Friday, November 30, 2007

Canada may copy failed DMCA

It's coming...It's coming... (Sung to the tune of that McDonald's commersh from the late '80s.) A new copyright law may be coming in Canada to mimic the illegal DMCA that's ravaged the U.S.

The Canadian bill that's speculated to be like the DMCA is just the latest act by conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's administration to attempt to copy the inexplicably bad policies that the rightist thought police in the U.S. has already imposed. The bill was written by conservatives in secret without public input.

But because Canada has more freedom of the press than the U.S. does, websites there are boldly warning of the troubles that loom for Canadians if the bill passes. Like the DMCA, the Canadian measure would effectively make it illegal to remove viruses placed on your computer by Sony (that Sony claims is to stop CD piracy). So much for having control over your own computer, if you can't even stop a major corporation from secretly placing viruses on it.

Indeed, the Bush regime has been pressuring Canadian lawmakers to pass a Canadian DMCA. David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, actually helped write the new bill.

Reportedly, this bill and the DMCA merely enforce a 1996 WIPO treaty. Well, then why did the U.S. and Canada even sign this treaty? This brings up an important point about the DMCA and the fact that it conflicts with U.S. law. The Constitution protects copyrights - but with limits. The idea of copyright wasn't designed to protect the dinosaur media when it refuses to adapt to newer inventions like, say, personal computers. I'm not familiar with Canadian law, but in the good ol' U.S. and A. nation, the Constitution reigns supreme even in the face of international treaties. As the U.S. is a sovereign country, the Constitution gives itself this status.

There's simply no other way of explaining it. That's what sovereignty and self-determination mean. We Americans come from a mosaic of backgrounds, but the Constitution is the law that binds us together. Anything in the DMCA that's unconstitutional - as much of it is - should be considered legally void. If it was actually constitutional, it would be a different matter. (But that's not counting the fact that the DMCA was passed by a rogue Congress.)

For its part, the United States needs to just stand up and say it can't enforce a treaty that violates the law. Not like I expect the Bush regime to give a shit.


The Conservative Fool Of The Day is...Tony Snow!

If you peruse the news sites for more than a few weeks, it's unavoidable that you're gonna read about some important person saying something that's just totally fucking stupid. And one of the dumbest things we've seen anyone say lately is what former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said about the war.

I know that the 52-year-old Snow has been seriously ill with cancer, but I'm not going to let what he said slide. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't call him out on what he said - which was so outrageous that it almost doesn't deserve to be dignified with a response.

Just before a speech at Oklahoma Christian University, Snow talked to reporters and declared that Bush will be vindicated by recent progress in the Iraq War.

Seriously. He really said that.

What progress? If he thinks terrorists lopping off people's heads and blowing up soldiers is progress, then 'progress' may be the first word ever to defy its own meaning. This has already been the deadliest year for U.S. forces so far in the war, and every few weeks you hear about some part of Iraq being put under lockdown again. The war is going as badly now as ever.

This is just like when Snow's predecessor Scott McClellan got a Conservative Fool Of The Day entry for saying something equally idiotic and wrong. A couple years back, McClellan boasted that the nation's economy was in a "sustained economic expansion." Yes, he said that in 2005 - not 1977. I would have loved to have been in the room when he said that, because you could probably hear reporters bursting into laughter at that one! Or probably not, because the fact that America had lost 5,000,000 jobs since 2001 really wasn't all that funny.

Now that Tony Snow said the war is going great, I know where the dinosaur media is going to go with this: They'll say the war really is going great, just because Tony Snow said so. I can tell already they're going to try to make the recent months of failure disappear down the memory hole.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

ADHD drugs must include warning about death (a blast from the past)

This is a story from last year that was pretty much swept under the rug almost as quickly as it came out. At the time I said to myself that the story would either finally result in an end to the epidemic of forced ADHD druggings once and for all or be shrugged off after a few days, never to be heard from again.

Well, guess which one happened?

I can hardly even find any mentions of the story now, even though the media still dwells on celebrity gossip from 10 years ago.

Health officials in the good ol' U.S. and A. finally said last year that ADHD drugs like Ritalin and Dexedrine must now feature information warning users of heart problems, psychotic behavior, and even sudden death. Canada instituted a similar rule.

A few people in the medical field feared these warnings might put a damper on use of these toxins. Well, that's the whole point. If a drug is dangerous, are people supposed to use it more?

Unfortunately, however, ADHD poisons don't seem to be used any less. There's whole Internet forums where busybody soccer parents encourage each other to ignore the warnings, so that's part of the problem - along with greedy drug companies promoting their noxious goods (or more accurately, bads).

(Source: Market-Day 9/28/06)

Hospital errors soaring

So much for that so-called workers' paradise known as BushAmerica. The American health care system keeps getting worse and worse, with no action to remedy it on the horizon.

In the mid-'90s, The Last Word reported that American medical centers were plagued by billing mistakes and erroneous procedures that sometimes endangered patients' lives. (If I remember correctly, a hospital gave a pregnancy test to a man. I'm not sure if that was mentioned in the article though.) It's much worse now. Now hospital medication errors are widespread and increasing rapidly.

The Institute of Medicine says that every year at least 1,500,000 Americans are injured because they're given the wrong medication or dosage. Just in 7 years, serious injuries have more than doubled, and deaths have tripled (from 5,000 in 1998 to 15,000 in 2005).

There's a host of factors behind these mind-boggling blunders. Sometimes the doctor's handwriting is illegible so patients get the wrong drug. Someone said that they heard of charts hanging on the wrong beds in hospitals. A lot of it is because of people in the health care field being forced to work hours that are too long, especially in for-profit facilities.

An article in the American Medical Association's own journal says America's health care system is the country's third-leading cause of death, with 225,000 dying per year due to bad health care ranging from unnecessary surgery to medication errors to strange hospital infections.

The "regulation for thee, not for me" types always grasp at straws when confronted with another story about the decline of the American medical system. You know they're about to lose the argument when they get down to their cry that it's actually not so bad because the American system is still better than other countries for people in higher income groups. (That's supposed to even things out, I guess.) Well, that isn't true either. Even the rich and famous aren't safe from the growing pandemic of medication errors. At a hospital in Los Angeles, actor Dennis Quaid's newborn twins were given 1,000 times the intended dosage of a blood thinner called heparin.

Such an occurrence wasn't just an isolated incident, and it's serious: Three babies died at a hospital in Indiana recently when the exact same thing happened to them.

One is reminded of the story a few years ago about the girl who died at an American hospital because they gave her blood that was of the wrong blood type.

After seeing 'Sicko', there's no excuse why people should be forced to tolerate such an incredibly bad health care system.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Civics classes for corporate welfare?

After reading about how Wal-Mart tried to fleece a county in Florida to get money for its distribution center, a damn spiffy question came to mind.

In 7th grade I had to take civics. We learned about neat things like the Constitution, separation of powers, and how the government taxes its citizens and spends money.

For most of my adult life, I've had a job, you know. To get my first job, I had to at least not quit school. For what I do now, I have to have at least some understanding of how the government works. I have to know a lot more than what I learned in middle school, you see, and that's one of the reasons I took political science in college.

In short, I work, I get paid, I pay taxes, then the government decides how to spend this dough. To get paid, my work has to be up to par, and that only happens with a good civics education. This fact suits me niftily. But (as Earl Pitts would say) you know what makes me sick? My hard-earned tax dollars get redistributed to wealthy corporations in the form of corporate welfare.

I'm starting to think that maybe the boards of directors of corporations who receive these handouts should be required to pass a college-level political science class in order to keep getting assistance. I had to pass such a course to earn all this money for them, so shouldn't they be doing their part too?

The government would probably save oodles of money if they instituted this requirement. That's cuz there's obviously a lot of powerful people making decisions in Corporate America who clearly have never studied civics or political science in their lives - or else they wouldn't expect to get entitlements like corporate welfare. Or maybe they did take these classes but they just don't care about what they learned.

The Conservative Fool Of The Day is...Phill Kline!

Phillip Kline's biggest claim to infamy is his term as Kansas Attorney General. The Republican was known for his socially conservative activist stances and putting his personal views above the law. The former broadcaster's reign in that office ended when he was defeated for reelection in a smashing landslide last year.

