Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Congressman gets blogger fired for having "wrong" views

Don't you just love living in a free country? A free country is one where legislators don't abuse their power by pressuring newspapers into firing bloggers because they don't like their views. Don't you just love living in one? Oh, wait...

A couple months back, the Cleveland Plain Dealer hired 4 political bloggers - 2 conservative and 2 liberal - for a new daily blog feature. Well, blog blog blog blogga blog! This caught the eye of Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) when it was discovered that one of the bloggers dared to be a supporter of LaTourette's election opponent last year and wrote about LaToilet getting campaign money from the Ratner family, which runs an influential Cleveland real estate empire. Suspiciously, this support from the Ratners was followed by them receiving a lucrative contract for a major Washington, D.C., development.

This week, the blogger was suddenly fired because of intervention by LaTourette. The congressman had complained to the Plain Dealer's editorial page editor about the blog. The Plain Dealer tried forcing the blogger never to write about LaTourette, even though LaToilet is an important Cleveland-area politician. When Plain Dealer big shots were told that this was an impossible demand for a Cleveland political blog to meet, the firing occurred.

Were any similar demands made of the paper's 2 conservative bloggers to not discuss politicians they deemed too liberal? We think you can guess the answer to that. (Here's a hint: It's no.) It was understood that all 4 of the bloggers were supposed to be partisan and opinionated, so the paper can't very well claim the fired blogger lost his post for being too biased.

It turns out that at least 2 of the other bloggers have contributed to political candidates. Just not ones who were running against Steve LaTourette - so that's why they weren't fired.

When a public official can retaliate against a writer for a newspaper's website in this manner, it's no wonder America has fallen so low on press freedom rankings.


Good riddance to this idiot

I never could stand Karen Hughes ever since she interrupted some PBS reporter who interviewed her during the 2004 Rethuglican National Convention.

Hughes is a longtime GOP operative who served in Bush's inner circle in Texas and went on to serve Bush further during Bush's national reign of terror. Now she serves as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the State Department. Earlier, Hughes served on the shady task force that tried to brainwash the public into supporting the Iraq War.

Even conservative commentator Tucker Carlson can't stand Karen Hughes. After Carlson wrote a negative profile of Bush in 1999, Hughes lashed out like the big crybaby and bully she is. In a Salon interview, Carlson said Hughes's lying was so egregious that it "almost crosses over from bravado into mental illness."

Now Hughes, 50, has announced she's leaving the State Department and her current job of trying to improve America's image abroad. She admitted improving the world's view of the U.S. and A. is a "long-term challenge" that "will take a number of years." Yep, it'll take a long time to clean up the mess GeeDumbya made.

I'm not saying it's fair for someone who's been spoiled their whole life like Karen Hughes to be able to take an early retirement while so many people still have to work when they're 75 (assuming they even live that long). But hopefully Hughes is out of government for good. It's obvious from firing up the telly and tuning it to a confetti-strewn Channel 48 to view the convention that nobody ever taught Karen Hughes enough manners not to rudely interrupt those of us who are in the business of trying to get answers from America's government officials.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rapist released under Huckabee later committed murder

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, has long been a favorite of the right-wing media - and even more so now that he's running a serious presidential campaign. His rise of late shows he's someone else we need to keep an eye on - especially as he's becoming one of the top choices of the spittle crowd.

Today, Fuckapee tried (unsuccessfully) to disavow his involvement in the case of Wayne Dumond. Dumond, a convicted rapist who was paroled while Huckabee was governor, later terrorized and killed a woman in Missouri. In 1996, while Dumond was serving time for raping a teenager, Huckabee proudly proclaimed his intent to commute the rapist's sentence. Fuckapee then privately met with the parole board, which promptly released Dumond on parole - only a few months after rejecting his parole. A condition of this parole was that Dumond had to move to another state.

After Dumond won his parole, he was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering a woman near his new home. Dumond later died in prison.

Fuckapee now tries blaming the whole disgusting matter on Bill Clinton.

This story has a familiar ring, doesn't it? In 1988, the GOP made an issue of one William Horton leaving prison on a furlough while Democratic standard-bearer Michael Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts. Blaming Dukakis, however, was bogus: Dukakis actually abolished the furlough system Horton abused, and this system had been put in place by a Republican predecessor - not by Dukakis, as the Republicans claimed. But the Mad Dog Bush campaign's slander of Dukakis went almost completely unchallenged by the right-wing media. Of course. (Even back then, the right-wing noise machine had its ugly mouth stuck open.)

How lovely of Mike Huckabee to intervene on behalf of a convicted rapist and turn him loose on another state. After Wayne Dumond was paroled, Fuckapee actually sent him a letter congratulating him. Huckabee wrote, "My desire is that you be released from prison. I feel that parole is the best way for your reintroduction to society to take place." My desire is that Mike Huckabee be placed in a mental institution. I feel that institutionalization is the best way for Fuckapee's removal from society to take place.

Huckabee now claims he stopped supporting Dumond's release well before he got paroled, but that letter proves otherwise.

A vote for Mike Huckabee is a vote for rapists and murderers. Huckabee is soft on crime.


A slow news day

This has been a slow news day so far, so I thought I'd regale you with the story of the catastrophic terror I've lived with daily since the Republican Revolution of the '90s.

Over a decade ago, I was a university student who had what was by today's standards a pretty good job, especially for a student. I had run-ins for years with the school system (and the idiot bullies that it mollycoddles), but this had become a relatively minor obstacle to the bright future I seemed to have. I worked hard and felt as if I was entitled to a future thanks to my relentless toil.

Without warning, it came crashing down following 1994. Sixty years of progress to improve the lives of the people was reduced to a pile of dust. I didn't consent to this destruction, and I knew very few who did. (This was in suburban Cincinnati, the heart of the conservative experiment, no less!) My family, my personal acquaintances, and I were left scratching their heads in shock over this political event. (It's hard to claim the Republicans were the party of reform, because they'd held the presidency for 12 of the previous 14 years and impeded progress the whole time.) I knew the election results were phony. This was confirmed in 1995 when a Democratic candidate for statewide office in Kentucky reportedly received zero votes in one precinct in Highland Heights. I was told this was my precinct - so it would have been impossible for him to get zero votes, because I voted for him! Officials breezily dismissed this, saying elections were supposed to be just a sample and not an exact count. Seriously, they said that.

My livelihood and college career were subsequently destroyed by the conservative revolution. I begged, I pleaded, I knelt on my sore knees for anyone, anywhere to help me get back where I was - but I was told time and time again my misfortunes were my fault and my fault alone. I was told the system wasn't here to help me - even after it hurt me. It was just here to help the big corporations who drove the little people out of business and slashed workforces. I got called lazy for daring to expect to get what I had worked so hard for.

I for one have never viewed the government after this time as legitimate, because elections were just so obviously fixed (more so by media bias than by outright rigging), but that's not the point. Almost daily since then, a deep rage has bubbled up that causes me to completely lose control of my thoughts and faculties for up to an hour at a time. I set aside this boiling anger from time to time, but even when I'm doing my favorite activities it surfaces.

During the 2000 campaign, I learned the hard way (from the activities of his thuggish followers) what life would be like if Bush was allowed to seize power. I knew it would be really bad - and I was proven right. As for myself, in the early part of the current decade, there were days when I literally could not get out of bed. Everything I touched turned to shit. Now people encourage me to bike around town and post more photos of highway features, but I don't do it more than about 10 times a year because I know of my own rage that looms.

These days I keep my head just above water, but it's not without a lot of frustration and shame. But one of these days I know I will be S-C-R-E-W-E-D! I live daily in fear of the actions of the U.S. government. At the very least, I won't be able to get help when I need it the most - even though I think I've worked for it. And then I will be laughed at and called lazy again. They call that "compassionate conservatism." It's an ideology that destroyed my life.

But there's hope! Today's sad political climate is kind of like a grade school bully. You know, the types who shut up for good once somebody clocked them squarely in the nose. For years, the Far Right's bullying has generally worsened. What has to happen to the Republicans is the figurative equivalent of getting clocked in the nose. I'm not saying to literally walk up to a Republican and bop them in the snoot. What I mean by that is that the opposition has to have a political leader or commentator who has the ability to just tell it like it is and tell it succinctly in words everyone can understand, and who has a big enough audience that people will hear them. Their message has to be this: Today's conservative leaders are simply not good people. Look at their policies and their results. If you don't believe this, look at the facts.

