Monday, February 28, 2011

Dolphin Babies Murdered by BP

Yes, murder is the word and of course BP did it.

Heather at Crooks and Liars:

Anyone else going to be shocked if this is not caused by the massive amount of oil and dispersants these poor animals have been exposed to? There has been almost a media blackout in any coverage of what's going on in the Gulf nationally.

More Dead Dolphin Babies Found along Gulf Coast:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the number of dead dolphins found since Jan. 1 in the area affected by last year's oil spill is now 67, with 35 of them premature or newborn calves.

NOAA regional spokeswoman Kim Amendola says five dead calves were reported Friday in Mississippi or Alabama.

Scientists are looking into whether any unusual deaths in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill area may be related to toxins from oil or dispersants. However, they're also investigating whether it could be related to the cold weather or a disease.
Watch the video here.

Dolphins. Baby dolphins. Dead baby dolphins.

Spread the word.

Two Weeks In, Snowstorm Raging, Madison Protests Bigger Than Ever

David Dayen on the ground in Madison on Saturday:

In what has been billed the largest rally in the history of Madison, over 100,000 people packed the Capitol Square for a “Rally for Workers’ Rights” to protest the budget repair bill and the proposed stripping of collective bargaining rights from public employees. Madison Police told AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale that they estimated the crowd at 100,000 30 minutes before the 3pm rally. As Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, who graced the stage, said, it’s 40% of the March on Washington, which he attended.


The peaceful crowd spanned age ranges, comprised of public and private workers, union and non-union, high school and retired. And it included Madison East High School’s Bradley Whitford, also known as White House Chief of Staff Josh Lyman of The West Wing. He told the assembled, among other things, that “Wisconsin is a stubborn constituency, we fish through ice!”

Also representing AFTRA and the Screen Actor’s Guild were Gabrielle Carteris (Andrea from Beverly Hills 90210) and soap opera actor Robert Newman of Guiding Light. But most of the speakers were Wisconsinites, union members and others opposed to the bill. The Episcopal bishop of Milwaukee, leading a group of faith leaders, said that, as Jesus helped the blind to see, “we must help Gov. Walker to see” the right path on the bill.

There’s a parallel rally continuing inside the Capitol, as the masses are outside. Lines to get into the Capitol are around the block. There’s a live stream from inside the Capitol, put on by the AFL-CIO.

With the snow falling consistently, organizers had to shovel the stage between acts. The snow also fell on a chair set up on the stage, reserved for Gov. Scott Walker. He didn’t show up to claim it.
Click here for videos.

The EPA is more popular than Congress or the President

Not that the rethuglicans give a flying fuck about what actual Americans think about repug efforts to destroy the nation, but here's yet more proof that they are not doing "what Americans want."

Down With Tyranny:

Nancy Pelosi cited another nonpartisan poll that shows American are hugely in favor of the EPA's efforts to update air pollution efforts and opposed to Boehner's efforts to weaken clean air standards.

69 percent of Americans say they favor the EPA updating standards with stricter limits on air pollution. 26 percent oppose-- a 43 point difference.

68 percent believe Congress should NOT stop the EPA from updating these standards. 28 percent say Congress should stop the EPA-- a 39 point difference.

79 percent support stricter limits on the amount of Mercury that power plants and other industrial facilities can release. 18 percent oppose-- a 61 point difference.

77 percent favor stricter limits on the amount of smog that power plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities can release. 21 percent oppose-- a 56 point difference.

77 percent favor stricter limits on the amount of carbon dioxide that power plants and other industrial facilities can release. 21 percent oppose-- a 56 point difference.
Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

UPDATE: Also: Scientists didn't lie, Inhofe is a goat-fucking moron, and climate change is real.

Here's Your New Protest Song

I was just thinking that the only thing the 2011 Protest Year was missing is some good folkie protest songs, when Down with Tyranny brought us this:

Something's Happening Here

Wanna believe? Believe in this:

Protest sign in Madison: "The faith I have lost in our system has been replaced by a faith in the people"

From Digby:

However, while reading those two article together makes it seem that the allegedly populist Tea Party is an up from the bottom movement of ordinary Americans while the "activist" Democrats being addressed by a corporate centrist are driven from the top down, both parties are answering to the same powerful forces. The Tea Partiers are carrying out their agenda the same way that Daley's activist at the DNC are, even if they don't realize it. Nothing the Tea Partiers are doing in any way truly threatens the goals of the oligarchs --- Koch and Murdoch wouldn't be backing them so strongly if it did. The main economic differences between the parties at the moment are between the free market neo-liberals in the Democratic Party and the crude Randian market fundamentalists in the GOP. "Populism" isn't really at play in either of those stories.

But there is something else happening that really does threaten the status quo. Here's Mike Elk, reporting from Madison:

"My father always said during a strike is when we would rebuild the labor movement," said Sadlowski, a veteran organizer whose father famously vied to head the United Steelworkers of America in the late '70s. "We are proving it right here."

Older union organizers have been sharing their experiences organizing in the workplace with students who have never engaged with the labor movement before. Some youngsters have been so inspired that they are talking about dedicating their lives to it.

"Everyday I come down here I just feel like we are winning," said Andrew Cole, who is in his twenties. "We are just a bunch of people standing around a Capitol talking together and singing songs, but through this collective voice we have been able to define the national debate about unions."

Likewise, young and optimistic organizers have been giving older ones, beaten down by years of anti-union actions, new ideas -- and new hope that it might be possible to rebuild the much-decimated labor movement.

Sadlowski has served as a bridge between the two groups, often coordinating communication among protesters occupying the Capitol. "I think what we created here is the first true labor temple" he said. "Coming down to the Capitol is a lot like coming to church. It's rejuvenating; it's a spiritual experience for a lot of people."

But unlike a church, where people go home at night, hundreds of protesters have turned the Capitol into their temporary home. People have been sleeping there overnight since Tuesday Feb. 15. They eat meals there, and go to nearby houses and dormitories to take showers.

In the early days, the Capitol occupation was almost entirely coordinated by the Teaching Assistant's Association, the union of teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. But other unions have become more involved in occupying the Capitol since, organizing groups to clean the building and provide food and supplies for people camping out there. Local pizza businesses have been experiencing a mini-boom as people from all over the country and even the world have called in delivery orders for the protesters, while Midwestern grandmothers with thick Wisconsin accents stop by to deliver trays of food cooked at home. In one back hallway, you can find tables full of food as well as boxes of donated supplies like toilet paper, water, toothbrushes, soap, spare hats, scarves, and gloves that are free to take. This level of organization is what has made it sustainable for hundreds of people to more or less live in the capitol building of a major Midwestern state.
This - this - is the antidote to Bowling Alone.

This - this - is what corporate DINOs should really fear.

This - this - is our hope for the future.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kentuckians Rally for Wisconsin Union Workers

UPDATE: Hillbilly has the video.

Kentucky is a right-to-work state, I am sorry to say. That the United Mine Workers still have to fight for coal miners on basic life-and-death issues is proof that when Kentucky politicans say they are protecting the "coal industry," they really mean they are protecting the Big Coal corporations, not the miners or their families or their homes.

But hundreds of Kentuckians turned out to support union workers in Frankfort on Saturday:

Several hundred people rallied on the state Capitol steps Saturday in support of Wisconsin public workers, who are battling that state's governor to defend their right to organize in unions and collectively bargain for compensation.

The crowd — including Kentucky school teachers, social workers, postal workers and firefighters — also criticized this state's elected leaders for what they see as the scapegoating of public workers during the recession.

As Gov. Steve Beshear has ordered unpaid furloughs for Kentucky state employees and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has tried to end state pensions for new hires, there has been a lot of political rhetoric about the drain that public workers impose on taxpayers, said several speakers at the rally.

Many politicians seem to forget the contributions that public workers make, often at modest pay, they said.

"We are the people who teach, we are the people who protect children, we fight the fires, we provide all the services that are needed by the public, and we are not going to stand by and let them ruin us," said Melissa Jan Williamson, vice president of the Kentucky Association of State Employees.

