Saturday, December 31, 2011

Moron of the Year

The competition has been savage all year, but we finally have a winner.

No, not Digby, who merely identifies the species of brain-melting stupidity that we are dealing with:

Evidently, the pro-life movement is now calling for women to die rather than have an abortion or even treat their illnesses if it might result in fetal death. I guess some lives are more valuable than others after all. And it isn't the woman's.

This archaic belief has now entered the national consciousness and is being validated by the Republican candidates for President.

Again, for those of you new to this blog: a fetus is not a person. A fetus is not a baby. A fetus is not a child. A fetus Is. Not. Life.

A fetus is a lump of tissue that is a part of a woman's body. An expendable part. An unnecessary part. A life-threatening part. An easily disposable part, distinct but not different from menstrual blood.

Whereas a woman is a person. A woman is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a lover, a friend. A woman is a life.

A woman has potential, especially a very young woman. That she should sacrifice that potential, that life, in favor of a lump of tissue is an unspeakable abomination.

And here she is, straight from Idaho of course, your 2011 Moron of the Year:

POCATELLO, Idaho — Jenni Lake gave birth to a baby boy the month before her 18th birthday, though she was not destined to become just another teenage mother.

That much, she knew.

While being admitted to the hospital, she pulled her nurse down to her at bed level and whispered into her ear. The nurse would later repeat the girl's words to comfort her family, as their worst fears were realized a day after Jenni's baby was born.

"She told the nurse, `I'm done, I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe,'" said Diana Phillips, Jenni's mother.

In photographs, the baby's ruddy cheeks and healthy weight offer a stark contrast to the frail girl who gave birth to him. She holds the newborn tightly, kissing the top of his head. Jenni, at 5 feet and 4 inches tall, weighed only 108 pounds at the full term of her pregnancy.

A day after the Nov. 9 birth, Phillips learned that her daughter's decision to forgo treatment for tumors on her brain and spine so she could carry the baby would have fatal repercussions. The cancer had marked too much territory. Nothing could be done, Phillips said.

It was only 12 days past the birth - half spent in the hospital and the other half at home - before Jenni was gone.

Even so, her family and friends insist her legacy is not one centered in tragedy, but rather in sacrifice.

This month, her family gathered at their ranch style home in Pocatello, where a Christmas tree in the living room was adorned with ornaments picked out just for Jenni, including one in bright lime green, her favorite color. She had passed away in a bedroom down the hall.

Recalling Jenni's infectious laugh and a rebellious streak, her mother held the baby close, nuzzling his head, and said, "I want him to know everything about her, and what she did."

Can you imagine spending your entire childhood and adolescence being expected to pay obeisance every day to the martyrdom of the moron who gave you birth? I fully expect this child to become the next John Wayne Gacy.

The Singing Went Straight to Their Hearts

My New Year's Resolution for 2012 is to not let a single day pass without doing something, no matter how small, to push back against the plutocracy that has our economy and our nation in a death grip.

This is an old, old fight - older than the nation - and one we've mistakenly thought we'd won more than once. When the Revolution overthrew aristocracy, when the Civil War ended slavery, when TR broke the trusts, and of course when the New Deal and Union Power built the middle class after World War II, we thought the Money Power had been slapped down good and hard.

But it always comes back. More powerful than ever. And overcoming it gets harder every time.

I just started reading the new biography of Joe Hill "The Man Who Never Died." In the introduction, author William M. Adler traces the source of the power of the IWW to rally into one organization workers of both sexes and all races, religions, languages and ethnic backgrounds:

The funeral service on that warm Thanksgiving day in Chicago was testimony to the power of song, a power the IWW had recognized right from its start. "We have been naught," the delegates to the 1905 founding convention sang. "We shall be all."

Wobblies sang in jails, on picket lines, in fields, factories and mines, in train yards and city streets and hobo jungles. The very act of mass singing seemed to embolden and inspire people of varied backgrounds - emigrants from different parts of the world, who spoke different languages, whose skins were of different color - to unite under the IWW flag to the common goal of social and economic justice.

"They had never heard the song before," the novelist B. Traven wrote of a group of strikers, "but with the instinct of the burdened they felt that this was their song, and that it was closely allied to their strike, the first strike of their experience, as a hymn is allied to religion. They didn't know what the IWW was, what a labor organization meant, what class distinctions were. But the singing went straight to their hearts."

The singing went straight to their hearts.

It went to mine. May it go to yours.

I will post one IWW song every day until I can't find any more. Then I'll probably start posting them all over again.

May they inspire us all as they inspired the Wobblies a century ago.

"Make America a place where hard work and responsibility are rewarded"

Mr. President, you could have ensured a relatively smooth budget year through the election by just standing by your original announcement raising the debt ceiling, but instead you caved again to the infantile screams of the repugs. Because this time they'll reward your surrender with cooperation?

It's getting more and more difficult to believe anything you say about the economy.

Full transcript here.

Why Creating Jobs is Not Enough

Because the banksters and other corporate criminals have used the economic crisis they created to force desperate workers to accept pay and "benefit" levels that would be rejected in Mumbai.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

Manufacturing has been a bright spot over the past year in terms of jobs gained. Activity has picked up, and factories are coming back on-line. The problem is that this has come at a cost. Specifically, the US manufacturing jobs of the future feature lower pay and benefits.

That is particularly true of global manufacturers like General Electric. With labor costs moving down at its appliance factories here, the company is bringing home the production of water heaters as well as some refrigerators, and expanding its work force to do so.

The wages for the new hires, however, are $10 to $15 an hour less than the pay scale for hourly employees already on staff — with the additional concession that the newcomers will not catch up for the foreseeable future. Such union-endorsed contracts are also showing up in the auto industry, at steel and tire companies, and at manufacturers of farm implements and other heavy equipment, according to Gordon Pavy, president of the Labor and Employment Relations Association and, until recently, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s director of collective bargaining.

“Some companies want to keep work here, or bring it back from Asia,” Mr. Pavy said, “but in order to do that they have to be competitive in the final prices of their products, and one way to be competitive is to lower the compensation of their American workers.”

Hourly pay has leveled off as a whole, because of legacy hires and two-tier wage structures. But eventually they’ll cycle through, and factory jobs will not be middle-class jobs anymore.

The argument from business is that US wages are not competitive globally, and the only way for factories to survive here is through slashing costs. First of all, this comes from companies that are posting record profits, and native plants already save on shipping. Second, there are plenty of examples across the world of export-based countries who are more generous to their workers and can sustain a large manufacturing base. Germany, where auto workers make twice as much as in the US, comes to mind.

Third, the real problem for keeping manufacturing in the US has nothing to do with wages and everything to do with health care. The depressed wages merely reflect the outsized costs of health care, which grow every year. If we had a sane health care system, we could maintain the wage structure of the recent past and our manufacturing base while delivering the same quality of care. And until we really attack the source of the problem, those skyrocketing health care costs, wages will continue to be clawed back.

Maybe this changes slightly as jobs become more competitive when falling unemployment makes jobseekers less desperate. For now, you’re seeing factory jobs, outside of specialists, paying not a whole lot more than the McJobs in the service sector. Certainly they’re not paying entry-level wages consistent with raising a family. We have a terrible unemployment problem right now. But the crisis of falling or stagnant wages will reverberate into the future.

Ten years ago, my employer stopped the annual raises that had been standard for decades. It was called a temporary measure to cover a budget shortfall, but now it's permanent, and no one is complaining. We should all be making at least 75 percent more than we are making now, but we've gotten used to serfdom.

In real life, if you put a frog in a pot of cold water on the stove and slowly heat it up, as soon as the water gets too warm the frog will jump out.

If only American workers were as smart as frogs.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Don't Let Deference to Freakazoids Trump the Law

UPDATE: In the best political news of the year in Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear has rejected the merger. No, I don't believe it, either.

