Wednesday, August 29, 2007

OK, we get it: regulations are only for people

Here's an important point of order about The Online Lunchpail and the politics that guide it.

There's one theme that keeps confronting us in feedback about The Online Lunchpail, The Last Word, and everything else we do: Supposedly we're too pro-regulation. This even after we criticized Rudolph Giuliani for enacting too many absurd regulations on personal behavior.

The criticism against us is consistent with the false libertarian contingent that seems so vocal on various Internet forums these days. We say they're false libertarians because they usually support tyrannical government ideas like the UnfairTax and right-to-scab laws. And they focus almost exclusively on economic matters. They lambaste government regulation of big corporations, but they fall silent on government control of personal conduct. A real libertarian would want Corporate America off our backs as much as they want the government off our backs.

Maybe this contingent is just a typical bunch of conservative ideologues in different packaging. Modern American conservatism is basically the melding of two bad ideas that are seemingly polar opposites: chaos and tyranny. It's a bit like how a Catholic high school I went to had an oppressive dress code yet no discipline. Conservatives today believe in social regimentation but corporate deregulation. Go figure.

Humans have a natural instinct to seek personal autonomy and build societies where corporate power is minimized. Our politics reflect that: Government power should be unsheathed to trump corporate power when corporations run afoul of human needs. But lately, if you don't adhere to the smorgasbord libertarianism that rules the roost on various online venues, it's assumed that there's something wrong with you. And there's always somebody around to remind us how wrong they think we are.

So we get it, geniuses: Your side thinks regulations are just swell as long as they apply to people instead of Big Business. We hear ya, and we've heard ya for years. We're still not going to agree with this stance, no matter how much it's repeated.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Chicago suburb hates kids on its beach

Officially there's still 3 weeks left of summer, but this year in Lake Forest, Illinois, the beautiful summer sun went down the road and out of reach almost as quickly as it appeared.

I heard about this story briefly on TV while I went on vacation in West Virginia last month, but I forgot to investigate it until now.

Lake Forest is a ritzy suburb of Chicago that rests on Lake Michigan. This summer, the town decided to designate one-fourth of its public beach off-limits to anyone under 21, solely because a few wealthy residents demanded it.

Once again (sigh), we ask: Why 21? So not only are kids being punished (again), but also adults between 18 and 21 (again). But even if the beach's age limit was 18, it would still be stupid (and illegal).

The exclusive suburb has directed beach staff to card folks visiting the beach if they suspect they're under 21.

Has anyone thought of filing a lawsuit over this shit? Look, the beach is public. So it has to be open to the public. Period. End of story.

The community also banned people who don't live in the town from visiting the beach - a policy that smacks of exclusivity and worse. Well, Lake Forest, that's 2 illegal things you've done in one article. It was decided in a Connecticut case years ago that cities can't ban access to out-of-town folks from public beaches.

The calls for the ban came from a few rich residents who didn't want kids on "their" beach. One of them cried, "I pay a lot of taxes and have the right to have a quiet beach." Um, what about the other residents who pay taxes, many of whom have kids? Sounds like Potemkin populism, a hallmark of the New Right, rearing its ugly noggin again. Obviously the complaint about having a "right to have a quiet beach" was from someone who's been spoiled their whole life and thinks everyone owes them something, including the taxpayers owing them a beach that's more to their liking.

To that person we say: Grow up! Countless cities nationwide and worldwide, containing billions of people, don't even have a beach. You insist on having a beach that's kid-free so it can be more quiet, when most people don't have a beach, period. And now anyone who isn't a childless adult in Lake Forest, Illinois, has less of a beach, thanks to shrill complaints from spoiled crybabies.


Republicans stamp their little footsies like the big crybabies they are

The Republicans have got to be the biggest bunch of hypocrites alive! (And trust me, they are alive, so be careful around them.)

Up in Ohio, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has made use of his privilege to issue executive orders on certain issues, ranging from government ethics to welfare to how much steel that trucks are allowed to carry. As long as he doesn't violate any laws, this practice is legal and protected by Ohio law.

See, that's what happens when people elect you governor. You get to do these things. And the other side gets to whine about them.

The Republicans, who still control the right-wing state legislature, are crying foul over this because...well, something. Even though what Strickland is doing is perfectly legal. This is all the more hypocritical because the previous governor, disgraced Republican Bob Taft, issued not just a few executive orders, but 238 of them!

And look at what Bush has done. Bush hasn't just issued executive orders in cases where he's allowed to, but also where it illegally overrides a law passed by Congress. For instance, in 2003, Bush used an executive order to practically gut the law that protected emergency room patients from being turned away for failing to prove ahead of time that they could pay for their treatment. It's part of Bush's "unitary presidency" (dictatorship), ya know. The media has pretty much swept Bush's act under the rug, even though it was illegal for him to issue the order, as it contradicted a federal law.

