Monday, December 31, 2012

How Civilized and Rational Nations Tax

Wonder how those northern European nations afford that cradle-to-grave social safety net that keeps crime down, education up, poverty rare and economic growth humming?  This is how:

French President Francois Hollande’s administration said they would rework, then resubmit, a proposal for a 75% tax on incomes over $1.32 million.  A court overruled the tax because of inherent inequities.
The U.S. tax on income over $1.32 million is currently 35 percent. President Obama is claiming that raising it to 39 percent would be a victory. Pretty fucking hollow one.

Make Michigan Abortion's Selma

I've just finished reading John Lewis' autobiography Walking With the Wind, and I'm starting to think that nothing short of massive civil disobedience is going to get it through this nation's thick skull that any restriction - any restriction - on abortion is a violation of every woman's human rights.

Tara Kulp-Ressler at Think Progress:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has approved a controversial package of abortion restrictions that will limit abortion access for women who live in rural areas, require doctors to prove that mentally competent women haven’t been “coerced” into their decision to have the procedure, and enact unnecessary, complicated rules for abortion clinics and providers. The governor signed HB 5711 into law on Friday despite widespread protests against the omnibus anti-abortion measure.
Snyder claims that HB 5711 “respects a woman’s right to choose while helping protect her health and safety.” But women’s health advocates warn the law will seriously threaten women’s access to the health services they need by imposing harsh regulations on abortion clinics and providers:
Critics of the Michigan law fear its insistence on new, standalone facilities will hurt women in rural and low-income areas as it could force some clinics to close. They say questioning women on whether an abortion is voluntary subjects them to a type of interrogation.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group that opposed the measure, said it could force many existing abortion providers in the state to either tear down their offices and rebuild from the ground up — or shutter their practices. [...]
Safety was never the intention of this law. The only thing this law accomplishes is to make a difficult decision even more difficult,” said Rana Elmir, the communications director for the Michigan ACLU.
Even some state lawmakers who supported HB 5711 acknowledge the law isn’t actually intended to protect women. “This is about protecting fetuses,” one Republican legislator explained.
Michigan legislators were quick to capitalize on this year’s lame duck session to push through controversial abortion restrictions, potentially because five anti-choice state lawmakers lost their seats in November’s election. The majority of Michigan voters support legal access to abortion services.
 Abortion On Demand. No-questions-asked, unrestricted, free-of-charge, available-on-every-street-corner Abortion. On. Demand. Nothing Less.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Fast Car"

Uploaded by on Jul 20, 2008
You've got a fast car
I wanna a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better
Starting from zero, got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
Me, myself, I've got nothing to prove

You've got a fast car
I've got a plan to get us out of here
Been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
Won't have to drive too far
Just cross the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living

See my old man's got a problem
Live with the bottle, that's the way it is
He says his body's too old for working
His body's too young, to look like his
When mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said somebody's got to take care of him
So I quit school and that's what I did

You've got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

Say remember when we were driving, driving in your car
Speed so fast it felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

You've got a a fast car
We go cruising entertain ourselves
You still ain't got a job
Now I work in the market as a checkout girl
I know things will get better
You'll find work and I'll get promoted
We'll move out of the shelter
Buy a bigger house and live in the suburbs

Say remember when we were driving, driving in your car
Speeds so fast it felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

You've got a fast car
I've got a job that pays all our bills
You stay out drinking late at the bar
See more of your friends than you do of your kids
I'd always hoped for better
Thought maybe together you and me'd find it
I got no plans and I ain't going nowhere
So take your fast car and keep on driving

Say remember when we were driving, driving in your car
Speeds so fast it felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

You've got a fast car
Is it fast enough so you can fly away?
You gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

Frankenfish is What's for Dinner

We're not talking about plants anymore, as dangerous as GMO varieties of those staple vegetables and grains are to both human health and the safety of the food supply. We're talking about animals.

Remember that the biggest problem with Genetically Modified Organisms is that they crowd out non-modified organisms and permanently deform the food supply.

Edward Teller at Firedoglake: 

On December 21st, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the first genetically-engineered animal ever approaching approval for public consumption — a hybrid Chinook Salmon-Pouty — has been declared to have “no significant impact” on the environment.  As of the 21st, the FDA’s tentative approval of this GMO salmon, called “Frankenfish” by its many detractors, entered a 60-day public comment period.

In Alaska, home of a high percentage of the world’s remaining wild salmon, and a state where fish farming has been banned since 1989, the state’s three national legislators quickly responded to the FDA decision.  Most colorful, Republican Representative Don Young quipped:
“You keep those damn fish out of my waters. It will ruin what I think is one of the finest products in the world,” (Congressman Don) Young said in an interview, saying he fears that the spread of fish farms could eventually contaminate the wild salmon industry in Alaska. He wants to force delays in any FDA approval.
“If I can keep this up long enough, I can break that company,” he said, referring to AquaBounty, “and I admit that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Meanwhile, there are calls in Africa to make it the first GMO-free continent. 

And you'll be shocked to learn that many of the biologists claiming GMOs are safe actually own GMO patents.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Yes, the Rich Are Assholes Who Refuse to Pay Their Fair Share - Even to Each Other

You'd think there is a contest to see who can be the most arrogant, privileged, demanding assholes in the country.  Wall Street's demand that the same president who has so enriched them must also kiss their asses and praise them gave the banksters the lead for quite a while, but the yachting crowd has pulled ahead with this over-the-top demand brought to us by Kevin Drum  at Mother Jones:
Would you like to hear a story about rich people in America today? It's a small one, but it says a lot in a nutshell. It takes place just down the road from me in Newport Harbor, which, it turns out, needs renovation:
The city's five-year plan for the harbor calls for $29 million in long-overdue maintenance. Its silt-filled channels haven't been fully dredged since the Great Depression. Ancient, leaky sea walls protecting neighborhoods need to be repaired or replaced. "We have the makings of a perfect storm like they did on the East Coast" during Superstorm Sandy, said Chris Miller, the city's harbor resources manager. "The sea walls are nearing the end of their useful life."
So the city of Newport Beach, home of the rich and famous, needs $29 million to maintain the harbor. Where to get it? Let's now skip up to the top of this story to see what caught the LA Times' interest in the first place:
An increase in city rental fees for residential docks that protrude over public tidelands created a furor when it was approved last week by the City Council. It also prompted a call to boycott the boat parade and festival of lights by a group calling itself "Stop the Dock Tax."
"It costs us thousands of dollars to voluntarily decorate our homes and boats to bring holiday smiles to nearly 1 million people," organization Chairman Bob McCaffrey wrote to the city. "This year, we are turning off our lights and withdrawing our boats in protest of the massive new dock tax we expect the City Council to levy."
....Newport's dock fee, which has stood at $100 a year for the last two decades, will now be based on a dock's size. The city says rents will increase to about $250 for a small slip to $3,200 annually for a large dock shared by two homeowners. "People have been paying $8 a month all these years to access what is public waters," said Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff. "That's a pretty good deal. The City Council didn't think the increase it approved was too extreme."
Got that? These docks would probably be worth tens of thousands of dollars if they were auctioned off, free-market style. But the boycotters, who I'd guess are free market fans one and all, are outraged that they won't be allowed to use these docks for $100 per year forever. The free market might be a great idea when it comes to setting the wages and salaries of working folks, but using it to set the fees for dock rental in one of the richest communities in America? That's outrageous.

