Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Poker Genius or Hopeless Sucker?

Is President Obama bipolar?

Because this constant pendulum-swing between huge victories that sandbag opponents and self-destructive surrender/craven appeasement that empowers opponents makes no sense otherwise.

If he's not bipolar, then he's truly the corporate whore we feared he was when he handed the keys of the treasury to Big Pharma.

President Barack Obama today will announce a compromise to broadly open new areas off the U.S. coast to oil and natural gas drilling while protecting specific swaths, including Alaska's Bristol Bay.

The plan, to be announced at a late morning energy security event at Andrews Air Force Base may help Obama court bipartisan support for contentious climate change legislation but also could chafe environmental activists in states affected by expanded drilling.

Voices of moderation Kevin Drum and Steve Benen both wonder what the fuck is Obama thinking, giving away his best negotiating prizes before negotiating on cap-n-trade even begins.

But of course, that's exactly what he did with health care reform, announcing that single-payer was off the table before repugs and Blue Dogs even opened their mouths.

Benen later posted this 11-dimensional-chess theory:

Obama preempts the other side's most resonant arguments, which forces them to come up with more and more extreme claims in order to differentiate themselves. In the end, he occupies the reasonable middle ground and his opponents are Palinized.

I'd love to believe that, but it sounds too much like one of those so-sharp-he-cuts-himself tales. As Digby explains:

I think the White House is believing their own hype again. Somehow, the health care bill passing is now seen as the result of brilliant messaging and legislative tactics when in fact it was an ugly war of attrition that only passed because the Democrats had no choice but pass a bill as a matter of survival. It's a huge mistake to think it was a matter of great strategy because it wasn't. They barely got out alive and they should be very, very humble about their ability to play even one dimensional chess at this point.

I'm guessing they think they can work with Huckleberry Graham and that he can deliver. Dear Gawd. Even if he had the desire to be the GOP's bipartisan poster boy (for target practice), the neanderthals he represents in the South Carolina Republican party will yank his chain like he's a misbehaving pit bull. The likelihood that he is acting good faith is close to zero.

And if they still believe that offering up gestures of good will will work with these Republicans going into the election the Republicans believe they are going to win because of their obstruction strategy, they are cracked. The only way they will win any Republican votes is by forcing them into it because the GOP leadership is certainly going to be doing everything in their power to force them not to. They've proven that there is no such thing as a brave Republican willing to buck their party anymore.

One of the problems with "The Best and the Brightest" fellows is that they always get way too fine with their strategic planning. There really is no nuance with this GOP. You need to be a Grant, not a McClellan. I would have hoped they'd learned that lesson, but it appears they're going to give Lucy the football one more time.

Glad to be wrong about this. Don't think I am.

BTW: On the merits, this decision is crap. They must know that much. And it won't make one bit of difference with oil prices this summer, so any idea that they can manipulate public opinion with this decision is a joke. People go nuts over gas prices when they go up, period. Saying you've agreed to offshore drilling isn't going to change that.

You know what would make everyone's life a lot easier? Cut out the tricky shit and just Do. The. Right. Thing. You've got a huge majority and the country behind you. Use it.

How Student Loan Reform Makes College Affordable for Kentuckians

Via Jake at Page One, lots of wonderful things for Kentucky's college students and their parents in the new student loan reform.

Some highlights, according to the White House:

Increases Pell Grants - Between 2013 and 2017 the award is expected to rise from $5,550 to $5,975. By academic year 2020-2021, the Department of Education estimates that Kentucky students will receive an additional $480 million in Pell Grants.

Expands Income Based Repayment - After July 1, 2014, students will be allowed to cap their loan repayments at 10% of their discretionary income and can have their balance forgiven after 20 years. 1.2 million borrowers are projected to qualify and take part in the IBR program between 2014 and 2020.

Increases Support for Minority Serving Institutions - The act provides $2.55 billion to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions over the next decade. HBCUs and MSIs in Kentucky will be eligible to receive an additional $9.4 million in funding.

Funding for College Access Grants - the act increases mandatory funding for the existing College Access Challenge Grant Program to $150 million per year over the next four years. Kentucky is expected to receive roughly $10 million in additional funding.

Investments in Community Colleges & Career Training - $2 billion over four years will be provided for community colleges. The funds will help community colleges and other institutions develop, improve and provide education and career training programs suitable for workers who are eligible for trade adjustment assistance. Each state, including Kentucky, will receive half a percent of the total funds appropriated for the program each fiscal year.

The education-related provisions of the Health Care & Education Reconciliation Act are fully paid for by ending government subsidies currently provided to financial institutions making federal student loans. Ending the subsidies will free up about $68 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Kentucky and its students are expected to receive more than $500 million by academic year 2020-2021 in additional benefits for higher education.

This is huge. Instead of forcing students to seek the most remunerative professions or face a lifetime of crippling loan payments to private lenders, this bill allows students to borrow affordably, and to choose professions - like teaching, health care, law enforcement or other kinds of public service - that pay less but offer greater rewards.

I would not be at all surprised if in 10 years, we see that student loan reform had a greater positive impact on the economy, on college graduates and on the nation as a whole than even health care reform.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Democratic Victory in November, Courtesy of ... Larry King

Zandar reads Think Progress and concludes Dems Have Just Been Handed The 2010 Elections

All they have to do is play this clip from Larry King.

Last night on CNN, Larry King discussed the rise of the tea parties with a variety of guests and featured footage from last weekend’s lobbyist-organized Tea Party Express rally in Searchlight, NV. Dana Loesch, a tea party organizer from Missouri, and another tea party organizer, Wayne Allyn Root, joined King for the discussion. Root and Loesch decried the “unprecedented” and “unconstitutional” reach of a health care mandate. However, King noted that programs like Social Security are mandatory and asked if the tea parties would like to “do away with” that program as well. Both tea party organizers enthusiastically said “yes, absolutely” and added that a compromise would be at least privatizing the system.

Privatizing Social Security, or doing away with it altogether. If the Dems can't capitalize on that, then there really is no hope for them...or for us, either. If you think they're going to stop at killing Obamacare, you're sadly mistaken. The goal here is to turn the clock back eighty years to the Gilded Age and dismantle the New Deal, the Great Society, and every liberal social advance since FDR. They've been preparing this ground for years. Now they have their opportunity unless the Dems call them on it.

The Context of Violence

Yeah, yeah, when you have to resort to nuance you've already lost, but still, the point has to be made.

The Rude Pundit applies context:

'Cause, see, whenever anyone tries to make some kind of moral equivalence between the actions of leftist protesters in the 1960s and 1970s and those of the teabaggers (or, indeed, the militia movement), they are forgetting context. And context, as we know, will take your sad little rhetorical point and spank its ass until it begs context to stop.

Listen, children: In that time way back when, people were protesting things like the Vietnam War, which was killing hundreds of Americans a month, the invasion of Cambodia, and the ongoing FBI crackdown against radical groups in America, especially civil rights organizations like the Black Panthers. The violence, including the firebombing of buildings, was being carried out by those most directly affected by the actions of the government. If you were a college student-aged male (or older), then the threat of the draft hung over you. To oversimplify here: you could be forced to go and fight a war you knew was useless. And if you refused, you faced arrest or self-imposed exile. You could attempt "conscientious objector" status, but that was hard to come by.

Now, you got that? The federal government could seize you and make you kill people under a pretense of "defense" in a conflict that had long ago been revealed to be based on lies and with no effect on the safety of America. How do you think citizens should react to that? How would people react today if Obama had a draft? Like good patriots marching off to battle? And while we say that violence is never justified, well, shit, at least in this case it was in reaction to actual violent actions by the government. It was, to say the least, about life and death.

Most of the leftist groups that engaged in violence targeted property, not people. Indeed, the accidental deaths of people caused violence as a tactic to be discredited. In the end, after the Vietnam War, it was only splinter groups of assholes, like the Symbionese Liberation Army, who still adhered to any notion that violence was necessary or effective.

What exactly are today's violent protesters angry about? A mandate that all people in this country legally must buy health insurance? That those who can't afford it will get subsidies from the government? Really? Tell you what: in a few years, if anyone dies because of this bill, you can throw some bricks. Otherwise, shut the fuck up and wheel yourselves back home. Stop being easily manipulated tools. And talk to someone who was at Kent State before you jump on the fascism express.

