Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That Spirit That Says "Send Me"

It's a day late, but still worth watching President Obama at Arlington on Memorial Day.

He gets it.



Full transcript here, courtesy of David Niewert, who singles out this passage:

That’s what we memorialize today. That spirit that says, send me, no matter the mission. Send me, no matter the risk. Send me, no matter how great the sacrifice I am called to make. The patriots we memorialize today sacrificed not only all they had but all they would ever know. They gave of themselves until they had nothing more to give. It’s natural, when we lose someone we care about, to ask why it had to be them. Why my son, why my sister, why my friend, why not me?

These are questions that cannot be answered by us. But on this day we remember that it is on our behalf that they gave our lives -- they gave their lives. We remember that it is their courage, their unselfishness, their devotion to duty that has sustained this country through all its trials and will sustain us through all the trials to come. We remember that the blessings we enjoy as Americans came at a dear cost; that our very presence here today, as free people in a free society, bears testimony to their enduring legacy.

Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay. But we can honor their sacrifice, and we must. We must honor it in our own lives by holding their memories close to our hearts, and heeding the example they set. And we must honor it as a nation by keeping our sacred trust with all who wear America’s uniform, and the families who love them; by never giving up the search for those who’ve gone missing under our country’s flag or are held as prisoners of war; by serving our patriots as well as they serve us -- from the moment they enter the military, to the moment they leave it, to the moment they are laid to rest.

If the Saudis Are Against It, Let's Do It Immediately

From Zandar:

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal admits he wants to see oil prices drop to keep the US and Europe from switching to green energy sources.
Remember the Saudis? They stuck the first shiv in the back of the U.S. economy 38 years ago with the first Oil Embargo. If you don't remember 1973 - and they did it again in 1979 - trust me, it was bad.

Fifteen of the 19 9/11 terrorists were Saudis. Bin Laden is a Saudi, who lived and terrorized for two decades on the money the Saudi princes paid him to not attack their country. Saudi money probably backs most Sunni terrorism, just as Iranian money probably backs most Shiite terrorism.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace, and remains the keeper of the flame of Wahhabism, the antediluvian, fanatic variety of Islam that keeps muslims who follow it locked in the Dark Ages, subject to mutilation and death by stoning for "crimes" like stepping outside your home alone or falling in love with the wrong person.

A Saudi prince is the second-largest shareholder of Fox. How much more proof do you need that they are evil motherfuckers on a level with China?

Saudi Arabia has proven multiple times over the past 40 years that it is America's enemy.

And now we have America's enemy on the record hoping Americans eschew renewable energy in favor of burning more oil and thus enriching the Saudis.

How about this for a renewable energy slogan?

Every Gallon You Burn Enriches Al Qaeda

Mitchie-poo Still Lying About Medicare

After forcing the careers of several repug candidates to crash and burn and putting the 2012 reelection chances of every repug in the country in jeopardy, Paul Ryan's Plan to Eliminate Medicare is dead.

But that's not stopping Senator Mitch McConnell from continuing to lie about Medicare every chance he gets.

Why? Because the only hope for the repugs going into the 2012 election is to make Democrats take the rap for cuts in Medicare. And the fastest way to make Democrats sign that particular suicide pact is to repeat, over and over and over again, how the only way to save Medicare is to cut it, and it's the responsibility of Congressional Democrats and President Obama to do so immediately.

But that's so obvious, Democrats would never fall for it. Right? Right?

Blue Girl is all over that lying sack of shit.

Mitch McConnell is continuing with his gig singing backup on the Paul Ryan Roadmap to Ruin tour, telling Fox news Sunday yesterday that Ryan's scheme is "very sensible" and will "save Medicare." He then trotted out the discredited "death panels" BS, saying that the ACA will empower "a board that would ration health care," before adding "Let's just stipulate that nobody's trying to throw grandma off the cliff," alluding to an ad run by an "independent" interest group against Jane Corwin in the recent New York 26th Congressional Districe special election.

Let's unpack what McConnell is asserting, shall we?

McConnell seems to be implying that rationing is not occuring now, when it most certainly is, in every healthcare delivery system, everywhere. For starters, the uninsured are subject to the harshest rationing of all. If they can't pay cash, they don't get healthcare.

People who are insured have been self-rationing as a result of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. So of course the insurance companies are whining that they need rate increases because the day is coming when their policy holders will actually use their insurance is surely looming, and then they won't have record profits any longer.

And of course, everyone who is fortunate enough to have insurance knows that rationing occurs every time you go to the doctor. If you buy insurance and have a pre-existing condition, there is no coverage for that condition for a specified waiting period, if ever. You also know that you can't just walk in and demand procedures. You have to get preauthorization letters to see specialists, who then have to get the authorization from your insurance company before they can perform any procedure deemed necessary and appropriate.

And pity the poor soul who turns up with a serious condition that requires long term or intesive treatment. They will spend all their time and energy fighting for the care they need to survive. What is this if not rationing?

Or consider lifetime caps. A million dollar lifetime cap is pretty standard. Now consider the family whose seven year old child gets cancer. It can easily happen that such a child will reach that cap in two or three years. Then the family that is probably on the hook for 20% of every charge the child has incurred face paying cash for all future care for that child, unless they are so financially wiped out by the disease that the child can get Medicaid. You know Medicaid -- that is the other program they are out to kill.

Do they really want to talk about "death panels" considering the way the system they not only defend, but want to return the worst parts of, works?
Don't forget it's not just McConnell; virtually every repug in Congress voted to kill Medicare, including all four of Kentucky's repug members of Congress. Rand Paul voted against the repug plan only because he thought it didn't go far enough. One step further would be outlawing medical care for seniors altogether.

Read the whole thing.

Death Sentence for Driving Without a License

If she were from Ireland, all green eyes and alabaster skin, you know damn well she'd be let off with a warning and a fast-tracked naturalization.

From the Courier:

A Kentucky woman who faces deportation to her native Mexico is seeking asylum, saying she fears domestic violence from her ex-partner and that Mexican authorities can’t be counted on to protect her.

Ana Lilia Alanis-Paulin entered the U.S. illegally in 1997 at age 17. She is in an Illinois jail after being arrested May 5 in Lexington, where she lives, for driving without a license. She was turned over to federal immigration authorities.

A legal brief filed on her behalf alleges the father of her youngest child has threatened to harm her if she returns to Mexico, where he now lives. Alanis-Paulin had called Lexington police three times to report abuse allegations in 2008 and 2009 when he lived there.

If you haven't been keeping up on Mexico news, our NAFTA partner is about a half-puff of pot away from being a failed narco state. There is no such thing as law enforcement outside of Mexico City. The closest thing to a shelter for victims of domestic abuse is a closet you can lock from the inside. Not that that will help when the gangs decide to just burn the whole place down.

One more time, the facts on Mexican immigration:

The "law" these people "broke" is the result of the ludicrously small number of legal immigrants from Mexico permitted to enter the U.S. each year. Increase that number to match the number of Mexican workers needed by U.S. employers, and illegal immigration disappears.

Speaking of employers, their need for millions of desperate immigrants willing to work for pennies and accept horrific conditions is what keeps the coyotes busy. They are also why the border is so porous. You got a problem with Mexican immigration? Tell it to the Chamber of Commerce.

Which is correct: "Immigrants built this nation" or "White people built this nation"? Trick question! It's both. Because unless you are 100 percent Native American, you are the descendant of immigrants.

And the only thing that separates you from Ana Lilia Alanis-Paulin is an arbitrary quota.

But don't look for compassion, logic or humanity from ICE, either. The terrorism-terrified immigration service works as far beyond the law as any drug cartel.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Kentucky Governor's Race and GOP Overreach

Four years ago, Steve Beshear's victory over incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher was taken as a harbinger for the 2008 presidential election. It probably wasn't, even though Democrats ran the table nationally, because a rabid ferret could have beaten Fletcher that year.

