Saturday, April 30, 2016

Kentucky Treason in Defense of Slavery Monument to be Removed

Jefferson Davis remains in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort, but one tribute to Treason in Defense of Slavery in Louisville is headed for the trash heap where it belongs.

From the AP:

A Confederate monument capped with a statue of Jefferson Davis will be removed from a spot near the University of Louisville campus where it has stood since 1895.

The stone monument honoring Kentuckians who died for the Confederacy in the Civil War will be moved to another location, University President James Ramsey and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said during a surprise announcement Friday.

"It's time for us to move this monument to a more appropriate place," Ramsey said while standing in front of the stone memorial, which sits next to the university's gleaming Speed Art museum that just completed a $60 million renovation.
The only appropriate place in in the city dump.

UPDATE: The AP has corrected the story to state that the monument is capped with a statue of a confederate soldier, not Jeff Davis. Point remains.

Read more here:

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yep, Employers Lie

About. Everything. But mostly, about why they can't pay workers a living wage.
More than a year after a new minimum wage took effect in Seattle—$12.50 an hour now for small employers, increasing to $15 an hour by January 2018—prices at most stores haven’t gone up.
In a new report, researchers from the University of Washington presented data that showed “little or no evidence” of price increases in most sectors. Before the minimum wage law took effect, most retailers said they would have to charge more—and most low-wage workers were worried that they would have to spend more for necessities. So far, that hasn’t happened.
The researchers also checked the prices of things like rent and gas, because they wanted to understand how the law might affect the biggest expenses for low-income families. Those didn’t change either—not a surprising finding, since apartments and gas stations don’t rely on much labor.
The steady prices in the retail sector were more unexpected. “We looked in grocery stores, drugstores, and other types of retail outlets—we were focusing once again on places where your middle class or low-income families would be more likely to shop,” says Jacob Vigdor, a public policy professor at the University of Washington. “The fact that we didn’t find very many price increases in those types of outlets was a little bit more surprising to us.”
I wonder, if you went back a 100 years and looked at economic predictions, would any group come out more wrong than employers’ apocalyptic prognostication every time labor legislation was proposed?
 Or in the immortal words of Wonkette:
Reminder, kiddos: raising the minimum wage is entirely feasible, and every argument against it is fucking stupid, and the people who make those arguments are universally assholes. Full stop, the end, period, we’re done here, mic thrown through the center of the Earth.
Democratic legislators in Kentucky tried to get a pathetic minimum wage increase to 10 bucks through the General Assembly this year, but it died before Governor Lying Coward could even get a chance to veto it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Matt Bevin Doesn't Know What the Fuck He's Doing, Part 21

For forty years, it's been standard repug operating procedure to put the foxes in charge of all the public services henhouses: public health, worker safety, education, environmental protection, you name it.  But the one that they really slaver over because of the potential to obscenely enrich the already wealthy at the expense of consumers is the Public Service Commissioner.

The PSC regulates all the fundamental services the people need to live: water, electricity, natural gas, phone service.

The PSC decides how much of a rate increase the corporations that control those services get to cram down your throat to increase their profits.  The PSC decides which fracking companies get to run explosive, toxic chemical pipelines through your front yard without your permission.  The  PSC decides how much it costs to heat or cool your home, bathe with clean water, call 911 in an emergency.

The last thing you want to do is appoint to the PSC "bidnessmen" who will let utilities run roughshod over Kentuckians.

So of course that's what Governor Lying Coward has done.

From the press release:

Governor Matt Bevin has appointed Robert Cicero, a Florence businessman, to the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC).

“Bob Cicero’s experience as an independent businessman and his background as an accountant will be an asset to an agency that makes decisions affecting the lives of nearly every Kentuckian,” Gov. Bevin said. “I am grateful for his willingness to serve the Commonwealth in this key position.”

Cicero was appointed to a serve the remainder of a term that expires on July 1. He is eligible for reappointment to a full four-year term.

Since 2011, Cicero has been co-owner of High Performance Coolers LLC, which sells high-end coolers for personal and commercial uses. He previously was owner of MCM Clinical Research LLC and chief financial officer and treasurer of Aristech Acrylics LLC, both in Florence.

Cicero holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.

“I am delighted to have someone with Bob’s extensive knowledge of the issues facing Kentucky businesses join the Public Service Commission,’’ Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles G. Snavely said.
"Issues facing Kentucky businesses."  The PSC is not supposed to give a flying fuck about "issues facing Kentucky businesses." The PSC is supposed to care about regulating PUBLIC SERVICES to the benefit of, you know, THE PUBLIC.

But to Bevin and his business appointees, the public is just a source of money to be siphoned into the offshore tax-haven accounts of the filthy rich.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

No, Matt Bevin Did NOT Restore Voting Rights

Governor Lying Coward did it again.

The next-to-worthless "felony expungment" bill had but one purpose: fooling the public into thinking Bevin had restored voting rights.  And it worked.  All of the media coverage conflate the brand-new-this-year expungment bill with the real voting rights restoration bill that advocates have been fighting to get passed for years.

The repug state senate killed the voting rights bill every year, but passed the expungement bill without a peep.  The repugs haven't had a change of heart; they passed expungement because it is NOT a voting rights restoration bill.  It does NOT restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.

It just makes it impossible for advocates to get a REAL voting rights restoration bill passed.  "We don't need that; Governor Bevin signed the same thing in 2016."

