Friday, December 31, 2010

You May Now Commence to Eat the Rich

Zandar notes how the avalanche of hysterical Austerity or Else! articles has a strange omission:

The more I look for it, the more I find articles about "what to do about state budget shortfalls?" not including the obvious solution of raising taxes and fees at all, let alone on the wealthy. Again and again we're told the only solution is painful cuts in vital social programs.

Which is, of course, the obvious consequence of Congress and President Obama dealing with massive budget shortfalls by approving a ludicrous tax cut for the rich that adds $700 billion to the massive budget shortfalls.

But history teaches us that when the rich overreach, so do the consequences. And soaking the rich never really goes out of style.

mjs' last Opinuary column is the best.

The Opinion "We shouldn't eat the rich" has died after being gnawed to the bone by a horde of addled geriatrics while on a skiing vacation in Aspen, Colorado. Born in the halcyon days of brotherly love and public order, the Opinion served to guide the less fortunate of the nation in their eating habits, admonishing them to refrain from dining on the wealthier members of society. After a pleasant childhood spent eating slaughtered animals, it left its home and became deeply embedded into the fabric of the social contract, free from any hint or pangs of cannibalistic urges.

After the fall of the Dark Prince in 1974 the Opinion spent the next few decades touring the country, sharing its message of Wealthy Free Eating as part of the They'll Shoot You if You So Much as Try and Nibble Them campaign. The promotion was so successful that no rich people were eaten in the United States for the next 35 years (the rich did continue to pay to have people lick them) even as poverty was increasing its presence. It was only when the richest citizens tried to fuck everybody out of their Social Security that poor mouths began to salivate when riding the bus through wealthy neighborhoods, and slowly the forks began to rise in anticipation of an orgy of flesh. As the New Year came knocking on the back porch door, barbecues across the 50 states began to sizzle and spit with the grease of bankers, insurance magnates, lobbyists, media moguls, fossil fuel executives and trust fund niblets, with nary a vegetable to be seen. Care for a nice Pinot Noir with your Upper Class Cutlets? Perhaps a slice of Derivative au Vin?

In lieu of flowers the family of the Opinion asks that you use caution when attempting to consume the rich, advising that a little patience goes a long way. Sure, upper class have the police and the military, but they'll run out of bullets eventually, and when they do, bam--they're what's for dinner.

They may have all the money, but never forget we outnumber them a thousand to one.

The only answer to politicians and pundits' demands that the middle and working classes "sacrifice" is this: You First.

It's time for our side in the class war to take the offensive.

Let's See Rethuglicans Eat on Three Dollars a Day

This is the kind of thing network news used to do every day of the week. The kind of thing the lack of which has been a huge factor in the destruction of our national discourse. The kind of thing we desperately need to stop our rapid plummet into a Randian dystopia.

Crooks and Liars:

I just have to wonder what kind of inhuman people want to ignore this. Hell, I wonder if most members of Congress even know about it! Are we supposed to believe that the United States of America can't afford to feed struggling people?



(CBS) OKLAHOMA CITY - For millions of Americans the economic recovery can't get here soon enough. In 2010 a record 40.3 million Americans received food stamps. That's a 20 percent jump from 2009.

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports that even with that help, many are just getting by. By the end of each month the question in Sheri Lopez's kitchen isn't what's for dinner but will there be dinner?

Her daughter says, "At the end we're all just trying to find something in the cabinets. Sometimes you go to bed kind of hungry."

Sheri's husband lost his construction job a year ago.

"It has been downhill," says Sheri. "There've been no ups and downs. It has just been downhill."

This Oklahoma family of five saw no choice but to apply for food stamps. Their $500 benefit lasts two to three weeks but hardly four.

Reward CBS for this: watch the CBS evening news every night in February, during the next ratings Sweeps Month.

And the next time some teabagger starts bitching about food stamps, tell him to show you how he would shop for food based on $3.33 per person per day.

Then tell him that every dollar the government spends on food stamps gets spent right away, generating more than two dollars in immediate economic stimulus. Want to get the economy rolling again, creating jobs? Double food stamp allotments now.

Why Americans Can't Have a Decent Social Safety Net

When the teabaggers and rethuglicans pine away for the Gilded Age, it's not just for the Lords-and-serfs economy. What they really crave is the society of, by and for rich white men.

Where women had no rights, gays stayed in the closet, and oh, most wonderful of all, blacks were barely a step removed from slavery.

Try this thought experiment: Imagine that President Obama proposes a massive expansion of the welfare state (yeah, I know, but stay with me): generous cradle-to-grave government-provided health care, college education, unemployment compensation and pensions. A system that eliminated hunger, homelessness and poverty. A system available only to native-born white citizens.

That's a fair trade: a full social safety net to rival any in Europe, in return for excluding people conservatives don't consider to be "Real Americans."

How many congressional republicans would vote for it?

Yes, the real reason we don't have a European-style system of civic responsibility is racism. Since long before the New Deal, conservatives have opposed any tax-supported government program no matter how much it benefitted millions of white people, as long as it gave so much as a dime to a single black person.

From FDR excluding heavily-black occupations like farm and domestic work from Social Security in order to get republican votes, to congressional repugs condemning court-ordered compensation to black farmers as "reparations," it's always been about preventing blacks from getting tax dollars, even at the price of hurting working-class whites.

Today, conservatives deny basic government services to people on the orders of their obscenely wealthy masters. But public health care, unemployment compensation and pensions were weak enough to attack in the first place because racists have kept them weak.

So when Europeans wonder why Americans tolerate levels of poverty and suffering unbefitting a civilized nation, the answer is simple: the richest country in the world is not insane; it's so racist it's destroying itself.

Susie Madrak:

Why did the insurance industry try so hard to destroy the credibility of Michael Moore's "Sicko"? Because once Americans saw what other countries had, they would begin to see what was possible -- and that would be bad for health insurers.

I'm pretty sure Americans would feel the same way if they saw the kind of safety net available to citizens in other countries -- Germany, for instance. Via Democrats Ramshield, an American expat, writing for Alternet:

The European Union has a larger economy and more people than America does. Though it spends less -- right around 9 percent of GNP on medical, whereas we in the U.S. spend close to between 15 to 16 percent of GNP on medical -- the EU pretty much insures 100 percent of its population.

The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave; 40 million on food stamps. Everybody in the European Union has cradle-to-grave access to universal medical and a dental plan by law. The law also requires paid sick leave; paid annual leave; paid maternity leave. When you realize all of that, it becomes easy to understand why many Europeans think America has gone insane.

Der Spiegel has run an interesting feature called "A Superpower in Decline," which attempts to explain to a German audience such odd phenomena as the rise of the Tea Party, without the hedging or attempts at "balance" found in mainstream U.S. media.

[...] The piece continues with the sobering assessment that America’s actual unemployment rate isn’t really 10 percent, but close to 20 percent when we factor in the number of people who have stopped looking for work.

Some social scientists think that making sure large-scale crime or fascism never takes root in Europe again requires a taxpayer investment in a strong social safety net. Can we learn from Europe? Isn't it better to invest in a social safety net than in a large criminal justice system? (In America over 2 million people are incarcerated.)

Unlike here, in Germany jobless benefits never run out. Not only that -- as part of their social safety net, all job seekers continue to be medically insured, as are their families.

