Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kentucky Considers Finally Ending Prohibition

No, not of pot. Of alcohol sales on Election Day.

Jack Brammer at the Herald:

The Kentucky General Assembly appears poised to lift the state's Election Day booze-buying ban, which would leave South Carolina as the only remaining state that enforces the Prohibition-era rule.


The bill affects only wet areas of the state. It would allow each community to decide whether they want to ban alcohol sales on Election Day.

Kentucky's ban is a relic of the Prohibition era, when saloons sometimes served as polling stations.


The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States estimated last year that Kentucky's treasury loses more than $625,000 a year in sales tax revenue because of the ban. It estimated that Kentucky retail stores, bars and restaurants lost more than $4.5 million in revenue each year.

The Kentucky League on Alcohol and Gambling Problems is opposed to the bill, executive director Don Cole said. His group has a 30-member board that represents numerous churches across the state, he said.
Yeah, you knew the freakazoids were gonna show up. They're the bootleggers' best friends.

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sexual Reality Squeaks Through Kentucky House

The repressed freakazoids in the senate will kill it, of course, but their spittled-flecked hysteria over the very idea of preventing disease in sexually-active teens ought to be a hoot to watch.

From the Courier:

A bill that would require young boys and girls to be immunized for the human papillomavirus, known as HPV, was approved by a narrow margin in the House on Tuesday with a vote of 54-40.

Under the bill, girls ages 9 to 16 and boys ages 10 to 16, would be immunized for the virus, which can lead to cancer. Parents who do not wish to have their children immunized would have the ability to opt out. An amendment approved on the House floor Tuesday would require schools to send out forms to parents explaining the opt-out provision.

Bill sponsor Rep. David Watkins, D-Henderson, said this is an opportunity to possibly prevent cancers and should be done for the health of future generations.
Rep. Ben Waide, R-Madisonville, spoke against the bill on the floor, saying he believes that parents already have the option to vaccinate their children and the state should not mandate it.
It's really fucking hilarious how freakazoid parents convince themselves that ignorance prevents sex.

Hilarious, that is, until the kids die.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Clean Energy Opportunity Act Gets Hearing Feb. 28

A bill to start dragging Kentucky out of the energy dark ages and wean us off the crack cocaine of coal gets a hearing in the General Assembly Thursday. Get off your ass and show your support.

From Kentuckians for the Commonwealth: 

The Clean Energy Opportunity Act, House Bill 170, will get a hearing before the House Tourism Development and Energy Committee this Thursday, February 28, at 10 a.m. in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex in Frankfort.

This important bill, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, asks utilities in Kentucky to get an increasing share of their electricity from energy efficiency programs and renewable energy sources over the next ten years. It is modeled after policies that are already working to create jobs and energy savings in 30 other states, including Ohio and North Carolina.

A 2012 study found that this bill could create 28,000 net new jobs over the decade and lower customers bills by 8-10% compared to a “business as usual” scenario.

The bill is expected to receive a hearing, but not a vote, again this year. Your help is needed to urge legislative action. Please join us in the committee room on Thursday if at all possible. And, whether or not you can make it to Frankfort, take a moment to call the legislative message line today.

Take Action

Call: 1-800-372-7181

Ask to leave a message for: “my representative, my senator, and all members of the House Tourism, Development, and Energy Committee.”

Message: “Please support HB 170, the Clean Energy Opportunity Act. Kentucky can’t afford to be left behind as other states race to create new jobs and energy savings.”

More details

HB 170 asks utilities to get 12.5% of their electricity from renewable sources and to help their customers achieve 10.25% energy savings over the next decade. These targets are similar to policies that are already at work in Ohio and North Carolina. The bill also sets up a mechanism, called a feed-in tariff, for people who install their own small-scale renewable energy systems to be paid for the energy they provide to the grid for a set amount of time.

HB 170 can help protect Kentuckians from rising and volatile energy costs by diversifying our energy mix and significantly ramping up energy efficiency programs across the state. Currently about 93% of Kentucky’s electricity comes from burning coal. Electricity prices in Kentucky have risen by 68% from 2001 to 2011, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and those trends are expected to continue.

Unless we act now, Kentucky is in danger of being left behind as other states add clean energy jobs and capacity. In January 2013, 100% of new electric generating capacity in the US came from renewable sources. Nationally, coal accounted for just 29.04 percent of electric generation in January, while natural gas provided 42.37 percent. Renewables provided 15.66% of total generation, with the remainder from nuclear power (9.23 percent) and oil (3.54 percent).


Monday, February 25, 2013

The Debt Scam Con Artists

Austerity hysteria, entitlement "fixes," debt fearmongering: you'll be stunned to learn they all derive from the same source of lies.


His most recent creation, Fix the Debt, is a scam. And the Center for Media and Democracy have done what the Village media should have done a long time ago if they wren't so in thrall to Peterson and his plans for ritual human sacrifice: put together a dossier on the man:
Today, CMD is pleased to unveil -- in partnership with The Nation -- a new resource on the Campaign to Fix the Debt for the public and the media, that exposes the leaders, the Peterson-funded partners, the phony state chapters, the lobbyists and the stunt men (who convinced Alan Simpson to dance Gangnam Style) behind this massive PR effort.

This package includes:

Lisa Graves, Pete Peterson's Long History of Deficit Scaremongering, The Nation.

John Nichols, The Austerity Agenda: An Electoral Loser, The Nation.

Dean Baker, Fix the Debt's Fuzzy Math, The Nation.

Mary Bottari, Pete Peterson's Puppet Populists, The Nation.

Fix the Debt Astroturf Supergroup Portal Page

Fix the Debt's Leadership

Fix the Debt Leaders' Conflicts of Interest
More here.

This is a great resource.  I urge you to use it by sending the link and some notes to every media parrot who screeches that the sky is falling if we don't "deal with the deficit" immediately. We've got almost 8% unemployment in this country and it's not getting any better. And our grandchildren really are under a looming threat that none of these people could give a damn about --- climate change. This entire conversation is an absurd misdirection by disaster capitalists who are determined to re-order our society to their advantage --- and the wealthy elites who want so badly to believe them.
In a recession, the only debt problem is not having enough. In a recession, the only spending problem is not spending enough. In a recession, the place to look for the nation's wealth is in the offshore accounts of the obscenely rich people who stole it from the rest of us.

Tell Your Legislators Now: Everybody Votes

Not that most Kentucky legislators give a flying fuck what heir non-guntard, non-freakazoid constituents think, but for the record: Kentuckians think everybody, including ex-felons, should vote.

Andrew Wolfson at the Courier:

A majority of Kentucky voters say they favor amending the state constitution to allow convicted felons to regain their right to vote once they serve their full sentences.

A poll of 616 registered voters taken Feb. 19-21 by SurveyUSA for The Courier-Journal found that 51 percent favored such an amendment, while 38 percent opposed it. The poll question had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Many Kentuckians appear to share the view of Thomas Vance, 62, a disabled retired Air Force master sergeant who lives in Alexandria . In a follow-up interview, Vance said denying felons the vote after they serve their sentence is “piling on.”

