Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Drug case was actually 34 years ago

You know that minor drug case from 1975 that federal authorities are still obsessed with? It turns out I was wrong. The first press reports I saw said it was from 1975, but actually it was from 1974.

So they're making a 53-year-old woman serve another 19 years in prison for something that 1) happened 34 years ago; 2) wasn't a violent offense anyway; and 3) involved the woman only minimally. For a country with a multitrillion-dollar debt, the authorities sure know how to, well, make it a multiquadrillion-dollar debt.

Woman caught for drug offense from 33 years ago

Feel any safer? I sure as shit don't.

While hardened murderers go free, federal authorities have caught a woman who escaped from prison over 30 years ago while doing time for a drug offense she was only marginally involved in. After being convicted of the 1975 incident in Michigan, she was sentenced to 10 to 20 years - but busted out in 1976. Now she's been captured in California - and believe it or not, they're now making her serve the rest of her sentence.


First, the crime she was charged with was a frame-up by police to begin with. Further, her involvement in it was minimal: She just happened to be in the same car as a friend who was involved in a drug deal. Not only that, but others who were convicted of the same type of offense were getting only probation. The woman hasn't been in trouble at all in the 32 years since her escape.

What purpose does it serve to make someone serve another 9 to 19 years for minor involvement in a nonviolent offense from 1975? How much of 1975 can you even remember even if you were around? Think for a moment: 1975 was a damn long time ago! That was so long ago that at least one member of Congress wasn't even born until then.

America must not have any real crime at all if the Bush regime is worried about a minor drug incident from 33 years ago. What? It does? Then how about going after real criminals instead?

Given the circumstances, I don't see how any reasonable person could think it's a good idea to make the escaped woman serve the rest of her sentence. But I'm sure someone will come here babbling about how we must be soft-on-crime hippies and talking about "prima facie" like they did on the old blog when I criticized the anti-pseudoephedrine law. Wingnuts support the failed War on Drugs to medicate their appetite for vengeance (though it never cures it). Vengeance against what, I don't know, but it's vengeance against something.


Right-wing website pays folks to deny climate change

I've just learned a strange factoid: A right-wing website is paying people to deny climate change.

The site in question is WorldNetDaily. If you don't know WorldNetDaily, then, trust me, you probably don't want to. Let's just say, they're a little miswired over there. WND was founded by Joseph Farah, who had also helped start the right-wing Western Journalism Center, which itself was heavily funded by conservative foundations. This shows how well-financed the rightist noise machine is.

WND has just concluded a video and essay contest in which winners receive cash awards to deny global warming. Contrary to popular belief, the contest was for people 18 or older - but the point of it was to create anti-science propaganda disguised as "educational" materials for children. In addition to the cash prize, winners also receive copies of a discredited wingnut book to give to their local school library and science classroom.

And let me just say this too: The winning entries are as laughable as WND itself is. The incomprehensible, boring videos feature mumbling narrators and misleading graphs. Some of the data that zooms across the screen (in what appears to be a poor knockoff of the old 'Sesame Street' skits in which a letter flew through outer space) actually makes the opposite point that the contestants tried to make. This data doesn't do a thing to debunk climate change. (The goofy picture that accompanies this article is from one of the winning videos.)

Then again, WorldNutDaily is part of the same movement that thinks Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 and that the Answers in Genesis cult is science. When WND peddles its dogma to children, that raises a red flag. America already has one child who believes this anti-science propaganda - his name is George W. Bush - so WMD doesn't need to be brainwashing any more children.

I'm wondering who's bankrolling WND's contest. Oil companies have financed shit like this before.

Once science determines something is real, how can you debunk it? If climate change is just a theory, then so is the law of gravity. But they don't try to discredit the law of gravity, because there's no advantage for the corporate world or other control freaks to do so. Of course climate change exists, because the findings are based on hard statistics. When you see temperatures that are consistently higher or lower than before, you can't attribute it to someone pouring ketchup in thermometers.

The debate is over. Climate change is real.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Florida shuns Cuban med schools but won't clean up its own act

There's so much corruption in Florida's Republican machine that it's no laughing matter.

A couple weeks ago, the GOP-controlled Florida House passed a bill punishing doctors because they studied in Cuba. About 150 medical students from the U.S. are enrolled at a medical school in Havana after receiving scholarships to study there. But if the Florida bill becomes law, prospective doctors who receive their medical degree in Cuba won't be allowed to practice medicine in Florida. (Ooh, an Allowed Cloud!)

Is this even legal? When Massachusetts adopted a policy barring the state government from buying products from companies that did business with authoritarian regimes, global greed merchants stamped their little footsies until a federal court overturned this policy. So why should Florida be allowed to punish medical students based on the country where they study? Mind you, Florida's bill wouldn't restrict what a state government can do by enacting selective purchasing but would penalize prospective physicians who have a legitimate degree - which is a completely different matter.

Honestly, do Cuban medical schools teach anything different from what U.S. medical schools teach? Let's hope they teach something better than what's taught in Florida. Med schools in the Sunshine State teach that you can get ahead based not on merit or hard work but on political connections.

Usually, to get into the University of Florida's College of Medicine, you have to take the Medical College Admissions Test. But recently the med school's dean - over the objections of the school's selection committee - admitted a student who hadn't taken this exam. Not only that, but the young man waited until February to submit his application - even though all application materials were supposed to be sent in by January 15.

It turns out that the student who was admitted despite not taking the MCAT or sending in his application on time is the son of an important Republican fundraiser and contributor.

The corruption never ceases, does it? And nobody's allowed to speak out against it, because if they do, they're targeted.

So while Florida eschews grads of Cuban medical schools, the state lets well-connected individuals breeze through Florida med schools without even following all the rules. This should also shut up those who believe school systems are honest and free of favoritism. All through middle and high school, I saw kids who had connections coast through school. Apparently, UF's med school is no different.


Human genes used in goats

If genetic tampering hadn't gone too far already, it has now.

Now scientists are experimenting with altering goats by adding human genes to them. The goats are literally human-animal hybrids.

The experimenters suggest these genetically engineered goats may produce disease-fighting milk. But there's no proof this is so, and there's already so many risks associated with genetic engineering that the milk would likely cause more disease than it would cure. There's no question that there's a link between the rise of genetically modified foods and the increase in disease and poor health in humans, and it'll only get worse as long as there's no labeling of these frankenfoods.

The potential damage isn't just to the goats or to the humans or animals who consume the milk. If the part-human goats get into the wild, they may threaten species and cause erosion.

Goats are what they are for a reason. They're not ours to genetically tamper with. Goats should be respected.


4 more soldiers killed

No fan of this blog likes to read a story like this, but yesterday was yet another deadly day in the Iraq War. Four more American soldiers were killed in shell attacks by suspected militants.

This brings April's death toll for U.S. troops to 44 - making this the deadliest month since last September. (I never heard anything about the other 40 until now.)

But John McCain wants 100 more years of this, I guess.


Vacant houses increase while homelessness gets worse

As the band Chicago would say: It's a paradox - full of contradiction.

The percentage of vacant homes in America has reached a new record. Some 2.9% of homes now sit empty. That's because there's more houses in foreclosure, and it's harder to find buyers for homes.

Yet homelessness has also increased. So have housing costs (even relative to wages) and the proliferation of multiple families having to share too small of a space.

What's wrong with this picture? We let the marketplace decide (to borrow the chaosmongers' phrase), and there ends up being a lot of empty houses and a lot of people who need these houses but can't afford them. Sounds to me like the all-knowing marketplace has set the prices a little too high.

It doesn't help when corrupt city governments seize small houses and turn the land over to developers to build mansions and luxury condos nobody can afford to live in. This swindle happens in my area too. There's so many million-dollar riverfront condos sprouting up around here that there's not a chance in hell they're ever going to fill them at the current rate.

It's clear what the problem is: Houses sell for too much. With so much demand for housing, more of the supply should be used up. But it isn't, because the marketplace sets prices artificially high (with collusion from right-wing city governments that actively try to banish low-income residents). In pursuit of profit, the industry is violating the basic economic law of supply and demand. It's no different from if they tried to build houses that floated in midair in defiance of the law of gravity.


