Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Double the Fairness in Kentucky

The nationally-acclaimed success of kynect has overshadowed what otherwise would have been the biggest story of 2013 in Kentucky: the number of communities barring discrimination against LGBT people doubled.

From the Fairness Campaign:

On Monday, December 9, the City of Morehead unanimously approved an LGBT anti-discrimination Fairness ordinance, doubling the number of Kentucky cities with Fairness in 2013!

With our first victory this year in the Appalachian town of Vicco, the smallest city in America with LGBT Fairness, then in Frankfort, our state’s capital, and now another Eastern Kentucky success with Morehead, Fairness and equality are spreading across our commonwealth like wildfire, but will our state capitol feel the heat?

Please contact Kentucky leaders now by downloading this flyer to express your support for statewide Fairness and call for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Also, mark your calendars to join us for our important “Fairness Rally Day at the Capitol” on Wednesday, February 19. Beginning at 8:30 a.m., we’ll join voices from all across the bluegrass to lobby and rally for Kentucky Fairness

Kentucky Moving On Up

After 150 years in the have-not club of states with high poverty and low services, Kentucky is joining the club of have states: the ones with healthy people, good jobs and a bright future.

Because 20 percent of uninsured Kentuckians now have health insurance, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Mary Meehan at the Herald:

Enrollment for health insurance through Kynect has exceeded 116,000, and state officials are urging people to be patient if they've signed up for private insurance but haven't received their insurance cards.

Dec. 23 was the deadline to be part of the first wave of health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which takes effect Wednesday. In Kentucky, about 6,000 applications were processed in the 24 hours before the deadline, Gov. Steve Beshear said in a news release Monday. The holiday season has not slowed enrollment. About 5,630 people in Kentucky have signed up since last week.

With so many people signing up in a short time, according to Beshear's release, some might not receive their insurance cards by Jan. 1. "Don't worry," the release said. "Insurers are processing a high volume of new enrollments."

Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the state hadn't kept track of the percentage of people who had received their cards from private companies offering coverage through Kynect.
People who've signed up via Kynect should be in the private insurance companies' systems by Jan. 1, said Gwenda Bond, a spokesman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

But coverage does not take effect unless a premium payment has been made, so Kynect administrators are encouraging those enrolled in private insurance plans to pay their first premiums by Jan. 10.
There are no premiums for Medicaid, which is designed to help the poor. Bond said people who have signed up for Medicaid through Kynect should be covered beginning Wednesday.

Kentucky had about 640,000 uninsured people when enrollment began Oct. 1. So far, 84,480 people have enrolled in government-funded Medicaid and 31,672 have enrolled in private insurance, a total of 116,152.
Enrollment continues through March 31 for coverage in 2014. In Kentucky, those who apply during the next couple weeks can have coverage activated as soon as Feb. 1.

Monday, December 30, 2013

December 29, 1890

Shame on me for missing this yesterday.

Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

123 years ago today, on December 29, 1890, the United States Army massacred between 150 and 300 Lakota at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, effectively ending the active military engagements of the wars of American conquest. We might not even call Wounded Knee a military engagement given that this was Lakota (and other Plains tribes) resistance as apocalyptic religious movement rather than warfare. But some Lakota did have guns and about 25 U.S. soldiers were killed.

Of course, that was hardly the last violence committed against Native Americans, including the allotment of their land, corruption at the BIA, Indian schools and the suppression of native religions and languages, the stealing of natural resources, and termination in the 1950s. Take a moment to remember how our nation was built on the wanton murder of indigenous peoples.
When I was in high school, it was a rite of passage to read Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, especially after the AIM takeover of the site 40 years ago. If you haven't read it, do it now. Drone strikes and the NSA spying will not seem so surprising afterwards.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

QOTD - Hemant Mehta

The Friendly Atheist:

Radical Muslims fly planes into buildings. Radical Christians kill abortion doctors. Radical Atheists write books.
Mehta, by the way, is trying to give $3,000 to his local community but no one will touch his filthy atheist lucre.

Really, assholes? Three grand is actually the amount I, personally, gave to charity this year. This story makes me want to label all my donations with this warning: Filthy Atheist Lucre! Probably Contagious!

If they don't cash the check, they'll never get another dime from me and I'll tell everyone what cowardly worms they are.

What Parts of This Policy Bother Freakazoids?

Trick question!  The answer is none of them! This is exactly what the Dominionists want right here in America, except using Jeebus as the excuse instead of Allah.

PZ Myers:

Raif Badawi has already been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes, and now he has been recommended to be be brought before a high court on a crime that carries the death penalty. All for having a remarkable resemblance to Tom Hiddleston.

No, wait, it’s for an equally trivial crime: he founded a blog network that is critical of political and religious figures, he disobeyed his father (he is 31 years old), and he does not believe in god. Ed Brayton better watch out.

One of his great crimes is that he once wrote about Valentine’s Day, a prohibited holiday in Saudi Arabia.

This is what theocracy takes us to. And Saudi Arabia is one of our allies? Shouldn’t we have better taste in friends?
 UPDATE, from Divine Irony: He's been sentenced to death.

As will all American atheists, gays, unmarried women, uppity minorities and children who talk back to their parents, if the freakazoids get their way. That's the great thing about the bibble: there's an excuse in there to kill just about anybody.

Fuck You, Popey Frankie - AND Your "Peace"

It is a testament to the overwhelming success of repugs and freakazoids in dragging the Overton window completely over the ReichwingJeebus cliff that so many otherwise rational liberals (I'm looking at you, Chris Hayes) are drooling over a catlick dictator who is STILL protecting child rapists.

Fortunately, Angry Atheists see right through bullshit invitations and fake pleas for peace.

PZ Myers:

I also disagree on the nature of the peace he is looking for. The Catholic church desires the peace of ignorance, the peace of acquiescence, the peace of unquestioning acceptance of a dogma calibrated for fools. No, thanks. Give me the kind of peace where dissent can thrive and knowledge grows and ideas can change.

The pope can join in the quest for peace as a fellow human being, but he is not a leader and he is not representative of humanity in any way, and the media attention on his toothless pronouncements is unseemly.

I also don’t want to live under a peace that allows misogyny to thrive and lets child rapists roam free and thinks fetuses are more precious than women. This pope is not my friend nor my ally.

I want to live in a world in which it is not sufficient for a clown to get a prestigious position by bowing to an arcane hierarchy, and then gets a lot of fawning friends, even among atheists who ought to know better, because he is glib about preaching platitudes. I’m not taken in by the smiling façade plastered over the goddamned Catholic Church.

Don’t forget what this man represents, even when he kisses you on the cheek, atheists.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

All of the Rich Are UnDeserving

How people who have never known a moment's want in their lives, having spent those lives entirely on the corporate, wingnut and government teats, have the unmitigated gall to label anyone "undeserving" is beyond me.

At Salon, Michael B. Katz explains how American abandoned its "undeserving" poor.

And at Political Animal, Kathleen Geier explores how the label justifies what amounts to slow murder.
The New York Times’ Timothy Egan has a good op-ed about a pernicious idea that’s recently made a roaring return into the national discourse: the distinction between the “deserving” vs. the “undeserving” poor. Writing about what he refers to as “two of the most meanspirited actions left on the table by the least-productive Congress in modern history” — cutting food stamps and letting unemployment benefits expire — Egan says:
These actions have nothing to do with bringing federal spending into line, and everything to do with a view that poor people are morally inferior. Here’s a sample of this line of thought:
“The explosion of food stamps in this country is not just a fiscal issue for me,” said Representative Steve Southerland, Republican from Florida, chief crusader for cutting assistance to the poor. “This is a defining moral issue of our time.”
It would be a “disservice” to further extend unemployment assistance to those who’ve been out of work for some time, said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. It encourages them to sit at home and do nothing.
“People who are perfectly capable of working are buying things like beer,” said Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, on those getting food assistance in his state.
And a very merry Christmas to you too, idiots!