Read the whole thing and see pictures here.

Religion and Freedom

You have to wonder what the stammering incoherence on the part of the Reich Wing and freakazoids regarding the pro-democracy protests among mooslin terrists really reflects: Are they that blind to their own irrational authoritarianism, or is their cynicism and hypocrisy just not up to handling this much reality?

Via PZ Myers, Paula Kirby at WaPo explains:

Religion: the ultimate tyranny

In light of the continuing political uprising throughout the Middle East, American leaders are reported to be recalculating their approach to the Muslim world.

Politico's Ben Smith wrote this week that the Obama administration "clearly sees an opportunity," signaling "that they're hoping the changes in Tunisia and Egypt spread, and that they're going to align themselves far more clearly with the young, relatively secular masses" in countries like Iran, Algeria and Lebanon.

Is this a new moment for American relations with Muslim countries? Is freedom a religious or secular idea?

Is freedom a religious idea? As John McEnroe would have said, "You cannot be serious."

If you value freedom, you should flee from religion as the antelope flees the lion. Religion is the very antithesis of freedom, insisting on our complete subjugation to the unachievable demands of an invisible but supremely powerful overlord. Think of Islam, whose very name means 'submission'! Think of Christianity, which claims it is disobedience that brought original sin into the world, with all that entails in terms of suffering and injustice and even earthquakes and tsunamis. Imagine! To claim that human obedience is so imperative that the purposes of an omnipotent deity and the very fabric of the planet, if not the whole universe, depend upon it and can be catastrophically disrupted at the first whiff of rebellion - and then to claim that such a religion is the source of human freedom!

The Abrahamic god even enthusiastically endorses the vilest of all negations of freedom: slavery. In Leviticus 25, there is a direct quote from this supposedly perfect deity, specifically permitting the Israelites to take and keep slaves, the only proviso being that they must be from the neighboring tribes and not from their own people. Straight from the horse's mouth, as it were, and hardly a shining example of freedom as a religious ideal.

Religion delights in petty rules and the exercise of power over its followers. What theistic religion does not attempt to curtail believers' freedom with nonsensical decrees about foods that may or may not be eaten, fibers that may or may not be worn, days on which they may or may not work, coverings that must or must not be worn on their heads, books that must or must not be read, images that may or may not be created, words that may or may not be spoken, ideas they may or may not explore, actions they may or may not perform, rituals - whether physical or symbolic - they must perform in order to cleanse themselves of impurities of religion's own invention?

There is no aspect of our lives, no matter how intimate, which religion does not unblushingly insist on its right to control. Whom we may love, whom we may desire, with whom we may physically express those feelings: in such restrictions on our freedom religion is at its most insistent and intrusive. But it does not stop even here, for religion does not limit its control to our deeds or even words: no, the invisible Thought Police of religion do not scruple to pursue us even into the innermost recesses of our minds and there to stand ready to condemn us for our very thoughts. Not even the most heinous ruler or most brutal slave-owner ever achieved such extremes of tyranny; yet religion grants us no privacy, nowhere to hide, no freedom to entertain even a fleeting thought without its being immediately known to - and judged by - a cosmic dictator. Religion is the ultimate slavery: it is the slavery of the mind, slavery to the fear of divine judgment and damnation. The devilish irony consists in the fact that 'divine judgment' and 'damnation' are themselves the inventions of religion: religion creates and exquisitely perfects the fear, then cynically declares itself the sole and indispensable liberator from it.

And yet we are invited to credit religion as the source of true freedom? It is a laughable claim, a disgraceful claim, a claim that makes a mockery of language as well as of truth and of human dignity. As such it is on a par with other religious claims, such as those that define perfect forgiveness as something dependent on the barbaric sacrifice-by-crucifixion of an innocent man, perfect justice as consisting in the innocent being tortured to death so the guilty can be let off scot-free, and perfect love as something that would damn us to hell for all eternity if we refuse to accept such grotesque monstrosities as evidence of a perfect and loving god.

True freedom requires us to liberate ourselves from the tyranny of religion as well as from the tyranny of brutal earthly regimes. True freedom involves the freedom to think, to explore, to grow; the freedom to pursue knowledge and learning, wherever they lead; the freedom to be different, not to conform; freedom from bigotry; freedom from ignorance; freedom to love and to express that love as we choose; freedom to be ourselves, to accept ourselves, warts and all, and to accept others on the same terms; freedom to choose our own meaning and purpose in life, and to make our own decisions on the basis of those free choices; freedom to make mistakes; freedom to change our mind; freedom from fear, especially from phoney fears invented by those whose only aim is to control us in word, thought and deed.

Religion claims to set its followers free, while all the time holding them in thrall and insisting they kiss the hand of their jailer. There can be no true freedom so long as religion still keeps the human mind in shackles.

Makes the phrase "religious freedom" make more sense as "freedom from religion" rather than "freedom of religion," doesn't it?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What WON'T Kentucky Do to Please Big Coal?

Nothing. I mean it. If Big Coal demanded that school lunches in Kentucky must contain at least a heaping teaspoonful of pulverized coal every day, Kentucky's spineless legislature and worthless governor would leap to comply.


Just days after a group of activists ended a four-day occupation of Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear's office to protest the state's support of mountaintop removal mining, two bills advanced in legislative committees on Thursday that would make it easier for coal companies to continue the controversial practice. One of the bills advancing would declare Kentucky “a sanctuary state” from the EPA’s “regulatory actions against coal-producing counties.”

Introduced by chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, Brandon Smith (R), Joint Resolution 99 passed by a vote of 9-0 Thursday and could be considered by the full senate as early as Friday.

Smith said he got the idea for the resolution after hearing about "sanctuary cities" that declare themselves exempt from federal immigration law.

"We're doing it to raise awareness of the fact that the federal government is overreaching into parts of our economy and it's having a negative impact on Kentucky," Smith said.

Also on Thursday, the Kentucky House Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment unanimously approved a bill that seeks to exempt coal mines that sell coal for use in Kentucky from the federal Clean Water Act. That bill, as well as the "sanctuary state" bill, were both introduced as a reaction to stepped-up enforcement of Clean Water Act regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration.

And the cocksucking of Big Coal is bipartisan, maintaining full suction through administrations rethuglican and DINO:

The state Transportation Cabinet spent more than $1 million from 2006 to 2008 to close and move a 2-mile section of Ky. 699 in Perry County at the request of a coal company that wanted to strip-mine the land where the highway was located, according to state records.

The cabinet's inspector general concluded in a Dec. 8 report that cabinet officials were not authorized to execute the subsequent land swap with subsidiaries of James River Coal Co. of Richmond, Va., giving up the highway site in exchange for nearby land owned by the coal company. Only the state Finance and Administration Cabinet, with the governor's permission, can give away state assets, Inspector General David Ray wrote.

State Auditor Crit Luallen issued an audit of state government Feb. 17 that mentioned the land deal in passing, with few details, concluding that the Transportation Cabinet could not legally give away state land.

Records show that then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher's transportation secretary, Bill Nighbert, authorized the project in 2006. Joe Prather, Nighbert's successor under Gov. Steve Beshear, approved its completion in 2008. That section of road, near the Leatherwood community, was not in the cabinet's six-year plan of priority projects.

Meanwhile, as Big Coal eliminate jobs along with mountains, forest ecosystems, clean water, communities and families, Kentucky politicians refuse to see that economic salvation lies not in worshipping Big Coal, but in regulating and replacing it.

Page One Kentucky:

Sure, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is focused on praising mountaintop removal and will never, ever dwell in the realm of reality when it comes to, well, anything, ever. Sure, people like Steve Beshear and his pals in the Energy and “Environment” Cabinet are suing left and right because they’re delusional.

But a new report from the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Ceres finds that investments to clean and modernize power plants will create over 30,000 jobs in Kentucky. Yes, 30,000 jobs. In this state. Because of those allegedly pesky rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, no less!