Monday, April 28, 2008

The Freeper definition of free (more Freeper Madness)

Admit it: You can't help but crap a smile when you see these gaffes from the Freak Rethuglic crowd. I'll concede they're not as colorful as they once were, but they're still a prolific bunch of spoiled loonies, and they provide no shortage of fodder.

What's freedom? Is it freedom of speech? Freedom from slavery? Freedom of assembly? To regulars on Free Republic, it's none of things. To them, freedom means outlawing labor unions. Tonight I found this quote from a member of the Whine Time Players who inhabit the site:

"America will never be a truly free capitalist country until labor unious [sic] are made illegal."

Seriously, they said that. They actually said being free means taking away the freedom to form a union. Is this anything like the "war is peace" mantra in '1984'?

Free Republic isn't exactly the working-class website its supporters make it out as, is it? Perhaps most importantly, this is another indication of Freepers' phony populism that actually represents the privileged executive class that views us working-class people as lowly hordes that have to be violently fended off.

I guess they'd love it in Saudi Arabia where unions are illegal. Over there, they have a government that's supported the Bushes for years, so the Freepers would be on cloud nine there!

RNC demands networks pull ad

The incomprehensible morons of the Republican National Committee are demanding the networks pull a TV ad against John McCain. Stations and networks may pull ads that are found to be untrue - but in this case, all the commersh does is repeat McCain's words.

The RNC's crybaby complaint charges that the ad falsely suggests McAin't wants a 100-year war in Iraq. Um, Mini-Me did say it. The commercial includes a clip of him saying it, in fact. So the RNC has no case to stand on.

Of course, that doesn't mean the networks won't pull it, since it's obvious they want the Republicans to win. (They're kicking themselves that Mitt Romney is out of the running.) The networks are already giving the GOP in-kind contributions in the form of biased coverage.


Oscar the Grouch is gonna be mad!

You'd think San Francisco wouldn't be plagued by the anti-people tyranny that beleaguers so many other American locales these days, but now it has a new policy that's actually worse than most cities.

The city has begun fining people $100 if their garbage cans or recycling bins aren't completely invisible from the street. I don't mean simply removed from the sidewalk after the trash collectors come by. I mean out of sight totally. In other words, if you put your trash can in the back yard, but it can still be seen from the street, you get fined. At least 189 people have been mailed a ticket so far.

People have been ticketed for placing their garbage cans tucked snugly against their houses, 20 feet from the curb - simply because the can was still visible.

If there was to be an ordinance like this in a big city, I would have guessed it would have been one of Rudy Giuliani's hypocritical "quality of life" crusades in New York in the '90s. Honestly, who cares if a trash can is visible? This law isn't quite as bad as that town in upstate New York requiring people to use clear trash bags so officials could snoop at their garbage, but it's mighty silly, especially because there's no room for most houses in a big city to put trash cans behind the house where they're completely out of sight.

When Oscar the Grouch finds out about this, he's gonna be grouchier than ever!

If I received a ticket for this, I guarantee you my visible trash can would get a little fuller.


Rice caught in lie

Damn. I feel so let down. A member of the Bush regime lied. My whole decade is ruined. Sniffle, sniffle.

Jimmy Carter's courageous efforts to broker Mideast peace have predictably sent the wingnutosphere howling (much as they do about everything). With the Bush White House having such a weak grasp on foreign affairs, it was inevitable they'd chime in too.

Last week, Bush's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Kuwait, where she declared, "We counseled President Carter against going to the region and particularly against having contact with Hamas."

Oh yeah? Carter says he was never told this!

Even most of those who thought Jimmy Carter led a failed presidency felt he was one of the most honest Presidents. But the Bush regime has lied about (among other things) Iraq having weapons of mass destruction to draw America into the war. So who are you going to believe? I think we'd all believe Carter before believing a Bush official.

While the Bush regime tries to punish Carter for meeting with leaders of Hamas, it sends its own Secretary of State to Kuwait, a country run by a totalitarian dictatorship that banned 'Fahrenheit 9/11'. What is it with Bush being so cozy with right-wing dictatorships? Probably has something to do with the fact that Bush is a right-wing dictator. (Remember those elections you stole, George?)


Sunday, April 27, 2008

DHS launches war on boaters

Bush's Department of Homeland Suckyurity is at it yet again.

The DHS wants to run roughshod over states' rights by requiring a federal boating license much like the totalitarian Real ID that they stuffed down the throats of the American public. The DHS - claiming this new policy will fight terrorism - wants to force the states to follow national minimum standards and require boaters to carry DHS certification. Of course they don't call it a national license, because they realized they couldn't sell the idea to boaters. But it's as much of a national license as Real ID is a national ID card.

Lovely. Now if a new totalitarian control freak takes the reins in the White House, they'll have a database at their fingertips for a class of people who can't own boats - much like the no-fly list (which the ruling party already considers its Bible).

One thing is for damn sure: This won't prevent terrorism. Not one smidgen of it. This is like how the Nazis claim school uniforms will prevent shootings - even though one of the most notorious school shootings of the decade occurred at a school that required uniforms. (It's the recent one in Oxnard, California, that the media has mostly swept under the rug.)

DHS officials are also demanding states report "suspicious" boating activity.

You know what the states need to do? They need to tell the DHS to fuck off - in those words. If the Department of Homeland Suckyurity gets its way, innocent people will be the only ones targeted - as is always the case. I've hardly ever been on a boat, but if I was hauled in for photographing a bridge while boating (which the DHS defines as "suspicious"), I ain't going to be too happy.


Conservafool shreds another porn mag

As the guy on Channel 9 might say: Don't waste your money, conservafools!

But the right-wing Morlocks continue to waste money. At least this time, they're wasting their own dough instead of the taxpayers' money like they usually do.

Tony Zirkle, a Republican congressional candidate in Indiana, got a Conservative Fool Of The Day entry for attending a birthday party for Hitler conducted by a neo-Nazi group. At some point - it's unclear whether it was during the bash or while his local paper was interviewing him - he shredded an ancient copy of Penthouse magazine to demonstrate his obsession with fighting porn.

Now an uproarious photo (apparently from the South Bend Tribune) has surfaced. In this picture, Zirkle (with his 1992 hairdo) is seen inserting the very first issue of Playboy into a shredder - to be ruined all up!

According to the omnipotent Wikipedia, the debut ish of Playboy was worth over $5,000 several years ago. Evidently, Tony Zirkle actually squandered $5,000 by purchasing the first edition of Playboy just so he could run it through a shredder!

It's your money, mister. So keep wasting it. Where else can I get so much entertainment for only $5,000 of someone else's money?


Waitress fired for supporting Clinton

That Hillary Clinton must really be a dangerous radical if a restaurant thinks her supporters pose such a threat! (That's sarcasm, everyone.)

In Little Rock, Arkansas, a waitress who worked for years at an airport restaurant has been fired because she supports Clinton's presidential bid - as opposed to that of John McCain. When McAin't's campaign jet was arriving in Little Rock, the waitress used her break from work to go to the airstrip carrying a Clinton poster.

The waitress wasn't on work time or at a work-sponsored activity. She was on her own time, as it was her break.

I admit Hillary is too much on the conservative side for me - as is Obama, quite frankly - but the firing is illegal. It's against federal law to fire someone for supporting a candidate or cause. Period. End of discussion. And notice it ain't Republican supporters who are being fired.

It turns out the restaurant issued the firing after a phone call from Republican campaign operatives who demanded that they take action.

The problem of politically motivated firings isn't new. The same happened in 2004 to people who had Kerry stickers on their cars. And if you want to talk about political firings, here's 2 words you can write a whole book on: Ernie Fletcher. (I'm talking about the now-defeated Republican governor of Kentucky who had state government employees fired over politics.) And I'm sure it's also not new for GOP goons to call a business and demand that they fire someone for their political views.

If there isn't a lawsuit over this, I'll be absolutely astounded.