Now Beshear is the one seeking re-election, and is again fortunate in his opponent: David Williams is the most hated man in Kentucky, and his running mate is so dim they're not letting him speak in public. If Beshear wins, will it be good news for national Democrats in 2012?

Joe Gerth at the Courier asks the opposite question: will GOP overreach nationally help Beshear?

And the votes had barely been counted in Hochul's election when the Democratic National Committee sent out an e-mail to Kentucky reporters reminding them that Republican Reps. Ed Whitfield, Brett Guthrie, Hal Rogers and Geoff Davis — the state's entire Republican House delegation — voted for the GOP plan, which would also reduce federal Medicaid payments for children and the poor.

Alec Gerlach, a spokesman for the DNC, declined to say if he thought the issue could play a role in Kentucky's gubernatorial race. If it does, it wouldn't be the first time.

The last time national politics played a role in a Kentucky gubernatorial race was in 1995, following the ’94 Republican revolution.

That year Democrat Paul Patton and Republican Larry Forgy were duking it out for the governorship.

Early in the race, it appeared that Republicans had the advantage on national issues. The Republican revolution had, in fact, begun in Kentucky with a special election win by Ron Lewis in the state's 2nd District during the summer of 1994.

And Forgy had an advantage in the polls.

But the Republicans, fresh off winning control of the House for the first time in 40 years, went about rolling back decades of Democratic rule like they were killing snakes. And the public didn't like it.

Democrats focused on proposed cuts to Medicare and on Republican plans to sell power-generating plants located at 22 Corps of Engineers reservoirs in the southeast, including on four popular Kentucky lakes.
Patton won by 2 percentage points and served eight years as Kentucky's most progressive governor in 40 years.

This year, it's pretty clear that neither Beshear nor the Kentucky Democratic Party has any interest in attacking the GOP at its weak points: the KDP because it's run by a republican and Beshear because he's running as hard and fast to his right as he can.

If Beshear runs as a faux republican and loses, that's the real lesson for national Democrats.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Vermont Wins Single-Payer Debate; When Will Obama Concede?

Yep, it's done, and for once, working people and government in the public interest won.

Down With Tyranny:

Yesterday Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont signed a single-payer health care bill into law, the first of its kind in the U.S.

Legislators say the plan, approved by the Democratic controlled House and Senate this spring, aims to extend coverage to all 620,000 residents while containing soaring health care costs.

A key component establishes a state health benefits exchange, as mandated by new federal health care laws, that will offer coverage from private insurers, state-sponsored and multi-state plans. It also will include tax credits to make premiums affordable for uninsured Vermonters.

The exchange, called Green Mountain Care and managed by a five-member board, will set reimbursement rates for health care providers and streamline administration into a single, unified system.

Residents and small employers will be able to compare rates from the various plans and enroll for coverage of their choosing.

As designed, the goal is an eventual state-funded and operated single-payer system. ... Advocates of change say the existing fee-for-service care has a financial incentive to deliver more care, such as tests, with little attention to quality or better outcomes.

The single-payer concept was omitted from the federal health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama, in part due to Republican criticism it meant excessive government control.

Progressives in Vermont, including Shumlin and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, have worked for years to modify the state's health care system.

...If the state secures one key federal waiver related to exchanges, Green Mountain Care could begin as early as 2014. Another waiver needed to implement the single-payer component under federal law would not be available until 2017.

Vermont's plan calls for the board to consider the likely costs of coverage, factor in potential savings from reforms and recommended sources of revenue. It is charged with delivering a financing plan to legislators by 2013.

If that plan's single-payer component is adopted, lawmakers would approve a budget annually.

Single-payer proponents say the present system is too expensive and excludes too many residents. Vermont has around 47,000 uninsured and 150,000 underinsured residents.
Meanwhile, President Obama and the Congressional Democrats who insisted on health care "reform" that handed trillions of taxpayer dollars to Big Insurance and Big Pharma, are about to get rolled by repugs demanding that dems cut Medicare, and cut their own 2012 electoral throats in the bargain.

Digby:

Ezra Klein systematically dismantles Paul Ryan's phony arguments in defense of his health care plan. It's an excellent post and one that shows just how dishonest the Republicans are. (There's no point in excerpting it, just read it.)

I only wish that Ezra had been as clear on Hardball today when Michael Smerconish was going on and on about the need to cut Medicare and Ezra replied that because Mitch McConnell is insisting on cuts in order to raise the debt ceiling, it will be done. That's probably technically true. But the fact is that the debt ceiling will be raised whether Mitch McConnell holds his breath and turns blue or not. He knows which side his campaign contributions are buttered on and so does everyone else. Medicare will only be cut because the Democrats allow it.

It's hard for me imagine that any good policy can come of this nonsense, but I'll leave it to the wonks to sort it our later. But on the politics it's very foolish. Right now you have a nice clean contrast and muddying it destroys the Dem advantage. But Ezra seems to be in the know so I guess at this point the only question seems to be how it will be cut. If that's the case, anyone want to bet on the return of the Obama Death Panel boogeyman in 2012?
If you wondered how the dems were going to snatch impossible defeat from certain victory in 2012, that's how.

How Many Warnings Do We Need?

Tornado season's got a month to go, and we probably haven't seen the worst yet.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

Some clarification on a subject that's on a lot of our minds, via Good Environment:

This incredible satellite video from NOAA shows all of the vortexes throughout April as red dots. Watch the historically unprecedented month unfold:

For any concerned and conscientious soul, it's hard to mentally and emotionally put the pieces together of these connected, but distinct, disasters.

There's the climate change question, of course, which has been answered unsatisfyingly dozens of times already. Short answer: we don't really know. It's complicated.

Two essential reads on this subject are Andrew Freedman's take on the Capitol Weather Gang blog, and Joe Romm's on ClimateProgress, in which he concludes:

When discussing extreme weather and climate, tornadoes should not be conflated with the other extreme weather events for which the connection is considerably more straightforward and better documented, including deluges, droughts, and heat waves.
Just because the tornado-warming link is more tenuous doesn’t mean that the subject of global warming should be avoided entirely when talking about tornadoes.
In other words, it'd be irresponsible to make a straightforward connection between tornadoes and climate change. But it'd also be irresponsible not to discuss the potential for a connection and to work to better understand that potential.
Kevin Drum had a chart that doesn't seem to be scaring as many people as it should:


From the Arctic Sea Ice Blog, this chart shows the extent of (what else) Arctic sea ice by month since 1979, with trend lines drawn in. On current trends, the Arctic will be entirely ice-free in September by about 2016, and will be ice-free year-round by the early 2030s. Probably nothing to worry about, though. Who needs ice, anyway?
Just buy property in Utah and West Virginia, soon to become beachfront, right?

If you want to know what the real threats are, read Gwynne Dyer's Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats. Originally published in 2008, Dyer updated the 2010 paperback edition with the latest data. It reads like a thriller - or horror - yet addresses nearly the full spectrum of both catastrophic scenarios and ways to avoid them.

We really need this relatively fortunate time, when only minor issues like terrorism* disturb international peace and order, to continue for at least another twenty years while we all work to get global warming under control. Whether we will actually be granted the extra time, unfortunately, is impossible to say. There are many unknowns in the field of climate change, through the sheer weight of scientific effort now being brought to bear on them is rapidly shrinking the areas of uncertainty .... But the political, economic and straegic variables are even harder to calculate, and it is threy that will decide whether human beings manage to contain the problem. The proposed remedies are numerous, but they don't all match up, and they almost all require that scarcest of commodities - political will.
*Yes, compared to the likely scenarios of failing to act on global warming, terrorism really is minor.

Mitchie-poo Gets Subtle With the Social Security Lies

Blue Girl catches Mitch McConnell trying to use subtle misrepresentation to spread his Social Security lies.