I’ll put it this way: if I were unable to find a job, getting my food stamps and unemployment benefits slashed, and then on top of that was subjected to smarmy lectures about my low moral character by these mouth-breathing maroons, not only would I be “buying” beer, I’d be regularly drinking myself into a coma.
Simple-minded, mean-spirited ideas about good poor people vs. bad poor people have a history that goes back many centuries.


But according to Washington University poverty expert Mark Rank, researchers have found that the behavior of poor people differs little from that of more economically advantaged folks:
Yet my research and that of others has consistently found that the behaviors and attitudes of those in poverty basically mirror those of mainstream America. Likewise, a vast majority of the poor have worked extensively and will do so again. Poverty is ultimately a result of failings at economic and political levels rather than individual shortcomings.
Sure, poor people are not perfect, and some of them engage in destructive behaviors. The main difference is that economically privileged folks can indulge in countless bad behaviors and make any number of boneheaded decisions without paying any serious consequences. Theoretically, if you’re wealthy and well-connected enough, you could spend your twenties hoovering up quantities of cocaine equivalent in worth to the the GDP of a small country, then stumble through your thirties as a hopeless, falling-down drunk — and yet still manage to ascend all the way to the office of the presidency of the United States.
I’m merely speaking theoretically, of course.

But a poor person who exhibited similar behaviors might well end up homeless, in prison, or worse. Particularly in this unforgiving economy, one misstep could mean losing your toehold in the middle class, forever.

You don’t become poor because you’re a terrible person or a defective human being. People are poor because of the way our economy and our society is arranged. As Mark Rank has written, “American poverty is largely the result of structural, rather than individual, failings. There simply are not enough viable opportunities for all Americans.” For example, compared to other rich nations, the U.S. has what is by far the highest proportion of its workers in low-wage jobs. Yet as hard as they work, those workers have found it impossible to work themselves out of poverty.


How do we help poor people? The answer is simple. We have abundant proof that anti-poverty programs work. See this recent Columbia University study, for example, which shows that the anti-poverty programs enacted since 1967 — the War on Poverty programs, the EITC, etc. — have reduced the actual poverty rate (as rigorously measured) from 27 percent to 16 percent. Take that, Ronald Reagan! (Reagan loved to troll liberals by sneering, “we waged a war on poverty, and poverty won.”)

To combat poverty, we need to significantly expand existing anti-poverty programs. We also need to increase the earnings of low-wage workers by enacting macroeconomic policies that promote a full-employment economy, raising the minimum wage, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and making it easier to join a labor union. None of this will be easy to pull off politically, off course. But it is well within the power of one of the richest societies the world has ever known to ensure that each one of its citizens has access to the resources she needs to live a decent life. And no, wingnuts, doing so will not undermine the moral character of poor people — though it might cast a harsh spotlight on your own.

And what exactly have obscenely rich parasites like Paris Hilton done to deserve their billions? Especially considering that the poor people she no doubt grossly underpays to wipe her privileged ass work harder in a hour than she's done in her entire worthless life.

But of course for pure selfish chutzpah, nothing beats freakazoids, who are are even less deserving than the rich.

HT Improve Service and Cut Costs: Replace Contractors with Government Employees

Did you know that the phrase "good enough for government work" originated as a compliment?

After the Civilian Conservation Corps created by FDR during the Depression literally built this nation's infrastructure - most of which still stands and works today - people saw clearly the comparison with the shoddy work typical of unregulated corporations.

On the rare occasions when private-sector work proved to be durable and reliable, people acknowledged the accomplishment by saying it was "good enough for government work" - in other words, far better than the usual run of crap private companies produced.

Right-wing corporatists spent decades erasing that fact from public minds, repeating ad infinitum the lie that government work was the shoddy stuff while corporations could do nothing wrong.

Now, after forty years of increasing privatization - throwing tax dollars at private contractors for them to provide government services - we have a mountain of proof that for-profit companies are incapable of providing public services with the quality, efficiency and low cost of government employees.

