Monday, September 30, 2013

Beshear, Abramson to Roll Out KY Obamacare This Week

They're still pretending it's not Obamacare, still catering to the racists, but Kynect really is one of the best state Affordable Care Act programs in the country, if not the very best.

Kudos to Beshear and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. 

From the press release:

Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson will visit multiple locations in Kentucky this week to promote kynect and open enrollment.  For a complete list, click here:

How Some Countries Defeated Poverty

They gave money and services to poor people.

Kevin Drum:

Jared Bernstein makes an important point today: Several Nordic countries have made great strides in ending poverty, but it's not because they have some kind of magic bullet. It's because they give poor people more money and more services.
The chart on the right shows raw poverty levels in blue. The Nordic countries are basically about the same as the United States. There's no Scandinavian miracle that provides high-paying jobs for everyone. However, once you account for government benefits, the poverty rate in the Nordic countries is about half the rate in America. Universal health care accounts for some of this, and other benefits account for the rest. Some are means-tested, others are universal. There's no single answer. The only thing these countries have in common is a simple commitment to taking poverty seriously and doing something about it. Bernstein approves:
In the age of inequality, such anti-poverty policies are more important than ever, as higher inequality creates both more poverty along with steeper barriers to getting ahead, whether through the lack of early education, nutrition, adequate housing, and a host of other poverty-related conditions that dampen ones chances in life.
This situation is only going to get worse as automation improves. Still, we're plenty rich enough to address it if we want to. There's nothing stopping us except our own will to do it.
 Seems you can really only feed a man for a lifetime if you give him enough fish to get started fishing on his own plus the means to keep fishing. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Never Trust a Freakazoid


I knew I had a right to be suspicious: “Few eyebrows were raised last week when Pope Francis brought the Vatican’s legal system up to date by criminalizing leaks of official information and formalizing laws against sex crimes. But now that the laws have been made public, a closer look revealed that the pope has made it illegal to report sex crimes against children.”
Francis is no less of a child-rapist-protecting, misogynistic, homophobic asshole than his predecessors.  He's just much, much better at hiding it behind a false facade of humanity.

What Happens to a State When the Liberals Take Over

I am breaking my no-Huffpo rule for this one, because it's that important and I can't find a similar argument anywhere else.

Bill Maher:

New Rule: Conservatives who love to brag about American exceptionalism must come here to California, and see it in person. And then they should be afraid -- very afraid. Because while the rest of the country is beset by stories of right-wing takeovers in places like North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, California is going in the opposite direction and creating the kind of modern, liberal nation the country as a whole can only dream about. And not only can't the rest of the country stop us -- we're going to drag you along with us.

It wasn't that long ago that pundits were calling California a failed state and saying it was ungovernable. But in 2010, when other states were busy electing whatever Tea Partier claimed to hate government the most, we elected a guy who actually liked it, Jerry Brown.

Since then, everything Republicans say can't or won't work -- gun control, immigration reform, high-speed rail -- California is making work. And everything conservatives claim will unravel the fabric of our society -- universal healthcare, higher taxes on the rich, gay marriage, medical marijuana -- has only made California stronger. And all we had to do to accomplish that was vote out every single Republican. Without a Republican governor and without a legislature being cock-blocked by Republicans, a $27 billion deficit was turned into a surplus, continuing the proud American tradition of Republicans blowing a huge hole in the budget and then Democrats coming in and cleaning it up.
Via Digby, who has the video.

Railroaded Woman Gets New Trial

She should just be released and her conviction and arrest erased, and return home with a big fat 7-figure check from the police department, but this is something to celebrate anyway.

Think Progress:

A Florida court has granted a new trial to a woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot during an altercation with her abusive husband.

Marissa Alexander’s sentence sparked national outrage over the perverse outcomes from mandatory minimum sentences and Stand Your Ground laws. A judge rejected Alexander’s Stand Your Ground argument that she was justified in firing the warning shot to protect herself. She was then convicted by a jury of aggravated assault, and sentenced to Florida’s mandatory minimum 20-year prison term for that offense. She is serving that sentence now.

In a decision issued Thursday, an appeals panel upheld the judge’s Stand Your Ground decision, but held that the instructions to the jury on self-defense were improper. The instructions wrongly stated that Alexander had to prove her fear of aggravated battery beyond a reasonable doubt, and improperly included an instruction about injury when there definitively was no injury caused by Alexander’s action, the court held.
Because it's Florida, where white men who murder unarmed black teens walk free as fucking heroes, the court did not address the real issue that is destroying lives nationwide: automatic assumption of guilt for African-Americans.

Mitch's Friends in Faraway Places

Well of course Mitch gets his money from out of state; everybody here hates him.  His multiple re-elections are due entirely to the insistence of the Democratic Party on running "challengers" so conservative they force Democratic voters to stay home rather than pull the lever for a repug-lite.

From the Courier:

The political machine financing the re-election campaign of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a national operation pulling in millions of dollars in contributions from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.
Details at the link.

And stop rooting for Matt Bevin.  As satisfying as it would be to watch Mitch go down in the primary, Alison Lundergan Grimes has even less chance of beating Bevin that she does of beating Mitch.

The Lawlessness for Freakazoids Bill

Make no mistake; this is not about opposing civil rights for gay people or legalizing gay bashing - that's just the excuse.  This is yet another step on the road to Dominionism and the death of democracy.

Evan Hurst:

The bill, introduced by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), is actually called the “Marriage And Religious Freedom Act” (MARFA), but let’s call a spade a spade. This bill is essentially an attempt to allow one group a special dispensation (anti-gay religious people) to discriminate against LGBT people:
Sixty members of the U.S. House of Representatives (58 Republicans and 2 Democrats) have introduced legislation, the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” (MARFA), that would prohibit any “adverse action” by the federal government against any ”person” who acts on the basis of a religious belief opposing same-sex marriage or opposing sexual relations outside of opposite-sex marriages.  “Adverse actions” include action by the IRS to strip a group of favorable tax treatment, like tax-exempt status.  But it also includes actions related to employment, accreditation, grants, contracts, or benefits otherwise available under federal law.  And it broadly prohibits “discrimination” against those who oppose same-sex marriage and non-marital sex. “Person” includes  nonprofit and for-profit corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies.
MARFA raises very interesting questions of statutory construction, public policy, antidiscrimination law, and potential applications and burdens for married same-sex couples.  It also raises potential Establishment Clause issues in its partiality toward certain religious doctrines (i.e., applying only to those who oppose, rather than favor, same-sex marriage for religious reasons).  After United States v. Windsor, there are also potential Equal Protection problems in MARFA’s targeted protection of acts motivated by opposition to same-sex marriage.
Joe posted the reaction from the Human Rights Campaign:
The purpose of the legislation introduced today is simply to let federal employees, contractors and grantees refuse to do their jobs or fulfill the terms of their taxpayer-funded contracts because they have a particular religious view about certain lawfully-married couples – and then to sue the federal government for damages if they don’t get their way.  For example, if passed, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act would permit a federal worker processing tax returns, approving visa applications or reviewing Social Security applications to walk away from their responsibilities whenever a same-sex couple’s paperwork appeared on his or her desk. It would also allow a federally-funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people. Despite the cosponsors claims, there is no evidence that federal programs have or would discriminate against individuals because of their religious beliefs about marriage. Protections against discrimination based on religious belief are explicitly and robustly provided under the First Amendment and federal nondiscrimination statutes.
It’s the same old story. Anti-gay fundamentalists continue to erroneously think that they are the only “real Americans,” and that the rest of us are simply guests who should follow their rules. They have zero respect for the way the United States actually works.
Kentucky's General Assembly already passed a bill - over Governor Beshear's veto - this year that goes much further than the bill proposed in Congress.  Kentucky's bill gives freakazoids a free pass to violate any law they want, as long as they can come up with a plausible religion-based reason. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Just Stop Cutting Spending

It's a shame that we have to keep repeating the economic fact - proven repeatedly over the last 80 years - that government spending grows the economy. The more people struggle because of high unemployment and high poverty, the more government needs to spend to create jobs and eliminate poverty.

