Monday, October 31, 2011

Consequences in the One Percenters' Paradise

This liberal moron got exactly what conservatards think he deserved for trying to save some melon-heads who don't even pay taxes. If he had a real job instead of being a hippie social worker, he wouldn't be in this fix he's in. Serve him right for not earning big bucks selling fraudulent mortgages.

Bon the Geek at Zandar's place:

JOPLIN, Mo. -- By all accounts, Mark Lindquist is a hero, an underpaid social worker who nearly gave his life trying to save three developmentally disabled adults from the Joplin tornado. Both houses of the Missouri legislature honored Lindquist, the Senate resolution calling him "a true hero and inspiration to others."

But heroism doesn't pay the bills. The tornado's 200 mph winds tossed Lindquist nearly a block, broke every rib, obliterated his shoulder, knocked out most of his teeth and put him in a coma for about two months.

Lindquist, 51, ran up medical expenses that exceed $2.5 million, and the bills keep coming. He requires 11 daily prescriptions and will need more surgery.

But he has no medical insurance. Lindquist couldn't afford it on a job paying barely above minimum wage. He assumed workers' compensation would cover his bills, but his claim was denied "based on the fact that there was no greater risk than the general public at the time you were involved in the Joplin tornado," according to a letter to Lindquist from Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, his company's workers' comp provider.

132 worker's compensation claims were filed, and only eight were denied. Lindquist is among those denied. He went above and beyond the call of duty, risking his life to protect those who could not protect themselves. He nearly died for his efforts, and deserves better than "at least you have your health." It's a bitter smack in the face to those who take their duty as caregivers seriously. His life will be forever ruined because of his act of greatness, and before the tornado he was like so many who cannot afford health insurance. On one end or the other, this poor guy deserves a break. However, he isn't likely to get one. And that, friends, is the reality of a hero in today's world.

So the lesson is:

Sell fraudulent mortgages to millions of working-class families, play roulette with billions in pension investments and bring the global economy to its knees, and get punished by receiving millions in bonuses from a taxpayer bailout.

Risk your own life to save others, and get rewarded with permanent, disabling injuries and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills that will force you into bankruptcy.

Got it.


Occupy Frankfort Zombie Walk/Ride Tonight 5 p.m.

The Occupy Frankfort group is just getting started, so they could use some support and encouragement.

We (the 99% of Frankfort) are meeting tomorrow (Monday, Oct 31) at 5 pm in front of the Old Capitol for an "Occupy Frankfort Walk / Ride / Zombie."

*ALL are welcome - you, your kids, your friends, your neighbors, your dog, ...

To show our support of Occupy Wall Street (and the Occupy movement everywhere), and raise local awareness of the mission: "To end corporate corruption of our governments and our lives."


Meet at the Old Capitol at 300 W Broadway St, Frankfort, KY. We will be cycling and walking from the Old Capitol to the new Capitol. (For those with kiddos, trick or treating is 6 - 8 pm, so there's time for both!)

*Other Info:

*Signs will be available, but feel free to bring any you like.


Walking Route:

The walk is a little less than 2 miles round-trip. From Old Capitol, turn left on Broadway. Right on Ann St. Left on E Main St. Right on Capital Ave. Up to new Capitol and turn around. When returning, turn left on E Main St. Then, right on St. Clair and back to Broadway St.

Riding Route:
The ride is approx 2.5 miles round-trip, and may be modified based on the speed of walking group.
Basically, we will be zig-zagging through South Frankfort, and joining up with the walking group on parts of Capital Ave, and at the new Capitol.

Clear and cool tonight in Frankfort - perfect weather. Don't miss it.

Who Will Stand Up for Social Security and Medicare?

Repugs and DINOs in Congress are drooling at the prospect of a Super Committee deal that will gut Social Security and Medicare, slash the remnants of the safety net and hand yet more unearned and undeserved billions to the parasites of the obscenely wealthy one percent.

But liberals - outnumbered and outspent - are drawing a line in the sand.

Down with Tyranny starts with this no-cuts stand from Rich Trumka:

And it's not just candidates who are angry; there are more than a few Members of Congress who are fuming over the SuperCommittee sell-out as well. Let me publish House Concurrent Resolution 72, written by John Conyers (D-MI), with dozens of co-sponsors:

Expressing the sense of Congress that any legislative language approved by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction should not reduce benefits for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid recipients.

Whereas S. 365, the `Budget Control Act of 2011', creates a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction tasked with providing recommendations and legislative language that will significantly improve the short-term and long-term fiscal imbalance of the Federal Government;

Whereas large majorities of Americans want to address the deficit in a way that preserves Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits;

Whereas the Medicare program reflects the Nation's commitment to the health and independence of older Americans and Americans with disabilities by providing health care coverage to 42 million people;

Whereas Medicare safeguards beneficiaries and their families from the ruinous costs of medical treatments and prevents individuals from spending unmanageable proportions of their incomes on medical care or being pushed into poverty by their medical bills;

Whereas Medicaid provides a safety net for both low-income and middle-class families who may have family members stricken with catastrophic illness or injury or face prolonged infirmity in old age;

Whereas cuts to Medicaid would severely impact low-income families and individuals with disabilities, and curtail access to critical services, including nursing home and community care services;

Whereas cuts to Medicaid would limit the program's ability to provide women without health care coverage with prenatal, maternity, and postnatal care and hamper the United States efforts to prevent infant and prenatal deaths;

Whereas Social Security provides essential financial support to almost 55 million people in the United States, including more than 35 million retired workers;

Whereas Social Security provides modest benefits averaging $14,000 per year for retired workers, based on contributions paid into Social Security over a worker's lifetime of employment;

Whereas Social Security can pay full benefits through 2035;

Whereas Social Security has no borrowing authority, currently has $2.7 trillion in accumulated assets, and, therefore, does not contribute to the Federal budget deficit; and

Whereas the citizens of the United States deserve thoughtful and fair Social Security reform to protect current and future benefits and to ensure ongoing retirement security for seniors, protections for persons who become disabled, and benefits for the young children and spouses of deceased and disabled workers: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that—

(1) any deficit reduction plan put forward by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction should not balance the budget by eroding America's hard-earned retirement plan and social safety net;

(2) Medicare's ability to deliver high quality health care in a cost-efficient manner should be strengthened and its benefits should be preserved for current and future retirees;

(3) appropriate reform to strengthen Social Security's long-term outlook should ensure that Social Security remains a critical source of protection for the people of the United States and their families without further increasing the retirement age or otherwise decreasing benefits; and

(4) Federal funding for the Medicaid program should be maintained so that senior citizens, poor and disabled children, and others with disabilities are able to gain and retain access to affordable health care.

No repugs signed it, of course, but also neither DINO Ben Chandler who faces a much more Democratic district next year, nor Congressman Awesome John Yarmuth, who is supposedly a member of the Progressive Caucus.

Where does your Congress critter stand?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wall Street Cheated

Recently one of the cable snooz shows interviewed some Occupy protesters and asked one woman didn't she want to be one of the one percent herself. She gave a long answer that wasn't really wrong or inappropriate, but neither was it concise. How about this next time:

"The one percenters get there only by cheating. I don't cheat and don't tolerate those who do."

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone reminds us the real problem is not that capitalism sucks or is incompatible with Democracy but that Wall Street refuses to play by the rules.

When you take into consideration all the theft and fraud and market manipulation and other evil shit Wall Street bankers have been guilty of in the last ten-fifteen years, you have to have balls like church bells to trot out a propaganda line that says the protesters are just jealous of their hard-earned money.

Think about it: there have always been rich and poor people in America, so if this is about jealousy, why the protests now? The idea that masses of people suddenly discovered a deep-seated animus/envy toward the rich – after keeping it strategically hidden for decades – is crazy.

Where was all that class hatred in the Reagan years, when openly dumping on the poor became fashionable? Where was it in the last two decades, when unions disappeared and CEO pay relative to median incomes started to triple and quadruple?

The answer is, it was never there. If anything, just the opposite has been true. Americans for the most part love the rich, even the obnoxious rich. And in recent years, the harder things got, the more we've obsessed over the wealth dream. As unemployment skyrocketed, people tuned in in droves to gawk at Evrémonde-heiresses like Paris Hilton, or watch bullies like Donald Trump fire people on TV.