When that happened, however, Johnson County's Republican precinct committee selected Phill Kline as that county's district attorney. I have no idea how a party committee can just appoint a public office for the whole county, but apparently it's a machine-run county - even though Kline lost Johnson County even worse than he lost statewide. Financially, this has turned out to be a windfall for Kline, because the post of Johnson County DA pays a lot more than that of Kansas Attorney General.

Trouble is, in order to be Johnson County DA, you have to sort of, like, live in Johnson County. And Kline didn't live in Johnson County.

For one thing, KCTV-TV in Kansas City discovered that while Kline is making $147,000 a year as DA, he only works an average of 29 hours a week. That doesn't count 6 weeks of data that the station couldn't find because Kline's courthouse cronies conveniently claim that the county simply purges information. It gets worse for ol' Phill: After being appointed DA, Kline thought he could meet the residency requirement by renting a tiny apartment over a storage facility owned by his supporters. Of course, Kline would spend most of his time at his other residence outside the county. The apartment in Johnson County would be his "official" residence even though he hardly spends any time there.

Reporters investigated whether Kline actually uses his Johnson County apartment, and they've never been able to find him anywhere near it. In fact they've found him living 60 miles away in Topeka instead. Kline's wife has been sighted picking up their daughter from a school in Topeka, not Johnson County.

Also, when Kline was appointed DA, he illegally fired 8 employees for political reasons, prompting a lawsuit.

The funny thing about this is that, at least in Kansas, if you don't live in the county you claim to live in, you have to either resign or be removed from your county office.

If they don't remove Phill Kline from office for lying about where he lives, then I'm just going to utterly shit. Kline is yet another living example of ongoing wingnut corruption. As a public servant, people have the right to know if he's not taking his job seriously and to expect there to be consequences if he isn't.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A neat tool to fight Clear Channel and Radio Marti!

The big guns in the broadcast industry are the first to bellow about their own "rights" being violated by ownership caps - but they're also the first to demand that someone else's station get shut down for not having an FCC license.

I've experienced this hypocritical Nazism firsthand with Tantrum 95.7's permanent shutdown of 6 years ago. The fact that the complaint against Tantrum 95.7 was made on September 19, 2001, when there were much more important things to worry about, is proof of the complainant's lack of patriotism. At a time of a national emergency, some powerful broadcasting corporation was worried about a 1-watt station "stealing" their listeners.

But now I've found a nifty little tool - provided by none other than the FCC itself - to really get the ogres' goat. It's an online form you can fill out to report unlicensed stations. Yeah, I know, I know: The stations the FCC considers to be pirates are the ones we don't want to report. I say we should use the form to report the real rogues like Radio Marti and corporations that own too many stations.

Peep the form here:

Today I used this handy form to report Radio Marti. As I reported recently, the World Radiocommunication Conference has ruled that Radio and TV Marti, which are propaganda broadcasts by the U.S. government, are illegal because they broadcast into Cuba without its consent and interfere with Cuban stations that broadcast only within their own country. Radio and TV Marti also do not have an FCC license. So doesn't that make them pirate stations?

In any event, I reported 'em. The reason? As I put it, "Unlicensed station violates international law by interfering with another country's domestic broadcasts."

My next action? Well, at least 3 of Clear Channel's radio stations in Cincinnati have been appearing on frequencies that they're not authorized to broadcast on. Not only that, but I've also been receiving these stations through the TV set and the computer speakers. I've mentioned this problem on radio-related message boards, and people tell me it's because Clear Channel uses transmitters that overload radio receivers and other electronics.

In effect, they're operating stations on unauthorized frequencies, so how is that not pirate?

Also, if a company owns more stations than what would have been allowed before 1996, I consider these unauthorized. It was large companies' lobbying and bribery that led to the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which wouldn't have passed if America wasn't ruled by a rogue Congress. That large corporations' radio stations get piped into my home without my consent on the wrong frequencies (which jams smaller stations which I'd prefer to hear and which are also FCC-licensed) and through the TV and computer makes them illegal. End of story.

The only reasonable way you can claim stations owned by Clear Channel or other corporations that own too many stations aren't pirates is that the term 'pirate' implies a more enchanting type of outlaw. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Long John Silver's use pirate imagery because the pirates of old on the High Seas are looked back upon as glamorous and sometimes heroic. 'Scofflaw' is the term that should apply to Clear Channel and its ilk.

Will reporting Radio Marti and Clear Channel work? I'm guessing that the reports made using the FCC website are read by some Bush patronage employee, who probably seethes with rage every time Radio Marti or Bush's corporate cronies get reported. Good. Maybe all this frustration will finally force their hand.

If they don't like corporate-run stations that have a supposedly valid license being reported for using transmitters that overload radios, maybe - in addition to the current form for reporting unlicensed stations - they'll come up with a form for reporting licensed stations. Doesn't that sound fair?

Supremes uphold rogue searches of welfare families

Hope the Supreme Court's stocked up on toilet paper, because they're publishing another ruling!

In California in 1997, San Diego County barked down an order that required welfare applicants to agree to routine warrantless searches of their home while they're present. If the residents don't agree to this search, they lose benefits that they need.

The ACLU challenged this policy as unconstitutional (which the policy is). But now the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear their challenge and is letting the policy stand (after the right-wing 9th U.S. Circus Court of Appeals also upheld it). This action provides another great example of Supreme Court doublespeak: The purported intent of the searches is to check for welfare fraud (even when there's no probable cause to think the residents committed fraud). But (in letting the lower court ruling stand) the Supremes in effect said the searches are legal because they're not looking for evidence of a crime.

Uh, isn't welfare fraud a crime??? I was pretty sure it is. So if they're claiming to look for welfare fraud, they're claiming to look for a crime.

(I know what the "regulation for thee, not for me" types are gonna say: They'll say for a family to get welfare at all is welfare fraud, but that it's just A-OK for a corporation to collect corporate welfare. Not like I give a shit what they think.)

The policy speaks volumes about what right-wing county officials think of the poor. They have a classist view in which they think of the poor as lazy fraudsters. If a rich person buys a million-dollar mansion, do they automatically assume they're guilty of a crime and conduct a warrantless walk-through search of their new home? In brief, San Diego County and the Supreme Court have in effect criminalized poverty.

Here's a deal: Counties can search welfare families' homes if they let me search offices of major corporations that get corporate welfare to make sure they really need assistance. Fair?

What you never hear about is the fact that since the 104th Reich passed the rogue welfare "reform" law in 1996, real misuse of welfare by individuals hasn't lessened. Not like there was that much to begin with: The supposed pandemic of welfare abuse in the early '90s was a hoax by talk radio and right-wing government officials who hated the poor.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Right-wing amendment would bar children's rights

The whack-a-doos are stockpiling nutty ideas again, because they know they're going to be loaded for bear after losing the next election, and they're going to trot out this loss as "proof" their opponents have been in power forever. They think they'll win the next election after that, and they want to get their gallows lined up in time so they can enjoy it.

For years, conservatives have reserved some of their shrillest vitriol for opposing a document called the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Out of 195 countries in the UN, 193 have ratified this document. As an example of what the convention does, it provides that there shall be efforts to reduce infant mortality, economic exploitation, child trafficking, and abuse. The convention properly upholds the rights of children and parents, and nothing in it prohibits homeschooling (despite what opponents claim). In fact, nothing in it would be unconstitutional at all in the U.S. and A.

Despite this, the U.S. is one of only 2 member nations in the UN that hasn't ratified it. The only other is Somalia, and that's only because Somalia hasn't had a government in years. (The "regulation for thee, not for me" types should emigrate there!) What's the excuse for America not ratifying this document? The Bush regime says the convention's "human rights-based approach ... poses significant problems."

So America's children are held hostage by a government that thinks human rights "poses significant problems." Lovely.

I don't give a damn what high-sounding reasons the Bushbots come up with for opposing this document. There's no excuse not to ratify it. None.

