Monday, January 31, 2011

A New Day in Egypt; A New Al Jazeera Live Blog

Here it is.

And from the website, Army vows not to use force as Egyptians gear up for massive protest Tuesday.

What's the General Assembly Up To Now?

The Herald-Leader has a Citizen's Guide to the 2011 General Assembly.

Lawmakers will find a buffet of bills beckoning them when the Kentucky General Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday. Here's a sampling of the top issues legislators are expected to tackle before adjourning for the year on March 22.

Check it out.

The Confederacy: In Their Own Words

From Tristero:

Digby's recent post debunking the latest bullshit from the right wing about slavery and the Founders reminded me that I wanted to let the hive mind know about a fantastic blog at the NY Times called Disunion which is a daily retelling of the Civil War 150 years later. There is a terrific array of Civil War scholars. Here's the kicker:

The don't assert that the reason the Southern states seceded was primarily to protect the institution of slavery rather than "states rights." Instead, they prove it. They prove it over and over again. They prove it over and over again by quoting contemporary documents written by leading secessionists, Southern legislators, newspaper publishers, and also Northern sympathizers.

It is quite clear, as if anyone sane and educated ever doubted it. Slavery wasn't one of many issues that led to disunion: It was by far the principal issue. It would hardly be much of an exaggeration to say that it was the only issue. Time and again, the states rights rhetoric was tied directly to the issue of slavery. Time and again, slavery was said to be an essential component of the effort to bring Africans closer to Christianity.

But Disunion is hardly focused on debunking modern racists. Mainly, the blog is telling an exciting and compelling story with the kind of detail and complexity it deserves. Through its multiplicity of voices, viewpoints, and styles, it's rarely less than a must read. And the many parallels between then and now are as striking (and as eerie) as the many differences.

It's gonna be a long four years and three months of Confederate bullshit here in the Bluegrass State, where the racist mouthbreathers will smash your face in for daring to correct them: "No, Kentucky did NOT secede and was NOT part of the confederacy."

So bookmark Disunion today and keep the facts handy.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Day in Egypt; New Al Jazeera Live Blog

Click here to follow.

12:23am The atmosphere in central Cairo remains chaotic, according to a tweet from one of the Al Jazeera correspondents in Cairo:

Tense in Tahrir Square tonight. Random gunfire nearby; some people in the square are blaming the army for it, verbally confronting soldiers.

12:14am President Mubarak tells his new prime minister, Ahmad Shafik to keep government subsidies and cut prices.

From Sunday, which is the beginning of the work week in Egypt:

11:54pm In an Open Letter to President Obama, a large group of well-reputed American academics calls for the US leader to demand swift change in Egypt:

For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday 'political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,' your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.

How Full Employment Depends on Strong Unions

That union membership and the availability of secure, well-paid, good-benefit jobs have declined together over the last 40 years is not a coincidence. Strong unions mean lots of good jobs.

Kevin Drum explains how that works, even today:

Mike Konczal argues that strong labor unions and full employment are better for the economy than high taxes on rich people to fund "a kind of pity-charity liberal capitalism." Matt Yglesias agrees:

I think that’s correct, but that “full employment” is doing almost all the work here even while Konczal’s emotional emphasis seems to be on bargaining power. After all, if you have strong labor unions and a government that doesn’t fight for full employment, then what happens is the unions use their bargaining power to cut insider/outsider deals at the expense of the unemployed. One of the great virtues of American unions in their heyday is that they used their political muscle to push the government to fight for full employment, which was excellent and it’s a political voice we’re desperately missing today. But that’s not to say that the unions themselves are a viable substitute for full employment. A market economy is either going to operate near full employment, or else people will only share in its benefits thanks to handouts. That’s true for any given set of labor market institutions.

Sure, full employment is doing most of the work here. But that's the point of a strong labor union: it forces the government to fight for full employment. It fights for lots of other stuff too, and that's the whole virtue of organized labor. It's true that they also produce a modest wage premium for their own members, but if that's all they did then I wouldn't care much about them and neither would most other liberals.

Unions have lots of pathologies: they can get entranced by implementing insane work rules, they can get co-opted by other political actors, and they can end up fighting progress on social issues, just to name a few. But they fight for economic egalitarianism, and they're the only institution in history that's ever done that successfully on a sustained basis. That's what makes them so indispensable to liberalism and that's what makes them the sworn enemies of conservatism.

You just can't pull labor and full employment apart. It's not a matter of emphasis.

A country without a strong labor movement is almost inevitably one in which economic and political power is overwhelmingly on the side of business interests and rich people, and that means you're not going to have sustained full employment because that's not what business interests and rich people want. It's all about power, baby, power.

And the Rude Pundit explains how Wall Street uses its power to kill jobs:

Things That Ought to Be Obvious: Greedy Bastards Don't Give a Shit About Your Jobs:

Here's everything you need to know about American capitalism in the 21st century contained in a single sentence: "Google's push to further expand a work force that grew by 23 percent last year may not be as well received on Wall Street, where the Internet search leader's spending has annoyed some investors who would prefer a more frugal approach in hopes of fatter returns." This comes in an article that discusses how Google is going to hire 6200 new employees this year, which is, you know, generally considered awesome news.

Except if you're a greedy cocksucker who can't get enough cash or cock, which apparently "some" of Google's investors are.

In other words, even if the Dow or NASDAQ or JAGOFF or whatever index used to track their stock investments are going up and up, even if they've pretty much doubled in the last three years, oh, no, that's not enough for the greedy cocksuckers. You could bring 'em a barrel o' gold and a sack o' dicks and they'll wonder why they don't have two of each.

It's no wonder that all the Wall Street pukes that the Obama administration keeps rotating in like batteries for Dick Cheney's mechanical pseudo-heart can't come up with a way to jump start employment in the nation: they're programmed not to. They're programmed to merely get the most money for their clients. Remember: JP Morgan, Goldman (suck our) Sachs, Citigroup, none of 'em exist to create jobs. They exist to make cash money, ethics and morality and unemployment rates be damned.

Conservatives cling to this truly, blindly utopian notion about the innate good of vast amounts of money in the hands of private citizens and companies, that all of a sudden corporations, flush with tax cuts on incomes and capital gains, will go on a hiring spree and solve all our problems. It is a lie that so many Americans want desperately to believe because to do otherwise would undermine the very basic notions of capitalism that some of us got taught in school (do they teach this shit anymore or is it not on the test?), that supply and demand naturally create more jobs which makes more money which makes more demand which creates more jobs and on and on until everyone is happy and employed and housed and health-insured (privately) and has guns and a fuckable spouse and their athletic boy children and pretty girl children will give them grandkids and they'll all have enough money to retire and live happily ever fucking after, a-fucking-men.

Even if we know, we know, we know that such an America ceased existing, if it ever did, that's the lie that the right sells, and it's such a comforting bottle of snake oil, such a delicious snipe, that it's successfully bullshitted enough people to give it electoral power.

Read the whole thing.

Shop&Share Next Saturday

Via Jake, a reason to do your grocery shopping at Kroger next Saturday, and do it with generosity.

Kroger stores across the Commonwealth will hold the annual program to benefit the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association on Saturday, February 5 from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Canned goods, clothing, household basics and personal hygiene products are greatly needed. So next week, please consider waiting to do your grocery shopping on the weekend.

If you live outside Kentucky, ask your local grocery chain to launch its own Shop&Share.

When You Hear "Bipartisanship," Think "Killing Social Security"

It's looking more and more like President Obama's apparent emphasis on "competitiveness" is a shiny object to distract liberals from what he really means by "bipartisanship:" letting Democrats take the fall for destroying Social Security and Medicare.


So, David Axelrod had a blogger roundtable (Wednesday) and he addressed what Obama really meant in his spech about Social Security. It looks like we're going to play a game of semantics>


Conrad doesn't seem to be worrying about "strengthening" social security in that conversation. But I have no doubt that is how they plan to sell it. After all, people are already signing on to the idea that because social security will have a slight shortfall in 2040 or so, we need to cut the program right now. It's one of those Orwellian "war is peace" things: strength through weakness.