Moreover, the worse the economy got, the more being a millionaire or a billionaire somehow became a qualification for high office, as people flocked to voting booths to support politicians with names like Bloomberg and Rockefeller and Corzine, names that to voters symbolized success and expertise at a time when few people seemed to have answers. At last count, there were 245 millionaires in congress, including 66 in the Senate.

And we hate the rich? Come on. Success is the national religion, and almost everyone is a believer. Americans love winners. But that's just the problem. These guys on Wall Street are not winning – they're cheating. And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.

In this country, we cheer for people who hit their own home runs – not shortcut-chasing juicers like Bonds and McGwire, Blankfein and Dimon.

That's why it's so obnoxious when people say the protesters are just sore losers who are jealous of these smart guys in suits who beat them at the game of life. This isn't disappointment at having lost. It's anger because those other guys didn't really win. And people now want the score overturned.

All weekend I was thinking about this “jealousy” question, and I just kept coming back to all the different ways the game is rigged. People aren't jealous and they don’t want privileges. They just want a level playing field, and they want Wall Street to give up its cheat codes, things like:


These inequities are what drive the OWS protests. People don't want handouts. It's not a class uprising and they don't want civil war -- they want just the opposite. They want everyone to live in the same country, and live by the same rules. It's amazing that some people think that that's asking a lot.

Read the whole thing.

Other ways the one percenters cheat are inheriting money, exploiting labor, stealing natural resources, hiding profits overseas to avoid taxes, buying tax breaks and subsidies from Congress, grabbing windfalls from IPOs and golden parachutes, and generally acting as if they are above the law.

I'd say less than one percent of the one percenters got there by dint of their own effort. It's interesting that many of those who did - Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros - are conspicuously generous with their money in donating substantial sums to charitable causes.

The rest of the rich are cheaters.

Quote of the Day

Digby, on arresting Occupy protesters for nothing:

Is "disobedience" a misdemeanor or a felony here in the land of the free? I forget.

No Help, No Hope Centers

Why doesn't this violate some - any - federal law? Like false advertising. Or fraud. Or endangerment. Yeah, I know - not unless they cross state lines while doing it. And of course North Carolina repugs would never apply state law to these motherfuckers.

From David at Crooks and Liars:

A North Carolina abortion rights group revealed Monday that most "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPC) in the state were misleading women about their health care options.
A NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Foundation (NPCNCF) report (PDF) found that more than two-thirds of CPCs provided medically inaccurate information.

The centers have been in operation for years, but have recently gotten more attention after the Republican-controlled state Legislature decided to provide them public funding with proceeds from a new "Choose Life" license plate. At present, there are eight times more CPCs in North Carolina than abortion clinics.

In all, 92 percent of the 122 identified centers had no medical professionals on staff, and the state provides no mechanism for regulating them. Only 22 percent disclosed that they were not medically licensed.

Because the centers are not medically licensed, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not protect patient confidentiality.

In one of the more disturbing anecdotes from the report, an investigator posing as a pregnant Jewish woman was told by five centers that she would not go to heaven unless she converted to Christianity. At one meeting, volunteers prayed for an investigator and recommended she become a "born-again virgin."

"Our investigation of CPCs in North Carolina makes clear that our state's leaders cannot ignore how these centers intentionally mislead and misinform women, including those facing unintended pregnancies," NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina executive director Carey Pope said in a statement.

"We have no objection to a center that offers women who have decided to carry a pregnancy to term any help they like," she later told The Charlotte Observer. "But lines are crossed when the center is not up-front about its limited services or uses misinformation or intimidation or coercion."

Planned Parenthood affiliates and physicians who provide abortions had already sued to block new abortion restrictions that will go into effect Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is also suing to force the state to create license plates for supporters of abortion rights.

It's donation season: you can support the ACLU here and Planned Parenthood here.

Even in Kentucky, Repugs Have to Cheat

My first reaction when this story broke last week was: He's lying - no way David Williams' father-in-law has $1.3 million to waste on a losing campaign, even to make his daughter happy.

But then I learned that the man has actually thrown more than two million bucks down the Williams shitter.

So I revised my reaction to: How pathetic is your campaign if the vast majority of your donations come from your Daddy?

Now it's Just how stupid do you think Kentuckians are to expect us to believe you're not consulting with your biggest donor who also happens to be your father-in-law?

From the Courier:

The Kentucky Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the state Registry of Election Finance alleging that Republican David Williams' campaign, his father-in-law and the group Restoring America are involved in an illegal coordinated effort to elect Williams.

Williams’ father-in-law, Russell Springs businessman Terry Stephens, has given more than $2 million to Restoring America, which has run ads criticizing Gov. Steve Beshear and supporting Williams for the past month.

In the complaint, Democrats offered no proof of collusion, instead producing only circumstantial evidence.

The latest move comes a week after the two sides ended a battle in Franklin Circuit Court that resulted in Restoring America filing a report with the registry naming Stephens as the sole contributor to the organization, which is based in Ohio.

The group and another organization funded by Stephens through the Republican Governors Association have spent about twice as much money helping Williams as he has raised and spent himself.

In a press release announcing Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Logsdon’s latest salvo, the party said Stephens was Williams’ “sugar daddy.”

Williams is 28 points down to Beshear in the latest poll. Meanwhile, Democratic voters all over the state are being intimidated away from the polls - Democratic voters, that is, who are not so discouraged and disgusted by the moribund state of the Kentucky Democratic Party that they're not planning to go to the polls at all.

Yes, of course Williams is engaging in election fraud - he's a repug running for office, so that's a given. But with Democratic voters and county parties starving for support all over the state, this is what the KDP thinks is a good investment of time and money?

Occupy Your BRAINS Zombie Protest Tonight

From Occupy Lexington:

Calling all ZOMBIES!! We need your help down at Occupy Lexington tomorrow!

The annual Thriller Parade is happening downtown tomorrow, so we are planning an event called Occupy Your BRAINS! to coincide with this wonderful local tradition. Occupy Lexington will be respectfully and courteously interacting with parade attendees before and after the parade.

We will be dressing up as zombies and handing out candy to curious parade watchers. We’ll also engage anyone who expresses interest in Occupy to give them more information about who we are and why we are there.

A few zombie volunteers will be needed to stand on street corners with Occupy Signs. Awesome double extra points for funny zombie protest signs, like “1% of Zombies eat 40% of the BRAINS!!”

Usually around 4,000 people attend this event. The parade starts at 8pm, but be prepared to be there early as people show up well ahead of time to “stake out” a place along the street.

Anyone who wants to help with Occupy Your Brains (today), please come down for Zombie Prep. We’re planning on getting preparations started at noon, but come down whenever you can. We’ll be cleaning the Occupy area, making signs, getting candy bags ready, and of course doing the make-up and costumes.

Yesterday was Occupy Lexington's one month anniversary. It is the third-oldest Occupation in the country, and vying for title of the Coolest.

Zombie Protest! How can you resist?

Reject this Strange Bedfellow

Here's my rule of thumb: If His Popey Rapeyness likes it, I hate it. Celibacy, forced childbirth, child rape, banning condoms, blaming everything bad on an invisible sky wizard ... hate it, hate it, hate it.

But the worst thing the freakazoid motherfuckers do is attract support from leftists by pretending to give a flying fuck about the non-rich. Because if you're gay or want an abortion or need birth control or want your local priest to stop raping you, tough shit - the Catholic Church hates you and will attack and abuse you.

Don't be fooled. The Vatican is the single richest entity on the planet. It got that way by stripping poor people of their last dime with promises of heaven and threats of hell. It supports the most viciously anti-democratic, un-American repug officials in this country. It loves Rick Santorum. It hates Bernie Sanders. It pours millions into campaigns of hatred against women and gays. It is the epitome of authoritarian male privilege. It invented religious war.

Reject it. Reject it and all its works.

From Think Progress:

With protesters taking to the streets around the world to fight for better income equality and economic opportunities for the poor and middle classes, the Vatican called Monday for an overhaul of world’s financial systems and a return to a global economy based on ethical behavior and “achievement of a universal common good,” the AP reports. While the Vatican has, in the past, criticized uncontrolled capitalism, the new call goes further, decrying “an economic liberalism that spurns all rules and controls.”

