Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's the Bases, Stupid

And the question is: Why are we wasting $4.4 trillion we don't have on a bunch of rocks inhabited by barbarians who will always hate and kill us?

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

Walter Pincus was the guy at the Washington Post known for writing skeptical stories about the Iraq debacle that wound up on page A17. He still gets that level of respect today, even when he’s got better information than anyone else. In this case, Pincus advances the story of permanent bases in Afghanistan (I’m calling them permanent bases, even if they end up being “joint bases” in the end), by taking a look at the construction contracts:

The United States may be planning to reduce its troop levels in Afghanistan over the next three years, but new construction contracts at Bagram Air Field serve as a reminder that current plans call for a significant continuing American military presence there.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $14.2 million contract to a Turkish company to construct an eight-building barracks complex for troops. The facility is expected to house more than 1,200 personnel, and it’s not scheduled to be completed until the fall of 2013, one year before the Afghan army is scheduled to take over security across the country.

Other Bagram construction projects have either just been completed, or are still being lined up.

In March, construction was completed on an $18 million two-bay hangar for C-130 transport planes at Bagram, almost two years after it was begun. The hangar is approximately 60,000 square feet.

This is simply not the kind of building you do when you’re preparing to leave.

It’s possible to believe, as I do, that the announcement on troop withdrawals heralds a change in mission toward more of a counter-terrorism approach than a nation-building approach. It’s possible to believe that the US wants a peace deal between the Karzai government and the Taliban in place, as a precursor to an exit.

But none of that is incompatible with setting up a permanent base structure, a place from which to launch counter-terrorism attacks in places like Pakistan. Indeed, the idea that the US had to leave Afghanistan completely, as a precursor to any talks with the Taliban, has been dropped:

“Negotiations have begun, and the Taliban have shown interest,” said Waheed Mujda, who was a government official during the Taliban regime and maintains contact with Taliban leaders. “In the past, the Taliban has insisted that unless the United States leaves Afghanistan, it will never come to the negotiating table. But now it seems that problem has been solved, and that important condition has been set aside.”

It’s possible that the bases are being built up to increase capacity on quick strikes against the Taliban inside Afghanistan, as a means to bomb them to the bargaining table, which has been the clear strategy of late. But the plans do appear to be made for a post-reconciliation world, with the US in a prime position for regional covert ops.

Repugs' Fault We Can't Have Nice Things

Once upon a time, not so long ago, America would pay any price to make sure the commies never got ahead of us on anything.

Now, our own repugs are making sure the nation pays the price of ensuring we never get anything.

Steve Benen:

High-speed rail in China is not without challenges, including pricey fares and allegations of corruption in the construction of parts of the bullet-train service.

But in the larger context, the system — the most advanced fast-rail system on the planet — is expanding economic benefits and opportunities for the country that could, but won’t, happen in the United States.

Just as building the interstate highway system a half-century ago made modern, national commerce more feasible in the United States, China’s ambitious rail rollout is helping integrate the economy of this sprawling, populous nation — though on a much faster construction timetable and at significantly higher travel speeds than anything envisioned by the Eisenhower administration.

Work crews of as many as 100,000 people per line have built about half of the 10,000-mile network in just six years, in many cases ahead of schedule — including the Beijing-to-Shanghai line that was not originally expected to open until next year. The entire system is on course to be completed by 2020.

For the United States and Europe, the implications go beyond marveling at the pace of Communist-style civil engineering. China’s manufacturing might and global export machine are likely to grow more powerful as 200-mile-an-hour trains link cities and provinces that were previously as much as 24 hours by road or rail from the entrepreneurial seacoast.

Americans watching these developments tend to look at China’s successes from two angles. From the left, it’s envy — the U.S. could make a similar commitment, and reap the benefits, but Republicans won’t allow it. From the right, it’s disdain — China is spending money to improve its infrastructure, spending is bad; ergo the most advanced fast-rail system on the planet is nothing to emulate.

Of course, the question that’s rarely asked is what the right’s counter-proposal is. The left sees high-speed rail as a way to boost economic development, create a lot of jobs, foster innovation, relieve crowded roads, and even reduce emissions. How would conservatives prefer to boost economic development, create a lot of jobs, foster innovation, relieve crowded roads, and even reduce emissions? Apparently, the plan is to cut taxes for the wealthy and wait for good things to happen.

It’s not that we lack the ability to tackle major challenges; it’s that Republicans don’t even want to try.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

North Carolina Voters on a Winning Streak

First they gave the win to Barack Obama in 2008, turning that landslide insult to the GOP into power-breaking injury.

Then they elected Democratic governor Bev Purdue, who is giving her repug legislature the back of her hand.

From TPM:

Gov. Bev Perdue (D-NC) on Monday vetoed a bill that would have required women seeking abortions to wait for 24 hours and receive ultrasound images of the fetus along with descriptions of what they are seeing before having the procedure.
"This bill is a dangerous intrusion into the confidential relationship that exists between women and their doctors. The bill contains provisions that are the most extreme in the nation in terms of interfering with that relationship," Perdue said in a statement to the Raleigh News & Observer.

The Woman's Right to Know Act passed the state House by a vote of 71-48 last month and the Senate by a vote of 29-20 earlier in June. Both chambers were one vote short of the three-fifths majority needed to override the governor's veto.

The legislation makes North Carolina one of several states this year with Republican majorities seeking to restrict access to abortions.

SNIP

Recent legislation that erodes the number of performed abortions without a direct ban have skirted the legal standards set by the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade that restrict the ability of states to outlaw abortion.

SNIP

North Carolina's bill is just one of the pieces of abortion-restricting legislation that have been pushed through the GOP-controlled State legislature. Earlier this month, North Carolina became the third state to restrict funding to its Planned Parenthood clinics after the governor's state budget veto was overridden by the House.

SNIP

Perdue's veto was her tenth for the year, a record number for a North Carolina governor, as a score of bills came from Republican lawmakers in their final week before adjournment.

Perdue also joined Democratic governors Jay Nixon in Missouri and John Lynch in New Hampshire in vetoing repug attempts to legislate voter suppression and election fraud.

No, Democratic executives do not have to constantly surrender to infantile, nihilistic repug legislators. Not even in red states.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Speeches

Two elected officials who are not registered republicans spoke on the subject of our grave economic crisis in Washington, D.C. this week. One got a lot of coverage. The other got ignored. Watch and read them both, then you decide who has the plan and the passion for the people.



Read the transcript here.



From PZ Myers:

Bernie Sanders gave a wonderful speech to the senate. Here's the conclusion:

So, today, I am asking the American people that, if you believe deficit reduction should be about shared sacrifice; if you believe the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations should be asked to pay their fair share as part of deficit reduction; if you believe that, at a time when military spending has almost tripled since 1997, that we begin to take a hard look at our defense budget; and if you believe the middle-class and working families have already sacrificed enough, I urge you to make sure that the President hears your voice--and he needs to hear it now.

I would urge the American people to go to my Web site, sanders.senate.gov, and sign a letter to the President letting him know that enough is enough…

Transcript here.

Big Republican Socialism

The really brilliant part of Big Republican Socialism is that after 70 years of Big Lying about necessary regulations being "onerous," now repugs can label their murderous bulldozing of public services as mere "regulation."

Steve Benen:

It’s not exactly new that conservative policymakers hope to use (cue scary music) big government to regulate women’s reproductive choices. What is new, however, is the creativity some of these policymakers use to achieve their preferred ends.

Republicans, at least for now, know they can’t simply pass legislation prohibiting women from terminating their pregnancies. That leaves them in the position of looking for ways around the law in order to reach the same goal. As Kate Sheppard explained yesterday, Kansas, where far-right Republicans dominate throughout the state government, has figured out a way to effectively ban abortion by making it impossible for the state’s last three abortion clinics to keep their doors open.

The trick is to use red tape and burdensome government regulations, imposing them on health care delivery and private enterprise. “But wait,” you say, “don’t Republicans hate using red tape and burdensome government regulations, imposing them on health care delivery and private enterprise?” As Rachel Maddow explained (Monday) night, these principles only apply capriciously.

According to the new law created by the Republican-dominated state legislatures and Gov. Sam Brownback (R), there are now extremely onerous new licensing rules for all abortion clinics in the state. Kansas’ Republican health secretary is now empower to enforce these rules and shut down any facility that fails to fully comply.