Hospitals deny transplants to medical marijuana patients

Pressured by insurance companies and what's almost a vigilante attitude against marijuana, hospitals have begun denying organ transplants to patients who legally use the herb as medicine.

The excuse? Hospitals claim it's because medical marijuana is illegal - even though in many states it isn't. The hospitals are denying life-saving transplants to people who have been prescribed marijuana - in states where medical marijuana is legal, no less. Besides, how does legality affect the medical implications of a substance? Does an herb become more or less harmful if it becomes legal?

Another pretext for the hospitals' idiocy is that - although marijuana has no effect on some transplanted organs such as a liver - using the herb allegedly indicates an "addictive personality." Um, no. The herb is legally prescribed for actual illnesses. It sounds more like hospitals are trying to punish patients for thoughts and attitudes - which is much of what the War on Drugs is all about.

The failed drug war is the new McCarthyism. It destroys careers and lives just over thoughts.

The insurance racket is deeply involved in this crusade, for the hospitals are actually buckling to insurer pressure. Some insurers have begun requiring drug tests before approving transplants. Obviously the drug test firms are in cahoots with the insurers.

Shouldn't a doctor be making this decision, and not an insurer?

At least 2 deaths have been caused by patients being denied organ transplants as part of this insurer-led anti-marijuana campaign.

There ought to be a law. Insurers and hospitals shouldn't be allowed to deny someone a life-saving transplant just because they used marijuana that was legally prescribed to them. I know the "no regulations" crowd is going to conjure every excuse in the book to cover for their god (the insurance industry) but is it really right to make life-or-death decisions based on the drug warriors' McCarthyist attitudes that make no sense?


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Freeper calls western Pennsylvania a "traitor area" (some Freeper Madness)

The wingnutosphere hemmed endlessly about Barack Obama's remark about folks in rural Pennsylvania being "bitter" - but they think it's just swell for Freepers to call the Keystone State a "traitor area."

One of the backwards time travelers on Free Republic referred to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) as a "traitor", even though he is a decorated Marine and a Vietnam vet. The Freeper's remark reads:

"That is great that a real American may replace the traitor. But, what are his chances? If this district elected the traitor in the first place, it must be a traitor area anyway so chances slim?"

So they're saying western Pennsylvania is a "traitor area"?

Am I the only person who's snickering aloud at that comment? Mind you, I'm not laughing with the Freak Rethuglic crackpot crew, but at them. They can be funny when they're mad.

City leaders afraid of Hanson

Somebody's actually trying to bust Hanson?


You'd think a tame band like Hanson - yes, the "MMMBop" guys - would be safe from hassles, but not in BushAmerica. For Pete's sake, the Bushists tried to get Oscar the Grouch banned, so nothing is safe these days.

The incident happened in (drum roll, please) Covington, Kentucky, a city I'm quite familiar with because it's near my digs. Covington is an industrial burg of 50,000 opposite Cincinnati. And, man, is it run by right-wingers! After city officials bulldozed a homeless encampment and brutally killed a cat, the city was ranked as one of the most unfriendly to the homeless in all of North America. Covington hosts an annual Mardi Gras festival, but it bowed to complaints of a lone busybody by opening it to only a limited number of ticket holders, which has made the event a laughingstock. The city also banned pay phones run by companies other than the local phone monopoly, which charged more for calls. City officials' excuse was that other companies' phones accepted incoming calls, which officials falsely claimed was of use only to drug dealers. (This is yet another extreme example of innocents being forced to sacrifice freedom for the failed War on Drugs.)

But recently, Covington officials met their match: Hanson! The group led a mile-long walk down Madison Avenue just prior to a concert, to raise awareness of poverty and AIDS worldwide. The band's promoter was promptly slapped with a ticket just for conducting this walk. The citation carries a penalty of up to $250 in fines and 30 days in the hoosegow.

Out of 54 cities where Hanson has led this walk, Covington is the only one where they've had trouble.

When I read this story, I was doubled over in laughter that city officials felt so threatened by Hanson, of all people! Just think if it was somebody like the Sex Pistols that was known for rowdy concerts. If it was someone like that, they'd put the whole city under lockdown!

The promoter said, "The city of Covington apparently are the only folks that are with-it enough to understand the full impact of the Hanson barrage." Police officials said organizers have to apply for a permit at least 30 days in advance for any event like Hanson's walk. That may be true - but why didn't this rule apply when a group of Nazis held a rally to complain about the homeless having it too easy? Even if the rule isn't selectively enforced (which it is), the mandatory 30-day notice is so long that it amounts to being an unconstitutional infringement on public assembly.

Quite frankly, I've never been a Hanson fan. When Hanson was at their peak of popularity, I listened to stations that played Poe and Tears For Fears. But it's supposed to be a free country, and I'll defend Hanson's right to walk through Covington.

The promoter has to return to Covington next month to answer the charges. Police warned that if he doesn't make the 300-mile trip here from Nashville next month, an arrest warrant will be issued.

About the Covington confrontation, the promoter said, "I saw where they just arrested a guy for swimming across the river. I'd probably be careful if I were riding a bike around in Covington. It seems like they have a citation triathlon they're trying to complete." Considering that Covington cops unconstitutionally dispersed a pro-union rally not long ago, and that I've had several run-ins myself, it does seem that way.


I defy!

I'm in a defiant mood! It sure feels great!

As it's become obvious the exurbs are devouring my state, I will refuse and resist! I'm thinking of several things I can do to truly signal that the buck stops with the Great Royal Tim. These are all challenges against known Allowed Clouds, but by golly, I have to do something. Possible actions include:

1) Riding the Peace Bike on the shoulder of an Interstate.

2) Walking barefoot on the Purple People Bridge.

3) Bringing a dog to Fountain Square. (I know that's in Ohio, but the point still stands.)

I'm strongly tempted to try to do these things. The second one is a damn good candidate! If I get ticketed for any of them, I'm just not going to pay the ticket. I'm past civil disobedience, and I've moved towards deafening defiance. These are principled actions. I wouldn't be planning on doing these things if I didn't think it would force the system's hand.

This spirit feels incredible! As the Pearl Drops commersh said: Nnnnn! It's a great feeling! The most recent time I felt it was a couple weeks ago when I biked atop the Dayton, Kentucky, floodwall - even though there's a barely legible, hard-to-find sign prohibiting it.

So help me, folks. Give me some more ideas of things like this I can do to challenge conservative elitism!

Rain ruins corn crops

Are the media bullshit artists still going to insist climate change is a hoax?

In Kentucky, the flooding rains - which the media has generally ignored - has put corn planting way behind schedule. Throughout the state, less than one-fourth as much corn has been able to be planted as the usual amount.

The couldn't-give-a-shit media can stop claiming the floods are a hoax now. Oh, and that's why I included a photo of a massive puddle sighted on an important state highway recently. Of course they're gonna say that's fake too, I bet.


Plantation aristocracy takes over America

I was just about to write an entry about this very phenomenon, but I saw an article that beat me to some of my points - though it lacks the homespun observations that can only be gathered in the states that are most at-risk.

The past 25 years of American political history have indicated that the South's old plantation aristocracy has gotten its way over 100 years after the Civil War. Elite conservatism was the ideology of powerful plantation owners, and what's seen in today's conservatism is a progeny of these sad old ways.

The wealthy planter of the 19th century became the privileged and conservative Sun Belt suburbanite of the 20th century, who in turn became the financially secure and conservative exurbanite of the 21st. Anyone who studies America's politics can see an unbroken line with no zigs and zags. If it's any help, notice that a map showing states that allowed slavery at the time of the Civil War is strikingly similar to a map showing those that have so-called "right-to-work" laws today.

No region has a monopoly on bad politics: The South has produced some bold political leaders who dissented from the conservative fold, and the North has produced some stinkers. On average, however, it's fair to say the South is more of a conservative stronghold. I have nothing against Southerners in general, but the fact is that the region brings to mind a more conservative brand of politics.

