Monday, March 31, 2008

Photos of our roadside protests!

My proudest accomplishment in many years is being a part of the public protests against Kids Helping Kids, an abusive teen behavior modification program just outside Cincinnati. I may be only one-fourth or one-tenth of these roadside demonstrations, so I won't take credit for the toil that so many others have put into these events.

(I've said it before: If you don't believe me about KHK, feel free to do your own research. Fair is fair.)

Now there's a small website chock-full of photos from the 4 protests I've been to. This webpage is accessible to the public, so I'm sure it's acceptable for me to link to it here. It's all part of a larger effort, of course, to end the abusive teen gulag racket. Facilities have been closed down because of protests like the ones I've been involved in, so our efforts may prove even more constructive than they've already been.

To see our pictures, point your pooper here:

(More info:

Fountain Scare

I took the Peace Bike to Cincinnati today for the Reds' Opening Day parade! I shouldn't have asked the Peace Bike to endure what was practically a rain-out, but we decided to tough it out together.

While we were there, we found this aggravating Allowed Cloud:


Fountain Square is a supposedly public gathering spot in downtown Cincinnati. These rules apply not only to certain events, but to Fountain Square at all times. (I checked the website for more details.)

This lengthy list of Allowed Clouds is new just since 2006. That's when the city gave control of this public square to the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, a private commission representing the totalitarian luminaries of the Big Business community. The CCCDC (some call it 3CDC, which makes it sound like a 'Star Wars' robot or a famous rock band) set up Fountain Square Management Group to manage the square.

Before 2006, bikes, skateboards, and companion animals clearly weren't forbidden on Fountain Square: Folks brang these items to the square constantly, and I never saw a sign banning these items. And people also threw pennies in the fountain prior to 2006. Now that the city has turned the square over to the right-wing CCCDC fucks, Fountain Square might as well be the old RC commercial set in the Soviet Union in which the authorities unfurled giant Coke and Pepsi banners.

The Last Word of 3/16/07 describes the CCCDC's fascism further. When an organization wanted to conduct an antiwar rally on Fountain Square, the CCCDC decreed that the event would not be permitted unless the group purchased a liability insurance policy that was so expensive they couldn't afford it. Legal experts agreed that the CCCDC had no right to charge such a high fee for gatherings on a public space, and that it was unconstitutional.

In short, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation is a bunch of thin-skinned little fascists.

From 2005 to 2006, Fountain Square was closed for over a year and "renovated" - meaning ruined. (It seems like the square is "renovated" every few years and closed for months at a time.) The CCCDC advocated this "renovation" before it took control of the square - and it was the CCCDC's oversight that made both the project itself and its results a disaster. Fountain Square's reopening was pushed back at least 3 times thanks to the CCCDC's idiocy.

The "renovated" Fountain Square isn't even compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act: The overhaul greatly reduced wheelchair access to the square. Fountain Square also now has a slightly raised section that has no wheelchair access at all - in violation of federal law.

The reconstruction of Fountain Square offers no noticeable improvements from the way it was before 2005. This "renovation" cost city taxpayers $42,000,000.

The city needs to take away the CCCDC's control of Fountain Square and reverse the square's Allowed Cloud mentality. It's also not going to be cheap to restore the disabled access that the CCCDC took away, but it has to be done. City Council should have thought of that before letting Big Business take control of an important public facility.

Students punished for opposing war

Yet another story like this???

At a public high school in Princeton, New Jersey, 250 students are facing 2 days of detention for attending a brief antiwar rally. The principal had originally promised that the students would not be punished if they went to the event, but he went back on his word.

This is clearly an effort to intimidate. We all know that the students never would have been penalized if they had gone to a pro-war rally. In fact, the school probably would have made a pro-war event their field trip (like mine did during the '91 Gulf War).

Although the pupils missed only an hour of school (horrors!), the school required them to miss 3 whole hours just a few weeks earlier to watch a New Orleans band play and have Mardi Gras beads thrown at them. So class time obviously must not be too important to the administration.

The type of political coercion practiced by Princeton High School is not only unacceptable. It's fascist. It's not the school's job to judge a rally as being an improper reason to miss school - especially when they would never have batted an eye if the students had gone to a pro-war demonstration. Hopefully there'll be some lawsuits.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Some interesting California bills

One state. Bunches of bills. Some of these bills are good, and some are maddening - and it's maddening that some were vetoed the last time.

California is the state with the active legislative agenda. One good bill pending in the Golden State would eliminate obsolete laws that let teachers and other public employees be fired for being Communist Party members and would get rid of the requirement that representatives of organizations who want to use school facilities sign a form declaring they have no communist leanings.

The real story here is that these Cold War requirements were still on the books 50 years after their shelf life expired. Does California still enforce these old laws? I hope not. Apparently they were found unconstitutional, which means they must have been enforced at some point, or else nobody would have ever tested them.

Some conservative Movementarians think the old Cold War laws should be kept (apparently thinking these unconstitutional laws are still enforced). Capitol Resource Family Impact's Karen England said repealing the laws would be "promoting communism in our schools."

Talk about a bunch of relics. Conservatives are worried about 50-year-old unconstitutional laws getting repealed! They'll be the ones trying to save the Patriot Act 50 years from now.

Another good bill would require meat that is made from cloned animals to be labeled as such. This bill already passed last year, but guessed what happened? That's right, Schwarzenegger vetoed it, claiming federal law prohibits states from requiring clonal foods to be labeled.

Except who cares if it does? Aren't the Republicans supposed to be the ones who are for states' rights? The federal government has no authority to bar states from labeling food, so feel free to file the feds' actions in the "ignore" bin.

Not all the pending bills are good. A right-wing bill by Ass. John Benoit (R-Riverside) would force welfare recipients to take drug tests. Don't even get us started on how unconstitutional this is! It's already been ruled unconstitutional in other states. That conservatives are trying to pass it again is another example of how they rely on archaic, illogical ideas that have already been discredited. (There's been a movement afoot in the wingnutosphere to pass a bill like this is gobs of states.)

So that's the latest Legislative Crap-Up for California!


Cincinnati's corporate empire

I know that these days Cincinnati looks like a great bastion of progress compared to, say, a Florida suburb or that county in Idaho where they put teenage girls in jail if they become pregnant. But the fact is that the Cincinnati region in the '80s and '90s was America's epicenter of corporate autocracy. Corporate power was accompanied by the bad politics that it always brings, which is why Cincinnati at the time was the most politically conservative major urban area in America. Along with these policies came much despair.

Even today, after some residents have worked hard to restore the area's good name, the stench of corporatism still lingers in Cincinnati like an egg fart. The corporate empire remains powerful enough in the 'Nati that a report released just this year says the region is dominated by only 7 big corporations. This oligopoly still controls the area's economy, politics, and the very fabric of Cincinnati life. The study confirms that Cincinnati's corporate power structure creates poverty, enormous gaps between the rich and poor, and "distorted development."

The 7 corporations dominating Cincinnati are: frightening consumer products giant Procter & Gamble; the Kroger supermarket chain; Macy's (Federated Department Stores); Fifth Third Bank; Western & Southern Financial Group; the Lindners' American Financial Corp; and E.W. Scripps, which ran the right-wing Cincinnati Post. Corporate Cincinnati has a "rule by decree" mentality in which major companies form what amount to think tanks that help guide public policies, privatize public tasks, usurp the will of the people, criminalize the disadvantaged, and exclude the working class. This is also a main reason Cincinnati is the third-poorest city of its size in America.

Corporate groupthink became so entrenched in Cincinnati by the '90s that it actually became a religion: This ideology has doctrines and rites, and criticism of it became taboo. Speak ill of the 'Nati's corporations, and you hear about it instantly. Upon hearing this criticism, an adherent of Cincinnati corporatism may first let out a mild but disappointed sigh through the nostrils (if their nose isn't stuffed up from the various respiratory ailments caused by the poor health standards brung by their corporate allies). If the criticism continues, a somewhat louder sigh emerges from the mouth. Then comes the gaze, and maybe a scowl. Then the annoying whimper: It's like a frustrated "yeah" that increases in loudness and pitch.

Then finally the harangue.

In this final step, you're treated to an operatic skeeping about how the area's corporations have done sooooo much for you, just by being such good corporate citizens and all.

Criticize the corporate world in Cincinnati sometime. Note this series of irritated reactions from Big Business's apologists.

But the area's working class residents share a common interest with each other in dissenting from the corporate empire and moving the city away from this oligopoly. Corporate domination isn't sustainable in any city.