The call for greater control and equality in financial markets comes at a time when Republican presidential candidates — many of whom tout their religious credentials on the campaign trail — have called for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law aimed at preventing a crisis similar to that of 2008, and as Republicans in both Congress and on the campaign trail continue to back budget cuts that would eviscerate programs that help the poor. At the same time, protesters spurred by the original Occupy Wall Street demonstrations have brought increasing attention rising income inequality, corporate greed, and tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

The Vatican release is a clear sign that it supports the message of the Occupy Wall Street protests, Vincent J. Miller, the Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton, said in a press release:

“While conservative leaders and several presidential candidates want to eviscerate financial reform, the Vatican has sent a powerful message that prudent regulation of our financial system is a moral priority. I expect Catholic neo-cons who usually present themselves as the defenders of orthodoxy will ignore or scramble to defuse this timely teaching. It’s clear the Vatican stands with the Occupy Wall Street protesters and others struggling to return ethics and good governance to a financial sector grown out of control after 30 years of deregulation.”

This isn’t the first time faith leaders have spoken out against so-called religious conservatives who have prioritized tax cuts for the wealthy and repealing financial regulations over helping low-income Americans. A group of Catholic bishops signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) — both practicing Catholics — during the debt limit fight, denouncing budget cuts that disproportionately hurt the poor. Other religious leaders made similar calls, with Rev. Jim Wallis telling Republicans, “We did not get into fiscal trouble because of poor people. … The poor didn’t cause this. Let’s not make them pay for it.”

UpdateFather Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, wrote in a column today that the Vatican’s statement is “to the left of” every member of Congress and perhaps even the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

No, Mr. Reese: the vatican's statement is not even close to being to the left of members of Congress like Bernie Sanders, Peter DeFazio, Raul Grijalva or Al Franken.

As for the Occupy Wall Street protesters, I am begging them to do something - non-violent but atheistic - to force the vatican to condemn them.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Credit Unions to Goldman Sachs: Fuck You

Well of course they were more polite than that, but I'm sure Goldman heard it as an obscenity.

From Think Progress:

Goldman Sachs Withdraws From Credit Union Fundraiser After Learning Occupy Wall Street Was Being Honored Too

Earlier this month, the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union in New York City held a fundraiser to celebrate its 25th anniversary. It just so happened that this the credit union many of the protesters at Occupy Wall Street (OWS) were using to store funds — and the protest group became an honoree at the dinner. When Goldman Sachs found out that OWS would be at the dinner, it pulled out of the event, along with its $5,000 donation. Despite the threat from the mega-bank to pull its money if OWS would be honored, event organizers decided to go ahead anyway. “Their money was welcome, but not at the price of giving up what we believe in,” said Pablo DeFilippi, associate director of member development at the National Federal of Community Development Credit Unions. “We lost their $5,000, but we have our principles.”

Have you fired your banker yet (and moved your money to a credit union)?

Terrist-killing Jeebus Keeps Kentucky Safe

Kentucky's warriors against commiemuslinterrists don't have to resort to murdering American citizens without due process; they can just pray the motherfuckers into submission.

From the Herald:

The Kentucky Office of Homeland Security has the right to publicly declare "dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth," the state Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

State law requires the Office of Homeland Security to publicize God's benevolent protective powers in its official reports and on a plaque posted outside the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort. State Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, a Southern Baptist minister, placed the "Almighty God" language into the law establishing the office without much notice at the time.

A group of atheists sued after the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote about the law in 2008. They argued that the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions prohibit the government from endorsing religion or conveying messages of mandatory religious belief. In 2009, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate sided with them and struck down the law.

But in a split decision, a three-judge appellate panel ruled Friday that the state law is constitutionally harmless.

The appellate judges compared Kentucky's law to Ohio making "With God, All Things Are Possible" its official state motto, which the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld as constitutional in 2001, they wrote.

"The Kentucky legislature has not attempted to compel belief or participation in any form of religious exercise, nor does it seek to prefer one belief over another. A simple reference to a generic 'God' acknowledges religion in a general way," Judge Laurance VanMeter of Lexington wrote in the majority opinion. VanMeter was joined by Judge Thomas Wine of Louisville.

In a dissenting opinion, Special Judge Ann O'Malley Shake of Louisville said Kentucky's law crossed a constitutional line. Among other things, she said, the law has criminal penalties, including up to 12 months in jail, for anyone who fails to comply.

Unlike the Ohio state motto, which is "passive," Shake wrote, Kentucky's law "is a legislative finding, avowed as factual, that the commonwealth is not safe absent reliance on Almighty God. Further, (the law) places a duty upon the executive director to publicize the assertion while stressing to the public that dependence upon Almighty God is vital, or necessary, in assuring the safety of the commonwealth."

One of the plaintiffs, American Atheists, plans to appeal Friday's decision to the Kentucky Supreme Court, said its president, David Silverman. American Atheists is a national non-profit advocacy group.

The fact that two Kentucky judges have said the law is constitutional and two other judges have disagreed "just shows the very deep division over religion in our society," said Edwin Kagin of Union, an attorney for American Atheists.

"What if the law required that Kentucky acknowledge our reliance on the benevolent protection of Allah? Would everyone still be in favor of it then?" Kagin asked. "Of course not."

Riner, the legislator who added the Almighty God section to the homeland security law, said the nation's founding documents refer to "Our Creator" and "Divine Providence." Kentucky state government should be free to do likewise, he said.

"I'm very thankful for judges who take into account the original intent of our Founders when interpreting the intent of the Constitution," Riner said.

As I wrote three years ago:

You may also believe this. If you do, please paint "We put our faith in god" on your front door, back door, roof and car so that the next time you need help from the actual human beings who work emergency rescue, they'll know to pass you by to help people who put their faith in government services.


Stressing dependence on god is the department's initial duty? Really? Because when I'm trapped under tornado wreckage, or seeking shelter from a train wreck's poisonous gas cloud, or hoping the security at the neighborhood chemical plant is tighter than it looks, what I really want to see first is the Department of Homeland Security's overpaid executives down on their knees praying to an invisible sky wizard.

I'm a die-hard fan of public servants, and will defend them and their work to the death.

But I'll make an exception for those who think their irrational fantasies take precedence over doing their job. Them, I say fire immediately. They can find out for themselves how much their precious private sector appreciates that kind of stupidity.

"America is better off when everyone has had the chance to get ahead "

"The truth is, we can no longer wait for Congress to do its job. The middle-class families who’ve been struggling for years are tired of waiting. They need help now. So where Congress won’t act, I will."

Full transcript here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

From Tahrir to Oakland, in Solidarity

Remember back in February? When Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square carried signs reading: "Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers. One World, One People."

Egyptians know from police brutality, so they're supporting Occupy Oakland.

As they vowed earlier this week to do, Egyptian pro-democracy protesters marched from Tahrir square to the U.S. Embassy today to march in support of Occupy Oakland—and against the type of police brutality witnessed in Oakland on Tuesday night, and commonly experienced in Egypt.

In this post, photos from Egyptian blogger Mohammed Maree, who is there at the march live-tweeting these snapshots. He is a journalist with, a human rights activist, and a veterinarian; all photos are his.

Click here to see the photos.

Protest Like An Egyptian.

"I'll be that spokesman"

If you haven't seen it, here it is: Alan Grayson picking up the Dirty Fucking Hippie gauntlet and slapping the shit out of P.J. O'Rourke with it.

From Grayson's congressional campaign:

The week before last, Alan Grayson appeared on HBO, on Real Time with Bill Maher. The subject was Occupy Wall Street. Bill’s guests mocked the Occupy Wall Street protesters, complaining they didn’t know what the protest was all about.

Grayson had a different point of view:

Grayson: Let me tell what they're talking about. They're complaining about the fact that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago, and nobody's been held responsible for that. Not a single person has been indicted or convicted, for destroying twenty percent of our national net worth, accumulated over two centuries. They're upset about the fact that Wall Street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and the other party caters to them as well. That's the truth of the matter, as you [Bill] have said before. And . . . .

P.J. O'Rourke: Get the man a bongo drum, they've found their spokesman!

Grayson: If I . . .

P.J. O'Rourke: Get your shoes off, get a bongo drum, forget where to go to the bathroom, and it's yours.

Grayson: If I am the spokesman for all the people who think we should NOT have 24 million people in this country who can't find a full-time job; that we should NOT have 50 million people who can't see a doctor when they're sick; that we should NOT have 47 million people of this country who need government help to feed themselves; and that we should NOT have 15 million families who owe more on their mortgage than the value of home, OK, I'll be that spokesman.

The moment was electric. Bill Maher looked at the audience and said, “look, they’re standing!” It was the first standing ovation for a guest in the 10-year history of the show.