I think if someone on our side with a large audience lays it on the line and puts the facts forward in clear language, I don't think we'll have nearly as many problems from the right-wing elite for quite some time. Not only that, but I think you'll see some of their loopier policies of recent years start to come undone. All of this can happen within a democratic framework.

The bottom has to drop out eventually. A warped ideology just can't stay in power forever. Every bad dynasty has always had its day. Sometimes it takes a long time coming, but it always happens. And there will be tears of joy when it does.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tropical fungus causes deaths in Washington state

This is yet another example of the slow, grueling decline of living standards over the past quarter-century - a phenomenon that gets worse almost every year.

Cryptococcus gattii is a once-rare fungus that can kill humans and animals by causing a lung infection that can spread and cause meningitis. A few years ago, this fungus, which was previously limited to tropical areas, suddenly appeared in British Columbia, and now it's found in the state of Washington. The infection has killed 2 people in Whatcom County, Washington, in recent months. Now the fungus has spread to Oregon.

How did a tropical fungus get to Canada and the Northwestern U.S.? Scientists link the fungus's spread to climate change. You know, the same climate change that Freepers insist is a hoax.

In Canada, the cryptococcosis infection can be treated with antifungal drugs, so relatively few deaths from it have occurred there. In the U.S., however, these drugs are not as readily available. The death rate in the U.S. among infected patients is over 10 times as high as it is in Canada.

This news comes at the same time a staph outbreak plagues the U.S. and forces the closure of many schools. The outbreak itself is a few years old - going back 5 years or so - but the government is just now admitting that it even exists. Who knows what could be going on now that the government won't admit until another 5 years from now?


Woman let off hook for mutilating daughter

I was so angry about this story I couldn't start on this entry for days.

In Naples, Florida, a woman who forced her 13-year-old daughter to have her genitalia mutilated to make it uncomfortable for her to have sex has been acquitted of aggravated child abuse. The acquittal came even though there wasn't even any disagreement that she had her daughter mutilated. In fact, the defendant had gotten another woman to carry out the act, and that woman got sentenced to a year in jail for it - which itself is a slap on the wrist, considering the severity of the crime.

The mother of the 13-year-old had also forced the girl to shave her head.

These incidents followed the discovery that the girl was having sex with the mother's boyfriend. So why didn't the mother report the fact that the man was having sex with the girl? And why wasn't the so-called mother charged for not reporting it?

Of course, the acquittal might not be much of a surprise when you consider what a right-wing county it is. For starts, the county has willfully refused to do anything about housing costs. Even worse, the county approved a plan by Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan to build his own right-wing Jonestown within the county. That's a real indicator of what the pulse of the county is like.

It's an area where children are considered property, and where authorities have little interest in protecting children. It's one of these places where the violent adults rule, and the kids must shut up and obey. Because a child there is usually considered property, the system isn't likely to convict an adult for doing what they want to a child. Nationwide, one of the biggest problems with the system is that child-hating idiots are allowed to serve on juries. (These are the same type of right-wing morons who serve in Congress and refuse to approve an international children's rights document that almost every other nation has approved.)

I passionately hate child abuse of all forms. America needs to start treating adults who support child abuse as pariahs.

I would bet you the defendant in this story is some sort of right-wing religious fanatic. In fact, if I was a gambling man, I would wager my entire life savings on it. In other major child abuse cases, this usually turns out to be the case.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Have no fear, ish #433 is here!

The Last Word is perhaps my signature accomplishment. This newsletter, a mainstay of left-leaning populism in northern Kentucky, was founded in 1993, and in 1996 it first appeared on the World Wide Web. At 433 issues, it's still going strong!

I just put out my latest ish, and it has a couple interesting articles. First there's an article about a school that's actually abolishing - yes, abolishing - its mandatory uniform policy, after uniforms led to worse discipline. At the end, there's an article about a proposed sales tax increase in the Cincinnati area to pay for a stupid-ass jail, of all things!

So point your bunker here:

Obama office burglarized (a blast from the past)

Yet another potential Watergate happened back in July.

In Davenport, Iowa, the local field office for Barack Obama's presidential campaign was burglarized. Two laptop computers and some campaign literature were stolen. Hardly a peep was heard in the media outside of Davenport.

I guess this is the type of shenanigans we're going to see more of from the GOP over the next year, and it's not even the only time this year that a Democratic campaign office was burglarized and plundered. I'm just selecting one such incident at random.

I wonder if this is anything like the time a few years ago when someone broke into the congressional Democrats' office and stole a computer containing important data about health care? You know, the little incident that was swept under the rug almost as quickly as it happened. Weird how there was no more action on that. Or maybe not so weird, considering that the then-Republican Congress controlled the purse strings for D.C. and any agency that might have had to investigate the break-in.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

D. James Kennedy, math whiz

D. James Kennedy was a right-wing televangelist who died last month at the age of 76. The Fort Lauderdale-based preacher was known for his conservative political views and his claim that the teaching of evolution caused the Holocaust. When Kennedy made a documentary espousing the latter view, a scientist who was quoted in the show later repudiated it, saying he had no idea Kennedy was going to misuse his quotes to advance this view.

Even after his death, Kennedy's legacy of ignorance lives on in his writings. It seems Kennedy wrote a book on something or other, a text that's now used as a basis for science or math curricula in religious-affiliated schools. A website for a graduate-level class at one conservative Christian college provides some of Kennedy's "facts" to use as teaching materials for children.

According to Kennedy's writings, scientists have determined that providing a single protein molecule by chance combination would take 10 ^ 262 (10 raised to the power of 262) years. I don't know if that's true or not (because it's not like my local school system had such a great science curriculum). But Kennedy also claims that writing out the number 10 ^ 262 would take up enough paper to fill the entire universe.

Let's test this claim. Even if you have high-speed, you may want to disconnect now, because this number is so big that this entry won't be finished loading until after the sun expands and engulfs the Earth. Here's 10 ^ 262:


Now that the whole solar system is nothing but vapor, that's 10 ^ 262.

I would have known this when I was 6! But Kennedy, a man who supposedly had a Ph.D., not only didn't know this but expected schools to teach that 10 ^ 262 couldn't be printed in a space smaller than the known universe. Maybe conservatives' definition of the known universe is the vacuum between their ears. Conservatives don't get out much.

Or maybe this is just more of Bush's "fuzzy math."


Friday, October 26, 2007

Authorities brutalize elderly at parade (a blast from the past)

Here's a story from back in March that the dinosaur media continues to ignore.

At the St. Patrick's Day parade in Colorado Springs - which uses public streets paid for by the taxpayers - 7 people, at least 2 of whom were 65 or older, were terrorized by cops simply because of their opposition to the war. And yes, there's photographs. So don't deny it. (I know conservatives will deny it, just like how they deny everything else even when there's solid proof.)

The people who were arrested were already approved to be in the parade after paying their $15 fee. At most, the only protesting they did at the parade was wear antiwar shirts or carry signs. Still this dissent was too much for Colorado Springs, I guess.

Police yanked a 65-year-old woman who walked with a cane out of a bookmobile, threw her onto the pavement, and combatively dragged her across the street. She was brutalized so savagely by the cops that she had to be taken to the hospital with leg injuries including a large open cut. Cops also seized the bookmobile. Another woman was kneed in the groin by a police officer. Also, a cop was photographed placing a chokehold on a retired clergyman. One of the people arrested was a man who was about to turn 76.

These arrests followed an attack against the peace activists by someone who was apparently a right-wing civilian disrupting the parade. This disruptor physically pushed the activists around before the police arrived.

A local pastor said of the arrests, "It was clearly police brutality. The people I talked to just couldn't believe what happened." This is clear to me just from the photos. I don't expect the conservative wingnuts who invade my blog to actually bother to look at the photos, and even if they do, they'll deny the authorities did anything wrong anyway. Not like I give a shit what the wingnuts think (to use the term loosely) anyway.

Didn't anyone teach the police in this story to respect their elders?


Crazy old letters!

Damn, there's some wackos out there!

I knew that from the "This had better stop!" letters that wingnuts used to send to my local paper, but those pale in comparison to these crazy-ass letters from 6 years ago I just found on the website of a Georgia paper:

(That first letter uses the magic word!)

Maybe I should reprint that issue of The Last Word from around that time in which I received 26 nasty e-mails from the same person.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Grave vandal not an antiwar activist; wingnuts wrong

Here it comes! Television's most exciting hour of fantastic prizes! The fabulous 60-minute 'Wingnuts Are Wrong'!