More extreme, and therefore more worrisome, are the genuinely scary nutzoids, the God and guns set, like the Hutaree militia in Michigan, who were getting themselves good and ready for Armageddon, or the idiots who make Wal-Mart richer by stocking up on rifles before Obama takes them away. No action that the Weather Underground ever undertook approaches the amount of evil in a single hair on Timothy McVeigh's rotting head. Like millennialists and survivalists, they are fighting phantoms, finding evidence like ghost hunters who see a reflected light as a spirit's orb or some such shit. All lies and delusions.

You see, if you're gonna be violent, if you're gonna commit crimes as protests, at least do it because something real is occurring. Like, you know, vast numbers of young Americans coming home in body bags. Not because some redneck jerk-off or some power-hungry bitch with Bump Ups in her hair told you they can predict the future.

However, once again, the trap of moral equivalency has been set. Using leftist violence that occurred 40 years ago to excuse violence today is about as bullshit an excuse as saying that it's not so bad that you killed that hobo because Jeffrey Dahmer used to fuck the corpses of his victims.

Put That Tomato Down and Read This

Those pretty veggies in the produce department in February, months before local tomatoes are ripe? Yeah, you know they spent their adolescence in a truck barreling down the highway from California and Florida.

But did you know they were harvested by slaves? Today, in 2010, in the USA, though not a USA any of us would recognize.

Miguel Flores and Sebastian Gomez held 400 workers under the watch of armed guards and assaulted--even shot--those who tried to escape. Abel Cuello held more than 30 tomato workers in two trailers in the isolated swampland west of Immokalee. Once out of prison, Cuello was able to resume supplying labor to Ag-Mart Farms in Florida and North Carolina. Michael Lee recruited homeless US citizens to harvest oranges, creating debt through loans for rent, food, cigarettes, and cocaine.

Ramiro and Juan Ramos had a workforce of over 700 farmworkers and threatened with death those who tried to leave. They also pistol-whipped and assaulted at gunpoint van service drivers who gave rides to farmworkers leaving the area. Ronald Evans also recruited homeless citizens throughout the southeast with promises of good jobs and housing, then kept them in a labor camp surrounded by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire. He also made sure they were perpetually indebted to him, deducting money from their pay for food, rent, crack cocaine, and alcohol.

When the visitor steps out of the truck he sees a panel which gets to the heart of CIW's analysis around modern slavery--that it's not something that takes place in a vacuum, but it's tied to the broader conditions in the agriculture industry--sub-poverty wages and substandard working conditions; from the earliest days of slavery through today, farmworkers in Florida are among the least paid and least protected workers in the nation.

On the panel are two artifacts to drive home that message: the bloody shirt of a 17-year old boy who was beaten in 1996 for stopping to take a drink of water while working in Immokalee. In response, there was a nighttime march by 400 workers to the crew leader's house. This was a significant moment in CIW's history because that kind of violence was routine and never received a widespread organized response.

There is also testimony blown up from a 1970 Senate hearing convened by Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale illustrating that these same issues were being discussed 40 years ago. Next to it is a video by Iowa public TV of a similar hearing held just two years ago by Senators Bernie Sanders, Edward Kennedy, and Richard Durbin.

At the foot of the panel is a 32-pound bucket of tomatoes. Harvesters fill it up 100 to 150 times per day, on average. For that bucket the worker receives 45 cents--a nickel more than the wage earned in 1980 (and that nickel is the result of general strikes organized by CIW in the mid- and late-90s.) The museumgoer can pick it up, getting a sense of how hard the work is for stagnant wages.

All of these exhibits allow CIW to make the arguments that they have been pushing for over 15 years very tangible. It's one thing to tell people about the conditions that persist in the fields. It's an entirely different thing to show it inside of a rolling replica of the most recently discovered slavery truck where people were held captive.

"The museum has made it possible to lay out our argument about slavery from A to Z, in a sort of irrefutable package of completely documented and totally unimpeachable facts," says CIW staff member Greg Asbed. "And when you can see the whole history and evolution of four hundred years of forced labor in Florida's fields assembled in one place, then all the false assumptions about what drives modern-day slavery just fall away. It's not workers' immigration status today, or a few rogue bosses, but the fact that farmworkers have always been Florida's poorest, most powerless workers. Poverty and powerlessness is the one constant that runs like a thread through all the history. In short, you see, it's not about who's on the job today. It's about the job itself."


The final panel of the museum allows people opportunities for action. They can get on the CIW email list, take a postcard to send to Publix, or get information on the upcoming farmworker Freedom March on April 16-18--25 miles from Tampa to Publix Corporate Headquarters in Lakeland.


This week in St. Augustine, two older African-American workers who used to work for Ron Evans (U.S. vs. Evans, 2007) visited the museum. They described their experience in servitude and vouched for the museum's accuracy in portraying the Evans' operations. One of the men had escaped by slipping away in the middle of the night after working for Evans for 11 years. They talked about the beatings they received if they tried to leave the labor camp and how Evans used to gather up the workers' shoes at the end of each workday so that even if they escaped, they wouldn't be able to get far running barefoot through the fields and forest.

The Modern-Day Slavery Museum stops us from running in a very different way. It forces us to confront the horrible truth that slavery still exists in America, and that too many consumers and leaders in the food industry simply turn a blind eye.

When the museum has finished traveling Florida, I hope legislators will take an interest in bringing it to the National Mall. It's time to make the fight against modern slavery part of our national consciousness.

I'd recommend a little local action. Just for shits and giggles, next time you're in Kroger, ask to see the produce manager. Ask her if she knows where the, say, tomatoes were harvested. Ask her if she has any evidence that they were not harvested by slave labor (like, for example, an agreement with farmworkers' unions like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers) and recommend she find out. Be polite, be helpful, be firm.

Walk For Justice in Louisville Friday

Start your spring right by walking for justice.

The annual Good Friday “Walk for Justice” will be Friday, starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Mazzoli Federal Building near Seventh and Chestnut streets and will continuing through downtown, ending at Founders Square at Fifth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard around 11:30 a.m.

The 1½-mile procession will stop at 14 locations, with participants reflecting on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, care for the Earth, the death penalty, the plight of immigrants, the Israeli-Palestine conflict, poverty and homelessness.

The event is shaped by the Catholic tradition of remembering Jesus' final moments in life and coincides with the commemoration of Good Friday in the local Christian community.

The sponsors say the event is an opportunity to remember and pray for those caught in situations of oppression or suffering. The sponsors include numerous churches and peace groups.

I especially encourage Louisville's bigger-than-you-think atheist community to participate. Because we don't get many opportunities to show that social justice and moral values are not the exclusive property of the superstitious.

If Teabaggers Worry About Deficits, Then There's No Reason to Worry About Deficits

I made the mistake of tuning the television to MSNBC a few minutes before Countdown started at 8 p.m., thus subjecting myself to the end of Tweety's analpunditry on the deficit. Do I really have to explain how completely fact-free and misleading it was? Here's a hint: teabaggers are worth listening to because they're worried about the deficit.

Give. Me. Strength.

First, teabaggers thought deficits were just fine and dandy when repugs were using them to turn obscenely rich people into pornographically wealthy assholes and to wage war on annoying brown people who won't hand over their oil.

Second, teabaggers have an unbroken record of being wrong about every single thing under the sun.

Third, any fifth-grader who understands supply and demand knows that in a recession, deficits - if used to fund jobs - are the best possible thing you can have.

As Digby explained back in February:

Suddenly, you can't turn around without getting a panicked lecture about the deficit. But in all the discussions about the horrifying, worse-than-terrorism, scarier-than-nuclear-war threat to everything we hold near and dear, nobody ever seems to discuss the fact that much of the deficit is due to unemployment. (Gosh, it turns out that if everyone were working, they'd be paying more taxes and the government would have more money!) We are supposed to believe that the deficit stems from profligate spending on old people and undeserving little dark children who refuse to get a job.

The Pete Peterson crew have been poised for some time to make this move. They are very slick and they are sending out massive amounts of scare literature to everyone in the chattering and ruling classes. And they are working overtime to convince the American people that fixing the deficit is imperative if they want the economy to improve. And it's working. Not the economy --- the propaganda.

Sadly, part of the reason it's working is because the president and his people keep saying that the federal budget is just like the family budget and you have to pull in your belt at times like these, when the opposite is true. It's a terrible way to discuss this issue --- unless you really do want to hamstring your administration and keep it from being able to do the things it needs to do to bring employment back.

I appreciate the administration's desire to bring the Republicans' "plans" into the light, particularly those that want to privatize social security for people under 55 and give them "vouchers" for health care to keep costs down. (Out of vouchers? No dialysis for you!)If they do a good job of exposing the Republicans' true intentions, it could reap partisan loyalty from many, many millions of people. I sincerely hope that's what they plan to do.