No he did not.  But with the "expungment" bill, he and the senate repugs killed it for good.

Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia demonstrates how to do voting rights restoration correctly.

Terry McAuliffe is no friend of the netroots progressive movement. For a long time he has represented to many on the left a centrist and business-friendly version of the party that they would prefer to leave behind in favor of a more ideological position.

That said, McAuliffe’s decision to restore voting rights to over 200,000 convicted felons who have served their time and finished parole proves once again that regardless of intra-party fights over progressive or neoliberal ideas, it matters deeply who gets into power between Democrats and Republicans.

The Virginia decision is particularly impactful because of the long, racist history of the rule barring felons:
The action effectively overturns a Civil War-era provision in the state’s Constitution aimed, he said, at disenfranchising African-Americans…
Amid intensifying national attention over harsh sentencing policies that have disproportionately affected African-Americans, governors and legislatures around the nation have been debating — and often fighting over — moves to restore voting rights for convicted felons. Virginia imposes especially harsh restrictions, barring felons from voting for life.
The far-right swerve of the Republican Party in in recent decades means that even the most conservative Democrat is usually far superior to even the most liberal Republican at anything above the hyperlocal level. It is important for the Democratic Party to nominate candidates who support policies that improve lives, but it’s also important for even the most jaded voters to remember that no matter how frustrated they may become with the party’s standardbearers, it still matters greatly who holds office.

That said, it’s also important to remember that such executive actions by governors have limited effect until a unified liberal Congress can step in to require states to reverse discriminatory practices by national fiat—otherwise the executive actions of a Democratic governor can be simply overturned by a conservative:
In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin, a newly elected Republican, recently overturned an order enacted by his Democratic predecessor that was similar to the one Mr. McAuliffe signed Friday.
Matt Bevin, of course, was elected in Kentucky in part because of low voter turnout among Democrats. That had direct consequences for thousands of dispossessed and disenfranchised people.

Elections have serious consequences, and voters should remember that—even if they may not be entirely happy with their choices.

P.S. It’s worth noting for the record that Washington Monthly was among the first publications to write seriously about the injustice of denying the vote to convicts who had served their sentence, and did so over 15 years ago

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Hillbilly" Betrays Family to Push Repug Lies

Shame on you, J.D. Vance.  All that powerful prose about family loyalty and beating people bloody for the slightest insult, thrown away as a defense of repug, conservatard racism.

"Hillbilly Elegy" purports to be a revelation of the real reason white working-class people are suffering in this country.

It's even written by an actual working-class white person!  A self-proclaimed "hillbilly!"  With statistics to back up his bullshit!

I'm sure his accounts of family violence, struggles with substance abuse and poverty are true; it's the lessons he draws from them that are lifted straight from the elitist conservative pages of the National Review.

T-bone steaks bought on food stamps?  That canard is older than you, son.

Poor people don't need welfare; they just need to get off their lazy asses? Um, didn't you just disprove that very lie in the previous chapter?

Poor whites aren't racist; they just hate "Obama" (never "President Obama") for unknown reasons.

Vance deplores the economic and social collapse of the Ohio town where he grew up without ever recognizing, much less acknowledging, that it was repug tax and deregulation policy that encouraged corporations to abandon places like Middletown.

And that it is repug austerity budgets that deny impoverished residents the decent jobs, housing, education and treatment they need to recover.

No, no, it's all the fault of "liberal" welfare.

For shame, J.D. Vance.  You may have a Yale Law degree and a six-figure job for a biotech company, but the uneducated, jobless "failures" you despise back in Breathitt County know the truth better than you do.

Who Has a Cure for Cancer?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Forget Trade: TPP Gives Corporations Veto Power Over National Laws

That's not hyperbole.  Under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, corporations can force countries to repeal all laws protecting consumer health and safety, clean water, clean air, safe food - anything that might cost a corporation a single penny in profits.

Ever wonder what it's like to live in a third-world country?   In a Randian paradise where only corporations have rights? Where the Kinder-Morgan can frack the fuck out of your front yard for free?  When Congress approves TPP, we'll find out.

Congress isn't just not debating it, Members who want to see what's in it must do so alone in a locked room and aren't allowed to bring a record devise-- or even a pen and paper! Those who have done so say only two of the 26 chapters cover traditional trade matters. The bulk of the document, which must be accepted or rejected without any modification, consists of new rights and privileges for multinational corporations (especially international banks and pharmaceutical companies) and irrevocable constraints on government regulation. The document makes it easier for companies to move jobs offshore, take control of natural resources and prevent the regulation of financial services. Kiss the whole concept of "Buy American" or even "buy local" bye-bye-- banned under the agreement.

Conventional courts cannot adjudicate individual trade disputes in the countries where they occur. All disagreements must be decided by “Investor State Dispute Resolution” conducted by TPP Tribunals staffed by lawyers from the private sector who are empowered to force governments to pay unlimited fines to corporations that believe their profits are in jeopardy.

Plotted in secret, the TPP is a corporate coup d’├ętat benefitting the drug, energy, banking and agribusiness industries. It was supposed to take effect this year but the process was delayed when Australia refused to submit to the corporate court system and New Zealand objected to pharmaceutical companies determining the price of drugs sold in New Zealand. All countries denounced America’s demand that regulations on financial speculation be eliminated and drug patent monopolies be extended so that the introduction of generic equivalents could be postponed for years.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ky Gov Vows to Find the Real Murderer

The danger here is not just that Bevin is wasting tax dollars on a fake search for "corruption," or even that this faux "investigation" will provide a long-term cover for actual corruption by Bevin and his cronies.