Elderly deacon arrested for wearing antiwar shirt

I know this story is anticlimactic, following the fascism binge of the middle of the decade, but we still have to be vigilant to defend the Constitution.

At Smith Haven Mall on Long Island, an 80-year-old church deacon has been arrested because he failed to turn his antiwar t-shirt inside-out. The mall described the shirt as having "graphic antiwar images." But all the shirt had was the number of American military personnel and Iraqi civilians killed in the war (4,000 and 1,000,000, respectively), the words "Dead" and "Enough", and 3 blotches.

They call numbers and blotches "graphic antiwar images"? That's almost like when the city of Virginia Beach tried prosecuting an Abercrombie & Fitch store over a "pornographic" advertising sign.

The elderly deacon was sitting peacefully in the food court with a cup of coffee when police approached. They promptly grabbed him, plopped him in a wheelchair, and arrested him. He was charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. Both of these charges are lies: He hadn't been ordered to leave the mall previously, so it wasn't trespassing. And no resistance to the actual arrest was offered.

As cops wheeled the deacon to the police car, a crowd formed to support him. But police and mall security ordered them to leave.

I've said it before: Malls (even if privately owned) are considered public conveyances, a principle that's been upheld by California courts. Reportedly, New Jersey did the same by guaranteeing activists the right to set up tables at a mall. I don't know what New York courts or statutes say, but the concept of malls as public gathering spaces is encrusted in common law. Neither the mall nor the police had any right to confront the man over his shirt.

This arrest is life in a Nazi police state, I guess. If America gets a real President any time soon, the Prez is going to have to lay down the law against the corporate world that thinks it has a right to abridge constitutional freedoms.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hurricane victims asked to repay grants

Another mind-numbing hurricane-related fuck-up by the Bush regime!

Hurricane Katrina victims looking to rebuild their homes who battled red tape for months for a federal grant are now being asked to pay back tens of thousands of dollars each that they got from the grants. That's because the private contractor that the government appointed to run the program claims some people got too much. The contractor, ICF International, is hiring a collection firm to take back money from hurricane survivors.

What ICF - which is under investigation for payments it got to administer the program - is really doing is having the hurricane victims pay for ICF's own stupid mistakes. The hurricane survivors weren't overpaid. ICF is just trying to make them pay for its own incompetence. ICF is also said to be retaliating against applicants who appealed the amount of their grants if they received less money than what they felt they needed. At the same time, however, one-third of the qualified applicants still haven't seen a penny in grant money - so it seems to me that applicants are being underpaid, not overpaid.

Meanwhile, ICF is earning over $900,000,000 to run the grant program.

Sounds to me like...a fleecing of America!


Candidates vow to end war (as was promised last time)

To quote one of Bush's incoherent psycho-rants: "Fool me once, shame on, shame on you. You fooled me, you can't get fooled again."

Forty-two Democratic congressional candidates (none of whom are incumbents) have promised to support legislation to remove all American troops from Iraq (except for a security force to guard the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad).

If only. An end to the war was vowed 2 years ago by Democrats who are in Congress now. That turned out to be a big broken promise, didn't it? I have no doubt that several of the 42 who make this promise now will try to end it, but with such lightweight leadership in Congress, how far do you think they're going to get?

Congressional leaders have already proven during this term that they don't understand what the word 'mandate' means. Which is why we still have to contend with garbage like the '96 telcom law and the Patriot Act that's long past its shelf life. In an article in The Last Word right after the 2006 election, I very generously gave them 2 years to reverse the major legislative disasters of the previous 12 years, and so far I don't think they've repealed a single one.

The Democratic leadership has become so weak-willed that I'm seriously starting to think that the war's not going to end until a party like the Greens takes control of Congress. Sad, but true.


Airline discrimination falls under fire

If someone told me years ago that airlines would be allowed to get away with this, I'd have my doubts. But here we are.

Only in the past 3 years, airlines in the U.S. have begun the discriminatory practice of requiring passengers to pay extra if they happen to be "of size." (How's that for society advancing backwards?) Southwest Airlines is the most unashamed culprit in this greed, though other airlines occasionally enforce a similar policy.

Now the Canadian government has a new rule saying airlines in that country can't charge extra for customers who are "overweight" or disabled. Although this regulation doesn't apply to U.S. carriers, it's sparking efforts to enact a similar rule in the U.S. (which currently lags behind Canada).

This might not have ever been an issue if the airlines would have offered seats that were the right size in the first place. But Southwest declares it has no intent to mend its ways. The corporate world is always short on progress and long on greed and excuses, so I'm not surprised.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Assessing the threat of "threat assessment"

This is another example of how these days you really have to watch what you do. It reminds me of that song that says, "Step out of line, the man come and take you away..."

America's colleges and universities are relying more and more on what they call "threat assessment" - their method of weeding out "troublesome" students. At many institutions of higher book-burnin', if any person commits any action that the school disapproves of, their name is secretly entered into a database to "assess" the "threat."

At freshman orientation, students are encouraged to rat each other out like good little Nazis. University employees at all levels are also ordered to report students' "suspect" behavior.

This bunker mentality isn't entirely new, for I can rattle off probably a half-dozen stories that'll make you think Kentucky's university system is a podgy right-wing police state - which it is. This trend was already in progress nationally before the Virginia Tech and NIU massacres, so it's obviously ineffective at preventing tragedies like these - lies to the contrary notwithstanding.

Years ago, a "threat assessment" system like this would have been unthinkable, and students' privacy concerns were a much higher priority. How many Virginia Tech-style massacres were there back then? The only reasonable conclusion is that the "threat assessment" craze has probably contributed to incidents like NIU and VT.

At colleges these days, campus officials (who in Kentucky are disproportionately Republican) meet regularly to discuss the students in the database.

But if you have a history of harassment - as a perpetrator, not a victim - you probably don't have to worry about being placed in the database. Serial harassers are the ones who are never held accountable. Everyone else is. This is a pattern that's become more and more pronounced in recent years. If a school placed a known bully in a database, I can guarantee some right-wing legal foundation would sue the trousers off the school once this fact was discovered. That's because bullies have "rights", you see. We don't. In, BushAmerica, everything is topsy-turvy.

A police official at the University of Kentucky said that the "threat assessment" system at that school is useful because "it avoids disruptions in the classrooms and potential violence." Weird. I think 99% of all disruptions in classrooms I've been in were caused by harassers who weren't held to the high standards everyone else is held to.

You have to be careful, but the assholes don't. It's because they're assholes, and the system favors assholes.

I can also guarantee that if you have political views the school disapproves of, you're far more likely to be placed in the database than a member of the Young Republicans is. You can bet your life savings on it.

I also don't doubt that if I returned to college, and if administrators saw this entry, they'd put me in the database (if they have one) just because this entry challenges their policy. Which of course shows you how bogus their system is.


Extremist group wants city prosecuted over antiwar stance

Move America Forward is a right-wing hate group that calls war opponents "communists", has encouraged superfluous "do over" efforts to overturn election results they don't like, and is suspected of concocting an idiotic hoax to embarrass a respected British newspaper.

Now the Sacramento-based agitprop mill wants an entire city prosecuted just because of its political views. The city they're targeting is of course Berkeley, California, which has become the favorite wiping cushion of wingnuts far and wide.

Berkeley's antiwar stance is well-documented - but like I've said before, it's their city, so it's their right to have this stance. It's about local autonomy as much as it's about the failed war. But Move America Forward has written a letter to the U.S. attorney who covers the region, asking him to prosecute the city for its views. MAF's press release says the city's politics alone may constitute an illegal act.

Then what about all the cities that have pushed pro-war views even more actively than Berkeley pressed its antiwar position? Should we also prosecute that town in West Virginia that encouraged Congress to pull funding for Berkeley school lunches (even though most of the residents of the West Virginia town oppose the war)? What exactly did Berkeley do that's illegal?

Government officials across America have for over a decade generally advanced an activist conservative agenda via their offices. You don't have to look very hard to find instances of government lawyers advising public agencies how to enact right-wing policies, or special government privileges being granted to conservative groups. I don't just mean selective enforcement of existing policies, but also the active use of government for political causes.

If Move America Forward's outburst causes Berkeley to be prosecuted for its liberal views, there would have to be a looooong line of other cities to be prosecuted for their conservative views.


Starbucks defies court order on tips

This is yet another story that would stretch suspension of disbelief beyond the permissible if it wasn't so sadly real.

Remember last week when I told you about Starbucks being ordered by a court to reimburse baristas for tips that were taken from them to be given to their bosses? Now the chain of coffee shops says it's going to ignore the court's ruling completely.

