Monday, March 31, 2014

"The Coal Hanger Around My Neck"

Great example of how to fight back against deliberate repug/freakazoid misrepresentation instead of being intimidated into silence.

Colleen Crinian at TPMCafe:

New Monthly Donors of $10+ Receive this Coat Hanger Pendant! Here’s a quick primer on the coat hanger as a symbol of the pro-choice movement.

Before Roe v. Wade, women had abortions. If they were fortunate enough, and could afford it, they went to one of the few states in the U.S. that allowed them, or they went abroad. These women of means were able to have a safe abortion. For women without such means, they either carried pregnancies to term that they did not want, and possibly could not support, or they had an illegal abortion. Some of those illegal abortions were performed with objects like knitting needles and yes, coat hangers. Some of those women died. Others were saved in a hospital, but were rendered sterile. Once Roe v. Wade became law, women no longer had to resort to back alley abortions and coat hangers. For DCAF, an organization committed to helping women access safe abortion, the coat hanger is a symbol of where we came from, and a commitment to never return.

I must admit, it’s not really news that the conservative media is just now learning about a years-old monthly donor program by a local abortion fund. What is newsworthy, though, is that because of the push by these same anti-choice activists, access to abortion today is becoming increasingly like the pre-Roe era. Women in parts of Texas now have to drive hundreds of miles to reach the nearest clinic that provides abortions. Couple this with 24-hour waiting laws and their “access” becomes almost inaccessible. According to the most recent numbers by the Guttmacher Institute, 89 percent of counties in the U.S. do not have an abortion provider. More and more laws are being passed to make it harder to have a safe abortion, which is what the anti-choice side wants. They want abortion made illegal again because they wrongly assume it will go away. The fact is, it doesn’t ever go away.

Making abortion harder to access creates a burden for all women, but one that is felt more harshly by low-income women, those who are least able to overcome the obstacles. Just like in the pre-Roe days, women of means can travel the hundreds of miles, and arrange for child care if need be. It’s more than they should have to do, but they can do it. Not so for women living below the poverty line, without reliable transportation, without insurance to defray the cost. These are the women who call us. In another time, these may have been the women resorting to unsafe options like coat hangers.

One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. We can make abortion more rare by increasing access to affordable birth control, and by teaching comprehensive sex education in school, and we should do those things. But there will always be some women who will need to have an abortion. And there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with having an abortion if that is what a woman chooses to do.

When a woman calls our helpline she is effectively engaging in things that make most people uncomfortable, and she is doing it out of serious need. She is cold calling a stranger, to ask for money, for a highly stigmatized procedure. We help her with the cost as best we can. And if by wearing a pendant I am helping to start a couple conversations that decrease the stigma, I’m happy to do that too.

It’s ok if you don’t like the coat hanger, but we’re going to keep offering them.

Colleen Crinion is a progressive activist and board member of the DC Abortion Fund (DCAF). She earned her M.A. in Sociology from American University, focusing on gender, family, sexuality and the media. She has been published in The Huffington Post, Virginian Pilot, Ms. Magazine, Fem 2pt0, and Spike the Water Cooler. As a DCAF board member and former Planned Parenthood employee, she writes primarily about women's issues and reproductive justice. Originally from Michigan, she currently resides in Washington, DC. Colleen tweets at @colleeneliza.

Charter Schools Are Killing the Nation: Creationism Edition

I am personally acquainted with the valedictorian of a christian madrassa - really bright kid with a flair for math and enormous potential. But when he moved from his freakazoid private school to a public university, he flunked every single class, even though they were introductory classes and he had aced advanced classes in the same subjects at the madrassa.

Because he really "learned" was bible. Bible math, bible history, bible science, bible english, bible spanish.

Took him 13 years to get a college degree, and he'll be stuck in minimum wage jobs for life because of it.

And that's exactly the way the corporate plutocrats want it.   The big money and power behind charter schools is not the freakazoids; it's the corporate billionaires establishing a work force too stupid and impoverished to maintain a democracy.

Because what's in the charter schools today is in the public schools tomorrow.

Charles Pierce:

Bravo to Stephanie Simon of Tiger Beat On The Potomac for her deep reporting on how taxpayer dollars are being used to fund the teaching of creationist nonsense in direct conflict with the Constitution, several decisions in the federal courts, over 200 years of scientific achievement, and basic common sense.
This should be a gigantic issue. American children are being taught ridiculous hogwash at the public expense, It should serve as a red flag for the people who are enthusiastic about charter schools. It should be a measure of our maturity as a nation and as a people that we simply don't do this any more. This week, the "religious liberty" scam in the Hobby Lobby case is going before the Supreme Court. I am sure that there will be a "religious liberty" argument made in defense of making American students dumber when they get out of school than they were when they went in. Dear Mother of Jesus, we are a heavily armed nation of fkwits.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Reichwing's Phony "War on Secularism"

To the extent that American liberals are able to successfully counter the blatant lies and continuous mendacity of the American Reichwing, that success is due entirely to the heroic efforts of historian Rick Perlstein to translate repug rhetoric and analyze repug tactics to reveal the hidden strategy behind what only seems to be unmoored insanity. 

The latest is that secular humanism is attacking the nation's schools and only teaching straight out of the Protestant Old Testament will save them.
 That's the way, in my experience, the ecology of right-wing smears works: Insane horror stories – Clinton is running cocaine out of an Arkansas airport! Barack Obama had gay sex in the back of a limo! – bubble up from the collective conservative Id at the outset of an election year; professional conservatives in Washington identify the ones that seem most promising and launder them through the suckers in the "balance"-hungry mainstream media; and presto, before you know it, it's death-panel-palooza, 24/7.
Responsible political reporting, of course, would seek to penetrate this process while it's going on. But we don't have responsible political reporting – or reporters who understand enough about the historical matrix from which these predictable discourses emerge to recognize the contending lies for what they are before they nose across the finish line. Let me venture my own attempt. You might not have heard about Mitt Romney's utterance in Milwaukee that Democrats desire to "establish a religion called secularism."

