Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quote of the Day

From Rumproast:

Chris Hitchens calls Beck’s 9/28 rally “the Waterworld of white self-pity.

Health Care Reform Bringing Millions of Dollars to KY - Run for Your Lives!

If you're an early retiree or an employer carrying an early retiree on your company health insurance, your life just got easier, cheaper and more secure.

Thanks to that ni**er in the White House.

Jake has the details:

Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that tons of Kentucky businesses, unions and government organizations have been accepted into the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. The program helps maintain coverage for early retirees aged 55+ who aren’t yet eligible for Medicare. Those accepted receive reimbursement for medical claims.

“In these tough economic times, it is difficult for employers to keep up with skyrocketing health care costs for employees and retirees. Many Americans who retire before they are eligible for Medicare see their life savings disappear because of medical bills and exorbitant rates in the individual health insurance market,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “The Affordable Care Act’s Early Retiree Reinsurance Program will make it a little easier for employers to provide high-quality health benefits to their retirees as we work to put in place market reforms to lower costs for all.”

Those accepted during the first round in Kentucky:

* AFL-CIO Health & Welfare Fund
* Commonwealth of Kentucky
* Glass, Molders, Plastics International Union
* Kentucky Education Association
* Kentucky Laborers District Council Health & Welfare Fund
* Lexmark International, Inc.
* Lexmark International, Inc.
* Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 502 Health and Welfare Fund
* Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union No. 248 Health & Welfare Fund
* Uranium Disposition Services, LLC
* YUM! Brands, Inc.
* Zeon Chemicals L.P.

Read the whole thing.

Hmm, That's a Toughie ....

I'll take Obama Yet Again Fucks Over The Liberals That Got His Ass Elected for $500, Alex.

OK, the answer is "At least 20 in as many minutes."


Yes, Yellow Dog?

How many times in his Oval Office speech tonight will Barack Obama give all the credit for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq to George W. Bush and the "surge?"

That is correct!

Kevin Drum:

Marc Ambinder comments on Barack Obama's primetime Iraq speech tonight:

Now then: will he take the bait dangling from Republican hooks and give President Bush credit for the surge?


Since it's a slow news day, let's mull this over. First take: can you imagine anything that would piss off the liberal base more than acknowledging that the surge worked? You'd be able to hear the steam coming out of lefty ears from sea to shining sea. Second take: Even if he decided to do it anyway, would it be worthwhile?


Third take: Forget it. Not only would mentioning the surge piss off liberals, but it would also imply some kind of "victory" in Iraq, and surely Obama can't be dimwitted enough to come within a light year of claiming that, can he?


Oh, that Kevin - what a kidder!

Name three times in the last 18 months that President Obama has not taken the repugs bait.

Name one.

Yeah, exactly.

"Clean Coal" = Toxic Dumps Everywhere

The coal industry simply has no upside. From the first blast into coal-bearing rock to the last belch of planet-broiling gases from smokestacks, it's an unmitigated march of destruction: dead and disabled miners, poisoned water, leveled forests, crushed homes, feudal economies, impoverished communities, corrupted politics and climate catastrophe.

Not to mention that all-time industrial favorite: toxic waste dumps.

From Renee Schoof at McClatchy:

A study released on Thursday finds that 39 sites in 21 states where coal-fired power plants dump their coal ash are contaminating water with toxic metals such as arsenic and other pollutants, and that the problem is more extensive than previously estimated.

The analysis of state pollution data by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to impose federally enforceable regulations for the first time. An alternative option would leave regulation of coal ash disposal up to the states, as it is now.

The EPA will hold the first of seven nationwide hearings about the proposed regulation Monday in Arlington, Va. A public comment period ends Nov. 19.

The electric power industry is lobbying to keep regulation up to individual states. Environmental groups say the states have failed to protect the public and that the EPA should set a national standard and enforce it.

"This is a huge and very real public health issue for Americans," said the director of the study, Jeff Stant of the Environmental Integrity Project. "Coal ash is putting drinking water around these sites at risk."

Read the whole thing.

Click here for the report on coal ash contamination at 39 sites.

Click here for EPA information on coal ash and details of its proposals for future regulation.

Is Your Congress Critter for You - or For Corporations?

Find out - ask him/her to Sign the Pledge to stop corporate control of elections.

From Down with Tyranny:

A few weeks ago People For the American Way sent a letter to men and women running for Congress calling their attention to a fundamental, even existential, threat to our Democracy. The 5 right-wing corporate justices on the Supreme Court have basically upended the entire thrust of electoral fairness by unleashing a tidal wave of corrupt corporate cash into the electoral system. Americans of all political persuasions are unhappy about it but it's Congress that needs to act. Not as in "play act," but to do something about it. No one's talking about lining the 5 judges up and shooting them, but a Constitutional Amendment to prevent a corporate take-over-- not to mention a foreign big money take over-- of our fragile electoral system is what's called for. This is the simple, straightforward letter PFAW sent out:

Dear Candidate,

Early this year, the Supreme Court dealt a dangerous blow to our democracy. In Citizens United v. FEC, the Court overturned laws and its own precedent to confer free speech rights to corporations equal to those enjoyed by individuals. Under the ruling, neither Congress nor the states can restrain corporations from spending unlimited amounts of money from their corporate treasuries to directly support or attack candidates.

The threat posed by this ruling is difficult to overstate. For example, in 2008 Exxon Mobil Corporation reported profits of $45 billion. If this one company had devoted even two percent of those profits to the political process, it would have outspent both major presidential candidates combined. With so much money involved, Americans can't have confidence that elected officials will protect the public interest over corporate interests.

Several polls have documented nearly universal opposition to the Supreme Court's misinterpretation of the First Amendment granting corporations a constitutional right to flood our elections with corporate funds. Americans from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly want their lawmakers to reject Citizens United by enacting a new amendment to the Constitution. State and local governments have already begun drafting resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to restore the ability of government to regulate corporate spending in our elections.

We ask you, along with every other candidate for Congress, to sign a pledge affirming your commitment to amending the Constitution to repair the damage done by Citizens United.

That pledge reads as follows:

Pledge to Protect America's Democracy:

The Supreme Court's flawed decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts to influence election outcomes endangers our democracy and threatens to drown out the voices of individual citizens. I pledge to protect America from unlimited corporate spending on our elections by supporting a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision giving corporations the same First Amendment rights as people.

Friday they announced that their initial outreach has been successful with dozens of candidates pledging their support. Thirteen candidates for the Senate and 35 running for the House have already signed on. “Americans are fed up with government that responds to corporate money, not the needs of ordinary Americans,” said Michael B. Keegan, president of People For the American Way. “The depth of feeling is palpable. We’ve already seen that candidates who want to serve their constituents have been eager to sign onto this campaign. More are signing on every day, and we’re confident that pace will only increase.”

Added Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, the organization partnering with PFAW in the effort, “Corporations already rule the roost in Washington. Witness the oil industry’s free pass to drill offshore without adequate environmental scrutiny or the health insurance industry’s enormous influence over the outcome of the health care debate, to name just two of countless examples. The Supreme Court’s decision threatens to make a bad situation exponentially worse. We applaud candidates who stand up and say that this must be stopped.”

At PledgeForDemocracy.org, voters can use an interactive map to learn who has taken the pledge-- and who hasn’t. Here's the full list. You'll notice that among the more high-profile names are current and former Blue America endorsees like Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Roxanne Conlin (D-IA), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. John Hall (D-NY), Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH), Justin Coussoule (D-OH), Bill Hedrick (D-CA), Fred Johnson (D-MI), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Elaine Marshall (D-NC), and David Segal (D-RI). These are names you can count on to represent us in what Alan Grayson was talking about when he described us and them. And if you missed it, Friday afternoon, Ed Schultz and Justin Coussoule, one of the first to take the PFAW pledge, went after Washington's worst coin-operated political hack, John Boehner.

Click here for the video.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Annoy the Hate-mongers: Help the Slashed Taxi Driver

Unless you're full-blooded Amerindian, you have immigrant ancestors who would relate to this guy - to his struggles, to his courage, to his love for and loyalty to this country. And they would tell you to open your wallet to help him.