In the German jobless benefit system, when "jobless benefit 1" runs out, "jobless benefit 2," also known as HartzIV, kicks in. That one never gets cut off. The jobless also have contributions made for their pensions. They receive other types of insurance coverage from the state. As you can imagine, the estimated 2 million unemployed Americans who almost had no benefits this Christmas seems a particular horror show to Europeans, made worse by the fact that the U.S. government does not provide any medical insurance to American unemployment recipients. Europeans routinely recoil at that in disbelief and disgust.

[...] It's important to note that no country in the European Union uses food stamps in order to humiliate its disadvantaged citizens in the grocery checkout line. Even worse is the fact that even the humbling food stamp allotment may not provide enough food for America’s jobless families. So it is on a reoccurring basis that some of these families report eating out of garbage cans to the European media.

For Pam Brown, last winter was the worst. One day she ran out of food completely and had to go through trash cans. She fell into a deep depression ... For many, like Brown, the downfall is a Kafkaesque odyssey, a humiliation hard to comprehend. Help is not in sight: their government and their society have abandoned them.

Pam Brown and her children were disturbingly, indeed incomprehensibly, allowed to fall straight to the bottom. The richest country in the world becomes morally bankrupt when someone like Pam Brown and her children have to pick through trash to eat, abandoned with a callous disregard by the American government. People like Brown have found themselves dispossessed due to the robber baron actions of the Wall Street elite.

Wall Street's Whining Liars

As a corrective to the Whiny-Ass Titty Babies of Wall Street setting new standards in unjustified whining ...

It appears that our Wall Street masters are still miffed that President Obama used a few harsh words against Wall Street even after he helped give them their wingnut welfare bailout.

SNIP

Here's another lesson I hope the President has learned. You can give the financial sector a trillion dollars, keep their institutions intact, extend the Bush tax cuts that go directly to themsleves and allow the flow of what are now a record number of monetary bonuses to keep on chugging and they'll still turn on you because of a few mean words. These people are truly in their own world that only Alan Greenspan and his fellow Randian uber- narcissists relate to. And in the end, these corporate jet setters would never support the left for an extended period of time because for the most part their ranks are made up of Birchers and Free Market freaks.

.... read this terrific piece by Les Leopold on the Top Ten 2010 Lies of Wall Street:

What a great year for Wall Street: profits up, bonuses up and, best of all, criticism down, especially from Washington. Somehow Wall Street has much of America believing its lies and rationalizations. We're even beginning to forget that Wall Street is largely responsible for the economic mess we're in.

So before we're completely overtaken by financial Alzheimer's, let's revisit Wall Street's greatest fabrications for 2010. (For the full story, please see The Looting of America.)

1."Honest, we didn't do it!" Two years ago Wall Street's colossal greed crashed our economy. Our financial elites created and spewed highly leveraged toxic assets around the globe. These poisonous "innovations" pumped up the housing bubble and Wall Street grew insanely rich in the process. When it all burst, we learned that the big Wall Street institutions that had caused the crash were far too big to fail -- and too connected. High government officials came to their rescue with trillions in cash and guarantees -- underwritten, of course, by we taxpayers. Everyone knew this at the time. But if you asked just about anyone on "The Street" they denied all culpability and pointed the finger everywhere else: Fannie, Freddie, the Fed, the Community Reinvestment Act, tax deductions for home buying, bad regulations, not enough regulations, too many regulations, too much consumer debt, the rating agencies, the Chinese -- and on and on. Sadly, their blame-shifting strategy worked, bamboozling the media and people across the political spectrum. The GOP members of the Financial Crisis Commission are so drunk with this Kool-Aid that in their minority report, they refuse even to use the words "Wall Street" or "speculation" in assessing the causes of the crash. Hypocrites? Crooks? Morons? Take your pick.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just How Stupid Does Steve Beshear Think You Are?

Public Policy Polling shows Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear up 14 points in approval rating just 10 months before the voters decide whether to keep him or throw his ass to the fire-breathing dragons at the Flintstones Truther Park.

Kentucky Democrat Steve Beshear who's up next year is unusually popular at a 48/34 spread.

But that poll didn't specify that the Steve Beshear they were asking about is the same Steve Beshear who is writing proven, exposed lies like this:

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about proposed "Ark Encounter" tourist attraction. I appreciate knowing your views.

Bringing new jobs to Kentucky is my top priority, and I believe this project will be beneficial to our future, providing an estimated 900 jobs and $250 million in annual revenue for the regional economy. The theme park is expected to draw 1.6 million visitors in the first year alone.

Media Czech girds his loins and attacks the lies:

Oh, you thought that being busted by Linda Blackford for having never seen or even requested the fraudulent "feasibility study" by Ken Ham's wingnut business partner would have made him stop citing those ridiculous numbers as the gospel truth? You thought that Steve Beshear had a shred of integrity left?

You thought wrong.

But it gets worse. Check out the next sentence:

I am excited to have another unique, family-friendly tourist attraction for the state.

Excited. Unique. Family-friendly. For the state.

I bet they used to say the same thing about witch burnings.

Beshear goes into the tourism act, and then drops this on us:

This project is an investment in the future of the Commonwealth and is sure to bring people from across the country to Kentucky.

"An investment in the future of the Commonwealth".

SNIP

What do Steve Beshear and Ken Ham want the future of Kentucky to look like? Like a saddled triceratops hoof stomping on a human brain. Forever.

Are we really going to settle for this? I know Steve Beshear is, but are we?

Read the whole thing.

$37.5 million. For a freakazoid con game that will leave the Commonwealth poorer and stupider.

"Successful" Lame Duck Left Middle Class in Worse Shape

Every football season, there are several games in which the winning team scores the most points despite being outplayed by the losing team in every statistical category: time on offense, yards gained, passes completed, first downs, sacks, penalties - the losing team "won" everything. Except the game.

Thus does it appear that President Obama "won" the 111th Congress because so many bills of such great significance passed both House and Senate and were signed into law.

But if you look at the points on the scoreboard - whether the middle-class is better or worse off economically than it was two years ago - the ugly truth is clear:

The Rethuglicans won.

Alex Pareene at Salon:

Even this successful-looking lame duck demonstrated how difficult it's become to do the simplest things in the world's most deliberative body. The Senate had to pass the food safety bill multiple times, because of procedural screw-ups. The 9/11 bill shrunk -- after it "failed" a vote by receiving more than 50 but fewer than 60 votes -- because one cranky senator threatened to single-handedly delay another vote until after Christmas.

The Senate just gave up on slightly difficult but necessary things, like the DREAM Act and the appropriations bill. The failure of the omnibus spending bill will have major repercussions. It means that the government can't actually act on the wonderful progressive things the Senate passed earlier this year, like healthcare reform and financial regulation. If Dodd-Frank can't be implemented, does it even matter? And the Democrats failed to even come close to passing a budget while they still controlled both houses.

Sure, the Senate approved 19 judges. 19 out of 38 pending nominations. One confirmed judge had been awaiting confirmation since January. And as part of the "deal" between Democrats and Republicans, Democrats won't even seek votes on four other pending judges. (This is the point where liberal bloggers all reminisce about the days of "straight up-or-down votes.") After two years, Obama has managed get 60 judges confirmed, which is an absurdly low number, especially for a president whose party "controls" the Senate.

Meanwhile, we've got no climate bill, no immigration reform, no budget, and no hope of improving, rather than dismantling, the healthcare reform law. This was the dying breath of a sick Congress.

Firedoglake:

There’s been a lot of good cheer about the lame duck session, and Democrats are taking victory laps. It’s possible to hold two ideas in your head at once. You can acknowledge that this lame duck has been more productive and cleared out more legislation left for dead than most people thought possible, and you can chalk that up to any number of reasons – a new aggressiveness for Democrats, Republican moderates turning on their party, whatever.