If I hadn't seen the administration negotiations of the past two years on such things as tax cuts and stimulus and health care, I might be more sanguine about this one and give the benefit of the doubt about what they mean by principles. But that would be foolish at this point.


As far as I can tell from Axelrod's conversation with the bloggers and everything we've seen and heard from the political establishment, the only real "principle" here is bipartisanship. Obama gets high marks from the Villagers and Democrats when he forges a bipartisan deal with the Republicans --- no matter what the deal is. That he was praised and rewarded for cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans in a time of deficit fever tells you how far the American people have fallen down the rabbit hole. Don't think he doesn't get that.

The debt ceiling is pure kabuki. If the president allows them to use it, whatever "compromises" he makes will be because he wants to. The Republicans have already acknowledged that they must raise it. Here are the two real hostages that the bipartisan budget slashers have taken:

If the new Congress doesn't act, debate over how to control the federal debt will be one issue at the forefront of the 2012 presidential campaign. That may be fine, but MacGuineas worries that pushing action into 2013 means flirting with the possibility of an event that triggers a debt crisis. Even then, she says, "It's not clear the markets don't lose patience with us before 2013."

The "markets", of course, which care deeply about cutting social security even though it doesn't contribute to the deficit, and care nothing for health care costs, which are strangling the nation. Markets aren't very bright, apparently. But still, let's this could all cause a huge crisis and then where would we be?

But the big, important hostage is the election, isn't it? They are threatening that this is going to be the huge issue unless Obama does exactly what they want. Of course, it will be a big issue anyway, and Obama will be accused of hurting seniors anyway, but Democrats and Villagers will be thrilled because he worked in a bipartisan fashion so maybe it will all work out for him. Sadly, I don't think it will work out as well for Democrats who follow him.

Hey, Congressional Democrats: want to guarantee yourself reelection in 2012? Start now condemning President Obama for sacrificing Social Security and Medicare to fake bipartisanship. Democratic voters will love you for protecting the social safety net, and teabaggers will love you for bashing that ni**er in the White House.

That you'll be doing the right thing for your constituents and the nation is just gravy.

It's a win-win-win.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Photo of the Day

Here's today's Egypt liveblog from Al Jazeera.

If you need another reason to check it all day every day, Egypt has shut down Al Jazeera's Cairo bureau. That has not and will not stop them.

And it won't stop her:

A protester in Beirut holds a poster showing the potential domino effect in the Arab world [Reuters]

Is It True?

It's so cute when the freakazoids think they've found the fatal weakness in atheism, and they run around excitedly pointing and yelling "See? See? Now you have to worship our invisible sky wizard!"

Sigh. They never get it. But they don't really want to get it. So they keep throwing up ever-dumber strawmen.

Thankfully, we have PZ Myers to keep knocking the strawmen down, setting them on fire and pissing on the ashes:

It's the cardboard cutout tactic — it turns out that cardboard versions of us put up much less of a fight than the real thing.

I'm afraid Stephen Asma has committed the same error. He has written a long, meandering essay that accuses the New Atheists of having a narrow worldview because, he thinks, all we know about is Christianity and Islam. What about Buddhism, he asks, or animism? And then he does tell us some interesting things about Buddhism and animism, but they're all entirely irrelevant, because he has completely missed the point.


Gnu atheism is not simply about what isn't .... I have one simple question you can ask of any religion, whether it's animism or Catholicism, that will allow you to determine the Gnu Atheist position on it.

Is it true?

I've told people this many times. The Gnu Atheism is a positive movement that emphasizes the truth of a claim as paramount; it is our number one value .... A scientific truth is more complex than a colloquial truth, it's requirements being that it is free of contradiction with logic and reality and supported by reason and evidence.

Asma's big mistake is assuming that our central question is, "Is it good for us?", which leads him into all these pointless anecdotes about how praying makes him feel better, and how animism helps impoverished people cope with their circumstances. I don't care if religion makes someone feel better. Stacking illusions over a grim reality does not turn it sweet .... I do not lie to myself, and other people lying to me under the delusion that it will make me happier I find unconscionable.

Seriously, it's worse than that. I despise people who try to swaddle truth with lies in the name of consolation. It kills ambition, the striving to make the world better in the future, and it can allow evil to lurk unchecked. Those child-raping priests persisted because people lied to themselves, telling themselves that no man of god could do something so heinous…and even when finally exposed and removed, they continued to live in denial, reassuring each other that the institution that protected those vipers really was a force for good, overall.


He could show me a religion that is nothing but sweetness and light, happiness and good thoughts and equality for all, and it wouldn't matter: the one question I would ask is, "Is it true?" It wouldn't matter if he could show empirically that adopting this hypothetical faith leads to world peace, the voluntary abolishment of crime, the disappearance of dental caries, and that every child on the planet would get their very own pony — I'd still battle it with every fierce and angry word I could speak and type if it wasn't also shown to be a true and accurate description of the world. Some of us, at least, will refuse to drink the Kool-Aid, no matter how much sugar they put in it.


Asma concludes with a typical unsupported plea; atheism's "proponents need to have a more nuanced and global understanding of religion." No, we don't. Show us that it's true, first, and then we can talk about nuance, and implementation, and consequences. Telling us how it makes some people feel good doesn't even begin to address our core objections.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Real Terrorism Ignored

All the TSA radiation poisoning and cavity searches didn't stop and never will stop the real terrorism we face from the mouthbreathing Tim McVeigh wannabees.

The only things that prevented a catastrophic bombing in downtown Spokane that would far overshadow the Murrah federal building destruction was a sharp-eyed onlooker and a terrorist with poor planning skills.


That MLK Day terrorist bombing attempt story nobody's talking about? Keeps getting worse.

The bomb found along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., may have been packed with a blood-thinning chemical that's found in rat poison in an effort to inflict worse injuries.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told the Spokesman-Review that the bomb -- which officials have already described as sophisticated, with the potential to be devastating -- had some sort of chemical in it, and authorities have speculated that it may be a chemical found in rat poison. The bomb, which was defused without incident last Monday, has been sent for testing to a lab at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.

The FBI and other officials have declined to release any information about the bomb's makeup. Knezovich said, though, that the bomb was also packed with shrapnel.

The theory is that someone hit with a piece of shrapnel covered in an anti-coagulant is more likely to bleed to death. Israeli officials have claimed in the past that Palestinian terrorists were using rat poison to make their bombs more deadly.

Yeah, see, this bomb was designed to inflict as many injuries and deaths as possible at a MLK Day parade, and yet we continue to hear nothing about it. No suspects, no leads, just that it was domestic terrorism...and that apparently it's not worth giving a damn about.

We had near national manhunts on our hands after other bombing attempts. The Spokane bombing attempt? Nothing. This story continues to be spiked for reasons unknown.

I don't like thinking about the possibility that the story's being spiked to protect the suspects, or to ignore the victims. Either one of those is repugnant. We'll see.

Neither one would surprise me, but I'm going to go with a Villager-infected national media too lazy and cowardly to deal with the reality of white, home-grown, right-wing freakazoids Beck fans out to kill minorities and liberals.

Let's Get on the Right Side

The Congressional Conscience on the protests in Egypt is two-term Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison.

John Nichols in The Nation:

Ellison's deep and nuanced awareness of American history, and his regard for the best of the nation's ideals, has from the beginning of his congressional tenure served him and the country well -- but never so well as in recent days.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have been at times embarrassingly cautious in the remarks regarding the Egyptian street protests that may yet topple Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak -- one of the more unsavory of the U.S. government's many unsavory clients -- while Vice President Biden has actually gone around claiming that Mubarak is not a dictator.

Congressional leaders on both sides of the partisan aisle have not been much better.