A recent article in Newsweek revealed that federal government pays twice as much for private domestic contractors compared to civil servants. Some on Capitol Hill have been bringing more attention to this glaring statistic, like Democratic senator Claire McCaskill. She chaired a hearing last year exploring the difference in cost between contractors and federal employees. Here's what the senator had to say.

~~~CLAIRE MCCASKILL, U.S. SENATOR (D-MO): We have spent a lot of time in Congress talking about freezing the number of federal employees and freezing the pay of federal employees. There has not been enough talk about freezing the size of the contracting force and freezing the pay of contractors. And frankly, if people understand that we're spending more money on service-related contractors in many agencies than we're spending on federal employees--. 
From Political Animal:
Insane chart from Matt O’Brien detailing the sharp cutbacks in the number of federal employees. We’ve fired more government employees during a depression than in any previous recession. As Matt says, “The greatest trick austerians ever pulled was convincing people that it was stimulus that had failed.”
And Kevin Drum has charts showing that as bad as federal government staffing cuts have been, they are nothing compared to the personnel slaughter in state and local governments.
It was a great trick, and they did it by focusing attention like a laser on the federal government. If you do that, spending and employment don't look too bad. But if you look at the big picture, the modest federal stimulus we enacted never came close to making up for the brutal austerity at the state and local level. It's the same trick conservatives use when they moan about tax rates hitting the rich too hard: They look solely at the federal income tax, which is fairly progressive. But they studiously ignore all the other taxes that make our system look a whole lot flatter.

The plain truth is that stimulus never failed. As Bernanke says, we never really had any serious stimulus. Sure, the little bit we got helped, but if we'd had a Congress that actually cared more about the economy than it did about the next election, we'd be in a whole lot better shape today than we are.

"Let’s pledge ourselves to living out those values by reaching out and lifting up those in our communities who could use a hand up."

Sincere wishes for a truly successful 2014 to you, Mr. President and First Lady.

Full transcript here.

Repugs Still Sabotaging the Economy for Fun and Profit

A: Unemployment insurance benefits are neither an entitlement nor a handout. Workers pay unemployment insurance premiums out of their checks, just like home or car insurance. Cutting off those benefits is like the insurance company refusing to pay when a tornado destroys your home.

Just like repug Chris Christie is doing to thousands of homeowners still homeless after Superstorm Sandy

B. You cannot receive your unemployment insurance benefits unless you prove you have been searching for a job.  Every two weeks you have to provide proof that you are sltill applying for jobs.

C: Cutting unemployment insurance benefits, like cutting food stamps and welfare and housing aid, harms the economy by taking money away from people who would spend it immediately on rent, mortgage, utilities, food and transportation right in their own neighborhoods.

D. So vicious morons like Rand Paul are lying about the facts, lying about the policy, and lying about their own motivations for refusing to extend unemployment insurance benefits.

From the Courier:

At least 37,000 out-of-work Kentuckians and Hoosiers will see their unemployment payments end today after Congress did not extend long-term emergency benefits before heading home for the holidays.

While lawmakers likely will take up the issue when they return to Washington next month, political lines already are being drawn over whether the government should continue to provide help to Americans who have been without work for at least half a year.

“This is not the time to take it out on the Americans who are suffering the most,” Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District, said in an interview.

But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said on “Fox News Sunday” that extending unemployment benefits would be “a disservice to these workers.”

“You are causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” he said.


Among those losing benefits is Melanie Howard, 57, of Louisville, who discovered her unemployment was exhausted Thursday. She checked her bank balance online and saw the automatic deposit of her check was $318, half the biweekly benefit she has received since being laid off in September 2012.

“I was surprised, because the unemployment office previously told me they expected the benefits to be extended,” said Howard, who said she has had difficulty finding work to replace her $20-an-hour job as an office manager.

“I am trying to find something that is reasonable,” Howard said, adding she needs medical coverage. “I have been out there looking.”

Friday, December 27, 2013

Coal Kills Jobs

Funny how the tighter the stranglehold coal has on communities, the fewer jobs there are.

John Cheves at the Herald:

Kentucky's unemployment rate fell slightly in November to 7.7 percent, compared to 8 percent in October, according to data released Thursday by the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training. The national unemployment rate for November was 6.6 percent.

However, the statewide jobless rate was worse than the 7.4 percent seen a year ago in November 2012, the agency said. Over the past year, unemployment rates rose in 96 of Kentucky's counties, fell in 16 and stayed the same in eight.


The Eastern Kentucky coal fields, plagued for the last two years by mine closures and layoffs, dominated the lowest-performing counties.

Leslie County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 16.4 percent. It was followed by Magoffin County at 15.8 percent; Harlan County at 15.6 percent; Letcher County at 15 percent; Knott County at 14 percent; Bell and McCreary counties at 13.6 percent each; Jackson and Perry counties at 12.8 percent each; and Clay County at 12.2 percent.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Generals Who Can't Handle the Truth

I've been watching the movie The Siege and marveling that a movie released exactly halfway between the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 could get the danger of using the military to replace law enforcement so very, very right.

And that three years after this movie came out, Smirky/Darth made the very mistakes the movie revealed as disastrous.

The result is that we now have a military unconstrained by civilian authority or any concept of separating law enforcement from warmaking

Raw Story:

Pretty much everyone who's seen the movie "A Few Good Men," (and probably many of you who haven't even seen the movie) are familiar with the famous "you can't handle the truth!" scene in which Colonel Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson explodes at Tom Cruise's character, suggesting that military men, like himself, who are on the front lines are the only ones who can truly understand what happens there in "protecting" the country, and that it's somehow despicable that anyone who hasn't done that might question the methods used -- even if they might be completely against the law.

We already wrote about Barton Gellman's fantastic interview with Ed Snowden, but there's another tidbit I wanted to call attention to in there, in which Gellman tells the story of a four-star general having a similar explosion towards an unnamed reporter "in contact with Snowden" -- which seems likely to be Gellman himself (it's unclear why this isn't indicated, though perhaps it's an excessive attempt to stick to the journalistic convention of keeping the reporter out of the story):
At the Aspen Security Forum in July, a four-star military officer known for his even keel seethed through one meeting alongside a reporter he knew to be in contact with Snowden. Before walking away, he turned and pointed a finger. “We didn’t have another 9/11,” he said angrily, because intelligence enabled warfighters to find the enemy first. “Until you’ve got to pull the trigger, until you’ve had to bury your people, you don’t have a clue.”
This is all sorts of ridiculous on so many different levels. First of all, arguing that we haven't had another 9/11 because of the NSA's activities -- despite a near total lack of support for this claim -- is just nonsensical without any clear causal explanation. But, the bigger issue is this insane belief among some that an "any means necessary" approach to defending the country means its okay to violate the law and the constitution, and, furthermore, the suggestion that a little sunlight might put people at risk.

If such programs are really necessary and do save lives, then those who support them should be willing and able to have them discussed in public. But, of course, we know the truth: that the Section 215 program at the center of all of this hasn't done much at all other than violate the privacy of nearly everyone.

It seems quite troubling that this attitude, as seen in Hollywood movies, might actually exist within our military. They're supposed to be protecting not just the American population, but the Constitution and principles we hold dear, like freedom of the press.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How to Get Away With Murder

Admit it: On Christmas, there is always at least one person you wish you could kill without consequence.

Now, thanks to stand-your-ground laws and the-gun-owner-is-always-innocent policies, it's easy!

First, get a gun and learn how to use it.

Next, invite the person you want dead over to your house. When he/she shows up and knocks on the door, shoot him/her dead.

Then, tell the cops you thought he/she was a burglar and you were just defending yourself. Success!

Think Progress:

A Colorado Springs father fatally shot his teenage step-daughter Monday, saying he thought she was a burglar. Prior to the incident, police received a call about a burglary in progress. But when they got there, they found the 14-year-old with a gunshot wound. She was taken to the hospital and died soon after, according to CBS Denver.