Today's suburbs and exurbs of the South and Southwest seem vastly overrepresented in America's political and even social dialogue, but the problem isn't really geographic. It's more of a battle of ideas. And lately, discredited conservative ideas have been reintroduced and actually treated as credible, even though they were thought to be on the outs 25 years ago.

Let's cut to the chase: the boundaries of the conservative Sun Belt are moving north, and the edges of conservative suburbia are moving out. The long and short of it is, we've got a real problem, because Kentucky happens to be the state that's right in the middle of it. (Lucky us!) Kentucky waited until the 2000 "election" to join the Confederacy, so this trend is only beginning here.

As a populist, I view both the Sun Belt and the suburbs as representing aristocracy - plantation and otherwise. The South is often viewed as a poor region, but it's had conservative political leaders who represent the rich. The expansion of the aristocrats' empire has pushed aside Kentucky's one-of-a-kind populism and threatens to silence it completely. Kentucky could even be the one of the most Republican states in the looming presidential election, which in the '80s would have been unthinkable.

Kentuckians have sacrificed for generations to stop the state from being turned into a lavatory of elite conservative politics. It would be downright shameful to allow the aristocrats to win now. Conservative elites won't isolate their ideas to just a willing audience, so (for your own sake) just try to keep your distance from them - while also defying them. Hopefully you live in a town that's small enough where you can get the forces of dissent to take control of city government, so your community can hold firm against the conservative trend.

Friday, April 25, 2008

First grader banned from school over Mohawk

This is what America's so-called public schools have stooped to?

In Manatee County, Florida, a first grader has been illegally barred from school until he gets rid of his Mohawk hairstyle. The school never raised a peep about the haircut until just a few days ago. (Wow! The school is advancing backwards!)

Supposedly, the advisory council at Palma Sola Elementary ruled that Mohawks are not allowed under the school dress code. Accordingly, the principal sniffed, "Our community has said, here is the minimum you have to do at Palma Sola and I have to enforce it." Oh yeah? Let's contrast: On one side, you have the school's advisory board, which says a hairstyle isn't allowed. On the other side, you have the First Amendment, which says public schools can't have such arbitrary rules.

So it's the U.S. Constitution versus some school's advisory council. Who do you think should win that battle?

It really wasn't even the community that set the dress code. It was the council, not the community. If Florida is anything like Kentucky, it's an unelected board, and usually you have to support the school's arbitrary policies to even be appointed to it. There's no accountability to anyone.

Banning a student from school for a haircut is even sillier than banning them for something like a shirt. A hairstyle is part of the body. At least a shirt can be changed. This is like that high school in Iowa banning kids because they had tattoos. (Apparently the school expected them to undergo laser tattoo removal.)


Bill would fight residential program abuse

It's about damn time!

If it passes, a new federal bill would grant much-needed protections to young people in privately run confinement facilities. The bill by Rep. George Miller (D-California) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-New York) is designed to fight the often fatal physical, sexual, and mental abuse that is routinely dished out by these torture centers.

Right now there's no federal regulation of these facilities, and many states have no regulation either. This legislation was announced the same day that government investigators told Congress that these programs use deceptive marketing practices. If it becomes law, the bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to establish health and safety standards for these programs, require the HHS to inspect the facilities, and even create a national hotline to report abuse.

I guarantee you that if there was a hotline like this back in 1990, it would have been used. Unfortunately, it's also a fact that state agencies that are supposed to investigate complaints have a history of calling the victims liars right to their faces. Hopefully the hotline won't be staffed by programs' corrupt cronies.

The teen confinement racket is a form of human trafficking. It treats every young person who walks through its doors as a dollar sign. The government must put an end to this deception, greed, and abuse.


Another political attack found to be hoax

If this isn't another sign that the right-wing media is full of fucking liars, what is?

A few days ago, Rupert Murdoch's right-wing New York Post reported that a man who was asking tough questions of Laura and Jenna Bush at a book promotion punched a wheelchair-bound teenager because the teen's parents told him to pipe down. This version of the story was repeated endlessly by the wingnutosphere and Faux News.

I knew it didn't happen this way. I just flat-out knew it. I was 100% certain of it, because stuff like this always turns out to be made up. Always. Whenever someone claims to be a victim of a politically motivated assault by someone who dissents from the Bush order, it's a fake. We all remember the Parlock incidents, the teen in Texas who faked an attack over the poster about immigration, Katherine Harris playing in the street so she could claim she got run over, and so on.

My belief has now been confirmed: The assault didn't happen. The New York Post lied. I'd be surprised if the New York Post was ever used as a source for any of my entries on this blog (because it's such a biased rag), but if it wasn't blackballed already, it is now.

The alleged assault was in essence a hoax. According to witnesses, the man who interrogated the Bushes was actually punched by the teen's dad. So the questioner is actually an assault victim, not a perp.

The long and short of it is, the man who questioned the Bushes didn't attack the teenager who had cerebral palsy (despite what the New York Post claimed). People who know the man say he would never do anything violent. The person who is at fault here is the teen's father, who used the wheelchair as a weapon. It's a shame there was a confrontation at all, but the disabled teen was drawn into it by her own father, and there's no excuse for it.

The wingnuts who inhabit the blogosphere lapped up the New York Post's version of the incident, even though they knew it was full of shit. Although they certainly knew that the activist who interrogated the Bushes was innocent of the alleged assault, they urged violent retribution against him.

Is it any surprise that in a 2004 survey, the Post was ranked as the least credible major news organization in the entire New York City area?


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

Tony Zirkle is a Republican candidate for Congress in Indiana and a big conservative.

Zirkle used to work for South Bend area prosecutor Chris Toth, a Republican who later lost reelection. Zirkle helped Toth prosecute adult bookstores, and Zirkle has also championed the ineffective Rockefeller drug law against ephedrine-containing cold medicine. In short, he's a fascist, authoritarian asshole.

In his current congressional bid, Tony Zirkle has made a complete and total spectacle of himself. Last month, he advocated segregating races into different states. This week he's been the target of more controversy after he went to Chicago to address a gathering of the American National Socialist Workers Party.

The ANSWP is not socialist or pro-worker at all. In fact, it's a neo-Nazi group. The purpose of the gathering was to celebrate Hitler's birthday.

Zirkle has come up with several flimsy excuses for his association with these dumb losers. For starts, he says he didn't know what the ANSWP stood for. Oh yeah? Here's Tony Zirkle speaking before the group:

He didn't know what the group stood for even though it had a Nazi swastika and a portrait of Hitler right there staring him in the face?

Another Zirkle excuse is that he was just trying to rally the group against pornography. He claims the smut business is run by Jews inspired by the "porn dragon", and he drove home his point by shredding a Penthouse magazine from 1969.

Maybe this scandal will finally make the wheels come off the conservative wagon. Modern conservatism has had unsavory associations for years, and many of you have probably witnessed it firsthand. The crusading anti-porn and War on Drugs zealots tend to be the same people who hold violently bigoted views, and this story proves it even more. Much of this right-wing extremism was ultimately motivated by conservatives' own greed, which is a breeding ground for irrational fears.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Conservative Fool Of The Day is...Courtney Combs!

Ohio State Rep. Courtney Combs (R-Hamilton) has long been a villain to be laughed at.

One of his big causes was his proposal to force the state to stop printing an important pamphlet for crime victims in Spanish. Combs's bill would have been of questionable legality, and a survey indicated his idea was unpopular as well.

Now Combs has an even sillier plan, and he's getting ridiculed for it too. Now he's introduced a bill to require everyone who registers a car to provide proof of citizenship or valid travel papers. Everyone in the whole state.

So people have to be inconvenienced now just so Courtney Combs can spout off? When you register a car, you already need a driver's license and Social Security card, so his proposal is just a layer of red tape that doesn't even accomplish anything. I think he knows it, but he's using this issue as a distraction from his party's many failures.

In a word, this effort makes Combs look like the ineffective kook he is. But when U.S. citizens are inconvenienced by it, we can't sit back and let it go unchallenged.


Probe finds deception by youth facilities

Tell me something that wasn't already known for years!

