Monday, April 30, 2012

"Toxic Culture of Entitlement"

The first thing you need to know is that former Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ritchie Farmer is mentally deficient. That's not an insult. That's a fact.

The second thing is that his obvious retardation did not stop Kentuckians from voting him into one of the most powerful statewide offices. Twice. All they cared about was his being a hometown boy who played on a championship UK basketball team.

The third thing is that literally nothing will come of the audit report that reveals widespread corruption and illegality on Reetchie's part. He will not go to jail, he will not pay any fines beyond returning all the stuff he stole, Kentucky will not turn the Commissioner of Agriculture into an appointed position the way it is in civilized states, and record-breaking corruption in the Agriculture Department will continue - albeit more circumspectly.

Joe Sonka at Leo's Fat Lip:

This morning, Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen released the findings of his special examination into Richie Farmer’s handling of the Department of Agriculture during his term, which he says shows “a toxic culture of entitlement and self-dealing at Kentucky taxpayers’ expense.”

Edelen will be referring the report to the Kentucky Attorney General, Executive Branch Ethics Commission, IRS, Kentucky Department of Revenue, Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Personnel Board.

“The law makes no distinction between icons and the rest of us, and neither do I,” Edelen said. “The report paints a clear picture of an administration that had no qualms about treating taxpayer resources as its own. The former commissioner had state employees on state time take him hunting and shopping, mow his yard, build a basketballw makes no distinction between icons and the rest of us, and neither do I,” Edelen said. “The report paints a clear picture of an administration that had no qualms about treating taxpayer resources as its own. The former commissioner had state employees on state time take him hunting and shopping, mow his yard, build a basketball court in his backyard, and even chauffer his dog. He showered himself with gifts and office equipment and rewarded friends with jobs. These are just some of the documented abuses that should outrage every Kentuckian."

The highlights:


Richie signed the timesheets of his girlfriend/mistress because his chief of staff refused to do so/couldn’t substantiate any work she did

A former executive director and former director told staff to delay action against a grain dealer because it was during an election year and could cause a negative political outcome for the former commissioner.

A $1.65 million fuel-testing lab that was projected to test 20,000 samples a year has not met its goal and lost the state more than $744,000 in fiscal year 2011.

Roughly half the department’s employees had permanently assigned take-home vehicles. Many of the employees were not justified in having state vehicles.

There’s lots more detailed in the report. 41 findings and 126 recommendations. Many issues surrounding the reporting of taxable benefits to the IRS and Kentucky Department of Revenue. So you’ll likely want to read it all.

And it wasn't just money. There were casualties. Barefoot and Progressive before the audit report cam out:

It seems like Richie Farmer’s time as Ag. Commissioner, with its lavish parties and missing rifles, is going to continue providing fodder for Herald-Leader investigative journalists well into the next decade. Here’s the hilarity in today’s paper:

A distant relative of former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer worked in the Department of Agriculture for nearly five years as an amusement ride inspector despite never receiving certification to do the work.

George “Doug” Begley worked from July 1, 2007, to March 12 inspecting amusement park rides in Eastern Kentucky, according to documents obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader under the state’s Open Records Act.

Documents in Begley’s personnel file show he voluntarily accepted a demotion to the department’s fuel-testing division in March after Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who took office in January, discovered that Begley never received his certification.

There’s something comical about the pettiness of cousin George Doug not getting a certification that would have probably been easy for him to get and that the state would have paid for. Richie Farmer’s corruption was mostly just laughs. Well, until somebody lost a foot.

A Louisville teen’s feet were severed after she was hurt on a ride at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in 2007. The park closed in 2009.

Begley, who worked out of Breathitt County and inspected rides in that area, could not be reached for comment.

B&P also rejects the compliments being showered on Ritchie's successor for requesting the audit and acting expeditiously to implement recommended changes.

I get the strong sense that Jamie Comer is, if not encouraging these stories, at least rooting for them because they show a lack of continuity between the two Republicans. Next to Richie Farmer, he looks like a high-minded reformer. But make no mistake, Jamie Comer is a right-wing son of a bitch who voted against felon re-enfranchisement, against providing HPV vaccinations to girls, and against equal pay for equal work for women when he was a state rep. Expect him to run for something fancier in 2014 or 2015 on his record of cleaning up Richie Farmer’s mess and expect a lot of Democrats to talk about how he’s a good man.

Yes, of course Ritchie's a republican.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: May Day

More than the first Monday in October, the first of May is the traditional day for working people to mark who we are and why we fight. Celebrate May Day tomorrow.

Peter Rothberg at The Nation has his list of Top Ten May Day songs.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Abominations We Can Only Correct by Re-Electing the Perpetrator

It's beyond disappointment. The un-American, anti-democratic policies the Obama administration has instituted in the name of the Warren Terra should be the target of massive, constant street protests.

But if you think denying Obama your vote will send a message, consider that your message will read:

"Here, President Romney, have free reign to maintain and expand these horrible policies."

The Rude Pundit brings the righteous outrage:

American Attorney General Says It's Cool for America to Kill Americans:

So, not to veer from our happy dance over the impending doom of rotund junkie Rush Limbaugh (not quite so epically Breitbartian, but it'll do), but the Rude Pundit must say a thing or two about Attorney General Eric Holder's sanctimonious, bullshit speech justifying warrantless surveillance, military tribunals, and the murder of American citizens abroad at Northwestern University law school yesterday. If this had been Alberto Gonzales or Michael Mukasey, the cacophony of outrage on the left would have been loud and sustained. Some Democrats would have campaigned on their anger about the executive branch being judge, jury, and executioner. Instead, we'll get a few blog posts and maybe a New York Times editorial, if they're in the mood.

After offering support for military commissions and trials, Holder veered into what ought to be the most controversial aspect of the Obama administration's continuation and expansion of Bush administration policies, the constitutionality of targeted killings, whether on the technical battlefield of Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world, especially whether or not that can include Americans. Said the AG, "Now, it is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that some of the threats we face come from a small number of United States citizens who have decided to commit violent attacks against their own country from abroad...the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations with respect to United States citizens – even those who are leading efforts to kill innocent Americans. Of these, the most relevant is the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which says that the government may not deprive a citizen of his or her life without due process of law." And then he followed with the chilling statement that "due process" can mean, in essence, that the President has determined an American should be killed, with no judicial review, not even FISA, and that what we've always understood "due process" to mean as Americans is, in fact, worthless. Jesus, that's an expansive, breathtaking, frightening thought because, one day, President Trig Palin might have that power, too.

Holder kept coming back to the question of violent acts. In determining who is worthy of a drone missile in their face, Holder said that one of the principles must be that "the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States." And what does that mean? "The evaluation of whether an individual presents an 'imminent threat' incorporates considerations of the relevant window of opportunity to act, the possible harm that missing the window would cause to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks against the United States...the Constitution does not require the President to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning – when the precise time, place, and manner of an attack become clear. Such a requirement would create an unacceptably high risk that our efforts would fail, and that Americans would be killed."

Yet when the U.S. blew the shit out of Anwar al-Awlaki, he had not been charged with killing or plotting to kill anyone. And post-shit-blown, there wasn't even a half-hearted effort to paint him as actively involved in violence. He was a propagandist who occasionally hung out with people who did bad shit. Simply put, al-Awlaki's case fails Holder's first test. That renders everything else Holder said the simpering, mollifying lies of the powerful.

The biggest lie, among a pile of Yoo-worthy lies, is that everything is justified because this is a war we're in, goddamnit, and do you want to die? Do you? Hell, Holder even gave an example from the last "good" war: "[D]uring World War II, the United States tracked the plane flying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto – the commander of Japanese forces in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway – and shot it down specifically because he was on board." Yeah, and?

The effort to stop terrorism is not a war. Hell, our actual war, the one in Afghanistan, is barely one. We can keep calling the fight against a few hundred, disorganized, widespread asshole zealots with guns a war. But it ain't one. "War," in this case, is just a legalistic term of art that frees the hand of the Executive to do whatever the fuck he wants, which, if the Rude Pundit recalls, we kind of hated under Bush and Cheney. If Holder or Obama said we were just pursuing criminals, which is what we're doing, they'd have to follow niceties, like civil rights and protections. But we can't have that, now, can we, or we'd just seem weak?