Susie Madrak:

My heart just breaks for Mr. Sharif and his family. I know how great the C&L family can be -- how about some small donations to help this hate-crime victim back on his feet?

New York cab driver Ahmed Sharif cannot bring himself to talk about the young man who allegedly cut his throat and nearly killed him last week, a taxi union representative said Sunday.

"Ahmed is a strong man, but mentally he has limits," said Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. "The trauma he's experienced will last for a long time."

Desai spent time this weekend with Sharif. She said his most pressing worry is how he'll provide for his wife and four children -- including a 10-month-old --without a job. Sharif is receiving 2/3 of his salary, about $30,000 a year, in workers' compensation. Union members do not get health insurance or disability payments, Desai said.

"My guess is that he'll be unable to work for at least four months," Desai said. "He can't even pick up his baby because of the wounds to his arms. He can't turn his neck."

There's been so little money raised over the past few days for Sharif that it would "barely cover baby formula," said Desai who, along with Sharif, held a widely publicized press conference Friday announcing the union was creating a fund for the family. The union's website indicates how to mail a donation or give online.

"We're pretty shocked that it's been such a low amount," Desai said.

At the press conference, stitches running along the deep gash in his neck, Sharif implored taxi drivers to look out for each other. A Bangladeshi who emigrated to the United States 25 years ago, Sharif told reporters, "I feel like I belong here, [like] I was born here."

His household's sole breadwinner, Sharif, his wife and children, ages 10 months, 5, 9 and 11, live in a small apartment, Desai said.

I'm surprised that NYC residents haven't stepped up. I'd love to see the blogosphere help.

Click here for the video.

The Responsible Response: Boycott Fox's Sponsors

Via Zandar, Matt Taibbi has a great piece on the current teabagger insanity, which ends with this plea:

I'm beginning to wonder why effective boycotts against these hate-media channels, and particularly Fox, haven’t been organized yet. Why not just pick out one Fox advertiser at random and make an example out of it? How about Subaru and their unintentionally comic “Love” slogan? I actually like their cars, but what the fuck? How about Pep Boys and that annoying logo of theirs? Just to prove that it can be done, I’d like to see at least one firm get blown out of business as a consequence of financially supporting the network that is telling America that its black president wants to kill white babies. Isn't that at least the first move here? It's beginning to strike me that sitting by and doing nothing about this madness is not a terribly responsible way to behave.

I never watch Fox, so I don't know who sponsors them. Subaru works for me, although I don't think many people are buying new cars these days anyway. Anybody got it in for Pep Boys or another Fox sponsor? I'm game, whoever it is.

UPDATE: How about that? Democrats.com is already on it. Theirs is not the focus-on-just-one-and-destroy-it suggested by Taibbi, and it's so lame it doesn't even include a list of Fox sponsors, but it's something.

Demand a National 2-1-1 Line

Blue Girl says get on the 2-1-1 bandwagon.

We need a national 2-1-1 Hotline

There are a lot of people out there who need help who never thought they would ever be in the situation they find themselves in, through no fault of their own.

There are also a lot of agencies and organizations that can provide some of that help - the United Way, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, foodbanks and quite a few others.

The problem is, a lot of the people who need help don't have the foggiest notion about how to get it, and are frequently too embarrassed to ask questions and find out. A national 2-1-1 hotline would go a long ways toward closing that gap and getting help to people who need it.

You can show your support by clicking the link, filling out a short form and the system will email your Congressman and Senators to let them know you support a 2-1-1 hotline.

If you live in Kentucky, you can click here for help. Assistance.ky.gov used to be on the main Kentucky.gov page, but it's been demoted to the bottom of Governor Beshear's home page. Hey, Steve: Do you really think that it's more important to have a link to where businesses can find out which new regulations they can safety ignore than a link to where desperate families can find help?

The Virtue of Dickishness

As someone who is daily bombarded with saccharine requests that I stop being such a negative, pessimistic, cynical, look-out-for-that-bus-about-to-run-you-over boo-bear, I am going to print out multiple copies of this post from PZ Myers and hand it to everyone who tries to make me be nice.

He concludes:

That is the virtue of dickishness. It provides the social and psychological penalties that counter the draw of complacency. It's so easy to go with the flow, to pretend that a thousand issues, whether it's homeopathy or religion or transcendental meditation or an absence of critical thinking or a lack of concern about our health, are OK because they make people happy, and it's even easier to demonize the cranky Cassandras and make them the problem, because they make people uncomfortable.

But if bad ideas don't have immediate consequences to the placid mob, and if everyone is being Mr and Mrs Nice Folk and reassuring everyone that they're still good people no matter what foolishness they might believe in, where is the motivation to change? A skeptic who thinks their mission is to provide only positive messages and lead everyone along with affirmations and friendliness is going to be an ineffective skeptic.

Read the whole thing.

So, to everyone who thinks my calling attention to the probable adverse consequences of your Pollyanish world view is just too much of a downer, I'll just say this:

You're welcome.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Everybody Wants Feds to Create Jobs - What Are Dems Waiting For?

It's been obvious to liberals and other members of the reality-based community for 18 months, but it's finally starting to sink in: the only thing that will save this economy is a humongous, don't-look-at-the-price-tag jobs program, starting immediately.

Steve Benen:

It's worth noting, then, that there's at least some evidence that attitudes have shifted in a more constructive direction. This question in the newly-released Newsweek poll bears special attention:

"Which one of the following do you think should have the higher priority for policy-makers in Washington right now:
37% Reducing the federal budget deficit
57% Federal spending to create jobs
6% Don't know

This strikes me as very encouraging. For many Americans, the "deficit" has become an amorphous concept that they've been conditioned to viscerally reject, and the polling last year suggested this knee-jerk reaction was so strong, deficit reduction was actually perceived as more important than the economy itself.

But the Newsweek poll -- yes, I know, it's only one poll -- wasn't close. Asked which should be a higher priority, the deficit or spending money on job creation, the latter won by 20 points.

Dems on the Hill are afraid to make economic investments because they expect a public backlash. They're nervous enough about the midterms and aren't in the mood to hear another round of "government spending is bad." But here's data showing that spending on job creation is actually quite popular. Republicans would respond by saying the deficit matters more, but that's not where the public is right now.

So why not borrow the money and invest in job creation? Like, immediately?

Repug obstruction, you say. But that depends on a solid front, and cracks are appearing in that wall. karoli at Crooks and Liars finds a big one:

A conservative economist with a progressive idea? I'm guessing he won't be doing consulting work for the RNC anytime soon. Kevin Hassett is director of economic policy studies at AEI, a very conservative think tank.

But when I got him on the phone to talk about the unemployment crisis, he struck a different tone. His problem with the stimulus wasn't that government spending inherently fails to grow jobs and the economy. The problem, he said, was that Obama's stimulus was not direct enough.

With the Recovery Act, the White House eschewed direct hiring and aimed instead to raise overall economic output in the hope that more activity would lead to more demand, which would lead to more hires. "Look at the stimulus and the number of jobs we've actually created, and it comes out to a couple million bucks per job created," Hassett told me.

"My idea is simpler. Find the unemployed and hire them."


"Employers don't want to take a chance on some guy without a job for two years," he said. "The cycle is so long and deep that the cyclical becomes the structural." The easiest way for the government to end somebody's jobless spell is, very simply, to end it by straight-up hiring the worker.

"Since the economy has created this class of long-term jobless, the arguments for government hiring become stronger," he said. "If you give the person a job for a while, it helps them get a job later. You remove the stigma."

What a concept. Hopefully, the White House is paying attention. And Congress. And yes, even conservatives.

Yep, the same exact concept that put one million Americans back to work in a matter of days back in 1934, building the national infrastructre we still enjoy today.

Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to launch a massive federal jobs program right now.

The Citizens United Abomination in Action

The Target debacle taught corporations that funding wingnut freakazoid GOP candidates under their own names was not smart (which is also why they are fighting so hard against the DISCLOSE Act.) But that doesn't mean they've given up on using their billions to hand Congress back to the repugs who destroyed the country.