Republican State Rep. Kevin DeWine cried, "Ohioans are not well-served with government by executive order, but the governor continues to issue these edicts as though he's been anointed to a monarchy rather than elected to work with a bipartisan legislature." Well, what in the Wide, Wide World Of Sports do you think Bush has done?

Sounds to us like somebody has a bad case of sore loser syndrome.

The same double standard is seen regarding Venezuela. The right-wing media in the U.S. moans about Hugo Chavez issuing executive orders, even though it's perfectly constitutional and the national legislature specifically authorized him to do so. Yet back in the 1980s when Venezuela had a right-wing President who made use of "rule by decree", the media never raised a peep. According to the Spanish-language version of the omnipotent Wikipedia, Venezuela in the '80s had a conservative President who issued a decree stating that all public school students were required to wear uniforms. Where was the press to complain about that?

As an avid student of democratic republicanism, I personally think executive orders should be used only sparingly. But yep, there's a time and place for 'em, as long as they don't conflict with any law. In short, the GOP's bleatings are nothing but sour grapes. Again.


Monday, August 27, 2007

The Conservative Fool Of The Day is...Larry Craig!

Man, this is funny!

It's a guffaw-out-loud riot when something like this happens to some powerful Republican big shot. If only the Conservative Fool Of The Day blog was still around, Larry Craig would be a shoo-in for the next entry!

Sen. Larry Craig, a Republican from Idaho, is kind of a kooky 1990s-type conservative. Which is a shame, really. Because I'd much rather something like this happen to a kooky 2000s-type conservative. Oh well. Beggars can't be choosers.

It's just been revealed that Craig was arrested back in June at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport following complaints of lewd conduct in a public restroom there. This month he pleaded guilty to this charge, paid a $1,000 fine, and got a year of probation. The undercover officer who made the arrest said that when Craig entered the bathroom, he lingered outside the stall that the cop was in for about 2 minutes. The cop could tell that the senator kept trying to peer into the stall through the crack in the door. Then, when Craig entered an adjacent stall, he tapped his right foot, which the officer recognized as "a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct." According to the report, Craig then moved his foot under the stall divider so it touched the plainclothes officer's foot, and ran his hand under the divider.

It gets funnier: Craig's excuse for his foot movements was that he "has a wide stance when going to the bathroom." The senator also claimed that he when he ran his hand under the partition he was just trying to pick up a piece of paper on the floor. However, there was no paper on the floor.

Then, when Craig was confronted about his behavior in the lavatory, he handed the arresting officer a business card that identified him as a senator and said, "What do you think about that?"

Craig now says the whole thing was a big misunderstanding, but he pleaded guilty anyway.

For the record, Larry Craig is a big supporter of the Federal Marriage Amendment that the "values voters" think is so great. He tells everyone else how to live their lives while he apparently tries to engage in sex acts with men in airport restrooms.

I burst out laughing when I read this story!


Life in a Giuliani America

Think what life would be like in a Rudy-run America.

Not like we're ever going to consider the incompetent former New York City mayor's rule valid if he wins the presidency, seeing how his party pretty much screwed the pooch with the phone-jamming scandal in New Hampshire that the media usually ignores. (Some states probably have laws requiring political parties to have not been found to have engaged in election fraud.) But if you're still not sold on the idea of enjoying local autonomy instead of suffering under Giuliani's repressive thumb, let me warn you of what you're going to have to put up with if Giuliani wins.

Under Giuliani, it's his way or else. It used to be a person was allowed to sort of, like, do stuff. But in New York there's almost nothing left of the Constitution now that Giuliani's gotten through with it. We just read an article that says the city bans the sale of spray paint and permanent markers to people under 21. We hate seeing historic buildings blighted by graffiti, but look at all the innocent people punished by Giuliani's despotism.

Spray paint and markers do have legitimate purposes, ya know. You might need them for work, or even for school (especially if you take art).

And why 21 instead of 18? The age of majority can't be any higher than 18 (and is in fact 18 under New York state law). You can pass law after law after law making it 21, and it can still be no higher than 18. It's a principle of common law that applies everywhere. So the New York ordinance not only restricts what kids can do, but adults as well. Not just those who are over 21 who are carded to do something as simple as buying art supplies, but also those between 18 and 21 who can't buy them at all.

Carding for such an ordinary purchase borders on being the modern American equivalent of having to "show your papers" - the thing we used to hear about in anecdotes of foreign dictatorships. Anyone who can buy the items legally probably feels like they have to give a whole speech to the clerk justifying their purchase. In free countries, of course, you shouldn't feel like you have to do this.

Has this right-wing law been successful at curtailing graffiti? We think you know the answer to that. (Here's a hint: It's no.)

The retail industry doesn't have the guts to ignore and challenge the ordinance. With all the chain stores today, and with so many of Giuliani's followers among the big locals, lockstep adherence rules the roost.

All over America, there's so many silly laws to control everyday behavior that you or someone you love probably breaks these laws at least monthly without even realizing it. The right-wing solution for everything is another law against personal conduct. To the Far Right, this whole big, bad world looks like a nail, and all they have is a hammer.

