Thursday, April 30, 2015

Race Is Not Real, Racism Is Real, and This Is Not a Zero-Sum Game

There is no scientific basis for distinguishing human beings by race, because there are no significant biological differences between what we call the races.

Race is entirely a social construct, created specifically to allow the dehumanization of others: racism.

And it is racism, with all its evil attachments and results, that conditions white people into thinking that only one "race" can "win."

Adrien Schless-Meier at TPM:

While it’s easy to cast off discussions of pop culture as trivial or inane, Andreeva’s article draws on and reinforces a logic with deep, pervasive implications. It is the axiom according to which white folks organize our histories, our lives, our relationships: In a world based on whiteness, there is only room for one winner — and it had better be us.

Take, for instance, the creeping anxiety among white folks in the U.S. about our impending “minority” status. The most recent projections from the Census Bureau name 2044 as the point when people of color will collectively outnumber white people in this country. This demographic reality has fostered a deep sense of paranoia about a pervasive existential threat, not just to white people but also to white institutions, values, and culture. White folks are, irrationally, afraid of being wiped out.
The irony of this fear shouldn’t be lost on us — white people simply wouldn’t exist as we do today, embedded within and sitting atop a racial hierarchy, if it weren’t for systematic violence against Native people and African slaves in the early years of colonialism. We have learned, over the course of generations, that the path to power runs through the graveyard.

And so, the zero-sum game of racial politics is a throughline to the epidemic of state-sanctioned violence in this country. It lives and breathes the idea that white people are made safer by a police state that makes people of color less safe. The brutal and relentless crackdown on undocumented immigrants of color and the xenophobic rhetoric that supports it are evidence of this mentality, but more importantly, of its consequences — families unhinged, children denied asylum from violence, persistent poverty.


When white cops are free to gun down black children, black women, black men, with impunity and the media engages a sustained smear campaign against the victims, the message is that the loss of black life should be understood as a net gain for white people. The various Michael Slager support funds that have popped up on crowdfunding sites reveal that there are plenty of white folks willing to reward black death with money and emotional support.

On the flip side, white people routinely fail to empathize with black people and people of color in general about their pain and grief. But is that particularly surprising, when we’ve been taught our whole lives that our success depends on other people’s failure?

Which brings us back to Andreeva’s article and the subtle violence it perpetuates. When we ask whether we’ve gone “too far” in creating spaces for people of color to explore and articulate nuanced, intricate life experiences, we are reinforcing the idea that only one narrative — that people of color represent a threat to white people — can or should endure. Left unchecked, this belief is the bedrock for the justification of everything from forced deportations to police killings. We cannot do the hard work of reshaping both the limits of our own empathy and the structures of our institutions if we continue to buy into the logic of the zero-sum game.

The sustained assault on people of color in the U.S. demands, at the very least, the dignity of better questions. Rather than wonder what white people might lose if people of color win, we should start by asking why we continue to tolerate, even condone, a world where the cost of protecting whiteness is measured in real, valuable lives lost.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fuck "Civility:" If It's Civil, It Ain't Dissent

This article by Joan W. Scott in The Nation focuses on the academic thought police, but it applies broadly to attempts in workplaces, social events and especially politics to silence dissent with demands for faux civility.

Civility and niceness are the weapons of passive aggression, which is itself the greatest obstacle to free discussion and fact-finding.
Reminding his constituents that 2014 was the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, he called for civility in terms that should surprise anyone who has studied the First Amendment or the long history of academic freedom: “We can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility. Simply put, courteousness and respect in words and deeds are basic preconditions to any meaningful exchange of ideas. In this sense, free speech and civility are two sides of a single coin—the coin of open, democratic society.” Dirks seems to have forgotten that the Free Speech Movement was not an event characterized by civility either in its expression or in its suppression.

Most of these provosts also “believe that civility is a legitimate criterion in hiring and evaluating faculty members,” and most think that faculty incivility is directed primarily at administrators. The survey brought into the open what has perhaps long been an unarticulated requirement for promotion and tenure: a certain kind of deference to those in power.


As the social theorist Nancy Fraser has argued, the dissident claims of minority groups go unheard in the public sphere when they are tagged as departures from the protocols of style and decorum—dismissed as evidence of irrationality and so placed outside the realm of what is taken to be reasoned deliberation. They are, by definition, uncivil, and thus beneath contempt. Once a certain space or style of argument is identified as civil, the implication is that dissenters from it are uncivilized. “Civility” becomes a synonym for orthodoxy; “incivility” designates unorthodox ideas or behavior.

In all of these cases, it was the expression of what was taken to be a critical or radical opinion that led to the professor’s dismissal. “Civility”—or, as in the Koch and Davis cases, the notion of “academic responsibility” (the terms are equivalent)—became the watchword for unacceptable ideas as much as for indecorous behavior. “Incivility” pertained not so much to bad manners at the table as to verbal display, to speech—the free exercise of which is one of the fundamental rights of citizens in a democracy. In all of these cases, the boundary between style and substance was blurred. Whether the speech occurred inside the classroom or outside the walls of the university was irrelevant: What counted was its acceptability according to some prevailing norm. Citing John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, the AAUP investigating committee in the Koch case pointed out that “any serious application of the standard [of academic responsibility] would tend to eliminate or discourage any colorful or forceful utterance. More likely…the standard would be reserved as a sanction only for the expression of unorthodox opinion.”

Indeed, critical commentators on civility in the 18th century noted that it consisted of an “outward show,” somehow inauthentic, masking the reality of one’s attitudes and being. Mirabeau noted in the 1760s that civility only presents “the mask of virtue and not its face.”

And it is preferable to treat others with respect. But criticism—even angry criticism—is not necessarily a sign of disrespect. To point out that the meanings of words are not self-evident and that they can mask as much as they reveal is to respect language and thought. The real questions are: Who is calling for civility, and to what ends? What are the effects of policing classrooms and political forums in the name of civility? What has been the history of the invocation of that word?

Equally important is the need to insist on both the meaning of free speech as defined by the First Amendment and the conventional understandings of academic freedom. A letter to Wise from the leadership of the American Historical Association, protesting the justifications for her action in the Salaita case, pointed out that while civility might be a worthy ideal, it has nothing to do with the rights of free speech. The democratic public sphere, the AHA leaders argued, must rest “on the recognition that speech on matters of public concern is often emotional and that it employs a variety of idioms and styles. Hence American law protects not only polite discourse but also vulgarity, not only sweet rationality, but also impassioned denunciation.”

Civility, in other words, is beside the point!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

KY's "Only Freakazoids Have Rights" Law Is Working Exactly As Intended

Which is why the Supreme Court declaring national marriage equality is not going to stop the motherfucking bigots from making live here in the Commonwealth a living hell for everyone not a member of their filthy death cult.

Exhibit A:

A Kentucky judge has validated a printing company’s discrimination against an LGBT group under the state’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA).

The case in question dates back to 2012, when Hands On Originals and its owner, Blaine Adamson, refused to produce T-shirts for the the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO), which coordinates the Lexington Pride Festival. GLSO filed a complaint, and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission ruled that Hands On Originals (HOO) violated the city’s nondiscrimination order, which protects sexual orientation.

But Kentucky Circuit Court Judge James Ishmael overturned the Commission’s ruling, arguing that it impeded HOO’s freedoms of speech and religion. In terms of speech, Ishmael reasoned that the decision not to print was not because of the sexual orientation of GLSO or its members, but because the Pride Festival advocates “sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman.” In other words, that message, though inherent to the identity of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, overrides the right of those people to be protected from discrimination.