What kind of rules are we talking about? These private facilities are now being told “how many rooms they have to have, how many square feet those rooms have to be, and what those rooms have to be used for. There has to be, for example, 80 square foot patient interview room, 80 square foot per patient recovery room. There’s new regulation on the type and size and number of janitorial closets these clinics are required to have. Also, the number and location of bath rooms — new regulations for the kind of lighting in each room, and what kind of emergency exits they are required to have.”

These are all new regulations, created by right-wing policymakers. What’s more, the clinics were notified of the regulatory changes on Monday, then told inspections could begin on Wednesday. In other words, even if the clinic wanted to take steps to comply with the new red tape, they’d have 48 hours to make structural and architectural changes to their facilities. And if state officials find that a clinic has the wrong size janitorial closet, for example, the clinic can be shut down.
I’d note, just as an aside, that it’s hard not to wonder how much better of the nation would be if Republicans cared half as much about job creation as they do about blocking women from exercising their reproductive rights.

And if it works to eliminate abortion clinics, why not drop a regulatory anvil on the union-shop postal service?

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

As we see, regulation is good as long as Republicans like Darrell Issa can use it to bust a union! Of course, this doesn't really address the insidious idea that a former federal agency is supposed to fund itself. (That same kind of thinking has led to hobbled Amtrak service throughout the country.) It's not as if everyone doesn't use the mail -- it's part of the common good. (Yeah, I know. Republicans hate that!)

Imagine if we asked the military to fund itself.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced legislation Thursday to restructure the U.S. Postal Service, saying more regulation is necessary to “prevent another taxpayer bailout” of the financially strapped agency.

The bill would eliminate Saturday delivery and give the Postal Service greater latitude to close post offices and regional mail processing centers. A panel would be created to oversee the agency, modeled on the District of Columbia’s Financial Control Board, with a broad mandate to reduce costs and bring the agency back to financial solvency. “Congress can’t keep kicking the can down the road on out-of-control labor costs and excess infrastructure of USPS,” Issa said in a statement.

The panel also would have authority to renegotiate collective-bargaining agreements with postal workers, a provision that will draw stiff opposition from unions. If the bill becomes law, employees will probably see reductions in their wages and benefits.

I have complained for years about the refusal of Democrats to fight fire with fire. Repugs want tax cuts for the rich? Democrats demand doubling top tax rates to 70 percent. Cuts in social programs? No, doubling of food stamps, welfare, housing subsidies, unemployment compensation and Medicaid. Repeal Affordable Care Act? OK, replace it with Medicare for all. And $3 trillion in new infrastructure jobs.

But when the repug effort to create a lords-and-serfs feudal economy veers into suicidal nihilism, there's no way to fight that on level ground. How do you top "burn it all to the ground and salt the earth so nothing will grow for a thousand years?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Let Your Windows Make Your Electricity

Renewable energy is cool - beyond the basic coolness of getting power from the sun, the wind, the ground, the ocean waves and who knows what else, renewable energy is constantly innovating, coming up with new and super-cool ways to make electricity cleanly and easily.

From TPM:

A start-up in Northern California is working on creating "solar windows" that could act as solar panels at the same time as blocking sunlight from entering office buildings to reduce their energy needs, according to a Sunday story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The company Pythagoras Solar is based in San Mateo, California, and it won an award from the "GE ecomagination Challenge," award of $100,000 last week for its idea.

The company makes a "window laced with solar cells," that could generate power for office buildings and shield offices from sunlight, thus reducing air conditioning costs.

The GE award is a "validation of three things -- that (the window) is unique, that it's feasible and it could have a big impact," Gonen Fink, Pythagoras' CEO told the Chronicle.

The technology is a class of equipment that seeks to replace parts of buildings with solar panels to generate energy. Other possibilities include window awnings and roofing tiles.

Some of Pythagoras' windows are already installed on Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower.)

CEO Fink wouldn't reveal his system's cost per watt to the Chronicle, but he says that "for the typical customer" the system will pay for itself in three to five years.

He's excited about the technology, he says, because it could change the way buildings are built.

Fuck you, Big Coal. Fuck you, Big Oil. Fuck you, Fracking Natural Gas. And fuck every member of Congress who refuses to snatch billions of dollars in subsidies away from fossil fuels and use them to finance more super cool renewable energy research like this.

Another USA "Dummy Map"

They all look the same: the maps coloring the states according to lack of education, poverty, obesity, freakazoid control, internet porn use, etc. Southeastern states stand out on every one, usually in deep crimson. Civilization and rationality prevail in the northeast and far west, soothing in deep blue.

No surprise that the Miss USA pageant (that still exists? sheesh) produces a similar map. From Beeryblog:

This year’s Miss USA contestants were asked whether evolution should be taught in schools.

Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars posted a piece about the inanity of their answers, noting that most of the contestants considered evolution a “theory” that was on par with the creation myth in the Book of Genesis.

But (apparently with way too much time on my hands) I decided to dig deeper. I took notes on the answers of every one of the contestants to see whether there was more to learn here than just that the majority of the contestants saw evolution science and the creation myth as deserving of equal weight. After all, each one of these contestants had to be crowned Miss [Fill in name of state] to get to the Miss USA pageant.

I theorized that contestants in certain states, to win their state titles, would have had to master the art of fake-Jesus code; how could one become “Miss Alabama,” for example, without prattling on about the Old Testament somewhere along the way?
My findings were startling. I’ll start with a map, which you might confuse with an electoral map representing states solidly Democratic, leaning Democratic, solidly Republican, or leaning Republican in a typical election year. Take a look at this map (Louisiana is not colored in because the contestant from that state had no idea what the question was about, so her answer didn’t count):



- The dark blue states sent contestants to the Miss USA pageant who solidly supported teaching evolution in schools.

- The light blue states sent contestants to the Miss USA pageant who indicated support for teaching evolution but only with some reservations or confusion.

- The pink states sent contestants to the Miss USA pageant who thought that evolution and creationism (or some other “theory” or “perspective” or “point of view”) should be taught side-by-side as equally plausible possibilities.

- The dark red states sent contestants to the Miss USA pageant who either said evolution should not be taught, strongly suggested that it should not be taught, or said that even if it should be taught, they themselves did not “believe in” evolution.

It seems eerie how well a beauty pageant reflects the state of American electoral geography. Had I been shown this map without knowing what it represented, I would have bet my last dollar that it was somebody’s projection about how things might pan out for Brack Obama in 2012. But no; it’s actually a map representing the relative idiocy of Miss USA contestants in 2011.

Read all 50 answers, but here are three that caught my eye:

Kentucky: It’s not a good “topic for school subjects” because there are just too many different views and beliefs about it.

Funny. When I was in school, there were more "different views and beliefs" about algebra (specifically, its relevance to real life) than there were about evolution.

Florida: Yes, it should be taught in schools.

You hear that, Kentucky? Freakazoid, conservatard, Rick-Scott-electing Florida sent a member of the realtiy-based community to the pageant.

New Mexico: Yes, because it’s science.

The heavily hispanic, heavily catholic State of Enchantment gets it right.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Privatization Kills

Digby nails it:

Here's a little taste of what your average senior will have to deal with when she's on Ryan's "voucher" program or when the whole Medicare system is privatized.

Reporting from Indianapolis— Louise Cohoon was at home when her 80-year-old mother called in a panic from Terre Haute: The $97 monthly Medicaid payment she relied on to supplement her $600-a-month income had been cut without warning by a private company that had taken over the state's welfare system.

Later, the state explained why: She failed to call into an eligibility hot line on a day in 2008 when she was hospitalized for congestive heart failure.

"I thought the news was going to kill my mother, she was so upset," said Cohoon, 63. Her mother had to get by on support from cash-strapped relatives for months until the state restored her benefits under pressure from Legal Services attorneys.

That's brought to you from the people who say "government can't do anything right."

So how did this happen, you ask? Well ... it's good old-fashioned corruption, all dressed up in a fancy new name called "privatization."

Cohoon's mother, now suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was one of thousands of Indiana residents who abruptly and erroneously lost their welfare, Medicaid or food stamp benefits after Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels privatized the state's public assistance program — the result of an efficiency plan that went awry from the very beginning, the state now admits.

Though the $1.37-billion project proved disastrous for many of the state's poor, elderly and disabled, it was a financial bonanza for a handful of firms with ties to Daniels and his political allies, which landed state contracts worth millions.

