It's bullshit. Of course it's bullshit.
Jessica Williams on the Daily Show Nails. It.
(Sorry, can't embed video.)
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Monday, September 29, 2014
From the pure grassroots activists who threw a giant wrench into the planned Bluegrass Pipeline, the launch of a new effort to protect all Kentuckians from the last fracking gasp of fossil fuels. It's free to all and even provides lunch. How can you resist?
Pipelines, Fracking, and Kentucky's Future
Beyond Fossil FuelsNovember 8, 2014
Locust Trace AgriScience Farm
Landowners and others affected by the proposed Bluegrass Hazardous Liquids Pipelines announce a summit to educate Kentuckians about the issues of natural gas liquids(NGLs), fracking, landowner rights, and local options for communities seeking a sustainable future.
Dr. Jim O'Reilly of University of Cincinnati will give the keynote address. An expert on law and public health, Dr. O'Reilly is currently writing a book on gas fracking for Thomson-Rueters-West Publishers. Andy McDonald of the Kentucky Conservation Committee will speak about the transformative possibilities of renewable energy for Kentucky. Other speakers and panelists will discuss fracking in Kentucky, repurposed NGL lines, legislative priorities, and choices for ensuring that land is protected and communities remain vibrant for future generations. See below for a working agenda for the day.
Thanks to many sponsors and supporters, this will be a free event. You are encouraged to preregister, however, so we can have a count for lunch. Chef Susie Quick of Honest Farm in Midway will be making roast turkey, lamb moussaka, and vegetarian pasta. Attendees are invited to bring a side dish or dessert to contribute or to make a donation towards the meal at the event. You can preregister at www.stopbluegrasspipeline.us or www.nobluegrasspipeline.com.
This event was inspired by the successful grassroots opposition to the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline in 2013-2014. While Williams and Boardwalk companies have suspended their operations in Kentucky for the moment, they hold many easements along the swath of the pipeline and can exercise their option on those easements for up to three years. Fracking continues to boom northeast of the Commonwealth and we remain in "pipeline alley" between the production to the north and the processing facilities to the south of us. In addition, Kinder Morgan and Mark West companies continue progress on repurposing the Tennessee pipeline through Kentucky from natural gas to natural gas liquids. This decades-old pipeline is slated to begin transporting hazardous liquids late in 2016. Affected counties include Greenup, Carter, Lewis, Rowan, Bath, Montgomery, Clark, Madison, Garrard, Boyle, Marion, Taylor, Greene, Hart, Metcalf, Barren, Allen, Simpson and possibly Lincoln and Casey.
We hope that this summit will serve Kentuckians by supplying much needed information about this significant issue. Additionally, we hope that the summit will clearly articulate safe, renewable, and economically viable energy alternatives to fossil fuels.
Sponsors of the summit include Kentucky Resources Council, Food and Water Watch, Kentucky Conservation Committee, Envision Franklin County, New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, Dominican Sisters of Peace, Kentucky Heartwood, Sisters of Loretto, Earth Tools, Inc., Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, The Sisters of Mercy South Central Community, The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, and Kentucky Waterways Alliance.
We welcome additional sponsors!
Sponsorships are $25 and up, with $100 recommended. Sponsors are invited to table at the event. Sponsorships can be sent to No Bluegrass Pipeline Fund, P.O. Box 4573, Frankfort KY 40604.
See below for our working agenda for the day.
Opening Session 9am - noon
Welcome -- Chris Schimmoeller -- 5 minutes
Overview: Perspectives from New York -- Susan Classen -- 10 minutes
Keynote -- Dr. James O'Reilly : " If You Break It You Own It: Dealing Today with Tomorrow's Fracking Cleanup Costs"
45 minutes, then 15 min Q & A
10 min break
Panel: Pipelines and Fracking in Kentucky -- 40 minutes of presentations, then 20 min Q & A
NGL pipelines -- Bob Pekny
Geology/Karst -- Ralph Ewers
Repurposed lines -- Dick Watkins
Fracking in KY -- Tim Joice
Speaker Andy McDonald -- "Beyond Fossil Fuels" -- 30 minutes
Lunch -- 1.5 hours
Afternoon Session 1:30-5:30pm
Breakout workshops from 1:30-3pm and 3:15-4:45pm with a 15 minute break in between with the same topics offered at each session so participants can attend at least two of what's offered.
Local Protections for Communities -- with Gwen Lachelt, other TBA
Easements and Landowner Rights -- with Tom FitzGerald and Matt Demarcus, Terry Geoghagan
Restoring Democracy and Working Effectively for Legislative and Political Change with Jerry Hardt, Tom FitzGerald, Kentucky Conservation Committee, members of legislature
Renewable Energy -- with Andy McDonald, other TBA
Fracking, NGLs, and Repurposed Pipelines -- with Tim Joice, Dick Watkins, Ralph Ewers, and Bob Pekny
5-5:30pm Closing Speech, Sister Claire McGowan
Volunteers Needed!Volunteers are needed to seek additional sponsorships, promote the event, and help the day of the event.
If you are interested please contact Chris Schimmoeller at email@example.com or 502-226-5751x1.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Morality is human, not divine. As writer Arthur C. Clark said, the greatest mistake humanity made was letting religion co-opt morality. And then letting religion twist it into the anti-human IMmorality of racism, sexism, homophobia, sectarianism and general warmongering hatred.
No, the religious are not more moral than the non-religious. And now there's science to prove it.
The Daily Beast:
Suppose you actually do have an angel over your shoulder telling you the right thing to do. That angel probably wouldn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. A recent study in Science aimed at uncovering how we experience morality in our everyday lives suggests that religious people are no more moral—or immoral—than non-religious people. Whether or not we believe that divine precepts give us guidance, our behavior is remarkably similar.
People who don’t fear that justice will be meted out in an afterlife are apparently no more vicious, cruel, or licentious than a believer.
The current study breaks new ground in a few different ways. Perhaps most importantly, previous psychological studies of moral responses relied on observations in laboratory settings. This study, however, uses a method that allows researchers to escape the lab and catch glimpses of how participants think about morality as they go about their lives. Researchers using the method, known as “ecological momentary assessment,” periodically contact participants to report their feelings.