But Ellison -- who because of his "first Muslim in Congress" status is a better-known figure on the international stage than in the U.S. -- has emerged as an unblinking champion of best of America's historic ideals: democracy, self-determination and freedom.

His messages in official statements, interviews and Twitter have been consistent and clear. The message is summed up by a tweet the congressman sent : "Ppl of Egypt DESERVE freedom; I stand w/ them."


"The Middle East would be a much more powerful and dynamic place if there were less authoritarian regimes, and historically the U.S. has supported all of them,” argues Ellison. “We’re always on the side of 'stability' rather than justice. So let’s get on the right side this time.”


Thomas Jefferson -- whose last written statement declared his solidarity with the peoples of other countries who would "burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government" -- would be especially proud in this moment of Keith Ellison.

As are we.

Rethugs "Shocked" Tax Cuts Failed to Turn Bullshit Into Steaks

C'mon, Steve: they're not really surprised and you're not really surprised that they're surprised.

SURPRISED BY THE DEGREE OF SURPRISE.... The day of President Obama's inauguration, the federal budget deficit left by the Republican administration was $1.3 trillion. After some additional economy-saving measures were added to the mix, the 2009 deficit reached $1.4 trillion. Last year, things improved slightly, and the deficit fell to $1.29 trillion.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office warned lawmakers that the budget picture was poised to get worse again, projecting a $1.5 trillion deficit this year.

Summarizing the thoughts of many, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told Roll Call, "I think everyone is in a collective state of shock right now over the CBO numbers."

Really? Why is Congress so surprised? Frankly, I'm a little shocked by their collective state of shock.

This really isn't complicated. The deficit picture was starting to improve, but congressional Republicans insisted that Bush-era tax breaks get extended for another two years. How did Republicans propose paying for these tax cuts? They didn't -- the GOP said the price tag should just be added to the deficit.

And wouldn't you know it, that means ... I hope you're sitting down ... the deficit will go up, just as lawmakers were told it would if they cut taxes without paying for them.


The fact that Congress is surprised only reinforces the fact that Republicans aren't paying close enough attention to reality. There's no great mystery here -- the deficit is going up because of the new round of tax cuts. That's what happens when one cuts taxes -- less revenue means higher deficits.

If Republicans didn't want a higher deficit, they shouldn't have fought so hard to make it worse. They had a choice -- expensive tax breaks or deficit reduction. They made their choice, were told what the consequences would be, and are now stunned by the realization that the rules of arithmetic haven't been suspended by the GOP's force of will.

It's unclear to me why Republicans aren't confronted with hysterical laughter when they claim credibility on fiscal issues. This is a party that inherited a massive surplus a decade ago, when we were actually paying off our debt. The GOP proceeded to squander the surplus, add $5 trillion to the debt in just eight years, and then demand Democrats clean up their mess.

When Dems did just that and the deficit picture started to improve, Republicans then demanded tax breaks that once again made the budget shortfall worse.

Deficit hawks that vote Republican are tragically confused. There's never been a more fiscally irresponsible political party.

But of course they only care about the deficit in terms of keeping it huge: as a rhetorical weapon to use against Democratic attempts to create jobs and grow the economy, and as an actual fiscal obstacle to such attempts - the starve the beast principle. And as a way to whip up votes among the ignorant and terrified.

Because the real goal is to transfer all wealth to the already obscenely wealthy.

From Perrspectives:

So it comes down to this. Republicans believe they can turn bullshit into gold. Despite the inescapable conclusion of history, theory and empirical evidence to the contrary, Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, John Boehner, Tom Coburn, John McCain, Kay Bailey Hutchison and other Republican alchemists continue to insist that cutting taxes increases government revenue and thereby reduces the deficit. Of course, even though the tax cut claim is laughably false, conservative ideology requires that it must true. Otherwise, the Republicans have just been giving money to rich people.

Repeat that every chance you get: the Republicans have just been giving money to rich people.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

The Crime of Parenting While Black

I've never cared for the blame-black-families meme, even when promoted by black celebrities like Bill Cosby and leaders like President Obama. I've seen too many children neglected by their white parents to consider it a racial problem.

But when black parents who go out of their way to protect their children and give them the best possible chance in this world are then criminally prosecuted for doing so, now it's a racial problem. A racial problem caused by white racists.

karoli at Crooks and Liars:

Have you ever known anyone who sent their children to a neighboring school district and used a relative's address to qualify them? It happens here all the time, because an adjacent high school is on a block schedule, which many parents like better than the 6-period schedule in our own school district. However, I have yet to see any parent sent to jail for it.

But this is California, not Ohio. And in Ohio, if you're a single mom living in the projects who is going to school yourself to earn a teaching credential in order to make a better life for you and the kids, you might consider enrolling them in the district where your father lives, because that district has a terrific rating and great test scores. And if you did that, and got caught, you might be convicted of felonies and receive a jail sentence. For trying to get a better education for your kids.

[Kelly Williams-Bolar] is a single mother with two girls, ages 12 and 16, and is only a few credit hours short of graduating from the University of Akron with a teaching degree. She was working as a teaching assistant with special needs children at Buchtel High School. She also cared for her ailing father, who was charged with multiple felonies in the residency case.

Williams-Bolar was convicted of the two felony counts Saturday night after seven hours of jury deliberations.

On Tuesday, Cosgrove sentenced her to five years in prison but suspended all but 10 days in the county jail, saying that to not include time behind bars would ''demean the seriousness'' of the offenses.

She also was given two years of probation and 80 hours of community service.

In addition, her (ailing) father was charged with grand theft for allowing Williams-Bolar to use his address when the girls didn't live there. Prosecutors claim it cost the Copley-Fairlawn school district $30,500 for the girls' education at their school with no tax base supporting their attendance.

Which leads me to ask why it is that there was no offsetting charge for what their education could have cost in their home district? Either it should have washed, or else there's some inequity in the two districts. Perish the thought.

At first, the judge was the target of everyone's blame for what is clearly an outrageous miscarriage of justice. But reading further, it seems to be the fault of the prosecutor, the investigating officers and perhaps most especially the superintendent of schools for the Copley-Fairlawn district.

Read the whole disgusting thing.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Paying for Freedom: It's the Capitalist Way

Repugs love to whine about "freedom" and how commie liberal socialists are destroying their "freedom" by restricting their destructive behavior.

How dare gubmint deny their gawd-given right to put their cheap plastic shit from walmart in walmart's cheap plastic bags that end up decorating roadside trees like billowing fungal growths?

OK, assholes, you wanna do something detrimental to society? Fine, but you gotta pay for it.

And it works. Paul Glastris:

A year ago, the city of Washington, DC imposed a 5 cent fee on disposable plastic and paper bags. The idea was to discourage litter and give people an incentive to switch to reusable bags.


The bag fee is, of course, a version of a "sin tax." And in the wake of Barack Obama's call last night for overhauling the tax code and reducing the deficit, I thought it worth passing along news of how well this particular one has apparently worked.

"City officials have estimated that there was an astounding decrease of some 80 percent in bag use," notes the Washington Post today, "from about 270 million a year before the fee was imposed to around 55 million bags in 2010."

The fee didn't bring in quite as much revenue as anticipated -- $2 million rather than $3.5 million -- but that of course is the flip side of its astonishing success at changing behavior.

A national debate about tax reform is about to kick into high gear, and as it does I hope the advantages of various kinds of sin taxes are at the center of that debate. It makes enormous sense to increase taxes on things that do us and society harm -- from soda and cigarettes to petroleum and financial transactions. Doing so will increase desperately needed revenue while decreasing dangerous behaviors. And while we won't like such taxes at first -- indeed, we may hate them -- we'll eventually get used to them, and maybe even feel virtuous for having imposed them on ourselves.

The key to the success of this particular tax is that there is an easy way to avoid it by bringing your own reusable bags. That option prevents it from being the regressive tax on poor people that is the case with toll roads and gas taxes.

