Wednesday, June 30, 2010

National Leader is Atheist Shacking Up With Lover

No, not here. Australia. PZ Myers:

Julia Gillard, the new Prime Minister of Australia, is unmarried…but she has a boyfriend, a partner, a…a…paramour, which brings up the horrific possibility of a leader of the country living in sin in official accommodations. Oh, lord, I'm getting the vapors just thinking about it.

And now the Sydney Morning Herald is getting all fluttery over it, too. Why, what kind of role model can she be if she refuses to obey the strictures of Church and Convention?


Gillard was in a radio interview, and look at what she said:

This morning during a Melbourne radio interview, the new Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard was asked point blank:

"Do you believe in God?"

Her reply:

"No I don't, John"

The Australian news media must be in a total meltdown right now. If a major American politician said something like that, Fox News would be howling about it 24/7. There'd be demonstrations on the mall in DC. Televangelists would be calling down hellfire. Good ol' boys would be sighting in their rifles.

Say…I just checked the front pages of a couple of Australian news sites. This satanic revelation isn't even mentioned. What's wrong with Australia? And can we get the same infection?

A day later, our sexy atheist political pinup had already betrayed us:

You knew it was too good to be true. Julia Gillard has just announced that she is against gay marriage. The honeymoon is over, no more plaudits. At least we still have Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir to admire.

It's Not Just Trumka Anymore

Via Digby, AFSCME President Gerald McEntee brings the working people heat to the corporate elitists.

Digby comments:

I've been awfully impressed with the rhetoric coming from our union brothers and sisters lately. While all the villagers bob and weave and run from the hard truths they seem to have found their voices. It's natural that they would in a time of great stress on working people, but I'm not sure I would have always assumed they had it in them. It's good to see --- and very necessary.

"We can't leave it to the politicians. Too many of them think that what's good for corporate America is good for working people and that is bullshit."

Click here for more coverage.

Blue Dog Scumbag to the End

Mangy's "supporters" are all repugs who were never going to vote Democratic in November anyway, but it's good to have proof of his perfidy nevertheless.

From the Herald:

Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo said Tuesday that he is “not taking a position” in the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Rand Paul.

“I have spoken with Jack Conway the week after election day and haven’t heard from him since,” Mongiardo said Tuesday night before speaking at the Community Action Council’s Poverty Forum in downtown Lexington.

Mongiardo, a physician from Hazard, was defeated by Conway in the Democratic primary last month by less than 1 percentage point.

Awww, poor baby - Conway didn't beg for his support and hurt Mangy's tiny widdle feewings.

Look for Mangy to keep backstabbing Conway every chance he gets.

And he's lying about not challenging Beshear in next year's gubernatorial primary.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Repugs to Homeless Veterans: Fuck Off and Die

No, there truly is no depth to which Congressional republicans will not sink in their determination to destroy Barack Obama by beggaring the nation.

Steve Benen:

EVEN A BILL ON HOMELESS VETERANS.... Sen. Patty Murray's (D-Wash.) bill on homeless veterans seems like the kind of legislation that should be approved rather easily. But in this Senate, nothing's easy.

As the senator's office explained, her Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans With Children Act would "expand assistance for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children and would increase funding and extend federal grant programs to address the unique challenges faced by these veterans."

It was approved in committee with bipartisan support, and Murray brought it to the floor this morning, seeking unanimous consent. She didn't get it -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected on behalf of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who apparently was concerned about funding.

With an estimated 107,000 homeless veterans, this is pretty low, even for Republicans.

In a statement, Jim Manley, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, "Republicans have their priorities backwards -- according to them, it's OK to give tax breaks to CEOs who send American jobs overseas, but not to help out-of-work Americans and homeless veterans. As we've seen time and again, Republicans just want to protect special interests instead of working with Democrats to stand up for the middle class and get our economy back on track."

For her part, Murray vowed to "continue fighting," and urged Senate Republicans "to end their obstruction and allow homeless women veterans across the country to get the support they have earned."

Watch it and vomit:

Congratulations; It's a Depression

This is within President Obama's power to prevent. If he lets it happen, he will have proven once and for all that he is not the 11-dimensional chess player we desperately hope he really is, but is actually a pathetically naive and corporate-owned appeaser.

And he will richly deserve the overwhelmingly repug Congress resulting from his inaction, and the baseless impeachment they will impose.

We, however, do not and will not deserve the decades of Depression his failures are ensuring.

Paul Krugman:

Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as “depressions” at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.

Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.


In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.

As far as rhetoric is concerned, the revival of the old-time religion is most evident in Europe, where officials seem to be getting their talking points from the collected speeches of Herbert Hoover, up to and including the claim that raising taxes and cutting spending will actually expand the economy, by improving business confidence. As a practical matter, however, America isn’t doing much better. The Fed seems aware of the deflationary risks — but what it proposes to do about these risks is, well, nothing. The Obama administration understands the dangers of premature fiscal austerity — but because Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress won’t authorize additional aid to state governments, that austerity is coming anyway, in the form of budget cuts at the state and local levels.


So I don’t think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.
And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.

Plant vegetables.

Daniel Boone National Forest Is Not a Zoo; Hikers Beware

I've hiked in the Red River Gorge all my life, though not since Black Bears returned to the area in significant numbers a few years ago. What happened Sunday was a potential tragedy averted, but let it also be a reminder that forests are not Disneyland with too many trees.

From the Herald:

The Red River Gorge area in Daniel Boone National Forest is closed until further notice after what officials said was the first black bear attack on a human in modern Kentucky history.

Tim Scott, 56, of Springfield said he was hiking on Pinch-Em Tight Trail on Sunday when the bear attacked him without provocation about 2:15 p.m.


State wildlife officials are setting traps in the area to capture the bear and, until they have caught it or know that it has left the area, the Red River Gorge recreation area will be closed, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kimberly Morgan.

Scott said he thinks the bear should be euthanized: "Just like humans, there are some bad ones that need to be taken out of circulation."

But he added, "I have to defend the right of bears to be where they live. ... It was theirs before it was ours."

Steven Dobey, black bear program manager for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, said it's rare for black bears to attack unprovoked.

"The bear wasn't interested in the man's belongings. He was more interested in a predatory nature," Dobey said. "It's rare, but it has been known to happen."


Safety tips for black bear encounters

■ Never approach a black bear.

■ If you happen upon a bear, don't run. Back away slowly in the opposite direction.

■ Never hike alone; always hike with a group.

■ When camping, store food inside a bear-proof container or inside your vehicle. Never store food inside your tent.

For more safety tips, visit or

Read the whole thing and see pictures here.

The Real Reason Blackwater Is Still Getting Your Tax Dollars

For more than year now, only one person has gotten the ugly truth about murdering, criminal military contractor Blackwater: Jeremy Scahill at The Nation.

Now Scahill reveals the real reason Blackwater is still sucking up millions of taxpayer dollars in new government contracts:

In an interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week," CIA Director Leon Panetta made it clear that the Agency is dependent upon private security companies to operate globally. But, not just any private security companies. Specifically, Panetta said, the CIA needs Blackwater.


Blackwater is still Blackwater. Yes, the company changed its name and yes they hired some new figureheads and yes Erik Prince says he is selling the company and leaving the government services business. But let's be clear: this is a company that remains under serious investigation by multiple US agencies and Congress for a range of alleged crimes and violations. Among these are weapons charges, murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, making false statements and using shell companies to win contracts that may not have been awarded to Blackwater if the company's true identity was clear. Most recently, McClatchy revealed that "the U.S. government and the private military contractor are negotiating a multimillion-dollar fine to settle allegations that Blackwater violated U.S. export control regulations in Sudan, Iraq and elsewhere."


Panetta said that the CIA had reviewed Blackwater's work for the Agency "to ensure that first and foremost, that we have no contract in which they are engaged in any CIA operations," adding, "We're doing our own operations. That's important, that we not contract that out to anybody." This is simply an blatanly misleading statement.

