance to thousands of Kentucky families?

Because both of those votes blatantly defied your party leaders and the Democratic Party Platform to which you gave allegience by running on the Democratic ticket.

And both of those votes obviously hurt your constituents, in physically painful, dangerous and lethal ways.

So what warped, psychotic excuse for a conscience told you to cast those votes?

Because the only other explanation is that somebody Bought. You. Off.

Explain those votes honestly, then we'll talk about how fucking valuable you are.

h/t Down with Tyranny.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Repug Id Revealed in House Budget: They Really Do Want You To Die Penniless in Excruciating Pain

You may have already read that the It-Came-From-the-Swamp GOP budget proposes essentially eliminating Medicare and Social Security.

But that's not enough for the Nihilist Party. As Christina Bellantoni at TPM explains, they're going to use the money they steal from your Social Security and Medicare to further enrich new Bernie Madoffs.

"If some Republicans are squeamish about Rep. Paul Ryan's proposal to privatize Social Security, there's plenty of tax cuts for the rich included in the plan they might find more to their liking.

TPMDC has been scouring the "Roadmap for America's Future" budget blueprint that Ryan, ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, proposed a few weeks ago. Among the nuggets that have GOPers running a bit scared are his plans to dramatically slash Social Security and Medicare benefits to cut the deficit.

Under the plan, Ryan (R-WI) also would give taxpayers a choice of a "simpler" system with just two tax brackets and he would repeal the corporate income tax. In its place he creates a "consumption tax" of 8.5 percent that experts tell us would unfairly burden the lower and middle classes. That's a tax on all goods and services that shifts the tax burden from corporations to individual consumers.

Ryan says the consumption tax for businesses will make it easier for the companies to "invest and create more jobs in the U.S."

"By reforming the entire tax code and removing these upward pressures on taxes [such as the AMT], this plan offers greater certainty so taxpayers can better plan for their financial futures," he wrote in the roadmap, which you can read here.

The roadmap has a GOP grab-bag of tax cuts, eliminating capital gains taxes, interest income taxes, the alternative minimum tax and estate tax Republicans dubbed the "death" tax. It also increases the standard deduction for tax filers.

"These are very, very dramatic changes in the tax code ... likely to lose a tremendous amount of revenue," said Jim Horney, director of federal fiscal policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBBP).

Horney noted that the Congressional Budget Office evaluation doesn't take the revenue effects of the tax cuts into account. CBBP will be out soon with their own analysis.

However, the Ryan plan is remarkably similar to what then-presidential candidate Fred Thompson (R-TN) presented in 2007 before the GOP primary.

That had the "biggest tax cut in American history," and was a "huge reveune loser," totaling between $5 trillion and $7 trillion, Horney said.

The consumption tax would raise revenues but doesn't come anywhere close to offset the revenue lost from the tax cuts, Horney said.

Under the Ryan proposal, taxpayers could stick with the current tax plan or choose the "simplified" one which has just two brackets.


Horney said he doesn't see why many Republicans are backing away from the plan as a political hot potato, saying it's consistent with policies they've supported for years.

And of course it's worse than that. Josh Marshall explains the politics behind the budget:

First, all evidence suggests that the Ryan budget is in fact what the great majority of the House Republican caucus believes and supports. It was the plan in 1994. It surfaced again with overwhelming support in 2005 and repeatedly, though with less fanfare, since then. And they have a very decent chance of becoming the majority party in the House next year. Second, and even more important, the Republicans have been running all year as the party to dramatically cut deficit spending. And the simple truth is that if you want to significantly move the needle on deficits and you rule out tax increases, you simply have no choice but to embrace a Ryan-like budget. There's no other way to get the kind of money they claim they're going to trim. No way.

And here's where you get to the essential political question and the issue that is likely to define 2010. In the second half of 2009, Republicans went very quickly -- perhaps a tad too quickly for their own good -- from a party seen as hopelessly in the wilderness to one with a very reasonable shot at becoming the governing party. And that's taken the rhetoric that was being thrown around easily and made it extremely relevant to find out whether they were serious about any of that rhetoric. Because again, it all comes down to this budget.

Read the whole thing.

Don't let anybody babble about repugs cutting taxes and the deficit without telling them exactly what the repugs have admitted, in writing, they really want to do.

Football versus Baseball

Football season is over, baseball season is about to begin, so here's the classic explanation of how they are different.

Courtesy Crooks and Liars.

Shame on You, KET

Don't do it, KET. Don't let the fuckers win.

Kentucky Educational Television is scrapping its traditional candidate debates this year, in part because incumbent politicians usually refuse to face their challengers on live television before a panel of questioning journalists.

Kentucky voters are losing something important with the disappearance of the debates, which were broadcast in every Kentucky county, said Stephen Voss, political scientist at the University of Kentucky.

“What you lose by not having a respected, neutral third-party like KET hosting a debate is that it removes even more pressure from the incumbents or the front-runners to prove that they deserve to win, to make them publicly state their case,” he said.

Exactly. The refusal by candidates to debate makes holding the debates far more essential, not less.

Candidates who decline to debate should be represented at the debate by empty chairs, prominently displaying the names of the cowardly weasels who fail to show.

The problem reached its zenith in October 2008 when U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, refused to debate his Democratic opponent.