Moreover, Ishmael ruled that the Commission’s ruling violates HOO’s protections under Kentucky’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), passed in 2013. The law, a simpler version of the more controversial bills introduced recently in Indiana, Arkansas, and other states, states that “government shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion” except under limited circumstances. As Ishmael noted, Kentucky’s definition of “person” includes corporate bodies and other companies, so HOO was entitled to assert a claim under RFRA. “The Commission’s Order substantially burdens HOO’s and its owners’ free exercise of religion,” he wrote, “wherein the government (Commission) punished HOO and its owners by its order for exercising their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Because the shop would have been forced to “print shirts that convey messages contrary to their faith,” the Order “inflicts a substantial burden on their free exercise of religion.”

Ishmael was not convinced that preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation constituted a “compelling government interest.” This was, in part, because GLSO was able to get shirts printed elsewhere, thus their rights were not infringed. Alliance Defending Freedom, which defended HOO, lauded the decision, with Senior Legal Counsel Jim Campbell adding, “No sufficient reason exists for the government to coerce Blaine to act against his conscience in this way.”

This ruling constitutes the first clear example of RFRA being used to justify anti-LGBT discrimination. Kentucky’s RFRA did not even include the more expansive language proposed in Indiana and Arkansas that was thought to make them more likely to allow for discrimination.
A similar case may be brewing in Georgia. A franchise of AlphaGraphics in Suwanee, Georgia recently refused to print wedding invitations for a same-sex couple, citing the owners’ religious beliefs. AlphaGraphics has condemned the franchise’s discrimination and apologized to the couple.

Though Georgia’s RFRA failed to pass this year, there are no state-wide protections prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination.

This shit is out of control. 

Under the law in Kentucky - and every other state with a bogus "religious freedom" law - freakazoids can literally torture an LGBT person to death in front of their children live on teevee, claim "sincere religious belief" and totally walk.

You may be able to get married, faggots, but you're still sub-human under the law.

We are hearing complaints from state employees horrified by freakazoid managers blatantly rejecting job applicants who are not hard-core, wingnut, conservatard freakazoids.

In just the two years since Kentucky's general assembly approved the "freedom to discriminate" law over Gov. Beshear's veto, freakazoids who were once rare in state government - not really believing in secular government - have infiltrated hiring and policy-setting positions in every agency.

LGBT, atheists, muslims, single women, blahs and browns need not apply.

For anything.

In Which I Answer AynRandy's Questions

Ed Kilgore writes about the Freakazoid No-Fucking Fest for Repug Reactionaries in Iowa last weekend:
And Rand Paul reprised his jiu-jitsu move on abortion, boasting that he’s turned the tables on the godless baby-killers by refusing to answer questions about exceptions to an abortion ban until Democrats are forced to answer questions about late-term abortions.
I'm a Democrat, and you don't have to test your tiny "forcing" muscles.  Go ahead, Tribble-Head, ask away.  You'll get the same answer every time: 

It's safe, legal and none of your fucking business. 

A fetus is not a child, not a baby, not a "pre-born" anything.  It is, up until the moment it sucks in oxygen, a part of the woman's body with which she may do whatever she goddamn well pleases.

Your turn:  What is it about a woman's bodily autonomy that so terrifies you?

Also, how many living sperm have you killed today?

Monday, April 27, 2015

What If the Poor Decide to Use All The Guns They Can't Eat?

At some point, the insistence of the repugs and guntards on preventing the poor from spending their tiny welfare allotments on anything except guns is going to backfire.

Rude Pundit:

If you're middle-class, you can negotiate your way out of a great deal of the grief. If you're poor, you are subject to the whims of a justice system that seeks to punish you for existing.

At some point, we're going to have to do something about how we treat the poor in this country. If the nation doesn't, if politicians continue to ignore the issue of poverty, the poor might just realize that all those guns the NRA has guaranteed they can bear might have another use.  And the United States will have no one to blame but itself.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

You Have to Be A Stronger Person

Divine Irony:

If you embrace the idea that no one is in charge of the universe, it’s easy to lose any sense of self-significance. You have to be a stronger person and learn to feel that you’re a part of the cosmos and not a part of god’s plan.

JD C. [Member of BA] (via black-atheists)

You Asked for Religious Freedom; This is What You Get

See, that's the problem with your invisible friend in the sky being invisible, inaudible and undetectable: anybody can claim the same thing for their own reasons.

Travis Loller at TPM:

A Nashville swingers club has undergone a conversion — it says it's now a church — in order to win city approval so it can open next to a Christian school.

The story began last fall, when a fixture in downtown Nashville called The Social Club sold its building and purchased a new one in a run-down office park several miles to the east.

The new building is geographically isolated at the end of a dead-end street, but it is near the back of Goodpasture Christian School, a large private school serving pre-school through high school children.


Parents and religious leaders were called on to pack the Metro Nashville Council chambers to support a zoning change to prevent the club from opening. That's when the club, which had spent $750,000 on the building and begun renovations, suddenly transformed into a church.

The United Fellowship Center's plans are nearly identical to those of The Social Club but with some different labels. The dance floor has become the sanctuary. Two rooms labeled "dungeon" are now "choir" and "handbells." Forty-nine small, private rooms remain, but most of them have become prayer rooms.

Larry Roberts is the attorney for the club-turned-church. He previously vowed to take the city to court. Now, he says, it's the city that will have to sue.

"The ball is in Metro's court ... We've now gotten a permit to meet as a church, and a church is something that cannot be defined under the U.S. Constitution," he said.
This is why the freakazoids are so determined to establish Dominionism: because in an open, secular society, the freakazoids always lose.

As for sex in church, that pretty much defined religion for all of human history. All the women-hating, sex-terrified christians did was move it from the altar to the altar boys.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Jared Polis FTW

Not that any of Steve King's mouth-breathing admirers will get it, but this is pure genius.

According to a statement form Polis' office, "the bill would prevent Steve King from abusing taxpayer dollars by substituting the judgments of the nation’s duly serving judicial branch of government with his own beliefs."

Polis criticized King's efforts to interfere with the Supreme Court's ability to rule on state same-sex marriage bans.

"For too long, Steve King has overstepped his constitutionally nonexistent judicial authority," Polis said in the statement. "Mr. King has perverted the Constitution to create rights to things such as discrimination, bullying, and disparate treatment. These efforts to enshrine these appalling values as constitutional rights were not envisioned by the voters, or by King’s colleagues who must currently try to restrain his attempts to single-handedly rewrite the nation’s founding principles on a bill-by-bill basis."
 Long past time that congressional Democrats starting treating congressional repugs like the assholes they are.

Do Only Criminals Have the Right to Privacy?

The worst part today is the smug cynics who shrug off the fascist invasion of our privacy by saying of course the government knows everything we do; get used to it.

That's the attitude of the hordes bowing under communist regimes. It doesn't get much more un-American.

David Cole at The Nation:

Defenders of the new surveillance typically argue that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. This familiar claim ignores the fact that privacy is valuable not just to criminals, but to all of us. We all close the doors to our bedrooms and our homes, whether or not we are engaged in criminal conduct. We all use password protection for our personal computers, regardless of whether we are doing anything wrong. Privacy serves a multitude of ends other than protecting criminals; if that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t have protected it in the first place.