In fairness, the complainers are a small fraction of the Newport Harbor community. Still, they're a loud fraction, and it's this sense of entitlement from the very loud, very rich that drives so much public policy in America. No matter how well they do—and the rich have done very, very well over the past few decades—their blood boils at the thought of contributing so much as an extra dime to public coffers, even if the money is specifically earmarked to improve their own communities.

Welcome to America. Ho ho ho.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "The Day They Closed the Factory Down"

Uploaded by SongsofHarry on Jul 3, 2011

There's a short intro to this song at the end of copper I'll probably add to this later -
"This is really, actually a song about about a one-horse town when the one horse decides to up and leave".
"She said, "I watch him walk down Main Street A sweet one man parade. He'd tip his hat and just like that another score he'd made I'd watch the girls all watch him; moths drawn to the flame. The money showed, the laughter flowed from the way he played the game. He played the game.
"Some said he was a rambler, some said he was a rake . Some said he was a gambler, some said he was a fake. But I knew him like no one else, a gentleman was he. His days belonged to himself, his nights belonged to me. Belonged to me.
"And they're talkin' in the town square, In the taverns and the shops I hear them talkin' everywhere. Their talkin' never stops. But all their words of wisdom won't make you go away. The day they closed the factory down they had nothing, Nothing left to say.
She said, "I take care of my momma now, since my father died. I'm raising baby brother, too, the way my father tried. His thirty years in the factory ended in that furnace blast. But they settled up for ten bucks a week and the bitterness is past, It did not last.
"So they're moving somewhere else now With their cloths and fabric press. They found themselves another town where they'll make shirts for less. And that is why he said last night he won't watch the old town die. But I would not take what he tried to leave, when he told me 'Good bye' Ah, it's good bye
"And they're talkin' in the town square, In the taverns and the shops. I hear them talkin' everywhere. Their talkin' never stops. But all their words of wisdom won't make you go away. The day they closed the factory down they had nothing, Nothing left to say"
"So they're talkin' of the changes the closing brings about. Talkin' of the hard times and the young folks moving out. Yes, they're talking as if talking can make everything all right. But all the talking ever done won't bring him back tonight. Ah, tonight.
And they're talkin' talkin' talkin' talkin' Talkin' in the shops I hear them talkin' everywhere. Their talkin' never stops. But all their words of wisdom won't make you go away. The day they closed the factory down they had nothing Nothing left to say." "

Gun Buy-Back in New Albany

It's no substitute for strict gun-safety laws and massive social spending to address the causes of gun violence, and you have to wonder how much of the money spent to buy back old guns is spent buying new guns, but every gun out of the hands of people who don't work for law enforcement is an improvement.

Charlie White at the Courier:

More than 100 people lined up outside the former Ekin Avenue Recreation Center Friday with their sights set on turning guns into cash.

New Albany officials originally planned to buy guns from noon until 8 p.m., but it was clear the money wouldn’t last nearly that long — about $30,000 of the $50,000 allotted for the project had already been spent within the first hour, and a long line remained outside.

Major Keith Whitlow of New Albany Police said officials also “had to call an audible” on their original plan of buying all guns, eventually limiting the number of guns sold to three per person.

Citizens who turned in an assault weapon received $300 cash per firearm, but by 1 p.m., the city had bought only two.
Louisville, are you going to let your cross-river rival show you up? Lexington and Covington, are you going to let Louisville beat you to this?

Atheists Are "Bad"? All Evidence to the Contrary

The pathetic freakazoid attack that all atheists must be bad people just because we don't live our lives according to the dictates of Bronze Age mythology is easily debunked with empirical evidence. Just look at prison populations, which are overwhelmingly religious.
Now, via Divine Irony, a paper on atheism, secularism and social outcomes reviews the scientific evidence. It concludes:
This essay began with a well-known Biblical quote stating that atheists are simply no
good. Do the findings of contemporary social science support this Biblical assertion? The
clear answer is no. Atheism and secularity have many positive correlates, such as higher
levels of education and verbal ability, lower levels of prejudice, ethnocentrism, racism,
and homophobia, greater support for women’s equality, child-rearing that promotes independent thinking and an absence of corporal punishment, etc. And at the societal level,
with the important exception of suicide, states and nations with a higher proportion of
secular people fare markedly better than those with a higher proportion of religious
 Read the whole thing.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Your New Year's Gift from Congress: Illegal Wiretapping

On Friday, Congress quietly re-authorized the government to spy on you without a reason, much less a warrant. Marcy Wheeler explains what it means:
When New York Times journalists James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed, on December 16, 2005, that the Bush administration was secretly wiretapping Americans without a warrant, it caused a scandal. Outraged commentary ensued. Lawsuits were filed. An attempt to renew the Patriot Act was met with a filibuster.
But seven years later, the government not only continues to collect Americans’ communications (including e-mail) without a warrant; it has largely gutted the law designed to protect against such abuses. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in response to domestic spying on activists, sought to require the government to obtain a warrant before wiretapping Americans. Today the law is all but extinct, thanks to the 2007 Protect America Act and the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, which legalized—and expanded—much of what the Bush administration had been doing illegally. The FAA even granted retroactive immunity to telecommunications firms that illegally wiretapped Americans—in large part because then-candidate Barack Obama changed his stance to support such a move, vowing to address the matter as president (he has not).


