Friday, September 30, 2011


If every other president has also done this.

If every terrorism expert on the planet swears this is essential.

If every constitutional scholar in the country claims Jaime Madison his very own self would approve.

It would still be wrong.

All of that would just be all the more reason to fight to make it stop.

Robert Dreyfuss at The Nation:

The point is, no judicial case has been made against Awlaki, he hasn’t been formally accused in those events or others, the charges against him have never been proved in court. He was deemed guilty by the CIA and the US national security apparatus, and the sentence of death was carried out.


If that portrait is correct (and I obviously have no idea if it is) we are dealing with a hard core security state president. As hard core as Dick Cheney in most respects and right up there with Reagan and Nixon. Assassinating suspected terrorists who happen to be US citizens would hardly be seen as beyond the pale. Indeed, I'm guessing that if this is true there's a whole lot of black ops stuff that we don't know about.

Aside from finding of this deeply and inherently undemocratic, on a purely practical level, I have to wonder if the president has developed better judgment in finding the right advisors in this realm than he has in the economic sector. Since most of it is clandestine, I suppose we'll never know. At least not until the inevitable blow back sometime down the road.

As always, when the corporate/military owners of this country shit all over us again, there is only one place to find the appropriate passionate outrage: The Rude Pundit.

In Brief: The Murder of Anwar al-Awlaki Stinks:

Sometimes there's cases where the liberal rubber hits reality road and you gotta decide whether your beliefs are beliefs or just conveniences based on circumstances and filled with holes. See, if you believe in due process, if you believe in innocent until proven guilty, if you believe in trials, if you believe in the Constitution, then you have to believe that all of us have those rights. And that includes presumptive terrorists, like Anwar al-Awlaki, whose death by U.S. drone attack is being danced over by the supposed upholders of the very laws his murder violates. This time, no matter what, it doesn't pass the smell test. It doesn't pass the basic "What if Bush did it" test. It's bullshit.

Let's just put this in plain language: An American citizen was killed by the United States because of his speech. And, no, it wasn't Glenn Beck (although by the standards used here, it could have been).

1. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American because he was born in the United States. He was raised in the United States. He was educated in the United States. And MSNBC is one of the few places willing to call him an "American" and not just "U.S. born." He had dual citizenship in the U.S. and Yemen. He was as American as Rick Perry.

2. As far as "justifying" his murder by drone attack, he has never been charged with killing anyone or in plotting to kill anyone. His crime was "inspiring" people to criminal actions, or, you know, speaking. He was just a mouthpiece with a good internet connection, and even if you think that's awful and deserves punishment, he was one of us and deserves the same protections as you do (yeah, he does).

4. "Viewed as a spiritual mentor, Awlaki is neither a senior Islamic cleric nor the leader of AQAP, which is headed by Nasser al-Wuhayshi. Eloquent in English and Arabic, Awlaki encouraged attacks on the US and was seen as a leader who could draw in more al-Qaeda recruits from Western countries."

5. Even by that standard, Yemen sentenced him, in abstentia, to ten years in prison for the crime of "inciting" a murder. If someone strangles Michael Moore, would we blow the shit out of Glenn Beck's house?

6. Unless the world is a battlefield, he was not killed in any goddamn war. He was killed by a missile targeting him specifically in a place where no battle was occurring.

7. And if you believe that the president, any president, should have that power over Americans, then you have no right to call the president a "tyrant" on anything else.

8. And if you believe that the president, any president, should have that power over Americans, then you have no right to call yourself "liberal."

The Occupation Comes to Kentucky

I'm so proud.

The Herald:

Showing solidarity with rallies in New York, activists gathered outside Chase Tower in downtown Lexington at noon Thursday to protest Wall Street.

Based on the "Occupy Wall Street" idea, the "Occupy Lexington Kentucky" campaign saw the group holding posters and receiving frequent honks of support by passing motorists. By the late afternoon, the crowd had grown to at least a few dozen.

"We're in a divided nation right now," said Lexington's April Browning, who, with Karen Conley and Rikka Wallin, organized the protest using social networks Facebook and Twitter.

She said the group, which saw more than 200 people confirm attendance on Facebook but far fewer show up, chose Chase because the bank received taxpayer funds in the height of the economic downturn. The company also was among a multitude of banks nationwide that made mortgage loans that soured and crippled the housing market as foreclosures climbed nationwide in recent years.

"We're here because it symbolizes the corporate malfeasance that we've seen on Wall Street," Browning said.

Chase spokeswoman Nancy Norris declined to comment on the protests.

Among the protesters was Andrew Bentley of Lexington.

"If any organization is considered too big to fail, they essentially become the state," he said. "If the banks are being bailed out by the people, there can't really be democracy."

Hey, Herald: the Wall Street protests started with "a few dozen," and now they're about to grow tenfold with the addition of several major New York City unions.

As Barefoot and Progressive notes, the Lexington protesters have also pledged to keep the occupation going indefinitely.

Follow the Occupy Lexington protest on twitter here: #occupyLexKy#ows#occupy

Exercise Your Right to Petition

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Even if it's just for show, even if nothing ever gets done because of them, it's important to do this, if only for your signature to serve as witness to what people really want.

Michael Bersin at They Gave Us A Republic opened my eyes to how this petition thing is taking off. I clicked on the link, and spent the next hour immersed in the passionate demands of my fellow Americans for the changes they want.

Yes, it's hilarious and rewarding that the top signature-getter is for legalizing marijuana. But there are more than 100 petitions so far, and there are other gems - popular and not-so - to be found among them.

Top vote-getters, as of noon Thursday:

Legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Abolish the TSA, and use its monstrous budget to fund more sophisticated, less intrusive counter-terrorism intelligence.

Forgive student loan debt (This one proves it's not old people e-signing these petitions)

Call an investigation into allegations of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in the case of Sholom Rubashkin. I have no idea who Sholom Rubashkin is, but he has a lot of friends.

Take the phrase "Under God" out of the pledge of allegiance.

Grow industrial hemp in the U.S. again.

My personal favorites:

Reverse the Citizens United decision by supported constitutional amendment. Yeah, yeah, I know, but it needs more support, people - sign it!

Support Sen. Sanders bill to fix social security by removing the cap on income. Needs your signatures, people!

Extend unemployment benefits past 99 weeks for ALL long-term unemployed Americans - for the 99ers and ANY "exhaustee". - needs signatures!

Investigate Bush administration for war crimes. Needs signatures!

Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline - this one needs signatures ASAP, especially since some fossil-fuel asshole has added a "Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline" and that one already has 250 signatures.

Grant clemency to Leonard Peltier. Needs signatures!

Make all federal election days national holidays to increase voter turnout. This one already has its minimum signature requirement, but it's important, so sign it anyway.

End the destructive, wasteful and counterproductive war on drugs. Also has lots of signatures, but this one can't have too many.

Repeal the Patriot Act. Another that has met its minimum but can't have too many.

Restore democracy by ending corporate personhood. Can't have too many signatures on this one.

There are some hilarious ones, too. Release secret information on extraterrestials is popular, and 372 people want a presidential commission to investigate the covert use of mind-control techniques on American citizens. First, it's been done. Second, nobody cared. Third, the government wants you to sign that petition.

There are several that are so specific and technical I think they refer to specific corporate loopholes, like:

"Antineoplastons, cancer drugs in FDA trials since 1995, results publicly audited by Congress, to gain final FDA-approval." Gonna need more information on that one.

Some are outside federal government purview - like abolishing abstinence-only education in schools (which are run by the states). Some are too vague, like Protect Children from Dangerous Air Pollution. Some have the right idea but the wrong method, like Make Bribing Politicians Illegal. (It already is illegal - the problem is the legal stuff that's not bribery)

There are some duplicates - at least 10 variations on legalize marijuana, and one "abolish" the Patriot Act and one "End" the Patriot Act, each with more than 5,000 signatures. These need to merge.

It's annoying that you have to click to add just 8 petitions at a time, And when you click on one to read about it and sign it, the back button takes you back to the first 8 petitions, not petitions 81-90, which is where you left it.

But it's absolutely fascinating to read, find out what your fellow Americans think is important, and add your voice to theirs.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The License Plate for Proud Fucking Morons

Vanity plates are ridiculous but useful - they basically announce that the driver is a narcissistic braying ass and therefore likely to do something stupid like cut you off and cause a massive tie-up, so avoid them like the plague.