In this study, over 1,200 people were texted five times a day over the course of three days. The texts asked if they’d committed, experienced, or heard moral or immoral acts in the previous hour. If a participant answered yes, there were follow-up questions that prompted him or her to describe the event and some of his or her reactions to it. The researchers collected over 13,000 responses, almost 4,000 of which described a moral or immoral event. The acts ranged from the mundane to the unexpected: Assisted a tourist with directions because he looked lost. At work, someone stole my partner’s nice balsamic vinegar while he was off shift and most likely took it home with them. Hired someone to kill a muskrat that’s ultimately not causing any harm.
“There have been hundreds of morality studies, and the vast majority have involved presenting people with hypothetical scenarios or dilemmas and directly asking them to make moral judgments,” wrote Jesse Graham, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, in an email to The Daily Beast. “This has told us a lot, but it hasn’t told us much about how morality plays out in daily life. This study’s use of smartphone technology allows for a more ecologically valid picture of what kinds of moral events and situations people actually encounter outside the lab.” SNIP
The main notable difference between religious and non-religious people was that while both groups reported experiencing similar moral emotions, such as shame and gratitude, religious people who described their feelings were somewhat more intense.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Unless you start standing up for real Democratic values, you're going to lose by double digits, just like Alison, and for the very same reason.
From the Courier:
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and a dozen of his peers from across the country are pushing hard against a recently proposed carbon pollution rule, saying it would require states to undertake a massive overhaul of their energy sectors but give them far too little time to do so.
In recent filings led by the attorney general of West Virginia, Conway said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority when creating the rule. Beyond that, he and other attorneys general said the proposal demands that states rush to complete their work.
The proposed “clean power” rule is a centerpiece of a major push by the Obama administration to help the United States – and the planet – attack climate change by reducing the amount of carbon pollution pumped into the air.
Friday, September 26, 2014
Jobless rates dropped in all 120 Kentucky counties From August 2013 to August 2014.
Could mean more people got jobs. Could mean more people gave up looking and dropped out of the workforce.
But it probably means that some people gave up finding a real job that pays enough to live on, and accepted work at the serf-rate of minimum wage.
Because anything less than the $20 an hour minimum wage should be if it matched the increase in productivity over the last 30 years is plain exploitation.
Increasing the minimum wage in Jefferson County would help more than one in five workers, according to a report released Tuesday.
More workers who are 50 or older would benefit than teenagers and 92 percent of those who would benefit are at least 20 years old, according to the report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Fifty-three percent of those who would benefit are women and 75 percent are white.
Jason Bailey, director of the center, said they included more than just those who were between the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour and the proposed $10.10 an hour because they expect some people at $11.50 or below to also receive a pay increase.
The center released the report on Tuesday as the Metro Council began work on a proposal to gradually raise the wage to $10.10 by July 1, 2017. The key sponsor, Councilwoman Attica Scott, made a push at local coffee shop and restaurant Smokey's Bean with U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat.
The Metro Council's Labor and Economic Development Committee held the first of at least three meetings on the proposal on Tuesday, when Republicans questioned some of the rosy findings in the Kentucky Center report.
Fourteen cities and counties have passed local minimum wage rates higher than the federal level, Bailey said.
"Those cities are still on the map," Scott, D-1st District, said and denounced "doomsday" talk about businesses leaving the community.
Bailey said studies of other areas indicate there is no adverse effect on employment such as the number of jobs in the market or on businesses leaving the community.
"Jobs don't flee to adjacent jurisdictions," Yarmuth said.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Time to take tasers away from cops. No, time to outlaw the fucking things.
A 17-year-old Missouri teen was put in a medically-induced coma for brain injuries received during a struggle with a police officer. Witnesses allege that Bryce Masters’ head hit the pavement after he was handcuffed and dropped on the ground by Officer Tim Runnels.
Masters was pulled over by police Sunday afternoon, due to a warrant for a woman associated with the car he was driving. Police claim the boy would not open his window, while Masters’ friends contend that the window switch was not working.
“The driver refused to exit the vehicle,” said Sgt. Darrell Schmidli. “A struggle ensued, a Taser was deployed by the officer. The driver was finally removed out of the car. A struggle ensued once he was moved out of the car.” But witnesses argue that Runnels used excessive force against Masters, putting his foot on the teen as if he were putting out a cigarette, as the teenager convulsed on the ground. Witnesses also claim that an emergency unit had to resuscitate Masters before he was sent to the hospital.That means he gets paid to not work. Although if it means he's not on the streets tasing innocent kids for no reason, it's a bargain.
The Kansas City division of the FBI is currently investigating the Independence Police Department, but the department maintains that it acted within legal grounds. Major Paul Thurman believes Runnels, who has worked with the Independence police for three years, used the Taser in accordance with officer policy.
Runnels was placed on administrative leave.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
I think here we get a sense of why right-wingers are so obsessed with Saul Alinsky: They simply can't believe that any decent American could possibly reject their ideology, or fail to worship their favorite politicians as heroes -- and yet Democrats win elections sometimes, and liberal policies maintain some level (often a significant level) of popular support. The only possible explanation must be a sinister mind control technique, one that's put into practice by clandestine operatives working from ancient lore shared among acolytes across generations.
What right-wingers are imagining in their fever dreams isn't politics -- it's a freaking Dan Brown novel.
Not just as an energy source, but as the provider of good jobs from field through factory. Hemp could be the game-changer in Kentucky and the nation, and the first giant step toward making it so was taken yesterday.
The first legal hemp harvest in Kentucky in 70 years has begun. University of Kentucky researchers on Tuesday cut their test plot, which will rest in the field for a couple of weeks.
The 10-foot stalks will stay on the ground at Spindletop Farm while they break apart — a process called "retting," said David Williams, UK College of Agriculture agronomist. "Microbes break down the tissues of the stem ... The outside tissues form the bast fibers and the inside form the hurd fibers."
The 13 varieties sown this spring at UK will be evaluated for fiber and seed production. Other universities around the state, including Murray State, also planted test plots.
"It was a good growing season for many crops, not just hemp," Williams said. "Precipitation was excellent this year and more than adequate for growth. The only downside to the growing season was that we planted a little bit late, but I don't think that had much effect on the crop."
Comer said in a statement that this first UK crop "will yield significant data about production techniques, which varieties do best in Kentucky and which of the many uses of hemp are most likely to succeed here."
The KDA hopes to expand the number of growers next year and is pursuing processors.
Kentucky was once a national leader in hemp production before the crop was outlawed along with marijuana because it is botanically similar, although industrial hemp has negligible amounts of high-inducing chemicals.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
I hope the family sues this motherfucker for everything he's got.