Seriously. Starbucks is defying a legally binding court order - an order that (to borrow Paul Bremer's favorite phrase) is a binding instruction or directive, and is based on a California law that clearly prohibits companies from taking workers' tips. The coffee chain's CEO Howard Schultz has proudly announced that the company will refuse to pay the counter servers their tips, even after the San Diego court ordered it to. Starbucks also says it's not complying with the part of the order that prohibits them from continuing to take baristas' tips - so the coffee chain is going to keep doing what got it in trouble in the first place.

Really??? Isn't this contempt of court?

But Starbucks remains undeterred! The company is now pleading poverty, saying that there is no money to be "refunded or returned from Starbucks." So one of the most profitable corporations in America is saying it has no money, after taking all that money from the lowest-paid workers?

It's not just the company's California stores that have been stealing tips from baristas. Now lawsuits have been filed against Starbucks in Minnesota and Massachusetts over this practice.

And yes, the Freeper types have already spewed classist hate speech to defend Starbucks on the comment sections of other sites regarding the latest developments in this saga.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Indiana censors bookstores

It's stories like this that make me wonder if it really is 2008 and not 1008 (or 8).

Under a new law that takes effect in July, retailers in Indiana will be required to pay a $250 fee and register with the secretary of state if they sell "dirty" books or other such material. This applies even if the "explicit" material constitutes only a small part of a store that mostly sells G-rated titles. In fact, it applies even if the only "offensive" volume is a sex education tome.

The act was signed into law by incompetent asswipe Gov. Mitch Daniels (a Republican, naturally). Disaster Daniels (as we call him) has been so wrong about almost everything that he makes Ernie "Hey Bert" Fletcher look like competent government in comparison. The hugely unpopular Daniels is the guy who thinks schools ought to beat kids, placed the state in a time zone where it doesn't fit just to appease Big Business, helped influence a federal law blocking lawsuits against Eli Lilly for its mercury-tainted vaccine preservative, and made a TV ad blaming the people of Indiana for the state's bad economy.

I can tell you right now the new law against adult bookstores is unconstitutional government censorship. And it's going to be thrown out by the courts, or my name isn't Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane!

Booksellers of all sorts are furious at the new law. In addition to making stores register, the secretary of state would have to pass the information on to local officials so they can keep tabs on the store. It's believed to be the only bookstore registry law anywhere in America.

Then again, the law is one of these things that falls under the category of "try and make me." (Kind of like uniforms in public schools.) If I ran a bookstore, do you really have any illusions that I'd bother to register? Sometimes it's easier and cheaper to ignore something and let authorities do their worst to enforce it than to fight it from the get-go - at least when it's so clearly unconstitutional.

Since I know a court battle will erupt eventually, hopefully the book burners like Mitch Daniels will get the smackdown from the courts they so richly deserve.


Ideological hack exposed (again)

Jeffrey Milyo is a right-wing hack!

Remember that "study" a few years ago that allegedly "proved" a liberal bias in the media? This report claimed Wall Street Journal and Drudge Report were liberal. Seriously, it said that. The report was compiled by UCLA political scientist Tim Groseclose and University of Missouri economist Jeffrey Milyo.

The media slurped up this "study" - then kept reporting on it every few months as if it was new. Ironically, the fact that the media kept trotting out this manufactured story was itself proof the "study" was wrong! But the Conservative Fool Of The Day blog had a field week debunking the report and exposing both Milyo and Groseclose as right-wing partisan hatchet men who were working backwards from a conclusion that they had predetermined. It turned out Tim Groseclose was an Olin Faculty Fellow under the conservative John M. Olin Foundation, and Milyo was a Salvatori Fellow under the notoriously right-wing Heritage Foundation.

Their report claimed the media was liberal after comparing quotes reported in the media with the voting records of congressional lawmakers (during one of the most conservative Congresses ever). I guess anything is liberal compared to Congress at the time. Using Groseclose/Milyo "logic", you could have dug some old shingles out of a creek bed in the woods and said those were liberal.

Did the media stop relying on Jeffrey Milyo as a credible source? You gotta be kidding me, right?

Milyo remains a paid "researcher" of almost any cause associated with the Bush brand of conservatism. If there's a nutty position out there, he'll launch a bogus "study" of it and claim that this "proves" it's true. Milyo has said, "The role of advocate is, no matter what kind of information comes out, to sort of disparage it, and, you know, they're fighting for a result, not the truth. And they already think they know the truth." Milyo himself fights for results that are predetermined, not the truth.

It isn't just the privately owned media that places faith in this ideologue. It's also important government agencies like the FCC, which had Milyo do a report on media cross-ownership. A Republican operative with close ties to the Bush regime also commissioned Milyo to do a report to "prove" that restrictive new ID laws designed to disfranchise voters have no adverse effects (which is untrue).

What's worse is that the University of Missouri - a taxpayer-funded school - puts out press releases touting Milyo's "findings" as if they are incontrovertible truths (even though they can be debunked by any unbiased researcher).

Another Milyo meme is his absurd claim that any media coverage of the Iraq War is a Democratic issue, even if they only interview a Republican. Apparently it's because the issue hurts the GOP so much. Because of this, if a news outlet covers the war extensively, the outlet gets chalked up as having a liberal bias.

Milyo is a man with an agenda who still manages to get taken seriously. Want to read more detail about his record of partisan hackery? Find it here:

Let freedom reign!

The Bush-installed military command in Baghdad has opted to impose a rigid curfew on the city. From today until Sunday, 24/7, nobody - no man, woman, or child - is allowed outside. At all. No cars, no pedestrians, no bikes, no nothing. Morning, noon, and night.

"But they're freeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" say the Freepers.

The curfew is so heavy-handed that it's already sparked public demonstrations all over the city from Iraqis of all backgrounds. And I guarantee you it won't stop violence - because measures like this never do, and haven't so far in this war. If some militant is up to something, who the hell seriously thinks they'll obey a curfew? To make a long story short, the curfew has already made Baghdad less safe.

This curfew must be part of that "Let freedom reign!" stuff. Yep, that freedom sure seems to be reigning, huh? Not only that, but when Bush scrawled those words on that My Little Pony Post-It note, he got the phrase wrong. It's supposed to be "ring", not "reign", George, you idiot.

The "freedom" Bush was referring to was his own so-called "freedom" to illegally invade and occupy another country, install leaders of his choice, and issue "binding instructions or directives" like this curfew that just pad the coffers of his cronies who have a vested interest in enforcing it.

Corruption stinks.


Florida faces voucher amendment

Vouchers for private schools are one of these right-wing think tank ideas that most of the public is never fooled by, but keeps being pushed more and more. (Kind of like UnfairTax.) The scheme melds together the primary components of totalitarian conservatism: social engineering (which includes violating church-state separation) and shattering public services (even when private organizations fail to offer a superior product). Florida has been a center of this fight, as the Sunshine State adopted what was probably the most overbound voucher program in America.

Thankfully, Florida's constitution has a clause specifically barring the state from using taxpayer money to aid sectarian institutions. So in 2004, a state court declared vouchers unconstitutional under that provision. It should have also been declared unconstitutional under the federal Constitution's protection of separation of religion and state, but the U.S. Supreme Court had nearly vacated that longstanding concept by favoring vouchers in an outrageous 2002 ruling.

But the stink tanks can't be wrong, can they? (See what I mean about them pushing rejected ideas?) Now Florida's omnipotent tax reform commission wants to gut the state constitution's safeguard against taxpayer funds going to religious schools. They've put a measure on the ballot that - if approved by voters - would repeal that clause and replace it with the words, "Individuals or entities may not be barred from participating in public programs because of their religion."

On its face, these words sound good, but the problem is how the new clause would be used - and the fact that it replaces a clause that already protects religious freedom. The new clause is designed to sound good - even though it isn't. It's conservative spin. "Because of their religion" is actually meant to be taken as "if they sponsor religion." They make it sound as if the purpose of the change is to treat all religions equally, when really it's to force unwilling taxpayers to fund religion. It's a slippery slope too: Any religious organization might demand public funding if this passes, so church-state separation may erode much further than expected.

Think public schools are bad? Private schools are worse. The Last Word of 8/16/07 described the failures of vouchers in detail. Vouchers are not the panacea conservatives claim: The article exposes how vouchers actually hurt the poor and are in effect a handout to private schools, for many schools just raise tuition by the amount of the voucher. Vouchers (which have the least amount of public support in poor areas) use the poor almost as servants in the culture war.