We have to keep repeating that fact because for the last 80 years, conservatives have been repeating the lies - proven to be lies repeatedly over the last 80 years - that government spending on jobs, supporting the middle class and raising people out of poverty harms the economy.  Although government spending on handouts to rich people and corporations and on warmaking is always good.

That Wall Street is choking on record profits while Main Street is still starving is entirely the consequence of cutting government spending.  The fault entirely of austerity.


Krugman looks at the numbers and tells us what he sees: the moribund American economy is due to austerity:
[H]ow much of our depressed economy can be explained by the bad fiscal policy?

To a first approximation, all of it. By that I mean that to have something that would arguably look like full employment, at this point we wouldn’t need a continuation of actual stimulus; all we’d need is for government spending to have grown normally, instead of shrinking.

Here’s a comparison of two series. One is actual government purchases of goods and services since the Great Recession began (this is at all levels; most of the fall has been state and local, but the Federal government could have prevented that with revenue sharing). The other is what would have happened if those purchases had grown as fast as they did starting in the first quarter of 2001, i.e., in the Bush years.

As you can see, the gap is large and has been growing rapidly; it’s currently at about 400 billion 2009 dollars, or more than 2 1/2 percent of GDP. Given reasonable multipliers, this suggests that real GDP is somewhere between 3 and 3.75 percent lower than it would have been without the austerity. And given the usual Okun’s Law rule of half a point of unemployment per point of GDP, this in turn says that without the austerity we’d have an unemployment rate well under 6 percent, maybe even under 5.5 percent.

I don’t want to pretend to spurious precision here. Instead, I just want to make the point that given what we know and have learned about macro these past five years — and given the modest recovery that has taken place — we’re now at a point where, to repeat, to a first approximation the depressed state of the economy is entirely due to destructive fiscal policy.
Read the whole thing for Digby's revelation of just who these dastardly austerians are.

Sexual Harassment Cover-up in Kentucky Legislature

Sexual harassment of staff by Kentucky state legislators is a long-standing tradition.

Once every two years (annually only since 2000), state reps and state senators escaped their small conservative towns for the opportunity to act up in Frankfort, outside the view of their families, friends and neighbors.

Mostly they confined themselves to the ladies and gentlemen whose favors were discreetly for sale, or the ladies and gentlemen whose favors were even more discreetly offered gratis.

But there have always been some legislators who could not distinguish between those who welcomed their advances and those who didn't.

And to the surprise of certain legislative leaders, the victims of those advances are finally fighting back.

Jack Brammer at the Herald:

Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein called for an investigation Thursday of House Speaker Greg Stumbo and other Democratic House leaders regarding the job transfer of a legislative staffer who complained of sexual harassment by state Rep. Will Coursey.

Stein, of Lexington, said an investigation is needed to help restore the public's trust in a state legislature rocked by the harassment accusations of four female staffers against two male lawmakers.

"These are serious charges being leveled, and an investigation is needed," said Stein, a former member of the House.

Stein said the investigation probably would have to be conducted by a special prosecutor. She said a special five-member committee that Stumbo created last month to investigate sexual harassment complaints by three women against former state Democratic Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis would not be the proper authority.

Stumbo did not immediately respond to Stein's comments.

He also has not said whether he will expand the work of the committee he appointed to investigate complaints against Arnold, who denied the charges and recently resigned from the legislature.
Coursey, D-Symsonia, has been accused of inappropriate behavior toward legislative interns. He has strongly denied the allegations.
 LRC staff have dined out for decades on stories of legislators drunken, stoned and erection-addled antics. New female staffers were warned to stay away from certain members and their, um, members. But until this year, no one was willing to make public accusations and demand public consequences.

And you can be sure that four staffers and two legislators is just the tip of the iceberg.

New Frontiers in Voter Suppression

I wish they would just admit it: the only way repugs can win elections is if the only people allowed to vote are rich, white, straight, conservative, xian men.

These two examples are from Texas, but don't think it's not happening to your precinct.

Juanita Jean:

The Texas Department of Public Safety – where you go to get an ID to vote if you don’t have a driver’s license – has a little surprise for you.
Oh goodie. So if you have a parking ticket fine you can’t afford to pay, you can’t vote?
Ain’t America grand!
Charles Pierce:
The Republican noise-making over IRS dumbassery always was a charlatan's game as far as creating a "scandal" out of the dumbassery went, but that wasn't the entire point of it anyway. The entire point of it was to paralyze -- or, at least, intimidate -- the IRS into granting tax exemptions to the people that the Republicans wanted to have them.
And that strategy has succeeded.
Billing itself as a voters' rights organization, True the Vote was involved in trying to clean up voter rolls in some states, in deterring fraud in Texas elections and in verifying signatures in the Wisconsin governor recall election. The group found out earlier this year it was part of a batch of hundreds of applications that the IRS had been delaying and subjecting to intrusive scrutiny, and it sued to force the agency to approve its application. The decision to approve the group's application does not end the matter, according to Cleta Mitchell, lead lawyer in the lawsuit. She said the IRS still needs to answer for the costs and damages that resulted from the three-year delay, and for probing for information that the IRS's own internal auditor says wasn't necessary to make a determination. "This lawsuit is about getting to the truth and we are not going to stop until we find out the answers to these and many other questions," Ms. Mitchell said.
Just thirty years ago in Kentucky, the only "voter ID" you needed to vote was your signature.  You signed the card when you registered - at which time you showed no identification at all, just wrote down your name and address - and when you arrived at the polling place on election day, all you had to do was sign next to your registration card signature.  If the signatures matched, you voted.

And no, there was no voter impersonation that any kind of voter ID would have prevented. There was plenty of election fraud through vote-buying, of course, and even ballot-stuffing, but nobody went polling place to polling place voting under somebody else's name.

You know why?  Because it's a stupid fucking way to try to steal an election.  It's expensive, complicated, time-consuming, labor-intensive and it doesn't work.

You know what does work? What's a cheap, easy, quick and effective way to steal an election?  Implement ridiculous ID requirements to intimidate your opponent's voters into not voting.  That works like a charm. Every time.

"No one gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America just to extract ideological concessions."

Of course they get to threaten, Mr. President - they already have.  The question is whether they get to succeed this time, like they did in 2011.

Full transcript here.

If the Rich Were Paying Their Share, We'd Have All the Money We Need

President Obama has cut the deficit from $1.4 trillion in 2009 to $650 billion this year.  Unfortunately, he's done it by caving to repug demands for austerity - domestic spending cuts that have kept 12 million people unemployed and shredded the social safety net.

And all the while maintaining the inexcusable Bush tax cuts that have allowed the obscenely wealthy to steal $1 trillion per year away from the rest of us.


Before we get back into the exciting world of budget negotiations, "skin in the game" and
what DC likes to call "reform", we should take a look at this friendly reminder via Wonkblog about what's causing the national debt.