“It is just not fair,” he said. “If I did my time, that should be the end of it.”

Kentucky is one of only five states that bar all felons from the polls unless their voting rights are restored through a pardon from the governor or another agency.
 This is one of four major legislative priorities for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.
Last week, HB 70, our bill to restore voting rights to former felons who have served their debt to society, passed a vote in House Committee 6 to 1. Now it will come up for a vote on the House Floor any day now and we want to express our support of the bill to legislators loud and clear.
Please take two minutes and call the legislative message line, 1-800-372-7181, leaving a message for your own representative plus "House Leadership."

A good, simple message is "please support HB 70."

The message line is open until 11pm, so please call as soon as you can.

Also, please plan on joining us on March 6th for our big Voting Rights Lobby Day and Rally.
 This is America, goddammit. Everybody votes.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

We Don't Say "Thank Dog For Mississippi" for Nothing

Because without those worthless crackers, Kentucky would be the ass-end of the country. And the last state to ratify the 13th amendment, rather than merely the second-to-last.

Greg Kocher at the Herald:

Here's an OMG fact for you: The Kentucky legislature didn't go on record against slavery until 1976 — 111 years after the 13th Amendment prohibiting involuntary servitude became the law of the land.

Lincoln, with 12 nominations at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, tells of the president's struggle to have Congress pass the amendment.

What isn't told is that Kentucky, Lincoln's birthplace, refused to ratify the amendment.

No, Andrew, Abortion Is Not Your Bargaining Chip

Probable 2016 presidential candidate Andrew Cuomo is still scrambling to cover his subservience to Wall Street with liberal culture war moves.

From Firedoglake:

NY Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo “is putting finishing touches on legislation that would guarantee women in New York the right to late-term abortions when their health is in danger or the fetus is not viable.”
Don't fall for it. The biggest obstacle to progressive legislation on all issues, including abortion, is the money influence of the financial industry.

We know who owns the repugs, and know what to expect from them as a consequence.  Far more dangerous are the Democratic politicians whose social liberalism hides their eagerness to betray the working class.

Religion and Repugs

It's no coincidence that both religion and repug politics are imbued with anti-science ignorance and anti-humanity hate.

Down with Tyranny:

In the new Gallup poll, one is counted as "very religious" if they "affirm that religion is important to his or her daily life and that church is attended either weekly or almost every week." That's 40% of Americans. Another 29% claim to be "moderately religious," meaning "they don’t attend religious services regularly (or that faith is not very important to them, but they still attend church regularly). It probably isn't hard to guess that the most religious states are also the poorest, most racist, least educated and most supportive of right-wing political candidates. Here's the list of "very religious: with Mississippi as #1, of course. The percentage in parenthesis was Romney's winning vote share in 2012.
Mississippi.......... 58% (55%)
Utah.................... 56% (73%)
Alabama............. 56% (61%)
Louisiana............ 53% (58%)
Arkansas............. 52% (60%)
South Carolina.... 52% (55%)
Tennessee........... 50% (59%)
North Carolina.... 48% (50%)
Georgia............... 48% (53%)
Oklahoma............ 48% (67%)
To put this into some kind of context, let's look at what Gallup found to be the least religious states and how they reacted to Romney in November.
Vermont............... 19% (31%)
New Hampshire... 23% (46%)
Maine................... 24% (41%)
Massachusetts....... 27% (37%)
Rhode Island......... 29% (35%)
Oregon.................. 29% (42%)
DC........................ 30% (7%)
Nevada.................. 31% (46%)
Hawaii................... 31% (28%)
Alaska................... 31% (55%)
Connecticut........... 31% (41%)
Washington........... 31% (41%)
Notice the correlation? Belief in fairy tales, superstition and an authoritarian father figure living in the sky correlates positively with a political platform based on greed, selfishness, hatred and bigotry. And it always has.

Why Atheists Should Care About Progress

Because atheists are all about making the most of this life, which is the only one anybody gets, and making the most of this life requires social progress for all.

And because the biggest obstacle to progress is, always has been and always will be religion.

PZ Myers:

Debbie Goddard has a most excellent post on Skepchick (she should write more!), declaring that the atheist movement should care about poverty.
Unless we address the classism and broaden the elitist culture of the atheist movement, the underprivileged students in the Philadelphia public school classrooms that I’m familiar with and in the South Los Angeles classrooms that Sikivu Hutchinson works in will continue to be marginalized and will never have access to the “enlightened” educational opportunities that the movement too often takes for granted.
Some would say it’s not the movement’s responsibility to address poverty and public education. I disagree. This is a movement; we want the world to be a better place than it is now. We want to reduce suffering and foster a just society. If we agree there’s no cosmic justice system and there’s no reward for suffering after we die, we need to effect change here, now, in this life, in this world, for as many people as we can reach. Education is key for change to occur.
You won’t be surprised to learn that I agree completely, and that education is an excellent priority for atheist communities to pursue. She cites the Black Skeptics article I mentioned earlier today, in which they are looking for donations for their First in the Family Humanist Scholarship. It’s a worthy cause, and I donated…you should too, if you can.

Every effort to improve human knowledge is a contribution to atheism, so anything you can do will help; teach a child, donate books to your local library, volunteer at your elementary school. It’s our cunning godless scheme to make the world a better place.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

No Cuts. Not Now. Not Ever. Sign the Petition

From Rep. Alan Grayson:

Right-wingers bent on cheating us out of our Social Security and Medicare benefits - are they mean or stupid?

Mean?  Because they prey on the most vulnerable among us?

Or stupid?  Because they think that since we might have to cut Social Security benefits slightly, 25 years from now, “therefore” we should cut them right now? Mean or stupid?  Sometimes it's hard to tell.  But right now, as we're negotiating the budget, Tea Party Republicans are trying to force cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. That's mean. But it's also stupid.

Either way, my answer is as follows:  NO.

It's such a simple word that even Tea Party Republicans understand it.


No cuts, no compromises, and no cruelty. Not on my watch. These are our benefits; we've paid for them.

And we can stop these cuts. Even in the House of Representatives, where Republicans have a majority, they are so dysfunctional and incompetent that they can't pass anything significant without Democratic votes.  So if we can get enough NO pledges, from Democrats, then we can prevent the cuts.

That's where you come in.
I've authored a letter to the President, pledging a NO vote on any cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Very quickly, twenty of my Democratic House colleagues have joined me, and signed on to this letter. We need more signers in the House. Which means that we need more voices in the “real world.”  We need you to tell your Representative what you think.

I've set up a petition at to make it easy for you. Please sign it. If you'd like, you can explain why you, personally, oppose cuts to these programs.

I'll have your name and your thoughts go to the Member of Congress who represents you.

More than 20,000 people have already contacted Congress and shown their support.  What about you?

Join us. Tell them to make sure that they vote to keep the Tea Party's hands off of our Social Security, and our Medicare.  It's time to say “Just Say No,” together.


Alan Grayson
P.S.  Spread this around.  You know what to do. Click here to tweet it.
Click here to share it on Facebook.