I recently chased a trespasser off my property. He was arrogant and insulting and wouldn't leave until I started calling 911. I wonder what would have happened if he had been armed.Emily Martinez recalls hearing a gunshot after her dog Clifford jumped a fence during her daughter's party, The Denver Post reported. The family poured into the street and found a stranger, apparently walking his own dog, standing over the family pet, still brandishing a gun.
According to neighbors and guests at the party, the man who shot the dog was shouting that he was within his rights.
"I have a concealed weapon license," they recall him saying.
The animal was shot twice in the neck, and died after the family rushed him to a veterinarian.
Martinez also told the Post that the man pointed the gun at several people as they gathered around the fallen animal. In response, Martinez's husband ran inside to get his own gun, but by the time he returned to the scene the shooter was gone.
Martinez's husband said the man had taken walks by their house for several months and had previously complained about the dog's barking.
No, I really don't.
Don't complain: Organize.
Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money:
9,000 American Airlines passenger service agents, after a 19-year struggle, joined together today in a vote with the members of the US Airways CWA-IBT Association to form a new bargaining unit of 14,500 agents at American Airlines. It is the largest labor organizing victory in the South in decades.
Three-quarters of the agents work in Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona and 2,300 are home-based reservations agents.\
By an 86 percent vote, airport and reservations agents overwhelmingly chose representation by the Communications Workers of America-Teamsters Association in the National Mediation Board election; results of the vote were announced this afternoon. US Airways and American Airlines merged to form the New American Airlines in 2013.
The vote clearly shows that workers who can make a fair choice about union representation want bargaining rights. New American agents are concentrated in southern states, and work at diverse locations, including large and smaller airports, call centers and at home. Across every group, they voted for bargaining rights and union representation.That the addition of 9000 members would be the largest labor advance in the South in decades is depressing, but such is the reality of modern America. This is a big victory and hopefully can lead to more.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Go on, tell those horny 20-somethings in San Francisco what you think about gay
marriage and abortion. They love hearing that antediluvian freakazoid
* Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), sensing a possible opportunity, reportedly intends to open a (presidential) campaign office near Silicon Valley. It's in an area traditionally known for heavy Democratic support.
Science is a way to call the bluff of those who pretend to have knowledge. It is a bulwark against mysticism, against superstition, against religion misapplied where it has no business being.Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (via thechapterfourblog)
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Saturday, September 20, 2014
This is not America's fight, period, Mr. President. Tell Saudi "18 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were ours" Arabia and the Gulf States to get off their asses and use some of the trillions of dollars' worth of military equipment we've given them over the decades. Field their own sons and daughters against a Muslim terror group murdering other muslims. America earns nothing but hatred meddling in the Middle East. Saving Africa from Ebola, however, will earn us the admiration and respect of the world.
Full transcript here.
Companies choose locations for new or expanded business based on cold-eyed analysis of state infrastructure, education, cultural amenities to attract the best employees, and other factors long before they con states into competing by offering tax-giveaway bribes
You know why Tesla chose Nevada for its new factory? Because Nevada is close to Tesla's headquarters and original factory in Silicon Valley, but is cheaper to operate in. The billion dollars in tax giveaways is just gravy.
Via TMQ, Good Jobs First lists every subsidy in every state, then analyzes each according to how effective the subsidy is in actually obtaining and retaining good jobs.
Here's the Kentucky breakdown.
If Kentucky wants to attract the really good jobs, it needs to take the money it wastes on corporate giveaways and pour it into education and infrastructure and 21st-century laws that ban discrimination and restore and protect voting rights.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Wonkette caught this critical action:A group of high school students in Kentucky was in for a shock this week when a political candidate with a history in the white supremacist movement took the stage as part of the University of Kentucky's "Constitution Day" celebration, radio station WUKY reported.
The celebration took place on Wednesday and was intended to "recognize and celebrate the U.S. Constitution." Local high school students were there along with students of the university, the radio station reported.
But it appears that many in the group didn't know what they were in for when Robert Ransdell, the write-in candidate for U.S. Senate from Kentucky who recently made news for his campaign signs that read "With Jews We Lose," took to the microphone as an invited speaker.
The radio station reported he ranted about the "Jewish-owned and controlled media" and emphasized "the need for this nation's white majority to recognize that they have ethnic interests" before he eventually had his mic cut.
The high school students in attendance were ushered out of the event and onto buses by their shocked high school teachers, according to WUKY.
University professor Buck Ryan of the Citizen Kentucky Project, the group that organized the event, told WUKY that a student of his invited Ransdell and that the write-in candidate called Ryan to apologize after the event.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has noted, Ransdell has a long history in the white supremacist movement and used to be an organizer for a once-prominent neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance.
WUKY reported that the university released this statement following the event:
The University Of Kentucky hosted it’s 11th Constitution Day, a federally mandated program for all higher education institutions to recognize and celebrate the U.S. Constitution. Elected officials and candidates in this November’s elections were invited. One of the candidates for the U.S. Senate is Robert Ransdell. Mr. Ransdell was invited because he has registered and has been qualified as a write-in candidate for the U.S. Senate with the Kentucky Secretary of State Office.Constitution Day is not about politics, it is a celebration of the principles of the Constitution. All speakers are asked to focus on those principles. Unfortunately, Mr. Ransdell included his political beliefs and platform in his comments. Many of those in attendance felt his comments were inappropriate, especially for an audience that included high school students. The University Of Kentucky was not aware of the content of his remarks prior to him speaking and does not condone or endorse any political platform or agenda.
Two high school journalism teachers attending the event with their students were outraged, particularly because there was no notice that the speaker was a genuine First Amendment Outlier. One of the teachers, James Miller, went onstage during Ransdell’s talk, took his mic away, gave an impromptu talk about the phenomenon of false balance in media, and apologized to his students for having brought them to the event. Let’s see if we can’t get Mr. Miller nominated for some kind of teaching award, can we?Kentucky students interested in journalism: get yourself into James Miller's class immediately.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Any minimally intelligent voter should know by now that not only does outsourcing a service make it less likely it will be done properly, it doesn't really save money -- because taxpayers often end up paying twice: Once for the outsourcing version, the other to get it done properly after the outsourced company does a half-assed job. So why do voters keep falling for the politics of scarcity that aren't really about scarcity at all, but about moving public money to private profit? Rahm Emanuel's administration is a textbook case:
Nearly half of the principals in the district responded to a survey by the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association and said that ever since the school district awarded $340 million in two custodial management contracts in February to private concerns, their schools have been filthy,according to Catalyst Chicago. Principals reported serious problems with rodents, roaches and other bugs, filthy floors, overflowing garbage bins, filthy toilets, missing supplies such as toilet paper and soap, and broken furniture — issues they said they didn’t have before. Now, many said, they spend a lot of time trying to clean their buildings.