The best chart on this is the so-called "parfait chart" by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), which breaks down what specific policies caused the big increase in the U.S. federal debt in the 2000s. Strikingly, the current debt was almost entirely caused by events in the past 13 years.

The most important factor was the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which greatly reduced federal revenues and put the federal government into deficit after the surpluses of the late '90s and early '00s, but the economic downturn, the stimulus and other recovery measures, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan all played important roles too.

Without those four things, we'd have a debt burden around 20 percent of GDP — far too small to even start to worry about, and smaller than every developed country other than Luxembourg.
The Republicans like to say "we don't have a revenue problem,we have a spending problem" But as with virtually everything they say and do, in reality, it's the opposite. If you look at that chart you can see that the problem isn't spending.  It's the shortfall of revenue caused by the Bush tax cuts which build on themselves over time.

But we knew that.  It's just that reality is irrelevant to this discussion because everyone in Washington has obsessed over deficits and taxes for so long that they have no language left to communicate the problem. The president seems to think the deficit reduction that's been done on his watch is a fantastic achievement. (In fairness, Bill Clinton did too, but at least his was brought about during a great economic boom rather than by brutally cutting government programs during an epic economic slump.) So unfortunately, there's nobody to champion the idea that we could be creating a better society for ourselves and our children if we'd just be willing to tax the rich at a fair rate and be willing to put up a little bit more ourselves when we can spare it. Instead we're stuck spending every bit of energy we have to keep them from cutting Social Security or raising the Medicare age. What a shame.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Four today nailed it on the same theme.

David Atkins at Hullabaloo:

We're well beyond simple partisanship at this point. To be a Republican official in early 21st century America is to belong not to a political party so much as a cult of big business and religion that allows no evidence to sway its belief system and no crisis to alter its principles.

That's a very dangerous thing, and it goes far beyond politics as usual. Every action the Republican Party takes, whether it be to take the debt ceiling hostage, threaten government shutdown over healthcare legislation they themselves had recently championed, or implement institutional rape by forced transvaginal ultrasound, needs to be seen in that light.
The GOP will destroy the country in order to hurt Obama.  That's all that matters to them now.  They will leave a country of ashes and millions suffering in their wake.  If they can't run the country as a Christian fundamentalist Dominionist theocracy, they will raze America to the ground.
Rude Pundit:
Here's the entire strange, ominous, and enraging place we find ourselves in our politics right now, boiled down to a simple conversation, a playlet, if you will:

Sane Person: We need food. Can I use your car to go to the store?

Crazy Person: We do need food. However, you can use my car only if you punch yourself in the balls until you vomit.

Sane Person: That's ridiculous. One thing has nothing to do with the other. How would that accomplish anything?

Crazy Person: It's what I want.

Sane Person: Well, I guess we'll just starve.

Crazy Person: Yes, but remember that if we starve, it will be your fault because you didn't punch yourself in the balls until you vomit.
And finally, Wonkette puts the right label on it:
Just because John Boehner is demanding that Mitt Romney’s entire economic agenda be implemented in order for the Republicans to even consider allowing us to pay debts we’ve already incurred is no reason to call them “terrorists.” That is mean to terrorists haha just kidding OR ARE WE???
What should we be calling the Republicans instead?
  • The guy from Long Kiss Goodnight who gives Geena Davis’s daughter a doll before he locks her in the freezer, because he is “not a monster.” Oh wait sorry, that guy was a terrorist actually.
  • The guy from the Kenyan mall attack who gave that boy a Mars bar because he is “not a monster.” Oh wait, sorry, he is a terrorist too.
  • Terrorists.

How Dare These Starving Old People Expect Food When Billionaires Need Tax Cuts?

There is no shaming some motherfuckers.

Trudy Lieberman at The Nation:

Home-delivered meal programs are emblematic of others born during the Great Society, victims of a relentless campaign in recent decades to malign government aid, cut spending and allow all responsibility for even the most basic needs to fall to the private sector. Meal program directors continue to plead their case to members of Congress, taking them on deliveries and demonstrating that meals are cost-effective and necessary for good health, but funding never really increases. In some ways the programs are victims of their own success: they’re so good at what they do that few pay attention to the growing need for their services. Kathy Pontin says the politicians in her service area, Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senator Richard Blumenthal, are supportive, but they tell her there’s not much they can do in a deadlocked Congress.

The idea of giving a little bit more of the nation’s vast wealth to the elderly, especially those in dire need, has suffered in the drive by conservative think tanks to demonize old people—the “greedy geezer” meme. Last winter on the CBS Evening News, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who earned $26 million last year, said, “You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s expectations—the entitlements and what people think they’re going to get. Because they’re not going to get it.” He was talking about Social Security and Medicare, but home-delivered meals are entitlements too; smaller Social Security checks and paying more for medical care means less money for food.

Meanwhile, when Michelle McDonald of the Central Maryland meals program checked back with the Eisenharts in July, she learned that the couple still could not pay privately for the one meal a day that was feeding both of them. “It’s pretty rough around here,” Arlan Eisenhart told her. McDonald asked what they were eating. “We’re not eating much of anything at all,” Arlan replied. “It’s pretty hard for me to stand up and make anything. I try the best I can. Sometimes the best isn’t good enough.”
Read the whole amazing tribute to American Exceptionalism.

NY TImes Outs KY Guv on Obamacare

So Gov. Cowardly Worm has been tying himself and state government into knots for months trying to persuade Kentuckians to accept a really great program they really really need that will cost next to nothing while pretending that it's got absolutely nothing to do with that horrible, grammy-killing Obamacare from THAT NI**ER IN THE WHITE HOUSE.

Drawing and quartering would not get Beshear administration officials or employees to utter the word "Obamacare." No, there's no Obamacare in Kentucky! We hate Obama in Kentucky! Vote for Alison Lundergan Grimes! She hates Obama!

But then, this morning, the New York Times stabbed him in the back by ruining Beshear's very carefully written editorial with the headline "My State Needs Obamacare."

The Cowardly Worm is going to spend the entire General Assembly session that starts in January on his knees begging forgiveness for that headline.

SUNDAY morning news programs identify Kentucky as the red state with two high-profile Republican senators who claim their rhetoric represents an electorate that gave President Obama only about a third of its presidential vote in 2012.

So why then is Kentucky — more quickly than almost any other state — moving to implement the Affordable Care Act?

Because there’s a huge disconnect between the rank partisanship of national politics and the outlook of governors whose job it is to help beleaguered families, strengthen work forces, attract companies and create a balanced budget.

It’s no coincidence that numerous governors — not just Democrats like me but also Republicans like Jan Brewer of Arizona, John Kasich of Ohio and Rick Snyder of Michigan — see the Affordable Care Act not as a referendum on President Obama but as a tool for historic change.

That is especially true in Kentucky, a state where residents’ collective health has long been horrendous. The state ranks among the worst, if not the worst, in almost every major health category, including smoking, cancer deaths, preventable hospitalizations, premature death, heart disease and diabetes.

We’re making progress, but incremental improvements are not enough. We need big solutions with the potential for transformational change.

The Affordable Care Act is one of those solutions.

For the first time, we will make affordable health insurance available to every single citizen in the state. Right now, 640,000 people in Kentucky are uninsured. That’s almost one in six Kentuckians.

Lack of health coverage puts their health and financial security at risk.

They roll the dice and pray they don’t get sick. They choose between food and medicine. They ignore checkups that would catch serious conditions early. They put off doctor’s appointments, hoping a condition turns out to be nothing. And they live knowing that bankruptcy is just one bad diagnosis away.