The incident is the latest tragedy involving the use of deadly force to protect the home. And it is one of several incidents in which a parent has killed their own child after they mistook them for a burglar. Last September a Connecticut teacher shot and killed his 15-year-old son after his neighbor called to say she thought she saw a robber in the front yard. Just a few weeks after that, a retired Chicago police officer shot and killed his 48-year-old son after he came in the back door late one night. And an off-duty police officer killed his son last July while the two were on vacation in upstate New York, after he told police he believed him to be an intruder.

In Her Best Interest

A Texas law has forced a pregnant woman an incubator to be on life support against her family’s decision

 Ernest Canning at Bradblog:

Abortion on demand or get your nuts blown off.


Scrooge Pales By Comparison

In case you are still laboring under the delusion that corporations and their executives have an iota of redeeming social value or a sliver of humanity:

From Alternet, via Firedoglake:

At a time of year when we're inclined to show empathy for people less fortunate than ourselves, some of our top business leaders are notable for comments that show their disdain for struggling Americans. Their words may seem too outlandish to have been uttered, or inappropriately humorous, but all the speakers were serious.


It's hard to choose the most insensitive and condescending remark from people who seem to lack empathy for the less fortunate. Perhaps hedge fund manager  Andy Kessler, who addressed the issue of why these homeless folks aren't also working. Ignoring the  National Coalition for the Homeless conclusion that homelessness is caused by (1) a shortage of affordable rental housing, and (2) a lack of job opportunities, Kessler suggests they're homeless because someone is feeding, clothing and, in effect, bathing them.
Equally condescending is the Walmart executive who  presumed to speak for his low-wage workers just before Thanksgiving by saying: Walmart associates are really excited to work that day.

Now back to McDonald's, which had these  budget tips for its own low-wage employees: You may want to consider returning some of your unopened purchases that may not seem as appealing as they did. Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash...Consider bringing a brown bag lunch and skipping the takeout...You might also consider a temporary part time job to dig out of debt quickly.

But the condescension king has to be  Charles Koch, whose foundation tried to convince half of America that they were rich: If you earn over $34,000 a year, you are one of the wealthiest one percent in the world.
No spectral images of past crimes or future consequences have the power to shame these motherfuckers. 

 They're not afraid of the guillotine or even torches and pitchforks and for good reason: what is the purpose of the NSA spying on everyone every minute of the day and your local cop on the beat turning into a battalion of 'roid-raged Terminators if not to protect the obscenely rich from the middle-class rabble?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Earthrise: The Picture That Changed the World

Forty-five years ago tonight, an American serviceman took a photo from the window of his vehicle.

William Anders could not have imagined what that photo, developed from Kodachrome film and reproduced millions of times around the world, would mean to a billion people devastated by the most violent and destructive year in a quarter-century.

After Tet, and Martin, and Bobby, and Chicago, and Tricky Dick winning, it seemed nothing could rescue our spirits from the '68 Slough of Despond.

Then we saw it. For the first time in a million years of human existence, four billion years of the planet's existence, creatures from the surface of the earth got to see what our home - our only home - really looked like.

The Apollo moon program resulted in a legacy of thousands of images - all of them of immense value as both scientific and documentary records. Yet 30 years after the event most of them speak only as images from history.

However one particular Apollo photograph transcends all others, an image so powerful and eloquent that even today it ranks as one of the most important photographs taken by anyone ever.

The colour photograph of Earthrise - taken by Apollo 8 astronaut, William A. Anders, December 24, 1968. Although the photograph is usually mounted with the moon below the earth, this is how Anders saw it. This photograph was taken during the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968, seven months before the first lunar landing ...

The 'Earthrise' photograph was not on the mission schedule and was taken in a moment of pure serendipity.

In order to take photographs of the far side of the moon the Apollo spacecraft had been rolled so that its windows pointed towards the lunar surface. During this time, the Moon was between the spacecraft and Earth, effectively cutting-off all radio communication with mission control. As Apollo 8 emerged from the far side on its fourth orbit, crew commander Frank Borman rolled the spacecraft so as to position its antennas for radio contact with mission control. Looking to the lunar horizon for reference he exclaimed - "Oh my God, look at that picture over there! Here's the Earth coming up!" ...

But regardless of which way the photograph was taken, the image shows our entire world as a small and blue and very finite globe, with our nearest celestial neighbour a desolate presence in the foreground.

US Nature photographer Galen Rowell has described this image as "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken".
In the LA TImes, Susan Salter Reynolds reviews the new book 'Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth' by Robert Poole, "A stirring account of the iconic Earth portrait taken by the crew of Apollo 8 - and its consequences."
On Christmas Day, in the New York Times, Archibald MacLeish wrote that the image of Earth would create a paradigm shift: "To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold -- brothers who know that they are truly brothers."


In "Earthrise," Poole explores the evolution of a shift just when the enormity of the possibility of nuclear war threatened to shut down our collective imagination, just when we were most paralyzed by our ability to destroy the Earth. "One thing was obvious to all," Poole quotes biologist Lewis Thomas: "while the moon was 'dead as an old bone,' the Earth was 'the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos.'"
Earthrise is a revelation, and a promise, and a warning. This is who we are, this is what we can be, this is what is at stake.

The First Teamster

From Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

While You're Waiting For Santa

Try this dialect detector. It nailed me as from Central Kentucky, although it gave probabilities to two Southeastern cities I've never been to.

Kevin Drum explains how the detector can get it wrong.

Everyone's favorite timewaster of the past couple of days has been the New York Times' online dialect map. Answer 25 questions and it will tell you where you grew up. My results were disappointingly vague. Lots of people reported that the app practically located the city block they came from, but in my case it didn't even get the right part of the state. I've spent my entire life within a radius of about 20 miles centered on Orange County, but the app thinks I come from northern California:


So I dug in further. Which question was IDing me wrong? After plowing through the test about a dozen times giving different answers to one or two questions at a time, I finally figured it out. It was this one: "What do you call the small road parallel to the highway?" I think of this as a frontage road, but when I switched to service road, the app pegged me with eerie precision:

In my case, I think years spent in the Midwest and Northeast have tainted my pure Bluegrass speech, but how that tilted my results more southerly is a mystery.

Never Forget: Christmas Massacre 1913

Never forget, children: the bosses are your enemy. Rather than pay you a living wage or treat you like human beings, they'll see you dead.

Greg Mitchell at The Nation:

It was captured in brilliant and harrowing fashion by Woody Guthrie in his classic “1913 Massacre” (see below), but few may know the story of the actual tragedy, which took place on Christmas Eve of that year, at a party for striking miners and their families in Calumet, Michigan. Seventy-three died, including fifty-nine children.

I don’t often link to Wikipedia but there’s a quite full rundown here. It’s been the subject of several academic studies and much debate in recent years, so I suggest you read the full account. Mother Bloor was reportedly present, but some even dispute that.

The basic outline: someone shouted “Fire!” at the crowded party in the Italian Hall. There was a rather inaccessible fire escape and the only real exit was down a narrow, steep flight of stairs, and dozens of kids got trampled to death. In Woody’s version, and many others, the “Fire!” shouter was sent by the copper mine bosses to create just such an event. Woody added the twist (not claimed by others) that “thugs” held the doors to the street shut from outside.

Jeebus-Free Christmas Traditions


12 Christmas Traditions Even a Black-hearted Grinch of an Atheist Can Celebrate

by Valerie Tarico

Here are twelve traditions with ancient roots. If they have been adopted and adapted by those who choose this time of year to celebrate the birth of Christianity and so the birth of some of Christendom’s darker angels, don’t let that put you off. They can just as easily be adopted and adapted by those who have moved beyond belief.
  1. Celebrating the End of December. All across the Northern Hemisphere our ancestors marked the winter solstice with festivals that acknowledge the cycle of life: death and birth, darkness and light. For cold, lean people it may have seemed like the sun might never reappear. Yet, a few days after solstice the days began to visibly lengthen, promising another spring. Persephone would return from Hades; King Winter would be beaten! Pagan Scandinavia celebrated Yule, the great turning of the wheel of life. The Roman Pope Julius 1 chose December 25 to honor the birthday of Jesus because it already hosted two related festivals of birth: natalis solis invicti (“birth of the unconquered sun”), and the birthday of Mithras, the “Sun of Righteousness.”  Today, mid-winter celebrations in the month of December include the Buddhist Bodhi Day (December 8); Hannukah (December 8); Solstice itself, which has many names; Hindu Pancha Ganapati (December 21-25); Festivus (December 23), Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1), New Years Eve, and of course, Hogmanay.

  2. Candles & Lights