You can also acknowledge that on the biggest issues of the session – tax policy and government funding – the Republicans got their way, and set the stage for the 112th Congress that should feature major spending cuts. In the process, Democrats did not even bother to get important government functions funded, including money for the implementation of their top two legislative achievements, health care and financial reform.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has stopped hiring and halted most travel by agency officials.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to nations like Pakistan is held up, as are American contributions to global health and emergency food programs.

A systems upgrade by the Internal Revenue Service to improve electronic data-keeping and speed tax refunds could be delayed for years — all because the federal government is operating on a temporary measure largely at last year’s levels [...]

“Operating under the continuing resolution is already forcing the agency to delay or cut back enforcement and market oversight efforts,” said John Nester, a spokesman for the S.E.C., which faces a huge new workload to carry out the Wall Street regulation law enacted this year. “The longer we operate under significant budgetary restrictions, the greater the impact.”

You can pass all the bills you want, and it doesn’t matter even a little bit if you can’t fund them. Continuing resolutions are good for preventing government shutdowns, but they are also tantamount to budget freezes. With budgets set at 2010 levels until March, no money for the key measures passed in 2010 will flow. And of course, come March, Republicans will try to hold the line with government funding back to 2008 levels, an effective 20% budget cut, at least $100 billion dollars.

Goodbye stimulus.

And Digby:

One hopes the Democrats and the president will at least challenge that with a jobs and growth plan of their own, bus so far we're hearing they want to talk deficits and austerity, (which just so happens to be the GOP jobs plan, it just sounds worse.) Castellanos admitted that part of their jobs bill would the test votes throughout the year of what Gloria Borger helpfully reminded him was called the "jobs killing health care bill." Somehow, I have a feeling that they are going to enjoy putting the President in the position of having to compromise something very painful to protect his health care plan.

None of this to say that the victories aren't worthwhile or the price worth paying. I quarrel mightily with the overall strategy that left the tax cuts on the table to the very end, but when you are dealing with a Party that is perfectly willing to allow the people to suffer and die if they don't get what they want, it's tough to negotiate. You have to find something these people will accept in return and the price will be very, very high. And it was.

Going forward, if the president sees his main function as stopping health care repeal and cuts to education and Veterans benefits, then we'll have gridlock, which considering the current dynamics, may be the best we can hope for: now that the Republicans have their tax cuts, I'm afraid that the only thing left that the Republicans will consider "common ground" are cuts to the safety net.

Speaking of the health care bill, Ezra Klein reports:

The Senate passed the Continuing Resolution 79-16 this afternoon. Another way of saying that: The Senate voted to defund the implementation of both health-care reform and financial-regulation reform....

Republicans had been talking about attacking the health-reform law by defunding it, but few thought they'd succeed without a fight. The assumption was that Democrats would shut down the government before they let Republicans take that money. But as it happened, there was no fight at all. The omnibus spending bill collapsed, and the continuing resolution compromise was reached within a few days. Most senators probably don't even know the implications their vote had for the implementation of bills passed over the past year.

However, Mitch McConnell has told us how Obama can get more of this Village media love when the new, even more radical, congress comes in next month:

“If the president is willing to do things that we believe in, I don’t think we’re going to say, ‘No, Mr. President, we’re not going to do this any longer because you’re now with us,’” McConnell told POLITICO in his ornate office across from the old Senate chamber. “Any time the president is willing to do what we think is in the best interest of the American people, we have something to talk about.”

I'm fairly sure that's how the vaunted tax "compromise" worked, so there's no reason to think it can't happen gain. Obama himself just told us that "this lame duck shows that we are not doomed to gridlock." Let's hope his definition is better than McConnell's.

Firedoglake again, on how tax cuts for the rich trumped everything:

That was really all they cared about, as Robert Reich argues:

When it comes to protecting the fortunes of America’s rich (mostly top corporate executives and Wall Street) and maintaining their strangle-hold on the political process, Senate Republicans, along with some Senate Democrats, don’t budge.

Bipartisanship is possible on foreign policy. It’s even possible on certain social issues, such as gays in the military. But it’s not possible when it comes to the core economic and political reality of the United States today — the almost unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top, and the way it’s being used to corrupt our democratic system.

In this respect, Democrats are better than Republicans, but not much better. Both parties have rejected efforts to close tax loopholes that would treat much of earnings of hedge-fund and private-equity managers as ordinary income rather than capital gains (taxed at 15 percent). Both parties have refused to cap the size of Wall Street’s major banks or force the banks to aid of distressed homeowners whose mortgages they hold.

Neither party has had the intestinal fortitude to suggest that taxes should be permanently raised on multi-millionaires. Neither will take the initiative on significant campaign finance reform.

It really gets worse than that. Inside the continuing resolution is the two-year pay freeze for public employees. The defense authorization bill funds the war in Afghanistan with basically no strings attached. Inserted in that defense bill were strict limits on the transfer of detainees out of Guantanamo, making federal trials almost impossible. Stripped out of that defense bill was a provision from Roland Burris to allow VA hospitals to perform abortions paid for with private money.

The bipartisan consensus on the corporate-backed economy, the war machine foreign policy, and even some areas of social policy held in the lame duck session, and set up many consequential fights ahead. You cannot divorce the tax cut deal from the looming spending fight. You cannot divorce the START treaty from the fading possibilities of follow-on nuclear disarmament treaties. These things are more lasting than ephemeral victories at the end of Congress. We can savor the victories, but the fight on many key issues, especially the economy, hasn’t even been taken up.

This is Class War as it has not been waged in this country in more than a century. The obscenely wealthy are determined to restore the Gilded Age of opulence and wretchedness, with nothing in between.

Rethuglicans are fighting on the side of the rich. Workers, liberals, unions, small businesses and the rest of the reality-based community are fighting on the side of the middle-class.

President Obama and Congressional Democrats will fall in line behind whoever looks like a winner.

Which side are you on?

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Williams Files Bill to Kill Kentucky Farmers

Don't be fooled by the racist, anti-American, un-constitutional facade of this supposed anti-immigrant bill. What Kentucky Senate President David Williams, rethuglican candidate for governor, is really trying to do is destroy Kentucky agriculture by eliminating its entire workforce.

And what better cover than having as his lite guv running mate the current - wait for it - commissioner of agriculture?

Political genius, I tell you - genius!

Courier:

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, on Wednesday unveiled his proposal for immigration reform, which mirrors the Arizona immigration law that is being challenged in a federal appeals court.

Williams, who is running for governor next year, wants to require local law enforcement to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.

A federal judge in July blocked Arizona from enforcing such a provision after the federal government sued the state. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last month heard arguments in the case but has not ruled. The law is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Williams' office released copies of Senate Bill 6 late Wednesday and did not respond to requests for comment.

As is the case with Arizona's law, Williams' bill would allow police to detain people they reasonably suspect are in the country without authorization and check their status with federal officials.

If you're still courting skin cancer by cultivating a tan in Kentucky, I recommend you start carrying your birth certificate in your wallet and practicing a British accent.

Repug Ky Legislator Eating Dems' Lunch

Well, this is annoying. A Kentucky state legislator has pre-filed a slew of bills for the upcoming General Assembly session, and each and every one of them represents a positive solution to the severe problem of obesity and bad health in Kentucky's children.

What's so annoying? The legislator who filed those excellent bills is a - gulp - republican.