Furthermore, their children go long periods without checkups that focus on immunizations, preventive care and vision and hearing tests. If they have diabetes, asthma or infected gums, their conditions remain untreated and unchecked.

For Kentucky as a whole, the negative impact is similar but larger — jacked-up costs, decreased worker productivity, lower quality of life, depressed school attendance and a poor image.

The Affordable Care Act will address these weaknesses.

Some 308,000 of Kentucky’s uninsured — mostly the working poor — will be covered when we increase Medicaid eligibility guidelines to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville concluded that expanding Medicaid would inject $15.6 billion into Kentucky’s economy over the next eight years, create almost 17,000 new jobs, have an $802.4 million positive budget impact (by transferring certain expenditures from the state to the federal government, among other things), protect hospitals from cuts in indigent care funding and shield businesses from up to $48 million in annual penalties.

In short, we couldn’t afford not to do it.

The other 332,000 uninsured Kentuckians will be able to access affordable coverage — most with a discount — through the Health Benefit Exchange, the online insurance marketplace we named Kynect: Kentucky’s Healthcare Connection.

Kentucky is the only Southern state both expanding Medicaid and operating a state-based exchange, and we remain on target to meet the Oct. 1 deadline to open Kynect with the support of a call center that is providing some 100 jobs. Having been the first state-based exchange to complete the readiness review with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, we hope to become the first one to be certified.

Frankly, we can’t implement the Affordable Care Act fast enough.

As for naysayers, I’m offended by their partisan gamesmanship, as they continue to pour time, money and energy into overturning or defunding the Affordable Care Act. It’s shameful that these critics haven’t invested that same level of energy into trying to improve the health of our citizens.

They insist that the Affordable Care Act will never work — when in fact a similar approach put into effect in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, then the governor, is working.

So, to those more worried about political power than Kentucky’s families, I say, “Get over it.”

The Affordable Care Act was approved by Congress and sanctioned by the Supreme Court. It is the law of the land.

Get over it ... and get out of the way so I can help my people. Here in Kentucky, we cannot afford to waste another day or another life.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Demand Your $6,000 Per Year Back

We all know the rich are robbing us blind and have been for decades, but now we finally have a number: The average American family pays $6,000 in subsidies to Big Business. Big Business like Exxon Mobil, which keeps posting record-breaking profits in the range of $40 billion annually - before the subsidies they steal from us.

Paul Burchheit at Nation of Change:

That's over and above our payments to the big companies for energy and food and housing and health care and all our tech devices. It's $6,000 that no family would have to pay if we truly lived in a competitive but well-regulated free-market economy.

The $6,000 figure is an average, which means that low-income families are paying less. But it also means that families (households) making over $72,000 are paying more than $6,000 to the corporations.

1. $870 for Direct Subsidies and Grants to Companies

2. $696 for Business Incentives at the State, County, and City Levels

3. $722 for Interest Rate Subsidies for Banks

4. $350 for Retirement Fund Bank Fees

5. $1,268 for Overpriced Medications

6. $870 for Corporate Tax Subsidies

7. $1,231 for Revenue Losses from Corporate Tax Havens

Much More Than an Insult

Overall, American families are paying an annual $6,000 subsidy to corporations that have doubled their profits and cut their taxes in half in ten years while cutting 2.9 million jobs in the U.S. and adding almost as many jobs overseas. This is more than an insult. It's a devastating attack on the livelihoods of tens of millions of American families. And Congress just lets it happen.
Click the link for the nauseating details.

Hemp Fight a Preview of 2015 Governor's Race

Yes, it's Jack vs. Jaime two years early, and this time the one in sync with the zeitgeist and pushing for progress is the repug, and the one standing athwart history shouting STOP is the dem.

Gregory Hall at the Courier:

The argument over whether Kentucky farmers can begin growing hemp — as soon as next year — got hotter on Wednesday with Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway issuing a written opinion that the crop is still illegal, and farmers who grow it could be prosecuted.

Anyone who intentionally grows the crop “will expose themselves to potential criminal liability and the possible seizure of property,” Conway’s opinion said.That prompted a challenge from state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s office, suggesting that neither the federal or state government would charge growers.“The law is that industrial hemp is legal in Kentucky. If the feds aren’t going to prosecute industrial hemp, surely the attorney general of Kentucky isn’t going to move forward with prosecuting hemp farmers,” said Holly VonLuehrte, Comer’s general counsel and spokeswoman.
Comer is leaving the Democratic gubernatorial field in the dust, and has been since he was inaugurated two years ago.

The only hope dems have to keep the governor's office is if I'm wrong about Crit Luallen not running.

Public Employee AynRandy Hates Public Employees

From Down with Tyranny:

Think Progress

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — who has relied on taxpayer funded health care since 2011 — plans to offer a constitutional amendment that would prohibit tax dollars from subsidizing the health care of government employees and require all federal workers to purchase insurance through the exchanges included in the Affordable Care Act.

The proposal comes as the senator still appears to be enrolled in government subsidized health care coverage.

“My amendment says basically that everybody including Justice Roberts — who seems to be such a fan of Obamacare — gets it too,” Paul told the Daily Caller. “See, right now, Justice Roberts is still continuing to have federal employee health insurance subsidized by the taxpayer,” Paul said. “And if he likes Obamacare so much, I’m going to give him an amendment that gives Obamacare to Justice Roberts.”
Translation: "Nyah, nyah, nyah, NYAH, nyah."

Wonkette explains:
See, Obamacare allows people who do not have health insurance to acquire health insurance through the magic of legislation that was passed by Congress and thumbs-upped by the Supreme Court. If you already have health insurance through your employer, good for you! Carry on! If you do not have health insurance through your employer, guess what? Now you can get some! That way, if you get sick, you do not have to die penniless from lack of access to health care — like, oh, say, this one dude who worked for Rand Paul’s dad that one time.

Obamacare is not about how much you love it and want to marry it and have all its gaybies. It’s not about the Supreme Court making you do anything. It’s just a way for all those Americans who have no way of getting their hands on health insurance to, you know, do that. Which wasn’t a problem back when it was the Heritage Foundation’s idea. But now that Obama’s name is on it, Republicans hate it and hate anyone who doesn’t hate it, and they think they’ve figured out a really super duper clever way of making some kind of point — we are not sure what kind, but there’s a point in there somewhere maybe. They will try to amend Obamacare SO HARD until it is a plan in which all Americans must participate, which makes them even dumber than they look because that starts to sound little bit like that universal health care some of us bleeding heart fascist marxist commie tree-hugging latte-sippers were arguing for to begin with.
Checkmate, assholes.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Huge Opportunity Now for Senate Dems to Fix the Budget

Now that Ted "I don't understand Senate procedure" Cruz has finished demonstrating his inability to grasp the meaning of Dr. Seuss, Senate Democrats can grab a repug-sent opportunity to cancel sequestration, ban austerity and restore budget sanity.

Steve Benen at Maddowblog:

Senate Democrats are expected to fix the Obamacare provision, leave the rest of the bill intact, and send it back with very little time left on the clock. At that point, House Republicans will either grudgingly pass the Senate version and renew their crusade during a debt-ceiling crisis, or shut down the government.
But Senate Democrats could, if they wanted to, pursue a better deal for themselves -- and for the country.