    Since ancient times, man-made lights have symbolized the light of the sun and the promise of brighter days to come. We are told that pagan Romans decorated living trees with fragments of metal and images of the fertility god Bacchus. Twelve candles on a tree honored the sun god. The writings of one early Church father, Tertullian, discuss early Christians who imitated their neighbors by decorating their homes with candles and laurel at the turn of the year. In the North of Europe, Germanic people honored Woden by tying candles to evergreen branches, along with fruit. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah, a time of remembering, is centered on the menorah and is also called the Festival of Lights.

  3. Trees
    For many Pagan peoples of Europe, evergreen trees were symbols of enduring life. Their branches had the power to fend off evil spirits. Druids held ceremonies while gathered around sacred trees. Cutting entire trees and bringing them indoors may have been too destructive, but we know that Pagans brought in evergreen boughs. Because trees are so strongly associated with Pagan celebrations some Christians have opposed them being a part of Christmas festivities. The first record of a decorated Christmas tree dates to 1521, in Germany. At the time, a prominent Lutheran minister protested: “Better that they should look to the true tree of life, Christ.” But the appeal of evergreen branches indoors is so universal that it has since been adopted through much of Christianity and into some homes for the celebration of the Jewish Hanukkah.

  4.  Wreaths
    In Scandinavia, the traditional Yule wreath symbolized the “Wheel of the Year,” which was also honored around the calendar with festivals marking winter and summer solstice and each equinoxes. Some ancient groups believed that the great wheel stopped turning at the point of the winter solstice and so it was taboo to turn a butter churn or wheel on the shortest day of the year. For Germanic people, wreaths decorated with small candles encouraged the return of spring: the circle of the wreath representing the seasons, and the candles representing warmth from the sun. When made of holly and ivy, a wreath was thought to provide protection to any household where it hung on the door.

  5. Santa
    Given his ethnic roots, Santa Claus should be a symbol of multi-culturalism! His familiar form and story have been shaped most recently by 19th Century American and European media and marketers including the Bon Marche Department Store in Liverpool, Disney Studios, and Coca-Cola. They in turn drew on Scandinavian images of elves with red tunics and pointed hats, with sleighs and reindeer. Before that, the Italian/Greek/Spanish/Turkish story of St. Nicholas and the Germanic god Odin appear to have merged to create the Dutch figure, Sinterklaas, who rides through the sky on a white horse. His mischievous black-faced helpers listen at the chimneys to help him figure out whether children have been bad or good.

  6. Mistletoe
    The magical status of Mistletoe goes so far back that it is lost in the mist of history. It played a role in Greek mythology and was likely the Golden Bough in the story of Aeneas. Across pagan Europe it was seen as a sacred symbol of male vitality and fertility. In one Norse story the goddess Frigga extracts a promise from each element and plant that it will not harm her son Balder, the god of the summer sun. But she overlooks the mistletoe, which lives not on the earth nor in the sky, but in between, in the arms of oak trees. The evil god Loki makes an arrow tip out of Mistletoe and gives it to Hoder, the blind god of winter, who kills Balder. For three days the other gods try in vain to restore him to life. Finally Frigga succeeds. Some versions of the story say that her tears turn into the mistletoe’s white berries and that afterwards Frigga kisses anyone who passes beneath a branch on which mistletoe grows.

  7. Holly
    As Christianity spread across Europe, the red berries and spiny leaves of the holly plant became spiritual symbols representing the red blood of Jesus and his crown of thorns. But as with many other holiday favorites, Holly already had special meaning for local people. The familiar Christmas carol, “The Holly and the Ivy” contains vestiges of Celtic tradition in which a males and females were dressed in Holly and Ivy leaves and enacted a dance or ritual representing male and female energy. In the mythology of the British Isles, the Holly King was said to rule over the waning half of the year, from the summer solstice to the winter solstice, whereupon he fought with the Oak King, who ruled the season of planting and growth. In fact, the Holly King may be the Green Knight who Sir Gawain rose to fight at King Arthur’s Christmas feast.

  8. Feasting!
    The Roman feast of Saturnalia lasted from December 17 through the 23. Picture a week-long progressive party in which normal roles are relaxed or reversed. At various times and places, white togas were replaced with colorful Greek garments, slaves dined with or before masters, and debauchery was widespread. But most of all, people ate. They ate at public banquets and private parties. Slaves ate foods normally reserved for the wealthy, and everyone ate well. Saturnalia recreated a mythical past in which bounty was the norm and all were free to indulge. The festival was popular enough that it may well have shaped early Christmas celebrations.

    But the reality is that happy humans feast together in virtually every culture and religion on the planet, and feasting is a part of many mid-winter traditions. In some cultures food was offered to the gods to help ease the winter or bring back the sun. But few ancient people could afford to waste large quantities of meat once it had been consecrated, so it was roasted and eaten, with appropriate ritual, storytelling, song and dance. The Saami people of Finland sacrificed white female reindeer for their solstice celebration.  Eastern Slavs celebrated the Feast of the winter mother goddess Rozhnitsa, at which deer shaped cookies were given as gifts and offerings to the goddess included honey bread and cheese .  In Iran, families and friends gather for a solstice celebration called Shabe Chelleh, where traditional foods include dried fruits and nuts.  Meat and ale were staples of the Germanic Yule feast.

  9. Mulled Wine & Cider
    Some folks lament that wine is wasted by heating, but hot spiced wine and cider are long-standing staples of winter feasts. Traditional spices include cinnamon, mace, ginger, cloves, and orange, along with fortifications like black currant syrup and gin. Spiced wine dates back at least to the 1500s, when a version called “Hippocras” (named after Hippocrates) was sold to help heal muscle injuries. By early 1600, King Gustav I of Sweden was drinking a version of mulled wine he called “glodgad vin” known today simply as “glögg,” which means “to glow.” English villagers drank mulled cider while they went caroling or wassailing the apple orchards, where they banged together pots and pans to drive out evil spirits and then poured offerings of cider over tree roots.

  10. Gift Giving
    The tradition of giving gifts at this time of year may owe some to the Roman god Saturn, patron of agriculture and plenty, and to his festival Saturnalia. For agricultural people, mid-winter can be a time of scarcity, and gift-giving during Saturnalia redistributed bounty from those who had excess to those who had little. Like feasting, though, giving gifts during celebrations is a tradition that has roots in many cultures, and perhaps even in biology. Our urge to give gifts is one that fascinates anthropologists, and one that many of us tackle with something between enthusiasm and exasperation. Whatever the roots, and however mixed we ourselves may feel, holiday merchants find the tradition a source of pure seasonal joy.

  11. Hearth Fires
    Nothing says holiday cheer like an image of friends and family around a sparkling fireplace. The tradition of choosing a particularly hard, large log to burn, called the Yule log is a long-enduring English tradition that was adopted from the Germanic peoples of the Continent. British clergyman Robert Herrick wrote in the mid 17th Century that the young men who carried the log into the farmhouse were rewarded with free beer. With big enough fireplaces and dead trees and beer kegs this tradition alone might be enough to cheer some folks all the way through to the New Year.

  12. Last But Not Least, The Number Twelve
    Twelve days of Christmasancient star worship! The number twelve has special significance in Judaism and Christianity. There are the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve disciples, and the 12,000 times 12 who, according to the book of Revelation, will make it into Heaven. Does that mean that those who have moved beyond belief should shun the number twelve? Absolutely not! Even the mythic significance of the number twelve has older roots, probably in the same that brought us the twelve signs of the zodiac and twelve months of the year and some parts of the Christmas story itself. Don’t forget the twelve feats of Hercules or the twelve Olympians. And perhaps you didn’t know about the twelve sons of Odin?
For as long as history has been recorded, and probably much longer, human culture has been a work in progress. We beg and borrow and mix and match. We live on the creative edge of chaos. Adopt Solstice as your holiday of choice, or Festivus, if you like. Or create your own tradition. But don’t be afraid to claim the Christmas customs that are dear to you, and then shape them as fits, and then hand them down, newly polished, to your children. That is part of what it means to be human.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. www.WisdomCommons.org    Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

Monday, December 23, 2013

What Blue-State Liberals Think Is Funny

I was absolutely horrified to see the panel of supposed liberals on Chris Hayes' All In last Friday laughing their privileged blue-state asses off at the exposure of racism and homophobia among Louisiana rednecks on some unexcusable piece of television shit that I am deeply, profoundly sorry I ever heard of.

So very, very funny to watch an idiot with way more money than brains spout the kind of hate-filled racism and homophobia that ... wait for it ... gets people killed.

Right now. Today. In every red state in America.

Black people and brown people and gay people and uppity female people killed because some reality-show asshole - and the professional conservatards who support him - make it acceptable to kill them.