From Page One:

State Rep. Addia Wuchner pre-filed legislation focused on education and combating childhood obesity for the 2011 legislative session in Frankfort.

“Our children are not only the future leaders of our state, but also our nation and our world,” said Rep. Wuchner. “When it comes to our children, Kentucky’s statistics are frightening. In 2007 Kentucky ranked number one for infant death due to abuse and neglect; fifteen percent of our children struggle and fail in school due to learning disabilities and unaddressed differences like dyslexia; and over one in four of Kentucky children are overweight or obese.”

“In addition, one-third of Kentucky’s children will develop type two diabetes in their lives, and many others will face chronic obesity related health problems like cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and stroke,” Wuchner added. “These tragic statistics reflect not only their futures, but are taking their toll on Kentucky’s economy. It is imperative that we as Kentucky’s leaders of today do everything we can to assure tomorrow’s leaders the best educational opportunities and health initiatives we can offer them.”

Among the pre-filed pieces of legislation (which may be found here):

HB 159 — Seeks to establish the goal of increasing physical activity to 30 minutes per day or 150 minutes a week for all K-5 schools in Kentucky by November 2013. This bill is called the ‘Health Kids Act 2011.

HB 160 — Initiates a change to current school health and physical examination entrance forms for kindergarten and sixth grade; physicians and practitioners would include Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements with height and weight. It would keep the information and health related discussions at the clinical level, with the data only available in aggregate form for statistical data.

BR 310 — A concurrent resolution establishing the Legislative Task Force on Childhood Obesity, with the goal studying issues relating to the increasing epidemic of childhood obesity in Kentucky and presenting findings and recommendations to the LRC and the IJC on Health and Welfare by November 2011.

BR 311 — Directs the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to establish nutritional and physical activity guidelines and standards for licensed child care centers in Kentucky.

BR 312 — Encourage all birthing centers in Kentucky hospitals, to provide parents and caregivers prevention and awareness education on pediatric head trauma prior to baby’s discharge from the hospital following their birth in an effort to combat pediatric abusive head trauma, also known as Shake Baby Syndrome or Death.

BR 197 — Establishes district-wide use of a response-to-intervention system for students in kindergarten through grade three (3), that includes early identification of various learning differences including dyslexia, dysgraphia etc., and provide a tiered continuum of scientifically based research interventions matched to individual student strengths and needs to improve learning outcomes.

BR 263 — Directs the Department of Education to develop the pathway for an alternative diploma for high school students with special needs who can’t meet all the requirements of a traditional high school diploma, but who demonstrate abilities and skills that the current certificate of completion does not fully recognize. The alternate diploma pathway would allow them to continue their skills training and education enter the workforce and live productive lives.

I am especially pleased to see the 30 minutes per day of physical activity requirement in the schools. I was horrified to discover a few years ago that the daily hour of PE we all dreaded back in my day has been eliminated along with art and music. Some schools have been forced to turn their gyms into classrooms.

Does Rep. Wuchner realize that she is violating about 15 fundamental republican precepts against helping public schools or children in poverty, citing scientific facts, interferring with parental rights and promoting socialistic notions of healthy behavior?

And where are the legislature's Democrats on this?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Class War is On: Are You Going to Surrender or Fight?

Enough.

I am sick and fucking tired of supposed "progressives" proposing tax "reform" that allows the obscenely wealthy to continue to strip working people of every last dime.

Here's the fact, the reality and the truth about taxes and economic prosperity: any system that allows the filthy rich to keep more than half of their ill-gotten gains (and yes, wealth amassed by the top one percent is by definition ill-gotten) is economically destructive.

Here's proof:



Yeah. In those fabulous Fifties John Boehner is always crying over, the rich paid 91 percent income tax. And the working and middle classes were better off than they had been before or since. One middle-class income easily supported a family of five with a decent house in the suburbs, a late-model car, a nice vacation, college education for the kids and retirement early enough to enjoy.

In the Sixties, 70 percent top tax rates drove a thriving economy and paid for both war and the Great Society.

Even in the Reagan years the rich paid 50 percent.

But what happened when Smirky/Darth slashed top rates to 35 percent? Yep, the economy tanked. For seven years, obscenely wealthy individuals and corporations raked in the dough while working people watched their savings disappear, their incomes shrink, their jobs go overseas.

It's obvious: soaking the rich = broad prosperity, tax cuts for the rich = economic catastrophe.

Obvious, that is, to everyone except the teabagging rethuglicans like Paul Ryan about to take over Congress.

Steve Benen:

It prompted Jon Chait to flag a piece he wrote in March about Ryan and his borderline-creepy devotion to the philosophy of Rand.

Ryan would retain some bare-bones subsidies for the poorest, but the overwhelming thrust in every way is to liberate the lucky and successful to enjoy their good fortune without burdening them with any responsibility for the welfare of their fellow citizens. This is the core of Ryan's moral philosophy:

"The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand," Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead." ...

At the Rand celebration he spoke at in 2005, Ryan invoked the central theme of Rand's writings when he told his audience that, "Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill ...รข€‚is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict -- individualism versus collectivism."

The core of the Randian worldview, as absorbed by the modern GOP, is a belief that the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral, and the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers.

"burdening them with any responsibility for the welfare of their fellow citizens."

There it is. Right there is the problem. For more than 30 years, liberals have allowed conservatives to define taxes as a "burden" to support the "welfare of their fellow citizens."

So now everybody now sees taxes as a horrible thing to be eliminated at any cost.

But back when the top tax rate was 91 percent, under republican Dwight Eisenhower, Democrats and rational republicans alike viewed taxes as the reasonable cost of building and maintaining public services like highways.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes put it "Taxes are the price we pay for civilization."

The rich paid a much higher rate of taxes because the rich receive a much greater benefit from public services. Doubt it? Who gets more benefit from government-run air traffic control - the working stiff who take one vacation a year or the hedge fund manager who flies his private jet coast-to-coast twice a week?

The truth about the "burden of responsibility for the welfare of their fellow citizens" is that since 1980 it is the middle and working classes who have been supporting the parasites of the upper class. Over the past 30 years there has been a massive transfer of wealth FROM the middle and working classes TO the obscenely rich.

Long past time for that transfer to operate in reverse.

New rule: anyone who accepts a top tax rate less than 50 percent is a tool of the plutocracy and no friend of working people, economic prosperity or liberal democracy.

And that goes for President Obama and every congressional "Democrat" who voted to extend the economy-killing, middle-class-eliminating tax cuts for the rich.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Ark and the Czech

If you are not reading Media Czech's blanket coverage of the mushrooming Flintstones Truther Park story, you are missing the best entertainment around.

Because each day brings a new revelation that is even more ridiculous than the last. Just when you think it can't get any more ludicrous, it does.

You thought dinosaurs were absurd? That's nothing! How about fire-breathing dragons? No, still not enough. Now we've got unicorns!

This is rapidly becoming an inescapable pool of quicksand for up-for-reelection Governor Steve Beshear. Any move he makes either toward or away from these freakazoid con artists just drags him closer to political death.

Friday, December 24, 2010

"On his brow I see that written which is Doom"


If "A Christmas Carol" is the only Dickens you've ever read, you're missing some of the greatest investigative reporting ever published.

Dicken's novels above all things exposed the inequities, hypocrisy and cruelty of the Victorian era. Few today write about the ugly reality of poverty and the war the wealthy wage upon the poor the way Dickens did, and no one who does is as bestseller-list popular as Dickens was.

A Christmas Carol is no exception. It contains one of the finest passages on the danger of unrelived poverty ever written.