"Highest standard trade agreement in history"

No, Mr. President, you are dead wrong about this.  NAFTA forever taints Bill Clinton's legacy, and if TPP goes into effect, all the massive good of Obamacare will disappear into the giant maw of global corporate greed.

And shame on you for misleading about the job and environment "protections."  Those are voluntary and unenforceable.  The power of corporations to strip democracy from even the largest nation is what's ironclad in TPP.

Full transcript here.

Keeping the Wage Slaves Down

Because the greatest threat to plutocratic power is a large, broad, strong middle class not afraid to exercise our political will.

David Atkins at Political Animal:

The only thing the plutocrats love more than keeping their money sheltered from taxation, is a cheap and desperate labor force. If people could retire and become homemakers comfortable in the knowledge that while they may have a little less money to spend on luxury items, their health and their children’s future would be looked after, how many people would quit their soul-sucking dead end jobs tomorrow?

A lot. Perhaps millions. And that labor market power would mean higher wages, fewer hours and more benefits to keep the best workers and reattract the fence-sitters. The current norm of wage slavery would begin to look much more like honest voluntary employment.

And that likely scares the plutocrats more than even taxes do.
David Atkins again:
You might think conservative politicians would look askance at the tremendous amount of money being wasted at the Pentagon for little to no gain. But no. Better to take swimming pools away from welfare recipients instead.

Because it’s not really about the money. It’s about making sure the wrong people know their place.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Obamacare Makes It Easy to Tell The Smart and Honest From the Stupid Liars in Eastern Kentucky

They may still hate that Ni**er in the White House, but they know their lives are better because of his socialist health care reform.
Laura Unger and Chris Kenning at the Courier:
PRESTONSBURG, Ky. – Obamacare flooded into these remote Appalachian hills last year like the War on Poverty had a half-century earlier — another government program promising to save some of America's most vulnerable citizens.

And since then, it has given many of the poor and sick a key to long-neglected health care. But it's also brought skepticism and fear, with some business owners arguing it's stunting growth in a region that can't afford another economic blow.

One year after USA Today and The Courier-Journal examined the Affordable Care Act's arrival in Floyd County, Ky., health reform has taken root in ways both surprising and expected, good and bad.
Amid predictions that bad health habits would be hard to break, scores of newly insured residents, mostly covered by Medicaid, have sought care in hospitals, mental health centers and drug treatment facilities. Providers have proved plentiful. Unreimbursed care costs are down. The county's under-65 uninsured rate is half what it was — dropping from 19 percent before the law to 10 percent at the end of last year.

Some who dismissed Obamacare because of its political associations with a president blamed for the decline of the coal industry say their opposition has softened.

Fast-food worker Melinda Watson last year echoed the law's unpopularity here — convinced it would kill jobs and create long waits for "horrible" socialized medicine. She only bought a subsidized insurance plan on the state exchange to avoid paying federal penalties. But she soon realized the benefits: going to the doctor regularly and undergoing MRIs for her epilepsy. And her employer didn't cut her hours, as she feared.

"I was really scared at first, with all the gossip," said the 41-year-old granddaughter of a coal miner, slicing tomatoes in the back of a sub shop. "But it's really helped. I've seen a lot of other people who got insurance actually using it, going to the doctor and getting their teeth fixed. Now I've got the opposite fear — that when (President Obama) goes out of office, they'll take it away."

Why Service Workers Should Get $25 an Hour

That's what the minimum wage would be now if it had kept up with inflation and productivity increases since 1968.

But if you can't figure out why you really don't want the home care worker changing your adult diaper to be distracted and resentful about her below-poverty wages and total lack of benefits, I can't help you.

Political Animal:

It’s also worth noting that it’s not highly skilled jobs that are most protected from automation, either: programmers and lawyers alike are all threatened by the trend. Rather, the most protected jobs are the ones that require the most personal touch, like in-home nursing care. Those are the jobs society truly needs most, but they’re also the ones that tend to pay the least.

The free market alone isn’t going to solve this problem. Fixing the obvious imbalance requires government to intervene and redistribute to keep life even remotely fair.

Conservatives can whinge and grind their teeth all they want. But given the trends, the only alternative to government intervention on behalf of economic fairness is far messier, far less pleasant, and far more dangerous to those who receive the surfeit of financial rewards in the modern economy.

Coal is Not Dying; It's Decomposing

But Tim McDonnell at Mother Jones is right:  Nothing Barack Obama or Mitch McConnell or the ghost of John L. Lewis could do will save coal now.
Coal, the No. 1 cause of climate change, is dying. Last year saw a record number of coal plant retirements in the United States, and a study last week from Duke University found that since 2008, the coal industry shed nearly 50,000 jobs, while natural gas and renewable energy added four times that number. Even China, which produces and consumes more coal than the rest of the world put together, is expected to hit peak coal use within a decade, in order to meet its promise to President Barack Obama to reduce its carbon emissions starting in 2030.

According to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), this is all the fault of President Barack Obama's "war on coal"—specifically the administration's new limits for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, which probably will force many power companies to burn less coal. If there is a war, McConnell has long been the field marshal of the defending army. His latest maneuver came last month when he called on state lawmakers to simply ignore the administration's new rules, in order to resist Obama's "attack on the middle class."

His logic, apparently, is that if Kentucky can stave off Obama long enough, the coal industry still has a glorious future ahead. That logic is fundamentally flawed. While Obama's tenure will probably speed up the country's transition to cleaner energy, the scales had already tipped against coal long before he took office. Kentucky's coal production peaked in 1990, and coal industry employment peaked all the way back in the 1920s. The scales won't tip back after he leaves. The "war on coal" narrative isn't simply misleading, it also distracts from the very real problem of how to prepare coal mining communities and energy consumers (i.e., everyone) for an approaching future in which coal is demoted to a bit role after a century at center stage.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cut Corporate Welfare First; Then We'll Talk About the Poor

Let's be honest: repugs - and they are always repugs - who deride poor people for not working are not exactly bent over from a lifetime of manual labor for "wages" that wouldn't keep a gerbil fed.

Their lack of compassion is exceeded only by their greed and hypocrisy.

Courier-Journal editorial:

As Congress and some candidates in Kentucky debate the value of federal benefits to people, a new study out of The University of California offers some surprising findings about just who receives those benefits.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans who receive help from programs such as Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) are members of working families, living in households where where adults earn wages so low they qualify for such assistance.

Of the total $226.8 billion a year in federal benefits, more than half of that, $127.8 billion a year, goes to families where someone is earning a paycheck, according to the study from the Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

About 52 percent are fast food workers, 46 percent are child care workers, 48 percent are home care workers and 25 percent are part-time college instructors, the study found.

Thus, taxpayers not only are helping the poor, they are providing an enormous subsidy to employers ranging from giant corporations to small businesses that offer low wages, part-time work and few or no benefits.

“This is the hidden cost of low-wage work,” Ken Jacobs, a co-author of the report, told The New York Times.

These findings come as House Republicans in Congress offer a proposed a budget that includes massive cuts in such programs including billions of dollars in cuts to food stamps, which help more than 800,000 Kentuckians get enough to eat.

House Republicans also want to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, which now helps more than 500,000 Kentuckians obtain health coverage. The study found that even before the federal health law took full effect, more than half of Americans with Medicaid benefits worked at least part-time but were still poor enough to qualify for the health program.

Stereotypes about “welfare queens” and slackers sponging off the government persist but this study finds that the majority of those who benefit from government programs — 73 percent — are members of working families.

The solution is not to strip support from such families. Rather, government efforts should focus on creating a better-prepared workforce and better-paying jobs.