Oh, good, sweet people of the left, this is less about bashing Obama and more about holding to a principle. What Holder's saying is pretty much the exact opposite of what the country was founded on, since the King being able to get all killy without trial was one of the problems mentioned in, you know, the Declaration of Independence. So it's curious that there's so much silence about this on our side, as curious as it is that non-Ron Paul Republicans who can't stand the idea of the government making you have health insurance have no problem with the government just outright blowing you up where you stand.

Don't worry, though. As Holder said, "In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out – and we will not. This is an indicator of our times – not a departure from our laws and our values." See? We're murdering Americans in accordance with our values. Of course, Holder also said, just a moment earlier, that "it is important to note that the legal requirements I have described may not apply in every situation." So, you know, there's always an out.

Re-elect President Obama. Then stoke the fire to which to hold his feet.

Tax the Ones Who Have the Money

Should be obvious, but relentless repug lies for the past 40 years have made it necessary to drag out the statistics and the facts and the reality-based arguments.

Kevin Drum back in March:

In the Wall Street Journal a few days ago, Allan Meltzer hauled out the chart below, which shows that income shares of the rich have been rising all over the world for the past 30 years. His conclusion: if income inequality is changing everywhere, "that means domestic policy can't be the principal reason for the current spread between high earners and others."



So although domestic policies certainly aren't the whole explanation for the exploding income of the rich — and nobody has ever claimed they are — the evidence certainly suggests they play a significant role. There's a big difference between 8% and 17%.

But Bruce Bartlett makes another point:

[Meltzer] seems to have missed an important implication of his own conclusion. If the rich are going to continue to get richer in low-tax countries and high-tax countries alike, then it must mean that high tax rates have far less of a disincentive effect on the rich than conservatives like Professor Meltzer continually proclaim.

He asserts that we should not raise tax rates on the wealthy, as President Obama has proposed, because it won’t do anything to reduce the share of income going to the ultrawealthy and thereby equalize the distribution of income. For the sake of argument, I will concede the point. But there is another very good reason to raise taxes on the ultrawealthy: the government needs the revenue.

Right. As it happens, I don't think tax policy is a great instrument for wealth redistribution. There are probably better ways to make society more egalitarian. On the other hand, tax policy is a great instrument for raising money that can be spent on programs that make society fairer and more decent — like universal healthcare, for example. And since (a) the evidence suggests that high-but-not-punitive tax rates have little effect on economic growth, and (b) growing income inequality means that the rich have ever more money, then it makes sense to tax the rich at higher rates. They're the ones benefiting from economic growth, they're the ones with the money, and they're the ones who can best afford it. If your income share doubles over the course of 30 years, it only makes sense that your tax rates ought to go up, not down.

This week, Think Progress exploded the myth of higher taxes on the rich hurting job growth.

Pat Garofalo:

According to the constant refrain from Republicans in Congress, the reason that tax rates can’t be raised on anyone, even the already super-wealthy, is because doing so will hurt economic growth. However, two prominent economists — Nobel Prize winner Peter Diamond and John Bates Clark award winner Emmanuel Saez — write in today’s Wall Street Journal that the conservative theory is basically bunk:

In the postwar U.S., higher top tax rates tend to go with higher economic growth — not lower. Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP annual growth per capita (to adjust for population growth) averaged 1.68% between 1980 and 2010 when top tax rates were relatively low, while growth averaged 2.23% between 1950 and 1980 when top tax rates were at or above 70%.

Neither does international evidence support a case for lower growth from higher top taxes. There is no clear correlation between economic growth since the 1970s and top tax-rate cuts across Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

Saez and Diamond also note that growth can be boosted if the revenue raised from higher taxes gets spend on infrastructure or other public investments. “The neglect of public investment over the last few decades suggests that the returns could be quite high,” they wrote.

As this chart shows, job growth has been weakest when the top tax rate was at its lowest:

In fact, job growth has been stronger when taxes are higher overall:

Of course, none of this should be construed as proving that higher taxes cause better job growth. But the Republican claim that higher taxes will blunt job growth is most certainly not true, as the data shows.

This country is not broke. This country has been robbed. The filthy, parasitic rich and their repug and Blue Dog servants in Congress have stolen the nation's life savings. Time to get it back.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Love Letter to Occupy"

Peter Rothberg at The Nation:

Check out “Distractions,” the first single on Talib Kweli’s new album Prisoner of Conscious, a work which the Brooklyn rapper called a “love letter to the Occupy Movement everywhere.” (Kweli explains his motivations and inspirations here.)

Now, read up on “Five Ways You Can Help Re-Occupy America.”

"Knowledge Without Affection Leads Us Astray Every Time"

For those of us who have read Wendell Berry for decades, who know him as that Henry County farmer with a way with words, it's easy to forget the man is a national treasure.

Tom Eblen at the Herald:

The National Endowment for the Humanities chose the Kentucky farmer, poet, essayist, novelist, activist and philosopher to give the 2012 Jefferson Lecture at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It is the federal government's highest honor for scholarly contributions to the humanities.


Berry, 77, delivered a searing indictment of corporate domination and the industrial economy, saying it has abused the land and people and threatens our survival. You can — and should — watch the video of Berry's lecture and read the full text of his essay, titled "It All Turns on Affection." Both are online at


"Now the two great aims of industrialism — replacement of people by technology and concentration of wealth in the hands of a small plutocracy — seem close to fulfillment," Berry said. "At the same time the failures of industrialism have become too great and too dangerous to deny."

Even the term economy has lost its original meaning, which had to do with household management and husbandry, he said. Most economists now "never ask, in their professional oblivion, why we are willing to do permanent ecological and cultural damage 'to strengthen the economy.'"

Corporate industrialism, he said, "has failed to sustain the health and stability of human society. Among its characteristic signs are destroyed communities, neighborhoods, families, small businesses and small farms. It has failed just as conspicuously and more dangerously to conserve the wealth and health of nature."

Read the whole thing.

Watch the video and read the lecture here.

To Shut Them Up, Buy Them Out

If you are a super villain out to control the world, you don't have to indulge in expensive, risky nuclear weapons. You can bring the nations of the world to their knees by destroying their ability to feed themselves: Poison their bees.

Anthony Gucciardi, via Nation of Change:

Monsanto, the massive biotechnology company being blamed for contributing to the dwindling bee population, has bought up one of the leading bee collapse research organizations. Recently banned from Poland with one of the primary reasons being that the company’s genetically modified corn may be devastating the dying bee population, it is evident that Monsanto is under serious fire for their role in the downfall of the vital insects. It is therefore quite apparent why Monsanto bought one of the largest bee research firms on the planet.

It can be found in public company reports hosted on mainstream media that Monsanto scooped up the Beeologics firm back in September 2011. During this time the correlation between Monsanto’s GM crops and the bee decline was not explored in the mainstream, and in fact it was hardly touched upon until Polish officials addressed the serious concern amid the monumental ban. Owning a major organization that focuses heavily on the bee collapse and is recognized by the USDA for their mission statement of “restoring bee health and protecting the future of insect pollination” could be very advantageous for Monsanto.


It appears that when Monsanto cannot answer for their environmental devastation, they buy up a company that may potentially be their ‘experts’ in denying any such link between their crops and the bee decline.

For you non-farmers out there, without bees there is no food.

It's now a matter of life and death - of pure self-defense - to assume corporations guilty until proven innocent.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rei-imagine the Toilet and Save the World

As we near the end of Earth Week, here's a reminder of the connection between a healthy environment and healthy humans, and how the simplest advances make the biggest difference.

From Bloomberg:

The toilet is a magnificent thing. Invented at the turn of the 19th century, the flush version has vastly improved human life.

The toilet has been credited with adding a decade to our longevity. The sanitation system to which it is attached was voted the greatest medical advance in 150 years by readers of the British Medical Journal.

