Friday, November 30, 2012

In the Service of the Nation

One of the hallmarks of 21st-century republicanism is the eagerness to sacrifice those who perform public service - in uniform or out - on the altar of political expediency. It's bad enough when they sneer at teachers and custodians and firefighters as unnecessary  moochers who live large on the public dime.
But calling the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and his staff a "failure" is an insult that demeans every foreign service officer and embassy staff person around the globe.
Our diplomatic corps are not porcelein china dolls who must be kept wrapped in cotton wool and never exposed to the elements. They are as courageous and patriotic as any soldier, any Marine, any Seal.
Ambassador Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in the service of their country, knowing they took a risk by traveling openly through Libya but accepting the risk in hope of accomplishing much.
From Talking Points Memo:
TPM Reader EL takes things in a different (or perhaps deeper) direction entirely …
Regarding the Republicans and Benghazi, you write
“Imagine for a moment a different kind of investigation. What sort of security failures were involved in letting a US Ambassador get killed for the first time in 30 years? Not just any country but one that has been near the forefront of the US foreign policy agenda in the last two years. Whoever did what, the President is responsible for what happens on his watch. And when an Ambassador gets killed in the field, that’s a big failure by definition. Examining what’s happening could and probably would lead to some embarrassing lapses. More importantly, it might lead to improvements in how we operate in the future and prevent or limit the possibility of similar tragedies.”

Respectfully, I would say no—you need to go further. Your frame is still assumes the this tragedy is a “big failure” a priori, and then buys into the Washington conceit of pin the blame for the assumed “embarrassing lapses.” I would argue on the contrary that Ambassador Stevens was doing what an able foreign service officer representing a confident and subtle nation should be doing—living and travelling outside the fortified compound, engaging factions in the street, personally visiting regions and power brokers outside the capital.

What we had may simply have been a black swan—an irreducible tail risk that paid off by the laws of chance, giving us a really bad, tragic, awful day as a result. A really mature investigation by a confident nation would not focus on pinning the blame for a “big failure by definition,” but would ask subtle questions like:

1. What does the US gain and lose by forcing the foreign service to prioritize security vs. access and effectiveness?

2. Where do you strike a balance? Will this incident cause is to push the balance further in the direction of security?

3. Where do the foreign service professionals themselves think we should strike the balance?

4. Were there specific procedural issues or decisions that contributed to the death of Amb. Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, or—as I personally suspect is likely—were risks taken with forethought that were judged to be acceptable, that in retrospect still can be judged to be acceptable and necessary—though chance did not favor us on this bad day?

It goes without saying that this kind of conversation is quite impossible to have in official Washington at the moment. Maybe it never can be. But there is no reason we can’t hold ourselves to a higher standard, and try to drag the level of conversation upward by example.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Listen Mr. Bilbo"

Uploaded by wulfric82 on Oct 4, 2010

Glenn Beck claims to not be aware of any racists in the Tea Party...Let's help him spot the racists! It's like Where's Waldo, except THEY'RE ALL WALDO!

Music: "Listen, Mr. Bilbo" sung by Pete Seeger - song written in 1946 referring to then Senator Theodore Bilbo, an outspoken racist and Pre-McCarthyite anti-Communist, right wing facist.

The Panic of the Super-Rich

You may have read the hysterical (by which I mean "out-of-control") comment to my suggestion that the super-rich pay taxes commensurate with the benefit they receive from taxpayer-funded benefits.
Why does the mere suggestion that the super-rich should pay taxes at a top rate lower than they paid during the Eisenhower Admistration engender such fury?
Ezra Klein talks to Chrystia Freeland about why the super rich dislike Obama so bitterly:
Klein: My experience is that the very rich are open to higher taxes in the context of a deficit deal....But they don't like the idea that their money should be redistributed simply because they have too much of it....And so that's part of the tension: They don't like why Obama is raising their taxes. And they certainly don't like the lack of admiration he's showing while trying to do it. They see it as punishing their success.
Freeland: I completely agree. I think Obama and the economists around him have a very sophisticated understanding of both globalization and the technology revolution and the impact they're having on the world economy and the way they're creating these winner-take-all spirals. The positive scenario, which I think is a bit pollyannaish, is all you need to do is improve the education system and change the skill set and all will be well. And even that takes a lot of investment and a lot of time. But there's actually the possibility that in order to have a healthy middle class, you're going to need to have a more redistributive society, at least for awhile. I think that's something the American super-rich don't think about much. One guy who's a liberal Democratic guy, who has worked in Washington for Democrats, who I quote in my book, he said to me, maybe this is how the world is. Maybe the 1950s were an aberration and the way the economy naturally works is this wide difference in distribution.
I'd add something to this. I think it's quite possible for rich individuals to agree, in the abstract, that things have changed over the past 30 years in a way that's benefited the rich tremendously as a class. But that doesn't mean they agree, in concrete terms, that they themselves have benefited from anything in particular. And they don't like being made to pay a price for something they feel they aren't personally responsible for.
A Wall Street lawyer who makes $500,000 per year probably would have made half that much in 1980. The extra pay is solely due to broad economic and political trends, not because the 2012 lawyer works harder or knows more. That's easy to concede in the abstract. But it's quite another thing to suggest that the 2012 lawyer should therefore pay higher taxes to make up for this. That doesn't feel like fairness, it feels like punishment. And that's how they view it.
 But they don't see mass unemployment, foreclosures and suffering among the working class as punishment - or perhaps the super-rich do see that as no more than the working class deserves.

These obscenely rich parasites deserve no consideration, no deference, no respect.  They've been stealing the fruits of our labors for more than thirty years. The "punishment" they really deserve is prison; making them pay a tiny fraction of restitution is less than the least they can do.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bradley Manning and American Injustice

No wonder if you haven't been keeping up with the latest in the Bradley Manning case. Manning has been thoroughly ignored by the legacy media and even by most of the left blogosphere, with the conspicuous exceptions of Firedoglake and Glenn Greenwald.

It's dismaying and depressing to read supposedly liberal bloggers condemning Manning in spittle-flecked hysteria because he dared to expose wrongdoing by the American military.

For the U.S. Army is committing a grave injustice against one of its own - an injustice with far-reaching implications for democracy in this country.

Last week, The Nation published a remarkable statement from three Nobel Peace Prize recipients on Bradley Manning and American Injustice.

As people who have worked for decades against the increased militarization of societies and for international cooperation to end war, we are deeply dismayed by the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning.

We have dedicated our lives to working for peace because we have seen the many faces of armed conflict and violence, and we understand that no matter the cause of war, civilians always bear the brunt of the cost. With today’s advanced military technology and the continued ability of business and political elites to filter what information is made public, there exists a great barrier to many citizens being fully aware of the realities and consequences of conflicts in which their country is engaged.

Responsible governance requires fully informed citizens who can question their leadership. For those citizens worldwide who do not have direct, intimate knowledge of war, yet are still affected by rising international tensions and failing economies, the WikiLeaks releases attributed to Manning have provided unparalleled access to important facts.

Revealing covert crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, this window into the realities of modern international relations has changed the world for the better. While some of these documents may demonstrate how much work lies ahead in terms of securing international peace and justice, they also highlight the potential of the Internet as a forum for citizens to participate more directly in civic discussion and creative government accountability projects.