The Things Only Government Can Do

Pathetic and infuriating that a smart man like Seamus McGraw doesn't even consider government as his ally against greedy corporations destroying his land and livelihood. This is the great crime of the Democratic Party since 1980: forgetting and denying the fundamental democratic truth that only the government - active, powerful, well-funded government - has the power to stop the Malefactors of Great Wealth from attacking the government's citizens.

Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog:


Seamus McGraw, author of a book about fracking, has an op-ed in today's New York Times about the beginning of the fracking process on land in rural Pennsylvania that's been in his family for forty years, originally as a weekend getaway, later as a farm. I bring this to your attention because of how McGraw concludes the piece: with words that embody the way so many Americans today view power relations in this country.

There will never be enough regulators to police all the trucks and tanks and rigs that will cover the Marcellus from New York State to the Kentucky state line in the next few decades. In the end, the responsibility for monitoring this, for holding the industry to its promises and responsible for its failures, will fall where it has always fallen -- on the shoulders of the people on the ground, the people whose lives will be most directly affected.

Standing there in what used to be our pasture on that light summer night, watching as the machinery of progress blasted the rock a mile beneath my feet, I realized that was what scared me the most. Not that this was inevitable, but that its impact depended so much on me, on whether I had the character to come out from behind the convenient shield of "are you for it or against it" ideology and find the strength, the will and the means to do what I can to make sure this is done in the best way possible.

I still don’t really know the answer.

That's right: in McGraw's view, the responsible for regulation of massive, big-ticket energy exploration rests with the individual.

Obviously, there's quite a bit of truth in his assertion that government isn't up to the tesk of regulating this industry -- but what offends me is that McGraw seems to accept this as not only inevitable but morally right. He, as one guy, is supposed to have the "character" to stand up to huge corporate interests who can use or abuse scientific (and legal and fiscal and regulatory) knowledge as they see fit, relying on batteries of experts -- and if he doesn't prevent fracking from destroying his land, he thinks it's his own damn fault. Government is let off the hook; the notion of group action is never discussed, nor is there any mention of the use of advocacy groups, or appeals to the public, if the process doesn't work.

This is how the system has too many of us thinking. I'm reminded of the way we're routinely told that the Wall Street meltdown happened because "we" -- all of us -- were too greedy. No one with vast amounts of money, according to this view, had a special responsibility to prevent disaster, even though those could make disaster happen all by themselves, whereas we couldn't (certainly not without their help). If government regulators didn't see trouble coming and save us from the full impact, well, we deserved it.

The powers that be are only too happy to have us continue thinking like this; we'll never hold them accountable as long as we do.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Smedley Butler, the Bonus Marchers and Scott Olsen

The Oakland police riot that nearly killed Marine Iraq veteran Scott Olsen is just the latest chapter in the long, ugly history of Wall Street's uniformed thugs attacking veterans who are peacefully protesting.

John Nichols at The Nation:

US Marines swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

After Scott Olsen swore that oath in 2006, he served two tours of duty in Iraq before being discharged in 2010.

Olsen survived Iraq. But he was seriously wounded Tuesday when he joined an Oakland, California, protest against the removal of the Occupy Wall Street–inspired encampment in that Bay Area city. The clashes between activists and the Oakland Police turned violent late Tuesday, during what the San Francisco Chronicle described as “a protracted street confrontation between protesters and police officers, who set off tear gas and used shotguns to fire projectiles designed to inflict pain but not kill.”

The precise number of injuries is unclear. But Oakland’s Highland Hospital confirmed Wednesday that Olsen, 24, was in serious condition.

Olsen, who now works as a system administrator for a software firm, had joined the Oakland protests with fellow members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, an advocacy group that has long sought to draw attention to issues of homelessness and unemployment among Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Keith Shannon, who deployed with Olsen to Iraq, “Scott was marching with the 99 percent because he felt corporations and banks had too much control over our government, and that they weren’t being held accountable for their role in the economic downturn, which caused so many people to lose their jobs and their homes.”

IVAW’s reports from the scene—along with agonizing video footage that features cries of “medic!”—suggest that Olsen “sustained a skull fracture after being shot in the head with a police projectile while peacefully participating in an Occupy Oakland march.”

The video footage of appears to show Olsen lying wounded when a police officer what looks to be a tear gas canister at protesters who are trying to help the former Marine.

IVAW, which is demanding that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan investigate the incident and allow peaceful protests to continue, featured a statement on its website Wednesday night that read: “It’s ironic that days after Obama’s announcement of the end of the Iraq War, Scott faced a veritable war zone in the streets of Oakland last night. He and other protesters were surrounded by explosions and smoke (tear gas) going off around him as people nearby carried him injured while yelling for a medic. This disturbing video of the incident shows how veterans are now fighting a war at home.”

In fact, it’s not so ironic. Returning veterans who have sought to exercise their rights at home have, at many points in American history, been the victims of violence—especially when they have made demands of Wall Street. When a “Bonus Army” consisting of thousands of World War I veterans camped near the Capitol in Washington, DC, in the summer of 1932—demanding payment of bonuses they had been promised for their service, and that they needed to survive in those Depression Days—they were attacked first by the police and then by the US Army.

Two veterans were killed. One of them, Eric Carlson, was from Oakland, California.

The revulsion at the attacks on the veterans in 1932 would eventually lead to a decision by the Congress of $2 billion to pay immediate bonuses to the World War I veterans.

Retired Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, a two-time recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, joined the Bonus Army at its encampment and supported its demands. Bulter is today remembered for his epic denunciation of the military-industrial complex:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

But after the attack on the Bonus Army, he issued an even blunter declaration, announcing in 1933 that: “I believe in…taking Wall St. by the throat and shaking it up.”

Today’s Occupy Wall Street protests are, perhaps, less aggressive than those that came before. But the veterans who join today’s protests are being met with the same violence—and disrespect—that the Bonus Army experienced.

“I think it is a sad state of affairs when a Marine can’t assemble peacefully in the streets without getting injured,” says Jose Sanchez, the executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Major General Smedley Butler would surely agree.

Support Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War. Find your local occupation and join or support it, too.

ACLU Out to Corral Out-of-Control ICE

The last decade has left the Fourth Amendment battered and gasping for life, but not yet dead. So "Warrants? We don't need no steenkin' warrants" is still a lie.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

Wingnuts are so fixated on the Second Amendment, they completely miss the Fourth. With the increasing militarization of police departments and federal agencies, such legal formalities as warrants go right out the window:

On the night of October 20, 2010, Angel Enrique and Jesus Antonio were in bed in their small, two-bedroom apartment in the Clairmont complex in Nashville. The doors and windows were all shut and locked.

Suddenly there was a loud banging at the door and voices shouting "Police!" and "Policia!" When no one answered, the agents tried to force the door open. Scared, Jesus hid in a closet. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents began hitting objects against the bedroom windows, trying to break in. Without a search warrant and without consent, the ICE agents eventually knocked in the front door and shattered a window, shouting racial slurs and storming into the bedrooms, holding guns to their heads. When asked if they had a warrant, one agent reportedly said, "We don't need a warrant, we're ICE," and, gesturing to his genitals, "the warrant is coming out of my balls."

The Fourth Amendment strictly prohibits warrantless intrusions into private homes and the Constitution's protections apply to both citizens and non-citizens alike. In the absence of a judicially authorized warrant, there must be voluntary and knowing consent; ICE officers forcing themselves into someone's home does not constitute consent.

The ACLU and ACLU of Tennessee this week filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of fifteen residents of the apartment complex who were subjected to this large-scale, warrantless raid by ICE agents and Metro Nashville police officers.

If you could have only one constitutional amendment to protect America from becoming Saudi Arabia or Syria, it would have to be the Fourth. More even than the First, the Fourth Amendment's protections against unwarranted searches is the last bulwark against the Security State.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oakland Cops Sow Occupy Dragon's Teeth *

The saving grace of authoritarian fascists is that they always overreact and do something suicidally stupid.

Your latest example is Oakland.

Ken Layne at Wonkette:

Faced with endless photographic documentation of the insane violence of 500 riot cops against a group of protesters in Oakland, the Washington Post editors proved they are good Kaplan 1% corporate lackeys and choose this picture of … a riot cop petting a kitten. Not just any kitten, though. According to the Washington Post, the shameful excuse for a newspaper in the nation’s capital, it’s a kitten that was cruelly left there by the evil protesters. Hooray for the cops! Protesters hate kittens.