In the early '90s, a congressional investigation found that youth confinement facilities used insurance fraud to keep teenagers locked up when they didn't need to be. This scam continues today. (Obviously the insurers are in on it and pay for it by charging other customers more. Otherwise they would have put a stop to it by now.)

Now a probe by the Government Accountability Office says facilities like these - and the companies that refer parents to these centers - are employing deceptive marketing tactics when they try selling their programs to parents of troubled teenagers.

Gee, ya think?

The facilities in question are kind of like the one I've been participating in roadside protests against outside Cincinnati. These are behavior modification programs. I know gulags like these are deceptive - even the smaller programs that every area has. They lie to kids and they lie to parents. And they often do so until the child leaves the program. The whole industry is a swindle.

As part of its probe, a GAO investigator posed as a father seeking help for an offspring. The facility advised the decoy dad to hide information about it from his wife. When investigators called another program, they were lied to about whether insurance would cover it.

Last year, the GAO told Congress that thousands of instances of abuse were discovered in these programs just since the early '90s. These include many deaths - including that of a 12-year-old boy who was violently restrained face-down. Another death involved a 16-year-old boy whose breathing problems were ignored by program staffers.

If I didn't know any better, I'd think this story would put the teen torture racket out of business once and for all. But if discoveries of deception and abuse harmed the industry as much as they should, the industry's fraud would have ended years ago. Maybe this story shows we need to prod the media to give it the coverage it deserves.


Students expelled for buying souvenir swords on trip

Other than the incidents where some kid gets expelled because a guard hired by their school illegally breaks into their car and finds a pair of nail clippers, this is hands-down one of the dumbest instances of "zero tolerance" Nazism yet in America's schools.

Two students from Minneapolis area high schools have both been expelled for the rest of the school year because they purchased souvenir samurai swords on a school-sponsored trip to England. The educrats who run the schools said both teenagers violated "zero tolerance" policies against weapons. One of the students was almost barred from participating in her own graduation.

Do the schools seriously think buying a $20 souvenir sword on an overseas trip and stowing it safely in a box wrapped in duct tape poses a threat to anyone's safety? Damn, our schools must be run by some real right-wing dummies these days. Not only that, but the swords were so docile that a souvenir shop sold them to teenagers without any hassle whatsoever. If a kid can buy a sword without any trouble, the sword obviously doesn't have a live blade - thus the sword is actually decorative and not truly a weapon. So how does the sword even rise to the level of an expulsion?

Schools who follow the "zero tolerance" bandwagon often like to claim they implement these illogical punishments to avoid being sued. For liberty lovers, this should seem counterproductive, as it seems like the rules would only cause lawsuits. I don't have any clue how the rules would actually prevent legal action. But in today's America, the rules don't seem to be causing the lawsuits that we have a right to expect. In other words, the schools have everyone bullied into submission.

The sword incident has also raised another issue, for the schools confiscated the swords during the trip. The swords apparently never made it to America, and it's unknown what happened to them. So the schools are guilty of theft as well - and probably destruction of property too. (Big surprise.)


GOP kills bill against pay discrimination

The terrorist maniacs who constitute most of the Senate's Republicans have just killed a bill that would have eased limits on how long workers could wait before suing employers for pay discrimination.

I thought the Democrats controlled the Senate now. Don't tell me they caved again. What? They did? Who'd have ever thought!

The Republicans' excuse for opposing the bill is that the bill would have caused a flood of lawsuits. Well, it should. Otherwise, employers would just get away with pay discrimination. If a business doesn't want to lose a lawsuit, it shouldn't discriminate. Period.

The scuttling of this legislation still didn't soothe the inane ravings of bubble gum fanatic Mitch McConnell. He cried that the Democrats had scheduled the vote on the bill so its presidential candidates could vote for it. Sounds like Mitch the Glitch has a case of sore loser syndrome: The Republicans don't get to make the rules anymore, because the voters ousted them from their majority. Of course the Republicans usually do make the rules, thanks to the appeasers in the DLC, or else this bill would have moved forward. Out of a 100-member Senate, it had 57 votes, so it should have passed!

Do the Republicans actually try consciously to top their own miserable reputation? Or are they on autopilot now? I know everything now is anticlimactic after the fascism bull run of mid-decade, so I think it has to be the latter. The GOP is too lazy to actually work at making themselves worse than they already were.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Supremes say cops can search even if arrest invalid

The U.S. Supreme Court issued another ruling today that should strike constitutional scholars as utterly bizarre.

In a Portsmouth, Virginia, case, police detectives seized crack cocaine from a motorist after arresting him for driving on a suspended license. The man was sentenced to 3½ years in prison just for possessing the drug.

But it turned out that under Virginia law, police may not arrest a person for driving on a suspended license. All the cops can do is issue a summons, because it's such a minor offense. Because the man should not have been arrested, there was no cause to search him when he was stopped.

Anyone who's brushed up on constitutional law should know that evidence obtained from illegal searches can't be used. That's how the Fourth Amendment is enforced. If authorities know that evidence from invalid searches can't be used to convict someone, then they know they better make damn sure a search is valid before they carry it out. If an arrest isn't valid, the accompanying search isn't either.

But the Supreme Court has essentially gutted this principle. They ruled today that police can perform searches and seizures even in an arrest that turns out to be illegal. Two hundred years of law just went out the window today. This ruling contradicts a Virginia Supreme Court decision that correctly said the police's search was illegal.

Here's some classic Supreme Court doublespeak to munch on: The Justices said the arrest and search were perfectly constitutional while admitting they were illegal. In other words, illegal but legal. So much for a nation of laws.

Not surprisingly, the Bush regime sided with the prosecutors who threw the book at the defendant based on the rogue search.

What's next? Can the police do a full cavity search if you get a parking ticket? According the Supreme Court, apparently so!


Students suspended for attending Obama event

Are the totalitarian control freaks who run America's schools still going to claim they're not policing thoughts?

At Scranton High School in Scranton, Pennsylvania, 2 students have been suspended because they attended a meeting with Barack Obama when he came to town. They were punished for this thoughtcrime despite the fact that Obama personally signed the permission slips allowing them to miss gym class!

So some school system's idiotic policy (that they make up as they go along) takes precedence over the word of a U.S. senator now? This is like when college police officers tasered a young man despite John Kerry telling them to lay off.

Sounds like the school system's just mad because the next President isn't going to be Duncan Hunter like they wanted. You know they never would have been punished if they had attended a Republican rally instead, so even if the school does have some sort of policy that imposes suspensions without even giving students the chance to tell their side first, it's being selectively enforced.

In addition to the suspension, one of the students was ordered to resign as senior class president. Now there's a lawsuit. Of course, the school says he resigned voluntarily. I don't believe the school, because my experience has been that schools aren't exactly great contenders in truth-telling contests.

If we elect a Green instead of either McCain or Obama, that's the most likely way we'll get a President who actively opposes schools' tyranny. The bureaucrats who run the American education system (such as it is) need to lighten up. If a high school student misses an hour of school for a legitimate reason, like a meeting with a presidential candidate, I don't see what business a school has judging the student for it - especially when this rule is so inconsistently enforced.


Singer Paul Davis dies

Remember this song? "I go crazy...When I look in your eyes I still go crazy..."

That was Paul Davis, a popular singer and songwriter in the '70s and '80s back when I was growing up. Davis died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 60.

I remember on my college radio station playing "'65 Love Affair" and how I told an inside joke along with it that only my high school pals who listened to my show would have gotten. So Davis really was influential to my work and my unique, twisted sense of humor, like so many other popular singers of the time.

The music world has lost a lot of big names lately: Paul Davis, Jeff Healey, John Stewart. I almost feel like writing a Big Boy article for all their song titles, but I'm already a busy man.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Frankenfoods lie exposed

Does Monsanto ever have egg on its face!

The oft-criticized biotech firm has aggressively championed genetic engineering of foods. (The company that makes NutraSweet, which is poisonous, is also under Monsanto's umbrella now. Another Monsanto subsidiary has exploited child labor to handle toxic chemicals.) Frankenfood advocates such as Monsanto like to claim that genetic engineering will solve world hunger by increasing food yields.