But in the meantime, you have Tim Geithner begging the Republicans to help with deficit reduction in a bipartisan way. Here's what I would love to know: what does the administration think a reasonable bipartisan compromise on deficit reduction would look like?

If the Democrats could do one simple thing, it would be to repeatedly explain that deficits will never go down unless we put everyone in this country back to work --- it would go a long way to evening the Peterson Playing Field. As it stands, the alleged reason for the deficit is the "entitlements" which the conservative owners of America have been itching to eliminate from the moment they were conceived. If they manage to get it done at this moment of extreme insecurity, it will be one of the great propaganda and Shock Doctrine achievements of all time.

If ever people need the security of an old age pension and guaranteed medical care in their unhealthy golden years its now. It would be too ironic (and sad)if they were manipulated into giving that up under the misapprehension that the country's current woes can be fixed if they do.

(And the kids had better get that extra room ready because mom and dad are going to be moving in.)

This is seriously fucking dangerous. If President Obama and Congressional Democrats fall for the Deficit Scam and cut spending and entitlements, it'll send this country spinning at the speed of light into a bottomless pit we'll never climb out of.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What Real Socialists Think of Health Care Reform

If only President Obama were one-one-thousandth the Socialist the frightwingers claim he is.

John Nichols in The Nation:

My friend Myrtle Kastner, proud campaigner for peace and economic and social justice, has, she suggests, been "quite amused" by the health care debate that reached the end of the beginning with President Obama's signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23.

What's so amusing?

"As I understand it, we have taken over the country," says Kastner, who is a proud member of the Milwaukee local of the Socialist Party. "The Republicans in Congress, the talk radio, all through the health-care debate, they've been saying its proof that the Socialists are in charge. Can you believe it?"


What seriously surprises her is that the health-care reform legislation that's been passed by Congress would be characterized by anyone who knows anything about economics or politics or history as "socialist."

"I'm afraid it's not socialized medicine," she says of the plan, which maintains private health-insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and nursing homes – most of which saw their stock values rise after the legislation was enacted.

Indeed, the Socialist Party stands in opposition to President Obama's approach.

"This is not a healthcare reform bill," says Socialist Party USA co-chair Billy Wharton, "It is instead a corporate restructuring of the American healthcare system designed to enhance the profits of private health insurance companies disguised with the language of reform"

As the Socialists note:

The bill passed by the House (March 21) would mandate all Americans to purchase health insurance coverage or face a fine. It would also create health insurance exchanges, an idea crafted by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, where people would purchase insurance from private companies. Those not eligible for Medicaid but who still could not afford to purchase insurance would receive public funds from the federal government to purchase bare bones coverage insurance plans from private insurers.

(Socialists) opposes this restructuring on the grounds that the mandates allow private insurers to use the coercive power of the state to enhance their private profits. Insurance credits will serve as a public subsidy to private companies. It is yet another case of public money that could be used for necessary social programs being funneled towards companies that engage in practices that are abusive and detrimental to the overall society.

Wharton argues, as would any self-respecting Socialist, that "public funds would be better spent in creating a national single-payer system. Democratic socialists see such a system of open access to care as one part of a larger transition toward making health-care a guaranteed human right for all."

That's a far cry from anything the Democrat in the White House has proposed. Indeed, as Wharton wrote in his recent Washington Post piece -- titled "Obama's No Socialist. I Should Know" -- "The funny thing is, of course, that socialists know that Barack Obama is not one of us. Not only is he not a socialist, he may in fact not even be a liberal. Socialists understand him more as a hedge-fund Democrat -- one of a generation of neo-liberal politicians firmly committed to free-market policies."

So Myrtle Kastner is amused, and perhaps a little thankful to Limbaugh, Beck and the others who keep talking about "socialism." She's hoping that young people, in particular, will want to learn more.

And what will she tell them?

"I know they call Obama's plan ‘socialist,'" says Kastner. "But if the point is to make sure everyone has health care and that costs are kept down, Socialists really could have come up with something better."

Read the whole thing.

Biting the Hand That Feeds Us

The only thing Democrats do better than snatch defeat from the jaws of victory is betray and cripple their allies in a futile attempt to win approval from their enemies.

Case in point: ACORN

Digby explains:

One of the dumber moves the Democrats made in recent times was allowing ACORN to go undefended because those silly costumed miscreants doctored some tapes to portray the ACORN workers as idiots and criminals. Its destruction may end up being the most important conservative movement action of the era because of what it did to Democratic infrastructure:

A Summary of Recent Accomplishments (pdf)

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is one of the nation’s largest and most successful community organization of lower income families. Since 1970 ACORN has been building solidly rooted and powerful community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice, and have taken action and won victories on thousands of issues of concern to our members. Our priorities include living wages for low income workers; an end to predatory financial practices and foreclosures; decent and affordable housing, for first time homebuyers and tenants; public schools that work for all students; voting rights, and full participation in our electoral system; a path to citizenship for new immigrants to this country; and an equitable response to natural disasters such as Katrina. ACORN achieves these goals by building community organizations that have the power to win changes – through direct action, negotiation, legislation, and voter participation.

The following report describes some of ACORN’s major accomplishments in these areas over the past decade. In addition, every day local ACORN chapters are taking action and winning on issues as diverse as getting traffic lights at dangerous intersections, increasing police protection in their neighborhoods, and forcing landlords to make necessary repairs. These activities are the building blocks that help the organization recruit new members, teach the skills of public engagement, and build the power that allows ACORN to take action and win on the critical issues that face our constituency:

The first few listed are all laudable community organizing activities. But it's the final one that made them a long standing GOP target:

More Income for Poor Americans

Taking on the Predatory Lenders
Passing Laws to Stop Foreclosures
Preserving and Creating Affordable Housing
Rebuilding After Katrina
Improving Schools in our Communities
Stopping RAL Rip-offs and Providing Free Tax Prep

Bringing New Voters Into Elections

ACORN’s non-partisan voter registration drives have successfully helped build an American electorate that is beginning to look more like America — with more African Americans, Latinos and young people voting in 2008 than ever before. ACORN has collected and submitted nearly 3 million voter registration applications since 2003: 1.152 million in 2003-4, 540,000 in 2006, and close to 1.3 million in 2007-8. Based on our knowledge of voter registration drives, we estimate that 70%—more than 2 million—of these applications resulted in a successfully registered new voter or a necessary address change to keep a voter on the rolls. Our best estimates indicate that ACORN’s 2008 voter registration and GOTV work, combined with the continuing impact of ACORN’s registration drives from 2003 through 2006, helped bring approximately one million voters to the polls last year.

Maybe the Democrats didn't think all that matters, but the Republicans certainly did. They worked for years to take out ACORN and that little jackass finally got it done. Believe me, it wasn't because they were worried about "voting integrity." They were worried that in the new white minority world, too many people of color would vote. We know what that means. (They tend not to vote for the racist party.)

The Democrats showed no instinct for self-preservation on this one, which isn't surprising.

In case you forgot, Congressional Democrats tossed ACORN to the frightwing bullies not because ACORN did anything wrong, but because the MSM got punked by a video fake a five-year-old could have seen through.

So, the New York Times finally ran a correction. But after six weeks of "considering" the errors in its own reporting, the so called paper of record's correction of its misleading ACORN story, came way, way, WAY to late.

The Times' correction ran the same day that the anti-poverty group ACORN called it quits, after a year under attack -- and a day after the paper's public editor wrote that yes indeed, the paper has "mistakenly reinforced falsehoods" from right wing activists against the group.

When activists released videos appearing to show ACORN workers offering advice to people posing as a pimp and a prostitute, the Times fell for an editing trick. The videos gave the impression that two activists were dressed in outlandish costumes when they visited ACORN offices. They weren't. Video transcripts also contradicted what the video makers claimed, namely that ACORN staffers appeared to endorse talk of using underage girls as prostitutes.

In fact, the transcript reveals that ACORN staffers believed they were discussing a plan to protect two girls. The Times also fell for that.

Here's something to consider. The paper fact-checks allegations from left leaning groups -- to death. The contemplation-of-a-correction story is less about bad reporting than bias. The Times seems to have considered ACORN guilty from the start.

If you'd like more details about how the con worked, Eric Boehlert at Media Matters explains.

Stand and Fight with the Unions, or Lose Everything

The most amazing thing about this administration is that the right, liberal, pro-Democratic thing do is almost always also the thing that will win the most votes in the next election.

As with the (still too small) economic stimulus, health care reform, Wall Street reform, cap-n-trade and immigration reform, so with the Employee Free Choice Act.