As another example of Florida's tax reform commission's extremism, it also wrote a ballot measure that would replace property taxes with a sales tax increase (in a state that already has one of the higher sales taxes). Why should we believe them when they claim vouchers help the poor, when they support shifting more of the tax burden to the poor?

If I had to write an amendment to the federal Constitution, I think one specifically outlawing taxpayer aid to religious schools would be my second choice (right behind my amendment to annul corporate personhood). While it should be covered under the existing establishment clause, too many activist courts and stink tank militants who dominate state committees think otherwise.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

TB patient slapped with felony charges

This is yet another story that shows the authorities making one stupid mistake after another and accomplishing nothing.

In 2006, county authorities in Phoenix, Arizona, jailed a man named Robert Daniels without any charges or trial. The reason? He had tuberculosis and failed to wear a mask in public to avoid spreading it. Instead of making sure he got treatment, they put him in jail.

Really? Further, if you ever see a person wearing a mask, it's a person with a weakened immune system trying to avoid picking up illnesses, not to keep from spreading them. You don't see very many people walking around downtown Cincinnati wearing masks to avoid spreading infections to others.

What gets me about them going after Daniels is that the government is so worried about the actions of one man while ignoring entire institutions that are infected. They don't seem too concerned about the MRSA outbreak in Seattle that sickened 65 people, the mutated cold epidemic in Oregon that killed quite a few, or superbug pandemics in hospitals and daycare centers. They keep extending the school year, even though the American school system is a giant Petri dish. I shouldn't have had to worry about getting the flu once a month in high school just because nobody bothered to make sure the school was reasonably clean. (The flu is potentially fatal.)

The hypocrisy is mind-blowing.

If Daniels was endangering the public, it was only through lack of knowledge, not malice. "Nobody told me how TB works and stuff," he said. Daniels never claimed he had a "right" to spread TB. Trust me, he was less of a public health menace than my first high school was. I'd feel safer if he had come to my home and coughed all over the computer keyboard than if I had spent just a half-hour at my former school.

During his year of being jailed without charges, Robert Daniels received no amusements. The sheriff's department - led by Joe Arpaio, who was already known for his "tent city" jails where he feeds inmates spoiled lunchmeat and makes them watch Newt Gingrich speeches (seriously) - maliciously took away the TV, radio, and phone from Daniels's cell for no apparent reason. They also refused to allow him to take a shower.

In other words, they were treating him not as a patient but as a criminal. They were warehousing him. Is that how America treats TB patients?

Last year, Daniels underwent lung surgery, and doctors decided he was no longer contagious. But Arizona authorities continued harassing him. So he fled to Russia, where he'd have more freedom. Daniels specifically cited harassment by Arpaio as a reason for fleeing.

Arpaio then announced he was going to have Daniels arrested for reckless endangerment, even though his tuberculosis no longer posed a threat to others. The dour lawman cried that Daniels was under a court order not to leave the U.S. If he's such a threat, why do they want him in the U.S.?

Now Robert Daniels has been indicted on felony charges of unlawful introduction of a disease, even though prosecutors admit there's no evidence he actually exposed anyone to TB. Meanwhile, he's lived in Russia ever since fleeing Joe Arpaio's fiefdom.

If they try extraditing Daniels back to Arizona, I hope Russia tells Arpaio to shove the extradition warrant up his ass. If Kentucky has a law covering unlawfully introducing diseases, I'd also like to see my old high school indicted.


Washington state prohibits school drug tests

In what's otherwise an accurate article, the Seattle Times is wrong about one thing: The U.S. Constitution does not allow suspicionless drug tests of student athletes. Folks may think it does, because the U.S. Supreme Court mistakenly allowed them. But the Fourth Amendment is very clear about warrantless searches.

While the Supremes' roguish ruling seemed to give states and school systems the green light for drug tests, the state of Washington balks at this fascism. In a case that's dragged on since 1999, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously declared this month that random drug tests of student athletes violates the state constitution.

I'm glad that issue has finally been laid to rest, at least in Washington. Or maybe not, because I'm sure some activist right-wing legislator is thinking of ways to circumvent the ruling.

I guess the states have to shore up the Fourth Amendment after the federal high court gutted that safeguard. In the '90s when the U.S. Supreme Court first approved drug tests, right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia admitted he and other conservative justices were basing the decision on the "role model effect", not on constitutional law. In other words, he was making up the law as he was going along, in order to find an excuse to allow the drug tests. The court in Washington state, however, ruled that the state constitution doesn't allow exceptions like the "role model effect" that might be allowed by federal courts.

The Evergreen State's court also warned that if they had allowed the drug tests, it might have opened the door for testing not just athletes but all students. And I doubt any American court would allow that. (But in BushAmerica, who knows?)

Random drug tests of athletes are ineffective. The ACLU of Washington said the tests fail to stop drug use.

If only other states would have the gumption to smarten up the way Washington state has.


The stupidest song parody ever?

Ladies and gents, I think I just found the most positively idiotic song parody that's ever been recorded!

It's sung by a guy named David Thibodeaux, and it's an answer song to the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready To Make Nice." Thibodaux's lyrics are a diatribe against the Dixies' dissent from the Bush order. Thibodaux tries unconvincingly to portray the Dixie Chicks' antiwar stance as some sort of sinister, unpatriotic plot and gloats over the treatment that was visited on the band for their views.

Apparently Thibodeaux doesn't even understand the message of the Dixie Chicks' Grammy-winning song he mocked. That song was about the blacklisting and threats against the band. It wasn't about the Iraq War itself.

On his websites, Thibodaux declares, "I decided to record 'Not Ready To End The Fight' to make a point, criticize, comment and answer the Dixie Chicks song and all the other Hollywood stars that constantly overestimate my interest in their personal politics and their level of competence in foreign policy and about how our Country should be run and how they imply they know what is better for this Country than our elected officials." So he's saying the Dixie Chicks (who are Americans) shouldn't have a voice in deciding how the country is run? Not real democratic of you, David. It's clear the Dixies have more foreign policy competence than Bush does.

Thibodaux's sanctimonious plen-T-plaint is gnawing in the beginning and quickly becomes almost unlistenable:

Nobody's saying David Thibodeaux doesn't have a right to sing and record such nonsense. He is an active duty Marine, which is better than what I can say about chickenhawks like Saxby Chambliss when they attack everyone else's patriotism. But it's also our right to ridicule Thibodeaux for his inability to get over a controversy from 5 years ago.

Fans of Thibodeaux's parody are trying to encourage radio stations to play it - making it the "Dawn Of Correction" of the 21st century. But Tantrum 95.7 wouldn't have added this one!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bush's war

Anybody else happen to catch the aptly named 'Bush's War' on PBS? Anyone? The show was fairly educational, especially for those who aren't as clued in to the story behind the lies that led up to the war and the disastrous results of the conflict.

I was waiting for the Bush cultists at Free Republic to throw their mandatory shitfit about it, and I see now that they have. Now I wonder how many more minutes it will be before they demand defunding the ol' Big Bird network because it aired a program that wasn't to their liking.

According to the all-powerful Wikipedia, viewers of American network news have been 6 times as likely to see a pro-war source as an antiwar one. So if anyone is biased, it's the rest of the media. Maybe the rest of the media should be the ones to be defunded. Congress can accomplish this by repealing the '96 telcom law, which was in fact a subsidy to the corporate media.

Activist court overturns air passenger rights law

Looks like we've got some more right-wing activist judges for the impeachment block.

The state of New York had a new law that protected the rights of airline passengers. Under this bold new law - the first of its kind in America - airlines were required to provide food, water, clean johnnypots, and fresh air to passengers stranded in the many planes delayed on the ground.

But the right-wing Air Transport Association of America, which represents major airlines, sued over this law. Instead of obeying the law, it was easier to sue, I guess. And why not, because in BushAmerica, courts can usually be counted on to do Coprorate (sic) America's bidding. True to form, a federal court dutifully complied with the ATAA's shrill cries: Today the 2nd U.S. Circus (sic) Court of Appeals overturned New York's law, saying it interfered with federal law.

You're backwards, asshats. Federal law is illegally interfering with state law. In our constitutional system, the states have dibs when the states have stronger consumer protection laws.

The court says only the federal government has the authority to regulate air travel. Wrong. The states have the constitutional authority to enact tougher regulations. In fact, they have a duty, because the federal government has intentionally neglected its own duty.

New York really wasn't even regulating air transport. Sitting in a plane on the runway isn't air transport, because for it to be transport, it has to be moving.

What's the point in even dividing the country into states if an overbearing federal government can just annul everything the states do?