At present this storyline is reverberating only across the fearful precincts of the right, but it may soon be the "debate" du jour on a cable news channel near you, starring befuddled, blind-sided Democrats, à la Kerry's surrogates in 2004, forced to defend their presidential candidate against a charge that two seconds ago seemed too surreal to be worth swatting away, but which might well end up sounding just credible enough, if only by virtue of the fact that it's being debated, to sway some anxious swing voters.
Here's some background those befuddled Democrats need to know: One of the most robust and effective conspiracy theories on the right, the notion that "secularism" – or, just as often, "Secular Humanism" – is a religion is meant to be taken entirely literally: right wingers genuinely believe it refers to an actually existing religious practice. How do conservatives know? Because, they say, the Supreme Court said so. It was, as religious historian and Lutheran minister Martin E. Marty has written, "an instance where one can date precisely the birth of a religion: June 19, 1961." That was the day the Court ruled in the case of Torcaso v. Watkins striking down the Maryland Constitution's requirement of "a declaration of belief in the existence of God" to hold "any office of profit or trust in this state" — specifically, in atheist Roy Torcaso's case, the office of notary public. In his decision, Justice Hugo Black, writing for a unanimous court, further asserted that states and the federal government could not favor religions "based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs" – and, in a fateful, ill-considered, and entirely offhand footnote explained: "Among religions in this country which do not teach what would be generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others."
From here, things get wacky.
Liberals, dumbfounded by irrationality in that patented liberal way, pointed out that the number of people calling themselves "secular humanists" was only a handful, so how could they possibly possess such omnipotence. Well, fundamentalists would counter, doesn’t that just prove the success of their conspiracy? Ain't America grand?
The professional right had found its substitute for the Red Menace. In many ways "secular humanism" was Communism’s superior as an organizing tool, because it so handily took the fight directly to the bloodiest crossroads in our political culture: the space between the public school and the home. There is no more effective way to organize against liberalism than to argue that liberals are invading the sacred precinct of the nuclear family – the basic unit of government under God's covenant, as the "Christian Reconstructionist" Rousas J. Rushdoony, father of the home-schooling movement, argued in his 1972 book The Messianic Character of American Education. The power-grabbing would-be-messiah government must be defeated, argued Connie Marshner, a Heritage Foundation staffer influenced by Rushdoony, if Christians were to "reverse the coming of the secular humanist state."
The vagueness is deliberate — it means new issues can be sluiced into the discourse as historical convenience dictates. For instance the secular humanism golden oldie, ever pliant, slots perfectly into the religious right's new phony crusade for "religious liberty," which in turn serves so marvelously in the corporate right's crusade to do away with even the faintest gesture toward healthcare equality. "I think there is in this country a war on religion," Romney said before raising that above-noted specter of Obama's "desire to establish a religion in America known as secularism." He continued, "They gave it a lot of thought," this business of forcing the Catholic Church "to violate its principles and its conscience (since when do institutions have "consciences"?) and be required to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and morning-after pills to the employees of the church" (a lie, by the way: employers don't have to provide anything).
Note the careful language: Democrats want "to establish a religion" — a precise quotation of the First Amendment's' Establishment Clause banning same. And the claim that "they gave it a lot of thought" insinuates a deliberate conspiracy. But conservatives would not fall for it, the stalwart Romney announced: "Those of us who are people of faith recognize [what] this is—an attack on one religion is an attack on all religion."
A marker has been laid down. Heed it well. Universal healthcare is the Trojan Horse in Obama's radical religious crusade to undo orthodox religion. Could a notion so crazy possibly have legs? Crazier things have penetrated the fog before — and this one has the advantage of tickling the most abiding anxiety of conservative-minded citizens: that liberalism is contributing to the sexual dissolution of their very own homes and hearths. Romney's recycling of the smear may already have helped him assuage the doubts of the religious right that he is one of them.
And Democrats losing their nerve, backing away from defending desperately needed reform out of fear stepping on mysterious "deeply held" beliefs that are actually the invention of hucksters with right-wing agendas? Well, that's happened before, too.
Don't let it happen again.

The Ingratitude of Xians

Via Divine Irony:

A Colorado man who was rescued from his submerged car by first responders now claims, via his lawyer, that it was something else that saved him: grace, presumably of the divine kind.
And he’s getting ready to sue the people who pulled him to safety – because he says they took too long to show up.
To me it seems like he should be suing God and thanking the first responders….

Climate, Fracking and Water: Anti-Science Repug Obstruction is Literally Killing Us

From Firedoglake, things that are not coincidental:

- An academic journal, under pressure from right-wing climate deniers, decided not to publish a report linking climate change denial to conspiracy theories

- The UN reported our growing reliance on hydrofracking and biofuels is unstable, aggravating water shortages

Just Declare a Theocracy and You'll Have It

One key to repugs' success in destroying the Liberal Consensus that brought us 40 years of prosperity from secular government is their willingness to keep repeating reality-defying lies until everyone just gives in out of exhaustion.

Would you believe that we have not brought you the thought-like pronouncements of the American Patriarchy Association’s Bryan Fischer since December? Too long! And it seems that Mr. Fischer has continued a little further down the tracks that he was laying last time, when he said that the First Amendment only applies to Christians, because the Constitution is a magically Christian document (and it also includes Christmas, because “any date with A.D” = Jesus). So now, Fischer has just plain decided that since the words “separation of church and state” don’t actually appear in the Constitution, U.S. America is actually a theocracy, just like the Founding Pastors wanted it to be. And therefore, the only laws that can actually be passed are laws that God approves of, and the Supreme Court be damned (which they already are, you just know it). It’s kind of cool to see someone simply reject what the rest of us drones call reality and develop their own Unified Theory of Derp.

Y’see, how we got here is that Fischer is taking America’s founding document, the New Testament, and applying it to how things should work today. And since Romans 13 explains that all public officials are “ministers of God” whose exercise of civil authority is an earthly version of God’s authority, all elected officials (the Bible has a whole lot of stuff about elections, we’re pretty sure) must therefore have “a responsibility to use that authority in a manner that is consistent with the truth of God.” That’s a pretty impressive parsing of a passage that exhorts people to submit to governing authorities and to pay their taxes — it says more about the duty to obey civil authorities, since God instituted governments, than it does about civil authorities submitting to God.

Obviously, it just makes sense that gay marriage is simply impossible — it cannot be done. Civil authorities are actually incapable of making any laws that conflict with Bryan Fischer’s version of God’s Law, because what kind of sense would that even make? Oh sure, they can pass “laws” allowing same-sex marriage, but don’t you see, those are not actually LAW-laws, because they conflict with God’s law, which says No Buttsexing. To pretend otherwise is to say the Earth circles the Sun, or that bats are not a kind of bird, or that insects have more than 4 legs.

Fischer explains that it’s quite simple: the gays should never expect to be treated like normal people, because in the legal theory of Bryan Fischer,
the responsibility of those in civil authority is to only approve that which God approves and to stand against that which He rejects”:
Pretty darn simple if you ask us. The only obvious solution is to get rid of the so-called “laws” that conflict with God’s Word, like elections and representative governments, and to institute a hereditary monarchy like we’re meant to have. Here, just watch the video so Bryan can explain it to you:

Also, remember that Article VI of the Constitution, which bans religious tests for office, is automatically revised to mean “no religious tests that conflict with the New Testament,” because a higher authority, the Bible, says that officeholders are ministers of God anyway, so it makes no sense to have Jews or Muslims or the wrong stripe of Christians in Congress.
 It's pure Dominionism, and an imminent threat to democracy and the nation.