No, they're just giving the money - billions and billions and billions of dollars that they've stacked up thanks to repug tax breaks and repug obstruction of economic stimulus that might make them spend that money on hiring people instead of defeating Democratic candidates - they're giving that money to front groups.

Karoli at Crooks and Liars has the details:

The next time you hear a news story where Republicans cry poor, remember this. The RNC is irrelevant. These days, post-Citizens United, the money is staying in the control of independent organizations, all $400 million of it pledged toward the midterm elections.

Four hundred million dollars. Wow. Think Progress has an eye-opener of a report about the organizations behind the big bucks. Clearly the Republican strategy was to fragment and spread out the money across many different facets, so they could sweep in the most people/interests at once.

Read the whole thing.

Hackers Wanted

From Bradblog, it's worse than you thought.

This is your Sequoia touch-screen voting machine....

This is your Sequoia touch-screen voting machine with Pac-Man hacked onto it without disturbing any of the "tamper-evident" seals supposedly meant to protect it from hackers...

Any questions?...

Sequoia's voting machines, used in some 20% of U.S. elections, employ Intellectual Property (IP) still owned by a Venezuelan firm tied to Hugo Chavez. Sequoia itself is now owned by a Canadian firm called Dominion. (Though Dominion, like Sequoia itself before it, lied about the continuing Venezuelan/Chavez ties in its recent announcement of the acquisition, as detailed exclusively by The BRAD BLOG, to little notice, in June.)

The Pac-Man hack onto the Sequoia/Dominion voting machine was revealed this week. It was accomplished without breaking any of the "tamper-evident" seals that voting machine companies and election officials claim are used to ensure nobody can physically hack into them without being discovered.

"We received the machine with the original tamper-evident seals intact," the hackers from Princeton and University of Michigan report. "The software can be replaced without breaking any of these seals, simply by removing screws and opening the case."

Click here for more, including a video of Pac-Man running on the hacked Sequoia touch-screen voting machine...

I don't know if Sequoia machines are used in voting precincts in Kentucky, but it really doesn't matter - do you really think other companies' machines are any more secure?

Katrina is Not Over; It's Not Even Past

Melissa Harris-Lacewell, on downgrading toe a mere metaphor the reality of Katrina:

These days it is fashionable to use Katrina as a discursive tool.

In March 2009, Frank Rich wondered if AIG bonuses would become Obama's "Katrina moment." A few months later Politico reported that "Republicans hope General Motors is President Obama's Hurricane Katrina," only to be topped by the Washington Times, which asked, "Will Swine Flu Be Obama's Katrina?" By January of this year the Wall Street Journal readily declared that the Haiti earthquake was Obama's Katrina, while Arianna Huffington recently assured readers that it was jobs, not the BP oil spill, that would be Obama's Katrina.

Sometimes it feels like commentators can't wait for another Hurricane Katrina. After all, catastrophes focus public attention, reveal institutional shortcomings and evoke powerful emotional responses. Maybe it was inevitable that Hurricane Katrina would be reduced to a casual metaphor. For thirty years pundits have described political scandal involving intrigue and corruption with the handy suffix "gate." Now Katrina is shorthand for administration-crippling unresponsiveness. Mention Katrina to remind politicians that they need to look concerned and engaged when citizens are suffering. Deploy Katrina as a lesson in bureaucratic incompetence. Shake a scolding Katrina finger at leaders who seem overwhelmed by a current challenge. Katrina is unexpected disaster. Katrina is spectacular debacle. Katrina is the beginning of the end of a flawed leader.

Except that it is not. Eighty percent of the city flooded when the levees failed. More than 1,500 people were killed. Tens of thousands were permanently displaced. Billions in property was lost. The levee failure caused by Katrina wiped away entire communities, irreparably damaging homes, schools, churches and stores. It stole decades of family memories. It altered centuries of tradition in a matter of moments. It left a legacy of blight, economic devastation and personal suffering in its wake.

Each time Katrina, whose fifth anniversary is on the oil-soaked horizon, is evoked as a political metaphor, we risk a dangerous mediation of experience. These metaphors reduce catastrophe to an object lesson, implying that the effects of the disaster have been resolved, that the plot has been resolved and that the continued suffering of our fellow citizens is little more than a literary device.

Yes, New Orleans is a city whose cultural excess and eccentricity cry out for understanding through the literary, the poetic, the musical, the athletic and even the magical. But when we reduce Katrina to fiction—even really good fiction—we risk making it little more than a trope. The fifth anniversary of Katrina reminds us that to fully restore New Orleans, and to change it into a more just and equal city, we must build tangible political will based on sober assessments of the city's continuing challenges.

Katrina is still our Katrina. This story does not yet have an ending.

Read the whole thing.

On A Beautiful Sunday Morning

From Wonkette commenter Serold Divad:

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand: one belonging
to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of
his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”

The LORD replied:

“Sorry dude, but I had to take a piss
and I don’t like guys watching me while
I’m peeing. Anyway, you’re here aren’t
you? You made it, right? Quit complaining.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Post-Abomination Brain Bleach

Via Rumproast, something even the most Obama-is-killing-liberalism-forever among us need to watch, to remember the power we have to fight the forces of darkness:

Is John Waltz Populist Enough to Beat Geoff Davis, R-KY4?

Down with Tyranny has a good profile of Democratic challenger John Waltz in Kentucky's Fourth District:

This all leaves me wondering, what will this district make of John Waltz? If there is an example of a progressive that could appeal to wide range of people, maybe even Tea Partiers, Waltz may be it this cycle. Waltz points out in that despite the talk of “We the People,” Davis has left regular middle-class people like Waltz behind. Waltz lives a life like many voters, trying to raising his daughters on a military disability pension and volunteering to help other veterans. In small diners, Waffle Houses, and County Fairs, John delivers a simple message-- restoring democracy means electing folks who have struggled like everyone else and who have the work ethic to do the job, not just have the job.

Waltz is focused on traveling off the political grid in his district. He visits the population centers, and then drives off main roads to go to places that perhaps no federal candidate has ever visited. He proudly keeps a map in his office and marks with pin each stop when he comes home. He is traveling to meet and hear voters, but also to raise a clear point-- when is the last time they saw their own “representative?”

This year, Davis appears to be trying to coast by largely on his tax-payer funded mailings and telephone town halls. His rare appearance outside his home County might show that he has some explaining to do and that the voters he takes for granted aren’t too happy with his doublespeak and inconsistencies. The Tea Party in Northern Kentucky has a choice to embrace an unaccomplished Republican insider who recently insulted them, or a Democratic outsider who shares many personal traits but disagrees on some aspects of policy. In one of the stranger election years, it may well be that the Tea Party voters either through defection or simply skipping Davis’ name after pulling the lever in other races, could lift Waltz to a shocking victory, and a strange election cycle will get the biggest Cinderella story ever.

Read the whole thing.

I am not a fan of Waltz, having found some disturbingly Blue Dog/DINO positions on his website, particularly on the deficit non-problem. But click here and judge for yourself.

Just Don't Say "Mission Accomplished"

"As we mark the end of America’s combat mission in Iraq, a grateful nation must pay tribute to all who have served there. Because part of responsibly ending this war is meeting our responsibility to those who have fought it."

Full transcript here.

Wingnut Glasses

From Driftglass, something to help you see the glenn-beck-is-our-crucified-savior rally the same way the teabaggers see it.

Click here (Part 1) and here (Part 2) for The Rude Pundit's obscene and blasphemous take.

At Crooks and Liars, David Neiwert has a great analysis of what's really going on at the Lincoln Memorial today.

And the Hate Rolls On

Covington is spitting distance from Florence, where the frightwing hatemongers are still pissing and screaming over a tiny religious minority holding services in a nondescript building.

Scott Wartman from the Kentucky Enquirer:

Two days after the Covington City Commission held a press conference reaffirming the city's human rights ordinance, people in the MainStrasse neighborhood woke up Thursday to dozens of anti-gay fliers posted on poles and placed on windshields.

The fliers come in the wake of a series of crimes that police and residents believe have targeted the city's gay community.