The three-year contracts were awarded to Aramark ($260 million) and Sodexmagic ($80 million) to clean Chicago’s schools. At the time, school district spokesman Joel Hood issued a statement saying that the contracts would give “measurable benefits” that will make the schools “significantly cleaner while also saving the district tens of millions of dollars.” The district said a survey had showed that most schools were not clean enough before the contracts were awarded.
There’s more: Now about 475 custodians who work under the management of Aramark — out of the district’s force of 2,500 — are going to be laid off, district officials said, a move that angered Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School and chairman of the activist arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association that sent out the survey. He sent an e-mail to principals that said in part:
“They don’t have enough custodians as it is and now this private company wants to lay off nearly 500 more in order to decrease their payroll and increase their profit margins at the expense of our schools and our students.”
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
You know, the one the teabaggers never heard of.
And that's not counting what they steal in terms of low wages and lack of benefits; that's actual taking-money-out-of-your-pocket theft.
As the economy slowly recovers, it’s become increasingly clear that it’s not just unemployed Americans who need help from the government. It’s those that are employed as well.
That’s the main finding of a new report from the Economic Policy Institute on wage theft. What is wage theft? It’s when employers refuse to pay their workers their rightful wages and benefits, such as refusing to pay overtime. It’s a major problem across the United States. One study, which EPI cites, examined three cities (New York, Chicago and Los Angeles) and found that two-thirds of workers in low-wage industries had experienced a pay-related offense in any given week in 2008. Those violations cost workers more than $2,600 a year on average—nearly 15 percent of their total earnings. If wage theft is as prevalent in the rest of the United States as it is in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, then it costs workers more than $50 billion a year.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Digby on the real primary race liberal Zephyr Teachout gave DINO and Wall Street Shill Andrew Cuomo in New York:
We must forge ahead. Liberals in this country have the same right to representation as conservatives do. And all Americans deserve a debate about the great issues of our time. Hopefully this is the start of something big.
Of course, we don't know who brought all this to the Air Force's attention, but you can bet it was one of their fundie officers:
An atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada has until November to change his mind and swear a reenlistment oath to God, the Air Force said.The unnamed airman was denied reenlistment Aug. 25 for refusing to take an oath that concludes with the phrase “so help me God,” the American Humanist Association said in a Sept. 2 letter to the inspectors general for the Air Force and Creech. In her letter, Monica Miller, an attorney with the AHA’s Apignani Humanist Legal Center, said the airman should be given the choice to reenlist by swearing a secular oath. She said the AHA will sue if the airman is not allowed to reenlist.In a Sept. 5 email, Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson said the airman is still serving and will continue to do so for at least two more months.“The airman’s term of service expires in November 2014,” Richeson said. “He has until this time to complete the Department of Defense Form 4 in compliance with the Title 10 USC 502.”The four-page DD Form 4, which is titled “Enlistment/Reenlistment Document, Armed Forces of the United States,” contains a “confirmation of enlistment or reenlistment” oath that reads, “I, [insert name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”The AHA said the airman crossed out the last four words in that oath, and was told Aug. 25 that the Air Force would not accept it for that reason. The airman was told his only options were to sign the religious oath section of the contract without adjustment and recite an oath concluding with “so help me God,” or leave the Air Force, the AHA said.
I'd say that the Air Force is going to change the AFI the minute a federal court orders it to, but they probably already know the Psycho Scalia Court is going to rule in their favor.[...] The Air Force used to allow airmen to omit the phrase “so help me God” if they so chose. But an Oct. 30, 2013, update to Air Force Instruction 36-2606, which spells out the active-duty oath of enlistment, dropped that option. Since that quiet update to the AFI, airmen have been required to swear an oath to a deity when they enlist or reenlist.The Air Force said last week that the change was made to bring its oath in line with the statutory requirement under Title 10 USC 502. The Air Force said it cannot change its AFI to make “so help me God” optional unless Congress changes the statute mandating the oath.
Monday, September 15, 2014
These are your modern right-wingers. In a non-violent way, they're as fanatical, as monomaniacally bellicose, and as sociopathically lacking in fellow-feeling for those who aren't members of their tribe as any member of ISIS. But that's why they win. They never stop fighting, and they treat every fight as total war.Like this.
Public commission members violating Open Meeting laws by meeting privately to discuss how to kill a popular proposal? Check.
Commissioners lying about their communications with elected officials? Check.
Commissioners stonewalling and lying to avoid fulfilling their public duties and thus committing criminal malfeasance? Check.
The Shelbyville and Shelby County Human Rights Commission, and particularly its arrogant and unaccountable chair Gary Walls is desperately pulling every immoral and illegal stunt it can to stop Shelbyville from acknowledging the human and civil rights of its LGBT citizens.
From the Shelbyville Sentinel-News:
After being told by the Shelbyville City Council to approach the Shelby County Human Rights Commission for a recommendation on a Fairness Ordinance, members are now perplexed after being told by the commission that they would only give a recommendation at the council’s request.
“I asked them to go to the Human Rights Commission [for a recommendation to the council],” council member Shane Suttor said. “[Council members Mike] Zoeller, [Donna] Eaton…we all asked them to go to the Human Rights.”
For more than a year, McBride and members of the Shelby County chapter of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth along with members of the Fairness Campaign have been asking the council to accept a Fairness Ordinance, which would protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The council has declined to vote yes or no on the subject, only voting to take no more action.
So Leslie McBride approached the Human Rights Commission chairman, as requested by the council.
But she did not get the recommendation she hoped for. In fact, she heard no recommendation whatsoever.
Gary Walls, serving as chair of the Shelby County Human Rights Commission, said the commission would not share their recommendation unless the council formally requested it in writing.
“We as a commission decided that we needed a formal request from the council before we would act on that,” Walls said. “We will not respond unless we are formally requested by the council.”