I have talked with many US military and Blackwater sources who have told me point-blank that while Blackwater technically is hired for "security," they regularly are pulled into operations. The Blackwater guys are not dime store rent-a-cops. Many of them are former Navy SEALs or other US special forces veterans--precisely the type of men recruited by the CIA's paramilitary division for operations. The idea that the Blackwater guys are just standing around Afghanistan or any other war zone (declared or not) smoking cigarettes and admiring their tattoos while their colleagues who happen to officially work for the CIA chase the bad guys is simply not true. Blackwater forces have been a major part of sensitive US operations almost from the moment the US went into Afghanistan in 2001.


No one is paying any attention to what should be a major part of the story of Blackwater's thriving second marriage to the current Administration: the money trail. Blackwater has spent heavily this year on lobbyists—particularly Democratic ones. In the first quarter of 2010, the company spent more than $500,000 for the services of Stuart Eizenstat, a well-connected Democratic lobbyist who served in the Clinton and Carter administrations. Eizenstat heads the international practice for the powerhouse law and lobbying firm Covington and Burling.

Put that together with two other important facts about Blackwater and you get a clear picture of why this company continues to win contracts. First, Blackwater does have the market pretty well cornered on providing large numbers of seasoned special forces veterans, security clearance in-hand, ready for rapid deployment. This results from a dramatic over reliance on using private companies--specifically Blackwater-- for security that has expanded rapidly over the past decade. The US government has not moved to create its own force that could provide these services despite the need for them created by US foreign policy. Second, Blackwater has been involved with so many sensitive operations for a decade and knows where the bodies are buried and who buried them. Those are not the kind of people you simply cut loose without fear of consequences.

Blackwater has spent heavily on Democratic lobbyists in 2010 and clearly it has paid off. Despite the investigations, the indictments, the trail of dead bodies, George W Bush's favorite mercenary company is thriving under the Obama Administration. After its original sugar daddy left town, Blackwater has happily remarried. Over the past two weeks, the Administration has awarded nearly a quarter billion dollars in new US government contracts to Blackwater to work for the State Department and CIA in Afghanistan and other hot zones globally.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Not Another Dime; Not Another Life

So we've reached the everybody-knows-we've-lost-but-we're-still-wasting-lives-and-treasure stage of the Afghanistan clusterfuck.

Derrick Crowe at FireDogLake:

One of the gems buried in Michael Hastings’ now ubiquitous Rolling Stone article is a senior adviser to General McChrystal thanking his lucky stars for public ignorance of the state of the war:

Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn’t begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. "If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular," a senior adviser to McChrystal says.

Well, mission accomplished, gentlemen. Your little frat party managed to get everyone’s attention and, combined with a never-ending stream of gruesome milestones, it caused the bottom to drop out of public support for the Afghanistan War.

Read the whole thing.

At this point, the only people who think it's a good idea to stay in Afghanistan are criminal contractors like Blackwater and repugs who want to see the clusterfuck bring down President Obama.

In the Times, Bob Herbert doesn't say in so many words what his column nevertheless shouts: Why am I having to repeat something that is blindingly obvious to anyone with a brain the size of a pea?

We’ve been in Afghanistan for nearly a decade already. It’s one of the most corrupt places on the planet and the epicenter of global opium production. Our ostensible ally, President Hamid Karzai, is convinced that the U.S. cannot prevail in the war and is in hot pursuit of his own deal with the enemy Taliban. The American public gave up on the war long ago, and it is not at all clear that President Obama’s heart is really in it.

For us to even consider several more years of fighting and dying in Afghanistan — at a cost of heaven knows how many more billions of American taxpayer dollars — is demented.


In Afghanistan, we are playing a dangerous, half-hearted game in which President Obama tells the America people that this is a war of necessity and that he will do whatever is necessary to succeed. Then, with the very next breath, he soothingly assures us that the withdrawal of U.S. troops will begin on schedule, like a Greyhound leaving the terminal, a year from now.

Both cannot be true.


We are sinking more and more deeply into the fetid quagmire of Afghanistan and neither the president nor General Petraeus nor anyone else has the slightest clue about how to get out. The counterinsurgency zealots in the military want more troops sent to Afghanistan, and they want the president to completely scrap his already shaky July 2011 timetable for the beginning of a withdrawal.

We’re like a compulsive gambler plunging ever more deeply into debt in order to wager on a rigged game. There is no victory to be had in Afghanistan, only grief.

We’re bulldozing Detroit while at the same time trying to establish model metropolises in Kabul and Kandahar. We’re spending endless billions on this wretched war but can’t extend the unemployment benefits of Americans suffering from the wretched economy here at home.

The difference between this and a nightmare is that when you wake up from a nightmare it’s over. This is all too tragically real.

Call or email your members of Congress and tell them that Central Asian sinkhole is not worth another American dime, another American life.

Last Gasp of the Last Supreme Court Liberal

Everybody who thinks Elena Kagan would have voted with the majority on this one, stand on your head.

Steve Benen:

SUPREME COURT MAKES THE RIGHT CALL ON DISCRIMINATION.... There was quite a bit of activity this morning at the U.S. Supreme Court, in what I believe is the last day of the session, and John Paul Stevens' final day as a justice.

The court's ruling on a Chicago gun law will get most of the attention -- we'll get to that one later -- but I was especially interested in a case called Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The case may be familiar to regular readers of my "This Week in God" Saturday feature, but to briefly review, this was the year's biggest church-state case.

It's a pretty straightforward dispute. The University of California's Hastings College of the Law funds and recognizes student groups, but places limits on eligibility -- student groups can't discriminate on the basis of "race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation."

The chapter of the Christian Legal Society refused to allow LGBT students to join -- the group's materials decry "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle" -- and required members to sign a statement of faith. Hastings said the Christian Legal Society could still hold on-campus meetings, but could not receive funding and official recognition.

The CLS filed suit, claiming "discrimination" against their conservative Christian beliefs. The school argued that it is not legally required to subsidize groups that show prejudice towards other students.

Today, the Supreme Court sided with the school.

Read the whole thing.

The vote was 5-4, of course, with Ginsberg's opinion managing to attract swing vote Kennedy in addition to Sotomayor, Breyer and Stevens.

Enjoy it while you can, fellow First Amendment absolutists; I give it two years before the Court's Criminal Conservative Cabal and their new BFF Elena find a case to overturn it.

We Will Not See His Like Again

If all that history remembers of Robert Byrd is that he was a KKK-supported racist when racism was cool and that he delivered the speech below when such sentiments bordered on treason, he will still stand head and shoulders above 99 percent of the assholes who pass for U.S. Senators.

Via Firedoglake:

March 20, 2003

Part One

Full speech text here. It begins:

I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marveled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that underlie our great Republic. I have been inspired by the story of their sacrifice and their strength.

But, today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

John Nichols in The Nation:

Despite the sentiment for Clinton in his home state, however, Byrd explained that he was of the view that the election of a president was about the future of the nation and the world. And the Constitution-toting senator declared that "the stakes this November could not be higher."

With that in mind, Byrd gave his endorsement to Obama.

"Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support," said the senator who had been involved in Democratic politics long enough to have made the long transit from supporting segregationist to supporting an African-American for president.

Read the whole moving, brilliant thing.

Finally, the Rude Pundit remembers another moment when Byrd shamed the rest of the Senate over the Clinton impeachement:

The Congress had a job to do. Republicans wanted to stop everything else for a meaningless act of hubris and power-grabbing. Robert Byrd, disgusted at the White House, but more disgusted by his colleagues, just wanted to do the work of the people. And, voting to acquit, he warned in his statement at Clinton's impeachment trial of the poison that afflicts our nation:

"[H]atred is an ugly thing. It can seize the psyche and twist sound reasoning. I have seen it unleashed in all its mindless fury too many times in my own life. In a charged political atmosphere, it can destroy all in its path with the blind fury of a whirlwind. I hear its ominous rumble and see its destructive funnel on the horizon in our land today. I fear for our nation if its turbulent winds are not calmed and its storm clouds somehow dispersed."