Courtesy Democratic Underground:

It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together. It was strange, too, that while Scrooge remained unaltered in his outward form, the Ghost grew older, clearly older. Scrooge had observed this change, but never spoke of it, until they left a children's Twelfth Night party, when, looking at the Spirit as they stood together in an open place, he noticed that its hair was grey.

'Are spirits' lives so short?' asked Scrooge.

'My life upon this globe, is very brief,' replied the Ghost. 'It ends to-night.'

'To-night!' cried Scrooge.

'To-night at midnight. Hark! The time is drawing near.'

The chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at that moment.

'Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,' said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe, 'but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?'

'It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,' was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. 'Look here.'

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

'Oh, Man! look here! Look, look, down here!' exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

'Spirit, are they yours?' Scrooge could say no more.

'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And abide the end!'

'Have they no refuge or resource?' cried Scrooge.

'Are there no prisons?' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses?'

The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Greatest Civil Rights Achievement of Our Lives

If you're younger than 50, you don't remember the great civil rights bills of the mid-'60s: the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. Most of us grew up knowing those as settled law, and have no idea what the world was like before they became law.

But we know what the world is like for those of us who are gay, and our gay friends and family members, who have to lie and hide to protect their jobs, to keep their homes, to serve our country.

If, as I believe, Barack Obama will be remembered as the 21st-Century LBJ for prolonging the Afghanistan clusterfuck, he should also be remembered as another LBJ for repealing DADT.

Rachel Maddow called the president "elated" during the signing ceremony; watch and see for yourself:



Full transcript here.

And don't miss Chris Hayes' segment on this during Countdown, including an interview with a Korean War veteran who fought in combat while have to hide that he is a gay man.

KY Legislators Make Strong Bid for Title of "Most Moronic"

The Kentucky Constitution is embarassingly out of date and inadequate in many ways, but the long list of needed changes does not include enshrining the rights of hunters and fisherman.

So what are state legislators planning to waste time on in the upcoming General Assembly session?

Yeah.

Several state lawmakers want constitutional protection for Kentuckians' right to hunt and fish, although they acknowledge that no authority has threatened this right in anyone's memory.

A bill calling for a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment was prefiled for the 2011 General Assembly by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg; Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville; and Rep. John "Bam" Carney, R-Campbellsville. The legislature convenes Jan. 4.

"The citizens of Kentucky have the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, including the use of traditional methods, subject only to statutes enacted by the legislature," the amendment would read, in part. "Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife."

The measure reflects bipartisan concern in Frankfort following President Barack Obama's health care reform law and what some people see as overreaching by the federal government, Carney said. The right to own and use guns might be targeted by federal legislation in the future, he said.

Give me strength.

This is a federal government, let us remember, so terrified of the National Rifle Association that it can't even stop illegal gun-runners from selling automatic weapons to - wait for it - Mexican drug lords.

But assume, for the sake of argument, that the federal government - including a republican-majority House of Representatives - decided to impose draconian gun control on the nation.

A provision in the Kentucky state constitution that declares the right of residents to slaughter helpless animals will have no effect on federal gun control.

Kentucky is falling the fuck apart at the seams. No jobs, no money, no social safety net, no decent education, not a working brain cell in Frankfort.

But we've got god-bothering license plates, taxpayer-supported freakazoid idiocy, and squirrel-shooting listed in the constitution.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DINO Chandler Exposes Himself to Students

At Berea College, no less: Berea, which for more than 150 years has set the standard for personal integrity and strong character in Kentucky. Berea, where the students know a soulless hypocrite when it condescends to them.

David M.F. Shankula catches ol' Wire Hanger and nails him:

Ben Chandler (R-KY) took time out of his busy schedule defending Wall Street barons and Health Insurance Executives to visit a "Women's Health" class at Berea College last week.

No, no. This isn't another post about Ben Chandler's reprehensible views on women's rights (he's against them) -- it's about his views on toxins in our food!

Packaged foods sold in the United States may contain any number of about 80,000 untested chemicals, students in a Berea College “Women’s Health” class told U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Sixth District, on Tuesday.

Even if all the chemicals that may be in a food item are disclosed, and many are not, “That’s too many for any family or individual to keep up with to determine if they are safe,” one class member to the congressman.

More specifically, they asked Chandler if he would support revision of the Toxic Substance Control Act or TOSCA.

Among the chemicals found in food is BPA or bisphenol A, transmitted by plastic food containers such as baby bottles, sippy cups and water bottles.

The students said their research shows BPA imitates the female hormone estrogen, has ill effects on the thyroid gland and could be linked to breast cancer.

And what did good Republican Ben Chandler have to say to that?

Chandler commended the students for their interest and research. He also urged them to share that information with their classmates, families and others.

Most said they had already done that.

Concerned citizens may persuade a Congressman or Senator to vote for TOSCA reform, but unless there is constituent support for it, “He or she may not be (back in Congress) after the next election,” Chandler said.
A good lesson in Chandlercrat politics for these kids because, you see, either you can have Ben Chandler not vote for, fight for or support what is good and right right now or you will be faced with someone in two years who is not Ben Chandler and who will also be unwilling to fight for or support what is right then. Which obviously would yeild the same but worse results -- there would then still be toxins in food and baby bottles just as there are now and will continue to be under Ben Chandler, but then you wouldn't have Ben Chandler in Washington not protecting you. Which is not what you want.

It gets better - or worse, depending on how you look at it.

Read the whole thing.

The Leaks That Damage Are Not Coming from Wikileaks

Gregg Easterbrook, in his TMQ column:

Leaks Don't Come Out of the Sky: Is the WikiLeaks disclosure of Pentagon and State Department internal docments dangerous, by reducing U.S. military and diplomatic effectiveness? Or good, by pulling down the veil of secrecy around government? Obviously there are arguments on both sides. Here's what struck me. Last week this New York Times page-one story reported the Obama administration "plans to further step up attacks on al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in the tribal areas of Pakistan."

Maybe that's a good idea; maybe it's not. But as an item of information, the Times story is far more explosive than anything in WikiLeaks disclosures so far, most of which contain trivia and statements of the obvious. The Times story tells al-Qaeda and Taliban factions in tribal Pakistan that raids and air strikes will increase. The story is a warning of something about to happen, rather than a retrospective on prior events. And the story is sourced to unnamed "administration officials." That is -- the information was leaked by the White House or Pentagon.

Perhaps the purpose of the leak was to make the president sound tough at a time when his poll numbers are fluttering. Perhaps the purpose was to make the U.S. military sound powerful at a time when a $725 billion Pentagon budget request was awaiting approval in Congress. The purpose cannot have been to help American soldiers and air crew in the field. Their chances would be best if U.S. forces struck al-Qaeda and Taliban targets without warning, with nothing said by the White House or Pentagon until after the operation was over.

I don't question the Times' decision to run the story. What I question is White House and Defense Department officials denouncing Julian Assange when he publishes leaks that embarrass the powerful -- then merrily using leaks themselves when they think the powerful will benefit. If revealing government information is, on its face, an offense, White House and Pentagon officials who leak to reporters should be chased across the world and prosecuted just as vigorously as Assange.

Maybe the WikiLeaks idea is indeed wrong. But compared to White House and Pentagon officials who leak to the press when it suits them, isn't Assange -- who uses his name rather than hide behind anonymity -- the honest one?

Wikileaks has become the kind of litmus test that Clinton getting blow jobs from Monica Lewinsky was. People who freaked out over some harmless cocksucking were either overcompensating for personal problems or using it as a cover for another agenda.