The killings are the extreme end of a constant stream of racist, misogynistic, homophobic abuse that we have to endure in red states.

It's hell on earth to live in the world created by the so-hilarious fuck dynasty clan and the motherfuckers like them.

But the big-city liberals on Chris Hayes' show don't care about that. They don't care about the beseiged liberals who are their only hope of electing Democratic members of Congress from red states - which is the only hope of Democratic control of Congress. They don't care that voting falls far down the priority list when there are no jobs and no unemployment compensation and no food stamps and no affordable housing and no fucking nothing because people like Phil Robertson run your state.

No, Chris and his friends can't imagine why anyone with a grain of sense would live in a red state, so they cheerfully condemn us all to duck-fucking purgatory.

And then wonder why we won't vote for the DLC chumps they put up as candidates.

Ta-Nehisi Coates nails it.

So, why don't I get away from the Kentucky conservatards by moving to blue Chicago, a city I love? Because this is MY home, goddammit. They won't chase me off of it.

This is beneath you, Lamp Chop. Over Christmas, read some Molly Ivins.  She'll set you straight.

Super-Red Utah Slashes Homelessness 74% By Giving Away Homes

Let's try to think of some reasons why conservative Utah can do something conservative Kentucky can't. 

Because the reason certainly couldn't be that virtually no homeless people in Utah are black or brown. No, no racism in Kentucky, uh-unh.

Another reminder of how Utah conservatism is very, very different from Deep South conservatism: they started giving free housing to the homeless, and ended up cutting homelessness by 74 percent and saving money to boot.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Only Responsible Budget is a Liberal Budget

Only a liberal budget that restores the social safety net, protects Social Security and Medicare, reins in Wall Street and forces the parasitic rich to return their stolen booty and start paying their fair share in taxes is capable of creating jobs, growing the economy and rebuilding the middle class.

MOST VALUABLE BUDGET PLAN: Bernie Sanders’s Progressive Budget Blueprint 
When the Vermont senator joined the select Senate and House budget committee after the GOP-led government shutdown, he did so as a steadfast opponent of cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But Sanders went further, producing a progressive budget blueprint that seeks to shift the debate from austerity and toward fairness. The Sanders budget would crack down on offshore tax shelters as part of a strategy to reduce the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next decade; tax capital gains and dividends in the same way we tax salaries and wages to raise over $500 billion; and repeal Bush’s tax cuts for the rich to reduce the deficit by $400 billion. It would raise hundreds of billions more by establishing a progressive estate tax; ending breaks and subsidies for big oil, gas and coal companies; and initiating a Wall Street speculation fee on the sale and purchase of credit default swaps, derivatives, stock options and futures. “When we are experiencing more wealth and income inequality than at any time since the 1920s, and when Wall Street and large corporations are enjoying record-breaking profits, I believe that we should be asking the very wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share,” says Sanders.

We Need a Plan B For Plan B

As far as I can tell, there is no law to stop me from buying as much Plan B over the counter as I can afford, stockpiling it in my home, and spreading the word among teens in my community that they can get emergency contraception from me any time, for free.

Thanks to freakazoid lies, that may be the only way teens needing contraception can get it.

Think Progress:

Many pharmacists give U.S. teens misleading information about the policies surrounding emergency contraception, and sometimes prevent them from buying it, according to a new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The lead study author, Dr. Tracy Wilkinson, works as a pediatrician in Los Angeles. After having several conversation with her teenage patients who told her “weird things about emergency contraception prescriptions,” she decided to look into it further. She worked with female researchers to call over 940 pharmacies in five major cities — Nashville, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Austin, and Portland, OR — posing as 17-year-old girls who wanted information about the morning after pill.

At the time that Wilkenson conducted this research, the age restrictions on Plan B hadn’t yet been changed. Emergency contraception was kept behind the pharmacy counter, and was available without a prescription to all individuals 17 and older. Younger women were required to get a prescription for it — but all of the researchers posing as 17-year-olds should have been able to purchase it on their own. Nonetheless, many of them ran into roadblocks.

“About 20 percent of the pharmacy staff said that, because the callers identified themselves as teens, the callers couldn’t get it at all. That’s completely incorrect,” Wilkinson explained to Health Behavior News Service. “Of the remaining 80 percent of respondents, about half of them got the exact age requirement correct and half of them did not.”

Some pharmacists incorrectly told teens that they needed to be accompanied by a parent or guardian if they wanted to buy Plan B. Some said that they didn’t stock the contraceptive at all for moral or ethical reasons. But mostly, there was a lot of confusion over the regulations surrounding the morning after pill — the researchers were told that they needed to be 18 years old, or they needed to be female, or they needed a prescription.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Apartheid Worse Than South Africa's Still Thrives in Australia

Although this reminds me not so much of South Africa as of the continuing genocide of Native Americans.

Today, Aboriginal children are again being stolen from their families. The bureaucratic words are “removed” for “child protection”. By July 2012, there were 13,299 Aboriginal children in institutions or handed over to white families. Today, the theft of these children is now higher than at any time during the last century. I have interviewed numerous specialists in child care who regard this as a second stolen generation. “Many of the kids never see their mothers and communities again,” Olga Havnen, the author of a report for the Northern Territory government, told me. “In the Northern Territory, $80 million was spent on surveillance and removing kids, and less than $500,000 on supporting these impoverished families. Families are often given no warning and have no idea where their children are being taken. The reason given is neglect  – which means poverty. This is destroying Aboriginal culture and is racist. If apartheid South Africa had done this, there would have been an uproar.”

In the town of Wilcannia, New South Wales, the life expectancy of Aborigines is 37 – lower than the Central African Republic, perhaps the poorest country on earth, currently racked by civil war. Wilcannia’s other distinction is that the Cuban government runs a literacy programme there, teaching young Aboriginal children to read and write. This is what the Cubans are famous for – in the world’s poorest countries. Australia is one of the world’s richest countries.

I filmed similar conditions 28 years ago when I made my first film about indigenous Australia, The Secret Country. Vince Forrester, an Aboriginal elder I interviewed then, appears in my new film, Utopia. He guided me through a house in Mutitjulu where 32 people lived, mostly children, many of them suffering from otitis media, an infectious, entirely preventable disease that impairs hearing and speech. “Seventy per cent of the children in this house are partially deaf,” he said. Turning straight to my camera, he said, “Australians, this is what we call an abuse of human rights.”

The majority of Australians are rarely confronted with their nation’s dirtiest secret.  In 2009, the respected United Nations Special Rapporteur, Professor James Anaya, witnessed similar conditions and described government “intervention” policies as racist. The then Minister for Indigenous Health, Tony Abbott, told him to “get a life” and stop listening to “the victim brigade”.  Abbott is now the prime minister of Australia.

In Western Australia, minerals are being dug up from Aboriginal land and shipped to China for a profit of a billion dollars a week. In this, the richest, “booming” state, the prisons bulge with stricken Aboriginal people, including juveniles whose mothers stand at the prison gates, pleading for their release.  The incarceration of black Australians here is eight times that of black South Africans during the last decade of apartheid.

When Nelson Mandela was buried this week, his struggle against apartheid was duly celebrated in Australia, though the irony was missing. Apartheid was defeated largely by a global campaign from which the South African regime never recovered. Similar opprobrium has seldom found its mark in Australia, principally because the Aboriginal population is so small and Australian governments have been successful in dividing and co-opting a disparate leadership with gestures and vacuous promises.  That may well be changing. A resistance is growing, yet again, in the Aboriginal heartland, especially among the young. Unlike the US, Canada and New Zealand, which have made treaties with their first people, Australia has offered gestures often wrapped in the law. However, in the 21st century the outside world is starting to pay attention. The specter of Mandela’s South Africa is a warning.

"Instead of punishing these families who can least afford it – especially now – Congress should first restore that lifeline immediately"

It's much harder to obtain help for those who need it, Mr. President, after you've already signed an austerity budget that continues to shred the last remnants of the social safety net.

Full transcript here.

Can We Follow Chile Out of Plutocracy?

American "exceptionalism" is the get-out-of-consequences-free card the conservatives and corporatists use to pretend that economic and political lessons learned in other countries don't apply to us.

But in one case, the catastrophe that led to recovery was entirely an American operation, following our own path uncomfortably closely. Now that country is showing us the path home.

Chileans have rejected Reaganomics, and it’s time we followed their lead.