If Congress wants to cut welfare, it should start with cutting corporate welfare.

Hey, White Guys

Via Nancy LeTourneau at Political Animal:

More Green Energy Jobs Added Than Coal Jobs Lost

Yes, Big Coal's motherfucking liars - I'm looking at YOU, Steve Beshear - have been lying about jobs, too.

Sean Cockerham at McClatchy:

Far more jobs have been created in wind and solar in recent years than lost in the collapse of the coal industry, and renewable energy is poised for record growth in the United States this year.

“I started this company in 2009 and I have seen tremendous growth since then,” said John Billingsley, CEO of Tri-Global Energy in Dallas.

Billingsley built his business on wind energy, which generated more than 10 percent of the electricity in Texas last year. He said he is hiring more workers to expand into solar power as well.

Researchers at Duke University, using data from renewable energy trade associations, estimate in a new study published in the journal Energy Policy that more than 79,000 direct and spinoff jobs were created from wind and solar electricity generation between 2008 and 2012.

That compares with an estimate of about 49,530 coal industry job losses, according to the study. While natural gas was the biggest winner in creating jobs for electricity generation, with almost 95,000 jobs created in that time, it’s clear renewable energy has been on the rise in the United States. 
And every minute, every penny spent propping up coal's filthy, stinking, rotting corpse costs Kentucky those high-paying, can't-be-offshored, green energy jobs being snapped up by even such fossil-fuel-worshipping moronic states as Texas.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

KY Dem Party Still Doesn't Know How to Run Campaigns

For the eleventy-millionth time, there are no swing voters who can be persuaded to cross party lines.  There are only occasional voters in both parties who have to be inspired or bullied into getting off their fat asses and into the voting booth.
This stupid shit just pisses people off and subtracts thousands more Democratic votes from the total number any Democratic candidate needs to win statewide.
Unless the state Democratic Party starts knocking on doors and talking directly to Democratic voters, begging them to go to the polls, we're going to get Governor Heiner and the Democratic party will have no one to blame but itself.

Sam Youngman at the Herald:
It has become conventional wisdom in the 2015 race for governor that one of Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway's greatest assets is the contentious Republican primary.

Highlighting that asset, the Kentucky Democratic Party released a new web video, titled "Slugfest," on Tuesday that demonstrates the heated turn the Republican field has taken in the last few weeks.
The state party said in a news release that the video shows "how the GOP primary has turned into a brutal, intra-party fight that is exposing the flaws in each candidate and will leave their ultimate nominee deeply wounded."
Gee, that sounds familiar ... oh yeah.  That's what the repugs said about Clinton and Obama in 2008.  I wonder how that turned out.

"the GOP primary has turned into a brutal, intra-party fight that is exposing the flaws in each candidate and will leave their ultimate nominee deeply wounded will force the candidates to hone their arguments and leave the eventual nominee enormously strengthened."


When Republicans Loved Taxes

Down with Tyranny:

Wake Up! Pro-Abortion Forces Are Out-Numbered and Out-Maneuvered

One day very soon we're going to look around and see nothing but fucking Gilead. These motherfuckers have to be stopped now.

Molly Redden at Mother Jones:

Meanwhile, in the time it took for Oregon to abandon this bill, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, and West Virginia passed 10 new abortion and reproductive rights restrictions. What happened in Oregon shows just how much reproductive rights advocates are playing catch-up, even in states that appear friendly to their agenda.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Let's Stop Expecting Hammers to Install Air-Conditioners

Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic:

Police officers fight crime. Police officers are neither case-workers, nor teachers, nor mental-health professionals, nor drug counselors. One of the great hallmarks of the past forty years of American domestic policy is a broad disinterest in that difference. The problem of restoring police authority is not really a problem of police authority, but a problem of democratic authority. It is what happens when you decide to solve all your problems with a hammer. To ask, at this late date, why the police seem to have lost their minds is to ask why our hammers are so bad at installing air-conditioners. More it is to ignore the state of the house all around us. A reform that begins with the officer on the beat is not reform at all. It’s avoidance. It’s a continuance of the American preference for considering the actions of bad individuals, as opposed to the function and intention of systems.
And of course the reason we are expecting police to be social workers and teachers and mental-health professionals and drug counselors is because thirty years of austerity budgets and tax cuts for the rich have left local governments without the money to hire anyone but cops.

Tax the motherfucking mooching rich out of existence and use the money to restore government that works: government with all the teachers, social workers, mental-health professionals and drug counselors we need and then some.

Not to mention janitors and engineers and hospital orderlies (remember them?) and park rangers and researchers and maintenance workers and artists and scientists and philosophers and musicians.

The booming economy of the 1950s and 1960s that grew the world's strongest and most affluent middle class ran on millions more government workers - paid with 90 percent taxes on the rich - than we have today.

And millions more government workers, paid with the same soak-the-rich taxes, is what it's going to take to not just restore that economy, but stop the epidemic of cops murdering people who need help.

Yes, You Are Paying Way More in Taxes Than The Mooching Rich Are Paying

Because state income tax rates are hugely regressive (in Kentucky, billionaires pay the same 6 percent as do families earning $50,000 per year), because the flat sales tax takes a much greater percentage of income of the poor and working people, and because the rich pay no social security or medicare taxes on income above $118,000, the full burden of taxes in this country falls on those least able to pay it.

And G.I.LuvMoney's claim about the "47 percent who pay no taxes"?  Those are the 47 percent who earn so little - less than $20,000 per year - that they don't qualify for federal income taxes.  In every other kind of tax however - payroll (social security and medicare), property, sales, gas and state income taxes - they pay far more of their income than do the mooching rich.

Via Lawyers, Guns and Money:

Regressive tax codes:

Second, it ignores the effect of state and local taxes, which fall disproportionately on the working and middle classes. The difference is shown by the latest annual report on “Who Pays Taxes in America,” released last week by Citizens for Tax Justice. (Hat tip to Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones.)
“Contrary to popular belief,” CTJ finds, “when all taxes are considered, the rich do not pay a disproportionately high share of taxes.”
CTJ shows that combined local, state and federal taxes produce a system that more resembles a flat tax than a progressive tax: In 2015, the top 1% will pay 32.6% of their income in taxes, while those in the 60th-80th percentile (with average income of $81,000) pay 30.4% and the next highest 10% (average income of $125,000) pay 32.1%. Overall, the bottom 99% pay 29.8% of their income in taxes, a ratio not much smaller than the top 1%.

What's the Matter with Repugs? They're All Neo-Confederates

Really.  The hero-worship of Traitors in Defense of Slavery explains everything about conservatives, especially the inexplicable popularity of their self-destructive jingoism.

Euan Hague at Politico:
So what makes this Confederate politics so attractive? To adherents, today’s Confederate ideology exposes falsehoods in mainstream accounts of U.S. history and offers to reveal “the truth,” which has supposedly been suppressed by “East Coast elites” and “liberal academics” pandering to ethnic minority pressure. According to this narrative, the Civil War was not fought over slavery but rather because the Union and President Abraham Lincoln acted without regard for the Constitution to accumulate power. Confederate sympathy offers an ideology that explains why life in America is not what one expected it to be, why Spanish is increasingly heard in towns across the country, why despite working hard one never seems to get ahead, why African Americans have recently occupied highly visible leadership positions as attorney general, secretary of state and, of course, president. It is a politics of victimization, a sentiment that political correctness and anti-discrimination laws constrain right-thinking and hard-working people, and that for 150 years America has strayed from its preordained and righteous path.