Kentucky is about to turn its largest public hospital over to a bunch of women-hating, poor-people-exploiting, child-rapist-protecting, anti-Democratic, un-American clerics who will let people die rather than obey the law.

(Kentucky Governor Steve) Beshear said he wants to make a decision “by the end of the year.”

“I think the merger partners have requested that I do that because they’ve got some … legal issues with bonds and different things that if they get to move ahead they need to do so by Dec. 31,” Beshear said. “So I think I owe it to them. I think we’ve spent the time we need to spend, and gathered the information we need to gather, and I’ve got to sit down once I get the attorney general’s report — either this afternoon or tomorrow — and make a decision.”

The merger would unite University Hospital with Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and Saint Joseph Health System in Lexington, which is owned by Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives.

CHI follows Catholic health directives, and University Hospital has agreed not to perform certain procedures, such as sterilizations — prompting concern by many area residents and leaders.

"Concerns" is a gross understatement. Terror and fury are the appropriate responses.

As I wrote in September and November, this merger will simply kill the public hospital, eliminate all services not approved by His Popey-Rapeyness, and leave Louisville's 99 Percenters at the mercy of the Big Pharma profiteers who run the private hospitals.

Religion and health care don't mix. Never have. Never will.

Kevin Drum:

Ed Kilgore recommends Peter Laarman's top ten list of ignored stories in the world of religion. I can't say I really understand why I should care that Southern Baptists are apparently becoming more Calvinist (#3 on the list), but even so, this is more interesting than, say, the top ten celeb fashions of 2011 or the top ten Republican hostage taking incidents. And this one certainly deserves a bigger spotlight:

6. Upside-Down Ideas About Religious Liberty

The dramatic new push for religious liberty exemptions for faith-connected providers of taxpayer-supported health services underscores the radical way in which understandings of religious liberty have changed in recent years. It's not that the push for exemptions hasn't made the news; it's that no one is writing (at least in the MSM) about the radical nature of the shift. In the past, the social service arms of religious bodies understood that if they wanted public money they would need to honor public law regarding the disposition of the money: i.e., provide the full range of mandated services on a universal basis. We used to say to objectors, “If you don’t like the mandate, don’t take the money.”

Apparently such a commonsensical response is now insufficiently deferential to religion. More and more people seem willing to say that if a Catholic health care provider doesn’t “believe” in providing reproductive health care to women, that private belief can trump public law. This is a particularly thorny problem because of the many regional health care system mergers involving Catholic partners: there are now many places in the country where, if a dominant provider that toes the bishops’ line won’t provide the service, area women will be out of luck and deprived of benefits they are entitled to receive by law. Does anyone defer to them? Afraid not.

I'm not sure I'd say this has been entirely ignored in the mainstream media, but it certainly gets less attention than it has at some times in the past, despite the fact that it's a problem that's continued to grow and continued to expand. A decade ago it was mostly restricted to abortion services, but since then its tentacles have spread to just about anything that religious conservative simply don't like very much. It's also one of those things that can be strongly influenced by executive orders, which means it depends a lot on who happens to be president. Just another reason to care about what happens next November.

The only gleam of hope in this looming catastrophe is that the University of Kentucky's hospital in Lexington will get a good, up-close look at what happens when you sell out the public commonweal, and shred any nascent merger plans of its own.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's the Budget Cuts, Stupid

One overlooked factor in the case of the Tennessee fire department that watched houses burn when owners failed to pay protection subscriptions is the effect of government budget cuts.

In a Kentucky county perhaps not coincidentally on the Tennessee border, that connection is clear-cut.

From the Middlesboro Daily News:

Bell Countians will be asked to consider adding a fire department subscribers fee to their budgets in the new year.

In a notice issued to media on Monday by Assistant Fire Chief David Miracle, the fire department states, in part:

“The Bell County Volunteer Fire Department would like to inform the citizens of Bell County that effective January 1, 2012, the BCVFD will be collecting an annual subscribers fee for the fire department. This is a voluntary fee and is in no way mandatory. The BCVFD will not deny our services to anyone.


Miracle stated that the fire department would like to be funded entirely through a mandatory subscribers fee and claimed that BCVFD representatives had proposed that in Bell County Fiscal Court (BCFC) in the past.

The BCVFD and the BCFC have been in and out of court for five years due to changes in county ordinances that now requires the BCVFD to submit receipts for reimbursement, rather than receiving an allotted amount each year with little accountability.

The BCVFD collectively says that they are not owned by the county and have no indebtedness to tax payers.

“We own it,” Miracle said, “We are a 5013c non-profit corporation.” He also likened the BCVFD to a paving company that would be used contractually by the county.

Bell County Judge Executive Albey Brock disagrees, as he has many times in this long-running argument. “Since the fire department’s inception, the taxpayer has given them over $6 million,” Brock said. “They are a non-profit group established to provide service.”

Since the BCVFD has closed two of the nine stations (Colmar and Arjay stations were closed mid-December) in the county, Brock says funding will be halted. “At this point, we can’t fund them, if they’re closing stations.”

So it's a political fight. But it's a political fight that wouldn't happen if Bell County weren't strapped by state budget cuts, caused by federal budget cuts, caused by deficit hysteria and an economic meltdown caused by banksters on Wall Street.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Casinos to be on Kentucky Ballot in November

Looks like casino gambling is going to be on the ballot in Kentucky this November, driving turnout up and turning the local and state legislative campaigns even more stupid than usual.

From the Herald:

Kentuckians overwhelmingly support putting a casino-gambling constitutional amendment on the November ballot, where it probably would pass, according to a new survey conducted for racetracks and horse-racing interests.

According to numbers released Tuesday, 87 percent of Kentuckians want to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling. Only 10 percent of those surveyed said they opposed a vote.

Also, according to the poll released Tuesday, 64 percent would vote in favor of the amendment.

"Once again, a new poll shows Kentuckians demand an opportunity to vote on expanded gaming," Gov. Steve Beshear said. "The call for a direct vote by the people of this state has only gotten stronger over the last few years, and we should not make our citizens wait a moment longer to have their voices heard."

The Family Foundation, a conservative advocacy group that opposes expanded gambling, questioned the poll.

"This survey was bankrolled by the gambling industry," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation. "It showed what they wanted it to show."

Beshear said one of his top priorities for the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 3, "will be a constitutional amendment to take the gaming question directly to our people. It's time for Kentuckians to decide the state's future on expanded gaming."

Beshear has said that any expansion must include racetracks and the horse industry.

As I noted earlier this month, not only is casino gambling not an economic panacea, it's likely to be even less so in Kentucky as casinos in surrounding states have already sucked up the available business.

I'm tempted to vote for it anyway, if only to drive the freakazoids crazy. But of course the majority of those voting in favor of gambling - and of those who will be taking food out of their children's mouths to lose in the new casinos - will be freakazoid hypocrites. Oops, sorry for the redundancy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Repug Priorities

Yeah, those republicans and their conserva-dem fellow travelers are all about personal FREEDUMBS ... if you have a penis, that is. Otherwise, not so much.

Tanya Somanader at Think Progress:

2011 marked a banner year in the Republican war on woman’s health. Close to 1,000 anti-abortion bills sped through state legislatures as the GOP-led House led a “comprehensive and radical assault” on a federal level. But in surveying their arsenal this year, 10 bills stood out as particularly perturbing and far-reaching efforts to stymie women’s access to abortion services, birth control, and vital health services like breast cancer screenings. Here are ThinkProgress’s nominations for the most extreme attacks on a woman’s right to choose:

Redefining Rape: Last May, every House Republican and 16 anti-choice Democrats passed H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act. Anti-choice activists Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) tried to narrow the definition of rape to “forcible rape,” which meant that women who say no but do not physically fight off the assault; women who are drugged or verbally threatened and raped; and minors impregnated by adults would not qualify for the rape and incest exception in the Hyde Amendment. Smith promised to remove the language but used “a sly legislative maneuver” that essentially informs the courts that statutory rape cases will not be covered by Medicaid should the law pass and be challenged in court.