More Giuliani examples? New York City has also had an ordinance restricting sales of laser pointers (that fun little late '90s fad). And during Giuliani's administration, he had city police drive hundreds of miles upstate (somewhere around Syracuse) to arrest people for having fireworks (even though the state's enforcement of fireworks laws was far less heavy-handed than the city's was). One police official under Giuliani arrogantly threatened to seize people's cars if they had fireworks (even though fireworks themselves are actually a relatively minor offense). There's other preposterous examples, but we'll try to deal with them later.

The right-wing media likes to tout Giuliani allegedly lowering New York City's crime rate. For one thing, we have a hard time believing it, especially after reports that political pressure caused the statistics to be deliberately skewed to help him and his party. (Any regular viewer of 'America's Most Wanted' is constantly bombarded with stories out of New York featuring the types of horrific crimes that the media usually credits Giuliani with eliminating.) For another, seizing a car without a warrant is constitutionally forbidden and therefore illegal. It constitutes the crime of theft. If I was a motorist in New York City during or after Giuliani's reign of fright, I'd feel far less safe than I would have before.

I don't why Giuliani was such a right-wing mayor. Maybe his dick is small. However, his influence was so immense (thanks to a fawning media) that he (along with assholes like Newt Gingrich) was one of the individuals most responsible for the growth of the American police state in the '90s. Contrast what you could get away with in 1990 versus 2000, and there's no comparison.

So, in today's America, just be sure to always walk very carefully, don't look at anyone, don't make a sound, and don't touch anything. Then you just might not find yourself in the state pen.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Child authorities lose important records (after losing track of children)

How stupid do you have to be to lose records in an important international custody battle surrounding a 4-year-old girl? In Florida, authorities have managed to do just that - not just once but over and over.

As the custody trial for the little girl approaches this week, Florida's incompetence-plagued Department of Children & Families now admits it can't find an important document that's central to the case. This happened only months after the official court file for the case was also lost.

Apparently the missing documents would have shown whether the girl's mother, who now lives in the Miami area, agreed to give up custody of the child to the father, who still lives in Cuba (where the child was born and originally lived). The girl had been removed from her mother and placed in a foster home because of problems the mother was having. However, DCF insists the child should stay in foster care in Florida, even though there's no evidence that the father in Cuba is unfit. The foster father who DCF placed the child with is a sports agent whose sports agency certification was suspended because he allegedly seized a Cuban ballplayer's immigration paperwork.

It reminds us of the Elian Gonzalez case of 8 years ago, in that the politics of the Cuban exile community in Florida threaten to trump a child's interests.

It's not clear whether DCF is more to blame for the disappearance of the documents than the juvenile court clerk's office is. An attorney for the foster family blames the latter for losing the court records.

Regardless of DCF's level of irresponsibility this time, DCF has been beleaguered by scandal throughout the decade. In 2002 - when even the Miami Herald referred to DCF as "Florida's notoriously inept child welfare agency" - then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed a right-wing whack-a-doo named Jerry Regier to head DCF. Regier was a religious zealot who advocated beating children until they developed bruises and welts, an action he claimed was supported by the Bible. He co-wrote an essay saying his fellow religious conservatives should help "realign" local, state, and national legislation "in order to make it conform to the Bible's view of reality and morality." Regier also supported outlawing masturbation and premarital sex. When he ran Oklahoma's health department, Regier wasted $10,000,000 in taxpayer funds on an anti-divorce initiative that didn't even work. This money was supposed to be used on programs for the poor, but Regier instead squandered it on one of his ineffective pet projects.

Regier initially denied co-writing the article that encouraged beating kids. But when another article that said basically the same thing was found with Regier's name on it, he had to fess up.

Jeb Bush claimed he didn't know about Regier's extremist views until after he appointed him. This, however, turned out to be another lie. Regier later resigned in disgrace after an audit found he took favors from contractors.

In the early part of the decade, Florida's DCF was involved in a scandal in which (as far as we know) it didn't lose important court records. Rather, it actually lost children. This came to light during a high-profile case that followed DCF taking a little girl away from her mother because the mother had a drug problem. DCF placed the child in a foster home where she was severely beaten. The woman who gained custody of the girl had a long criminal record, but this didn't matter to DCF. The child then vanished without a trace, and DCF didn't even notice the child was missing until more than a year after she disappeared.

Later it was discovered that DCF couldn't locate over 500 children who were supposed to be in its care. (Around the same time, a DCF employee allegedly drove drunk while returning a foster child from a visit with her mother.) A newspaper investigation quickly found some of the missing kids living within only a mile of DCF offices, which shows DCF didn't even make any attempt to find them. A boy who DCF had lost for 8 years was found by the newspaper almost immediately by calling his relatives. But nearly 90 of the 500 missing couldn't be found even by police. Nearly 40 kids who DCF had lost were found dead.