I Wish This Were Hyperbole, But It's Not

David Atkins at Hullabaloo:

The most terrifying graph you'll see all year

Data taken from the 2010 UN Climate Change report gives us this:

See that 5 degrees Celsius we're projected to hit by 2050? That's 9 degrees Fahrenheit. That means the end of human civilization, and possibly of the human race itself. Within our lifetimes.

The International Energy Agency agrees with the assessment.

The Science Pope blog makes clear exactly what this all means:
Your brain will fight it, even with the numbers on the page staring back at you, because the collapse of civilization is simply beyond human comprehension. To really internalize this information means you would need to accept things like:

- You are among the last people that will ever walk the Earth
- Your children won’t survive to middle age
- All of the beauty, culture, and scientific discoveries we’ve unlocked will return to the ether from whence they came.

Forgive my French, but that is some heavy shit. Yet our ability to understand and feel threatened by this information is hindered by the fact that things don’t seem that bad right now. Sure things feel a little “off”, but how can we be so close to oblivion when life is (generally speaking) so good, modern and happy?

The answer is exponentials. Climate change does not follow a linear path (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc…), it follow an exponential path (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc…). Global temperature is increasing exponentially, fueled by humanity’s exponential rise in energy use, population, and economic growth. As you can see from the chart, exponential functions look like a hockey stick: they stay low for a long time, and then rise very suddenly and rapidly once they turn the corner. Everyone has some experience with exponential growth in their daily lives…any bank account with compounded interest will follow this curve, and exponentials are the reason that sickness spreads so rapidly through your child’s school.
Next to this problem, the deficit isn't just child's play. It doesn't even exist by comparison. Drones? Let's get serious.

There is one problem on this planet that dwarfs all the others right now, and it barely gets mentioned by the national press except as a niche environmental issue.
Think it won't happen? It already is.
While most of Washington obsesses over which grandmothers and minimum wage workers the nation will place on a cat food diet in order to please David Brooks, the Confidence Fairies and Bond Overlords, a ticking time bomb is about to explode in the permafrost:
 It's not too late. But we have to take massive prevention mitigation measures and we have to start now.

KY Bill Would Turn Good Highways into Bad Private Toll Roads

What do I keep telling you?  Privatization Kills. This idiocy has been tried elsewhere and the result is always the same: millions of tax dollars and tolls out of your pocket going to out-of-state corporations that fail to maintain or repair the privatized roads.

From the Courier:

A bill filed in the Kentucky General Assembly would permit unique arrangements between private companies and state government to pay for roads and bridges.

Rep. Sannie Overly, a Paris Democrat and majority caucus chair, is a sponsor of the legislation, along with Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville.

House Bill 456 would allow Kentucky to use “public-private partnerships” — arrangements that can include, for example, companies assuming the financing, design and operations of a road in exchange for collecting toll revenue or other payments. The bill allows the partnerships with adjoining states.

"I believe we should work together to build ..."

That's the excellent first half of a sentence President Obama should never have ruined with this ending: " ... on on the more than $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction we’ve already achieved." No, Mr. President: every additional penny in deficient reduction hurts the economy you claim you're trying to improve and the middle class you claim you're trying to save.

No, congressional repugs won't approve the trillion dollars in stimulus through a deficit increase, but they won't approve anything else that will prevent a Great Depression. So tell Ben Bernanke to crank up the presses and churn out the cash that will avoid an austerity apocalypse.

Full transcript here.

KY Repugs Still Terrified of That Ni**er in the White House

They're dead-enders and some of them know it.  But as long as they still have a chance to make poor, brown, female and non-Xian people suffer, they'll keep doing it.

From the Courier:

Two bills that would block Gov. Steve Beshear from moving ahead with provisions of the Affordable Care Act were passed in the state Senate Friday on party-line votes.

The Republican-controlled chamber voted 23-13 for Senate Bill 39, which would take from Beshear the power to decide whether to expand Medicaid to about 400,000 more Kentuckians under terms of the Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare” by opponents.

The bill would give that power to the General Assembly.

Senate Democratic Leader R.J. Palmer, of Winchester, said the state must take the offer in which the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of new Medicaid recipients for three years and pay 90 percent after that.

“I understand that some people don’t like the Affordable Care Act,” Palmer said. “... However, the opportunity for us to have health care coverage for many Kentuckians who simply can’t afford it is something that’s very important.”

But Senate Republican Leader Damon Thayer, of Georgetown, said Kentuckians pay federal as well as state taxes.

And Thayer complained about “this incredible growth of government we are seeing out of the current presidential administration in Washington, D.C., which this state — and the voters of this state — have rejected in two straight presidential elections in landslides.”
 Here are three things to remember about Damon Thayer:

1) Every fucking word out of his lying mouth is a fucking lie.
2) He wants very very much to be governor.
3) If he succeeds, we should all just kill ourselves.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Vicco Effect Brings Domestic-Partner Benefits to Berea

It's a matter of civic pride, now: tiny Vicco and not-much-bigger Berea are extending civil rights to all citizens, and making towns like Bowling Green and Elizabethtown and Shelbyville look bad for refusing.

Bill Estep at the Herald:

Berea has become the third city in Kentucky to extend domestic-partner benefits to employees, an advocacy group said Thursday in a news release.

Berea Mayor Steve Connelly issued an executive order Feb. 14 to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender city employees in the city's non-discrimination policy, barring discrimination in hiring, firing and benefits based on an employee's sexual orientation.

That order also made city employees eligible for domestic-partner benefits. Couples are eligible if they have shared the same residence for at least 12 months and are financially interdependent, according to the news release.

Read more here:

What Did Steve Beshear Tell Ashley Judd?

Did he encourage her to challenge Mitchie-poo? Or did he tell her not to worry her pretty little head, the big boys will take care of it?

Linda Blackford at the Herald:

Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday that he has spoken with actress Ashley Judd and plans to talk more with her about next year's U.S. Senate race.

"She's been trying to arrange and will be arranging some more conversations here in the next month or so," Beshear told reporters after a bill signing.

Beshear said he spoke with Judd at the Bluegrass Ball in Washington D.C. in January. He declined to say if he would endorse her entry into the race against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.
Yeah, I'd say Judd is going to have to beat McConnell without any help from the old boys' club in Frankfort - and probably with their active opposition.

Which is good, since they're a bunch of losers who have been enabling McConnell's reelection for 30 years now.

Read more here:

Senate Committee Votes to Fuck with the Feds

In 2012, Kentucky was the state hardest-hit by drought, losing 50 percent of its corn crop.  Next weekend will be the one-year anniversary of freak early tornadoes that flattened the town of West Liberty and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage across the state.

Without federal disaster aid, Kentucky would be bankrupt. Not just last year, but every year past and every year yet to come.  So how do the repugs in the state senate express their gratitude and hope for continued federal largesse? By telling the federal government to fuck off and die.

Jack Brammer at the Herald:

Kentucky would not enforce any federal law or regulation made after Jan. 1, 2013, if it bans or restricts ownership of a semi-automatic firearm or requires gun registration under a bill a state Senate committee approved Thursday.