But Suttor said that leaves him a bit confused.
“I was under the assumption that we made that request publically at that meeting,” Suttor said.Oh, it gets better. Walls came up with that excuse after he and the other commissioners met privately, in blatant violation of the state's Open Meetings Law, to discuss how to
This is a new procedure, that Walls said they put in place specifically for this issue, but Walls said he did not alert the Shelbyville City Council, Simpsonville City Commission or Shelby County Fiscal Court of this decision to require a formal written request.Walls, by the way, is a former repug-lite Blue Dog Democrat who publicly deserted the Democratic Party after it nominated Barack Obama for president in 2008.
“That’s not for me to do,” he said.
When asked if the Human Rights Commission had ever made a change like this before, Walls would not answer, stating only “There has never been an issue like this.”
Walls went on to explain that the commission has put together a recommendation, one that was formulated during a special called meeting on Sept. 1.
“It was an emergency situation,” he said explaining that the commission met “prior to the parade, behind the Baptist Church.”
No surprise a confessed racist is also a vicious homophobe.
I think Suttor is sincere in his attempts to work the system in a way that will "force" the City Council to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance that council members want nothing to do with.
But I would not be surprised if other council members are in cahoots with Walls to kick this issue back and forth until Fairness proponents give up.
Good luck, assholes; we're never giving up.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
If we go back to the beginning of things, we shall always find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that imagination, rapture, and deception embellished or distorted them; that weakness worships them; that credulity nourishes them; that custom spares them; and that tyranny favors them in order to profit from the blindness of men.Baron d’Holbach, prominent figure in the French Enlightenment, 1770
Did you know it originally came with a stiff-arm salute like the Nazis? That it dates only from 1982, not 1776? That it celebrated the 400th anniversary of
Columbus' arrival the start of the Great American Genocide? That it was promoted by a magazine marketer as a way to instill patriotism brainwash children and sell flags? That it is probably right now being copied by ISIS motherfuckers because it just fits their mindset so perfectly?
It is true that the American Humanists have launched a campaign to get the discriminatory religious message out of the pledge (I’m all for getting rid of it altogether — why do we make kids recite a loyalty oath?), but it seems to me like a fairly calm, rational argument that they are making.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
And that says something about the depraved notion of patriotism that's been bred in the curdled souls of Republican voters. They hate all Democrats so much that they refuse to join with Democrats to fight a group you'd think they'd regard as an unimaginably awful enemy. But to them, Democrats are a far worse enemy.
The real threat here, Mr. President, is the warmongers and the hysterical, irrational fear they have again ginned up among Americans. Don't give in to them, Mr. President. I know you know better. Spend the next two years giving the finger to the haters and just do the right thing.
Full transcript here.
And not just intellectually.
Because that's what freakazoid homeschoolers do.
This June, a seven-year-old Pennsylvania boy was found by child welfare workers, nearly starved to death and weighing less than 25 pounds. According to police, the child was being denied food, beaten with a belt, and not allowed outside by his mother and grandparents — who are now charged with attempted murder and other offenses. Because the child was homeschooled and enrolled at online charter school, he was largely out of the public view, making detection of the apparent abuse difficult.
While his case was by no means the typical experience of a homeschooler, he is an example of what the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) calls “Homeschooling’s Invisible Children,” — dozens of abused and neglected kids the group has documented across the country whose parents or guardians have hidden from detection by taking them out of public schools and keeping them at home. According to Rachel Coleman, a homeschool alum and the CRHE’s executive director, more than 90 of those “invisible children” have died since 2000.
(You will be stunned to discover that efforts by CRHE to establish proper oversight of homeschooling in order to prevent these tragedies is ferociously opposed by - surprise! - freakazoids protecting those abusers.)
Since 1983, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has provided advocacy and legal representation for parents who chose to educate their children at home. Co-founded and chaired by conservative Christian activist Michael Farris, HSLDA helped make homeschooling legal in all 50 states and became, in the words of homeschooling historian and Messiah College associate professor of education Milton Gaither, “pretty much the face of homeschooling.” The organization, based in Purcellville, VA, reported in 2013 that its annual budget is more than $10 million.
In addition to leading the legislative and judicial charge to protect the rights of parents to homeschool, HSLDA has directed a great deal of its attention to keeping the government out of their homes. Reflecting the organization’s conservative views, it prefers letting parents make decisions without interference from federal, state, or local officials.
Friday, September 12, 2014
UPDATE Sept. 22, Oct. 4, Oct. 10, Oct. 19
It's Fall at Kentucky's State Parks, and marveling at the nation's greatest show of leaf color is not the only thing to do.
- Stories and Music John James Audubon State Park in Henderson is hosting two free events for guests who like stories and music. The first, “Tall Tales from the Front Porch,” is on Friday, Oct. 24, at 6:30 p.m. This program features local comedian Bob Park at the Audubon Theater. He will be accompanied by Keith Vincent, Donna Stinnett and Jayme Fruit. Park will also have his book for sale in the museum store and will sign books afterwards. Registration required by calling 270-827-1893. The second free event is “Music in the Park” on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 1-4 p.m. Guests can enjoy an entertaining day of music from the cast of “Park Ridge Road,” Keith Vincent and Fish Town (Bob Park, Barry Denton, Steve Mayo, Donna Stinnett and Jayme Fruit). Bring your chairs and sit back and enjoy.
- Trick or Trot 5k Glow Run The next 5K race in the Western Kentucky State Park Race Series will have a decidedly Halloween theme. The Trick-or-Trot 5K Glow Run on Oct. 25 at Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Cadiz will be run in the dark, and competitors are asked to wear glow-in-the-dark clothing or accessories, or headlamps. Runners and walkers can also wear Halloween costumes.
- Halloween Events October has arrived, and that means the Kentucky State Parks will be getting out the pumpkins and goblin decorations as they prepare for one of the most popular times of the year – Halloween. Many of the park system’s campgrounds will be having special activities for campers, including decorations, costumes, hayrides and games for the kids. Resort parks, recreation parks and historic sites will also have special events during October – a great time to be outside with family and friends.
- Corn Maze Green River Lake State Park and a group of volunteers are honoring the 90th anniversary of Kentucky State Parks with a unique corn maze design that opens Sept. 13. The maze, located near the park entrance, looks like the state park logo from the air. Most of the work on the maze was donated and the project is sponsored by the park and the Friends of Green River Lake.