The Covington Police are investigating who is responsible for the fliers. The person or persons could face fines for violating of the city's sign ordinance, which prohibits signs and advertisements to be attached to lamp posts and utilities, said City Solicitor Frank Warnock. Fines can range from $100 to $500 per violation to a maximum of $10,000.

"We are locating them and removing the hateful remarks from the public areas," said Spike Jones, assistant chief with the Covington Police. "They are violating city ordinances being posted on trees and poles. We are very concerned about the message this flier contains."

Read the whole thing.

Almost thirty years ago, Rosalind Carter nailed both the attraction and the horror of Ronald Reagan with this: "Reagan makes us comfortable with our prejudices."

Such an innocent time. If only the worst thing we faced today was open prejudice, instead of hate-driven violence against everyone who is not white, Xian, hetero, repug and male.

The Real Thing Always Prevails

Tolkein fans know Orcs were the Evil One's attempt to copy Elves, as Trolls were the Evil One's attempt to copy Dwarves.

Such efforts by those with impure motives to reproduce natural greatness always fail. As will today's pathetic screeching at the place and on the 47th anniversary of this:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Regulation, Litigation and Liberty

Kevin Drum muses on the intersection of regulation, litigation and freedom:

Matt Steinglass is in Amsterdam, and he's pleased to find that his daughter can swim in the Amstel River if she wants. "If I'd tried letting my daughter do this in, say, the Potomac River in Washington, DC," he says, "I would have likely been arrested." Why the difference? Because in America everyone is afraid of getting sued, so they insist on putting in place ever more restrictive rules on what we are and aren't allowed to do:

The reason you can [swim freely in public waters] in the Netherlands is that if anybody tried to sue the city of Amsterdam because they or their child had been injured while swimming in the river, the suit would almost certainly be dismissed....Essentially, you still have the freedom to swim in the river in Amsterdam because people assume you have the common sense to avoid stupid behaviour, like diving in when you don't know what's underneath, or not keeping to the sides of the river during barge traffic hours. And if you don't, it's nobody's fault but your own.

But there's another reason why I can let my daughter swim in the Amstel, and that is that I'm pretty sure that in a well-regulated country like the Netherlands, the water is reasonably free of heavy pollutants and raw sewage. (I would not, for example, let her swim in the Mekong.) This, I think, outlines a useful distinction between different kinds of regulation....To generalise: for risks I can assess myself, I don't want regulations that prevent me from doing as I please just because I might end up suing the government. For risks I can't assess myself, I do want regulations that give me the confidence to do as I please. One kind of regulation stops me from swimming in a pond in Massachusetts. The other kind lets me swim in a river in the Netherlands. One kind of regulation makes me less free. The other kind makes me freer.

It's worth digging into this a bit. Why is America more litigious than Europe? With the obvious caveat that not every country in Europe does things exactly the same way, here are a few reasons:


* Largely thanks to conservatives, America has developed a litigation culture rather than an enforcement culture. In Europe the tradeoff generally goes the other way: they have more rules and tighter enforcement of those rules, which means that private litigation is less necessary.
* On a related note, Sean Farhang argues that at the level of federal legislation, Congress actively encourages private litigation as an enforcement mechanism because it doesn't trust enforcement to the executive branch (which might be headed by someone who prefers to take it easy on favored constituencies).

Long story short, this difference between Europe and the U.S. is so deeply rooted that it's not likely to change — and it's not really due to a national culture that promotes a refusal to accept personal responsibility or anything like that. It's mostly institutional in nature, and the incentives of our institutions point in the direction of more lawsuits instead of more regulations. Conservative tort reform advocates are huge fans of implementing a European-style loser pays rule in America, and I might be too if they were willing to make the other half of the bargain and support European-style regulation and enforcement designed to make our institutions safer and fairer in the first place. But they're not.

Litigation makes up for lax regulation. Which is of course why anti-regulators are also anti-litigators. The only thing standing between the American people and widespread deaths from dangerous products, contaminated food, disease-ridden water, toxic pollution and other injury inflicted by powerful corporate interests is trial lawyers. So those who try to shut down trial lawyers through forcing harmed consumers into rip-off mediation or promoting fake issues like "tort reform" are doing the work of corporate criminals.

Speaking of which, can we please put an end to the use of the "McDonald's Coffee Lady" as an example of frivolous litigation, windfall awards and lack of personal responsibility?

Despite the lies spread by anti-consumer corporate apologiest, the truth is that the coffee's temperature really was far above safe levels, the woman was burned so severely she required skin grafts, and the lawsuit award was average, not a windfall.

If you need an example of lack of responsibility among Americans, use Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, who murdered 29 men this spring in his West Virginia coal mine, where he had ordered mine managers to avoid any safety measures that slowed the production of coal.)

We define personal liberty by the balance we, as a society, create between regulation and litigation. Eliminate both regulation and litigation in the pursuit of personal liberty, and you destroy any chance of obtaining it.

Would Mandatory Voting Make Political Campaigns Better or Worse?

In The Nation, Norman Ornstein polishes the false-equivalency apple by suggesting a method to stop both parties from appealing to their extremist base instead of to the (imaginary) middle.

When politics is driven by the need to turn out your base, and policy is then dominated by the desire to cater to that base, it brings out all the base instincts.

In Australia, where failure to show up at the polls (you can vote for "none of the above")* leads to a $15 fine, attendance is over 95 percent—and politicians cater less to consultants and the extremes (since both bases turn out in equal proportions) and more to the small number of persuadable voters who are not swayed by outrageous rhetoric. Those voters might not fit the typical pattern of readers of The Nation, but they are a far better audience to cater to than that of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

Leave aside for the moment that we will see abortion on demand and gay sex techniques taught in public kindergarten before the repugs allow mandatory voting.

The problem with Ornstein's "solution" is that only one party appeals to its extremist base and ignores other voters: republicans. For decades, it was a winning strategy for them, and may be so again.

Democrats have exactly the opposite problem: they consistently ignore their own base (severely lacking in extremists anyway) to pander to the non-existent middle and to repugs who will never, never, EVER vote for them.

So would mandatory voting really force both parties to the - again, non-existent - middle? I can easily see the teabaggers revolting against any federal mandate and the GOP having to double- and triple-down on its base appeals to force them to the polls.

Democrats, meanwhile, would leap with joy for the excuse to abandon their base completely and devote all their money and time to courting repugs who - again - will never, never, EVER vote for them.

So go ahead, bring on mandatory voting. Why not? It won't make any difference.

*Now this, I could get behind. But instead of "none of the above," I'd want a simple "NO" next to each candidate's name, as an alternative to "YES." Any candidate who received more "no" votes than "yes" votes automatically loses, even if she got more "yes" votes than her opponent got. And it might prevent the current atrocity of candidates "winning" by running unopposed.

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

Turn Off Fox - Everywhere

We all bite our tongues when we find Fox blaring its lies to the world in the airport, the doctor's office, the gym and everywhere else. We don't want to start a fight, but we are being assaulted and should make it stop. The great thing about this campaign is it actually gives you the tools you need to do it effectively.

James Rucker at Crooks and Liars:

Have you ever looked up at the television at a local business -- your gym, an auto shop, a bar or restaurant -- only to find Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly shouting down at you? Often without thinking about it, many businesses and other public establishments are providing a vehicle for Fox News' attempts to divide America. Now you can do something about it.

Today, ColorOfChange.org is launching Turn Off Fox -- a massive campaign to get Fox News turned off in stores, restaurants, and other public places.

There are several ways you can get involved:

* Join the campaign by signing our petition calling on businesses in your community and across America to turn off Fox News Channel (you'll also get a free TurnOffFox sticker!)
* Know of businesses or other public places that play Fox News? You can help us identify them, and if you're willing to talk with them, we provide materials that make it easy to explain why they should change the channel.
* If there are businesses you know that want to tell the world they would never play Fox, you can help them declare themselves a "Fox-free zone."
* Spread the word and get your friends and family involved in the campaign.

Please check out TurnOffFox.org, join us, and get involved!

Read the whole thing for a definitive list of Fox's crimes against democracy and an informed electorate.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Shut Up, Little Person, and Obey

The effectiveness of the tools the Wealthy and Powerful use to keep the peasants in line wax and wane with authoritarianism itself. So it does not bode well that we see at least three new tools on display, ranging from the insulting to the embarrassing to the horrifically painful.