In an apparent effort to combat the convention that the U.S. won't even ratify, conservatives are proposing something they call the Parental Rights Amendment. I remember hearing about something like this about 10 years ago, but I don't think it was that well organized and didn't get too much traction (except maybe in a few states). Now the Bushists have a whole website devoted to adding this amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Protecting child abusers is the transparent purpose of this amendment. Its supporters devote reams of bandwidth to talking about how everything in it is already in the Constitution and how every court in the land already recognizes this to be so. If that's the case, why are they so intent on passing a new amendment? The amendment talks about the "liberty of parents", but it has not a word about the liberty of children.

Why an amendment? Because this measure would protect actions that are generally agreed to be abuse. It establishes parents' ability to "direct the upbringing" of children as a "fundamental right", but it sets no limits. State laws today set limits. This amendment would not.

This is important because this amendment would also seem to bar states from setting any limits. The second clause says, "Neither the United States nor any state shall infringe upon" the "right" granted in the first clause "without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served." The third clause bars treaties like the Convention on the Rights of the Child from preempting the so-called "rights" laid out in the first and second clauses.

There's a certain strain of thought (to use the term loosely) that's behind this amendment. It's pushed by those who think children are property. The modern brand of conservatives considers children to be things, not people. They're against the Convention on the Rights of the Child's "human rights-based approach" because they don't consider children to be human. The Far Right considers young people to be the property of their elders until they turn 18.

And that's why they go bananas when someone mentions children's rights.

Good work, YouTube!

This is a step in the right direction at least!

Up until now, YouPube has just deleted videos without really telling the public why. Usually, YouTube just had an ominous red box at the top of the page informing us that the video was deleted for a terms of use violation - even if nothing in the video was even remotely offensive.

But now they're starting to publicly name and shame who's behind all the complaints. Many pages on YouTube now say (in the now-familiar red box), "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by ..." Usually one of the major 4 TV networks or their parent companies is named - even if it's only a brief clip from a TV show that hasn't aired on their network in years and isn't available on videocassette or DVD.

Now we know who's behind all these deletions and how greedy the networks are in controlling stuff that aired 10 years ago and isn't available anywhere else. They act just like the villain in 'Elmo In Grouchland': If they see it, they own it. If they touch it, they own it. If they think about it, they own it.

Weather disasters soar

Will the clods who still claim politics has no effect on weather kindly pipe down now?

I've noticed for 20 years the weather has been getting more extreme. This observation is confirmed by a new Oxfam report that says weather-related disasters have quadrupled in this time frame.

In the early '80s there were 120 disasters a year but now there's as many as 500. Just this year there's been floods in South Asia, Africa, Mexico, and in my region of the U.S.; there's been droughts in the Deep South. The study says these extremes and the general trend towards more unpredictable, intense weather is climate change caused by global warming.

Is the wingnutosphere still going to insist climate change is a hoax, now that the truth has splatted them between the eyes like a big cream pie? (Yes.)


Killer freed by Romney-appointed judge charged with murder again

This is yet another story of Republican criminal coddling - much like Mike Huckabee's support of releasing convicted rapist Wayne Dumond, who later went on to commit a murder.

A judge appointed by Republican presidential hopeless Mitt "The Shit" Romney when he was Massachusetts governor freed a convicted murderer named Daniel Tavares Jr. After being turned loose by the GOP judge, Tavares now stands accused of murdering a young newlywed couple in Graham, Washington.

Tavares had been serving time for brutally hacking his own mother to death with a carving knife. He finished that sentence but was arrested at the end of his prison term for assaulting the guards during his time there. While awaiting trial, Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman - a Romney appointee - released the killer on his own recognizance. Tavares then fled to Washington state.

The father of the woman who was killed in Washington said, "It's because of stupidity in Massachusetts that my daughter is dead." He said Romney "should be answering for what happened" because he appointed the judge. Tavares's release is even more shocking because it turns out that he also wrote a series of incoherent, threatening letters to his own father from behind bars. Not only that, but Tavares also served less time than what he was sentenced to for the first murder despite being a disruptive prisoner who joined a white supremacist gang.

What was this again about "truth in sentencing"? Massachusetts had a Republican governor for 16 years straight, so talk-shit radio and the wingnutosphere can't blame "the liberals" for this. That doesn't mean they haven't tried shifting blame - only to fall on their face again. Some idiot at Freak Rethuglic claimed the Boston Herald was engaging in a "hit piece" against Romney by daring to report the latest on Tavares. Another said (in all capitals), "WHEN IS THE PUBLIC GOING TO START HOLDING DEMOCRATS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ATTROCITIES [sic] COMMITTED BY CRIMINALS RELEASED EARLY BY THEIR JUDICIAL APPOINTEES?" Uh, Mitt Wrongney is a Republican, you moron.

Ironically, Romney has campaigned for President at Guantanamo Bay where he boasted of how tough on crime he was. At the same time, Romney rejected recommendations of a Department of Correction advisory committee that would have reduced crime committed by released convicts.

Never believe a conservative when they claim they're tough on violent crime.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

More Mark Souder fascism

Mr. "I-Stormed-Out-Of-A-Cafeteria-Because-My-Sandwich-Was-Grilled-Not-Toasted" is at it yet again!

Rep. Mark Souder, the wingnut kook from Indiana, is anointing himself Congress's leading advocate of mandatory biometric ID cards. However, he admits the political climate hasn't deteriorated far enough for it to pass...yet.

Souder is the top Republican on the Homeland Security Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee and represents a district that features a company that produces many states' driver's licenses - including some that already have biometric features.

These features violate the Constitution's protection of the right to privacy and aren't even reliable anyway. But that doesn't deter Souder, who never did think very much of the Constitution. He wants to draft a bill to bribe states to use biometrics in driver's licenses and beer ID's when they implement the rogue Real ID Act of 2005. Then again, I'm pretty sure there's several brave states that have already decided they're going to refuse to implement the Real ID Act.

As for the states that not only comply with the Real ID Act but also require citizens to submit to biometrics, these states can go gag on piss. I will never submit.

It's a shame America is at the mercy of some whack-a-doo like Mark Souder who should never have been "elected" in the first place.


GOP ally sentences rape victims to lashes

Every human is born endowed with certain rights. You don't need a government to give you these rights, because you already have them. This isn't just my view as an American. This is an accepted international standard. Countries in every region of the world have recognized this truth.

Denial of these basic rights hurts. It can kill your soul. While people worldwide aspire to enjoy their human rights, fanatical regimes will try to pulverize these rights.

That's the unfortunate state of affairs in Saudi Arabia - a country long allied with Republican leaders in America. While Republican administrations started wars in which they claimed to liberate other nations from cruel regimes, they've allied themselves with Saudi Arabia's fundamentalist theocracy, which is one of the very cruelest regimes in the world today. The country is ruled by right-wing totalitarians.

We say so, because as humans we're allowed to stand for human rights. I don't think there's too many other countries in that region of the world or anywhere else that come close to being that oppressive. It has nothing to do with it not being a Western country, for almost all countries in any part of the world are human rights giants by comparison.

But the Bush crime family loves Saudi Arabia's despotic government and will do anything for it. A few years ago, Bush hosted some Saudi government official, who demanded that on his flight to America none of the air traffic controllers at American airports could be women. Bush happily complied with this demand and ordered women air traffic controllers who would have been involved with that flight to be laid off.

Now it's been reported that a court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a young woman to 200 lashes plus jail time after being the victim of a gang rape. (The perpetrators did get some jail but certainly no lashes.) The victim's punishment was increased from 90 lashes all because her lawyer dared to appeal the original harsh sentence. The court accused the lawyer of using the media to influence the outcome of the trial.

The official charge for the rape victim was being in an unrelated man's car at the time of the attack. She got lashes just for that.

Later reports revealed that the attack against the young woman also had a male victim. He too received 200 lashes and prison time.

If America wanted to take a stand for human rights, the perfect thing to do would be to condemn this shocking outrage. But the Bush regime refused to do so - even though Bush claims liberation of women is a key element of his foreign policy. Bush lies. If he was so interested in human rights, he would have condemned Saudi Arabia's punishment of the rape victims immediately. A spokesman for Bush's State Department sniffed that the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia are none of America's business.

Everything every other nation does is, so why not? If some country legalizes marijuana, the U.S. and A. tries to "decertify" it (whatever that entails). If the Bush regime sticks its mitts into some other country for protecting and emboldening the liberty of its citizens, why can't it condemn a regime that abuses its citizens? Canada condemned the sentence, so why not the U.S.?