Abortion Audits: The No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act also bans using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or insurance. Thus, a woman who used such a benefit would have to prove, if audited, that her abortion “fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.” This requirement turns the Internal Revenue Service into “abortion cops” who, agents noted, would have to force women to give “contemporaneous written documentation” that it was “incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger” which made an abortion necessary.

Let Women Die: This October, House Republicans also passed the “Protect Life Act”, known by women’s health advocates as the “Let Women Die” bill. The measure allows hospitals that receive federal funds to reject any woman in need of an abortion procedure, even if it is necessary to save her life. Though federal law already prohibits federal funding of abortions, the GOP insisted that the health care law “contains a loophole that allows those receiving federal subsidies to use the money to enroll in health care plans that allow abortion services.”

Personhood: Mississippi entertained the idea of passing a “personhood” amendment to its constitution this year, one that defines a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” The measure’s “profoundly ambiguous” language regarding the definition of fertilization not only would ban all abortions, it could potentially outlaw birth control, stem cell research, and in vitro fertilization for couples struggling to conceive. Mississippians rejected the amendment but personhood activists are making headway with versions for other states and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is championing a national personhood amendment.

Read more

Ben "Wire Hangar" Chandler (Cowardly Worm, KY-6) voted to deny abortions to all women who are not filthy rich enough to pay cash, although he did manage to vote against allowing hospitals to throw dying pregnant women out into the street.

Find out how your representative voted on H.R. 3 here, and on H.R. 358 here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

How Budget Cuts Cause Abuse and Neglect of Horses

Driving through Central Kentucky's horse country, it's easy to believe horses live the life of Riley. Five or six sleek beauties grazing peacefully in the middle of a spacious, rich pasture, gleaming barns in the distance, five-plank fences sporting fresh paint.

But those are the one-percenters of the thoroughbred economy. The flip side of that perfect picture is horses making do on crowded, weedy pastures neglected by owners constantly on the verge of bankruptcy.

And that's in good economic times. People buy a little land, feel flush, think they gotta have a horse. After a few years of feed bills and vet bills and fence maintenance, it's too much. One local amateur skipped town leaving his horses stranded in a fenced pasture with no access to water. If someone hadn't found them, they would have died of dehydration.

From the Courier:

"A lot of people ... just don't get it," said Ponke, 45, of Cottrellville Township in St. Clair County (Michigan). "They just don't understand what it takes to take care of an animal properly, and it's sad."

After slaughterhouses were shuttered in the U.S. in 2007, experts say that -- coupled with the poor economic climate -- caused neglect and abandonment cases involving the country's 9 million horses to rise dramatically.

Michigan State University equine professor John Shelle estimates that the number of unwanted horses in Michigan has grown by the thousands. No concrete statistics are available, but he points to the number of rescue organizations near or over capacity.

It's a national problem that officials hope will end with new legislation.

On Nov. 18, President Barack Obama signed a bill permitting federal funding for inspection of horses intended for human consumption, allowing slaughter facilities to reopen across the country.

Supporters of the legislation hope providing slaughterhouses as another option for horse owners will reduce neglect and abandonment, while critics argue they're inhumane and the real problem is over-breeding.

Government agencies and animal welfare organizations have reported a rise in investigations for horse neglect and abandonment since 2007, according to a 2011 study by the Government Accountability Office, an independent federal agency based in Washington, D.C.

The study points to the end of domestic slaughter and an ailing economy as key factors in the increase.

Slaughterhouses across the country closed in 2007, following the government's decision in 2006 to yank federal funding for inspecting horses at slaughter.


The Government Accountability Office's report found horse exports to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico then skyrocketed -- increasing by 148 percent and 660 percent, respectively -- from 32,789 horses exported for slaughter in 2006 to 137,984 in 2010.

A study conducted in 2009 by the Unwanted Horse Coalition, a national group aimed at improving the welfare of unwanted horses, found that 87 percent of horse rescue facilities that were interviewed think the number of unwanted horses is becoming a problem, compared with 28 percent in 2006.

The rise in neglect and abandonment cases is taking a toll on animal control officers and horse rescue groups.


MacKillop is angered by people who put horses on Craigslist for free in an attempt to get them off their payroll. A quick search of metro Detroit and northern Michigan lists a handful of "free" horses ready for adoption on the popular online classifieds site.

The result: new horse owners who don't realize what it takes to care of such a large animal.

"I hate to see animals suffer ... it's a really bad situation out there," MacKillop said. "It irritates me, these free horses, anyone will go take them."

Horses are not overgrown dogs - they can't survive in developed areas without human help. Horses demand hard work, constant attention, significant money and long-term dedication. Don't indulge an urge to get one until you know what you're doing.

Child Labor is Bipartisan

The robber barons would be so proud.

Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

Who says bipartisanship is dead? Senators from both sides of the aisle can still come together to make the lives of children more dangerous. Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) are leading the charge to reject proposed Department of Labor regulations that would ban some child labor on our farms. What kind of odious government regulations are these? These new rules would attack the freedom of our children to mix noxious pesticides, climb tall ladders, and demolishing barns on farms that are not owned by their parents. If I can’t force my 11 year old to mix pesticides, we might as well just live in Soviet Russia. Moreover, since so much farm labor is done by immigrants these days, these regulations are a clear attack on the white right to exploit brown people. I am truly outraged. My love of racism combined with my passion for child labor has led me to become a huge supporter of our next president, Newt Gingrich.

Let me tell you a story about the good old days, before a bunch of liberal do-gooders got in the way of the free market. In the late 19th century, sawmills used to have the problem of sawdust building up under the saws. Eventually the sawdust would get so high as to get in the way of the saw. Actually stopping the saws to clear the sawdust would be a clear violation of my rights as a capitalist. So my forefathers simply hired children to crawl under the saws and clean it out. While the saws were still running. If one took a sawblade in the head, well, those Finns all have 15 kids anyway. I can just hire another. And they have one less mouth to feed. A public service to all!

30 senators have signed on to this bill, including 4 Democrats.

Once corporations have taken over all the schools, kids who can't afford pay-as-you-go elementary school will have to be put to work somewhere. It just makes sense.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Useful as So Many Tapeworms"

If you read this blog, you know the proper way to interpret repug pronouncements on Democrats, liberals, minorities and poor people is as confessions: whatever they accuse others of - voter fraud, fascism, criminal behavior and laziness - is what they themselves are guilty of.

The insistence that people who work minimum-wage jobs but need food stamps and other assistance must be lazy is particularly egregious. It has to be, to cover what repugs are trying to hide: that the real lazy parasites on society are the rich.

Scott Lemiuex at Lawyers, Guns and Money, on the values presented in some reality TV shows:

What I find particularly interesting is the vision they present of a desirable life. These programs cater to the wealth fantasies of their audiences, obviously, but they do so in a way that suggests that the epitome of the contemporary American Dream is to acquire either enough independent capital, or a sufficiently unlimited access to an income stream generated by someone else’s labor, to allow one to do nothing — or more precisely, to do nothing but consume.