Back in the early 1970s, Chile was one of the most progressive countries in South America. Its democratically elected socialist president, Salvador Allende, nationalized big businesses and gave every Chilean access to free healthcare and higher education. GDP went up and income inequality went down, and for the first time ever, working-class Chileans had a chance to live out their version of the American dream.

But not everyone was happy with President Allende’s Chilean New Deal. Behind his back, the United States and the country’s corporate and military elite were conspiring to sabotage his reforms and destroy the economy. Although Allende’s policies were successful, Chile still needed foreign loans to survive, so the Nixon administration got the International Monetary Fund to suspend all aid. This decimated the economy and stunted the progress Allende had made over his first few years in office.

The Chilean elite’s sabotage campaign turned into outright treason on Sept. 11, 1973 when, with the help of the CIA, General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende’s government and ushered in 17 years of military rule. Pinochet’s dictatorship was one of the most brutal in Latin American history. Dissidents were jailed, tortured and executed. People were thrown out of helicopters into the ocean. Others were taken to the national soccer stadium in Santiago where they were shot at point blank range by firing squads.

The memories of Pinochet’s brutality are so raw that to this day many Chileans refuse to attend soccer matches at the national stadium, believing that to do so dishonors the dead.

 Pinochet’s cruelty to his opponents was matched only by his equally cruel devotion to austerity-style economics. Soon after he took power, the general invited Milton Friedman’s Chicago Boys to “reform” Chile’s economy. They privatized industries and slashed government spending. Inflation reached as high as 341 percent, GDP decreased by 15 percent and Chile’s trade deficit ballooned to a whopping $280 million. Unemployment jumped to 10 percent, and in some parts of the country climbed as high as 22 percent.

Of course, that didn’t really matter to the Chicago Boys, because as Chilean economist Orlano Letelier noted, “They [had] succeeded… in their broader purpose: to secure the economic and political power of a small dominant class by effecting a massive transfer of wealth from the lower and middle classes to a select group of monopolists and financial speculators.”

Like Reagan in the United States, Pinochet gutted progressive reforms and ushered in a new era of dominance by the super-rich and the corporate elite.

Pinochet’s military government eventually fell in 1990 and democracy was restored, but the legacy of his time in power is still felt today. Inequality is still high and education is too expensive for many Chileans to afford. Not surprisingly, the country’s outgoing right-wing president, Sebastian Pinera, did little to change this. That’s why on Sunday, Chileans elected socialist Michele Bachelet as president. Like Allende before her, Bachelet promises free higher education and wants to raise taxes on the rich.

Coming on the heels of Chile’s first right-wing president since Pinochet, Bachelet’s election is a significant one. Chileans have, once and for all, it appears, said goodbye to the legacy of Pinochet and the policies of the Chicago Boys. To put it bluntly, they’ve rejected Reaganomics.

It’s about time we did the same.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Guntards Think They Can Terrorize Everyone Everywhere

Apparently they really think we seem them swaggering around with their penis substitutes and swoon from all the macho patriotism.

That's not swooning, assholes: that's puking in disgust.

From Salon:

Last month, “Liz” (a pseudonym) experienced some of those reactions when she noticed a group of men with guns gathering just outside Blue Mesa Grill in Arlington, Texas. Liz had organized a lunch meeting for fellow members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and open carry activists decided to protest outside the restaurant with AK-47 and AR-15 rifles.  “The only reaction I had was ‘I’m not going out there at all,’” Liz says. “They were all carrying rifles. There was a lot of firepower, and a lot of potential for carnage out in that parking lot. Absolutely I was scared.”

That sort of fear is what open carry activists say they want to eliminate over time. In an online list of goals, the open carry activists at Come and Take It America say they want “to condition Americans to feel safe around those of us that carry [guns].” The same goal is listed on the Open Carry Texas website. Open carry activists are aware that their marches scare people; they’re used to encounters with police who are responding to 9-1-1 calls. But Grisham says his group tries to maintain good relationships with local authorities, “in case they do get phone calls from concerned citizens, they can explain that, ‘no, these guys are just exercising their rights.’” He believes people will overcome their fears once they grow accustomed to seeing guns in public. “Our philosophy at Open Carry Texas is, if we can get people used to seeing AK-47s and AR-15s and deer rifles and shotguns and .22s and things of that nature, when we finally get open carry of pistols passed it won’t be such a big deal.”

Habituating people to guns so that they no longer perceive any threat, however, might not be prudent. After all, fear can be a useful survival instinct. “I don’t know to what extent it is beneficial or even possible to reduce fears that are actually very adaptive or normal or useful fears,” Blanchette says. Without a fear of snakes, for example, we might behave more carelessly around them — and get bitten.
Read the whole disgusting thing. This is pure barbarism.

Also criminal stupidity. Civilized societies confine gun carry to trained and authorized law-enforcement officers.  That makes it easy to tell the bad guys from the good guys. 
If every tiny-dicked asshole with a chip on his shoulder has got automatics in hip holsters, you can't identify a threat until it's too late.
So you have two choices: become one of them and take a bazooka with you wherever you go, or spend your life on your knees begging the guntards not to hurt you.
I choose to take all the weapons away from the motherfuckers and lock them up for life.
There. Fixed.

American Dream Is Dead and Repugs Killed It

We've posted this graph before here at Hullabaloo, but it's been a while and with the latest media focus on inequality, it bears reposting:

That is the death of the American Dream in a single chart. It is harder for the poor to get into the middle class, and for the middle class to become wealthy, in America than in almost any other industrialized country. Our income distribution is the most unequal of any industrialized country, and at the highest level since 1928.

Simply put, it is harder to be Horatio Alger here in America than in most of Europe or democratic East Asia. The American Dream is dead, and conservative policies designed to benefit the rich killed it.

KY Chamber Pushing State-Ruining Legislation

Remember: No matter how civic-minded are the members of your local Chamber of Commerce, the national and state organizations are run by big corporations who don't give a flying fuck about genuinely small businesses.  The laws and policies the Chamber pushes are beneficial only to Wall Street, and death to Main Street.

John Cannon at the Independent:

Staying the ground on education reform, allowing for charter schools, enacting liability reforms, giving local governments the option to impose a local option sales tax, and approving a statewide ban on public smoking are among the top  items the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is advocating as the Kentucky General Assembly begins its 60-day legislative session in January.
For details on how education deform improves nothing but the speed at which taxpayer dollars flow into the pockets of private corporations, and how charter schools kill local public schools, read Diane Ravitch's Reign of Error.

"Liability reform" takes away your individual right to sue the big bank that falsely foreclosed on your home, or the big corporation whose product killed your child or the chain store that had you falsely arrested for shoplifting.

Sales taxes directly harm low-income working people and local businesses who depend on their custom.

And while fewer people smoking benefits Kentucky in many ways, local bans and social pressure seem to be working well enough to make me wonder just how a statewide ban would benefit the Chamber. Maybe give the false impression that the Chamber supports public health? Check its position on Obamacare and kynect - supporter of good health it is not.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Kids Who Really Need Lessons

Contrary to this soul-less pile of Georgia shit, the kids who need lessons on personal responsibility and the actual cost of things you get are the RICH kids.

I'm all for making kids do all the most degrading and humiliating work in the school right in front of their "peers" as long as the kids doing the work are rich. Even if the little parasites have to be bused in from their private schools.

Make the privileged little fuckers clean the toilets. With their bare hands.

After all, we don't want them to become murderers like this fine example of how having too much money destroys the moral fiber of both children and adults.

Because only non-rich kids know the meaning of real work - they see their parents and other neighborhood adults killing themselves trying to hold down two or three minimum-wage jobs.

It's the rich kids who don't have a fucking clue - their parents and neighborhood adults sit around enjoying luxury all day while interest and dividends on the money they've stolen from people who work just piles up in offshore tax havens.

It's the rich kids who don't understand that taxes paid by working people - not their parents - are what creates and sustains the world around them. The rich kids who think they are entitled to everything they want just because they have money. The rich kids who think working is for suckers. The rich kids who learn from birth that life is one unearned handout after another.

And repugs know that, which is why they demonize the poor every chance they get.

A Republican congressman from Georgia who is hoping to be party's next Senate nominee said over the weekend that poor children should have to pay or sweep floors if they wanted to eat school lunches.