By legislating from the bench, the unelected court has chosen to fight the people, and has sin in its heart. Congress must step in and regulate the airlines or pass a law restoring the states' power to do so. And it must initiate impeachment proceedings against the judges who made the nefarious choice to side against the people.

New York has a duty to ignore the court's rogue decision. The ruling was not based on constitutional law or the principles of a federal republic but on hokey corporate-centered activism, so it is not truly legally binding. If the Bush regime tries to enforce the court's will, it won't exactly win over the hearts and minds of the people. America is supposed to be a union of states based on the people-powered rule of law, not a one-party empire that makes up the law as it goes along.

The state might not have been prodded to pass a law outlining passenger rights if not for the airlines' refusal to do anything about the delayed flights. Maybe the airlines should clean up their own front yard instead of crying like big babies when state legislators have to do it for them.

If I was stranded on the runway for 3 hours with no toilet, I guess I'd have to turn the seat into a toilet.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Hey! Check out this antiwar protester!

You gotta see this! The guy in this clip must be one of these craaaaazy antiwar folks (like me) the Freepers are always complaining about:

Are the Freepers gonna try to pick public fights with their hero Sure Shot Cheney now?

Give a hoot! Tear your rotator cuff!

I don't know if I'll be able to post as many entries here over the next few days, because (in addition to each day being a slow news day lately) last night I tore my right rotator cuff. When I was going to bed, the mattress slid off the bed frame, and I broke my fall with my arm.

So read my lips: No right rotator cuff!

It's just been hurting more as the day has gone on, with no respite in sight. ('Respite' is a funny word, isn't it? That's because I used to think it was pronounced "ree-spite", but actually it's "ress-pit." Ain't language arts fun?) It's as swollen as can be. It burns me up inside. I can barely move my arm now.

This is especially vexing because the Easter Bunny finally brang me the gumption to get to work on moving my computer and stereo around, a project that's loomed for over a year. And now I can't do it because of my rotator cuff. But I guess that's just how the poo-poo plops.

Insurer denies teen cancer patient life-saving treatment

This greed again?

We all remember a few months ago when a teenage girl in California died because her insurer wouldn't approve her cancer treatment until it was too late. Something that sounds dangerously similar to that scandal is happening now, only this time it's a 17-year-old boy with bone cancer.

PacifiCare is denying the teenager treatment that he needs to live. PacifiCare has been owned since 2005 by insurance giant UnitedHealth - the same UnitedHealth that was recently rated the worst health insurance company in America. Even hospital execs gave UnitedHealth a 91% unfavorable rating. UnitedHealth's PacifiCare division was also fined a record $3,500,000 by California regulators for incompetence such as repeatedly losing patients' claims.

I know what the excuses are going to be from the corporate-centered "regulation for thee, not for me" cult for the latest scandal. They'll blame the doctors or the hospital or the patient or anybody except the insurer. According to the cult, insurers are never wrong. But America's health care system - like probably no other in the world - revolves around the insurance racket's desire for profits. Physicians and hospitals are in effect being forced to work for insurers, not patients. It's probably the only system where insurers, not doctors, are entrusted with approving treatments.

America's corporate-driven health care system is the same system that seems to spread a new superbug every week through medical facilities, lies about poisons in vaccines and drugs, and consistently blames the public for health trends that were actually caused by Corporate America's greed.

If it's this bad for someone with insurance, think what it's like for the growing millions of Americans who can't even afford insurance. This also shows why insurance companies can't be a part of health care reform.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ohio sees record food stamp use

If you live in a sheltered suburban bailiwick at the other end of the country, you might not be familiar with what goes on in the states in my neck of the woods. So let me clue you in on this fact-filled story about how the ravages of Bushism have affected Ohio.

A record number of Ohioans - some 1,100,000 people - now have to live on food stamps. This accounts for 10% of the state's population. The food stamp caseload has nearly doubled since 2001.

All this after the government made it much harder to get food stamps - so you know the situation is even worse than this makes it appear. And food stamps don't even go as far as they used to.

The unemployment rate in Ohio also soared from 4.4% to 5.3% just since 2001. If only they'd compile separate statistics for underemployment, we'd really see a bleak story.

Officials blame low wages, the bad economy, the destruction of manufacturing jobs, and rising costs of fuel and food for the food stamp caseload increase.

The GOP/DLC oligopoly talked about "ending welfare as we know it", but they never uttered a peep about "ending poverty as we know it." This is the result.


Bill would let homeless keep belongings

There's a bill pending in the Minnesota legislature that its sponsor aptly calls the "let-people-get-their-stuff bill." The bill stems from the epidemic of homelessness that's swept America, and it's long overdue.

If it becomes law, the proposal will let homeless people retrieve belongings from their cars that have been impounded, even if they don't have the money to get the car back.

Well, gee. I can't believe this isn't already the law. If your car gets impounded, I didn't think it meant your possessions that were in the car got impounded too. Morally speaking, it's a form of theft for the impound lot to take your belongings that are in the car. (Depending on the circumstances, impounding the car itself might be too. These days, the government impounds cars at the drop of a hat, without even bothering with any semblance of due process.)

Surprisingly, however, current law in Minnesota lets impound lots auction off cars that still contain owners' possessions. Homeless people have lost valuable belongings (including family photos) because of this legalized theft, for corrupt impound lots flatly refused to return the items, even when asked.

The "let-people-get-their-stuff bill" that would remedy this pilfering has been in the works for a few years, but a few towing companies actually opposed it because they were afraid they'd lose leverage over homeless people if they were able to get their possessions back.

I don't know if the "let-people-get-their-stuff bill" has passed yet, but it ought to damn well pass with not a single opponent. What sort of legislator would oppose something like this? A conservative one, perhaps, but that's about it. It's heartless for a lawmaker to oppose this bill, and for a towing company to oppose it for fear of losing leverage would be downright greedy.

Meanwhile, poverty and homelessness are still rising as the government fails to stem to foreclosure crisis, the recession worsens, and the draconian "soak-the-poor" policies of the Contract With America remain on the books.


Hannity denies Hal Turner friendship; Turner says otherwise

I'm pretty sure Hal Turner - a former GOP congressional candidate in New Jersey and right-wing talk radio fixture - got a Conservative Fool Of The Day entry when he threatened to assassinate members of Congress who didn't vote his way. Turner has been pretty much disgraced thanks to his own displays of racism and other asshattery.

Sean Hannity - another disgraced right-wing clod - denied just the other night on Fox News Channel that he even knows Turner. But now Turner says he's been a friend of Hannity for years.

So obviously one of these conservative fartpipes is lying. A writer on Daily Kos speculates that it's Hannity, which wouldn't surprise me. Hannity is dishonest enough to collude with Ollie North in his phony charity scam that rips off military families. And he's bigoted enough to think Mark Fuhrman should be viewed as a credible source on law enforcement matters. Then again, Hal Turner lying wouldn't be a surprise either - because lie is what right-wing goofs do best.

Turner's a complete nutter, as his support of congressional assassinations shows. But he said on his website, "I was quite disappointed when Sean Hannity at first tried to say he didn't know me and then went on to say that I ran some senate campaign in New Jersey. In fact, Sean Hannity does know me and we were quite friendly a number of years ago." Turner says Hannity even gave him a secret phone number for WABC radio so his calls to his talk show would always get through.

I can believe that. When Turner called Hannity's show and made statements that were truly vile and racist, Hannity agreed with these remarks wholeheartedly.

Turner's atrocious Internet missive claims Hannity does indeed share his bigoted views. But Turner goes on to say that the real difference between himself and Hannity is "that I am perfectly willing to use force and violence against my enemies while Sean Hannity and others are not."

You're a loon, Hal.

Hal Turner's claims to be "the voice of the common man" thump false. Anyone who sees his mess of a website can see he's a demagogue and a charlatan. I've worked hard my whole adult life, and Turner doesn't speak for this common man.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

My experience with the conservative War on Easter

We already knew conservatives had a War on Halloween, but did you know they've long had a War on Easter too?

It goes back at least to 1984 when I was in 5th grade. I attended a public elementary school at the time. My teacher was a stern disciplinarian and an old-fashioned type.

One day around Easter, she instructed us to make drawings about the holiday. I know it doesn't sound like a real mind-builder considering this was otherwise a fairly hard class, but it's a world of contradictions out there. But the teacher told the class something to the effect of, "Your drawing better have something to do with Easter's real meaning. I don't want to see bunnies and eggs. Unless your drawing is about what Easter's really about, you're not allowed doing this assignment." (Ooh, an Allowed Cloud!)