Indeed, despite the enormous differences in context, these shows remind me of nothing so much as Orwell’s description of the world view of many a Victorian novelist, and in particular Dickens:


Orwell’s essay is more than 70 years old, and it makes me wonder about the extent to which contemporary American society has returned, or regressed, to the rentier values that Dickens’s novels uncritically reflect. The key to these programs is that no one, or least none of the central characters, ever does anything resembling work. The “housewives” don’t have jobs, of course, but they are also almost never shown doing any parenting, let alone performing traditional domestic unpaid labor (all this has, as the expression goes, been outsourced). The Kardashian sisters are occasionally shown dabbling in things like launching a perfume line, but the point of their various shows is that they are 24/7 Party Girls. (For all I know turning your life into a reality TV show may be very hard work. The point here is not how much work the various Kardashians may do, but that their programs work very hard to represent them as people who do nothing).

And this isn’t merely a matter of not working for income: the most striking aspect of these shows is the extent to which they portray a class of people who have no vocation, in the broadest sense, of any sort, or indeed even any serious interests, besides spending money while being on the equivalent of a perpetual vacation.


Still, one of the consequences of America’s increasingly unabashed embrace of plutocracy over the last generation is that we now have a genuinely enormous class of social parasites, living off inherited capital, or the stupendous income stream of the one member of an extended family who has a job. (A vignette from the beginning of the previous century: The Duke of Somewhere or Another was passing through customs at Ellis Island. On the immigration form under “Occupation” he wrote “Peer of the Realm.” The Irish-American cop who took the form crossed that out and wrote “Unemployed.”).

Consider that the bottom threshold for the annual income of the richest .1% of American households is close to two million dollars (that’s per year), and that there are approximately 120,000 such households, containing around 500,000 people. This suggests that well over one million Americans live in households with annual incomes of at least one million dollars per year. Of course some of these people are children, but a lot of them are fundamentally aimless adults who have nothing to do but spend money. So perhaps it’s not surprising that, increasingly, we’re seeing the celebration of a social class full of people who, as Orwell pointed out, are “just about as useful as so many tapeworms.”

The 12 Lies of Christmas

The 12 days of Christmas actually begin today, Dec. 25. Sing these new lyrics every day, and by Twelfth Night everyone will have them memorized.

Jon Perr:

(Sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas")

On the first day of Christmas
Republicans told me
Obama's born in another country.

On the second day of Christmas
Republicans told me
Gay marriage is like box turtle love and
Obama's born in another country

On the third day of Christmas
Republicans told me
Thank the one percent
Gay marriage is like box turtle love and
Obama's born in another country

On the fourth day of Christmas
Republicans told me
We don't torture.
Thank the one percent
Gay marriage is like box turtle love and
Obama's born in another country

On the fifth day of Christmas
Republicans told me
Tax cuts more revenues bring
We don't torture
Thank the one percent
Gay marriage is like box turtle love and
Obama's born in another country

Click here for the rest.

Occupy the Safety Net

According to the jesus myth, the character xians refer to as "lord" and "king of kings" in the most aristocrat-worshipping, un-American style, was born, lived and died poor.

So on his supposed birthday, take a minute to consider how our obscenely-wealthy-worshipping society is treating the poor today.

Last week's Nation issue is devoted to America's disappearing social safety net. Each article is more outrageous and inspiring than the last.

Imagine that: a president signing a law that asked for, even paid for, grassroots participation to shape policies and decide priorities. It sounds utopian now—even under a president who once worked as a community organizer—but as OWS has reminded us, sometimes the size of the demand is the measure of a movement.

Read them all.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas Spirit of Albany's One Percent and Their Pet Thugs

I'm sure they hoped that doing it two days before Christmas would let it get lost in the holiday rush.

Crush that hope - forward this to everyone you know.

Diane Sweet at Crooks and Liars:

In the above video, an Occupy Albany member struggles to breathe, and suffers a seizure after being hit with pepper spray, while fellow occupiers plead for an ambulance.

After a move by Albany city officials to obtain an eviction order from a New York Supreme Court judge, referred to by occupiers as a "legal ambush," ended in a melee at Academy Park Thursday night, and a brutal assault by local police.

When all was said and done, there were four arrests, two protesters, two police officers and a News 10 ABC cameraman suffering minor injuries, a city councilman who was pepper-sprayed in the face along with protesters, including one who after being hit with the spray seemed to suffer a seizure afterward and was taken away in an ambulance.

Oh, and the only surviving tent of the occupation was shredded in a tug-of-war between police and the occupiers.


During the melee, an officer on a horse pepper-sprayed the crowd, dousing a number of protesters in the face, witnesses said. Chuck Nasmith, 56, said he got hit in the eyes, even though he used his "Who would Jesus evict?" sign as a shield.

"I said, 'Please stop it' and that's when he sprayed me like mad'," Nasmith said. "He would spray people and scream 'Go home' with a smile."

In a statement, police said only two people were pepper-sprayed, but a reporter spoke with at least half a dozen who had signs of being hit directly in the face by the spray and were still in pain. Cellphone video shows the mounted officer spraying throughout the crowd.

Protesters chanted "Shame on you" and "We are peaceful, you are not!" at the police. They also chanted the badge number of the officer who had allegedly sprayed the crowd.

One officer was overheard saying, "We're supposed to get out of their faces" as police moved across the street shortly after the melee.

The encampment at Academy Park had been occupied since Oct.21 despite the park's nightly curfew until Dec. 7, when the city of Albany granted the protesters a temporary permit limiting the size to no more than 30 tents, and requiring that city code violations deemed safety hazards be corrected.

The video below shows the Albany police officer on horseback riding along next to the last of the occupation's tents being carried through the park as police and protesters struggle over possession. As he rides the horse beside the tent, he sprays pepper spray into the faces of the crowd.

Caught One! Er ... Oops.

One of the rare actual cases of genuine voter fraud is, of course, committed by a republican. But not just any republican.

Steve Benen:

It hasn’t been a good month for the GOP and election fraud. Two weeks ago, a Maryland jury convicted a Republican official who oversaw illegal voter-suppression tactics in the 2010 election. This week, a state judge found that Indiana’s Secretary of State, Republican Charlie White, not only committed voter fraud in 2010, but wasn’t even eligible to seek the office to which he was elected.

Charlie White is ineligible to serve as Secretary of State and should be replaced by his election opponent, Democrat Vop Osili, a Marion County judge ruled today.

White is facing seven felony charges, including allegations of voter fraud. Osili has the second-highest vote-getter in the November 2010 election.

Kay at Balloon Juice added, “Besides the obvious embarrassment of the state official who is in charge of elections being indicted on charges of voter registration fraud, it’s just perfect that this happened in Indiana, because Indiana paved the way for the voter suppression laws we’re seeing all over the country…. Indiana has one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country, and that didn’t stop their top elections official from registering and voting in the wrong place. That’s because voter ID laws target the imaginary problem of voter impersonation fraud, while doing next to nothing to address the fraud that actually occurs.”

Quite right. Republicans nationwide, as part of the “war on voting,” keep putting new hurdles between voters and the ballot box, ostensibly because they fear the scourge of fraud.

The irony is, the deceit Republicans are worried about is imaginary, while the real-world fraud is coming from their side of the political divide.

Here's the most important point again, because you'll need to remember it when you have to fight - and you will have to fight - voter ID laws in your state:

"Voter ID laws target the imaginary problem of voter impersonation fraud, while doing next to nothing to address the fraud that actually occurs."

"Giving of ourselves; service to others – that’s what this season is all about. "

They are foremost in our thoughts this year, but military members aren't the only ones who serve the nation, Mr. President. Next year, how about a shout-out to the millions of low-paid, un-appreciated public employees who keep this nation running?

Full transcript here.

Long-Overdue Justice for Dying Miners

Black Lung. It sounds medieval, a scourge like Plague and Childbed Fever that should be relegated to history books.

But it is still killing coal miners throughout Appalachia, smothering them slowly and painfully until they cannot work, cannot walk, cannot breathe.

Many times, they have to watch their families suffer financially at the same time, because Kentucky makes dying miners jump through fiery hoops to get the benefits federal law requires.