Beginning in the 1890s, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), the United Confederate Veterans and, since the start of the 20th century, the SCV have sought to keep the Confederate flame burning and flag flying. These organizations and others have promoted pro-Confederate histories, influenced school textbooks, hosted lectures and acted as tour guides, staffed and funded both public and private museums that celebrate the Confederacy, installed statues and Confederate flags along interstates, and overseen numerous other public displays of homage to the slave-holding Confederacy.

Nor is such veneration confined to the former Confederate states.


Central to these positions was an argument that the Confederate states followed the original intent of the Constitution in the face of Lincoln’s tyrannical abuse and expansion of federal power. This last contention justifies the reasoning that the Civil War was an illegal invasion of peaceable Confederate states by a malignant federal government. Within this logic, most, if not all, legislation passed since 1865 is by definition unconstitutional and Constitutional amendments, such as the 14th granting equal protection and citizenship to all born in the United States, were illegally enacted and coercively imposed in the aftermath of the War.

By the late 20th century, undisguised support for white supremacy was no longer politically viable; thus, arguing that your ancestors fought honorably for their homes and families against a dictatorial federal government that usurped the natural, constitutional, God-given order of things was considerably more palatable. Even so, racial differences, although rarely articulated directly, remain central to the task of rallying support for neo-Confederate organizations.


At the start of the 21st Century, therefore, through magazines, websites, and social media, in addition to books and radio shows, people can find a political platform and language through which to articulate their pro-Confederate views. It is a language that decries the “activist judges” who imposed affirmative action “quotas,” opposes “federal overreach,” claims that “Third World immigration” is causing “Southern demographic displacement,” and it all came with an effort to reclaim the meaning of the Confederacy’s most potent symbol, the Confederate battle flag, as “a symbol of sacrifice, independence and Southern heritage,” as the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals summarized the SCV’s interpretation of the flag in the Texas license plate case.

In this way, the Confederate “heritage” movement has gone way beyond tending graves and cutting grass at Confederate cemeteries or reenacting battles. Indeed, the idea that groups like the SCV represent Confederate “heritage” is a misnomer: They are political organizations that aggressively promote their versions of the Confederacy behind a veneer of benign ancestral reverence. In 2015, the Confederate flag comes with a reactionary, anti-democratic, anti-federal politics, a politics that reverberates through social media, talk radio, and niche publishers.


A critical development of this modern Confederate movement has been to mobilize reactionary political positions as the essence of being Southern. Within this logic, if you are proud to be from the South, you cannot be liberal and are by definition opposed to the federal government, opposed to civil rights legislation, opposed to anti-discrimination policies, opposed to federal welfare and health care policies, and instead support Constitutional originalism (which, of course, counted each African American as three-fifths of a person). This ideology is animated through support for different structures of governance, namely a belief in the primacy of the States and localities over federal authority. If you believe that you are no longer represented by your representative government, one route to alternative governance is restructuring the state. In Europe, nationalism is on the upswing: in the United States, the model for nationalism and separatism is the Confederacy, and one way to demonstrate support for such beliefs is to wave the Confederate battle flag (or put it on your license plate).

Yet, bizarrely, as Confederate ideology seeks to undermine government authority, getting an governmental imprimatur for the Confederate flag is important to its supporters, as every success further legitimizes their argument that the Confederacy had nothing to do with white supremacy (after all, why would a USA that purports to support racial equality therefore sanction display of the Confederate flag if the meaning of the flag was racism?) The flag debate therefore cuts both ways–refusal by the state to display it proves once again that those with Confederate ancestors and sympathies are being victimized and discriminated against; yet if a state does display the flag, this demonstrates that the Confederate emblem is not racist and is, instead, indicative of regional and ancestral pride.

We have come a long way from 1865, when the federal government denied permission for Confederate soldiers to be buried in U.S. military cemeteries.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the SCV, then Texas would become the tenth state to allow the Confederate flag on its license plates. This will add to the political legitimation of the Confederacy that ranges from the SCV’s involvement with ROTC and the UDC’s eight annual awards given at U.S. service academies, to the U.S. president annually sending a wreath for placement at the Confederate memorial in Arlington. (Imagine the symbolism in 2009 when an African-American repeated this act of presidential veneration for the Confederate dead, the wreath lying beneath a sculpture that had been commissioned by the UDC a century before to include depictions of ‘faithful’ slaves and their masters?)

Next week the nation will mark another 150-year anniversary—the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865. Yet the persistence of these neo-Confederate views in America is evidence that even this terrible event is not universally condemned. A century and a half after the Civil War ended, the struggle to define America’s past is still going on—and it is also a struggle to shape America’s future.
And it's all a fucking lie, created, sold and promoted by slavery apologists and their racist followers.

Jamelle Bouie at Slate:
But while historians have rehabilitated Grant in academia—as a flawed president who nonetheless held a strong commitment to black rights—his standing still lags in public memory. The reverse is true of Lee. To many, he is what he’s been for almost 150 years: a decent man on the wrong side of history.
Whether this changes depends on where the country goes. Both men are eternally tied to Appomattox and everything it meant, from the end of the Confederate dream to the promise of emancipation. And in turn, their legacies are tied to what those things mean today, from the particular heritage celebrated by millions of white Southerners to the fight for full inclusion of black Americans to national life. Maybe, if full racial equality is in our future, Grant will rise higher as the man who helped move the country a step toward its destination, while Lee declines to the background of history. And if that isn’t our path? Then Lee might remain as an image of what we want our past to look like, and not what it was.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Right to Work a Person to Death

Kentucky counties and cities are competing to pass the Right to Work a Person to Death laws that the besieged Democrats in the state House are fighting tooth and nail.  Won't those cities and counties be surprised when worker serfdom slashes their municipal budgets to nothing! 

The only thing standing between American  workers and utter serfdom is labor unions. Thus, every attack on unions is an attack on workers and an attempt to turn them into serfs.

There’s nothing good happening to the American worker in 2016, but it is even more discouraging than usual that Republican governors are trying to outdo each other in unionbusting as a way to gather national prominence and perhaps a presidential nomination. Scott Walker is of course the most prominent example of this, but it is also basically Illinois governor Bruce Rauner’s entire agenda.
Rauner’s efforts in Illinois are getting the closest scrutiny. That state is an unlikely launch pad for a crusade against union power. It has been a solidly blue state in presidential elections since 1992 and had not elected a Republican governor since 1998 until Rauner, a longtime friend of Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor who had also worked in private equity, won office last year. Conservative journalist Stephen Moore called the political newcomer’s campaign “the biggest election of 2014.“ Illinois, he wrote in National Review, “could become a laboratory experiment about whether conservative ideas can work in a state that has been ruled by…unions and a self-serving political machine in Springfield and Chicago.”
Once in office, Rauner issued a “Turnaround Agenda” that begins with this premise: “Government union leaders are funding politicians who negotiate their pay and benefits.” To put an end to that, Rauner issued an executive order challenging collective bargaining agreements with state employees and urged municipalities and counties to create their right-to-work zones.
Rauner frames the issue as one of freedom and local control. The governor says he wants Illinois communities to decide whether “their businesses should be subject to forced unionism or employee choice.” Forced unionism is a familiar phrase among opponents of collective bargaining, but it’s also a misleading one. If a majority of workers vote to form a union, then it’s customary for workers to be compelled to pay dues as a price for being in a union. Those who don’t want to join the union are required to pay something so they aren’t getting a free ride. By giving workers the prerogative not to pay union dues, right-to-work laws undercut the power of unions.
Hoping to spur municipalities to take on public-employee unions, Rauner sent right-to-work resolutions to all of Illinois’s cities and villages. A municipality can just insert its name and vote on it. It’s a smart strategy since the Illinois statehouse is solidly Democratic and won’t pass a right-to-work law. Setting fires in small towns might arouse anti-union sentiment, and it will surely inflame the unions. Last week, unions packed a meeting of the Oswego County board in northern Illinois, where the nonbinding resolution was up for discussion. Scott Roscoe, president of the Fox Valley Building Trades Council in Aurora, told a local journalist, “If we don’t stop anti-worker schemes like right-to-work, more families will fall behind.”
I’d say it’s fairly likely that if Hillary Clinton wins in 2016 than Rauner is setting himself up nicely for the nomination in 2020. Certainly his friends the Koch Brothers are happy with him. “Right to Work a Person a Death” should just become the central agenda on the Republican agenda. And Rauner would probably even have good buddy Rahm Emanuel on his side!