The key findings of the report:

* Based on recent estimates that the power sector will invest in capital improvements over the next five years, total employment created in Kentucky by these capital investments is estimated at more than 30,000 jobs, or about 6,000 jobs on average in each of the next five years.
* Installing modern pollution controls and building new power plants create a wide array of skilled high-paying installation, construction and professional jobs, as well as jobs at companies that manufacture pollution controls and other required construction/maintenance equipment.

Read the whole thing.

But the EPA is our enemy, you betcha.

As Jake writes often, this is why Kentucky can't have nice things.

Gatewood: A Pretty Flower With A Fatal Sting

Between not just allowing Big Coal to destroy eastern Kentucky's land, water, communities and families but praising them for it, and handing millions of tax dollars to every freakazoid con man with a plausible story, Gov. Steve Beshear sure is giving a hell of an impression of somebody who wants to make sure that no liberal ever votes for him again.

Media Czech reviews an option:

Since Steve Beshear doesn't want your vote (and for you to be on his damned back), it looks like this guy would at least take it, if you were willing to give it:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Independent Gatewood Galbraith differentiated himself Thursday from all other Kentucky gubernatorial candidates by taking a strong stand against mountaintop removal mining.

Galbraith told The Associated Press that the practice has caused "unsurpassed environmental damage" in Appalachia and should not be permitted to continue.

"It is too large a cost for the extraction of coal," he said Thursday. "I'm for coal, but mountaintop removal is the most wasteful, unsustainable method for extracting coal. It destroys an ecological heritage that belongs to all of Kentucky."

Of course, you might have block from your memory some of the things he's said about abortion...

Seriously though, do you think that Beshear even wants your (liberals) vote? If anyone has any evidence that he does, please feel free to share it with us.

Yes, perennial candidate Gatewood (like "Mitch," he is known by just his first name) has long been an option for disaffected dems willing to overlook his gun fetish.

Last month, Ralph Long posted a persuasive analysis arguing that as an independent, Gatewood could take advantage of the teabaggers splitting the republican vote and widespread dem disgust with Beshear to actually win the governorship in November.

Governor Galbraith would be a hoot and a half ... for the half of the population without uteruses, that is.

In August 2009, Media Czech interviewed Gatewood at Fancy Farm on the subject of abortion.

Long story short, his liberatarianism stops at the vagina's edge.

I ran into Gatewood Galbraith and had one heck of a conversation. The one thing about Gatewood that most of his supporters don't know is that Mr. Freedom is actually anti-choice when it comes to abortion. I've cast a couple protest votes for Gatewood in my day and didn't realize this until recently. I wanted to figure out just how anti-choice he is, so I went through the same series of question that I usually do with folks who protest abortion clinics and have rallies with giant pictures of aborted fetuses. When asked whether abortion should be legal or illegal, he strongly said illegal, except in cases of rape. I asked if he thought it was murder, and he again gave a strong yes. I asked, if the law was totally up to him, would these women be charged with this crime as murder, and he again said yes, it is the murder of a human being. I asked him if that would be pretty harsh, having the government lock you away for ending your pregnancy, and he further elaborated that if these women didn't want a baby, they should have thought about that before they had sex, i.e., the old "sluts should pay the price" argument that we know and love so well here at B&P. I seriously wasn't expecting this. At all.

I asked him how this position jived with his whole "freedom" rhetoric, that the government should control what women do with their own body. He again went back to the "she should have thought about that before she had sex" line, then talked about the "rights" of fertilized eggs. When I repeatedly pressed to him that a government policy like this would likely mean women given life in prison or the death penalty, he kind of wavered a bit towards the end, possibly realizing he sounded a bit.... nutty. I hope to G-d he was just altered at the time.

I asked him if he supported emergency contraception (morning after pill), and he had the gall to say that he didn't, because this is no different than an abortion. This, my friends, is just plain ignorant and fanatical. He also noted (or perhaps this was Dea) that he felt this way because he is "Catholic". He apparently didn't get the irony when he emphasized to me, quite strongly, when discussing the criminal punishment for abortion, that he is a big supporter of the death penalty.

Don't you just love selective Catholicism?

Even though I grilled him pretty damn good on abortion, he was at least a good sport and didn't duck any questions, and gave me a copy of his book. But yea....

(UPDATE: Gatewood is now saying that I "made up" the entire conversation, accusing me of "slander". Hilarious. As fanatical as he sounded, I can't say that I blame him for lying about it)

I then spoke with his running mate, Dea Riley, and informed her about what Gatewood just told me about abortion. The look on her face was priceless when she said "oh did he now?" of the highlights of my day. I truly truly truly felt sorry for Dea, but she gave a very smartly worded answer to me in a damned tough situation. (UPDATE: Dea is now jumping on the slander bandwagon. Fanning the flames, not smart!)

Wondering what Gatewood's official position on abortion is? Good luck finding one. His official campaign website covers ten issues, from taxes to agriculture to "gaming" and including the federal deficit and the military - about which the governor has no influence - but not a whisper about abortion. Or gay rights for that matter.

Long's right that Gatewood is by far the smartest candidate and the only one addressing real issues facing Kentuckians. The problem is that anyone who views adult females like retarded children who cannot make their own decisions is not someone who can be trusted with the welfare of the Commonwealth.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kentucky House Dems Reject Abortion Bill

Our Waste of Oxygen "Democratic" Governor Steve Beshear may be setting new records for uselessness, and our rethuglican state senate is trying to win some kind of teabagger award for me-too-ing every Reichwing bill of insanity that comes down the pike, but our state house Democrats still know where to draw the line.

Despite pleas from House Republicans to let the issue be heard on the House floor, the House Health and Welfare Committee defeated a Senate bill that would require a woman to have a face-to-face consultation with a doctor before receiving an abortion.

Senate Bill 9, which would also require a woman to be presented with images from an ultrasound before receiving an abortion, has repeatedly passed the Republican-controlled Senate in recent years but has stalled in the Democratic-controlled House.

After a more than hourlong debate, with several Republican legislators speaking in favor of the bill, the committee voted 9 to 7 to defeat the bill.

Describing this bill as "require a woman to be presented with images from an ultrasound" is like describing beheading as a "close shave."

This bill requires women to suffer having a camera shoved up their vagina against their will. Among civilized people, this is known as "forcible rape."

Among freakazoid rethuglicans and their conservatard DINO minions, it's making sure those penis-less creatures pay the penalty for daring to act as if they were adult citizens capable of making their own decisions.

Media Czech:

The make up of the committee is 10-6 Democrats, which means that one Democrat voted for it. Jim Glenn from Owensboro voted for it last year, so I would assume he did so again, but I'm still waiting to see the official vote count.

But it was certainly nice of those 6 Republicans who want the government out of our private lives to vote for legislation getting in between women and their doctor.

UPDATE: From the comments we learn that Glenn actually voted against it, calling it a "tax on poor women". Excellent news.

UPDATE #2: The lone Democrat to vote for the bill was John Arnold of Henderson County. No turkee for him.

UPDATE #3: Addia Wuchner compared abortion the the Holocaust, saying that informed consent in America arises from the Nuremberg Trials. Video here (65 minutes mark).

Also, Rep. Housman voted for the bill because he wanted women to experience "pain" from viewing the ultrasound. At least he's honest about what this bill is all about.

So Kentucky is not South Dakota or Georgia or Kansas. Yet.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

End Game for the Wealthy in Wisconsin


I was going to post on the entirely non-monetary nature of the crisis in Wisconsin, but then Toast Walker went and deliberately created a new fiscal crisis.

David Dayen:

I got a sense from Sen. Chris Larson and some others in Wisconsin that the Governor and his Republican allies had run amok in the Capitol before attention was paid to their machinations due to the assault on public workers. But I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw this come across the transom:

Madison – Today, Governor Scott Walker signed Special Session Assembly Bill 5 which requires a 2/3s vote to pass tax rate increases on the income, sales or franchise taxes.