The measure is needed to protect the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives people the right to keep and bear arms, said Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, who sponsored the measure.

Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, rejected that argument, saying it is Senate Bill 129, not federal gun regulations proposed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, that would violate the U.S. Constitution.
I say "repugs," although the guntard dems in the state house are likely to jump on board this train of stupidity and I doubt either speaker Greg Stumbo or Governor Steve "Cowardly Waste of Oxygen" Beshear will stop them.

Read more here:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Hottest Cool Thing in Kentucky

I've heard that Bluegrass Energy, a rural electric cooperative in Central Kentucky, is considering following Berea's example by starting a solar farm.  While this is not as remunerative for customers as the feed-in-tariff provision of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, it is a huge step forward from Kentucky's deplorable enslavement to Big Coal.

Every electricity producer in the state should start a solar farm immediately.  If tiny Berea can do it, everybody can do it.

From Berea Utilities:

Berea Municipal Utilities recently announced that an additional 132 solar panels are now available for lease from the Berea Solar Farm!

Currently, the Berea Solar Farm consists of 120 solar panels on the grounds of the BMU building on Harrison Street.  Those panels have been leased, installed, and are now generating electricity being credited to customers’ accounts.  When complete, the announced expansion will more than double the size of the solar farm.  The 132 new panels will be located on the grounds of the BMU Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Background and hopes for the future

Berea Municipal Utilities (BMU), with support from the City and an EECBG grant, established the Berea Solar Farm – arrays of photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity.  The purpose of the Solar Farm is to provide BMU customers who want to invest in local solar generation an opportunity to do so.  The program invites community members to come together in moving Berea toward a better energy future.

Leasing for the first 60 panels began October 25, 2011.  Those 60 were leased out in 4 ½ days, and the decision was made to offer a second 60 panel array as part of the same construction project.  All of the panels were leased in less than four months.  A very promising beginning!

One way that sustained growth in the Berea Solar Farm may occur is for participants – whether residents, small businesses, churches, or schools – to plan for a gradual increase in their panel holdings in order to reach some goal they have set for the extent to which their total electricity use is offset by their solar panels’ generation.  This announced expansion of the Berea Solar Farm is the first opportunity to move toward achieving such goals.

 How does the leasing work?

Customers (and others) are invited to lease solar panels (no limit on number) for a one-time lease fee of $750 per panel.  This one-time fee covers a 25-year period.  In return, customers will receive credit every billing period for the electricity generated by their panels.  In this way participating customers gain access to solar generation at an excellent price (about $3.15 per installed watt).  The panels are owned and maintained by BMU and located on city property with excellent orientation to the sun and no shading.

Although anyone may lease panels, only metered residential customers (class 1 or 9) and commercial customers (class 2 or 3) may receive Panel Production Credit (i.e., credit on their electric bills for the electricity produced by these Solar Farm panels).   For each panel leased, a location within the BMU service territory must be specified.

 Who may want to lease solar panels?

Anyone, including people who don’t live in Berea!  But the Berea Solar Farm would seem to be ideal for customers (and others) who want local opportunities to invest in clean energy and
  • have homes, apartments or businesses – owned or rented – not well suited for solar installations due to issues with shade or directional orientation
  • can’t afford the relatively large cost of installing an entire system on their property
  • do not want to undertake the responsibilities of ownership
  • are attracted to the idea of leasing panels but donating the billing credit to an organization such as a church or school in the BMU service area
  • are attracted to being part of a community effort that will increase our energy resiliency and decrease the flow of Berea dollars out of the community
  • are attracted to helping Berea demonstrate the viability of one model for how local communities in Kentucky and elsewhere to respond to the need for leadership in the face of pressing global, national and statewide energy problems.

Privatization Always Fails: Medicare Edition

Privatization: Always Higher Prices, Always Worse Service. Always.

Kevin Drum:

The chart below shows what happened. When Medicare was run traditionally, overhead was fairly low and getting lower (dashed blue line). Then private plans were introduced and total overhead costs started to flatten (black line). By 1997, total overhead was about 1.4 percentage points higher than traditional Medicare alone. In that year, Medicare Advantage was introduced, and by 2005 the gap had widened to 2.1 percentage points. Then privately run prescription drug plans were introduced, and now the gap is 4.5 percentage points.

In the case of prescription drugs, it's possible that higher overhead is justified by the lower overall program costs we get from having a lot of competing plans. In the case of Medicare Advantage, it's just pure waste. We have higher overhead and higher overall costs, with very little benefit to show for it. As Sullivan says, this should "long ago have triggered inquiries within Congress and the US health policy community as to whether the higher administrative costs associated with the growing privatization of Medicare are justified."

How Natural Gas Will Kill the Economy, Too

So it's bad for the planet, bad for people who use water and bad for the economy.  How much worse does it have to get before we finally abandon fossil fuels?

karoli at Crooks and Liars:

If you haven't already, now would be a good time for you to go buy Matt Taibbi's book, "Griftopia". In the book, he explains with absolute clarity how bubbles are made and how they burst, and how Wall Street manufactures them in order to relieve ordinary people of their hard-earned money.
It is with Matt's book in mind that I read two reports released today about fracking and Wall Street by the Post Carbon Institute and the Energy Policy Forum.
DeSmogBlog boils it down:
Together, the reports conclude that the hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") boom could lead to a "bubble burst" akin to the housing bubble burst of 2008.
While most media attention towards fracking has focused on the threats to drinking water and health in communities throughout North America and the world, there is an even larger threat looming. The fracking industry has the ability - paralleling the housing bubble burst that served as a precursor to the 2008 economic crisis - to tank the global economy.
Playing the role of Cassandra, the reports conclude that "the so-called shale revolution is nothing more than a bubble, driven by record levels of drilling, speculative lease & flip practices on the part of shale energy companies, fee-driven promotion by the same investment banks that fomented the housing bubble..." a summary details. "Geological and economic constraints – not to mention the very serious environmental and health impacts of drilling – mean that shale gas and shale oil (tight oil) are far from the solution to our energy woes."
I'm certain these reports will be dismissed as the left-wing answer to right-wing climate change deniers. Before naysayers do that, they should consider the sources behind the report.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fighting the Fight on Drones

You're gonna need to sit down for this one. There's a reality-based bill proposed in the House of Representatives and it's co-sponsored by not just a repug but a repug from - wait for it - Texas.

Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake:

Legislation sponsored by two members of the House of Representatives has been introduced to regulate how the government uses drones. The legislation would require law enforcement to get a search warrant or some other kind of judicial approval for surveillance before using drones to investigate criminal wrongdoing. It would, however, allow drone use for fire and rescue missions, monitoring droughts, assessing flood damage or chasing a fleeing criminal.

The bill was introduced on February 13 by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Demcorat from California, and Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas. The introduction was praised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“Unmanned drones must not become a perpetual presence in our lives, hovering over us, following us and recording our every move,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU. ”Strict rules should govern the use of drones by the government. By requiring that law enforcement secure judicial approval before using drones, this legislation achieves the right balance for the use of these eyes in the sky.”
The ACLU noted the bill would also require all government agencies “register all drones” and the “results of criminal investigation involving the technology” would have to be “reported to Congress.” It also would reportedly prohibit law enforcement from arming drones.
 A bill's on the table. Let's fight this fight.