Now Kentucky, like Indiana, has a license plate that announces to the world the driver is a fucking moron who thinks an invisible sky wizard directs his every action, including, presumably, his steering and braking.

And more than 100,000 of these idiots have bought plates announcing their stupidity to the world, so we know who they are and can stay away from them.

From the Herald:

Kentuckians have bought more than 100,000 licens plates with the national motto, “In God We Trust,” since they were made available in Januray, the state Transportation Cabinet said Wednesday.

The sales represent 16.5 percent of total standard-issue license plate sales.

This is the first year that Kentucky motorists registering passenger vehicles have had a choice between two standard-issue license plates.

Both feature the “Unbridled Spirit” brand, but one plate also bears the motto, “In God We Trust.”

Both plates are available in county clerk offices for $21 each.

I'm still waiting for the tax-dollar-subsidized "Proud Atheist" license plate.

Enough With the Personhood Shit

This gets to the core of anti-abortion: turning women back into non-persons. This is saying the equivalent of cancer cells is more deserving of rights and considerations than the sentient, adult human being suffering from those cancer cells.


So Mississippi is going to have one of those "blatocysts are people too" initiatives on the ballot, which would outlaw not only all abortions but certain forms of birth control and will likely lead to negligent homicide charges against women who miscarry for reasons the state thinks could have been prevented. It's been tried in Colorado twice and failed, but Mississippi is a different kettle of fish.

It's all horrific, but this latest tack by the anti-abortion forces (used in Mississippi and elsewhere) is truly reprehensible. From Robin Marty:

Personhood amendments are constitutional amendments that declare that human life begins at conception, no matter what the circumstances. This human life — no matter what stage of development, including a zygote — has constitutional rights. Terminating the development of a fertilized human egg is akin to murder under personhood amendments. Generally, under personhood amendments, the circumstances of the pregnant women are irrelevant because the fertilized egg has a constitutional right to life.

Under personhood amendments, a woman will not be able to terminate a pregnancy caused by rape.

Proposed personhood amendments failed in Colorado two times. Mississippi will be voting on its own personhood amendment this year. In an effort to promote its cause, Personhood Mississippi has started a "Conceived in Rape" tour featuring Rebecca Kiessling, who says she was conceived by rape and was slated for abortion.


Evidently, this person can't conceive of how awful it is for some people to have to bear their rapists offspring, reminded every day of their pregnancy (and perhaps their whole lives) of the violent event. Or how about giving birth to your own sister? No biggie? Apparently, being insulted at the mere prospect that one might not have come to exist in this world is worse than rape victims being violated and traumatized by rape and forced childbirth. Interesting priorities there.

According to these people fetuses are the only things in this world that deserve protection. Once you're born you're on their own.

As far as constitutional rights are concerned, blastocysts can get in line behind non-white persons, non-male persons, non-heterosexual persons, and non-christian persons.

After the repugs and teabaggers and freakazoids give all of those people full civil and human rights, then we can discuss whether clumps of undifferentiated cells deserve the same.

No-question, no-cost abortion on demand. Anything less denies human rights to women.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bill for Denying Coal Bust is Coming Due

Coal has always been a boom-bust industry, and has always dragged its dependent communities up and down with it. But for almost a century, the booms have been getting progressively smaller and shorter, the busts steeper and longer.

For decades, liberals have begged leaders in Kentucky and nationally to hedge our dangerous dependency on coal with secure jobs in safer and more reliable renewable energy. Long before climate change became a crisis, Big Coal was a clear and present danger to the economy.

Now the final bust is upon Appalachia, and coal-pandering states like Kentucky are about to free-fall without either economic or energy alternatives as a cushion.

From AP Enterprise:

Business owners like Howard, politicians and miners in the hilly coalfields of Central Appalachia blame the industry decline on tougher regulation from the Obama administration. They aren't as ready to talk about something a change in administrations cannot fix. The region's thick, easy-to-reach seams of coal are running out, forcing many operators to shift to cheaper and more destructive mining methods that draw heavier environmental regulation.

Coal here is getting harder and costlier to dig - and the region, which includes southern West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee, is headed for a huge collapse in coal production.

The U.S. Department of Energy projects that in a little more than three years, the amount of coal mined here will be just half of what it was in 2008. That's a significant loss of a signature Appalachian industry, and the jobs that come with it.

"The seams of coal that are left in this area are harder and harder to mine, and they're thinner and thinner and thinner," said Leonard Fleming, a retired Kentucky miner and union leader in Letcher County who worked in the industry for 32 years.


The Energy Department's statistical agency, the Energy Information Administration, says production is expected to drop to 112 million tons by 2015, less than half of the 234 million tons mined three years ago.

A collapse of that magnitude would have a devastating effect on the economies in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, which produce about 90 percent of Central Appalachian coal.

There were about 37,000 coal industry employees in Central Appalachia in 2008, accounting for anywhere from 1 to 40 percent of the labor force in individual counties, according to a report by Downstream Strategies, a consulting firm in Morgantown, W.Va., which issued a report on the region's coming decline. The report blames the decline on the region's depleted reserves, environmental regulations as well as competition from regions that have lower operating costs, like the western U.S.

"We are going to see declines in labor and jobs, and it's going to happen rapidly" in West Virginia, said Rory McIlmoil, who helped draft the report. McIlmoil said that state is expected to see a decline of over $100 million in the taxes coal operators pay to mine in the state.

If the loss projections are true, "that's going to have a drastic effect" in eastern Kentucky, said Brad Hall, president of the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in Pikeville.

"There's approximately 18,000 to 20,000 miners in Kentucky right now," Hall said. "If those production levels go down ... you can see what effect that would have."

Read the whole thing.

Eliminating environmental regulations will not add a single shovelful of coal to Appalachian production or save a single job.

Big Coal is done in the east, and they know it. But they're going to strip every last dime out of the hides of mountain communities before they leave.

Live by Repug Economics, Die by Repug Economics

So, the bubble is finally bursting in the no-union, low-wage, no-benefits, no-social-safety-net states like Texas and South Carolina. Their faked-up economies are crashing, unemployment is skyrocketing, families are plunging into chaos and they can't see the obvious reason why.

David Atkins, thereisnospoon, at Hullabaloo:

In a sense, this is what happens when societies try to give away the store to corporate interests in the hopes of driving massive growth. When times are good, times can be very very good. When things start to crash, the growth times during the boom can tend to buoy a society for a little while. But when things start to really go south, things go very, very badly--to say nothing of the fact that handing communities entirely over to the whims of the "free market" increases the likelihood and frequency of major downturns. And worst of all, when things do go sour, those societies have hollowed or nearly destroyed the social supports that allow their economies to weather the economic storm.


It's a similar phenomenon to the storied Baltic Tiger and Celtic Tiger economies (to say nothing of the Icelandic Tiger) that the Right harped on so much throughout the aughts, but about which they are now eerily silent. Those nations used regressive tax policies and anti-regulation policies to artificially inflate themselves during the boom, and they're now suffering economic calamity.

The fact is that slow, steady, equitable, sustainable and broad-based growth outside the financial and housing sectors, with a good safety net to help the unemployed stay on their feet is far preferable economically (to say nothing of environmentally) to rapid growth in volatile industries followed by major economic shocks, with few social supports for the unemployed. The former helps almost everyone, while in the long run the latter is beneficial only to the top 1% and their friends.

It's an old story that proves once again just how bad for the economy conservative policies are. But it seems that humanity is destined to forget that lesson time and time again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Abortion Returns to Television

Thirty-nine years ago, a network television sitcom got more real than any reality show has ever dared: Maude got an abortion.

That was 1972, a year before Roe v. Wade, but the fact of abortion - then and now the most common surgical procedure in the country - was so well-known that even painfully conservative television executives accepted it.

It's been downhill ever since.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

I thought this was worth highlighting, because I can't even remember the last time someone I knew had an abortion. I live in a working-class neighborhood with lots of problems, and so many of the young women I've met have given birth out of wedlock. They come from homes with alcoholic parents and lack of education, and they have boyfriends with heroin habits and prison records. They tell me their problems, and I ask them: Why didn't they consider having an abortion?

"Only bad people do that," one girl told me. "Right?"