[...]

It's an issue that is likely to persist, as Republicans in statehouses nationwide turn to private companies as they seek to shrink government and weaken the hold of public-sector unions.

And any attempts to rein in such boondoggles will inevitably be attacked as "regulations."

You have to read the whole article to understand just how corrupt these processes are. And for all the talk about local control and smaller bureaucracies, the companies they are contracting with are national and their size is huge.And a bunch of people are getting rich off these tax dollars while the people the programs are designed to serve are getting the shaft.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

When Even a Corrupt Senator Cares About Constituents

How stirring it was to see Mitch McConnell stand in the Well of the Senate and demand single-payer healthcare for the Eastern Kentucky communities ravaged by coal mining, because only single-payer is powerful and inexpensive enough .... oh, wait.

Kay Tillow at Firedoglake:

In 2009 when the Washington beltway was tied up with the health care reform tussle, Montana Democratic Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the all powerful Senate Finance Committee, said everything was on the table–except for single payer. When doctors, nurses and others rose in his hearing to insist that single payer be included in the debate, Baucus had them arrested. As more stood up, Baucus could be heard on his open microphone saying, “We need more police.”

Yet when Senator Baucus needed a solution to a catastrophic health disaster in Libby, Montana, and surrounding Lincoln County, he turned to the nation’s single payer healthcare system, Medicare, to solve the problem.

Baucus’ problem was caused by a vermiculite mine that had spread deadly airborne asbestos killing hundreds and sickening thousands in Libby and northwest Montana. The W. R. Grace Company that owned the mine denied its connection to the massive levels of mesothelioma and asbestosis and dodged responsibility for this environmental and health disaster. When all law suits and legal avenues failed, Baucus turned to our country’s single payer plan, Medicare.

The single payer plan that Baucus kept off the table is now very much on the table in Libby. Unknown to most of the public, Baucus inserted a section into the health reform bill that covers the suffering people of Libby, Montana, not just the former miners but the whole community—all covered by Medicare.

They don’t have to be 65 years old or more.

They don’t have to wait until 2014 for the state exchanges.

No ten year roll out—it’s immediate.

They don’t have to purchase a plan—this is not a buy-in to Medicare—it’s free.

They don’t have to be disabled for two years before they apply.

They don’t have to go without care for three years until Medicaid expands.

They don’t have to meet income tests.

They don’t have to apply for a subsidy.

They don’t have to pay a fine for failure to buy insurance.

They don’t have to hope that the market will make a plan affordable.

They don’t have to hide their pre-existing conditions.

They don’t have to find a job that provides coverage.

Baucus inserted a clause in the Affordable Care Act to make special arrangements for them in Medicare, and he didn’t wait for any Congressional Budget Office scoring to do it.

Read the whole thing.
And so all the supposed arguments against single-payer collapse. Senators, representatives, lobbyists and presidents all know the truth: only single-payer - Medicare for all - can solve our deficit-exploding national healthcare crisis.

Thus only one reason to oppose it: campaign contributions from Big Insurance.

How American Corporations Sabotage National Security

Of course they do that in many ways, not least by shipping jobs overseas and evading billions of dollars in U.S. taxes, thus undermining the U.S. economy. Of course there are relatively infrequent but horrific environmental crimes like Union Carbide's murder of more than 3,000 people in Bhopal, India in 1985. Five hundred years from now, people in Bhopal will not have forgotten.

Then there are the corporate attacks on U.S. national security that are less obvious but far more damaging in the long term.

Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

This kind of behind the scenes power I’d argue causes, at least in aggregate, as much resentment toward the American government as giant screw ups like the Iraq War, the drone bombing of Afghani and Pakistani civilians, or awkward attempts to overthrow Hugo Chavez. But how this all goes down rarely comes to light.

Here’s an example in Haiti that came out in a Wikileaks cable. In 2009, the Haitian government passed an increase in the minimum wage, from 24 cents an hour to 61 cents an hour. US apparel companies flipped their lids. Many apparel companies have factories in Haiti and pay them nearly slave wages. These companies, including Haines and Levi-Strauss pressured the State Department. After the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti went and talked to the president, the Haitian government created an exception for American textile companies of a $3 a day minimum wage, which for an 8 hour day works out to something like 37 cents an hour.

2 major points about this. First, why would the United States do this? I know that one role of the American government is to facilitate good international business conditions for American companies. But does such a move promote stability in the Caribbean for the long term? When the Haitian earthquake took place, Americans poured millions in donations into the country. For an international story in an impoverished nation, the earthquake story stayed in the media for quite a long time.

But if we want to help the Haitians, allow them to build a stable society, and bring them closer to something more than extreme poverty, why would the United States support decimating a 61 cent an hour minimum wage? Doesn’t that lead to more instability in the nation, more refugees fleeing to the United States and other nations, more international problems? Stupid, short-sighted, and immoral. Not that the apparel companies care about any of these things.

Second, even a lot of progressives seem to talk of globalization as this unstoppable trend with a self-powering propulsion engine pushing it forward ever faster. How can you put the genie back in the bottle, they say. There’s of course some truth to this. But neoliberal globalization is also a series of discrete decisions made by individuals, bureaucracies, organizations, and governments. The U.S. government could very easily tell the apparel companies that they will not use pressure to push down the minimum wage. It could enact policies to protect American workers. It could pressure corporations to enact decent labor and environmental policies when they do build a factory abroad. It could do any number of things to make the increasingly globalized world a better place.

Instead it forces Haitians into continued extreme poverty.

Next time a bunch of demonstrators in some third-world hell-hole burn an American flag, remember that it's probably not our freedoms they hate, or even our drones bombing their children, but rather the American corporation destroying their lives.

Criminalizing Political Involvement

Is there a nonprofit group in your town that is registering voters? The League of Women Voters maybe? The Boy Scouts? Tell them to watch out - the Voter Suppression League is out to get them.

Digby:

Here's another example of what's becoming increasingly clear is a systematic program to dismantle the institutional left:

Last month, scores of public officials across Los Angeles County opened their mail to find nearly identical requests for information: Members of the Los Angeles City Council and the county Board of Supervisors, the Community Redevelopment Agency and Community College District Board of Trustees, the city of Long Beach and untold others were asked to produce records relating to the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. It was the first blow, silently delivered, in what could be a nasty fight, of a sort that is becoming increasingly common in American and California politics.

LAANE, as it's known, is an 18-year-old advocacy organization that seeks to fashion and influence public policy relating to jobs, the environment and community development. The group, widely perceived as having a strong liberal slant, has a staff of 45 people and an annual budget of $4 million, and it is headed by a shrewd executive director, Madeline Janis. Housed in a tiny suite of offices just west of downtown (LAANE rents the space from the union UNITE-HERE), its modest quarters give little evidence of its impact, which is profound. In project after project -- from winning passage of the city's Living Wage Ordinance to revamping the way the Los Angeles port handles truck traffic to reimagining the region's approach to recycling -- LAANE has shown itself to be one of Southern California's most potent political organizations.

That has made it plenty of enemies, and one of them is now quietly but unmistakably striking back. The group that filed the requests for information under the California Public Records Act is called MB Public Affairs, a Sacramento-based operation that specializes in "opposition research," the art of ferreting out dirt on one's enemies. MB Public Affairs is headed by Mark Bogetich, a garrulous operative known to his friends as "Bogey," who has helped a number of Republican candidates neutralize their opponents...

When MB Public Affairs filed more than 50 public records requests for information on LAANE, it was not a casual act. It was almost certainly intended to find something damaging, and it's costing someone serious money. One operative who knows this business well estimated the price of such a digging campaign at roughly $50,000.

The politics of personal destruction have turned into the politics of institutional destruction. No evidence is needed since the real intent is to smear through innuendo and intimidate public figures through guilt by association.

The left could make them pay a price for this by similarly going after the massive rightwing infrastructure and wingnut welfare, but it wouldn't be polite.

See, only Dirty Fucking Hippies and their ni**ermuslinterrist fellow travelers need voter registration drives.

Ril Murkins go to church, where they get registered to vote and a list of candidates to vote for. No thinking required.

Brilliant Answer to a Stupid Question

I gave up a long time ago trying to communicate with the freakazoids - they are impervious to reason, logic and plain English.

But I am not brilliant like @ PZ Myers:

Ken Ham is crowing over fooling a child. A young girl visited a moon rock display from NASA, and bravely went up to the docent and asked the standard question Ham coaches kids to ask — and she's quite proud of herself.