President Obama's recess appointment of a labor-friendly member to the National Labor Relations Board, there is hope - faint but real - for rolling back the last 30 years of repug union-busting.

If you think unions are some Depression-era anachronism with no relevance in today's every-man-for-himself market, you might want to check out the illegal lockout of workers at a Nevada boron mine. Boron, as I didn't know until I read this piece, is a mineral essential to just about every industrial application you can think of. Not something we can get along without for long.

From The Nation:

The future of a small town in the Mojave is thus entangled in geoeconomic competitions far larger and more important than the borate market itself. So what chance do 560 miners and their families have in a fight with Godzilla?

The record of the past twenty years is not encouraging. With some heroic exceptions--the 1989-90 Pittston coal strike in Virginia, the 1990s Frontier Casinos strike in Las Vegas and a few others--international unions have seldom been willing to support a local fight to the last bullet or bitter dime.

But ILWU has a unique street credibility. The pit bull of CIO-generation unions, it bit into the heels of the West Coast stevedoring industry in 1934 and never let go. Industrial unions are supposed to be dying, but the ILWU, despite its modest size, punches hard enough to keep the powerful Pacific Maritime Association sulking in its corner, while ensuring that the docks remain safe and well paid.

As the only union that survived McCarthyism with its left-wing leadership (under Harry Bridges) intact, the ILWU is also legendary for putting muscle behind the slogan of "working-class solidarity." Since the 1960s it has conducted scores of job actions and walkouts in support of striking Australian dockers, California farmworkers and South African freedom fighters. Indeed, in May 2008 the union shut down the West Coast for a day to protest the war in Iraq.

In anticipation of the Boron lockout, ILWU had persuaded members of an international coalition of mining and maritime unions--many of whom have done battle with Rio Tinto--to hold their periodic conference in the nearby desert city of Palmdale. On February 16 the delegates, along with rank and file from other ILWU locals, arrive in Boron for a march to the mine followed by a big Local 30 barbecue.

The overture to the protest is the earthshaking full-throttle roar of shovelhead and twin-cam Harley-Davidson engines. The stevedore-bikers of Local 13 (LA Harbor) emerge out of the desert haze like Marlon Brando's leather-clad horde in The Wild One (or, better, the Comanches in Blood Meridian).

Someone, awe-struck, whispers, "Glad these guys are on our side." Later I count twenty-six Harley black beauties corralled in a reverential semicircle on the street side of the union hall. (The unfortunate owners of rice-burners and pasta rockets have had to remove their imported Japanese and Italian bikes to a discreet distance.)

Carloads of out-of-town ILWU members arrive, then two buses carrying dozens of US and foreign labor leaders. The crowd applauds, people shake hands, someone turns up the volume on "Born in the USA" and the marchers begin to assemble, about 600-strong, behind a banner that spans the entire width of the road: An Injury to One Is an Injury to All.

It's an easy one-mile walk in pleasant weather to the front gate. Local 30 brings a dozen American and Marine Corps flags to the front, and begins to chant, "We Wanna Work, We Wanna Work." The sheriffs are relaxed, but the Gettier security guards up the road nervously shift their feet. As usual, their faces are inscrutable behind dark glasses, but you can almost smell their guilty sweat.

Imagine a picnic jointly organized by the IWW, the American Legion and the Hells Angels. One of the first speakers is Oupa Komane from the South African miners' union. He has a magnificent voice: "Comrades, I bring you revolutionary greetings from the miners of South Africa!" I look around to see how the "comrades" waving American flags react. Komane gets warm applause.

A battle-hardened copper miner from Utah (where Rio Tinto owns the great Kennecott pit at Bingham Canyon) says, "I can't tell you what I think of this company--not in front of women and children." An Australian warns, "They will kill your town. That's what they did to us." A Canadian talks about more dead mill towns in Quebec, while a New Zealander tells a story about Rio Tinto's sinister role in defeating climate-change legislation in his country.

The fiery head of the Turkish borate workers, whose state-owned industry (Eti Mine Works) was founded by Atatürk, father of the Turkish Republic, brings greetings from the Borons of Anatolia: Kirka, Emet, Kestelek and Bandirma. He scoffs at Rio Tinto's claim that his miners' lower hourly wages (almost $10 in a cheap country, versus an average of $26 in Boron) necessitates the trashing of union rights in California.

Finally, Ken Riley, president of the largely black International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 in Charleston, South Carolina, and a leader of one of the most courageous fights in modern US labor history [see JoAnn Wypijewski, "Audacity on Trial," August 6/13, 2001], summarizes the case for optimism: "You pick on the ILWU, you pick on the world. When our own international deserted us, they were there. Now we're here."

Later, I take Ken aside and confess my doubts. He shakes his head. "I understand what you're saying, but you're wrong," he says. "This isn't political theater. The first month of a struggle is decisive, and the ILWU is doing a terrific job marketing Boron's importance to the rest of the labor movement. Internationally, our unions understand that we have to organize the logistics chain, from producers to transport to distributor to retailer. This is a new model of power for the labor movement, like industrial unionism in the 1930s, but adapted to the reality of globalization."

"But Boron?" I ask.

"Hey, something new is being born here. It has to be."

Read the whole infuriating, inspiring thing.

Then consider this by Mike Elk in Truthout:

Currently, there is only one place in America where illegal immigrants and Glenn Beck followers sit down together on a regular basis and fight for their collective self interests - the halls of organized labor. Unions unite people behind shared self-interest and a common social purpose: making their jobs better - something we all desire. Through working together, they gain trust of one another and are less likely to be victims of conservative scare tactics.

The statistics don't lie. Obama won by 23 points among white, noncollege graduates who belong to a union, even as he lost by 18 points among all white, noncollege voters.

Working-class whites aren't just more likely to vote for progressives when organized labor is strong, so are people of color, women and young people. As the landslide loss of corporate, anti-workers' rights Democrat Creigh Deeds in Virginia shows, working whites will vote for Republicans for cultural reasons when a Democrat fails to stand up for them. However, people of color, women and young people don't have a cultural punching bag in "liberal elites," so when Democrats disappoint, they simply don't vote.

Thus, keeping people from joining unions and thereby upsetting the conservative ruling class that thrives on cultural resentment is the number one goal of conservatives. The biggest barrier for making strong unions is the fact that 30,000 workers are fired from their job every year for trying to join a union. In the United States, an employer has to post a piece of paper saying they fired a worker for trying to a join. As my father, a union organizer, always said, "If the penalty for robbing a bank was you had to post a piece of paper saying you robbed a bank, we'd all be bank robbers!"

Killing the Employee Free Choice Act is the number one priority of the Chamber of Commerce for this reason. It's more urgent for them to squash than climate change and health care reform put together. They know that increased unionization threatens their whole balance of power.

It is time that we realize that the Employee Free Choice Act is this important. The Employee Free Choice Act is not just a union issue. Without a revitalized labor movement, we get bogged down in the cultural wars of TV, and any progressive change we make is unsustainable. We need to create organs of social dialogue.

We also need to create 10 million new jobs right away, plus another 3 million a year for the foreseeable future. There is one entity, and one entity only, in this country devoted wholly and unreservedly to creating and preserving well-paid, secure jobs with good benefits, the kind of jobs of which world-leading nations are made:


What They Said

The repug lie that the violence they themselves incited is really the fault of the targets - Democratic politicians and their supporters - is getting traction in the MSM.

Help keep the truth alive with this post from Rachel Slajda at Talking Points Memo.

Yesterday, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor accused Democrats of exploiting threats against them for political gain and "dangerously fanning the flames" by suggesting Republicans were behind the anger and violent rhetoric of the right.

But Republicans have been systematically, and at a higher and higher pitch, declaring the health care law, and the government that made it law, illegitimate, dangerous and tyrannical. Comments like that do one thing: They stoke the fire already fueled by anger over bailouts and taxes and a perceived threat to liberty.

To wit:

Former Massachusetts governor and presidential aspirant Mitt Romney said, the day after health care passed the House, "America has just witnessed an unconscionable abuse of power."

House Minority Leader John Boehner called it "Armageddon." RNC Chairman Michael Steele agreed.

Steele followed up by saying he wanted to get House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "ready for the firing line this November," in trying to promote his "Fire Pelosi" moneybomb.

One of the most vicious screeds came from Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) after Sunday's vote:

Today Americans are reacquainted with the danger of an arrogant all powerful government, a deadly enemy within, a clear and present danger in Washington.