But now someone has studied the matter, and Monsanto's claims have been proven to be bullshit. A new study says genetically modified soybeans (a crop central to the food supply of a vast majority of humans) actually produces 10% less food than its unmodified counterpart. This definitive study (though largely ignored by the American media) was carried out at the University of Kansas. It confirms earlier findings by University of Nebraska researchers.

It's not just soybeans. Genetically modified cotton produces smaller yields too.

Does Monsanto still think they're smarter than nature?

Monsanto also influenced Bush's "economic restructuring" of Iraq that forces Iraqi farmers to buy seeds from American corporations. This new policy makes it illegal for farmers to save seeds, as most were doing.

The corporate empire is out of control.


Media calls Pennsylvania for Clinton with hardly any votes counted

Gee, who do you think the media wants to be the Democratic nominee: Clinton or Obama?

With only 12% of precincts reporting and Clinton leading by only 6%, they just decided to go ahead and call Pennsylvania for Clinton. Maybe they think Hillary Clinton is actually Ernie Fletcher or something, if they decided to call it that early. (We all remember what happened in the 2003 Kentucky gubernatorial election when they called that before the polls even closed in some areas.)

Of course the real story here is that Clinton's faltering campaign actually won a state.

Teacher suspended for disagreeing with standardized testing

This is what BushAmerica has stooped to now? Punishing longtime teachers for thoughtcrimes?

People have told me that if you challenge an idiotic rule (even one they disagree with themselves), you should be prepared to face the consequences. But I don't buy that. I think it's a cop-out.

I've said before that standardized testing in America's schools has in effect become the national government-sponsored religion. Schools no longer teach to the student's needs but to the tests - no matter how irrelevant the material on the test is. The state of Washington has the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, administered at many grade levels. In high school, passing the WASL is mandatory for graduation: If you're a straight 'A' student who fails the WASL, you can't graduate. About half of students fail the WASL in high school.

How's that for hero worship of standardized tests?

Now a middle school teacher in Seattle is refusing to administer the WASL. The instructor says the test disrupts learning, hurts students, and doesn't even make schools do a better job. The test itself wastes 2 whole weeks.

Just for opposing this test, he's been suspended from his teaching job for 2 weeks without pay. But he remains undeterred by this thought policing, and parents and teachers all over the state have sent him messages of support.

The school bosses really hurt their cause by suspending the teacher, didn't they? I guess it doesn't pay to punish thoughts. Maybe the educrats should have read '1984'.


Should've stayed in Cheviot

I never should've brung the Peace Bike home from my outing to Cheviot today, if I'd known I'd be faced with more hang-up phone calls (of the untraceable variety, of course) when I got home.

I got another one just now at 8:33 PM.

If I find out it's not "the industry" behind all these harassing calls I've been getting lately, I'll devour my shirt.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Right-wing strategists still stupid after all these years

It's happening again!

Remember the ads about one William Horton in the 1988 campaign? These lie-filled ads claimed Michael Dukakis had allowed Horton, who was serving a life sentence for murder, to go out on furlough. Actually, Dukakis ended the furlough program - which had been implemented by a Republican predecessor.

Now the same right-wing operatives who made those commercials are back. This time they're calling themselves the National Campaign Fund, and they're attacking Barack Obama's vote against expanding the use of the death penalty. Obama's vote didn't scale back capital punishment. It simply failed to expand it. The bill passed without Obama's support but was vetoed - by a Republican governor, no less.

I'm against the death penalty. It's not a deterrent, and there's no doubt that it's carried out unequally. But the real issue here is how sleazy the National Campaign Fund's new ad is. The commercial starts off listing a series of gang-related murders while a scene of a dilapidated neighborhood drifts by. Then it proceeds to blame Obama for these particular killings.

You read that right: The ad acts as if Obama himself pulled the trigger. Isn't that just the most idiotic thing you've ever heard of? For the record, Obama does support the death penalty for some crimes, so all this does is prove that the center of debate has moved so far from the political center that to be an "approved" presidential candidate, you not only have to support capital punishment but also support expanding its use (even though a GOP governor opposed expanding it).

Then the National Campaign Fund proves they really are a bunch of shit-eating control freaks by somehow linking this to the "war on terror."

Eek! I'm scared! Not! Is the National Campaign Fund really just Rudy Giuliani under a pseudonym? I know terrorism is a serious issue, but the Bush cult has had no qualms about exploiting it for political gain.

I don't know exactly how many people fell for the lies that attempted to link Dukakis with Horton (the swiftboating of '88), but I can't imagine too many will fall for the right-wing strategists' latest shrill garbage installment.

The suburban land run

You occasionally hear someone express disgust about government takings of land - and often rightly so. I can see no justification for the government condemning a person's home just so the land can be sold to a private developer at a bargain. I interpret this principle liberally: If a tenant who cannot afford a car loses their building for a highway that's open only to motorized traffic, that's as much of a rogue land grab as any. Although the road may be publicly funded, it's actually not a public use if only cars can use it.

But what about a different kind of government taking? What I'm talking about is a sector principle for financially secure suburbanites. I call it the suburban land run, and it benefits those who are relatively affluent at the expense of the poor and working class.

I wish I had a few more hours to go into detail about this, because the geography of land use really is fascinating. To understand what I'm talking about, it might be best if you've seen a map of a suburban area that shows boundaries for each lot. This suburban land rush generally involves transferring land that was being preserved for public use to owners of large homes. This is accomplished by spontaneously expanding each lot so it goes on and on behind the house - until it gets to the point where it's closer to another large home. The result is that there's no public land left between the subdivisions, even if they're far apart.

This government taking is actually a transfer to a private party that's overseen by government authorities, with whom larger landowners have more clout.

I've seen this very thing happen. When your favorite woods got a fence across it even when the nearest house isn't in sight, there was a good chance it was because of this reverse homesteading.

The additional land is really of no use to financially secure homeowners. It's suburbia, not farms. This practice really takes land from the public who could benefit from it for recreation and short-range transportation. In some cases, this practice is illegal on the grounds that the territory includes a body of water, for many states have laws making water public property.

It's neat what you learn when you look at the laws, public records, maps, and local histories, isn't it? Sometimes you just have to remember what it was like before this land rush. (I'm old, so at least I have that luxury.) I'm guessing this unconventional taking really took off in the '90s when Far Right ideologues like Phil Gramm were spouting off about how they didn't believe in public property, but I think the process took years.

I've had personal property ruined by abuses of this system. If someone puts up a fence on what's actually public land and I end up dropping a map in a creek trying to get around it, I'm not going to be too pleased.

The suburban land run is like the efforts of wealthy landowners on Lake Huron to stop people from "trespassing" on "their" beach even though the law clearly states the beach is public. Hardly any difference at all.

Corporate big shots challenge gun rights law

Get a load of this: Corporations actually think they have more rights than individuals!

Recently, Florida (a state that quite frankly is otherwise weak on populism and individual rights) enacted a law that lets folks keep their guns locked in their cars when they're at work, provided they own the gun legally and have a concealed weapons permit. Specifically, the law says businesses can't stop employees and customers from safely storing the gun in their own car while it's parked there.

This law helps reinforce what I believe to be a Second Amendment right. Without this law, employers could force workers to choose between their rights and their job by firing them if they don't stop carrying a legally registered gun in their own vehicle. There have been situations where people were forced to make this choice. In backing the new law, an AFL-CIO spokesman said, "We do not believe that private business owners have the right to force their employees or their patrons to give up traditionally protected rights simply to have a job or buy groceries."

But Big Business crybabies - who are always distrustful of democratic institutions - want a do-over. They abuse the property rights banner and howl about their hallowed "rights" to control employees' lives being trampled by "big government." Hate to burst the corporate types' bubble as it expands to head size and threatens to slime their posh surroundings, but individual rights are supposed to have dibs. That's why there's already environmental and labor laws governing what businesses can do. I don't think there's any state in America where you can fire someone for just any reason, because even the most pro-corporate states probably have antidiscrimination statutes of some type.