And via Boots Riley, here’s what happens when the cops shoot tear gas canisters into crowds:

Video here.

Chicano journalist Rubén Salazar was assassinated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with a tear gas canister shot through his skull, back in 1970. He had been told by the cops that his coverage of the anti-war Chicano movement was too sympathetic, and he was killed at point blank range by a sheriff’s deputy who was never prosecuted.

More at Wonkette from Kirsten Boyd Johnson:

Jesus H. Christ. First it’s a lot of BANG BANG BANG and screaming as tear gas fills the air followed by GRAPHIC (there, you’re warned if you’re at work) footage of former Marine Scott Olsen from Veterans for Peace being carried away by fellow protesters with blood covering his head after being hit in the face by some type of police projectile. The Contra Costa Times mentions “unconfirmed reports that flash-bang grenades and wood dowels were launched at protesters,” items that cops assume would, what… tickle the protesters if fired directly at their heads? No, the asshole cops know exactly what they are doing, and the Guardian is now reporting that Olsen is currently in critical condition with a skull fracture. We’re glad you survived Iraq, Scott, and it’s unbelievably sad that we now have to hope you survive the Oakland Police Department.

Meanwhile, the San Jose Mercury News reports that the main library in Oakland decided to stay open in support as the protesters gathered there:

On Wednesday morning, library Director Carmen Martinez said the City had supported her decision to keep the library open.

In the early afternoon Tuesday, hours before the protest arrived at the library steps, City Administrator Deanna Santana called Martinez and asked how she wanted to handle the situation, Martinez said.

“I said that we are a symbol of civil society for a lot of groups, including this one, and the folks who protested against the libraries budget cuts, and we will remain open as along as service can be continued without disruption,” Martinez said. “Deanna said she understood and respected that.”

Police also called to ask if the library needed any help or backup, Martinez said, but she declined.

That’s cute, the police thought that the library needed protection from protesters. Evil corporate banks, libraries, whatever, same thing.

OccupyOakland is also reporting rumors that not all of the police are excited to participate in the OPD’s campaign to smash open the heads of people protesting for their crappy old economic justice, and that some are resigning in protest of last night’s brutal clash.

But the best comment I've seen is from Blue Girl at They Gave Us A Republic:

Capitalism Killed Communism, and Now It's Coming for Democracy.

Last night the police rioted in Oakland, California. Under the imprimatur and the color of "law and order" they attacked people who were peaceably assembled with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Those are tactics not normally associated with American police, but with third-world banana-republic enforcers of the status quo and the Israeli Defense Forces. No, strike that -- they will be using IDF tactics when they fire real bullets and shoot Americans in the head at point-blank range. And that's coming. You know it is.

Because once again, the dirty fucking hippies are right, and the authoritarian jackboots can't fucking stand it.

Find your local occupation here. Join them if you can. If not, then provide whatever help you can. At the very least, don't let anyone get away with saying the protesters in Oakland deserved what they got.

* Read the legend here.

The Fraudsters Are Pentagon Contractors, Not Hungry Children

By @KYYellowDog

You don't even have to do your own research on public policy anymore. Whatever congressional repugs are condemning is brilliant policy and an effective program that should be expanded, and whatever they are protecting and defending is a fraudulent, super-wasteful boondoggle that should be eliminated.

From Think Progress:

It’s shockingly ignorant at best and dishonest at worst for Sessions — the ranking GOP member of the Senate Budget Committee — to completely ignore the role the economy has played on food stamp usage. The cost of the program has jumped because more Americans are out of work and wages are down, thus more people need assistance.

Food prices have also gone up, adding additional costs. But the cost of the program will come down on its own as the economy recovers and more people can afford to feed themselves.

In fact, the food stamp program has been critical for reducing poverty and pumping money into local economies during the down economy, so cutting it now would not only take food out of peoples’ mouths, but could slow down the recovery. No one is trying to “double the program every three years” as Sessions claims. (Currently, nearly one in five Alabamians is on Food Stamps.)

And while the senator suggests the program has grown due to fraud, in fact, errors in the food stamp program — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) –are currently at an all-time low, accounting for less than three percent of the program’s cost. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:

To ensure that benefits are provided only to eligible households and in the proper amounts, SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program and, in recent years, has achieved its lowest error rates on record.

In fiscal year 2009, even as caseloads were rising, states set new record lows for error rates. The net loss due to errors equaled only 2.7 percent of program costs in 2009. There is no evidence that program errors are driving up SNAP spending.

It’s worth noting that while Sessions claims the country can’t afford to feed the hungry, he has fought to preserve the Bush tax cuts for wealthy, subsides for big oil companies, and demanded new tax cuts for corporations, all of which also contribute to the deficit.

Meanwhile Sessions and his fellow scorched-earthers are defending to the death the right of defense contractors to rob the taxpayers blind.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

This report comes out while members of the congressional supercommittee are pissing and moaning about how we can't possibly cut any more money from the Defense department. These numbers seem to indicate otherwise:

How often does the Pentagon award contracts to defense companies that have already been proven to be defrauding taxpayers? A report the Department of Defense did at the request of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reveals an answer that should make Washington very uncomfortable.

The report, released today, showed that hundreds of defense contractors found guilty of civil fraud received more than $1.1 trillion in defense contracts since 2001. The study took into account only companies that were found to have defrauded taxpayers of more than $1 million dollars.

More than $573 billion went directly to companies that were guilty of defrauding taxpayers, and when you factor in the awards that went to the parent companies of those contractors, the total is $1.1 trillion. Of that $573 billion, more than two-thirds—$398 billion—went to companies after they had been found guilty of fraud.
Companies convicted of “hard-core criminal fraud” received $255 million in contracts, $33 million of it after conviction.

Some of the country’s biggest defense contractors were implicated. “The ugly truth is that virtually all of the major defense contractors in this country for years have been engaged in systemic fraudulent behavior, while receiving hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money,” said Sanders. According to the report:

Lockheed Martin in 2008 paid $10.5 million to settle charges that it defrauded the government by submitting false invoices on a multi-billion dollar contract connected to the Titan IV space launch vehicle program. That didn’t seem to sour the relationship between Lockheed and the Defense Department, which gave Lockheed $30.2 billion in contracts in fiscal year 2009, more than ever before.

In another case, Northrop Grumman paid $62 million in 2005 to settle charges that it “engaged in a fraud scheme by routinely submitting false contract proposals,” and “concealed basic problems in its handling of inventory, scrap and attrition.”
Despite the serious charges of pervasive and repeated fraud, Northrop Grumman received $12.9 billion in contracts the next year, 16 percent more than the year before.

Save Social Security - Support "Scrap the Cap"

Kenneth Quinnell at Crooks and Liars:

The Economic Opportunity Institute and Social Security Works released a new video this week that features two senior citizens rapping "Scrap the Cap," a reference to the easiest and most logical solution to the long-term funding of Social Security. The organizations are quick to point out that talk of a 'crisis' in Social Security is nonsense since the program currently has a $2.6 trillion surplus, and that scrapping the cap on taxable income for Social Security is a good fix for the long-term projections of a funding shortage. Currently, everyone paying into Social Security only pays taxes on the first $106,800 of their income and nothing on any income above that, effectively meaning that wealthier citizens pay no Social Security taxes on most of their income. Eliminating this cap would make the program solvent for a much longer time period.

Anyone who supports "Scrapping the Cap," can take action on the web site related to the video.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not My Definition of "Cakewalk"

From Think Progress:

8 years, 260 days since Secretary of State Colin Powell presented evidence of Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons program

8 years, 215 days since the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq

8 years, 175 days since President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln

U.S. military fatalities

30,182 U.S. military injuries

468 contractor fatalities

103,142 – 112,708 documented civilian deaths

2.8 million internally displaced Iraqis

$806 billion in federal funding for the Iraq War through FY2011

$3 – $5 trillion in total economic cost to the United States of the Iraq war according to economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Blimes

$60 billion in U.S. expenditures lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001

0 weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq

Letter From Occupy Lexington

There is more sense and leadership in this one letter from the Occupy Lexington General Assembly than the entire Kentucky General Assembly has managed in the past couple of decades.

David M.F. Shankula at Barefoot and Progressive:

Leland Conway has a radio show and so, loosely and liberally speaking, that makes him some sort of local personality here in Lexington. Good for him. He wrote some hilarious words a while back about how people who believe the economic state of America is, somehow, uneven and unbalanced (to the point of being ready to topple over) are stupid.