“I went to work today, met with my cabinet, and signed legislation that will help government operate within its means,” Governor Scott Walker said. “Wisconsinites can’t turn to raising taxes to balance their own family budgets when times get tough. This bill will ensure that we don’t kick the can down the road for a quick budget fix only to slap a long-term tax hike on the backs of Wisconsin taxpayers. I thank Senator Leah Vukmir and Representative Tyler August for their leadership on this issue.”


Being from California, I’m pretty clear what the implications of a Prop 13-style supermajority requirement for taxes will do. It will basically destroy government as they know it in Wisconsin, ratcheting down the ability for the state to collect the revenue needed to provide a basic level of services. If you liked the efficient, responsive government we’ve seen over the last three decades in California, you’re going to love it in Wisconsin.

This is really depressing. The fight is still ongoing over public employee union rights, but without the ability to obtain needed revenue, I don’t see how they’ll matter a whole lot. The state government will say their hands are tied and that they must have concessions, and either the workers will suffer, or the recipients of their services. Revenues, half of what a budget comprises, have now been walled off. This is a budget crisis requiring shared sacrifice, says Scott Walker, but that sacrifice doesn’t extend to any Wisconsinite who doesn’t receive government services.

But that's really just about money on the surface; the real purpose from the beginning has been to eliminate all public services along with the Democratic Party which provides them.

John Nichols at The Nation:

Why, if the state is in so much trouble, did Walker engineer the enactment of roughly $140 million in new tax breaks for multinational corporations, which the legislature passed in January? Why did he rush to reject federal transportation funding that other states – states with similar or worse fiscal challenges -- have rushed to collect? Why, in the very week that he was pushing his budget repair bill, did the governor reject federal broadband development money that Wisconsin's rural counties have been seeking for years?

The answer to all of these questions is that the governor has made his budget decisions not with an eye toward fiscal responsibility but with an eye toward rewarding his political benefactors. Out-of-state corporations, road-building interests that did not want competition from high-speed rail, telecommunications corporations that want to cash in on the demand for broadband all benefitted from the decisions made by the governor in January. Now, in February, the governor says that Wisconsin needs to end collective bargaining for public employees and teachers and alter the way in which the state operates on multiple levels in order to address a fiscal "crisis."


Risser is absolutely right. He is right, as well, when he says that: “We now know this struggle is not about the money. Public employee unions have offered many concessions to help solve the state’s fiscal crisis. When those efforts at compromise were ignored, it became clear that Governor Walker and his allies are part of a national agenda, fueled by big-money conservative groups, to destroy the unions at all costs.”

That’s the bottom line: This is not about the money. This is not a fiscal crisis. This is a political crisis. And Governor Walker has the power to resolve it by refocusing on fiscal issues, as opposed to pursuing the political goal of breaking state-employee and teacher unions.

And don't forget the clause in Walker's union-busting bill that hands Wisconsin's public power plants over to the Koch brothers for a pittance.

Susie Madrak:

As Heather already pointed out, WI Gov. Scott Walker's budget fix bill also grants him the ability to sell off the state's power plants with no bids. The Kochs are probably hoping that Wisconsin legislators may pass the rest of the bill in hopes of saving collective bargaining.

Now, we can't know for sure, but it's a pretty good guess that the Kochs the ones who are apparently so confident they're going to own the Wisconsin state-owned power plants, they're already advertising to hire new plant managers!

Energy client is looking for experienced Plant Managers for multiple power plants located in Wisconsin. You need 15+ years of operations & maintenance experience in a power plant environment. You should have at least 5 years of experience managing operations & maintenance teams in an operational power plant. The ideal candidate has experience in a coal fired power plant. Salary is commensurate with experience.

As Bernie Sanders told Cenk Uyger, this is the end game for the obscenely wealthy.

UPDATE: More than two dozen political action groups have teamed up to organize pro-union rallies across the country this Saturday, Feb. 26. Find a really near you here.

395 Years Later, How Little Has Changed

On February 24, 1616, the Catholic Church declared the writings of Copernicus, who concluded from astronomical observations that the earth revolved around the sun, were "in error" and not to be read or discussed.

The idea that the earth was not the center of the world directly contradicted church teaching of biblical scripture and was therefore heretical.

This declaration led directly to the 1633 trial of Galileo on charges of heresy.

In 1758 the Catholic Church dropped the general prohibition of books advocating heliocentrism from the Index of Forbidden Books. It did not, however, explicitly rescind the decisions issued by the Inquisition in its judgement of 1633 against Galileo, or lift the prohibition of uncensored versions of Copernicus's De Revolutionibus or Galileo's Dialogue. As a result, the precise doctrinal status of heliocentrism remained unclear, and many Catholic scientists continued to pay lip service to the view that it could only be treated as a hypothesis.

As late as 1990 - just 21 years ago - Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict the XVI, refused to exonerate Galileo.

Read that again - 21 years after man landed on the moon, the man who is now His Popey Rapeyness would not admit that the Church was wrong about the earth being the center of the universe.

How exactly does this differ from the freakazoid success in virtually eliminating the scientific fact of evolution from being taught in public schools?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Photo of the Day

This one leaves me speechless.

Via Blue Girl, who writes:

The board at Ians Pizza keeping track of all the countries that have ordered food for protesters -- You know Scott Walker is fucked when they are digging deep in Haiti, of all places, to buy pizza for the public employees picketing the state capital in Madison-freakin'-Wisconsin!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Good Pensions Weren't Unsustainable - They Were Stolen

An acquaintance who has a good job with a private company and a 401K plan asked why the pension account for state employees is underfunded. The tone of voice implied that public employees weren't contributing their share.

It went to keep your taxes low, motherfucker. All the money taken out of state employee paychecks for a defined benefit pension is still there. But the state hasn't deposited its share for more than a decade now.

Every budget year, the legislature looks at the amount of money the state constitution requires it to deposit in the state employee retirement plan, and realizes that it can't write that check unless it raises taxes. So it just blows off the obligation to state workers.

Without consequences. What are state employees going to do to them, after all? Foreclose on the Capitol?

Kevin Drum explains that the same dynamic destroyed private-sector pensions:

This is a pretty common reaction, but in fact, the arithmetic of decent pensions actually works out just fine. Corporations didn't give up on defined benefit pensions because they couldn't afford them any longer, they gave up on them because that allowed them to spend more money on executive salaries. After all, if overseas competition were really the big problem here, then you'd expect to have seen a long, steady decline in corporate profits and corporate compensation. But we haven't seen that. Profits have boomed and compensation has stayed high. The difference hasn't been in the level of compensation, it's been in the distribution of compensation. The executive suite has done fine. The rest of us haven't.

Read the whole thing.

Naked Randianism

There is so much perversion pervading all of Ayn Rand's work and life, it's hard to separate one bizarre strand from another.

Brad Reed at Crooks and Liars focuses on the wealth perversion:

What I've always found especially weird about Rand is how she frames economic success as a matter of moral virtue. That is, the only virtue that exists in the world is the pursuit of monetary gain through the maximizing of one's natural talents and abilities. Or as John Galt himself put it in the opening of the Atlas Shrugged trailer, the ideal person is someone who "works for himself and [does] not let others feed off the profits of his energy."

The trouble with this, of course, is that it's a ridiculous pile of bulls***. In reality a person's success has nothing to do with their inherent "morality" and a lot more to do with genetics, education and just plain luck. There are plenty of people in life who work hard and are not successful. There are plenty of people who are successful but who are then hit with a catastrophic illness that sucks up their life savings. There are people who are extremely rich who have never done one godd*** useful thing in their entire lives (Helllloooooooo, Richard Mellon Scaife!).

The point is, if someone retires rich it ain't because they're a virtuous, rational self-interested individual and if someone is broke in their old age it ain't because they're a lazy, unscrupulous "looter." And this is sort of the point of Social Security: The goal is to say, no matter how lucky or unlucky you are in the rest of your life, here's some cash to make sure you don't spend your final days freezing to death on the street (or, as I'm sure Gillespie would prefer, sewing Nike sneakers for five cents a day). This is why it's called Social Security, Nick. Because people who have matured beyond the age of three know that sometimes bad stuff happens in life that is completely out of our control.