Questioning authority, as a soldier, is not easy.  But it can at times be honorable. The words attributed to Manning reveal that he went through a profound moral struggle between the time he enlisted and when he became a whistleblower. Through his experience in Iraq, he became disturbed by top-level policy that undervalued human life and caused the suffering of innocent civilians and soldiers. Like other courageous whistleblowers, he was driven foremost by a desire to reveal the truth.

Private Manning said in chat logs that he hoped the releases would bring “discussion, debates and reforms” and condemned the ways the “first world exploits the third.” Much of the world regards him as a hero for these efforts toward peace and transparency, and he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result. However, much as when high-ranking officials in the United States and Britain misled the public in 2003 by saying there was an imminent need to invade Iraq to stop it from using weapons of mass destruction, the world’s most powerful elites have again insulted international opinion and the intelligence of many citizens by withholding facts regarding Manning and WikiLeaks.

The military prosecution has not presented evidence that Private Manning injured anyone by releasing secret documents, and it has asserted in court that the charge of “aiding the enemy through indirect means” does not require it to do so. Nor has the prosecution denied that his motivations were conscientious; it has simply argued they are irrelevant. In ignoring this context and recommending a much more severe punishment for Bradley Manning than is given to US soldiers guilty of murdering civilians, military leadership is sending a chilling warning to other soldiers who might feel compelled by conscience to reveal misdeeds. It is our belief that leaders who use fear to govern, rather than sharing wisdom born from facts, cannot be just.

We Nobel Peace Prize laureates condemn the persecution Bradley Manning has suffered, including imprisonment in conditions declared “cruel, inhuman and degrading” by the United Nations, and call upon Americans to stand up in support of this whistleblower who defended their democratic rights. In the conflict in Iraq alone, more than 110,000 people have died since 2003, millions have been displaced and nearly 4,500 American soldiers have been killed. If someone needs to be held accountable for endangering Americans and civilians, let’s first take the time to examine the evidence regarding high-level crimes already committed, and what lessons can be learned. If Bradley Manning released the documents, as the prosecution contends, we should express to him our gratitude for his efforts toward accountability in government, informed democracy and peace.

To learn more about Bradley Manning’s case or to get involved, visit the Bradley Manning Support Network website.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "D.D.T."

Uploaded by CanadianFolkBlues on Feb 8, 2011

Drawing the Moocher Line

A huge swathe of the American people think that society is, in fact, split between makers and takers, between producers and moochers--but they all think that the line is set just one notch below themselves. 
Actually, I think that line is set right about the $250,000 per year income line, and the moochers are everybody who makes MORE than that.
Producers are the people who change the bedpans and pick up the garbage and wash the dishes and teach the children and drive the buses and keep the world running smoothly for the moochers who inherit their millions and on Wall Street and buy up companies just to strip and loot them and leave the workers holding the bag.

Producers are the people who build the roads and maintain the sewers and put out the fires and shelve books at the libraries. Moochers are the people who profit by chopping off mountains and burning down forests and poisoning oceans with crude oil and turning drinking water into gasoline.

Producers are the people who milk the cows and grow the vegetables and raise the chickens and catch the fish. Moochers are the people who genetically modify basic foods to make it impossible for real farmers to survive.

Producers are people who work for a living because they aren't rich.

Moochers are people who don't work for a living because they're rich.

Soak the rich. Tax the moochers out of existence.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to Kill an Iconic American Company and Put the Blame on Workers

If the details of how a bunch of corporate moochers murdered Hostess Brands don't expose the lie of the owners as "job creators" once and for all, nothing will.

Via Daily Kos, a story that reads like a horror movie script. First, there is the "accounting error":
When I received my first paycheck from then Interstate Bakeries in 1999 it had a memo stapled to it. The memo announced that Wonder had just had the most productive quarter in baking history. It stated that the health of the company and brand had never been better. The break room was buzzing with excitement because our contract was soon to be up for renegotiation and this would surely mean smooth sailing. A few weeks later we got the 'oops' letter. Turns out it was all an 'accounting' error and the company was failing miserably.
Conveniently though, CEO Charles Sullivan and the board managed to sell their stock before word got out about the bad news. No jail time of course. In fact, Sullivan was brought back as a consultant after his resignation. Enron happened a few years later and at the bakery we were amazed how much attention they got compared to us.
Then there was the paycheck cut:
In 2005 it was another contract year and this time there was no way out of concessions. The Union negotiated a deal that would save the company $150 million a year in labor. It was a tough internal battle to get people to vote for it. We turned it down twice. Finally the Union told us it was in our best interest and something had to give. So many of us, including myself, changed our votes and took the offer. Remember that next time you see CEO Rayburn on tv stating that we haven't sacrificed for this company. The company then emerged from bankruptcy. In 2005 before concessions I made $48,000, last year I made $34,000. My pay changed dramatically but at least I was still contributing to my self-funded pension.
Yes, and when that deal was done Hostess was also under new management. Ripplewood Holdings and GE Capital Corporation had a 50 percent stake in Hostess. Harvey Golub, former American Express and AIG chairman, was the "management" arm of Ripplewood beginning in 2007. And look what happened next.
In July of 2011 we received a letter from the company. It said that the $3+ per hour that we as a Union contribute to the pension was going to be 'borrowed' by the company until they could be profitable again. Then they would pay it all back. The Union was notified of this the same time and method as the individual members. No contact from the company to the Union on a national level.
This money will never be paid back. The company filed for bankruptcy and the judge ruled that the $3+ per hour was a debt the company couldn't repay. The Union continued to work despite this theft of our self-funded pension contributions for over a year. I consider this money stolen. No other word in the English language describes what they have done to this money.
Yes, well. The timing on that is a little weird, because Hostess Brands turned over their pension plans to the PBGC back in 2010. The effect of it is essentially as the writer describes: Their contribution to the pension plans is lost to them. They will receive their PBGC earned benefit under a formula that allows their employer and equity fund owner to profit much at the expense of employees' pensions.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. As equity funds have taken more and more control of companies, they have also robbed more and more employees of a living wage, their pensions, and more. One need only point to how bankruptcy laws were rewritten to understand how Hostess investors managed to make a killing and protect their investment at the expense of their employees, who paid for it with their hard-earned dollars.
There ought to be a law against that.
There ought to be a law against all of it - all the perfectly legal financial and other corporate crimes that kill companies, ruin families, destroy communities and steal trillions of dollars from the American Common Wealth to fatten obscenely wealthy anti-Americans.

If it doesn't contribute to the common good, it's a crime.

Rand Paul Might Save the Day

The only reason we still have Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid today is because for the past two years the teabagger crazies among congressional repugs have rejected the kill-entitlements-forever Grand Bargain offered to them on a platter by the Obama administration and congressional Democrats.

Now, when a granny-starving deal again looks close to happening, that ultra teabagger, Kentucky's own tribble-toupeed Rand Paul, rides to the rescue.

David Atkins at Hullabaloo:

Rand Paul is doing his part to quash the Grand Bargain:

While some Republicans have indicated they may break their no-tax-hike pledge, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is not among them:

"I made a pledge to the people of Kentucky that I'm not raising taxes. I took a pledge. I signed a statement, an oath that I wouldn't raise taxes, and I'm going to adhere to it," Sen. Paul told Fox New's Greta Van Susteren Monday night.