Equal Time on Cosmos

Divine Irony:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Embryo Vs. Human Being

Mitch McConnell - who, despite decades of marriage has yet to reproduce - is determined to deny that choice to millions of American women.

In the unlikely event that Mitchi-poo's conflation of actual living human beings with non-viable embryos is grounded in ignorance instead of misogyny, Iris at Perry Street Palace has some facts - with pictures! - to set him straight.

In response to vicious, terroristic threats to her from the fetus fetishists, she writes:

I am still angry and deeply hurt, but less so as the days pass. It’s good to know where I really stand with you: that my happiness and my life (to say nothing of the lives and happiness of billions of other people) mean less to you than this does:

FIG 1. Human embryo at 9 weeks clinical gestation. (Optical Topography)
Actual size = approx. 2.3 cm.
Three quarters of all U.S. abortions are performed by 9 weeks.
(9 weeks is also the cutoff for a medication abortion via mifepristone.)

Our mutual friend said that I took your words beyond their face value to mean something you never intended. Well, that is because your words have meanings. Those meanings have dire and direct consequences for real people. And those consequences include pain, suffering, misery, destitution and death for untold millions of actual people, right now, today.

Those consequences, as you know, also include my own death, should I get pregnant and not have access to a safe abortion. If you don’t know what your words mean, perhaps you shouldn’t say them. On the other hand, if you do know, and you say those words anyway, then I repeat: FUCK YOU.

When you express opposition to abortion on demand, your words mean that you view all of this as perfectly fine: My death. Their deaths. Their poverty. Their children’s poverty. You would condemn real people to death, to a life of misery and suffering. And for what? For this:

mouseembryoFIG 2. embryo.
OH WAIT, I’m sorry. I got mixed up. That’s ^ a mouse embryo up there, not a human embryo. Sure looks a lot like that human embryo, though. And yet, nothing like a mouse. Weird.
mousevsembryoFIG 3. Mouse vs. mouse embryo.
Can you tell which is which?
batembryo FIG. 4. Embryo.
That you believe this —> is precious is demonstrably wrong. It isn’t. Half of all fertilized eggs spontaneously abort. And yet for some reason we’re not holding millions of funerals for them. Why is that? No, seriously: why is abortion only a grave moral tragedy when a woman chooses to end her pregnancy—something that happens half the time anyway? Nature doesn’t give a shit about human embryos. They’re not even worth a dime a dozen. But you? To you, a single embryo is worth more than my life, my freedom, my happiness, and my humanity, including my right to decide what goes on inside my own fucking body. Do you even understand how fucking devastating it is for me to know that you care more about this—> than about me? That a tiny, unconscious, unwanted creature is more worthy of your love and respect than I am is heartbreaking.


humanblastocystday5 FIG. 5
human blastocyst
day 5

I pointed out the fact that my cat is more sentient than a blastocyst, and you asked me—repeatedly—”How do you know?” Three answers:  (1) the sciences of embryology and neurobiology which inform us when it’s even possible for a creature to be conscious and aware, (2) it doesn’t even fucking matter, because it’s grotesquely immoral to force me (or you or any other person) to be a slave to anyone else who needs to suck my blood in order to survive, whether that person is sentient or not, and (3) the exact same way you know. That’s right: you know the difference between sentient and non-sentient beings. And I’ll prove it to you, with an old thought experiment. It goes like this: you find yourself in a burning building and all exits are blocked except one, which happens to be in a fertility clinic you must pass through to escape. The flames and smoke are almost unbearable. As you make your way toward the exit, you see on one side of the room a small box marked “100 Live Embryos” (technically they’d be blastocysts at this point, but since we’re pretending we’ll pretend they’re actually embryos eight weeks older). On the other side of the room, you see a live human infant completely oblivious to the imminent danger. You will only have time to take one of these with you on your way out, before the room is completely engulfed in flames. It’s the baby or the box. Which will you take?

Here, look—I made a graphic to help you make up your mind:

babyvsembryosFIG 6. dozens of human embryos vs. one human infant.
Choose carefully!

If you chose to save those embryos, then let me just say on behalf of myself, the baby you would let burn to death, and the rest of humanity: FUCK YOU.

Forced pregnancy is slavery. No one would call it any differently if you were involuntarily tethered to another person and forced to sustain that life for nine months (followed by a violent expulsion from your body cavity that might very well result in the skin and muscle between your testes and your anus being torn open). No one would ever call you free.
I am no one’s slave. My humanity is not negotiable. It is not something upon which well-intentioned people can reasonably disagree. It is not something anyone who claims to love me can dismiss or deny, and then still expect me to keep them in my life. Disrespect me at the peril of our friendship. Because as long as you honestly believe people like me should be enslaved against our wills to keep some other person alive—baby or no—you are not now and never were my friend.

A long time ago you lost a loved and wanted infant, and for that I am truly sorry. Would that all children brought into the world were so loved and wanted. But the fact is they are not. And you would use your personal tragedy as an emotional weapon, as if it somehow supports the notion that all pregnant women should be forced to give birth to children they do not want?

How dare you.

Only one of these is a person:

irisvs7weekembryoFIG. 10. Iris’s ladies room selfie, Halloween 2013 & 7-week old human embryo.
The one you care more about says everything I need to know about you.

Americans More Like to Die By Cop Than By Terrorist

But the security system created by our anti-terrorist hysteria does nothing to deter terrorism while ramping up the mindless militarism in law enforcement that makes death by cop so frequent.

- Despite crime in the U.S. declining to levels not seen since the 19th century, the police forces have been militarized to levels not seen since, well, ever. Americans are more likely to die at the hands of police officers than from terrorists in spite of the continually pushed message

The Real Culture of Pathology is White Privilege

The "culture of poverty" has been a myth from the beginning. The rich and their apologists have always used it to justify continuing to steal from the poor to enrich themselves.

Invoking it in 21st century America, however, is pure unadulterated racism.