McConnell's implication is that there is a hair-on-fire emergency and Social Security has to be fundamentally changed because it's doomed to bankruptcy otherwise; when in fact what the trustees presented was an either/or -- either revenues will have to be raised, or benefits will have to be cut decades down the road.

The essential Dean Baker had the best analogy I have seen on McConnell's misrepresentation:

This would be like driving from Chicago to Detroit and determining that at some point you will need more gas to complete the trip. That would mean stopping at a gas station and refilling your tank. By contrast, McConnell's comment implies that the car is about to breakdown and will not make the trip.

SNIP

The reality is there is no Social Security crisis, no matter how loudly the greed-mongers and deficit scolds insist there is.

They can wail and gnash their teeth and rend the cloth from their breast all day long and into the night. That still won't change the fact that Social Security is not only not responsible for our deficit woes, it is independent of the deficit /and/ it is solvent for decades. Period. Full stop.

The trustees report that McConnell misrepresented actually presents the same findings as the CBO report in that last link. Both report that the Social Security trustfund, without changing a thing, will be able to make full payouts through 2030-something -- it should also be noted that the full payout projections have been pushed downward not by flaws in the system, but by the economic downturn of the last couple of years. Both note that those numbers should start ticking back up as the economy recovers, and if that isn't the case, we have a lot bigger problems than Social Security heading our way.

In reality, any projected shortfalls in future Social Security benefits could be easily remedied with either of a couple of easy fixes would not only fill that hole, it would put the program on a sound footing indefinitely. The first option would be to raise the cap. Currently, a person making more than $106,800 pays no Social Security tax on any monies earned over that amount. Removing the cap and taxing all monies equally would put the program on solid footing indefinitely. So would a very modest increase -- 1% or less -- in the amount of payroll tax withheld from the wages of those of us who earn less than $106,800.

I don't know about you, but I would be willing to give up three designer coffees a pay-period now to assure that Social Security will be there when I reach retirement age.

Elected leaders who embrace the "fundamental change is necessary" mantra are either stupid, or lying. In neither instance should they be making decisions that affect millions of Americans. And that goes double for those who parrot the BS knowing full well it's just that...BS.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, there are lies, damnable lies, and lies about Social Security.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Obama at Westminster

Barack Obama is only the third American president to address the British Parliament - the last was Bill Clinton.

"For both of our nations, living up to the ideals enshrined in these founding documents has sometimes been difficult, has always been a work in progress. The path has never been perfect. But through the struggles of slaves and immigrants, women and ethnic minorities, former colonies and persecuted religions, we have learned better than most that the longing for freedom and human dignity is not English or American or Western –- it is universal, and it beats in every heart. Perhaps that’s why there are few nations that stand firmer, speak louder, and fight harder to defend democratic values around the world than the United States and the United Kingdom."



Full transcript here.

When Bad Banks Attack

Tom B is one of my fellow trouble-makers at They Gave Us A Republic. There he is renowned for his passionate rants on all the many different ways corporations and our corporate-owned government abuse citizens like himself.

But he also has his own blog - "Things That Really Piss Me Off" - where he posts more personal rants.

This one on Bank of America's corporate assholes is long, but well worth your time.

After more than 10 years I finally stopped being a lazy lout and am finally severing all ties with Bank of America. Lord knows I've had numerous reasons over the years, some even worse than this latest little source of outrage on my part, but it's a cumulative thing, you know? I'm an easy going guy and it takes a while for me to get mad enough to actually yell but when it happens I tend to yell loudly and a lot.

Read the whole thing.

If the Medicare vouchers don't getcha, the Medicaid Block Grants will.

TPM has a reader's warning against assuming that cuts in programs for "poor people" won't affect the middle class.

Medicare gets all the attention, for a lot of good reasons. But as TPM Reader KH argues the cuts to Medicaid are no less devastating, though most people don't figure it will ever directly affect them ...

I'm seeing little on what I think is one of the most devastating proposed results of the Ryan budget bill, if it ever was put into law, and one that has the potential to be just as powerful as the "Turn Medicare into a voucher program" part, if and when people ever begin to see what the Medicaid cuts mean. Most middle-income people have no idea the impact of the Medicaid cuts. They assume those have no direct results on them.

It's the part about turning Medicaid into flat-amount Block grants. Most people go right on by that part - "it's poor people, has nothing to do with me, so we'll cut dental and podiatry and vision coverage, etc. for poor people (as California Medi-Cal\Medicaid did a year or two back). That's too bad, terrible, but we'll save lots of money." But actually, as the link shows, Medicaid pays the bill for 66% of all nursing home residents. And these aren't the indigent - most\many of them are the result of middle-income people who have already run through their own money paying for their nursing home costs, and then become eligible for Medicaid. If Medicaid doesn't pick that up anymore, who's left? The children of the residents? Who are trying to send their kids to college and saving for their own retirement? Not that Paul Ryan cares, but essentially, states will need to choose between basic healthcare for low-income people and nursing home care for formerly-middle-income people with no money left. Who wins, you think? Most people have no awareness that Medicare pays nothing for basic Nursing Home care. Most of the family members don't necessarily know - just the one poor son\daughter who is "taking care of\managing" the parent's finances. You think people get worked up over the proposed Medicare changes? Imagine their reaction when they learn (too late?) that the Medicaid changes Paul Ryan and the Republicans want to make would mean they have to pay several hundreds of dollars a day to keep their parents in the nursing home they have been in for months\years? My mother, who eventually developed dementia (sort of like Alzheimer's but with no awareness of it), was in a Nursing Home for years. But, having had to deal with it when her mother developed it back in the 1960's, and having the great fortune to have worked for a large employer who offered Long Term Care Insurance many years ago (when almost no company did), she realized the importance of it and signed up immediately. Though she came close, she never had to apply for Medicaid. Her insurance paid for it. The exception, not the rule, I'm afraid, even today. My point is - we (well, most of us) all "get" how threatening the "voucher" change is for Medicare, but people don't seem to see the danger of the Medicaid "Block Grant" change is to middle-income people in their 30's, 40's and 50's who have elderly parents who could lose\never be eligible for their Medicaid Nursing Home coverage. They just see "Medicaid" and assume it has nothing to do with them. Are we really going to devolve into that sort of country? How sad. And how sad that so many Republicans are determined to make it happen. Hopefully, the reality will wake up the people who can make the difference, as it did in 2008.

Here's Steve Benen on recent remarks by National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling making the same case officially.

Here's Digby on how Sperling's remarks may mean the White House won't allow health care cuts.

And David Dayen has the full transcript.

And last but not least, a reminder that the GOP has been trying to kill Medicare for literally its entire existence.

And Chrysler Makes Three Healthy American Car Companies

It cannot be emphasized enough that the auto "bailout" that saved the American car industry and thousands of American jobs was bitterly, savagely opposed by every rethuglican in Congress. Even today, with the bailout an unmitigated success, rethuglicans can't bring themselves to acknowledge it, much less celebrate it.

Yes, rethuglicans hate America. I don't ever care why anymore.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Atheist Shadenfreude of the Year

Have I mentioned lately that electing freakazoids to public office is not just evil but stupid?

And really, really expensive?

Media Czech nails it:

What happens when two Kentucky counties fight a 12-year battle to save souls by posting Jesus Rules and wind up owing $456,881 to the Godless ACLU when they fail?

Well, they fight over who's going to pay the bill, that's what.

SNIP

I love it when fundies fight among themselves about who's going to get the bill for their ridiculous and unnecessary PR scam.

Ken Ham and Steve Beshear, this is the Ghost of Christmas Future!
I don't expect the Flintstone Truther Park to ever actually get built, but that doesn't mean there's not a huge opportunity here for the first atheist organization with some volunteer lawyers on its board.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

From The Rude Pundit, regarding the coincidence of California prisons being at 200 percent capacity while Corrections Corporations of America saw its California contracts soar in value:

Yeah, whenever there's some horror occurring to the poor and disenfranchised, you can bet there's a profit motive somewhere.