Byrd hoped the nation would come together to heal. He hoped that "we can, together, crush the seeds of ugliness and enmity which have taken root in the sacred soil of our republic, and, instead, sow new respect for honestly differing views, bipartisanship, and simple kindness towards each other." And in words that ring true today as they did at the disgraceful end of the previous century, Byrd said, "We have much important work to do. And, in truth, it is long past time for us to move on."

Read the whole thing.

Robert Byrd embodied the long-lost dignity and gravitas of the Senate. With him gone, it is next to impossible to treat Congress as anything more than a sick joke.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Make More Liberals

Study after study after study over the past 40 years has revealed the fundamental failure of Democratic politics: Americans overwhelming support liberal policies - Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, environmental protection, energy conservation, human rights, civil rights, and every variety of regulation to keep corporations in line - yet consistently call themselves "conservative" and vote for politicans who oppose liberal policies.

SteveM has been saying for years that Democrats cannot turn that around until they figure out how to make more liberals. It's more critical than ever, as he explains:

Gallup today offers more evidence that conservatism is on the rise -- which I think is excellent news for conservatives and Republicans in the short run, not as good news as they think in the long run, and probably a disaster for the country over the next decade. I'll explain what I mean below.

Conservatives have maintained their leading position among U.S. ideological groups in the first half of 2010. Gallup finds 42% of Americans describing themselves as either very conservative or conservative....

As you can see, the percentage of people calling themselves liberal hasn't really changed much. (It's actually been slightly higher since Bush's reelection than it was during Bill Clinton's entire term, whatever that means.) The new conservatives, as the graph makes clear, are people who used to consider themselves moderates.

I've been talking about this for a while, in response to other Gallup polls showing similar results -- I've talked about Democratic politicians' failure to defend the notion of liberalism and about liberals' inability to compelling to heartland swing voters. I think this is yet another dire warning for liberals and Dems -- though I think it's a good news/bad news situation.

Moderates are becoming more conservative because conservatism, to them, now means whatever they want it to mean. Primarily, it means "opposition to whatever's going on right now." The right-wing noise machine is selling conservatism with descriptions that aren't particularly detailed -- less government! more freedom! what the Founding Fathers wanted! not socialism! tricorn hats! -- and nobody quite knows what any of that would be like if put into practice because right-wingers, while able to gum up the works in Congress, aren't able to advance their own legislation. So it's just a hopeful-sounding set of platitudes.

Unfortunately, it's going to be just that for another two years. I think Republicans are going to take the House, but Democrats will hold on to the Senate and, of course, the White House. House Republicans may overreach (fishing-expedition investigations? impeachment? attempted repeal of popular programs? the return of the the religious right's agenda?), but they still won't pass anything extreme. So their goals will still seem largely theoretical for another two years.

That's great for Obama and Democrats if the economy recovers -- but if this is turning into an economic "lost decade" (and I agree with Paul Krugman that it is), then right-wing ideology will have even more time to seem like the one thing we haven't tried -- the one thing that can save us.

If this scenario is right, there'll be even fewer moderates and even more conservatives at this time in 2012. And the GOP will take back the government the following November -- and, after that, voters will learn what right-wing Republicanism really is. They won't like it, but by then it will be too late.

Last week, he explained how those fundamentally liberal Americans who call themselves conservatives can be roused to the point of dragging even Conservadem Obama to the left.

I don't know for sure if the $20 billion fund BP has been pressured to create is a terrific or at least very good thing or less than meets the eye, but so far it seems like a win -- a good thing for the afflicted (if it's done right) and a serious bite taken out of BP. It looks like a win for Obama, too, after a disappointing weak-tea speech (the deal makes the speech seem like even more of a waste of time). The BP deal is revealing the true colors of corporatist Republicans like Michelle Bachman and Haley Barbour, at a time when the right wants to seem like America's populist wing. I'm seeing a lot of good here.

So it seems to me that the apolitical majority of Americans have done something that the left alone has never managed to do: they've pressured a reluctant Barack Obama to move to the left on an issue. When 71% of the country says the president has been too soft on BP and only 3% say he's been too tough, even the conflict-averse Obama responds. On the public option, on breaking up the big banks, on civil liberties, angry lefties alone have never managed to get this kind of response.

It's yet another indication that if the left wants to have any clout, it needs to make inroads among people in the vast middle -- many of whom are inclined to a basic liberalism but aren't fired up by the issues that move committed lefties. We need, as I've said, to make more liberals. We need to get a bigger percentage of the population on our side. And no, I don't know how to do that. I'm just analyzing the problem. The right, via talk radio and Fox, has politicized people who wouldn't have been politicized otherwise; the right has made politics compelling and entertaining, and made right-wing ideas seem to a lot of people like plain common sense. The left needs to find a way to do that for people who aren't ideologues now. The right alone can decide the fate of an issue because the committed right is fairly large; the left alone simply can't do that. It won't be possible until the left grows.

You can help grow liberals by reminding yourself what liberals have accomplished. Read and pass along this 2003 declaration "I am a Fighting Liberal."

Mudrake makes excellent points on the same subject.

Are Ya Scared Yet, Punk? Are Ya?

Step One: Encourage horrific gambling by banks to send the economy into a tailspin and destroy millions of middle-class jobs.

Step Two: Prevent Democratic leaders from restoring those jobs through a sufficiently large stimulus, then prevent Democratic leaders from relieving the resulting suffering with extended unemployment benefits.

Step Three: Terrorize the citizenry with threats of further disaster unless they agree to destroy the remaining shreds of their social safety net by eliminating social security and slashing domestic spending.

Brilliant! And working like a charm.

Daniel Dayen at Firedoglake:

The America Speaks meetings held in 19 cities across the country today (Saturday), funded to the tune of $1 billion dollars by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, were a study in how subtle messaging and deficit hyping can mold and shape opinions that move the public toward right-wing solutions about slashing social spending. Despite an insistence of neutrality, organizers of this series of town hall meetings allowed their agenda to show through, particularly in their presentation of options for how to deal with the nation’s fiscal future. But attendees in Los Angeles and around the country weren’t totally buying it in the first half of the meeting.

Read the whole thing.

Digby concludes:

Dday also concurs with my earlier impression that this was a very slickly designed program to steer people worried about the economy toward cuts in the safety net, which we all know is the real purpose of this thing. (It's amazing what a billion dollars can do...) The people who attended were mostly earnest, decent citizens who are legitimately worried about the future of this country. And they are being led very methodically into a belief that the biggest threat to that future is government spending on social programs.

Fight the fuckers with facts: click here for the facts on Social Security, and here for the facts on the deficit.

Back in My Day ....

Somebody sent me one of those stupid "I was born before indoor plumbing and in my day ...." emails that purports to shock with its revelations of how much American society had devolved in some asshole's relatively short lifetime - usually around 50 years.

Putting aside that most of the modern conveniences the asshole claims to be older than are actually far older than he realizes (indoor plumbing, of course, having been invented by the Romans about 2,300 years ago), let's see what happens when I make myself the subject of "back in my day" nostalgia.

I was born after:

And yet, I remember:
  • segregated toilets, restaurants and schools for "coloreds." Who were not allowed to vote.
  • homosexuality was never mentioned, much less discussed. Especially not at the funerals of gay suicides.
  • child abuse and wife-beating were ubiquitous but ignored, because the victims deserved it.
  • working women were fired for getting pregnant - working married women.
  • non-christians need not apply - for anything.
In my half-century of life, the biggest changes I have seen are the extension of civil and human rights to non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual, non-Xian people.

I have no nostalgia for the racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic, Nixonian nightmare of my childhood.

That racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic, wingnut freakazoid assholes do is tough shit for them. That they are less comfortable in this world is one of the things I like best about it.

Except for the music. I miss the music.