Our privacy is faring no better in the courts. Though the Supreme Court has recently shown willingness to hear challenges to the current program—during oral arguments in October, the justices seemed receptive to claims brought on behalf of The Nation, Chris Hedges, Naomi Klein and others—this is a far cry from declaring it illegal. Over the past few years, a series of lawsuits charging violations of FISA have been defeated. The government has successfully argued that plaintiffs couldn’t prove they had been illegally wiretapped because such proof is a state secret.


Back when he was rolling out this secret program, Dick Cheney’s counsel, David Addington, reportedly enthused, “We’re one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious” law. Sadly, FISA’s intent couldn’t withstand the politics of fear, much less a bomb. The government still conducts its warrantless wiretapping in secret. But that’s just to prevent us from knowing what it’s doing. It no longer needs to fear the law.

Video of the Day

I can't get enough of these.

Eat or Heat? Kentucky Gives Profitable Utilities Another Rate Increase

Private utility companies really are the absolute worst. They get monopolies so they don't have to compete on either price or service; they buy weak regulation from state legislators so the Public Service Commission is essentially required to give them rate increases; and their "customers" are really hostages, whose only "choice" is to pay the monthly ransom or go without water and electricity.

At least with public utility companies, you can vote with motherfuckers out.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) today accepted a settlement granting revenue adjustments that increase the base electric rates for customers of Kentucky Utilities Co. (KU) and the base electric and natural gas rates for customers of Louisville Gas and Electric Co. (LG&E).

The revenue adjustments are at levels agreed to by the two utilities, the Kentucky Office of Attorney General and other parties to the utilities’ rate cases, among them the Kentucky Industrial Utility Customers Inc. (KIUC), Kroger Co., the Kentucky School Boards Association and advocates for low-income consumers.
Uh, no. If they signed off on this abomination, they are not "advocates for low-income consumers." They are parties to the ass-fucking of low-income consumers.
In orders issued today, the PSC said that accepting the settlement is in the public interest because they result in a rates “consistent with those justified by our traditional rate-making analysis.” The PSC found that the rates in the settlement are fair, just and reasonable. The new rates take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
KU, by the way, is a giant money tree for its non-Kentucky parent corporation.
Under the settlement agreement, the average monthly bill for a typical KU residential customer will increase by $5.16 (5.6 percent). A typical LG&E residential electric customer will see the average monthly bill increase by $4.25 (5 percent). The average monthly bill for an LG&E residential natural gas customer will increase by $5.57, a figure that includes a new surcharge for infrastructure improvements but does not take into account any fluctuations in the price of natural gas itself.
Five percent hike? In a year when inflation has been under two percent but unemployment over eight percent? A five percent hike for people who already have literally nothing left at the end of the month after paying rent and buying food and medicine? Why not 500 percent? The result for working people is the same.

But that's nothing compared to this little time bomb:
... does not take into account any fluctuations in the price of natural gas itself.
Translation: We'll hike your rates 10 percent, or 50 percent, or 100 percent whenever a new yacht catches our eye or just because it's fun to fuck with the poors and you can't stop us.

Because nobody knows the real price of natural gas any more than anybody knows the real price behind the roller-coaster changes at your local gas station.

But it's not like they didn't warn us.
Officials of the state's utility companies told lawmakers (in June 2011) that all Kentucky customers can expect average rate increases of 20 percent during the next five years.

John Voyles Jr., a vice president of Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities, told a legislative committee that a host of new Environmental Protection Agency regulations will mean upgrades and changes to the state's coal-fired power plants, resulting in increased costs to customers.

Voyles said power companies are looking at an "unprecedented number of proposed regulations" in the next four years that will require changes to comply with pollution standards.
Those would be the "unprecedented number of proposed regulations" that:
  •  are the absolute bare minimum necessary to prevent thousands of premature deaths caused by air pollution from those coal-fired plants.
  • will never take effect because the utility companies will use the millions of dollars they steal from ratepayers to bribe congress to block those regulations.
One lonely voice in the Kentucky General Assembly asked the right question.
But Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, questioned why statutes allow the companies to recover both capital and operating costs from customers for changes made to comply with regulations. That means they can still make a profit and pass all of the costs on to the customers.
Don't worry that Sen. Jones will make life difficult for the utilities.  Either he'll accept the bribes the utilities offer him, or his next election opponent will.

The private water companies are if anything even more arrogant and greedy.

Beth Musgrave at the Herald:
A rate increase requested Friday by Kentucky American Water would add an average of $5.76 to residential bills each month, raising the typical payment about 17.6 percent, from $32.75 to $38.51.
This from a German-owned company that has been stealing land and money from Central Kentuckians and conning the PSC for decades. I think their motto is:

"You can live without electricity or heat, but not without water. Pay us or die."

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Crime to be Broke in America"

Uploaded by SuperLuchadore on Jul 4, 2010


"We just can’t afford a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy"

We can afford that a lot easier than we can afford a Grand Bargain that destroys Social Security and Medicare in return for pocket change from the rich, Mr. President.

Full transcript here.

Arrest These Motherfuckers

Breaking the law and bragging about it. It's not even a victimless crime, either: defying this federal mandate will cause direct harm to thousands of employees and their families.
Craft store chain Hobby Lobby announced on Friday that it will ignore the ruling of U.S. courts and refuse to provide copay-free birth control access to its employees. It will do so despite whatever costs it may incur, even if they are higher than the cost of birth control itself.
Upon learning that Obamacare required employers and insurance companies to provide birth control with no cost to employees, Hobby Lobby sued, saying that, despite the secular nature of the business, the company’s owner’s religious objections should be taken into consideration. When a court denied that line of reasoning, Hobby Lobby took its grievances to the Supreme Court and asked for an injunction. The highest court in the land denied that request, telling Hobby Lobby that it must allow its employees access to birth control as it seeks further litigation.

But Hobby Lobby is saying no.