No, the real danger is that this witch hunt will target, attack and destroy innocent workers trying to perform needed public service that the libertarian freaks want eliminated.

I can hear the mob's cries now:  "Burn them!"

From the press release:

Governor Matt Bevin Launches Special Investigation into Public Corruption

FRANKFORT, KY (April 19, 2016) -  Today, in light of areas of serious concern dealing with potentially illegal and unethical contracting processes during the previous administration, Governor Matt Bevin announced a special investigation.

Governor Bevin has asked the Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet, Col. Bill Landrum, using the extensive investigative powers given to him in KRS Chapter 45, to prepare and issue an RFP for a thorough, in-depth investigation and report by an attorney or law firm with experience in investigating activities and contracts.

Once selected, this firm will work closely with Secretary Landrum and his staff, including the Cabinet’s new Inspector General, whose appointment will be announced in the coming days, to make findings and issue a report. 

Under KRS Chapter 45, such investigation will include the ability to subpoena witnesses and records as may be necessary to accomplish the investigative goals. 

“A thorough, independent investigation like this can expose and cast light upon prior unsavory — and perhaps illegal — practices, but can also provide the public a degree of confidence in a fair and transparent governance that was so glaringly absent in the past administration,” said Governor Bevin.

Please find attached the Governor’s full remarks as prepared for delivery.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

KY Papers win Open Records Precedent on Child Deaths

Wonder what local newspapers are for?  Fighting for years to force state government to make public how it handles child abuse cases that lead to deaths.

Holding the people's government accountable to the people, goddammit, that's what for.

Bill Estep at the Herald:

The state will pay a $250,000 penalty to Kentucky’s two largest newspapers to settle a lawsuit that requires public disclosure of documents about children who die or are severely injured from abuse or neglect.

The newspapers had fought the legal battle for years as they attempted to assess state efforts to protect vulnerable children.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which investigates cases in which children might have died as a result of abuse or neglect, also agreed to pay attorney fees of $110,000 to the Lexington Herald-Leader and $339,000 to The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.

The $250,000 is a penalty for violating the state’s open records law.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip J. Shepherd ordered a much higher penalty, $756,000, in 2013, ruling that the cabinet had willfully refused to release documents as required by state law in response to the newspapers’ requests.

The cabinet acted as if the law was “an obstacle to be circumvented rather than a law mandating compliance,” Shepherd wrote.

A panel of the state Court of Appeals upheld that ruling this year, saying public agencies must permit inspection of public records as required by the law “or risk meaningful punishment for noncompliance.”

“Rigid adherence to this stark principle is the lifeblood of a law which rightly favors disclosure, fosters transparency and secures the public trust,” Judge Irv Maze wrote in the majority opinion.
The newspapers agreed to the lower penalty amount, and the state agreed to drop its request for the state Supreme Court to review the case. Each paper will receive $125,000.

Rufus Friday, president and publisher of the Herald-Leader, said the newspaper was evaluating options for using the penalty to serve the community and promote transparency, with an emphasis on child welfare, families and social services.

The real goal of fighting for access to the records was to promote greater openness in child welfare, Friday said.

“This resolution leaves no doubt that these records related to state government’s role in protecting its most vulnerable citizens are open for public scrutiny. That has been our goal from the beginning,” Friday said.


The path to the settlement made public Monday started with a gruesome tragedy in May 2009, when Kayden Daniels, a 20-month-old Wayne County boy, died after accidentally drinking caustic drain cleaner that had been used to make methamphetamine at a trailer where his teenage parents had been staying.

The Herald-Leader asked the state for records detailing its involvement with Kayden and his mother.
However, the agency had a longstanding policy against publicly releasing files on children who died or were badly injured in such cases, and it denied the newspaper’s request for documents.

That was the genesis for a court fight in which the Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal ultimately sued the cabinet for access to files on 140 children killed or badly hurt in 2009 and 2010.

Read more here:

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Monday, April 18, 2016

A Free Man Responds

If you knew absolutely nothing about the slavery of African Americans, the letter pasted at the end of this column would tell you everything you need to know.

And, not surprisingly, the now-freed slaves joyously rubbed their freedom in their masters’ faces when they could. The brilliant letter from ex-slave Jourdon Anderson to his ex-master Col. P.H. Anderson when the latter wrote to ask him to come back to work on the plantation after the war is the best way to conclude:
Dayton, Ohio,
August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable.
Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.
I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.
As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.
In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.
Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
From your old servant,
Jourdon Anderson.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Debt and Deficit Are Way Too Fucking SMALL

So here's my plan: borrow $10 trillion from the countries begging us to borrow money from them at negative interest rates, then create 10 million jobs paying $50,000 per year plus full benefits.  What jobs, you say?

Government jobs.  The ones the anti-government freaks and austerity hysterics have been eliminating for the last 40 years. The basic, important ones that create a civilized nation.

Jobs and training for people with no college education: nurse aides and orderlies in hospitals and nursing homes; maintenance workers in public buildings and parks and recreation centers; child care workers, teacher aides, home health care workers.

Jobs for people with college education: teachers, social workers, mental health counselors, substance abuse counselors, health and safety inspectors, IRS tax reviewers, nurses and public defenders.