No more.

Coal miners sickened by years of inhaling black dust on the job have been subjected to an unconstitutional system of medical screenings to quality for worker's compensation, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday.A sharply divided high court decided that Kentucky has violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law by requiring miners suffering from coal workers' pneumoconiosis, better known as black lung, to undergo a litany of tests that workers in other occupations aren't subjected to when they apply for worker's comp benefits.In a 34-page decision written by Justice Will T. Scott, the high court found no "rational basis and justifiable reason for the disparate treatment of coal workers."


Coal miners Jesse Gardner, Joe Martinez and others brought the case, saying Kentucky's law subjected them to a more stringent burden of proof than workers who suffer from pneumoconiosis from sources other than coal dust."Pneumoconiosis caused by exposure to coal dust is the same disease as pneumoconiosis caused by exposure to dust particles in other industries, yet coal workers face different, higher standard-of-proof requirements than those other workers," Scott wrote. "This is an arbitrary distinction between similarly situated individuals and thus it violates the equal protection guarantees of the federal and state constitutions."


Prestonsburg lawyer Thomas Moak said Thursday the state's system for awarding worker's compensation to black lung victims is so stringent that most miners don't bother to try for it. Those who do apply and are confirmed by a panel of physicians typically don't qualify for enough money to cover basic living expenses."The current system provides benefits in less than 5 percent of claims," Moak said. "It's amazingly traumatic."

Coal-country legislators will try during the General Assembly session that begins in January to revise the 15-year-old state requirements. But that session already faces demands for yet more budget cuts, and loosening Black Lung requirements - thus increasing state costs by millions - is going to be a hard sell.

Look for more idiotic calls for privatization (which always costs more than paying state employees) and lethal program cuts for those without high-priced lobbyists (women, children and the disabled.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Arrogant, Self-Centered - and Stupid

It'd be one thing if the one-percenters were channeling Marie Antoinette and telling the rest of us to just move to our vacation homes if we get foreclosed.

Or if they were content to emulate the western copper magnates who got the U.S. Army to murder striking miners, by getting city cops to torture occupy protesters.

Or if they copied rich guys in the '50s and '60s, who were just as annoyed at the hoi polloi but seethed inside their well-hidden mansions and kept their mouths shut in public.

But to bring the global economy to its knees, demand a $30 trillion ransom that beggars the nation, reward themselves with 10-figure bonuses that shit in the faces of their workers and then whine because we don't thank them and praise their wisdom and generosity?

I do not have the words. But Josh Brown does.


I'm reprinting this entire letter from Josh Brown over at The Big Picture because I think it needs to be preserved for posterity. If you want to leave a comment, I urge you to click over and do it there:

Dear Jamie Dimon,

I hope this note finds you well.

I am writing to profess my utter disbelief at how little you seem to understand the current mood of the nation. In a story at Bloomberg today, you and a handful of fellow banker and billionaire “job creators” were quoted as believing that the horrific sentiment directed toward you from virtually all corners of America had something to do with how much money you had. I’d like to take a moment to disabuse you of this foolishness.

America is different than almost every other place on earth in that its citizenry reveres the wealthy and we are raised to believe that we can all one day join the ranks of the rich. The lack of a caste system or visible rungs of society’s ladder is what separates our empire from so many fallen empires throughout history. In a nation bereft of royalty by virtue of its republican birth, the American people have done what any other resourceful people would do – we’ve created our own royalty and our royalty is the 1%. Not only do we not “hate the rich” as you and other em-bubbled plutocrats have postulated, in point of fact, we love them. We worship our rich to the point of obsession. The highest-rated television shows uniformly feature the unimaginably fabulous families of celebrities not to mention the housewives (real or otherwise) of the rich. We don’t care what color they are or what religion they practice or where in the country they live or what channel their show is on – if they’re rich, we are watching.

When Derek Jeter was toyed with by the New York Yankees when it came time for him to renew his next hundred million dollar contract, the people empathized with Derek Jeter. Sure, this disagreement essentially took place between one of the wealthiest organizations in the country and one of the wealthiest private citizens – but we rooted for Jeter to get his money. Nobody begrudged him a penny of it or wanted a piece of it or decried the fact that he was luckier than the rest of us. In the American psyche, Jeter was one of the good guys who was deservedly successful. He was one of us and an example of hard work paying off.

Likewise, when Steve Jobs died, he did so with more money than you or any of your “job alliance” buddies – ten times more than most of you, in fact. And upon his death the entire nation went into mourning. We set up makeshift shrines to his brilliance in front of Apple stores from coast to coast. His biography flew off the shelves and people bought Apple products and stock shares in his honor and in his memory. Does that strike you as the action of a populace that hates success?

No, Jamie, it is not that Americans hate successful people or the wealthy. In fact, it is just the opposite. We love the success stories in our midst and it is a distinctly American trait to believe that we can all follow in the footsteps of the elite, even though so few of us ever actually do.

So, no, we don’t hate the rich. What we hate are the predators.

What we hate are the people who we view as having found their success as a consequence of the damage their activities have done to our country. What we hate are those who take and give nothing back in the form of innovation, convenience, entertainment or scientific progress. We hate those who’ve exploited political relationships and stupidity to rake in even more of the nation’s wealth while simultaneously driving the potential for success further away from the grasp of everyone else.

Here in New York, we hated watching real estate and financial services elitists drive up the prices of everything from affordable apartments to martinis in midtown with the reckless speculation that would eventually lead to mass layoffs, rampant joblessness and the wreckage of so many retirement dreams. No one ever asked the rest of us if we minded, it just happened. I’m sure people across the country can tell similar stories.

So please, do us all a favor and come to the realization that the loathing you feel from your fellow Americans has nothing to do with your “success” or your “wealth” and it has everything to do with the fact that your wealth and success have come at a cost to the rest of us. No one wants your money or opportunities, what they want is the same chance that their parents had to attain these things for themselves. You are viewed, and rightfully so, as part of the machine that has removed this chance for many – and that is what they hate.

America hates unjustified privilege, it hates an unfair playing field and crony capitalism without the threat of bankruptcy, it hates privatized gains and socialized losses, it hates rule changes that benefit the few at the expense of the many and it hates people who have been bailed out and don’t display even the slightest bit of remorse or humbleness in the presence of so much suffering in the aftermath.

Nobody hates your right to make money, Jamie. They hate how you and certain others have made it.

Don’t be confused on this score for a moment longer.

I hate slow-clapping or I'd do it.

I'd especially like to highlight this one line:

" hates people who have been bailed out and don’t display even the slightest bit of remorse or humbleness in the presence of so much suffering in the aftermath."

That's the part that tells us that they have no intention of changing and don't even believe they did anything wrong. That's why people are so angry. We know they'll do it again the first chance they get.

How about this? We'll line up all the motherfuckers and kiss their feet.

Right before we hang 'em.

All Happy Familes Are Alike

And grandparents are grandparents are grandparents.

Bon The Geek at Zandar's place:

Okay, I laughed and I also got a bit teary at the pure damn happiness of this guy. But first, a foreword from Jezebel:

The Surprise Pregnancy Announcement Youtube Video is practically its own genre, but this one has a twist: The expectant and delighted grandparents are two men. And they're jump-up-and-down excited.

I won't ruin the delight of watching the whole thing yourself, but suffice to say, their joy is contagious. If this is what happens when "traditional" families are destroyed by gay couples, then sign me up.

Tell me again why this is so dangerous to the world?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Celebrate Human Light Dec. 23rd and All Year

Because 99 percent of the "Christmas" celebration was stolen by the freakazoids from the rest of us, so fuck 'em - this is ours.