Recently the conservative blogs had a field day when someone desecrated the grave of a Marine who was killed in the war. Conservatives love it when stuff like this happens, because they like blaming antiwar activists for it. The wingnutosphere immediately jumped to the conclusion that, because it was the grave of a Marine, it had to be peace activists who vandalized it. They didn't just speculate. They claimed outright that this was so.

I knew the wingnuts were full of shit, and that if I just had a little patience they'd be proven wrong in front of the whole world (again). My patience paid off, because now police in Liberty, Texas, have a suspect under arrest - and he's not an antiwar activist at all. According to investigators, the 41-year-old suspect damaged the grave while he was trying to steal the wire stands that held the flowers so he could sell them to a floral shop.

Now will the wingnutosphere apologize for lying outright? They said an antiwar person did it - which turned out not to be true. But if I was a betting man, I'd wager they're never going to retract their original claim, because they knew it was a lie in the first place.

More proof the wingnutosphere is nothing but a bunch of liars.


75-year-old woman fights back against Comcast!

I told you I had an amusing story on deck about Comcast's awful service, so here goes it...

Recently a 75-year-old woman in northern Virginia decided she wasn't going to be bullied by Comcast's incompetence. First, when she ordered Comcast's combined service of phone, cable, and Internet, Comcast's installation crew never showed up on the day they were scheduled to show up. They finally arrived 2 days later - but left with the job only half-done. Two days after that, Comcast inexplicably cut off the service altogether. (Other people have reported similar problems with Comcast lacking reliable service. And Comcast is expensive too. After all, it does have a monopoly in most of the areas where it operates.)

Most people would be hopping mad about paying to have these important and useful services installed, only to have Comcast fail to show up on the right day, do a half-assed job, then completely disconnect the service. But most people, despite being hopping mad, won't do shit about it. But the customer in this case isn't most people. So she went to Comcast's regional office with her husband to complain to the manager. The Comcast folks then made her wait 2 hours - before telling her the manager was gone for the day. So a few days later, the woman bopped into the office with a hammer, smashed the customer service representative's computer keyboard, knocked over a monitor, and demolished a phone.

The retired Air Force nurse later said of Comcast, "What a bunch of submoronic imbeciles."

It's important to note that no people were attacked. Just things. No peeps. A computer or a phone feels no pain and cannot cry - any more than a toilet can when being cussed out. We also have to warn you - in case you're planning on doing the same thing - that the woman was instantly handcuffed over this display (because authorities think a 75-year-old woman who breaks Comcast's computer is a bigger threat than a real criminal like Dick Cheney). She received a 3-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay restitution and stay out of Comcast's office for a year. Apparently, however, there have been other police calls to that Comcast office over other disgruntled customers who have had to deal with Comcast's assholism. (Also, the first time I ever heard the word 'assholism' was when a member of my family uttered it when our local cable went out once back in the Storer Cable era.)

I've been told the problems with cable customer service were supposed to have been remedied by the vastly popular cable regulation law of 1992. (I remember how funny it was when Mad Dog's veto got overriden.) Maybe the areas that have Comcast should cancel their exclusive franchise agreements and put a sudden stop to Comcast's reign of error.


Right-wing extremists say homeless have it easy

It's hard to grasp the mind of today's right-wing scoundrel, and it's not like I want to anyway, because quite frankly I'm no longer that interested in their melodrama. The general rule is that the more a person complains about the government doing too much to help the disadvantaged, the less the complainant has to worry about becoming disadvantaged themselves.

I wish I could take off my listening ears (as Judge Judy would say) whenever the Potemkin populists of the Far Right start ranting about how the poor have it so easy - but I have a duty to keep a close watch on what they say, because their influence is far out of proportion to their numbers.

More evidence of this has surfaced lately in Los Angeles, where the city is caving to the demands of the Far Right by forcibly removing homeless and other desperately poor people from a 50-block area of downtown. This is being done for the purpose of gentrification - driving out the poor to make room for the rich. This year-old initiative is built on the discredited idea that going after small crimes or even things that previously wouldn't have been considered crimes at all will discourage larger crimes from coming to the area.

To put it in more worrisome terms, authorities have begun going after signs of disorder rather than actual criminal activity. They bust the homeless, not because homelessness is a criminal offense (which it isn't) but because it makes the neighborhood appear poor. These signs of disorder are really signs of poverty. Instead of tackling poverty, the city goes after the poor for being proof poverty exists. Furthermore, this policy has been used in many locales as a weak excuse for racial profiling.

Under L.A.'s policy, poor people in general - not just the homeless - have been stopped by cops just for walking down the street. The police's warrantless searches of area residents got so bad that earlier this year a judge ruled these searches unconstitutional.

Chasing the poor out of an entire 50-block area and conducting illegal searches every time they walk down their own street isn't enough to appease the Far Right intelligentsia (or more accurately, stupidsia). Julia Vitullo-Martin of the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing stink tank that helped influence Rudolph Giuliani's totalitarian policies as New York City mayor, wrote a column that appeared in the ultraconservative New York Post the other day lamenting the fact that Los Angeles is still less harsh on the homeless than New York is.

That whiny article proves how out of touch the right-wing nobility is. In addition to praising current New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's right-wing policy of shutting down homeless encampments, the piece also attacks the '60s and '70s for allegedly being a time when "street people roamed American cities while advocates and officials told irate citizens that nothing could or should be done." Except it ain't so, smartypants. I grew up in a major urban area in the '70s, and I don't ever remember seeing a homeless person until the '80s when Reagan grabbed power. In every decade since, I've seen more and more homeless, as conservative public policies have become more common. I'm not saying there weren't any homeless people in the '70s, but their numbers sure did grow every time the Republicans had a good election cycle.

The only thing the article is right about is its mention of real estate values rising too fast. The rest of the piece is just the same tired old rah-rah extolling the supposed greatness of Giuliani's ironfisted policies. The writer acts as if soothing the minor irritations faced by the city's elite should take priority over the basic well-being of thousands of homeless.

We have to baby the privileged conservatives, I guess. Life for the elites has to be a continual hot tub massage, and the rest of the world has to wait on them.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Illinois makes school prayer mandatory

Just when we thought the Pat Robertson types had finally abandoned this crusade, it pops up again without warning!

Illinois has just passed a law - which takes effect immediately - requiring all public school students to take part in a mandatory "moment of silence" every school day. The law doesn't call it a prayer. But, in effect, it is. Everybody who knows how to pick up a newspaper, open it, and read it knows it. And everyone knows they're not going to call it a prayer because if they did it would just be easier to strike down the law for violating separation of religion and state. Obviously the law's supporters want mandatory school prayer, but they just think nobody will notice that a required "moment of silence" is more or less a thin disguise for this goal.

You also can't convince me the purpose of the new law isn't to advance a specific set of religious beliefs and practices. Depending on a student's religion, the "moment of silence" could be seen as actually violating a student's beliefs, perhaps even blasphemous.

The bill sailed through the legislature early this year, but the governor vetoed it. Last week, however, both houses of the Illinois legislature voted to override this veto. The change in the wording of an older law makes the new law seem even more chilling. There already was a law in Illinois that schools "may" observe a "moment of silence", but the new law simply changes "may" to "shall." So much for local control of the schools, huh?

Count on the historical revisionists to butt in with their support of the new law. Freepers who are the same age as I am like to boast that they support mandatory public school prayer because "that's how it was in our day." Even though that's not "how it was in our day" - so they're lying again. I went to public schools for 6 years in elementary and high school, and we never even had this "moment of silence" of the type Illinois has now - let alone more obvious forms of mandatory prayer. That was back in the days when people filed lawsuits when their constitutional rights got violated, ya know.


Cops let off hook for assaulting student at Kerry event

It amazes you. It truly does.

You can have a million cameras recording an event, but still the system will stand there and tell you right to your face the cameras are wrong. (This is one of the reasons I wrote a scathing article against a Catholic high school I attended when it became the first school in the nation to install video cameras that transmit directly to police cars. I know that the school just denies stuff no matter how many witnesses there are, because they did it when I was there.)

Last month, I reported on the Andrew Meyer saga. Meyer is a University of Florida student who asked tough but fair questions of John Kerry when he came to speak there. Kerry started to answer Meyer, but Meyer was promptly ambushed and tasered by police because his questions weren't exactly softball ones that the Bush regime expected. Kerry condemned the Bushist cops' attack, but that didn't make the police any less guilty. (Bush still has not condemned it. Surprise, surprise.)

The assault and tasering was captured by several different people with video cameras, all from different angles, and I've viewed these clips online. You'd think that nobody who's actually bothered to watch the clips can deny with a straight face that what the police did wasn't just out of line but also criminal.