People who are freaking out over Wikileaks doing nothing different than what investigative journalists used to do are either trying to distract the public from the really damaging leaks or lying about it for political purposes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Way It Really Was

In this sesquicentennial year of Confederate treason, as we contemplate the presidential candidacy of Professional Racist Haley Barbour, Blue Texan digs up some golden oldies:

Why is everyone making such a fuss about Haley Barbour’s comment that life in his home state “wasn’t that bad” during the Jim Crow era? During Barbour’s teen years, Mississippi was a perfectly fine place to grow up.

1960:
In the Deep South considerable pressure was put on blacks by Klansmen not to vote. An example of this was the state of Mississippi. By 1960, 42% of the population were black but only 2% were registered to vote.

1961:
Herbert Lee, a Negro who had been active in voter registration, was shot and killed by white state representative E. H. Hurst in downtown Liberty. No prosecution was undertaken, the authorities explaining that the representative had shot in self-defense.

1962:
Two people have been killed and at least 75 injured in rioting at the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

Hundreds of extra troops have been brought in to join Federal forces already stationed in the nearby town of Oxford as the violence spread to its streets.
The protesters are angry at the admission of James Meredith, a black American, to the university.

1963:
On June 12, 1963, a day after President John F. Kennedy’s speech on national television in support of civil rights, [Medgar] Evers pulled into his driveway just after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. Emerging from his car and carrying NAACP T-shirts that read “Jim Crow Must Go,” Evers was struck in the back with a bullet fired from an Enfield 1917 .303 rifle that ricocheted into his Jackson, Mississippi home. He staggered 9 meters (30 feet) before collapsing. He died at a local hospital 50 minutes later. [...]

On June 23, 1964, Byron De La Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and member of the White Citizens’ Council and Ku Klux Klan, was arrested for Evers’ murder.

1964:
The bodies of three civil rights workers missing for six weeks have been found buried in a partially constructed dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation found the three young men – two white and one black man – about six miles from the town in a wooded area near where they were last seen on the night of 21 June.

They were Michael Schwerner, aged 24, Andrew Goodman, 20, both from New York and James Chaney, 22, from Meridian, Mississippi. All were members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) dedicated to non-violent direct action against racial discrimination.

1965:
Allie W. Shelby is shot to death in the Hinds County Jailhouse in Jackson, Mississippi after having been arrested, convicted, and sentenced to six months on charges of making indecent gestures towards a white woman.

1966:
Ben Chester White, who had worked most of his life as a caretaker on a plantation, had no involvement in civil rights work. He was murdered by Klansmen [in Natchez, Mississippi] who thought they could divert attention from a civil rights march by killing a black person.

All y’all librul Yankees need to quit watchin’ Mississippi Burnin’.

And all y'all out there shaking your heads, saying even the rethuglicans would never nominate Barbour and if they did he'd never win ...

yeah, that's exactly what we all said about W. back in 1999.

Monday, December 20, 2010

House Repugs Vote to Help Pedophiles Rape Little Girls

Yes, they did, too. And they included all four of Kentucky's rethuglican congress critters: Geoff Davis, Brett Guthrie, Hal Rogers and Ed Whitfield.

Kentucky Democratic members John Yarmuth and worthless DINO Ben Chandler voted against helping pedophiles rape little girls.

From TPM:

On Thursday night, hours before passing the tax cut compromise, House Republicans thwarted a bill that aimed to protect girls around the world from being coerced into child marriage. They opposed it because, they claimed, it might fund abortions.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), was blindsided. After the Child Marriage Protection Act passed the Senate with zero objection on Dec. 1 -- a rare feat these days -- it didn't seem like there was much to worry about.

But just before the vote began, Republican leadership blasted out a "whip alert" to GOP staffers with a message: Vote no. The alert claimed the bill cost too much and that a competing bill, introduced just the day before, would be better.

"There are also concerns that funding will be directed to NGOs that promote and perform abortion and efforts to combat child marriage could be usurped as a way to overturn pro-life laws," the alert read.

And so the bill, which needed a two-thirds vote to pass under the suspended rules, failed. Even some congressmen who sponsored the bill voted no.

McCollum, along with human rights organizations and the State Department, believes that child marriage is a form of child abuse that includes sexual abuse, domestic violence and slavery.

The text of the bill does not mention abortion, contraception or family planning. Instead, it directs the president to make preventing child marriage a priority, especially in countries where more than 40 percent of girls under the age of 18 are married. The ways to do that, according to the bill: support educating communities on the dangers and health effects of child marriage, keep young girls in school, support female mentoring programs and make sure girls have access to health care services.

It's the "health care services" provision that had Republicans riled, according to a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, whose name is on the whip alert and who voted no on the bill.

"The concern was that the reference to 'health services' in the bill -- under the current Administration -- would include abortion services," the spokesman, Michael Steel, told TPM.

Republicans also claimed that the bill would spend $108 million in taxpayer money. McCollum, however, says the bill doesn't authorize any new funds. The Congressional Budget Office says it would cost about $67 million over five years, noting that it won't affect direct spending and is therefore not subject to pay-go.

Remember the false claim that Harry Reid voted to give Viagara to sex offenders? That was a lie. But it got traction because the truth was complicated and took time to explain.

That republicans voted to to help pedophiles rape little girls is true. The excuses repugs use are lies. Pass it along.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lost DREAM

Molly Ivins once described American history as one long, repeated struggle to extend constitutional rights to everyone. And always against the vituperative opposition of conservatives. Every. Single. Time.

Yesterday that effort took a step forward with the repeal of DADT, and one back with the defeat of DREAM.

Blue Girl:

My children are disappointed today. As happy as they are that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was repealed, they are at least that disappointed that the DREAM Act failed.

That is because they are twenty-something. They went to Catholic schools of the more liberal, Jesuit persuasion and they all had two or three friends and classmates who were educated alongside them, who came here as infants or toddlers, who had younger siblings who were born here, who were every bit as "American teenager" as my kids were.

They played soccer on their soccer teams, they hung out at Fritz's after school, they went to dances, they earned good grades, they made their parents proud and they graduated high school right alongside their peers. Several of them I would have recognized first based on their ass sticking out of my refrigerator.

Then, after graduation, they faded away. They didn't go to Rockhurst or KU or MU or K State. They didn't continue their educations because they were barred from receiving financial aid. They didn't go into union trades like many of the middle-class blue collar kids whose families had been members of the plumbers, electricians or carpenters union for generations and there was no family business to go into.

They just became ghosts.

My son noticed this the first time over Christmas break his sophomore year at Rockhurst. He and a bunch of his high-school classmates got together at a taqueria in the neighborhood where they went to school and one of their classmates, one of the smartest kids in the class, was working there as a dishwasher.

Another classmate of my daughter's, who also happens to be a chef, told us about going to work at a hotel after graduating from culinary school and seeing one of their classmates, a girl this time, working on the housekeeping staff. When he mentioned her, my daughter brightened and launched into how awesome her short stories and poetry had been when they were in AP English together. "I hoe she's still writing..." she said hopefully -- but it trailed off before she got the words out. She knows better.

My kids know the price these kids have paid for their parents sin of answering the siren song of good wages paid by companies that would willfully look the other way on the whole proper documents issue. And they know how stupid it was to cut off their classmates from bright futures. They know that such stupidity has cost society doctors and lawyers and teachers and engineers -- and those are just among people they know personally.