And where do they find reinforcement for that idea? Television. Whether it's a soap opera or prime time, young women invariably turn their backs on their own plans and decide to have and keep their babies, no matter how daunting the circumstances. (And being TV, of course it all works out.)

I had a relative who, many years ago, was in a home for unwed mothers and planned to give her child up for adoption. So did most of the girls with whom she lived -- until the soap opera they all followed religiously featured a young pregnant girl who changed her mind and announces she could "never give up my own flesh and blood." So they all decided to keep their babies, too.

TV does influence people, so I was happy to see this presented as an option. I just hope the next time it isn't a high-powered surgeon, but an unformed teenager who wants to make something of herself. From New York magazine:

Last night on Grey's Anatomy, Cristina Yang, the driven, ambitious surgeon who had gotten pregnant at the end of last season, went ahead and had an abortion. That's right! Someone actually had an abortion — not a miscarriage, not an ectopic pregnancy, not a last-minute change of heart — on national television. The lengths TV shows will go to avoid having characters go through with abortions have become something of a running, not that funny joke, for all the obvious political reasons.

Everyone from Julia Salinger on Party of Five to Cristina Yang herself, back in Grey's second season, have talked about wanting to have one, only to have some less controversial pregnancy-ending plot twist intervene. But not last night! Grey's Anatomy may have brought us ghost sex, ill-advised musical episodes, and endless bed swapping, but it was brave enough to do what almost no other series will: show this one particular, totally legal medical procedure on TV.

At the end of last season, Cristina told her husband Owen that she wanted to have an abortion. Cristina more than loves her job as a surgeon, it's who she is, how she defines herself, and what she wants to dedicate her life to: A child would make that impossible. Owen wants to have the baby, and at the beginning of last night's episodes, they're estranged. Cristina had made, and bailed, on a number of doctor's appointments, psychologically unable to go through with it without his okay. But over the course of last night's two hours, in a rare reversal, Owen changed his mind, and Cristina didn't.

First, Cristina gave Meredith a long speech about how she needs someone, anyone, to see her side and accept that she really, truly does not want to have a baby. This is already pretty radical: It's common TV wisdom that whatever your reservations, once you see your child, you'll not only love it, you'll never regret having it. Cristina disagrees.

Then, Meredith gave Owen a talking-to, pointing out that Cristina is only being true to herself — she's never said she wanted kids — and he should stop trying to make her into someone else. Meredith even went a step further, saying that as the daughter of a woman who didn't love her, she knows just how awful it can be — and that Owen shouldn't put his wife or his child through that.

Meredith's speech seemed to get through to Owen, and after a number of crazy surgeries and a baby-napping (this is Grey's, after all), Owen goes to Cristina, asks her when the appointment is and ... goes with her to the doctor. During the appointment, the doctor ponderously says, "I'm going to ask you one more time, are you absolutely sure this is what you want to do?" (Showing an abortion is one thing; making it guilt free, that would be a whole other.) Cristina says yes. And then, instead of the usual last-minute flip flop, the abortion actually happens.

As much as I hate to admit it, a lot of things in this country aren't real until they happen on television. Three cheers for abortion's return to television. May we see many more.

Jobs = Deficit Reduction

Liberals and other Dirty Fucking Hippies have been saying it for years now, so it's a little annoying to see mainstream dems getting credit for finally seeing the light, but better late than never, etc.

Steve Benen:

AFSCME, one of the nation’s most politically influential labor unions, has unveiled a new ad that’s both interesting and important. The spot throws support behind the American Jobs Act, and that’s important in and of itself, but the larger context is even more significant.

Showing a series of still shots, the voice-over in the ad tells viewers, “It’s pretty simple: the more jobs we create now, the less federal debt they’ll have to carry later. Because jobs not only put food on the table, they put revenue in the treasury and money in the marketplace. More jobs equal less debt; even our kids can understand that. Tell Congress to pass the American Jobs Act — now. Not just for us, but for our children.”

Greg Sargent reports that this is part of “a significant six figure ad campaign,” which is no doubt music to the ears of White House officials.

Indeed, I imagine the West Wing is pleased for more reasons than one. At the surface, President Obama and his team are eager to rally as much support as possible around the jobs agenda, and ads like these help make the case to the public. But behind the scenes, there’s also been some lingering questions about the nature of the relationship between the White House and labor — and this ad campaign suggests unions and the president are back on the same page.

But let’s also note that AFSCME is also turning the right’s argument about fiscal responsibility on its ear. To hear Republicans tell it, austerity measures and brutal spending cuts are necessary to lower the deficit and ease the burden on future generations. This ad is making the case — accurately — that conservatives have this backwards.

Reality shows the one sure-fire way to improve the nation’s fiscal conditions is to also improve the nation’s economic conditions. As David Leonhardt explained several months ago, economic growth lowers the deficit.

We look back on the late 1990s as a rare time when the federal government ran budget surpluses. We tend to forget that those surpluses came as a surprise to almost everybody.

As late as 1998, the Congressional Budget Office was predicting a deficit for 1999. In fact, Washington ran its biggest surplus in five decades.

What happened? Above all, economic growth. And that may be a big part of the answer to our current problems.

Yes, the government became more fiscally conservative in the 1990s. Both President George H. W. Bush (who doesn’t get enough credit) and President Bill Clinton, working with Congress, raised taxes to attack the 1980s deficits.

But those tax increases were the second most important reason for the surpluses that followed. The most important was the fact that the economy grew more rapidly than expected. The faster growth pushed up incomes and caused more tax revenue to flow into the Treasury.

Given the size of the current deficit, growth almost certainly won’t be enough to balance the budget anytime soon, even if the economy grows much faster than expected, which seems unlikely. But growth was responsible for reducing the deficit in 2009, and more growth would mean more jobs, more jobs would mean more revenue, and more revenue would mean a smaller deficit.

Indeed, perhaps the most astounding aspect of Republican rhetoric on the economy lately is how contradictory it is. On the one hand, a top GOP goal is, at least in theory, deficit reduction. On the other hand, those same Republicans want more tax cuts (which makes the deficit worse), and spending cuts that would likely slow the economy (which also makes the deficit worse).

Digby added a while back, “Why Democrats haven’t been saying ‘jobs=deficit reduction’ on a loop, I don’t know. I guess they figure it’s just too complicated to explain that when people aren’t working they aren’t paying taxes so the government doesn’t have as much money.”

Nearly a year later, it looks like some on the left are getting the picture.

Creating jobs cuts the deficit. Pass it on.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Conway Takes Liberal Stand on Principle

Are you searching for a reason to vote for Jack "I really don't want to run again" Conway? Here it is.

From Firedoglake:

The latest AG to stand with Schneiderman and against the attempts to whitewash the fraud of the big banks is Kentucky AG Jack Conway. He is up for re-election this year, and is known nationally by virtue of his unsuccessful challenge to Rand Paul for Senate in 2010. Conway, in conjunction with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, sent an email to supporters aligning himself with Schneiderman.

The same Wall Street banks whose irresponsible actions led to our nation’s economic collapse are now pressuring all 50 states to give them legal immunity. The banks want to block any criminal or civil accountability for actions that have yet to be investigated.

Attorneys General from Delaware, Minnesota, Nevada and New York have been fighting back. Today, I want to make a clear statement in support of Wall Street accountability and against immunity for banks — and I ask you to join me on this statement:

“Today’s economic crisis was caused by Wall Street acting improperly. Every American has paid the price — with families losing their homes, investors losing their money, and many Americans losing their jobs. There should be absolutely no criminal or civil immunity given to banks for activity that has not yet been investigated.”

Several things are important here. Kentucky didn’t really have a big housing bubble – Conway is supporting this on principle, rather than in service to a wide swath of dispossessed and struggling borrowers who are victims of fraud. Second, he writes this in the context of an election which has tightened up minimally. So he obviously finds this to be a winning issue on the campaign trail. Third, it would be tempting to just ignore a proposed settlement that isn’t going to happen. Conway sees political advantage in stamping on this process, which is already flailing.

The PCCC put this out with a petition, getting supporters to sign on to Conway’s vision that there should be no liability release without an investigation. Conway becomes at least the sixth AG – joining Schneiderman (NY), Beau Biden (DE), Martha Coakley (MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) and Lori Swanson (MN) – in objecting to a settlement without proper investigation.