But the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has managed to do precisely that. In a 300-page report, the FDLE cleared the university police by claiming they did nothing improper in their struggle with Meyer. Seriously, they actually said that.

This is much like how - in another Florida case I've covered - guards at a youth boot camp who murdered a teenager by shoving ammonia into his nose were acquitted despite their actions being clearly caught on video.

The proof of wrongdoing and combativeness by the police in the Meyer case is just plain as can be, and the FDLE is standing here telling the world it didn't happen. Unbelievable. It boggles the mind to and fro.

Is there any effective check against authorities' misconduct anymore? If I thought the police were right this time, I'd defend them. But I was always told growing up that police weren't immune from getting busted if they did the wrong thing themselves. Maybe it was because back then the police's actions would have been reviewed by a court instead of by themselves. Should any government agency - not just the cops - be investigating themselves if someone alleges misconduct, or should some other agency investigate them instead? In Florida, cops get reviewed by cops, and there's no outside check (until someone dies).

Finally, a note for the Miami Herald: It doesn't exactly do much for your credibility to delete dissenting comments from the page featuring your article, as you've been doing. People might mistake you for Freak Rethuglic. Then again, the bias in your article pretty much leads people to do that anyway. (It was the police that was "rowdy" and "combative", not the student.) And then again still, the Herald's playing up of the Gary Hart story while ignoring similar stories involving Republicans doesn't exactly make the Herald an organ of fairness.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Conservative Fool Of The Day is...Jack Thompson!

According to that fount of knowledge known as Wikipedia, Jack Thompson is a Republican attorney and self-described Christian conservative activist from Coral Gables, Florida. He's best known for gumming up the court system with frivolous lawsuits over "offensive" song lyrics and wants a government ban on "violent" video games.

Early in his career, Thompson led efforts to get the FCC to levy indecency fines against radio stations. When he ran against Janet Reno for Miami-area prosecutor, Thompson tried to get Reno to check a box on a form declaring whether or not she was a lesbian. Reno then told Thompson, "I'm only interested in virile men. That's why I'm not attracted to you." After losing this election, Thompson continued his feud against Reno, accusing a social services organization of which Reno was a board member of placing "homosexual education tapes" in schools.

One of Thompson's most laughed-at crusades was his effort to ban 2 Live Crew's 'As Nasty As They Wanna Be' album. In his letters to prosecutors, he included a photocopy of his own driver's license with a picture of Batman glued over his own photo.

Thompson's later campaigns against video games are just as silly, as he's filed frivolous lawsuits blaming video games for school shootings and other incidents, claiming the games violate RICO. In one Fred Phelps-like shakedown, Thompson demanded $246,000,000 from the maker of Grand Theft Auto III. Even worse than all of this, Thompson - being the big Nazi he is - tried to ban the video game Bully, claiming that it encouraged kids to retaliate against bullies.

So Jack Thompson supports school bullies - which makes him bad enough even without all the other fascist things he's done.

Even more scuzzy than this, Thompson's lobbying caused the Miami-Dade County school system to pass a resolution against the game - making the Miami schools perhaps the first public school system anywhere that's Nazi enough to have a written policy explicitly encouraging bullying.

Thompson also managed to get Howard Stern pulled from the air in Orlando.

Back in 1992, Jack Thompson accused the Florida Bar Association of having a vendetta against him because of his conservative religious beliefs, and he asked a judge to declare the whole organization unconstitutional. Thompson continued his grudge against the Florida Bar Association for years. Last year he sued the association, accusing it of harassing him by investigating the many complaints against him.

Recently the Florida Bar Association has filed to disbar Thompson because of his long history of misconduct that has afflicted numerous parties - especially his defamatory accusations against other lawyers. Thompson grumbled that these complaints against him violate his religious freedom because his activism is motivated by his religion.

I hadn't heard of the Miami schools' pro-bullying policy until this afternoon when I was compiling this entry, and I was so mad when I discovered it that I fumed and couldn't get back to work for hours, and I ended up chipping a tooth. Just goes to show you Jack Thompson is a fucking asshole. He's no more of a friend of the people than the stores he sues for selling "violent" games are. For real populists, Thompson is a false prophet.

Today, Thompson announced he's suing electronics retail chain Best Buy for - get this - allegedly selling M-rated games to minors. If Baste Buy - a store that I'm no fan of - is indeed selling M-rated games to kids, who the hell cares, seeing how arbitrary the rating system is? And why is it any of Jack Thompson's damn business anyway? When the rating system began, it was alleged to be not a government-imposed system at all. But now that the wingnuts are suing to force a store to follow it, that's proof they intended all along for it to be government-mandated.

There ought to be a law - to crack down on ambulance chasers like Jack Thompson by making disbarment mandatory for any lawyer who files a frivolous suit to censor a video game, movie, or music recording. Or Congress should pass a law to ban attorneys from collecting fees when they sue over stuff like this. Hopefully, if the current disbarment effort against Thompson succeeds, the media will stop trotting him out as an "expert" about everything and anything, as they're so fond of doing. Also, he's wasted enough taxpayer dollars by clogging up the court system with his mindless garbage. The funny thing is, his disbarment trial is supposed to be next month - and if he gets disbarred while any of the suits he's filed are pending, those suits automatically go bye-bye. Which will be hilarious!

Apparently, the reason he's going after Best Buy is that Baste Buy's policy on selling games is one of the most restrictive of any major chain, so if he wins this case, other stores are pretty much busted too. But that probably won't happen, because any judge is probably just going to laugh Jack Thompson right out of the courtroom, because he has no case. One obvious reason he's going to lose his case is that he's targeting online game purchases made with a credit card. Because minors can't get credit cards, it's impossible for a minor to buy a game from Worst Buy's website - unless they "borrowed" their parents' card, in which case said minors are going to be in a heap of trouble anyway once their folks receive their credit card bill.

Jack Thompson. Truly a worthless waste of matter.


Lawsuit against Universal music to my ears!

I guess someone's finally decided they've had their fill of greedy music companies thinking it's a copyright infringement anytime someone turns on their computer.

Recently, the mother of a 1-year-old boy fell victim to the corporate greed merchants after she posted a 29-second video on YouTube of the toddler dancing wildly to the song "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince (from 'Purple Baste') playing in the background. The music wasn't overdubbed onto the video but happened to be playing during the clip. It sounds like the music is coming from a weak AM radio down the hall and at times can barely be heard through the foreground audio. The clip can still be found at:

Universal Music Publishing Group, which owns the rights to the Prince tune, promptly complained to YouPube that the clip violated (you guessed it!) the rogue DMCA. That's exactly like saying a photo of a city skyline violates copyright law because a billboard featuring a copyrighted picture is visible off to the side.

But Corporate America picked on the wrong person this time. The woman who posted the video then turned around and sued Universal for its flagrant abuse of the copyright statutes.

All I have to say to Universal is: Ha ha! (Like Nelson on 'The Simpsons'.) The woman suing Universal said, "I don't like being bullied." Universal is getting what it deserves! Too funny!

DMCA or not, there are fair use exemptions for copyright. For instance, parodies are protected by law. So is most other use of a copyrighted work for a new work that has redeeming creative value. It's fair to say the YouTube clip is protected under that category.

It's amazing though what music companies will try to do with their DMCA. Even their ideological allies aren't safe. Music publishers, which are generally pretty conservative, can't pay the bills without holding the rights to music with crude lyrics - which itself offends conservatives. So when right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin posted a video on YouTube criticizing these lyrics, Universal even had the nerve to complain about that! Conservatives are funny when they turn against each other, aren't they?

If Congress would just repeal the DMCA (which was an implicit campaign promise), greedy music publishers wouldn't be able to use the DMCA to bludgeon parents who post home movies of their kids dancing. That Universal was able to go after the woman who posted the video of the toddler dancing to Prince is a direct result of the Contract With America. It's yet another case where politicians have directly affected average people.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Electric costs see biggest increase in 25 years; government sits on ass

Aw shit, not this horsecrap again! This isn't even the first entry like this here in the past month or two, but the situation is just so out of control that it's crying out for some government intervention.

The Energy Department said today that the average cost of electricity soared by over 9% last year - the biggest increase since 1981, when Reagan seized power. This announcement comes only days after the government gave Social Security its smallest increase in several years. (Still think it's not a benefit cut?)

To the surprise of few, the worst jumps were in states that removed the caps on electric rates. In fact, it's probably to the surprise of nobody, because I can't imagine anyone who claimed that deregulating price caps would make electricity less costly actually believed this bullshit. That's exactly like saying a ball won't bounce higher if you remove the ceiling from your house.