Why Being Nice to the Freakazoids is Wrong

A commenter at They Gave Us A Republic .... here recently posted strong objections to our (OK, my) aggressive atheism in the form of attacks on freakazoids.

Ironically, the comments were posted on one of the least aggressive anti-religion posts I've written in quite some time. All it asked was that freakazoids who insist on publicizing their political preferences from the comfortable position of a tax-exempt entity should lose that tax exemption and be forced to pay taxes like the rest of us.

I didn't even bother to demand that the many, many freakazoids who have, over the last several years, blatantly and with malice aforethought broken the IRS rules prohibiting political activity actually be prosecuted and imprisoned, even though that should be the minimum first requirement for eliminating this scourge of tax cheats.

But why am I blathering on, when @PZ Myers handles it so much better:

Chris Mooney was on Point of Inquiry recently. I know, he's always on PoI anymore, which was the big reason I've tuned that podcast out, but in this case, he's in the hot seat with Ron Lindsay interviewing him on accommodationism. Lindsay is excellent, just calmly and quietly asking killer questions that Mooney flounders over. Ophelia Benson has a short summary of the highlights, if you'd rather not sit through it all.

Once again, the problem revolves around a central argument for the Mooneyites: that harsh criticism of cherished beliefs, like religion, leads to an immediate, emotion-based shutdown of critical faculties by the target, and makes them refractory to rational evaluation of their ideas. To which I say, yeah, so? I agree with that. I know that happens. It's what I expect to happen.

But that's all short-term thinking, and I don't care what happens in the mind of a believer five minutes or a day after I make an argument (the usual domain of the psychology experiments accommodations love to cite in defense of their position; there's an awful lot of psychology done in our universities with horizons no longer than the next publication deadline). What I'm interested in seeing happen is the development of a strong cadre of vocal atheists who will make a sustained argument, over the course of years or generations, who will keep pressing on the foolishness of faith. I also don't mind seeing believers get angry and stomping off determined to prove I'm a colossal jackhole — that means they're thinking, even if they're disagreeing with me. At the very least, I hope that a few of them will realize, even if they don't change their mind about the god nonsense, that quoting the Bible at me has no effect, and maybe some years down the road I won't be hearing as many idiots telling me "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" as if they've made a profound point.

I'll also cop to the obvious fact that, knowing that reason will not get through their skills, I'm happy to use emotional arguments as well. Passion is persuasive. Look at all those assertive Gnu/New Atheists — they are not making Spock-like dispassionate arguments only, although there is a strong rational core — we are hitting people in the gut and telling them to open their eyes. It gives us that unseemly aggressive reputation, but at the same time it's a very effective way to let people know we think they are dead wrong.

And that's the other flaw in the accommodationist position: they are so concerned with being nurturing and sensitive to beliefs — no gut-punching for them! — that they end up being really, really boring to read, and they also end up affirming religious idiocy through neglect. Somebody has to set up the conflict so that someone, maybe even the accommodationists, have leverage to set up the resolution. But someone must voice the objections with clarity and without wooly excuses.
I'll treat the freakazoids and their apologists with common courtesy when they demonstrate the common courtesy of acknowledging that facts, logic and reason are on our side, not theirs, and not a minute earlier.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Restoring a Lost Giant

Want to do something that will live on long after you, that will make generations yet unborn praise your name in gratitude?

Plant a new American Chestnut tree.

Niki King at the Courier:

This time of year a century ago, Kentucky ridges would have looked almost snowy with blooms from the American chestnut tree.

It's a sight local volunteers want future generations to see again.

American chestnuts — massive hardwoods highly prized for their timber, tannin and nuts — were all but lost a half-century ago to an Asian blight that killed 4 billion of them, decimating 25 percent of the Eastern U.S. tree canopy.

But years of efforts to restore the American chestnut are finally taking root across the country — and in the Louisville area.

Nuts from a major research farm in Virginia that were bred over 28 years to be blight resistant were planted at public and private sites in the Louisville area this year. Only a limited number of nuts were available.

Also, members of the Kentucky chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation are breeding offspring of the state's 20 surviving trees for blight resistance and research. An orchard in Oldham County is expected to bear nuts this fall for the first time.

The ultimate goal is to restore the American chestnut to the Eastern forest, where it was once the dominant hardwood, so it can again provide an abundance of high-quality food for wildlife and strong, rot-resistant timber for building needs, said Bryan Burhans, president and CEO of the American Chestnut Foundation.

“We want to bring back an iconic tree species that was so much a part of history, culture and heritage,” he said. “There was no other tree that could replace the niche that it occupied.”

Louisville-area volunteers who are planting and growing American chestnuts say their work will help the public learn about the tree.

“I'm anxious to see them restored to the countryside,” said George Gibbs, a retired forester who contributed $250,000 to Louisville's 21st Century Parks for a chestnut restoration program. “I may not live that long, but I'd like to see it started.”
'Redwood of the east'

Once called the “redwood of the east,” American chestnuts grew over 200 million acres, from Maine to Mississippi, most prolifically in the Appalachian Mountains. In the Louisville area, they were found in the Knobs region, from Southern Indiana to Fort Knox.

SNIP

The Kentucky chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation is seeking money and volunteers. To donate or volunteer, email Dr. Anne Myers Bobigian at annemonique@bellsouth.net. For more information, go to www.kychestnut.org

To get nuts: People who contribute $300 a year to the American Chestnut Foundation are eligible to receive two potentially blight-resistant chestnuts for planting. To learn more, go to www.acf.org.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pay Off the Debt: Tax the Freakazoids

Kevin Drum has your clip-and-keep chart of the day:

What accounts for the growing U.S. debt load? You already know the answer, but CBPP has a new chart that lays it out yet again. What we're interested in is public debt — that is, debt that the government actually owes to other people. It's this debt that can cause problems if it gets out of hand. So here's where our projected debt in 2019 comes from:


[This chart] shows that the Bush-era tax cuts and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — including their associated interest costs — account for almost half of the projected public debt in 2019 (measured as a share of the economy) if we continue current policies.

Altogether, the economic downturn, the measures enacted to combat it (including the 2009 Recovery Act), and the financial rescue legislation play a smaller role in the projected debt increase over the next decade. Public debt due to all other factors fell from over 30 percent of GDP in 2001 to 20 percent of GDP in 2019.
Put this one up on your refrigerator along with the last one. Then, if a friend comes over after watching Glenn Beck and insists that we're doomed, just point to the chart. If you want to save America from a crushing future debt burden, you need to repeal the Bush tax cuts, get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and stop pursuing austerity policies that will slow down economic recovery.

Once we've done that, then it's time to talk about Medicare. But the other stuff comes first.
But Kevin doesn't mention where there are spare billions of dollars per year lying around, just waiting to be picked up and used to pay off that dangerous debt:

Tax breaks for freakazoids.

Diana B. Henriques at the NYT:

(Note: article published in 2006; tax exemption estimates are even older.)

The property tax exemption is one of the oldest tax breaks granted to religious organizations, but it is not the only one. Lawmakers and judges have also approved what amounts to special tax treatment for religious organizations and some of their employees, including exemptions on personal-income and payroll taxes, and have made it easier for them to get tax-exempt construction loans for purely religious projects.

Like the exemptions from federal and state regulations that have proliferated for religious groups in recent years, these tax breaks are widely defended both as an acknowledgment of religion’s contributions to society and as a barrier to unjustified government limitations on the liberty that religious organizations enjoy under the First Amendment.

But in some communities like South Bend, tolerance of religious tax breaks is fraying as local governments struggle to provide basic services with limited resources.

There are no national figures on how much money these tax breaks save religious organizations and on how much extra cost is shifted to other citizens. But a typical state, Colorado, reported that religious real estate valued at more than $1.1 billion was exempt from local property taxes there last year. Nationally, tax-exempt financing for religious organizations totaled at least $20 billion during the decade that ended last year.