All jobs that can't be outsourced and can't be done by robots. Jobs that will pour trillions into the economy and take a huge step toward eliminating poverty.


Take a look at this atrocity (and I don't men the zombie in the suit) 
Think Progress has the definitive takedown:
This is false. The world’s investors continue to give us their money for historically low prices. The national debt never has to be repaid in the credit card-style manner the cover implies. And trying to do so would be economically disastrous for the entire world’s population, both the tiny fraction who are rich and the many billions who are clawing for a dignified life. 
Putting that cover on newsstands in 2016 is the journalism equivalent of Ted Cruz’s campaign dressing up its fundraising emails as formal past-due notices. It’s a simple con: Alarm the eye, shock the brain, and collect a few nickels from the stunned rube who falls for it.
And if you need a re-cap of just how disastrous this obsession with the debt has been in very recent history:
Panic about the size of the national debt has undermined the country throughout the entire Obama presidency. After a cataclysmic financial industry collapse caused by very rich people in very expensive suits, a new round of well-heeled liars conspired to ensure that the nation’s economic recovery would be devastatingly slow and feeble.
In late 2008 and early 2009, it was obvious that the government needed to spend like hell to save the country from an outright depression. Official government forecasts showed a looming economic output loss of more than $2 trillion, and independent analysis suggested the problem was even larger.
But rather than enacting a $2 trillion injection of public stimulus, debt hawks insisted on something much more modest. The White House obliged, proposing less than half of what official forecasts would have required. White House economist Christina Romer fought for a much more ambitious package, lost, and quit the administration a little over a year later. 
The debt panickers had won. With that victory under their belt, they got bolder – and Democrats got craven. 
CNBC talking head Rick Santelli’s live-tv rant in 2010 that’s often credited with launching the Tea Party? At the surface he railed about specific spending policies and banker-friendly notions of fairness. But like the movement it sparked, it was fundamentally animated by debt panic. 
The debt-whiner Gadsden flag crowd delivered the 2010 election wave that gave John Boehner the Speaker’s gavel, ensuring the legislative death of every Obama priority that hadn’t been finished yet. The media’s tendency to chase whatever is shiniest ensured that the Tea Party phenomenon dominated political conversations that spring and summer. 
Democrats up for re-election that year decided they couldn’t push back against the fundamental economic errors underlying the debt fervor. Instead, they ran away from anything that even smelled like a spending bill. 
Almost all of them tried to downplay their votes for the stimulus package, quietly validating the incorrect notion that the bill had been too big. That of course did nothing to stop the hundreds of thousands of attack ads that smeared the Recovery Act as a debt-laden boondoggle. 
President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009. Republicans channeled a dishonest debt panic to ensure it would be the last ambitious investment in America's economy he got to make.President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009. Republicans channeled a dishonest debt panic to ensure it would be the last ambitious investment in America’s economy he got to make. 
Many Democrats even asked President Obama to stay away from their districts – even though the new president’s personal popularity among Democrats likely would have helped many of those defeated House members to keep their seats. 
After the 2010 “shellacking,” the White House itself made a similar strategic error by entertaining the debt panic that had empowered the same Republicans who began sabotaging the economic recovery starting at the very outset of Obama’s tenure. Obama appointed a bipartisan commission to gin up ideas for reining in a supposedly-runaway national debt. It didn’t matter that the commission’s most damaging ideas never became law. The signal was clear: No blue states, no red states, just purple states where everyone agrees that The Debt Is A Problem That Must Be Solved. 
With Boehner installed as Speaker on the crest of a debt-panic wave, a fiscal game of chicken became almost inevitable. To resolve it, the White House ended up agreeing to the disaster known as sequestration.
The entire point of that exotic policy mechanic was to force hardline Republicans to back off of their budget-cutting obsession. It only sort of worked politically and didn’t really work on a policy level. It did not prevent Boehner from triggering a disastrous government shutdown.

Sequestration cuts hampered all manner of material public services: Job training programs, domestic violence shelters, housing support systems, health services for American Indians, food programs for seniors, and the system that keeps poor people from freezing to death in the winter all felt the squeeze, as did longer-term investments in things like scientific research and pre-school programs.
The debt panic didn’t just install Republican majorities. It caused substantive harm to millions of Americans who already live in precarious economic situations even when government programs are fully funded. It kept unemployment higher for longer than was necessary, prolonging the recession – and arguably causing thousands of premature deaths.
There's a reason the deficit hawks are getting the band back together. It looks as if the Democrats might get a mandate to do things for the American people and we cannot have that. It's vitally necessary to nip that idea in the bud right now.
Just keep in mind that this nonsense is designed for the purpose of keeping all Republicans and as many Democrats as they can muster in line to block any spending a Democratic president might propose. And they are very, very good at it. Don't underestimate their ability to manipulate the media and the public with this nonsense. They've been successfully doing it for decades.
The good news is that if Trump wins he says he'll retire the entire national debt within 8 years. With renegotiated trade deals. Or something. So there's that.


The Moral Hazards of Being Rich

The real, tangible hazards of rich people of course are to the rest of us, who have to survive on their tiny leavings.

Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo:

Not all political deflections are bright and shiny. Hyperventilating over public aid to those at the bottom of the wealth curve is an oldie but goody. Is Wall Street defrauding the planet to the tune of trillions? Well, but LOOK! Over there. A poor person. Eating!