The Saudi government continues to stand by its own human rights violations. And conservatives who comment on other websites have actually defended the brutal sentence imposed on the female victim of the rape, saying she deserved it for being in an unrelated man's car.

As if that wasn't enough, the young woman's lawyer has lost his law license for daring to speak to the media.

Conservatives will come up with excuses for the Saudi government's actions. They'll say we shouldn't be concerned with another country, because it's their society, not mine. But the fact that a country has these human rights abuses proves that many of the country's people have been denied a voice in shaping their country. Apologists for the Bush order have told me that oppression is what made Saudi Arabia one of the world's wealthier nations. They've never explained how this is so.

What's most amazing about all this is the hypocrisy of Bushists claiming to be the world's liberators while supporting this tyranny.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

John Howard loses reelection

Australian Prime Minister John Howard (pictured here with animals nibbling at his bald dome) got a Conservative Fool Of The Day entry for a variety of gaffes. (Like The Online Lunchpail, that blog was not strictly limited to American news stories.)

Howard has been hugely unpopular, but he won several terms. The Prime Minister is chosen much like how the U.S. and A. picks its Speaker of the House. Usually the Prime Minister is the leader of whichever party wins the most seats in Australia's House of Representatives. Just like in America, people think everyone in the House is a jerk except their own representative - so Howard's party kept winning. What's Howard's conservative party called? The Liberal Party, believe it or not. Another factor in Howard's grip on power is the influence of the American news media and the Bush regime, which support Howard's conservative administration and have interfered with elections there before. (They've pulled the same stunt in Canada, France, and Germany.)

But now something funny just happened.

Howard's so-called Liberal Party is opposed by the left-leaning Labor Party. And Australia being a nation of laws and elections, you see, voters just got to have their say about Howard's right-wing rule once and for all. The Labor Party won enough seats to "form government", thereby ousting Howard.

Isn't it cool how elections work? Maybe the United States should start giving fair and free elections a chance again like it used to.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Taser maker sues people for claiming product was involved in death

This story is reminiscent of the "food slander" lawsuits launched by agribusiness a decade ago. These weren't just civil actions. Some states actually passed laws making it a criminal offense to criticize food products that were dangerous.

Now, Taser International - which makes the device used by police - is the target of numerous wrongful death or personal injury suits. How does Taser fight back? By suing anyone who dares to suggest that a police stun gun may have killed anyone.

Taser International sues people for suing them or for suggesting the device caused death. The company even sued a coroner in Ohio for concluding that the device contributed to the deaths of 2 men.

It isn't just criminal suspects who are suing Taser International. The 100 suits against the company include at least 10 filed by cops injured by the device during training.

A woman who worked for the Arizona-based company also claims her home was shot at after she witnessed company officials shredding documents regarding injuries attributed to the product. In a sworn affidavit, she said, "Since leaving Taser International, I have lived in fear of what Taser International will do to me. The company has enormous resources and connections through law enforcement." She claims police in Chandler, Arizona, pawed through her garbage.

The court needs to come down hard on Taser International for abusing the system by filing SLAPP lawsuits against the people who sued it.


Missouri town outlaws online harassment

This is an ordinance that's long overdue - but would never have been necessary if state and federal laws were actually enforced.

Last year, a teenage girl in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, committed suicide after being targeted by a series of harassing Internet messages. The messages were organized by a woman who had a vendetta against the girl because she wouldn't befriend her daughter. The ringleader of this campaign posted a phony account on MySpace pretending to be a teenage boy and enlisted others to harass the victim. (Apparently, many of the posts originated from a private school in that area.)

Shockingly, county authorities and federal prosecutors refused to charge anyone in the case, despite existing laws against online harassment. The harassment campaign was also an open and shut case of racketeering and murder, and why it's treated as anything less is beyond me.

This isn't even the first suicide resulting from online harassment. Authorities are so lax in prosecuting offenders that the Internet has become an attractive nuisance for others who might harass. Online terrorists know crime pays. In the Missouri case, county prosecutors began reviewing the incident only after the victim's parents went to the media.

With such a delay by the county and total inaction by federal prosecutors, the city of Dardenne Prairie realized there was only one thing it could do to prevent future incidents like this. The town's Board of Aldermen unanimously passed an ordinance to make electronic harassment (whether by Internet, text messages, or other means) a citywide offense. It's only a misdemeanor, and it only carries a $500 fine and 90 days in jail, but that's the maximum cities of that size in Missouri can impose. The townsfolk burst into applause when the city passed the ordinance. The law applies if either the sender or the recipient of the harassing messages is in Dardenne Prairie.

Meanwhile, the woman who organized the harassment campaign is said by neighbors to be unapologetic over killing a teenage girl. Including the ringleader, there were at least 2 adults involved in sending these harassing messages. As owner of a local advertising mailer business, the woman who led the attacks is also one of the wealthiest people in the community. And, to the surprise of nobody who's read about her actions, she leads a spoiled life.

Part of the problem with so-called people with a lot of clout thinking they have a birthright to harass anyone who crosses them began in the '90s when Mad Dog Bush pardoned 6 Iran-Contra criminals. These pardons showed young and old alike that even top government officials were immune from punishment if they did wrong. This trend had been going on to some extent even before then, but it's gotten progressively worse as there's a lot of spoiled brats who were never raised with ethics and grew up to be sociopaths who have no conscience.

The woman who created the fake MySpace profile that led to the death of the teenager said she didn't feel guilty because the teen had reportedly tried to commit suicide before. (Suicide is one of the main causes of death for America's young.) The 48-year-old cyberterrorist then has the nerve to call the police repeatedly claiming the neighbors are harassing her. She claims to have caught this alleged "harassment" on tape, but she refuses to let police view the tape.

Looks like Phil Gramm may have some competition for the title of World's Worst Person.

We need to enforce state and federal laws against online harassment. But since America is no longer a nation of laws, these laws are not enforced - so the counties and cities need to shore up this gap by passing their own laws. I know what the reaction is going to be by any self-righteous asshole who gets rightly charged under any law like this. They'll appeal all the way to the Supreme Court crying that the laws infringe on their True Free Speach Now (tm). Congress needs to put a crimp in these efforts by passing a law that bars attorneys from collecting fees if they sue to have laws against Internet harassment overturned.

Also, there should be a mandatory registry for anyone convicted under the laws against online harassment - much like a sex offender registry, except it applies to these 'Net terrorists. I don't know how activist courts will react, seeing how the Georgia Supreme Court has just declared molesting children to be a civil right by tossing out a law that bars sex offenders from living near schools, but something must be done.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Middle class continues to disappear

America's middle class has nearly vanished. The U.S. and A. isn't just a nation of haves and have-nots. Now it's a land of have-mores and have-nothings.

According to new IRS data, the richest Americans' share of national income has just set a new modern record. In 2005, the most recent year for which data is available, the richest 1% of Americans Made 21.2% of all Money, up from 19% in 2004. This is the biggest gap between the rich and poor in the post-Great Depression era. The last time there was such a wide gap was in the 1920s - a fact that's even more chilling. Indeed, it was that era's hero worship of the unregulated market that caused the Depression.

What policies have caused most Americans to see their real incomes fall lately? Much of that can be blamed on the loss of manufacturing and other jobs, the stagnation of the minimum wage, suburban sprawl, shifting the tax burden to the poor, lack of government oversight of Big Business, the gutting of the safety net, and increased trade with countries with cheap labor. Just one of these policies would have been bad enough. That they've all happened in conjunction with each other is a deliberate effort to soak the poor and is nothing short of fascism.

America has in effect been in a chronic recession for over 25 years - the longest continuous span of bad economic fortune in the nation's history. This isn't just because I reached adulthood and had to stop relying on the oldsters (who weren't rich either). It's a fact that replacing factory jobs with the lowest-paying service jobs - while CEO's and wealthy investors get richer off everyone else's labor - isn't good for the economy. Throughout history, the unregulated marketplace has been shown to be bad for not only most people's economic level but also their social position.