"If I can't dance, it's not my revolution" Happy 141st, Emma!

"I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."

It doesn't get more American than that.

Emma Goldman dedicated her life to the creation of a radically new social order. Convinced that the political and economic organization of modern society was fundamentally unjust, she embraced anarchism for the vision it offered of liberty, harmony and true social justice. For decades, she struggled tirelessly against widespread inequality, repression and exploitation.

Today her legacy is preserved at the Emma Goldman Papers project, and kept alive at shrines like this one in Iowa City, Iowa:

The Emma Goldman Clinic is a not-for-profit independent organization founded in 1973 by a group of women driven by feminist ideals. We exist to empower women and men in all life stages through the provision of quality reproductive health care that includes abortion services, gynecology services, safer sex promotion, and active education. We promote respectful, client-centered and participatory health care through informed decision making, client rights, advocacy and expansion, and support of pregnancy choices.

We strive to provide an environment in which diversity is acknowledged and celebrated. We are actively committed to staff diversity in employment policies and practices. We strive to increase economic, geographic, structural, and language accessibility for the clients we serve through fundraising, outreach, and advocacy.

We offer non-judgmental, quality health care services. Our goals are inspired by our belief in the larger ideals of feminist philosophy: political, economic, and social equality.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

No, There is No Crisis in Social Security

Whether you attend the next round of Lies Are Us "America Speaks" sessions or just need facts to shut up your Dittohead brother-in-law, masaccio at Firedoglake has your talking points.

Peter Peterson, billionaire Social Security hater, is opening a tiny door for actual Americans to explain to the rich why this time we aren’t going along with their plans to screw Social Security. I hope FDL readers will check out this site and make an appearance. You won’t be alone: MoveOn wants its members to show up too.

I have written several posts explaining my views, and by clicking here you can see all of FDLs posts on this subject. I have a draft paper which you can find here, which includes selected legislative history. That reading with your own stories will arm you to the teeth for a great speech. They won’t know what hit them.

Here are the points I think are most important.

1. We have paid excess Social Security taxes for 27 years to fill the Trust Fund.
2. We have $2.5 trillion in Treasury Bonds, accumulated from those excess taxes.
3. We should not have to pay twice, once to fill the Trust Fund and again to pay off the bonds.
4. This is exactly what the Greenspan Commission intended and promised: there would be money to pay for benefits, even as the baby boomers aged.
5. Anything less than full benefits is unfair all of us who paid excess FICA for years.

When they ask who will pay to redeem those bonds:
1. No body asks that question when we pay bonds held by Pete Peterson or Goldman Sachs or Japan.
2. The money funded tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, by taxing the poorest, while deficits piled up year after year.
3. Tax cuts during a deficit are loans.
4. Those tax cuts, those loans went to the wealthiest Americans.
5. Now those loans should be paid back by the people who got the tax cuts: the top 1%, those earning $400,000 per year and up.

Other points:
1. Social Security is pre-funded. Other government agencies do contracts for years without pre-funding. Why pick on the pre-funded programs instead of cutting unfunded programs?
2. Social Security is insurance, not welfare, and has been from the beginning.
3. People used to be able to save for retirement. They had pensions. And they had Social Security. In this Great Recession, savings are eaten up. Pensions were replaced with 401(k) plans, and the recession hammered those too. Homes used to be a possible source of money; that won’t happen now. Many people depend on Social Security. Taxing people more makes it harder for them to save. Making them work until they are falling down is obscene.
4. The people on the Commission aren’t poor, and they aren’t middle class. Who represents the poor and middle class?
5. The problem is health care. Congress refused to cut the future costs of health care. What does the Commission recommend about controlling health care costs? Will they have death panels?

Oh, sorry. The Commission doesn’t want any disagreeable people. Try to avoid words like death panel, fraud, cheat, liar and billionaire thug. I’d go for capitalist pig when referring to Peter Peterson, and running dog lackey for David Walker, his henchman.

Are Democrats Finally Learning How to Ratfuck?

Ratfucking is an American slang term for political sabotage or dirty tricks. It was first brought to public attention during the Watergate scandal investigation that during the 1972 presidential campaign the Nixon campaign committee maintained a "dirty tricks" unit focused on discrediting Nixon's strongest challengers.

If so, it figures that the first one who mastered it would be Alan Grayson.

The pieces of the Florida Tea Party puzzle are all a bit strange, and none fit together quite right. Republicans and activists say voters are being duped by former Democrats, an anti-tax radio host and college students who took an odd alliance and made it into an official third party -- the Florida Tea Party -- to put "TEA" on the ballot for the first time this fall. State Democrats were amused by the whole thing until several links between the Florida Tea Party group and Rep. Alan Grayson surfaced, complicating everything.

Grayson denies it, and we'll take him at his word, because it really doesn't matter. Even if Grayson did encourage Democrats to run for office on the Florida Tea party ticket, he's done nothing unethical, much less illegal.

Haven't the teabaggers been screaming all along that they're not republicans, they're independent? That their ranks include millions of non-white, non-repug, non-Xians?

But here's the best part: Simply by denying it, Grayson now has Florida repugs convinced he's a Machiavelli, manipulating every election in the state. He's got them running scared, possibly by doing nothing at all.

And he's exposed the weakness of both the teabaggers and the official repugs, while also showing Democratic candidates across the country that they don't have to settle for a blunt knife in this gun fight.

The Failed States of America

How do you define national failure? An economic crisis that lacks only political will to solve? A major political party deliberating sabotaging the nation to get back into power? Wasting trillions of dollars on losing wars that endanger national security? A media that deliberately traffics in lies? A corporate plutocracy murdering people and destroying whole ocean ecosystems with impunity?

If you did, America would fair even worse on the Failed State Index than it already does.

From Down with Tyranny:

No, this is not a post about Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. This week the Fund for Peace released their 6th annual Failed States Index. The part that scared me most was that, by their very sensible standards, there were only 13 "sustainable" countries-- and the U.S. wasn't one of them. Neither was Britain, Japan, or France, though they came closer than the U.S. They use 12 indicators to come up with overall scores for that are at work destabilizing each country: demographic pressures, refugee disasters (including internal displaced persons + chronic and sustained human flight), legacy of vengeance-seeking group grievance or group paranoia, uneven economic development along group lines (if you guess that the U.S. scores badly here, you've been paying attention), sharp and/or severe economic decline, criminalization and/or delegitimization of the state, progressive deterioration of public services, suspension or arbitrary application of the rule of law and widespread violation of human rights, security apparatus operates as a "state within a state," rise of factionalized elites, and intervention of other states or external political actors.

Overall, the 10 states with the highest scores, from bad to worse, are nuclear-armed Pakistan, Guinea, Central African Republic, Iraq, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chad, Somalia. Some of the other countries in the worst category include Lebanon, Iran, Uganda, North Korea, Ethiopia, Burma, Yemen, Nigeria and Haiti.

But when you take out countries that have been disintegrating-- like all of the ones mentioned above-- and you just focus on the relatively prosperous and stable developed nations, the U.S. looks like it has some real problems-- even over and above making problems for other countries. China, Israel, Russia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, South Africa and Brazil all score significantly worse than the U.S. On the other hand, the U.S. score (35.3) is closer to countries beginning to totter, like Greece (45.9), Italy (45.7) and Spain (43.5) than it is to top performers like Norway (18.7), Finland (19.3) and Sweden (20.9).

The Fund For Peace analysis of the U.S. data is very generous and makes no mention of the problems being caused by teabaggers, plutocrats and other conservative malcontents at all. Of the 5 core state institutions-- leadership, military (although this was written before General Stanley McCrystal's outrageous insubordination and Obama's inability to deal with it appropriately), police, judiciary and civil service-- everything is rated "excellent" except the judiciary (rated "good").