I think this may be the first time in Jack's career that he has taken a liberal stand on principle. Maybe he's finally figured out that there's a giant pool of Democratic votes out there just waiting for someone to show some spine. Or maybe he doesn't realize that Schneiderman is on the side of the dirty fucking hippies.

Worker Solidarity: Nurses Step Up

We are all in this together. An attack on one worker is an attack on every worker. Union members understand that, live that, fight for that.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

When I think of nurses, I think of caring. I think of hard-working people who, despite being spread increasingly thin, do so much for the patients under their care and get relatively little in return. That's why I love California Nurses Association and National Nurses United. They not only demand reasonable concessions on patient care, they also demonstrate in favor of public policies like a Wall Street transaction tax.

Yesterday thousands of their members walked picket lines, joined rallies and sent a message to employers that RNs will not accept reductions in patient services:

At a boisterous rally at Sutter Alta Bates Thursday morning, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised the RNs as “the last line of defense for patients” and excoriated the corporate assault by Sutter. “They disrespect you by attacking your healthcare, your retirement benefits, your right to advocate for patients, and now they want to force you to work when you are sick. Having sick nurses care for sick patients is sick.”

Trumka said it was 23,000 nurses taking a stand, but that they were joined by “millions of patients” and had the support of working people across the country.
“When nurses are on the outside, there’s something wrong on the inside,” said CNA Co-President DeAnn McEwen at the rally. She called the sweeping concession demands by Sutter “drastic, unwarranted, and unconscionable. They’re harming patients and we’re standing in the gap.”

“Nurses will never be silenced in standing up for our patients and our communities, or our members and our families,” says Children’s Oakland RN Martha Kuhl.

Support the union members in your community. Their success is your success.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quintessentially Kentucky - the Bucket List

You have to live in Kentucky for a few years to really appreciate how beautiful, fascinating and annoying the Bluegrass state can be.

But if you're visiting and want to know the best way to get the flavor of Kentucky, the Herald has some ideas:

What are the things every Kentuckian should do, see or experience while living in our beautiful, often misunderstood state? What are the cultural touchstones that make Kentucky what it is and that would be a shame not to experience? What things go deep into the Kentucky experience?

That's the question the Herald-Leader asked in June, when we came up with The Kentucky Bucket List, which featured 50 great experiences to have.

The list was so popular that we've created an entire section based on it. Here, we have refined the list to be specific to Central Kentucky.

Our list of 38 experiences, in no particular order, was compiled from suggestions offered by readers and staff members.

The list is far from exhaustive, and you can probably easily think of several more to add to your personal list. But it's a start.

Our hope is that you take this list, put it up on your fridge, get out into our gorgeous Kentucky and start checking items off.

I've had 22 of the experiences on the Bluegrass list, the earliest long ago in elementary school and the most recent just a few days ago.

Here's the original list of 50 statewide.

And here are the first three from the Bluegrass List:

1. Take a sip at all the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail. Bourbon is the essence of sophistication and America's only native spirit, and 95 percent of it is produced here.

2. Own a piece of work by a Kentucky craftsman. We are known as an epicenter for folk art. Berea is a good place to start your search for the perfect piece.

3. Walk over Natural Bridge, near Slade. If it's hot, you'll sweat like a pig getting up there, but once you do, the view is so spectacular, you'll be cool as a cucumber.

I would add just this: if you visit only once, and do nothing else here, stay in one of our best-in-the-nation State Resort Parks. Everybody has a favorite, but all 23 cannot be topped elsewhere.

Laborers Play Hardball

If liberals are feeling beaten down and constantly under attack, we should take a lesson from the prematurely-declared-dead unions and fight back hard.

Kenneth Quinnell at Crooks and Liars:

On Tuesday, the Metallic Lathers Union Local 46 and the Mason Tenders District Council, Laborers Union of North America announced a racketeering lawsuit targeting developers in New York City for engaging in a conspiracy to deny $7 million in wages and benefits to union workers. The targets of the lawsuit include Lalezarian Developers, JMH Development and HRH Construction are accused of numerous charges:

from 2007 through 2011 NYC builders Lalezarian Developers and JMH Development conspired with unionized construction manager HRH Construction to knowingly violate the company’s collective bargaining agreements and illegally perform millions of dollars of construction work under the guise of a phony non-union alter-ego firm named Leviathan Construction Management.


As a result of this conspiracy, the developers along with HRH’s principals, cheated workers out of more than seven million in wages and benefits that should have been paid to union members and their funds under HRH’s collective bargaining agreements. If found guilty under federal racketeering law, these developers will be forced to pay triple damages which could total more than $21 million.

This lawsuit may be just the tip of the iceberg:

According to Robert Ledwith, Business Manager of Local 46, “Today NYC unions are sending a strong message to the real estate industry that we are stepping up our efforts to monitor and prosecute illegal behavior that harms working people.” Ledwith added, “We think that this case is merely the tip of the iceberg. We know this kind of illegal activity is widespread throughout our industry.”

Other observers agree with Ledwith that there are likely many more examples of this type of criminal activity and that there will likely be more attempts by unions to fight back on behalf of workers and for what is right. Pursuit of this type of legal route could also have further effects, such as reducing the amount of money that flows from corrupt developers to politicians, potentially helping level the electoral and lobbying playing fields.

What is the anti-democratic activity of the Koch Brothers and their tool ALEC if not racketeering? There's an opening here and we should grab it.

Stop Enabling Repug Temper Tantrums

Shit-flinging monkeys, that's all the repugs are. Gibbering monkeys flinging shit.

Bon the Geek at Zandar Versus the Stupid:

The Massachusetts Republican Party is taking issue with Democrat Elizabeth Warren getting paid by Harvard University as she campaigns for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Scott Brown.

The Boston Globe reported that the GOP has asked Harvard to stop paying the law professor's salary, suggesting that doing so gives the impression that the Ivy League institution supports her candidacy.

So what, she can't be paid for doing her job? The article makes it clear that she has duties that she fufills, both in and out of the classroom. Mind you, they can't show that she has violated any policies, nor have they tried to prove any wrongdoing. They have just asked that they stop paying her. The people who "grasp America's job situation better than Dems" don't seem to understand that she can hold a job while she campaigns. And that it's legal. Or maybe they do and are just trying a dirty blow, already angered that she isn't home barefoot and pregnant, dependent on her man for sustenance.

Jackass times infinity. A jackass so large that it has its own gravitational force, creating a jackass of such mass that no light or intelligence can escape its pull.

The real goal here is to make liberals spend time, money and effort dealing with a fake issue and thus end up looking pathetic and stupid, while the screaming babies move on to the next fake issue. From now on, either ignore them completely, or slap them down hard and give them something real to cry about.

Kevin Drum:

Mark Jacobson notes that the Ground Zero Mosque opened yesterday and....nothing happened. No protests, no Fox News cameras, not even so much as an outraged blog post from Pamela Geller:

Standing there, two blocks away from the crews working on the Freedom Tower, it left you wondering what all that business last year was truly about. Was it because finally, after nine years of shock, we had a concrete issue to focus all those pent up 9/11 feelings on? Was it just last year’s version of the Casey Anthony story? Standing amid those pictures of children who managed to smile no matter the odds against them, it was hard to imagine there was ever a problem at all.

I'm hoping this is a rhetorical question, because, I mean, come on. We all know what this was about, don't we? The mosque was introduced to the public in December 2009, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. In May 2010 the project was approved, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. A week later, a New York Post columnist wrote a piece called "Mosque Madness at Ground Zero," Pamela Geller continued shrieking about it, and —

And suddenly Rupert Murdoch's other New York-based news operation took notice. After all, there was an election coming in November, and what better way to rally the troops? It was just one more log for Fox to toss onto its Bonfire of Xenophobia last summer. As I said in August:

You'd have to literally be blind not to notice that the Fox/Rush/Drudge axis has been pushing racial hot buttons with abandon all summer. There's all the stuff Hitchens mentions [Arizona's immigration law, the Ground Zero mosque, and the anchor baby fracas], and you can add to that the Shirley Sherrod affair, the continuing salience of the birther conspiracy theories, the New Black Panthers, and Beck's obsession with Barack Obama's supposed sympathy with "liberation theology." Are we supposed to simply pretend that it's just a coincidence that virtually every week brings another new faux controversy that just happens to appeal to the widespread, inchoate fear of a non-white country that Hitchens writes about?