Sin taxes often fall too heavily on poor people; yes, poor people probably shouldn't waste their money on booze and gambling and cigarettes, but that personal choice costs poor people proportionally far more than it costs rich or middle-class people.

Conversely, we fail to tax society-harming "sins" committed primarily by rich people. Taxing high-finance games that endanger the economy is a good place to start, but there's so much more luxury bullshit just begging to be taxed into submission. Particularly luxury bullshit that allows the obscenely wealthy to avoid the everyday annoyances we working shlubs must endure.

How about private planes? That's our airspace, protected by tax-supported air traffic control systems, providing runways at tax-supported airports. I'll suggest a Benjanim per mile flown, plus a flat $10,000 for permission to land.

Then an annual surcharge on mansions: ten percent of the assessed value above the county median.

And sky boxes and private suites at tax-payer subsidied sports stadiums and arenas. Want to avoid rubbing shoulders with the unwashed masses in the grandstand? It's gonna cost you an extra grand.

The richer you are, the more you benefit from the many public services provided through taxes paid by people who are less rich.

Far past time that the rich pay their share.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Internet Kill Switches Are For Dictators

Brad Friedman:

Here's what happened (Thursday) night in Egypt:

And with that, Egypt effectively "vanished from the Internet" yesterday as the uprising against a repressive, U.S. backed regime began to take full bloom and, as of this hour, continues to rage.

Meanwhile, back in these United States, folks like Sen. Joe Lieberman are pushing a bill, the "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset" act, to make provisions for a U.S. government "Internet Kill Switch" to allow them to do the same. Now why would folks like Lieberman want that?

The latest revision of this bill, according to FastCompany, "bans judicial review over executive decrees" to take down all, or portions of, the Internet.

Read the whole thing.

Spotlight on American Innovators

Not a bad start, Mr. President, but code words like "investment" aren't going to do the essential first job of telling people that "Winning the Future" is going to cost humongous amounts of money obtained by raising taxes on rich people.

Full transcript here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mohamed ElBaradei: "If Not Now, When?"

The Nobel Prize recipient is being held in apparent house arrest in Cairo, but he continues to speak truth to power.

From Truthout:

If Western leaders, who have backed the dictator Mubarak for 30 years, cannot stand before the Egyptian people today and say unequivocally, "we support your right of national self-determination," when can they do it?

That's the question that Egyptian democracy leader and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has put before Western leaders today.

Speaking to The Guardian UK in Cairo, before the planned protests today, ElBaradei stepped up his calls for Western leaders to explicitly condemn Mubarak, who, as The Guardian noted, has been a close ally of the US:

"The international community must understand we are being denied every human right day by day," he said. "Egypt today is one big prison. If the international community does not speak out it will have a lot of implications. We are fighting for universal values here. If the west is not going to speak out now, then when?"

Giving forceful illustration to ElBaradei's words that "Egypt today is one big prison," Egyptian police later doused ElBaradei with a water cannon and beat supporters who tried to shield him, AP reported, then trapped ElBaradei in a mosque by surrounding it with tear gas.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Events Moving Fast in Egypt - Follow Al Jazeera's Live Blog

UPDATE, 1/29/11: Here is the link to today's liveblog. It ain't over.

Mubarak just appeared on state television to announce he has fired his cabinet. It won't work - the protesters want him gone.

Forgot CNN and even BBC - the source for this-minute coverage of the revolution in Egypt is Al Jazeera's Live Blog direct from Cairo and Suez.

Cairo is eight hours ahead of central standard time, so it's past midnight now, but tens of thousands of protesters remain in the streets defying curfew.

This is going to turn out very good or very bad, but it won't fizzle out.

Pants-Pissing Repug Mayor Terrified of a Movie

Keep doing this, repug cowards. And pay no attention to the laughter and finger-pointing.

Peter Rothenberg in The Nation:

In a blatant display of disregard for the First Amendment, Scott R. Kaupin, the Republican mayor of Enfield, Connecticut has forced that town's public library to cancel a showing of the Michael Moore film, Sicko, a 2007 documentary on healthcare reform. The film, a 2007 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary, was planned as part of the library's nonfiction series.

But, bowing to pressure from the Town Council and a mayoral threat to cut off funding for the library if the film were screened, the library reluctantly cancelled the program.

As Mayor Kaupin rather thuggishly told the Journal Inquirer, "“The sentiment by the Council majority is that it’s a poor choice and that they should definitely reconsider. And if they don’t reconsider, then they’re going to have the repercussions of the council." The Library's director Henry Dutcher told the paper that he could not think of any other occasion when the council intervened in the library’s programming and had a film pulled.

Councilwoman Cynthia Mangini, a Democrat, was the only council member to speak against the move, calling it censorship and a violation of First Amendment rights, likening the move to banning books.

I agree. The library has a long-standing process of selecting films for this series.

If the Council feels it necessary, it can ask that the series be extended to include other films; it can sponsor a public forum with critics of Obama's healthcare plan to discuss the issues; it can even stage a competing film festival drawn exclusively from whatever political perspective it wants. But forcing the doc's cancellation is in the worst tradition of American debate, discourse and democracy.

As the Connecticut Library Association argued in a letter of protest to Kaupin, "public libraries should be a pillar of our American democracy and that democracy depends on an informed citizenry. People should be able to go their public library to read or view a wide variety of books and films about controversial topics and then make up their minds. Censoring the choices that people have or silencing the opposition is an insult to our form of government. The public library is supposed to be a battle ground for ideas."

Yeah, tell me again about how the conservatards are all about liberty and freedom.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SOTU Analogy of the Day

h/t Steve Benen:

"Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you'll feel the impact."

--President Obama, 1/25/11

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Obama Announces Emergency Confiscation of All Wealth Above $1 Million

No, of course he didn't. But he could have. He should have.

Blue Texan reminds us that rethuglicans use the SOTU to double-down on reich-wing insanity, even in the face of huge midterm losses.

Smirky's 2007 SOTU was a giant Fuck You to the nation that had just voted to reject his entire administration.

The least Obama could have given a nation that let dems keep the Senate was a reason to keep believing.

Instead, we got pabalum and pandering to the teabaggers.

Medical malpractice reform? Veto earmarks? Are you fucking kidding me?

This isn't bipartisanship; this is unconditional surrender.

From now on, every time somebody mentions Obama and "the center" in the same sentence, hit back hard with this:

"The only way Obama can move closer to the center is if he takes a giant leap to the left."

Full text here.

The Standard to Meet

I'd say this list is the absolute bare minimum that any politician seeking democratic votes should swear he will strive to achieve.

gordonskene at Crooks and Liars has the video of FDR's State of the Union address in January 1944.

This address has also been known as FDR's "Second Bill Of Rights Speech", since he outlines the aims of the Roosevelt administration for a post-war era.

President Roosevelt: "As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being."

In these particular times, it's good to remember as our basic needs haven't changed.

Print out this list. Every time you meet an elected official, ask her what she is doing to make these basic security rights a reality.

Ugly Actions May Follow Comforting Words in SOTU

Don't count on what President Obama says in his State of the Union address tonight. Pay attention to what he does after the applause dies down and people relax, thinking that because Obama didn't say he would kill social security that means he won't do it anyway.

Digby explains:

The rumors keep on rolling:

The White House and a bipartisan group of senators are focusing on restructuring the tax code and entitlement programs such as Social Security, which could have more dramatic impacts on the deficit in the long run but would do little in the short term. White House officials say Republican calls for $100 billion in spending cuts this year would choke off the economic recovery while doing little in the long run to tame the deficit. "The American people say, don't touch Social Security, don't touch Medicare, don't cut defense. That's 84% of the federal budget," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.). who is retiring when his term ends in 2012, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "If you can't touch 84% of the federal're down to 16% of the budget at a time we're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend."

If this is true --- which is unknown at this point --- in order to appease teabagging nihilists who want to end all programs (that help people)and petulant Masters of the Universe who want to abolish taxes (for rich people), the White house and small bipartisan group of millionaire politicians are seeking ways to destroy the Democratic Party and dismantle vital pieces of the safety net. Sounds awesome.