- Geo Tour The famous Kentucky explorer Daniel Boone was asked if he had ever gotten lost in the wilderness. Boone reportedly replied, “I can't say I was ever lost, but I was once bewildered for about three days.” The Kentucky State Parks invite you to summon your inner Daniel Boone and take part in the Kentucky State Parks GeoTour at all 49 state parks starting Sept. 27, National Public Lands Day.
- 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 and stay at a state park lodge or cottage to enjoy one of these unique tours. New this year are evening tours at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park near Prestonsburg. Participants should bring their cameras – there should be great photography opportunities. The largest elk herds are located on privately owned lands that are normally closed to the public. This is one of the few opportunities available for the public to see the greatest number of elk. The return of elk to the region is considered to be one of Kentucky’s biggest wildlife management success stories. The animals, after being gone from the state for 150 years, were returned in 1997. They now number around 10,000. Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, Prestonsburg Fall 2014 dates: Sept. 20, 21, 27, 28; Oct. 18, 19, 25, 26; Nov. 1, 22, 29; Dec. 6. Winter 2015 dates: Jan. 17, 24, 25; Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28; March 7 Jenny Wiley State Resort Park is sponsoring elk tours at a cost of $30 per person or $15 per child 12 and under. This fee includes your transportation via van to the viewing sites and a continental breakfast. The park also offers packages for $160 for two people that include lodging and breakfast. Because these tours fill up quickly, registration is suggested. Special group and business tours are also available. Early morning (5:30 a.m.) and evening tours (3:30 p.m.) are offered on most dates. Call 1-800-325-0142 for information and reservations. Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park, Buckhorn Fall 2014 dates: Sept. 20, 27; Oct. 25; Nov. 1, 2, 22, 23; Dec. 6, 7. Winter 2015 dates: Jan. 3, 4, 10, 11, 24, 25, 31; Feb. 1, 7, 8, 21, 22, 28; March 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29.
- Civil War Exhibit "The Horse Soldier," a special Civil War cavalry exhibit featuring rarely seen personal items belonging to Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan, will be displayed at Columbus-Belmont State Park through Nov. 1. The special exhibit will tell the story of the "Horse Soldier" during the Civil War and highlight items used by Confederate cavalrymen, particularly those of Morgan and some of his fellow soldiers.
We should always be suspicious of the rich. We should be deeply suspicious of any analysis of our economic problems that doesn't blame the rich. They have all the political power. Their recession ended years ago. They're experiencing an economic boom. When do we get some of what they're having? Well, the first step is suspecting them whenever our economy goes off the rails. After all, they're in charge.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Via Scott Lemiuex at Lawyers, Guns and Money, the money quote from the Supreme Court majority opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette more than 60 years ago:
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.They sure occur constantly to Nino Scalia and his fellow freakazoid corporatists fouling the seats where honest jurists once worked.
Because those abortions - like every other abortion, regardless of cause or reason - are nobody's fucking business but theirs.
Playing the some-abortions-are-better-than-others game falls into the freakazoid women-haters' trap.
It’s certainly never easy to disclose so much personal information to the general public — especially when it comes to talking about having an abortion, a personal revelation that can lead to death threats. But it’s important to remember that Davis’ abortion story is a relatively safe one. She had “good” abortions, so to speak.
“Good” abortions are the types of procedures that are more palatable to the American public because they don’t involve situations in which critics could paint a woman as being selfish. They’re abortions that are typically compelled by reasons that most Americans see as non-negotiable: in cases when women’s health is at risk, in cases when the fetus has fatal abnormalities, and in cases when the woman became pregnant as a result of rape or incest. They always require some type of justification, some “proof” that the abortion was truly the right moral choice.
“Abortion stigma is the shared understanding that abortion is morally wrong and/or socially unacceptable. The fact that there is dichotomy between ‘acceptable’ reasons for having an abortion and more ‘unacceptable’ reasons is because of abortion stigma, plain and simple,” Steph Herold, the deputy director of an organization called Sea Change, which works to combat abortion stigma, told ThinkProgress via email.
None of your fucking business, motherfuckers. Not how women dress, not how women act, not how women have sex, not how women deal with pregnancy, none of it.
None. Of. Your. Mother. Fucking. Business.
Also, it's not a "child" or "baby" until it's outside a woman's body, breathing on its own. Until then, it's a piece of her body, and, again: None. Of. Your. Mother. Fucking. Business.
A woman in Montana has been charged with criminally endangering a child, which is a felony, after testing positive for illegal drugs. According to court records, she is in her first trimester of pregnancy. The case clearly illustrates how an increasing number of states are using fetal harm laws to criminalize pregnant women’s behavior and blur the lines about exactly when personhood begins in the eyes of the law.
According to the Ravalli Republic, 21-year-old Casey Gloria Allen has been charged with “putting her unborn child at risk by taking illegal drugs” after a drug test came back positive for benzodiazapines, THC, and opiates. She is reportedly 12 weeks pregnant and had been out on bail for previous drug possession charges. “The reality for some of these women is the need for drugs is stronger than any maternal instinct they have,” Ravalli County deputy attorney Thorin Geist told the local outlet.
However, as several reproductive rights advocates have pointed out, Allen’s “maternal instinct” isn’t really the issue at hand. It’s unclear whether Allen knew she was pregnant in the first place, or whether she has any plans to continue the pregnancy. Abortion is, of course, still legal at 12 weeks of pregnancy. Regardless of whether or not Allen ought to be using illegal drugs, charging her with endangerment of her “unborn child” suggests that the state of Montana is endowing her fetus with its own rights.
This is a frequent issue with fetal harm laws, which are on the books in 36 states. This type of legislation is intended to allow states to bring additional charges against someone who physically harms a pregnant woman, like a drunk driver who crashes into her car and causes her to suffer a miscarriage. But unless they’re very carefully worded, they can end up giving equal weight to the rights of both the woman and her fetus — which reproductive rights experts worry could be used as a legal argument for restricting abortion.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
But the idea that “too big to fail” institutions are too fragile to handle honest reckoning with the truth is not courage. It is civic cowardice. Better, much better, that we keep the faith: that our Constitution can work, that our great republic is a government of laws and not men, and that here, the people rule.
Centre College may rank 45th in the nation according to the status-above-all U.S. News college rankings, but if you want to know which colleges in Kentucky offer the best value for the money, check out the Washington Monthly, where Centre does not even make the list but Murray State University ranks 18th in the nation.