It sounds like Florida's child welfare system is even more incompetent than that of Ohio, whose own inept system infamously led to the death of a little boy when his foster parents locked him in a closet. Tragedies like this happen because government officials are so bent on filling important jobs in the child welfare system with political cronies who don't have a clue what they're doing themselves. The problems in the system can be traced to people who wouldn't have gotten the jobs they got if not for their political connections. It's a surefire recipe for disaster.

And when something goes wrong or when state officials make a bad decision, it becomes a partisan spectacle. For instance, when Jeb Bush appointed Jerry Regier to run DCF, the governor's office didn't merely defend the appointment. It also made babyish personal attacks against the appointment's critics and fell over itself trying to justify making DCF an ideologically driven agency.

Yet another story in which the system puts party ahead of people.


Clear Channel cries to YouTube

This is something that needs to be investigated pronto! So, Clear Channel, get on the job! Oh wait, this story is about Clear Channel...

Based on a tip we've received, it looks like the thought police over at Crap Channel has a new harassment tactic, and YouTube laps it up like pee water. Meseems Clear Channel is issuing fourth party requests to YouPube to delete videos posted by competitors' employees (even if they contain no offensive or copyrighted content).

Evidently, an employee of a radio station made a video clip down at the station which was then posted on YouTube. As that particular market is one of few places in America where Clear Channel doesn't have a near-monopoly of the radio business, it wasn't a Clear Channel station. The station never was owned by Clear Channel. However, Clear Channel does own many other stations in the market.

Anyhoo, the clip was later was removed from YouTube. YouTube claimed it was removed because it was posted without permission from Clumpy Channel.

So now Clear Channel's competitors need Clear Channel's permission to post videos on YouTube???

Not like we expect anything different from Clear Channel, for they possess about the most unethical, hypocritical, greedy, bigoted, bullying, censorious, politically intolerant attitude of any major radio company (or any other big corporation) in America. And that says a lot. Not that there are many more major broadcasters remaining after Clear Channel purchased every station it possibly could. As far as we're concerned, Crap Channel is a scofflaw corporation, because this takeover was only permitted under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which isn't even a real law (thanks to the 1994 "election" being rigged).

I guess Clear Channel no longer thinks it owns just the airwaves. Now it thinks it owns everything.

The individual whose YouTube clip got deleted has grounds for a racketeering suit against Clear Channel (even if CC's buying spree was legal). It sounds to us like Clod Channel threatened YouTube to get the clip pulled, and in doing so it threatened a competitor by proxy.


A helpful hint for reading this blog

Here's a tip for getting the most out of The Online Lunchpail: If it looks like there haven't been any new entries in a few days, it could be because your browser cache is full, and you may have to clear your cache. It usually takes a few minutes for it to finish this task, but when it's done, you're on your way to where the air is sweet! When it's done doing this, return to The Online Lunchpail and click on the Refresh button. (Aaah, refreshing!)

Keep this helpful hint handy and spread the word to your friends who read The Online Lunchpail!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Spilling flour now a felony

Does the system even realize what its own laws are?

In New Haven, Connecticut, 2 siblings in their 30s were arrested after they allegedly placed flour on the parking lot of an IKEA store and a bank to mark their running route. They were charged with first degree breach of peace, a felony.

They're charged with felony breach of peace for putting flour on the ground???

Authorities acted as if the siblings intended the flour to look like anthrax, but if they're going to charge everyone with white powder with a felony, then they need to start with a certain national politician. (Hint: he's a Yalie.)


DEA outlaws money

The failed Drug War just keeps getting sillier and sillier, doesn't it?

A truck driver from Texas is suing the DEA and New Mexico state troopers because they seized money from him during a checkpoint at a weigh station. At this checkpoint, state police opted to search his truck for "needles or cash in excess of $10,000." The trucker told the cops he had no needles but did have money. (The money represented most of his savings, because he didn't want it in a bank.) When the cops found the cash they promptly turned it over to the DEA. The Border Patrol brang in the drug dogs to sniff out the truck, but no drugs were ever found. The DEA photographed and fingerprinted the trucker and let him go after he was detained for almost 6 hours. Although he was never charged with a crime, the DEA refused to give him back his money.

What the DEA did is rightly called theft. This is the highway robbery of the new millennium.

Since when is carrying money a crime? Confiscating cash from a trucker is like seizing credit cards for having too high of a balance. And you know they're not gonna do that, because it usually isn't the poor who have credit cards. That's because the poor usually don't even qualify for a credit card. In other words, the DEA made up a law against something just to criminalize being poor or working-class.

After the DEA stole the driver's money, they told him he'd have to prove the money didn't come from drug sales, and that the process of recovering the cash would take a year. Um. Uh. Isn't there supposed to be something in the Constitution about innocent until proven guilty? The burden of proof is supposed to be on the DEA, not the trucker. Since that money is his savings, he needs it right now to pay his bills - not a year from now.