Well, this morning, the Herald-Leader published a letter in response from Mike Davis, one of the good Lexingtonians who have been Occupying our own little corner of Wall Street’s America. You can read it here, or, as written, below:

And as always… join in, follow along and give them some love: Occupy Lexington.

Occupy Lexington General Assembly

The following is a direct response to some of the misinformation regarding the Occupy movement printed in the Herald Leader op-ed written by one Leland Conway this past Monday.

First of all, I’m here nearly all the time, and after two days of inquiries I can’t find a single organizer who has even seen you here, let alone spoken to you. If you had spoken to anyone in an organizational role, then you would know that ending capitalism is not a stated goal. You would also be aware that none here advocate “government command and control of the economy” although we’re quite against the economy’s current command and control of our government.

As you deride us for our current lack of focused talking points, consider this: Without stated demands to rally behind, people have taken to the streets in over 1,300 cities across the world. A conversation is happening in the shadows of banks and statehouses which will result in creative solutions to the injustices that drove us to the street and to action.

Here’s something you got right: your assertion that we should be angry about crony capitalism. If by crony capitalism you mean the current system by which vast sums of money are required to run for office, resulting in our representatives’ accountability to their wealthy donors over their constituents, then yes—that’s exactly what we’re angry about.

The problem isn’t “government meddling,” but the laissez-faire approach to capitalism, which leaves corporate power unchecked by failing to institute meaningful protections for the consumer and citizen against fraud and abuse. Like yourself, we all believe strongly in numerous basic freedoms as a principle of human existence. The distinction is that we do not include the freedom to oppress among them.

Moreover, laissez-faire capitalism has failed to enrich our lives. It reserves initiative for those already empowered. It stifles innovation that threatens already established revenue streams. It sees individuals as numbers to be crunched, commodities to be bought and sold, and tools for the enrichment of those at the top.
If corporations are entirely free to do as they please, how are actual people to be free from the whims of those corporations?

“Profit is the goal.” You said it right there, brother. Profit is the goal. Not a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, but profit. Not consumer safety, but profit.
Not the general welfare of the people, but profit. For someone who claims to have no idea what we’re talking about, you’ve paraphrased our grievances quite succinctly.
As to your claim that jobs and economic growth are guaranteed byproducts: Look around you. If our system guaranteed either, it stands in serious breach of contract.

You went on to make several points regarding misdeeds by the Obama administration.
Rather than debate these with you, I’ll briefly explain why they are moot. Pay attention, because this is important. We do not endorse any politician or party. This is not about Obama. If we were interested in defending his policies, it’s unlikely we’d be in the streets right now.

Mr Conway, the fact is you didn’t do your homework. You only talked to four people.
You grossly misrepresented our intentions, our grievances, and our proposals. If you had spent more time on research and follow-up, you could have printed that we are fed up with a socioeconomic system that values money over people. You could have told your readers that we want to see the power of the vote hold sway over the power of the dollar. You could have offered a fair, fact-based analysis. Instead, you built a town full of straw men and laid waste to it with your faulty assumptions.
Congratulations, Mr. Conway. You’ve managed to win a debate with yourself.

That being said, I invite you in good faith to join us on the corner. I’d love to have a conversation with you about creating a system capable of addressing the issues that divide this country ideologically.


Mike Davis
Lexington General Assembly

Find your local occupation here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

We'll Have Some of Those

Via Rumproast:

California Takes the Lead Again

The Tenth Amendment fanatics among the repugs should celebrate this initiative by a state exercising its rights. But they won't, because this time a state is not attacking non-white people, non-straight people, non-rich people or non-male people.

This state is showing the nation how to fight global climate change.

From Firedoglake:

California’s Air Resources Board has formally approved a cap and trade system to minimize climate change pollution, becoming the first state in the nation with a cap and trade program. Legislation authorizing a cap and trade system was passed in California back in 2006, but after multiple reviews, the CARB finally approved the program.

The California Air Resources Board voted unanimously today to adopt rules for a program that will use the trading of pollution permits on the open market to control carbon emissions from a wide cross section of industries, including oil and gas companies, electric utilities, transportation companies, farmers and cement makers.

“We’ve done something important,” said Mary Nichols, the ARB’s chairman. “We will look back at this as an important date in California’s transition to a clean energy economy.”

The cap-and-trade system, which will begin operating in January 2013, is a key component of the state’s landmark climate change law, which aims to reduce carbon emissions to 1990′s level by 2020.

The plan places a hard cap on the amount of carbon dioxide produced by 350 of the state’s largest industrial polluters. The state then provides a limited amount of carbon pollution allowances that can be bought and sold on an open market.
Under the plan, companies that pollute less then their limit can sell their unused allowances to companies that pollute heavily, creating market incentives for everyone to reduce emissions voluntarily.

This was a program passed by a Democratic legislature and signed by a Republican governor. Cap and trade generally was seen as a counterpoint to a command and control program, allowing market forces to spur innovation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and allowing companies to purchase emission credits, the funds of which go toward additional climate change programs. There should be nothing terribly controversial about cap and trade except perhaps that it doesn’t go far enough, because it allows polluters to purchase the right to fill the air with a certain level of pollution. In fact, one of the major detractors of cap and trade in California were environmental justice advocates who worry about what it will mean for their communities.

Instead, you have the right opposing cap and trade, invoking the giant boogeymen of higher energy prices and relocation away from California and the government as a boot stomping on a human face forever.

The truth is that climate change mitigation programs are working in California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. San Francisco’s carbon levels are 12% under 1990 output, for example. And that’s before cap and trade. Has the economy suffered as a result? The economy has dipped in California generally from the recession. But this law makes California poised to become a market leader in clean technology and innovation, mostly out of necessity. It offers the potential for new industries to flourish. And it will reduce public health problems from pollution.

There is a danger in the lack of a comprehensive system. California is the world’s 8th-largest economy, but cap and trade here and a carbon tax in Australia isn’t enough to stop the planet from boiling. There’s no hope of leadership at the federal level on this anymore, at least not in the near future. The only thing that has reduced carbon emissions lately has been the recession, and its attendant lowered economic – and energy – output.

But climate change is happening. Even Koch-funded climate skeptic studies admit that now. And California doing something about it may be inadequate, but it’s better than the alternative.

Not so long ago, state initiatives like this paved the way for federal legislation. But that was back in the days when repugs still acknowledged reality.

Liberals go with what works, not with what belongs in Bizarro World.

The Parasites Are Running Scared

It's cold and wet and nasty out there for Occupiers, but you've got the bastards on the run. Don't give up now.

Kevin Zeese at Nation of Change:

Below is a memorandum leaked to the Freedom Plaza occupation of Washington, DC that comes from a corporate consultant and shows the fear they are developing of the Occupy Movement. The memorandum from Fay Feeney, a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors, describes how corporations should prepare to combat the Occupation Movement.

Corporations fear their leaders being held personally accountable for the actions of concentrated corporate interests. They especially fear their names and addresses being known and their board rooms being invaded by
Feeney suggests: "board members and corporate counsels prepare themselves for a bumpy ride by future-proofing their companies." Among the steps taken to protect themselves is to use social networks to gather intelligence so "board chairs and CEOs should always remain one step ahead in protecting their boardroom."

These executives should be afraid. There is a legitimate anger at the unfairness of the economy. Where the 400 wealthiest Americans have wealth equal to 154 million Americans, while paying an average of 17.4% in federal taxes. Many working Americans pay double that rate. The unfairness in the economy and economic insecurity of Americans is energizing this movement and people will want those who collapsed the economy for their personal and corporate profits to be held accountable.

Read the whole thing.

No surprise that the fear and loathing on Wall Street is exposing the juvenile stupidity of the people who think they are Masters of the Universe.

Ken Layne at Wonkette:

What are the nation’s nervous mid-level financial managers up to this week? Oh, just freaking the hell out, and making weirdly vague flyers on the office copier to dump on the throngs of protesters outside every day.

Wonkette operatives from the Occupy Chicago protests sent along this delightful photograph proving that the Banking Class is finally terrified of the harmless, jobless students and workers milling about day after day forever beneath those glass towers soon to be repossessed by either China or Justice.