Unfortunately it is an impractical luxury for about two- thirds of the world’s 7 billion people because it relies on connections to water and sewerage systems that must be built and maintained at great expense. About 40 percent of all people, an estimated 2.6 billion of them, have no access to even a minimally sanitary facility, according to the World Health Organization.

The result is illness and early death. Diarrheal diseases, including those linked to improper sanitation, are the second largest killer in the developing world, taking 2 million lives annually. A cholera outbreak in Haiti, which has so far killed more than 7,000, for instance, apparently began when sewage from a base housing Nepalese peacekeepers contaminated a water source.

Vaccines and medicines against these diseases help. But the ultimate solution is to address the problem at its root.

Doing so requires reimagining the toilet. First, new designs are required for toilets that are hygienic, pleasant, and cheap to make and use, and that work without being connected to a grid. Because such a facility would have to be periodically emptied, ideally excretions would be treated not as waste but either recycled on site or turned into profitable resources.

Among the designs being developed by eight university teams funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are several that divert and capture urine, from which water can be recovered. Others produce energy from excrement by turning it into charcoal or gas. Governments and universities should fund similar grants aimed at encouraging additional innovative toilet redesigns.

The Gates Foundation requires that the overall cost of a future toilet, including maintenance, not exceed 5 cents per user per day -- a price developing world consumers can afford. That would enable the private sector to step up production and distribution once practical new models have emerged. Cities would have to build a new generation of waste-processing centers, but the investment would quickly pay for itself. A World Health Organization study suggests that every dollar devoted to improving sanitation and drinking water produces economic benefits ranging from $3 to $34, because of health-care savings, deaths averted, and improved productivity and school attendance.

Because operating a toilet will ultimately cost individuals a little money, the uninitiated -- the 1.1 billion people who defecate in the open -- will have to be persuaded of the benefits. This will require huge education and advocacy efforts, for which UN agencies and nongovernment organizations that deal with the world’s poor have proved to be well-suited, based on their rollout of HIV drugs, for instance.

For gridless sanitation to be economical, commerce needs to flourish around the collection and treatment of excrement. Government agencies and charitable business associations could help by offering local businesses small grants, loans and expert guidance to encourage this enterprise. One model is the U.S.- based Acumen Fund, which offers loans to or equity in companies that provide consumers in the developing world with essential needs. In 2004, the fund invested $600,000 in WaterHealth International, established to bring safe drinking water to rural Indians, and today the company serves more than 5 million people.

More than anything, these potentially helpful actors must go beyond recognizing sanitation as an issue and embrace it. So far, squeamishness has been an impediment. As a result, other public health causes have claimed greater attention and funding.

According to an annual report by the George Institute for Global Health, of the money spent on research and development of new products for diseases that disproportionately affect the developing world, AIDS accounts for 39 percent, malaria 18 percent and tuberculosis 15 percent. Diarrheal diseases get 5 percent, though they cause more morbidity and mortality than anything but lower respiratory infections, mostly pneumonia (which attracts a lousy 3 percent of the research total).

Bad sanitation is a problem not so hard to solve, if only we devote ourselves to spreading the wonders of the toilet.

Via Lawyers, Guns and Money.

The technology for non-water toilets is not even new; I first read about composting toilets thirty years ago and actually used them in desert national parks twenty years ago. They are clean, odor-free, easy, effective and inexpensive over the long term. What's not to love?

This Union Leader is Fighting to Save Kids From High-Stakes Testing

It eliminates real teaching, demoralizes teachers and students, and turns schools into factories for churning out obedient robots unable to think independently. The single greatest threat to American public education is high-stakes testing, which is why teachers' unions are fighting it.

Kenneth Quinnell at Crooks and Liars:

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten attended the International Summit on the Teaching Profession and came away with a renewed sense that high-stakes standardized tests are hurting the U.S. education system and its students.

I think the first thing we have to do is move off the test fixaton. Top-down, test-driven accountability as a salvation has not proven to work. People will say, “Oh, she’s anti-accountability.” But I’m for making sure teachers can really teach and for multiple measures to assess teachers, like peer review, self-reflection, administrative review and assessment of student learning. But right now there are a disproportionate number of points [in many teacher evaluation systems] allocated to test scores.

The president gets a lot of credit for saying in his State of the Union, “Let’s not teach to the test.” NAEP [the National Assessment of Educational Progress] scores from the last decade had a better rate of growth than in this decade, and that says a lot about the effects of top-down, test-based accountability. We have to get away from that concept. I think if there’s a reset button where we get away from that, we can unleash creativity. We can unleash the Common Core, we can work on teacher quality through what we know works: cooperative environments. Then I think we’ll have a different conversation in America.

She noted that countries that do better in educating their students than the U.S. don't share our test obsession:

None of the other countries use test scores to evaluate teachers. They use portfolios, demonstration lessons, peer processes. There are multiple ways of trying to assess, “Have I taught it and have kids learned it?” But very few countries are as fixated on student testing having a consequential effect on teachers’ lives. Student testing is very consequential for students.


What is really different is that, except maybe for Chile, testing is not the centerpiece of these other nations’ accountability systems for teachers. Instead, testing is the centerpiece of an accountability system around children. In other nations, kids see tests as consequential. In the United States, teachers see student tests as consequential, but the kids don’t see it.

Instead of a focus on testing, countries with better education systems have other priorities:

There was a real consensus at the summit. When nations were reporting their plans, you heard the buzzwords of collaboration and trust, of retain, recruit, support. You didn’t hear market solutions, competition, things like that.


Teachers who work really hard there were much more focused on the art and craft of teaching than they were on all the things that, in the United States, teachers focus on. They’re not as much surrogate moms and dads and guidance counselors, but they are really more instructionally focused. There is a climate in these countries that education really matters, and kids and parents buy into that. That’s a real difference that one sees when you’re in Finland and when you’re in Asia. Teachers are to be respected.


In Singapore, the schools were fairly well funded, and what you saw was really a very interesting way to teach math. I’m such a stereotypical female learner in that I love social studies and love literature, and I always struggled with math and science. In Singapore they spent a lot of time with young kids teaching math spatially, so kids would see forms and would actually try to conclude which was larger or smaller by looking at diagrams.

And they were using technology in a very interactive way. They were using whiteboards, laptops, and some of the kids had tablet whiteboards with them. Teachers had technology in every classroom, but they were using it in a way where it wasn’t just a shiny object. The teacher was the center of the lesson; the technology wasn’t driving the lesson.

In Japan, we saw a school that appeared to be in a fairly middle-class prefecture, as well as a school that was in a poorer prefecture. In the high school that was in the poor prefecture, you didn’t see whiteboards, you saw blackboards. You saw more traditional ways of teachers teaching. But you still saw tremendous engagement and kids really focused on learning.

High-stakes testing serves two masters: repugs who want to eliminate public education and corporations who want obedient drones for workers. It is destructive to education, to students, to communities and to democracy.

Songs to Fight the Racist, Murdering Plutocracy By: "Children of the Rainbow"

Shamelessly stolen from PZ Myers:

Anders Breivik said he really hates the song, “Children of the Rainbow,” by Pete Seeger. So what do the Norwegians do? Tens of thousands of them gather in a square in Oslo and sing…”Children of the Rainbow”.

Getting to Vote on GMO Labeling

If you could vote on whether the Frankenfood in your grocery store should be labeled as such, how would you vote?

If you lived in California, that wouldn't be a what-if question.

Down with Tyranny:

Last week Ronnie Cummins kept sounding the alarm about how a for-profit corporation-- and we're talking about Monsanto here-- can use its political influence and economic clout to force through dangerous food policies that could ruin the health of a nation while enriching its management team. A top Monsanto executive, Norman Braksick, whined to the Kansas City Star: "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it," and another, Phil Angell, the company's director of corporate communications told the NY Times that "Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job."

There's a problem with that. Mosanto spent $6,370,000 lobbying, just last year! And in 2010 they spent $8,030,000. And that doesn't count the millions in bribes to Members of Congress. So far this year, for example, Monsanto has handed out $231,725 in legalistic bribes to congressmen, 69% of it to Republicans and most of the rest to Blue Dogs and other corrupt conservatives. They're not lobbying and they're not bribing Members of Congress because they want to do the American people any favors.