Then there's this, about the SOTU:

The president will try to keep the deficit conversation in broad terms, fearing that detailed proposals would put Republicans, Democrats and Washington interest groups into a defensive crouch before real negotiations can take place, according to those officials. White House officials, for instance, have assured Democratic lawmakers that the president will not explicitly call for cuts in Social Security benefits, though he will say changes are needed to put the program on a solid fiscal footing.

At the same time, Mr. Obama will call on both parties to be prepared to put everything on the table. That means Democrats have to be ready to look at changes to Social Security, and Republicans to consider tax-code changes to increase revenue.

Good to know. Why they leaked their real intentions is unknown, but whatever.

If you're still not sure who's side Wall Street's BFF is on, Digby again:

Obama's version of this is to take the ideas of the opposition but couch it in the language of pragmatism. But it really doesn't matter because whether he's just sounding like he's adopting the right's ideas or actually doing it, the truth is as Kuttner says; the political playing field is all on the right at this point. It's just a matter of degree. And by playing to the "center" of that right field it moves the play that much further.

However, it's not some shocking betrayal on Obama's part. It's the thoroughly predictable move for any president who's been accused of being a socialist for two years and suffered a bad mid-term. They always "run to the center" in the second half in order to get re-elected. And if the economy cooperates, it might just work. But it is at the expense of liberalism and the Party whether or not it's a conscious strategic decision to distance themselves from the left or not. At the end of the cycle, Obama will have run on a set of issues and solutions marginally to the right of those which he ran on in 2008. And those were marginally to the right of those which Kerry ran on in 2004 or Gore ran on in 2000. This is how we find ourselves looking back at Richard Nixon's agenda and thinking that even Dennis Kucinich wouldn't be so bold as to propose much of it.

Much of this is about money and power, of course. The vast sums required to run for office require politicians, particularly presidential candidates who have to run billion dollar campaigns now, to be subservient to those who have it. And as policies become more and more tilted to the wealthy, the more power they have to shape them and bend politicians to their will.


In these circumstances, the political incentives in a democratic society becomes how to package the policies in a way that appeals to the people but benefits the wealthy. The Republicans know how to do that. The Democrats not so much, although on the presidential level, they may have found a formula. But again, it's at the expense of liberalism in general which, if the president decides to engage on "entitlements", may also end any serious rationale for the Democratic party at all.

Kuttner is right that there is a huge debate to be had. But I'm not sure it's between the two political parties. I guess the question is, if an American political argument happens outside the two party system, does it happen at all?

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The State Bankruptcy Con Game

Unless you live in Illinois, where raise-taxes-to-incrase-revenue reason and logic have prevailed over slash-services austerity hysteria, your state officials are laying the groundwork for the Great State Bankruptcy Con Game.

Instead of doing the hard work of either raising taxes on obscenely wealthy individuals and corporations or overhauling antique tax systems, states are licking their chops over what looks like a free lunch.

Zandar explains:

No matter what Serious Villagers decide the states should do about their massive budget crises (and it's gotten so bad now that the words "state bankruptcy legislation" are being thrown around in the Senate now) there's one thing for sure: state and local employees have to be made to pay for it.

House Republicans, and Senators from both parties, have taken an interest in the issue, with nudging from bankruptcy lawyers and a former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, who could be a Republican presidential candidate. It would be difficult to get a bill through Congress, not only because of the constitutional questions and the complexities of bankruptcy law, but also because of fears that even talk of such a law could make the states’ problems worse.

Lawmakers might decide to stop short of a full-blown bankruptcy proposal and establish instead some sort of oversight panel for distressed states, akin to the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which helped New York City during its fiscal crisis of 1975.

Still, discussions about something as far-reaching as bankruptcy could give governors and others more leverage in bargaining with unionized public workers.

“They are readying a massive assault on us,” said Charles M. Loveless, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We’re taking this very seriously.”

Mr. Loveless said he was meeting with potential allies on Capitol Hill, making the point that certain states might indeed have financial problems, but public employees and their benefits were not the cause. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report on Thursday warning against a tendency to confuse the states’ immediate budget gaps with their long-term structural deficits.

“States have adequate tools and means to meet their obligations,” the report stated.

The reality is that state employees are not the cause of budget woes, but they are politically the easiest cuts for Republicans to make. Republicans talk about multi-year pension obligations as if they are the same thing as single-year budget items and equate the cost, saying "Hey, states are on the hook for billions of fat government pensions, we need to eliminate them to cover our budget gaps." The single year cost of these pensions is of course far lower.

But hey, these guys vote Dem anyway. Screw them, right?

Because the real goal is not balancing state budgets: the goal is demonizing public employees in order to eliminate the largest remaining source of decent-paying middle-class jobs.

If you envy public employees whose jobs seem more secure and better-paying with better benefits than your job, destroying those jobs won't improve your situation by a dime.

Instead, turn it back on the attackers and demand that everybody get pay and benefits to match what public employees get.

That's how it worked in this country for 40 years: private-sector unions negotiated good pay and benefits for their members, which forced other employers to match it in order to keep their own non-union employees.

Today, only public-sector employees - unionized and not - have the potential to force that kind of economic change.

Don't let the rethuglicans pit workers against each other; stand in solidarity with public employees and demand good jobs for everyone.

Crooks and Liars has a good refutation of rethuglican lies about public employees.

And Steve Benen explains how public-sector employment could have saved the economic recovery.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

House Rethugs Propose New Tax as Punishment

The misogynist rethuglicans have been warning you for 38 years: if Americans didn't outlaw abortion and force women back to the Dark Ages of forced childbirth, terrible things would happen.

Now they're making good on that threat: House Rethugs want to make you pay a tax if your health insurance company covers abortion. Note that is not a tax on abortion. It's not a tax on women of child-bearing age who might possibly consider the idea of possibly having an abortion. It's not even a tax on people who purchase health insurance that includes coverage for abortion. It's a tax on everyone whose insurance company offers policies that cover abortion.

Everybody. Even if you do not have a uterus. Even if no one in your family has a uterus. Even if you are fanatic anti-choice freakazoid who protests abortion clinics. If your health insurance company - the only one your employer offers and the one you have no choice but to accept - offers policies that cover abortion - even if you don't buy one of those policies - you must pay this tax.

The only way you can avoid paying the tax is to make your insurance company stop covering abortion. Or make your members of Congress outlaw abortion once and for all.

This is fucking brilliant.

And don't think rethuglicans can't get it just through their House majority, but also through the Democratic Senate. And either signed by an intimidated, appeasing president, or passed with veto-overturning majorities.

Activist groups are calling this bill "Stupak on Steroids" and not just because it doubles-down on Stupak's anti-abortion amendment to health care reform.

Remember how Stupak got passed in the huge-majority-Democratic House last year? The deal was that anti-choice Blue Dogs could vote for Stupak as a gesture, and in return they'd vote for the main health reform bill. Because everybody was sure that Stupak would never get a majority. It would be a symbolic vote that Blue Dogs could point to while running for re-election.

Oops. To the horror of the House Democratic leadership, Stupak passed. The most horrifically anti-choice legislation in a generation was part of health care reform.

And most of those Blue Dog betrayers voted against health care reform anyway. Like Ben "Wire Hangar" Chandler (repug-cocksucker, KY-6).

So don't think this is another joke bill like health care repeal last week. The House rethugs know the Democratic caucus is riddled with cowards and appeasers who will vote for this bill out of terror that repug voters will look at them cross-eyed.

Jessica Arons at the Center for American Progress:

No one should be fooled by the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, or H.R. 3, which was introduced today in the House of Representatives. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the main sponsor, claims that his bill would “only” codify, or make permanent, the Hyde Amendment, which is the annual appropriations rider that restricts Medicaid funding for abortion. But it would do much more than that. Rep. Smith’s bill would go far beyond current law, seriously compromise women’s access to reproductive health care, and hamstring government operations.