Properly incentivizing the poor is a perennial handwringer for Fox News and other watchdogs of personal morality on the right (who otherwise think the government should mind its own damned business). Nicholas Kristof, however, spares some column inches this morning on the incentives driving our beleaguered corporate persons at the top. He gets downright snarky about it:
A study to be released Thursday says that for each dollar America’s 50 biggest companies paid in federal taxes between 2008 and 2014, they received $27 back in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.

Goodness! What will that do to their character? Won’t that sap their initiative?
The study in question comes from Oxfam. The group finds:
  • From 2008 – 2014 the 50 largest US companies collectively received $27 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts for every $1 they paid in federal taxes.
  • From 2008 – 2014 these 50 companies spent approximately$2.6 billion on lobbying while receiving nearly $11.2 trillion in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.
  • Even as these 50 companies earned nearly $4 trillion in profits globally from 2008 – 2014, they used offshore tax havens to lower their effective global tax rate to just 26.5%, well below the statutory rate of 35% and even below average levels paid in other developed countries. Only 5 of 50 companies paid the full 35% corporate tax rate.
  • These companies relied on an opaque and secretive network of more than 1600 disclosed subsidiaries in tax havens to stash about $1.4 trillion offshore. In addition to the 1600 known subsidiaries, the companies may have failed to disclose thousands of additional subsidiaries to the Securities and Exchange Commission because of weak reporting requirements.
  • Their lobbying appears to have offered an incredible return on investment. For every $1 spent on lobbying, these 50 companies collectively received $130 in tax breaks and more than $4,000 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.
Such behavior deprives countries of needed funds for everything from education to infrastructure, and feeds the rampant economic inequality that has become palpable. But what's worse, of course, is what these perverse incentives must be doing to corporate persons' souls. Kristof continues:
The Panama Papers should be a wake-up call, shining a light on dysfunctional tax codes around the world — but much of the problem has been staring us in the face. Among the 500 corporations in the S.&P. 500-stock index, 27 were both profitable in 2015 and paid no net income tax globally, according to an analysis by USA Today.

Those poor companies! Think how the character of those C.E.O.s must be corroding! And imagine the plunging morale as board members realize that they are “takers” not “makers.”
But that's the thing about economic inequality. It also means different rules for those on top and those at the bottom. Sharper sticks must be brought to bear to ensure the "takers" are kept off the public dole. To save their souls, of course. Those at the top get sweeter carrots. Much, much sweeter.

Friday, April 15, 2016

KY's Austerity Budget Not As Bad as Bevin Will Make It

Kentucky governors have a line-item veto.  Top of Bevin's cut list has to be the funding the General Assembly protected for Planned Parenthood. As long as Governor Lying Coward is in office, we're still all fucked.

From the Courier:

House and Senate negotiators finally reached agreement Thursday morning on a 2016-18 state budget that will infuse the state’s troubled pension funds with more than a billion new dollars but slash funding for state universities by 4.5 percent.


The two top legislative leaders gave a few major details of the agreement. They said it:

* Does not cut the many support programs for K-12 education such as preschool, textbooks, safe schools and extended school services. Bevin's proposal would have subjected these programs to 9 percent cuts.

* Does include a modified version of the House's priority "Work Ready" scholarships. To qualify, students would have to take at least 15 credit hours a semester and maintain a grade point average of at least 2.5. The new program is expected to cost about $25 million over the next two years.

* Does include a modified provision for performance-based funding for state universities and community colleges. Stivers and Stumbo gave no details of how much of university funding will be based on performance and when it will start.  Stumbo said, "It's sufficient enough to, I think, ensure that performance-based funding will be something that the universities will have to adhere to."

* Does establish a reserve fund called the "Permanent Fund" that Stivers said will be the depository of certain surplus funds and use them to stabilize the particular state pension funds with the greatest need. The leaders did not say how much money will go to this fund.

* Does include cuts of a bit less than 4.5 percent to funding for state constitutional offices such as attorney general and secretary of state. This is less than the 9 percent cuts sought by Bevin.

* Does not include money to hire more public defenders and social workers that Bevin sought in his budget.

.* Will transfer about 60 percent of coal severance tax revenues back to coal counties. Currently, the coal counties get back half of these revenues. The House proposed that, over time, 100 percent be sent back to the coal counties.

* Allows the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to raise registration fees it charges lobbyists to more than offset the effect of  the budget's cut in the state appropriation to the commission.

* Does not include a provision Bevin wanted to eliminate the requirement to pay prevailing wage on public construction projects.

* Does not include a provision Bevin wanted to cut public funding to Planned Parenthood.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Responsible Gun Ownership: Horseback Edition

Somebody's been watching too many cowboy movies. Pssst: those guns weren't loaded, moron.

From the Herald:

A Morehead mother was in stable condition Wednesday after she was accidentally shot by her son’s gun, according to a release from Kentucky State police.

Jereen R. Stamper, 39, was shot in her left side and taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital in West Virginia around 7:30 p.m.

Stamper was shot when her son’s .22-caliber pistol fell from his holster and hit the ground while he was getting off a horse on 1270 Stamper Ridge Road, police said.

Police said the shooting is still under investigation.

Read more here:

WATB Freakazoids Demand Women Stand on Heads and Stack Greasy BBs to Get Birth Control

Seriously, if Slow Anthony fails to see the vicious arrogance in this response, then we might as well give up and welcome our new Dominionist overlords.