I went to a NASA display of a moon rock and a lady said, "This Moon-rock is 3.75 billion years old!" Guess what I asked for the first time ever?

"Um, may I ask a question?"

And she said, "Of course."

I said, in my most polite voice, "Were you there?"

Love, Emma B

Ken Ham is also quite proud of himself. He's also pleased with the fact that many people will be dismayed at the miseducation he delivers.

Each time I give examples in my blog posts of children who have been influenced by AiG, the atheists go ballistic on their blogs. They hate to read of instances like this. They want to teach these children there is no God and they are just animals in this hopeless and meaningless struggle of this purposeless existence.

I am angry at Ken Ham, but in this case, I mainly feel sad for Emma B, who is being manipulated and harmed by a delusion. So I thought what I would do is write a letter to her — a letter which I wouldn't send, because I'm not going to intrude on a family with the actual science, but because this is what I would say if Emma actually asked me.

Dear Emma;

I read your account of seeing a 3.75 billion year old moon rock, and how you asked the person displaying it "Were you there?", the question that Ken Ham taught you to ask scientists. I'm glad you were asking questions — that's what scientists are supposed to do — but I have to explain to you that that wasn't a very good question, and that Ken Ham is a poor teacher. There are better questions you could have asked.

One serious problem with the "Were you there?" question is that it is not very sincere. You knew the answer already! You knew that woman had not been to the moon, and you definitely knew that she had not been around to see the rock forming 3.75 billion years ago. You knew the only answer she could give was "no," which is not very informative.

Another problem is that if we can only trust what we have seen with our own two eyes in our short lives, then there's very little we can know at all. You probably know that there are penguins in Antarctica, and that the Civil War was fought in the 1860s, and that there are fish swimming deep in the ocean, and you also believe that Jesus was crucified two thousand years ago, but if I asked you "Were you there?" about each of those facts, you'd also have to answer "no" to each one. Does that mean they are all false?

Of course not. You know those things because you have other kinds of evidence. There are photographs and movies of penguins and fish, there are documents from the time of the Civil War, as well as the fact that in many places you can still find old bullets and cannon balls buried in the ground from the time of the war, and you have a book, the Bible, that tells stories about Jesus. You have evidence other than that you personally witnessed something.

This is important because we live in a big ol' beautiful world, far older than your 9 years, and there's so much to learn about it — far more than you'll ever be able to see for yourself. There's a gigantic universe beyond South Carolina, and while you probably won't ever visit a distant star or go inside a cell, there are instruments we can use to see farther and deeper than your eyes can go, and there are books that describe all kinds of wonders. Don't close yourself off to them simply because you weren't there.

I'd like to teach you a different easy question, one that is far, far more useful than Ken Ham's silly "Were you there?" The question you can always ask is, "How do you know that?"

Right away, you should be able to see the difference. You already knew the answer to the "Were you there?" question, but you don't know the answer to the "How do you know that?" question. That means the person answering it will tell you something you don't know, and you will learn something new. And that is the coolest thing ever.

You could have asked the lady at the exhibit, "How do you know that moon rock is 3.75 billion years old?", and she would have explained it to you. Maybe you would disagree with her; maybe you'd think there's a better answer; maybe you'd still want to believe Ken Ham, who is not a scientist; but the important thing is that you'd have learned why she thought the rock was that old, and why scientists have said that it is that old, and how they worked out the age, even if they weren't there. And you'd be a little bit more knowledgeable today.

I'll assume you're actually interested in knowing how they figured out the age of the rock, so I'll try to explain it to you.

SNIP

I think you're off to a great start — being brave enough to ask older people to explain themselves is exactly what you need to do to learn more and more, and open up the whole new exciting world of science for yourself. But that means you have to ask good questions to get good answers so that you will learn more.

Don't use Ken Ham's bad question, and most importantly, don't pay attention to Ken Ham's bad answers. There's a wealth of wonderful truths that reveal so much more about our universe out there, and you do not want to close your eyes to them. Maybe someday you could be a woman who does go to the moon and sees the rocks there, or a geologist who sees how rocks erode and form here on earth, or the biologist who observes life in exotic parts of the world…but you won't achieve any of those things if you limit your mind to the dogma of Answers in Genesis.

Best wishes for future learning

As Barefoot and Progressive points out, this is the same organization to which Kentucky governor Steve "No, really - I'm a republican!" Beshear is giving $42 million tax dollars Kentucky does not have.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Obama's Woman-Hating, Family-Killing Budget

Funny how budget cuts like this - the ones that cause actual, physical harm to innocent people - only happen when there's a Democrat in the White House.

Zandar ruins my whole fucking day:

The budget that did pass did make federal cuts to Planned Parenthood, and as a result, clinics are already starting to close across the country, not in just Indiana.

In Minnesota, clinics are closing. Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota announced this week that it'll be closing six Minnesota clinics because of federal cuts to Title X family planning funding that were made in this year's budget.

Announcing the closures, the organization's president and CEO, Sarah Stoesz, said the budget cuts "were driven by ideological attacks on women's health, not by a desire to fix the economy."

There will be cuts in North Carolina and Kansas, too.

The North Carolina cuts won't affect Medicaid patients but their spokesperson, Paige Johnson tells us they stand to lose all of their Title X family planning funding from the federal government and state funding for programs aimed at preventing teen pregnancy and providing access to the most effective forms of birth control for low-income women.

Kansas also defunded Planned Parenthood through the state budget -- Kansas' budget includes a measure that essentially disqualifies Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funding. Medicaid patients aren't affected in Kansas, either. But according to Peter Brownlie, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas & Mid-Missouri, those Title X funds represent about half of the revenue that runs Kansas' two Planned Parenthood clinics. The cuts are set to take effect July 1 and Mr. Brownlie says the organization is still considering a lawsuit.

Why do Republicans want poor women to have so little family care? One theory is that if Republicans cut access to Planned parenthood services, poor people will be shamed into not having sex, and stop having children or something. More cynical people like myself think that Republicans want the opposite to happen...to keep them poor. Oh, and Republicans just hate women, too...especially the ones that won't submit to their dominion.

You bet your repug-reamed ass I'm fucking furious. But not at the repugs.

Want to Privatize? Then Give the People Our Money Back

All the publicly-owned structures in this country valuable enough to be a target of privatization were built with federal taxpayer dollars. Trillions and trillions of taxpayer dollars. That's not even counting interest since the mid-'50s, or the mid-'30s.

Go ahead, you privatizing fuckheads. But first, you pay us back every dime.

Susie Madrak:

This is a great idea. It provides a legitimate basis for the feds to intervene in this madness that's spreading through the country like wildfire:

Madrak links to Huffpo, which I refuse to do. So here's the story from Sen. Richard Durbin's website:

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation on Thursday that would protect taxpayer investment in major infrastructure projects when local and state governments privatize roads, airports and other transportation facilities. The Protecting Taxpayers in Transportation Asset Transfers Act would also require increased transparency and public involvement before major transportation projects can be leased or sold.

“The federal government provides states and local governments billions of dollars to build, maintain and improve transportation projects around the country,” said Durbin. “The last transportation bill alone provided states with an average of $48 billion per year for upgrades to roads, bridges and mass transit systems. Any deal to sell or lease these assets should be closely examined and include a return on the federal taxpayer investment.”

SNIP

The Protecting Taxpayers in Transportation Asset Transfers Act would attach a federal lien on all transportation projects that have received federal funding in excess of $25 million or federal funding and have a value over $500 million. This lien will not be released until federal funds are repaid and the parties agree to take action to increase transparency and public input in the privatization transaction.

“The private sector can play an important role in helping Illinois and our country finance the critical infrastructure we need to compete in the global economy,” said Durbin. “But as the private financiers take control of an airport, road or other transportation asset for decades – sometimes as long as 99 years – the federal taxpayer is often left holding the bag. My bill will ensure that the interests of the federal taxpayer are protected when a private company seeks to operate a public asset for a profit.”

Durbin’s bill would require local and state governments to repay federal funds used to build and maintain major transportation assets before selling or leasing them to a private entity. The Department of Transportation (DOT) would be required to establish a formula to ensure the repayment is in line with the reasonable depreciation of the asset. Repaid federal funds would be returned to the Department of Transportation and must be used to help make investments in other transportation projects.