Corporations have no constitutional rights. None. Even a smaller business has no constitutional right to fire someone for keeping a legally registered weapon in their car if there's a law that lets workers do so. If Coprorate (sic) America believes in property rights so much, why don't they fight eminent domain abuse? A Tampa Tribune editorial opposing the new law is especially hypocritical: It sniffs that "businesses are entitled to set terms of employment" such as drug testing - but goes on to claim that "lawmakers have no business interfering with such private affairs" as whether a business can fire someone for a gun in their car. Then how is it not interfering with private affairs to require drug tests in situations where the tests are not related to workplace safety?

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation are now suing to stop the new law, calling it an unconstitutional breach of their nonexistent "right" to fire folks for any reason. You read that right: A law that bolsters constitutional rights is being attacked as unconstitutional. The corporate empire has everything backwards!

Corporate America is behaving in the chickenshit manner I've come to expect. In their totalitarian universe, everything has to come from within the corporate world and nothing shall be outside it. Big Business wants every aspect of every employee's life micromanaged. When something threatens this control, they lash out - with lawsuits, corporate lobbying, and heavy-handed policies.

What's freedom? Among other things, it's not having to please greedy corporations.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Coming soon: Freeper Madness!

As today is April 20, there's 2 connections to a new feature called Freeper Madness (one of which is only to the name). (See if you can guess what they are.)

Militant right-wing hate website Free Republic is but a shadow of its former self. But they're still good for laughs every now and then, and that's one of the reasons I monitor them. So - much like my Conservative Fool Of The Day feature - I'm working on a new occasional feech here called Freeper Madness! It'll expose some of the madcap things Freak Rethuglic's users say.

It'll knock your socks off when you see it, so keep your eyes peeled!

Charles Gibson, magician

Is longtime ABC newsman Charles Gibson a magician now?

During the much-criticized Obama/Clinton debate moderated by Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, Gibson absurdly claimed that capital gains tax cuts increased government revenue, while an increase in this tax reduced revenue.

Seriously, he said that.

Let's look at how silly this is: He says that if you lower taxes, the government brings in more money. How is that possible? It isn't! Unless you have magic powers of some sort.

Gibson is channeling Ronald Reagan, I guess. Everyone remembers when Reagan claimed he could cut the deficit by lowering taxes and squandering money on his 'Star Wars' boondoggle. Gee, that really worked, didn't it? (That's sarcasm, folks.)

And economists say Charlie Gibson is full of shit. The Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker said Gibson's claim is "rather dubious." The Joint Committee on Taxation says the 2006 extension of Bush's 2003 capital gains tax cut (which was a tax cut for the rich) will bring in $20,000,000,000 less revenue over 10 years.

Everyone knows that if the government wants to keep bringing in as much revenue, it can't slash taxes and fees. It's impossible! We all wish it could be this way, but it can't be. It's irresponsible to pretend it can, and it just ends up raising taxes in the long run to pay for it.

But Gibson pretends anyway. I'm sure he's not exactly hurting for money, so I guess he's not too crazy about a tax that hits the rich harder. But it strains suspension of disbelief to claim cutting the tax would increase revenue.


Mismanagement guts student loans

Are one-party dictatorships really more efficient than multiparty democracies? This story should lay that notion to rest. Kentucky has just emerged from 4 years of one-party Republican rule in which government employees at every level were fired if they didn't support the ruling regime. (Of course some Kentucky counties were like that even before.) And now the state's college loan program is in such shambles that it can't even secure money for new loans.

The Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation was created by state legislators in 1978 to oversee college loans. But all of a sudden, it's unable to secure money for loans, forcing it to stop making loans to new borrowers effective May 1.

People keep lapsing into Free Republic mode by blaming totally unrelated factors, but that won't wash. This is mismanagement. I think people who have poor management skills are drawn to one-party systems because that's the only avenue that lets them get ahead. You can see how that can easily gut what was once an effective program.

Because of this partisan ineptitude, thousands of Kentucky students probably won't be able to get college loans now. This comes at a time when Kentucky's institutions of higher book-burning plan to raise tuition yet again - which is likely another sign of Republican mismanagement. It's a bit like that rich school district in Texas that complained because it had fewer amenities than poorer districts. They just don't know how to get more of a bang for their buck, so to speak.

So try multiparty democracy for a change. You'll like it.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Colorado bill may gut First Amendment

If you were looking for a serious legislative proposal that violates the First Amendment more blatantly than perhaps any other in several years, the anticipation may have finally ended.

In Colorado, Senate Bill 192 would pulverize free speech by restricting demonstrations on public property. This right-wing bill would make it a crime to carry a sign larger than 2 feet by 3 feet or more than one sign, or protest within 300 feet of a targeted residence. The bill was actually approved by the Colorado House, despite being so clearly unconstitutional you can cut it with a booger scraper.

If there was a law like this in our area, that would pretty much put the kibosh on our protests we've been conducting against that teen behavior modification center. Or maybe not - because if it was up to me, I'd ignore this law because it's unconstitutional.

If the Colorado bill becomes law, it'll be an absolute miracle if there isn't a lawsuit against it almost immediately.


Two protests for the price of one!

We were due for one of these, weren't we?

Last night I went to another protest against the behavior modification cult on the east side of Cincinnati. If the cult lasts another year following this demonstration, it'll be a miracle, because I'm sure this one hit them harder than any others so far this year.

Actually we had 2 protests, if you want to be technical. It was almost a doubleheader, if you will. For the first session, the 3 of us gathered outside the cult near Milford early in the evening when it was still light out. We held signs as usual, but it was so windy we could barely hold the signs! Early on, an employee of a nearby business approached and said she'd been fielding numerous calls about our protest. Hilariously, this had to have generated even more bad publicity for the teen torture facility when she had to explain to callers what was going on.

After that, we were even more careful to make sure folks knew our signs referred to the behavior modification center. It's tricky, I know, because the cult is set back from the road on a long driveway.

This reaped dividends when parents began pulling into the facility for the weekly meetings. One of them - a balding, bearded man - got out of his car, lurched towards us, and angrily asked us what goes on inside the center that prompted our protest. One of our group replied, "Ask your child. They'll tell you." This response was a great comeback, because it caught the man off guard and didn't draw us into a pointless argument in which he'd just contradict us.

These demonstrations have several target audiences. The general public is one. The parents of the detained teenagers are another, because then maybe they'll start to realize we have a point, and they'll do some research and take their kids out of the program. Another audience is the teens themselves, who will discover we support them and will be motivated to fight back.

But the third group doesn't emerge until later. So after we got supper, we returned for the second phase of this twofer. I bet the cult's staffers were furious, because they probably thought we were gone for another few weeks!

In this second part, we did most of the same things as in the first part. There were the usual minor distractions put out by the program, but we realize they're distractions, and we held our ground. Suffice it to say, all indications point to the facility being an organization that hasn't changed much in years, and that's why we're on their case. They lie to us, and we can see right through them.

After the center got more exposure to the community at large - especially when a neighboring business was dragged into the issue - I can't imagine it lasting much longer. Fact is, programs like this have been shut down because of roadside rallies, so there is some very strong hope. People aren't going to want this center in their community, and out of all the parents who saw us, at least some are going to research to get all the facts that the facility has denied to them.

(More info:

GAO rules Bush broke SCHIP law

What? The Decider broke the law???

The General Accountability Office has ruled that the Bush regime (in all its usual miserableness) broke the law when it blocked states from using SCHIP funds to cover children's health insurance for working-class families.

Now the state of Ohio may sue the Bush regime if it doesn't reverse this rule by decree.


The Conservative Fool Of The Day is...Derek Walker!

Derek Walker is a "traditional values" conservative running for Congress in Pennsylvania. He and his '70s game show host hairdo have strong backing from the region's Republican intelligentsia.

But now Walker is charged with felony burglary, criminal trespassing, stalking, criminal invasion of privacy, and disorderly conduct in an incident that happened last August. Authorities say Walker came to his former girlfriend's apartment and videotaped her. Walker allegedly said, "This video is going to put an end to your job with the school district."