In fact, if Paul had his way, he says he'd lower taxes:

"I think you should balance budgets, not spend more than comes in, and I think you should lower taxes, not raise taxes. In fact, if you want to stimulate the economy, I'm for cutting tax revenues. All these Republicans who want to give up their taxpayer pledge and raise taxes, I'm the opposite. I want to lower taxes because that's how we'd get actually more economic growth and maybe more revenue, if you cut tax rates.
One mark of a moron is not to know a good deal when they see one. So thank goodness for morons like Rand Paul, the kind of people who still think tax cuts for the rich pay for themselves and don't realize that this is their one big chance to cut Medicaid and Medicare in exchange for easily replaceable tip money for the rich, and blame it on the Democrats to boot.

The Grand Bargain would be much more likely without such useful idiots, and that would be awful. So bravo to you, Rand Paul. Keep that venal stupidity coming all the way through the end of the lame duck session, and best of luck with the 2016 GOP nomination.
 Everybody who thinks Jack Conway would be standing tall with progressives against the Grand Bargain, stand on your head.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Talking Atomic Blues"

Uploaded by autoharpca on Apr 6, 2009

"Talking Atomic Blues" (aka "Old Man Atom") was composed by California newspaperman Vern Partlow (1910-1987) in 1945. Inspired by interviews he conducted with nuclear scientists for an article he wrote for the Los Angeles Daily News. First recorded by Sam Hinton for ABC Eagle Records in 1949, it was covered by a number of artists, including Ozzie Davis and the Sons of the Pioneers. The song became one of the most popular novelty records of 1950, until the United States government's War on Communism prompted record companies to withdraw the recording from circulation.

Graduates of the Repug School of How to Treat Not-Men

And by "graduates," I mean the administrators who punished the victim. Not quite Taliban-tastic, guys, but keep working on it - you'll be beheading those wicked vagina-wielders in no time.

From Firedoglake:

At a Dayton, OH high school recently, two boys raped a girl in the school’s storage closet. She reported the rape–and was suspended for three days. The boys were kicked out of the Drama Club.
*"Not-men" label shamelessly stolen from Jesus' General.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Outsourcing Tragedy Along With Jobs

If Mars had peaceful natives enjoying subsistence hunting and farming, we'd already have colonized it for Walmart to exploit.

Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money:
Within American labor history, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire is a touchstone moment. That tragedy led directly to a spate of workplace safety laws and building regulations. In the longer term, it helped spur the union movement that changed the lives of the American working class.

Of course, capitalists never accepted these changes. The movement to globalize industrial production was an explicit choice by corporations to avoid the workplace and environmental regulations that increasing made work and life safe and dignified in the United States. Such regulations might have improved American lives, but they also slightly cut into corporate profits. And with elephants ever more rare, the price of ivory backscratchers aren’t going down.

And thus we see Bangladesh suffer its own Triangle Fire. A clothing factory caught on fire this weekend near Dhaka, killing at least 117 workers. Like at Triangle, most of the dead workers are women. Like at Triangle, an unsafe building choked with highly flammable materials did not have proper safety equipment or fire exits. Like at Triangle, desperate women chose to jump to their deaths rather than burn.
Of course, no corporations will be held directly liable–by outsourcing production, they exact profits and eschew responsibility. Wal-Mart is one of the corporations that contract out with the clothing supplier, but they are refusing to confirm this. Even better for capitalists is that Bangladesh is far away. It will be in the news for a couple of days and then disappear except for the NGOs and labor writers that scream about this to tiny audiences. All things return to normal for global capitalism. And for us.
Oh, who cares. By the time Bangladesh passes worker safety laws, the whole country will be under water because of global warming anyway.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Fare Ye Well, Bad Congressman"

Uploaded by chokingvr0ckstdy on Sep 13, 2011

No Democrats Go To Heaven

If it were my child, I would teach it to respond: "Of course not. Democrats live in the real world, because there's no such thing as heaven."

But of course the issue is not the bugfuck insanity of religion, but a school system that allows a teacher to use religion as a political attack in the classroom.

From the Herald:

The mother of a Laurel County high school student has filed a complaint against a teacher who wrote "You can't be a Democrat & go to heaven" on her classroom whiteboard.

The teacher, Kendra Baker, wrote the statement denigrating Democrats in her room at South Laurel High School the week after the Nov. 6 election, said Mary Gilbert.

Gilbert's daughter, Chelsea, 17, was in Baker's psychology class.

"I feel like she was bullied by a teacher," Gilbert said of her daughter.
This kind of shit goes on all the time here, and it works in both directions.  I know at least one elementary school teacher active in the local Democratic party who was asked by a student "Why don't Democrats believe in God?"

Read more here:

Church sermons attacking Democratic candidates and Democratic voters as godless heathens are so common as to be conspicuous only when absent.

And it works, too, by putting Democratic candidates and Democratic voters constantly on the defensive. Frequently that ends in a who-loves-baby-jeebus-more god-off, which the freakazoid repug always wins.

Kentucky Democrats are so intimidated by this bullshit that they refuse to go on offense even when the god-bothering repug candidate is a blatant and known wife-beating, crack-smoking, whore-mongering, corrupt hypocrite.

I sincerely wish all Democrats were the baby-jeebus-hating vicious atheists that freakazoids accuse us of being. At least then we'd fight back.

The Owners Are Always the Enemy

Don't ever forget who the owners are, what they really want, and that any impression they give of caring about the rest of us is either false or whimsical.
From the Onion:
The nation looked on in reverence Friday as 20,000 citizens were decapitated, dismembered, and burned alive in the name of Corporate America, continuing the age-old annual rite to ensure bounteous profits in the coming fiscal year.
"It was a great honor for my daughter to be chosen by a company as esteemed as Best Buy," said ceremony attendee Mark Granaldi, who, as a family member of one of the sacrificed, received a complimentary gift bag that included Crest whitening strips, a $25 Hess gas card, Old Navy board shorts, and a tote bag bearing the trademark of Merck. "Just as the flames rose from her body toward heaven, so too shall Best Buy's stock price climb ever higher."
Or as the inimitable George Carlin put it almost a decade ago:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Give the Power to Unlock Worlds

Feeling the urge to give to the less fortunate this holiday season? Looking for something different, something secular, something that immediately helps those not helped by the usual charity suspects?  How about something that exceeds even the usual "for just pennies a day you can change a life" standard?

Vicky Wright at AP:

For people behind bars in six Appalachian states, the books are one of the few forms of escape — hundreds of used volumes, wrapped in brown paper and stacked thigh-high under a table, just waiting to be shipped.

Parenting and self-help books. History and law. Dictionaries, biographies and fiction. Whatever the subject, volunteers with the Appalachian Prison Book Project believe they hold the power to unlock worlds.

From a small room in a historic house next to the Morgantown Public Library, they organize requests, exchanging letters to find just the right read and getting permission from prison administrators while simultaneously scrambling to raise money for shipping.


Many prisons lack the money to develop a good library, and most inmates have no way to buy books themselves, Ryan said. Her team receives requests that range from pragmatic (a Scrabble dictionary to settle fights) to heartbreaking (a mother determined to become a better parent.)“I have MS and am bound to a wheelchair, so I spend most of my time reading,” one Tennessee prisoner wrote. “I don’t have anyone on the outside that can help me with finances or packages. You are very special people to do this for us.”


For more information on the book project, go to
On November 18, Melissa Harris-Perry had a great show that focused on prison reform.  The whole show is worth watching, but this segment eliminating - not reducing, but eliminating - recidivism through inmate education is riveting.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Voter Oh Voter"

Uploaded by CanadianFolkBlues on Feb 8, 2011

How Repugs Hide Their Creepy Reality

With euphemisms as deceptive as their promises are mendacious.