The U.S. has very highly developed state institutions, which give the state legitimacy rather than legitimacy resting with individual leaders or administrations. Except for incidents of disputed electoral counts which can be highly controversial (e.g., 2000 presidential election dispute in Florida), elections are largely viewed as free and fair, and citizens usually trust their elected representatives to make and vote for policies that will benefit them. Dissatisfaction with particular leaders can be expressed through regular elections with political figures limited to fixed terms and other electoral mechanisms: recalls, referenda, local and state elections; the press which is lively and free; and constitutional checks and balances among the three branches of government.

The U.S. military is strong. Military expenditures equal 4.06% of the GDP. The President is the chief of state and the commander-in-chief; thus, the military is under civilian control and generally accountable to the people. The military budget must be approved by Congress.

The police force is also widely viewed as protecting the people. There is no central police; state and local governments control their own forces. Police are accountable for their actions and police brutality is investigated and punished.

The judiciary is independent and federalized. Defendants have a right to legal counsel and a jury of their peers. Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life by the President, but must be approved by the Senate. There are accusations that African-Americans and other minorities do not get equal justice, however, and the prisons are disproportionally filled with minority offenders. Capital punishment is legal and controlled by the states. Controversy also exists over new legal procedures applied to suspected terrorists, who are not subject to either the civilian or military systems of justice. The represents a parallel justice system created fro reasons of national security. In addition, Congress has investigated partisan firing of federal attorneys, undermining the morale and structure of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The civil service is professional, and jobs are based on merit-based tests, well compensated, and offer good benefits.

The U.S. has a strong economy, though it is vulnerable to downturns at times. Its state institutions are sound and supported by constitutional foundations widely accepted by its citizens. However, the U.S. should work to decrease its national debt and create more jobs and better job security. The U.S. should also implement policies that decrease income inequality and uneven access to social services, such as health care. Its human rights policies in the fight against terrorism are controversial and have raised questions about the country’s adherence to international norms, treaties policies it helped create. However, while there is a domestic debate on civic rights issues, the general public has not felt that their liberties have been violated or compromised much by government measures taken in the name of national security.

Read the whole thing.

"Toughest Financial Reforms Since the Great Depression"

Sigh. I was hoping for a little Economics 101 lesson on why deficit spending in a recession actually cuts the deficit in addition to growing the economy. You know, to prevent the Great Depression hurtling toward us right now.

Full transcript here.

McConnell, Bunning Owe State $240 Million

That's how much they took away from Kentucky taxpayers Thursday when they refused to allow the U.S. Senate to vote on extending federal aid to hard-hit state budgets.

Gov. Steve Beshear says the state could come up nearly $240 million short early next year if a federal spending bill defeated by a Senate Republican filibuster doesn’t pass.

The spending measure defeated in Washington on Thursday includes a new round of aid to states.

Beshear said Friday that Kentucky is relying on the spending measure for a six-month extension of a higher federal Medicaid match that is to last until year’s end. Medicaid is the state-federal health insurance program that covers about 790,000 low-income and disabled Kentuckians.

Beshear said that having to re-balance the budget to offset the loss of nearly $240 million would be a “horrendous” task. He said virtually every state program would face significant reductions.

The $17.3 billion, two-year budget that takes effect Thursday already included broad spending cuts.

Make no mistake; congressional republicans don't give a flying fuck about the deficit except how they can use it to prevent Democrats from fixing the economic crisis. They want the country to fall into Depression - as long as they can blame it on Democrats in time for the November election.

Friday, June 25, 2010

No, Cutting the Deficit Will Not Help the Economy

Digby solves a mystery:

FAIR does an overview of the polls which show that the beltway obsession with the deficit is not, in fact, shared by the country.

But I did want to highlight this one piece of evidence supporting my contention that to the extent people do care about --- they just don't understand it:

And with all the media hysteria over federal spending and the deficit, the public seems to have a somewhat muddled view of why it’s even an issue. A recent Pew/National Journal survey (6/17-20/10) that found 74 percent of respondents believed that--contrary to what most economists would tell you--"budget cuts to reduce the federal deficit" would help create jobs. The same poll found similarly wide majorities seeing job creation from additional spending on public works programs, more aid to state and local governments, and cutting business and income taxes--all policies that would increase the deficit. Surveys in which the public ranks these conflicting priorities consistently give the deficit little emphasis.

I have thought from the beginning of the crisis that this was a problem. I could tell from some conversations I was having that people were under the misapprehension that the deficit caused the recession and that ending the deficit is the only way to fix the economy. Many wingnuts are making that explicit claim.

This is one of the reasons why I have been so frantic that the administration was feeding into the deficit hysteria. They don't seem to get that people don't actually care about "the deficit," they care about "the economy" and they fail to make a distinction between the two, especially since we have right wing wrecking crew that makes a point of conflating the two.

It's a problem.

So how do you fight ignorance and misunderstanding? With facts.
masaccio at Firedoglake has them:

America Speaks is holding public meetings to teach people about the deficit. I hope progressives and FDL people will attend. Here is a link to the locations. Yesterday I put up talking points on Social Security here. In comments, letsgetitdone points out correctly that we aren’t driving the agenda, and the leaders will no doubt whip up the deficit hysteria with bogus figures and theories. Here are some basic talking points.

0. This stuff is complicated. Your goal is simply to put these ideas into play, to make people think. You are fighting uphill, because very few people understand these points, and because the leaders have been lying to people about these issues for years. Try to pound these in this order.

1 Government economics aren’t like household economics. Governments print money. Households don’t and can’t. The analogy is false. Reasoning with false analogies is fraudulent. If they argue back, point out that the Fed created trillions of dollars to rescue Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. Make a note of any response you get on this and let me know.

2. There is no deficit crisis. If there were a crisis, we would know because the cost of borrowing money would be going up. Interest rates are very low and will not go up in the near future according to the Fed. If anyone talks about credit default swaps, point out that they are unregulated, there is no real market for them, and they are easily and legally manipulated.

3. Cutting safety net programs and raising taxes on the middle class in the middle of a terrible recession is cruel and vicious, and only a thug would do it. Same goes for cutting school teachers and police.

4. Cutting spending on socially useful programs in the middle of a great recession is just stupid economics, and everyone who took Economics 101 knows that.

5. If the deficit crisis is so bad, we should increase taxes on the wealthy. They got big tax cuts while we were running huge unnecessary and useless deficits. Those tax cuts are a loan, as competent economists like Krugman and DeLong and others have said. If the deficit is so horrible, it is time to call in those loans.

6. If the deficit crisis is so bad, we should increase taxes on the rich, they are the ones who caused the deficits and caused the Great Crash. They can afford to pay the taxes. We can’t.

7. Deficits which fund useful programs like infrastructure, research and education have long-run positive effects. Deficits to give huge tax cuts to the wealthy, or pay for wars or military spending in foreign countries or corn subsidies are bad. They leave nothing for the future. Cut those programs.

8. Be on the alert for trickle-down economics. For example, if you hear leaders of the meeting say that raising taxes on the rich means they won’t invest in productive enterprises, or anything similar, insist that this is the trickle-down theory, which is nonsense.
a) Say it hasn’t trickled down on me. Getting people to laugh at stupid is a good way to shut stupid down.
b) Here is a post that discusses the issue. Here is a Wall Street Journal piece titled Trickle-down Economics Fails to Deliver as Promised, reporting on a study from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
c) The New York Times reports that private equity hedge funds are sitting on $500 billion because they can’t find good investments. That means that finding capital to create productive enterprises isn’t a real problem, the problem is misallocation of resources by the rich. Here’s a link.

Hold your ground. We are right about this, and they are wrong. They are trying to hurt the country, you are trying to stop them.

Most of the current America Speaks events are scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, June 26, but more will be scheduled soon.

Number 91

Kentucky's 91st sacrifice to the gods of futile clusterfucks, Iraq/Afghanistan division, is Private First Class Russell E. Madden, 29, of Dayton, Ky., who died June 23 at Charkh district, Konar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle with rocket fire. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Conn Barracks, Germany.