"I'm on the Agriculture Committee, we have jurisdiction over the school lunch," Rep. Jack Kingston explained to the Jackson County Republican Party in a clip obtained by The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel. "School lunch program is very expensive."

"But one of the things I’ve talked to the secretary of agriculture about: Why don’t you have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch?" he suggested. "Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria -- and yes, I understand that that would be an administrative problem, and I understand that it would probably lose you money."

"But think what we would gain as a society in getting people -- getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch," Kingston added.

While campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in 2011, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also floated the idea of replacing unionized janitors with children during a talk at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

He later told a crowd in Iowa that poor children were basically lazy.

“Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday,” the Georgia Republican insisted. “They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash, unless it is illegal.”

Gingrich suggested to supporters in South Carolina that children as young as 5 years old could get “an education in life” by working.
Substitute "rich" for "poor" in those sentiments, and both repugs have it exactly right.

The Ignored Treaty That Makes America a Barbaric State

From Alternet:

This week marked the 65 th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was drafted by a commission of the United Nations that was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. The Convention became effective in 1951, the United States finally ratified it in 1988 and it was signed by President George H.W. Bush.

What would it be like if people in the United States knew they had these rights and demanded to have them realized? We believe it would be a very different world – the economy would be a more equitable with full employment, healthcare for all, no people without housing and more humane on every front. Instead, this week an annual report of Credit Suisse ranked the US as the most unequal of all advanced countries.

As a general guide for understanding human rights there are five principles that should be applied to every policy: universality, equity, transparency, accountability and participation. In a nutshell, universality means that policies apply to all people. Equity means that people have what they need in order to be at the same level as others. Participation means that people have input into the policies that affect their lives.

Harriet Tubman once said, “I freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Similarly, we have human rights and our rights are being violated every day, yet many are not aware of this.

Economic Inequality and Austerity

Wealth inequality has worsened under the Obama Presidency. This is remarkable because historically after an economic collapse, the wealth divide closes during the recovery phase. According to the 2013 report, “In the U.S., the bottom 90% of the population own only 24.6% of all the privately held wealth, whereas in most of the developed world, the bottom 90% own around 40%; so, the degree of wealth-concentration in the U.S. is extraordinary…”


Trade Agreements and the Federal Budget

The wealth divide is created by policy choices made by those in power. We can see how they rig the economy for their wealthy donors and big business interests, at the expense of local businesses, entrepreneurs, workers and the poor. Right now this economic rigging is playing out in the secret negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).


Fighting For Our Human Rights

Many in civil society are beginning to understand that human rights are not being respected. Our rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and illustrated in this graphic, such as the right to healthcare and other basic necessities, privacy and unrestricted travel, are being violated. It is up to us to organize and mobilize to demand that these rights are honored.


Every day, rights guaranteed by US laws as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are violated against the people of the United States and around the world. Let us recognize that these rights are our inalienable rights and that only we can ensure that we have them. They will not be given to us; we must take them and be indignant in our constant demand that they be respected.

For All You Fans of Popey Frankie


Pope Francis has rejected the idea of female Cardinals
Yeah. He's a fraud. Nothing's changed. You've been had.

Winter at Kentucky State Parks

UPDATE Jan. 11, Jan. 20

The trees are bare, revealing spectacular views seen only by winter visitors.

  • Arches and Waterfall Weekend Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is hosting its “Arches and Waterfall Weekend” Jan. 24-26. The weekend will include hikes to area natural arches and waterfalls as well as evening programs on astronomy and history.
  • Fireside Chats Fort Boonesborough State Park and the Fort Boonesborough Foundation will be holding a series of “Fireside Chats” with famous characters from Kentucky history beginning Feb. 1, 2014.
  • Old-Fashioned Rope-Making Big Bone Lick State Historic Site is offering a class that ties it all together Jan. 25 as part of its series called “Paleo-Tech.” Cordage has been one of the most useful tools throughout history, yet few people, even though cordage is used all the time, know how to make it. This class will take you step by step through the process of collecting the proper material, how to process it and finally how to actually make it into usable cordage and rope just as Native Americans did hundreds and even thousands of years ago.
  • Watercolor Workshop John James Audubon State Park in Henderson is hosting a four-day wax and watercolor art workshop March 24-27. The workshop for adults will feature nationally known artist Kathie George. These will be hands-on sessions for participants as they learn George’s watercolor batik on rice paper technique. The sessions will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
  • Winter Adventure Weekend Carter Caves State Resort Park will present a weekend of hiking, kayaking, recreational tree climbing, cave tours, winter survival, rappelling, archeological field trips, rock climbing, a zip line and other adventures with its fifth annual Winter Adventure Weekend, Jan. 24-26, 2014.
  • Hiking and Rook Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park is getting off to a fast start in 2014 with two January events – a day of hiking and a winter Rook tournament.
  • Sandhill Crane Tours During the colder winter temperatures you may to hear the distinct cry of migrating birds overhead. You may want to take a second look at the flock soaring above you, because it just may be sandhill cranes rather than Canada geese. Barren River Lake State Resort Park is again offering two weekends in January and February to view these beautiful birds.
  • Parks Open With Events All Winter The Kentucky State Parks will be open this winter with a busy schedule of outdoor and indoor events. These events include wildlife viewing weekends for elk, eagles, and other birds, the Winter Adventure Weekend Jan. 24-26 at Carter Caves State Resort Park, and 5K races. There are more than 250 miles of hiking trails at Kentucky State Parks. For those who like to stay inside, there are special events planned for a Thanksgiving Day buffet, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, dinner theaters, and two indoor pools at Lake Cumberland and Lake Barkley State Resort Parks. The park’s historic homes will also have special Christmas tours. “We keep busy during winter months with many special events at our parks,” Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker said. “This is also a great time for groups to hold meetings and holiday gatherings at our park facilities.” All 17 resort parks will be open every weekend all winter. All resort parks will be open for Thanksgiving and the following weekend. The winter schedule will take effect the week of Nov. 17. Seven resort parks will remain open seven days a week. They are: Cumberland Falls, General Butler, Jenny Wiley, Kentucky Dam Village, Lake Barkley, Lake Cumberland and Natural Bridge.
  • Military/Veteran Discount The Kentucky State Parks are offering lodging discounts to current and former members of our nation’s armed services with the “USA Military Discount” program from Nov. 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014. The program is available to those on active military duty, retired members of the military, veterans, members of the National Guard and reservists. Proof of military service is required at check-in.
  • Eagle Watch Weekends Nature lovers should be making plans for a unique Kentucky State Park tradition – Eagle Watch Weekends in January and February 2014. The park system will sponsor this wildlife-watching opportunity as bald eagles gather around the major lakes of western Kentucky looking for food. The park tours allow you to observe and learn about these beautiful birds of prey.
  • Elk Tours Two state parks in eastern Kentucky will offer guests a unique wildlife viewing opportunity this fall and winter – elk viewing tours. Visitors to Jenny Wiley and Buckhorn Lake State Resort Parks can choose a weekend, stay at a state park lodge or cottage and arise early to enjoy one of these unique tours.
  • Healthier Options for Kids The 17 restaurants operated by the Kentucky State Parks are now offering healthier options on their kids' menus. The Kentucky State Parks have joined "Better Bites: Restaurant Edition," a project of the Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition in Lexington. The coalition focuses on making healthy eating and regular physical activity popular and accessible for children ages 9-13.
  • For Horse Lovers With the opening of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail, horseback riders have another 18 miles of trails to enjoy the beautiful Kentucky scenery. The Kentucky State Parks, which will manage the Dawkins Line that runs through Johnson and Magoffin counties, have several other equine opportunities available to guests. “The Kentucky State Parks have some excellent trails, campgrounds and riding opportunities throughout the state,” First Lady Jane Beshear said. “Even if you don’t own a horse, several state parks have horses available so all visitors have the chance to enjoy a trail ride on a safe and comfortable mount.”