The bill would also increase transparency and encourage public involvement before privatization deals are completed by requiring local sponsors and private operators to agree to several disclosures and transparency measures. For example, local governments will be required to conduct an assessment that demonstrates that private operation/ownership of the asset will provide at least the same public and financial benefit than if the public entity were to remain under government control. Private operators will be required to disclose anticipated changes in workforce, wages and benefits over the life of the lease and estimate an amount of savings these changes represent relative to current operations. Private operators will also be required to keep any privatized transportation asset in a state of good repair.

“All levels of government are facing serious budget shortfalls,” said Durbin. “The federal government shouldn’t incentivize local and state governments to make rash, short-term decisions that lease transportation infrastructure for generations just to solve temporary budget shortfalls. Instead, we should carefully consider any privatization deal to ensure the public understands all aspects of a transaction and that the taxpayers’ investment is protected.”

Small Step Forward for Unions Could Be Huge Leap for American Workers

The big missing piece in President Obama's plan to restore manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is strong unions. Strong unions were the key to the booming post-war economy and the rise of the middle class, and their decline over the last 40 years played a large part in the decline of the middle-class economy.

But now a small but significant change could open the door to restoring that strong union economy - if the administration hangs tough and unions take advantage.

Kevin Drum:

The NLRB, protector of management rights when Republicans are in charge and protector of labor rights when Democrats are in charge, announced today that it plans to change the rules governing union recognition elections in order to "curb unnecessary litigation, streamline procedures before and after elections, and enable the use of electronic communications, such as requiring employers to give union organizers access to electronic files containing workers' addresses and emails." Sounds boring. So why should you care? I'll let Peter Kirsanow, an avowed labor-phobe, explain:

In a nutshell, the NLRB’s proposed rules would implement “quickie elections,” a process that would allow unions to organize a workplace as easily as they could have had the Employee Free Choice Act (also known as “card check”) passed.

This is a very big deal....Right now, initial elections normally are conducted within 38–40 days of the filing of a petition by the union....That’s not much time for the employer to get his message out. Indeed, in 2009 and 2010 unions won approximately 68 percent of elections (this does not include the number of petitions withdrawn by unions). Yet the “quickie election” rules proposed by the NLRB will shorten the time frame to a mere 10–20 days. Make absolutely no mistake: That’s not enough time for even the largest and most sophisticated employers to counter what the union has been telling employees while organizing them for the last 6–8 months. The union win rate will far exceed 68 percent. In fact, it’s likely that many employers will choose to not even go through the expense of an election that he’s sure to lose, but will simply voluntarily recognize the union upon a showing of authorization cards.

Sounds good to me! And don't get too excited about that two-thirds rate of union victories, either. It's true that in 2009 unions won 66% of all NLRB elections compared to 51% in 1997, but that's 66% of 1,304 elections compared to 51% of 3,261 elections. Contra Kirsanow, organizing a new workplace has gotten so hard in recent years thanks to corporate-friendly NLRB rule changes and increasingly aggressive union avoidance campaigns, that unions simply don't bother waging all that many recognition elections anymore. They know that most of them are hopeless. The result is that the net number of election wins has dropped nearly in half in just the last decade alone.

That's not good enough for Kirsanow and his allies, of course, who would like unions to disappear completely. But among workers themselves, the anti-union skepticism of the 70s and 80s has mostly disappeared in the face of stagnant wages and skyrocketing executive pay. Survey research a few years ago by Harvard's Richard Freeman suggests that "if workers were provided the union representation they desired in 2005, then the unionization rate would be about 58%" — almost eight times higher than the actual private sector rate of 7.4%. The fact that so many workers would welcome union representation but don't have it is compelling evidence that far from being unfair to management, the current legal regime for union elections is tilted dramatically in their favor. For workers, rule changes that slightly reduced that tilt and once again gave unions a fighting chance to organize workplaces would be a welcome change.

"Renew the Promise of American Manufacturing"

Given this is the man who brought the U.S. automobile industry back from the dead, we're going to take his word on it.

"Their mission is to come up with a way to get ideas from the drawing board to the manufacturing floor to the marketplace as swiftly as possible, which will help create quality jobs, and make our businesses more competitive. But they also have a broader mission. It’s to renew the promise of American manufacturing. To help make sure America remains in this century what we were in the last – a country that makes things. A country that out-builds and out-innovates the rest of the world."


Friday, June 24, 2011

Quote of the Day

Via Down with Tyranny, from Matt Stoller:

"... a 'pragmatic progressive' economist, which apparently means someone who feels bad about the damage caused by the problems they aren't trying to fix."


Drop "pragmatic" and "economist" and I say that's a damn fine definition.

As American as You and Me

As I've written many times before, the only "Real Americans" are full-blooded pre-Columbian natives. The rest of us are immigrants and immigrant descendants. And if coming to this country without proper paperwork is a crime, very few of us would be here.

Digby nails it:

I would imagine that many of you have already read this essay by Jose Antonio Vargas about his odyssey from being an undocumented child to undocumented success story, but if you haven't take a few minutes and do it. It's an extraordinary piece.

And then read the comments. Most of them are supportive and decent. But there are quite a few that simply say "tough shit." You're not "one of us", "you people" take our tax dollars, all the usual hideous nonsense. There's just no getting through to people who would punish someone who was brought to this country as a child and is as American as they are by exiling them rather than giving them a path to citizenship. Their issues have to do with a very deluded idea that because you happened to be born within some arbitrary lines on a map, you are a superior form of humanity to which others must "qualify" to be privileged enough to obtain. These people need to get out more.

The concept of citizenship is obviously fraught with complications. But those of us who were born as citizens didn't "earn" a damned thing to be Americans. It's an accident of fate. Vargas, on the other hand actually did earn his citizenship by spending years in the shadows and succeeding in spite of the terror he felt at losing everything he's worked for and being exiled from his home. The fact that this immigrant country can't find a way to legalize people who didn't ask to come to America as children any more than the rest of asked to be born here is a travesty. These people are as American as I am.
Tom B nails the utterly predictable - and predicted - consequences of anti-immigrant hatred.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Brett Guthrie is a Moron

Worse than a moron, he's a corporate lickspittle who thinks every voter in Kentucky's Second District is so bone-fucking stupid we'll swallow all the lies he tells.

From his latest constituent email:

Last week the Department of Labor announced that Kentucky’s unemployment rate fell below 10%. While there were mixed reactions to this news, I stand firm that we must do a better job to get our economy back on track.
This from the Koch-sucker who has spent the last two-and-a-half years voting against every single plan to create jobs and "get our economy back on track." Yes, he's "standing firm," but it's against jobs, not for them.

I have been working with leadership in the House to draft a pro-growth plan to get our economy moving in the right direction. This plan focuses on curtailing overreaching regulations, reducing the tax burden, starting a real a national energy plan, and cutting spending.
It's a four-fer! Everything he recommends will work splendidly to kill more jobs, further undermine the middle class and continue to destroy the U.S. economy.

"Curtailing regulations" - like repealing Glass-Steagall, which cut the leash on Wall Street speculators and led directly to financial arson that brought the economy to its knees.

"Reducing the tax burden" - like Smirky/Darth did in 2001, transforming a $1 trillion surplus into a $3 trillion deficit and leaving the economy too weak to respond to the 2008 recesssion.

"Starting a real national energy plan" - like every other repug "energy plan," which is nothing of the kind, but merely more trillions of dollars in subsidies to oil, coal and gas companies that are already obese from obscene profits.

"Cutting spending" - like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Guthrie voted for all of the repug plans to kill them, as well as the budget plans to kill spending on highways, schools, police, firefighters, water treatment and disaster relief and so much more. Governor Beshear has requested disaster relief funding from President Obama to help tens of thousands of eastern Kentuckians left homeless by last week's torrential rains and floods, but Brett Guthrie would rather give that money to the already filthy rich, who are never left homeless by anything.