I still planned on drawing...bunnies and eggs! It wasn't to make a statement or to express disregard for religion. It was simply because that's what I felt like drawing.

My desk was right next to the teacher's desk, and I reached over and grabbed a sheet of drawing paper from her desk. When the instructor saw me starting this assignment, she reiterated her warning about "Easter's real meaning."

So I promptly placed the sheet of paper back on her desk. I'm sure she was less than pleased at that, but again, I wasn't trying to make a statement with this action either.

I'm in a hurry to get 3 entries posted on this blog today, so I can't go into too much detail about this, but in any event, this was a public school. Was it really proper for a public school teacher to lecture students about what she considered "Easter's real meaning"? Now that I'm older, I read more about the origins of holidays and their traditions, and Easter means different things to different people. To tell kids they can't draw eggs and bunnies for Easter could be just as offensive to them as their choice of drawing would have been to my 5th grade instructor.

Would I call my teacher's actions a War on Easter? On its own, no. But it was part of a pattern that now is. And this war is offensive to me.

Seattle jail has superbug pandemic

Has the United States been reclassified as a Third World country yet?

In a period of only 5 months, the King County Jail in Seattle had a staggering 65 inmates with MRSA, a drug-resistant bacterial illness. While health officials aren't sure whether the detainees caught the potentially fatal superbug in jail, something tells me they didn't have MRSA until after they were booked, because MRSA is already spreading in institutional settings all over America. (A Justice Department report had already blasted the jail for its unsanitary conditions.)

MRSA was virtually unknown in America in the 1970s. Just since 1999, the rate of MRSA infections in American hospitals has doubled. (Gee, I wonder why?) More than 1 in 22 hospital patients is known to be infected. The rate of MRSA deaths in America is twice as high as it is in Britain, which has more effective measures for detecting and reporting MRSA.

I'm amazed that in America in 2008 this is even an issue. It reminds me of history textbooks talking about the Continental Congress having to move their sessions because of epidemics. Who'd have ever thought we'd see something like this in this decade? It doesn't exactly make me feel safer in case I ever have to go to the hospital (or jail).


Public schools give credit for religious class

It boggles the mind, it does.

Why would public schools in a country that purportedly has separation of church and state give students credit for off-campus Bible classes? In South Carolina, they do just that under a law that just passed in 2006.

I'm not saying if the Bible class itself is good or bad, because I'm not in a position to judge this. I am saying the state's policy that allows public schools to give students credit for it, as if it's one of their elective classes, is likely unconstitutional. (I know I'm going to get attacked by the Pat Robertson types for saying so, but I get assailed by them daily anyway, so I'm used to it.)

At best, this policy treads a dangerously thin line where government sponsorship of religion is concerned. Off-campus Bible class is legal - but public schools awarding credit for it probably is not. The Supreme Court has held that programs like this are legal, but only if they're not taxpayer-sponsored.

Another question: Are the released-time Bible education committees that South Carolina school districts have hired by the district, or are they funded privately? If it's the former, that clearly is an unconstitutional breach of church-state separation.

I know there are some individuals who hide behind religion to cloak their misdeeds, so when it looks like the government might be sponsoring religion, I get a little wary.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Lawmaker shunned for voting to loosen pot penalty

You'd think the fuckheaded McCarthyism that accompanies the disastrous War on Drugs would get old after 25 years, but it's one thing that always seems to just get worse.

Recently, the New Hampshire House took up a bill to greatly loosen penalties for possession of small quantities of marijuana, reducing the punishment from a $2,000 fine and jail time to just a $200 fine. The bill passed the House. One of the legislators who voted in favor of the bill is Rep. David Scannell, a Democrat from Manchester. Scannell is also the spokesman for the Manchester school system.

But now right-wing Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta is demanding Scannell resign his school system post solely because of his vote on pot. Guinta cried that only Scannell's resignation can "help restore the integrity" of the school system's anti-drug paranoia. The mayor sniffed that Scannell "interacts with kids on a daily basis" and that his vote "is counter to logic, in my view."

Reminds you of the "Think of the children!" rally from the 'Simpsons' episode where Springfield instituted prohibition, doesn't it?

So Guinta is saying someone can't work for the school system just because they voted to loosen marijuana penalties that were too stiff?

Scannell won't budge. He says that if the intolerant mayor tries to remove him as school spokesman, he may sue.

Avidly DLC Gov. John Lynch is being as much of a crybaby as Frank Guinta is, by threatening to veto the bill. I guess John Lynch enjoys it when people continue to find their futures ruined for being caught with 3 grams of pot.

And yes, the scolding Freeper-like posts calling the bill's backers "potheads" and supporting the mayor's retaliatory efforts to fire Scannell from the school system have already appeared in the comment section of the New Hampshire paper that reported the story.


Patriot Act used for political purposes

Did you know New York's former Gov. Eliot Spitzer never would have been caught hiring a prostitute if not for the Patriot Act?

Newsweek reports that this is because the Idiot Act gives the Treasury Department almost limitless authority to require banks to look for and report certain types of transactions. Banks face tough penalties for noncompliance. So the banks began setting up powerful software to sift through transactions to rat out in "suspicious activity reports." The data is then stored on an IRS computer that can be accessed by law enforcement all over the country.

I'd like to see the warrant for this, don't you? These are in effect government searches involving transactions you expect to be private, so the Constitution says a warrant and reasonable suspicion are needed. The Patriot Act is a statute that has only been in force for 6 years, and the Constitution reigns supreme over statutes from any era.

Let's clear the air once and for all: The Idiot Act wasn't written for the purpose of fighting terrorism. If it was, why wasn't it around years ago? It was written to allow common government harassment.

A factor that the banks and the Treasury Department use to determine who to rat out is whether the customer is a "politically exposed person." This list now reportedly includes American public officials who the government deems to be "troublesome."

Eliot Spitzer made enemies. His consumer protection efforts didn't sit well with Corporate America. When he was New York Attorney General, greedy corporate groups ranked Spitzer in the top 3 most aggravating in the whole country. If there's any American politician who the government wanted to keep a close eye on just for political reasons, Spitzer had to be near the top of the list, because he had been mentioned as a possible national political candidate and was more effective at fighting corporate greed than most other potential national contenders.

So the fix was in. This ought to silence Bush's Movementarians who keep defending the Patriot Act as a tool to fight terrorism. I don't think the Patriot Act has ever caught a terrorist or prevented a terrorist act. But it has caught politicians hiring prostitutes. Wow, color me impressed.

Politicians who don't run afoul of the Bushist order simply aren't caught. I bet there's more than one current Republican member of Congress who at this very moment is doing the exact same thing Spitzer did. I'd wager my entire life savings on it. But they'll never be caught, because they're not a "politically exposed person", so the Treasury Department isn't watching them.

Unintended consequences, my ass. The government intended all along to catch someone like Spitzer in a scandal like this. I also don't think it was something Spitzer should have resigned over, especially because "Diaper Dave" Vitter didn't resign (even though Vitter's party is more sanctimonious about telling everyone else how to live).

Time is running out for the 110th Congress to follow through on the voters' mandate to repeal the Idiot Act.


Moonlight...Feels wrong...

Am I the only person who, whenever Starbucks (the coffee shop) is mentioned, they think of Starbuck (the band)? Or is it just '70s enthusiasts like me? (The band, incidentally, has nothing to do with the coffee shop.)

Maybe moonlight feels right (as the band's biggest hit song declared), but what the coffee shop has been doing to its counter servers sure doesn't. The coffee chain has been taking baristas' tips away and redistributing the money to the managers. In other words, Starbucks has been stealing from the baristas and giving the money to their bosses.

I can understand managers needing to be paid just like the counter servers. But Starbucks should be paying managers from its own deep pockets instead of looting the servers to pay them (especially since servers are paid less anyway).

Now a judge in California has ordered the coffee chain to pay baristas throughout the state $106,000,000 in tips that were stolen from them - citing a state law that prohibits supervisors from being paid from employees' tips.

Weird. I thought that was a federal law, not just a state law. I remember in the '80s how there was a restaurant in my area that was stealing servers' tips, and I was told that was illegal everywhere in America. Or is this yet another law the Bush regime decided to abandon?

What does Starbucks say about the judge's order? A company spokeswoman says having to pay back the baristas is "fundamentally unfair and beyond all common sense and reason." Seriously, she said that. (Someone pining for a Conservative Fool Of The Day entry?)

Starbucks is planning to appeal - despite the fact that California law clearly states that they can't take employees' tips.