If This Happens, I Will Eat Gov. Beshear's Hat

Total bullshit.  120-county broadband in three years my ass. Motherfucking phone company put fiber-optic lines on my road 14 years ago.  Still no DSL, no broadband, no fucking nothing.

Also: "fees charged to future customers." Everybody who thinks that will be a penny less than the arm and a leg currently charged by satellite and other wireless companies, stand on your head.

Garry Wollenhaupt at the Lane Report:

Imagine downloading an entire movie in just a few seconds, or a business sending massive 3D printing files around the world. That’s the kind of jumpstart Gov. Steve Beshear hopes to provide with the Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway, a plan to extend high-speed broadband service via fiber optic lines to all 120 counties by 2018.

In December 2014, Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, the Somerset Republican who since the 1980 election has represented most of the commonwealth’s Appalachian region, announced a contract with Australia-based Macquarie Capital to bring high-speed Internet connectivity to the state. The project will include more than 3,000 miles of fiber in all 120 counties, and Eastern Kentucky will be the first priority area.

Rogers and Beshear have spearheaded the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative, aimed at improving economic development and public infrastructure in the Appalachian region. Having long endured fewer jobs, lower incomes and lagging infrastructure, Eastern Kentucky in the past few years has lost half the coal mining jobs that were among the best paying to residents there. SOAR’s aim is to move the economic needle broadly upward.

Across the state, most home Internet services are delivered via telephone lines or cable TV connections that don’t qualify as broadband service today – defined now as download speeds of 25 megabits per second rather than the 2010 benchmark of 4Mbps. Businesses in some large cities have fast options for Internet service through telecommunications providers, but at a high cost and not at the level this project will provide.

The project is designed to address the fact that Kentucky ranks 46th in broadband availability, and slow service is still a reality in the 23 percent of the state’s rural areas that do not have access to broadband of any type.

The contract with Macquarie, estimated at $250 million to $350 million depending on how much existing infrastructure is used, will target Eastern Kentucky first for fiber optic installation and connectivity.

The state will support the project with $30 million in state bonds and $15 to $20 million in federal grants it is getting specifically for this job. In the recent omnibus federal budget, the Appalachian Regional Commission was awarded $10 million to improve broadband in central Appalachia. There is no additional cost to taxpayers under the public-private partnership Macquarie Capital has signed has signed on for; it will pay the rest of the costs with the anticipation of obtaining a return from the fees charged to future customers.

GMOs Don't Work

As I have written before, my objection to GMOs has to do with destroying the food supply through hybrid seeds that farmers must buy every year instead of being able to propagate from their own harvest.

Not to mention the extreme danger of putting the future and safety of our food supply in the hands of giant corporations - many of which like Monsanto are proven criminals - which can then literally hold the planet hostage.

Those objections would stand even if GMOs actually worked the way they are advertised.

They don't.

Lauren McCauley at Firedoglake:

The biotechnology industry “myth” that feeding billions of people necessitates genetically engineered agriculture has been debunked by a new report out Tuesday by the nonprofit health organization Environmental Working Group.

The report, Feeding the World Without GMOs (pdf), argues that investment in genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has failed to expand global food security. It advocates more traditional methods “shown to actually increase food supplies and reduce the environmental impact of production.”

Over the past 20 years, the report notes, global crop yields have only grown by 20 percent—despite the massive investment in biotechnology.

On the other hand, it continues, in recent decades “the dominant source of yield improvements has been traditional crossbreeding, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.”

As the report states, “seed companies’ investment in improving yields in already high-yielding areas does little to improve food security; it mainly helps line the pockets of seed and chemical companies, large-scale growers and producers of corn ethanol.”

Obviously Not A Real Judge

I mean, just look at him.

Andrew Wolfson at the Courier:

He's been on the bench for nearly six years and plastered so many pictures of himself on Facebook that a colleague dubbed him "Judge Selfie."

But until he criticized the victims of an armed robbery for "fostering" the views of their 5-year-old daughter, whom they said was still scared of black men after two African Americans had held the family at gunpoint, Judge Olu Stevens was largely unknown outside the Jefferson County Judicial Center.

But now the story about that case, first reported in The Courier-Journal, has ricocheted around the world, retold in newspapers from New York to London. And it has ignited a firestorm of criticism of Stevens, some of it ugly, racist and menacing.

Stevens, 44, an African American, has been denounced as a racist, including by white supremacist groups, and court officials say he and his family have received death threats that prompted the sheriff's office to beef up his security.
How dare he apply to a white family the same standards used to shame and intimidate black families?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

When Terrorism Was a Crime, Not an Excuse for Permanent War

I remember when the news hit our office.  Somebody said it must have been the ay-rabs, but that struck me as ridiculous.  New York, of course. Miami, no shit.  Even Chicago or LA, sure.  But Oklahoma City?  Was there an Arab terrorist on the planet in April 1995 who could find Oklahoma City on a map?

Plus the target of a federal building. Out west, where the anti-government militias roam.

White militia fuckers, I said.  Has to be.

FBI, ATF and every spare federal lawman in the country descended on Oklahoma and in a matter of days they found the motherfuckers. Arrested them, charged them, tried them and executed one and imprisoned the other for life.

American law enforcement. American justice.  No U.S. military troops or civilians were harmed in the making of that victory.


Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday at the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to remember the 168 men, women and children killed when a truck stuffed with tons of explosives blew up at a downtown federal building.

Former President Bill Clinton was among the dignitaries who addressed the crowd outside the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.

"Oklahoma City, you had to choose to redeem your terrible losses by having to begin again," said Clinton, who was in his first term in office at the time of the attack, one of the deadliest of its kind ever staged on U.S. soil.

The museum, built over the spot where the destroyed Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood, includes a permanent display of 168 empty chairs, one for each person who died.

On Sunday morning, the seats were adorned with flowers, teddy bears and other mementos. The name of each victim was read aloud by relatives, coworkers and survivors.

“It was 60 minutes of terror,” said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. “But our finest hour has lasted 20 years. This city has progressed in a manner that none of us could have foreseen.”

The bombing was carried out on April 19, 1995, by Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government militant who was eventually convicted on federal charges and executed. His accomplice Terry Nichols received multiple life prison sentences for his part in the bombing, which also injured hundreds.

Make Legislators Live the Laws They Impose on Others

Start wioth the Kentucky assholes who tried to ban trans kids from using the restroom.  Make repug C.B. Embry and the rest drop trou and expose their genitals any time they try to enter a public restroom.