Celebrate Human Light:

HumanLight illuminates Humanism's positive secular vision. In Western societies, late December is a season of good cheer and a time for gatherings of friends and families. During the winter holiday season, where the word "holiday" has taken on a more secular meaning, many events are observed. This tradition of celebrations, however, is grounded in supernatural religious beliefs that many people in modern society cannot accept. HumanLight presents an alternative reason to celebrate: a Humanist's vision of a good future. It is a future in which all people can identify with each other, behave with the highest moral standards, and work together toward a happy, just and peaceful world.

How to Make the Argument

Pinning repug ears back with facts, logic and liberal policy is not difficult; it's just that nobody even tries. Barney Frank shows how easy it is.

From Digby:

This is just the intro:

AMANPOUR: Congressman Ryan, thank you very much. And Congressman Barney Frank, your opening minute and a half.

FRANK: Yes, we have too much government, and yes, we have too little government. There is this mistaken view that says, you know, we have a fight between the people's money and the government's money. It's all the people's money. The question is, as people, intelligently, we have two sets of needs. We have needs that we best pursue individually, with money for ourselves and our families. And we can make personal choices. But then there are things that we have to do together.

I understand the appeal of tax cuts, but in all my years of government, I have never seen a tax cut put out a fire. I have never seen a tax cut build a bridge or clean up toxic atmosphere.

The point is that there are some things where we are inevitably together. We are interlocked in the economy. We're all subject to the same environment, we all have the same public safety needs. And there, I think, we have sometimes had too little government.

On the other hand, and my conservative friends who claim that they are for small government are the ones who tell us that an adult shouldn't be able to gamble on the Internet. We have the leading judicial conservative, Antonin Scalia, absolutely in a snit because you can't be sent to jail if you have personal sexual relations of which he does not approve. We have a series of interventions by the conservatives in those choices that should be left to individuals.

So my conservative friends have it absolutely backwards. I do want there to be regulation so that you don't have the kind of manipulation in the financial area that leads to crises. And I do want to be able to clean up the environment. No matter how rich you are, you can't get your own air to breathe.

On the other hand, as I said, there are overreaches by the conservatives. And by the way, they include militarily. I think we have a wonderful military, full of able young people, very well equipped, and they can stop bad things from happening. But they're not really good at making good things happen in foreign societies. And it's on the whole my conservative friends who want us to be rebuilding other societies where we're not very good at it. So the answer is yes, we should have more government where we need in an interactive way to protect ourselves against abuses, but there should be more personal choice. And so that's the -- that's the current situation.

Watch the whole thing. You won't regret it.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice is What You're Celebrating

Tomorrow - Thursday, Dec. 22 - is officially the "First Day of Winter," which is just a lazy way of saying that Earth's winter solstice arrives in the Northern Hemisphere at 12:30 a.m. Eastern.

Find the history and cultural background of Winter Solstice here. Did you know that Julius Caesar figured the date of the Winter Solstice to be December 25, and that he did so about 50 years before Herod called a census in Judea? What a coincidence! Also, just about every culture on the planet has a mid-winter festival to celebrate the end of shortening days and the return of lengthening days. Bringing evergreens indoors, decorating our homes with extra lights, feasting, singing and exchanging gifts are millennia-old traditions that long predate Herod.

But here's the really cool stuff: Everything You Need to Know About the Solstice from astronomy website

The winter solstice is this week for us in the northern hemisphere. After the winter solstice, the days will get longer. Celebration time!

Late dawn. Early sunset. Short day. Long night. For us in the northern hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year.

If you live in this hemisphere, it’s your signal to celebrate. The shortest day is here! After the winter solstice, the days will get longer, and the nights shorter. It’s a seasonal shift that nearly everyone notices.

The solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. But our clocks say different times.

In 2011, the December solstice takes place on Wednesday, December 21 at 11:30 p.m. CST (Thursday, December 22 at 5:30 UTC).


The earliest humans knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. They built monuments, such as Stonehenge, to follow the sun’s yearly progress.

But we today see the solstice differently. We can picture it from the vantage point of space. Today, we know that the solstice is an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis, and its motion in orbit around the sun.

Because Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23-and-a-half degrees, Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. That’s what causes winter and summer.

At the December solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that the sun stays 23-and-a-half degrees below the north pole horizon. As seen from 23-and-a-half degrees south of the equator, at the imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun shines directly overhead at noon. This is as far south as the sun ever gets. All locations south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours at the December solstice. Meanwhile, all locations north of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours.

Read the whole thing, including an explanation of why neither the earliest sunset nor the latest sunrise fall on the day of Winter Solstice.

Yarmuth Joins Effort to Free Elections from Corporate Cash

Kentucky's own Congressman Awesome, John Yarmuth, has joined the crowd proposing a Constitutional amendment to stop corporations and billionaires from buying elections.

From the Courier:

Rep. John Yarmuth is proposing a constitutional amendment that would overturn a campaign finance ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that the Louisville Democrat says has given special interests undue influence over elections.

Corporate money does not equal free speech but instead is political influence, Yarmuth said in an interview.

“The influence of money is growing and growing,” he said.

The congressman, who represents Kentucky’s 3rd District, is sponsoring the constitutional amendment with Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.

The lawmakers are aiming to reverse the high court’s January 2010 decision in a case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the high court ruled 5-4 that the government could not ban or limit political spending by corporations in federal elections.

The majority held that such a ban was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. Dissenting justices insisted that corporate spending would corrupt elections.

The ruling has raised the stakes in the debate over the role of money in politics, Yarmuth said.

“It’s literally raised the amount of special interest and corporate money that comes into the system and now it’s anonymous,” he said.


Various groups backing a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United ruling so far have collected more than 750,000 signatures.

Constitutional amendments before Congress must be approved by a two-thirds vote in each house and then ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Yarmuth acknowledged that successfully passing a constitutional amendment will be tough.

“The conversation has to start, and Citizens United made that even more compelling,” the lawmaker said. “And secondly, this has been going on for literally generations, and I think it’s gotten to the breaking point now and you have to start somewhere.”

“There is growing attention to the issue of money in politics and the fact that the system is broken, so I think there are going to be more people looking at how you fix the system,” Yarmuth said.

Yarmuth's bill is at least the second introduced in the House and the third introduced in Congress.

From the Campaign for America's Future:

On Thursday, December 8th, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a constitutional amendment to drive big money out of politics for good. He was not alone. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska joined him. Sanders’ amendment is called “Saving American Democracy” but the language is identical to the “OCCUPIED” amendment offered in the House by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and beginning to attract co-sponsors.

If you like the Sanders/Deutch amendment, visit the website and sign the petition. Forty thousand people did just that within the first 24 hours.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Occupy Detroit's Success

This is how you build a movement that makes a difference.

Diane Sweet at Crooks and Liars:

Digital journalist Bob Plain documents the next phase of Occupy Detroit:

Nowhere in America needs to be occupied more than the Motor City.

The idea sprung from two occupiers who started sleeping in an abandoned home on Golden Gate Street in northeast Detroit, where at least half the homes have been literally abandoned. Not even boarded up in many cases. Just left for the taking.

So that’s what Occupy Detroit did.

They helped the occupiers move a wood stove in, and fashioned a makeshift chimney. Then they replaced the boarded up windows with glass bottles, held in place with a mixture of mud and straw.

Then they repeated the process at six other abandoned homes on Golden Gate. Now there are some two dozen people occupying homes that were previously abandoned. Some of the abandoned homes are occupied by young people with the time and gumption to work on a fixer-upper. But others are members of Detroit’s homeless community.

Occupiers say the police don’t mind that they have essentially squatted in the vacant homes.

“They’re trying to solve murders and robberies,” said Eric Shelley, a local audio engineer with handy man skills who has helped teach the other occupiers how to swing a hammer and fix dry wall. “They don’t have time for this.”