Senate Democrats could, for example, push for a spending measure that scraps the House GOP's Obamacare plan and simultaneously fixes the sequestration policy that's hurting the country. No one can defend the sequester -- it was designed, after all, to impose mindless hardship nationwide -- so some Senate Republicans might even go along.

If the Senate minority balked and mounted a filibuster, they'd be responsible for a government shutdown. If Senate Republicans backed off, Democrats could pass a better bill -- better for economic growth, better for job creation, better for struggling families, better for law enforcement, better for medical research, better for firefighters, etc.

And at that point, House Republicans would face an interesting dilemma.

The House GOP obviously wouldn't be happy, but don't forget, they're not going to like the Senate version anyway since it will fund the Affordable Care Act. So if Republicans are going to be angry no matter what Senate Dems do, shouldn't Democrats pursue a bill they actually like? One that better serves the nation's interests?


Indeed, if a significant number of House Republicans are going to reject the Senate version anyway, and support from House Democrats will be necessary to get this bill across the finish line in time, the Senate could make it a whole lot easier to generate support from House Dems if they aimed a little higher in their ambitions.

There are 200 House Democrats. Faced with the prospect of a government shutdown that the GOP would be blamed for, there aren't 18 House Republicans who would vote for the Senate version that scraps a sequestration policy that Republicans say they don't like anyway? Of course there are.

GOP officials would howl, but (a) they're already howling; and (b) do Democrats really care? Should they? Were Republicans concerned about how Dems would react when they passed their ridiculous continuing resolution?
And the idea is catching on among Senate Democrats..

Alison May Be Stupider than AynRandy

Zandar nailed this one:

I'm not sure what Alison Lundergan Grimes is thinking in her lates line of attack against Mitch the Turtle, but not even I buy her argument that Obama administration EPA regulations are somehow McConnell's fault.
This is a nonsense attack coming from McConnell's right when his primary challenger Matt Bevin blames the guy for coal regs, but for Grimes to make the argument is not only disingenuous, it's stupid.  Running away from President Obama isn't going to make Democrats in the state vote for her.

Grimes better figure out a smarter position on coal regs in Kentucky than "They're Mitch's fault."  It's insultingly stupid to the people who would want to vote for her.
Could not have said it better myself.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Future Wall Street Wants is Happening Now in Qatar

Where there is great wealth, there is exploitation of labor.  Where there is extreme, obscene wealth for a tiny minority, there is slavery for everyone else.

Real, vicious, lethal, literal slavery.

Charles Pierce:

The Trade Union Confederation has had to count the corpses the hard way. It found that 83 Indians have died so far this year. The Gulf statelet was also the graveyard for 119 Nepalese construction workers. With 202 migrants from other countries dying over the same nine months, Ms Burrow is able to say with confidence there is at least one death for every day of the year. The body count can only rise now that Qatar has announced that it will take on 500,000 more migrants, mainly from the Indian subcontinent, to build the stadiums, hotels and roads for 2022.
Not all the fatalities are on construction sites. The combination of back-breaking work, nonexistent legal protections, intense heat and labour camps without air conditioning allows death to come in many guises. To give you a taste of its variety, the friends of Chirari Mahato went online to describe how he would work from 6am to 7pm. He would return to a hot, unventilated room he shared with 12 others. Because he died in his sleep, rather than on site, his employers would not accept that they had worked him to death. There are millions of workers like him around the Gulf. When we gawp at the wealth that allows the Qatari royals to buy the Olympic Village and Chelsea Barracks, we miss their plight, and the strangeness of the oil rich states, too.
Strangeness is one way to put it.
"Absolute monarchy" does not begin to capture a society such as Qatar, where migrants make up 99% of the private sector workforce. Apartheid South Africa is a useful point of reference. The 225,000 Qatari citizens can form trade unions and strike. The roughly 1.8 million migrants cannot. Sparta also comes to mind. But instead of a warrior elite living off the labour of helots, we have plutocrats and sybarites sustained by faceless armies of disposable migrants.
Obscene is another way.

I don't want to hear anything about cultural imperialism. This is inexcusable in the 21st century. And, in the years since, we've pretty much turned Qatar into an aircraft carrier with luxury hotels. They're our plucky little ally. Sooner or later, the shit will hit the fan and we'll be startled by the ingratitude displayed. We do nothing but wrong over there. It's startling.
No taxes on the rich, of course - no need, what with all the no-cost "jobs" they create. It's the Galtian paradise the teabaggers are working so hard to make happen here, never realizing they'll be the first ones in chains.

What Happens When You Run a Repug-Lite Against a Real Repug

Real Democratic candidates are forced to run as independents.

Jack Brammer at the Herald:

Owensboro home builder Ed Marksberry has decided to run for the U.S. Senate next year as an independent rather than as a Democrat.

"I want to make sure my platform is not beholden to corporate money and any political party leadership," he said Monday during a telephone interview.

Marksberry has had "some disagreements" with Kentucky Democratic Party leadership, whom he contends ignored his campaign.

"I can now do what I want to," he said. "I may not win, but my voice will be heard."

Marksberry said he must change his party registration by Dec. 31 and get the signatures of 5,000 Kentucky voters by August to be on the November 2014 ballot for U.S. Senate as an independent.

He said he expected that supporters of the late Gatewood Galbraith, a perennial candidate from Lexington, would help him get the necessary signatures because he, like Galbraith, advocates legalization of marijuana.
More importantly, Marksberry is an economic populist, a strong supporter of unions, taxing the wealthy to create good middle-class jobs, expanding Social Security and Medicare, and a social safety net that protects society's vulnerable.

All true Democratic positions that repug-lite Alison Lundergan Grimes is running away from as fast as her DINO legs will carry her.

Yes, a vote in November 2014 for Ed Marksberry is undoubtedly a vote for the real repug - either Mitch McConnell or Matt Bevin.

But widespread support for Marksberry now might possibly force Grimes to at least try to attract Democratic voters who refuse to turn out for Blue Dogs.  Because if she doesn't turn them out, she doesn't have a chance in hell of beating a real repug.

Fairness Brings Economic Benefit to Vicco

It's always been true that extending civil rights brings economic benefits to those who ban discriimination. Gay rights in Vicco is no different.

Bruce Schreiner at AP:

Eight months after this tiny Appalachian town took a stand against gay-based discrimination, it's basking in a flurry of attention and even an infusion of much-needed cash. All that hoopla has its openly gay mayor dreaming of reviving a place that had long seemed past its prime.

Out-of-towners occasionally venture well off the interstate to make the trek to Vicco, a fading coal town of about 330 residents where an aging row of buildings lines one side of the block-long downtown. Railroad tracks run along the other side, though trains rarely pass by anymore.

Visitors pose for pictures in front of the Mayberry-like city hall or shake hands with Mayor Johnny Cummings, 51, a chain-smoking hair salon operator who grew up in the town, spent some time living on both coasts, and then returned home.

"I thought the 15 minutes of fame would have been over a long time ago," Cummings said.

Not even close
Shelbyville, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Berea, Richmond: What are you waiting for?  What the fuck are you afraid of?  Why are you letting Vicco show you up?

Tell your homophobic, hate-mongering freakazoid Baptists that jobs and economic growth come only to those who join the 21st century.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Beshear Still Protecting Poison Pipeline Promoters

Of course he doesn't think anything needs to be done.  Every second he delays legislation to close the eminent domain loophole or establish tough new regulations on natural gas liquids pipeline gets the motherfuckers closer to the point at which it will be too late to stop them from destroying the Bluegrass.