Winner of the Expose-Mitch-McConnell's-Stupidity Contest: The Duffel Blog!

It's no wonder Mitchie-poo got tripped up on a simple and obvious military/veteran issue, given that he escaped from basic training during the Vietnam War so fast he doesn't even qualify as a veteran.

Spencer Ackerman:

The best parody contains elements of truth. Which might explain how the military’s answer to The Onion suckered the Senate’s Republican leader.

Meet The Duffel Blog, if you haven’t already. A must-read for national-security nerds — and anyone who enjoys humor, really — it provides pitch-perfect military parody online, such as this piece about Syria hosting Iraq War reenactors (bylined by “G-Had”) or this one about a Google Street View Prius getting blown up in Kandahar. The Duffel Blog, as dutiful readers know, is America’s oldest online source for fake military news, founded in 1797 in a moment of farsightedness. It often gives more real talk than most legit journalistic institutions, but there is no way you can confuse it with the real news.

Unless you are a senior member of the United States Senate.

On November 14, 2012, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wrote to Elizabeth King, the Pentagon’s congressional liaison, with a an unusually credulous query. “I am writing on behalf of a constituent who has contacted me regarding Guantanamo Bay prisoners receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits,” McConnell wrote in a letter acquired by Danger Room. “I would appreciate your review and response to my constituent’s concerns.”

Um, Guantanamo detainees getting GI Bill benefits? Yes, that’s from the Duffel Blog, as McConnell’s constituent clearly states, complete with the reference URL. Said constituent even notes that he or she can’t find any information about the alleged government payouts to suspected insurgents and terrorists.

The Defense Department does a lot of inexplicable things at Guantanamo Bay — there’s a resume-building workshop for detainees, for real — but paying detainees GI Bill benefits is not one of them. “The very idea that the U.S. government would extend GI Bill benefits to enemy detainees is a patent absurdity,” says Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, the Pentagon’s spokesman on all matters Guantanamo. 
Bow to the genius of the Duffel Blog.  But here's my question: is the constituent who wrote to McConnell as dumb as he is, or was this a setup by a Duffel Blog fan who saw an opportunity to expose McConnell's ignorant jingoism? 

And here's an idea for the Judd campaign: a daily "Fact About the Military or Veterans That Mitch McConnell Doesn't Know."

Organic Farming Boosts Yields, Could Save the Planet

Don't liberals ever get tired of being right about everything all the time? *

Samuel Knight at the Washington Monthly:

In another development that could boost the morale of campaigners pushing to cut fossil fuel consumption, the Guardian - through a story supported by the transgenic agriculture-promoting Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ironically - reported that Indian farmers are boosting yields to record levels through a completely organic technique. The method that they’re using, the so-called System of Root Intensification, “has dramatically increased yields with wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, yams, tomatoes, garlic, aubergine and many other crops and is being hailed as one of the most significant developments of the past 50 years for the world’s 500 million small-scale farmers and the two billion people who depend on them.”
* No, we don't.

Don't Throw Citizens Out With the Corporate Bathwater

Not all lobbyists are professional liars for corporate criminals.  If you've been inside the Capitol Annex the past couple of weeks, you've seen that the suits are almost outnumbered by the T-shirted citizen lobbyists working against the corporations. Citizen lobbyists who spend their own money getting to Frankfort and their own time pacing the hallways hoping to catch their senator or representative between meetings are, in fact, the only thing standing between working-class Kentuckians and a lords-and-serfs economy.

But some legislators don't make the distinction.

From the Courier:

A Kentucky legislator has filed a bill that would effectively do away with lobbyists in Frankfort.
Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, filed the legislation last week following the vote on a bill that would make it harder to file lawsuits against nursing homes accused of abuse or neglect.

Jones has complained about claims made by lobbyists on behalf of the nursing home industry.
Senate Bill 183 would prohibit "lobbyists from contacting a member of the General Assembly about issues, bills, or proposals under consideration during a regular or extraordinary session."

Those found in violation would face fines up to $500.
You know damn well that the suits would find a way around the law, the way they find a way around any and every law that inconveniences them, and the only ones who would therefore be barred from petitioning their representatives for redress of grievances will be ordinary citizens. 

 Video here.

Are We Going to Let the Obscenely Rich Keep All the Money They've Stolen From Us?

Because cutting Social Security is doing just exactly that.


Could there be a worse time to cut the already meager benefits that Social Security provides? Only a disaster capitalist would think otherwise.
When I see articles saying that while it's true that cutting Social Security won't affect the deficit or fix the global problem of health care costs, it still must be done in order to instill "confidence" or because it's politically clever to appease the deficit hawks by offering up cuts that don't kick in right away (and are therefore safe for those who are in office today) I want to scream. That cynical opportunism seems to be at the heart of the whole conversation, from Pete Peterson's crusade to Barack Obama's ludicrous belief that it's possible to take these political disagreements off the table for good if he can just make the right "deal."
Everybody's got a good reason for doing it but at the end of the day the only thing that really makes sense is that elites have created a bunch of rationales for their belief that it's just too expensive to have a large number of elderly in the population. After all, there are heirs to provide for.
The money is there. This argument is all about how we decide to allocate it and where it's going to be allocated. Right now, this is how we do it:
That's a choice, not an act of God.

See also Dean Baker.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Is Matt Bevin Rich Enough to Primary Mitch?

I've never heard of this guy, but Louisville's not my regular stomping ground.

Attaturk at Firedoglake:

Human and Chelonii hybrid Mitch McConnell has narrowly survived many a bruising election campaign. But despite all of his anti-legislative skills his political career is in trouble.

A recent survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling revealed him to be the least popular senator in the nation
Ashley Judd is mentioned as a possible candidate for the Democrats in 2014, but one would think there will be a long-line of potential candidates for a seat that is so clearly competitive.

Oh, and of course, if there’s one group even less popular than McConnell it is this.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could see a primary challenge from local businessman Matt Bevin, who sources say is reaching out to Tea Party groups in the state to gauge support for a 2014 Senate run.
Bevin is quite loaded too as he became rich the old fashioned way — he inherited it. If he can just avoid discussing wacky theories on the power of lady parts until after the primary, he may be quite a threat to McConnell.

So don’t look for Ol’ Mitch to be less of a right-wing jackass in the near future. He may soon out whine Lindsey Graham.
So far, Bevin's just a trial balloon. Mitchie-poo's gonna be a jackass regardless. I'm more curious about the effect a named primary nemesis for McConnell will have on potential Democratic candidates weighing their chances.

Will somebody try to get a jump on Judd by declaring early?

Support Fairness Wednesday in Frankfort

We all have gay neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members. We're cool with it; they're just like everybody else.

Except that in Kentucky, they can be legally fired from their jobs and kicked out of their apartments, just because they are gay.