In spite of nationwide opposition socialized medicine is being forced down our throats. That medicine is toxic to freedom. But freedom dies hard in America.

I do not believe that the majority of Americans will submit passively to the gold chains of socialism.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Warming Up for Cap-n-Trade

RLMiller at FireDogLake sees signs that a cap-n-trade climate bill is next on the Senate list after Wall Street reform, and hints that the health care reform victory will strengthen the climate bill.

BREAKING out! Small spines on Democratic Senators! Having said "yes" to virtually every demand to water down the climate bill, the Democrats most in favor of the climate bill are finally beginning to say "no." And not a moment too soon, as Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) prepare to release their bill within the next two weeks.

Rumor has a climate bill being written during spring recess and introduced in mid-April. Lots of meetings have taken place over the last few weeks. Senate leaders huddled on Tuesday and Senate leaders huddled more on Wednesday, with bland official statements of "progress being made." Although rounding up all the leaks, spins, and flat-out falsehoods on the climate bill is a daunting job, some truths have begun to emerge.

Let's hope the new spines are strong enough to stand up to the it-snowed-in-January arguments from the usual repugs.

From Steven Benen:

HEATING UP.... As ridiculous as it sounds, cold weather and snowfall during the winter has apparently made it less likely the Senate will vote on a new energy/climate bill. Mind-numbing though it may be, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) recently said snowfall in D.C. has had an effect on policymakers' attitudes: "It makes it more challenging for folks not taking time to review the scientific arguments."

But in Grown-Up Land, the data is worth acknowledging.

It will probably come as a surprise to most Americans, but the winter just finished was the fifth-warmest on record, worldwide.

Sure, nearly two-thirds of the country can dispute that from personal experience of a colder-than-normal season.

But while much of the United States was colder than usual, December-February -- climatological winter -- continued the long string of unusual warmth on a global basis.

And parts of the United States did join in, with warmer-than-normal readings for the season in New England and the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, Maine had its third-warmest winter on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports.

But the snow-is-falling cry is just cover for the rubes, Down with Tyranny tells us:

(A) colleague on the energy-and-environment beat calls attention to a neat piece of work by Brad Johnson in ThinkProgress's Wonk Room. He was ticked off by this ad the American Petroleum Institute (API) placed in Politico and Roll Call, denouncing "unprecedented" "new taxes" on the energy industry supposedly being considered by Congress, which is an absolute, 100-percent, through-and-through lie.

The reference, Brad points out, is to "the Obama administration's effort to remove $36 billion in loopholes and subsidies for the oil industry." All the tearjerking bullshit about how these "new taxes" will destroy the economy and make life even more hellish for average Joes is just that: bullshit, lies, posturing propaganda.

And of course we're likely to hear again that old chestnut about how cap-n-trade will cost each and every American family thousands of dollars per year. Here is the Congressional Budget Office official analysis of Waxman/Markey:

CBO estimates that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion—or about $175 per household .... households in the lowest income quintile would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020, while households in the highest income quintile would see a net cost of $245. Added costs for households in the second lowest quintile would be about $40 that year; in the middle quintile, about $235; and in the fourth quintile, about $340. Overall net costs would average 0.2 percent of households’ after-tax income.

Yes, the climate of the planet really is moving rapidly toward permanent changes that will prove catastrophic for human civilization.

Yes, fossil fuel industries are going to have to bear the brunt of the cost of slowing that change, which is only fair since they caused it.

And yes, cap-n-trade really is the best solution for yet another unbeatable reason: it will quickly create millions of desperately needed jobs.

Ed Markey and Reed Hundt at TPM Cafe explain:

Jobs are the chief concerns of most Americans right now. Those with them are scared they might lose them. Those without them want to find one. What we need to do is clear: pass laws that open new industries to job opportunities for millions of Americans - and in a hurry. Predictions that we will not return to full employment for five or more years should drive us to act as we did in the early 1990s, when we faced a similar, although far less, serious economic slump.


This investment (resulting from the Telecommunications Act) drove job creation beyond any economist's prediction. Unemployment fell to 4 percent by the end of 1990s, and nearly 65 percent of the population was employed. That's a remarkable contrast to the numbers today: 9.7 percent of Americans are unemployed and only 58 percent of people are employed. The job growth led to national income growth and increased tax revenue, so that the federal budget, contrary to every estimate at the beginning of the 90s, was balanced by 1998.

We can get the same upside surprises if we pass a law that retools the carbon-based energy sector of the last century and encourages private investment in a 21st century energy economy built on alternatives such as wind, sun, biomass and geothermal. That's the purpose of the Waxman-Markey bill, which passed the House of Representatives last June.


In the energy sector we not only will need millions of employees, but we also know that those millions will help us achieve independence from foreign oil and an end to the pollution of the environment from carbon emissions. The trifecta of huge employment, national security, and protection of the environment is a winning ticket for America. We have found that winning formula before in hard times that proved to be the dawn of economic growth; we can turn the dark days of the present into sunny optimism about our future once again.

Read the whole thing.

Waxman-Markey is far from perfect, but it's utopian compared to the piece of shit Kerry, Graham and Lieberman are getting ready to drop. If that sounds familiar, it should. Same antediluvian Senate, same negotiating everything away to attract repug votes that don't exist and never will.

Tell your congress critters it's a new day, and that shit won't fly anymore.

Where are the forced-pregnancy fanatics when you need them?

To the list of disobedient, independent-thinking, non-conformist-acting citizens like the harmless mentally ill, drunks, epileptics and children, add:

pregnant women.

Three Seattle police officers were justified when they used a stun gun on a pregnant mother who refused to sign a traffic ticket, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a case that prompted an incredulous dissent.

Malaika Brooks was driving her son to Seattle's African American Academy in 2004 when she was stopped for doing 32 mph in a school zone. She insisted it was the car in front of her that was speeding, and refused to sign the ticket because she thought she'd be admitting guilt.

Rather than give her the ticket and let her go on her way, the officers decided to arrest her. One reached in, turned off her car and dropped the keys on the floor. Brooks stiffened her arms against the steering wheel and told the officers she was pregnant, but refused to get out, even after they threatened to stun her.

The officers — Sgt. Steven Daman, Officer Juan Ornelas and Officer Donald Jones — then stunned her three times, in the thigh, shoulder and neck, and hauled her out of the car, laying her face-down in the street.

Brooks gave birth to a healthy baby two months later, but has permanent scars from the Taser. She sued the officers for violating her constitutional rights, and U.S. District Judge Richard Jones allowed the case to continue. He declined to grant the officers immunity for performing their official duties and said Brooks' rights were clearly violated.

But in a 2-1 ruling Friday, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Judges Cynthia Holcomb Hall and Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain held that the officers were justified in making an arrest because Brooks was obstructing them and resisting arrest.

The use of force was also justified because of the threat Brooks posed, Hall wrote: "It seems clear that Brooks was not going to be able to harm anyone with her car at a moment's notice. Nonetheless, some threat she might retrieve the keys and drive off erratically remained, particularly given her refusal to leave the car and her state of agitation."

Digby comments:

Oh no, she needed to be electrocuted and arrested because there was a chance that she might drive off erratically. Or shape-shift into a lizard and levitate. You just can't be too careful. In any case, what these judges seem to be saying is that there is no lawful reason that an officer cannot taser a citizen as long as he is barking some order and they fail to comply quickly enough. No reason of any kind, not even the fact that the officers had no right to issue that order at all. That's scary.

BTW: where are all the anti-authoritarian libertarians now? It seems as if they only care about the constitution when it comes to taxes and guns. Someone else's right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket? Not their problem.

Because Nobody Deserves This

Until and unless prison sentences specifically include rape as a condition of incarceration, this has to stop.

Charli Carpenter at Lawyers, Guns and Money:


On March 10, 2010, the Department of Justice opened a 60-day public comment period on national standards addressing sexual abuse in detention. Released last June by a bipartisan federal commission, these common-sense measures have the potential to help end sexual abuse in detention. But the standards are opposed by some powerful corrections leaders. These officials argue that it is too expensive to stop prisoner rape, and they seem to have a great deal of influaence over the Department of Justice.

As I’ve argued before, this is an important one for progressives to weigh in on.

A 2001 Human Rights Watch report showed an epidemic of prison rape in the US; and the final report of Congress’s Congressional National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, released last June, found that nearly 60,000 inmates have suffered sexual abuse in US prisons. It also showed that more prisoners are abused by staff than by other inmates, and that gender minorities are at the greatest risk.