First, Digby on Punishing the Poor for the Crimes of the Rich:

This discussion reminds me of the old perennial "why are we in Iraq?" The Very Serious people always had different reasons, but they supported the same conclusion: we just needed to be there. I don't know if this comes from faith based ideology, herd instinct or conspiracy. It could also be class/social bias (village syndrome) or simple careerism. Whatever it is, it's a problem.

Krugman thinks the economic elite are for for monetary tightening because they are biased against easy money and will find any basis they can to justify that. The question then becomes, why would anyone have an bias against easy money unless they are attaching a moral value to it? There can be no scientific basis for rejecting it. It's just another tool in the central bank toolbox right? My guess is that they *believe* the little people must pay the price for the excesses of the elites because that's their natural role in the economic scheme of things and that the economic elites must be left unfettered to "produce" lest they go on strike or otherwise refuse to do their part. (Bond vigilantes! Confidence fairies!) This also requires the little people to pay the price. This is theology not science and not even ideology. They simply believe.

Whether this comes from social or professional pressure or from true conviction is harder to know. But it doesn't matter. Very Serious People agree and that's all it takes for terrible decisions to be made and then compounded over and over. Perhaps we should deal with the root of that problem at some point.

Then, TPM on the fate awaiting those who refuse to be photographed naked before boarding a plane:

Those who refuse to walk through the new full-body scanners at the airport could be subject to a new style of pat-down, one that's much more invasive and, well, probing than before.

The Boston Herald reports that the Transportation Security Administration is testing the new pat-downs in Boston and Las Vegas, but plans to institute the searches nationwide.

From man on the street Rob Webster, who said he was a subject of the new search when flying out of McCarren-Las Vegas International last week:

"If anybody ever groped me like that in real life, I would have punched them in their nose," the 50-year-old said. "It was extremely invasive. This was a very probing-type touching - not just patting over all your areas, but actually probing and pushing and seeing if I was concealing something in my genital area."


The TSA told the Herald that they've received few complaints and will continue with the searches.

Opposition to the scanners has been part about privacy -- despite the TSA's assurances, the machines are apparently capable of storing scans -- and part about the health effects of radiation.

And finally, Digby on the new torture machines coming soon to a public protest near you.

I had heard these were coming, but I didn't realize they were already on the market:

The 7½-foot-tall Assault Intervention Device emits a focused, invisible ray that causes an unbearable heating sensation in its targets – hopefully stopping inmates from fighting or doing anything other than trying to get out of its way, sheriff's officials said.


The pain can be stopped by moving out of the beam's path, which targets do instinctively.

Deputies say it should reduce injuries by speeding up the time it takes to break up a fight. Normally if a fight breaks out, deputies can't move in immediately, but have to take the time to assemble a team while the fight continues.

They love the idea of being able to cause pain without "injury," whatever that means.

"This device will allow us to quickly intervene without having to enter the area and without incapacitating or injuring either combatant," said Sheriff Lee Baca in a statement

Ok, so these guys have been convicted of a crime and are in custody. Their freedoms (although not their human rights) have been taken away for cause and they are unquestioningly subject to the states' orders.

But imagine a society in which the police (for our own good) use methods like this to break up political protests. And then further imagine that same society some time later in which its people have been trained like Pavlov's dogs to comply with authorities' orders. Authorities, by the way, which are sheltered from danger by being able to control its subjects from a distance:


I wonder what happens if people subject to these heat rays can't get away? For instance, if they are in a confined area. Like a prison. Or a crowd.

I guess they'll think twice before they do anything again that might precipitate such pain. After all, "when you get that many of your pain receptacles telling your brain 'this needs to stop'" and you can't stop it, I'd assume there might be some psychological after effects.

But hey, it's all good:

"With this device, we can affect people that we need to have experience that effect and not have anything happen to other people," Osborne said. "And there's nothing to clean up, and no injuries."

Well that's a relief.

Quote of the Day

Steve M.:

Give a teabagger a gun, two bullets, and a locked room containing bin Laden, KSM, and Nancy Pelosi, and the teabagger will almost certainly shoot Pelosi twice.

Unholy Cow - Nakedly Atheist Booth at the KY State Fair

They said their billboard was aimed at State Fair goers, but they didn't warn us they were actually going to expose themselves at the Fair itself.

From the Courier:

He was manning a booth sponsored by the Kentucky Secular Society, a coalition of atheist and humanistic groups seeking to make themselves known in a setting that draws people from through a predominately religious state. They were attempting to demonstrate the claim the group made in a large billboard off the Interstate 65 exit to the fair proclaiming, “Don't Believe in God? You are not alone.”

“It gives us a chance to explain what we believe and what we don’t believe and why,” said Lovell, one of three volunteers staffing the booth Wednesday morning. “They're learning it from our mouths, instead of the mouths of preachers.”


We have a free country because it's based on values held in common between secular politics and Judeo-Christian values.”

The booth, located in the South Wing of the Kentucky Exposition Center, was adorned with busts of famous atheists, deists and other "freethinkers" who rejected belief in a God that reveals guidance to humans or is involved in human events. It also included posters and a video slideshow of such people, along with some of their quotations against religion. They included evolution pioneer Charles Darwin, author Mark Twain, founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine and women's rights pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

Read the whole thing, then be sure to visit the atheist booth at the Kentucky State Fair - Sunday's the last day.

Oh, and Courier? Keep putting perfectly straightforward terms like Freethinkers in scare quotes, and I'll start calling you "a Kentucky 'newspaper'" like Jake does.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Waaaaaay Out of Their League

OK, seriously - the repugs need to just forfeit the race against Alan Grayson right now. Here's the latest email from the Grayson campaign:

The Fight of the Century. But Which Century?

"They didn't have Social Security, free roads or public schools in the 18th century, why do the ingrates need them today?"

- What Congressional candidate Daniel Webster is thinking


Congressman Alan Grayson was informed today that Daniel Webster has been chosen as his Republican opponent for Congress. "Didn't he die, like, 150 years ago?" asked Grayson. "Can't the Republicans find anyone to run against me who's alive?"

Grayson was then informed that Daniel Webster had hitched a ride in Marty McFly's new, fuel-efficient DeLorean, which gets an amazing 35 years to the gallon. Grayson grew pensive for a moment, and then said, "Well, it will be an interesting race. Certainly, Daniel Webster will run well among 19th Century voters. But we have solid support among 20th and 21st Century voters."

When asked about endorsements, Grayson conceded that Daniel Webster was likely to win the support of James Knox Polk. But Grayson pointed to a long-time feud between Daniel Webster and Andrew Jackson. And Grayson thanked Mr. Harrison, Grayson's 12th grade history teacher, for letting Grayson know about it.

Webster immediately went negative on Grayson, calling him a "knave," a "varlet" and a "scalawag." Grayson refused to respond in kind, saying that he would never attack anyone who had dated Betsy Ross. Grayson added that he hoped that the contest would be a true test of ideas, and that the two of them in fact shared a lot of common ground on the issues. "Emancipation, for instance. And the preservation of the Union. Except for Texas."

Webster, when asked to comment, replied "Tippecanoe, and Tyler too."

No Home Ownership for You!

We should have seen it coming.

After Medicare passed in 1965, the class-warrior plutocrats realized that the New Deal programs that built the American Middle Class were not going to be overturned overnight. Returning the country to the serf-powered rule-by-the-rich of the Gilded Age would require a long-term campaign of back-stabbing and sabotage.

First they poured sand in the engine of American prosperity by eliminating unionized manufacturing jobs.

Then they fanned racial resentment to keep the attention of the unemployed on fellow workers instead of the real enemy: the bosses.

Then they undermined the manufacturing foundation of the American economy by diverting investment away from real businesses that fuel Main Street into exotic financial gambles on Wall Street.

And then they blew residential real estate into a monster bubble that exploded and took the whole economy with it.