Erika Peterson at WFPL:

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says he hasn’t made up his mind about whether a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline would benefit Kentucky.

If it’s built, the Bluegrass Pipeline would carry natural gas liquids—like butane and ethane—from drilling operations in the Northeast to processing plants on the Gulf of Mexico. Representatives from pipeline company Williams have been surveying in the state for the past several months, but the pipeline has met opposition from groups and citizens who say current regulations aren’t adequate.
Wrong.  There are NO regulations of natural gas liquids pipelines. Williams has successfully lied and obscured this fact, but Governor Cowardly Worm certainly knows better.
Governor Beshear didn’t heed the calls from environmental groups to put pipeline issues on the agenda for last month’s special session, but says he’d like to see the General Assembly take it up in January. Despite evidence that Williams is hoping to begin negotiating purchase agreements with landowners as soon as this month, Beshear says he doesn’t believe January is too late to resolve these issues, and he hasn’t made up his mind about whether the pipeline would benefit Kentucky.

“You know I’m gathering information on the pros and cons of this particular type of pipeline,” he said. “Obviously there would be construction jobs that would employ Kentuckians, and there would be lease payments that I guess landowners would get. But I’m trying to see if there are any other benefits to Kentucky.”
Lies. The construction jobs would be in the dozens, last just a few months, and be filled by out-of-staters.

Meanwhile, Williams is trespassing on private property to take illegal surveys, trying to intimidate landowners and conducting a mendacious PR campaign that would put even the tobacco industry to shame.

Vigil for Slain Ignores Guns; Pretends Prayer Would Help

I have never read anything more insulting to the memory of murder victims.

Mary Meehan at the Herald:

Heartbreak and hope filled the candlelit courtyard of the Boyle County Courthouse on Sunday as several hundred people celebrated the lives of three people who were shot to death Friday in a pawn shop.

Pastor Jason Kilby, wearing a bright red shirt that read "Live Love Now," urged the crowd to use the deaths as a springboard to making God a priority in the life of the community. Kilby, who leads Centerpoint Church and is a lifelong Danville resident, said the slayings were just the latest example of evil in the form of drugs and violence that seems to be encroaching on the town of 16,000.

But Kilby, and the six other pastors who spoke, each preached on the theme that those who had died too soon were in a better place and that God had the power to heal those left behind. Their message was amplified with inspirational videos shown on an inflatable screen propped against the brick courthouse wall, electric cables snaking through the grass.
Not one mention of what killed Michael and Angela Hockensmith and Daniel Smith: a man with a gun. Not one mention of the guntard culture that floods our society with guns and turns multiple slayings into daily occurences. Not one mention of the desperate need for national guns control that would actually prevent gun violence. 

Danville had a reputation for civilized culture and liberalism. That's as dead as the three people killed by completely preventable gunfire. 

Read more here:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Let Them Eat Shame

Repugs know damn well their proposed $40 billion in cuts to food stamps will never fly. They don't care.  Because the immediate cuts are not their goal.  Their goal is demonizing people so poor they can't afford to eat. Their goal is shaming people whose two minimum wage jobs do not provide enough income to feed their children.  Their goal is to ensure that the unemployed victims of Wall Street greed get all the blame for the economic devastation caused by rich people.

David Atkins at Hullabaloo:

The next time someone talks about how food stamps create a "culture of dependency", remind them almost half of the people on SNAP, otherwise known as the food stamp program, are children. And nearly half of those kids belong to parents who have jobs, but are in poverty anyway.

SNAP provides families with an estimated 22 million children with resources to purchase a nutritionally adequate diet. This represents close to 1 in 3 children (29 percent) in the United States. Almost half of all SNAP recipients are children (47 percent), and an additional 26 percent are adults living with children. (See Figure 1.) Forty percent of all SNAP recipients live in households with preschool-age children (ages 4 and below). 
Over 70 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with children. In 2011, SNAP provided an estimated $51 billion in benefits to families with children, over half of which went to families with preschool-age children.

SNAP families are low-income. A typical family with children that is enrolled in SNAP has income (not including SNAP) at 57 percent of the poverty line. For a family of three, 57 percent of the poverty line corresponds with an annual income of $10,785 in 2012. A typical family with children on SNAP spends close to three-quarters of its income on housing and/or child care costs. Families with children currently receive an average of $420 a month in SNAP benefits, or about $5,000 a year. 
SNAP benefits help working families support their children. Nearly half (48 percent) of children who receive SNAP live in low-wage working families. A typical working household with children receives an average of $400 a month in SNAP benefits, representing about 30 percent of the family’s average income.
This is not a rational disagreement about public policy. This is a gulf of basic decency, a demand by fearful people for the sacrifice of innocents to sate a perversely sadistic form of cosmic justice.

Interestingly, most people demanding the starvation of children so that billionaires can buy more yachts call themselves Christian. Perhaps they're reading a Biblical translation that calls for blood sacrifice of innocents so that the rich may enjoy more fruits of Mammon. I missed that part in my copy.
 Sorry, David, but the problem is not their failure to read their Bronze Age mythology correctly. The problem is the ubiquity of religions that prevent the poor from killing the rich.

Ellison: "Food assistance for working families fulfills a promise we make to each other: if you fall on hard times, your neighbors, friends and fellow Americans will help you get a meal. Eighteen companies dodged $92 billion in taxes last year, which is more than double the cut passed by Republicans today. Let’s cut corporate waste, not meals for our nation’s children."
- See more at:

Is Thomas Massie a Racist Sociopath?

The evidence is hard to deny.

Down with Tyranny:

Some Republicans just want to say NO to everything... even when there's no reason to. Many of them are dangerous anti-government nihilists. Several have unresolved struggles with heavy drugs like Paul Broun (GA) and domestic terrorism suspect Steve Stockman (TX).

Tuesday the House, just back from a long summer vacation, took up Bob Menendez's bill-- which was cosponsored by Bob Corker (R-TN), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tom Udall (D-NM) and passed the Senate without controversy and without even obstructionists like Cruz, Lee, Sessions and the nuts in that chamber objecting-- to tidy up and renew the U.S. participation in the OAS, the Organization of American States. The bill simply states that "it is U.S. policy to: (1) promote democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in the Western Hemisphere; and (2) support the practices and principles expressed in the Charter of the Organization of American States, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and other fundamental instruments of democracy [and] expresses the sense of Congress that the Organization of American States (OAS) should be the primary multi-lateral diplomatic entity for regional dispute resolution and promotion of democratic governance."

Cantor took one look at it and figured the House could just suspend the rules and pass it without any objections. In this House? With flaming, raving racists like Gohmert? There were no objections from the Democrats. All 181 in attendance voted YES. And so did 202 Republicans. But two dozen nuts-- predominantly the lunatic fringe-- voted NO. Even Bachmann and Steve King voted for this. Below were the NO votes. If you see your congressman's name on this list, there's a good chance you're being represented in Washington by a sociopath:
Justin Amash (R-MI)
Paul Broun (R-GA)
John Duncan (R-SC)
Stephen Fincher (R-TN)
John Fleming (R-LA)
Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Tom Graves (R-GA)
Richard Hudson (R-NC)
Tim Huelskamp (R-KS)
Walter Jones (R-NC)
Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Raul Labrador (R-ID)
Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
Tom Massie (R-KY)
Scott Perry (R-PA)
Ted Poe (R-TX)
Reid Ribble (R-WI)
Tom Rice (R-SC)
Matt Salmon (R-AZ)
Mark Sanford (R-SC)
Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Steve Stockman (R-TX)
RandyWeber (R-TX)
Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA)
 Fourth District Democratic voters who sat at home last year and let Massie take that seat: are you proud of yourselves now?