Read the whole thing.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Gay Soldiers Defending All Americans - Even the Haters

The second-best part of DADT repeal - after the first legislative victory for civil and human rights in this country in 45 years - is the world-destroying defeat dealt to the anti-gay haters.

No, of course they're not going away to lick their wounds. They're doubling down on the hate. KeninNY at Down With Tyranny:

UPDATE: The Far Right Is Angry-- Expect The Anti-Gay Fundraising Letters By Monday

The Family Research Council, a GOP front and Hate Group, sent their president, Tony Perkins, out to insult gay men and women fighting in America's wars after the vote today.

"Today is a tragic day for our armed forces. The American military exists for only one purpose-- to fight and win wars. Yet it has now been hijacked and turned into a tool for imposing on the country a radical social agenda. This may advance the cause of reshaping social attitudes regarding human sexuality, but it will only do harm to the military's ability to fulfill its mission.

"It is shameful that the Democratic leadership, aided by Republican Senators, has forced through such a radical change in a lame-duck session of Congress. The 1993 law which is to be repealed was adopted only after months of debate and at least a dozen Congressional hearings. The repeal has been forced through only eighteen days after the Pentagon released a massive report, which raised more questions than it answered on the impact the overturning of this policy will have on our nation's military.

"It is clear why this was done: not to enhance the military's ability to accomplish its mission or to enhance national security. Rather, it is a political payoff to a tiny, but loud and wealthy, part of the Democratic base. They knew that the Congress elected last month would never adopt such legislation - certainly not without a more thoughtful and deliberative process.

Another far right sociopath, Bryan Fischer of the so-called American Family Association, another twisted hate group, went even further than Perkins: "We are now stuck with sexual deviants serving openly in the U.S. military because of turncoat Republican senators ... Had the cloture vote failed, we would still have sane moral and sexual standards governing military personnel policy. But sadly those days are gone, perhaps forever... It’s past time for a litmus test for Republican candidates. This debacle shows what happens when party leaders are careless about the allegiance of candidates to the fundamental conservative principles expressed in the party’s own platform." This sick and perverted hatemonger went on to predict the return of the draft. Why? "What young man," he asks salaciously, "wants to voluntarily join an outfit that will force him to shower naked with males who have a sexual interest in him and just might molest him while he sleeps in his bunk?"

I am not above gloating over this. I will be greeting my homophobic co-workers on Monday by exclaiming:

"Gays can serve openly in the military! Isn't that fabulous?"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Plunge Into Feudalism Has Begun

One day. That's how long it took Senate rethuglicans to destroy the few vestiges of economic sanity in the Only Rich People Are Truly Human Tax Cut Bill.

Long story short: By reneging on the deal to support the Omnibus Spending Bill that funds the federal government for the next year, Senate rethuglicans snatched funding decisions away from President Obama and the Democrats and handed it to the teabagger anarchists who will take over the House on January 5.

So all those pathetic scraps of pseudo stimulus in the tax cut bill - unemployment extension, health care reform funding, etc. - that Obama insisted were so valuable that it was worth exploding the deficit to give $700 billion to the richest of the rich?

Yeah, they're already gone. First thing on the rethuglican House agenda: strip out of the budget every penny of federal funding that goes to prevent 98 percent of Americans from becoming serfs laboring for our Wall Street owners.

Thank goodness those horrible liberals didn't stop Obama from making this economy-destroying deal.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

The public believes that the President is sincere in wanting to reduce the budget deficit because he is, in fact, sincere in wanting to reduce the budget deficit. He talks about it being in the medium term, but his opponents in the GOP want that to happen immediately, to cancel out the stimulative effects of this bill. John Boehner said today that he would like to cut spending to 2008 levels “as soon as possible.” Congress will have to fund the government early next year, if a short-term continuing resolution passes as expected.

The fact that health care implementation money and money funding the war in Afghanistan was part of the omnibus spending bill which crashed and burned offers even more hostage-taking opportunities for the GOP. And then there’s this rumor, which I’ve heard as well:

Now the Republicans have identified their next hostage: They’re going to threaten to destroy the international financial stability of the United States by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. What are they demanding for ransom? They want President Obama to slash Social Security and Medicare before this next hostage crisis comes to a head in March or April.

As Digby explained:

So they passed the tax cut compromise. And the fundamental unfairness of it sticks in the craw: the nation is under a great deal of economic stress, yet the Republicans just stuck a gun to the heads of people in distress and said "give us our tax cuts or the country gets it." It's unjust and infuriating. And ultimately depressing because it's clear that Democrats were either complicit in the goal or too strategically clueless to address it before the clock had almost run out.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

No Surprise, But More Useful Anti-Rethuglican Facts

It won't persuade your Beck/Palin-worshipping relatives, but it might shut them up for a minute or two.

From TPM:

To perhaps nobody's surprise, a study released this week finds that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of any news consumers.

The University of Maryland study, called "Misinformation and the 2010 Election," looked at "variations in misinformation by exposure to news sources," among other things, and specifically newspapers and news magazines (in print and online), network TV news broadcasts, NPR and PBS, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.

The study found that daily Fox News viewers, regardless of political party, were "significantly" more likely than non-viewers to erroneously believe that:

SNIP

* Most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)

* The economy is getting worse (26 points)

* Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)

SNIP

* And that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

The study also found that as exposure to Fox News increased, so did the misinformation.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

START "about the safety and security of the United States of America."

It's also about the rethuglicans in Congress able to defy with impunity a Democratic president who surrenders to them on command.



Full transcript here.

"I'm a Fucking Moron" License Plates Available in January

Just call Kentucky the Bluegrass Republic of Gilead.



Subsidized by Kentucky taxpayers, in a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution, the Kentucky constitution, and basic logic, reason and fact.

Lexington Herald:

Kentuckians will be able to buy "In God We Trust" license plates starting early next year, the state Transportation Cabinet said Friday.

The plates will be standard-issue, not specialty plates, selling for the same $21 fee that ordinary Kentucky license plates cost, cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said.

The two designs are nearly identical, but instead of carrying the slogan "Unbridled Spirit," the new plate will read "In God We Trust."

Congress declared "In God We Trust" to be the national motto in 1956.

"The national motto belongs to everybody, and if people want it on their license plate, they shouldn't have to pay extra for it," Wolfe said.

Actually, they should have to pay double the $50 fee for speciality plates, to compensate the state for the massive drop in collective IQ points every time one of those plates appears.

Around Louisville, we've been seeing "In God We Trust" on Indiana license plates for several years. It's a kind of public service; when you see that plate, you know the driver cannot be trusted to follow basic traffic rules. Because he has declared to the world he thinks an invisible sky wizard will magically remove all obstacles from his path.

Therefore, it would be a public service for everyone who spots a vehicle sporting such a plate to report the plate number and vehicle description to the state police. Because obviously anyone who would put her trust in a Bronze Age myth is a clear and present danger to the public safety.

No Worries - Big Daddy Will Take Care of Us

When the movie The Lion King came out, one review I read panned it for its "un-american" theme. The movie was un-american, the reviewer claimed, because the oppressed animals who suffered under the dictatorship of a usurper did nothing to liberate themselves. Instead, they just waited for a more congenial strong leader to come along and rescue them.

That's not the American story. That's not independence. That's not freedom and liberty.

That's authoritarian submission. That's slavery. That's conservatism.