NPREC’s original recommendations were that 5% of federal funding for prisons be contingent on states’ reduction in incidence rates in accordance with standards now being drafted by the Attorney General. I haven’t yet read which provisions made it into the proposed rule, but I would argue that 5% may be much too low a penalty to check such well-entrenched abuse; and at any rate the federal government will also need to consider providing resources for states to implement the standards, which would involve a significant overhauling of prison culture.

When you contact Attorney General Holder with your thoughts, refer to Docket No. OAG-131.

Or sign the petition here.

Eat It, Repugs!

Fifteen's a good start, but now that even the White House must realize that no amount of playing nice is going to get a single vote from repugs, why not just recess appoint the whole kit-n-caboodle and watch repug heads explode?

Not to mention that this kind of standing-up-to-bullies is what mid-term voters like.

From Talking Points Memo:

The White House has just announced that President Obama has made fifteen recess appointments, including several for hot-button nominees. These are appointees Republicans refused to allow votes on and for which the president's supporters have been pressing for recess appointees.

Notable on the list are Craig Becker to NLRB and Chai Feldblum to EEOC.

In arguing for the appointments the press release states: "President Bush had made 15 recess appointments by this point in his presidency, but he was not facing the same level of obstruction. At this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month."

Read the whole list in the press release here.

Steve Benen has some welcome correctives to the repug lies on recess appointments:

1. Health care reform passed through an entirely legitimate process. No rules were broken, no traditions were ignored. In short, Kyl doesn't have the foggiest idea what he's talking about. The only tradition that's been ignored of late is the one that allows the Senate to vote on legislation, and it's Kyl's party that is ignoring the way the Senate used to, and was designed to, operate.

2. Recess appointments aren't exactly new, at least not in recent years. Clinton made 139 during his two terms, and Bush made 179. Obama's total thus far? Zero. Two recess appointments, in this context, hardly constitutes "arrogance of power."

3. A majority of the Senate supports both Becker and Pearce. Kyl and his GOP cohorts want the president to ignore the will of the Senate -- while demanding that Obama honor "the will of the Senate."

4. Kyl considered Becker "controversial," and thus ineligible for a recess appointment. But Bush used recess appointments on extremists like Charles Pickering and John Bolton, and did so with Kyl's blessing.

UPDATE, 1:39 p.m. - EmptyWheel at FireDogLake points out the most prominent name not on that list: Dawn Johnsen, nominated as Assistant Attorney General a year ago to clean up the cesspool Smirky/Darth created at the Office of Legal Counsel.

Time for Leftist Populism

Since the anti-reform corporatists manufactured the teabaggers into existence last summer, the label of "populist" has been erroneously applied to the racist, know-nothing, no-nothings of the right.

But there is a huge opening for a leftist populism, especially now with health care reform behind us we're looking at new battles on financial reform, unemployment, immigration and cap-n-trade.

All of those, just like health care reform, have enormous potential to hand Democrats popular achievements that will turn into Democratic victories in November.

And all of those, just like health care reform, are endangered less by repug obstructionism than by the corporatist influence behind the administration and Congressional Democrats that prevents them from fully exploiting populist anger on the left.

In January, Digby explained the self-destructive insanity of Democrats' pussy-footing on Wall Street regulation.

It's not like the Democrats have tried in the least to make a political argument about this that made any sense. But the Republicans have, and it's a doozy. If things don't improve quickly, a lot more people are going to be listening to it.

When you have a man-made crisis (or even a natural disaster) people will always look for someone to blame. It's human nature. The out of power Republicans have a ready made boogeyman in the government, of course, to which they conveniently misdirect all the fear and anger since they are the ones who both led the charge to deregulate and profited from the excesses. The Democrats, either out of a severe case of regulatory capture or a quixotic political desire to "change the tone" and "look forward not backward" have left themselves holding the bag as the defenders of the one institution everybody now holds responsible for the mess.

For those of you who shrink from the label "populist" because the MSM uses it exclusively to describe racist mouth-breathers, Digby, in December, explained the differences in populism on the right and left.

Right wing "populism" is of a completely different form than that of the left, although it's fed by similar feelings of disenfranchisement and suspicion of elites. At the very least, lefties are not in the pockets of corporate America while they rail against the system that benefits it. I can't say the same for the right. I realize that this new populist alliance relies on the belief that left and right are now an outdated political paradigm. I just don't believe it. You can call it whatever you like, but the lines will divide up pretty much as they always have in America and liberals will have to decide who they're going to sacrifice to the cause if they want to change that. Believe me, sacrificing corporate donations won't get the job done.

The left is already philosophically consistent on the issue of big money in politics, and if they made the case straightforwardly and gained popular support, it could change the way politics are done. The populist right is incoherent. They operate on a whole other set of impulses, which almost always involve scapegoating of the other. I don't see a meaningful alliance there, although I do see how right wing populism will be very useful to the wealthy. It always has been in the past.

And there lies the opportunity for the populist left.

SteveM has been whipping this idea for months:

Seriously -- this is the opportunity to create and put forth a liberal narrative with the potential to become America's narrative. And this is the opportunity to throw sand in the gears. Grind the process of reappointing Bernanke to a halt! Be Liebermans! Be Tom Coburns! It shouldn't just be Sanders -- make trouble, make news, get America to grasp the idea that liberalism is not corporatism. America doesn't get that right now, thanks to Obama.


What was needed -- and, yes, I say this all the time -- was a movement to Obama's left on health care, a large number of people supporting a far more progressive plan than was politically feasible.

But (and I say this all the time, too) we don't have a large progressive bloc in this country. We need a bigger progressive bloc. I'll say it again: we need to make more liberals.

Could Obama, as Aimai says, have "whip[ped] up popular anger" and "create[d] a groundswell for major progressive reform"? I don't see it -- not in a still-quite-Reaganite country, not even with his rhetorical gifts. (He had a huge volunteer army in '08, but I think it's far from certain that they would have all agreed on this approach.) And even if he could, he'd be the scary radical with the scary radical plan -- he'd be the Bad Left Cop and it would be up to (probably) the Blue Dogs to play the Good Cops, and we'd be pretty much where we are now.

We needed to be to Obama's left -- and we never were in sufficient numbers and with sufficient force.

I think Steve gave up too soon. We've got what the MSM is promoting as a huge liberal victory (although we genuine liberals know what a corporate-giveaway piece of shit it is), the teabaggers have been exposed as domestic terrorists, and the repugs are on the ropes.

Now is the time for leftist populists to push our advantage. Demand more than Wall Street "reform": demand re-regulation under Glass-Steagall. Restrict banks to accepting deposits and making loans, period.

Tell your elected officials, "I'm a proud liberal and this is what I demand." Tell them today.

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

And a Little Child Shall Subvert Them

Give me an act of kindness motivated by humanistic impulse over one forced by superstitious extortion any day.

From PZ Myers:

This is such a sweet story: a little boy willingly hands out cheerful notes and cookies to his neighbors, simply to make them feel good. It's such a feel-good story that a Christian inspirational site picks up on it and shares Logan Davis's good news.

"I wanted to do something to brighten our neighbors' day," the motivated youngster told the news source. "My parents have always taught me it's good to be nice to others."

What none of the stories seem to mention, though, is that it's a godless family.

Bwahahaahahaa! Our plans are working: we shall conquer the world with our niceness and our habit of raising happy, well-adjusted children! And cookies and flowers!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Brett Guthrie Jumps On Repeal Crazy Train

Seems vulnerable freshman Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY2) is guzzling the repug kool-aid.

We will work to repeal the government takeover of health care and start over with solutions that focus on lowering costs.

Better double-check that one, Brettsie-boy: the feckless thugs who pass for repug party leaders have been backpedaling on it all week.

Sunday night, I voted against the Senate-passed health care bill because of the negative impact it will have on Kentucky. An overwhelming majority of Kentuckians who contacted me are against this bill.

Did you ask them why they opposed it? Your 22-county chunk of rural Kentucky is overpopulated with the uninsured working poor whom health care reform will help enormously. Did you make any attempt to correct their fear- and lie-driven misunderstanding of what the bill will actually do for them?

I talked about the consequences of the millions of dollars in unfunded Medicaid mandates that would be sent to the commonwealth.

No, you told them more lies on top of the ones repugs have been telling for a year.

As the ranking member of the Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness subcommitee, I not only spoke about the unfunded Medicaid mandate, but also the government takeover of student loans that is included in the reconciliation bill.

One of Kentucky's major state universities is located in your district; both it and the many potential students living in the area will benefit because those loans taken over by the government will be far cheaper and easier to pay off than the ripoffs peddled by greedy private banks.