There are LGBT couples throughout the Commonwealth who are technically "out" - living openly with partners for years, sometimes decades - and yet must refrain from the public displays of affection the rest of us take for granted because an employer or landlord might take offense.

You have a chance to change that. In addition to the handful of local Fairness Ordinances pending in communities around the state, there's a statewide Fairness Law in the General Assembly. Hundreds of people will be lobbying and rallying for it in the Capitol Wednesday (tomorrow.)

Details, include carpools, here.

8:00 a.m. (ET): Optional Free Prayer Breakfast in Capitol Annex Cafeteria
9:00 a.m. (ET): Lobby Training in Capitol Annex Room 171
10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. (ET): Lobby Legislators + Lunch (the Capitol Annex Cafeteria serves multiple lunch options & accepts cash & credit cards)
1:30 - 2:00 p.m. (ET): Rally in Capitol Rotunda

Capitol Buildings are located at 700 Capitol Ave., Frankfort, KY, 40601
Parking is free and a photo ID is required for entry at security check points.
For more info contact (502) 893-0788 or

Wear your "Another Kentuckian for Fairness" t-shirt or royal blue to show support!


STEP 1: Call 800.372.7181 to schedule a meeting with your state Senator and Representative Feb. 20 to support 
Senate Bill 28House Bill 171, & Rep. Mary Lou Marzian's anti-bullying/harassment law (the operator will help you). 

STEP 2: Contact Fairness if you are able to schedule a legislator meeting at 502.893.0788 or to let us know the time and legislator's name.

STEP 3: Call 800.372.7181 today to leave a message of support for:

Senate President Robert Stivers
Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo
House Judiciary Chair John Tilley
Your Elected Senator and Representative

"I support statewide Fairness 
Senate Bill 28House Bill 171, & Rep. Mary Lou Marzian's anti-bullying/harassment law!"

Download Talking Points for statewide & local anti-discrimination Fairness ordinances to share with legislators, family, and friends.

Farmer Takes Monsanto to the Supreme Court

This is the case that will reveal just how pro-corporation are supposed liberals Kagan and Sotomayor.
Not to mention the establish whether human beings on this planet have the right to grow our own food without having to pay giant corporations for the privilege.
From The Guardian:
On the one side is Bowman, a single 75-year-old Indiana soybean farmer who is still tending the same acres of land as his father before him in rural south-western Indiana. On the other is a gigantic multibillion dollar agricultural business famed for its zealous protection of its commercial rights.

Not that Bowman sees it that way. "I really don't consider it as David and Goliath. I don't think of it in those terms. I think of it in terms of right and wrong," Bowman told The Guardian in an interview.

Either way, in the next few weeks Bowman and Monsanto's opposing legal teams will face off in front of America's most powerful legal body, weighing in on a case that deals with one of the most fundamental questions of modern industrial farming: who controls the rights to the seeds planted in the ground.

On a website the firm set up to highlight its arguments in the case, Monsanto insists a Bowman victory at the supreme court could "jeopardize some of the most innovative biotechnology research in the country" in industries that range from farming to medicine. It says protecting patent rights fully is vital to preserve a commercial incentive to develop and refine new products.

But Bowman has numerous supporters who believe his case could help reform aspects of commercial farming – that is now dominated by huge corporations rather than small or family-run business – to vital reforms. Bowman's legal team intends to argue that the case could open the industry to greater anti-trust scrutiny, arguing that large corporation's vice-like grip on farming and control of seeds needs to be loosened. "It opens up these transactions (buying seeds) to greater anti-trust scrutiny by the Department of Justice. Right now they are sheltered by patent trust protection," said Bowman's lawyer Mark Walters.
Between GMO seeds that demand massive applications of toxic chemicals, "terminator" seeds that turn farmers into debt peons and outrageous patent claims, corporate giants like Monsanto are literally destroying humanity's ability to feed itself. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hemp "Hero" Hornback Pushing State-Mandated Rape

Stop celebrating Kentucky state senator Paul Hornback for sponsoring the industrial hemp bill (from which he, as a tobacco farmer who got a field burned by the feds after they found pot in it, stands to make a fortune) and get a gander at the "vaginal unltrasound" abortion bill he's pushing.

No, it's not jelly-on-the-belly mousing. It's forcing doctors to shove a 10-inch stick into a woman against her will. That's object rape and in Kentucky it's supposed to be a violent felony.

But the fetus-fetishists aren't satisfied with just slut-shaming and controlling women's bodies. No, the pro-life perverts can only get off by making their rape fantasies come true.

Joe Sonka does it justice:

But Sen. Kathy Stein — leader of the “Don’t Rape Women Twice” Senate caucus, along with Louisville’s Perry Clark, Denise Harper-Angel and young pup Morgan McGarvey — wasn’t about to let this bill pass without the other senators knowing exactly what they were voting for.

We can’t share the video on here — as KET’s web videos are made of technology from the late-90′s — but go here to see the video of Stein questioning bill sponsor Sen. Paul Hornback, from 10:22 to 22:40.

In her questioning, she gets Hornback to fully admit that there is no rape exemption in his bill, and that most abortions will require a doctor to use a transvaginal ultrasound, as 90 percent of abortions are in the first 14 weeks.

Hornback later attempted to backtrack, saying that not every abortion required the Kentucky Wand of Small Government Liberty, but 10 percent certainly ain’t much. Hornback also mentioned how the 24-hour waiting period is no big deal, because that is also required for men who want a vasectomy.

Stein was delighted to hear Hornback mentioned this, and added a follow up question:

“But are they forced to have a rectal exam?” asked Stein. “Which certainly goes along with male anatomy to determine whether or not the male genatalia, whether there are any issues there.”

Hornback gulped and answered in the negative.

“Well obviously that’s very invasive,” Stein countered. “And women have another area to invade, and that’s what I believe this bill does. I know it will pass, but I wanted to alert the committee and folks that things have changed since we first started this.”

But what hasn’t changed? Conservative men of both parties in Kentucky’s state Senate having no respect for the intelligence, privacy and rights of women.
Call or email your state representatives and tell them voting for this bill makes them rapists once removed.

Taxes and Regulations Don't Hurt Jobs

Yet another example proving that every repug talking point is the exact opposite of reality.

Pat Garofalo at Think Progress:

A favorite GOP talking point is that a slew of regulation and taxes are preventing employers from creating jobs, which explains the stubbornly high unemployment rate. “By pursuing a steady repeal of job-destroying regulations, we can help lift the cloud of uncertainty hanging over small and large employers alike, empowering them to hire more workers,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). “Business owners are reluctant to create jobs today if they’re going to need to pay more tomorrow to comply with onerous new regulations,” claimed Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

But a new study from the San Francisco Federal Reserve finds that this line of thinking is largely bunk:
Figure 3 shows there was almost no correlation between job growth in a state from 2008 to 2011 and the increase in the percentage of businesses citing regulation and taxes as their primary concern. In fact, if anything, the correlation is positive.
States in which businesses increasingly cited regulation and taxes experienced higher job growth, although this correlation is not statistically significant. The lack of correlation is not a matter of the timing we choose. For example, there also is no strong correlation if we examine the 2009–11 period or the 2010–11 period instead.
In fact, some studies show that far from killing jobs, regulations help create them and help boost economic growth.