What does Bush - the national village idiot - say about all this? He told the Wall Street Journal, "Skills gaps yield income gaps." So he thinks it's the people's fault they're not making enough to live on? Americans go to school more years and more days per year than they did 30 years ago, so the recession obviously isn't caused by people not going to school long enough. Even if people had less school now, they'd still be competing for the same jobs. The stock market has done quite well in recent years, but the market in the post-Depression era is almost perfectly antithetical to how well most people are doing.

The growing gap between the rich and poor is unsustainable. More and more of the poorest people can't pay their bills, and that's going to start depriving the rich of the money they've come to expect. Then the entire system will collapse. America could very well find living standards reduced to something as primitive as they were 100 years ago.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Deputy shoots dog for no apparent reason

This is the second sad story like this in as many days, and it just goes to show what kind of sick people are out there.

In Teton County, Idaho, a sheriff's deputy knocked on a family's door a few days ago and demanded to see their dog. The deputy announced his intent to kill the dog, claiming he had bitten somebody. When the man who answered the door demanded proof that his dog had bitten someone, the deputy boasted, "I don't need any proof."

Even if the dog had bitten someone, the victim of the bite may have deserved it. Even if they didn't, it's still no reason to kill the dog. In the America of 30 years ago, if a dog bit someone, you'd have a lot of concerned citizens coming to the dog's defense against those who would have the animal put down. (These days, there's too many sickos who enjoy seeing dogs die.)

The deputy then got a rifle from his car, made the man tie the dog to a pole in the front yard, and fired 3 shots into the dog's head. The officer then sped away, leaving the animal bleeding.

The man's father-in-law witnessed the shooting and had to be taken to the hospital for a nervous breakdown. Amazingly, the family returned home to discover the dog had survived the gunshots.

The sheriff claimed there were numerous complaints about the dog. But this turned out to be bullshit. There was one complaint way back last year, but it was dismissed. Apparently the family didn't even know that this complaint was ever filed.

The deputy, meanwhile, is reportedly still on duty to terrorize other families' pets.


Forced drugging ruled unconstitutional in Alaska (a blast from the past)

A year ago, the Alaska Supreme Court bubbled forth a satisfying ruling that folks all over the country had been itching for. It's just a shame that this ruling is in a state with so few people.

Alaska's high court said forced psychiatric drugging is unconstitutional - which it is. The Alaska Psychiatric Institute had tried forcing the plaintiff to take Zyprexa and other drugs - without proving these drugs were in the plaintiff's best interests or that there weren't better alternatives.

The plaintiff's lawyer said the court's decision may induce major changes in the mind control industry that hopefully won't be limited just to Alaska. But he also says it will affect the profits of the greedy drug companies who peddle their poisons. "The issue of Big Pharma profits is a big one," he said.

The attorney pointed out that the drugs have serious health risks and that the rights of those who couldn't tolerate taking the drugs are supposed to be legally protected. The court agreed and said state law requires hospitals to honor patients' desires against spychiatric (sic) drugs. Furthermore, it said the Alaska Constitution's guarantee of "liberty and privacy" applies.

What? A Constitution that actually applies? Kind of like the U.S. Constitution used to do before the Reaganites began violating it.

While this is an Alaska ruling, other states had rulings like this previously. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York have issued very similar decisions. Folks in most other states, however, remain unprotected. Ohio, for instance, ruled in 2000 that the state can forcibly drug detainees in psychiatric facilities even if they are no danger to themselves or others (to borrow the phrase the Far Rightists always use to justify locking up people who disagree with them).

Hopefully other states will pass laws that say the same thing Alaska's ruling says.


War brings abuse and death to Basra's women

This is another story for the Flat Earth Society types like Freak Rethuglic who support the hopeless war in Iraq (which most Americans have opposed all along).

Basra - Iraq's second-largest city - used to host a vibrant social, industrial, and academic life. Lately, however, the war has forced Basra's women to endure what police chief Maj. Gen. Abdel Jalil Khalaf called "a new type of terror." Khalaf said at least 10 women in Basra are killed monthly by right-wing extremists because they failed to dress in an ultraconservative manner. The women are often riddled with bullets or decapitated by the Pat Robertsons of Iraq.

The violence is so extreme that many women just stay inside their homes all the time. Khalaf said the number of murdered women is actually much higher because the extremists who hide behind religion also go after the women's families if they report the killings.

Men are attacked by extremists too - but according to locals, the women experience much more violence and murder. Few people in Basra today - men, women, and children - are safe from this vigilante violence. The body of one woman who was decapitated was found with that of her 6-year-old son who was also beheaded.

A woman with a nongovernment organization said the new type of terror against women "surfaced after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003."

Are the chickenhawk warmongers happy now? The Bush regime and its cheering section in the media and the blogosphere has blood on their hands for every single one of these murders. Not like this fact shuts them up, because these Movementarians still show up uninvited in every venue they can so they can gug about how Iraqis are "free" now because of the war Bush started. Facts never stand in the way of a good spittle session from Bush cultists.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Supremes to rule on whether to gut labor law

California has a good law that passed in 2000. Under this law, employers can't use money they get from the state to either oppose or support workers' efforts to unionize. Fair enough, isn't it?

But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate-backed secret societies cried like the big babies they are and sued in an effort to toss out this law. They want employers to be able to use the taxpayers' money to stop union efforts. A federal appeals court upheld California's law, but now it's going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

You'd think this one would be a no-brainer. Any legal scholar can see the law is perfectly valid and constitutional. But we have to be wary, because the current Supreme Court is a conservative activist court that's already proven that many of its rulings ought to be published on toilet paper. Worse, the Bush regime is backing the Chamber of Commerce and the business groups who want to stop California's law.

Big Business truly is looking a gift horse in the mouth. The state law covers money that's given to employers by the state - in other words, the taxpayers. That's the taxpayers' money. It's only fair that the taxpayers' elected representatives should be able to place restrictions on how that money is used. If you put your money in a condom vending machine, you don't expect to get bubble gum.

In other words, Big Business is happy to accept corporate welfare - but they don't want any strings attached. They want to use your money for their goals. The law doesn't stop businesses from advocating against unions. It only says they can't use taxpayer money to do so.

If the SCrOTUS sides with Big Business on this, people ought to be marching in the streets.


Military makes injured soldiers return bonus

This is the type of story that almost makes me wish I didn't read today's news.

To boost enlistment, the U.S. military gives bonuses to new service personnel that in some cases can be as high as $30,000. But now - under Bush - the military is demanding that wounded personnel pay back much of these bonuses if their injuries prevent them from serving their whole commitment.

Thousands of America's soldiers are returning home from Iraq without arms, legs, or faces, many of them permanently blind, and some of them having had their fingers or genitals amputated because they were so badly injured. But now these brave men and women are being ordered to repay much of the bonuses they received when they signed up.

A Pittsburgh soldier who was permanently blinded in one eye told a TV station, "I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they're telling me they want their money back."

The bonus is supposed to serve as an incentive to enlist, but doesn't having to pay it back defeat this whole purpose? Now any potential recruits know they'll just have to give the bonus back if they get injured, so the bonus obviously doesn't serve as much of an incentive now. Can't the military keep its word to those who sign up to serve the country?

What's next? If a soldier gets killed, does the military make their relatives pay back the bonus?

If the wingnutosphere was so pro-troop, they'd be raising high hell about this. But nope. Maybe they will now, now that I've called them on it.


Drug warriors kill dog

The more obvious it is that the War on (some) Drugs is lost, the less safe law enforcement practices apply. This further proves the corruption that prohibition creates. The War on Drugs is used to go after small-time drug offenders, prop up narcodictators in America and abroad, and shift attention away from government scandals and other social ills. The really big drug dealers don't have much to fear - and that includes the big pharmaceutical corporations who push psychotropic poisons on America's schoolchildren.

A couple's dog is dead in Prince George's County, Maryland, because sheriff's deputies burst into the wrong home during a drug raid and shot the dog. Authorities were so eager to carry out a failed "war" that they didn't bother to read the house numbers that were clearly displayed on each building.