The store plans to ignore the provision anyway, opting to pay a fine instead of provide birth control, including the morning after pill commonly known as Plan B, which the owner feels goes against his personal religious values:
With Wednesday’s rejection of an emergency stay of that federal health care law by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Hobby Lobby and sister company Mardel could be subject to fines of up to $1.3 million a day beginning Tuesday.
They’re not going to comply with the mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the company. “They’re not going to offer coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in the insurance plan.”
As for the potential fines, Duncan said, “We’re just going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”
This ignores two obvious points — first, that Plan B is not an ‘abortion-inducing’ drug, as Hobby Lobby claims, and second, that the company may well end up paying more to avoid covering contraception than they would simply providing access. It also takes a twisted view on the ‘Freedom of Religion’ argument; the company is actually forcing its owner’s religious beliefs on all employees, no matter their personal religious views.
 Hmmm. $1.3 million a day.  That might actually hurt these Mammon-worshippers more than jail time.  Especially if the money is earmarked for something that'll really hurt them.  How about a grant program to pay for state-mandated unnecessary upgrades to abortion clinics?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Prison Deform

I've been reading the Washington Monthly for more than 30 years, and while its passion for neoliberalism has led it into some nasty conservative traps before - welfare deform at the top of that list - this piece takes the cake.

Right-wing operatives have decided that prisons are a lot like schools: hugely expensive, inefficient, and in need of root-and-branch reform. Is this how progress will happen in a hyper-polarized world?
No, of course not. What a stupid question.

There is no conservative "war on prisons."  There is a conservative war on government-run prisons, and a conservative war on all non-white, non-Xian, non-straight prisoners.

Sure, conservatives would like nothing better than to fire all the government-employed prison guards and set free all the Aryan Brotherhood lynch mobs.

But when it comes to keeping dusky-hued, muslim and/or gay prisoners in the privatized hellholes run by corporate criminals like Corrections Corporation of America, conservatives are all about wasting as many billions of tax dollars as possible.

Yes, we desperately need massive prison reform as close as we can get to tearing the whole stinking edifice down and starting from scratch.  The only way to do that is with trillions of dollars in anti-poverty programs, education, substance abuse treatment, drug legalization and a huge expansion of social services.

But that's not what we're going to get if we let conservatives take the lead and set the rules.

Seriously, Monthly: Do you not, after the overwhelming evidence of the last four years, accept the fundamental truth that conservatives are interested in two things only:
 - establishing permanent white xian male supremacy
 - diverting all tax dollars to rich, white, xian males.

Interpreting conservative claims and efforts through any other lens is political malpractice and terminal naivete.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "The Coming of the Roads"

Uploaded by Johnson28316 on Feb 21, 2012

Shoot These Cranes With Cameras, Not Guns

Chalk up another completely predictable disastrous consequence of Kentucky's stupid decision to allow hunters to kill sandhill cranes.

Roger Alford at the AP:

Kentucky wildlife officials report they've spotted an endangered whooping crane at the Sloughs Wildlife Management Area near Henderson and that they've received a report of two others along the Pond River in Hopkins County.

The sightings of the rare birds, which are on the comeback from near extinction, prompted the Humane Society of the United States to again call for the halt of a hunting season on sandhill cranes for fear that shooters might mistakenly kill the whooping cranes instead.

Kentucky's second sandhill crane season, already under way, runs through Jan. 13 or until 400 of the birds are killed.
Everybody who thinks hunters can tell the difference between crane species, stand on your head.

Even if they could tell the difference, why should they bother? A few years ago, a Kentucky hunter killed a protected elk, then claimed he thought it was a deer. Even drove around town with the elk in his truck, bragging about how big a deer it was. Opinion remains divided on whether he was really, really stupid or really, really smart.

And there's a much bigger difference between deer and elk than there is between sandhill and whooping cranes.

Read more here:

One-Fourth of Kentucky's Children Impoverished

Yesterday, the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training announced that the unemployment rate fell in 99 Kentucky counties between November 2011 and November 2012. But parents taking second or third minimum-wage no-benefit part-time jobs isn't solving the real problem.

Laura Ungar at the Courier:

A quarter of Kentucky children live in poverty — more than 240,000 across the commonwealth.

And those numbers are on the rise, according to a new report prepared for release today.

They are among the statistics in the Kentucky Kids Count 2012 County Data Book, a joint project of Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville. The annual report examines indicators such as poverty levels, educational performance and child health, and paints a disturbing picture of child welfare in Kentucky.
“Kentucky ranks 35th in the country in the overall well-being of children,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, referring to the state’s ranking in the national Kids Count report. “With the big game coming up this weekend, I don’t think the fans of the University of Louisville or the University of Kentucky would be satisfied if their team was 35th in national rankings.”
Touche, Terry.  But Kentucky taxpayers put a shitload more money into college sports than we do into eliminating poverty - or even attempting to alleviate it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wise Latina Indeed

This is surprising, considering Sotomayor's history of pro-corporate decisions. Maybe after three years she's had a bellyfull of Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Thomas.
No matter how many times Bible-thumpin' fetus worshippers insist contraceptives cause abortions, they just don't. But they do like to torture themselves (and everyone else) with their insistence that they do. When this case and the ones like it make their way to the Supreme Court, we will see the reality vs. non-reality split the court once again:
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court declined Wednesday to put a temporary hold on a controversial provision in the new health care law requiring employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Two businesses challenging the act -- the nationwide chain of 500 Hobby Lobby Stores and Mardel, a chain of Christian bookstores -- contended that the law violates their religious freedom. Their legal battle is continuing over the merits of their claim. In the meantime, they asked the US Supreme Court to put a temporary hold on the law, which takes effect January 1, 2013.

On Wednesday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles emergency appeals from the courts where the companies are based, declined to grant an injunction.

In a brief written opinion, she said the Supreme Court has never addressed similar freedom-of-religion claims brought by for-profit corporations objecting to mandatory provisions of employment benefit laws.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Big Yellow Taxi"

Uploaded by thesixtiesarchive on Sep 24, 2010

Mitchell got the idea for the song during a visit to Hawaii. She looked out of her hotel window at the spectacular Pacific mountain scenery, and then down to a parking lot.

Joni said this about writing the song to journalist Alan McDougall in the early 1970s:

" I wrote 'Big Yellow Taxi' on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart... this blight on paradise. That's when I sat down and wrote the song. "

The song is known for its environmental statement (from the lyrics "Paved paradise to put up a parking lot", "Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now") and sentimental sound. The line, "Took all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum/And charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em" refers to Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu, which is a living museum of tropical plants, some rare and endangered.

In the song's final verse, the political gives way to the personal. Mitchell recounts the departure of her "old man" in the titular "big yellow taxi", referring to the old Metro Toronto Police patrol cars that until 1986 were painted yellow. In many covers the departed one may be interpreted as variously a boyfriend, a husband, or a father. The literal interpretation is that he is walking out on the singer by taking a taxi; otherwise it is assumed he is being taken away by the authorities.