Make no mistake: Each of these provisions represents an expansion, not simply a codification, of the abortion funding restrictions that exist in current federal law.

From Nancy Keenan at NARAL Pro-Choice America:

The news from Capitol Hill yesterday was astounding.

We're two weeks into the new Congress, and one of the first legislative priorities from the anti-choice leadership was to introduce an abortion-coverage ban we call "Stupak on Steroids." This is one of the most far-reaching anti-choice measures I have seen.

If you thought that the Stupak abortion-coverage ban in health-care reform was bad, this new bill is even worse. And anti-choice speaker of the House, John Boehner, has said that this bill is "one of our highest legislative priorities."

If enacted, the "Stupak on Steroids" bill would:

  • Impose the Stupak abortion ban on the entire new health-care system.

  • Impose tax penalties on millions of Americans , effectively raising the price of health insurance if the plan covers abortion care. This is outrageous, considering 87 percent of private insurance plans offer abortion care.
  • Make it more difficult for survivors of incest and rape to access abortion care.
  • Permanently ban abortion access for women in the military.

If the "Stupak on Steroids" bill passes in the House, our anti-choice opponents have a strategy to ram it through the Senate, where we only have 40 pro-choice allies we can count on. According to CQ Weekly, anti-choice activists "want the House to quickly pass Smith's bill and later attach it as an amendment to a must-pass measure needing Senate action."

Everybody who thinks President Obama would veto this bill, stand on your head.

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

Kill the Filibuster. Kill the Whole Thing. Kill It Dead. Do It Now

Forget all the too-clever ideas for "reforming" the filibuster when the Senate convenes on Monday. Any "reform" that leaves intact the ability of the minority to prevent majority rule is a victory for obstructionism and a defeat for progress.

In other words: Reform = rethuglican victory.

Liberal Democracy wins only after the filibuster is dead.

That's because the filibuster is fundamentally anti-progress.

Back in August, Thomas Geoghegan in The Nation explained:

Sure, sometimes liberal Democrats put the filibuster to good use when Republicans are in power. Sure, sometimes a liberal senator can use the filibuster to stop a piece of corporate piracy. It's impossible to prove that the filibuster never does any good. But the record is awfully thin. Look at all the financial deregulation that Senator Phil Gramm and leading Democrats like Larry Summers pushed through only a decade ago. The filibuster did not stop their effective repeal of the New Deal, but it would block the revival of it today.

On the other hand, Republicans and conservative Democrats use their filibusters on labor, health, the stimulus, everything. They can and will block all the change that Obama wanted us to believe in. And even when they lose, they win. For example, when we say that after a major rewriting of the stimulus package--a rewriting that seriously weakened the original bill--it "survived the filibuster," what we really mean is that it didn't.


Nor will any "liberal hour" come in our time, until we bring the filibuster down. I know it seems hopeless. But so did knocking out slavery when the abolitionists first started, or segregation, when civil rights activists began their struggle against Jim Crow. It's a fair enough analogy, since the filibuster is one of the last remnants of racist politics in America: it was a parliamentary tactic used by the Calhounians to make extra certain slavery would stay around.

We should adopt the strategy of the antislavery movement, which in the early stages had three approaches:

1. The laying of petitions on the House. Forgive the archaic legal phrase: I mean petitions to Congress, both houses. In the era of John Quincy Adams - in case you missed the Steven Spielberg movie - there would be mass petitions, with Adams and others reading them on the House floor to the howls of the Southerners. Every group busted by a filibuster should lay on a petition. And start with the House, which is the only place it has a chance of being read.

2. Resolutions by the House, as a warm-up for the Senate. Such resolutions might read: "Resolved, that Congress has no authority to require supermajorities in any chamber except as authorized by the Constitution." Aren't House chairs tired of seeing their bills cast into black holes by senators whose names they never even know?

3. Evangelizing. The most effective tactic in the fight against slavery was the preaching of New England clergy against it. We can start in our battle against the filibuster by enlisting faculty at New England colleges to hold teach-ins. Teach the kids why "Yes, we can" can't happen with the current Senate rules.

By the way, the abolitionists knew the Senate was their enemy, just as it is our enemy today. Let's hope these tactics work for us in getting rid of this last vestige of slavery: Senate Rule 22. What's painful is that we have to cross some of our most sainted senators. But unless we decide to just give up on the Republic, there's no way out. To save the Obama presidency, we may have to fight our heroes.

On why mere reforms are not just pointless but damaging, first we have two views on reform's "weak tea":

Steve Benen:

I tend to see the proposals as worthwhile, but if we're being intellectually serious about this, the reforms are pretty tepid. The changes -- ending filibusters on motions to proceed, eliminating secret holds, etc. -- would make the chamber function more effectively, but only at the margins. I like the plan, but I also think it's a mistake to consider it a sweeping overhaul. It isn't.

So why support it? Partly because some improvements are better than none, but also because I see some value in getting the ball rolling a bit. Major institutional reforms rarely happen all at once, and the Senate is more resistant to change than most. The point would be to use Udall/Merkley as a stepping stone -- minor changes now that could help clear the way for more systemic changes later.

And Kevin Drum:

Finally, there's #5: require honest to goodness Jimmy-Stewart-talk-til-you-drop debate if you want to filibuster a bill. It's not clear just how this would work technically, but in any case it's not really much of an impediment to filibusters.

If you have 40 senators willing to join in, each one just reads the phone book for an hour or two and then yields. That's about one hour of phone book reading per week per senator, which is hardly onerous. In fact, it's so obviously non-onerous that I imagine it changes nothing in practice. Once the minority starts up and demonstrates that it's willing to engage in a talkathon, the majority will give up and move to other business. Before long, this will morph into the same convention we have now: simply announce that you're willing to talk and the majority takes you at your word.

Overall, then, this is a pretty weak reform package. Items #3 and #4 are worthwhile, but the others are mostly window dressing. The Senate will remain a 60-vote body, but if you can scrounge up those 60 votes then things will move along a bit faster than before. That's about it.

But it's worse than that. Yet again, dems are handing repugs a monster victory while getting nothing for themselves.


In a bid to attract Republican support for filibuster reform, Democrats led by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley have proposed a new rule that would guarantee the minority party the chance to offer three amendments to any legislation.

It may have worked too well. A senior Senate Republican leadership aide says GOP members would be "giddy" if they were given that right.

Here's why. Those amendments would be filibuster-proof -- among the only pieces of legislation in all the Senate to enjoy that privilege -- and would therefore be a recipe for poison pill amendments on both sides.

For Republicans, now in the minority, that would mean a chance to get up or down votes on repealing health care and other conservative priorities.

Remember the One Rule for Dealing With Rethuglicans: If Rethuglicans Like It, It's Got to Be Bad.

Finally, John Nichols on what's really at stake:

The signals from leaders of groups associated with the Fix the Senate Now movement are encouraging. "The filibuster has proven to be one of the most potent legislative tactics ever used to deny Americans their basic civil and human rights," argues Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "Once used to perpetuate lynchings across the South and disenfranchise African-Americans, it is now being used to obstruct pay equity for women, human rights for immigrants and the basic rights of LGBT individuals. The civil rights movement, which first coalesced around filibuster reform, believes additional reforms are necessary to move our country forward."

Henderson's message is the right one. This is not just about parliamentary procedure. This is about the impact that abuses of the filibuster do to real people.

It is echoed by Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen, who notes: "No other democracy has a legislative body that depends on unanimous consent like the U.S. Senate. In the last session more than 400 measures passed by the House were never debated by a Senate ruled by gridlock and obstructionism. Reform that would require Senators choosing to filibuster to actually hold the Senate floor and lay out their arguments in full public view will strengthen our democracy and enable the Senate to meet the challenges of our time. If the Senate rules aren’t changed, we all lose."

Kill the filibuster. Kill the whole thing. Kill it Dead. Do it now.