And there isn't any more competition either. Our power company here is still a monopoly - as is the case in most of America. If competition was allowed, there's no way power companies would be able to charge 9% more than the previous year - unless of course they were illegally colluding to fix the prices.

Also, for years I've noticed that any time some utility company proposes raising its rates, a company spokesperson always claims it would be the first time since such-and-such year (usually randomly picking a year from 5 to 15 years earlier) that the rates have gone up. The problem is, this claim is usually made right after the rates just went up. I can't even count the number of times I've caught utility companies in this lie.

Write your congressperson. Better yet perhaps, write your state lawmakers. Better yet perhaps, write your county commission. Better yet perhaps, write your city council. Do it today and help rein in spiraling energy costs, which have become a rip-off and a racket.

(Yes, I'm sure the "regulation for thee, not for me" crowd is going to get on my case about this. Oh well. Let 'em lose another argument.)


Child suspended for drawing of water pistol

Only a raving moron would equate a water pistol with a real gun. Nobody but a ranting imbecile would place a drawing of a gun on par with an actual gun. So who in a million years would ever treat a drawing of a water pistol the same as the actual presence of a real gun?

The right-wing wastes of mammalian tissue who run Dennis Township Primary School, a public grade school in New Jersey, that's who.

At this sorry imitation of a school, a 7-year-old student in second grade was suspended because he drew a picture of a stick figure brandishing a water pistol. I shit you not. The school's excuse was that he violated the "zero tolerance" policy on guns.

If they can suspend a second grader over a drawing of a water pistol, they'd have given me the guillotine for some of the stuff I said at school. Once, maybe in 6th grade or so, which would have been around 1984, I wrote a poem about school that said, "If they hit me with a board, I'll go out and buy a sword," and the teacher just laughed. If America's schools then were like they are now, the "board" would probably make its appearance not in the assistant principal's office but at the detention boot camp where I'd quickly find myself. (If you don't think they beat kids at these boot camps, remember our entry about the teenager being beaten and suffocated to death at a facility in Florida.)

When I was in high school as recently as the early '90s (when I attended an inner-city public school), a Civil War buff who was visiting the school gave a presentation for us in which he brang an authentic war rifle to the classroom and fired a blank. Nowadays, if he left the gun in his car parked on the street before going back to retrieve it, they'd do an unannounced, warrantless search of his car and (under a law signed by the elder Bush and later reenacted by a Republican-controlled Congress after the first version was tossed) throw him in the federal pen for 5 years just for having the weapon within 1,000 feet of the school (even though it wasn't loaded with real ammo).

In the recent story out of New Jersey, the student with the water pistol drawing never would have been caught except some whiny conservative soccer parents complained to the school about the drawing when their kid saw it. Gee, don't you feel safer now that the school suspended some 7-year-old kid over a drawing of a squirt gun? I sure as shit don't. Only a screamy little crybaby would complain to the school over a drawing like this.

Right-wing educrats often claim "zero tolerance" policies protect them from lawsuits. They lie. If I was the parent of a 7-year-old who was suspended over a childlike drawing of a water pistol, a lawsuit would be a certainty. I just can't believe there haven't been lawsuits over some similar cases that were less silly than this.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Teen launches anti-cussing crusade

For fuck's sake, some of today's kids sure have some misplaced priorities.

In a nation where tens of millions go without health care and where the environment is a distant memory, a 14-year-old boy from South Pasadena, California, has launched an international crusade against...cussing. He's appealed to his city officials to try to make the city a "no-cussing zone."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Like that bullshit is gonna work! What's the city gonna do? Are they going to do like that cop in Pennsylvania did when he loitered outside some woman's house so he could hear her cussing out the toilet and arrest her?

I was 14 once, and I guarantee that if one of my gang tried to make our city a "no-cussing zone", they would have been laughed into the Stone Age and back and then back again and back and then back again. If the youngster in this story is so worked up over cussing at his school, I doubt if he's ever had any real problems with his school like so many other people have.

If he had to put up with one-tenth what I had to put up with when I was 14, I guarantee you he'd have different priorities in life. Trust me, you don't know what I had to put up with - every fucking weekday, no less! (Weekends too, thanks to the fact that my county doesn't enforce phone harassment laws.) It would slowly smash your soul.

The anti-cussing movement exemplifies an illusive nicey-nicey meme that pops up every few years but seems to be on its way out at the moment. Five years ago, it seemed like every website hosting or message board service would just yank your account if you used any word harsher than 'pee', but now we cussers of the world are coming on strong! I think it's a wonderful world when you can cuss fluently without having to worry about to going to jail for it, don't you?


More elections loom

Elections are like a big, stinky fart in that they always have a tendency to loom. But this year there's only 3 states - in the whoooooooooole country - that have gubernatorial elections. One of them is Louisiana, which somehow became a Republican pick-up, as you know.

Another is my home state of Kentucky, which looks sure to be a Democratic pick-up, thanks to the ongoing scandals and extremist views of incumbent Republican Gov. Ernie "Hey Bert" Fletcher. Fletcher was indicted last year in the merit system investigation that resulted from his Stalin-like efforts to illegally purge folks from government jobs because of their political affiliations. Fletcher also claimed evolution violates the Declaration of Independence. His only election opponent is Democrat Steve Beshear, a former Kentucky Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor, who's nothing to really get too excited about. The uncontroversial Beshear really just sort of exists. He's not as inspiring as, say, Gatewood Galbraith, but yep, he'll win.

I damn sure won't vote for Ernie Fletcher, and never have, so that's another vote against the forces of doom. (Fletcher only got his first term because some Republican county bosses rigged the election.)

The other state with a big election this year is Mississippi, home of incumbent Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, one of the worst governors in America. Barbour is a jerk who made racist comments during his failed Senate bid and was later appointed as chair of the Republican National Committee. As governor, Barbour - despite claiming to be a champion of lower taxes - actually vetoed a bill that would have lowered the state's outrageous food tax, and he also ruined Mississippi's tort system. Barbour's Democratic opponent is John Arthur Eaves, known to Mississippians for his ads for his law firm.

I don't know why Eaves isn't doing better in the polls with his populist economic views, but hey, the media thinks Barbour is just so great that they're not going to let Barbour lose. Barbour is kind of like the new Bill Owens or Tommy Thompson or maybe even Bush, in that he stinks at everything he does but can't be criticized for it.

So now you know the kind of hopeless condition Louisiana and Mississippi are in. Or are they hopeless? I've had success at distracting the Kentucky wingnuts from their agenda, so I need some folks in the other states to come down hard on their local loudmouths even after they inexplicably win their elections.

What??? The Republicans actually picked up a governorship???

Four years ago, things were the opposite of what they are now: Back then, the Democrats got Louisiana, while the Republicans were engulfing most other states with their rotting buttwax. Now the Democrats actually win most states, with one of Republicans' few bright spots being Louisiana.

Louisiana's elections differ from other states in that what's considered the gubernatorial primary happened yesterday - a Saturday - and that it's an open primary where all candidates of all parties run against each other on the same ballot. If a candidate gets over 50%, they're elected governor. If not, there has to be a runoff between the top 2 candidates, which happens in mid-November - well after Election Day in other states. It's possible for the 2 candidates in the runoff to be of the same party.

The only Republican running is congressman and ultraconservative crackpot Bobby Jindal. I didn't consider it even within the realm of possibility that he'd top 50%. A poll by Southeastern Louisiana University had him down at 46%, and even that was considered generous to Jindal. I was certain this would go to a runoff between Jindal and one of the several Democrats who were running.

But Louisianans are shocked at the outcome of this election - in which Jindal somehow got 54%, making him governor without a runoff. I'm as shocked as the voters in that state are, and it's clear already that the so-called election was rigged. With modern polling techniques, you just don't have an 8-point difference between a scientific poll and the actual results if the election is honest. Other countries would consider this a sign the election is inaccurate, but in BushAmerica it's considered a sign the poll is inaccurate.

There's a reason Louisiana might be getting more Republican when other states aren't - but the poll would have counted for it. The reason is, simply put, that so many voters from the state's most Democratic area - New Orleans - which also composes the state's biggest parish (county), were kept from voting. Many hurricane survivors are still officially New Orleans residents, but haven't been able to return home to vote, staying instead in what's supposed to be temporary housing in other states. Before the hurricane, the government wouldn't invest in making poor neighborhoods safer from disasters, and this is the result. The Republicans' mind-numbing bungling after the hurricane should have destroyed the GOP's chances - but some large Republican areas didn't get much damage, and the entire event only energized their hard-charging conservatism. In other words, suburbs versus cities again.