Good Riddance to Galtians


They are showing signs of meeting or exceeding the 1997 record:  the rich who’d rather denounce their US citizenship than pay US taxes.
Good.  Let's replace them with a few million undocumented immigrants who will gladly pay lots of U.S., state and local taxes in return for citizenship.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dems Still Caving on Spending Cuts

Despite the only problem with the deficit being that it's far too small for an economy stuck in recession, despite the only problem with spending being that we are not spending anywhere near enough to create the 10 million jobs we need, despite cuts in domestic spending being the guaranteed way to plunge us into a full-blown economic depression, despite all of these facts, Congressional and White House Democrats are still planning massive, suicidal spending cuts.


As a liberal, it's hard for me to see how that translates into a big Republican cave. The Republicans always seek bigger cuts and then John Boehner clutches his pearls for a little while and then they "settle" for less.  (Simply allowing tax rates for those making half a million dollars a year to revert to their 2001 levels is not exactly a major sacrifice.) The Democrats then take a huge victory lap for "forcing" them to cave. The Republicans seem to understand that impressing the Villagers is of less importance than achieving their most cherished policy goals, which is to shrink government. (After all, it's only a matter of time before they are accorded "grown-up" status again, for whatever that's worth.) The results illustrated above show exactly who's winning and it sure isn't anyone who cares about the health of the economy or the ability of government to deliver needed services to its people.

After this happens over and over again, one can only conclude that cutting trillions in government spending in an epic recession is the preferred policy of both parties. And it's a terrible policy. It's also a long term catastrophic error on the part of the Democrats to enthusiastically take credit for deficit reduction at exactly the wrong moment. They are cementing conservative economic ideology at their own expense. It's political malpractice. When those chickens come home to roost it won't be the liberals who are to blame (although I'm sure they'll be blamed anyway.) It will be the "grown-ups" who fully bought in (or were too weak to resist) the economic ideology that  destroyed the middle class.
 Fucking genius.

Fuck Civility

Give me rude, uncivil kindness, honesty and compassion every time.

Chris Clarke at Pharyngula:

I pledge not to fetishize civility over justice. I recognize that the very notion of “civility” is defined in large part by those in whose benefit the status quo is maintained. I further recognize that the structure of “civility” at least in part has been created with the express purpose of bolstering chronic injustices. As Malvina Reynolds sang, “it isn’t nice to block the doorways, it isn’t nice to go to jail; there are nicer ways to do it, but the nice ways always fail.”

I pledge to remember that civility and compassion are not the same thing. Executive Order 9066, for example, was an emphatically civil document. There was not a mean-spirited or insulting word in the entire document, with the exception of the phrase “alien enemies.” In fact, it specified that a group of people would be provided with food, housing, and transportation. And yet it was one of the most unkind, uncompassionate acts of the US Government in the 20th Century. Civility is a very effective camouflage for hatred.

I pledge to remember that a fetishized civility is a field mark of insulation from suffering. The cries of the wounded on a battleground may be very unpleasant and uncivil indeed. I pledge to nod sympathetically and help bind those wounds rather than chide the wounded for bleeding so indecorously.

I pledge to keep a sense of perspective. Tossing basic civil rights under the bus in order to maintain a jury-rigged superficial peace in a single-issue movement is a bad bargain.

Rather than worry overmuch about civility, I pledge to be as kind as possible. And sometimes the kindest possible contribution to a discussion with someone acting in bad faith and harmfully is to tell them to go fuck themselves sideways.


That is all.

From Down with Tyranny.

The Only Real Budget Fix: Restore Progressive Tax Rates

The country's not broke and we don't have a spending problem. What we have is a failure to efficiently tax the rich in a way that prevents them from hoarding all the money.

1913 is the income tax's 100th birthday. Let's celebrate by restoring progressive tax rates that restore the nation instead of beggaring it.

Sam Pizzigati and Chuck Collins at The Nation:

Whatever happened to the “progressive” income tax, the notion that taxpayers who make more money should pay taxes at a higher rate? Tax progressivity today has virtually disappeared. We have, in effect, a flat tax for our most financially favored. A taxpayer who pockets $45 million a year—or $450 million—pays federal income taxes at the same top rate as someone making $450,000. That’s not quite what our progressive forebears had in mind 100 years ago this month when they cheered ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, finally giving Congress the power to impose a federal income tax. Progressives back then hoped the income tax would deal a body blow to plutocracy. But the first tax schedule, enacted soon after the amendment’s ratification in 1913, set the top rate at a mere 7 percent, not the 68 percent progressives in Congress had sought.

World war would soon shift the tax terrain. In 1916, a Congress hungry for war “preparedness” revenue pushed the top rate to 15 percent. With that hike, one prominent House Democrat pronounced, tax rates had reached their “very highest notch.” Not for progressives: in 1917, social reformers ranging from newspaper publisher E.W. Scripps to labor leader Sidney Hillman redefined the tax debate with a national campaign that advocated “a conscription of wealth”—a 100 percent tax on income over $100,000. By war’s end, income tax rates would stretch all the way up to 77 percent.

The post–World War I right-wing resurgence then turned the tax tables. Top rates would fall throughout the Roaring Twenties, down to 25 percent. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, the Pittsburgh iron and steel tycoon, even engineered a $1.27 billion tax rebate for himself and his fellow deep pockets.

The Great Depression and World War II would, in turn, reverse the Mellon tax cuts. First in 1932, and then repeatedly over the next decade, progressives defeated conservative attempts to raise needed revenues via a regressive national sales tax—and kept up the pressure for “soak the rich” rates. By 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt himself was calling for a 100 percent tax rate on income over $25,000 (about $350,000 today). Tax rates would top off at 94 percent during World War II and hover around 90 percent for the next two decades.

High tax rates on high incomes, back in that early postwar era, struck even eminently respectable Americans as absolutely necessary to social stability and progress. Stiff tax rates served “to counteract undue concentration of wealth,” as Wall Street tax lawyer Randolph Paul, FDR’s point man on taxes during World War II, explained in 1947. “If the nation’s wealth flows into the hands of too few rather than into the hands of the many, the resulting amount of saving will be greater than can be absorbed. Our economy can take only so much of this sort of thing before it has a violent convulsion.” Republican President Dwight Eisenhower saw high taxes on high incomes as an antidote to the “opulence” that inexorably leads a nation to “depravity and ultimate destruction.” In the 1950s, under Ike, income over $400,000 faced a 91 percent federal rate. The Eisenhower-era rich, even after loopholes, felt a real tax bite. In 1955, the IRS took 51.2 percent of America’s top 400 incomes.

And today, after thirty years of rising income inequality and shrinking tax progressivity? In 2007, America’s top 400 had an average tax bill, after loopholes, of just 16.6 percent. These 400 reported incomes averaged an astounding $345 million, more than twenty-five times (after adjusting for inflation) the $13 million that the top 400 took home in 1955.