Dayton is a Northern Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati. Its local paper, the Kentucky Post, stopped printing a couple of years ago and now exists only online. But it managed to summon the resources to interview Pfc. Madden's family:

The family of a Bellevue, Kentucky soldier killed in Afghanistan are on their way to Dover Air Force Base to bring him home.

The father of 29-year-old Private First Class Russell Madden's says his son was his hero.

Russell Madden's father says his son wanted to be on the frontline to help his fellow soldiers fight the war in Afghanistan.

He says his son was killed after his convoy was hit by a rocket Wednesday.

Russ, as many of his family and friends called him, was on his first tour of duty.

His father, Martin Madden says his son was assigned as the lead gunner for convoy escorts.

Mr. Madden says his son had sent him an Airborne flag for Father's Day.

He says he told his wife, Russ's mother, that he would only fly it on special occasions.

He didn't think he would need to fly it less than a week after Father's Day.


Russ Madden leaves behind his wife, two sons, a 12-year-old and a 5-year-old, his mother, father and two siblings.

His family says he joined the Army to help offer his family stability.

One of his son's had been in and out of the hospital, so the medical benefits the Army offered was an attractive incentive for him to enlist.

Did you catch that? He joined the Army in wartime so his chronically ill son could get health coverage.

Read the whole infuriating thing.

Yesterday, the republican minority in the U.S. Senate put a gun to the head of 15 million Russ Maddens out there by preventing the Democratic majority from voting to extend unemployment benefits in the middle of the worst recession in 75 years.

And because of it, People. Are. Dying.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Of pots, kettles and degrees of blackness thereof"

From our good friend Blue Girl at They Gave Us A Republic ...., because I could not say it better:

I wanted to get back to something from last night's roundup that didn't shock me nearloy as much as you would think...the fellow from Raytown, MO - just a few miles from me - who put the semi-trailer out in his field with the "Democrats - party of parasites" message painted on the side for oncoming traffic to see is, shall we say, engaging in the dark conservative art of projection.

Someone saw it and got outraged and torched the damned thing.

Then the news broke yesterday that David Jungerman, the man who owns the land and the trailer, has received over $1.1 million in farm subsidies since 1995 - and somehow feels like he is more entitled to that money than a single mother is to $500 in food stamps per month to keep her kids well-nourished, healthy and less likely to cost society a lot of money down the road.

What Mr. Jungerman didn't say - because he didn't have to - is that Democrats are the party of minorities and the poor - the "parasites" of society in the Randian worldview. He, of course, feels entitled to farm subsidies because “That’s just my money coming back to me. I pay a lot in taxes. I'm not a parasite."

Hmmm. Let's do some math. If a person received $500 worth of food stamps for the last fifteen years, they would have consumed about $90,000 in government largess. That is a significantly smaller number than $1.1 million, less than 10%, in fact. So would the real parasite please stand up? Because I will guaran-damn-tee you that the parasitic, racist old fuck hasn't paid in anywhere close to $1.1 million in taxes.

Another Populist Running for Congress in Kentucky

Last night I posted a video of KY Democratic congressional challenger Ed Marksberry, praising his populist stances on jobs, health care and national security.

I am embarassed that I completely missed another Kentucky Democratic populist challenger in the Fifth District, Jim Holbert. Down with Tyranny has the scoop:

Two years ago Kentucky populist Jim Holbert ran for Congress, as an independent, against slick GOP corporatist Hal Rogers. Jim was against the war then and, running as a Democrat this year, he's against the war now. His opponent, known locally as the "King of Pork," is loaded with corporate campaign cash and Jim is running a grassroots campaign but with Democratic enthusiasm running high-- in part because of the face-off between Jack Conway and a bewigged Cookie Monster in the Senate race-- Jim is ready to surprise the usual crew of Beltway pundits and prognosticators who have already declared Rogers reelected.

When he ran against Rogers last time he told me it was "out of a sense of outrage that games were being played while the country was melting down." Following the 2008 election, where he garnered 16% of the vote while Rogers outspent him 300-to-1, Jim re-registered as a Democrat, continued building a base of popular support, and has emerged as the Democratic nominee to take on Rogers this November, winning 41% of the vote in the Kentucky three-way primary held on May 18th.

Jim's platform has remained consistent, and he pulls no punches. "We need an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a commitment to returning jobs to America and moving toward a full-employment economy, and a national energy plan that makes sense for America's future," he says.

Jim's stand on the issues is backed by twenty years of military service as an officer in the Army and Coast Guard, and experience as a professional pilot working throughout America and overseas. You can learn about Jim's campaign at and you can donate to his campaign through ActBlue. Between McChrystal's insubordination yesterday and Marshall's spectacular win as an anti-war candidate, I got in touch with Jim, a career military officer, and asked him to pen a guest post on Afghanistan.

Read Holbert's guest post here.

Down with Tyranny concludes with this video of Holbert:

Watch how a real populist talks to voters without playing the Republican-lite game:

Dear Suddenly-Environmentalist Southern Baptists: Fuck You

No. You don't get to spend 40 years accusing environmentalists of being The Source of All Evil in the Universe, then suddenly beg for protection when the pollution washes up in your yard.

From the Courier:

As the BP oil disaster poisons the waters off the states where many of them live, Southern Baptists are issuing their most sweeping call ever for something they have long distrusted -- government regulation of the environment.

And a Louisville seminary dean who helped push through that resolution says the catastrophe has the potential to galvanize conservative evangelicals just like the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

"In many ways, this ecological catastrophe can provide the exact same awakening for evangelicals," said Russsell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and chairman of the resolutions committee at last week's meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla.

In the resolution, passed overwhelmingly, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, with 16 million members, called on "governing authorities to act ... with undeterred resolve to end this crisis."

First rule for the $20 billion Gulf compensation fund: if you have ever, in your lifetime, expressed opposition to government regulation to protect the environment, you get ... not one fucking dime.

Your self-righteous, anti-government, god-bothering lies undermined 75 years of progress in this country, and now you're reaping the lethal, oily shit you sowed.

Protecting Mexican Workers the Only Way to Keep Them Home

Want to stop illegal immigration from Mexico? Tell President Obama to make the Mexican government stop attacking its own workers.

David Bacon in The Nation:

When the Mexican government moved to bust the three-year miners' strike in Cananea on June 6, it brought 2,000 Federal Police into the tiny mountain town in the state of Sonora—two cops for every striker. As darkness fell and helicopters clattered overhead, they charged the gate with riot shields and batons, filling the streets with tear gas. Miners retreated to the union hall with their families, and the police followed, barricading the doors and lobbing more tear gas inside.

The union's leaders were already in hiding, since the police had arrest warrants for them all. Manny Armenta, an organizer for the United Steel Workers who's probably spent more time in Cananea than at home in Arizona, helped lead women and children down fire escapes and through the basement to safety.

The same day, police moved on the widows of sixty-five miners who had died in an explosion four years ago at the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in Coahuila. Women were forcibly removed from the mine gates where they'd been camping, asking for their husbands' bodies. Grupo Mexico, the mining and railroad giant that owns both facilities, is closing the mine for good without recovering the men's remains.

Both the Cananea strike and the widows' protests highlight extremely unsafe conditions in Mexican mines. At Cananea, silicosis-causing dust from crushed copper ore rises to miners' knees inside the buildings. Grupo Mexico disconnected the dust extractors several years ago, in retaliation for earlier protests. At Pasta de Conchos, dozens of uncorrected violations for dangerous methane buildup preceded the 2006 explosion.

But the Cananea strike goes beyond health and safety issues. For three years the Mexican Union of Mine, Metal and Allied Workers, commonly known as the Mineros, has challenged the National Action Party (PAN), which has governed Mexico since 2000, and its corporate backers, especially Grupo Mexico and its owners, the Larrea family. In turn, Mexican President Felipe Calderón has systematically sought to destroy the Mineros, as well as other unions that defy him. Last fall he fired 44,000 members of the left-wing Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) and dissolved their state-owned employer, the Power and Light Company of Central Mexico.