So, for those who don’t want to wait (or bet) on Washington, we offer our second annual Best Bang for the Buck ranking—our exclusive list of the colleges in America that do the best job of helping non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices. Out of the 1,540 colleges and universities in our broader rankings, only 386 made the cut as Best Bang for the Buck schools. You can see the top 100 starting on page 26 and the rest on our website at washingtonmonthly.com.Transy was the second Kentucky college on the Best Bang for the Buck list at 150, followed by Asbury at 297 and Bellarmine at 306. No other post-secondary institution, public or private, in Kentucky cracked the list of 386.
To get on our list, colleges had to meet four criteria in the most recent year. First, to make sure they aren’t just catering to the affluent, at least 20 percent of their students must be receiving Pell Grants, which go to students of modest means (typically those with annual household incomes below $50,000). Second, they must have a graduation rate of at least 50 percent—hardly an exacting standard, but a fair one considering that we’re requiring that a fifth of their student body have lower incomes, a demographic that tends to graduate in lower numbers. Third, each school’s actual graduation rate must meet or exceed the rate that would be statistically predicted for that school given the number of lower-income students admitted (among other things, this calculation assures that schools with more than the minimum 20 percent of Pell students aren’t penalized). Fourth, to make sure their graduates are earning enough in the workforce to at least cover their student loans, schools must have a student loan default rate of 10 percent or less.
Once we compiled the list, we applied the “buck” part of the measure by ranking the schools based on their net price of attendance. (Net price is the average tuition that first-time, full-time students from families with an annual income of $75,000 or less actually pay after subtracting the need-based financial aid they receive.)
Please note that Transy, Asbury and Bellarmine manage to provide high value despite being private colleges. As the Monthly editors point out:
It’s worth pointing out—and giving kudos to—the relative handful of private institutions, including Amherst College and Brigham Young University-Idaho, that made the list. These schools go out of their way to recruit less-affluent students and keep the prices they charge to those students down.I'm looking at you, Centre.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
So Jamie Comer's in the Governor's race for next year. He's spent two years since getting elected running as fast as he can as far away as possible from actual repug policies. But now he should have to put up or shut up: does he support what real conservatives support?
It's been labeled "extreme" - but only by non-repugs. I defy any Kentucky repug to publicly repudiate any plank in the Texas Republican Party Platform.
That the Texas Legislature should nullify—indeed, “ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify”—federal laws it doesn’t like. (Unmentioned is the fact that, beginning in 1809, the Supreme Court has steadfastedly rejected state nullification of federal laws.)Not to mention the planks denying basic civil and human rights to women and LGBT people.
• That when it comes to “unelected bureaucrats”—i.e., pretty much the entire federal work force above the janitorial level—Congress should “defund and abolish these positions.”
• That the Seventeenth Amendment, which was adopted in 1913, be repealed, so that “the appointment of United States Senators” can again be made by state legislators, not by voters. (Admittedly, the Texas Legislature could hardly do worse.)
• That all federal “enforcement activities” within the borders of Texas—including, presumably, the activities of F.B.I. agents, Justice Department prosecutors, air marshals, immigration officers, agricultural inspectors, and tax auditors—“must be conducted under the auspices of the county sheriff with jurisdiction in that county.”
We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.
So, somebody ask Jamie: Which parts, if any, of this republican platform would you NOT want to see in the Kentucky GOP platform for 2015?
David Atkins at Hullabaloo:
This is not an aberration. It's what these people really believe, in the biggest and most powerful Republican state, the one that regularly contests with California to be the nation's moral and political waypoint. It's the biggest reason we can't make forward progress as a country.
Because when it comes to fucking over workers, repugs can never get enough.
Jack Brammer at the Herald:
Senate President Robert Stivers asked for an attorney general's opinion Monday on whether Kentucky counties can adopt so-called "right-to-work" provisions, which let employees work in unionized businesses without joining the union or paying dues.Using Mr. Stiver's analysis, employers should be allowed to pay their workers nothing at all.
Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said in a news release that he was seeking the opinion from Attorney General Jack Conway because Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell recently opined that the Louisville Metro Government has the authority to require a higher minimum wage than the minimum established by federal or state law.
"Using Mr. O'Connell's analysis, a county should also be able to establish itself as a right-to-work county," said Stivers.
The fact is that right-to-work-for-less laws cost states millions of dollars in excess social services to support workers who aren't get paid enough to live on.
But repugs have a solution for that, too: eliminate all government help, including unemployment insurance, food stamps, AND Social Security, then the new Lords and Serfs economy won't cost anything at all.
Monday, September 8, 2014
It's racism. Racism and only racism is the reason why cops treat white perps with courtesy and black citizens with bullets.
In fact, this story is about an armed, belligerent jay-walker cursing police and daring them to shoot him. And guess what? They didn't. In fact, they were patient and respectful and used psychology to talk him down.
Of course, he was a middle aged white man. And an open carry advocate. SNIP
He didn't even arrest him, simply took away his gun. Temporarily. Without violence. It cost them nothing but time -- 40 minutes to be exact --- to work this through. It can be done.
So, let's ask ourselves how that confrontation would have likely gone if Mr Houseman had been a drunk, belligerent, armed African American man, shall we? I'd like to think those police would have taken the same approach. And maybe these particular cops would have. They seem quite sensible. But from what we've heard the last few weeks, most police department's protocol is to treat civilians as if they are all potential members of a guerrilla army. Armed citizens who curse and threaten them (even with knives and screwdrivers, much less guns) are dispatched with alacrity --- police look at situations like this as kill or be killed. Especially, though not exclusively, if they're black.
These police seemed to see this man as a citizen not an enemy and saw their job as trying to keep the peace and ensure public safety, not fight a war. It makes a big difference.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
It's Gilead, bitches.
In fact, it's worse than that. It's not about religious employers. It's about any employers being mandated to offer this coverage --- to offer any coverage. It's just one incremental step in a long term strategy to create a legal structure for corporations and other organizations to "opt out" of participating in government mandated programs on the basis of "conscience." SNIP I'm going to guess that this will end up like the Hyde Amendment. It also made no sense when it was enacted, and Democrats tried for years to stop its yearly re-authorization --- until they finally gave up and we had President Obama proclaiming that it was a "tradition" to make sure poor women did not have insurance coverage for abortion and negotiated the possibility away permanently in the ACA.