How Dare Workers Demand Pay

The epitome of capitalism: workers who get paid only at the whim of their employer.

From the Mountain Eagle:

A coal company owned by one of the world’s wealthiest men is refusing to pay money owed to laid off coal miners who had participated in a “loyalty reward plan,” lawsuits filed by five underground miners charge.
The Mountain Eagle knows how to write a lede.

The rest of the article is behind a paywall, but the AP has more details at the Herald:
Five Eastern Kentucky miners who were laid off have filed lawsuits claiming a Tennessee coal company and two subsidiaries are refusing to pay them according to a signed agreement.

The Mountain Eagle reports the miners filed suit in Letcher Circuit Court against United Coal Co., based in Blountville, Tenn., and its subsidiaries, Whitesburg-based Sapphire Coal and Wellmore coal based in Big Rock, Va.

The suits say that the employees signed a "loyalty reward plan" which offered early payment of deferred compensation for layoffs or closings and that the companies haven't provided the payments.

Read more here:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Aragon Mill"

Uploaded by Bigglers789 on Aug 9, 2009

Si has worked for 44 years as a civil rights, labor and community organizer and musician. His songs of family, community, work and freedom such as Aragon Mill, Gone, Gonna Rise Again and Wild Rose of the Mountain have been recorded by over 100 artists. Si has released 15 albums of his original songs, plus a collection of traditional labor, civil rights and women's songs with Pete Seeger and Jane Sapp. Grassroots Leadership, where Si has served as Executive Director for 30 years, has taken on a national Campaign to End Immigrant Family Detention, the policy made infamous at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. Hutto is a former medium-security prison operated by private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America. Since opening in 2006, the facility has held immigrant children and their families from more than 40 countries and drawn international condemnation.

Bills to Watch Out For

If we learned nothing else from the stealth passage of the Right to Freeload by the Michigan legislature, we learned that you cannot take your eyes off those motherfuckers for an instant.
The Kentucky General Assembly opens its 2013 session next week and you just know they're champing at the bit to show that when it comes to fucking over their constituents, Michigan lawmakers ain't got nothing on Kentucky's corrupt morons.

As Steve M writes:
So the GOP has plenty of agenda left. The agenda is making America either Republican or ungovernable. Parts of America are the former, and in D.C. the Republicans will settle for the latter -- for now.
Here are some Top 10 ALEC/Koch Brothers/freakazoid hits probably coming to Frankfort next week:
vaginal probe/forcing doctors to rape their patients
right to freeload

drug testing (non-corporate) welfare recipients

voter suppression
tax cuts for corporations but not for working families
vouchers/charter schools (your tax dollars for religious indoctrination)

"conscience" or "religious freedom" - allowing doctors and pharmacists to refuse to give you legal treatment and drugs you need because they don't like it.

gut Obamacare: various attempts to prevent Governor Beshear from expanding Medicaid and building an insurance exchange.
Look for them here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Another Day in Paradise"

Uploaded by philcollins on May 10, 2010

Racist Stupidity at Fourth Street Live in Louisville

Shame on me for missing this one, and thanks to Zandar for catching it.

So depressingly expected that I haven't written about it, but this week details of a lawsuit versus the Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge in Louisville's 4th Street Live district became public.  Ian Boudreau has the deets:

The suit, filed in Jefferson County court by Andre Mulligan, alleges that he and his brother approached the Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge management in August this year to secure reservations for an event scheduled for Aug. 18. According to Mulligan’s suit, the restaurant management “demanded to know the ratio of ‘black people’ to ‘white people’” in the party, and then refused to grant a reservation when Mulligan explained that everyone attending the party would be black.

When the Mulligans and their party showed up anyway on Aug. 18, the complaint says the 4th Street Live security personnel barred them from entry into the downtown area, which covers about two city blocks (the Baltimore-based Cordish Operating Ventures, which runs 4th Street Live, is also named in the complaint).

This isn’t the first time 4th Street Live and associated clubs have been accused of racism. In 2006, a Jefferson County judge ordered two clubs to visibly post the “dress codes” they had cited when barring two African-American men from entering The Red Cheetah and Parrot Bay. These dress codes had drawn a lot of local criticism at the time for being rather obviously targeted at African-American men – many felt as if Cordish’s ban on “gang-related” clothing was being used specifically to prevent young black men from entering the area at night, when the bars and clubs are busiest.
Living here in Kentucky, I've had friends of both races tell me 4th Street Live at night is not very friendly for groups of black folk.  People don't like to be reminded it seems that what few black folk live here are in the urban areas of Louisville and Lexington.  It's been a long time problem at 4th Street Live, and that's why I've only been there once two years ago (and during the day.)  Overpriced tourist trap area anyway, but the vibe I got there definitely made me not want to go back.

Which was the point, I guess.  Everyone acts surprised that this kind of thing still exists in 2013, but why should we be?  As Ian points out, we elected arguably the most racist senator in the country in Rand "The Civil Rights Act is unconstitutional" Paul.  What did you expect from Kentucky?
 Actually, I expected better out of Louisville, if only because Paul lost that county. But it's more important to demand better.  Shame on Fourth Street Live.  I hope they lose a ton of business.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Texas Is So Fucked Up

Don't ever change, Texas: you are always in the forefront of fascism, giving the rest of us a good, hard look at what's in store for us if we don't rein in our militaristic police and remind them that it's "protect and serve," not "tase and take down."

From the unique and invaluable Juanita Jean:

As if the Texas Department of Public Safety haven’t has enough bad publicity lately, what with roadside strip searches, yesterday they arrested Santa Claus in front of the State Capitol with children watching.

Santa was committing the heinous crime of giving chalk to children to write their wishes for the holidays on the sidewalk in front of the capitol.  The children wrote horrible words like Peace, Love, Community, Harmony, and there were absolutely no dirty words because, dammit, Santa was watching.  However, these words are known to be against the peace and dignity of the State of Texas.

Along come the Troopers and cuff an obviously dangerous, and completely distraught, Santa in full view of children and their parents.  Several people taped the event, but those that did got their picture taken by the Troopers.  I suspect that since Troopers have no honor left, intimidation and guns is all they have.

The Troopers told the crowd that Santa was being arrested for chalking the sidewalk.  When the crowd explained that Santa didn’t chalk- the children did, they decided to arrest him for resisting arrest.  There’s a video of that, too.