I guarantee you that if I worked at the counter at a coffee shop and my tips were being taken away, there would have been a lawsuit against the shop long ago.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Study proves cameras don't deter crime

This story ought to just kablammo the smug smirks clean off the faces of the apologists for the rise of the police state. (Not like anything ever does, because they never admit they're wrong about anything.)

A new study by UC Berkeley proves street cameras in San Francisco do not reduce violent crime. This confirms what city officials already expected, and what everyone else predicted years ago. In fact, crime actually went up in the areas that are 250 to 500 feet from the cameras.

The whole program never was about fighting crime (lies to the contrary notwithstanding). It was simply about keeping tabs on the innocent. The cameras that are seen in that and other cities are simply another tool to combat "the enemy" - which means whoever the ruling regime says it means. Which really means you - or me.

This is why you or I get hassled for looking at a soda machine cockeyed or getting within 20 feet of the railing at the library - while real criminals go free. We are considered "the enemy" just because we're not part of the system. So the ruling regime watches us. That's why we now we have to deal with issues like RFID chips and Real ID.


U.S. tries imposing copyright laws on Israel

It's stories like this that almost make you lapse into suspension of disbelief mode. This is another of those utterly mind-boggling examples of public policies getting more extreme and corporate-driven than anyone would have ever thought possible.

The Bush regime is trying to use its uncontested omnipotence to force Israel to make its copyright laws more unfriendly to consumers. The United States - under the illegal DMCA - now has some of the most labyrinthine and rigid copyright laws in the world, stifling art and science to a degree that was never intended when the concept of copyright was created. But this makes the U.S. and A. one of few countries that pleases the angry diktats of the International Intellectual Property Alliance, an organization representing American entertainment corporations. The IIPA works with the United States Trade Representative, a presidential appointment. (How's that for government doing Corporate America's bidding?)

Recently the IIPA submitted a report to the U.S. Trade Representative blasting Canada for not "modernizing" its copyright law to meet the WIPO treaties. When the IIPA talks about "modernizing" something, they mean: pre-Newt, bad; post-Newt, good. In the IIPA's world, copyright laws as they existed only a decade ago are to be flushed down the memory hole. The IIPA expects the U.S. to be the worldwide enforcer of rogue laws like the DMCA, even though the DMCA is only a U.S. law.

Israel is the target of similar IIPA whining. Naturally, the U.S. Trade Representative's office has been pleading and begging with Israel to change its laws to conform to American laws - or else. The U.S. wants Israel to ban technology that helps folks circumvent questionable digital "rights" management methods, and implement other draconian measures like those found in the DMCA. The Bush regime's excuse is that Israel needs to do this to comply with the WIPO agreements.

But Israel won't budge. For one thing, Israel is not a signatory to the miserable WIPO treaties that discuss digital "rights" management. For another, Israel already made its copyright laws much more stringent just last year - but just not to the degree the IIPA wants.

Under current Israeli law, copyright holders may notify ISP's if infringing material is on their servers, and customers receive 3 days to respond the charge. But under America's DMCA, a copyright holder can get material taken down just at the snap of a finger, with almost no chance for appeal. The IIPA is specifically demanding Israel implement a law like this provision of the DMCA. Israel, however, points out that it has no obligation to pass such a law. So tough shit, IIPA.

Forcing other countries to comply with an illegal U.S. copyright law has become a priority of the U.S. government?

If America would repeal the decade-old DMCA, that might put the IIPA in its place. By working so closely with the U.S. Trade Representative to make demands that hurt consumers, the IIPA already represents too much of a melding of government and business.


Kentuckians disapprove of Bush

Gee, ya think?

A brand spankin' new SurveyUSA poll shows Bush with a mere 35% approval rating in Kentucky.

Is it really that high? Granted, this is SurveyUSA, so you know Bush is far less popular than that. I'd be surprised if Kentuckians want more of the same with Mr. Hundred Years' War, but we'll worry about that after the conventions.

Now let's sit back and watch the revisionists claim we made up the poll, even though this entry includes a link to it.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Comcast tries calling FCC's bluff

Comcast is like the Wal-Mart of the cable and Internet industry in that it thinks no government agency has the right or the power to impose reasonable regulations. Now the anticompetitive Comcast greed merchants actually have the gall to challenge the FCC outright.

FCC rules are clear: ISP's can't block peer-to-peer traffic. They're not allowed. That's an Allowed Cloud! (But it's a good Allowed Cloud.) Period. End of discussion.

But now Comcast vice-president David Cohen says the FCC lacks the authority to have these rules. What's that again??? Cohen tells the FCC that it has no legal authority to stop Comcast from blocking 'Net traffic. Cohen wrote, "The congressional policy and agency practice of relying on the marketplace instead of regulation to maximize consumer welfare has been proven by experience (including the Comcast customer experience) to be enormously successful."

You're hilarious, David!

The trend towards unregulated market-centered policies has been a failure. Contrast the quality of radio and TV today versus that of 30 years ago. This one's just not even close.

Cohen provided a series of points on which he challenges the FCC, but none of them hold up under any real legal theory. He says the government hasn't authorized the FCC to tell ISP's they can't block peer-to-peer traffic. Actually it has. Cohen also misinterprets a 1946 law that has absolutely nothing to do with the FCC regulating ISP's.

So Comcast is just going to defy the FCC outright and provoke a legal battle challenging the FCC's whole reason for being? It looks like that's what they're about to do. All this just so Comcast can dictate what sort of files customers are allowed to download.

What's the purpose of the FCC if it can't regulate rogue policies of ISP's and other communications firms? Is it to raid 1-watt unlicensed stations for playing "Eat The Poop"?

Just to make sure the FCC isn't on too shaky ground (in case some right-wing activist judge lets Comcast have its way), I'd like to see the states pass their own laws barring ISP's from blocking traffic.


Everybody's gone Survey...SurveyUSA...

Assuming SurveyUSA is responsible for this obvious error and that it's not just a media misprint, I want to know what they've been smoking at SurveyUSA. It must be some powerful shit!

I saw a SurveyUSA poll this morning that claims - in both Kentucky and Ohio - that in a general election match-up against John McCain, Hillary Clinton would actually do much better than Barack Obama in both states.

Ohio and Kentucky must be very, very special states then, because (with the exception of Hillary's old stamping grounds of Arkansas) all the polls I've seen show Obama being a much better candidate than Clinton in every other state. In fact, I saw a survey from a different source just a few weeks ago that showed Obama winning Kentucky against McCain, while McCain would have beaten Clinton.

Keep in mind these aren't polls for DLC-dominated primaries (which I'd expect Clinton to win), but for the general election that includes a lot of independents (who like Obama). The problem isn't that they show McCain doing so well but that they show Clinton as a much stronger opponent than Obama. I don't believe that for one second.

Everyone knows Obama would do much better than Clinton (nationally and locally) in November. I don't think there's much dispute about that (except from the DLC Flat Earthers). Working-class populists we meet each day clearly prefer Obama and are wondering why Clinton even stays in the contest. I strongly suspect my local news website (which is the only place I've seen SurveyUSA's latest poll mentioned) accidentally (?) switched the numbers around. If not, there's got to be something in the water over at SurveyUSA.

I consider SurveyUSA a Republican polling firm. A few days before the Kentucky gubernatorial election in 2003, SurveyUSA put out a press release claiming Republican Ernie "Hey Bert" Fletcher had already won the election. I firmly believe that this - along with the media's choice to call the election for Fletcher on election night before polls in the Central Time Zone had closed - swayed the so-called election.

It's a given that there'll be serious vote suppression in November - note the double standard governing "vote hauling" - but if people are naive enough to hop on the bandwagon of a poll that may have been misreported anyway, the GOP might not have to work very hard to rig it this time.

Cyclist ordered to take drug test during son's funeral arrangements

How out of control does the failed War on Drugs have to get?

Belgian professional cyclist Kevin van Impe was at a crematorium recently to make funeral arrangements for his son, who had died shortly after birth. While he was there, an employee of cycling's governing body barged in and ordered van Impe to take a urine test. (During the drug tests administered in professional cycling, they actually watch you urinate so you don't cheat.)

The tester threatened to ban van Impe from the sport for 2 years if he refused to take the drug test right there at the crematorium. It's bad enough that the intruder refused to wait a few weeks before hounding van Impe, but to actually demand a urine sample at the crematorium is beyond outrageous.

Apparently the tester wasn't interested in testing for drugs that athletes might abuse to boost performance but rather testing for drugs on the basis of the substances being illegal. Even though the incident happened in Belgium, this was clearly influenced by the McCarthyist bunker politics that Americans have suffered under for years. It's a bit like the "dry druggie" concept, in which people who aren't even using drugs are assailed as if they are.