Progressive unions believe that destroying the SME would remove another union challenge while preparing the way for privatizing electrical power generation. SME members fasted in protest and were beaten this spring at the gates to the power plants.

In the face of these attacks, the Obama administration has been silent. Armenta believes the attack on Cananea's miners is the consequence not just of Calderón's antilabor policies but also of tacit US support for them. "Our government continues to give the Mexican government millions and millions of dollars, saying it will be used to fight drugs," says Armenta. "But we see here clearly that this money is going to fight workers and progressive people."


Smashing the Cananea strike will lead to the same massive firings that followed an earlier lost strike in 1998, and the destruction of the union in Nacozari in 2006. When that happened, waves of desperate miners, unable to find other employment, crossed the border into the United States as undocumented workers.

"Especially here in Arizona with the new law, all we hear about is illegal immigrants," Armenta says. "But our own government is creating this problem. I condemn the Mexican government, and Grupo Mexico. But I also condemn the US government for allowing this to happen, for not taking any action. What do they think will happen here? Where do they think all the miners will have to go?"

Read the whole thing.

Then email or call President Obama and tell him to stop Mexico from creating more illegal immigrants.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

KY-2nd Challenger Standing Up for Workers - Literally

He's a country guy with a country accent and a country look, but he speaks Pure Populist straight from the heart. He's challenging anti-worker, anti-family repug and BP apologist Brett Guthrie. And right now he's the biggest and bravest Real Democrat in Kentucky.

Kentucky's own Hillbilly recorded Ed Marksberry out on the streets protesting with Whirlpool workers losing their jobs to Mexico.

The plant is located in Evansville, Indiana, right across the river from Henderson, Kentucky, where many of its workers live. From the New York Times:

Having seen her father make a solid living at the Whirlpool refrigerator factory, Natalie Ford was enthusiastic about landing a job there and was happy years later when her 20-year-old son also went to work there.

But that family tradition will soon end because Whirlpool plans to close the plant on Friday and move the operation to Mexico, eliminating 1,100 jobs here. Many in this city in southern Indiana are seething and sad — sad about losing what was long the city’s economic centerpiece and a ticket to the middle class for one generation after another.

“This is all about corporate greed,” said Ms. Ford, who took a job at Whirlpool 19 years ago. “It’s devastating to our family and to everyone in the plant. I wonder where we’ll be two years or four years from now. There aren’t any jobs here. How is this community going to survive?”

At a time when the nation’s economy is struggling to gain momentum, Whirlpool’s decision is an unwelcome step backward. It continues a trend in which the nation has lost nearly six million factory jobs over the past dozen years, representing one in three manufacturing jobs.

Connie Brasel, who earned $18.44 an hour making thermal liners for the refrigerators, sees Whirlpool’s move as a betrayal not just of the workers but also of the United States.

“This country made Whirlpool what it is,” she said. “They didn’t get world-class quality because they had the best managers. They got world-class quality because of the U.S. and because of their workers. And now they want to pack up and move to Mexico. I find it offensive.”

Whirlpool has operated the plant since 1956, and at the factory’s peak in 1973 it employed nearly 10,000 workers.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars concludes:

Our country is missing a strong industrial policy, with an administration and Congress that chooses which manufacturers are important to support --and why. As long as economic disasters like this are repeated all over the country, I don't think Democrats are going to be pleasantly surprised this November.

Ed Marksberry is a carpenter who understands jobs have to come first, a veteran opposed to stupid wars that make us less safe, a fiscal realist who knows only millions of new jobs and health care reform will reduce the deficit.

He sounds a lot more like the rural "real Americans" of the Second District than the incumbent does.

The Ugly, Painful, Disturbing Must-Read of the Week

I don't want to think, much less read about this either. But it's a human rights abomination happening thousands of times every day all across the country and making rehabilitation of both victims and perpetrators impossible.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

The Washington Post published this two weeks ago, but unless he releases something today, Attorney General Eric Holder has missed the deadline, condemning thousands more to sexual assault in prison:

"RAPE IS VIOLENT, destructive, and a crime -- no less so when the victim is incarcerated." These were the opening words of a report delivered to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last June by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. By law, the attorney general was given one year to consider the report's recommendations and issue standards to reduce the scourge of sexual violence in the nation's prisons. The Justice Department is about to miss its June 23 deadline -- and probably by a shamefully wide margin.

The department will not say, but those following this issue closely estimate that the Justice Department is unlikely to take action until the end of this year. At that time, federal prisons will be obligated to adopt whatever standards Justice approves. State and local facilities will not be forced to embrace the measures for another year after that. In the meantime, more prisoners -- including juveniles -- will have been senselessly brutalized.

This is such a basic impulse of human decency, to keep prisoners from being sexually brutalized -- and the thing is, the report had solid bipartisan support. As far as I can tell, the only people who oppose it are the corrections officials, who don't want anyone looking over their shoulder while they ignore prisoners getting gang raped -- or molested by guards. So I don't have a clue why Holder hasn't acted.

Even the screwed-up people who believe prisoners deserve whatever happens might want to give some thought to the fact that prison rape happens frequently to innocent people who are being held in custody until they're released without charges. Maybe even those sick bastards might give some thought to the possibility of their 17-year-old kid being raped by an HIV-positive convict after their kid's held for DUI.

Because even in this Taser-lovin' America of ours, people might still see the injustice of inflicting a life sentence like HIV on someone who hasn't even been found guilty of a major crime.

And that's not even looking at the fate of gay prisoners, who are treated like sex slaves while guards and prison officials look the other way.

Click here to read the harrowing testimony and see the NSFW video.

Berry Turns His Back on UK

Wendell Berry has been the voice of Kentucky's farms and mountains and rivers for half a century. Now the integrity that defines his work has led him to reject the Commonwealth's flagship university.

Cheryl Truman at the Herald:

Wendell Berry, perhaps Kentucky's best-known writer, is pulling many of his personal papers from the University of Kentucky's archives to protest the naming of Wildcat Coal Lodge.

Berry excoriated his alma matter (sic) in a Dec. 20, 2009, letter, saying the decision to name a new dorm for UK basketball players the Wildcat Coal Lodge "puts an end" to his association with the university.

"The University's president and board have solemnized an alliance with the coal industry, in return for a large monetary 'gift,' granting to the benefactors, in effect, a co-sponsorship of the University's basketball team," Berry wrote in the typewritten letter. "That — added to the 'Top 20' project and the president's exclusive 'focus' on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — puts an end to my willingness to be associated in any way officially with the University."

Berry, among the most revered of Kentucky writers and a former recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, told the university "it is now obviously wrong, unjust and unfair, for your space and work to be encumbered by a collection of papers that I no longer can consider donating to the University."

The papers, which measure 60 cubic feet in volume and would fill about 100 boxes, remain at UK while Berry negotiates their transfer to the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. He said the papers include letters he has received over the years, drafts of various books and corrected proofs.

Berry, 75, said UK's push to become a "Top 20" research university has caused it to stray from its land-grant university obligation to address Kentucky's problems.

"The coal business came up, and that for me was just the last straw," Berry said Tuesday. "I don't think the University of Kentucky can be so ostentatiously friendly to the coal industry ... and still be a friend to me and the interests for which I have stood for the last 45 years. ... If they love the coal industry that much, I have to cancel my friendship."

The University of Kentucky Press published some of Berry's many books of essays, poetry and fiction that focused on the relationship between people and the land, including The Unforeseen Wilderness, a collection of photographs and essays that may have helped save the Red River Gorge from an Army Corps of Engineers dam project in 1971.

Wendell Berry is a state treasure, Kentucky's environmental conscience and a nationally-revered writer whose works will outlive UK's basketball program. This is a wake-up call for UK, but it's hitting the snooze button.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Firing's Too Good for Him

Wonkette nails it:


Buzz Feedback: “Old Abe there in the background must be shitting his stovepipe to see the Negro commanding the General. Sort of.”