For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture, aided and abetted by indentured politicians and regulatory agencies, supermarket chains, giant food processors, and the so-called “natural” products industry.

Finally, public opinion around the biotech industry’s contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We’re fighting back.

This November, in a food fight that will largely determine the future of what we eat and what we grow, Monsanto will face its greatest challenge to date: a statewide citizens’ ballot initiative that will give Californians the opportunity to vote for their right to know whether the food they buy is contaminated with GMOs.

Funny how the corporations who claim the invisible hand of the market will protect consumers better than any regulation are always so eager to prevent consumers from getting the information they need to work that market magic.

"Appalling and Disgraceful"

For-profit schools are overpriced, poor-quality ripoffs. The best of them are worse than the worst public colleges. Better to just bar them from receiving tax dollars. But that would be defying our corporate masters.

Full transcript here.

Kentucky Democrats Reject Open Congressional Seat

Kentucky Democrats have a huge opportunity this year to increase our Congressional representation by 50 percent. Republican Geoff Davis in the Fourth District is retiring, creating that rarest and most precious of political gifts: the open congressional seat.

Just eight years ago, Democratic Representative Ken Lucas held that seat for three terms, after which he voluntarily stepped down. It's not a guaranteed red district. But the Kentucky Democratic Party is taking a pass.

There are seven - count 'em! Seven! - republican candidates competing in the May 22 primary. That's a recipe for general election failure. Even the worthless KDP should be able to exploit that kind of primary massacre for an easy ride to November victory.

But no. The two Democratic candidates competing in the primary are unknowns who have never held elected office. Granted, the Democratic bench in northern Kentucky is thin, but it's not that thin.

So why are Democratic office holders in Northern Kentucky ignoring the chance to grab an open congressional seat?


Hold on - stay with me here. Northern Kentucky is traditionally conservative, though nowhere near as conservative as far Western Kentucky or the south-central Old Fifth. It has an urban core across the river from Cincinnati, not so different from the urban core that makes Louisville a liberal bastion. The Fourth was not even badly gerrymandered in redistricting.

But the Fourth stretches for 180 miles through two dozen rural, heavily white and deeply impoverished counties. Counties where Barack Obama is an epithet.

And any Democratic candidate in the Fourth District who runs on a ballot headed by Barack Obama is going to lose.


The second Democrat has filed to run for Congress in Northern Kentucky.

William Adkins, the chairman of the Grant County Democratic Party, filed Tuesday to run in Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District seat occupied by U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Hebron.

Adkins will face Greg Frank, of Corinth, in the Democratic primary. Davis’ decision to not run for re-election has also spurred five Republicans to vie for the seat: Lewis County Judge-executive Thomas Massie; Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore; Oldham County Republican and math teacher Brian Oerther; State Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington and Fort Mitchell Republican and consultant Tom Wurtz.

Adkins, 56, of Williamstown, works as an attorney and has served as Grant County Democratic chairman since 2008. He first ran for public office in 2010 for Williamstown City Council but didn’t get elected.

Adkins said he saw Davis’ departure as an opportunity. A heavy Republican presence in the Fourth District doesn’t discourage him, Adkins said. Many Democrats live in the 24 counties of the Fourth District, which includes Northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.

According to, Frank:

has not sought public office before. He has worked in the medical field, including for the Kentucky Medical Command Unit based in Lexington where he has served as a medic for the past three years. He said he served in the U.S. Army, including a stint in Operation Desert Storm, and served in the Kentucky National Guard in 2007-2008.

He received a bachelors degree in history from Northern Kentucky University in 2008 and said he will soon complete a masters degree in health care through the University of Phoenix online.

Frank said he wants to institute a two-term limit for all members of Congress and federal judges and wants to reform lobbyists and campaign finance. He will outline some of his philosphy in a book he’s publishing, “Common Sense II: Death of Democracy,” to be released Feb. 14.

Term limits would limit special interests in government, Frank said.

“These judges on the federal level, they’re like herpes,” Frank said. “We get them for life. We have to have term limits. We are no longer a government of the people by the people for the people. We’re a government of the few, for the special interests, in the name of greed.”

He would like further caps on money spent lobbying and spent for campaign finance.

Frank would also push for mandatory drug screenings for Congress members. “I have to give a urine sample to make sure there’s no cannabis in my urine,” Frank said. “Every federal employee has to give a urinalysis. If the American people have to give drug tests, they should have to give a drug test too.”

A Democrat does stand a chance in the conservative Fourth District, Frank said.

“I think the only way that would be remotely possible is that if they see that individual as an American, not as a Democrat and see that person as a message, not a messenger, one with a platform of states’ rights, campaign reforms and the bill I will initiate the minute I get into the office, the Social Security Medicare Reimbursement Act where the government would be required to put back the $2.67 trillion it has robbed to plug budget shortfalls and pay for wars without raising taxes,” Frank said.

Losing by 40 points to whichever of the mouth-breathing teabaggers the repugs choose will only enhance the resume of Adkins or Frank.

This is, of course, the fault of the worthless Kentucky Democratic Party, which is worthless. For the past twenty years it has done nothing to build up local county parties and build a bench of local office-holders ready to step up when opportunities like open congressional seats appear.

State party rules state that no one who failed to support the party's last Presidential Nominee can serve as a precinct, county or state party officer. If that rule were enforced, 90 percent of "Democratic" party officials in Northern Kentucky would lose their positions.

Did I mention that the KDP is worthless?

I was wrong; it's worse than worthless. It's actively destructive to Democratic politics in Kentucky. That could have something to do with its current chairperson being a registered republican who makes campaign donations to Mitch McConnell.

And yes, that chairperson was appointed by "Democratic" Governor Steve Cowardly Waste of Oxygen Beshear.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Yet Another Repug Idea Proven Wrong and Money-Wasting

Seriously, people: we could all save a ton of money, time and effort if we just work off the assumption that all repug ideas are so bad, the smart response is to do the exact opposite.

Via Firedoglake:

”A Miami federal judge has declared that Gov. Rick Scott’s order requiring drug testing for state workers is unconstitutional.” This was a victory for a state workers’ union, the ACLU and the 4th Amendment and follows on the heels of another federal judge’s rejection of mandatory drug testing of FL welfare applicants. Maybe it’s time to drug test the people who keep making up these unConstitutional laws.

Forget unconstitutional; it's plain stupid. From Think Progress:

Drug testing welfare recipients doesn’t save any money. Studying results of the drug testing policy’s implementation in Florida, the New York Times found that “[b]ecause the Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost, an average of $30, the cost to the state was $118,140. This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test.”

But I'll bet drug testing state legislators and recipients of government contracts and government subsidies like Big Oil and Big Pharma and Big Ag would turn up tons of druggies.

Strong Tears From a Real Man

Think Progress:

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) broke down in tears today on the floor of the Senate while discussing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Franken, who has been a staunch advocate for domestic violence victims, got emotional discussing women who face homelessness after being abused. “Once a woman becomes homeless, she becomes even more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse,” he said. Watch it:

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Fear of a Black Planet"

In honor of the Romney campaign.

Uploaded by TairyHesticles on Jan 18, 2009

Toxic Lies Monsanto Tells Kids

This is actually an old technique. Ever since scientists like Rachel Carson started exposing the truth about toxic chemicals killing birds, animals and people, corporations that make those toxic chemicals have been lying to schoolchildren about it.

Ronnie Cummins of Alternet, via Nation of Change:

It's not enough that the biotech industry -- led by multinational corporations such as Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, BAS, and Dupont -- is poisoning our food and our planet. It's also poisoning young minds.

In a blatant attempt at brainwashing, the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) has widely circulated what it calls a Biotechnology Basics Activity Book for kids, to be used by "Agriculture and Science Teachers." The book -- called Look Closer at Biotechnology -- looks like a science workbook, but reads more like a fairy tale. Available on the council's Web site, its colorful pages are full of friendly cartoon faces, puzzles, helpful hints for teachers -- and a heavy dose of outright lies about the likely effects of genetic engineering on health, the environment, world hunger and the future of farming.