What's worse is that by the time the cops shot the 5-year-old dog they knew they had the wrong house. The cops beat on the door for 45 minutes, refused to let the couple use the bathroom, then killed their dog - even though the dog posed no threat to the deputies.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened. About once every few months (and on an increasing basis) you read about a human or an animal being gunned down when drug agents raid the wrong building. Sometimes the building that gets raided is nowhere near the one they're supposed to raid. (A vast majority of incidents like this receive almost no media coverage, so the problem is even worse than it looks.) And people wonder why we don't trust the authorities?

If I lost a dog in a botched raid like this, there's no punishment I can think of that would be severe enough for those who killed the dog.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Oscar the Grouch ruled offensive

There really is not a thing in the whole universe that doesn't offend conservatives, is there?

Because this is a day ending in 'y', the forces of doom are engaged in an effort to cleanse society of anything they deem "inappropriate" (to use one of their NewSpeak terms). But who would ever think that Oscar the Grouch - the lovable 'Sesame Street' Muppet - would be in anyone's crosshairs as a target for neutralization?

Lately the producers of 'Sesame Street' have put out DVD's of old episodes and skits from the '70s. Although these are marketed to adults who grew up with Big Bird, the Count, and the rest of the 'Sesame Street' kick-ass crew, it's a children's educational show, and there's nothing from the show that's on the DVD's that's unsuitable for the kiddos. Nonetheless, the DVD's kick off with a brief animated bumper that warns that 'Sesame Street' segments included on the DVD's are not suitable for children.

So I guess they included the episode where Maria opened a strip club and Mr. Snuffleupagus was finally revealed to the cast when he got caught masturbating there, right?

Nope, that's not what prompted the warning. Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer of 'Sesame Street', said Oscar the Grouch is a main reason for the admonition.

Oscar is a profile in the American spirit. The ol' Osk is perhaps the greatest character ever to appear on children's TV, bar none. Explore the furry critter's grouchy goodness, and he will bring you enlightenment from tonight until the end of time! Millions of Americans my age who grew up watching Oscar's madcap antics turned out pretty well.

The ol' Osk is edgy, funny, and incisive. That makes Oscar a poor fit for today's lockstep, conformist, candy-coated world. Oscar the Grouch is the opposite of America's current postdemocratic society: In modern America, a nicey-nicey facade acts as a deceptive cloak for the country's growing social ills. Conversely, Oscar - who appears mean on the outside - is deep-down the world's greatest altruist.

Parente said, "We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now." To quote Bert: Oh, for fuck's sake, Ernie! I know what Parente's saying, but what it really means is that the exurban-based moral panic types have such a firm grip on everything now that even 'Sesame Street' isn't safe from being forced to change its tune. If anyone still thinks you can get away with more now than in the '70s, this should lay that notion to rest in a big way.

I feel deeply sorry for today's children who are robbed of what my generation enjoyed all because of some moralists' say-so. The lack of strong mental reference points like Oscar will produce unthinking drones who lack creativity. But that's always been the goal of the moral panic crowd. In this decade, the trend towards acceptance of conformity has been showing, and we must reverse it with a good dose of Oscar!

I wouldn't consider anything I recall from 'Sesame Street' in the '70s to be patently offensive or unfit for children. Everyone in my day knew Cookie Monster displayed slovenly, greedy, unhealthy behavior that wasn't to be mimicked. If there ever was anything on 'Sesame Street' that should have been pulled for being offensive, it probably didn't last past the first season.

What's happening to 'Sesame Street' is like a big Allowed Cloud. Join Oscar and me in sweeping the Allowed Clouds away!


The Conservative Fool Of The Day is...Mark Souder!

To quote a certain blogger on the opposite end of the spectrum from us, some faces cry out to have pies ground into them.

One of the worst fascists in Congress is Mark Souder of Indiana. The Republican was first elected in...well, you guess. (Here's a hint: It's 1994.) The right-wing galoot defeated incumbent Democrat Jill Long. While Long was known for supporting the Veterans Administration, small farmers, WIC, and important local projects like Fort Wayne's airport, Mark Souder hasn't done shit in 13 years.

One of Souder's pet projects is his effort to remove FDR from the dime and replace him with Reagan. (Here we go again with the revisionists who try to rewrite history by claiming Reagan was the greatest President prior to the Bush dynasty that they worship.) When a reporter asked Souder if he understood why Roosevelt was on the dime - namely, that Roosevelt founded the March of Dimes - he said he never heard of it.

Souder wrote much of the draconian federal law that criminalizes small amounts of cold medicine, and he wrote the Hitleresque law that robs college aid from students who were convicted of minor drug charges. (Ironically, Souder's home state of Indiana has the highest percentage of students punished by this Nazism.) He supports school bullying, as he has no parallel plan to stop serial harassers from polluting America's campuses. Souder also wrote a provision to restart the bombardment of foreign countries with a toxic fungus to kill plants from which illicit substances derive. (This program of biological terrorism - which is illegal under international law - had previously ruined tangerine and banana crops.) Together with idiot hack Katherine Harris, Mark Souder also wrote a legal brief in support of the Bush regime's Nazi-like prosecution of medical marijuana patients in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Souder, a dominionist who criticized the environmental movement as being dominated by an "antireligious segment" because it believes in science, has even admitted, "I would define myself as ultraconservative."

I'd also define Souder as a nut who doesn't know how to act right when he goes out in this big, mean world.

Recently, Souder stomped out of a Capitol cafeteria because a sandwich that he ordered arrived grilled instead of toasted. Worse, Souder got the worker responsible for this earth-shattering gaffe fired.

How huge of a difference can there possibly be between grilled and toasted that Mark Souder had to throw a shitfit over it? What are you, Mark? A big baby?


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Child suspended over gun drawing (again)

The conservatives who run America's alleged public schools must be the stupidest fucks alive.

Last month I told you about the suspension of a 7-year-old in New Jersey for drawing a picture of a water pistol. You'd think that embarrassment would've learnt schools a lesson not to issue such idiotic punishments over such matters. But no. The exact same thing is happening again already!

Now a first-grade student in Eagle Point, Oregon, has been suspended over almost exactly the same thing - this time a drawing of a stick figure brandishing a gun. The drawing was based on a scene from 'The Simpsons' TV series. The school somehow construed this drawing as a threat against 2 specific schoolmates.

I construe the school as a threat against sanity. If I had kids in that school, and if they were suspended over something like this, I would also construe the school as a target of a lawsuit.

They're suspending first-graders now over a drawing of a gun??? Considering I had to wait until 6th grade to get suspended over anything, that must be some gun!


Big landowners exploit eminent domain controversy

The "regulation for thee, but not for me" dominionists (the types who are always posting negative comments here) must be torn over having to risk one of their dogmas in order to shove another dogma down everyone else's throat.

Today's conservatives (unlike the conservatives of 30 years ago) usually support eminent domain abuse. America is dotted with towns run by right-wing officials who misuse eminent domain to condemn working-class residents' homes, pay them less than what it's worth, and turn the property over (also at a deflated price) to rich, right-wing developers who construct large businesses or new homes for the wealthy. Another example is our entry about how the Republican Congress allowed a private utility company to snatch land for power lines in an environmentally sensitive area.

Eminent domain abuse is fundamentally flawed as it is a reverse Robin Hood - but the Supreme Court ruled it legal in 2005. They didn't say it wasn't stupid. They only said it was legal - until a law specifically prohibits it. Their apparent belief was that while the Constitution requires just compensation for taking land for public use, it doesn't say anything about taking it for private use - because who the hell ever thought the government would try to take land for private use?

One of few good things about this ruling is that it spurred states to pass laws to crack down on these quirky land grabs. (Not like local governments pay any heed to these laws. My city has already flouted Kentucky's law by forcing an elderly woman out of her house to build a ritzy condo.) By the same token, however, this situation is also used as a Fisher-Price Step Stool by today's conservatives to promote efforts to block environmental regulations and tenant protections.

To them, a land grab doesn't mean the actual loss of land. It means stopping them from using their land (much of which they probably got from a town abusing eminent domain) for an unreasonable purpose. They expect to be compensated if a law that's existed for decades prevents them from using their land for something that harms public safety or pollutes the water. That's exactly like if a person who owns a baseball bat expects to be compensated because the law won't let them go out and bludgeon people with it.