The first step is that is we must not do additional harm. Job creation is not going to come from Washington but bureaucrats in the nation’s capitol can certainly create obstacles to job creators. In recent years the regulatory burden from Washington has stifled our businesses, both big and small. I hear this from small business owners, manufacturers and farmers weekly when I am traveling around Kentucky. One of the top priorities for the 112th Congress has been to empower the committees to put a halt to the over-regulation coming from the unelected officials within the Administration. In addition, we need to pass the REINS Act. This legislation, which was introduced by my Kentucky colleague, Rep. Geoff Davis, ensures congressional review and approval of any government regulations that has an impact on the economy, especially on small businesses.
For two and a half years, corporations in this country have sat on trillions of dollars in profits, refusing to create a single job. Wall Street has sat on trillions of dollars in profits, refusing to lend a single dime to small businesses who want to create jobs but can't because Big Banking won't let them. Slashed spending committed by repugs since 2001 has left state governments forced to lay off public employees, vastly increasing unemployment. That leaves the federal government as the employer of last resort - except that lying morons like Brett Guthrie refuse to allow the stimulus plan the nation desperately needs.

Regulations are what protect consumers and small businesses and community banks and local governments from the depredations of Big Business and Big Business from the consequences of its own folly. To say regulations hurt business is to say police departments cause crime.

Second, we must lower the tax burden on job creators. Whether we like it or not, we live in a global economy. We are now competing with many more countries in the global marketplace than we were ten years ago. Unfortunately, we are at a serious disadvantage because the United States has one of the highest tax rates in the developed world. There is no question that our U.S. workers make the best products and can compete, but only if the playing field is level and they are given opportunity. Furthermore, we must open the doors to more overseas markets for our farmers.
No mention of actual tax rates, of course. That's because wealthy people in this country - and by that I mean everyone earning more than $400,000 per year, which is eight times the median family income - currently pays the lowest tax rates in more than 80 years. When the Depression hit in 1929, the rich paid virtually nothing in taxes. Low tax rates didn't stop 25 million jobs from disappearing. For 80 years, strong economic growth has always - always - correlated with high tax rates.



Third, we must end our dependence on foreign energy. Every day we send far too much money to unstable places half-way around the world. Instead, we need to develop American energy sources. I worked hard last year to earn a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee so I could help push this agenda. To date, our committee has completed legislation to fix the permitting process that environmental activists have used to halt offshore oil exploration, and we have passed a bill to stop President Obama’s backdoor plan to impose cap-and-trade by regulation.
Wrong again! We must end our dependence on fossil fuels - oil, natural gas and coal. There is no such thing as "foreign energy." All fossil fuels - oil especially but the others also - is traded on global markets. Go to your local gas station and tell them you want American gas, made from oil pumped right here at home. No such thing.

Ending our dependence on fossil fuels means just that: genuine renewable energy from sun, wind and geothermal (not fake "clean coal" and not energy-wasting ethanol.) But every proposal to increase renewable energy has been voted down by Brett Guthrie and the rest of the congressional repugs.

Finally and most importantly, we must cut federal spending. Federal spending is not going to get us out of this economic slowdown. Just look at the results of the bloated stimulus bill as evidence. We cannot continue to saddle future generations with mounting debt. We have an opportunity later this summer when debate begins on raising the debt limit to send a clear message that the days of borrowing and spending are over.
Even more wrong! The 2009 stimulus was the only thing that kept the economy from sliding into a Great Depression that would make old-timers long for the hobo camps and bread lines of 1931. The only reason the economy is not recovering as it should is that Brett Guthrie and his fellow repugs rejected the needed $2 trillion stimulus that was 90 percent job creation, forcing a $750 billion stimulus that was 50 percent destructive tax cuts.

In closing, it is time to put politics aside and focus on what is best for our nation. We owe it to all Kentuckians who want to get back to work, we owe it to the recent college graduates who are anxious to start their careers and we owe it to our next generation to leave them with less debt and more opportunities.
Strike Four and You're Out! "Put politics aside?" Are you fucking kidding me? Since January 20, 2009, Brett Guthrie and his fellow repugs have done nothing - nothing - but stand in the way of everything President Obama and congressional democrats have tried to do to create jobs and restore the economy. They have worked tirelessly to destroy That Ni**er in the White House, and will do whatever it takes to destroy him, even if they have to burn the nation to the ground.

You're a lying motherfucking moron, Brett Guthrie, and instead of sending out emails full of destructive lies, you should crawl away in shame.

The EPA Doesn't Kill Jobs; Corporate Job-Killers Kill Jobs

It's been obvious in the coal fields for decades: Big Coal is hell-bent on eliminating jobs at all costs, and environmental regulations have nothing to do with it, though that doesn't stop the corporate owners from whining that it's all the EPA's fault.

Now, however, we have evidence - with charts! - that EPA is not, in fact, the "job-killing machine" corporate job killers love to blame.

Kevin Drum:

Is the EPA a job-killing machine? On the off chance that empirical evidence still matters to anyone, Dave Roberts summarizes a bit of recent research into this question from the Economic Policy Institute. First up, Isaac Shapiro takes a look at the costs and benefit of several new EPA rules:

The dollar value of the benefits of the major rules finalized or proposed by the EPA so far during the Obama administration exceeds the rules’ costs by an exceptionally wide margin. Health benefits in terms of lives saved and illnesses avoided will be enormous. Expressed in 2010 dollars:

- The combined annual benefits from all final rules exceed their costs by $32 billion to $142 billion a year. The benefit/cost ratio ranges from 4-to-1 to 22-to-1.

- The combined annual benefits from four proposed rules examined here exceed their costs by $160 billion to $440 billion a year. The benefit/cost ratio ranges from 12-to-1 to 32-to-1.

OK, fine: the rules will save lives and improve our health. But at what cost in the tidal wave of jobs lost just to get a bit of mercury and soot out of the air? EPI's Josh Bivens runs the numbers for one of EPA's biggest initiatives, the "air toxics" rule.

SNIP

So there are job losses in some sectors and job gains in others. The middle estimate for the aggregate effect is +61,000 jobs. When you account for spending multipliers, the aggregate effect is somewhere between 77,000 and 166,000 jobs.

If you want to, you can still object to these rules. Maybe you can argue that they're distortionary in some way, or that there are cheaper ways of getting the same results. Maybe. But even if the rules aren't perfect, their benefits far exceed their costs and they actually produce additional jobs for the economy. Dave sums things up:

Conservatives are hiding behind abstractions — job-killing big-government blah-blah — but don't be fooled. They are not protecting "the economy" or "jobs." They are protecting a specific set of polluting industries, at the expense of the public interest. Put that horsesh*t in any ideological serving dish you want. It still stinks."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Taxed for Being Gay

In light of this, some facts on why it matters.

A friend of mine, who is unemployed, is fortunate to have a partner whose job allows domestic partners to be carried on health insurance - for a price. My friend writes: "Straight people don't pay these taxes."

From the Human Rights Campaign:

Taxation of Domestic Partner Benefits

When employees elect health insurance coverage from their employers for their families, the majority of their employers contribute to at least half of the insurance coverage's cost. For employees with different-sex spouses, federal and state tax law do not require employers to report their contribution to the employee's or the employee's different-sex spouse as taxable wages earned — the value of the health insurance coverage can be excluded from the employee's gross income.

Non-dependent same-sex partners and spouses (and their dependents) are treated differently under federal and most states' tax laws.
Short version: employees who carry domestic partners on their health insurance must pay taxes on the value of the employer's share of the health insurance. Employees who carry spouses on their health insurance do not have to pay those taxes.

The next time a repug raves about taxes and/or gay rights, ask her if she supports higher taxes for gay people.

Remember This Day: Molly Maguires and the Eight-Hour Men

On June 21, 1877, the corporate-owned justice system in the anthracite coal fields of eastern Pennysylvania hung 10 men for the crime of daring to demand their human rights.

They were framed by the same Pinkerton goons the railroad magnates (who owned the coal mines) hired to break the strike. "Break the strike" is a euphemism. For more than a year the goons beat the miners, blacklisted the fired miners so their children starved, shot and killed the miners.

None of it worked. The union held. So they smeared the mostly Irish immigrant miners by calling them Molly Maguires, the terrorists of their day. Demonizing immigrants worked then as well as it works now, only the consequences were more severe.

It was then that the New York World reporter wrote, "The demeanor of the men on the scaffold, their resolute and yet quiet protestations of innocence ... were things to stagger one's belief in their guilt ... They were arrested and arraigned at a time of great public excitement, and they were condemned and hanged on 'general principles.'"
Nine years later, on June 21, 1886, the trial of the Eight Hour Men began in Chicago.

At the end of a remarkably peaceful protest by 100,000 workers in Haymarket Square, corporate plutocrats, enraged by the demand for an eight-hour day, paid provocateurs to throw a bomb that could be blamed on the Eight Hour Men. It worked like a charm.