CBI's lies are designed specifically for children, and intended for use in classrooms.

At a critical time in history when our planet is veering toward a meltdown, when our youth are suffering the health consequences (obesity, diabetes, allergies) of Big Ag and Food Inc.'s over-processed, fat-and sugar-laden, chemical-, and GMO-tainted foods, a time when we should be educating tomorrow's adults about how to reverse climate change, how to create sustainable farming communities, how to promote better nutrition, the biotech industry's propagandists are infiltrating classrooms with misinformation in the guise of "educational" materials.

Read the whole thing.

Still wondering how we came to be suddenly surrounded by gravity-deniers like Michele Bachmann who don't understand basic science or math? They all got their anti-facts and un-logic from corporate propaganda instead of textbooks.

That's why you should care deeply about what the kids in your local schools - especially the private and corporate-run "charter" ones - are being taught, even if you don't have kids of your own. They're the Future Morons of America.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How to Make More Poor People

I used to think that jailing deadbeat dads for not paying child support was really stupid - how are they supposed to earn money to pay child support if they're in jail? Silly me - the new debtor's prisons are really smart. And they're not just for deadbeat dads anymore.

Here's the really cool thing about jailing people for being poor; while they're in jail, they can't earn any money to pay off the debts, so the debts just grow even more, necessitating more jail time, ad infinitum. And if your jails are privatized (why not?), then every jailed poor person is more money for private prison corporations. Except for the fact that money is coming from taxpayers, including the now-jailed poor people, it's a win all around!

Diane Sweet at Crooks and Liars:

Our nation has taken yet another giant step backwards with the criminalization of poverty.


How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn't pay a medical bill -- one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn't owe. "She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn't have to pay it," The Associated Press reports. "But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs."

Although the U.S. abolished debtors' prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don't pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans. In parts of Illinois, debt collectors commonly use publicly funded courts, sheriff's deputies, and country jails to pressure people who owe even small amounts to pay up, according to the AP.

Under the law, debtors aren't arrested for nonpayment, but rather for failing to respond to court hearings, pay legal fines, or otherwise showing "contempt of court" in connection with a creditor lawsuit. That loophole has lawmakers in the Illinois House of Representatives concerned enough to pass a bill in March that would make it illegal to send residents of the state to jail if they can't pay a debt. The measure awaits action in the senate.

Illinois isn't the only state locking up residents for being too poor to pay their bills. A report from the ACLU found that Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington were also doing this, and at "increasingly alarming rates."

A report from the New York University's Brennan Center for Justice found that states are also adding "poverty penalties," including late fees, payment plan fees, and interest:

Alabama charges a 30 percent collection fee, for instance, while Florida allows private debt collectors to add a 40 percent surcharge on the original debt. Some Florida counties also use so-called collection courts, where debtors can be jailed but have no right to a public defender.

Being denied a public defender seems to me would be a violation of the Constitution, but I'm no law expert. Any of you legal eagles want to weigh in?

Terrorist on Trial in New York City; Sky Doesn't Fall

Somebody needs to ask Mitt Romney - and every repug candidate out there - why he has so little faith in the U.S. Justice System to handle Guantanamo's pathetic losers.

Ben Armbruster at Think Progress:

In 2009, the Obama administration announced that it would try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) and 4 other co-conspirators in civilian courts in New York City, but the right wing and obstructionists in Congress launched a fearmongering campaign to prevent this from happening. “There is not going to be a trial in New York, I guarantee it,” then House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said at the time. “There is no appetite for the trials in Congress.” Attorney General Eric Holder eventually acquiesced to the pressure and sent the case back to the Pentagon. A military commission trial is set for Guantanamo Bay next month.

But a high-profile terrorism trial is currently taking place in Brooklyn without much fanfare. Authorities arrested three men in 2009 and 2010 accused of plotting to blow up targets on the New York City subway system. While two of the suspects have already pleaded guilty, the trial of the third, Adis Medunjanin, who was arrested in January 2010, began last week. This time though, the right-wing isn’t saying much, NPR reports:

“It’s rather ironic that this case has attracted so little attention,” says Matthew Waxman, a law professor at Columbia University who used to work on detainee affairs for the Bush administration. “This trial has been an occasion for a convention of terrorism suspects.” [...]

What makes the Brooklyn trial of Medunjanin particularly unusual, Waxman of Columbia University says, is the sheer number of convicted terrorists who have shown up in court. He says the testimony, and the way the trial is unfolding, is proof that the criminal justice system can handle terrorism cases — and tough cases with classified material don’t need to be sent to military commissions at Guantanamo.

“In the past, the idea of prosecuting terrorists here in New York has generated huge outcry,” he says. “But this high-profile trial is going on right here.”

Indeed, the New York Times reported last week that federal officials said the plot was “one of the most serious threats to the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Uncle Sam Says"

Uploaded by cdbpdx on Jun 6, 2010

Joshua White sings Jim Crow songs on the Keynote record album Southern Exposure, recorded in 1941. Enjoy!

Attention Liberals: Catlicks Are Not Our Friends.

Remember, these are the same freakazoids who ordered a nine-year-old girl to give birth to her own father's twins. Child-raping, rapist-protecting, woman-hating, AIDS-spreading motherfuckers do NOT care about poor people except to the extent they can be exploited to the further enrichment of the hierarchy.

Steven Benen at Maddowblog:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) argued two weeks ago that his right-wing budget agenda was inspired by his Roman Catholic faith. In retrospect, that probably wasn't the best idea he's ever had.

Last week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Ryan's plan fails to meet certain "moral criteria" by disproportionately cutting programs that "serve poor and vulnerable people." They added the cuts are "unjustified and wrong."

This week, faculty members at one of the nation's most notable Catholic colleges entered the fray.

The latest criticism comes in a letter released Tuesday and signed by nearly 90 faculty members and priests at Georgetown, the Jesuit university in Washington, in advance of Mr. Ryan's visit there on Thursday. Mr. Ryan is to deliver the prestigious Whittington Lecture, named for an associate dean who was killed on the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

The letter says, "We would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few."

"Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ," says the letter, which the faculty members sent to Mr. Ryan along with a copy of the Vatican's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church -- "to help deepen your understanding of Catholic social teaching."


To reiterate a point from last week, there's a compelling case to be made that conflicts between politicians and their church is a private matter, but given the larger context, there's nevertheless some real political salience to these developments.

Just at a surface level, it's politically problematic for Republicans, who generally claim the high ground on matters of religion and righteousness, to have prominent Catholics criticizing Ryan for trying to punish poor families during difficult economic times.

But we can go further. Remember, for example, that Republicans just spent weeks arguing that those who disagree with the bishops and prominent Catholic voices on contraception are guilty of waging a war on faith. It now appears that it's Paul Ryan with a religion "problem."

No, Paul Ryan doesn't have a religion problem because as a good Catlick himself Paul Ryan knows that Catlick "leaders" don't give a shit about poor people and never have. The letter is bullshit, and repugs know it.

The Worst Company on the Planet

Lots of competition for this one, but Nation of Change makes a hell of a case:

The multinational biotech giant MONSANTO is the world’s leading producer of genetically modified seeds and crops, responsible for 90 percent of the genetically engineered seed on the United States market.