Kathleen Geier at Political Animal has the definitive translations: 

But the other big reason for conservatives to rely so heavy on abstractions is that most people disagree with the real-life implications of those abstractions, and conservatives, for marketing purposes, want to soothe voters’ anxieties by covering that up. Consider the ugly reality behind that list of abstractions above:

“Small government” = No Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment benefits, or at the very least, radically reduced versions of same. It also means the rich and corporations paying little or no taxes, and ordinary people paying more. In other words, pretty much no social insurance or wealth redistribution, no matter how frightening the degree of economic instability or how obscene the level of economic inequality.

“States’ rights” = Racism. Period. Though I guess these days it could also mean homophobia.

“Family values” = Women being discouraged from having careers and encouraged to depend on and constantly defer to men, gay people not being able to marry the people they love, people being heavily pressured to get married early and to stay married even if they’re deeply unhappy being so, no unapproved sexytimes whatsoever (e.g., no sex before marriage, no extramarital sex, no homosex, etc.), heavy censorship of media that deals with sexual themes.

“Judicial restraint” = Bringing back the 19th century, more or less. In particular, it means no right to privacy (including no right to contraception or abortion), no rights for women, gays or nonwhites, and the court having the power to strike down any laws involving regulations on the private sector or redistributive public policies they don’t like (be they the New Deal policies or ACA).

“Free markets” = No minimum wage and no rights for workers. The right for all of us to be “free” of consumer safety laws (for food, drugs, other products). And as the economistDean Baker likes to point out, it never means a truly free market in patent and intellectual property laws, or the freedom for professional class workers from other countries to emigrate here.

“Right to work” = Union Busting Iz Us, or, as my friends in the labor movement like to say, the “right to work for nothing.” 
Read the whole thing.

And call them out with what they really mean every time you hear them trot out one of these rhetorical lies.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The One Answer to All the "Why Do Repugs ..." Questions

Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

Go ahead. Take any question about repug stupidity/insanity/lies/whatever and answer it with "Because there is a ni**er in the White House." It always fits.

Why do repugs oppose a national healthcare plan that they themselves developed and promoted in the 1990s?

Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

Why do repugs refuse to vote for straightforward economic improvements - economic stimulus, unemployment compensation, job creation, raising the debt ceiling - that republicans have supported for decades?

Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

Why do repugs break the "water's edge" rule about criticizing the President when he is overseas?

Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

Why do repug-led states refuse to save millions of state dollars by expanding Medicaid with near 100 percent federal funds?

Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

Kevin Drum:

Why has the shameful witch hunt against Susan Rice continued to gain traction even though there is literally not a shred of evidence that she did anything wrong?
Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

Why did repug voter suppression suddenly ramp up after the 2008 election?

 Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

Why is the repug answer for why it lost the 2012 elections in a landslide that the dems must have cheated?

Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

Steve Benen on the ludicrous corporate response to Obamacare: Why are guys like Metz griping so much about the health care law?

Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

Benen again, this time on the completely inocuous change in talking points on Benghazi:
"Why is this scandalous?"
Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

Why do repugs oppose funding for disaster relief that they were thrilled to fund when Bill Clinton was president?

Because there is a ni**er in the White House.

As Zandar has been repeating for four years, it is, indeed, ALL about the racism. If you don't understand that, you can't understand anything.

 Benen knows it. Drum knows it. All their readers know it. Pretending there's some other explanation for all the repug obstruction and insults and stupidity is insulting their readers' intelligence.

When repugs scream that something President Obama has done - something completely within presidential powers, something other presidents have done without comment, even something inocuous that until January 2009 passed without notice - is unconstitutional, what they're really saying is that it is unconstitutional - or should be - to have a Ni**er in the White House.

They think it's obvious, and that those of us who disagree are just ni**er-loving morons. This is why I refuse to give any repug a pass on racism.  The fact is that they oppose President Obama because he is the Ni**er in the White House. And that alone makes them racists.

Of course they would oppose any Democratic president if only because any Democratic office-holder is an obstacle to their goal of total and complete power. Of course they treat every Democratic administration as illegitimate, because that is the only way to slow or stop Democrats from establishing laws and programs that the vast majority of Americans want, thus hurting repug electoral prospects.

But since January 20, 2009, it's been different. It's different because repugs face an existential crisis. Racism is not just the theme of their campaigns, not just the foundation of their policies, not even just the core of their beliefs. Racism is their reason for existence.

So they fight mindlessly, like rabid ferrets, Because There Is A Ni**er in the White House.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Black, Brown and White"

Uploaded by HaloedG on Jan 23, 2009

This little song that I'm singin' about,
People, you all know that it's true,
If you're black and gotta work for livin',
Now, this is what they will say to you,
They says: "If you was white,
You's alright,
If you was brown,
Stick around,
But if you's black, oh, brother,
Get back, get back, get back."

I was in a place one night,
They was all havin' fun,
They was all buyin' beer and wine,
But they would not sell me none.
They said: "If you was white,
You's alright,
If you was brown,
You could stick around,
But as you's black, hmm, hmm, brother,
Get back, get back, get back."

I went to an employment office,
I got a number and I got in line,
They called everybody's number,
But they never did call mine.
They said: "If you was white,
You's alright,
If you was brown,
You could stick around,
But as you's black, hmm, hmm, brother,
Get back, get back, get back."

Me and a man was workin' side by side,
Now, this is what it meant:
They was payin' him a dollar an hour,
And they was payin' me fifty cent.
They said: "If you was white,
You'd be alright,
If you was brown,
You could stick around,
But as you's black, oh, brother,
Get back, get back, get back."

I helped win sweet victories,
With my plow and hoe,
Now, I want you to tell me, brother,
What you gonna do 'bout the old Jim Crow?
Now, if you is white,
You's alright,
If you's brown,
Stick around,
But if you's black, oh, brother,
Get back, get back, get back.

Winter at Kentucky State Parks


Yes, Kentucky State Parks are open all winter. If you haven't seen them in the snow, when the bare trees open scenic views invisible the rest of the year, you've got a treat coming.

  • Woods Lore Weekend "Step back in time to the 18th century, when American Indians and European Americans lived closer to nature. Carter Caves State Resort Park at Olive Hill invites you to its Woods Lore and Tracking Weekend March 1-3. Participants will learn some of the skills that were necessary for everyday life, and of the cultural sharing that has made our modern lives richer."
  • Oil Painting Weekend "If you've always wanted to learn how to paint, Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park has a weekend event for you Feb. 22-24. Learn the wet-on-wetmethod of oil painting by creating your very own 16x20 landscape painting. Our instructor, Bonita Mallory, will demonstrate her talents Friday night then instruct the class on Saturday and Sunday."
  • Valentine's Day Events "Looking for that perfect place to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Consider a Kentucky State Park. Many parks are offering special events and packages in February to help celebrate Valentine’s Day." Click the link for a listing of special events.
  • Wild Game and Bison Meals "After spending the day hiking, fishing or exploring, there’s no better way to take a break than to enjoy a good meal of bison or traditional wild game. The Kentucky State Parks are offering several opportunities like that during the winter months." Click the link for a listing of the special meals planned through January, February and March.
    • Sandhill Crane Nature Watch "As it gets colder and you begin to hear the distinct cry of migrating birds overhead, you may want to take a second look at the flock soaring above you, because it just may be sandhill cranes rather than Canada geese. Barren River Lake State Resort Park is again offering two weekends in January and February to view these beautiful birds."
    • Eagle Watch Weekends "Nature lovers should be making plans for a unique Kentucky State Park tradition – Eagle Watch Weekends in January and February 2013. The park system will sponsor this wildlife-watching opportunity as bald eagles gather around the major lakes of western Kentucky looking for food. The park tours allow you to observe and learn about these beautiful birds of prey."
    • Military and Veteran Discounts "The Kentucky State Parks are offering lodging discounts to current and former members of our nation’s military services with the “USA Military Pass” program from Nov. 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013."
    • Nature Preserves Exhibit "As a celebration of its 35th anniversary, the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission has put together a photo exhibit that is touring the state, including three Kentucky State Park locations."
    • Elk Tours "Jenny Wiley and Buckhorn Lake State Parks in eastern Kentucky will offer guests a unique wildlife viewing opportunity this fall and winter – elk viewing tours."