Kathleen Geier at Political Animal writes that the real “culture of pathology” is neoliberal discourse about poverty:

When Ta-Nehisi Coates is at his best, he’s on fire. And his response to Jonathan Chait’s warmed over 90s neoliberalism about African-Americans’ “culture of pathology” is Coates at the top of his game. The whole thing is terrif, but these grafs were key:
And the president of the United States is not just an enactor of policy for today, he is the titular representative of his country’s heritage and legacy. In regards to black people, America’s heritage is kleptocracy—the stealing and selling of other people’s children, the robbery of the fruits of black labor, the pillaging of black property, the taxing of black citizens for schools they can not attend, for pools in which they can not swim, for libraries that bar them, for universities that exclude them, for police who do not protect them, for the marking of whole communities as beyond the protection of the state and thus subject to the purview of outlaws and predators.
The bearer of this unfortunate heritage feebly urging “positive habits and behavior” while his country imprisons some ungodly number of black men may well be greeted with applause in some quarters. It must never be so among those of us whose love of James Baldwin is true, whose love of Ida B. Wells is true, whose love of Harriet Tubman and our ancestors who fought for the right of family is true. In that fight America has rarely been our ally. Very often it has been our nemesis.
There is no evidence that black people are less responsible, less moral, or less upstanding in their dealings with America nor with themselves. But there is overwhelming evidence that America is irresponsible, immoral, and unconscionable in its dealings with black people and with itself. Urging African-Americans to become superhuman is great advice if you are concerned with creating extraordinary individuals. It is terrible advice if you are concerned with creating an equitable society. The black freedom struggle is not about raising a race of hyper-moral super-humans. It is about all people garnering the right to live like the normal humans they are.

"There’s no reason in the world why an American working 40 hours a week has to live in poverty."

Other than that a lords-and-serfs economy demands it.

Full transcript here.

Go Dark Tonight for Earth Hour

The Cats aren't playing Michigan until Sunday night, so you won't miss anything.

For the sixth straight year, the Capitol campus will go dark in support of “Earth Hour,” an international environmental campaign sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund.
Both Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear support lights out as a way for state government to join people all over the world in a stand for energy savings and the global environment.

“In support of Earth Hour, the Capitol dome light and other lights on the Capitol campus will be turned off,” said Gov. Beshear. “This is one small way we can show our support. We are proud of the many state government programs and efforts that support the environment every day – from energy management to recycling to integrating electric vehicles.”

On Saturday, March 29, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time, nonessential lights on the state Capitol campus will go dark. These include the Capitol Dome lights, and spotlights that illuminate the exterior Capitol walls, the Capitol Annex and the Governor’s Mansion.

“Everyone can take steps to reduce their impact on the environment,” said Mrs. Beshear. “I encourage all Kentuckians to turn off their lights in support of Earth Hour. Each of us can do small things everyday – such as ride a bike to work or set their home thermostat down while not at home. Small things add up.”

Gov. Beshear said nonessential lighting in other state facilities throughout Frankfort is managed on a daily basis, which saves money and energy while lessening state government’s carbon footprint.

Under Gov. Beshear, his administration has been reducing energy use in government buildings, which is a key part of “Intelligent Energy Choices for Kentucky’s Future.” This strategic blueprint set aggressive goals for state facilities to reduce their energy consumption by 15 percent by 2015 and 25 percent by 2025.  Beyond 2025, public facilities will reduce their carbon footprint by 50 percent.

“It is incumbent upon all of us to help protect the environment,” said Gov. Beshear. “That’s why my energy plan outlines how state government can implement saving measures and set an example for our citizens.”

Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia. Earth Hour has expanded to more than 7,000 cities and towns on all seven continents with hundreds of millions of participants across the world.

For more information about Earth Hour 2014, go to

Friday, March 28, 2014

Stop Giving Screaming Liars a Forum

I screamed it at the TV during All In Wednesday night, but Zandar calmly posted it:

By the end Stefano is all but calling Hayes a woman-hating criminal.  He's had Stefano on his show before, but he's shocked that Stefano is ripping into him personally.  I'm sure he saw her as a friend up until this point, because the whole purpose of Chris Hayes's show is to have a decent discussion on the topics of the day's news.

The poor naive little lamb.

News flash, Chris:  Conservatives from Americans for Prosperity are not there to be your friend.  They are there to kick you in the head and spout as many lies per minute as they can about President Obama and his policies.  They are there to do exactly what Stefano did to you, that is use you like a punching bag and pummel you on your own show.  They are daring you to devolve into a screaming match, because lord knows if your goal is to try to inform your viewers about the Affordable Care Act, her job is to stop you from doing that, and she did exactly that.

The lesson you're supposed to draw from this is that conservatives from think tanks are not your friends, Chris.  They are your tormentors.

Maybe you should stop inviting them on your show?
No maybe about it. Just stop giving liars a forum. Even if they don't scream.

Religious Proof

Have you been touched by his Noodly Appendage?

Give Democratic Voters Something to Vote For

Not being the repug isn't enough anymore. 

Yes, the environment in Congress is "toxic." But that's a vague and meaningless term. It's certainly acrimonious on Capitol Hill. But the problem isn't that voters are frustrated that nothing gets done in Washington. Voters are frustrated that nothing good is possible in Washington. Those are two very different things.

Right now the conversation on healthcare is between one side that wants slightly less expensive corporate healthcare, and one side that wants much more expensive corporate healthcare. It's between one side that wants to cut Social Security and Medicare just a little bit, and another that wants to cut it a lot. It's between one side that wants to implement some very gradual climate change policies that won't stop us from crossing runaway greenhouse barriers, and another side that doesn't believe in climate change at all. It's between one side that wants a very slow, painful set of immigration reforms, and another side that wants no reforms at all. It's between one side that wants to raise the minimum wage to something that still doesn't meet what it was back in the 1970s, and another side that wants to eliminate it.

For a young voter or voter of color, voting for Democrats isn't a matter of hope for a better future. It's basically a defensive crouch to prevent the insane sociopaths from taking over. To provide real hope, Democrats would have to start pushing for a $15 minimum wage, for basic universal income, for single-payer healthcare, for a green jobs Apollo Program, for student loan forgiveness, and similar policies.

As it is, there's no real reason for an infrequent Democratic voter to come to the polls. Sure, it's important to stop the likes of Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney from sitting in the White House, and appointing decent judges to the Supreme Court is nice.

But there's no way Democrats are going to solve their midterm problem without providing a real, positive vision for the country. If even hardcore activists like me see voting as a defensive rather than an offensive weapon, it's no surprise that many more apolitical people can scarcely be bothered to care.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Getting Rich Off the Poor

The real reason repugs are successfully destroying the social safety net to keep poor people poor is so their corporate buddies can make millions off them.

From the Nation:

Ford left the parking lot with tickets for no proof of insurance and driving without a license, which would come to $745 with court costs. She didn’t know it yet, but they would also cause her to spend years cycling through court, jail and the offices of a private probation company called Judicial Correction Services. JCS had contracted with the town of Harpersville several years earlier to help collect on court fines, and also to earn a little something extra for itself. It did this by charging probationers like Ford a monthly fee (typically between $35 and $45) while tacking on additional fees for court-mandated classes and electronic monitoring.