What went so terribly wrong? How could our tax progressivity have deteriorated so astonishingly? The conventional story line blames Ronald Reagan. But the dismantling of tax progressivity began about two decades earlier, under John Kennedy. “As they say on my own Cape Cod,” JFK famously assured America, “a rising tide lifts all the boats.” And nothing would cause the tide to rise faster, he contended in 1963, than tax cuts for everybody, the rich included. Steep tax rates, his economists told him, had become a “heavy drag” on growth, so his administration proposed reducing the top rate from 91 to 65 percent.

Conservatives soon enough took Kennedy’s tax-cut case to the next logical level: If tax cuts could create the magical outcomes JFK promised, why stop at the 70 percent top rate Congress OK’d in 1964? Why, indeed? In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan cut the top rate first to 50 percent, then 28 percent, clearing the way for America’s plutocratic restoration.

But we need not give up on steeply graduated tax rates; we need, instead, to find an approach that gives the 99 percent a greater incentive to defend them. Suppose, for instance, we set the entry threshold for a new 91 percent maximum rate as a multiple of our nation’s minimum wage—say, twenty-five times? That was the ratio between CEO and typical worker pay for much of the mid–twentieth century, before recent decades left top corporate pay averaging over 300 times workers’ take-home.

The federal hourly minimum sits today at $7.25. A married couple working at minimum-wage jobs now annually earns just over $30,000. If we pegged entry into the top bracket at twenty-five times that, taxpayers making over $750,000 would face the 91 percent top rate. But if the minimum wage rose to $10 an hour, the top bracket wouldn’t kick in until just over $1 million.

In today’s plutocratic America, the rich get richer by exploiting the poor. In an America that tied maximum tax rates to minimum wages, the rich would regularly “get richer”—that is, pay less in taxes—only if low-wage workers were taking home bigger paychecks.

Happy 100th birthday, progressive income tax! There may be some life in you yet.
And don't forget state income taxes, which are so flat that the poor and middle class pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the rich do.

What They Can't Stand

Via Divine Irony:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Price of Privatization

Higher costs, less service, worse results: why would any local, state or federal government choose to turn public services over to a private company when it always means the taxpayers get screwed?

Because providing good service to taxpayers is not as important as lining the pockets of campaign-contributing corporations.

The real genius of giant corporate criminal CCA is that it takes the one public service which state governments perform worse than any other ... and do it even worse.

karoli at Crooks and Liars:

The ACLU has a deeply disturbing report about deteriorating conditions in Ohio prisons after Corrections Corporation of America took over.

This is what privatization looks like:
CCA took control of Lake Erie Correctional Facility on January 1, 2012, and the problems started almost immediately. Officials in Conneaut, Ohio – where the prison is located – were surprised to learn they may be on the hook for policing the facility because state law prohibited the highway patrol from so investigating crimes in this no-longer-state-owned building.
Conneaut taxpayers were not keen on CCA and the state passing the financial burden onto them, and despite the community successfully lobbying the state to change this law last year, Conneaut is still saddled with increased responsibility for policing Lake Erie.
Unfortunately, this is not where the problems end.

In September 2012, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) released its first internal audit report. If this was CCA's first report card, let's just say they would need to repeat the semester. The compliance rating plummeted from the 97.3% compliance rating the prison achieved when publicly-owned to 66.7%. Auditors found outrageous violations like prisoners being forced to use plastic bags for defecation and cups for urination because they had no running water for toilets. Basic conditions were heinous, with black mold, standing water, and spoiled food found throughout the prison. Perhaps even more troubling were reports that the medical department is grossly understaffed and many prisoners go untreated.
CCA is a very, very large contributor to Republicans, particularly the Republican Governors' Association. In 2012, it contributed $225,000 to the RGA, because Republican governors like to give them business. In 2010, the year Kasich was elected, their own report shows that corporate contributions were $722,200. Of course, they were able to bury these in the state-by-state breakdown they published following the totals, because the RGA is a national committee and doesn't break down by state.
This is what happens when public duties are handed off to for-profit corporations. According to CCA's most recent quarterly report, their contract for the Ohio facility is an initial twenty-year term with unlimited options to renew.
As the ACLU report warns, if the CCA wants to manage prisons in your state, just shout NO, over and over and over. Also, it might be good not to elect Republican governors.
When your governor and state legislators start babbling about "saving money" by firing public employees and contracting with a private company,  think about having to shit in plastic bags because there's no water.

Everybody Votes. Anything Else is Suppression.

Do you know how it really performs for everybody in your state?  On all the different metrics from ease of registration through ID requirements to waiting time?

Pew has all the details.

Because unvfortunately the Constitution places control over voting rules almost entirely in the hands of states, as Rick Perlstein explains here, voting rights activism has to happen at the state level. What kinds of voter suppression are your legislators proposing under false titles like "Make Voting Fair" or "Secure the Vote?" Because unless it increases the number of people voting, it's suppression.

Kentucky falls mostly in the middle generally, which doesn't mean we can relax our vigiliance or activism. Kentucky's comparatively lenient ID requirements - Social Security cards and credit cards are OK - make it a target for Koch Brothers-financed suppression efforts.

Raising Minimum Wage Helps Businesses

Who suffers the most when working people don't have enough money to buy stuff? Small business.

Igor Volsky at Think Progress:

Republicans are responding to President Obama’s proposal raise the federal minimum wage by arguing that requiring businesses to pay their workers at least $9 an hour would lead employers to shed jobs or increase prices and pass the costs onto consumers.

“When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said at a House Republican press conference on Wednesday. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) agreed, explaining that “the impact of minimum wage usually is that businesses hire less people.” It’s a fairly logical and simple argument: increasing the cost of labor causes competitive employers to cut employment or hours to make up for the additional cost, hurting the very low-skilled workers that the policy was designed to benefit in the first place.

The problem? What sounds perfectly reasonable in theory doesn’t actually hold up in the real world and the overwhelming empirical consensus shows little if any effect of the minimum wage on employment.

For instance, in 2009 researchers conducted a review of 64 minimum-wage studies published between 1972 and 2007 measuring the impact of minimum wages on teenage employment and when they graphed “every employment estimate contained in these studies (over 1,000 in total), weighting each estimate by its statistical precision, they found that the most precise estimates were heavily clustered at or near zero employment effects.” The following year, researchers published a study comparing restaurant employment differences across 1,381 U.S. counties with different levels of the minimum wage” in every quarter between 1990 and 2006. Their conclusion: “The large negative elasticities in the traditional specification are generated primarily by regional and local differences in employment trends that are unrelated to minimum wage policies.”
The findings raise an important question: if employers aren’t responding to minimum wage increases by the seemingly logical action of cutting employment — which is what Republicans predict — then, what are employers doing?

John Schmitt finds the answer in a paper out this month for the Center for Economic and Policy Research. After reviewing the available data, he concludes that employers react to minimum wage increases by adjusting their practices in a wide range of ways, some of which can strengthen their businesses and the economy as a whole:
No, repugs don't give a shit about actual small business, as opposed to the criminal corporate giants who are their true masters. But maybe there's another reason why repugs reject raising the minimum wage: It would help women the most.