We've been told that the practice of arbitrarily confiscating money isn't entirely new. About 20 years ago, some sheriff in Georgia (maybe it was Rosco P. Coltrane) seized a large sum of cash from a grandmother who was on her way to buy some items for her granddaughter's wedding.

The War on Drugs really is a nifty little racket for the ruling party to Make Money, isn't it?


Friday, August 24, 2007

Suburbia runs (and ruins) America

This is one of the big censored news stories of postdemocratic America that we'd like to see more investigation of: The wealthy suburban vote counts more than your vote does.

America has seen 8 presidential elections in my lifetime, and it's pretty much certain that the Democrats have won the nonsuburban vote in at least 7 of them (not just the 3 they've "officially" won when the suburbs are added in). The disparity now isn't as big as it used to be before the DLC dead wood ruined my Democratic Party, but it still lingers. The only election of the past 8 where the Republicans might have won outside the suburbs is Reagan's 1984 landslide - and even that's gotta be damn close. (We're pretty sure Mondale soundly carried the county that includes Chicago, even with all the suburbs.)

Through most of recent history, American politics has had this fundamental truth: The Democrats (minus the DLC clods) are the party of the poor and working class, and the Republicans are the party of the rich. Another truism is that the suburbs are the land of big lots and high incomes. Central cities and rural counties (beyond the exurbs) form a coalition of lower-income individuals.

These days the boundaries are changing. Inner suburbs of 30 years ago are now becoming more like central cities, because the city boundaries were often fixed, and the only room for growth has been in immediately adjacent suburbs. The real suburban brand of suburbanite is moving further into the exurbs, often into new subdivisions for the very rich in unincorporated areas. Rural America almost seems to cease to exist, as exurbs infringe on rural areas and as factory farming drives family farming out of business. (Note that some rural areas that are too far from big cities to see exurban growth remain as Democratic as ever.)

But misleading people with statistics has become a fine art. The common view over the past 30 years has been that a majority of Americans live in suburbs. But this is debunked when you see what the government officially counts as suburban. The government considers Jersey City, New Jersey, and Hammond, Indiana, to be suburbs. Covington, Kentucky, is considered a suburb, even though anyone who sees it firsthand would call it a central city.

The misclassifying of some central cities as suburbs is important. Political strategists point to the misleading statistic that most Americans live in suburbs, and then point to the fact that suburbs are more conservative than other areas. Ergo, they prime their candidates to appeal almost exclusively to suburban voters by moving the center of debate further and further to the right. This disease afflicts Democrats and Republicans alike. This is a main reason why now we see so many bullshit policies like public school uniforms and special tax breaks for the wealthy.

It means we're getting screwed on several fronts. Not only is the suburban vote often just enough to cancel out our vote, and not only is turnout suspiciously much higher in suburbs, and not only did the government deliberately undercount the central cities in the past 2 censuses (which itself affects political representation). We nonsuburban voters are also usually forced to vote for candidates who appeal primarily to the suburbs, because no other candidates exist.

It was pointless for the Democrats to let the suburb-loving DLC wing take over the party, because most wealthy suburbanites will never vote Democratic anyway. The few who do aren't enough to make up for the Democrats' losses to third parties on the left. (That shows you just how right-wing the outer suburbs are.)

We need to think of a way to stop the wealthy suburbs and exurbs from holding the rest of America hostage. Maybe the easiest and the most likely way to get the ball rolling is to stop counting places as suburban unless they're actually suburban.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bush needs manual to tell him how to muzzle free speech

As often as the Bush regime censors free expression, he's still such an idiot that he needs a manual to show him step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish this.

According to the Washington Post, the White House has a little booklet that tells Bush's staffers on how to go about "deterring potential protestors" from Bush's appearances (with the apparent aim of preventing poor Bush's pwecious widdle feewings from getting hurt). The guide says that even if the event is on public property, it must be open only to those with tickets. People who enter the event have to be screened in case they're hiding anti-Bush signs. Dissenters who slip through and dare to vocalize their opinions about Bush are to be shouted down by "rally squads" (Nazis). But if that doesn't stop 'em, they're supposed to be thrown out (even if it is a public space).

Sounds like what the brownshirts did, doesn't it?

I guarantee you that if a Bush thug laid one finger on me, I would see them in court.

All of this Nazism came to light during a recent lawsuit prompted by the arrest of 2 people for daring to wear anti-Bush t-shirts at a rally outside the West Virginia State Capitol.

Evidently, however, Bush's brownshirts are so illiterate that they didn't even understand their own manual. The handbook states that dissidents should be "simply left alone" if bothering them would create negative publicity. Welp, the Bushists didn't exactly get much good publicity in the West Virginia incident, did they?

The manual supposedly dates from 2002, but we've seen its fascism in action since long before then. Our first exposure to it was during the 2000 campaign - back when Bush was only Governor of Texas. This incident happened outside of Texas, where Disgeorge wasn't even supposed to be in charge of anything. On Saturday, July 29, 2000, the lying sack of shit Bush conducted a campaign rally at Devou Park in Covington, Kentucky. Because it was a public park, I figured it would be safe to crash their little right-wing rah-rah.