Big conservative landowners like getting cheap land taken from old neighborhoods. But what they really want is unfettered use of the land they have. To paraphrase greedy hotelier Leona Helmsley, they think regulations are only for the little people. Society's needs are considered a barrier to profits. Last year, the landowning class got Proposition 90 on the ballot in California. Though this referendum would have prohibited eminent domain abuse, the main feature of Proposition 90 was restricting government's power to enact consumer, workplace, or environmental rules to protect the public's safety. People thought the measure was just about eminent domain, so it almost passed!

Now California voters may face a similar referendum next June if big landowners collect enough signatures. This one may be worse: Although it would bar eminent domain abuse, it would also prohibit cities from regulating land use or even having rent control laws - which is the main goal of this measure. Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno says the referendumb "has a hidden agenda" with little to do with eminent domain.

If you lived in Massachusetts in 1994, your blood is boiling now. That year, the Bay State faced a referendum backed by the real estate industry to ban cities from having rent control. Backers of the initiative engaged in lies and bullying tactics, such as disrupting graduation ceremonies, and the media was full-bore for abolishing rent control. Did the referendum pass? It was the Year of the Newtzi, so take a guess. What's most stinging is that the referendum passed statewide even though it lost in the cities that had rent control. Once again, the cities were held hostage by the suburbs voting in an election they had no stake in.

With the election rigged (a poll just before the election showed the referendum losing), cities with rent control should have ignored the outcome. But they didn't, and that contributed to a vast increase in housing costs.

Need rent control - at least in areas where housing would be too expensive without it. Rent control is fair: Building owners are allowed to show whether the controls keep them from getting a good return on their property, and residents are able to show whether the rules are needed to keep housing affordable. Owners have more organization to protect their interests, so there has to be some oversight to protect the public from the artificially high prices that the unregulated market may produce and to sustain affordable housing.

The head of a tenants' group in San Francisco cites his own apartment as an example of how disastrous abolishing rent control would be: His rent would more than double.

The main organization behind the proposed California initiative also wrote Proposition 13, a 1978 measure that ruined the state's tax structure by shifting the tax burden to the poor. Ironically, that measure encouraged cities to abuse eminent domain to convert homes into stores that generate tax revenue, because the cities lost some power to impose property taxes. Doubly ironically, the loss of these homes has contributed to the housing crisis, a situation that justifies rent control. If they don't want rent control, maybe they should repeal Proposition 13.

But nope. They want it all: No rent control and no property taxes. And they'll exploit the eminent domain issue, because that's the only way they can get their real goals enacted. If this succeeds, then pretty soon the Jack Thompson types will try to put eminent domain on a referendum to censor video games just so the censorship idea can pass. That's about what this is like.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

City sues resident over murals

One good thing about my persistent poverty is that I'll never have to buy a house in a rich suburb and have to deal with right-wing municipal governments breathing down my neck. Oh, wait. I have to deal with it anyway. Never mind.

In Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, an affluent suburb of Detroit, even those who can afford to live in that community aren't safe from an overbearing city government. The city has sued a homeowner because the sides of her garage feature 2 murals that she painted that hide the house's air conditioner. The town says the murals violate the local sign ordinance. But they're not signs. They're beautiful, one-of-a-kind murals, dammit!

The city of Grosse Pointe Park appointed itself as an art critic in the name of maintaining the town's character - which sounds to me like just a pretentious excuse for enforcing conformity.

And get this: The city is trying to put the woman's husband in jail if the artwork isn't removed!

Why would a populist blog worry about what an affluent community does? Because this type of busybodyism has a trickle-down effect. It may start in rich suburbs but eventually also afflicts poorer inner cities and rural counties. It applies to not only art but also tools, equipment, and entire houses. That's one of the reasons you see central cities abusing eminent domain to tear down working-class neighborhoods and transfer the property to powerful developers - or counties imposing policies to make small farmers get rid of implements they need for work. Whether it's a beautiful work of art such a mural or a tool that you need for work, if authorities don't like the way it looks, they make people hear about it.

I can understand going after an ugly cell phone tower or a new office building that blocks residents' views - for these aren't placed by residents. There's general agreement that there's too many cell towers in places that detract from the landscape. But these never get taken down, because they're owned by powerful corporations, not people. Right-wing state lawmakers in Kentucky even robbed cities of the power to regulate these monstrosities.

If wealthy suburbs are going after homeowners today over an attractive mural, your hometown will be going after you tomorrow over just about anything. This pattern has been seen before, as more and more poor cities try to mimic their wealthier counterparts.


AFL-CIO sues over suppressed protests

Four years ago, members of the AFL-CIO and other groups joined protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference in Miami.

Just before this event - as was reported in The Last Word of 11/18/03 - the city passed a law against water balloons and entrusted Police Chief John Timoney with handling the protests. This is the same John Timoney who as Philadelphia Police Commissioner presided over the illegal crackdowns against peaceful protestors who demonstrated against the 2000 Republican National Convention. When he was Deputy Inspector for New York City's police, Timoney led attacks against the homeless and housing activists in Tompkins Square Park. Timoney's "Miami model" for silencing dissent using police violence and unlawful arrests made him a hero among the Far Right. While conservatives praised Timoney, a judge presiding over the cases of Miami protestors said he saw "no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers'' during the event.

Also, even though Timoney claims to be a big anti-drug guy, his own son has been arrested for attempting to buy 400 pounds of marijuana. Having an offspring caught with illicit substances seems to happen a lot with public figures who boast about how anti-drug they are. (Didn't this also happen with the sons of Randy Cunningham and Rod Grams?)

Now the AFL-CIO is suing over what happened in Miami, saying Timoney's police force conspired to violate their rights and those of other nonviolent dissidents, including groups representing senior citizens. Cops pretty much shut down a union rally and profiled protestors.

Hopefully this suit also challenges Miami's ban of water balloons - which appears to be permanent and citywide, according to press reports. In 2005, a federal judge stopped Fort Lauderdale from enforcing a law that limited what items people could possess at protests against the Organization of American States conference. It was clear that the city was only trying to stifle dissent by effectively banning large banners (by outlawing the posts needed to support them).

I hope the AFL-CIO prevails. The Bush brand of conservatives have been out for dissenters' blood for years and the attacks against activists in Miami prove it. Few things are more satisfying than a successful lawsuit that kerpows the arrogant sneers off the oozing, maggoty faces of the Bushists.

Miami Herald 6/3/05)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Decorated narc indicted for drug dealing

The system is perfect. Everyone in it is perfect. They all abide by the law 100% of the time. They are without sin, and so is the system they compose. Authority is held only by those who will not abuse it.

To hear the system tell it, that's how it is. But I know better. I know the system is corrupt and flawed.

This is especially true when the War on (some) Drugs is around to corrupt law enforcement. A Memphis police sarge who was named Tennessee Narcotics Officer of the Year for 2006 is now up to his ears in trouble for the same things he busted people for.

Sgt. Brady Valentine, a longtime cop, was a member of the West Tennessee Violent Crimes and Drug Task Force. His department honored him for a heroin bust that sprouted charges against 80 people in 7 states. The Tennessee Narcotics Officers Association named him the top narcotics officer in the state. But now it's all crashing down as Valentine has been indicted for selling illegal anabolic steroids and tipping off drug dealers about investigations.

The complaint against Valentine claims he got bribes from drug sellers for 3 years to help them move their goods. He also told a drug dealer in a phone conversation which officers were on duty and what car they were in so he could avoid them. One trafficker reportedly told Valentine, "I want to know that, hey, I can call you up and hopefully get out of trouble."

So a government agency is involved in illicit substance dealing. Gee, tell me something I don't know. Obviously the people this officer did bust were those who were in competition against his own drug sellers.

The War on Drugs corrupts. This absolute War on Drugs corrupts absolutely. This isn't the first time something like this has happened. You may remember the story of that right-wing prosecutor in Texas a few years ago who got people sentenced to 99 years for pot but then was found with drugs himself.


Cold virus kills 10; government does little

It's hard to believe this is America in 2007, but here we are.