They end up with 6 Troopers, 2 patrol cars, and two Troopers in full riot gear to take Santa to the pokey.

As one man says at the end, “This is messed up, Dude.”

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "I'll Be Home for Christmas"

Still the most powerful anti-war song ever written.

The Holy Land?

The Rude Pundit:

Away in a Manger, 2012:

A mere 42 miles separates the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya from Bethlehem, the city where Christian legend says that a virgin, led by a star, gave birth to the child of God in a place fit for animals. Two thousand years, 42 miles. The family up there was photographed yesterday, just 12 days before the supposed birthday of the Muslim prophet Jesus.

Beit Lahiya suffers mightily whenever there are periods of bombardment from Israel because Hamas was elected to run it. In 2009, the city was wrecked. In this most recent offensive, 8 days of steady bombing, "Suhail Hamada Mohman and his 10-year-old son, who were both killed instantly at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 in Beit Lahiya while distributing water to their neighbors," among other casualties.

There's no point here other than that this exists, people being forced to go about their lives in a nativity of rubble.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Celebrate HumanLight Day

Today, December 23, is HumanLight Day.  Personally, I'm more in a mood for "Let's Give the Torturers and Guntards a Taste of Their Own Medicine" Day, but HumanLight seems a bit more achievable.
HumanLight illuminates Humanism's positive secular vision. In Western societies, late December is a season of good cheer and a time for gatherings of friends and families. During the winter holiday season, where the word "holiday" has taken on a more secular meaning, many events are observed. This tradition of celebrations, however, is grounded in supernatural religious beliefs that many people in modern society cannot accept. HumanLight presents an alternative reason to celebrate: a Humanist's vision of a good future. It is a future in which all people can identify with each other, behave with the highest moral standards, and work together toward a happy, just and peaceful world.
And anything that pisses off the freakazoids is something to celebrate.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy BY: "Allentown"

Uploaded by billyjoelVEVO on Oct 3, 2009

Genocide Works, Too

I haven't seen the CIA's latest propaganda flick and will not - I'm not into torture porn.

But I am deeply dismayed - no, thoroughly disgusted - that the debate spawned by the film centers on the accuracy of the film's central premise that torture works.

"Does torture work?" Of course it does: it works to terrorize and punish and satisfy the sadomasochistic masturbatory fantasies of infantile monsters like Dick Cheney.

Genocide works, too.  If your goal is to eliminate your enemies, nothing works like genocide.  It's amazingly effective. Why don't we commit genocide?

For the same reason we used to not even consider using torture: it's a fucking war crime.

Supposedly the movie ends with the death of bin Laden.  It should have ended with every single military, contract and CIA torturer and all their superiors right up to Cheney and George W. Bush being frog-marched off to prison.

During discussion of the movie and its meaning on Up With Chris Hayes Saturday, not one single person - not the "liberal" Chris Hayes, not Glenn Greenwald, not the representative of the ACLU - so much as hinted that by committing torture - and giving government approval to committing tortune -  Americans have committed war crimes and should be prosecuted.

Not one word dedicated to the proposition that torture is unacceptable under all circumstances and must not be tolerated in any form.

That we Americans are actually debating torture is absolutely the most shameful development in my lifetime.


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

Fighting Freakazoid Gotchas

Personally, I work hard to ensure that freakazoid are never within shouting, much less arguing, distance, but in case you get caught off guard, divine irony provides help:  
How 2 Debate Theist “Gotcha!” Arguments
“How can you say some sort of god doesn’t exist?” Here’s how you deal with this sort of “gotcha!” question from a theist.
Worthwhile video.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Some Practical Gun Safety Ideas

I say "gun safety" rather than "gun control" per Rep. Carolyn Mahoney, who knows from gun massacres, and who prefers the former phrase.

Personally I agree with Cerberus (the Sadly No! blogger, not the financial firm) that there's no reason in this day and age for any American to have a gun unless it is part of her job description. But short of fighting another civil war to get all the penis-extenders rounded up, there are several superb ideas out there that somebody should grab and start implementing.

First up is Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

This first ran in January 2011.

First of all, this isn't my idea. It's my oldest son's, and he told me about it a few years ago when he was trying to figure out a way he could make money. (Did I mention the kid is a genius? If you use this idea, you owe him.)

He said it made more sense to sidestep the entire gun control controversy and instead pass state laws that require anyone who owns a gun to carry insurance. If they have risk factors (like teenagers in the house), their rates go up. If one of their kids sneaks a gun out of the house and gets caught, or uses it to commit a crime, the insurance gets canceled for some meaningful period of time -- say, 10 years.

And if someone steals your gun and you don't report it in a 24-hour window of you finding out, your insurance is suspended for a long time.

If you have a rifle and it's only used for hunting, low rates. If you have a Glock and you carry it in an open-carry town or state, your rates will be very high -- because odds are so much higher that innocent bystanders may get caught in a shootout.

The more training and safety classes you take, the cheaper the premium.

If you've ever been convicted of domestic abuse or are the target of a protection order, you are not eligible for insurance.

Homeowners could be required to carry gun insurance as long as they're still paying on a mortgage, because a gun accident or misuse could result in a large legal judgment against the house.

Oh yeah, and you have to buy coverage for each gun you own.

I think it has real possibilities. What do you think?
I love it. Pure free-market capitalism: take a risk, pay the price.

The Rude Pundit had an idea back on Wednesday that doesn't even require Congress:
But right now, right this second, the federal government should halt all gun purchases requiring an FBI background check. That'll slow the surge in assault rifle sales that's happening in a pathetic anti-tribute to the dead of Newtown. Obama said he'd do what he could with his office. There's a step he can take immediately while we all figure out what comes next.
Charlie Pierce recommends harnessing the power of both free-market capitalism and social shaming in a divestment campaign of the kind that helped topple apartheid.

And it's already starting to work:
Following the announcement by Cerberus, the capital management firm that said yesterday that it was getting out of the firearms business, it appears that the notion of divestment is starting to catch on around the country.


If you're wondering why the NRA is extending what Joe Scarborough called "the olive branch" this time, there's your reason. That's the real thing that's changed since the massacre in Connecticut. There is a fundamental reaction against the people who profit from mass slaughter, and the dots are being connected in ways they haven't been previously. The NRA is the lobbying arm of the armaments industry, and those guys are starting to lose money by the fistful, and they can see more of this happening, so, I guarantee you, we're going to be hearing about the "many causes" of gun violence on Friday. The NRA will suddenly become an advocate for lavish funding of the nation's mental-health system. These clowns didn't grow a conscience over the weekend. Their sugar daddies are losing money, and that's all that ever has mattered.
Others have suggested social shaming of the kind that worked on smokers, although this is a little trickier since one's guns are not as visible as one's smoking. Also, cigarettes - even lit - represent less of a direct threat to the critic.