But what does this dumb slogan mean? “WE ARE THE 1% PAYING FOR THIS.” It was printed on many sheets of paper, apparently by the Chicago Board of Trade. Paying for what? The office copier? The protests themselves? So is the Chicago Board of Trade somehow the real George Soros behind the Communist Insurrection?

And were any actual 1-percenters involved in this dumb fear stunt? We are thinking, “Ha ha, of course not, because this has all the marks of Asshole $100K Salaryman on it.” You need to have annual income of $2,196,124 to be in the Top 1% of U.S. earners, according to the latest federal statistics from the Social Security Administration. The people making $2 million plus are not running off copies in the office insulting the protesters — because the people making over $2 million a year are keeping as low a profile as possible right now, excepting those running for president. They get Secret Service protection.

Find your local Occupation here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Banks Dumping Toxic Assets on Public

Used to be you had to be an unscrupulous hauler of hazardous chemical waste to be caught dumping poison on public property.

Now all you have to be is a giant unregulated bank with too much bad debt on the books.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

And this is why we've been screaming about regulating derivatives! I kind of think that the Occupy movement is going to have something to say about this corporate sleight of hand that came to light earlier this week. Do they really think we're going to look the other way and let them stick us with a $74 trillion bill -- just to let good old "too big to fail" Bank of America off the hook? I don't think so:

If you have any doubt that Bank of America is in trouble, this development should settle it. I’m late to this important story broken [...] by Bob Ivry of Bloomberg, but both Bill Black (who I interviewed just now) and I see this as a desperate (or at the very best, remarkably inept) move by Bank of America’s management.

The short form via Bloomberg:

Bank of America Corp. (BAC), hit by a credit downgrade last month, has moved derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a subsidiary flush with insured deposits, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation…

Bank of America’s holding company — the parent of both the retail bank and the Merrill Lynch securities unit — held almost $75 trillion of derivatives at the end of June, according to data compiled by the OCC. About $53 trillion, or 71 percent, were within Bank of America NA, according to the data, which represent the notional values of the trades.

That compares with JPMorgan’s deposit-taking entity, JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, which contained 99 percent of the New York-based firm’s $79 trillion of notional derivatives, the OCC data show.

Now you would expect this move to be driven by adverse selection, that it, that BofA would move its WORST derivatives, that is, the ones that were riskiest or otherwise had high collateral posting requirements, to the sub. Bill Black confirmed that even though the details were sketchy, this is precisely what took place.

And remember, as we have indicated, there are some “derivatives” that should be eliminated, period. We’ve written repeatedly about credit default swaps, which have virtually no legitimate economic uses (no one was complaining about the illiquidity of corporate bonds prior to the introduction of CDS; this was not a perceived need among investors). They are an inherently defective product, since there is no way to margin adequately for “jump to default” risk and have the product be viable economically. CDS are systematically underpriced insurance, with insurers guaranteed to go bust periodically, as AIG and the monolines demonstrated.
The reason that commentators like Chris Whalen were relatively sanguine about Bank of America likely becoming insolvent as a result of eventual mortgage and other litigation losses is that it would be a holding company bankruptcy. The operating units, most importantly, the banks, would not be affected and could be spun out to a new entity or sold. Shareholders would be wiped out and holding company creditors (most important, bondholders) would take a hit by having their debt haircut and partly converted to equity.

This changes the picture completely. This move reflects either criminal incompetence or abject corruption by the Fed. Even though I’ve expressed my doubts as to whether Dodd Frank resolutions will work, dumping derivatives into depositaries pretty much guarantees a Dodd Frank resolution will fail. Remember the effect of the 2005 bankruptcy law revisions: derivatives counterparties are first in line, they get to grab assets first and leave everyone else to scramble for crumbs. So this move amounts to a direct transfer from derivatives counterparties of Merrill to the taxpayer, via the FDIC, which would have to make depositors whole after derivatives counterparties grabbed collateral. It’s well nigh impossible to have an orderly wind down in this scenario. You have a derivatives counterparty land grab and an abrupt insolvency. Lehman failed over a weekend after JP Morgan grabbed collateral.

But it’s even worse than that. During the savings & loan crisis, the FDIC did not have enough indeposit insurance receipts to pay for the Resolution Trust Corporation wind-down vehicle. It had to get more funding from Congress. This move paves the way for another TARP-style shakedown of taxpayers, this time to save depositors. No Congressman would dare vote against that. This move is Machiavellian, and just plain evil.

Don't be silly! This is just one of our precious zillionaire job-creators creating jobs.

Shamelessly Lying About Regulation

In case anyone forgot, it was the DE-regulation of Wall Street in 1999 that caused the Great Recession and destroyed 10 million American jobs. Since 1935, the Glass-Steagall Act had protected bankers from their own greed and stupidity by keeping commercial banks out of the stock gambling business. Repealing Glass-Steagall handed the keys of the economy to the drunk, stoned teenagers of the finance industry and let them take off.

Regulations protect not just consumers (clean air, clean water, safe food, safe drugs) but also businesses - especially small businesses who need protection from the corporate behemoths who would otherwise crush them.

Steve Benen:

There’s been a fair amount of work done lately to help demonstrate just how wrong Republicans are about regulations holding the economy back — this paper from the Economic Policy Institute’s Lawrence Mishel is terrific — but folks should definitely take the time to review this piece from Bruce Bartlett.

As Bartlett, an economist and a veteran of the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations, explained, Republicans have been told to argue that freeing the private sector of consumer safeguards and worker protections will reduce “uncertainty.” Unfortunately for the GOP, from a policy perspective, they’re living in fantasy land.

Evidence supporting Mr. Cantor’s contention that deregulation would increase unemployment is very weak. For some years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has had a program that tracks mass layoffs. In 2007, the program was expanded, and businesses were asked their reasons for laying off workers. Among the reasons offered was “government regulations/intervention.” There is only partial data for 2007, but we have data since then through the second quarter of this year. […]

As one can see, the number of layoffs nationwide caused by government regulation is minuscule and shows no evidence of getting worse during the Obama administration. Lack of demand for business products and services is vastly more important.

These results are supported by surveys. During June and July, Small Business Majority asked 1,257 small-business owners to name the two biggest problems they face. Only 13 percent listed government regulation as one of them. Almost half said their biggest problem was uncertainty about the future course of the economy — another way of saying a lack of customers and sales.

Surveys from major news outlets, including conservative institutions like the Wall Street Journal, and the National Federation of Independent Business found the same thing: the private sector is concerned about customers and demand, not regulations.

Bruce concluded, “In my opinion, regulatory uncertainty is a canard invented by Republicans that allows them to use current economic problems to pursue an agenda supported by the business community year in and year out. In other words, it is a simple case of political opportunism, not a serious effort to deal with high unemployment.”

An Associated Press analysis published this week reached the identical conclusion: the private sector isn’t being held back by regulations; companies “aren’t hiring because there isn’t enough consumer demand.” Republican economic policies, of course, intend to weaken demand, on purpose, because they simply don’t believe this is the problem behind weak growth.

This is Big Government regulation:

From AP:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Federal regulators are seeking comments as they target a hazard in underground coal mines blamed for dozens of deaths.

A proposed rule from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration addresses systems meant to warn miners when they get too close to continuous mining machines.
The agency is holding a Thursday public hearing for the proposal in Charleston.

Officials say run-ins with these machines killed 30 miners and injured another 220 between 1984 and last year. Most of those killed were operating these huge machines via remote control.

Note that none of Kentucky's Big Coal Apologists, those Brave Defenders of Our Miners Against Job Killing Regulation, Senators Mitch Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, not to mention Governor Steve Beshear and his challenger David Williams, have anything to say about this blatant horrific Murder of Our FreeDumbs by the commiemuslinkenyanterrist Usurper and his socialist minions in the bureaucracy.

Financiers Double Down on Greed

Many years ago, back when banks and Wall Street were tightly regulated and their profits were large but not obscene, Molly Ivins wrote: "Bankers have hearts the size of carroway seeds, and bankers as a group are dumb."

Deregulation and the ensuing astronomical profits have made them even more stupid.

Jim Hightower on Wall Street's enduring cluelessness:

Astonishingly, some Wall Streeters continue to be clueless about what the Occupy Wall Street movement is protesting. Yoo-hoo, Streeters: Note that the movement's name has the term "Wall Street" in it.

While there is a plethora of particular issues being raised by the protesters -- from the corrupting power of corporate money in our elections to the demise of middle-class wages -- the unifying theme is that each one adds to the rising tide of economic inequality that's enriching the most privileged few by knocking down America's workaday majority. And, Mr. and Ms. Streeter, guess who is the most powerful perpetrators of this greed-fueled disparity: Yes, you.