At any rate, it's stuff like this that makes me confident that Randianism as a philosophy will never make anywhere outside of corporate boardrooms and smoke-filled libertarian dorm rooms. After all, most people will have trouble embracing a doctrine that holds all of them in hostile contempt.

If only all the Randians would hurry up and Go Galt before they destroy everything for the rest of us.

The truth, of course, is that there never has been and never will be a real John Galt. Even in the heyday of the Robber Barons, none of them could have survived genuinely cut off from government and the working class. Without thousands of miles of free land stolen from the natives by the government, and thousands of illegal Asian immigrants working for slave wages, Rockefeller's railroads would still be in blueprints.

Behind every great fortune, they used to say, is a crime. Today, behind every great fortune is a pile of no-bid government contracts.

All the welfare checks ever cut to every non-rich person in this country added together don't amount to the tower of tax dollars showered on just one corporate parasite on Wall Street.

Go Galt, indeed. They wouldn't last five minutes out on the street with nothing but their addled wits.

Why We Still Need Unions

Yeah, yeah, unions brought us weekends and 8-hour days and sick days and vacations and decent pay and good benefits, but what have they done for us lately? Outlived their usefulness, haven't they?

Only if you're obscenely wealthy or named Koch.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars quotes Krugman:

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.

There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.

This is exactly right. No, unions aren't always perfect. So what? They're all that's left to protect the rest of us. Remember: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Kevin Drum refutes "an all too common style of argument:"

Unions do (or support) X.
X is a bad thing.
Therefore unions are bad.

And (sometimes this is implicit, sometime explicit) they should be done away with.

Every single human institution or organization of any size has its bad points.

Corporations certainly do. The military does. Organized religion does. Academia does. The media does. The financial industry sure as hell does. But with the exception of a few extremists here and there, nobody uses this as an excuse to suggest that these institutions are hopelessly corrupt and should cease existing.

Rather, it's used as fodder for regulatory proposals or as an argument that every right-thinking person should fight these institutions on some particular issue.

Corporations should or shouldn't be rewarded for outsourcing jobs. Academics do or don't deserve more state funding. The financial industry should or shouldn't be required to trade credit derivatives on public exchanges.

Unions are the most common big exception to this rule. Sure, conservatives will take whatever chance they can to rein them in, regulate them, make it nearly impossible for them to organize new workplaces. But they also routinely argue that labor unions simply shouldn't exist. This is what's happening in Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker isn't satisfied with merely negotiating concessions from public sector unions. He wants to effectively ban collective bargaining and all but do away with public sector unions completely.

Nobody should buy this. Of course unions have pathologies. Every big human institution does. And anyone who thinks they're on the wrong side of an issue should fight it out with them. But unions are also the only large-scale movement left in America that persistently acts as a countervailing power against corporate power. They're the only large-scale movement left that persistently acts in the economic interests of the middle class.

So sure: go ahead and fight the teachers unions on charter schools. Go ahead and insist that public sector unions in Wisconsin need to take pay and benefit cuts if that's what you believe. Go ahead and rail against Davis-Bacon. It's a free country.

But the decline of unions over the past few decades has left corporations and the rich with essentially no powerful opposition. No matter what doubts you might have about unions and their role in the economy, never forget that destroying them destroys the only real organized check on the power of the business community in America. If the last 30 years haven't made that clear, I don't know what will.

Love unions or hate them, if you work for a living the unions are working and fighting for you. They are the only ones fighting for you. They are the only thing standing between you and serfdom.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Media Czech Slays the Ark Park Dineysores

That wasn't even much of a challenge. Looks like the Flintstones Truthers are going down in the first round.

Ken Ham and the good folks at Answers in Genesis are in full out damage control mode. Getting caught red-handed discriminating against what they perceived to be a gay couple, they now realize that their chance to get a $40 million welfare hand out from the government to build a giant Dineysore Boat is now seriously in jeopardy.

And they didn't help their cause much by finally admitting to the AP (which was published everywhere) that despite their previous lies, they did have a policy that no gays were allowed in the Creation Museum:

Museum spokesman Mark Looy told The Kentucky Enquirer that the promotional material for the Date Night made it clear the event was for heterosexual couples only.

Of course, that itself is a lie (as I've already pointed out, there was no such disclaimer on their promotion), but at least they no longer are denying the fact that they do discriminate. Not against insane people that shoot folks in the head, but definitely gay people.

Which of course means that their $40 million government welfare handout is in serious jeopardy. As Gov. Steve Beshear previously stated:

Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday that he will require the state’s contract with developers of a Noah’s Ark-based theme park in Northern Kentucky to prohibit the project from receiving state tax incentives if there is discrimination in hiring based on religion or other attributes.


“We’re going to require that anybody that we deal with is going to obey all of the laws on hiring and not discriminate on hiring,” Beshear said. “As a matter of fact, part of the language that will be in agreements … is that they are going to abide by the law in terms of hiring and that they agree not to discriminate, so we will certainly have the ability to deal with it if we find that it happens.”

Add to that the fact that their advertisements for Ark Encounter jobs already are requiring a Christian Purity Pledge, and I think you can pretty much put the nail in the coffin on their $40 million government welfare handout to build a giant boat and tell kids that a 600-year old man herded T-Rexes and Sauropods onto it a few thousand years ago.

Seeing their $40 million scam go up in smoke, it's no surprise that the con artists at Answers in Genesis are lashing out. An AiG flak was on hate radio merchant Bill Cunningham's show today, lying repeatedly (they make a good living off of that, so they know how to do it well by now) about what happened and, get this, calling me "intolerant" because I don't believe that gay people are going to hell, humans used to ride on saddled dinosaurs, and they should get $40 million in tax breaks to spread this.


Yes, Ken Ham tried really hard to be part of the Dependency Class, but it looks like the gig is up. I wish Ken Ham the best of luck building his Giant Dineysore Boat without the financial assistance of the government, but I'm not sure that he'll be able to. He definitely has proven his ability to con weak-minded people into believing that the Flintstones was a documentary and build a business model that takes advantage of kids' love of dinosaurs (and now dragons). Ham is a skilled grifter, I will concede that point. But can he pull off a $150 million scam? Prove me wrong Ken, Brandon and I would love to visit!

Follow MC's coverage of Ark Encounter here.

Libya's "Terrible Story" - Al Jazeera's Got It

Like Egypt, Libya is seven hours ahead of eastern standard time. Liveblog here.

February 22

1:26 pm
Within the past half-hour, Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal arrived at Sidi Barani, a town on the Egyptian side of the border with Libya, a little more than 500km east of Benghazi, the site of some of the biggest anti-regime protests and worst violence. Libyan emigrants have "rushed" to his crew to share memory sticks full of pictures and video from recent days. There is a "terrible" story to be told, Elshayyal says.

Killing Public Education by Busting Unions

Sara Jerving at The Nation:

What has become clear to the protestors over the past week is that beyond an assault on unions; Walker's bill is part of a wider attack on working families and public education.

"The second reason that this fight matters is the future of public education,” The Nation’s Chris Hayes said. “What's driving it is the ultimate aim of permanently scrapping the model of public education that has sustained this country for years. Teachers unions are the stewards of preserving public education, which is the core element of our civil life.”

At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Scott Lemieux has some interesting numbers:

My friend Ken Sherrill sends along the following note:

Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores are as follows:

South Carolina – 50th
North Carolina – 49th
Georgia – 48th
Texas – 47th
Virginia – 44th

If you are wondering, Wisconsin, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is ranked 2nd in the country. Let’s keep it that way.

This isn’t to say that the lack of collective bargaining explains these poor outcomes, of course, but it is true that the evidence that breaking teacher’s unions improves educational outcomes is somewhere between “exceptionally weak” and “non-existent.”