Ford tried to meet her mounting debt to Harpersville, but as the months passed and the fees added up, she fell behind and stopped paying. In June 2007, the company sent a letter telling her to pay $145 immediately or face jail. But the letter was returned as undeliverable—a fact that did not stop the Harpersville Municipal Court from issuing a warrant for her arrest. Almost two years later, in January 2009, Ford was arrested on that outstanding warrant and promptly booked in the county jail—where, to offset costs, the town charged her $31 a day for her stay.

Ford spent seven weeks in jail, during which time her debt grew into the thousands. She did not, however, see the inside of a courtroom. All the lawyer hired by her family managed to do was to eventually get her transferred to a work-release program, which stopped her jail fees from growing and allowed her to live in a closed facility, the Shelby County Work Release Center, while going to work. Ford found a minimum-wage job at a local thrift store, but after buying food and handing a cut to the work-release program—40 percent of her gross earnings—there wasn’t much left to pay off the fines that kept her there. What had started as a simple traffic violation had become an indefinite sentence in a debtors’ purgatory—one that would take years to pay her way out.
“It shouldn’t have been that much punishment,” Ford recalled later. “I was guilty—no license and no insurance—but I was trying to fix it. I was trying to make my wrong right, and there was no way they was
gonna let me.”


JCS is considered a significant player within the private probation universe. Founded in Georgia in 2001 by a group of locals with backgrounds in law enforcement and the finance industry, the company has since expanded its operations to Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. Business has been good. Between 2006 and 2009, JCS more than doubled its revenue, to $13.6 million, according to a profile in Inc. magazine. And while recent revenue statements for the privately held company aren’t available, what is known is that JCS operates in some 480 courts across the country. In larger courts, JCS can net as much as $1 million in probationers’ fees each year, according to an estimate from Human Rights Watch.
Actually, stealing from the poor is the only way the rich can stay rich.  It's not like they do actual work. Parasites never do.

How Dems Win in Red Districts

The DINOs who run the national Democratic Party are doubling down on the very pro-Wall-Street strategy that has brought the economy to its knees and handed Congress to repugs for the foreseeable future.

There's an obvious alternative that's already proven successful, if Democratic candidates just grasp it.

If the conservadems are such good friends of progressive policy, what then is the difference between them and the dreaded "liberals?" It's clearly not social issues: as they say, most modern conservadems support the Affordable Care Act, gun control efforts, marriage equality and climate change activism.

The difference is on core economics. It's about the attitude toward the economic elites, the top 1%, Wall Street and the other wealth hoarders in corporate America. It's not Elizabeth Warren's or Barbara Boxer's stances on climate change, guns or reproductive choice that cause Third Way so much anguish. It's their stance on who is a producer in today's economy, and who is a parasite.

And this is where the Third Way argument utterly falls apart. Because the thing about Elizabeth Warren's form of economic populism and anti-Wall Street sentiment is that it's the most popular piece of the Democratic agenda.

In the conservative areas of the country where Kessler and Bennett claim to be most concerned about Democratic chances of victory, it isn't the issues that sit underneath their proposed Big Tent that will carry the day, but rather the ones that they fear. In tough-to-win conservative districts there is heavy skepticism of climate change, distrust of the Affordable Care Act, and often outright hostility to immigration reform, gun control and marriage equality. If an "impure" Democrat must be allowed into the Big Tent in order to win enough seats to control Congress, then it should be on one or more of those issues that they should differ with the broader Democratic caucus.

Attacking Wall Street, on the other hand, is excellent politics in conservative districts. Hammering against unrestricted bailouts and cocaine-freebasing, prostitute-expensing billionaire vulture capitalists in Manhattan makes for a compelling argument in rural Missouri. Taking broadsides against outsourcing, Cayman Islands tax havens and corporate welfare queens is a superb strategy in suburban Colorado. It was Democrats who ran on these and similar campaign themes who won against the odds in 2012. Most Americans, including in conservative districts, are strongly in favor of reducing income inequality, raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits. Yes, they're also concerned about deficits in part because the Third Way coalition of Democrats helped the public believe that deficit hysteria is a bipartisan feeling. But if you ask swing voters whether they would rather close the deficit by cutting Social Security and unemployment benefits, or by raising taxes on billionaires and on Wall Street, the answers are clear.

The "liberalism" that Third Way fears is the very economic populist campaign platform that will send Democrats to victory in conservative districts if they embrace it. The issues that Third Way celebrates as uniting the conservadems and progressives in the Big Tent are ironically the ones that, while noble and necessary public policy, could end up costing some of our candidates electoral victory.

One could say that Third Way is simply a victim of the neoliberal propaganda that has poisoned the Democratic Party for the last few decades. But that wouldn't be accurate. In Third Way's case, one need only follow the money:

Economic populism isn't just good policy. It's also good politics--including and especially in conservative districts. Wall Street's enablers in the Third Way are simply blowing smoke to protect the interests of their funders.

500,000 Kentucky Workers Would Benefit From Raising the Minimum Wage

And that's just directly, not counting the boost to the economy from workers spending their higher wges.

From Down With Tyranny:

Zandar adds:

Over at Nate's House O' Numbers, econ writer Ben Casselman crunches the data on who exactly earns minimum wage.  Republicans contend that it's mostly teenagers and college kids living at home earning under $10.10 an hour (the level Democrats in Congress want to raise the minimum wage to), Democrats argue the majority of these low-wage workers are single-income people supporting a household.

Not surprisingly, it turns out the Democrats are right.
According to the survey, in 2013 more than 25 million people earned less than $10.10 an hour, which amounts to an annual salary of roughly $21,000. That’s nearly eight times the number of Americans who work for the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less. Low-wage workers tend to be older than their minimum-wage counterparts: Nearly 60 percent, or 15 million Americans, of this group is 25 years old or older compared to about half of minimum-wage workers.
So these aren't teenagers, and Republicans are ignorant.  Shocking, I know.
What we really want to know, however, isn’t how old these workers are — it’s how many of them are trying to support themselves and their families on these wages
Based on that definition, there were 13 million Americans, out of the 25 million low-wage earners, who were trying to support themselves on less than $10.10 per hour in 2013. Some 4.5 million of them were also raising children.
More than half of people earning under $10.10 an hour are trying to live on that wage.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Companies SHOULD Pay For Employees' Abortions

Because it's a legal medical procedure, bitches.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, on whose vote the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS case rests, seems very concerned about the government forcing corporations to cover abortion:

It’s worth noting that Kennedy expressed a different concern than one offered shortly thereafter by Chief Justice John Roberts. Hobby Lobby objects to four forms of contraception on the mistaken ground that these contraceptive methods are actually forms of abortion — a brief filed by numerous medical organizations explains that they are not. Roberts, however, suggested that someone’s mere belief that something is an abortion is enough to trigger an religious exemption to federal law. 
I will never understand this reasoning. I don't get to restrict the compensation I pay to my employees based on their political views. No Muslim or Jewish employer gets to demand that their employees not get coverage for, say, illnesses resulting from eating pork. No Hindu employer gets to restrict health coverage for people who eat beef or were born to the wrong caste. If I found a religion stating that guns are the Devil's tools, I still don't get to restrict medical coverage for my employees based on their gun ownership--even if they shoot themselves.