Hours before the event, Whitfield demanded that KET air an unedited videotaped statement that his campaign prepared. KET complied, leaving Whitfield’s challenger to stand alone and be grilled about foreign policy and the economy, followed by the congressman’s campaign tape.

KET believes the 2008 incident was “unfair,” and it prompted a discussion at the statewide television network on how to proceed in future election years, KET spokesman Tim Bischoff said Wednesday.

Wow, Tim - way to lie like a repug.

The problem was NOT Whitfield's failure to appear. The problem was KET's despicable caving to his unreasonable demands. It's a debate, idiot - show up or shut the fuck up.

I am a long-time and strong supporter of public broadcasting, which is near the top of my list of things for which I gladly pay taxes.

But in return for my tax-dollar support, I expect KET to fulfill its responsibilities as a public broadcaster. That includes airing actual debates that force all candidates, especially incumbents, to address issues of concern to the public.

Shame on you KET. Shame, SHAME, SHAME.

Call KET management at (859) 258-7000 or (800) 432-0951 and tell them that candidates debates are the LAST program they should cancel.

Or call the Viewer Reaction Line: (800) 926-7765.

Or click here to try to figure out how to send an email directly to complain that by canceling candidates debates KET is failing to fulfill its public obligation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lessons from the Saints

Personally, I saw the Saints-Colts Super Bowl as politics: the scrappy, minority-dominated, take-all-comers, party-loving, chronic underdog liberal dems from the abandoned city vs. the dominating machine wingnut freakazoid repugs from all-white, KKK-founding rural Indiana.

I couldn't bring myself to watch the game re-enact how the repugs have cleaned dems' clock in D.C. over the past year.

But dog-DAMN, Saints! I actually cried.

In that rewarding-the-faithful victory are lessons for our liberal Democrats, as Garlin Gilchrist explains:

Progressive organizers, activists, and politicians can learn a lot from these World Champions about how to win this year and beyond. Here are 3 key lessons.

Be who you are

The Saints have been a gutsy team all season. Their high-powered offense was planned and executed by a coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback aligned with common purpose. They knew one another well and believed in each other. They gave each other space to be themselves.

Drew Brees doesn’t have the strongest arm in the league, but he’s the NFL’s most accurate passer. Instead of throwing long balls, they played to Brees’ strengths and ran quick, short plays that relied on timing and precision.

Progressives must do the same and play to our strengths. Let’s quit trying to act like people we’re not and pretending to hold views that we don’t. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t grow our thinking or our skills as a movement (see below), but it does mean that we must look at what makes us who we are and work with that.


Be bold or go home

The Saints didn’t get to the Super Bowl by playing not to lose. They went for it on 4th downs. They kicked an onside kick to open the 2nd half. They went for the 2-point conversion. Some gambles worked, some didn’t. When they were down 10-0 after the 1st quarter, they didn’t forget the traits that made them the highest-scoring team in the NFL and NFC champions.

Progressives must do the same: Be courageous enough to be boldly progressive. Stand up for your vision of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If something is disgusting, call it disgusting. If someone is dishonest, call them a liar. If something is possible, tell that story. Wimpy politicians finish 2nd. Wimpy organizers don’t win. Sick of losing? Get sick of being timid.

The dirty little secret is that this makes us more attractive to the debutantes everyone is courting: independents. Persuadable, undecided voters are more likely to vote for candidates/support parties that stand strongly for something. Shyness wins neither dates nor political victories.

Remember your supporters

We neither win nor lose alone. The problem is that when we win we salute ourselves, and when we lose, we focus on our opponents. This must cease. Movements, like football teams, thrive on passion. Every player, coach, and representative of the New Orleans Saints thanked their fans first during every interview they gave. They know who propelled them to the top, and they didn’t forget them.


Let’s invest in ourselves and our allies. Training. Networking. Leadership development. Technology infrastructure. You want donors of talent, time, and treasure? Invest in your fans. They’ll love you for it.

Congratulations New Orleans.

Thank you for showing me and the rest of the Progressive movement what it takes to win.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Talibantastic Xianist Theocracy of Kentucky

There is no end to the illegality, no bottom to the stupidity, no limit to the hypocrisy and deceit.

In a school system that teaches teenagers that condoms cause AIDS and bars science teachers from even mentioning evolution, our only legislature has decided that the most critical educational need in Kentucky is a fable imagined by a bunch of Bronze Age desert nomads.

Jake nails it:

What the hell is wrong with Kentucky these days?

What’s in the water?

Check out SB 142:

AN ACT relating to Bible literacy courses in the public schools.
Create a new section of KRS Chapter 156 to require the Kentucky Board of Education to promulgate administrative regulations to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible; require that the course provide students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy; permit students to use various translations of the Bible for the course; amend KRS 158.197 to permit a school council to offer an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible.

Introduced in the State Senate late Friday by David Boswell, Julian Carroll and Ed Worley.

When you dig in? Check this:

(2) The purpose of a course under this section is to:

(a) Teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy;

They’ve added language to say all laws will be followed. But if that’s the case, they need to legislate classes from the Koran and other religious texts right away.

What a waste of time and money.

I'll just add that David Boswell is the freakazoid wingnut DINO loser who handed the open Second District Congressional seat to repug Brent Guthrie in 2008, during the biggest Democratic landslide in 64 years.