Because the motherfuckers could not survive a single day - fuck, a single HOUR - under the burdens they create to crush poor people, minority people and female people.

Think Progress:

The Kansas legislature has sent a bill to Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) desk that limits welfare recipients to withdrawing just $25 a day from their benefits and enacts a range of other restrictions.
via Hullabaloo:
Emily Badger of the Post's Wonkblog writes that from drug-testing aid recipients to passing new laws restricting what foods the the poor can buy with SNAP benefits, the odd double standard applied to government support for the poor raises several questions about why, one of them moral:
We rarely make similar demands of other recipients of government aid. We don't drug-test farmers who receive agriculture subsidies (lest they think about plowing while high!). We don't require Pell Grant recipients to prove that they're pursuing a degree that will get them a real job one day (sorry, no poetry!). We don't require wealthy families who cash in on the home mortgage interest deduction to prove that they don't use their homes as brothels (because surely someone out there does this). The strings that we attach to government aid are attached uniquely for the poor.
Tom Sullivan:
Missouri's proposed surf-and-turf law prohibits food-stamp recipients from using them to purchase, among other things, seafood or steak. This might include prohibiting the poor from purchasing canned tuna. (Sorry, Charlie.) Where's a seafood industry lobbyist when you really need one?
Dana Milbank writes:
The surf-and-turf bill is one of a flurry of new legislative proposals at the state and local level to dehumanize and even criminalize the poor as the country deals with the high-poverty hangover of the Great Recession.
We kiss up and kick down here. Steal trillions through your too-big-to-fail bank, and at most you'll draw a fine. Plug in a cell phone on the street and go to jail if you're lucky enough not to be tasered or shot. The new impoverishment is one of the soul.
Don't miss Wonkette's patented snark on the subject.

And all the motherfuckers who think they own women's wombs? No more viagra prescriptions: every time you want to fuck, you have to make an appointment with a doctor to explain why you need help to get that empty balloon up and hard, listen to a lecture on why you should not be fucking anyway, then wait 72 hours, then go back to the doctor and explain why you still want a boner pill, then you might get just one.

Every single time.

The Excuse

From commenter Callyson at Wonkette:

Just Do Your Fucking Job

Next time my boss gives me an assignment I don't like, or just tells me to get to work when I'd rather nap, I'm going say that my religious conscience prevents me from doing it.


How’s about, instead of passing laws like this, we instead pass “competency clauses,” which state that if your religious beliefs don’t allow you to do your job completely and correctly, then maybe you are not qualified to have that job and should maybe get a different job. Sounds like a fine fuckin’ idea to us.
Conscience clauses are another huge step toward Dominionism. Only christians - and only the most fundamentalist flavor of christian - will be citizens.  Only they will be fully human and thus entitled to civil and human rights.  

Rude Pundit:
Conscience clauses when it comes to things like this are just impositions of one's religion on others. Do your fucking job. If you can't do your fucking job properly, find another fucking job. If your bullshit beliefs are going to prevent you from fulfilling basic duties, then get the fuck out of the public sector. Go work for a church. Just stay away from people who might need you to shut the fuck up and do the job. Conservatives like to talk about "special rights" for different groups. An exclusion from the duties of your profession is pretty much the picture book definition of "special rights."

It ain't just religion. In Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a school nurse refused to assist a middle school student and threw the girl out of her office. The girl's crime? She didn't stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, the loyalty oath students around the country are asked to recite every morning at their indoctrination center schools. Except, interestingly enough, the Pledge is voluntary, and the nurse is being investigated for abiding by her patriotic conscience. So there is a line.

When it comes to religion, though, that line is being erased. We are not far from just letting shit burn.

Questions for Theists

PZ Myers, on why it is not closed-minded to demand reasonable kinds of evidence.

Greta Christina has followed up on EbonMuse’s challenge to theists, listing the kinds of evidence that would convince them that their beliefs were true.
If I’m such an open-minded atheist — if I really am an atheist because I think the God hypothesis is unsupported by the evidence — what evidence for God would I accept? What would it take to change my mind?
I’m going to take a rather different approach: I’m going to tell theists to not bother.

It’s not that I’m unwilling or unable to change my views, or that I think I’m absolutely right about everything (I already know I’m not). Physicists, for instance, frequently explain things to me that make me toss out a lot of preconceptions. It’s just that I know theists are wrong. I’ve been through these arguments many times before, and I know what they’re about, and I know what approaches the true believer will take, and I’m not going to accept any of their arguments, so we might as well not waste time with them.

Basically, I have a set of simple prerequisites that theists can’t meet — their beliefs fundamentally contradict any reasonable expectations. Here’s what I would demand:
  • They must accept the evidence of the natural world. What that means is that the first thing they have to do is acknowledge the validity of scientific explanations, because they are based on empirical knowledge. You don’t get to advance your hypothesis about how the universe works by throwing out the entire body of accumulated human wisdom!
  • They have to accept that they don’t know any more than I do about the nature of entities outside this universe. Deities and afterlives and all that crap are outside human experience; you don’t get to sashay in and announce that you personally have direct knowledge of the mind of god that I am not allowed to have. We have to restrict ourselves to information that is universally accessible. Which, of course, means that most theists claims are bogus, because they are unknowable.
  • They have to recognize that extant religions are all false. We know enough about the history of religion to recognize their idiosyncratic and human origins. If you can see that Scientology and Mormonism are frauds, then you should be able to see that Christianity and Islam are similarly the product of deluded human minds. Don’t waste our time trying to persuade me that debunked beliefs are really true.
  • They must define their god or supernatural property clearly and unambiguously. Inevitably, every faith-head fails on this criterion: go ahead, try to get a Christian to give a consistent description of Jesus’ role in their life. I guarantee you that every time an atheist tries to pin them down on something concrete, they’ll rapidly fall back on Karen Armstrong-style platitudes, which are all empty noise. “God is Love” is utter bullshit.
I think that even asking for things like miracles and prophecies and consistent holy books and deities manifesting on earth is conceding way too much — it’s treating their claims of the kind of phenomena that would validate their faith as reasonable forms of evidence. They’re not. Those are the things theists tell each other to “prove” their beliefs, and they’re bogus — they’ve never demonstrated anything.

Break the cycle of lies. Stop framing atheist questions in theistic terms.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

How the Libertarian Ideal Killed a Young Mother

This is the ideal Rand Paul claims to champion, when he is not pandering to the freakazoid warmongers of the repug primaries.

Burr Deming at Mad Mike's America:

For decades, her image has intruded into occasional dreams on sometime restless nights. I wonder what life might have been for her and her child had she lived.

fire fallAs flames swept through an apartment block, this was the last desperate moment of a mother falling with her child from a collapsing fire escape in Boston. Her fall was fatal, but her body cushioned the fall of her young daughter, allowing her to miraculously survive. It won the photographer, Stanley Forman, the World Press Photography Award in 1975.
The fire escape collapsed. The fireman held onto the fire ladder, but the tenuous hold between him and Diana Bryant was not strong enough.
Fire escapes became a standard requirement pretty much everywhere in the country after a number of industrial fires. One, at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Manhattan in 1911, killed 146 workers who could not get out of the building. Boston, along with most cities, instituted a requirement of fire escapes in all multi-floor apartment buildings. But Boston regulations did not require any more than the most shoddy materials or assembly.
The city wide shock brought additional reforms to Boston. Safety in materials and structure became required standards.