Abortion isn't some special category of religious exemption. Objections to abortion are based on the entirely doctrinally speculative ground about fetuses having "souls." The Hobby Lobby case goes further: Hobby Lobby wrongly believes that certain forms of birth control are abortifacients, despite the rejection of that premise by serious medical organizations.

But what of it? Abortion rights are the law of the land. Hobby Lobby's rejection of abortion rights as against their religious principles is no more valid a reason to deny an employee compensation than any other form of religious discrimination. The Constitution grants the owners of Hobby Lobby to exercise their own religion as they see fit. It doesn't grant them the right to pay their employees unequally on the basis of their religious beliefs if we've passed a law stating that employees have a right to equal compensation (which is what the ACA essentially does.)

But abortion has been set up in its own special category by conservative male legislators in this country. I am forced to support corporate welfare, Creationist schools and immoral wars with my tax dollars. But for some reason my conservative neighbor doesn't have to support abortion rights with his tax dollars. And if Hobby Lobby gets their way, my conservative neighbor will be able to pay any potential employees differently based on whether they use birth control.

That's not justice. If this country wants to move in that direction, then perhaps progressives nationally should reorganize into a "religion." Sounds like a pretty cool perk: organize politically without the pesky IRS, and enshrine a bunch of political beliefs into a discriminatory legal code. But somehow I don't think the Supreme Court would go for that. "Religious freedom" only goes in one direction: whatever misogynistic conservative men want.
And there it is:  "Religious freedom" only goes in one direction: whatever misogynistic conservative men want.

What they want is the Republic of Gilead.

Still Not Over It

Judge: "Bluegrass cannot invoke the sovereign power of eminent domain to threaten or intimidate"

The pipeline company will appeal, of course, and corrupt state officials still have many ways to smooth the pipeline's path, but for the moment, individual rights trump corporate demands.

Jim Warren and Karla Ward at the Herald:

Bluegrass Pipeline Co. cannot use eminent domain to take private property for construction of a natural gas liquids pipeline through Kentucky, a Franklin Circuit judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Phillip Shepherd held that the power of eminent domain is "an essential attribute of a sovereign government" that cannot be delegated to a private company such as Bluegrass Pipeline "without a clear legislative mandate that such a delegation is in the public interest."

"There has been no such clear and explicit delegation of this power to Bluegrass for its proposed ... pipeline," Shepherd wrote.

The ruling was a victory for Kentuckians United to Restrain Eminent Domain, or KURE, a citizens group that asked the court last year to clarify whether Bluegrass Pipeline had the power to use eminent domain.

Bluegrass Pipeline developers want to build a line to carry natural gas liquids across 13 Kentucky counties, but many citizens have opposed the project, saying it poses environmental and safety concerns. The flammable liquids are byproducts from natural gas refining processes that are used to make consumer products such as plastics and carpet.

Tom Droege, spokesman for the Bluegrass Pipeline project, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that pipeline developers "disagree" with Shepherd's opinion and will "immediately appeal the decision."

The company has not attempted to use eminent domain to condemn property for the pipeline but has argued that it has the right to do so under Kentucky law.

Shepherd, however, rejected that claim.

"Bluegrass remains free to build its pipeline by acquiring easements from willing property owners," he wrote. "However, Bluegrass cannot invoke the sovereign power of eminent domain to threaten or intimidate, or even suggest to landowners who have no desire to sell, that Bluegrass has the right to take their property without their consent."

Shepherd added that "landowners who do not wish to sell, but who may be unable to finance a legal challenge, are entitled to know that the law does not support Bluegrass's assertion of the power of eminent domain."
Like the vote in the state house to restrict eminent domain, this decision is as pure a grassroots victory as you'll find today.   KURE was formed by landowners in Franklin County and elsewhere in the path of the proposed pipeline as well as neighboring residents and concerned citizens. KURE members and the broader opposition to the pipeline grew from an authentic grassroots movement in which so many Kentuckians have worked together to oppose the pipeline - without billionaire backing or celebrity spokespeople or top-down leadership.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The 100 Companies That Stole All Your Money

From Firedoglake:

- It seems the Fortune 100 companies got $1.2 trillion from the government in corporate welfare

Hobby Lobby: Restricting Actual Freedom for People in the Name of Fake Religious Freedom for Corporations

In 21st-century America, only corporations have rights.

Scott Lemiuex at Lawyers, Guns and Money

The companies advancing the farcically specious religious freedom arguments against the contraception non-mandate want their employees to get even less for the health insurance they pay for with their labor than you think:
Arguments in front of the Supreme Court start next week in the Hobby Lobby case. Hobby Lobby is suing for a religious exemption from the Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring that employer-provided health insurance cover contraception. Most of the coverage of the case has focused on Hobby Lobby’s objection to the contraception itself and how, if the business prevails, its employees will have to pay out of pocket for things like birth control pills or IUDs. But, as Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress explained on Wednesday, Hobby Lobby and their co-plaintiff, Conestoga Wood Specialties, are also objecting to insurance plans covering “related education and counseling” for contraception. In other words, these for-profit businesses aren’t just asking their female employees to pay for their own contraception, even though they are already paying for their own contraception by paying for their insurance coverage. These companies want to elbow their way into doctor’s offices and call the shots on what doctors can and cannot say to Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood employees.
In summary, Hobby Lobby et al. are citing a “burden” on religious practice so trivial as to be non-existent in order to impose actual burdens on the rights of their employees. This nicely summarizes how American conservatives think about “freedom.”
The way the story is being covered reveals the hidden agenda.

Kathleen Geier at Political Animal:
Few political stories of the past couple of years have exposed the not-so-subtle misogyny of much of the political/pundit class like the “debate” over coverage of birth control under the ACA — beginning with the fact that that we are even debating this topic in the first place. The vehemence of the disdain and scorn that is reserved for coverage of women’s reproductive health in general, and of birth control in particular, can be attributed only to the low regard with which women continue to be held throughout our society.

There are plenty of good counterarguments to Lee’s ignorance, and Crockett touches on most of them. The argument I like best, which is among those she discusses, is the economic one — and it’s one that should be patently obvious to a reporter like Lee, who reports on tech and economics for a living. It’s based on the simple concept that for employees, compensation is compensation, whether it’s in the form of wages or benefits. The compensation the employee earns is hers to spend, not her employer’s. No one is “buying” the employee anything; she herself has earned her own benefits out of her own wages.