The union-phobes are starting to remind me of the homophobes: baseless, foaming-at-the-mouth hysterical hatred that turns out to have something far uglier behind it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"The bitter fruits of dehumanization"

David Neiwert has a photo essay about the brutal murder of a nine-year-old girl in Arizona - and not the one you're thinking of.

But there's no such mystery about what killed Brisenia. We know. We can see it clearly. And we need to be talking about it.

The people who broke into her home late at night while she was sleeping with her new puppy on the living-room couch and cold-bloodedly shot her in the face while she pleaded for her life were people who did not see her, or her father or mother, as human beings. They were people who had become so accustomed to dehumanizing Latinos that they didn't care about the devastation they brought to Arivaca and the lives of this family. They were so consumed by hate that they had no humanity left themselves.

The dehumanizing language of scapegoating and eliminationism -- the naming and targeting of other humans for the supposed social ills they incur, followed as always by words urging their excision from society, if not the world -- is endemic on the American Right. And among right-wing extremists, it intensifies, grows and metastasizes into something lethal and monstrous.


In life, Brisenia Flores was ordinary and happy little girl living in the Arizona desert. In her tragic death, she has become a powerful symbol of our own lost humanity.

The bitter fruits of dehumanization always strike at our hearts. If we choose to turn away, we can easily focus on the pain and not on the meaning. But if little Brisenia's death can transcend that choice -- if we look it in the face and understand how this happened, and why -- then it will not be nearly so meaningless.

Read the whole thing..

Protest Like An Egyptian

Michael Moore has inspiring words from what may be the world's newest democracy:

Kamal Abbas is General Coordinator of the CTUWS, an umbrella advocacy organization for independent unions in Egypt. The CTUWS, which was awarded the 1999 French Republic's Human Rights Prize, suffered repeated harassment and attack by the Mubarak regime, and played a leading role in its overthrow. Abbas, who witnessed friends killed by the regime during the 1989 Helwan steel strike and was himself arrested and threatened numerous times, has received extensive international recognition for his union and civil society leadership.

KAMAL ABBAS: I am speaking to you from a place very close to Tahrir Square in Cairo, "Liberation Square", which was the heart of the Revolution in Egypt. This is the place were many of our youth paid with their lives and blood in the struggle for our just rights.

From this place, I want you to know that we stand with you as you stood with us.

I want you to know that no power can challenge the will of the people when they believe in their rights. When they raise their voices loud and clear and struggle against exploitation.

No one believed that our revolution could succeed against the strongest dictatorship in the region. But in 18 days the revolution achieved the victory of the people.

When the working class of Egypt joined the revolution on 9 and 10 February, the dictatorship was doomed and the victory of the people became inevitable.

We want you to know that we stand on your side. Stand firm and don't waiver. Don't give up on your rights. Victory always belongs to the people who stand firm and demand their just rights.

We and all the people of the world stand on your side and give you our full support.

As our just struggle for freedom, democracy and justice succeeded, your struggle will succeed. Victory belongs to you when you stand firm and remain steadfast in demanding your just rights.

We support you. we support the struggle of the peoples of Libya, Bahrain and Algeria, who are fighting for their just rights and falling martyrs in the face of the autocratic regimes. The peoples are determined to succeed no matter the sacrifices and they will be victorious.

Today is the day of the American workers. We salute you American workers! You will be victorious. Victory belongs to all the people of the world, who are fighting against exploitation, and for their just rights.

Click here for the video.

That's a message not just for the protesters in Wisconsin.

It's a message for the Democratic party politicians who have forgotten who they are and why they are Democrats.

It's a message for grassroots Democrats and liberals who have lost heart because the socialist we were promised turned out to be a corporate handmaiden.

Victory belongs to you when you stand firm and remain steadfast in demanding your just rights.

GOP Founder on Unions

On this Presidents' Day, the Rude Pundit has a history lesson:

Just a quick one before taking a personal day: three quotes from the greatest great great president who's not Ronald Reagan (duh), since everyone's a-pondering what our forefathers and mothers might think of the Wisconsin uprising. These are from Abraham Lincoln, noted quorum-stopper and occasional Republican (whenever the GOP needs his corpse, they dig it up and make it dance, but otherwise, they just let him rot):

1. "I am glad to know that there is a system of labor where the laborer can strike if he wants to! I would to God that such a system prevailed all over the world." - From a speech on March 5, 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut, regarding a shoemaker's strike (which, believe it or not, involved 20,000 shoemakers who were not, apparently, elves).

2. "Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things of right belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has so happened, in all ages of the world, that some have labored, and others have without labor enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a worthy object of any good government." - From his notes about tariff policy, scribbled down on December 1, 1847.

3. "Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits." - From his 1861 State of the Union address, decrying "the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government."

Hey, patriots, on this Presidents' Day, suck on those stovepipe hats.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Capitalism at Its Finest: Pizza Solidarity for Union Workers

This is so fucking great:

Union hospital workers donate pizza to the Madison protesters.

From yesterday's Wisconsin forum on Democratic Underground:

Ian's Pizza on State St. heads to battlestations!

People have been calling in pizza orders to Ian's on State St all week from the around the country to have them delivered to protesters in the the Capitol rotunda. Today, it reached critical mass. I read this from a local Facebook friend (who I also saw today at the Square):

"Ian's Pizza on State has shut down operations to the public and is now only taking donation orders for pizza's for the protesters. They have received pizza order donations from across the US, Eygpt, Europe - all around the world - to support the protesters. Unbelievable!"

They apparently already have enough orders to deliver to the Rotunda to keep them busy all night. Keep in mind that this is a Saturday night, already one of their busiest.

UPDATE: Here's their Facebook page here if you want to check the running tally of states and countries of donations.

Stand With Wisconsin Workers: Solidarity Events Next Week


It's awfully important that the good guys win this one. It's simply not possible for this country to be prosperous and have a decent future if hucksters like Beck, Breitbart and Palin actually manage to do the Big Money Boyz's dirty work and completely destroy liberal institutions.

Here's a list of solidarity events happening around the country next week. It would be helpful if they get big numbers.

There are no events as of right now in Kentucky or Missouri, but there are events in Ohio, Indiana and Iowa, and they're adding new events all the time.

Here are all the facts you need - with background links - to set the teabaggers straight about what's really happening in Wisconsin.

MTR is not an environmental issue; it's a crime against people

Silas House's novels about life in the Appalachians are so painfully accurate that some people who grew up there can hardly bear to read them.

So when Silas House wants to tell you something important about the mountains, stop what you're doing and listen.

The news media and the rest of the country typically think of mountaintop removal as an environmental problem. But it’s a human crisis as well, scraping away not just coal but also the freedoms of Appalachian residents, people who have always been told they are of less value than the resources they live above.

Over the past six years I’ve visited dozens of people who live at the edge of mountaintop removal sites. They bathe their children in water that has arsenic levels as high as 130 times what the E.P.A. deems safe to drink.

Their roads are routinely destroyed by overloaded trucks; their air is clouded with pollutants. Their schools sit below ponds holding billions of gallons of sludge. Their children lose sleep worrying that the sludge dams will break, releasing the sludge down upon them. It happened 40 years ago at Buffalo Creek, W.Va., killing 125 people, and it could happen again today.

It’s a horrible way to live. And yet, as it does in many other impoverished quarters of America, the news too often avoids covering Appalachia as if it were a no man’s land.

When a 3-year-old Virginia boy was crushed to death in his crib after a half-ton boulder was accidentally (and illegally) dislodged by a mining company, it barely made the national news. Many people around here believe the omission reflected that the child lived in a trailer home in the heart of coal country.

In 2000, 306 million gallons of sludge — 30 times more than the volume of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez — buried parts of Martin County, Ky., as deep as 5 feet. Yet hardly anyone outside the region remembers the disaster, if they ever heard about it.

More recently, my friend Judy’s grandson was playing in a creek when he was suddenly surrounded by dozens of dead fish. Tests later proved that a coal company was releasing polyacrylamide — a cancer-causing agent used to prepare coal for burning — into the creek. When Judy complained to the state, no one replied. She recently died of brain cancer.