New Orleans's Democratic voters have been chased so far from their own city that an independent who is fairly conservative carried New Orleans, with Jindal a close second. (Together they got 71% there.)

If I was a congressman, the DLC would demand I retract this analysis for being too critical of the Republicans. I won't retract it. I've independently studied electoral geography for 20 years, and that's how it shakes out. Quite frankly, if the hurricane had driven off tens of thousands of Republican voters instead of Democratic voters, there would have been an all-out effort by talk radio and conservative blogs to make sure these GOP voters were able to cast their votes in Louisiana. You know it, and I know it.

Because I assumed this election would go to a runoff, I foolishly bumped a couple of negative stories about Bobby Jindal until after this primary. But hey, now that he's going to be governor, I'll be able to put these stories on the frontburner while he's in office, so hopefully folks in Louisiana can get on his case then and distract him from doing too much damage.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Comcast censors 'Net traffic

When you hear of Internet access being blocked, you think of it as being done by some authoritarian foreign regime. But if you think it can't happen in America, think again.

For all the problems I've had in my area with cable TV and Internet access, at least I can thank my lucky stars this isn't a Comcast market. Comcast is the largest cable TV provider and second-largest Internet provider in America, serving many larger metropolitan areas - thanks to government-awarded monopolies. I know Memphis has Comcast, because they provided the cable TV in the motel room where I stayed on my recent trip. Yes, this is where the cable went out for hours.

Now it's been discovered that Comcast illegally blocks some Internet traffic from its high-speed customers. Comcast deliberately interferes with customers' use of file sharing networks - without proving that they've ever shared illegally copied files. Even if they were sharing files illegally, it's not Comcast's job to be the Judge Judy and executioner. Some of the networks Comcast illegally interferes with, such as BitTorrent, are known primarily for content that is not illegally copied.

Comcast's fascism is the worst known example of an Internet provider in America censoring content using data discrimination. And - based on FCC regulations - it's no more legal than the phone company tapping phones to block calls. Some speculate Comcast does this just to save bandwidth, but this speculation is debunked by the fact that Comcast could just as easily invest in upgrading its nodes to efficiently handle today's amount of online traffic.

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas said, "Comcast does not block access to any applications, including BitTorrent." Sorry, Charlie, that's not true. Even the AP's test shows that Comcast blocks uploads to BitTorrent. (It's not like other companies don't have similar problems - as anyone who used the original Napster on dialup learned when the phone company would disconnect them during a download.) Comcast breaks in with a message to the computers of both the sender and the recipient of the file - pretending to be sent by the other computer - to tell it to stop the file transfer using a forged packet. The AP's Peter Svensson likens this to a phone operator mimicking the voice of individuals having a phone conversation and breaking in and hanging up.

Comcast's scuzziness affects all types of file transfers. So if an independent musician wanted to distribute authorized copies of their music using a file-sharing network, they wouldn't be able to. Not even the Almighty is safe from being censored by Comcast. The AP's test involved attempting to upload the King James Bible, a document that's perfectly legal to trade. (This translation of the Bible was copyrighted, but even if the copyright holders didn't want this work distributed, the copyright would have expired by now because this text was published in 1611.)

Furthermore, Comcast advertises unlimited access. Censoring file sharing networks means they're guilty of false advertising. If it blocks peer-to-peer access, what's next? Will it also block website access too?

All this from a company that not only has a monopoly in cable TV in some areas but also in high-speed Internet.

Comcast's cable service is bad enough. In some of its markets, it relegated MSNBC to a secondary paid tier, but didn't do the same to the more right-wing Fox News Channel. So Comcast's data discrimination isn't just limited to the Internet, I see. Oh, and there's an amusing story on Comcast's shitty cable service looming, so hang on to your hats.

'Net neutrality is the naturally ordained notion that Internet providers can't discriminate against types of data - and 'Net neutrality is already mandated by FCC regulations. But Congress and the states need to pass new statutes to put some teeth into the 'Net neutrality rules, because right now the FCC makes no effort to enforce its own regulations. The FCC is too busy raiding unlicensed stations for playing "I Eat Poop Everyday."

We need neutrality to stop the brutality. Tell your congresscritters and your state lawmakers. (Or if you live in D.C., which the Republicans won't let have a congresscritter, write City Council.)


Friday, October 19, 2007

What a baby Nancy Pelosi sounds like

If you want to see what a baby Nancy Pelosi sounds like, today is your lucky day!

We were pleased to see Rep. Pete Stark, a California Democrat, tell it like it is regarding the Iraq conflict, which he correctly called an "illegal war." During the SCHIP debate, Stark (already a frequent victim of right-wing editorials by the media elite, many of which have made unsubstantiated claims against Stark) quite rightly charged that Republicans were sending troops to Iraq to "get their heads blown off for the President's amusement." The only thing Stark said that was wrong was referring to Bush as the President.

But I guess the DLC's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn't want to hear the truth. Pelosi said Stark's comment "was inappropriate and distracted from the seriousness of the subject at hand."

Somebody call the WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHmbulance again!

If Pete Stark's statement was "inappropriate" and "distracting", then what do you call the Republicans' refusal to override Bush's SCHIP veto?

Then again, this is the same Nancy Pelosi who spent more effort criticizing Hugo Chavez than criticizing Bush. And people wonder why we support Cindy Sheehan for that seat.


Border fence hypocrisy

The Department of Homeland Suckurity was so eager to build a fence on the Mexican border, just to show how much they thought they were standing up for good ol' red, white, and blue and all. But now that the fence is being built, somebody did detect something rather odd about the steel piping that composes the fence.

It turns out that the piping could be from...well, Peiping. The steel piping that supposedly safeguards America from the rest of this big, mean world isn't American-made at all but was made in China. This was verified by a photo of the fence taken in San (It Caused) Luis, Arizona.

So the self-styled superpatriots at the DHS who think the fence is such a cure-all won't even buy American?

Congress needs to pass a law that says that if the government is going to build this fence (a device that's probably going to be ineffective at stopping undocumented immigration anyway), it has to use American-made steel. Of course Bush would probably veto that too, just like he heartlessly did to the SCHIP bill.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Law firm has weird ideas about copyrights

Lots of peeps these days have some straaaaange ideas about copyrights and trademarks!

They'll invoke the illegal DMCA to censor competitors' material even though they don't hold a copyright on anything in it, but they don't recognize a newspaper's right to not have a competing paper or powerful individual take its name. (The latter happened in Kentucky to both the Carlisle Mercury and the Mountain Citizen. Believe it or not, a judge actually ordered the Mountain Citizen to stop publishing under its own name when a public official who it had criticized took its name!)

Recently a website that exposes infomercial scams received a threat letter from a right-wing law firm that represents one of the businesses that the site dared to criticize. Not only did the threat letter take issue with what the site said about its client, but it concluded with a baseless threat that warned the site not to print the letter. In other words, it claimed the threat letter itself was copyrighted and that the recipient of it wasn't allowed (ooh, an Allowed Cloud!) to post it online.

Welp, consumer advocacy group Public Citizen tested this law firm's warped theory by posting the threatening letter. It turns out that more and more companies have been bullying consumers by hiring law firms that send out nasty letters and then tell them these letters are copyrighted and can't be posted the Internet. They effectively scare consumers into shutting up about the company's actions. It's basically a new form of SLAPP lawsuit threat.

Maybe the law firm thinks it can copyright the letter because the whole basis of the firm's threat is fiction.

Now the dumb losers who compose the law firm that sent the threatening letter have developed another bizarre interpretation of copyright law. Now they're saying copyright law bans folks from viewing the shitty HTML source of its website. You know, like in Exploder when you click on "Source" under the "View" tab. That's what they mean. They don't mean copying it. They mean just viewing it - even though almost every ordinary Internet user has this feature on their browser in plain sight that lets them view a site's HTML source with ease. (You can even do it with this blog!)

The law firm claims, "As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code since we consider it to be our intellectual property protected by the copyright laws. You are therefore not authorized to do so." (For all you legal eagles, me offering this brief quote from the law firm is protected as fair use. So there. Nyeh.)

Geniuses, it's called copyright, not viewright. Copyright only applies when someone copies something.

This is like if the RIAA sued someone for looking at the stylus on their record player. (The DMCA is so sweeping that they probably could!) What's next? Suing Microsoft for daring to have a feature that lets you view a site's HTML code, a feature that's probably been standard on every graphical browser for a dozen years?