Now, all that's left is to round up everyone and stuff them back into the tenements where they belong.

karoli at Crooks and Liars reveals yet another layer in the destroy-the-middle-class onion:

In the wake of the mortgage meltdown, a dangerous theme is emerging. On its face, it seems perfectly reasonable and even attractive, especially to the youngest generation of workers, who is already mired in student loan debt, credit card debt, and struggling to find a job. It goes like this:

The U.S. has long seen home ownership as an unquestioned virtue, dating to a 1918 government "Own Your Own Home" campaign. Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all talked as if owning a home was the only way to join the middle class. Not only did it promote social stability—recall Mr. Bush's "ownership society"—and build well-maintained neighborhoods, home ownership became a hedge against inflation and a way to save for retirement. Until it didn't. [read more ...]

And also:

Some of those new homeowners, including those sold outrageously inappropriate subprime loans, should have remained renters. Many couldn't afford to maintain the houses they bought. Others were dependent on refinancing to keep their homes, an approach that worked only as house prices kept climbing. They didn't. At last tally, the U.S. home ownership rate was at 67.2% and sinking.

Even NPR has jumped on the story.

"The world we live in today is not quite the world that existed in 1950," he noted. "The nature of households and the rate at which they dissolve and reform, the nature of work and its transient nature across geographies are all things that suggest that maybe, just possibly, a middle-class American shouldn't stake themselves to an illiquid, very large, concentrated, leveraged asset —- that is to say, a house." [read more...]

Everything old is new again. Both of these articles blame Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for the mortgage meltdown, when the opposite is true. It isn't the middle class, minority or lower income buyers who caused the meltdown. In fact, the wealthy walked away from their mortgages when they found themselves upside down in a weak housing market -- not the middle class.


Make no mistake, someone will be an owner and someone will be a renter. The owner will make money and add to his wealth and portfolio. The renter will have a roof over his head for the time he or she pays the rent. The renter will be at the mercy of the owner -- will rents fly sky-high when property takes off again?

There was always more to property ownership than some pretty political platitude about white picket fences and the American dream. Home ownership is one of the best ways for the middle class to accumulate some assets for retirement, to not have to worry about where they'll live or what they'll have to pay to live in their retirement. It puts the individual in charge and in control.


Home ownership isn't a boom-or-bust proposition. It can actually be approached sensibly, with moderation and common sense. This whole push against home ownership strikes me as another way to disenfranchise and de-fund the middle class.

Read the whole thing.

Number 98

Kentucky's 98th sacrifice to the Iraq and Afghanistan clusterfucks is Sgt. Jason D. Calo, 23, of Lexington.

He joined the Marines in November 2006 and was promoted to Sergeant July 1, 2009. He previously deployed to Iraq from September 2008 to April 2009 and deployed to Afghanistan two months ago. He died August 22 while supporting combat operations in Helmand Province. He is survived by his wife and children, among others.

Labor Day Weekend at Kentucky State Parks

It's almost Fall Festival season in Kentucky, so to hold you over to cooler weather and fabulous foliage, Kentucky State Parks are going all out on Labor Day weekend:

The Kentucky State Parks will be in full swing with events and activities during Labor Day Weekend.

All 32 campgrounds will be open and many parks are planning special festivities for guests. The park system’s 17 resort parks – all with lodges, full-service restaurants, hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas and other amenities – will be open.

The recreational parks and historic sites will also be open. Most have hiking trails, picnic areas, camping, fishing and other recreational opportunities for guests.

Golfers have 18 courses across the state from which to choose. Several courses have received national honors for being among the best places to play. The Kentucky State Parks also offer golf packages that include overnight stays.

For more information about all 51 state parks and to make lodging or camping reservations, visit www.parks.ky.gov. Information about lodging discounts and coupons is also available on the website.

Click here for a listing of events scheduled during Labor Day Weekend 2010.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Repugs Demand You Pay $3 Million to Each of the Nation's 120,000 Richest

Here's yet another chart, courtesy of Kevin Drum, illustrating the repugs' unconscionable demand that middle-class Americans hand over their last dime to the already obscenely wealthy.

Paul Krugman:

We need to pinch pennies these days. Don’t you know we have a budget deficit? For months that has been the word from Republicans and conservative Democrats, who have rejected every suggestion that we do more to avoid deep cuts in public services and help the ailing economy.

But these same politicians are eager to cut checks averaging $3 million each to the richest 120,000 people in the country.

What — you haven’t heard about this proposal? Actually, you have: I’m talking about demands that we make all of the Bush tax cuts, not just those for the middle class, permanent.


The Obama administration wants to preserve those parts of the original tax cuts that mainly benefit the middle class — which is an expensive proposition in its own right — but to let those provisions benefiting only people with very high incomes expire on schedule. Republicans, with support from some conservative Democrats, want to keep the whole thing.

And there’s a real chance that Republicans will get what they want. That’s a demonstration, if anyone needed one, that our political culture has become not just dysfunctional but deeply corrupt.

What’s at stake here? According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it: the policy center’s estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he’s going to get the majority of that group’s tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few — the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year — would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.


So far, the Obama administration is standing firm against this outrage. Let’s hope that it prevails in its fight. Otherwise, it will be hard not to lose all faith in America’s future.

Kevin Drum adds:

What really gets me about this whole thing is that conservatives are barely even trying to defend their position. As Krugman says, they talk a bit about the impact on small business owners, but this is so transparently flimsy you can almost sense their embarrassment when they bring it up. And then there's sort of a pro forma insistence that raising taxes a few percentage points on the wealthy would stall the economic recovery, but there's virtually no evidence for this. In fact, just the opposite. A small tax increase on the rich would probably have the smallest economic effect of practically any revenue-raising policy you can imagine. It would barely be measurable.

There really is, literally, no reason to favor extending Bush tax cuts for the rich except purely as a gift to the rich. As the Tax Policy Center chart below shows, the million-dollar crowd would get a 3.3% income boost and the ten-million-dollar crowd would get a 5.8% boost in their incomes. And the deficit would increase by the better part of a trillion dollars. That's it. That's all that would happen if the top end cuts were extended.

I sure wish there were a political movement that cared as much about the $50,000 crowd as the conservative movement does about the million-plus crowd. I wonder what we'd call it?

It's not class war anymore; it's economic class mass destruction.

Beshear Does the Right Thing

Never let it be said I didn't give the cowardly waste of oxygen credit when he earned it.

In state after state - and in the nation's capitol - Democratic office-holders are responding to an economic crisis in dire need of massive government spending by slashing the very programs that are our only hope of recovery.

But Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear saw the children of working parents going without health care and realized that denying them insurance coverage was a false economy.

Families in the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP), which offers free or low-cost health insurance to eligible children, will no longer have to pay monthly premiums to ensure coverage for their child, Gov. Steve Beshear announced today.

Previously, some KCHIP families were required to pay a $20 monthly premium to receive KCHIP coverage for their children. Gov. Beshear recommended and the Kentucky General Assembly approved suspending the monthly charge after determining it served as a deterrent to enrollment and caused some children to drop out of the program because of the burden of paying premiums.

“In these tough economic times, we’re doing everything we can to make sure children have access to quality health care,” said Gov. Beshear. “By eliminating the monthly premiums for KCHIP, we will be able to prevent children from leaving the program due to cost, and children will continue to have access to care throughout their youth.”

Previously, KCHIP families whose income was over 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level paid the premium. Suspending the premiums affects approximately 12,200 families and over 16,000 children.

The federal poverty level for a family of four is $20,000. It's pretty cheap to live in Kentucky, but you can't support four people and buy health insurance for $30,000, even here. Twenty dollars a month is significant.

The effort is part of ongoing work by Gov. Beshear and his staff to increase the number of children in Kentucky with health insurance. This has included diligent work to enroll more children in the KCHIP program by removing barriers to KCHIP and Medicaid enrollment.

As of the end of June 2010, 419,544 children were covered by Medicaid, including 59,899 children in KCHIP. Since the end of October 2008, the number of Medicaid-covered children has increased by 42,449, which includes an increase of 6,713 children in KCHIP.

“Good health is the building block to thriving in youth, achieving academically and socially and sustaining quality of life,” said Gov. Beshear. “At the same time, quality health coverage is absolutely vital to establishing good health.”