Anyway, that's all it was about. It was a convenient foil for Fox News during a long, hot, pre-election summer. Now that the election is over, they don't care anymore.

But they do care about making liberals run ourselves ragged chasing after flung shit all day, every day.

Here's how to respond: "Bullshit. Fuck you. Next."

The Prisons Are Already Full of Christians

I'll bet $100 against a nickel that this very same judge would never consider letting a black kid caught with a dime bag of pot to attend weekly NA meetings for a year in lieu of jail time.

Especially since NA meetings would actually have a chance of addressing the kid's problems. Unlike the "alternative" this idiotic freakazoid is offering.

Steve Benen:

In southern Alabama, a city judge is allowing those convicted of minor offenses to “work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine; or go to church every Sunday for a year.” Though 56 local churches are participating, the program probably raises some constitutional concerns. (thanks to R.B. for the tip)

"Constitutional concerns?" How about doubt that this pathetic excuse for a jurist knows how to read? Or count?

In 1997, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons statistics on inmate religious preference exposed the utter insanity of expecting religion to curb criminality.

Judeo-Christian Total 83.761% (of the 74731 total responses)

Not unexpected as a result. Note that atheists, being a moderate proportion of the USA population (about 8-16%) are disproportionately less in the prison populations (0.21%).

I'd say the far more effective alternative would be to send offenders to Atheist meetings, where they could learn techniques for resisting the criminal behavior that they apparently learned in church.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's Banned Books Week - Read Them All Now

I can't believe I almost missed Banned Books Week. Thank goodness for Jesus's General for catching it.

For the past thirty years, the last week of September has been Banned Books Week, a celebration of the Freedom to Read and the First Amendment, and this year is sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Experession, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the PEN American Center, among others. Libraries and bookstores across our great land will have displays of the many books that have, at one time or another, been suppressed in some fashion.

What are some of these tomes? Some examples:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has been challenged many times, including in 1980 by the Vernon Verona Sherill New York School District as a "filthy, trashy novel". I've read it a few times, and I guess I missed that part.

Alice Walker's The Color Purple has also been challenged and banned. The Souderton PA School District banned it as "smut" in 1992 as inappropriate 10th grade reading.

Ulysses by James Joyce was banned from the United States, England and Ireland for obscenity during the 1920's and not because it was deemed "too long".

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was banned as obsecne in France from 1956-1959, England in 1959, and Argentina that same year. Florida's Marion County had its DA office look into the book for ideas of incest and pedophilia.

Even winning Nobel Prize in literature does not keep a writer from censorial minds. Toni Morrison's Beloved has also been challenged many times. In 2007 two parents objected to the use of the book in an AP high school English class because it addressed issues of bestiality, racism and sex. The Principal of the school ordered it replaced by Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, which, of course, has nothing to do with sex. Other Nobel Prize winners whose books have been banned include John Steinbeck (both The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men); Ernest Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls...did the Earth move for you, too?); William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying); and F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby).

This past Monday the School Board of Monarch, Kansas voted to end the ban in the school library of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. Kind of. The kids cant really check it out, but it is available in certain portion there for their parents to check it out for them. The Vonnegut Library has made an offer to help kids decide for themselves.

These obscene books are available from Jackson Street Books and other fine independent bookstores.

What are your favorite banned books?

The best part of Banned Books Week is publicizing the latest list of books deemed "subversive" and "dangerous" by tight-assed morons everywhere. Buy every one of these books you can - or borrow them from the library - while loudly proclaiming that you are reading them ONLY because some cowardly freakazoid banned it somewhere. Send this list to all your friends, and urge them to read the books, too.

The Puritans and Authoritarians and Cowards rarely show their asses as publicly as they do during Banned Books Week. It is your patriotic duty to call everyone's attention to the display. Point and laugh!

Is This a T-Shirt Yet?

From Crooks and Liars, which you should be reading every day.

Choosing the Wrong Side in the Class War

Tom B had a good piece Wednesday on the not-so-great generation, in which he wrote:

... virtually 100% of these people... my lifelong friends who grew up in the same places and under the same conditions that I did... are among the most vociferous and hateful of the Tea Party base, spewing racial, religious and class hatred as if they were something special, and busting their butts to deny to their own children the help and assistance that they themselves needed and relied on from time to time.

But it's not just Tom's contemporaries. It's Florida voters of all ages who overwhelmingly support drug testing of welfare recipients even though it's already been proven a massive waste of money.

And it's anti-abortion freakazoids who pride themselves on being "pro-life" whooping and cheering for executions.

Steve M:

Now, you'll say that the death penalty is "big government," just like government intervention in the marketplace, so America's dominant religious conservatives should oppose capital punishment. But we know how that works when it comes to foreign policy -- military intervention (at least when initiated by conservatives) isn't "big government," either. It's morality. It's God working through government. It's barely seen as "government" at all. So it's OK.

What America's dominant religious conservatives oppose, I think, isn't government per se, but government showing mercy. What the free market does is God's will. What the criminal justice system does is God's will (at least when it's punishing people). So don't mess with it.


If you think we all get what we deserve, and you think government social-service programs are "big government" intervention but the criminal justice system isn't really government at all, then you'd assume that all the people who end up on Death Row belong there -- they put themselves there (success = ability, therefore failure = lack of ability). A wrongful conviction isn't intrusive government. Reversing a wrongful conviction is intrusive government. God's way is for you to wind up where you deserve to be. Whereas human mercy, whether it's unemployment insurance for the "undeserving" or a pardon from the clemency board, is sinful.

And so we're a nation of Rick Perrys, executing without doubt.

Tina Dupuy at Crooks and Liars finds an answer in a pseudo Obama bumper sticker reading "Because everyone deserves some of what you've worked hard for."

Why does this anti-wealth distribution sentiment resonate with him? Why doesn’t he want banksters and CEOs to pay up?

“Because everyone deserves some of what you’ve worked hard for.”

This message was written and uploaded before the tea party, when the economy was still in free fall. And even though “thinkers” like Samuel R. Staley, a fellow at the Reason Institute, wrote the unintentionally hilarious talking point now being repeated by GOP lawmakers: “It appears we are two years into a ‘lost decade,’” the fact of the matter is the middle-class has already had a lost decade – the ‘00s.

In the middle-class wages are flat. The three million jobs Bush created in his eight years in office were moot since the population grew by 22 million. Prices have gone up, salaries have not. Home values have fallen, retirement plans are gone, savings are drained. Not since the 1930s has a generation been less prosperous than the one before. In 2008, the economy for the middle-class went from long-term stagnation to suddenly much worse.

And this reasonably caused a fear reaction in this Saturn driver. What is he concerned about? Wealth distribution. Why?

It’s usually assumed that the reason Americans specifically don’t want to see taxes raised on the rich is because, in spite of driving a defunct GM brand four-door, they think of themselves as the “soon-to-be rich.” But a paper published in the National Journal of Economic Research in July suggests otherwise. They offer that it’s not hoping to be on top that makes us not want the wealthier to be taxed more – it’s the fear of being at the bottom. It’s referred to as “last-place aversion.”
The Economist wrote, “In keeping with the notion of ‘last-place aversion,’ the people who were a spot away from the bottom were the most likely to give the money to the person above them: rewarding the ‘rich’ but ensuring that someone remained poorer than themselves.”

So taxing the rich isn’t about the fantasy that we’re going to someday be rich – it’s about the very real visceral fear of being, well, the poorest. If the government helps those below you, then they’ll be at your level – that’s the unfairness they’re afraid of.

Named one of the worst CEOs of 2008, GM head, Rick Wagoner received a $20 million dollar retirement package and an owner of one of his beaters has a bumper sticker decrying higher taxes for him.

The driver isn’t fantasizing about being Wagoner – he’s terrified of being driven even lower in the middle-class. And the GOP has successfully exploited that fear.
Because when people are afraid, they do all kinds of irrational things…like vote Republican.

The reason repugs can get away with claiming that the slightest effort toward equality on the part of liberals is OMG CLASS WAR HOW DARE THEY is that for 35 years, liberals have refused to fight back against the repug war on everyone who is not a rich, white, straight, male, xian. So any move on defense - let alone offense - on the part of liberals can be easily spun as a major attack.