Researchers found that consumption of GMO corn or soybeans may lead to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice – particularly in the liver and kidneys. [1]

Monsanto, the company that brought the world Agent Orange, is also the creator of the best-selling herbicide Roundup, which has spawned over 120 million hectacres of herbicide-resistant superweeds while damaging massive amounts of soil. [2]

Monsanto has created several varieties of “superbugs”. Monsanto engineered genetically modified crops containing Bt, a toxin incorporated in GMO crops which has spawned insect populations which are resistant to the biopesticide. Insect populations have and are mutating to resist the biopesticide. So far at least 8 insect populations have developed resistance, with 2 populations resistant to Bt sprays and at least 6 species resistant to Bt crops as a whole. Farmers are therefore forced to use even more pesticides to combat the resistant bugs. [3]

Monsanto may be destroying the planet’s soil. Certain bacteria essential as "food-starters," such as L cremoris, used in raw and fermented dairy products have begun to disappear in certain geographic regions. The cause has been found to be an element of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, glyphosate which is destroying and/or altering the microbial biodiversity of the soil, jeopardizing the fertility of the entire biosphere. [4]

Monsanto has been caught running “slave-like” rings, holding off pay and forcing undocumented workers to buy their food only from the Monsanto company store. The company not only ‘hired’ all of the workers illegally, but prevented them from leaving the farm premises and withheld their salaries. [5]

Monsanto effectively owns most US diplomats, and is currently using this political capital to start “Trade Wars” against Nations Opposed to Monsanto’s destructive policies. [6] France, Hungary, and Peru are a few of the countries that have decided stand up to Monsanto with Hungary going as far as destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with GMOs. Peru has passed a monumental 10 year ban on modified foods and French legislatures are planning to launch new restrictions regarding the use of Monsanto’s 810 maize on French soil. [7]

Monsanto poses one of the greatest threats on the planet to human health and the environment.

It doesn't get more fundamental than food safety, except for clean water. But I'm sure Monsanto has a plan for cornering that market and poisoning it, too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How Rich People Stole the Social Security Trust Fund

No, Social Security is not running out of money; it will be in the black for another 75 years just as soon as rich motherfuckers pay back the money they've been borrowing from Social Security since 1983.

The deal was that the rich would get massive tax cuts for 30 years in return for repaying the loan starting - NOW. But the motherfucking greedheads are reneging. I say we break all their legs.


Today's important factoid, from Dean Baker:

In an article on the release of the 2012 Social Security trustees report the Washington Post told readers that:

"Social Security’s bleak outlook is primarily driven by the ever-larger numbers of people in the baby boom generation entering retirement."

Actually the fact that baby boomers would enter retirement is not news. Back in 1983, the Greenspan Commission knew that the baby boomers would retire, yet they still projected that the program would be able to pay all promised benefits into the 2050s.

The main reason that the program's finances have deteriorated relative to the projected path is that wage growth has not kept pace with the path projected. This is in part due to the fact that productivity growth slowed in the 80s, before accelerating again in the mid-90s and in part due to the fact that much more wage income now goes to people earning above the taxable cap.

In 1983 only 10 percent of wage income fell above the cap and escaped taxation. Now more than 18 percent of wage income is above the cap.

This demographic "time bomb" the financial industry pushes is industry propaganda. We've known about the demographics for decades and prepared for it. The problem is our stagnant economy and a perfidious 1%, not the "math problem" they say it is.

Someone reminded me of this post by Kevin Drum from a couple of years ago that explains the fundamental issue:

In 1983, when we last reformed Social Security, we made an implicit deal between two groups of American taxpayers. Call them Groups A and B. For about 30 years, Group A would pay higher taxes than necessary, thus allowing Group B to reduce their tax rates. Then, for about 30 years after that, Group A would pay lower taxes than necessary and Group B would make up for this with higher tax rates.

This might have been a squirrelly deal to make. But it doesn't matter. It's the deal we made. And it's obviously unfair to change it halfway through.

So who is Group A? It's people who pay Social Security payroll taxes, which mostly means working and middle class taxpayers. And who is Group B? It's people who pay federal income taxes, which mostly means the well-off and the rich. For nearly 30 years, Group A has been overpaying payroll taxes, and that's allowed the government to lower income tax rates. The implicit promise of the 1983 deal is that sometime in the next few years, this is going to flip. Group A will begin underpaying payroll taxes, and the rich, who have reaped the benefits of their overpayment for 30 years, will make good on their half of the deal by paying higher income tax rates to make up the difference.

The physical embodiment of this deal is the Social Security trust fund. Group A overpaid and built up a pile of bonds in the trust fund. Those bonds are a promise by Group B to repay the money. That promise is going to start coming due in a few years, and it's hardly surprising that Group B isn't as excited about the deal now as it was in 1983. It's never as much fun paying off a loan as it is to spend the money in the first place.

But pay it off they must. The rich have been getting a loan from the middle class for decades, and the loan papers are the Social Security trust fund bonds that George W. Bush is admiring in the photograph above. Anybody who claims the trust fund is a myth is basically saying it's OK for the rich to renege on that loan.

But surely no one would ever say such a thing. Right?

As Gaius Publius from Americablog (with whom I had the pleasure of spending time with this past week-end) told me: "they just don't want to pay the money back."

It's not much more complicated than that. Between an unwillingness to properly raise the cap to keep up with the change in wage distribution and wealthy bondholders telling the rest of us "thanks very much for the nice loan but they won't be paying it back," we have a projected social security shortfall in a couple of decades right in elder years of the baby boom --- which is allowing these greedheads to argue for reducing the program even more. Sa-weeet.

Smash their kneecaps with baseball bats. That's the way you handle deadbeats.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Bourgeois Blues"

Suggested by thersites

Uploaded by cdbpdx on Mar 23, 2011

Deadline Friday to Tell the USDA: No Agent Orange Crops

By email from Eric Schlosser and Gary Hirschberg:

We only have until FRIDAY to contact the USDA about this new type of corn genetically engineered to withstand 2,4-D herbicide, which some studies have shown may be linked to several forms of cancer. Over 50,000 of you have contacted the USDA, but if we want them to listen, we need to inundate them with even more comments.

We should be able to decide for ourselves what to feed our families. But if the USDA approves this new corn, we won't be able to make that choice since genetically engineered foods aren't labeled.

Contact the USDA today!


Although we might not all agree on the science concerning the long-term effects of eating genetically engineered foods, we can all agree that everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether to eat them. And that's why we should proceed with caution when approving new unlabeled GMO crops like 2,4-D corn.

Along with the new GM salmon, one of the most disturbing new species under review is a type of corn genetically engineered to withstand 2,4-D -- an herbicide that some studies have shown may be linked to major health problems including reproductive abnormalities, birth defects, and several forms of cancer.

Approval of Dow Chemical's genetically engineered corn would trigger an increase in 2,4-D use and our exposure to this herbicide. Yet the USDA has not analyzed the resulting impacts on public health, the environment, or neighboring farmers. Do you want to take the risk?

Urge the USDA to reject the genetically engineered 2,4-D resistant corn until these impacts are addressed:

The herbicide 2,4-D is a persistent chemical with a habit of moving around in the environment. It presents a risk to our drinking water, food, pets, and backyard gardens. A growing number of farmers are concerned about the potential impact on their crops from the herbicide drifting onto their fields.

We know you care about the food you eat -- that's why you asked the FDA to label genetically engineered ingredients. Before the USDA makes a decision on 2,4-D resistant corn, they want to hear from people like us. But they're only accepting comments from the public for a short period of time!

Help flood the USDA comment box before it's too late:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tactics Without Content: Why Repugs Don't Get It

Via political animal, Ta Nehisi Coates on repugs' inappropriate use of the race card:

The conservative movement doesn’t understand anti-racism as a value, only as a rhetorical pose. This is how you end up tarring the oldest integrationist group in the country (the NAACP) as racist. The slur has no real moral content to them. It’s all a game of who can embarrass who. If you don’t think racism is an actual force in the country, then you can only understand its invocation as a tactic.

The same thing is happening with repugs' incomprehensibly lame attempt to claim they're not anti-woman at all. They don't understand that banning equal pay, contraception, abortion and protection from abuse are actual attacks on women, that women resent those attacks and will hold those attacks against repug candidates in the voting booth. All repugs see is the accusation that they are attacking women coming from Democratic candidates. So they fight the accusation as a tactic, completely ignoring the actual substance behind the accusation.

It's not working, mostly because the vast majority of women have seen this before. It's the cheating boyfriend who admits he cheated on her, refuses to apologize for cheating on her, and makes clear he intends to keep cheating on her, but can't understand why she's so upset and won't take him back.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Southern Exposure"

Uploaded by cdbpdx on Jun 5, 2010

Can't Escape Monsanto's Poison

Wonder what happened to all the butterflies? They've been Roundup-ed.