Gov. Beshear’s statewide initiative began in November 2008 with a simplified mail-in KCHIP application, available online, and targeted outreach efforts. Efforts have included a focus on training community partners to assist with completion of applications; availability of enrollment materials at local health departments, Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) offices and Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSC); and outreach through health care providers, community action agencies, day care centers, faith-based organizations and many others. Approximately 250,000 mail-in applications, in both English and Spanish, have been distributed through these partnerships. In addition, CHFS has intensified efforts to re-enroll children who had previously been covered through the programs, including making policy changes to allow families an additional 30 days to return renewal information.

For more information, visit Kids Health.

Meanwhile, premium payments made by KCHIP members to cover July or any month after July will be refunded as soon as possible. Members with questions about premium payments are encouraged to call (800) 635-2570.

KCHIP covers dental, medical, vision, hearing, hospitalizations and many other medical services.

Helping working people in hard economic times is a winning campaign formula. Are you listening, Jack Conway?

Dear Mayfield, KY: Somali Muslims Are Too Good for You Racist Fuckers

Everyone in Mayfield who is not white and Xian should pack up and leave right now. Let the hate-mongering retards left behind find out just how much their economy depended on the Others they chased away.

Media Czech has the shameful details and video:

Islamophobe fever from the Fox News crowd continues to sweep through Kentucky. First, it was in Florence, KY. Now, they have won their battle out west in Mayfield, KY. This morning they voted to deny a permit for Somali muslims wanting to put a mosque in a strip mall. Here's the report from the local news station the night before that is just horrific.

Watch the video here and read the whole disgusting, demoralizing thing.

Now, who do I see about filing a complaint against Mayfield for aiding and abetting terrorists? Because they're doing exactly what Osama bin Laden wants.

Cheap Labor Conservatives

Via John Amato at Crooks and Liars, an easy way to understand and thus attack repug faux populism, from Conceptual Gorilla:

When you cut right through it, right-wing ideology is just "dime-store economics" – intended to dress their ideology up and make it look respectable. You don't really need to know much about economics to understand it. They certainly don't. It all gets down to two simple words.

"Cheap labor". That's their whole philosophy in a nutshell – which gives you a short and pithy "catch phrase" that describes them perfectly. You've heard of "big-government liberals". Well they're "cheap-labor conservatives".

"Cheap-labor conservative" is a moniker they will never shake, and never live down. Because it's exactly what they are. You see, cheap-labor conservatives are defenders of corporate America – whose fortunes depend on labor. The larger the labor supply, the cheaper it is. The more desperately you need a job, the cheaper you'll work, and the more power those "corporate lords" have over you. If you are a wealthy elite – or a "wannabe" like most dittoheads – your wealth, power and privilege is enhanced by a labor pool, forced to work cheap.

Don't believe me. Well, let's apply this principle, and see how many right-wing positions become instantly understandable.

* Cheap-labor conservatives don't like social spending or our "safety net". Why. Because when you're unemployed and desperate, corporations can pay you whatever they feel like – which is inevitably next to nothing. You see, they want you "over a barrel" and in a position to "work cheap or starve".
* Cheap-labor conservatives don't like the minimum wage, or other improvements in wages and working conditions. Why. These reforms undo all of their efforts to keep you "over a barrel".
* Cheap-labor conservatives like "free trade", NAFTA, GATT, etc. Why. Because there is a huge supply of desperately poor people in the third world, who are "over a barrel", and will work cheap.
* Cheap-labor conservatives oppose a woman's right to choose. Why. Unwanted children are an economic burden that put poor women "over a barrel", forcing them to work cheap.
* Cheap-labor conservatives don't like unions. Why. Because when labor "sticks together", wages go up. That's why workers unionize. Seems workers don't like being "over a barrel".
* Cheap-labor conservatives constantly bray about "morality", "virtue", "respect for authority", "hard work" and other "values". Why. So they can blame your being "over a barrel" on your own "immorality", lack of "values" and "poor choices".
* Cheap-labor conservatives encourage racism, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of bigotry. Why? Bigotry among wage earners distracts them, and keeps them from recognizing their common interests as wage earners.

There's much more good stuff. Read the whole thing.

Number 97

Kentucky's 97th sacrifice to the Iraq/Afghanistan clusterfucks is an Army Ranger from Tollesboro in Lewis County, along the Ohio River upstream from Cincinnati.

From the Courier:

Specialist Christopher Shane Wright, 23, died Aug. 19 in Konar Province, Afghanistan, after insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire.

Wright, an automatic-weapon gunner assigned to Co. C, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment based at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., had enlisted in the Army in 2005, according to the military.


Wright is survived by his father, James Cochran and stepmother, Michele Cochran of Tollesboro, Ky., and his mother, Linda Dennis of Jeffersonville, Ind. Linda Dennis could not be reached for comment Monday.

“Everybody loved him — he always had a smile on his face,” said Michele Cochran, who, along with his father, own Tollesboro Supply and T-City Pizza. Tollesboro is near Maysville, Ky.

The article included this paragraph:

Wright died in a fire fight that “ultimately killed three Taliban who were reportedly responsible for the deaths of two other U.S. servicemen,” according to a statement from Col. Michael Kurilla, commander of the 75th regiment.

That description is eerily similar to the one originally put out by the Army describing the death of Ranger Pat Tillman, who actually died in a friendly fire incident - the kind that is almost impossible to avoid in the impassable mountains along the Pakistan border where Wright, too, died.

If you still harbor hopes that the Afghanistan clusterfuck contains a sliver of redeeming quality, go see The Tillman Story. It's in limited release and may require a long drive, but it'll be worth it.

Genuflect when you say that, Soldier!

No more complaints from the Obama administration about islamophobia or lack of respect for religious freedom. Not when the administration continues to condone unconstitutional hatemongering by its own commanding generals.

Peterr at Firedoglake:

Once upon a time, missionaries operated with a “convert the king, and you win the kingdom” mentality. That is, if you could convince the king of the rightness of your cause — Christianity, permission to dig a mine, or just selling a better mousetrap — the king would order all the subjects to follow suit. Your church would be filled with worshipers, your mine with workers, and your mousetrap shop with customers.

Some might have thought that those days were long gone, at least in the United States, but they’ve apparently never met Major General James E. Chambers of the United States Army. Let’s let Chris Rodda of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation tell the story:

For the past several years, two U.S. Army posts in Virginia, Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, have been putting on a series of what are called Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts. As I’ve written in a number of other posts, “spiritual fitness” is just the military’s new term for promoting religion, particularly evangelical Christianity. And this concert series is no different.

On May 13, 2010, about eighty soldiers, stationed at Fort Eustis while attending a training course, were punished for opting out of attending one of these Christian concerts. The headliner at this concert was a Christian rock band called BarlowGirl, a band that describes itself as taking “an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God.”

Any doubt that this was an evangelical Christian event was cleared up by the Army post’s newspaper, the Fort Eustis Wheel, which ran an article after the concert that began:

“Following the Apostle Paul’s message to the Ephesians in the Bible, Christian rock music’s edgy, all-girl band BarlowGirl brought the armor of God to the warriors and families of Fort Eustis during another installment of the Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert Series May 13 at Jacobs Theater.”

The punishment for choosing not to attend, according to one of the soldiers, was this:

We were to be on lock-down in the company (not released from duty), could not go anywhere on post (no PX, no library, etc). We were to go to strictly to the barracks and contact maintenance. If we were caught sitting in our rooms, in our beds, or having/handling electronics (cell phones, laptops, games) and doing anything other than maintenance, we would further have our weekend passes revoked and continue barracks maintenance for the entirety of the weekend.

Unbelievable. All that’s missing is “Soldier, I want you to drop and give me 10 Our Fathers.”

General Chambers took an oath when he became an officer, promising that he would “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same . . .” Reading Rodde’s story makes me wonder if he ever read that Constitution.

Military folks are quick to defend themselves from outside criticism with the aphorism “The military is not a democracy.” True — and it damn well isn’t a theocracy, either.