Seniors in my district are looking for help, and this bill cuts Medicare by half-a-trillion-dollars.

Wow, the precise opposite of the truth. The antipode of fact and reality, you might say. Not only does the bill NOT cut Medicare, it closes the Medicare prescription "donut hole" that costs Second District seniors hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Families were hoping for more affordable health care, and the bill raises their taxes and insurance premiums.

Another 100 percent falsity! You're on a roll, Brett. The bill raises taxes only on families earning more than $200,000 per year, of which there are perhaps 17 in your impoverished district. I supposed you could say that subsidized, affordable payments are technically "raised" over the zero people pay for no insurance at all, but something for a little is better than bankruptcy for nothing.

Kentucky's state legislators are working tirelessly to balance the state budget while preserving vital education and infrastructure projects and this bill gives them millions in unfunded Medicaid mandates.

Kentucky's state legislators are, as usual, wasting taxpayers' time and money on hookers, blow and bible babble, and nothing in the bill is "unfunded."

And small businesses, who have historically employed more than half of the U.S. workforce, are seeking to get the economy back on track and this bill will make it harder for them to hire new employees and continue to provide for the ones they currently have.

Perfect lie number three! That's what the single-payer-enjoying Canadians call a hat trick. Small businesses are, in fact, the biggest beneficiaries of this bill because they get major tax breaks - remember when repugs were in favor of tax breaks? - on the cost of providing health insurance to their employees. Insurance, by the way, that keeps their employees healthy and on the job.

The American people were were looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and Washington sent them a freight train.

Let's save the Vietnam analogies for Afghanistan, shall we, Brett? They've got more than enough work to do there.

The issue of health care reform is not over. We will work to repeal the government takeover of health care and start over with solutions that focus on lowering costs.

You bet your furry, too-white ass it ain't over. Keep pushing for repeal, Brett - every word brings single-payer closer. And let us know as soon as you come up with a "solution" that cuts the deficit more than the $1.3 TRILLION this bill will cut it. I'm sure you won't mind if we don't hold our breath.

Feel free to visit my website to read my principles on health care reform, statements and press releases and watch videos.

Don't worry, we will. This is way more entertaining than American Idol.

I appreciate hearing your opinions on the future and direction of our country and encourage you to continue to email, call or write me to let me know your thoughts.

Yes, definitely do email, call or write Brett to let him know what you think of his intelligence-insulting cliches and lies. The House of Representatives' email system protects their sissy little asses by making you enter a zip code from inside that particular district before you can send an email. But that takes just a couple of clicks to get around.

Here's a clickable list of the Second's 22 counties. Click on any county's web page, then "contacts" to find a list of government agency addresses with zip codes. Use whichever one you like.

Or click here to find out more about Ed Marksberry, the complete unknown running as a Democrat to unseat Guthrie.

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

Freakazoids Sink Even Lower

Really, assholes? Buddhists? The ultimate pacifists? The ones who protest war by setting themselves on fire?

I guess after you murder doctors who save women's lives, nothing's out of bounds.

Interfaith leaders are denouncing a recent act of anti-Buddhist vandalism at a local temple, saying such acts intimidate the targets and run counter to the community’s efforts to build religious tolerance.Interfaith leaders are denouncing a recent act of anti-Buddhist vandalism at a local temple, saying such acts intimidate the targets and run counter to the community’s efforts to build religious tolerance.

Vandals spray-painted a slogan saying that Buddha was “in hell” on the sign of the Phuoc Hau Temple on Old Third Street Road, and they wrote “Jesus lives” on the walk leading to the temple.

Louisville Metro Police are investigating, spokesman Dwight Mitchell said. They have no leads but are asking anyone with information to call the anonymous tip line at 574-LMPD.

“First of all, regardless of the religion involved, it’s despicable that anyone would do such a thing,” said Terry Taylor, executive director of the group Interfaith Paths to Peace. “Second, I don’t think this is indicative of what Christianity is about. And finally, I think this act reflects badly on a city that has a national reputation of being a community that is very open and supportive of interfaith efforts.”

Nina Nguyen, who volunteers as an interpreter at the mostly Vietnamese temple, said it has been targeted by vandals several times in recent years, and that the temple has secured its outdoor statues more firmly after they were toppled in the past.

She said the temple’s leader has not wanted to call police in the hope that the vandalism would stop.

But “it gets to the point where somebody needs to voice their concerns,” she said.

And for all you Yankees sneering "racist southern fuckheads," you're right, but here's the flip side of Southern Culture:

She said some American-born residents, after seeing a report of the vandalism on television, arrived with paint remover to clean up as much of the graffiti as possible.

Lights Out 8:30 Tonight

Yes, UK fans, if the Wildcats are fewer than 20 points up over UVA, you may leave ONE television on until the game ends, but everything else off for an hour.

It's Show Time for Earth Hour.

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating. Global landmarks such as the, Sydney Harbour Bridge, The CN Tower in Toronto, The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.

In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative.

Earth Hour 2010 takes place on Saturday 27 March at 8.30pm (local time) and is a global call to action to every individual, every business and every community throughout the world. It is a call to stand up, to take responsibility, to get involved and lead the way towards a sustainable future. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Europe to Asia to the Americas will stand in darkness. People across the world from all walks of life will turn off their lights and join together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet. So sign up now and let’s make 2010 the biggest Earth Hour yet!.

It’s Showtime! Show the world what can be done.

Health Care and Student Loans and Arms Control, Oh My

The President looks back on a week that saw the passage of two major sets of reforms: one putting Americans in control of their own health care, and one ensuring student loans work for students and families, not as subsidies for bankers and middlemen.

Vicious "Prank" Case Ends With Settlement

It sounds like one of those junior-high-school tall tales like the serial killer with the hook hand stalking the parked couple. Scary but cautionary tales meant to teach a lesson but not be believed.

Unfortunately, this one really happened, just outside Louisville.

With both sides unwilling to take their chances on an appeal, McDonald’s and strip-search victim Louise Ogborn have settled the lawsuit in which a jury awarded her $6.1 million.

The company Friday withdrew a petition in which it was asking the Kentucky Supreme Court to hear the case.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals in November upheld the award, which included $5 million in punitive damages, saying the company was “fully aware” of hoax calls to its restaurants, yet its management made “a conscious decision not to train or warn employees or managers about the calls.”


The Court of Appeals said the punitive damages were justified because the evidence at a four week trial in Bullitt County in 2007 showed the company repeatedly “placed a higher value on corporate reputation than on the safety of its own employees” over the 10 years it knew about the hoax calls.

The company claimed that Ogborn was a victim of a “malicious hoax by individuals not representing McDonald's."

Ogborn, then 18, was methodically searched and forced to strip after a man pretending to be a police officer called the Mount Washington McDonald's on April 9, 2004, and accused her of stealing a customer's purse.

Following the caller's instructions, an assistant manager took away her clothes, cell phone and other belongings, and later called in her fiancé, who, following orders from the caller, forced Ogborn to perform a series of humiliating tasks, conducted a cavity search of her body and ultimately sexually abused her. Ogborn's ordeal lasted for three hours, until a maintenance worker and other employees realized the caller was a fraud.

David Stewart, a former prison guard from the Florida Panhandle who was accused of making the call, was acquitted on charges of impersonating an officer and soliciting sexual assault. Law-enforcement officers said at the time that they suspected him of making the other calls as well, but he was only charged in Bullitt County.

If you've got a strong constitution, here are the details of the "prank."

Friday, March 26, 2010

This is Why Incitement is a Crime

Attempted murder of a federal official. for wanting to make health care more affordable and accessible.

Terroristic threats with unknown white powder sent to another federal official for outspokenness in favor of progress.

Trying to kill a 10-year-old girl and her father for displaying a bumper sticker supporting the majority-elected government.

It's not random, it's not coincidental, it's not mysterious. It's the obvious consequence of repug eliminationist rhetoric and encouragement of treasonous militias.

NPR has the story:

Last May, about 30 people gathered at a resort in Jekyll Island, Ga., for a series of discussions about "increasing national instability" and President Obama's "socialized" policies.

The island was chosen for symbolic reasons — the initial discussions about creating a Federal Reserve were held there in 1910 — and the attendees met to formulate a plan for bringing their own radical organizations together.

"One of the interesting things about the meeting is how nondenominational it was," says Mark Potok. "There were Holocaust deniers there. There were anti-Semites. There were also people who have none of those feelings, who are all about the idea that the federal income tax is unconstitutional — people from the old[er] militia movements and so on."