I’ve heard dozens of stories like these, but they rarely make it beyond the mountains. Is it any wonder then that Appalachian residents feel invisible?

Read the whole thing.

"Morality is Not Obedience"

Our good friend Blue Girl has a standard retort to freakazoids who claim that without religion, we have no morals:

"If religion is the only thing preventing you from stealing and raping and murdering, I don't want to be around when you have a crisis of faith."

PZ Myers elaborates:

It's a strange world Arvin thinks we should be living in — one where, if they aren't controlled by a magic slave-owner in the sky, we'd wander about killing and raping. I wonder about people like Arvin. Why don't they ever imagine that, if we abandoned biblical authority, we might wander the earth drinking beer occasionally, watching TV, and working hard at our jobs so we can afford that vacation to Disneyworld? You know, the kind of stuff most people do right now.

The short answer to Arvin's goofy but all-too-common question is this: morality is not obedience. Morality derives from empathy and a sense of communal obligation with our fellow human beings, not with an arbitrary and whimsical supernatural authority. Destroy god, and people still live…so nothing would change for me.

Arvin, on the other hand, would be going on a rampage with a yardstick, losing sight of the fact that other people are something more than meat of a certain height and sex, raping and killing. Arvin really ought to see a psychiatrist. He's an emotionally and intellectually stunted individual.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rick Scott Sells Out Kentucky to Big Pharma

Yep, the same Big Health Care corporate criminal who bought the Florida governorship and is now systematically dismantling what little remains of 20th-century civilization there, is paying back his Big Pharma buddies by cancelling a program that reduces drug addiction in states like Kentucky.

Bill Estep at the Herald:

Florida must not back away from implementing a monitoring system to help cut the flow of pills from its pain clinics that are feeding addiction and death in Kentucky and other states, U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers has told Florida's governor.

In a strongly worded letter, Rogers told Republican Gov. Rick Scott that Florida has become a key source of illegally diverted pills for Appalachia and the entire East Coast.

"Governor, your state, more than any other, must take this crisis seriously," Rogers told Scott in the letter released Friday.

To give credit where it's due, Kentucky Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo, a physician and long-time advocate of measures to stop the pill pipeline from Florida into Kentucky, was the first to call out Scott for this abomination.

Police said it would be a setback in the fight to cut the pill pipeline coming out of Florida, and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo said the move was essentially an invitation to people to come to Florida for drugs.

"Who's he protecting, that's the question," Mongiardo said Friday.

Read the whole thing.

Ben Chandler, Broken Weathervane

So DINO Ben Chandler votes with the rethuglicans to defund non-existent czars, then Stupak-loving Wire Hangar votes against them to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood, then the same repug-loving Blue Dog who voted against health care reform votes against the repug bill to defund the very same law.

We've known for quite a while that benny boy has no center - no moral compass or even a political gyroscope guiding his votes. For a while, it looked like he just went along with the majority, voting with the repugs until the dems took over the House in 2006, then sucking up to Speaker Pelosi to get some choice committee assignments, jumping on the Obama bandwagon when the landslide was obvious and swinging back to rethuglican territory behind the polls.

But now he's just plain fucking stupid.

Why vote with the teabagging morons on the meaningless czar idiocy, then turn around and really piss off conservatives by supporting Planned Parenthood? Why cancel out his teabagger-wet-dream vote against health care reform with a teabagger-enraging vote against taking away the funding?

Democrats aren't going to forgive him for Stupak in this lifetime - so many thousands of them sat home in November he came within a whisker of losing - and repugs are never going to vote for his D ass no matter how many times he thumbs his nose at Obama.

Chandler's just a weathervane with its screws stripped: spinning endlessly and pointlessly in every direction and no direction.

Meanwhile, John Yarmuth, Kentucky's Congressman Awesome, continues to make us proud.

Picture of the Day

From Digby:

Stop Making Things Worse, Lawrence

I've never cared for Lawrence O'Donnell. His despicable sabotaging of Hillarycare while he was a Senate staffer was enough to sour me on him forever, but his condescending, Villager insistence that radical conservatism is "centrist" is unforgivable. I couldn't stomach his performance when he substituted for Keith; now that he has Keith's timeslot I can't bear to watch.

Nicole Belle of Crooks and Liars takes O'Donnell to task.

Dear Lawrence O'Donnell,

The cable news industry has fundamentally changed the way Americans get their news, and not necessarily for the better. News has now morphed into an uncomfortable amalgam of entertainment, opinion and information. It has created media stars out of pundits unafraid to say the shocking thing, which makes "good" television, though not necessarily informational television. And all the while, you're competing for as much market share as possible against your rivals.

I relate this to you only to show you that I am aware of the situation you find yourself. Given the time slot formerly held by Keith Olbermann, a polarizing figure to be sure, but also one whose understanding of the above enabled him to build a considerable audience and following for MSNBC, you've got big shoes to fill. You've admitted as such yourself.

So I have to ask the question: what the hell was Ann Coulter doing on my television screen last night? She adds nothing to the conversation. Seriously, who gives a flying fig about who she "loves" and who she thinks should have the Republican nomination in 2012? It would be one thing if you had used the opportunity to show how consistently and constantly she is wrong--maybe show video of her praising McCain who she so disdains now. But the "Aryan from Darien" has an open invitation to Hannity's show to spout her fact-free opinions unchallenged. She does not need one from you too.

And here's the thing, Lawrence (Can I call you Lawrence? After all, you follow me and C&L on Twitter, so you obviously want to know what we're talking about): there is absolutely no dearth of platforms for conservatives to add to the national dialog. They have a fairly well-trafficked (and corporately funded) choice of blogs, publications, radio, television and cable. Take a look at the Sunday shows. How many Democrats do you see on them? Now, quick, how many liberals or progressives do you see on them? It's the same with talk radio and other television outlets.

That's the real tragedy of booking Coulter, Lawrence. I really think most Americans see the world as I --and you-- do. We believe in equal rights, in the freedom to love, worship, live, and learn as we want, as long as it doesn't hurt others. We believe that government serves a purpose by providing safety nets to ensure that we don't fall through the cracks. We believe that justice should be equally and fairly applied. We believe that people should not be less important than corporations. The percentage of people who don't believe in those truisms is small, but yet they get an overwhelming percentage of airtime to push the dialog far to the right, edging us out of a seat at the table. And that's what you did by booking Coulter. Once again, her narrow-minded, hate-filled (did you catch her insulting you, saying that obviously Hannity is smarter than you, since you're a registered Democrat? Classy.) and marginal intelligence is given legitimacy and liberals are not. That's why people don't realize how truly liberal their beliefs are. It's never represented to them.

I suspect that you and your producers justified bringing Coulter on by thinking it proved you're not afraid to have on opposing viewpoints. Honestly, I'm not all that impressed, as that seems to be the same simplistic binary thinking that "balance" means bringing on a Democrat and a Republican. There are not always two equally valid viewpoints. In Coulter's case, there's a history of viewpoints that I'd say should invalidate any further platforms.

Please, Lawrence, leave Coulter to Fox News. Won't you please be a platform to bring liberal voices and viewpoints to cable news? Won't you consider being the vehicle by which we can shift the dialog back from the right?

Nicole Belle

Rachel Maddow is too nice to the freaks, and Ed Shultz yells too much. Keith's shoes remains unfilled.

Where is the next unapologetic, brilliant, passionate voice for liberalism, and is MSNBC even interested in finding one?

"We’ve got to have the best trained, best skilled workforce in the world"

They don't need higher education to apply for unemployment compensation, Mr. President.

Full transcript here.

Keep Your Filthy Deficit-Cutting Claws Off My Social Security

First, let's say again, because it cannot be said enough: Social Security is not in trouble, and cutting social security does nothing to relieve the deficit.

Kevin Drum on the conventional wisdom that Social Security is broke:

I just don't get it. Why do smart people keep saying stuff like this? Medicare is a problem. But unless you believe that the United States is literally going to collapse in the near future, Social Security isn't. Period.