From TPM:

The court's surprise order asked for briefing on alternative workarounds for how "contraceptive coverage may be obtained by petitioners’ employees through petitioners’ insurance companies, but in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.” The order also outlined an example scenario in which an employer would inform its insurer from the get-go not to include contraceptives in the plan's coverage and then insurer would notify the employee that contraceptive coverage was being offered to her cost-free, outside of the employer plan.

The challengers, in a brief filed Tuesday, pushed back at that suggestion, arguing that the accommodation would still need to amount to "a separate plan, with a separate enrollment process, a separate insurance card, and a separate payment source, and offered to eligible individuals through a separate communication."

They said that the plans would need to be "truly separate contraceptive-only policies," that would also be available for employees with church plans or self-insured plans to enroll in. The crux of their argument was that the employees would need to opt in to coverage, rather then requiring employers to opt out.

"Again, these separate plans could take the form of individual insurance policies or group health plans sponsored by the government," the brief said. "But either way, the insurance companies could separately contact petitioners’ employees and give them the option of enrolling in the separate, contraceptive-only policy." 

The example scenario the challengers' brief offered was that insurance cards would bear a phone number -- akin to credit card activation codes -- that female employees could call to enroll in a second, contraceptive-only plan.

But the challengers didn't stop there.

They also said that they would prefer that the insurer not even inform the employees that they would need to get coverage through a separate program, lest it give "the appearance that the coverage is available only as a result of the employment relationship with the employer." 

Instead, the challengers argued, it would be better if the government or healthcare providers informed women they would need to enroll in a separate plan.

Furthermore, they stressed that the religious organizations did not "endorse such an approach as a policy matter," nor would they endorse the previous alternatives they offered, which mostly came down to the government providing the contraceptive coverage on its own, either directly or by funding outside programs.
As my dear sainted Irish mother would say: "Do you want egg in your beer, too?"

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bevin Goes For the Gold: No Government At All

No highways, bridges or local airports.  No parks.  No services for veterans.  No public hospitals. No state police.  No funding for local government - firefighters, rescue squads - at all. Prisons, though.  Lots and lots of private prisons sucking up the tax dollars we will still be paying for no government.

Jack Brammer and John Cheves at the Herald:

A conference committee of Kentucky lawmakers worked into the night Tuesday to craft a two-year, $21 billion spending plan for the state.

They had motivation. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said earlier in the day that he wouldn’t call a special session of the General Assembly in coming months if lawmakers fail to agree on a state budget by the time they adjourn Friday.

Only the governor may call a special session and set its agenda. Lawmakers determine how long it lasts, at a cost to taxpayers of $62,000 a day.

“I will not reward the inability to do a job,” Bevin said.

Without a budget in place when the next fiscal year begins July 1, there would be severe limits on how Bevin could spend money. Nobody knows exactly what those limits are, but a 2005 Kentucky Supreme Court ruling against then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher indicated a governor operating without an approved budget could appropriate funds only for items covered by a statutory, constitutional or federal mandate.

Examples listed in the Supreme Court’s decision included salaries for the governor, lieutenant governor, lawmakers, judges and commonwealth’s attorneys; “an efficient system of common schools,” as the state’s 1891 Constitution refers to K-12 schools; old-age pensions; prisons; and a state militia. State spending on more modern items, such as social services and parks, don’t appear to be covered. And it’s not clear how the state universities would be affected.
The first rich businessman who ran for governor on a "run government like a business" platform was John Y. Brown Jr., who ran the state so far into the ground that Kentuckians lost their minds and elected a woman to succeed him.  Martha Layne Collins actually did a great job of boosting the state's economy by luring Toyota here, but her lite guv Steve Beshear lost the 1987 primary to another "don't know nuthin' 'bout gubmint" bidnessman: Wallace Wilkinson.  We're still living with Wally's destruction.

But both John Y and Wally were technically Democrats, who had the sense to stop short of eliminating state government all together.

Repug libertarian fuckhead Matt Bevin doesn't give a shit about anything but making himself and his billionaire buddies even richer by gutting Kentucky and sucking up the remains.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Matt Bevin Throws Temper Tantrum, Shows Ass

Is he taking diplomacy and tact lessons from Paul LePage in Maine?  Who in his office thinks this is the proper way to respond publicly to the Kentucky Attorney General, regardless of what you really think?

From the press release:

“As best we can make sense of his rambling press conference, we strongly disagree with the Attorney General and will respond as necessary in court. Given the amount of alleged corruption and personnel problems in the Office of Attorney General and his father’s administration it is clear that he is attempting to deflect attention away from his own challenges.”
That's the whole thing, except for an introductory line claiming it is a "statement from Communications Director Jessica Ditto."  So Bevin's hiding behind his staff now?  It's on Governor's Office letterhead and the Lying Coward owns it.

I am no fan of Andy Beshear, but if he doesn't take full advantage of this stupidity, he really will be useless.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Matt Bevin Admits Lying About Planned Parenthood; Fails to Write 8-figure Check in Apology

Pay Up, Motherfucker.  A nice, round, $10 million right out of that lying libertarian billionaire pocket of yours.  Oh, and another $5 million to cover the ACLU's legal costs to drag your lying, worthless ass into court. Also another $1 million apiece to every woman who needed and wanted an abortion from Planned Parenthood and couldn't get it because Governor Lying Coward was lying. Again. Still. Always.