An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they dispersed the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of eight police officers, mostly from friendly fire, and an unknown number of civilians. In the internationally publicized legal proceedings that followed, eight anarchists (sic)* were tried for murder. Four men were convicted and executed, and one committed suicide in prison, although the prosecution conceded none of the defendants had thrown the bomb.
Demand human rights, suffer in protest, get framed, end up hanged. You could write the entire history of America on that theme.

* Shame on Wikipedia for spreading 125-year-old propaganda. Demanding human rights for workers does not make you an anarchist. Organizing workers into a union does not make you an anarchist. Condemning corporate owners for making virtual slaves of their workers does not make you an anarchist. Daring to defy the Plutocratic Power does not make you an anarchist.

Here's what a real anarchist does: eliminate millions of good American jobs in order to break unions, force wages below subsistence level and eliminate the middle class. Real anarchists repeal laws that protect the economic system from catastrophe. Real anarchists gamble the nation's savings in wild speculation that plunges the world into near-Depression.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Monday, June 20, 2011

No, Let's Make Candidates' Religion A Campaign Issue

Herald headline: "Kentucky gubernatorial campaigns say religion isn't an issue."

The fuck it's not.

Incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear is turning the entire state into a giant asylum for creationist crazies by handing $40 million tax dollars the state doesn't have over to the Flintstones Truther Park. Far from creating a single job, that Bronze Age Fable monstrosity is going to kill thousands of jobs by sending rational employers screaming for the exits.

Republican challenger David Williams is an obedient creature of the corporate-owned, freakazoid-run GOP, crawling for endorsements to such vicious hate-mongers as Frank Simon while planning to follow the scorched-earth policies of such repug heroes as Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida.

Independent Gatewood Galbraith has devolved from a genuine maverick and free-thinker to a fanatic freakazoid of the catholic variety, topping even His Popey-Rapeyness in misogyny by banning abortion even for victims of rape and incest.

These three morons may not be criticizing each other's religion - mostly because it's the same one - but their mutual eagerness to put the freakazoids in charge of running government most certainly makes religion a campaign issue for all of us members of the reality-based community.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Put Wall Street Back On Its Leash: Restore Glass Steagall

Marcy Kaptur is a catholic-variety anti-choice freakazoid, but on economic issues she's an FDR Democrat to the bone.

Kaptur Urges Return to Prudent Banking Standards To Restore Integrity to the Housing Market

Speaking at a House Budget Committee hearing (June 2), Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur today blamed deregulation of the financial sector for the collapse of the housing market in the United States in 2008 ....

SNIP

"Who drove the meltdown in the housing sector?" asked Kaptur, a member of the Budget committee. "High-risk behavior in America's housing markets began during the early 1990s when deregulation of the private sector, which was pushed by some Members here in Congress, allowed the private sector to turn formerly-prudent loans into bonds, and then to securitize them into the international market in a manner that bore no relationship to their true value or to local real estate markets."

SNIP

She said deregulation, culminating in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, "unleashed the speculators" that eventually pulled the market under. She is the author of H.R. 1489, the Return to Prudent Banking Act of 2011, that would reinstate the provisions of Glass-Steagall legislation that prohibited banks from engaging in both commercial banking and investment banking.

"For our nation to dig itself out of the worst housing depression since the Great Depression, we must go back and unwind what happened and restore prudent standards," she said.
Her House colleagues - even most members of the Progressive Caucus, who know goddamn good and well that she's right - have not exactly been flocking to her side.

On June 15, Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) became the 15th and 16th members of Congress to sign on to the bill. Action is still pending in the U.S. Senate, which does not yet have a bill to restore Glass-Steagall before it.

No, of course it doesn't have a chance in the repug-run House, but neither does any repug legislation from the House - 99 percent of which is batshit insane - have any chance in the Democratic-run Senate.

So why not take a stand? Why not throw this in the repugs' face? Why not draw a thick, bright, heavy line between those members of Congress who put the financial security of working families and the nation's economy first, and those who put their campaign contributions from Wall Street first?

I'm looking at you, Congressman John Yarmuth, D-KY3. Your reputation as a Proud Liberal and Congressman Awesome is at stake.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ignorance Always Works for the Coathanger Coalition

As I've written before, I am not pro-choice. I am pro-abortion. I demand abortion on demand. Anywhere, anytime, for any reason or no reason and for free. Safe, legal, frequent, and none of your fucking business.

By the time we get there, however - even if that is in my lifetime - there may not be anybody left who knows how to perform them.

@PZ Myers:

Read this horror story of a failed pregnancy.

I was taking an afternoon nap when the hemorrhaging started while my toddler napped in his room when I woke up to find blood gushing upward from my body. Though I didn't know it at the time, I was experiencing a placental abruption, a complication my doctor had told me was a possibility. My husband was at work, so I had to do my best to take care of me and my toddler on my own. I managed to get to the phone and make arrangements for both of my children before going to a Chicago hospital.

Everyone knew the pregnancy wasn't viable, that it couldn't be viable given the amount of blood I was losing, but it still took hours for anyone at the hospital to do anything. The doctor on call didn't do abortions. At all. Ever. In fact, no one on call that night did. Meanwhile, an ignorant batch of medical students had gathered to study me -- one actually showed me the ultrasound of our dying child while asking me if it was a planned pregnancy. Several wanted to examine me while I lay there bleeding and in pain. No one gave me anything for the pain or even respected my request to close the door even though I was on the labor and delivery floor listening to other women have healthy babies as the baby I had been trying to save died in my womb.
Fortunately, a nurse called in a competent doctor to abort the fetus and stop the bleeding — or this woman would have been dead.

My two kids at home almost lost their mother because someone decided that my life was worth less than that of a fetus that was going to die anyway. My husband had told them exactly what my regular doctor said, and the ER doctor had already warned us what would have to happen. Yet none of this mattered when confronted by the idea that no one needs an abortion. You shouldn't need to know the details of why a woman aborts to trust her to make the best decision for herself. I don't regret my abortion, but I would also never use my situation to suggest that the only time another woman should have the procedure is when her life is at stake. After my family found out I'd had an abortion, I got a phone call from a cousin who felt the need to tell me I was wrong to have interfered with God's plan. And in that moment I understood exactly what kind of people judge a woman's reproductive choices.
The story also highlights the subversive strategy the right wing has followed: there is now a serious dearth of doctors trained to do abortions, so when a necessary abortion case shows up in an emergency, you've got a muddle of the self-righteous and the ignorant, all incompetent to do anything, milling about with their thumbs up their asses. She might as well have stumbled bleeding into a church and asked for help…which is exactly what the Coathanger Coalition wants them to do.

Imagine if someone showed up in an emergency room having a heart attack, and for religious reasons, no one had any training in using a defibrillator, and the only one available was in an underfunded clinic across town. That's the direction we're going, only we're suppressing information and skills that would help just women's lives. Which makes it OK, I guess. No men will die of a placental abruption, so it's a low priority.
Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

Public Education is the Foundation of Democracy - So Repugs Are Killing It

Once upon a time - not that long ago, really - Americans were proud to be taxpayers in a nation that provides free public education to all of its children. One of the ways you told the difference between developed nations in North America/Europe and undeveloped countries in Africa and Asia was that undeveloped countries charged school fees most families couldn't afford. In America, even the poorest child can go to school without having to pay more money.

Until now.

Steve Benen:

About a year ago, the New York Times reported that schools that used to simply require students to bring in glue, scissors, and crayons are now demanding that families provide everything from paper towels to garbage bags to liquid soap. Budget cuts had pushed schools so far, they couldn’t afford paper for printers or plastic cutlery for cafeterias.

As it turns out, the consequences of these education cuts are growing increasingly severe. Not only are students being asked to bring in supplies, they’re also facing steep fees for classes and activities that have always been free.

Karen Dombi was thrilled when her three oldest children were picked for student government this year — not because she envisioned careers in politics, but because it was one of the few programs at their public high school that didn’t charge kids to participate.

Budget shortfalls have prompted Medina Senior High to impose fees on students who enroll in many academic classes and extracurricular activities. The Dombis had to pay to register their children for basic courses such as Spanish I and Earth Sciences, to get them into graded electives such as band, and to allow them to run cross-country and track. The family’s total tab for a year of public education: $4,446.50. […]

Public schools across the country, struggling with cuts in state funding, rising personnel costs and lower tax revenues, are shifting costs to students and their parents by imposing or boosting fees for everything from enrolling in honors English to riding the bus.