The area is a hotbed for drug dealing and prostitution, and oftentimes abandoned homes become either crack houses or brothels.

To that end, Shelley said, “what we’re doing is beneficial to the neighborhood.”

“Our community service became our protest,” he said. “We’re doing what our government is supposed to be doing: providing a social safety net.”

The entire article is well worth reading, and Bob Plain is a wonderful photographer as well. There's a nice photo of the windows you saw in the video made with recycled glass bottles, they're really quite beautiful. You can finish reading here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Death By Racist Torture

This is the nightmare every mother of a non-white child lives in terror of every day. It's only unusual because the arrest was triggered by an actual alleged crime. They usually don't need that much of an excuse.

And don't think it doesn't happen in your town, because it does.

Bon the Geek at Zandar's place.

Linda Rowell will not rest until she knows what happened to her son Vincent.

He was 21 years old in September 2009, when he stole a municipal dump truck in Birmingham and drove it west to visit some friends in Mississippi. He was arrested after a late-night police chase through two counties, booked on three felony counts and placed in the Walker County Jail in Jasper, Ala., population 14,000.

Six days later, he was found dead on the floor of his cell.

What Linda Rowell cannot understand, and what no one can explain to her, is why. "There's holes everywhere in this story," she said.

Rowell said she has been suspicious from the start, since she got the late-night call from the Walker County coroner saying that her son was dead.

"He told me that my son died of an enlarged heart," she said. "Then I get the death certificate, and it tells me that he died of an accident."

For more than two years, authorities in Walker County have ignored her repeated requests for information about her son, Rowell said, and have never provided an investigative report into the circumstances of his death.

With the help of a legal team, the information coming out shows inconsistencies and outright conflicting information. What is disturbing is that it has been requested and stalled. This woman has the right to know what happened. If she can bring this to trial then documents will have to be released and investigated, and officials would have to risk perjury because their testimony will be under oath. That alone should discourage anyone with something to hide. Still, what we do know is a young black man died on the floor of his jail cell after a week of pain and begging for medical attention. Anyone within range of this is going to be splattered with guilt.

The injury that ultimately caused Rowell's death was a dinner-plate sized bruise on his hip, which led to massive internal bleeding and the formation of a large blood clot in his abdomen. "The clot broke off and went to his lung and that's what caused him to die," Ward said.

But it is not the injuries that truly haunt Linda Rowell, although she believes they were inflicted deliberately by police, not in any accident. It is the thought that her son's slow and painful death came on the floor of a jail cell, while he begged for help that never arrived.

Despite her repeated inquiries, she said, jail officials will not explain why her son died in his cell, and not in the county hospital, just five minutes down the road.

"They knew he was bleeding and he was hurting," Rowell said. "They walked by him like he was nothing."

But Vincent Rowell's pleas for help were heard by Andy T. Sanford, an inmate in the next cell over, awaiting transfer to state prison after a theft conviction. According to Sanford, Rowell begged for medical care, but was mocked and berated by jail staff. He did not eat for nearly a week, Sanford said, a claim backed by the autopsy, which found his stomach totally empty.

"He said that he needed help. He was scared. He was scared that there was something real bad wrong with him," Sanford said in an interview with Doyle. "You could tell this kid was hurting."

Ward, the medical examiner, agreed that Rowell would have been in significant pain before he died. Timely medical intervention would probably have saved his life, she said.

Those are some pretty damning facts. But without facts of any kind this poor woman has had to imagine what her son suffered before he died. It's time for the truth to come out.

Happy Christmas; War is Over

Shamlessly stolen from Blue Girl:

I have been playing this song for close to 40 years, but it has never been more appropriate than it is today.

The last troops left Iraq last night, days before the deadline said they had to go. They left quickly and quietly under cover of night in a successful effort to prevent any last-minute attacks.

I can't tell you how glad I am that the worst strategic blunder in foreign policy in, well, forever, is over.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Distinction Without a Difference

The Venn Diagram for Religion and Mythology wouldn't look very different.

From PZ Myers:

(Click for larger image)

(via Sac City Freethinkers.)

Still Fighting the Voting Rights War

Millions of Democratic voters who turned out in 2008 to give Barack Obama and congressional Democrats a landslide victory are going to get a very nasty surprise when you try to repeat that performance next November.

You're going to be denied the right to vote.

Last (Tuesday), Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library to give the most comprehensive explanation of the Obama Administration’s voting rights policy to date. The venue was certainly well chosen. Sixty years ago, when Holder was born, southern men who shared his skin color enjoyed no real access to the ballot box. Today, Holder himself is the chief guardian of America’s voting rights. In the America Holder grew up in, men and women faced fire hoses, endured beatings, bled under the blows of billy clubs wrapped in barb wire and spent night after night in jail as part of a decades long struggle to cast a vote. A few decades later, many of those same veterans of peaceful protest marched into the polling booth and elected Barack Obama president. What changed between now and then was the Voting Rights Act, Lyndon Johnson’s signature accomplishment and probably the most important civil rights law in American history.

Yet, as Holder explained, the very voting rights that he is now charged with enforcing are endangered by an all-too-common pattern of voter suppression laws in the states:

As Congressman John Lewis described it, in a speech on the House floor this summer, the voting rights that he worked throughout his life – and nearly gave his life – to ensure are, “under attack… [by] a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, [and] minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process.” Not only was he referring to the all-too-common deceptive practices we’ve been fighting for years. He was echoing more recent concerns about some of the state-level voting law changes we’ve seen this legislative season.

Since January, more than a dozen states have advanced new voting measures. Some of these new laws are currently under review by the Justice Department, based on our obligations under the Voting Rights Act. Texas and South Carolina, for example, have enacted laws establishing new photo identification requirements that we’re reviewing. We’re also examining a number of changes that Florida has made to its electoral process, including changes to the procedures governing third-party voter registration organizations, as well as changes to early voting procedures, including the number of days in the early voting period.

Although I cannot go into detail about the ongoing review of these and other state-law changes, I can assure you that it will be thorough – and fair. We will examine the facts, and we will apply the law. If a state passes a new voting law and meets its burden of showing that the law is not discriminatory, we will follow the law and approve the change. And where a state can’t meet this burden, we will object as part of our obligation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

It is both significant and reassuring that the nation’s top lawyer acknowledges the dire threat state voter suppression laws present to our democracy. Yet the sad irony is that, through no fault of his own, America’s first African-American Attorney General may see the worst contraction of voting rights since the Jim Crow era — and the threat comes from a much more powerful place than a handful of state governments.


Part One

Part Two

Part Three

For Your Holiday Depression

What are the holidays without that smothering, deadening certainty that life is an endless horror and nothing will ever change it? Read this, all you cheerful people. Read this, and despair.


Codifying Chateau d'If

I think one of the most stunning aspects of the administration's decision not to veto an historic expansion of government power to imprison even its own citizens indefinitely and without due process is the context. Sure, we live in a very dangerous world. But we've been living in one at least since the advent of of The Bomb and the last I heard we were picking off Ad Qaeda members three at a time. The fact that this is happening with the war in Iraq wound down and Afghanistan scheduled to do so as well is what's odd.

Ginny Sloan of the Constitution Project put it well:

But what will we say to future generations if the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) becomes law? That legislation contains a provision that authorizes the president to indefinitely imprison, without a criminal charge or court hearing, any suspected terrorist who is captured within the United States -- including American citizens.

It is difficult to imagine a greater attack on one of the most basic of individual freedoms protected by our great Constitution. As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissenting opinion in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), "The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive."

If members of Congress choose -- for the first time in our nation's history -- to codify a system of indefinite detention without charge and authorize such confinement on the basis of suspicion alone, they will do so with their eyes wide open. The attacks of 9/11 are now more than ten years old. Although our troops are still engaged in Afghanistan, the fog of war has long since lifted.