A separate group of Ralph Nader supporters was also there to protest Bush. The Kenton County Sheriff's Department blocked them from moving closer to the stage, even though Bush's followers were not blocked. One of the dissidents later held up a tiny sign that said, "GEORGE BUSH, BITE MY TUSH." Then a Nazi wearing a Bush t-shirt bipped along and grabbed the sign. He crumpled and tore the sign and threw a wadded portion of the sign back in the face of the victim of this assault.

After seeing some scuzzbag assault a young woman who was half his size, I and other dissenters tried chasing the assailant. Then a county policeman grabbed me and started popping off at me. I was bold, and I told him what I thought of his lack of professionalism, and his response went something like, "You wanna go to jail, commie?!"

Another cop joined him, and I darted down the hill. I could hear the clop of their boots chasing me, so I ran into the woods where I couldn't be found. I didn't slow down until I knew I was safe. They're probably still looking for me.

It turned out that Bush's daddy and the neighboring city of Cincinnati were sued over almost the exact same thing in the 1988 campaign. I guess Dumbya inherited the fascism gene.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Heat wave looms

I may have to vacate my apartment for a couple days, so you might not see many new entries here until Friday. That's because there's supposed to be several days of temperatures over 100, and I don't have air conditioning (unlike those luxury condos that those developers built by misusing government money that was supposed to be for hurricane relief).

Of course the lying liars of the wingnutosphere insist global warming is all a big hoax, but they never really say why someone would go through the trouble of making up climate change. And of course the local media blames all our problems on a "drought" instead of the stifling heat - even though it's rained so much that Ohio has just declared a flood emergency. All this rain has failed to stem the heat.

LAPD ignores state law

Think of a state having a law protecting a certain activity - but the city police trying to bust said activity anyway.

It's been happening lately in Los Angeles.

Under a referendum of the people, California law protects medical marijuana. But the Los Angeles Police Department acts otherwise, conspiring with the DEA to raid medical marijuana emporiums that are perfectly legal. The LAPD's so-called reason is that the marijuana retailers are violating federal law.

So? Are they violating state law? Are they violating county law? Are they violating township law? Are they violating city law?

If federal law can trump a referendum that is perfectly constitutional and was passed by a state's voters, then what's the point in even dividing the country into states? Why not just have barons and counts (like the dude on 'Sesame Street') divvying up the nation as their personal fiefdoms? This is a perfect example of the extreme Right's credo of "states' rights for me, not for thee."

There's good reasons why local cops aren't required to enforce some federal laws. For one, it violates the notion of federalism to demand that local police become an arm of the federal government. Take immigration laws, for instance. If a city passes a law to bar landlords from renting out to undocumented immigrants, that comes mighty close to deputizing its own authorities to heavy-handedly enforce federal immigration law. And it creates a patchwork of inconsistent enforcement.

Why then does the LAPD enforce laws against something that's legal in California? And why does the DEA lie when it says it's not interested in busting seriously ill people who use medical marijuana? The DEA does just that on a regular basis. This is really a war against the very sick.

In fact the DEA is launching a new wave of raids in California against marijuana emporiums that are legal under state law. The Bush regime urges folks to pop pills made by pharmaceutical giants (which are big GOP donors) instead of marijuana, even though the drugs urged by the ruling regime are largely ineffective.

The city needs to step in and prohibit the police from raiding marijuana dispensaries and also bar the DEA from doing so.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Radio station targeted by Nazis

The all-knowing Wikipedia describes Pacifica Radio - a group of 5 listener-supported radio stations - as being "known for its progressive political orientation." (A right-wing liar like Rush Limbaugh gets 500 stations, but Pacifica has 5! What is this we hear again about the "liberal media"?) One outlet owned by Pacifica is KPFT-FM in Houston.

Earlier this month a bullet was fired through the window of KPFT's studio - narrowly missing the head of an announcer who was on the air with a zydeco program. Investigators learned that the bullet was a 39-millimeter round, like you might find in an AK-47 - not a mere BB gun.

This isn't the first time KPFT has been targeted. In the early '70s, the right-wing fartpipes of the Ku Klux Klan bombed KPFT's transmitter twice. (The FBI refused to investigate these bombings for months.)

Whoever shot through KPFT's window recently is probably one of the same Freeper types who broke into Dennis Kucinich's Cleveland office recently and ransacked it, or who keeps making bomb threats to John Edwards's offices. Or who gunned down Alan Berg.

But that's how the other side acts. They bully opponents because bullying is all they have. We've seen firsthand how they act. They're afraid of facts, so they resort to violence.


More surveillance skulduggery

America has practically become a command state. A phenomenon that's pretty much new to America in the past dozen years is the presence of surveillance cameras everywhere you turn (even though most of the technology for it existed for years before it became common). The country is basically a surveillance state where every move is watched.