From WDRB:

 Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin says Planned Parenthood in Louisville was given permission to perform abortions, but it was still illegal.
False.  Abortion in this country is LEGAL. Screaming tantrums by state officials don't make it otherwise.

“In this particular case, the Inspector General not once but twice authorized Planned Parenthood to commence operations in anticipation of receiving the license,” said Planned Parenthood attorney Thomas Clay.

But the original lawsuit says Mynear, who left the job in January, acted "without authority" and calls her a "sympathetic advocate willing to ignore the law." The response filed on Thursday reiterated that point.

“It certainly appears to me that they are acknowledging that Planned Parenthood began operations with the express authorization of the person who was allowed to let them commence operations,” Clay said.

Since the initial lawsuit was filed, University of Louisville Hospital has canceled a mandatory agreement to provide emergency care for women at the clinic.

Clay believes the hospital was pressured by the Governor’s office to end that agreement. General Counsel for the Governor denied that claim in a statement saying, “…No one in this administration put any pressure on anyone."

The Planned Parenthood facility has not performed an abortion since that lawsuit was filed.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Morality vs. Religion

And no matter how Popey Frankie tried to pretend his criminal enterprise is humanist, it always boils down to the same thing.



One Nation, bifurcated

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Free Speech

No, the First Amendment does not protect you from your own stupidity.

Free Speech 

Free Speech

Free Speech 

Free Speech

Free Speech

The Obstacle to Everything

It's been preventing everything good and progressive in this country for 250 fucking years. General Grant failed to hang the motherfuckers and failed to heed General Sherman's advice to put the South under martial law permanently.

So we're still fighting the motherrfuckers today.

Notice that Hewitt mentioned abortion, guns, marriage and immigration when talking about the activity of the Supreme Court. If you add it voting rights and affirmative action, you pretty much have a summary of the cultural changes that are a threat to the Confederate world view Doug Muder wrote about.
The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries…
The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.
That “divinely ordained way things are supposed to be” includes white supremacy, control of women’s reproductive choices, marriage between one man and one woman, and the elevation of gun rights over every other constitutional right.

Ky Lite Guv: Education is For Job Training, Not Enlightenment

Jenean Hampton certainly has the Koch Brothers corporatist line down pat. In a lords-n-serfs economy, the last thing the masters need is serfs who can think critically and might object to being drones for starvation wages.

James Bruggers at the Courier:

Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton told the editorial staff of the Eastern Kentucky University student newspaper that colleges and students should focus on programs that produce jobs.

“I would not be studying history," she was quoted as saying in an article posted on The Eastern Progress' website Thursday.


The Eastern Progress also reported that Hampton called higher education a "privilege," and "not a right."

And it quoted her as suggesting she does not want her taxes to support universities.

“Those of us who go to work must give part of their earnings to put you through college, and I disagree with that," the newspaper reported.
Yes, Hampton is African-American.  Promoting a future of slave labor. Shame on her.


American justice: Be a wealthy white man who kills 29 workers and you get a year in prison. Be black and smoke a joint, get many years in prison, assuming the cops don’t just kill you.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Free Pass for Freakazoids to Break Every Law With Impunity: Mississippi Follows Kentucky

Kentucky's law didn't get anywhere near the publicity, but trust me, it's just as bad.

Like Kentucky's, Mississippi's law only pretends to protect anti-gay bigots.  It really starts with a pass to brutalize, assault and torture children and doesn't end until it exempts Xian freakazoids from literally every civil and criminal statute. The bibble, after all, justifies everything - theft, rape, assault, burglary, murder, even genocide - as long as your invisible sky wizard friend told you to do it.

From The Nation:

One of the more disconcerting sections of the law is that which discusses people who provide foster-care services. The government, we are told, will no longer be allowed to take action against any foster parent that “guides, instructs, or raises a child…in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief.” If you want to know what that could mean, check out Focus on the Family’s “spare the rod” philosophy of child rearing. On its website, the religious-right advocacy group offers handy tips on “the Biblical Approach to Spanking.”


The AFA and its allies on the religious right want to carve out a sphere in American public life where religion—their religion—trumps the law. It’s a breathtakingly radical ambition. And it upends the principles on which our constitutional democracy is based.

None other than the late Antonin Scalia put his finger on the problem. To make an individual’s obedience to the law “contingent upon the law’s coincidence with his religious beliefs” amounts to “permitting him, by virtue of his beliefs, ‘to become a law unto himself,’” he said. It “contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense.” Scalia made these comments in his 1990 majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith. In that case, the majority ruled that the state of Oregon could deny unemployment benefits to a pair of individuals who violated a state ban on the use of peyote, even though their use of the drug was part of a religious ritual. It was the overreaction to that verdict—on both the left and the right—that produced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. Though intended only to ensure that laws did not needlessly burden the religious liberty of individuals, the RFRA sparked a wave of unintended consequences. It effectively planted the demon seeds of the current crop of “religious liberty” bills.


To speak frankly, the law was designed to advance the claims of conservative Christians, and it never would have become law otherwise.  If you think that every religion will find as much liberty in the laws of Mississippi, then I have as Satanic temple to sell you.
And yes, children, these laws are indeed the steep downhill path directly to Dominionism and theocratic control of the nation by people who think that even married, heterosexual, missionary-position, penis-in-vagina sex is a crime if it is in any way pleasurable (as former Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum made crystal clear many times in public.)