A Real People's Democratic Revolution in an Unlikely Place

If I weren't afraid of jinxing it, I'd say the shocking news out of Tunisia reminds me of the wave of popular protest that brought down communist governments in Eastern Europe two decades ago.

From Crooks and Liars:

As Juan Cole pointed out to Democracy Now's Amy Goodman this story is unsurprisingly being ignored by our corporate 24/7 cable news outlets.

Juan Cole: Tunisia Uprising "Spearheaded by Labor Movements, by Internet Activists, by Rural Workers; It’s a Populist Revolution":

AMY GOODMAN: We’re spending the hour on the revolution that is unfolding right now in Tunisia. The latest news is that three members of the national unity government representing the protests in the streets have just pulled out of that unity government. We’re going first to Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan. His blog is "Informed Comment" online at His most recent book, Engaging the Muslim World. And then we’ll be joined by Anthony Shadid, based in Beirut, also in Baghdad, but now in Beirut.

Juan Cole, this latest news and the significance of this revolution?

JUAN COLE: Well, this is the first popular revolution since 1979. But it’s distinctive in that the Iranian Revolution in 1979 was ultimately taken over by the ayatollahs, by a clerical elite, and so it didn’t develop in a democratic direction, whereas this revolution so far has been spearheaded by labor movements, by internet activists, by rural workers. It’s a populist revolution, and not particularly dominated in any way by Islamic themes, it seems to be a largely secular development. And it’s occurring in a Sunni and an Arab country, unlike Iran, which is Persian and Shiite. And it’s occurring in a country that has many similarities to other countries living under authoritarian regimes with limited employment opportunities and a kind of long-term economic stagnation. So, it’s something that other Arab countries might well look to—the publics, at least—for inspiration.

Watch the video and read the transcript here.

"We Can Out-Compete Any Nation"

Not if we handicap ourselves with self-destructive austerity, Mr. President.

Full transcript here.

The Laboratories of Democracy Step Up

While Congressional repugs play stupid games with people's lives, the first state out of the gate with a real health care solution is Vermont:

Jon Walker at Firedoglake:

Dr. William Hsiao presented to the Vermont legislature a draft proposal for three different health care systems for the state. They include:

Option 1 – government-run single payer
Option 2 – public option
Option 3 – public/private single-payer

(You can find the full report, presentations, and the statement from Hsiao here at the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office.)

The purpose of all three designs is to expand coverage to all the residents of the state while controlling health care costs. All three options are designed to save more money and cover more uninsured than would happen under just the new federal health care law alone.

Read the whole thing.

Congressional rethuglicans are fighting the last war. While they try to hold the nation hostage to force budget beheading, states led by members of the reality-based community are taking matters into their own hands.

And once statewide single-payer stops health care costs from skyrocketing, the rest of the budget crisis may become manageable.

The states led by the brain-dead fanatics won't make it, of course - you should probably wave bye-bye to Texas and Florida now - but most will look at the successful states and choose to go with what works.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A SOTU for a Reality-Based Economy

Via Crooks and Liars, the State of the Union address President Obama should give Tuesday night:

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made a speech this week at the National Press Club, aimed at what is expected to be an austerity plan in Obama's State of the Union address:

The question of how our political system treated our 9-11 heroes like Stan resonates still in this new year: What kind of country are we? A country of isolated individuals fending for themselves or a country with shared values and a shared vision? A country with scant resources, fading glory and no choices? Or a blessed nation with the potential to do right by its people and be a leader in the world?

The conventional wisdom in Washington and in statehouses around the nation is that we cannot afford to be the country we want to be. That could not be more wrong.

We can and should be building up the American middle class – not tearing it down. We should be honoring the heroes of 9-11, not turning them into scapegoats for a partisan political messaging operation. We should act like the wealthy, compassionate, imaginative country we are – not try to turn ourselves into a third-rate, impoverished "has-been." The labor movement hasn't given up on America – and we don't expect our leaders to either.

Last Friday in Cincinnati, Ella Hopkins and a group of her co-workers went out on a frigid night to stand in front of City Hall. Ella is a child care worker and I'm so glad that she is here today. She takes care of young children when their parents are at work. She nurtures our youth so they have the support they need and are in a safe environment to learn and grow. And for doing that job, the important job of caring for our children, the state of Ohio pays her, after taxes, about $450 a week. She stood in the cold last Friday to ask her new governor, John Kasich, to respect her freedom to have a union to improve her life and those of her co-workers. Here's what Kasich said: State workers like her are "toast."

You see, in the same week that he increased the salaries of his senior staff by more than 30 percent, the governor has made cracking down on Ella and other home care and child care workers his first priority.

Stan and Ella are my American heroes, the hard-working everyday champions who make America great, and their lives illuminate the choices facing our nation as we enter a fourth year of economic crisis. The choice between coming together as a nation or turning on each other. The choice, as Dr. Martin Luther King once said, between chaos and community. The choice between greed and solidarity.

But most of all, Stan and Ella remind us that while our political leaders wrestle with these questions, America's working people already know the answer. We are a nation that still has choices. We don't need to settle for stagnation and ever-spiraling inequality. We don't need to hunker down, dial back our expectations and surrender our children's hope for a great education, our parents' right to a comfortable retirement, our own health and economic security, our nation's aspiration to make things again – or our human right to advance our situation by forming a union if we want one. All these things are within the reach of this great country.


We have a tax system that everyone knows is grossly unfair—allowing private equity billionaires like Pete Peterson to pay 15 percent rates while middle-class Americans pay 25 percent. We just agreed to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the rich. Yet Washington behaves as if record economic inequality is a force of nature, and says we cannot fund the basic functions of government—let alone invest to build the infrastructure of the future.

We are still a wealthy country, with per capita income that puts us in the very top tier internationally. But in the last 20 years, 56 percent of all income gains went to the top 1 percent of Americans, and more than a third went to the top one-tenth of one percent. That is one person out of every thousand taking a third of all income gains here in the United States. Meanwhile, the bottom 90 percent made do with only 16 percent of income gains. That is why we all feel so poor – because too much of our national income went to too few people.

In this topsy-turvy world, the same leaders who fought so valiantly to cut taxes for the wealthy turn right around and lecture us about the imminent bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare. So let me get this straight: We need to slash retirement and health benefits for the elderly because we are on the brink of fiscal crisis. But we can afford to squander hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the super-rich. Only at the Mad Hatter's tea party does this make sense.

The truth is Social Security is financially one of the healthiest institutions in American life, and the most essential to our families' economic security.

When we are reduced to competing to cut spending instead of deciding how to compete in the world economy and secure our future, then we are having the wrong conversation.


Next week the President of the United States will give his State of the Union address. The labor movement is ready for a call to action, a call to invest in our future, to create jobs, to be the country we can and must be. We are ready for vision, and we believe in the President's vision of a nation that is strong because we are just and true to our values. A vision for a national future founded on the profound truth that social justice and material prosperity are not competing values--they are necessary to each other. A truth that we have ignored as a country for a generation at a terrible cost.

And what is that future? Just this: In a globalized, high-tech world, when it often seems that change is the one constant in our lives, the real American dream is that if we work hard and do our part for each other, each of us can enjoy the economic security that allows us to live our lives with dignity and have hope for our future and for our children's future. This dream must be a reality in our time, and in our children's and grandchildren's time.

Read the whole wonderful, inspiring thing.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When Democratic Representatives Attack

Until Alan Grayson takes his seat back in 2012, his place as Democratic House Attack Dog is well filled by our new favorite dem.


During the House debate on repeal of health care reform (Wednesday), Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) reprised his famous (or infamous) rant against Republicans: "You know, I want to just advise people watching at home playing that now popular drinking game of 'you take a shot whenever Republicans say something that's not true.' Please assign a designated driver. This is going to be a long afternoon."