Digby, on the Yearning To Be Subjects:

Today's Paul Waldman piece about why people consistently support cutting the estate tax is interesting even if I still don't understand the psychology that makes average Americans so committed to allowing very wealthy heirs a loophole you can drive a gas guzzling limousine through. But it did remind me of this essay by Phil Agre that used to get a lot of circulation in the early days of the blogosphere. It's important to understanding just how important this estate tax concept is to our fundamental view of democracy and specifically American democracy, particularly how it relates to conservatism. But it's larger thesis is one that gets more and more relevant every day.

From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats.

More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

The defenders of aristocracy represent aristocracy as a natural phenomenon, but in reality it is the most artificial thing on earth. Although one of the goals of every aristocracy is to make its preferred social order seem permanent and timeless, in reality conservatism must be reinvented in every generation. This is true for many reasons, including internal conflicts among the aristocrats; institutional shifts due to climate, markets, or warfare; and ideological gains and losses in the perpetual struggle against democracy.

In some societies the aristocracy is rigid, closed, and stratified, while in others it is more of an aspiration among various fluid and factionalized groups. The situation in the United States right now is toward the latter end of the spectrum. A main goal in life of all aristocrats, however, is to pass on their positions of privilege to their children, and many of the aspiring aristocrats of the United States are appointing their children to positions in government and in the archipelago of think tanks that promote conservative theories.

read on, there's much more ...

I would just add this:

"Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions." --- Thomas Paine

When the teabaggers, rethuglicans and other conservatives talk about "liberty," "freedom" and "security," remember that what they really mean is liberty from autonomy, freedom from independence and the security of serfdom.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Spitting on 9/11 Heroes

Killing the bill to provide health care to first responders disabled by their heroic actions on 9/11 just to save money would be heinous enough.

But for rethuglicans to kill the bill to provide health care to 9/11 first responders specifically in order to give more money to people who are already obscenely wealthy is beyond my capacity to describe adequately.

Fortunately, Jon Stewart does it right:

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Friday, December 17, 2010

North Korea Would Approve

When we talk about Liberal Democracy, when we refer to American Democracy, when we think about how America is different, what we mean is a nation, a society, that does not permit atrocities like this:

DOES AMERICA REALLY OPPOSE CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT?

Glenn Greenwald's recent post on the appalling conditions prison conditions being endured by suspected WikiLeaks leaker Private Bradley Manning was a public service -- but I don't expect it to make much difference, for reasons to which Greenwald refers:

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. [Brian] Villiard [an official at the Quantico brig] protested that the conditions are not "like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole," but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.

In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America's Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything. And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig's medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.

This is the problem: not very much of the country is going to be upset at this torture because we've been torturing common criminals this way for years, and hardly anyone thinks it's a problem.

SNIP

As a nation, we don't care about this stuff. If we ever do, it will be because we've had a perfect benign storm: simultaneously, an extremely low crime rate, a thriving middle class that feels secure, and a high-profile Supermax torture victim who’s (a) incontrovertibly innocent and (b) mediagenic and appealing (and -- somehow -- able to become a figure profiled by the media).

Then again, we've had a number of Death Row inmates exonerated by DNA evidence and we still don't have anything resembling a national groundswell on, say, allowing inmates to appeal whenever physical evidence might reasonably prove them innocent. So I'm not getting my hopes up, for Manning or any other prisoner treated this way by American jailers.

Read the whole thing from Steve M.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Confederates: Traitors Then, Traitors Now, Traitors Forever

Four months from now we will observe the 150th anniversary of the blatant daylight attack by declared traitors against the United States of America.

That's the plain fact of what happened. But that's not the way the traitor-lovers are already selling it.

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The mistake Yankees made was not hanging every single one of the motherfucking traitors before the cannon smoke cleared. And I say that as a southerner with ancestors who fought on both sides.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

If Karl Rove Loves It, You Know It's Bad

Digby:

Oh my goodness, here are some Republicans trying to help Obama pass his tax cut bill. How bipartisan of them:

You may recall Crossroads GPS – the shadowy third-party group that doesn’t disclose its donors, which spent tens of millions of dollars running campaign ads in the midterms, largely against Democratic candidates. President Obama repeatedly railed against the group, which was founded with the support of GOP guru Karl Rove.

In order to maintain its tax status, the group needs 51% of its expenditures to be issue-related, instead of campaign-related.

And it has begun – with $400,000 for a one-week radio buy for ads to run in the congressional districts of a dozen House Democrats, to encourage them to vote for the tax compromise negotiated by President Obama.

Now I suppose it's possible that a Rove sponsored group is doing something that that they know won't benefit the Republican Party politically, but it would be the first time in history that such a thing has happened. Karl Rove is a political animal. Putting Republicans in office is his raison d'etre. The idea that he would try to pass a bill that he thought was bad for Republicans is ludicrous.

They want this bill because it will reward their wealthy constituents to be sure --- the estate tax deal alone is better than they could have dreamed. And they are happy to extend middle class tax cuts too because they want to starve the beast. They love the payroll tax cut because they knew they will probably never raise it back up, which will make the social security projections look worse than ever and give ammunition to the destroyers. And, yes, they are happy to extend unemployment insurance at Christmas time because they can pretend that they are human beings.

But mostly they love this deal because it gives them their favorite issue to bludgeon the Democrats with over the next two years: "they promised to raise your taxes!" They know the Democrats won't actually do it but like an overfed cat with an injured mouse, they just like to torture them for their own (and their voters') amusement.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

The Numbers Expose the Lies

If you are too young to remember nuts-and-bolts journalism, in which a local reporter would dig into a public document and examine each piece for veracity and logic, then you're in luck. Newspapers may no longer be doing that kind of journalism, but one Central Kentucky blogger is:

Media Czech exposes the numerical fantasies behind the proposed Flintstones Truther Park.

The creationuts claim their abomination will draw 1.6 million visitors per year, a number that even the New York Times swallowed without blinking. Only Media Czech did the math.

"These projections in these studies"? Is there more than one, Governor, or is that just a slip of the tongue? You've "looked at the numbers"? Does this mean that your staff has actually read the ARG feasibility study, or have they just read their summary on a piece of paper, and therefore "looked at the numbers"? Do you take at face value numbers created by Ken Ham's business partner for the benefit of Ken Ham receiving $37.5 million in tax breaks?

Again, one might consider these valid questions for Governor Beshear. Unless you work at the Courier Journal or Herald Leader.

But speaking of "feasible numbers", let's take a look at other parks in the area, and whether ARG's estimates seem feasible.

The Creation Museum averages over 300,000 visitors per year. And this is an all year round attraction, as the exhibits are inside no matter what the weather, unlike Ark Encounter. In fact, the major differences between the two are:

1) Ark Encounter is an outdoor attraction, meaning that this will be a mostly seasonal attraction
2) Ark Encounter has a giant boat, whereas the Museum has animatronic dinosaurs. I wonder which one kids will like more.
3) The Creation Museum is right next to 2,000,000 people. Ark Encounter is in the middle of nowhere.

Yet "ARG" expects us to believe that Ark Encounter will get 6-7 times the visitors that the Creation Museum gets. Interesting.

He makes the same comparison with King's Island amusement park in Cincinnati, Kentucky Kingdom amusement park in Louisville and the Cincinnati Zoo.

So what will it be, Herald Leader/Courier Journal? Do we ask our Governor specific questions about this feasibility study and the $37.5 million in tax breaks (and national ridicule) that have sprung from it, or do we just take these crazy people and their crazy numbers at their word?

Read the whole thing.

The creationuts are lying, and Governor Beshear is either too stupid to realize it or too corrupt to care.

And the cowardly transcribers at the Herald and the Courier are beneath contempt.