Libertarian theory holds that such regulation is unproductive at worst, and redundant at best. Corporations do not need to be ordered into safety standards by the heavy hand of government. Competition for renters will provide the incentive. If that incentive is not enough, the market rules. Lives lost will not have justified the cost of saving them.

Contemporary conservatism has largely been absorbed by the same philosophy.
The last federal Republican administration made food inspections voluntary. The Peanut Corporation of America sent out contaminated peanut butter to kids all over the nation. Eight people died. The Nestle Corporation turned away FDA safety inspectors under that same conservative voluntary program and 69 kids got sick from cookie dough.
Corporate executives make decisions based on profits, current and future. Human lives become data points, entries on a spreadsheet. Morbidity and mortality calculations are important only for their impact on the bottom line.
For me, and apparently much of Boston, a photo of a young mom and a little girl falling five stories made it personal.
Diana Bryant died on impact with the pavement. The two year old child was seriously injured, but somehow survived. That survival remains a miracle. The prevailing theory is that her fall was slightly cushioned by her step-mother’s body.
That cushion of blood and flesh was not provided by libertarian philosophy or by the incremental calculations of corporate profit.
Tragically, it also was not provided, as it ought to have been provided, by the construction codes of the time governing Boston, Massachusetts, and much of the country.

Conform and Obey, or Suffer the Consequences

Can you really say with confidence that there is absolutely nothing in your life that collected and misinterpreted could be used to arrest, imprison or otherwise destroy you?
I'm going to guess that everyone who thinks mass government surveillance for "terrorism" is a-ok must think this is ok too?
Secret mass surveillance conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration is falling under renewed scrutiny after fresh revelations about the broad scope of the agency’s electronic spying.
On Tuesday, USA Today reported that for more than two decades, dating back to 1992, the DEA and the Justice Department “amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking.” 
This is the thing I've never understood about people's casual attitude about all this surveillance. They seem to think that the Al Capone logic of government agents finding any crime they can to put someone behind bars couldn't possibly apply to them and will only be used against real "bad guys." But the Drug War should show if nothing else does that these agencies have a need to perpetuate themselves and will use whatever means at their disposal to ensure a steady supply of bad guys. These mass surveillance programs basically give them a permanent record of everyone's activity just in case they need to find some evidence of something against a person they want to target. And you may never even know that's what they did since they routinely lie about how they were informed of certain crimes citing the need to protect their confidential informants which can very well be the secret government program that's collecting all your information.

It's crazy. If you don't think the government should be allowed to scan every piece of mail that goes through the post office and keep it on file just in case they might "need" to sift through it and find something in your past or among your associations to use against you, you shouldn't be so sanguine about this stuff. These things could happen. They have happened.

"There's no greater threat to our planet than climate change."

The threat, Mr. President, is not to the planet.  The threat is to human civilization. A planet too volatile and extreme to allow human survival will get along just fine without us.


Full transcript here.

Motherfrackers Get Permit to Start Destroying Kentucky's Drinking Water

Nice to know that Kentucky's fossil fuel "regulators" are not biased in favor of coal.

They'll let anybody come in and kill us.

Brad Bowman at the State-Journal:

The Kentucky Oil and Gas Conservation Commission gave the green light for Kentucky’s first horizontal deep-well fracturing operation in a special meeting Thursday
The commission granted a drilling permit to Horizontal Technology Energy Company of Pennsylvania that will set up an oil and natural gas drilling operation in Johnson County. 
Based on a recommendation by hearing officer Gordon Slone, the company will drill at a target depth of 11,200 feet and has been approved for a vertical depth of 15,000 feet. 
The well will tap into the Rogersville Shale that is a part of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.  
Kentucky residents will have a chance to voice their concerns on oil and gas development in the state at three public meetings hosted by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. Meeting locations have been set for Hazard, Somerset and Madisonville, but dates and times for the meetings are undetermined. 
According to EEC Secretary Len Peters, the meeting format will include time for brief public comments and the cabinet will also accept written submissions. 
In a press release from Dick Brown, spokesperson for the cabinet, Peters said at the meetings there will, “be no debate between those on each side of the issue. These will be ‘listening sessions’ for the cabinet to receive comments on a wide array of issues surrounding the Kentucky oil and gas industry,” and comments will be recorded on video and submitted into a report to the oil and gas workgroup. 
According to the release, the report will be available to lawmakers and the Governor’s Office for possible action and the “…input from the general public is extremely valuable as this group moves forward,” Peters said. “We want to be certain future legislation addressing oil and gas exploration, especially fracking, takes into account all points of view.”
Despite legislation passed during the recent short session updating oil and gas regulations with environmental impact safeguards, it won’t affect this operation.
Senate Bill 186, sponsored by Frankfort Sen. Julian Carroll (D-Frankfort) won’t effectively become law until June. It requires high-volume horizontal fracturing operations to conduct baseline water testing before and after drilling operations begin and disclose the type of chemical used in the fracking process for example. 
Given the company could receive its permit as early as today, the new regulations won’t affect it.
Johnson County is high in the Eastern Kentucky mountains.  Right above the Kentucky River watershed, which supplies drinking water to more than a million Kentuckians in Central Kentucky before it dumps its load of deadly fracking chemicals into the Ohio River, from which millions more people drink.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fuck This Poll: Abortion is a Human Right Not Subject to Public Opinion

They don't poll on the popularity of slavery, because even if a majority of Americans approved of it, their opinion is irrelevant.

They don't poll on the humanity of women, because even if a majority of Americans think women are sub-human (hello, Ann Coulter!), their opinion is irrelevant.

And they don't poll on the right of parents to kill their children for disobedience, because even if a majority of Americans approved of it, their opinion is irrelevant.

So stop fucking polling people on abortion.

Their opinion is irrelevant.

A Good Question for AynRandy

What - exactly - is his definition of "small government?"
I like to pose the Goldilocks question:

How much government is too big, how much government is too small, and how much government is just right?

For the Scott Walkers and the Sam Brownbacks and the Pat McCrorys and the John Kasichs and the Ricks Snyder and Scott, this is not a trivial question. Since a "right-sized" government does not seem to exist in their universe, these are questions the right seems completely unprepared to address. Asking the question generally leaves them with their mouths hanging open.

Originalists among the T-Party typically fall back on Article 1, Section 8 enumerated powers in the Constitution. Of course, there is no Air Force in there — it's neither an Army nor a Navy. Therefore, no satellites, no telecommunications, no GPS. (Sorry, fishermen.) No system of lake, river, coastal, and aeronautical aids to navigation. They're not exactly military, nor law enforcement, nor commerce — and there's not really a market for trade in buoys, range markers, lighthouses, radio beacons, and air traffic control. No interstate highway system in Article 1, Section 8 either.

We ought to demand that our friends on the right define what their anti-big-government utopia looks like. Paint us a picture. Compare and contrast the life we live today with the one you promise your policies will provide. How about you start, Sam Brownback?

If you believe the lives we live right now are manacled by big, bad government, what would you demolish? What should go away? How much smaller should the military be? Is half a million installations worldwide too big? Is nearly 900 overseas bases too big? Would the Founders have considered that big government? Is Social Security big government? What's your plan for demolishing it? Do you propose privatizing the interstate highways? Should there be tolls on all of them?

And no, no more abstract blather about more freedom and more choices and fewer taxes. Paint us a picture. Describe for us, in detail, what your small-government utopia will look like in day-to-day, physical terms. Lowly fiction writers can do that.

How much government is too big, how much government is too small, and how much government is just right?