The social conservatives never give up until they get their way on these women's issues. It's fundamental to their cause. The fight has now expanded from abortion to birth control which is now a subject of controversy despite the fact that nearly 100% of women in the nation have used it (which makes nearly 100% of women "sluts" according to right wing haters.) And if there's one thing the history of the past few decades of legislative battles has taught us it's that when push comes to shove, the Democrats will use "controversial" women's rights as a bargaining chip and tell the ladies they'll have to take one for the team.
It's pretty to think that these latest polling numbers which show Republicans suffering electorally because of their inability to appeal to women will make the Democrats stiffen their spines and recognize that they have to dig in their heels on this. And I suspect they will --- as long as it doesn't mean they have to compromise on something else they care about. Women's issues are always on the table.
Saturday, September 6, 2014
Ten bucks says this self-righteous asshole goes home every right and rapes his own kids, thinking himself morally superior all the while. And goes to church every Sunday.
Ok, we're officially a depraved, paranoid society. A man was taking pictures of his daughters on the ferry as the family went on vacation. He's been doing that every year since they were little. Now they are teenagers:
Totally engaged with the scene in front of me, I jumped when a man came up beside me and said to my daughters: “I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you were okay.”
At first none of us understood what he was talking about. His polite tone and tourist attire of shorts, polo shirt and baseball cap threw us off. It took me a moment to figure out what he meant, but then it hit me: He thought I might be exploiting the girls, taking questionable photos for one of those “Exotic Beauties Want to Meet You!” Web sites or something just as unseemly. When I explained to my daughters what he was talking about, they were understandably confused. I told the man I was their father. He quickly apologized and turned away. But that perfect moment was ruined, and our annual photo shoot was over. (Only after we arrived at our rented condo did I find out I had gotten a great shot.)
As I was telling my wife what had happened, I saw the man again, scanning the horizon with his binoculars.
SNIPI walked outside to where he was standing and calmly said: “Excuse me, sir, but you just embarrassed me in front of my children and strangers. And what you said was racist.”A couple of things: it's bad enough that we've become so paranoid that a man taking pictures of teen age girls is automatically a sign of a pedophile at worst and a dirty old man at best. The girls were hugging because they are sisters. It says more about this man's turn of mind than it does about anything these people were doing. They were, after all, on a public ferry. Anyone with a normal thought process would not automatically suspect porn or trafficking in that situation. This says something about the way we have puritanically sexualized everything in this culture.
The man didn’t seem at all fazed. He replied: “I work for the Department of Homeland Security. And let me give you some advice: You were standing there taking photos of them hugging for 15 minutes.”
And then we have the fact that this is an undercover "Homeland Security" officer saying "let me give you some advice, you were standing there taking photos of them hugging for 15 minutes" as if that's a suspicious act in itself that's bound to get the attention of authorities. I don't think the people have been made aware that the government finds this sort of thing a cause for intervention.
I appreciate the fact that we are concerned about human trafficking but this strikes me as absurdly intrusive. As the author of the piece points out, there were many ways to approach this if the agent felt it required further investigation. (For instance, he could have engaged them in a normal conversation and found out quite readily that they were a family.) But once again we see this authoritarian mentality encroaching on daily life in America wherein we see police everywhere, in various guises, looking over our shoulders, asserting their authority, making themselves known in small ways and large.
We always had aggressive cops in this country and they've always been willing to stretch the meaning of the bill of rights. But this sense of them being everywhere, seen and unseen, is new. And it's chilling.
Friday, September 5, 2014
The wealthy have always fed off the bodies of the poor, but it took capitalism not only to raise exploiting the poor to a fine art, but to make doing so appear as civic virtue and fiscal responsibility.
Thomas Edsall in the New York Times:
Sentinel is a part of the expanding universe of poverty capitalism. In this unique sector of the economy, costs of essential government services are shifted to the poor.Like the municipal fire departments who depend on "subscribers" rather than tax dollars and end up watching while taxpayers' homes burn to the ground, this is just another way that austerity economics ensures that the rich never have to pay their fair share.
In terms of food, housing and other essentials, the cost of being poor has always been exorbitant. Landlords, grocery stores and other commercial enterprises have all found ways to profit from those at the bottom of the ladder.
The recent drive toward privatization of government functions has turned traditional public services into profit-making enterprises as well.
In addition to probation, municipal court systems are also turning collections over to a national network of companies like Sentinel that profit from service charges imposed on the men and women who are under court order to pay fees and fines, including traffic tickets (with the fees being sums tacked on by the court to fund administrative services).
When they cannot pay these assessed fees and fines – plus collection charges imposed by the private companies — offenders can be sent to jail. There are many documented cases in which courts have imprisoned those who failed to keep up with their combined fines, fees and service charges.
“These companies are bill collectors, but they are given the authority to say to someone that if he doesn’t pay, he is going to jail,” John B. Long, a lawyer in Augusta, Ga. active in defending the poor, told Ethan Bronner of The Times.
A February 2014 report by Human Rights Watch on private offender services found that “more than 1,000 courts in several US states delegate tremendous coercive power to companies that are often subject to little meaningful oversight or regulation. In many cases, the only reason people are put on probation is because they need time to pay off fines and court costs linked to minor crimes. In some of these cases, probation companies act more like abusive debt collectors than probation officers, charging the debtors for their services.”
And as always, austerity kills.
Poverty capitalism and government policy are now working on their own and in tandem to shift costs to those least equipped to pay and in particular to the least politically influential segment of the poor: criminal defendants and those delinquent in paying fines.
Last year, Ferguson, Mo., the site of recent protests over the shooting of Michael Brown, used escalating municipal court fines to pay 20.2 percent of the city’s $12.75 million budget. Just two years earlier, municipal court fines had accounted for only 12.3 percent of the city’s revenues.
What should be done to interrupt the dangerous feedback loop between low-level crime and extortionate punishment? First, local governments should bring private sector collection charges, court-imposed administrative fees and the dollar amount of traffic fines (which often double and triple when they go unpaid) into line with the economic resources of poor offenders. But larger reforms are needed and those will not come about unless the poor begin to exercise their latent political power. In many ways, everything is working against them. But the public outpouring spurred by the shooting of Michael Brown provides an indication of a possible path to the future. It was, after all, just 50 years ago — not too distant in historical terms — that collective action and social solidarity produced tangible results.
Read the whole thing.