Also bogus is the idea that employers are somehow being forced to subsidize birth control. A health plan that includes birth control saves money on costs associated with pregnancy. It’s more economically rational for the insurer to cover birth control because it’s cheaper than the alternative of only covering pregnancy and childbirth.
Because reducing women to the status of pets is the perfect cover for giving corporations unlimited power over all of us.

Voter Suppression Prevents Democratic Policies

To all you white, middle-class Democratic voters who don't understand why voter ID is a big deal because you don't know anyone who doesn't have a driver's license:  your ignorance, apathy and neglect is why Democratic candidates always lose.

Steve M. at No More Mister Niceblog:

The Daily Caller asked Bill Scher of the Campaign for America's Future to offer conservatives some advice on how they can be taken seriously when they talk about poverty. Here's one of Scher's recommendations:
3. Give Up The Voter ID Nonsense
Brilliant! Stop trying to make it difficult for poor people to vote and maybe the next pious poverty speech from a Republican like Paul Ryan will be given real consideration.

So, um ... how likely is that advice to be taken? Not likely:
Today a federal court decided Kobach v. United States Election Assistance Commission. The upshot of this opinion, if it stands on appeal, is that states with Republican legislatures and/or Republican chief election officials are likely to require documentary proof of citizenship for voting, making it harder for Democrats to pursue a relatively simple method of voter registration.
Judge Eric F. Melgren of United States District Court in Wichita ruled that the federal Election Assistance Commission had no legal authority to deny requests from Kansas and Arizona to add state-specific instructions to a national voter registration form. The states sued the agency to force the action after it had turned them down.

The Supreme Court ruled last June that Congress holds full power over federal election rules, but indicated that states could require proof of citizenship in state and local elections. Federal rules require prospective voters only to sign a form attesting to their citizenship, a procedure favored by Democrats who want to increase participation of minorities and the poor in elections, but that Republican officials say fosters voter fraud....

There has been little evidence of in-person voter fraud or efforts by noncitizens to vote, but the poor and minorities are likely to be affected. Studies have shown that the poor and minorities often lack passports and access to birth certificates needed to register under the laws in question.
Republicans don't really want poor people and non-whites to think of them as friends. Republicans know that poor people and non-whites can see exactly what they're up to. Republicans don't care.

The fake poverty talk is aimed at two groups of not very bright people: swing voters and mainstream journalists, nearly all of them white. The point of the poverty talk is to persuade both groups, in the run-up to 2016, that Republicans are genuinely compassionate and eminently reasonable and wouldn't hurt a fly. (The talk is also aimed at partisans, the hope being that liberals will respond with attacks and the attacks can then be added to GOP base voters' long list of grievances, because grievance drives GOP base voters to the polls.)

Republicans know that swing voters don't see the problem with voter ID -- they can't imagine having difficulty obtaining proper identification, so they figure it's easy for everyone, and so voter ID talk doesn't make them look at Republicans with suspicion. They don't see the problems with Paul Ryan's poverty talk, either. The people who are actually affected by these Republican policies, on the other hand, know better. But Republicans aren't talking to them. They're talking to white voters, with an eye toward 2014 and 2016.
Voter suppression doesn't just prevent "those people" from voting; voter suppression prevents Democratic candidates from getting elected.

Voter suppression ensures that repugs remain in power in Congress, in the General Assembly and in the fiscal court. Voter suppression ensures that your tax dollars go to enrich corporations and the wealthy. Voter suppression ensures that austerity rules and public services disappear.

Happy Sandwiches

Michigan Guilty of Pre-Meditated Murder of Detroit

Because this is what elected repugs do.

Crooks and Liars:

This is one way to kill a city -- short its tax revenue by millions. On purpose.

Michigan communities have missed out on some $6.2 billion in statutory revenue sharing payments over the past decade as lawmakers and governors diverted funds to fill holes in the state budget, according to a new report from the Michigan Municipal League highlighting losses by community.
Detroit, the state's largest city, lost out on $732 million in revenue sharing between 2003 and 2013, according to the report. Twenty two other cities -- from Grand Rapids to Wyandotte -- saw the state divert at least $10 million in sales tax revenue that local leaders believe they should have been entitled to.
However, local leaders say the state has not honored a statutory provision (see: law) that requires it to appropriate additional sales tax dollars to communities based on a standard formula. Over the course of the past decade, those "raids" have added up.
“You can look at pretty much any Michigan community and see where they might be today if the statutory revenue sharing had been fully funded,” Samantha Harkins of the Municipal League said in a statement.
For example, look at Flint, which is now under an emergency manager. Flint will have lost $54.9 million dollars by the end of 2014. The deficit in its 2012 financial statements is $19.2 million. Flint could eliminate the deficit and pay off all $30 million of bonded indebtedness and still have over $5 million in surplus. In Detroit, a city facing the largest municipal bankruptcy in history, the state took over $700 million to balance the state’s books.
Over $700 million. Think of what Detroit could have done with that money. Investments in the city could have been made that would have attracted more business. Instead they cut back on every service there was, closed schools, and effectively closed shop while the state balanced its books on the backs of desperate cities there.

Pathetic management. I don't care who is responsible, Republican or Democrat. There's no excuse for a state failing to abide by its own laws.

Take Action to Stop the Bluegrass Pipeline

Stop the Bluegrass Pipeline:

New Call to Action - Call Today!

Today House Bill 31 will be assigned to a committee.

Please Call 1-800-372-7181:
  • Ask that HB31 be sent to the Judiciary Committee. 
  • Ask Sen. Whitney Westerfield to hear HB 31 in his committee. 
  • Ask Senate leadership to get the bill sent to the Judiciary committee and to support the bill.
We need to support the bill as it is or we won't be able to get a bill passed. This bill is better than the present law because it excludes NGLs from being classified with oil/gas. 

Eminent domain for gathering lines will have to be a fight for another day.

The Farm Bureau helped get the bill passed in the House. We need their help to get the bill into the Judiciary Committee and to get it passed in the Senate.  If you have Farm Bureau contacts, please share this information with them.

We need to generate as many green message sheets to the senators below as we can today!
You can either call or email:
Legislative Message Line--1-800-372-7181   
Direct Links to Senators' email addresses and contact pages (where available) appear below:

1.  Sen Whitney Westerfield--Judiciary Chair

2.  Katie Stine--Vice Chair Judiciary and President Pro Tem

3.  Robert Stivers-Senate President
5.  R.J. Palmer 
6.  Dan Seum
8.  Johnny Ray Turner 
9.  Brandon Smith 
10.  Jerry P. Rhoads

Monday, March 24, 2014

Failure to Genuflect to Cop Now A Crime

Whoever this behavior "serves and protects," it ain't the taxpayers. I'm just amazed the cop didn't shoot the guy dead. If he had, it would have been justifiable and no charges would have been filed.