Mike Barrett at Truthout:

Monsanto’s Roundup, containing the active ingredient glyphosate, has been tied to more health and environmental problems than you could imagine. Similar to how pesticides have been contributing to the bee decline, Monsanto’s Roundup has been tied to the decrease in the population of monarch butterflies by killing the very plants that the butterflies rely on for habitat and food. What’s been shown to be an even greater threat to the population, though, is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn and soybeans.

A 2011 study published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity found that increasing acreage of genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans is heavily contributing to the decline in monarch butterfly populations within North America. Milkweed, a plant butterflies rely on for habitat and food, is being destroyed by the heavy use of glyphosate-based pesticides and Roundup Ready crops. Over the past 17 years, the monarch butterfly population in central Mexico has declined, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010.

“This milkweed has disappeared from at least 100 million acres of these row crops,” said Dr. Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas and director of the research and conservation program Monarch Watch. “Your milkweed is virtually gone…this [glyphosate use on RR crops] is the one main factor that has happened…you look at parts of the Midwest where there is a tremendous use of these crops and you see monarch populations dropping. It’s hard to deny the conclusion.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, in 2011 94 percent of soybeans and 72 percent of corn grown in the United States were herbicide-tolerant. Due to this increase, the amount of Roundup used on crops in 2007 was 5 times higher than in 1997, only one year after Roundup Ready crops were available.

Another study published int he journal Crop Protection and conducted by Robert G Hartzler, an agronomist at Iowa State, found that milkweed on farms in Iowa declined 90 percent from 1999 to 2009. Additionally, his study found milkweed only on 8 percent of corn and soybean fields surveyed in 2009, which is 51 percent lower than in 1999.

Although the butterfly population may be suffering, humans are taking heat from Monsanto’s creations as well. Past research has shown that Monsanto’s Roundup ready crops are leading to mental illness and obesity, primarily by destroying the amount of good bacteria found in the gut. The corporation’s Roundup, containing glyphosate, has also been shown to cause infertility and birth defects.

Glyphosate is so present today that it has been found to be polluting the world’s drinking water through the widespread contamination of aquifers, wells, and springs. What may be most shocking is that very high concentrations of glyphosate have been found in 100 percent of urine samples tested in a recent study.

Find options here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

CFTC Nails First Oil Speculator

And this is exactly why repugs fight like rabid ferrets against the slightest hint of regulation: because it works.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

Glad to see this kind of crackdown by federal regulators, even though it's five years after the fact. It's baffling that these people are so divorced from the human misery they caused. It's as if they're completely disconnected from their own country, and I wonder how they got this way:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. regulators claimed their first victory in a four-year old effort to crack down on oil market manipulation on Thursday, announcing a $14 million settlement with high-frequency trading firm Optiver.

In a ruling that came just two days after U.S. President Barack Obama proposed a renewed campaign against illegal oil trading schemes, the Amsterdam-based company agreed to disgorge $1 million in profits and pay a $13 million civil penalty over allegations it used a rapid-fire tool nicknamed "The Hammer" to influence U.S. oil prices in 2007.

It was the first case brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in its 2008 effort to curb market malfeasance, launched as prices soared toward a record near $150 a barrel in the middle of that year.

The case alleged that traders in Optiver's Chicago office reaped a $1 million profit by engaging in a practice called "banging the close", in which the firm attempted to move U.S. oil prices by executing a large volume of deals during the final moments of trading.

While far from the agency's largest fine, the case was viewed as an important milestone in the CFTC's efforts to get more aggressive over market manipulation - a charge that has historically been difficult to prove, despite mounting political pressure to take rogue traders to task.

"The CFTC will not tolerate traders who try to gain an unlawful advantage by using sophisticated means to drive oil and gas futures prices in their favor," David Meister, the CFTC's enforcement chief, said in a statement.

[...] The CFTC case revealed emails and phone recordings showing efforts by traders at Optiver's Chicago branch to "move," "whack" and "bully" oil prices.

According to a CFTC background sheet, van Kempen told an Optiver trader on March 19, 2007: "You should milk it for right now because you never know how long it's going to last."

The CFTC complaint said Optiver and van Kempen made false statements to New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) compliance officials in an effort to conceal the manipulative scheme.

The defendants had attempted to manipulate NYMEX U.S. crude oil, gasoline and heating oil contracts on the 19 separate times during 11 days in March 2007, according to the complaint.

"Those who seek to manipulate oil or other commodity markets should know we aren't messing around," said CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton. "You manipulate, we are going after you."

Brooksley Born is smiling.

Smash the Patriarchy Saturday

Start the Spring out right: Protest!

Joe Sonka at Barefoot and Progressive:

Conservatives and Republicans all over the country have been very busy in 2012 trying to suppress a radical fringe interest group that threatens their homespun American values. In other words, the majority of the country: women.

Next Saturday, April 28th, folks in Lexington and Louisville are gathering to rally against the forces in Kentucky, D.C., and all over the country that are trying their best to destroy women’s health clinics, deny equal pay, and take away the basic constitutional right to control their own own uterus (small government conservatives that they are).

In Lexington, folks are gathering for a march at North Limestone and Main St. at 2:30. (Facebook event page here)

In Louisville, there will be a rally at the Fresh Start Growers Supply starting at 2:00, with some awesome speakers (Congressman John Yarmuth, state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, and others), bands and food. (If you want to chip in for the costs of the space, clicky here.)

HULK SMASH. Get on it.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Chain Gang Bound"

Uploaded by RagtimeDorianHenry on Mar 28, 2009

How Civilized Nations Deal With Criminal Corporations

Yes, there are nations where corporations do not own the political process, and they can be held accountable for their criminal behavior.

Anthony Gucciardi at Truthout:

In a major victory for public health and what will hopefully lead to other nations taking action, a French court decided today that GMO crops monster Monsanto is guilty of chemically poisoning a French farmer. The grain grower, Paul Francois, says he developed neurological problems such as memory loss and headaches after being exposed to Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller back in 2004. The monumental case paves the way for legal action against Monsanto’s Roundup and other harmful herbicides and pesticides made by other manufacturers.

In a ruling given by a court in Lyon (southeast France), Francois says that Monsanto failed to provide proper warnings on the product label. The court ordered an expert opinion to determine the sum of the damages, and to verify the link between Lasso and the reported illnesses. The case is extremely important, as previous legal action taken against Monsanto by farmers has failed due to the challenge of properly linking pesticide exposure with the experienced side effects.

When contacted by Reuters, Monsanto’s lawyers declined to comment.


Francois, whose life was damaged by Monsanto’s products, has now set the powerful precedent in the defense of farmers.

“I am alive today, but part of the farming population is going to be sacrificed and is going to die because of this,” Francois, 47, told Reuters.

It is also important to note that Monsanto’s Lasso pesticide was actually banned in France back in 2007 following a European Union directive that came after the ban of the product in other nations.

No word on what criminal sanctions Monsanto will suffer, but I hope "criminally poisoning" carries more than a fine.

By contrast, here is how American judges deal with Monsanto's criminal attacks on farmers:

Her ruling to dismiss the case brought against Monsanto on behalf of organic farmers, seed growers and agricultural organizations representing farmers and citizens was met with great disappointment by the plaintiffs.

Plaintiff lead attorney Daniel Ravicher said, "While I have great respect for Judge Buchwald, her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world's foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing. Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers."

To the injury of contaminating the world's food supply with Frankenfood genes, and eliminating the ability of farmers to grow new crops from saved seed, Monsanto is adding the insult of suing farmers who object to to Monsanto stealing their livelihood.

And the Constitutional abomination of American judges who take Monsanto's side.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Repugs Dead Wrong on Cap and Trade, Too

News of yet more proof that liberal solutions not only work but refute conservative predictions of catastrophe rises to the level of "Breaking: Water is Wet."

But yawning at the extension of repugs' century-long record of being Wrong About Everything works to their advantage if nobody thinks it's a big deal.