Repugs want everyone to think scary liberals have the country under siege? I say fine. Let us scary liberals put the country under siege. Tax all income over $250,000 at 90 percent and use the money to create 10 million new, public, unionized jobs.

It's been class war for decades. Time for liberals to start fighting it.

Only One KY SOS Candidate Wants You to Vote

And it's not the one who imagines that it's against the law for homeless people to vote.

From the Courier:

Republican Bill Johnson supported requiring people to present photo identification before voting, while Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes denounced it as a “barrier to the ballot box” as the candidates for Kentucky secretary of state met in a debate Monday night.

The rivals also differed on whether Kentucky’s Constitution should be amended to provide automatic restoration of voting rights for felons who have served their sentences. Johnson opposes such a measure. Grimes voiced personal support but said it’s up to state lawmakers to decide whether to put such a measure on the ballot.


Grimes countered that Kentucky already is among 29 states requiring voters to produce an ID such as a Social Security card or driver’s license, or to be known by precinct officers.

“We do not have a problem of voter impersonation which would require us to essentially build another barrier to the ballot box,” she said.

Denouncing it in personal terms, Grimes said such a photo ID law would “require my 91-year-old grandmother to go get a government-issued ID to vote at the precinct she’s been voting at for the last 40 years.”

As Media Czech wrote at Barefoot and Progressive back in July:

It appears that there's been a small increase in the number of homeless people registering to vote in Kentucky this year. New Tea Party Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown (who likes to talk about "Barack Hussein Obama", how they're stealing our Ft. Knox gold, and dress up cardboard cutouts of Sarah Palin in his campaign shirt on his FB page) was able to immediately connect the dots, as the Mexican infiltrators at ACORN will now steal our elections and Liberty by using the homeless:

Kentucky election officials have reported an increase in the number of voter registration forms from the homeless, raising concerns among some about potential election fraud.

After the small increase, State Board of Elections Executive Director Sarah Ball Johnson wrote in a memo to county clerks last week that applications should be approved if they have “homeless” or “place to place” listed as addresses.

Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown said Tuesday he fears the policy could lead to vote fraud. He objected to the longstanding procedure in a letter to state election officials.

Naturally, Some Dude Named Bill Johnson will not let the homeless (who may or may not be members of the New Black Panther Party) steal our democracy:

Republican Secretary of State candidate Bill Johnson said he believes the policy violates a state law that requires would-be voters to list their place of residence to ensure that they're entitled to vote in a particular precinct.

“I am sensitive to the plight of the homeless,” Bill Johnson said in a statement. “However, I am equally sensitive to the need for honest elections. If an address cannot be determined, then a person should not be allowed to vote. It's that simple.”

See? It's that simple. No address, no vote. Democracy intact.

By the way, the Kentucky Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that there are approximately 1,000 homeless veterans in Kentucky. Remember that when you hear Bill Johnson play up the military out on the campaign trail over the next 4 months.

David Shankula at Barefoot and Progressive on how Johnson embarrassed himself at the Secretary of State debate:

Bill Johnson explained that homeless people should not be allowed to vote. Because they have no address, all Kentuckians who have fallen on hard times — which is increasingly likely given the policies being pushed by members of Bill Johnson’s own party — should not be allowed to vote.

And if we make exceptions for economically struggling Kentuckians, if we allow poor people to vote, then where will that take us? Bill Johnson has the answer:
What about somebody wealthy for example, who may be afraid? Because their house may be robbed? Or their child may be kidnapped?

That’s a fair comparison. Poor people who’ve lost their homes and want to vote… and very rich people who are being targetted by criminals who have absolutely no other way to locate their address or their child’s school or where they go on vacation without accessing voter rolls.

Just embarrassing.

As Ms. Grimes said in response:

“I have come to believe that his actions and statements are not for a lack of understanding but rather they are an intentional misrepresentation of the law. And that’s wrong for Kentucky. That’s wrong for the people of this state.”

She then went on to explain clearly the law of the state, the very law Bill Johnson willfully misunderstands, and the law he’s supposed to be running to enforce.

Lundergan Grimes is on the "other" side of a intra-party Democratic feud here in Kentucky, and I thought I was going to have to hold my nose to vote for her in November, but after her clear, proud, loud stand in favor of voting rights I'm going to have to vote for her proudly. Shit, I might even have to display her bumper sticker.

Johnson, by the way, proved himself a teabagging shit of the first order by filing a formal complaint against the Secretary of State's Office, claiming that registering homeless people to vote violates the state constitution.

From the Herald:

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission has decided to take no action on a complaint filed by Bill Johnson, Republican candidate for secretary of state, over voter registration of homeless people.

Johnson said Tuesday that John Steffen, executive director of the ethics commission, told him that the panel lacks jurisdiction to consider his complaint against Secretary of State Elaine Walker and the State Board of Elections.

Steffen declined Monday, after the commission’s regular meeting, to comment on the case, saying the panel can only comment on a case when it acts on it.

Johnson contended in his complaint filed in August that Walker and the elections board are violating the Kentucky Constitution by allowing people who don’t have addresses to register to vote.

Liberals know the only way repugs can survive electorally is by preventing as many Democratic-leaning people as possible from being able to vote at all. Every voting "reform" repugs propose has as its goal making it impossible for Democrats to vote.

"Pick up our game and raise our standards"

That's the right strategy for public education, Mr. President, but Race to the Top is a con job that will never get us there.

Full transcript here.

Celebrate This Union Victory

Not that long ago, in the 1970s, union victories were common. The question then was not what sacrifices the union would have to make, but how many of the union's demands management would accept. Starting with Ronald Reagan's murder of PATCO in 1981, union negotiations have been a long series of rear-guard defenses, trying to keep losses in pay and benefits to a minimum.

Maybe the worm is turning.

Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

In a huge victory for the United Auto Workers, the union signed a new contract with General Motors that actually improves workers’ lives rather than accept rollbacks. Starting workers get a pay raise, everyone gets a bonus in lieu of a pay raise, increased profit sharing, and health care and pensions are stabilized rather than decimated.

Moreover, GM has agreed in the contract to reopen its closed plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, which was originally its model Saturn plant it centered so much in its advertising campaigns of the 1990s.

Essentially, GM is showing a social conscience here. The UAW and American taxpayers made sacrifices to bail out General Motors when it was about to go under. Now the company is paying the union back. Reopening the Tennessee factory also brings good paying jobs back to the United States, something our economy sorely needs.

I think GM should center this in its advertising campaigns and continue to open plants in the United States. I know that I am much more inclined to buy a GM car than I was before (and I will likely be in the market for a car soon). I think a lot of Americans would look favorably on a company that made a social contract with Americans and provided a big boost to the economy.

It’s also again worth noting what a great policy Obama made by bailing out the auto industry. I might be disappointed with him in some ways, but he saved the American economy by doing this. The fact that the Republican Party turned this against him shows how fundamentally unserious it is about economic recovery and what we can expect with a possible Perry presidency in 2013.

Liberals know that every union victory is a victory for every working person in the country. Celebrate this one, and gird up your loins to fight the next one.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Death Penalty in Black and White

It rarely gets this blatantly obvious.

Brad Friedman:

Reuters in 2008:

The parole board in the state of Georgia spared a convicted killer from execution hours before he was due to die by lethal injection on Thursday and commuted his sentence to life in prison.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles made its decision less than three hours before Samuel David Crowe, 47, was to be executed, according to a spokeswoman for the state's prisons.

"After careful and exhaustive consideration of the requests, the board voted to grant clemency. The board voted to commute the sentence to life without parole," the parole board said.


In March 1988, Crowe killed store manager Joseph Pala during a robbery at the lumber company in Douglas County, west of Atlanta. Crowe, who had previously worked at the store, shot Pala three times with a pistol, beat him with a crowbar and a pot of paint.

Crowe pleaded guilty to armed robbery and murder and was sentenced to death the following year.

"David (Crowe) takes full responsibility for his crime and experiences profound remorse," according to Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, an advocacy group, who welcomed the board's decision.