Whereas back in July, Weiner was angry about the Republicans' failure to pass the 9/11 first responders health care bill, today it was about the efforts to repeal health care reform in its entirety: "First they start by making stuff up. You kind of have to wonder if any of them actually read the bill. 130,000 new agencies, not true. New IRS agents, not true. Death panels, not true. Members aren't covered. Not true. No tort reform in it. Not true."

Abortion Outlaw Proves the Danger of Restricting Abortion

Or as Amanda Hess puts it: "When Abortion is Outlawed Only Outlaws Will Perform Abortions."

JUST IN TIME for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let us consider Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Pennsylvania abortion provider charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a pregnant woman and seven infants:

RELEVANT TO THIS SITUATION is that Pennsylvania bans abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy, a possible complicating factor in the completely exploitative and totally illegal situation we have here: "Gosnell's clinic . . . catered to poor, immigrant and minority women in the city's impoverished West Philadelphia section. . . . Women came from across the city, state and region for illegal late-term abortions, authorities said. They paid $325 for first-trimester abortions and $1,600 to $3,000 for abortions up to 30 weeks. The clinic took in $10,000 to $15,000 a day . . . White women from the suburbs were ushered into a separate, slightly cleaner area because Gosnell believed they were more likely to file complaints."

Is it now clear to everyone that restricting/banning abortion is yet another way to oppress the poor and minorities? Because well-off women - the majority of whom are still white - will always be able to buy safe abortions in another state or country where they are legal.

OVER AT SLATE, William Saletan argues that the conditions at Gosnell's clinic show why we need to set gestational age limits on abortion and stick to them. "[T]he grand jury has recommended that Gosnell be prosecuted for murder in the deaths of seven babies, for infanticide in the deaths of two others, and for 33 felony counts of performing abortions after 24 weeks in violation of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act. . . . You can argue that what Gosnell did wasn't conventional abortion—he routinely delivered the babies before slitting their necks—but the 33 proposed charges involving the Abortion Control Act have nothing to do with that," Saletan writes. "Those charges pertain strictly to a time limit: performing abortions beyond 24 weeks. Should Gosnell be prosecuted for violating that limit? Is it OK to outlaw abortions at 28, 30, or 32 weeks? Or is drawing such a line an unacceptable breach of women's autonomy?"

Scott Lemieux demolishes that non-sequitur here.

ALSO AT SLATE, Amanda Marcotte argues that the conditions at Gosnell's clinic show why we need to expand abortion access for women: "That shady abortion providers get patients at all is something we can safely blame the anti-choice movement for. Most doctors in this country are pro-choice, and many would like to provide abortion, but as Slate's Emily Bazelon demonstrated in the New York Times, the stigma of doing so makes it that much harder to do. Good medical care costs money, but very few women seeking abortion can get coverage, in no small part because of anti-choice initiatives like the Hyde Amendment. If you're seeking an abortion but can't afford it, going to a doctor who provides substandard care on the cheap is certainly going to be an attractive option.

AND THE AMERICAN PROSPECT'S Pema Levy outlines more problems with restricting late term abortions: "Geographic, financial, and social barriers that the anti-choice movement has successfully erected create an environment where a provider like Gosnell can work," Levy writes. "If lack of abortion coverage didn't force poor, minority, and immigrant women—Gosnell's main clientele—into clinics like his, they would get better abortion care, and probably much earlier in their pregnancies. Moreover, if a poor woman does pursue a late-term abortion that is illegal, reporting a shady clinic to the authorities means admitting she pursued an illegal abortion."

Here, PZ Myers explains why Gosnell should be prosecuted for the women he murdered, not the abortions he performed.

Finally, Sharon Lerner at The Nation covers the political debate over whether contraception should count as prevention under new health insurance rules.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Brett Guthrie, Geoff Davis, Ed Whitfield and Hal Rogers Vote to Deny Healthcare to Kentuckians

Here's the official roll call.

And here's what it means for Kentucky, from Jake:

Ever wondered what a full repeal of health care reform would cost Kentucky?


I thought it’d be best to take a look at the actual numbers from Healthcare Dot Gov. Here are some of the critical protections Kentuckians would lose if Republicans repeal health reform:

16,800 young adults would lose their insurance coverage through their parents’ health plans, sometimes just after they finish school and as they are looking for a job. Families across Kentucky would lose the peace of mind the Affordable Care Act provides by making sure that young adults can stay on their parents plan to age 26 if they do not have coverage of their own.

More than 2.2 million residents of Kentucky with private insurance coverage would suddenly find themselves vulnerable again to having lifetime limits placed on how much insurance companies will spend on their health care.

Insurance companies would once again be allowed cut off someone’s coverage unexpectedly when they are in an accident or become sick because of a simple mistake on an application. This would leave 196,000 people in Kentucky at risk of losing their insurance at the moment they need it most, as one of the worst abuses of the insurance industry would become legal again.

196,000 residents of Kentucky would not know if they are receiving value for their health insurance premium dollars, as insurers in state would no longer be required to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of premium dollars on health care rather than CEO salaries, bonuses, and corporate profits.

New insurance plans would no longer be required to cover recommended preventive services, like mammograms and flu shots, without cost sharing, nor would they have to guarantee enrollees the right to choose any available primary care provider in the network or see an OB-GYN without a referral.

724,000 seniors in Kentucky who have Medicare coverage would be forced to pay a co-pay to receive important preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies.

Medicare would no longer pay for an annual check-up visit, so 724,000 seniors in Kentucky who have Medicare coverage would have to pay extra if they want to stay healthy by getting check-ups regularly.

And people still fall for the crap people like Mitch McConnell are peddling – all in an attempt to damage Barack Obama.

But you want more? In addition to all of the above:

49,337 on Medicare would see significantly higher prescription drug costs. That one-time, tax-free $250 rebate to pay for the donut hole will dry up. The 50% discount on many prescription drugs will disappear.

Kentucky would not receive addition resources to crack down on unreasonable insurance premium rate hikes

Kentucky would not receive addition funds to play for a health insurance exhange

Kentucky would not receive additional funds to support a consumer assistance program

30 Kentucky employers will no longer receive help from the early retiree reinsurance program.

Sounds like terrific news for Kentucky. Gotta get rid of tyrannical legislation that allows people to buy health insurance without getting screwed, right?

But repeal will never get past the Democratic Senate and President Obama, right? True, but what the rethuglicans have in mind next will accomplish the same thing.

Talking Points Memo:

As much as conservatives would like Wednesday's House vote on repealing health care to be binding, it's really just symbolic. The Republicans' real legislative leverage over the bill will come during spending fights later this year, when the GOP appropriators in the House can demand funding cuts to stymie the implementation of the law.

Democrats in the Senate will object, and if the two chambers don't break the gridlock, it could even lead to a government shutdown. To push the GOP back from the brink, Democrats will cast the skirmish with Republicans not as an abstract fight over spending, but as a disagreement between the parties over providing benefits to people.

At a health care event in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, top Democrats laid this strategy out. "I think we have to discreetly respond, 'This is what withholding funding for this aspect of [the law] -- this is what it means to you,'" said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

"I think the things that they would attack now are things that are direct services to American people," said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY). "They would have to start saying, well we're going to wack the spending for the donut hole, and for preventive care, and for things that are direct services to American citizens."

Some Republicans want to use the appropriations process to block the IRS from administering the mandate, and the Department of Health and Human Services from helping states set up insurance exchanges ahead of 2014.

"What are they going to cut? There's very little administrative costs being expended, I mean you could do it, but they'd find ways to shuffle money around in the department," Yarmuth said.

To illustrate the conundrum, Yarmuth pointed out that the law expands Medicaid to cover people up to 133 percent of the poverty line, and that the federal government pays for that expansion through the end of the decade.

"You're going to go in and now say to states 'you've got to provide the service now -- that's in the law -- but we're not paying you,'" he said.

"We'll just see how irresponsible [Republicans want to be]," Pelosi said.

Today's vote was just for show, but make no mistake: Congressional rethuglicans are dead serious about preventing Americans from getting decent, affordable healthcare.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?