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

    How to Create Serfs

    A member of my family was laid off this year, one of those highly-skilled workers companies are whining about not being able to find.  My relative was making close to six figures, has more than 30 years of high-level experience, and was liked and appreciated at his job.

    Yet when the government contracts slowed and then stopped with the end of the stimulus, they couldn't avoid a layoff.

    My relative has been searching diligently for another job, but the only ones available demand the same or higher level of skill at one-third the pay. Accept that kind of pay cut, even temporarily, and you'll end up still working at age 80, having never gotten a raise.

    bmz at the Center for Economic and Policy Research

    News stories have been filled with reports of managers of manufacturing companies insisting that they have jobs open that they can't fill because there are no qualified workers. Adam Davidson at the NYT looked at this more closely and found that the real problem is that the managers don't seem to be interested in paying for the high level of skills that they claim they need.

    Many of the positions that are going unfilled pay in the range of $15-$20 an hour. This is not a pay level that would be associated with a job that requires a high degree of skill. As Davidson points out, low level managers at a fast-food restaurant can make comparable pay.

    It should not be surprising that the workers who have these skills expect higher pay and workers without the skills will not invest the time and money to acquire them for such a small reward. If these factories want to get highly skilled workers, they will have to offer a wage that is in line with the skill level that they expect.
    This is the real reason corporations and their pet repugs in Congress so frantically oppose creating the 10 million government infrastructure jobs that would restore the economy and eliminate the deficit in one fell swoop: because those would be good jobs at good pay with good benefits, and corporations would actually have to compete for high-skill employees.

    Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Voting Union"

    Uploaded by chokingvr0ckstdy on Sep 13, 2011

    "To all the Americans doing your part to make the world a better place"

    I forgot that President Obama's Saturday morning video address gets moved up for before major holidays. So it's belated Thanksgiving greetings to us all.

    Full transcript here.

    That'll Teach Him

    Not for his years of bullying governors, Democratic officials, his fellow legislators and random importunate citizens.

    Not for his inexcusable obstruction of every progressive attempt to drag Kentucky into the 20th, not to say 21st, century.

    Not for his destructive pandering to the worst elements of his own party.

    No, not for any of that is Corbin removing David Williams' name from its exposition center, but for his failure to intervene successfully in an intra-county dispute.

    Roger Alford at the AP:

    Corbin leaders have taken former Senate President David Williams' name off an exposition center, complaining that he didn't do enough to protect the city in a dispute with Knox County officials over revenue from an occupational tax.

    City Commissioner Ed Tye said Friday that the decision to delete the Republican's name from the David L. Williams Southeastern Kentucky Ag & Expo Complex was made before he resigned from the state Senate earlier this month to accept a judicial appointment.

    Tye said Corbin leaders believed that Williams, who for more than a decade was the most powerful Republican in Frankfort, could have helped the city in a longstanding battle with Knox County officials over the occupational tax revenue. Senate Floor Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, was able to get legislation passed earlier this year that prevented Corbin from collecting 25 percent of Knox County's occupational tax.

    Tye said that move cost Corbin about $600,000 a year.
    Stivers is widely expected to succeed Williams as senate president in January. Corbin can expect no favors from the state senate as long as Stivers runs it.

    Hey, Corbin Democrats: repugs just handed you a gift-wrapped opportunity. Don't blow it.

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Let Walmart Lead the Private Sector Stimulus

    Stimulus is stimulus: however you put money into the hands of low-wage workers who will spend every dime of it immediately and locally, that spending grows the economy. 

    Increasing wages works the same as increasing food stamps, housing subsidies, child-care subsidies or even plain welfare. It all gets spent, unlike reducing the taxes of already obscenely wealthy rich people and corporations, which does not grow the economy because that money gets saved, not spent.

    But if the Very Serious People are so certain that the private sector grows the economy better than the public sector does (they're wrong), let them prove it. 

    Pat Garofalo at Think Progress:

    By 2020, more than one-quarter of U.S. workers will be working low-wage jobs, not making enough money to keep a family of four out of poverty. The corporations that employ the most low-wage workers, meanwhile, “have largely recovered from the recession and most are in strong financial positions.” 92 percent of them were profitable last year, while three-quarters are making more in revenues than they were before the recession. The retail industry is one of those that employs the most low-wage workers. (About 36 percent of low-wage workers work in retail.) And according to a new report from Demos, big retailers could afford to boost their workers’ income to $25,000 per year without eating into their bottom line:
    The cost of increasing the living standards of more than 5 million Americans, adding $11.8 to $15.2 billion to GDP, and creating no less than 100,000 jobs amounts to just a small portion of total earnings among the biggest firms. The retail sector takes in more than $4 trillion annually and firms with 1000 or more employees account for more than half of that. At the same time labor compensation in the sector contributes only 12 percent of the total value of production, making payroll just a fraction of total costs. Large retailers could pay full-time, year-round workers $25,000 per year and still make a profit – satisfying shareholders while rewarding their workers for the value they bring to the firm. A raise at large retailers adds $20.8 billion to payroll for the year, or less than 1 percent of total sales in the sector. At the same time it is very likely the firm will experience benefits that offset the cost of the wage increase — in the form of productivity gains and higher sales per employee — making the net cost of the new wage even lower.
    Meanwhile, “if retailers pass half of the costs of a wage raise on to their customers, the average household will see just 15 cents added to the cost of its shopping basket on any trip to a large retailer. That amounts to an annual cost of $17.73.”
    Why pick on Walmart?  Answers from Under the Mountain Bunker here and here.

    Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier"

    Uploaded by CountryAndFolkMusic on Dec 14, 2010

    Don't Count Red-State Liberals Out

     Because Democrats can't win national elections without us.

    Steve Benen at Maddowblog:
    This weekend in the New York Times, Karen L. Cox said what I suspect a lot of lefties in the South would like the rest of y'all to hear:
    To my chagrin, liberals living outside the South deny our existence, lump us all together by using rhetoric about the Confederacy and heap pity on us with a little condescension thrown in for good measure. They also seem to be unaware of nuance.
    The fact is, liberals everywhere live among people who don’t share their views. Are you listening Wisconsin, Arizona, Indiana and, yes, New York? Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond are long dead. Michele Bachmann, Scott Walker and other Tea Party darlings are alive and well, and they aren’t all whistling Dixie.
    If the Democrats are going to be a true majority party, they will need to build a coalition in all 50 states. So rather than see the South as a lost cause (pun intended), the Democratic Party and liberals north and west of us should put a lid on their regional biases and encourage the change that is possible here.
    I have seen the kind of reaction Cox is talking about from non-Southerners on this blog -- when North Carolina voters backed a ban on marriage equality, for example, or more recently when Oklahoma placed the 10 Commandments in carved, misspelled glory on the state capitol grounds. Lefties outside the South seem to think very little of suggesting the red states just get out. For kicks, I spent some time this weekend subtracting ballots for Barack Obama in the red states from the president's margin of victory in the national popular vote.