The law firm is also trying to force another website to remove criticism about a client because the law firm didn't grant permission to utter the client's name. It also won't allow its own clients to say they're represented by them (proving the law firm is embarrassed by its own clients).

Further investigation proves that this law firm also helps clients send out e-mail spam. These self-described "spam lawyers and spam attorneys" (to use their redundant phrase) offer to show clients how to "legitimately and legally send unsolicited email to third parties." Unsolicited e-mail? That's spam - even if it's legal under some loophole. But what do you expect from a law firm that counts infomercial businesses among its clients? Infomercials are the TV version of spam.

For being such legal experts, they sure do have some goofy ideas on copyrights though. And I suspect they know their copyright ideas are wrong - because there's no way in hell anybody could possibly be so stupid as to think they can copyright a cease-and-desist letter or bar someone from viewing a website's HTML code.


FCC plan would let more monopoly stink up the airwaves

Now I'm mad.

I honestly didn't think America's weak ownership caps that govern how many radio and TV stations a company can own could be loosened any further. In the Contract With America's rogue 1996 Telecommunications Act, ownership caps were nearly gutted, and there's always loopholes to let companies defy the few limits that remain.

The booger-eater contingent actually calls that shit free speech. Yet they support raiding unlicensed stations that don't interfere with any other stations. (They call these raids free speech too, I guess.)

But right-wing FCC chairman Kevin Martin has opened a new vista for expanded coprorate (sic) control of the media. Martin - a Bush appointee who had previously assisted the current Chickenhawk-in-Chief in the Florida recount scandal - wants to abolish the rule that forbids a company from owning both a radio or TV station and a newspaper in the same market.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of Martin's proposal would be Sam Zell, a Republican multibillionaire who wants to complete his buyout of the Tribune Company. Another would be Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which wants to continue owning both the right-wing New York Post and that city's Fox station. The reason News Corporation is allowed to own both right now, even though it's usually illegal to own both a newspaper and a TV station in the same market, is that it obtained a waiver that lets it ignore this rule. In other words, the rule against TV/newspaper cross-ownership is almost worthless already, because powerful media moguls like Rupert Murdoch can get a waiver almost just by asking for one.

Just as bad, the FCC is also considering loosening - yet again - how many radio and TV stations a company may own in the same market. I didn't know there were really any limits now, thanks to the nation killers who passed the 1996 law. After 1996, the rules were loosened so much that Clear Channel was able to buy all 6 commercial radio stations in Minot, North Dakota, which controlled almost all of the area's audience. In 2002, a train derailed in Minot, releasing a toxic cloud of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. Because Clear Channel piped the programming on all its Minot stations from out of town, police couldn't reach anyone at the stations to notify of the emergency. Thus, no listeners heard about it. As a result, one person died from breathing the poisonous fumes.

This happened despite the fact that one of the Clear Channel stations the police tried to contact was the region's officially designated emergency broadcaster. Naturally, Clear Channel blamed everyone except itself for the difficulty in getting through to the stations. The company also tried to justify its Minot monopoly by claiming that out-of-town stations can be heard in the city. Um??? Are you aware of how far Minot is from any other market??? Even if folks in Minot could somehow pick up another city's stations, those aren't Minot stations and don't have as much resources to cover Minot events.

Even more incredibly, the FCC - which is supposed to use a method that tightens the ownership caps if a market has fewer stations - inexplicably combined the Minot and Bismarck markets, even though these cities are 100 miles apart. This let Clear Channel claim Minot had 45 commercial stations even though it only had 6. In the immortal words of the Church Lady of 'Saturday Night Live': How conveeeeenient!

One of few people in Washington who wants to fight the FCC's extremism is Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat. He says that if Kevin Martin tries to weaken the regulations, "there will be a firestorm of protest and I'm going to be carrying the wood." But few other federal lawmakers have the gumption to take a strong stand.

Since the passage of the right-wing 1996 telcom law, not only have I considered it void under the Spittle Doctrine, but I've also suggested that states pass their own laws to reinstate the ownership caps that were weakened by this law. State action is long, long, long overdue. And yes, that's legal. (I know some armchair congresscritter is going to try to insist otherwise.)


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Inflation spikes, government cuts benefits

People ought to be marching in the streets over this, but the government has everyone bullied so badly that I wouldn't count on it.

The Labor Department has just reported that (whoosh...whoosh) inflation in September spiked at the fastest rate in months (thanks partly to skyrocketing fuel costs that pad Big Oil's profits) - but at the same time, 54,000,000 elderly or disabled Americans are getting the smallest Social Security increase in 4 years. And you know the inflation numbers are worse than the government says, because they always are. (My own observations bear this out.)

To put it in more vexing terms, the inflation rate so far this year (with just the first 9 months counted) is 44% higher than all of last year, while the increase in Social Security benefits is 30% lower than last year (and was lower than the inflation rate to begin with). Following all of this?

That's called a benefits cut. The number got bigger, but in real dollars, it's less.

And while all this is going on, the government also declared today that millions of today's workers are going to pay higher Social Security taxes next year - even though they'll end up getting less money when they retire or if they become disabled. Ain't exactly a testament to Bush's fiscal management skills, is it? Hell, nothing's a testament to Bush being good at anything, because the guy is a lifelong failure at everything he's ever tried, after all.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I just can't get the inflation figures to line up with the benefit increases - but the more important point is that almost everyone who gets Social Security or disability benefits already paid for them with their tax dollars. I think that any time their benefits don't keep pace with actual inflation, they're getting fleeced.

Ya know, I think there'd be more money to cover Social Security if the government would stop all its entitlement programs for Hummer owners and Halliburton. For at least 3 years, the Bush regime doled out huge tax breaks for oversized gas guzzlers like Hummers. Bush approved a tax break that gave business owners deductions of up to $100,000 if they buyed vehicles weighing over 6,000 pounds. This wasn't done for towing business owners who needed a new truck but for wealthy suburbanites who just wanted a Hummer and could pretend it was their business vehicle (even if they used it for personal errands). It was estimated that if 100,000 large vehicle owners received this handout, the government would lose $1,500,000,000 that could be used for your Social Security. Your tax dollars are in effect going to handouts for yuppie buyers of large SUV's that waste gas and drive up fuel costs even more.

Congress needs to rein in its own illegal pay raises. Congressional Democrats, to their credit, made good on a campaign promise to not increase congressional pay until the very modest minimum wage bill passed. But everything that happened after that was as unconstitutionally Republican as we've come to expect: In June, the House voted to increase its own pay, even though the Twenty-Seventh Amendment explicitly prohibits it from varying its pay in the middle of a term. (The Supreme Court won't let citizens challenge this, claiming the citizens aren't personally harmed by Congress's actions - even though it's the people's tax dollars involved. So now there's no enforcement mechanism for an important constitutional amendment. One good thing is that at least the Democratic congresscritters from Kentucky voted against the illegal pay raise - which none of the Kentucky Republicans had the sense to do.)

So, if you're retiring or have a disability, get ready for a year of not making ends meet. Thanks to Bush's mismanagement, looks like millions of Americans might have to forego Star-Kist for Kal Kan again.


No apology from me

Like the big babies they are, conservatives (actually one right-wing blog in particular that nobody reads) actually want an apology from progressive blogs for daring to speculate that the Randi Rhodes incident might have been a politically motivated assault.

Well, I have 2 words for them: Fuck you.

A lot of folks would just apologize. I won't. If conservatives don't want people to think they're behind political attacks, they never should have issued so many violent or other menacing attacks in recent years. (Read about Larry Northern, Steven Soper, Christopher Doyle, June Griffin, Barbara Cubin, Texas politician Rick Green...) I will never - I repeat, never - apologize.

Those who think I should apologize can kiss my ass. I'm one progressive activist who stands up for themselves, because I know from life experience not to back down.

If the Democratic leadership had this attitude, the Democrats would have taken back Congress in 1996, not 2006.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Woman faces jail for cussing at toilet

Toilets are curious devices.

You can cuss out a commode all you want if the fixture displeases you, and no harm done! You see, you don't have to worry about the toilet's feelings getting hurt, because toilets aren't living.

But you may want to be careful what you say to a toilet anyway. It's BushAmerica, ya know. These days, what everybody says and does is everybody else's business - even if they do it in the supposed privacy of their own home.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania, a woman may face 90 days in jail and fines up to $300 costly dollars for allegedly yelling profanities at her toilet when it overflowed. Somehow, someday, some way (as Marshall Crenshaw would say), an off-duty cop discovered that the woman cussed out her toilet and charged her with disorderly conduct. This despite the fact that the woman's swearing took place in her own home.