It's a Big Fucking Deal, and we should scream bloody murder every time it happens.

Thus, Stephen Lacy at Think Progress:

Northeastern states participating in America’s first carbon cap and trade program have outperformed the rest of the country in GDP growth and reduction in global warming pollution.

That’s according to a new report from Environment New Jersey, which examined emissions data and economic growth indicators from 2000 to 2009.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a nine-state cap-and-trade market designed to reduce emissions in the utility sector 10% by 2018. A recent independent analysis showed that the program has already created $1.6 billion in economic value and set the stage for $1.1 billion in ratepayer savings through investments in efficiency and renewable energy.

This latest report shows that states under the RGGI program saw a 20% greater reduction in per-capita carbon emissions than non-RGGI states — all while growing per-capita GDP at double the rate of the rest of the country.


The program has helped stimulate more efficiency and renewable energy, it has helped local businesses grow, it has added enormous economic value to the region, and it has not driven up electric rates.

Let’s compare real-world experience to the outlandish claims made by opponents of the program.

The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity actually claimed that RGGI would drive rates up in New Jersey by 90%. And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pulled his state out of the program, calling it a “gimmicky tax.” According to program administrators, proceeds from carbon credit auctions brought $29 million to New Jersey in 2010, leveraging $3 to $4 in benefits for every dollar invested.

Opponents who claim cap and trade is bad for the economy simply don’t have a leg to stand on.

Conservatives and repugs are wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong-wrong again. Still. Always.

Moving From Alarm to Action on Global Warming

By @KYYellowDog

Jennifer Granholm's War Room stepped it up several noches Friday night with a superb episode on the crisis of global warming.

Ignore the cringe-worthy intro with Al Gore; the discussions with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Jeffrey Sachs are superb and inspiring.

Kennedy explains the often-overlooked connection between Big Oil campaign money and anti-climate votes in Congress and says the best thing you can do to stop global warming is "change your politician."

Economist and global poverty gadfly Jeffrey Sachs says the best way to get people engaged and active to stop global warming is to show them real solutions and concrete action.

How About Letting Drug Dealers and Sex Offenders Regulated Themselves?

If you liked the self-regulation that let Wall Street and big banks bring the global economy to the brink of collapse, you'll love the self-regulation that lets Monsanto destroy the global food supply.

Mike Ludwig at Truthout:

For years, biotech agriculture opponents have accused regulators of working too closely with big biotech firms when deregulating genetically engineered (GE) crops. Now, their worst fears could be coming true: under a new two-year pilot program at the USDA, regulators are training the world's biggest biotech firms, including Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta, to conduct environmental reviews of their own transgenic seed products as part of the government's deregulation process.

This would eliminate a critical level of oversight for the production of GE crops. Regulators are also testing new cost-sharing agreements that allow biotech firms to help pay private contractors to prepare mandatory environmental statements on GE plants the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering deregulating.


Genetically engineered and modified crops continue to cause controversy across the globe, but in America they are a fact of life. The Obama and Bush administrations have actively promoted biotech agriculture both at home and abroad. Countries like China, Argentina and Brazil have also embraced biotech agriculture. Regulators in European countries - including crucial trade partners like France and Spain - have been much more cautious and, in some cases, even hostile toward the industry. GE crops are banned in Hungary and Peru, and earlier this year officials in Hungary destroyed 1,000 acres of corn containing Monsanto transgenes. The US, however, continues to allow big biotech companies to cultivate considerable power and influence and, as the letters uncovered by FOIA reveal, top regulators are ready to meet their demands.

"The USDA regards its own regulatory system as a rubber stamp," Freese said after reading the letters. "At least at the upper levels, there's always been this presumption that [GE crops] must be approved."

Read the whole thing.

If genetically-modified organisms were self-contained, existing next to natural organisms without affecting them, the only issue would be ensuring that proper labeling informs consumers about the food they are buying.

But the fact is that GMO plants and animals eliminate their natural counterparts, infecting and taking them over, so that soon there will be no alternatives to GMO food. And then it will be too late to regulate it.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "The OId Chisholm Trail"

Uploaded by tasedlak on Aug 12, 2009

Racing Backwards on Protecting the Food Supply

To the long list of 20th-century liberal achievements making progress toward equality and liberation of race, sex and income that repugs are rapidly reversing, you can add protecting health and safety.

Yes, now giant corporations are demanding the right to bring back deadly poisons that were permanently banned decades ago.

From Richard Schiffman at Truthout:

In a match that some would say was made in hell, the nation's two leading producers of agrochemicals have joined forces in a partnership to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2,4-D, one half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by American forces to clear jungle during the Vietnam War. These two biotech giants have developed a weed management program that, if successful, would go a long way toward a predicted doubling of harmful herbicide use in America's corn belt during the next decade.

The problem for corn farmers is that "superweeds" have been developing resistance to America's best-selling herbicide Roundup, which is being sprayed on millions of acres in the Midwest and elsewhere. Dow Agrosciences has developed a strain of corn that it says will solve the problem. The new genetically modified variety can tolerate 2,4-D, which will kill off the Roundup-resistant weeds, but leave the corn standing. Farmers who opt into this system will be required to double-dose their fields with a deadly cocktail of Roundup plus 2,4-D, both of which are manufactured by Monsanto.

But this plan has alarmed environmentalists and also many farmers, who are reluctant to reintroduce a chemical whose toxicity has been well established. The use of 2,4-D is banned in several European countries and provinces of Canada. The substance is a suspected carcinogen, which has been shown to double the incidence of birth defects in the children of pesticide applicators in a study conducted by University of Minnesota pathologist Vincent Garry.


Some agricultural scientists advocate developing a system of integrated weed management to replace the unsustainable use of chemicals. But the big agrochemical companies have no interest in supporting the sustainable agriculture that would put them out of business. So long as there are billions of dollars to be made in selling herbicide and herbicide-resistant genetically modified seed, there won't be much research money available to explore the natural alternatives to the destruction of our nation's heartland.

It is misleading to call non-chemical methods of fertilization and weed/pest control "alternatives" to Monsanto and Dow's deadly cocktails, because chemical additives do not benefit crop growth in any way. They destroy healthy soil, weaken plants and poison the natural systems that strengthen and protect plants.

Chemical farming is not an effective system with toxic side effects that we just have to live with; chemical farming is a massive, lethal failure that poisons the very food supply it purports to benefit.

Coal's Danger and Damage Never End

Far from posing an existential threat to Big Coal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is failing to protect Americans from immediate and lethal threats posed by coal-burning electric plants.

Dylan Lovan of AP:

Black dust from the giant coal ash heap across the street from Kathy Little's Louisville home swirls in the wind, coating her windows, her car, and blows indoors to settle on the furniture.

The ash blanketing Little's property is a byproduct of a nearby coal-burning power plant. Since it's full of fine particles of arsenic, chromium and other metals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering classifying the ash as a hazardous material.

"It's a constant struggle and it's a sad situation because there's not a lot of people that know that goliath is over there," Little said of the ash dump near her home - at Louisville Gas & Electric's Cane Run Station.


But two years after the agency proposed regulating coal ash as hazardous and placing restrictions on its disposal, the EPA has issued no ruling.

For Little - and the environmental activists who are just as alarmed - the EPA's ruling is taking too long. They say they're worried that the politically charged environment surrounding the EPA in a presidential election year could delay the ruling further.

"It's frustrating," Little said. "A lot of people don't realize the health impact on the neighborhoods that live immediately adjacent to these landfills."


Hoping to spur EPA action, a large coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit April 5 in federal court in Washington, D.C., exhorting a judge to compel the government agency to rule on coal ash. The groups from several states, including Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Illinois and Montana, also want a judge to declare the EPA in violation of a federal law that requires the agency to upgrade environmental regulations periodically.

They say in the suit that coal ash is "one of the largest and most toxic solid waste streams in the nation," and regulations have not been updated since the early 1980s.

If EPA were really fulfilling its mandate to protect Americans from pollution, it would ban fossil fuel extraction, production and use immediately.

Anything short of that is a half-measure, and industry complaints about it are a joke.