Neilist: Actually, Old Abe was thinking: “Another MUTHERFOOKIN George B. McClellan. Fire his ASS, Darky. (Oh, and sing another one of those Negro Spirituals, would you?).”

Read the whole thing.

Then check out Blue Girl's take.

R.I.P. Free Speech, 1791-2010

Attention Hamas: I strongly recommend that you adopt peaceful non-violent civil disobedience in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King as the best way to force Israel to lift the blockade in Gaza.

There. I've just committed a crime in the eyes of the Obama MALadministration. Come get me, motherfuckers.

David Cole:

According to today’s Supreme Court decision, advocating for human rights and peace can be prosecuted as a “terrorist” crime, punishable by 15 years in prison.

It does not matter that the speaker intends to support only nonviolent activity, and indeed seeks to discourage a resort to violence. It does not matter if the speech in fact convinces its listeners to abandon violence.

For the first time ever, the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment permits the criminalization of pure speech advocating lawful, nonviolent activity. The court reasoned that it is conceivable that such speech might burnish a designated group’s image, and thereby “legitimize” it, and therefore Congress can make all such speech a crime.

This has nothing to do with terrorism or law enforcement or national security.

This is about destroying the foundation of American liberty: unfettered free speech.

The Criminal Conservative Cabal that runs the Supreme Court has declared constitutional a law making speech advocating legal activities illegal.

When did we repeal the First Amendment? Because only after repealing the First Amendment could any member of the reality-based community find this totalitarian abomination "constitutional."

And who was our UnDemocratic, UnAmerican, Anti-First-Amendment winning lawyer? None other than Solicitor General and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Liberal my ass.

Although the Liberal Lion Lamb she is replacing - John Paul Stevens - voted with the frightwingers in blasting the First Amendment into smithereens.

Cole continues:

In the past, the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment protected even the right to advocate criminal activity, so long as one’s advocacy was not intended and likely to produce an imminent crime. And it ruled that citizens had a right to associate with a group engaged in both legal and illegal activities, as lone as they intended to further only the group’s lawful activities.

Today, by contrast, the court rules that speech advocating only lawful, nonviolent activity can be made a crime, and that any coordination with a blacklisted group can land a citizen in prison for 15 years.

The decision has deeply disturbing implications. It means that when President Jimmy Carter did election monitoring in Lebanon, and met with all of the parties to the election — including Hezbollah, a designated “terrorist group” — to provide them with his advice on what constitutes a fair election, he was committing the crime of providing “material support,” in the form of “expert advice.”

It means that when The New York Times and The Washington Post published op-eds by a Hamas leader, they were engaged in the crime of providing “material support” to a designated terrorist group, because to publish the op-ed they had to coordinate with a spokesperson from Hamas.

And it means that my clients, a retired judge and an established human rights group, cannot continue to work for peace and human rights without risking long prison terms.

Those who defend this law often focus on the provision of funds — not at issue before the Supreme Court — and argue that money is fungible, and can be used for any purpose.

But human rights advocacy is not fungible. It cannot be turned into guns and bullets. It is designed to persuade, not coerce. It is, in short, what the First Amendment is all about. But it is now a crime, and according to this Supreme Court, the First Amendment poses no obstacle to its suppression.

Read the whole thing.

Digby concludes:

The bottom line is that money is now considered equivalent to speech in more ways than just electioneering. If you believe that multi-national corporations are exercising a right to free speech by spending unlimited funds to influence elections to their benefit, then you would naturally assume that exercising your right to free speech to influence organizations is equivalent to giving them money. The consistent concept for this court isn't free speech at all, it's their belief that money equals speech. I don't find this outcome surprising in the least. Once you make the leap then this is the logical outcome. And I would guess it won't be the last time we see this.

The Real Violence on the Border

In yet another example of how every accusation the repug frightwingers hurl at others (stealing elections, raising the deficit, violating the Constitution) are actually confessions of their own behavior, the immigrant bashers in Arizona screaming about a non-existent crime wave are doing the murdering themselves.

David Neiwert at Crooks and Liars:

There was a funny smell to the way Arizona's police-state immigration law was passed -- especially the way factions with ties to white supremacists whipped up the phantom menace of a wave of crime associated with illegal immigration, focusing on the still-unsolved murder of a border rancher named Robert Krentz, even though officially the crime is being laid at the doorstep of Mexican drug cartels -- but even on that score, the truth is unclear at best. Notably, the Arizona Daily star reports that the chief suspect in the crime lives in the USA, not in Mexico.

Moreover, as Sam Seder acidly observes, the entire claim that crime has skyrocketed in Arizona is so much cattle offal. In fact, violent crime in Arizona has been steadily declining in recent years.

It kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it, why Arizonans -- and particularly the Arizona media, not to mention the national media -- never picked up on the case of Shawna Forde and her gang of rogue Minutemen, who invaded the home of a Latino family near the border in Arizona and shot them, killing the father and his 9-year-old daughter in cold blood as she pleaded for her life, and wounding the mother -- who managed to get her own gun and shoot back, wounding one of the killers.

Even more incredible, really, is that this 911 call from the wounded mother received so little attention at the time, much less that it did not become a focus of Arizonans fretting about violent crime:


What brings all this into laser focus is what's actually happening right now on the Arizona border: Latinos (some of them American citizens bearing blood-soaked birth certificates) are being shot and killed, and it's beginning to appear that white vigilantes -- not Mexican drug gangs -- are doing the killing.

Read the whole thing and watch the video here.

Brett Guthrie and Geoff Davis Say YOU Should Pay to Clean Up BP's $20 Billion Mess

Guthrie (R-KY 2) and Davis (R-KY 4) are the two Kentucky members of the BP 114.

Steve Benen:

'THE BP 114'.... Democrats have made no secret of the fact that they want to keep exploiting Republican support for BP as the midterm elections draw closer. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and his infamous apology are clearly at the forefront of the effort, but also keep an eye on "The BP 114."

As we talked about last week, even before Barton started groveling to BP CEO Tony Hayward, the Republican Study Committee issued a statement condemning the White House for securing a $20 billion relief fund for Gulf Coast families and businesses, calling it a "Chicago-style political shakedown." The Republican Study Committee didn't extend an apology to BP, but in every other way, the RSC's statement was just as outrageous as Barton's. Indeed, they used largely the same language.

The Republican Study Committee has 114 House members, so the goal for Dems is to tie the pro-BP sentiment to each of the contingent's members. And thus "The BP 114" was born.

"While a Republicans criticized Barton once he became a PR problem, not a single member disagreed with the RSC attack on the accountability fund which happened the day before Barton's comments," noted DNC national press secretary Hari Sevugan.

To that end, the DNC sent out emails to the districts of the 114 members of the committee, which included tools allowing recipients to easily call local radio stations and express opinions on the members. The DNC also started running Google ads redirecting users who search for members of the committee to a Democratic-hosted page criticizing RSC members for their views on the oil spill.

If House Republicans are smart, they'll take the talking point away from Democrats, and formally distance themselves from the Republican Study Committee's BP-sympathizing statement. If RSC members say they disagree with their contingent's attack, it'll be tough for Dems to go after all of the group's members.

But either way, Dems like the hand they're playing -- if Republican Study Committee members stand by the group's statement, they're taking BP's side at an inopportune time. If RSC members denounce their own group's line, Dems are sowing seeds of division among Republicans.

Or they would be, if those emails to voters in all 114 districts had actually gone out. But Democratic activists in both Davis' and Guthrie's districts say they have received no such emails from the DNC.

Of course, if the DNC had not spent the last 20 years purging its ranks and mailing lists of actual Democratic activists, they might be able to reach the people who could do something with this information.

But I'm pretty sure the DNC's email list consists almost entirely of Blue Dogs, DINOs, Conservadems and other repug-fellators who forwarded the "BP 114" email to all their repug friends for a good laugh.