The most aggravating growth has perhaps been in street cams that spy on public sidewalks. Touted as a method to deter crime, probably the only thing it's done is catch very minor crimes while driving major crimes into other areas.

Traffic light cams are another irritating development, because they provide a gaping opening for graft. A rash of traffic cam corruption has now been uncovered in Texas. Many cities in northern Texas have expanded the zone where traffic must stop at a red light - and not told anybody. It used to be there was what was called a stop line, which was right before a crosswalk. That was the line where cars had to stop. But now these cities have moved their stop lines back, without telling anyone, so the cameras automatically ticket motorists even though they're not doing anything wrong.

This is a direct violation of state law, which says the stop line is right before the crosswalk. Not 10 feet back. The Texas driver's manual clearly states this.

People have had little luck appealing rogue tickets, even after it became clear that their car wasn't even the one that was photographed. (Often the wrong car is ticketed because the license plate number isn't clear enough in the photo.) The system inevitably takes a "we're right/you're wrong" position in every matter. Folks would be even less successful ignoring the false tickets altogether: As part of the system's "gotcha!" attitude in which it does its damnedest to set innocent people up for trouble, folks end up getting hauled in for not paying a ticket that they don't even rightly owe.

One commentator says fascism is nothing more than governing without a system of checks and balances to keep the ruling regime in line. When the government has a policy of invariably backing itself up, with no chance for your side to be heard by anyone other than the source of your original grievance, that doesn't sound too much like checks and balances to us.


What sets us apart

Here at The Online Lunchpail, we're different.

Several things truly set us apart from other blogs that have populist or progressive leanings. Don't get us wrong: They're great blogs, and we read 'em. But we put issues over party. If you want to leave comments supporting Cindy Sheehan's congressional bid, be our guest. (We're Sheehan supporters.) We blog from a perspective that's missing from other blogs (and even more missing from the dinosaur media). How many other major political blogs (left or right) are based in a working-class neighborhood in Kentucky?

But one fundamental, bedrock belief that sets The Online Lunchpail apart from your average blog is our view that, ever since the Republican takeover of Congress in the 1994 "election", the United States has lived under a rogue, illegitimate government. We're actually being very generous. We could trace this status even further back to 1988 when the right-wing media practically handed the White House to Mad Dog Bush. Even that seems generous, but at least the media wasn't as plainly biased in favor of Reagan as it was towards later conservatives.

We didn't trust the results of the 1994 "election" then, and we don't trust them now. Pre-election polls proved us right. In most countries, the polls would have been considered proof that the "election" was inaccurate. But in America, for some strange reason, it's the other way around.

Thus, any government policy enacted since then - unless it's one that would have been enacted anyway - is in our opinion null and void. To act otherwise is to live a Big Lie. (There are a few major laws since then that we consider valid, because they would have passed even if the 1994 electoral disaster hadn't happened. But these are exceptions, not the rule.)

It's about personal rights and fairness. And it's about siblinghood with working-class Americans of all colors.

This view may be rare in the blogosphere, but we come from a raw, sinewy background, and we guarantee it's not so rare out in the real world. The Contract With America was a pivotal event that still afflicts America 13 years later. Only when we see the reversal of the wingnut laws of the past 13 years will we be able to say America has a government worthy of its name.

Our job is to keep you informed of the continuing shenanigans of the Far Right, from the White House on down. Knowledge is power.

Hurricane aid squandered on condos for rich

The New Orleans region still hasn't recovered from Hurricane Katrina 2 years ago. Federal tax incentives were supposed to help rebuild the shattered city. But these tax breaks have been snatched up by greedy developers of luxury condos hundreds of miles away.

As Tom Brokaw might have said: Sounds to us like...a fleecing of America!

These federal tax dollars are financing about 10 new condominium projects for the very rich around Tuscaloosa, Alabama - a city that is nearly 300 miles from New Orleans and is well inland, so it received relatively little damage from the hurricane. These condos cost as much as $1,000,000 per unit. Many of the condos cater to wealthy University of Alabama alumni and feature Bear Bryant-themed decor. Other buyers are rich investors (who live as far away as California) who plan to rent them out to other wealthy individuals.

This was allowed to happen because Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama got the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005 to expand the area eligible for hurricane funds into Tuscaloosa to help developers there. This despite the fact that Tuscaloosa sustained only some rain and wind damage and not the full force of the storm. (In our area, that amount of damage is common even without a hurricane.) The funds aren't just being used on condos but also retail complexes, luxury hotels, and fancy restaurants (where most hurricane survivors will never be able to afford to go).

This abuse of these tax breaks bogs things down for the folks around New Orleans who apply for the tax breaks to be used in their own hurricane-ravaged area, which actually needs the tax incentives. Communities that needed the tax breaks still have yet to see any progress. Some people there have never even heard of the tax breaks.