At high schools in several states, it can cost more than $200 just to walk in the door, thanks to registration fees, technology fees and unspecified “instructional fees.”
These are, just to be clear, public schools we’re talking about. The fees come on top of money locals already pay in taxes.

There have always been fees for some activities such as field trips and driver’s ed classes. But as school budgets get squeezed past the breaking point, the list of opportunities that are now expensive includes almost everything. Want to join the school choir? That’ll be $200. Maybe the chess club? That’ll be $350. You now qualify for the National Honor Society? Congratulations. Now bring in a check for $200 or you won’t be listed.

Maybe a young person is thinking ahead and wants to take some AP classes. Surprise, those cost extra, too.

Many schools are now letting families pay these fees by credit card — after a processing fee, of course.

Welcome to Austerity in America. We can afford tax breaks for millionaires, but can’t afford to let kids take Honors English for free.

In Washington, Republican policymakers are responding to these conditions by trying to cut education funding even more, while GOP officials in many states are now trying to shift funds to private schools when they’re not going after teachers’ unions.

Maybe education can be a sleeper issue in 2012?
Steve calls this "the consequences of education cuts." I call it slow murder. I've written before that repugs are trying to create a lords-and-serfs economic system. The single biggest obstacle to returning America to a state of feudalism is public education. So the repugs have to destroy it.

They're not planning to destroy it. They're not trying to destroy it. They. Are. Destroying. Public. Education.

Democracy depends on an informed electorate. We've already seen the consequences of letting people who deny gravity vote. Killing public education kills democracy.

Glenn W. Smith at Firedoglake makes a related point:

It’s a shocking historical juxtaposition. The pro-democracy movement known as the Arab Spring is in significant part a consequence of rising literacy and declining birth rates in the Mideast. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Right is mounting a direct assault on education and a renewed war on contraception. This ought to tell us something.

GE versus the Unions

Far be it from me to give advice to union negotiators, but we're talking about a company that makes hundreds of billions of dollars in profits every years and pays not one single dime in taxes. An obscenely rich company that actually steals from working Americans by accepting hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies that it doesn't need.

And yes, also a company that doesn't hesitate to close factories and ship hundreds of thousands of American jobs overseas. But still. I'd love to see the unions play a little hardball with this motherfucker.

From the Courier:

With talks between General Electric and its unions heading toward a Sunday deadline, the company continued to seek to convert union workers to a high-deductible healthcare plan and resisted proposals for early retirement packages, a union official said Friday.

The unions have agreed not to go on strike for at least 10 days, should the midnight Sunday deadline pass without a new contract.

“Health care is at the top of the list,” a Friday update at www.geworkersunited.org, the website of the Coordinated Bargaining Committee of General Electric Unions. Representatives from 10 unions of 15,000 GE workers, including 2,000 IUE-CWA members at Appliance Park in Louisville are bargaining in New York City.

Lack of company willingness to discuss early retirement incentives, a feature popular among veteran workers in recent contracts, is “another wall for negotiators to run into,” the website added.

GE spokeswoman Susan Bishop declined to discuss issues at stake in the talks.

SNIP

Such ”Tier Two” wage agreements were negotiated to keep jobs at Appliance Park, yet preserved “the advantages of still coming to work for GE, especially in Louisville,” Asplen said. GE’s new healthcare proposals “undermine some of those agreements,” she added.

Unions negotiating in New York with GE officials include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, United Auto Workers, the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America and the Machinists.

In 2007, GE reached new union contract terms within hours of the deadline. In 2003, workers walked off the job for 2 days before reaching a new labor agreement.

“Nothing can happen until the 29th,” said Brian Tucker, 38, a night shift factory worker from Valley Station said of the first day workers can strike. “We are all in a holding pattern.”

Congressional Repugs Explained in One Sentence

It applies to more than a few Democratic politicians, of course, especially in the Senate and the White House. But it applies across the board to repugs, and gets to the heart of their insistence on burning the nation to the ground in pursuit of political power.

KeninNY at Down with Tyranny:

It’s utterly fascinating to watch some of these people for whom nihilism in the service of their corporate masters is the only plane of existence they know.

Hazard Does the Right Thing

You didn't have to be a fly on the wall during the meetings of Hazard city officials to know what went on:

"Dammit, just when we think we've finally risen above the hillbilly, snake-handling stereotypes, something like this happens."

"Fire that idiot. And his boss."

"Can't do that. The preachers will kill us in the next election."

No, it's not all of what they should have done. But it's damn close.

As protesters spoke out on Saturday against the expulsion of two gay men with intellectual and developmental disabilities from a city-owned pool in Hazard, the city took several steps to try to remedy the situation.

Kim Haynes, the city employee who cited the Bible while telling the men and their caregiver to leave the Hazard Pavilion on June 10, will be suspended without pay for five days because of his "failure to be respectful to the public," "unsatisfactory job performance" and "his use of inappropriate language" about pool policies, the city said in a press release.

The release also states the city plans to:

■ Issue a letter of apology to the staff of Mending Hearts Inc., the company that provides care for the two men.

■ Install a new sign that makes clear that the Hazard Pavilion is "available for use without regard to race, ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, age, sexual orientation or physical/mental disability as required by federal and state law."

■ Modify its rules-for-conduct sign to include its previously unwritten prohibition against "excessive public displays of affection," and

■ Provide additional training to the pavilion staff regarding non-discrimination laws and regulations.
Read the whole thing.

Still waiting for a bible verse citation on swimming pool etiquette ....

A Father's Day Children's Story

From Crooks and Liars:

Audio book read by Samuel L. Jackson of the children's book Go the F**k to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach, with illustrations by Ricardo Cort├ęs.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The One Place in America You'll Find True Socialism

Like all hierarchical, bureaucratic organizations, the U.S. military is susceptible to massive, record-breaking clusterfucks as well as the petty everyday bullshit that drives everyone insane.

But here's what makes it different: the military goes with what works. And what works damn-near-perfectly for the Armed Forces of the United States of America is ... Socialism.

Steve Benen:

If we were to ask the typical congressional Republican where we could find a governmental model that features universal, government-run health care, emphasizes educational opportunity, offers public housing, and prioritizes curbing income inequality, we’d probably hear a response about Europe.

Nicholas Kristof explains today that the same description happens to apply to the United States military and its “astonishingly liberal” — and effective — ethos.

The military helped lead the way in racial desegregation, and even today it does more to provide equal opportunity to working-class families — especially to blacks — than just about any social program. It has been an escalator of social mobility in American society because it invests in soldiers and gives them skills and opportunities.

The United States armed forces knit together whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics from diverse backgrounds, invests in their education and training, provides them with excellent health care and child care. And it does all this with minimal income gaps: A senior general earns about 10 times what a private makes, while, by my calculation, C.E.O.’s at major companies earn about 300 times as much as those cleaning their offices. That’s right: the military ethos can sound pretty lefty.
“It’s the purest application of socialism there is,” Wesley Clark, the retired four-star general and former supreme allied commander of NATO forces in Europe, told me. And he was only partly joking.

“It’s a really fair system, and a lot of thought has been put into it, and people respond to it really well,” he added. The country can learn from that sense of mission, he said, from that emphasis on long-term strategic thinking.
This subject has long been an area of interest for us at the Monthly, going back at least to our groundbreaking 2005 cover story on the quality of health care in the socialized, government run VA system. Indeed, I’d note that the Annals of Internal Medicine found the military’s socialized care system is the most effective in the country — and has the lowest costs.

But Kristof’s point goes beyond just universal health care. He describes a system of affordable day care for working parents and top-notch institutions of higher education.

He concluded, “[A]s we as a country grope for new directions in a difficult economic environment, the tendency has been to move toward a corporatist model that sees investments in people as woolly-minded sentimentalism or as unaffordable luxuries. That’s not the only model out there.”

I won’t ask conservatives to denounce the entire social infrastructure of the U.S. military — I’d hate to force the right to confront its cognitive dissonance — but I will note that it’s a fine model for Americans to follow. That it helps disprove so many Republican assumptions is just gravy.
The next time somebody denounces anything liberal as "socialism," ask her why she hates the U.S. Armed Forces.