The weird thing about this is that Social Security isn't even hard to understand. Taxes go in, benefits go out. Unlike healthcare, which involves extremely difficult questions of technological advancement and the specter of rationing, Social Security is just arithmetic.


But one way or another, at some level between 75% and 100% of what we've promised, Social Security benefits will always be there.

This is not a Ponzi scheme. It's not unsustainable. The percentage of old people in America isn't projected to grow forever. Lifespans will not increase to infinity.1 Taxes go in, benefits go out. It's simple.

Now, Social Security is not a very generous program, so it's possible that you won't want to retire on its modest benefits. But short of some kind of financial apocalypse — in which case we've got way bigger things to worry about anyway — Social Security benefits will be there for everyone alive today. Why is it that so few people seem to get this?

Perhaps because they don't want to get it. Or rather they don't want anyone else to get it.

Digby says the president's silence on social security does not mean he's protecting it. Repugs are desperate for dems to take the fall for killing social security, and Obama's desperate to look like the great nonpartisan compromiser.

In fact, as I have pointed out before and had Dday reiterates today, the Republicans are very anxious to lay the blame for cutting popular entitlements, particularly those that affect the elderly, at the feet of the Democrats. After all, seniors are their fastest growing demographic at the moment and in the last election they had absolutely no problem demagogueing medicare cuts, despite their own decades-long antipathy toward the program. They don't just desire this --- it's a necessity if they hope to win majorities and the presidency. They aren't going to get there with the young, browner America that's coming up. But their ideology depends upon anti-government sentiment. If they can get the democrats to do their dirty work for them, it will be a huger win that benefits them greatly for the next couple of decades as the most dependable voters in the country -- the elderly -- become hard core Republicans. That's the baby boom, in case you're unclear. And there is no reason in the world why that demographic should go Republican.

This is really happening. And if it works, liberalism may never recover. In fact it will be the final triumph of Reaganism. Progressives should not be complacent about this.

Dday has more on what this means for Social Security.

The president has not sold out Social security in his speeches and his budget. But he hasn't taken it off the table either. The administration is using some very specific language (no "slashing" of benefits) that is wide open to interpretation.

So the lie persists, to the point that the White House is determined to "save" social security by destroying it. Why? Because Obama thinks voters will reward him for it. All evidence to the contrary.

Digby again:

As Ezra writes today, the Grand Bargain is basically about cuts to "entitlements" and "tax reform" both of which are essentially GOP issues, depending on how you define "reform" and I think the GOP probably has the upper hand in that. (The right will never agree to cut defense --- unlike the administration they don't seem to believe that the public is impressed when they give up their principles on the alter of making "tough choices.") Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid are probably off the table for the time being after the bruising health care battle. So, Social Security is the best terrain for the Grand Bargain: it's effects won't be felt until the people making the deal are probably long dead (or comfortably ensconced in the taxpayer funded retirement), it will impress the only people who matter --- the confidence fairies and bond vigilantes, and it allows the president to be Very Seriously Presidential in Winning The Future.

The problem is that the Republicans want to lay this off on the president so they can have it both ways by saying he didn't do enough while their shadowy corporate supporters under Citizens United demagogue the cuts to senior citizens, thus insuring they will come out to vote against Obama in huge numbers. The president, on the other hand, needs the GOP to jump off the cliff with him so they can share the blame. What do you suppose the odds of the latter happening are?

Slim and none. This "debate" has nothing to do with "strengthening" Social Security and everything to do with getting President Obama to kill the middle class.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Protests Spread, and Al Jazeera is There

While Egypt celebrates and honors the Army that refused Mubarak's orders to run them down with tanks, protesters in Libya and Bahrain are not so fortunate.

10:55pm More footage of the shooting by the Bahraini army - watch this video to the end! Protester: "They had machine guns, not riffles or hand weapons, machine guns and they shot people who ran away."

There are fresh protests in Iraq.

Violent protests have taken place at various locations in Iraq, with anti-government protesters rallying against corruption, poor basic services and high unemployment.

And Djibouti:

Police use tear gas to disperse thousands demonstrating in East African nation to demand Ismail Omar Guelleh step down.

And Yemen observes "Friday of Fury":

At least three killed as tens of thousands of demonstrators, both pro- and anti-government, march in several cities.

Al Jazeera is maintaining multi-day liveblogs in each country at the links above.

Demand Al Jazeera English on your cable or satellite system. Click here and type in your zip code to send an email directly to your television provider.

And Unions Are the Thing That Brings Us Democracy

Rachel explained it last night: The desperate attacks on public-sector unions are the last stage in a 70-year war to destroy the Democratic Party.

Crooks and Liars has the video:

And it's coming to a statehouse near you soon. Brian Buetler at TPM:

But just across the Great Lakes in nearby Ohio, where Republicans swept control of government in November, a similar fight is brewing.

There, the state senate is holding hearings on Bill 5, which would end collective bargaining for state workers and severely limit those rights at the local level.

The legislation is similar in many ways to the rollbacks being debated in Wisconsin. And just as in Wisconsin, they have the support of the state's newly elected Republican governor, John Kasich.

But unlike Wisconsin, this fight didn't erupt out of nowhere. In Wisconsin, governor Scott Walker introduced his plan and days later it's hit the floor of the state Senate.

In Ohio, the process is playing out more slowly, and the opposition has been creeping with it. Thursday, over one-thousand public sector workers showed up to protest the legislation.

But the situations in Wisconsin and Ohio are not isolated incidents. There are similar efforts in nascent stages just about everywhere Republicans took control of one or more branches of government: Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, and to a lesser degree in Maine and Pennsylvania.

What happens in the states like Wisconsin leading the anti-union fight will have a tremendous influence on whether similar efforts are successful in other states.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Protest Is A Thing That Gives Us Meaning

I honestly don't know which inspires me more - the protesters for freedom in Yemen, Libya, Iraq, even Djibouti, and now enduring live fire from the Army in Bahrain - or the proud Union Members demanding their rights from the corporatist rethuglicans in Wisconsin.

But this video says a lot with almost no words at all.

Internalize what Kevin Drum writes:

Nor is what's happening in Wisconsin merely hard bargaining during tough economic times. That would be understandable. Rather, it's an effort to destroy one of the few institutions left that fights relentlessly for the economic interests of the middle class. That's why conservatives oppose unions of all kinds, both public and private, and regardless of their faults, that's why they deserve our support.

So if you can't get to Wisconsin, you can still help. Peter Rothberg in The Nation:

Then, pledge your support for the demonstrators by joining a virtual march. The signatures will be delivered to Democratic leaders in the target states. And if you're a Wisconsin voter you can sign this petition pledging to support a recall of any and all State Senators supporting Walker's bill.

This about much more than unions. This is about fair-paying middle class jobs and the America we want to live in.

Stay tuned.

KY Senate Teaches Schoolchildren the True Meaning of Jingoism

Because nothing creates jobs, overhauls the tax system, cures drug addiction and eliminates domestic abuse and poverty like forcing children to recite the pledge of allegiance.

The Herald:

With no discussion, the state Senate approved a bill Thursday to require each school in the state to set aside time each school day for students to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Senate Bill 15, which sponsor Sen. Vernie McGaha, R-Russell Springs, calls the Kentucky School Patriot Act, now goes to the House for its consideration. Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, cast the only vote against it.

The bill was put on the fast track in the Republican-led Senate. The Senate Education Committee approved it earlier in the day.

Under the bill, students who don’t want to participate in the pledge “may quietly stand or remain seated, but shall respect the rights of those pupils electing to participate.”

Current state law permits schools to establish a policy for students to recite the pledge, but does not specifically require schools to set aside time to do so.

As someone who recited the pledge every single day of my elementary and secondary school career, let me assure you that it did not so much as slow down by a second my maturation into a Dirty. Fucking. Hippie.

It did, however, give me a big head start on deep insight into political cynicism.

There is one and only one actual American and Kentucky patriot in the Kentucky Senate, and her name is Kathy Stein.