Siegleman, DeLay and Repug Injustice

You can always identify the powerless in society by measuring their treatment by the criminal justice system. Minorities, the poor and the mentally ill are imprisoned far out of line with their population for minor offenses that their white and wealthy counterparts commit with impunity.

To those groups add Democratic politicians who dare to win elections in red states.

Brad Friedman:

Ironically enough, I had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes with former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in federal prison over the weekend. Siegelman, a Democrat, has so far served nearly two years for a "crime" * that had never before been considered a crime before he was found guilty of it. He is likely to serve many more years in prison for the charges brought by Republicans, including a federal prosecutor whose husband was the Chief of Staff of Siegelman's gubernatorial rival Bob Riley, a team of folks, including the judge, who are all good friends of Karl Rove and who are said to have "coached, cajoled and threatened" the star witness in the case.
Today, in the meantime, Tom DeLay, the former Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, who was convicted of money-laundering hundreds of thousands of corporate dollars in Texas to give them to candidates --- something which has been an actual crime for decades in the state --- was acquitted of all charges by a 2 to 1 decision of a Texas appeals court.

DeLay never served a day in prison. Siegelman, on the day he was convicted, before the appeals process could even begin, was shackled and carted away. The basis for Siegelman's conviction has subsequently been challenged in a letter signed by a group of 113 bi-partisan former state attorneys general.
 Where conservatives control the legal system, justice dies.

*That would be the "crime" of doing political favors for campaign contributors. There's not an elected official in the country - state, local or federal - who does not commit this "crime" every single day.  It's how the political system works. Yet of those tens of thousands of elected officials, only one has been prosecuted and imprisoned for it.

Protecting the Ones Who Take Care of Us

Still think there's no difference between Democratic presidents and Republican ones?  Here it is.


When I was in college I worked as a staffer for a home health agency for a while. And I learned what a terribly difficult job it is. These people care for the elderly and disabled in their homes often under very difficult conditions and they almost always do it with a generosity of spirit that comes from the heart, not from any pecuniary interest. They are dramatically underpaid and overworked and they care for some of our society's most vulnerable citizens. That's a reflection of America's misplaced priorities.

Anyway, President Obama did something about it (this week) which was long overdue. And good for him:
The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it was extending minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly two million home care workers.

Advocates for low-wage workers have pushed for this change, asserting that home care workers, who care for elderly and disabled Americans, were wrongly classified into the same “companionship services” category as baby sitters — a group that is exempt from minimum wage and overtime coverage. Under the new rule, home care aides, unlike baby sitters, would be protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the nation’s main wage and hour law.
Just goes to show you that the presidency and the executive branch have the juice to make progressive change without GOP nihilists after all.

Congratulations to all the people who worked on this issue for over 30 years to make it happen.
The next step President Obama should take around Congress is raising the minimum wage for all federal employees and employees of federal contractors. Say $1 per hour per year - plus inflation - until it reaches $15 per hour.

That would not only goose the economy and lift millions of workers and their families out of  poverty, but put pressure on state and private employers to match that wage.

Not to mention the repug heads exploding all over Congress and Faux News.

Faith Is A Cop-Out

Divine Irony:

It's the get-out-of-responsibility-free aspect of faith that enrages me.

"Why did you shave off the beard you've worn for 20 years?"  "God told me to do it."

"Why are you making us invade a country that hasn't attacked us?"  "God told me to do it."

No act is too big and horrific or too small and irrelevant to blame on an invisible sky wizard who can't be challenged or questioned.

So fucking convenient.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Shocker: McConnell Makes "Most Corrupt" List

Of course he's corrupt. Of course he's among the most corrupt. The question is whether Kentucky voters care.


New CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) report finds the “most corrupt” in Congress. No surprise that Bachmann and McConnell are in the list. Full report here.
 Here's what CREW says:
The report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) names 13 lawmakers in all — six Democrats and 11 Republicans — for allegedly breaking campaign laws or congressional ethics regulations. Six of the people named in the report, including McConnell, have been cited by CREW at least three times for possible violations.

“Why are we still talking about these six? If the Department of Justice (DOJ), the House and Senate ethics committees, and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) were doing their jobs, we wouldn’t be,” CREW said in a statement accompanying the annual report. “The glacial pace of investigations into misconduct means many cases have dragged on for years and some have been dropped entirely with no explanation, despite strong evidence.”


McConnell was named in the report for the fourth time following the discovery of secret audio from a February 2013 meeting in which members of his staff used official resources to put together research on prospective political opponents, which would break Senate rules.
 Way past time to send the turtle back to his algae-filled Alabama pond.

The Fight Against Monsanto: Winning Overseas, Losing Here at Home

Remember: the danger of Monsanto's Genetically Modified Organism seeds is less to individual health (which has not been proven) than to the global food supply when expensive, single-season GMO monoculture destroys the diversity of heirloom, self-propagating seeds.

Don't get distracted by the health arguments. Concentrate on protecting the food supply.

In Europe:

Hungary has destroyed 1000+ acres of GMO corn– for the second time.  So far, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Austria and Peru have bans on GMO crops.
And the French president is maintaining the ban on Monstanto's GM Corn.

In India:
As India’s government prepares to make the controversial Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill a law, enhancing the hold that biotech companies like Monsanto have over the nation’s food production, the tiny bee may be emerging as a potential savior by offering ways to increase crop yields naturally.

Thanks to efforts by the Mumbai-based organization Under the Mango Tree, bees have been incorporated into the fields of small farmers and food growers in communities in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Through its Bees for Poverty Reduction program, UTMT is helping farmers increase their incomes and agricultural productivity through India’s indigenous honeybee Apis cerana indica.
But in the U.S., Monsanto's corruption contaminates everything from social media to elections.
Washington state agriculture officials confirmed that a farmer’s alfalfa crop was contaminated with a genetically modified trait, a “low-level” presence that nonetheless has prevented him from exporting it.

The “mixup” points to a larger controversy brewing in Washington state over the presence of genetically modified crops, Reuters reports:
USDA and GMO proponents have said biotech and non-biotech crops can co-exist successfully. But opponents said the incident in Washington state shows that non-GMO farmers have to bear the burden and cost of any lost sales if their crops get contaminated, even at low levels.
“Co-existence is a myth,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for the Center for Food Safety, which sued USDA to try to stop its approval of biotech alfalfa. “We don’t know how to control contamination. They say biotech is just another tool in the toolbox. That is not true. It’s a tool that takes over all the other tools and makes them worthless.”
The furor it’s inspired will likely influence an upcoming ballot initiative that would mandate labeling of GMO foods in the state. It’s popularly known as “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.” Monsanto, along with DuPont Pioneer, have dedicated millions of dollars to defeating it.

Big Coal WATB Already Bitching About Future Regs

Seriously, morons: if you're still planning to build new coal plants you are too disconnected from reality to be making any decision more consequential than what to have for breakfast.

John Cheves at the Herald:

Nobody is likely to build more coal-burning power plants in the United States under strict emission limits proposed Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kentucky coal and utility officials predicted.

That could further weaken demand for the coal of Eastern Kentucky, which has seen mines close and thousands of mining jobs disappear over the last few years. Coal counties in the mountains suffered official unemployment rates this summer between 11 and 18 percent.
Coal country unemployment is caused by falling demand, the difficulty and expense of reaching remaining seams, and the lack of non-mine employment in towns wholly owned and operated by Big Coal.