    You could do this any number of ways, but if you take out just Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, my own Mississippi and Georgia, the president loses the popular vote. Georgia alone added 1,761,761 votes for Obama. And yes, I realize those same states contributed enough red votes to keep the election close. But every blue ballot represents a natural ally for lefties outside the South, not votes to be thrown out.

    What's more, progressives in conservative states are making a new and quite game go of it. On Friday, Rachel played tape of Georgia's state Senate majority leader holding a meeting about UN/Obama mind control. That tape exists because a group of Georgia progressives managed to video the proceedings and then alert the world. After embarrassing Georgia Republicans one too many times, the mind-control senate majority leader didn't run for his leadership position again, and Republicans replaced him with someone Democrats consider easier to deal with. Look for more of this tactic by Better Georgia. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
    “We’re modernizing politics in Georgia. A lot of people who are in politics right now are using Old World political techniques,” [executive director Bryan] Long said. His group has placed an emphasis on recording Republican public officials as they speak their private minds.
    The aggressive tactic may make many of you uncomfortable. Long said it is essential if voters are to realize that many Republican elected officials have “values that most Georgians don’t believe and don’t accept.”
    And consider this: Better Georgia worked on their project with James Carter, the same Georgia Democrat who brought the world Mitt Romney's 47 percent remarks and a heap of documents about Bain Capitol. Carter's state didn't go the way he wanted, but the rest of you who vote blue could stand to consider how different this election would have been without him, and how different future elections might go if progressives get strong enough to flip states like Texas and Georgia, and what you might learn from them instead of scribbling them off your map.

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Beshear Buys Off Fired Whistleblower

    No surprise,  but as it is and has been for decades unwritten-but-practically-official state policy to obey Big Coal in the matter of mine inspections, it would have been nice, for once, to get the facts out in open court.
    The Steve Beshear administration has settled for $270,000 a lawsuit brought by its former director of mine permits who claimed he was fired three years ago for blocking illegal permits sought by coal giant Alliance Resources.

    The state Energy and Environment Cabinet released the five-page settlement with Ron Mills Wednesday morning.

    It calls for the state to pay Mills $270,000 in exchange for dropping a lawsuit he brought in Franklin Circuit Court claiming he was fired for blowing the whistle on what he said was an illegal state policy.

    The agreement states that the settlement is not an admission of “any liability, violation or wrongdoing” by the state.

    And the agreement includes a confidentiality provision prohibiting the parties from discussing settlement negotiations.
    Yeah, exactly. And $270,000 is far less than what Kentucky taxpayers have already paid to protect Beshear's ass with delaying tactics over the past three years.

    Everybody knows what goes on between Big Coal and Frankfort. But it's never been put on the record, and it needs to be.  Until it is, we'll never be able to change it.

    Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You"

    Uploaded by algeva on Apr 10, 2007

    Be Thankful You're Not One of These Workers

    But don't think they're not languishing in a slave-labor hellhole very near you.

    Charlie Pierce:

    Lost in all the Gentle Fiscal Incline palaver, and the warm-up to the holidays, is the story that another oil rig blew up in the Gulf Of Mexico, killing some people who don't really count in the calculations of the Very Serious People who are handling the great issues of the day, and once again giving us another unpleasant look into the corporate culture that we, through our politics, have allowed to flourish.

    Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., the company whose workers were aboard the West Delta Block 32 platform Friday morning when an explosion and fire killed one worker, left another missing and injured 11 more, is facing charges of abusive and exploitative working conditions akin to slavery in a federal lawsuit filed by former workers from the Philippines. The allegations surfaced as the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates the oil and gas industry, began its investigation into Grand Isle Shipyard and Black Elk, the Houston-based owner of the oil platform that caught fire 18 miles southeast of Grand Isle.
    The lawsuit itself is a cornucopia of horrors.


    I guarantee you that, somewhere in a boardroom, people are slapping themselves high-fives for how profitable this inhumanity was. Somewhere, business consultants are congratulating themselves for devising such a clever strategy, and they are giving seminars on how to apply these principles to other businesses. Some day soon, it will be taught in our finest business schools to the sleek children of people who never will know the people on whom it is practiced. We are inculcating in our lives an acceptance of serfdom. We are investing in our economy a foundation of outright sociopathy. This seems like it should be a matter of some concern.
    I apologize for all the times I accused repugs of trying to create a lords-n-serfs economy in this country. They aren't trying to create one.  They're trying to protect and expand the one we've already got.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012


    Another bulls-eye from Divine Irony:

    Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "A Man's A Man For a' That"

    Uploaded by taragolden on Aug 9, 2007

    Lionel McClellend of Moffat performs his own version of the famous Robert Burns ode to humanity.

    A man is one who stops to help another without a second thought. A man is one who works for his family and friends without a care in his heart. A man is one gives to all and fights for what is right. A man looks upon many things in this life with a faith that burns deep in the soul. The trick in this life is learning what a man should be not what society has made them become. And with all this a man is an honest man who's word is always enough.

    Is there for honest poverty
    That hangs his head, an' a' that
    The coward slave, we pass him by
    We dare be poor for a' that
    For a' that, an' a' that
    The rank is but the guinea's stamp
    The man's the gowd(gold) for a' that
    What though on hamely(homely) fare we dine
    Wear hoddin grey(course wollen cloth), an' a' that
    Gie(give) fools their silks, and knaves their wine
    A man's a man, for a' that
    For a' that, an' a' that
    Their tinsel show an' a' that
    The honest man, though e'er sae poor
    Is king o' men for a' that
    Ye see yon birkie(fellow) ca'd a lord
    Wha struts an' stares an' a' that
    Tho' hundreds worship at his word
    He's but a coof(fool) for a' that
    For a' that, an' a' that
    The man o' independent mind
    He looks an' laughs at a' that
    A prince can mak'(make) a belted knight
    A marquise, duke, an' a' that
    But an honest man's aboon( above) his might
    Gude(good) faith, he maunna( must not) fa' that
    For a' that an' a' that
    Their dignities an' a' that
    The pith o' sense an' pride o' worth
    Are higher rank that a' that
    Then let us pray that come it may
    (as come it will for a' that)
    That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
    Shall bear the gree( have priority) an' a' that
    For a' that an' a' that
    It's coming yet for a' that
    That man to man, the world o'er
    Shall brithers( brothers) be for a' that

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    One Crop

    From the always sensible Divine Irony:


I’ve worn excellent cloth made from bamboo and hemp…time to get the hemp growing industry moving!
Difference between Industrial Hemp and Cannabis
The difference is in its use. Hemp and Marijuana both come from the same plant - Cannabis Sativa L. The term ‘Hemp’ commonly refers to the industrial/commercial use of the cannabis stalk and seed for textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics and building materials. The term ‘marijuana’ refers to the medicinal, recreational or spiritual use involving the smoking of cannabis flowers. Industrial hemp contains only about 0.3% - 1.5% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinoids, the intoxicating ingredients that make you high) while marijuana contains about 5% - 10% or more THC. Hemp fibre is the longest, strongest and most durable of all natural fibres. Hemp cultivation requires no chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. Grown in rotation with other crops such as corn and legumes, hemp farming is completely sustainable. Hemp produces four times as much fibre per acre as pine trees. Hemp tree-free paper can be recycled up to seven times, compared with three times for pine-pulp based papers. Hemp is easy to grow, and actually conditions soil where it grows. The seed and seed-oil are high in protein, essential fatty and amino acids, and vitamins. Hemp would be an ideal source of biomass for fuel, and hemp Ethanol burns very cleanly.
Hemp and humanity have been linked for over 10,000 years. Hemp was our first agricultural crop, and remained the planet’s largest crop and most important industry until late last century. Most of the non-Western world never stopped growing hemp, and today hemp for commercial use is grown mostly by China, Hungary, England, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Germany, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, India and throughout Asia.