Potok is the director of publications and information for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group's latest Intelligence Report, "Rage on the Right," documents the growth in the number of hate and extremist groups — and how their rhetoric is increasingly entering the mainstream.

Read the whole thing.

Yes, they're pathetic losers. Desperate pathetic losers full of rage, with nothing left to lose.

Energy Self-Destructiveness

Economy-saving renewable energy can't get the time of day from the Big-Coal-owned Kentucky General Assembly, but legislators are publicly ejaculating over nuking the Bluegrass.

A proposal to end Kentucky’s 26-year ban on building nuclear power plants is moving again in the state legislature.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday added the provision to a bill that would give companies the right to condemn land for carbon dioxide transmission pipelines.
The Senate first approved the nuclear power proposal — originally found in Senate Bill 26 and sponsored by Sen. Bob Leeper, I-Paducah— in January but it has been stalled since then in the House budget committee.


Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement that Leeper’s proposal “is in line with our comprehensive energy plan for the future of Kentucky.”

“In order to meet the energy demands of the future, we need to at least be able to begin the conversation about nuclear energy in Kentucky,” Beshear said.

Setting aside for the moment that Beshear's "comprehensive energy plan" consists of handing the entire General Fund over to the Magic Buggy Whip industry, it's too fucking ironic that Kentucky is discovering nukes just when the rest of the country is finally concluding that nuclear is a lethal risk, an economic black hole and an energy dead end.

Last week, Pew released a survey with the headline ‘Support for Alternative Energy and Offshore Drilling.’ The piece begins, "The public continues to favor a wide range of government policies to address the nation’s energy supply…"

That is accurate, but it doesn’t get at the most striking data. The most important finding in the survey is the fact that clean energy and mass transit investments are vastly more popular than nuclear investments and offshore drilling.

Nukes are so over that even Vermont, home of one of the nation's first nuclear power plants, has given up.

In a rare case of state involvement in nuclear regulation, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 yesterday to block a license extension for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, citing radioactive leaks, misstatements in testimony by plant officials, and other problems.

Unless the chamber reverses itself, it would be the first time in more than 20 years that the public or its representatives decided to close a reactor.

The vote was taken barely more than a week after President Obama declared a new era of rebirth for the nation’s nuclear industry, announcing federal loan guarantees of $8.3 billion to ensure the construction of a twin-reactor plant near Augusta, Ga.
Vermont Yankee’s recent troubles are viewed by some as a challenge to arguments that reactors are clean, well run, and worth the enormous investment involved in building and operating them.

State lawmakers voiced frustration over recent leaks of radioactive tritium at the 38-year-old plant as well as the collapse of a cooling tower in 2007 and inaccurate testimony by the plant’s owner, Entergy Corp., a Louisiana-based nuclear operator. Plant officials had testified that there were no underground pipes at Vermont Yankee that could leak tritium, although there were.

Scientists tracking the leaks have found no evidence that the substance has entered the drinking supply or harmed anyone.

Lawmakers at yesterday’s session also voiced doubts that Entergy would have enough money to decommission the plant in view of the costly tritium leak and other troubles.

In the decisive vote, senators defeated a resolution that would have authorized the state to issue a certificate of “public good,’’ which would be necessary to keep Vermont Yankee operating.

Not a "public good." Kinda like coal.

You'll find multiple posts about how indescribably stupid it is to move from coal to nukes here.

The Pathetic Desperation Behind Teabagger Violence

Blue Girl reads the teabagger profiles in WaPo and responds with no sympathy whatsoever.

Life, apparently, didn't go the way that Randy Millam thought it would when he was growing up. Now he is 52 and he veritably defines the oeuvre of the disaffected loser...lost his job years ago and hasn't worked since, freeloads off his wife who has carried his fat ass and kept it insured, and whose honor-student daughter who is about to graduate from high school just enlisted in the Army. Unsaid about that last part is that her dad failed her and she has no other way to pay for college.

And by God, he just knows that it is all Obama's fault, because Fox News told him so.


My husband and I are both smart enough to know that if you can take a megaphone and a stupid sign and yell and scream on a public street for two or three hours, our freedoms are just fine...unlike during the Bush era, when protest was strictly verbotten.

But he bought into the Reagan bullshit three decades ago when he was a young man, and can't even begin to comprehend that thirty years of republican neglect and maintaining that "government doesn't work" then once elected proving it - is actually why he is now a pathetic loser - and why the infrastructure is crumbling. He and far too many others bet on the wrong horse. Now they are facing the consequences of those bad decisions and they don't like it one little bit.


And one last thing...I am Sick. To. Fucking. Death. of assholes like this fatassed, freeloading, probably a racist, loser thinking that they are the "real America" because...Why? Because they are white? Male? Fifty? Why are these fringe lunatics the "real America" when 53% of us voted for Obama and sent wide Democratic majorities to the House and Senate to give him a Congress he could work with and get some things set right, knowing damned good and well that it takes longer to clean up a mess than to make it?

The second one profiled is an even bigger loser:

Grow the fuck up. The dude is on the dole. He's a fucking hypocrite who lives off a Social Security check and a wife who hasn't kicked his fat, lazy ass to the curb. Yet.

But what I really love about this pig is why Mr. Personal Responsibility is on disability in the first place...


He has congestive heart failure, diabetes and hypertension.

Those are what we in the medical field call lifestyle diseases.

In other words...everything he suffers from, he invited by being a moron in his personal lifestyle choices.

The bottom line is, the republicans have lost the last two elections, and the way they have handled it, they may not win any outside the south for a long, long time.

But resorting to terrorism is not how we do things in the land that invented the No Fear t-shirt.

Early in American colonial history, there was a moment when black slaves and white indentured servants came close to making common cause against the wealthy masters who mistreated both of them.

The wealthy masters, however, spotted the danger and implemented a brilliant strategy to turn the two groups from allies into enemies: racism. They phased out white servitude in favor of more black slavery and encouraged the poorest of whites to view themselves as superior to the hopeless black slaves.

It's a strategy that's saved the plutocrats over and over and over again: prevent the proletariat from massacring the wealthy by giving the poor an even more pathetic group to loathe and look down on.

Ninety percent of the genuine problems plaguing the teabaggers are the direct result of republican policies and malfeasance. Making them blame their natural allies - Democrats who are trying to help them - is nothing more than pure self-defense.

Pandering to the Freakazoids Will Cost Kentucky $42 million


In the middle of struggling to fill a $150 Billion hole in the state budget, while scrambling to find every available dime in the sofa cushions, the Kentucky General Assembly is getting ready to throw away $42 million in federal transportation funds.

Because it would rather protect an idiotic, unconstitutional promotion of superstition.

John Cheves in the Herald-Leaders:

Kentucky risks losing $42 million a year in federal transportation funds if lawmakers approve a billboard deregulation bill aimed at saving a “Hell is real” sign along Interstate 65, according to federal officials.

The state House approved House Bill 536, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Johnny Bell of Glasgow, earlier this week and the proposal has already received one of three required readings in the Senate.

The bill would exempt non-commercial billboards — defined as those that don’t advertise products or services — that are on private property from the state Transportation Cabinet’s permitting process.

Bell has said he is defending a LaRue County billboard declaring “Hell is real,” which stands across I-65 from a billboard advertising an adult bookstore in Upton. A judge ruled the billboard to be advertising and therefore subject to laws restricting the sign’s location and size. Bell said he disagreed with the judge.

However, the Federal Highway Administration sent a warning letter last week to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Under the federal Highway Beautification Act, Kentucky must keep “effective control of outdoor advertisements” or risk, as a penalty, losing some federal funds for a half-dozen transportation-related programs, wrote Jose Sepulveda, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration’s Kentucky division.


Kentucky’s share of the funds would be given to other states, he wrote. It would come from programs paying for road construction and maintenance, safety improvements, public transit and hiking and biking trails, he wrote.

The Federal Highway Administration in 1996 successfully discouraged California from a similar effort to exempt billboards that held non-commercial speech, he added.

Having been warned, the Transportation Cabinet opposes the bill and has forwarded the federal government’s concerns to the Senate, where the bill awaits committee action, cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said Thursday.

“At a time when we’re cutting back on road maintenance because of the budget, we simply cannot afford to lose more than $40 million in federal funds,” Wolfe said.

I wrote back in February:

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.

Magnifying the crime five-fold is a state "legislature" eager to pander to the freakazoids, no matter what the cost to taxpayers.

UPDATE, 8 a.m. March 27: In a bizarre and momentary attack of reality, the Kentucky Senate chooses $42 million over godbothering. David Williams made baby jeebus cry.