Congressional budget records show that just the income tax breaks uniquely available for ministers, rabbis and other clergy members cost taxpayers just under $500 million a year.

And the price is almost certainly increasing, experts on taxation and congregational growth agreed, because today’s larger congregations need more land, employ more clergy members and pay them more money. Moreover, the definition of a religious mission is expanding beyond schools and hospitals to include operations as obscure as a biblical theme park in Florida and as upscale as a retirement community at Notre Dame.
If a 2006 estimate of just some of the tax breaks that fatten the freakazoids came to about $2.5 billion, I'd guess the real number back then was at least double that, and has doubled since.

Now $10 billion per year will barely keep a decent-sized Army in some desert hell-hole. But think of the ancillary benefits: freakazoids will be able to talk politics and promote or condemn political candidates as much as they want with no fear of losing their tax exemption.

It's such a shame that their high moral values about obeying the Constitution keeps them silent on political issues - imagine how much richer our national discourse would be if we only knew what they really thought!

I think $10 billion a year is a small price to pay for getting your Free Speech rights back, don't you?

A Reminder of What Happens When You Privatize Public Services

Kentucky's a long way from Rick's Scott's Everything's Got to Go! No Offer Too Low! firesale of Florida state government, but its attempt to save money on Medicare by letting a private contractor handle it offers more proof that privatizing government always fails.

Tom Loftus at the Courier-Journal:

As the state auditor's office zeroed in on what it described as extravagant spending by Passport Health Plan officials last August, the organization's two top administrators were still running up the tab — attending a convention of conservative state legislators at a luxury resort on the San Diego waterfront.

The cost of the trip for Shannon Turner, who was then Passport's executive vice president, and Nici Gaines, an associate vice president, exceeded $6,300, according to documents released to The Courier-Journal under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

State Auditor Crit Luallen's scathing report last November criticized Passport, which delivers Medicaid services to about 165,000 residents in the Louisville area, for lavish spending on such things as travel, meals and gifts during the 2007-09 period.

The report said such spending had an “uncertain benefit to Passport.”

Yet the documents obtained by the newspaper, after a court ruling that Passport must comply with the state open records act, show that such spending continued in 2010 — right up to the release of the auditor's report in November.

In all, Passport's spending on travel, meals and other entertainment totaled $27,728 in the first 11 months of 2010, according to the records.
Here's the thing about public services run by public servants: when they fuck up, you figure out who is the closest elected official to those public employees, and you run her out of office.

When those public services are contracted out to a private company, however, that separates the service from the elected official, and makes her far less vulnerable to the wrath of voters unhappy with poor service.

Who is more responsive to your complaining calls - the county road department or ATT? You really think a call center in Bangalore gives a shit about the snow blocking your driveway?

Anthrax Killer Still at Large

Via Jim White at Firedoglake, the FBI apparently still doesn't want to find the Other 2001 Terrorist.

But the news organization that virtually alone sounded the alarm against Smirky/Darth's Iraq lies is still exposing the U.S. government's anti-terror failures.

Greg Gordon at McClatchy Newspapers:

WASHINGTON — Buried in FBI laboratory reports about the anthrax mail attacks that killed five people in 2001 is data suggesting that a chemical may have been added to try to heighten the powder's potency, a move that some experts say exceeded the expertise of the presumed killer.

The lab data, contained in more than 9,000 pages of files that emerged a year after the Justice Department closed its inquiry and condemned the late Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins as the perpetrator, shows unusual levels of silicon and tin in anthrax powder from two of the five letters.

Those elements are found in compounds that could be used to weaponize the anthrax, enabling the lethal spores to float easily so they could be readily inhaled by the intended victims, scientists say.

The existence of the silicon-tin chemical signature offered investigators the possibility of tracing purchases of the more than 100 such chemical products available before the attacks, which might have produced hard evidence against Ivins or led the agency to the real culprit.

But the FBI lab reports released in late February give no hint that bureau agents tried to find the buyers of additives such as tin-catalyzed silicone polymers.

The apparent failure of the FBI to pursue this avenue of investigation raises the ominous possibility that the killer is still on the loose.
No, I don't think the FBI is in cahoots with the anthrax terrorist or any other terrorist. I do think they could not possibly have botched the investigation - leading to the suicide of the presumed suspect - more thoroughly if they tried.

And now they just want to close the book on the whole thing and make sure everybody forgets about it.

Much as I'd like to believe that the FBI is just pretending to have closed the case in order to keep quietly chasing the real Anthrax Terrorist, I seriously doubt that Robert Mueller - the man who ignored multiple warnings about the 9-11 attacks, the man who oversaw the botched anthrax investigation, the man who is not only still FBI Director but whom President Obama just reappointed for another two years - is the man to do that.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

No More Labor for Faux Democrats

Yet another reason for liberals and other Real Democrats to stop waiting for Daddy Democrat to rescue us, and get out there organizing house by house, voter by voter in our own neighborhoods.

From TPM:

Watch out, Democrats, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said on Friday. Your buddies in organized labor are looking to expand the friendship circle.

Trumka's speech at the National Press Club, billed as a major address by the union, recast the union's connection to politics as a year-round, national affair -- rather than the election-focused, battleground state strategy of the past. Trumka warned Democrats that labor would not always be at their side, suggesting more of the primary battles like the unsuccessful one that labor backed against former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) last year.

Trumka's main message to politicians, after a year in which labor has battled broad-based attacks in state legislatures across the country, was a simple one: you're either with us or you're against us.

"It doesn't matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside--the outcome is the same either way," he said in prepared remarks that he veered little from during the address. "If leaders aren't blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families' interests, working people will not support them."



Trumka's remarks as prepared for delivery here.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Live by Repug Support; Die By Repug Support

Looks like Cowardly Waste of Oxygen Steve Beshear is still following his script for How to Lose Re-election to the Most Hated Man in Kentucky.

From the Herald:

The Democratic re-election campaign of Gov. Steve Beshear rolled out the names of 70 Republicans Friday who endorse him and said more names will be forthcoming.

The move by Beshear came on the eve of Saturday’s Republican unity rally at party headquarters in Frankfort.

Friday’s list of Republicans for Beshear and his running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, included former Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, former Lexington Vice Mayor and restaurateur Michael Scanlon, several mayors and Jon Ackerson, a Louisville Metro Council member and a former state representative and GOP chairman of Jefferson County.

Haha, very funny, how cute. Until you remember that the reason Kentucky Democratic candidates, with their 2-1 registration advantage, keep losing to repugs is that many Kentuckians registered as "Democratic" either vote repug or stay home in disgust at their candidates' blatant public sucking of repug cock.

Repugs, registered and otherwise, always turn out to vote and always vote for the repug candidate, no matter how much they hate him/her. I'm highly skeptical of the predictions that teabaggers will demonstrate their dissatisfaction with Williams/Farmer by either staying home or voting for independent Gatewood Galbraith. That's what Democratic voters do.

Yeah, touting your repug support is sure a great way to get those stay-at-home dems fired up for your campaign, there, guv.

Media Czech has more insight.

"We need to encourage this kind of change all over America"

I'm pretty sure Booker T. Washington High School made the gains it did despite, rather than because of, the destructive No Child's Behind Left Act. But since I've given up on this president making large changes, no matter how necessary, I'll take "reform" if it prevents the rethuglicans from outlawing public education altogether.



Full transcript here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dems: Hate Ryan's Medicare Kibble? Social Security Cat Food is Yummy!

Digby nailed it months ago: Congressional and particularly Senate Democrats were going to use the catastrophic Ryan budget bill - especially the kill-Medicare provisions that make voters prefer gay-married illegal messican commie muslin terrists to republican candidates - to make people think the only-slightly-less-catastrophic Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission plan to kill Social Security is acceptable.