Reblogging for anyone who doesn’t already know.

    I’ve worn excellent cloth made from bamboo and hemp…time to get the hemp growing industry moving!

    Difference between Industrial Hemp and Cannabis

    The difference is in its use. Hemp and Marijuana both come from the same plant - Cannabis Sativa L. The term ‘Hemp’ commonly refers to the industrial/commercial use of the cannabis stalk and seed for textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics and building materials. The term ‘marijuana’ refers to the medicinal, recreational or spiritual use involving the smoking of cannabis flowers. Industrial hemp contains only about 0.3% - 1.5% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinoids, the intoxicating ingredients that make you high) while marijuana contains about 5% - 10% or more THC. Hemp fibre is the longest, strongest and most durable of all natural fibres. Hemp cultivation requires no chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. Grown in rotation with other crops such as corn and legumes, hemp farming is completely sustainable. Hemp produces four times as much fibre per acre as pine trees. Hemp tree-free paper can be recycled up to seven times, compared with three times for pine-pulp based papers. Hemp is easy to grow, and actually conditions soil where it grows. The seed and seed-oil are high in protein, essential fatty and amino acids, and vitamins. Hemp would be an ideal source of biomass for fuel, and hemp Ethanol burns very cleanly.

    Hemp and humanity have been linked for over 10,000 years. Hemp was our first agricultural crop, and remained the planet’s largest crop and most important industry until late last century. Most of the non-Western world never stopped growing hemp, and today hemp for commercial use is grown mostly by China, Hungary, England, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Germany, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, India and throughout Asia.

    Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Free and Equal Blues"

    Published on Mar 24, 2012 by ABevs1

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Technical Difficulties

    Apologies. Ancient laptop in the shop. Blogger mobile not helpful. Back soon I hope.

    Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Take the Power Back"

    Uploaded by LilaWunderbohnen on Dec 14, 2009

    Will the Roberts Court Uphold the Reign of Mythology in Kentucky State Government?

    Nobody's more pissed about Kentucky state government abdicating its security responsibilities to an invisible sky wizard than I am, but the timing couldn't be worse.

    This court? You have to petition this court?  You couldn't wait until Opus Dei member Antonin Scalia has to step down from terminal dispepsia?

    Peter Smith at the Courier:

    Citizens represented by the group American Atheists are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal of a lawsuit challenging a Kentucky law that credits Almighty God with homeland security.

    The Kentucky Supreme Court refused to review the law earlier this year.

    In a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, attorney Edwin Kagin argues that the state General Assembly has been flouting a constitutional prohibition against the public sponsorship of religion. He cited decisions in 1980 and 2005 that curbed public displays of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky.

    At issue is legislation passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A 2002 “legislative finding” said the “safety and security of the commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”

    Free Money to Make Elections Work Better: Jump on This Now, Allison

    OK, red and swing states: you can stop bitching about how making voting more attractive and convenient than a colonoscopy would just cost too much money.  Here's a bill in Congress that will give you federal money for doing it.

    Steven Benen at Maddowblog:

    (Thursday) Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) unveiled a bill they're calling the "Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act." Under their proposal, states that "aggressively" pursue election reforms would be rewarded with federal grants.

    And what kind of reforms are proponents looking for? It's not a short list, but the Warner/Coons bill calls for flexible registration opportunities, including same-day registration; expanding early voting; "no-excuse" absentee voting; and "formal training of election officials, including state and county administrators and volunteers."

    As best as I can tell, because the FAST Act is roughly modeled after the Race to the Top education initiative -- it's a competitive grant program, not a set of federal mandates.

    In the House, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) unveiled a related proposal, the "Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act," which is even more ambitious. Most notably, it would require 15 days of early voting in all states for federal elections -- and because Congress has authority over regulating federal elections, the assumption is states would simply apply identical standards for all down-ballot races.

    The introduction of these bills now appears intended to lay the groundwork for future efforts. This Congress will wrap up next month, and given its to-do list, and the fact that every new Congress starts over with a blank slate, we'll almost certainly have to wait until the new year before voting reforms are considered. That said, it's encouraging to see some worthwhile proposals on the table.
     Memo to Kentucky Secretary of state Allison Lundergan Grimes:  "Kentucky is all over the Race to the Top (of Stupidity) school grants; why not put the power of your office behind persuading our members of Congress to support the FAST Act so Kentucky can get money to establish early voting, expand voting hours and add more polling places, machines and workers.

    If nothing else, the campaign will give you something to beat Mitch McConnell over the head with when you run against him in 2014."

    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    The Victories of Movement Conservatism

    Yes, it's hilarious to watch the repug politicians and analpundits projectile vomiting as their heads spin wildly right off their necks over their election losses.
    But body counts don't tell the real story of who is winning in American politics any more than they told the real story of who was winning the Vietnam War.
    What movement conservatism has accomplished is the imposition of severe limits on how far U.S. policy can move to the left on most issues, even when support for a leftward shift is overwhelming, and even when the liberal (or moderate) policies clearly work.

    Think back: In Bill Clinton's first two years as president, he and a Democratic Congress raised taxes on the rich and passed an assault weapons ban. Movement conservatism threw a hissyfit, Democrats lost both houses of Congress, and it's been impossible to pass gun-control laws or raise tax rates ever since. President Obama promises now to raise taxes on the rich, but we still don't know if he can pull it off. That's a victory for movement conservatism (as is his openness to a "grand bargain" and to massive spending cuts).

    Financial deregulation late in Clinton's term was evidence that he'd internalized the movement-conservative view of financial regulation. The failure of the Obama administration to jail any fat cat in the wake of the financial meltdown is further evidence of movement conservatism's success in defining how we approach corporate malfeasance.

    Obama embraces a slightly modified version of the right-wing approach to the "war on terror -- that's a movement-conservative victory. Efforts to deal with climate change are all but abandoned (and are demonized) -- that's a movement-conservative victory. The union movement continues to lose ground, as do abortion rights at the state level -- those are movement-conservative victories. Campaign financing is more corrupt than ever -- that's a movement-conservative victory. It's getting harder and harder for students and poor people to vote because of voter ID laws, which the public supports -- that's a movement-conservative victory.

    How do movement conservatives win these victories? By demonizing Democrats and liberals at every opportunity. Clinton is a murdering, raping, coke-snorting drug-trafficker. Obama is a race-war-leading Muslim Marxist. Nancy Pelosi is a witch; Ted Kennedy was a murderer; Al Gore is a serial liar; John Kerry won war medals via fraud. They all hate Jews and Christians and people who listen to country music; they all want to enslave America.

    How much progress could we have made if movement conservatives hadn't spent the last generation standing athwart history, yelling "Oogabooga -- liberals must be destroyed"?
    Change happens between elections.  What have you done to fight movement conservatism today?