You don't have to choose; do them all: insurance, regulation, divestment, shaming. Try something. If it doesn't work, try something else.  But above all, try something.

Merry Sciencemas

Hubble Space Telescope image of the planetary nebula NGC-5189, located some 3,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Musca. It is though to be created from a dying binary, or two star system. NASA released the image for the holidays because it resembles an ornament.

No, this image is not one of the Mayan apocalypse. NASA has a tradition of releasing spectacular Hubble images in time for the winter holidays, such as a 2011 photo of a space “snow angel,” and 2012 was no different.

This year, NASA published a breathtaking photo of a planetary nebula called NGC-5189, located some 3,000 light years away in the constellation Musca (the fly).

Nebulas like the one shown here are formed by dying stars — ones like our own Sun except that have run out of fuel and are ejecting their outer layers, which become superheated by the remaining stellar material and billow outward as clouds of gas, turning into beautiful patterns and shapes. The nebula pictured, NGC-5189, is said to resemble a “glass-blown ornament,” according to NASA, hence it being featured as this year’s holiday favorite.
Because I am an Old and to support the Post Office, I send out actual holiday cards on paper, with stamps and everything.  NASA needs to start a line of holiday cards with Hubble photos on them, and the explanation of the image on the inside.  All of us who remember the Apollo missions would snatch them up.

Songs to Fight the Plutocracy By: "Scale Down"

Uploaded by ByScottMckibben on Feb 24, 2010

Sanity Emerges on School Safety in Louisville

Kentucky is just 15 years removed from a mass shooting at one of our schools, and we know that neither armed guards nor armed teachers would have stopped it.

Antoinette Konz at the Courier:

Area educators and parents largely rejected a call by the National Rifle Association to place armed police officers in every school in America, saying it won’t solve the problem of gun violence in classrooms.“I support safety in our schools; however, no armed guard could have prevented the Newtown incident,”

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said. “The only way to deal with this issue is to address the many facets that create a culture of violence. We must address gun control, mental health, violence in media, including movies and video games, and other related issues in order to combat this culture of violence.”
Did you catch that?  Kentucky's Education Commissioner Terry Holliday used the words "gun control."  He used them in a way that could be interpreted as positive, as a thing to be achieved, not avoided.

There is hope of sanity, boys and girls, even in Red State America.

"In this country, we take care of each other."

Full transcript here.

Rant of the Year: Cerberus

NO ONE, INSIDE OF THIS COUNTRY, OUTSIDE OF A MILITARY BASE (and outside trained public officials like specialty police officers and secret service agents), NEEDS A GUN! THERE IS NO REAL COMPELLING REASON FOR CIVILIANS TO OWN FIREARMS IN THIS DAY AND AGE!

Not one, single solitary reason. Oh sure, there’s a lot of grasped straws, a lot of reasons that are even now bubbling to the surface, demanding to be said.

And they’re all bullshit.

1. No one really needs a gun for hunting, because no one in this country needs to hunt in this day and age in order to survive. Oh sure, there may be people who do hunt and in fact eat what they hunt and all power to them. But if they were suddenly deprived of their firearms by a firearm removing fairy, they wouldn’t suddenly starve to death.

And that’s because we live in a modern world where it is nearly impossible to “go off the grid”. If one is close enough to civilization to keep the ammo topped off, one is close enough to go to a supermarket and buy one’s daily bread as it were. And even supposing that meat was critical to life, we live in an era where factory farming sadly has made meat cheap and plentiful to even the most remote wilderness area. And even if you wanted to go self-sufficient, it’s much better to grow crops and set traps for small game (or use a fucking bow and arrow or a pit trap if you really need that fucking deer head on the wall).

Fuck, even the arguments that we need to hunt because prey populations are out-of-whack to sustainability only exists because fucking bastards with guns have been shooting all the predator species in the area in order to “protect” their livestock and homes. And again, the solution in the meantime would probably best be served by government officials working in accordance with environmentalists who know exactly how much game needs to be culled to protect the herd and how to do so in a way that’s best sustaining for said herd and protects their biodiversity.

2. No one needs a gun for collections. I mean, no offense to the collectors looking for historic value or just liking the aesthetics, but hobbies are just that. And frankly, let’s be honest. There’s no fucking reason any “collector” needs to have ammo stored in the same place as their “collection” unless their “collection” is better known as an “armory”.

3. No one needs a fucking gun for self-defense.

I’ll repeat that. No one needs a gun for self-defense.

No one.

Not home defense, not personal defense, not defense against some mystical horde of rampaging black people or magical tyrannical government that is polite enough to come in troops of nicely organized poorly armored stormtroopers.

And the fact that the gun fetishists convinced everyone this was a legitimate reason for gun ownership is one of the true marvels of advertising if there ever was one.
And he's just getting started.  Read the whole amazing, passionate, brilliant thing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rabid Ferret is Rabid

Seriously, if you need me to explain to you what is so wrong with the NRA's guns-and-only-guns-for-everybody-all-the-time, you need to go read other blogs, because this one is over your head.


Stop Negotiating and Start Running for the Fiscal Molehill

Don't be fooled by the apparent collapse of the House repugs yesterday - they'll be back next week, even meaner and stubborner for having been made to look like fools.

And so will President Obama, more eager than ever to get a deal - any deal, even one that destroys Social Security and Medicare - before Dec. 31.

As Karoli at Crooks and Liars wrote earlier this week: 
All anyone has to do is start with what we know: Republicans do not negotiate in good faith ever, and they only negotiate at all when they are pressed to the wall. Therefore, we can all assume this is a lot of smoke with lots of mirrors and absolutely no sincerity.

I am of the belief that absolute clarity is needed in order to get this done in an orderly fashion. That means no muddling up the issues. It is absolutely driving me crazy to see the narrative driven by media that Medicare, Social Security, tax reform and the debt ceiling MUST be wrapped up in a tiny little neat package by December 31st.