Well, it's happened. But I never thought I would see it where I saw it. I never thought I would see Rachel fucking Maddow - of all the no-bullshit-allowed commentators out there - let a weak sister like Amy Klobuchar get away with claiming what Rachel has got to know is not just not true, not just a lie, but a monstrous conjob being foisted on the American people by this "Democratic" administration.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Part of me wants to think that Klobuchar sneaked the catfood endorsement into what was supposed to be an interview about how the Ryan plan is so radioactive that it is killing GOP candidates everywhere, no matter what the candidate says about it.

But I also want to think that Rachel is way smarter than the DNC bozos writing Klobuchar's script, and she should not have been caught out like that, much less let Klobuchar get away with no pushback.

I never thought Jon Stewart would let John Yoo survive an interview with his limbs intact, either.

Atheist Entrepreneurship + Freakazoid Gullibility Will Save the Economy

After 2,000 years of the freakazoids torturing and burning everybody who looks at them cross-eyed, all's fair in Rapture Economics.

When judgment day comes -- which some US Christian fundamentalists insist will happen on Saturday -- have you thought about what you're going to do with the family dog and cat?

In 26 US states, you could have them rescued and adopted by enterprising atheists who have set up a business to care for the animal companions of any Christians who are selected to go to heaven when Jesus Christ comes back.

"You've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved. But when the Rapture comes, what's to become of your loving pets who are left behind?" Eternal Earth-Bound Pets says on its website, offering to "take that burden off your mind."

The post-doomsday pet rescue service already has 259 clients, who have paid $135 for the first pet and $20 for each additional pet at the same address, to ensure the faithful animal companions are looked after and loved even when their Christian owners have gone to the other side.

All the rescuers are sworn atheists, which means they will definitely be left behind on Earth, ready to rescue pets after the Rapture, which one US Christian fundamentalist group has penciled for Saturday.

When judgment day happens, Eternal Earth-Bound Pets co-founder Bart Centre "will notify all of our rescuers to go into action and they will drive to the homes of anyone who's signed a contract with us, pick up their pets and take them home and adopt them as their own, keeping them happy and healthy for the rest of their lives.

"This will happen only if and when the Rapture happens. So we do not expect to have to do anything on Saturday," Centre told AFP.
I'd say it's a shame there's only one chance to profit from this idiocy, since after Saturday the freakazoids will realize ... oh, wait.

There must be infinite ways to keep fleecing this most gullible of all groups. This thing is gonna snowball, people - better get in on it quick.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How the Failure to Expose Arnold's Dick Killed California

I am a long-time advocate of the position that a politician's or elected official's sexual behavior - no matter how unconventional or even despicable - is irrelevant to her job qualifications and performance.

There are, of course, what you might call the side effects of such behavior that do have a bearing on job qualifications/performance.

For example: Presidential Candidate Gary Hart's open dare to Miami Herald reporters in 1988 to follow him around if they thought he was having an affair. He was, of course, boning a local bimbo, they caught him, they published photos, Hart dropped out of the race and was never taken seriously again. Which is a real shame, because it was Senator Hart's special commission from President Clinton in 1998 warning of terrorism threats that presciently had on its cover a bulls-eye over a drawing of - I am not making this up - the Twin Towers.

Now we have a similar situation in California, in which the lack of time to fully expose another candidate's sexual escapades led directly to the economic disaster that is tearing California to shreds.

Kevin Drum explains:

Shortly before California's 2003 special election for governor, the Los Angeles Times reported that a number of women had accused Arnold Schwarzenegger of groping and various other sexual advances. Arnold vaguely fessed up to some bad behavior in the past, but said, "I don't remember things that I've done or said 20 years ago. I don't remember things that I've done 30 years ago." The Times series was widely viewed as a thinly veiled hit piece scheduled to run just days before the election in order to ruin Schwarzenegger's chances.

That was never true. The reason the stories ran so late is because the special election was only six weeks long. If it had been any ordinary election, the Times would have spent far more time on its reporting and the story would likely have broken months before election day. In the event, though, the accusations were out there and the Times did heroic work putting together a hugely complex story under tight deadline pressure. As far as I know, the accuracy of their reporting hasn't been seriously challenged to this day.

And what about Arnold? He insisted that this stuff was so far in the dim past that he could barely remember it. But it wasn't. Today we learn that he had cheated on his wife and had a child out of wedlock just a few years before. His megawatt-smile denials were pure pap, and if knowledge of his affair had been public it's almost a dead certainty that the recall would have failed and Gray Davis would have remained governor. The car tax would have stayed in place, no bonds would have been issued to make up for it, and California's deficit problems would have been less than half as bad as they turned out to be under Schwarzenegger.

That's what comes of running a politically motivated snap election with weird rules in six weeks: you don't really know what you're getting. In the end, the Times was right about Schwarzenegger, and his folksy boys-will-be-boys denials were lies. We've paid a pretty high price for that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Senate Vote on Goodwin Liu Tomorrow - Send A Message

My Senators are Mitchie-poo McConnell and Aynrand "I've got nothing against ni**ers" Paul, so not even you suffering liberals in Oklahoma - all five of you - can claim to have opinions more irrelevant to the U.S. Senate than I can.

Nevertheless, like an innumerate lottery addict, I can't resist these stupid things. I mean, they've gotta work eventually, right? And it's the lazy man's way to vent.

From NARAL Pro-Choice America:

One of President Obama’s progressive nominees who supports our constitutional right to privacy will face a key vote tomorrow in the U.S. Senate.

We can’t let right-wing politicians block Goodwin Liu from serving as a federal judge.

Tell your senators that you support Goodwin Liu’s nomination.

Goodwin Liu’s nomination has been held up in the Senate by a handful of far-right senators for well over a year.

Liu is a professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law and an accomplished lawyer with a distinguished record of working to protect civil rights. In his scholarly writings, he has defended the right to privacy and reproductive choice.

He criticized John Roberts’ right-wing record when he was up for the position of chief justice, saying: “What we already know from Roberts' record is cause for concern. His legal career is studded with activities unfriendly to civil rights, abortion rights, and the environment.”

We need more judges like Prof. Liu on the federal bench if we’re going to protect Roe v. Wade and the right to privacy for future generations. Getting him confirmed is going to take everything we’ve got. Call on your senators to confirm Prof. Liu.

Thanks for getting involved today and supporting pro-choice nominees.
Go on. Do it. You know you want to.

Restore the Broken Great Bargain

There have been quite a few books written over the last two years about What. The. Fuck. happened to the economy, and substantially fewer about how to fix it, not to mention how to shove the fix down rethuglican throats.

If you really want to know the details of how Democratic politics and our failure to establish real campaign reform has come just a Paul Ryan away from destroying the nation completely, you can't do better than Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson's Winner-Take-All Politics.

But if you want the short - ahem - version from one of the few people who told Barack Obama to his face the truth two years ago about what would happen if he put Wall Street's concerns ahead of Main Street's, then go out right now and get Robert Reich's latest: Aftershock.

By "aftershock," Reich means the ugly consequences of having used only half-measures to hold the economy just short of total collapse two years ago: high unemployment for years to come, but even worse, jobs that pay far less and offer far less in benefits than even the pathetic "work" we have today, not to mention the superb jobs of the Great Prosperity after World War II.

In just 147 pages, Reich covers what happened and why, but goes beyond that to offer solutions that address not superficial issues like the budget but the fundamental break in the great economic bargain that must be restored before anything else will work.

I have chosen instead to base my argument on two tangible threats that such inequality poses to everyone - including even the wealthiest and most influential among us. One is economic: Unless America's middle class receives a fair share, it cannot consume nearly what the nation is capabile of producing, at least not without going deeply into debt.