Somebody ask Matt Bevin if he finds sex pleasurable.  If he answers yes, BURN HIM.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Why Your Boss Doesn't Want You to Organize

Eric Loomis asks Why Form Unions:

This is one good reason:
This is what unions are for:

Alain Sherter reports that two unionized mine workers in West Virginia were very unhappy with a company-sponsored bonus plan that the union had opposed as unsafe. So the workers returned their (paltry) bonus checks to the company inscribed with special messages for CEO Robert Murray: “kiss my ass Bob,” and “eat shit, Bob.”

They were fired.

But then their union appealed their firings and the National Labor Relations Board reinstated them, ruling that their words were legal “expressions of protest.”

If you want to tell your boss to kiss your ass, unionize.

Pretty much.
Down with Tyranny on Democratic Socialist Rep. Vito Marcantonio:

1946 found most workers with sharply reduced real wages, a result of inflation during and especially after the war. Unions in auto, steel, electrical, coal, and oil industries struck, causing the loss of more working days in 1946 than in any year since. With increasing frequency, Marcantonio rose to oppose attempts to repeal the gains that had been made by organized labor. Marc told the House,
Men do not strike for the fun of it. [They are] provoked by the scheming, uncompromising, unreasoning tactics of profit-bloated, tax-benefited corporations…beating the drums against American workers in order to intimidate Congress to pass anti-labor legislation.
Marcantonio’s last leadership role in the House was his fight against the Taft-Hartley Act, the turning point in a formidable anti-union campaign that has lasted to this day and has reduced the U.S. labor movement to its current pitiable state. He spoke against the bill on the floor, asking, “What is your justification for this legislation?” A labor union, he explained, is a worker’s “only defense against exploitation,”
You are making him “free”-- and impotent to defend himself against any attempt by industry to subject him to the same working conditions that existed in the United States 75 years ago. You are giving him the freedom to become enslaved to a system that has been repudiated in the past not only by Democrats but also by outstanding progressive-minded Republicans….Under the guise of fighting communism you are, with this legislation, advancing fascism on American labor.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Somebody Ask Matt Bevin If He Thinks Purvi Patel is a Criminal

Because if he does, then Governor Lying Coward needs to demand the immediate imprisonment of every woman in Kentucky who has ever had a miscarriage.  Or a menstrual period.

Trump may been politically incorrect when he said that women should be punished for having abortions. But he's hardly the first. They've just come upon this fatuous argument that women are addled creatures who don't know their own minds in order to spare their movement having to explain why they think that one third of all American women are cold-blooded murderers.

This woman seems to have decided that only some of the women are mentally disabled and that it's time they put the real murderers away. Like this one:
The prosecution of Purvi Patel began in sorrow and ended in more sadness this week. Patel, a 33-year-old woman who lives in Indiana, was accused of feticide — specifically, illegally inducing her own abortion — and accused of having a baby whom she allowed to die. The facts supporting each count are murky, but a jury convicted Patel in February, and on Monday she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
See? It's already happening.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How the Filthy Rich Koch Brothers Are Killing Veterans

Yes, literally.  And of course just so they can make a profit. Because privatization kills.

In the next issue of the Washington Monthly, investigative journalist Alicia Mundy reveals how the Kochs and their network have executed, with meticulous detail, a plan to get Washington to outsource the health care of millions of our nation’s veterans to corporate sector providers. Among other revelations, Mundy shows:
  • that stories about veterans dying while waiting for VA care in 2014 (the “scandal” that sparked the current call for privatization) turned out to be baseless.
  • that these claims were cooked up by the Koch-funded group Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) and key Republicans precisely to stampede Washington into passing legislation to outsource VA care.
  • that the first round of outsourcing has been a fiasco.
  • that independent research mandated by that legislation shows that the VA continues to provide the same or better quality care than do private sector providers.
  • that the commission now making the outsourcing decisions is stacked with members and allies of CVA and representatives of private sector providers.
To read the full story, click here

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Atheists in Foxholes

Secondly, there are definitely no atheists in terrorist training camps.
Thirdly, as Kurt Vonnegut said: “People say there are no atheists in foxholes. A lot of people think this is a good argument against atheism. Personally, I think it’s a much better argument against foxholes.”

Truth and Belief

Divine Irony:


Truth does not demand belief.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Same Sorry Reason

I met her twice, and got her to sign all six of her books for me - every one of them worn from constant re-reading. I stopped dog-earing the pages to mark the best stuff when I realized I was dog-earing all the pages.
I think she would tell us two things today: First, that we've been here before, and we'll be here again, and we just have to keep fighting and laughing.  And second, to stop saying we need her back, because everything she knows is in her books.
You're right as always, Molly, which is why we miss you so much.

The Terrible Oppression of White Men

White men are the greatest terrorist threat to the nation, but their privilege still protects them.
William Celli, a 55-year-old man from California, will spend 90 days in jail after being caught in possession of an explosive device and threatening to kill Muslims. Celli took a plea deal that places him on probation for a further three years and bans him from operating an active Facebook profile.
Celli was arrested on Dec. 20, 2015 after yelling “I’m going to kill you all” outside the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County in Richmond, California. Police later found and detonated an explosive device at Celli’s residence after receiving tips that he was constructing homemade explosives.
Celli had taken to social media in the past to express his admiration of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump. “Donald trumps on again I’m happy leaders okay but this guys a great point man I’ll follow this MAN to the end of the world,” Celli wrote on Facebook in October.
90 days. Did I mention this individual is white?