Perhaps an example would help you grasp the obvious. Even as the protest was spreading in mid-October to hundreds of cities, tone-deaf executives at Bank of America announced three moves:

One, to goose up their own extravagant pay, they're socking financially stressed debit-card users with a new $5 a month fee.

Second, they're dumping 30,000 of the bank's worker bees onto America's already swollen unemployment rolls. Goodbye, and good luck finding another job.

Third, two top executives who are departing the bank are being handed golden parachutes totaling $11 million.

In the midst of this, Steve Bartlett opened his mouth. A former Congress-critter who was promoted to be Wall Street's top Washington lobbyist, he is a perfect symbol of the infuriating corrupt coziness between financial elites and lawmakers. Yet Bartlett blithely says, "We (don't) see ourselves as the target (of the protests)."

After all, he explains, Wall Street "has to be well capitalized and well financed for the economy to recover."

Golly, Steve, I think we capitalized you extremely well. What part of the public's multitrillion-dollar bailout of the Street's elite did you not see? We the People see every glaring dime of it. And we also see that rather than helping our economy recover, you're now lobbying Congress to kill Wall Street reforms so banksters can grab even more at our expense.

Yet the most befuddled Wall Streeter of all is -- big surprise -- the richest guy.

In assessing the spreading public protest against the rampaging greed of today's corporate and financial elite, John Paulson turns out to be as confused as a goat on Astroturf. Oh, he gets it that the people's anger is directed at hedge fund profiteers like him, but he claims that riff-raff like us are simply confused on the virtue of accumulated wealth.

While it's true that he raked in nearly $5 billion in personal pay last year (the largest single haul in Wall Street history), and while it's true that his riches flow not from advances to benefit humanity, but from rigged Wall Street casino games, he asserts that it's the amassing of wealth itself that serves the public good.

It's unfair, Paulson scolds, that protesters demonstrated in front of his 28,000-square-foot, $15 million mansion on New York's Upper East Side, targeting him as an exemplar of plutocratic excess. Don't they know that billionaires like him pay taxes, "providing huge benefits to everyone in our city?" Besides, he points out that he's not merely a billionaire, but one of those "job creators," as Republican leaders prefer to call corporate chieftains these days.

Paulson brags that his hedge fund "has created over 100 high-paying jobs in New York City since its formation." Wow -- 100 jobs in a city of over 8 million people. Thanks, John, our economy wouldn't be the same without you!

When it comes down to it, all that the Paulson-clique really wants is a little love -- a small show of gratitude for all that the richest 1 percent is doing for us 99 percent of Americans by making themselves ever-richer.

"Instead of vilifying our most successful businesses," he wrote recently in a plaintive press release, "we should be supporting them and encouraging them."

See, protesters, you're gonna make John cry. You should be ashamed -- except that he does have $15 billion in net worth to dry those tears.

Those ACORN Vote Fraudsters Will Try Anything

Thank goodness vote-suppressing repugs are everywhere protecting the white male straight Xian property owner vote from being diluted by pathetic olds who cannot even stand in line for six hours.

Ryan J. Reilly at TPM:

If you’re trying to avoid being disenfranchised by your state’s voter ID law, it’s usually a good idea to avoid being a minority, a college student or poor. As it turns out you also probably shouldn’t be 91-years-old and have trouble standing for a long period of time.

Tennessee resident Virginia Lasater found out the hard way after she was unable to get the photo ID required to vote in her state because she wasn’t able to stand in a long line at a DMV:

Lasater told The Daily News Journal that she has voted and worked in campaigns for 70 years. She recently moved to Murfreesboro and on Wednesday registered to vote at the local election commission.

A new law requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Since Lasater doesn’t have a photo on her driver’s license, she went to get one. But the testing center was packed and there were no chairs available.

Her son says a clerk told them there was nothing they could do.

Since Tennessee isn’t covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, there’s not much the Justice Department can do about the law until after the 2012 elections. But expect to hear a lot more of these type of stories over the next 13 months.

Spare Us From Humanist Chaplains

As we see today with our local Occupations, people make their own communities as needed, in the form that best suits them. No formal structure or priest-like leadership required.

But oh how the authoritarians in political parties, law enforcement, journalism and religion hate such disorganized freedom.

And so they must find some way to force the freethinkers to conform.

Tom Flynn at Free Inquiry:

Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good. A new campaign sweep-ing the humanist/atheist/freethought movement exemplifies this dilemma. The campaign is well meant, but I fear it pursues a seductive short-term benefit at the expense of greater long-term goals. At the same time, it actively endangers principles that secular humanists value highly. Along the way, it shows us clearly where today’s dividing line between religious humanists and secular humanists is drawn.

I refer to an issue that only a few years ago was on nobody’s radar scope: humanist chaplains in the military. Servicemen and -women who live without religion compose one of the larger “life stance groups” within America’s armed forces. A movement to broaden military chaplaincy to include them is gaining sudden traction. The cause has its own specialist organization, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), a full-fledged member organization of the Secular Coalition of America. This past spring, MAAF was the subject of a front-page story in the New York Times, among much other attention in the mainstream media and in cyberspace.

At first glance, making military chaplaincy more humanist- and atheist-friendly seems like a no-brainer. Why shouldn’t military nonbelievers have the same access as believers to the counseling, mentoring, and the other kinds of support chaplains provide?

At second glance, secular humanists recognize that this stream surges over treacherous rocks.


So, what should secular humanists campaign for in this area? First and foremost, I’d suggest that instead of pressing for nonbelievers to be admitted to the chaplain corps, we should campaign for nonreligious servicemembers to be exempted from required interaction with chaplains. It should be understood that chaplains are there to serve servicemembers who happen to be religious; nonreligious ones should have a swift and painless way of wiring around them. This would necessarily require making scientific mental-health practitioners more easily available without chaplain referral. That might mean recruiting more of them, and it would surely mean discarding those elements of the current system that stigmatize servicemembers who seek genuine scientific counseling or therapy. Finally, a confidential path to counseling needs to be available for servicemembers who prefer not to exploit the chaplain’s clergy confidentiality.

And yes, that’s a big order. But I can’t help seeing it as a more worthy goal than campaigning for an oxymoronic humanist/atheist chaplaincy.

People who reject religion as a category have no business becoming chaplains. If we succeed in doing so, we should not be surprised if many in the larger culture find our claims to live without religion ringing hollow.

In fact, if the campaign for humanist chaplaincy succeeds, pardon the expression, heaven help us.

PZ Myers has less patience:

I wasted too much time in the #humanistcommunity debate on twitter, so I’ll briefly summarize: because I detest the church-like model of Epstein’s humanist chaplain concept, I must dislike organization, leadership, and community. It quickly became obvious that many people are incapable of recognizing anything other than chaplains and churches as a reasonable model for community.

This is annoying because we have quite a few models for godless organizations that avoid that pitfall. CFI. American Atheists. SSA. They don’t have “chaplains”! I wonder how they manage without collapsing?

This is particularly galling because what Epstein claims to be doing is gathering empirical data on how best to run a secular movement. As I pointed out, we’re doing this already by having diverse secular groups springing up all over the place, not by having Greg Epstein defining what a secular meeting is supposed to be. He managed to diss one such incredibly successful group in his interview:

That’s not to say there aren’t homes for atheists on campus. Jesse Galef, communications director for the Secular Student Alliance, said his organization now has 306 chapters nationwide, up from 195 two years ago.

But those groups are loose-knit. They have no official format for meetings; some do service projects while others are as likely to hold an “atheist prom.” Most are led by students, not chaplains, and they have no institutional memory, since their membership turns over every four years.

Epstein wants to create something more permanent with a carefully thought out infrastructure.

Here’s one of the fastest growing secular organizations in the country…so what’s wrong with being “loose-knit”? It seems to work. What’s wrong with an “atheist prom”, or whatever idea provokes and entices the group? Maybe a “carefully thought out infrastructure” would be exactly the thing to crush the spirit of the movement.

Anyway, the argument will never end. Some people will follow this strangely pseudo-religious pattern, some of us will be more anarchic and let the organization bubble up from the bottom. But if we’re looking for empirical examples that work, it seems to me that the secular organizations that are succeeding all seem to have a shortage of chaplains.

They call us freethinkers for a reason.