Lo! And get this! The tax break isn't even available to people who buy a home to use as their own residence. It's only for developers or investors who own property that they rent out.

The scam being pulled in Tuscaloosa may cost American taxpayers billions. They call that the "free market."

According to locals, some of the new condos are replacing affordable apartments in historic districts. And some of the "residents" of these new condos are actually people who live out of town and are using the condos fewer than 10 times a year.

Must be great to be rich and be able to displace working-class families just to have an extra place to host parties for your rich college buddies 10 times a year.

It's just like how taxpayer dollars in Minnesota went to new stadiums instead of bridge repairs, and how the same in New York went to stadiums instead of caring for injured 9/11 firefighters.


Man arrested for disagreeing with Bush

It was August 15. Asheville, North Carolina.

America used to have something called freedom of speech. A nifty little thing, that freedom of speech thing was. By law, people could sort of, like, say and print stuff, ya know. And even if the government disagreed with what they said, people were legally safe from being arrested for saying it.

But that was long ago. We don't know exactly when free speech went away. Maybe it was when the Bush regime seized IndyMedia's servers. Maybe it was when NKU issued that "trespassing" arrest when The Last Word got distributed there. Who knows?

In Asheville last week, a fellow opted to loom along a roadway carrying a sign that implored, "IMPEACH BUSH-CHENEY." We're sure you'll agree with the message, because most people do. After the man had held the sign for about 10 minutes, a police officer materialized. He made him fork over his ID and then summoned his sergeant to the scene.

When the sarge arrived, he was immediately hostile. He arrested the civilian and claimed it was for obstructing the sidewalk. This was bullbunk, because the first policeman had just seen a person walk past unimpeded. The sergeant exclaimed, "You were obstructing the sidewalk!" Then he yelled, "I'm sick of this shit!" Then, "Here's your 15 minutes of fame, buddy!" As the "suspect" was being taken to jail, he was never read his Miranda rights. The police couldn't make up their minds what to charge him with (which of course is not legal).

With fascism ruling the roost, the Bush cult often gets public parks illegally deeded out to it during political rallies. (That's why some Nazi thug was allowed to attack folks in Covington, Kentucky, during the 2000 campaign.) But now it looks like the whole country is deeded out to the Bush politburo in one final rah-rah for the hated dictator.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Deregulation failure may end

People agree: Utility deregulation is a bigger failure than, well, everything.

We knew it was a cause of the electric woes that have plagued America this decade. Take California, for instance. (No, don't literally take California. We need it.) For decades, California's electric industry was overseen by the legislature to ensure better service and affordable rates. This stopped in 1996 under the right-wing rule of Gov. "Poopypants Pete" Wilson. Wilson wasted $20,000,000,000 of the taxpayers' money to bail out utility monopolies for their previous stupid mistakes. Then, after electric rates were frozen at artificially high levels for 4 years, power companies were pretty much deregulated altogether. Greedy electric monopolies went offline, reducing electricity supply and driving up prices.

This also led to the blackouts that afflicted the Golden State. However, areas that used public utilities instead of relying on the corporate ogres were immune to the blackouts.

Peep Ohio. Utilities there are supposed to be regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio - PUCO, or Puke-O, as we call it. In recent years, Ohio's corrupt Republican machine has packed Puke-O with corporate-friendly commissioners. The situation got so bad that Puke-O is ranked in the top 5 most anti-consumer utility commissions out of all 50 states.

Ohio's lack of oversight over money-grubbing utilities caused the Northeast blackout of 2003. This failure was ushered in when a tree branch touched a power line (after an electric company failed to trim its trees). This finally put into gear the development of new federal rules to levy stiff fines on electric companies that dodge national standards for making the power grid more reliable - but the rules came too late to prevent that crisis. In Ohio, however, utilities and their Puke-O friends were undeterred and did what they could to keep on deregulating.

But whaddya know! Now, for the first time in years, Ohio's governor is…a Democrat! The scoundrels of the Republican machine didn't know what hit 'em following last year's election. (But it was funny.) So now the truth finally emerges. The truth being that the Buckeye State's deregulation "experiment" has been a colossal disaster.

Pretty soon, these deregulation policies will be coming to a close. And in the past few years, Ohioans sure have suffered! (That's an inside joke from the 1988 presidential campaign.) Almost everybody agrees that deregulation was a disaster that brang higher costs and worse service, and that state oversight over the industry must be reestablished.

So the moral of the story is: Poop all over rightism. It's useless.



Welcome to The Online Lunchpail, an exciting new populist blog!

We call our blog The Online Lunchpail because we champion the causes of working-class America. Our job is to protect your rights and interests. It's not just a job - it's an adventure! We trust you'll enjoy riding along for this caper in which we'll challenge the Far Right at every turn!

You're gonna love it here! You'll meet lots of friendly new faces and read some incisive, biting commentary! There's never been anything quite like The Online Lunchpail anywhere on the planet! We combine the magic of traditional zinery with unfettered bloggy goodness.

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