    After the Applause, They're Still There

    The time of the year when food banks most need your help providing food to hungry families is not Thanksgiving or even Christmas.  It's January through October, when the poor aren't making the front page and people think the bag of canned goods they donated at Kroger in November is enough.

    So, too, with wounded and disabled veterans after Veterans Day. Rachel Maddow has stayed on this beat for years and shows no sign of letting up.   From her Friday night show:

    Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "La Marseilles"

    Celebrating a Socialist Victory over plutocratic austerity in the place where the 99 percents of the 18th century released political prisoners, singing an anthem that gloats over the execution of aristocrats - what more could you ask?

    Published on May 6, 2012 by rcook1148

    Place de la Bastille, May 6, 2012. Crowd singing the French National Anthem as François Hollande prepares to take the stage.

    Tasered for Trying to Put Out a Fire

    Now you don't have to be a threat to get tasered.  You don't have to look like you might possibly someday appear to be a possible threat to get tasered.  You don't even have to hesitate to obey a cop's order.

    All you have to do is be standing nearby when some cop feels too lazy to do some actual police work.


    From the taser files:
    The fire was all around Dan Jensen.

    He could see it. He could smell it. He could hear it.

    It was close enough to touch. It was burning down his neighbor's house. It was creeping toward Jensen's own fence 10 feet away, and he started spraying the fire with his hose.

    Police ordered Jensen to get back, and he complied.

    But after a few minutes passed without firefighters arriving, a frustrated Jensen stepped forward and leaned down to grab the skinny gray garden hose once again.

    That's when he heard the order.

    "Hit 'em! Take him down! Tase him!"

    Within moments, Jensen was on the ground. He felt electric.

    "It was all over me," Jensen said. "Crawling all over me."

    The 42-year-old commercial fisherman is still struggling to comprehend exactly how things deteriorated so quickly Thursday. He said he doesn't understand why police shot him with a Taser that night as he tried to battle a house fire at 3420 Beechwood Ter. N.

    Jensen's family, friends and neighbors have been quick to defend him and accuse police of crossing a line.

    "It was wrong," he said. "There's no way around it. … I was fighting a fire. I wasn't fighting police. I thought they were here to help me. Instead, they hurt me."

    Police said they can sympathize with the stress Jensen was under. But they said he put himself and officers in danger when he refused to back down from fighting the fire.

    Pinellas Park Capt. Sanfield Forseth told the Tampa Bay Times authorities could have even charged Jensen with obstruction, but decided against it.

    But wait, you say. This man was putting himself and the authorities in danger and the police had no choice.

    Really? How about this: turn off the water. Cut the hose. Pull him back. Talk to him.

    Tasers are dangerous and not just to the public --- they obviously present an even greater threat to the critical thinking capacity of police officers. Once they have them in their hands it appears they are compelled to shoot first and ask questions later. The idea that you have to shoot a citizen full of electricity in this situation is absurd. Moreover, it's a fundamental abuse of authority under color of law. Imagine if they'd walked up behind him and hit him over the head with a baton. Or shot him in the leg. Just because it doesn't leave a mark doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

    They had no need to hurt him. Tasers just make it so easy.

    Kids Who Know Better

    One of the things I love about the atheist/reality-based community is the way we never let even our allies get away with the slightest slip toward theist apologetics.

    Kids Without God
    I explored this site for a bit yesterday and there is some pretty good stuff on it.  BUT I HATE THE NAME!

    When you use the word “without” it immediately conveys a lack of something.  And most of us don’t want to lack something.  Think “Kids Without Unicorns,” for example.  Obviously, unicorns don’t exist (sorry… maybe I should have used a Spoiler Alert there?), but don’t you still feel a little sad for those Kids Without Unicorns?   I don’t want, even for one second, to have these children who are questioning god’s existence to think that they might be missing out on something by embracing atheism.

    What about…







    Let me be really clear here.  Kiddos…you lack NOTHING.  Religion is the bug guts and dirt and bird poop on your windshield - you clear all that off and your sight is clear.  You see the world exactly as it is.  And that’s beautiful.  Unicorns or not.  ~JJ
     I say KidsWhoKnowBetter pretty much covers it.

    Here's a kid who did not know better, and a judge who knows even less.

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    No, There's No Debt Crisis, Either

    Again, all this hysteria over the deficit and the debt is ginned up to force massive cuts in Social Security and Medicare as a huge step toward eliminating the Great Society and New Deal, thus throwing Americans fully on the mercy of the Wall Street sharks.  Just like we were in 1929.

    Don't fall for it.

    You know that deficit that's killing us? The one we're going to fix by "asking the rich to pay a little bit more" and cutting benefits for everyone else? What if the scam is even worse than we thought?

    Dean Baker spills some very inconvenient beans:
    [T]he big stick for the deficit hawks was their story of huge deficits in the longer term. They attributed these to the rising cost of “entitlements,” which are known to the rest of us as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    While they like to push the notion that the aging of the population threatened to impose an unbearable burden on future generations, the reality is that most of the horror story of huge deficits was driven by projections of exploding private sector health care costs. Since Medicare and Medicaid mostly pay for private sector health care, an explosion in private sector health care costs would eventually make these programs unaffordable.


    In fact, in the last year nominal spending on health care services, the sector that comprises almost two-thirds of health care costs, rose by just 1.7 percent. This is far below the rate of nominal GDP growth over this period, which was more than 4.0 percent. While at least some of this slowing in health care costs is undoubtedly due to the downturn, it is hard to believe that it is not at least partially attributable to a slower underlying rate of health care cost growth.

    CBO and other budget forecasters can ignore economic reality for a period of time (they ignored the housing bubble until after its collapse wrecked the economy), but if it continues, at some point they will have to incorporate the trend of slower health care cost growth into their projections. When this happens, the really scary long-term deficit numbers will disappear.

    A projection that assumes that health care costs will only rise as a result of the aging of the population, and otherwise move in step with per capita income, will lop tens of trillions of dollars off the most commonly cited long-term deficit projections. It would cost some deficit hawks, like National Public Radio, more than $100 trillion of their long-term deficit story. This would be a real disaster for the deficit hawk industry.

    This is why the Campaign to Fix the Debt and the rest of the deficit hawk industry will be operating at full speed at least until a budget deal is reached over the current impasse. If CBO adjusts its long-term health care cost projections downward then their whole rationale for gutting Social Security and Medicare will disappear. Now that is really a crisis.
    I've been cynical about this whole exercise and don't believe we should do much of anything other than stimulate the economy for the time being. I know that this sense of panic over the the whole thing is a contrivance to force unpopular action. But I have to admit I didn't realize that we had evidence emerging that the deficit projections were already falling short and that there's good reason to suspect that they will be far short of what these fearmongers are selling.

    But solving non-existent problems while avoiding real ones seems to be the new American way.

    Has anyone even mentioned the fact that we still have 7.9% unemployment? Is that the new normal?
    David Atkins:
    The fact that everyone in the Village Media has bought into the deficit obsession as it were a real thing rather than simply the latest iteration of a decades-long tactic designed to further enrich the wealthy shows not just herd mentality and willful blindness. It shows a craven willingness to go along with direct economic sabotage and shameless lying in the guise of politics as usual.

    It's moral tragedy on a grand scale.
    The whole world is begging us to take their money at negative interest rates.  That's $10 trillion dollars basically for free.  Let's grab it and use it to create 10 million jobs to rebuild our infrastructure. Do it now.

    As Charlie Piece never tires of repeating, because it cannot be said often enough:
    Fuck the deficit. People got no money. People got no jobs.