Evidently, the crude language seeped out an open window and happened to fall upon the ears of the off-duty officer.

This is exactly like the time about 15 years ago when some couple in Florida had sex in their own bedroom and got charged with public lewdness because somebody looked through their window and saw them. Nobody ever would have heard the woman cussing out the toilet if they weren't standing right outside her bathroom window.

It sounds to me like the cop cussed more loudly than the woman did. According to the woman, the cop standing outside the window yelled, "Shut the fuck up!" This prompted the woman to reply, "Mind your own business!"

The woman's response (give or take one word) was actually one of the first national mottos to be used on American coinage. Incidents like this are exactly why it was the nation's motto. In a free country, the police aren't supposed to be peeping in windows of private residences to see if anyone cusses. But the toilet incident didn't happen in a free country. It happened in BushAmerica.

What's more, it appears that the cops charged the woman under an old colonial statute against cussing - not under a law that's actually been enforced in the past century.

When cops can stand outside a person's window and charge them because they hear them cussing inside, then the right-wing police state is no longer some distant worry but a reality. The police state is here.


OK, conservos, you've proven you get joy out of someone else's misfortune

I got ya, conservos. You're just totally thrilled Randi Rhodes got hurt, and you can't hide it, can you?

Hell, judging by the comments the Freepers have left on blogs about Rhodes's injury, it's obvious conservatives think this is funny.

It turns out that what appeared to be an attack was actually just an accidental fall. I think some of the commenters here at The Online Lunchpail had it right when they said the fact that so many people speculated that it was a politically motivated attack is just proof of the times we live in. In other words (as someone pointed out) nobody would have suspected it was politically motivated if not for the fact that conservatives launch violent attacks all the time (a fact that I'm a firsthand witness to).

And (as someone else pointed out) it's obvious somebody with the city gave the wrong information just so it could be debunked later. Well, it didn't work, because Rhodes herself isn't claiming that the injury was anything other than an accident.

Hopefully, she'll recover soon. It was an unfortunate incident, and it's even more unfortunate that her enemies gloat about it and accuse her of making more of it than it was.

In the meantime, I've fixed the header and the content of the previous entry to clear up some of the confusion.

Air America host brutally assaulted?

Randi Rhodes, a talk show host on liberal talk radio network Air America, was reportedly attacked on Sunday near her apartment in New York - which knocked out several teeth and forced her to miss several of her shows. (If you're unfamiliar with Air America, it's because the radio industry is so bent on silencing progressive views that the network only has about 60 affiliates nationwide even though there's 302 Arbitron-rated markets. Meanwhile, a right-wing has-been like Rush Limbaugh has about 550 affiliates.)

Fellow Air America personality Jon Elliott believes the incident was politically motivated and not just an ordinary mugging, for Rhodes was carrying no purse or jewelry. I think so too. The dinosaur media can lie to us about Giuliani eliminating violent crime from his city, but it'll ignore this crime even if it is proven to be a political attack. (Incidentally, the area where Rhodes was attacked has one of the lowest crime rates in the otherwise crime-plagued city, so that's more evidence it probably wasn't just a plain old mugging.)

"Is this an attempt by the right-wing hate machine to silence one of our own?" Elliott inquired. "Are we threatening them? Are they afraid that we're winning? Are they trying to silence, intimidate us?" Anyone who possesses cerebral tissue knows the answer to the last question (and can probably make a good guess at the others), because I've worked in suburban Cincinnati (the geographic heart of the New Right experiment), and I know the kind of violence the Freeper types are capable of.

One commenter on the blog where we first read of the apparent attack asked, "Of all the conservatives you have ever known, how many advocate violence under circumstances other than self defense?" Um, lots of 'em. Another commenter, a self-described conservative, said, "We are not animals." I know. Many conservatives I've met are lower than animals. A turtle or a horse doesn't go around swaggering about their sadisitc "electric bleachers" proposal for juvenile offenders (like the conservatives we've met do). Conservatives are by and large nasty "people", as some of their other blog comments prove.

If you think the incident against Randi Rhodes couldn't be politically motivated, think again. Denver talk show host Alan Berg was assassinated by right-wing extremists for his political views. KPFT in Houston has been attacked for its progressive leanings, including just recently when gunshots were fired through the studio. Air America host Thom Hartmann says he's found 3 bullet holes in his car.

Modern conservatives are such cowards and bullies that they won't fight in wars that they start, yet they fire gunshots at radio stations and kill talk show hosts they disagree with. They've destroyed their own souls.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Law office bugged by Bush regime

It never ends with the ogres in power, does it?

First, the former CEO of Qwest admitted that the NSA tried to get him to wiretap phone conversations 7 months before 9/11 - which would mean the illegal wiretap program that the government claims is to defeat terrorism actually began before the terrorist act that was used to justify it. It also means the phone spying program didn't work in preventing terrorism. (About a year after 9/11, a big story broke that Bush had known that 9/11 was going to happen. This story made it well into the mainstream media before it was hushed up so quickly that hardly anyone seems to remember it now. I didn't forget, because I remember The Last Word running an article about it.) We also learned that the government punished Qwest for failing to comply with the wiretap program by withdrawing contracts worth hundreds of millions.

Not surprisingly, illegal government wiretapping has been found to go back further to even before Bush seized power. In the '90s, right-wing Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama misused it to try to get information on a Bill Clinton CIA nominee.

And now it turns out that a Vermont law firm that represents people detained at the Guantanamo Bay death camp has had its phones and computers bugged by the Bush regime.

A letter sent from the law firm to its clients warns that it is "quite confident" that the U.S. government has been engaging in "phone tapping and computer hacking" of its office. (The law firm uses Verizon, one of the companies that conspired with the eavesdropping program, as its service provider.)

Now can we impeach him?


Government would require permission just to fly on a plane

If new rules proposed by the Transport Security Administration are enacted, every airline passenger in America will need advance permission from the government just to fly. Not just to fly from the U.S. Not just to fly to the U.S. But even within the U.S. And even over the U.S., if the flight begins and ends outside the U.S.

Anyone who has to fly from, to, within, or over the U.S. and A. will have to submit all their personal information to the U.S. government 72 hours before flying - and be cleared by the TSA, the same rocket surgeons who brang you the no-fly list that almost everybody seems to be on because they have the same name as someone else who's on it. The new rules will apply to U.S. citizens and foreigners alike.

Even if you're just taking a small business flight out of your local general aviation airport, the rules will apply the same as if you're an international traveler.

Pretty much everybody opposes the new rules, and you know the new rules won't stop terrorism, because everyone knows that no terrorist is going to give their real name if they think they won't be cleared. Anyone who actually thinks it'll stop terrorism is off in the Flat Earth Society somewhere.

Travel data expert Edward Hasbrouck said the new rules are an infringement on the right to domestic travel and the right to assembly. The ACLU's Barry Steinhardt said the watch list (which contains the widely mocked no-fly list) has 500,000 to 750,000 names on it. "If there are that many terrorists in the U.S., we'd all be dead," he correctly pointed out.

Today, air travel. Pretty soon, the government will require permission for road travel too. If you don't think it can happen in America, there was a time when I never in a million years thought America would have uniforms in public schools or force people to sign a log to buy cold medicine - but here we are.


Another GOP big shot faces sex charges

It's happened yet again!

Donald Fleischman is - oops, was - head of the Republicans in Green Bay-based Brown County, Wisconsin. But now Fleischman, 37, is in trouble for allegedly fondling a 16-year-old runaway and giving the boy illicit substances and beer. Fleischman has been charged with 2 counts of child enticement, 2 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a child, and a count of exposing himself to a child.

The boy told police that Fleischman took him to his home, fondled him when he went to sleep, and masturbated at the foot of his bed.

So now Fleischman - the boss of Green Bay GOP politics - may now face 52 years in prison.


America's maternal death rate far worse than Europe's

A new UN report effectively issues yet another stinging indictment of America's crumbling health care system.

This new report discloses that the rate of women dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth is far worse in the U.S. than in Europe. While 1 in 4,800 women in the U.S. die from these causes, the rate is only 1 in 47,600 in Ireland - meaning the maternal death rate is almost 10 times as high in the U.S. as in Ireland. Even in war-torn Bosnia, one of Europe's poorest countries, the rate is only 1 in 29,000.

Yet Americans still probably pay more for health care than any other country. We wonder what excuses are going to be evoked this time for making people pay so much for such lousy health care.