George Washington died from complications of a common cold. But that was over 200 years ago. In recent years, America's ability to deal with such an infection has taken repeated steps backward. One of the more serious blows was when Mad Dog Bush helped defund an important international research center (which shut down for good as a result). Another is the general decline in the American health care system in the past 25 years. Also to blame are the overall decline in sanitation standards, the flooding of drugstores with worthless crap that doesn't do any good, and a deliberate and malicious effort to deny people medicines that work.

Maybe now all the people who say that "it's just a cold" will shut up now that the CDC has revealed that a common cold virus has been the direct cause of at least 140 illnesses and 10 deaths nationwide just in the past 18 months. This adenovirus is seen all over the country but for some reason seems to be limited to the United States.

The CDC - in its usual state of denial - says this epidemic isn't a cause for concern. But I say it is. For one, when new infections have appeared in America in the past 20 years or so, they've seldom become less common after their initial appearance. For another thing, there's no conventional antiviral drugs available for it in the U.S., and the government isn't doing much to stop the spread of this virus.

The best antiviral I know of for fighting colds that's readily available is putting hydrogen peroxide in the ears. This home remedy has been 100% effective for me for several years - but what angers me is that the drug companies won't approve it to be mentioned in the official media or allow doctors to suggest it to patients. I'm not a doctor, but I'd recommend that you mention this household cure to your physician just to see how they react. The pharmaceutical industry would rather have you spend many times as much for cold medicine that doesn't work as you would for peroxide.

I'm wondering how much longer before the government outlaws hydrogen peroxide. Seriously. The more effective a medicine is, the faster it gets banned - forcing people to buy more expensive drugs that don't even work. That's what happens when the drug companies bribe Congress. It's a neat little racket they've got going: Lobby lawmakers to ban cures that work because they can't be patented, invent drugs that don't work, sell them at an inflated price, and then bribe the government not to do anything about spreading infections - so people buy more shit that doesn't work.

A few years ago, some bloke told me he had just retired from the Air Force after 20 years and was shocked at how bad health care for civilians had declined. He said America's fighting men and women actually got decent health care. (This was before the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal.) In the armed forces, at the first sign of a cold, you see a doctor, and you get a drug that knocks it right out. That's because if the military forced its troops to endure the same shitty health care that plagues civilian America, military personnel would be bedridden much of the time. In the wake of the fatal cold virus outbreak, military officials are instituting an adenovirus vaccine.

The supply of vaccine is probably limited, so the military is a high priority to receive it. This makes sense, because it's needed for the functioning of the armed forces. In the meantime, the civilian population is going to keep buying over-the-counter quackery, spreading the new adenovirus, and dying.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Government continues Cuba broadcasts despite being ruled illegal

Since shortly after Reagan seized power, the U.S. government has bombarded Cuba with radio and TV propaganda broadcasts. These pirate stations are known as Radio Marti and TV Marti. The radio service was begun by Reagan at the urging of terrorist mastermind Jorge Mas Canosa; the TV service followed suit under Mad Dog Bush. These costly broadcasts always survived congressional criticism after intense political pressure and lobbying.

These transmissions actually interfere with radio and TV stations within Cuba. And they are pirate stations, for they have no FCC license and transmit from the U.S. Their transmitters are in Florida, North Carolina, and California. Florida has passed its own draconian state laws against pirate radio (despite radio being otherwise governed by the FCC). More naive observers would expect Florida to evict the government's unlicensed stations - but with hate-spewing cave-dwellers like Bill McCollum being in charge of things, the law is selectively enforced, so the stations stay. Gee, what a surprise.

Apologists for Radio and TV Marti claim Cuba also bombards the U.S. with its own powerful AM stations. It does??? Then how come all I can pick up is Rush Limbaugh, endless repetitions of the Channel 12 news sounder, ads for Warren County businesses, and static? From what I've been told, I'd rather hear the average Cuban station than the garbage that gets aired on U.S. stations. At least Cuban stations don't devote as much time to opinionated diatribes - even under Cuba's official media policies. (The 1996 telcom law in the U.S. pretty much established an official U.S. media.)

Not only do Radio and TV Marti violate FCC regulations. They're also illegal under international law. Yesterday, delegates at the World Radiocommunication Conference huffed out a nice big Allowed Cloud against the U.S. government's stations. The conference ruled that broadcasts from aircrafts aimed exclusively towards another country without that country's consent are against international radio rules.

What's the Bush regime's response to this ruling? U.S. officials promptly declared that the pirate broadcasts to Cuba will continue. Nice.

So expect to have even more of your tax dollars wasted on this shit - even after an international body declared it illegal.


Bandit goes Green

After the Democrats helped confirm Mucusy (the right-wing goon who gave Bush the go-ahead to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects without a trial), I decided that was the last straw. (A majority of Democrats voted against confirming him, but the Democratic leadership refused to trot out the same 60-vote filibuster rule that always used to apply against the Democrats - which shows you what kind of "leaders" they are.)

So I've decided to start the process of officially changing my party registration to Green. I wanted to change it to independent after the uniform harangue, but I never formally did so - but now the grueling 12-year-long act of changing parties is about to become complete. I don't have a clue as to how this is accomplished in Kentucky without moving out of state, letting your registration lapse, and reregistering upon moving back into the state, but it has to be done by New Year's - in case there's a Green primary next spring. So help me!

If that seems too audacious, consider what Greens accomplish when they do get elected - namely, they don't cave to Republicans. And the Greens have a platform plank that specifically supports repealing the 1996 Telecommunications Act - something the Democrats still haven't done despite their mandate. If the Green Party is good enough to have populist legend Jim Hightower as a keynote speaker at its convention, then it's good enough for me. I just couldn't stand being walked all over anymore like the DLC's been doing all these years.

As far as I'm concerned, any election from now on that has only a Democratic and a Republican candidate is the same as having only one candidate. It will be called out as such.

I didn't really leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

At the COPA...

When we read about the Child Online Protection Act, we're reminded of the episode of 'The Simpsons' in which prohibition advocates cry, "Think of the children!" (COPA is not to be confused with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which is a completely different law with a completely different purpose.) COPA isn't about protecting children from Internet smut but censoring what adults can see.

The 1998 law - which is a secret love child of the Communications Decency Act that had already been struck down - says commercial distributors of material that is deemed "harmful to minors" under "contemporary community standards" had to use a credit card or similar device to verify the ages of people accessing their websites - including adults. Website owners who didn't comply could have faced a $50,000 fine and 6 months in the paholkey.

Anyone who possessed these little things called brain cells could see that the law's real goal wasn't to protect the children. If they didn't know this from the get-go, they probably found out soon enough - like I did when I tried accessing a site that wasn't even pornographic. I don't even remember exactly what the site was, but it wasn't porn, it wasn't illegal, and it wasn't even anything bizarre. I think it was a site full of old newspaper photos of roads, but I don't recall. Not only that, but I had to have been at least 25 at the time, for COPA passed in 1998. In any event, when I tried accessing the site, I was told I needed to provide a credit card number due to COPA - even though it was a free website. Well, I had lost my job and all my money, and therefore I couldn't get a credit card, so I couldn't access this free site. All because of COPA.

The government must be a real bunch of perverts if they think photos of highways are porn.

Right then and there, the First Amendment was being violated. Not like I expected the Newtzis to give a shit.

COPA was challenged, and a federal court struck it down as unconstitutional. But in 2004 the Bush regime naturally threw a shitfit and went to the Supreme Court to try to get COPA reinstated. The name of the government's case was...Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union. There have been few fuckfaces scuzzier than John Ashcroft to occupy U.S. Cabinet positions in recent years, and that he'd fight the ACLU on something like this proves it. The Supremes, however, upheld the district court's injunction against enforcing COPA and referred the case back to the district court.

This past March, a federal district judge again ruled COPA unconstitutional, saying it violates the First and Fifth amendments. Ironically, when it was suggested that filtering software could be used in homes to stop kids accessing porn, Bush's officials said this software was too burdensome and ineffective - despite the fact that they had earlier defended requiring this software in public libraries even when it restricted what sites adults could access. Typical right-wing doublespeak.

Even after this ruling that declared COPA unconstitutional, the dominionists in the Bush regime still didn't get it, and they appealed this verdict. According to the all-powerful Wikipedia, this case is still pending.

Don't you just love how the conservatives are always complaining about there being too much government even though they're the ones who pass laws like COPA?