SNIP

The other threat is political: Widening inequality coupled with a growing perception that big business and Wall Street are in cahoots with big government for the purpose of making the rich even richer, gives fodder to demogogues on the extreme right and the extreme left.*

SNIP

Unless these trends are reversed, the financially stressed middle class will not have the purchasing power to keep the economy growing. This will hurt even those who are well-off. A political backlash could general a similar result, or worse. Margaret Jones and her Independence Party are ficitions, but the anger on which she bases her appeal is not.
His prescriptions for reversing those trends are not just simple and highly effective, they are all ideas that were mainstream barely 11 years ago. Even among now extinct moderate republicans.

The current self-immolation of the GOP may or may not end in massive victory for Democratic candidates in 2012 - OK, OK, probably won't, given that next year's elections are the Democrats' to lose - but Reich has given us a simple platform on which to start fighting right now:

Restore the Great Bargain.

* Bob: I am myself about as close as anyone gets to a "far left extremist demogogue" these days, but compared to the Reichwingnuts like Paul Ryan and Michelle Bachmann that the Village insists on labelling "centrist," I'm as extremist as Captain Kangaroo.

I remember how you banged your head against the brick wall of Wall Street influence during your stint as labor secretary in the Clinton Administration, Bob, and I know you know the last genuine far left extremist died from assassin's bullets in Louisiana in 1935. So the next time Alfred A. Knopf demands you play false equivalency, tell 'em to fuck off and die. You're a professor at Berkeley, for pity's sake.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Rich Don't Create Jobs: Never Have, Never Will, Because They Can't

Once upon a time, it was accepted fact among everyone not born filthy rich that labor created capital. Working people - labor - made things, from hand-knitted sweaters to skyscrapers, and rich people - capital - stole the wealth labor created.

Yeah, Karl Marx, commies and the Wobblies. Guess what? They were right then, and they're still right now.

Dave Johnson from Campaign for America's Future:

You hear it again and again, variation after variation on a core message: if you tax rich people it kills jobs. You hear about "job-killing tax hikes," or that "taxing the rich hurts jobs," "taxes kill jobs," "taxes take money out of the economy, "if you tax the rich they won't be able to provide jobs." ... on and on it goes. So do we really depend on "the rich" to "create" jobs? Or do jobs get created when they fill a need?

SNIP

The idea that there are producers and parasites as expressed in the example above has become a core philosophy of conservatives. They claim that wealthy people "produce" and are rich because they "produce." The rest of us are "parasites" who suck blood and energy from the productive rich, by taxing them. In this belief system, We, the People are basically just "the help" who are otherwise in the way, and taxing the producers to pay for our "entitlements." We "take money" from the producers through taxes, which are "redistributed" to the parasites. They repeat the slogan, "Taxes are theft," and take the "money we earned" by "force" (i.e. government.)
There are producers and parasites, all right, but as usual rethuglicans and conservatards have turned the facts inside-out in order to deceive people and illegitimately seize power.

The people who actually work for a living - who clean the johns and drive the trucks and flip the burgers and hang the drywall and generally keep the planet spinning on its axis - those people are producers. They produce goods and services of genuine value that feed the economic engine on which we all depend.

The people who don't actually work for a living - the inbred inheritors of wealth stolen from producers, the speculators and financiers and thieves of Wall Street, the contractors of the military-industrial complex, the K Street lobbyists whose cocksucking of Congress on behalf of criminals and despots only exposes how little real whores get paid - those people are parasites.

Think about it - if every one of the parasites disappeared tomorrow, we'd notice only because the weight of feudal serfdom had been lifted from our shoulders.

But if even one category of real producers - say all those garbage collectors pulling down massive $40,000 salaries on the public dime - were to disappear, we'd notice pretty damn quick, as the suckers who elected rethuglican parasites as governors are discovering in Florida and Wisconsin and Michigan and Texas and Ohio.

But I digress. Dave was talking about creating jobs:

Lots of regular people having money to spend is what creates jobs and businesses. That is the basic idea of demand-side economics and it works. In a consumer-driven economy designed to serve people, regular people with money in their pockets is what keeps everything going. And the equal opportunity of democracy with its reinvestment in infrastructure and education and the other fruits of democracy is fundamental to keeping a demand-side economy functioning.

When all the money goes to a few at the top everything breaks down. Taxing the people at the top and reinvesting the money into the democratic society is fundamental to keeping things going.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Not Your Father's G.I. Joe

Should have seen this one coming.

MediaBistro.com reported Friday that the Walt Disney Company has officially trademarked "Seal Team 6," which is the unit designation of the special operatives that waged the assault on the al Qaeda leader's Abbottabad compound.

The trademark applications were submitted just two days after President Barack Obama announced the commando mission that resulted in the death of bin Laden.
Every regime - even the most democratic - needs monsters. Not monsters to fight against, but monsters to fight on our side, against other regimes' monsters. Democratic regimes especially need monsters to do the near-impossible, inhuman work that no one else can.

The key is keeping the number of monsters small, the work they do severely circumscribed and infrequent, and - most crucially - their subordinate position to civilian leadership crystal clear.

Once you let the monsters start setting the rules, you've become them.

We're there.

Jeremy Scahill at The Nation:

The JSOC team that ultimately smoked bin Laden was led by the elite Navy SEAL Team Six. Officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU, SEALs from Team Six are considered the most elite warriors in the national security apparatus. Bin Laden is said to have been killed by a “double tap”—two shots to the head, one above the left eye. Soon after, his body was on a helicopter en route to the USS Carl Vinson. DNA tests and photos were taken before bin Laden was dumped into the sea to sleep with the fishes.

Col. W. Patrick Lang, a retired Special Forces officer with extensive operational experience throughout the Muslim world, described JSOC’s forces as “sort of like Murder Incorporated.” He told The Nation, “Their business is killing Al Qaeda personnel. That’s their business. They’re not in the business of converting anybody to our goals or anything like that.” Shortly after the operation was made public, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey called JSOC’s operators the “most dangerous people on the face of the earth.”
I am one of the people who, nine and a half years ago, blithely recommended that instead of wasting billions invading a country already in the stone age, we just send special ops in to "take out" bin Laden.

Grade-D movie dialogue spoken out of ignorance and fear. But also correct. And dead wrong.

Scahill again:

JSOC—and the Navy SEALs in particular—will become legendary in a much broader circle because of the bin Laden killing, but the secretive unit has had its share of controversy. JSOC forces were responsible for the October 8, 2010, botched rescue that ended up killing British aid worker Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan. JSOC also carried out a raid in Gardez, Afghanistan, in February 2010, during which five people, including two pregnant women and a US-trained Afghan police commander were killed. In that case, senior Afghan security officials and eyewitnesses claimed that US forces dug the bullets out of the women’s bodies. NATO had initially tried to cover up the incident, suggesting it may have been a Taliban “honor killing”; but eventually Admiral McRaven took responsibility for the botched raid and apologized to the family.

The primacy of JSOC within the administration’s foreign policy—from Yemen and Somalia to Afghanistan and Pakistan—indicates that Obama has doubled down on the Bush-era policy of targeted assassination as a staple of US foreign policy.
Read the whole thing.

Hat-tip to loyal reader WG.

Election Day Tomorrow - Do You Know Your Candidates?

Polls are open for primary voting in Kentucky tomorrow - Tuesday, May 17 - from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Here is the Herald's article on where the statewide candidates stand on the issues.

Find out where to vote here.

Yeah, yeah, they're all a bunch of chumps, yadda, yadda. The only bigger chump is you if you don't vote. So get out there and vote.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Importance of Teaching Poetry

Even if the only poet you've ever read is Joyce Kilmer, you know better than to judge a poem's meaning before the last word.

Unless you're just on Make-Obama-Seem-Like-A-Gangsta autopilot.

A Tone Def Poetry Jam from Jon Stewart:

How Corporate NOLA Murdered Charity Hospital

You remember Charity Hospital, right? The public teaching hospital in New Orleans that survived Katrina thanks to the genuine heroism of employees and volunteers who kept the lights on and the patients alive and cared for.

Charity Hospital is a living, breathing testament to the power of public investment.