Americans do not have the right to make fun of a policeman's driving. Or, at least, this cop didn't think so:
A Philadelphia police officer has been suspended and criminally charged after he allegedly yanked a war veteran off a Center City corner, handcuffed him and drove him around in his SUV, irked that the man and his friends had criticized his driving.

The 16-minute saga started when Officer Kevin Corcoran, 33, a nine-year veteran of the force, was patrolling in his SUV near 13th and Lombard streets at about 2 a.m. last March 31, according to the District Attorney's Office. A pedestrian, part of a group of people on the sidewalk nearby, yelled to Corcoran that he'd made an illegal turn, prompting the officer to get out of his car and yell at them, according to the D.A.'s Office.

As onlookers began recording the incident on their cell phones, Corcoran allegedly slapped a device out of Roderick King's hands and confronted him, saying: "Don't f***ing touch me." The officer allegedly kept walking toward King, "who was backing up with his hands out in front of him making no contact with the officer," the statement from the D.A.'s Office said.

Corcoran then pushed King, grabbed him by the chest, threw him against the side of the SUV, handcuffed him, hurled him into the back of the car and then sped away with him, the D.A.'s Office said. The whole incident was caught on tape. King was not the person who criticized Corcoran's driving.

Corcoran drove King somewhere off Broad Street, telling him he was under arrest for public intoxication, the D.A.'s Office said. But Corcoran "did not prepare any of the required police paperwork for a public intoxication arrest, had no evidence that the victim was intoxicated, and was in fact driving in the opposite direction of the 17th police district where Corcoran was assigned," the D.A.'s Office said.

King then told Corcoran that he was an Iraq War veteran and had never been arrested before. That prompted Corcoran to stop at 13th and Rodman Streets, uncuff King and release him without charges.
Gosh, I wonder what would have happened if someone hadn't been recording this incident?

I wouldn't bring this up normally since examples of overzealous policing are so commonplace, even including physical violence and torture. But this illustrates something very specific about our policing and what's going haywire with it. This "respect" nonsense, that seems to spring from the military and/or gang culture is now normal. I get that cops need to have authority in order to function safely in emergencies and times of danger. But this is about being "dissed", an entirely different proposition and one that has no place in a free society.

I think that most cops would shrug at someone making fun of their driving --- some might even roll their eyes or laugh. But there exists a non-negligible number who have adopted this authoritarian attitude that demands that citizens bow down to them. That's not right. Luckily the law seems to have been following in this case --- thanks to documentation --- and this officer has been sanctioned. But I don't know how many departments would do that. There's way too much macho, military swagger in our police departments.

Stillborn Fetus Trumps Rights of Vessel That Bore It

Used to be a case like this caused a malpractice suit against the doctor, and not a criminal case against the pregnant woman.


This lifeless fetus was delivered with its umbilical cord around its neck. Unless the theory is that the cocaine fueled fetus committed suicide it's hard to see how this could possibly even be a legal case. But it is. And it's a perfect illustration of yet another anti-abortion legal tentacle designed to make a woman's civic status and bodily autonomy secondary to a gestating fetus. They could, after all, just charge her with smoking crack cocaine, a "crime" which she commits against herself. But in these people's minds, when a woman is pregnant, she ceases to exist except as a body which houses and feeds the growing fetus.

Slippery slope arguments are fairly cheap most of the time, but in these legal situations they must be addressed because the law depends on the application of logic and principle. In a country in which abortion is ostensibly legal these cases around the country in which women are being charged with murder for allegedly killing their fetuses with acts of harming (what they thought of) as themselves are bizarre and very troubling. If it continues in this direction, we will see a legal basis for declaring pregnant women guilty of negligence for failing to properly follow doctors orders or being overweight or physical risk or any number of other claims which could be made against them for failing to be proper guardians of their potential offspring while it is still inside their bodies. The lines they are trying to draw on this are far too indistinct for something as blunt as the legal system to competently judge.

These cases should point out the complexity of this situation. But for many people it remains simple: a fertile woman doesn't own her own body. A fetus could be inside it and, being innocent of any wrongdoing, it would always have a superior claim. That's a problem.

Only Hard-Left Socialism Can Save Us From the Robot, No-Jobs-for-Humans Future That's Happening Right Now

It's important to understand that in the halls of international power, this is the conversation that's actually happening:
Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates isn’t going to sugarcoat things: The increasing power of automation technology is going to put a lot of people out of work. Business Insider reports that Gates gave a talk at the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington, DC this week and said that both governments and businesses need to start preparing for a future where lots of people will be put out of work by software and robots.

“Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… it’s progressing,” Gates said. “Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set… 20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

As for what governments should do to prevent social unrest in the wake of mass unemployment, the Microsoft cofounder said that they should basically get on their knees and beg businesses to keep employing humans over algorithms. This means perhaps eliminating payroll and corporate income taxes while also not raising the minimum wage so that businesses will feel comfortable employing people at dirt-cheap wages instead of outsourcing their jobs to an iPad.
That mass unemployment is coming soon isn't the wild fancy of futurists. It's real.

There are only two ways to deal with that. One is the Gates way. It's the way that most world leaders are quietly putting into place, not only because of corruption, but because they they feel they must. It's the international race to the bottom, in which the capital mobility of the jet set crowd trumps and overwhelms the power of sovereign states.

The other way is completely opposite--a hard turn toward social democracy, universal basic incomes, universal jobs programs, and international treaties that limit the power of mobile global capital while giving power back to real people and severing the assumed link between doing a billionaire's bidding and human dignity.

There isn't a middle ground. Either billionaires and the Tea Partiers win, or the progressives do. There's no third way.
 Unless the rich get the drones first.
Drones will cause an upheaval of society like we haven’t seen in 700 years 
Where this scenario really gets scary is when it combines with economic inequality. Although few people have been focusing on robot armies, many people have been asking what happens if robots put most of us out of a job. The final, last-ditch response to that contingency is income redistribution – if our future is to get paid to sit on a beach, so be it.

But with robot armies, that’s just not going to work. To pay the poor, you have to tax the rich, and the Robot Lords are unlikely to stand for that. Just imagine Tom Perkins with an army of cheap autonomous drones. Or Greg Gopman. We’re all worried about the day that the 1% no longer need the 99%–but what’s really scary is when they don’t fear the 99% either.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Green Jobs Up, Coal Jobs Down, Methane Worse Than Reported

Three apparently unrelated facts that together lead to some conclusions and solutions so obvious they are flying right over the heads of our elected leaders:

- Nearly 80,000 jobs were created in 2013 in the U.S. in green energy businesses.

- Kentucky coal jobs continue their record-breaking decline.

- It seems the EPA is under-reporting how much methane the U.S. is releasing into the atmosphere