No. Nothing need be wrapped up by December 31st. Absolutely nothing. I've heard arguments for why they should be, and so I'll take them one by one:
  • Unemployment extensions expire 12/29: These are urgent. I am not minimizing that. But they are separate from any discussion about tax reform, tax rates, and tax cuts. There is no relationship between them and they should be addressed separately from the other issues. If the extensions are renewed in the first weeks of January, it will not do harm to recipients, and can retroactively be corrected.
  • But the debt ceiling. ZOMG, the debt ceiling: President Obama needs to have us clamoring and echoing him on this: the debt ceiling is UNRELATED to the tax revenue question now and forevermore, and we should be prepared to have Republicans shut down government over it. Let them take the hit for their folly. Never before 2011 was the debt ceiling a serious hostage, and it shouldn't be one now.
  • More stimulus! - The stimulus package the President is suggesting won't even cover Hurricane Sandy relief, which the sick GOP cheapos in Congress have already delayed and dithered about for weeks now. Seriously. President Obama is asking for $56 billion in stimulus. Sandy relief is expected to cost around $60 billion. It's just math.
  • Better a Democrat shore up Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, right? Sure. But certainly not in the name of deficit reduction or tax reform. Again, these are issues that are being intentionally smashed together to muddy up what is a simple, straightforward process.
  • The payroll tax expires! Uh oh. Good. It should expire. It was always dangerous territory. If they want to extend it, they can extend it in the form of a refundable tax credit for 2013, which doesn't cause money from the General Fund to be transferred to the Social Security trust fund. Withholding can be adjusted to account for the credit, and the economy will be saved from ruin.
The only time Republicans care about the deficit is when they are not in the White House. This is a game, an act, an obscene dance of political gamesmanship, but it is NOT a negotiation.

What we should be doing:
  • Ignore the Villagers' hand-wringing
  • Stop accepting what they say as truth.
  • Stop reacting to everything.
  • Start saying out loud that the only thing that should happen before January 1st is an up or down vote in the House on the Senate extension of middle class tax cuts.
  • Stomp your feet, call your Congressman, shout it out: ONLY an up or down vote on the middle class tax cuts is warranted, and that means one vote on the Senate bill, not some stupidly crafted package of nonsensical, arcane, ridiculously meaningless "cuts".
Ten days ago we were winning this by not budging at all. Yes, President Obama, that means YOU too. Now suddenly we're engaging in the farce Republicans call "negotiations?" Give me a break. This has been an exercise in how to turn media narratives around for the Republicans' benefit, but it is nothing like a negotiation.

If we really want to win, we simply stop acknowledging all of the stupid GOP party trial balloons floating around us and start pushing for one vote. One vote before December 31st. Just one. No amendments, no extras. One vote on the Senate bill to extend the middle class tax cuts.

Then make them sit at OUR table next year, when the upper rates are set and not going back down. That's how it's done. Our way, not theirs
I would go even further. Tax hikes on all income over $250,000, but NO spending cuts on domestic programs.  We don't need to pay for tax hikes - they will make a huge dent in the deficit all by themselves.  Not that we need to reduce the deficit at all.  And even if we did need spending cuts, take them out of the obscenely bloated military budget, starting with the boondoggle to end (not that it will) all boondoggles: the F-35 StupidPlane, continuing on through contracts with Halliburton, KBR and Blackwater, which has probably changed its name again already, right up through cancelling every fucking dime going to Israel until they tear down every West Bank settlement.

David Dayen at Firedoglake has more on the consequences of stepping over the fiscal molehill, and David Atkins explains how the repugs just proved you can't negotiate with nihilists.

An Answer From the President

If you signed the petition to the White House demanding action to end gun violence, you got this email today.  If you didn't sign, or didn't get the email, I've copied it below.

The most important part is this:

If you have additional ideas and are interested in further engagement with the White House on this issue, please let us know and share your thoughts here: 
Write. Write every day. Stay on them. Don't let them off the hook.

Here's the whole thing:

A Message from President Obama about Your Petition on Reducing Gun Violence

By Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden

In the days since the tragedy in Newtown, Americans from all over the country have called for action to deter mass shootings and reduce gun violence. Hundreds of thousands of you have signed petitions on We the People

I'm writing you today to thank you for speaking up, to update you on an important development, and to encourage you to continue engaging with the White House on this critical issue.

First, you should know that President Obama is paying close to attention to the public response to this tragedy. In fact, he sat down to record a message specifically for those of you who have joined the conversation using We the People. Watch it now

A Message from President Obama about Your Petition on Reducing Gun Violence

On Wednesday, the President outlined a series of first steps we can take to begin the work of ending this cycle of violence. This is what he said:

"We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides. And as I said on Sunday night, there's no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. We're going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun. We're going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence. And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts.

But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can't prevent every act of violence doesn't mean we can't steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence."

Vice President Biden has been asked to work with members of the Administration, Congress, and the general public to come up with a set of concrete policy proposals by next month -- proposals the President intends to push swiftly. The President asked the Vice President to lead this effort in part because he wrote and passed the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime in America. That bill included the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

As the Vice President's Chief of Staff, I'm going to do everything I can to ensure we run a process that includes perspectives from all sides of the issue, which is why I wanted to respond to your petition myself. Two decades ago, as domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House, I first worked with Joe Biden as he fought to enact the Crime Bill, the assault weapons ban, and the Brady Bill. I will never forget what a key role the voices of concerned citizens like you played in that vital process.

The President called on Congress to pass important legislation "banning the sale of military-style assault weapons," "banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips," and "requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all."

An issue this serious and complex isn't going to be resolved with a single legislative proposal or policy prescription. And let's be clear, any action we take will respect the Second Amendment. As the President said:

"Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that's been handed down from generation to generation. Obviously across the country there are regional differences. There are differences between how people feel in urban areas and rural areas. And the fact is the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible -- they buy their guns legally and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection.

But you know what, I am also betting that the majority -- the vast majority -- of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war. I'm willing to bet that they don't think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas -- that an unbalanced man shouldn't be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone's criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown -- or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day."

The President said it best: "Ultimately if this effort is to succeed it's going to require the help of the American people -- it's going to require all of you. If we're going to change things, it's going to take a wave of Americans -- mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals -- and, yes, gun owners -- standing up and saying 'enough' on behalf of our kids."

So let's continue this conversation and get something meaningful done. If you have additional ideas and are interested in further engagement with the White House on this issue, please let us know and share your thoughts here

Thank you for speaking out and staying involved.