The BRAD BLOG last night, after the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles had denied clemency to a different prisoner:

Despite 20 years asserting his own innocence; 7 of 9 witnesses having recanted their testimony, claiming police coercion; 3 jurors in the death penalty case having filed affidavits retracting their votes for "guilty" verdict; the murder weapon used in the killing of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail never having been found; no physical evidence tying Davis to the murder; hosts of luminaries from Republicans Bob Barr and Michael Steele to Democrats like President Jimmy Carter to a former GA Supreme Court Justice to a former FBI Director and many more calling for him to be spared; and after 3.5 hours of secret deliberation by the U.S. Supreme Court who temporarily reprieved his execution at the last moment before denying a stay without explanation, Davis was killed tonight by the big government state of Georgia at 11:08pm ET.

In his last words, according to witnesses to the execution, Davis spoke to the family of Officer MacPhail in the front row, and told them again he was sorry for their loss, but that he was innocent, did not have a gun, and did not kill their "son, father, brother."

Other than the confessed murderer being spared, and the man who maintained his innocence for 20 years being killed, I wonder if the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles saw any other significant differences between the cases of Samuel David Crowe and Troy Anthony Davis.

I've never been anti-death penalty, though I'm not really pro, either. But seeing these two cases - these two images - juxtaposed says it all.

Mr McConnell: Rebuild This Bridge!

Usually I hate it when President Obama channels Ronald Reagan as if he were worthy of emulating, instead of a war criminal. But on this one, I give him a pass. Because it's just so delicious.

From the Herald:

Standing before an aging bridge that links the home turf of top Republicans in Congress, President Barack Obama touted his $447 billion jobs bill Thursday as a way to help repair the nation’s infrastructure.

Obama called out by name Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as he spoke near the Brent Spence Bridge that carries I-75 and I-71 over the Ohio River.

“Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge,” Obama said. “Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work. Pass this jobs bill right away.”

It amounted to one of Obama’s most direct and defiant challenges to leaders of the opposition party. And the incursion into the Republicans’ territory illustrated a new White House aggression and a desire by the president’s advisers to distinguish him from Republicans and to get them to share some of the blame for the struggling economy.

Obama joked that it was “just coincidental” that he came to the bridge in the backyards of McConnell and Boehner.

He noted that one of four bridges in Boehner’s district is substandard and that McConnell has called for better infrastructure, but they have refused to endorse his plan.

For the geography-impaired, I should explain that for the entire 600-mile-plus northern border of Kentucky, there is no way to cross the border from Kentucky except by bridge - unless you want to swim the Ohio River. Hundreds of thousands of people commute to work across the river every day. There are bridges across the river from Kentucky at South Shore, Cincinnati, Louisville, Owensboro, Henderson and Paducah, but they're all in the same shape: old, decrepit and trembling under double the traffic they were designed to carry.

How Repugs Want to Treat All Workers

This didn't happen 150 years ago. Or 100 years ago. Or even 50 years ago. This is how a corporate owner treated its own workers just 22 years ago.

And how all corporate owners will treat all their workers once unions are gone.

From Erik Loomis' This Day in Labor History series at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

On September 17, 1989, 98 miners and one minister conducted a peaceful takeover of the Pittston Moss 3 Coal Preparation Plant.

The Pittston strike was one of the most brutal and hard-fought of the last three decades. The sit-in was part of a 10 month strike that pitted the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) versus the Pittston Coal Company. Arguably the most militant strike of the past half-century, the UMWA engaged in a variety of actions, ranging from the nonviolent takeover to militant women’s organizing to violence.

The strike began when Pittston canceled the health benefits of 1500 retirees, disabled miners, and widows. Centered in Virginia, the strike spread into West Virginia and Kentucky too, involving 40,000 people. The Pittston company was going through a rough patch and figured the best way to turn a profit was to pretend like it was 1920 and treat the workers like dogs. It canceled health insurance for all workers who had retired before 1974. It then ran the mines 24-7 with no overtime for the workers. Pittston then refused to renew the contract with the UMWA, leaving 1500 people without health care.

This was not an isolated incident. The history of coal mining in Appalachia is fraught with violence and extreme poverty. For decades, the coal companies ran the mountains like a fiefdom, not only controlling state politics and the economy, but limited the ability of people to move around, to buy goods, and to work. Any attempt to fight for a better life was met by grotesque spasms of violence and death from company goons. After decades of struggle, the UMWA finally broke through under John L. Lewis’ leadership. Wages and conditions improved under Lewis’ leadership, but poverty, exploitation, unsafe conditions, and black lung disease remained the day to day reality of most miners.

The president of the UMWA in 1989 was Richard Trumka. Trumka, who rode the Pittston struggle into the AFL-CIO power structure, all the way to the presidency of the federation, realized that the UMWA was going to need to use a variety of tactics to win against a recalcitrant company. It started by working without a contract and placing pressure through the company. This corporate campaign went nowhere.
So in April 1989, the UMWA called a strike against Pittston. The strikers used traditional means of picketing. Pittston quickly obtained court injunctions against the strikers, limiting their ability to picket.

Most unions during the 1980s and after have obeyed the injunctions and seen their strikes fall apart. Often, when we’ve had these labor discussions on the blog, commenters have been uncomfortable with my defense of using extra-legal methods for working-class people to defend themselves. If we don’t obey the law, this argument tends to go, why should we expect the companies to do so? But the courts are often rigged against the workers, as they were in pre-New Deal days. The ultimate defense for using extra-legal activity is to admit relativism and say that workers are right in doing so because they are defending their families and their jobs and the livelihood and that virtually anything is acceptable in defense of those things. At least that’s the position I’m taking.

The UMWA pretty much operated from this premise in the Pittston struggle. They focused heavily on non-violent civil disobedience. They opened a sort of women’s auxiliary to the strike. The Daughters of Mother Jones as they were known, named after the legendary mineworkers’ organizer of the early 20th century, conducted a sit-in at the Pittston headquarters in Virginia. Mineworkers began blockading roads into plants, leading to their arrests. This was illegal, but all nonviolent.

The illegality cost the union big time. The courts served the UMWA with millions in fines for its actions while ignoring the company thugs that were provoking the union and committing crimes it then blamed upon the union. Again, when the law is entirely on the side of companies, at what point do workers have the right to disobey the law?

The biggest event of the strike was the sit-in that began on this day 22 years ago. The 99 people inside the plant were protected by thousands outside. The sit-down ended without much resolution, although its use of classic New Deal-era tactics brought a ton of publicity to the cause.

The continued intransigence of the company then brought workers into the use of low-level violence. Over the next several weeks, workers, outside of official union authority but wearing the camouflage that became the movement’s uniform, began throwing rocks and company vehicles, spreading nails along roads leading into the plants, vandalism of company vehicles and the private vehicles of company officials, and other similar tactics.

Wildcat strikes also began spreading across the region, with up to 37,000 workers who were not UMWA members going on unauthorized strikes in order to not only put pressure on Pittston to settle with the union, but to protest their own terrible working conditions and poor-health care in the non-union mines.

The Pittston strike finally ended on February 20, 1990. It was nearly a total success. Miners again received their benefits. Pittston had to pay $10 million toward the health care of the miners who had retired before 1974. The mines could stay open with extended shifts, but the amount miners had to work was limited by the agreement. The UMWA got the fines against them dropped (which had included $13,000 a day against individual union officials and a total of $64 million against the union) in exchange for 10,000 hours of community service, which spread among the members, wasn’t too bad.

I don’t want to overstate the lessons we can take from an individual strike. But at Pittston, workers showed that they could stand up against a rapacious multinational corporation by using militant tactics and standing together against corporate brutality. It showed that the old-school union methods still had value and could be effectively deployed. It showed that collective solidarity still mattered. Given that it happened relatively recently, it’s probably the single most important strike for current labor activists to study. Maybe there are answers for current labor struggles in the brave actions of the Pittston miners.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yes, Bush Really Did Ruin the Country

... in more ways than you can count.


Republicans like to talk about how the Bush Boom was so great from 2003-2007, but the reality is the entire 2000-2010 decade was awful for America.

Median household income fell 2.3% to $49,445 last year and has dropped 7% since 2000 after adjusting for inflation, the Census Bureau said Tuesday. Income was the lowest since 1996.

Poverty rose, too. The share of people living in poverty hit 15.1%, the highest level since 1993, and 2.6 million more people moved into poverty, the most since Census began keeping track in 1959.