The constitution Chambers swore to support and defend include the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion, and prohibits the government — including the military — from taking steps to promote and establish an official faith above other belief systems. As a pastor, I find Chambers’ “spiritual fitness concerts” beyond appalling (but that’s another subject), and as an American, punishing a soldier for refusing religious indoctrination is beyond acceptable.

Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that President Bush had nominated General Chambers to receive his second star in 2003. Current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ought to inquire as to whether Chambers is fit to continue wearing it, given his blatant disregard for the constitution he swore to defend.

And the soldiers who filed a complaint over this ought to be commended and promoted. They, at least, understand the constitution they have sworn to defend.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Show the Repugs and the Blue Dogs Who's a Real Democrat

Contribute to Alan Grayson's moneybomb before midnight. If you still don't know why, watch this:

"There are two groups in this country right now. I call those groups Us, and Them.

We want more jobs, better schools, better health, better pensions, and we want to keep our homes. We want not just jobs but jobs that mean something, jobs that pay a decent wage. We want to live a good life.

And then there's them. They simply have one goal and one goal only. And that is to destroy the government. They're not conservatives. They're anarchists.

I don't know why they want anarchy. In fact, they don’t know, either. Even they don't know what kind of inner darkness causes them to seek wars without end, to burn the planet, to welcome poverty for so many, to leave the old and the sick helpless, to cheer oil in the Gulf. I've spoken to enough of them to be able to tell you that they themselves don’t know why.

But that's what they want. So, now we have to decide who is going to run this country. Is it Us, or is it Them? And what's at stake is the future. The future in a country that my five children will live in, that your children will live in, that you'll live in for the rest of your life.

Are we going to have a country with a decent middle class life for everyone-- jobs, health care, roads, schools? Or, are we going to have poverty, cheap labor, helplessness and hopelessness? The choice is yours."

Down with Tyranny:

Congressman Grayson's clip above is positively existential. It's hard to believe it's coming from a Member of Congress. Of course, it's hard to believe there's a Member of Congress of Alan Grayson's calibre. And I get the feeling there are an awful lot of people in the Orlando area who know just how lucky they are. On the other hand, Alan has drawn a veritable circus sideshow of opponents, each one fringier and more insane than the other. Tomorrow is primary day in Florida and we'll be watching with interest as a small number of disheartened and disillusioned Republicans pick over the 4th and 5th tier candidates hoping for the nomination-- from Patricia Sullivan who (publicly) claims Sarah Palin as a role model, Dan Fanelli who proudly (and publicly) flies his racist flag for everyone to see, to the kook, Ross Bieling, who's platform is impeaching President Obama and the hate talk radio guy, Todd Long, who was found passed out drunk one morning in front of a local elementary school to a state legislator, Kurt Kelly, who disgraced himself last month by interpreting Rep. Grayson's efforts to bring the troops home to safety as wanting them to die and then to the feeble fave of the Establishment, Dan Webster, who's best known for pushing a radical religious agenda that has included ending the right of divorce and introducing the legislation that started the whole tragic Terri Schiavo debacle. And on top of that the Florida TEA Party has nominated Peg Dunmire, someone even nuttier than that crew-- well not nuttier than Fanelli-- running as well.

And Digby adds:

I'm fairly sure that everyone who reads this blog knows how much I respect and admire Congressman Alan Grayson. He is one of the few Democrats who understands the polarized nature of our polity in 2010 and doesn't shirk his responsibility to fight for our beliefs rather than obscure them.

Part of what makes that possible is the fact that Grayson has an army --- us. But anyone who has his own national constituency is a powerful independent force that threatens the existing order. It's why the Democratic Party gives money to corporate Democrats like Suzanne Kosmos in Grayson's neighboring district so that she can run ads undermining Grayson's progressive message in their shared TV market. (They give none to Grayson.)

But that's also why Grayson can continue to speak the truth and operate independently from the corrupt system that's killing our political culture --- as long as we make up the difference.

Today's the last day of a moneybomb his campaign launched a few days ago. Blue America has our own goal for Alan's campaign, an even $50,000.

Please, if you only contribute to one campaign this year, it's Alan Grayson who has earned that honor. he is our most powerful voice in the House of Representatives and if he wins re-election in his formerly Republican district in this year of Democratic paranoia, the message will be loud and clear --- people want Democrats with guts.

Alan Grayson is something Real Democrats have not had for a very long time: a strong, fearless voice of Proud Liberalism who makes republicans shit themselves.

He is out there working for us - virtually alone in Congress and in the Democratic Party. Contributing to his campaign is the least we can do in return.

Choosing the Tea Party Over Obama

From Down with Tyranny:

Greenwashing Racism

And you thought you'd seen the worst of the immigrant-bashing. No, the anti-immigrant mother lode is such a rich, deep vein of hate and fear that it can be used to attack anyone, anytime, for anything.

Now the frightwingers are using environmentalism to justify and strengthen anti-immigrant racism. When that's done, they'll turn around and acuse environmentalists of being racists.

Andrew Ross at The Nation:

Most recently, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a spinoff of FAIR, has focused on the damage done by the traffic of coyotes and their border-crossing clients to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Huachuca Mountains and Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona. "How long will these beautiful lands remain unspoiled if the border is not secured?" a CIS press release asked.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife have argued that most of the ecological mayhem in these areas is a result of the construction and maintenance of the border fence's "tactical infrastructure," which was exempted from all environmental and historic preservation laws by the Bush administration. But CIS is more interested in tapping a deep vein of public anxiety that connects the defense of pristine resources to the defense of racial purity. In a grotesque but telling offshoot, a number of humanitarian volunteers from Tucson-based No More Deaths, who leave plastic containers of water on migrant trails in the desert, have been arrested on charges of "littering." Meanwhile, the containers have been slashed repeatedly by Minutemen vigilantes and Border Patrol guards, who then leave the useless plastic on the desert floor.

The connection FAIR makes between immigration and sprawl is equally specious. Low-wage immigrants are much more likely to live lightly in central-city neighborhoods than the US-born population, who are more likely to settle in suburban subdivisions with high-carbon footprints. Nor is there any necessary correlation between population size or density and abuse of resources. How we produce and consume energy is a much more important determinant of pollution than our numbers. But FAIR's shady reasoning is typical of the way it has pushed xenophobia as green wisdom in order to win mainstream acceptance and divide its critics.


Is there an alternative to a future of racially fueled climate conflicts? At the World People's Conference on Climate Change at Cochabamba in April, the subject of environmental migration—how global warming affects migration (but not vice versa)—was high on the agenda. An estimated 50 million people have already been displaced by the impact of climate change, and the numbers will escalate in years to come. In northern Mexico, a primary source of migrants to Arizona, soil is eroding rapidly from the decline in precipitation, and studies predict that regional rainfall could decrease by 70 percent by the century's end. Are the emissions pumped into the desert air above central Arizona's sprawl already responsible, however indirectly, for some portion of the 500,000 undocumented migrants in the state?

If so, the evolving principles of climate justice point to a very different conclusion than the war on immigrants urged by FAIR. At the very least, those displaced by climate change have a right to sanctuary if their path of flight takes them northward. Sanctuary is the most minimal of the debts incurred, but other forms of recompense may be appropriate. Since these migrants are victims of the high-carbon policies enjoyed by industrialized nations, they may also be entitled to reparations. Either way, climate migrants will have their own carbon-conscious version of the retort offered by postcolonials when they settled in cities like London and Paris: "We are here because you were there."

Cochabamba ended with a call for international recognition of the rights of climate migrants. The risk of pursuing this path is that official identification may create yet another class of immigrant to be held in the limbo of refugee camps and detention centers, or lost in the maze of temporary visa categories. Besides, how easy is it to distinguish between border-crossers displaced by neoliberal trade policies and those set in motion by climate change? As long as the former are treated like invaders and felons, is it likely (or even just) that the latter would earn a special status? These are tough questions, even for movement people, but they are not going away. FAIR's shadiness aside, there are real connections between clean energy policy and immigration reform—the two bullets Congress is trying its best to dodge. But they will be made only if we swear off single-issue politics and push for decriminalization and decarbonization at one and the same time.

Read the whole thing.