Much of the sport of cycling has shown solidarity with van Impe. Other cyclists protested the discourteous treatment van Impe received, which forced a delay of the Paris-Nice race.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

DeMint's Holy War against Berkeley fails

Right-wing Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) had a bill in Congress that would have cut off funding for the people of Berkeley, California, because of the city's antiwar views. The proposed law would have taken away funds for school lunches, police communications, and other services - all because of the city's politics.

This was an extension of a pattern that's run rampant since the mid-'90s: Since the Republicans seized Congress, and even after they lost Congress, they've tried abusing the congressional muscle to penalize local governments and institutions over politics. Most notably, a clearly unconstitutional law called the Solomon Amendment punishes colleges and universities in much the same manner DeMint tries to punish the city of Berkeley.

It's no different from what the Soviet Union did.

Now the Senate has rejected DeMint's bill. However, it's by an unnervingly close vote of only 57 to 41.

When his bill was rejected, DeMint went off half-cocked - again. He cried that he is "extremely disappointed that the U.S. Senate was not willing to stand up for our Marines when they do so much to stand up for us." Then why didn't you ever enlist, Jim?

I'm extremely disappointed Jim DeMint wasn't willing to stand up for letting America's brave fighting men and women have a chance to come home from the failed war. It's been obvious all along DeMint doesn't give a shit about America's troops, because he damn sure didn't do anything to stop the Bush regime from forcing injured soldiers to repay their signing bonuses.

Republican efforts to dictate politics nationwide don't end with the defeat of chickenhawk DeMint's bill. Now there's a bill in the California legislature that would withhold money from Berkeley's citizens.

Weren't the Republicans the ones who ran on "states' rights" in the '90s? Even if you don't agree with what Berkeley did, it's a local decision. It's not my decision, your decision, or our decision - but Berkeley's decision. DeMint's bill was a potential bulldozer for trampling local autonomy.


Margaret Spellings and Belinda Carlisle: separated at birth?

With Bush's right-wing Education Secretary Margaret Spellings threatening to visit Newport tomorrow, I thought I'd regale you with another hilarious celebrity look-alike comparison (like the Mike Huckabee/Gomer Pyle entry).

Spellings, as you may know, is one of the key people behind the No Child Left law that's ravaged America. Later, Spellings pressured PBS into not broadcasting a controversial 'Postcards From Buster' episode. (And to think there's still a few naive souls out there who still think America has no government censorship.)

Welp, several bloggers across the political spectrum have pointed out something rather amusing about Margaret Spellings. Namely, Spellings bears a striking resemblance to Go-Go's lead singer Belinda Carlisle!



Other photos of either individual might make the comparison even more obvious.

That would be so funny if one of the students or teachers at Fourth Street Elementary tomorrow yells out, "Do 'Our Lips Are Sealed'!"

GOP councilman resigns in sex abuse scandal

Let's play another game of "guess the party affiliation."

Dennis Gallagher has resigned his position as New York City Councilman. The Queens-based politician has pleaded guilty to 2 misdemeanors involving his drunken sexual abuse of a woman at his office.

Can you guess this slimeball's party affiliation? You can??? The sex abuse scandal gave it away, didn't it?

That's right, folks. He's a Republican - just like 99% of the politicians who have been caught in similar scandals in recent years.

What is it about the GOP that attracts so many creeps?


Monday, March 17, 2008

Conservafool refiles as Democrat

Former Utah State Rep. David Hogue asks, "Why, after 47 years as a Republican, am I filing as a Democrat in the state of Utah?" Because the Democrats have been taken over by the Vichy wing that accepts ultraconservative kooks, perhaps?

Now I'm really thankful for the Greens! You know the Democratic big tent has gotten too big when this right-wing maniac is welcomed so gushingly.

As a legislator, Hogue was so right-wing that he introduced a bill to make it a felony for a parent to supply their kids with a "violent" video game. This idea was even more extreme than other legislative efforts to censor games, because at least other bills wouldn't have made it a crime for parents to buy their kids a game. Hogue also blamed video games for Columbine.

He went on to cry about a game called Bully because in this game "you can get even with bullies."

Hogue's support of school harassment and video game censorship earned him a Conservative Fool Of The Day entry on the old blog.

But now the authoritarian fascist has changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic to run for his old seat. And the Democrats are welcoming him with open arms, despite his extremism.

I sure as shit hope the Greens have a candidate. I realize suburban Utah probably has about 3 Green voters total, but there has to be an alternative to what otherwise looks like a gag election.


Media: War? What war?

You may not know this, but for the past 5 years, the United States has been waging a war in Iraq - a war that's killed about 4,000 American military personnel and countless Iraqi civilians.

But if you look at the pop-up media lately, you'd be hard-pressed to find a word about it.

According to a Project for Excellence in Journalism survey, the Iraq War accounted for 23% of stories in the first 10 weeks of 2007. For the same period this year, it's accounted for only 3%. If you're only counting cable news, it's dropped from 24% to a mere 1%.

It's obviously not because the war got less deadly. In fact, casualties increased following the surge (lies by chickenhawks notwithstanding). (Casualties only decreased to what they were before the surge months later.) I think it's because - maybe, just maybe - 2007 was not an election year, while 2008 is?

Just a few months ago, voters cited the failing war as the most important issue. The war was never popular, and had become much less so, and the issue was hurting Republicans. It seems to be then that war items dropped almost completely from the nation's headlines.

It's undeniable that the media has actively tried to ensure a continuing Republican lock on the presidency. This is especially clear as the media glosses over John McCain's links to right-wing religious militants like Rev. Rod Parsley and Rev. John Hagee, while falsely claiming that Barack Obama supports controversial statements made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. (Obama has denounced Wright's comments - a fact that the right-wing media ignores.) With the war issue having such potential to damage the GOP, is it surprising the media barely covers it?

Of all the wars since the Revolutionary War, the Iraq conflict is now the second-longest in America's history - behind only Vietnam. The Iraq War has now gone on much longer than America's involvement in World War II. This is especially stinging because the Iraq War was begun over a lie. That's why every single death of an American soldier for the past 5 years should have been a front page story nationwide.

With the media taking the Iraq debacle off the radar screen, the faltering economy now tops the list of Americans' worries. Today, a stock market crash that was predicted by blogs across the political spectrum was averted. The media must be breathing a sigh of relief simply because it keeps attention off that issue too. (The bad economy should have been one of the top issues in the late '90s, but the media was playing up the economic boom hoax to help conservatives who dominated Congress.)


Connecticut files racketeering suit against Eli Lilly

How out of control are the makers of psychiatric drugs?

Eli Lilly & Company - whose top personnel have included prominent Republican politicians ranging from Mad Dog Bush to embattled Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels - is now the target of a RICO lawsuit filed by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Connecticut contends the company illegally marketed its antipsychotic drug Zyprexa for unapproved uses and hid the drug's side effects for over 10 years. The risks from Zyprexa that Lilly covered up include heart problems, diabetes, and even unnatural weight gain - yet the drug was being marketed even to children.

As part of this pattern of racketeering, the company bribed public officials and marketed Zyprexa for childhood depression, ADHD, and sleep disorders even though the drug was never approved for these conditions or for children. Many consumers are still suffering serious side effects. Blumenthal called it a "sick marketing mindset" and "fierce greed." In some states, public officials who received Lilly bribes promoted Zyprexa for unapproved uses in juvenile detention centers, psychiatric facilities, and nursing homes. Lilly also bribed doctors and pharmacies to promote Zyprexa.

An incriminating e-mail by current Lilly president John Lechleiter was unearthed in a lawsuit against the company filed by the state of Alaska on behalf of patients who developed diabetes while using Zyprexa. Lechleiter - who was then Lilly's executive vice-president for pharmaceutical products - encouraged promoting Zyprexa for unapproved uses. He told the Indianapolis-based drug giant to conjure up data on using the drug to treat "disruptive kids" just to boost its sales (despite the fact that Zyprexa wasn't approved for children). Promoting a drug for such off-label uses is a federal crime.

After the New York Times reported this smoking gun, Eli Lilly & Company then had the unmitigated nerve to deny the whole thing.

Are the programmies going to keep pretending psychiatric drugs aren't overprescribed and that the drug makers are perfect angels? Think of all the unethical activity drug companies commit but just aren't caught for. Anyone who'd still trust the pushers of psychiatric toxins after reading all this is a lost cause.