Overall the American middle class basically never recovered from the 2002 recession. The housing and credit bubble formed to pull us out of the funk while we spent billions on Iraq and Afghanistan rather than the US was five years of paper growth that detonated in our faces in 2008, but it lasted long enough to get Bush re-elected. Overall the middle class has taken a serious hit in this country in the last ten years. And 2012 may very well mean another even worse decade is ahead.

We are now suffering through the Bush Great Depression. Don't let anybody call it anything else.


Not many political candidates leave me speechless, but upon reading this today, all I could say was Wow. I kept saying Wow for several minutes thereafter.

Wall Street's long knives are out for this woman. My guess is she's got the Blue Dogs and DINOs who run the Democratic National Committee shitting their pants, too. I really wish she had not immediately rocketed up the polls to lead Brown. That gives the motherfuckers way too much time to stop her.


"I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No!

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear.

You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.

You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.

You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.

You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."

David Atkins "thereisnospoon" at Hullabaloo:

Changing the system won't come from dropping out and voting third party, nor will it come from blindly defending the Administration and hoping a Republican never holds the White House again in our lifetime. Changing the system will come from voting people like Elizabeth Warren into office all across the country, proving that they can win using this sort of rhetoric, and then holding them accountable to their campaign promises.

And here's the little secret the Democratic consultant class either doesn't understand or willfully refuses to understand: this sort of rhetoric won't just win in Massachusetts. It will win in Omaha, too. It will win the day from Annapolis to Anchorage, from Kalamazoo to Kailua-Kona.

Will there be places this message won't win, and voters whose heartstrings it won't touch? Yes, of course. Most of those places will be heavily rural or bastions of the Bible Belt and the Deep South. But those places were unwinnable and those people unreachable anyway without destroying everything the Democratic Party is supposed to stand for.

The amount of contortion necessary for Democrats to win in places Warren's message won't work means those places aren't worth winning in the first place.

The Democratic Party would be far, far better off maximizing voter turnout in places where this message does work, than in weakening its message so much that its support becomes a mile wide but an inch deep.

Most importantly, if the Democratic Party were to elect a bevy of candidates who talked this talk and then walked the walk while in office, the Party would actually succeed in moving economic policy significantly to the left while in power, and in stopping the Rightist juggernaut when eventually forced into the minority. It would actually do the job not just of getting elected, but of actually doing the things they were elected to do, which is the whole point of politics. Yes, it might lose some Wall St. cash in the process. But if that's the overriding concern, it's only a matter of time before violent revolution or totalitarian takeover anyway. So there's not much to lose, anyway.

I heard Elizabeth Warren speak on campus a few months ago, and I worried about her candidacy because in that speech she was a little too wonkish even for an academic audience.

I'm not worried anymore.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This Really Happened

Once upon a time, genuinely far-left radicals got interviewed on television by actual hard-shell conservatives, and the world did not end.

Gordon Skene at Crooks and Liars:

One thing you have to say about the Firing Line series hosted by William F. Buckley was that he never shrank from an opportunity to book a controversial guest. Even though fireworks famously flew (as in the case of Noam Chomsky), it did make for good theater.

One example is the famous interview Buckley did with former Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton, which was originally broadcast in February 1973.

Huey P. Newton: “The question is; during the Revolution of 1776 when the United States of America broke away from England, my friend would like to know, which side would you have been on during that time?”

William F. Buckley: “I think probably I would have been on, been on . . . the side of George Washington, I’m not absolutely sure. Because it remains to be established historically whether what we sought to prove at that point might not have been proved by more peaceful means. On the whole, I’m against revolutions. I think, as revolutions go, that was a pretty humane one.”

Huey P. Newton: “You’re not such a bad guy after all. My friend will be surprised to hear that.”

It goes rapidly downhill from there. A five minute video clip of this interview has been around for some time. This is the complete one hour interview and it covers a wide variety of subjects asked in the inimitable Buckley fashion with answers in the inimitable Newton fashion.

Ah, the 70's.

Listen to the full interview here:

If you don't understand how stunning this is, try imagining Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh interviewing ... no, there is no 21st Century equivalent of Huey Newton.

A Long-Overdue Death

Steve Benen:

It wasn’t easy, and it took too long, but as 12:01 a.m. (yesterday) morning, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ceased to be the policy of the United States. The nation will be stronger, safer, fairer and more just going forward than it was yesterday.

President Obama issued a statement on the formal repeal this morning.

“Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed. As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love. As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.

“I was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because I knew that it would enhance our national security, increase our military readiness, and bring us closer to the principles of equality and fairness that define us as Americans.
Today’s achievement is a tribute to all the patriots who fought and marched for change; to Members of Congress, from both parties, who voted for repeal; to our civilian and military leaders who ensured a smooth transition; and to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform who showed that they were ready to move forward together, as one team, to meet the missions we ask of them.

“For more than two centuries, we have worked to extend America’s promise to all our citizens. Our armed forces have been both a mirror and a catalyst of that progress, and our troops, including gays and lesbians, have given their lives to defend the freedoms and liberties that we cherish as Americans. Today, every American can be proud that we have taken another great step toward keeping our military the finest in the world and toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals.”

Looking back over the last 32 months, I still consider this one of the president’s breakthrough legislative accomplishments, especially since success was far from assured.

Obama for America also released a terrific video overnight honoring the occasion.
Is the struggle for equality, even in the military, over? Clearly not. If Republican candidates excel in next year’s elections, could DADT make a comeback? I suppose it’s possible.

But the arc of history is long, and of this morning, it’s bending much closer towards justice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ObamaCare Working Even Better

I think we may owe repugs gratitude for the coining of "Obamacare." Thanks to that nickname, people will never forget who brought them healthcare reform. Healthcare reform that, ahem, is getting more successful by the day.

From Steve Benen, who, let it never be forgot, came up with the Pass The Damn Bill idea that brought ObamaCare back to life after Democrats lost Ted Kennedy's senate seat to a repug.

Most of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act don’t kick in for a few years, but in the meantime, we’re already seeing indications that the law is working as intended.

We talked yesterday about the fact that the number of young adults — those between the ages of 19 and 25 — with health care coverage has gone up considerably, thanks to the new law’s consumer protection reforms. It comes on the heels of reports that the Affordable Care Act is a positive impact on slowing the growth in Medicare spending — a priority Republicans pretend to care about — as hospitals transition to a greater focus on value and efficiency, required under the ACA.

It turns out these aren’t the only signs of progress. Among the many arguments Republicans pushed during the health care debate was the notion that the ACA would crush Medicare Advantage. We can now add this to the (extremely long) list of arguments the GOP got wrong.

Medicare Advantage is the program that gives seniors the option of enrolling in private insurance rather than the traditional, government-run program. The government pays the insurers a flat fee, per enrollee; in return, the insurers provide coverage, sometimes including benefits that traditional Medicare does not. Overall, about one in four seniors belongs to such plans.

The policy rationale for Medicare Advantage is two-fold: To give seniors more options and to introduce some private-sector competition. The idea is that private insurers might be able to be more innovative or offer certain combinations of services that some seniors would prefer. But, for much of its history, the program (formerly known as Medicare-plus-choice) was also a form of corporate welfare. Non-partisan studies, by the likes of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, suggested that the government was paying the insurers too much.

The architects of the Affordable Care Act decided, quite sensibly, to reduce those extra subsidies and use the money to offset part of the law’s cost. That’s when the Republicans, and their allies, pounced. Taking money away from the insurers, they claimed, would force insurers to charge more, limit their offerings, or pull out of the market altogether.

As of this morning, it looks like Republicans flubbed this one, too. After reviewing new data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which found premiums going down and enrollment going up, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters, “On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will go down next year and seniors will enjoy more free benefits and cheaper prescription drugs.”

We were paying too much for Medicare Advantage, so we’ve cut costs. The program is, however, still profitable and attractive for private insurers.

In fairness, we’ll need more time to see if this trend holds. It may not. What’s more, not all of the news regarding the law has been positive, as evidenced by an AP report today on cost concerns about the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program (CLASS).

But overall, most of the initial evidence — on expanding access and coverage, on keeping costs down, etc. — suggests the Affordable Care Act is working. The right doesn’t want to hear that, but it’s true.

I'm looking forward to seeing protest signs: Hands Off My Obamacare!