Indefinite detention will now be law, not some emergency measure that history will judge to have been a mistake made in a crisis. It is a well thought out codification of certain views that have become commonplace in American society --- that "terrorists" (to be defined by whomever sits in the White House) are not to be allowed the due process allowed to other human beings because our government just *knows* they are so dangerous we cannot even take the chance that they won't be found guilty. That turns the rule of law on its head.

There's more, including a blood-chilling description of what happened to detained American citizen Jose Padilla.

But let's skip to one of the few Democratic voices in the Senate that actually opposed this monstrosity.

Update: Patrick Leahy released a statement. An excerpt:

I continue to strongly oppose the detention related provisions in this conference report, which I believe are unwise and unnecessary. These provisions undermine our Nation’s fundamental principles of due process and civil liberties, and inject operational uncertainty into our counterterrorism efforts in a way that I believe harms our national security.

I strongly oppose Section 1021 of this conference report, which statutorily authorizes indefinite detention. I am fundamentally opposed to indefinite detention, and certainly when the detainee is a U.S. citizen held without charge. Indefinite detention contradicts the most basic principles of law that I subscribed to when I was a prosecutor, and it severely weakens our credibility when we criticize other governments for engaging in similar conduct.

Supporters of this measure will argue that this language simply codifies the status quo. That is not good enough. I am not satisfied with the status quo. Under no circumstances should the United States of America have a policy of indefinite detention. I fought against Bush administration policies that left us in the situation we face now, with indefinite detention being the de facto administration policy. And I strongly opposed President Obama’s executive order on detention when it was announced last March, because it contemplated, if not outright endorsed, indefinite detention.

This is not a partisan issue for me. I have opposed indefinite detention no matter which party holds the keys to the jailhouse. I fought to preserve habeas corpus review for those detained at Guantanamo Bay because I believe that the United States must uphold the principles of due process, and should only deprive a person of their liberty subject to judicial review.

Read the whole thing. There's more. A lot more.

This is what dictators do. This is what cowards do. This is what authoritarian freakazoids terrified of their own citizens do.

And increasingly since 9-11 gave them the perfect excuse, this is what American political "leaders" do.

Welcome to the New Plantation

If your barely-disguised goal is to deny democratic and civil rights to everyone who is not white, male, hetero, christianist conservative, why fuck around with cutting public services and firing teachers?

Just turn whole cities into feudal kingdoms for your corporate owners.

Laura Flanders at The Nation:

In the United States, “German stability culture” looks mild to some living in Michigan. In the name of fiscal responsibility, Governor Rick Snyder has taken the power to appoint unelected “financial managers” to take over cities that are struggling with deficits and debts. Four Michigan cities are already controlled by Snyder’s overseers. They have the power to fire city councils, nullify union contracts, end collective bargaining and privatize whatever’s left to be privatized.

Governor Snyder has already announced his intention to review the city of Detroit for possible “emergency management.” That would put 49.7 percent of the state’s African-American residents under leaders critics are comparing to plantation overlords. And just (last week), Michigan’s state Senate passed a bill that would help the process along. For a summary of the bill, visit the invaluable Chris Savage at Electabog.

Suffice to say, it doesn’t take a Hungarian neo-Nazi to establish authoritarian rule under a paper-thin veneer of democracy. It doesn’t even require a veneer.

People throw around the term "Un-American" to describe anything they don't like, but this - literally eliminating elective government - is unspeakable in a nation of, by and for the people.

Not Burning in Hell, Either

Steve M. is not mourning Christopher Hitchens, and for good reason.

Glenn Greenwald also honors Hitch by giving him, in death, the same no-respect-for-motherfuckers treatment Hitch himself gave the recently deceased who deserved it. Again, I agree with all of it.

But I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Hitchens because of his public, aggressive and unapologetic atheism.

PZ Myers writes "Hitch is not in Heaven":

The great ferocious talent of Christopher Hitchens is gone — he died last night of complications from esophageal cancer. We knew him well; that is, he was one of those people who opened himself up so thoroughly, who expressed himself so excellently, who had a personality so strong, that millions of us can hold him in our mind’s eye. I can see him now — there’s a glass in his hand, his eyes are calm and steady, and he’s speaking in measured tones and with flawless English sentences with passion and reason perfectly intertwined. Even if I didn’t agree with him, I’d be standing awed and respectful before his clarity and elegance.

But I do not say farewell to Hitch. I do not say “rest in peace”. I definitely do not say that he has gone to a better place. I actually find myself already bracing myself for the next sign of deep disrespect that is destined to appear soon: the hackneyed political cartoon that draws him standing at the pearly gates.

Hitch is dead. We are a diminished people for the loss. There can be and should be no consolation, no soft words that encourage an illusion of heavenly rescue, no balm of lies. We should feel as we do with every death, that a part of us has been ripped from our hearts, and suffer pain and grief — and we are reminded that this is the fate we all face, that someday we too will die, and that we are all “living dyingly”, as Hitch put it so well.

As atheists, I think none of us can find solace in the cliches or numbness in the delusion of an afterlife. Instead, embrace the fierce strong emotions of anger and sorrow, feel the pain, rage against the darkness, fight back against our mortal enemy Death, and live exuberantly while we can. Confront mortality clear-eyed and pugnacious, uncompromising and aggressive.

It’s what Hitch would have wanted of us.

It’s how Hitch lived.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Read Before Ordering

You might have noticed that Amazon was not on the list of union-approved places to shop this holiday season. There's a reason for that.

Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

Fantastic Vanessa Veselka piece about her attempt to organize an Amazon warehouse. Inspired by the WTO protests in Seattle, Veselka took it in her hands to get a job in an Amazon warehouse, contact labor, and start organizing. It didn’t necessarily go very far, but that’s hardly uncommon. Her article is a great look at the Amazon culture and how Amazon tries to ensure a union-free workplace. Very good read, many good lessons for organizers and for all of us.

I know. Amazon is criminally convenient. Resist.

Not $700 Billion, Not $7 Trillion, But $30 Trillion for the Banksters

For $30 trillion, you could employ every one of this nation's 30 million unemployed and underemployed adults, for a salary of $75,000 plus full benefits, for 10 years.

Put them back to work rebuilding the nation's infrastructure and protecting our streets and homes and teaching our children and caring for patients and performing every other public service repugs are so determined to eliminate.

I guarantee that would create infinitely more economic growth than flushing that $30 trillion down the Wall Street bankster toilet, which has created exactly zero economic growth.


A lot of numbers have been thrown around in the accounting of just how much money the banks got from the Fed, but if this analysis is to believed, it's utterly insane: some $29 trillion total.


And if you go ahead and do that, as two UMKC graduate students have done, you come up with a mind-busting figure:

When all individual transactions are summed across all facilities created to deal with the crisis, the Fed committed a total of $29,616.4 billion dollars. This includes direct lending plus asset purchases. Table 1 depicts the cumulative amounts for all facilities; any amount outstanding as of November 10, 2011 is in parentheses below the total in Table 1. Three facilities—CBLS, PDCF, and TAF—overshadow all other facilities, and make up 71.1 percent ($22,826.8 billion) of all assistance.

Yeah. That figure is in billions, as in $29,600 plus billions, commonly known as $29.6 trillion. Some ten trillion just in liquidity swaps, and another nine trillion in the Fed's primary dealer credit window, plus another ten trillion in change in other various and sundry programs. Twice our entire national debt, just to get the banks out of the hole they were in. Helicopter Ben was dropping cash out of helicopters made of cash.

Oh, and the banks are right back to playing the same games they were before, because they know if they screw up again, the Fed will bail them out...again.

It is any wonder that the Village Elite are looking to scrap as many social programs as possible in order to make the average American pick up the tab for what's coming next?