Or it would be, if the rethuglican corporatists running the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana and Louisiana State University hadn't deliberately killed it in order to get a private boutique clinic for billionaires built with taxpayer dollars instead.

I've been a fan of public teaching hospitals my whole life. Friends, coworkers, family members all work, teach, learn and heal in publicly-supported university teaching hospitals. They are the foundation of any community. You wanna know if a borderline neighborhood is moving up or sliding down? Look for the public hospital. It will tell you everything.

Roberta Brandes Gratz:

Before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Charity Hospital was the pride of New Orleans. A 1930s Art Deco–style icon built with WPA funds, Charity was one of the oldest continually operating public hospitals in the country and was regarded as one of the most vital and successful. “Charity was one of the best teaching hospitals in the country, where students from Tulane and LSU did their training,” says Dr. James Moises, a former Charity emergency room physician, noting that it served 100,000 patients a year before the storm.

Today Charity is a skeleton of its former self, with smaller, temporary facilities. The interim coverage does not include “urgent and chronic outpatient care,” notes Moises, and reaches a vastly reduced patient population. Meanwhile, the money that has flowed from the state and federal governments to compensate for the storm’s damage to the hospital is set to be spent on a highly controversial new $1.2 billion complex on an entirely different site, separated from the downtown core by an interstate highway.

The abandonment of the old Charity Hospital stands as a potent symbol of the many disappointments and betrayals experienced by the residents of New Orleans after Katrina. The loss has been a huge blow to the poor African-American community Charity served—an outcome that is all the more tragic, critics say, because it didn’t have to happen.

Charity flooded only in the basement during Katrina. In an extraordinary act of dedication and volunteerism, a 200-person medical and military team brought in a 600-kilowatt generator, pumped out the water and prepared the hospital for service. It was cleaned (to a condition better than before the storm) and was “medical ready” within weeks, according to doctors and military personnel present at the cleanup, as well as Lt. Gen. Russel HonorĂ©, the retired Army general who was commander of the joint task force on Katrina.

Read the whole infuriating thing. Print it out and carry it around with you to shove down the throat of the rethuglican moron who starts braying about running government like a business.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lastest Republican Fad: More Racist Than Thou

Seriously, people: I do not have time to keep throwing yet more evidence of the obvious at you.

Of course Ron Paul is crazy. And of course all republicans are racists. That's not the point. The point is that republicans are no longer denying being racist motherfuckers.

They're not even trying to hide the fact that they are racist motherfuckers.

They are out there, announcing their presidential campaigns, and claiming the right to republican votes because they are the most racist motherfuckers out there.

It's not even real news.

Wanna have some fun? Start a rumor that Newt Gingrich once helped a little old lady across the street.

By tomorrow morning's Sunday shows, Tim Pawlenty will be insisting that he, Tim Pawlenty, grabbed a little old lady off the street, beat her to a pulp and stole her church plate money.

Now that's a real republican.

The Deepwater Horizon Plan for Energy Responsibility

New Rule: Anyone who doesn't understand - or pretends to not understand - that oil is an international commodity independent of its geographical source - is not to be taken seriously on the subject of oil.

And any elected official who so much as implies that "increasing domestic production" of oil has a positive effect on anything except the already obscene profits of Exxon Mobil and the rest of Big Oil is, not to put too fine a point on it, lying.



Full transcript here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Our Quote for the Battle to Come

"Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" is already taken, so:

"I believe that as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary, and there are people in distress who cannot help themselves."

Yes, I had to look it up. There are too many from this man to choose from, too hard for those of us who remember to contemplate for long, too utterly heartbreaking to imagine what it would be like if we had a leader today who did not just speak this way, but acted this way.

Yes, it's from a campaign book. One written by a first-time candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The Pursuit of Justice, by Robert Francis Kennedy, 1964.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Some People Have to Stuff Their Shorts and Some People Don't

Brutally honest disclosure: I will not consider Barack Hussein Obama a successful president until he institutes single-payer healthcare, gives the National Labor Relations Board more power than Wall Street has, outlaws religious involvement of any kind in politics, mandates Clean Campaigns for all elections, and personally conducts the first nationally legal gay marriage.

You could just say I have low expectations.

Or you could watch Rachel Maddow take all us whiny dirty fucking hippies to the woodshed with this segment from last week:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Full transcript here.

The Lamplighter

I just finished reading the new biography of Justice William Brennan and highly recommend it to everyone discouraged by the apparently unstoppable steamroller of antediluvian political victories by troglodyte rethuglicans.

I was born within a few years of Brennan's elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court, and was raised in an FDR-JFK-RFK-MLK political household. But I never realized until reading Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion just how much my life - the freedoms I enjoy and take for granted - has been shaped by the battles William J. Brennan fought. Not even just the ones he won, but the ones he lost and turned into victories anyway.

When Brennan lay in state after his death in 1997, thousands of people stood in line for hours for the opportunity to pay their respects. One person asked by a reporter why she stood in line replied: "I am a woman. I am black. What more can I say?"

Brennan may well have offered his best insight about how he would like to be remembered before he joined the Supreme Court. It came at the end of his February 1954 Saint Patrick's Day speech in Boston, remembered for its veiled attack on McCarthyism. Brennan recounted a story once told by a nineteenth-century Scottish comedian, Harry Lauder, of sitting at his window before the advent of electricity. Lauder watched as a lamplighter worked his way down the street, climbing his ladder to light each lamp before moving on to the next one. Eventually, the lamplighter was no longer visible, and the storyteller could see only the lamps he had lit. Brennan concluded his speech by saying:

So it is, my friends, with you and me of Irish blood. As we go through life, may we be found lighting the lamps of truth and justice and righteousness, even as our Irish forebears before us, so that as time passes and we move from the scene of action, our own chilren and their children after them, though we be lost to view, may tell the way we went by the lamps we lighted along life's pathway.
Read this book now, and not for the nostalgia high of a time when liberalism marched forward with strength and conviction.

Read this book now for the courage and inspiration we so desperately need today, when liberalism is in retreat from an American fascism that would reject the Birchers as hippies.

Read this book now for a lesson in what it takes to beat back the never-truly-defeated forces of fear and darkness and hate.

And when the next U.S. Supreme Court seat comes open, demand that Barack Obama's appointment at bare minimum be another William J. Brennan.

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Don't Think That Word "Win" Means What You Think It Means

Six months before the the twin towers fell to suicide plane attacks, Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote a book about the little-known organization behind the worst foreign attack on U.S. soil.

But Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism was important - and remains important more than a decade later - for far more than its insight into how and why the Taliban ran Afghanistan like a medieval video game.

Rashid emphasized over and over again one point. One point that that was deliberately ignored even by intelligence agencies that knew better, even after the 9-11 attacks. One point, that had it been taken seriously, would have saved the U.S. 3,000 civilian lives, more than 5,000 military lives, and trillions of dollars desperately needed today to save the economy.

That point is this:

The enemy is Pakistan.

Not the Taliban, who are a bunch of illiterate troglodytes whose only goal in life is to avoid ever coming into contact with the females of whom they are so terrified.

The enemy is Pakistan.

Not Iran, which despises bin Laden, al Qaeda and Sunni fundamentalism with the heat of a thousand suns, and which would have leaped at the chance to the help the U.S. eliminate bin Laden and all his works.

The enemy is Pakistan.

The staff of U.S. defense intelligence agencies knew it perfectly well. They knew that the hundreds of billions of dollars's worth of high-tech weapons we "sold" to Pakistan ended up in the hands of bin Laden, with the help of the Pakistani security service.

The enemy is Pakistan.

But how boring to take out a bunch of flintstones characters no one would ever know about, when waiting a few months would set off a global conflagration that would never end.

Permanent War at Last.

They must have needed hip waders to get through the flood of masturbatory jizz in Smirky/Darth's Situation Room.

Part One



Part Two