President Obama's long-overdue proposed rules have nothing to do with unemployment and everything to do with reducing the frequency of climate-change catastrophes like last week's drowning of central Colorado.
The Obama administration (pressed) ahead Friday with tough requirements for new coal-fired power plants, moving to impose for the first time strict limits on the pollution blamed for global warming.

The proposal would help reshape where Americans get electricity, away from a coal-dependent past into a future fired by cleaner sources of energy. It's also a key step in President Barack Obama's global warming plans, because it would help end what he called "the limitless dumping of carbon pollution" from power plants.

Although the proposed rule won't immediatedly affect plants already operating, it eventually would force the government to limit emissions from the existing power plant fleet, which accounts for a third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Obama has given the Environmental Protection Agency until next summer to propose those regulations.

"For power producers and coal mining companies that reject these standards, they have no reason to complain, and every excuse to innovate," said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., the author of a 2009 bill to limit global warming. The legislation, backed by the White House, passed the House, but died in the Senate.
 Coal is dead. Has been for years. But the industry and Big Power refuse to bury it, so the stinking corpse continues to poison the planet with lethal carbon and the political system with stupidity and lies.

"I will not negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States"

You certainly sound like you've learned the lesson of the 2011 debt ceiling fight, Mr. President. You even sound like you finally acknowledge that congressional repugs are not rational beings. I sincerely hope that is enough to make you hold firm.

Full transcript here.

Three Deaths in Danville Because There Was a Gun

Witnessed by the nine-year-old and 14-month-old children of two of the victims, in one of Kentucky's quietest and most civilized small cities.

Greg Kocher and Valerie Honeycutt-Spears at the Herald:
Police learned about a triple homicide Friday morning when a 9-year-old boy called 911 shortly after 9 a.m. from the ABC Gold, Games and More pawn shop, Danville police Chief Tony Gray said.

Gray identified two of the victims as Michael Hockensmith, 35, and his wife Angela Hockensmith, 38, both of Lincoln County. Michael Hockensmith was a co-owner of the pawn shop and ran it on a day-to-day basis, and his wife often helped out, friends said.

Gray identified the third person as Daniel P. Smith, 60, of Richmond, who media reports have described as a customer.


Gray said police are looking for a heavyset white man, 40 to 50 years old, with a pot belly. He was wearing a green camouflage jacket. No one was in custody as of Friday night, Gray said.
Danville is the home of Centre College and 16,000 residents.  Friday's three murders equal the total number of homicides in the town in the past 10 years.

Regardless of the motive for the killings, Michael and Angela Hockensmith and Daniel Smith died for one reason: because the killer had a gun.

David Atkins at Hullabaloo:
Gun lovers will say that knives and hammers kill just as effectively as guns do. If someone means to kill someone else, they can and will. While this isn't actually the case, most arguments along this line tend to devolve toward the relative efficiency of guns versus other weapons.

While the efficiency and simplicity of the gun is certainly greater than for other weapons, that's not actually what makes the gun so pernicious and dangerous. What makes it dangerous is the fact that the gun gets in the way of our moral reasoning in a way that the knife does not. For most of us, if we are in a heated argument with a cheating spouse or a friend who betrayed us, there is something deep-seated in our psyches that won't let us actually hurt that person up close with kinetic force, much less strike them repeatedly as it usually requires to kill someone with the first dangerous object we can get our hands on. Our monkey brains say "no, this is bad. No matter how angry you are, this is not acceptable." Even if we want to, most of us can't push that man onto the tracks. Better to let the five on the trolley die through inaction.

But the gun is different. It's easier. The gun is that switch that we pull to intentionally doom the man on the tracks with an action. It bypasses the moral circuitry that usually prevents us from taking the actions it would have required for us to kill another human being through countless generations, giving us a significant remove from the moral consequences of our actions. Rationally it's still the same. Emotionally it isn't.

That's not to say that people don't kill one another by hand all the time. Many people are psychopaths, many become so enraged or greedy that even instinct is overwhelmed, and many people would push the man off the bridge onto the tracks in any case. But it's a numbers game. Statistically speaking, there are a great many people who, even if their chance of killing their victim were 100% with either a knife or a gun and did not fear failing in their attack, would stop short of using the knife for reasons of evolutionary psychology alone. Tens of thousands of victims are dead who should not be, and tens of thousands become murderers when they could have gone to their graves as productive members of society, simply because a gun was available when it should not have been.

In the story of human society and evolution, the gun itself is a villain that robs us of our own finely tuned instinctual morality. A society that makes guns harder to acquire is a society that not only allows more of us to continue to live, but also allows us to be more fully human in those rare moments that threaten to turn fatal.

Friday, September 20, 2013

It's Your Money - The Rich Just Stole it

From Firedoglake:

“That’s right, the government is cutting services and laying off hundreds upon hundreds of thousands in the name of cutting deficits, while handing more than $1 trillion a year to the wealthiest. The rest of us pay taxes and suffer cuts in jobs and services to make up this lost money” The government, for some strange reason (i.e. capitalism) hands over $1 trillion to the wealthiest in America.

All Police Who Use Tasers Are Murderous Thugs

Because this shit happens everywhere, all the time.


They shot him full of electricity from the back. He couldn't hear them coming.
There have been too many horrible stories of violence lately, but some still have the power to shock. This is one:
The family of a 12-year-old boy known only as “A.M.” in court documents is suing police, the American School for the Deaf and the city of Hartford, CT over allegations that police unnecessarily Tasered the boy after school officials abused him and denied him food. According to the Courthouse News Service, the student ran away from the school to a construction site to escape staffers who had beaten and choked him, and it was there that police Tasered the boy, who is “profoundly deaf,” with no warning.

A.M., frustrated and upset that he was being denied contact with his parents, fled the building. At a construction site on the ASD campus, he came face to face with Hammond and other staffers, who attempted to violently subdue him, according to the complaint.

“Defendant Chris Hammond informed plaintiff that he was going to kill him and push him into an unsafe area of the construction site,” said the suit. “Defendant Chris Hammond proceeded to grab plaintiff and punched plaintiff in the face with closed fists.”

The boy reportedly picked up a stick to defend himself against Hammond and the other adult staffers. They retreated from the scene and left A.M. sitting by himself with his back to the school.

Police arrived at the construction site after dark. Knowing the boy was deaf, they allegedly made no effort to warn or communicate with him, but Tasered him from behind. As A.M. writhed on the ground from the “burns, paralysis and pain” caused by the Taser barbs, the two police officers rushed him and placed him in handcuffs.

He was taken to Connecticut Children’s Hospital and treated for electrical burns.
I've documented many terrible taser stories over the years. But those that horrify me the most are ones that feature deaf people who cannot hear the orders to comply before they are shot through with electricity. This is the worst yet. They hit this kid from the back. He couldn't hear them coming. God.

Update: This is an excellent piece from David M Perry in The Nation about this war on the disabled. Horrifying.

Update II: According to the police report the student was holding a rock. Which, according to certain readers, makes shooting him full of electricity a-ok.
 No doubt the school officials, terrified of their abuse of the boy being exposed, lied to the police about the danger from the boy. But he was still a boy. A deaf boy. Armed with a stock and a rock. Against multiple armed and supposedly trained adults.

I hope both the school is shut down and the city forced to pay a high enough settlement that it eliminates tasers and gets its cops real training in non-violent conflict resolution.