Of course, Walker claims the charges are politically motivated. He claims big, mean libs are trying to sabotage his candidacy. But he's not quitting his campaign. These charges probably help him in the Republican primary, because psychopaths tend to gravitate towards the GOP.

Derek Walker's alleged lawbreaking and his paranoid accusations of political motivations are just another example of the demise of the adult in today's America.


Friday, April 18, 2008

And another...

Yet another untraceable hang-up phone call today at 2:01 PM.

Sounds like a programmy thing to do, doesn't it?

Remind me, folks, to notify the phone company and the police about this harassment in the coming weeks. However, something tells me I'm not going to need any reminding, thanks to the lax attitude towards phone harassment that already exists.

Idiot legislator wants human rights center defunded to punish Carter

Sue Myrick is a right-wing extremist from North Carolina who was first elected to Congress in the America-hating wave of 1994.

Typical of the brand of Far Right Republicans who people Congress, Myrick spouts off against Jimmy Carter's efforts to negotiate Mideast peace. Myrick wants to revoke the former President's passport and cut off all funds for the Carter Center, a humanitarian organization named for the former leader of the free world.

So Sue Myrick thinks defunding a human rights center just because it's named after Jimmy Carter is supposed to make the world a better place? You're a kook, Sue.

Although Hamas has been designated as terrorist by the U.S. government, the government of Syria has also been deemed terrorist. Yet a Republican member of Congress - California's miserable Darrell Issa - has met with Syrian government officials. If Carter is accused of legitimizing Hamas by involving its officials in peace efforts, then aren't the Republicans legitimizing the Syrian government by meeting with it?

Why isn't Myrick demanding the passports of Darrell Issa and other Republican congresscritters be revoked? If these GOP lawmakers ever do have their passports taken away, hopefully it will be while they're overseas so they can't get back into America.


Religious license plates receive special treatment

I was riding the Peace Bike atop the Dayton, Kentucky, floodwall on Wednesday, when I realized what makes America such a special land. The U.S. and A. is what it is because of a certain feeling you just can't describe succinctly. It's something of a pioneer spirit.

I have this spirit, and I don't think it can be broken again, try as though some folks might. This mood is embodied in the Bill of Rights.

A lot of people out there in Internetland have misconceptions about my home state of Kentucky and of my description of myself as a populist. They assume it means I'm some sort of religious fanatic, or at the very least a diehard culture war conservative. It's a misunderstanding about my state and of what populism is all about. I emphasize economic matters, and when they see I'm on the economic left, they assume I'm on the social right.

This assumption is...voopvoopavoop wrong! I'm an avid defender of the First Amendment's guarantee of separation of religion and state.

An Indiana court, however, is not.

Last year, the Hoosier State introduced an "In God We Trust" license plate, which motorists could choose to put on their car. Though the "In God We Trust" plate was not mandatory, there was a bit of a problem: Other Indiana specialty plates required motorists to pay a $15 fee. If you wanted a plate promoting education or the environment, you had to pay $15. But the "In God We Trust" plate was free.

There might not have been many objections to the religious-themed plate if it also required a $15 fee. But because it's free, it's actually being subsidized by unwilling taxpayers - and is in effect government sponsorship of religion, which is illegal under the First Amendment.

But an Indianapolis judge thinks otherwise. In a lawsuit over the new plate, Superior Court Judge Gary Miller said it's perfectly legal to offer the religious plate free of charge, even if other specialty plates cost $15. Religious plates are somehow different, he says.

Yes, they're different alright. The Constitution doesn't say the government can't fund education or environmental efforts. But it does say it can't sponsor religion.

I have no doubt the "In God We Trust" plates are more of a political stunt by legislators than anything. A Republican lawmaker who sponsored the concept complained that "we're in a period of time in this country where there seems to be an awful lot of attack on faith-based initiatives of any type." Maybe it only seems that way to him because we're in a period of time when so many legislators make political hay out of religion, and that irritates folks more than they expect.


Jacket self-destructs

I'm mad!

This story is yet another that shows the decline in the quality of everything, even as prices soar.

I've been trying to clean my apartment for over a year, but this effort is always stymied because everything gets out of place again in the search for items that are lost in the process of being moved. Every time I need to look for something, the whole cleaning has to start over.

Last night, I started trying to find a hooded sweat jacket that looked somewhat presentable. I remembered I had a dark blue one I got about a year ago, which I wore a few times but then placed in the closet. I don't think I've needed a sweat jacket in a year, because it's been either horribly hot or cold enough for a winter coat.

Now that the weather is finally suitable to place the sweat jacket back in circulation, I figured I'd retrieve this coat from the closet. Laying atop some cardboard boxes full of old documents was my blue jacket! I happily grabbed it, only to have it nearly crumble right in my hands.

The outside of the jacket looks almost spotless - until you hold it to the light and find that the entire inner lining has deteriorated. This photo that shows it hanging on the message board on the refrigerator doesn't do justice to the damage:


Needless to say, this coat is ru.

With the inner lining gone, most of the jacket is now nearly transparent if there's a light behind it.

Who's ever heard of the lining of a brand new sweat jacket just completely rotting? It looks worse than Superman's cape in the movie where he got splattered with acid. Most of the lining is simply gone. The jacket bears no weird odors, and the clothes, papers, and other items that were near it in the closet have no damage (unless they were pre-ru). So it's obvious the lining didn't rot because of anything I did.

Pieces of the lining continue to fall off.

I'm shocked any clothing manufacturer can put out such a shitty product. To quote Kermit the Frog: I do not believe it. I'm astonished people these days are willing to pay more for items that digest themselves for no apparent reason.

This is one coat that's going back to the store for a refund.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Congressional bill would decriminalize marijuana

Here's an idea that's long overdue (not unlike a library book): Today, Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced a much-needed bill in Congress. The bill would (at least at the federal level) effectively decriminalize possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana. The legislation would finally implement recommendations that were made by a White House commission - way back in 1972! (Nice to know Congress is only 36 years behind the Nixon administration.)

The bill doesn't erase state laws that criminalize pot. But it represents probably the first instance in my adult life of a congressional bill to relax federal penalties.

Congress ought to pass this bill immediately. I don't expect them to, of course. We know which way one party's going to vote - but as for the Democrats, however, this will be a good litmus test of which congresscritters are in cahoots with the DLC or the Blue Dogs. The War on Drugs is a War on People that hits the poorest Americans the hardest, so it's not just a culture war issue but an economic one.

We need to make the failed War on Drugs an issue in the presidential campaign. If we can't move the national Democrats to supporting less draconian drug policy, we have to assume they're no better than the Republicans.


Foreclosure vandalism story debunked

Early this month, the Far Right meeped mastodonly over a manufactured story that made its rounds through the wingnutosphere. According to this urban legend, folks who lost their homes to foreclosures angrily vandalized the houses by removing appliances and furniture and abandoning their pets to wipe their shit-caked asses all over the walls.

It turns out however that it didn't quite happen the way the freeposphere thunk. The companion animals in the cases in question weren't left behind: The evicted homeowners took their pets with them when they left. The animals were beloved family members, not property to be discarded. The bit about the missing furniture and appliances also wasn't quite what was claimed: These goodies didn't come with the houses. They were purchased separately by the residents before being kicked out.

It sounds to me like the foreclosure victims got "revenge" on greedy banks by taking appliances that were rightfully their own. They didn't "steal" them. If you put money into a house after you buy it, those improvements are yours to keep. There's some jurisdictions where the banks have lobbied to pass laws to declare that banks can seize these extra amenities as part of a foreclosure. But these laws are not legally enforceable: If you as a homeowner paid for something as a separate purchase from the house, it's yours. Period.

Foreclosures don't even have to be enforced at all, so the banks are really looking a gift horse in the mouth if they're miffed at evicted residents taking the microwave and the couch that they got separately.

With the banks trying to take appliances that aren't theirs, the laws to protect foreclosure victims should be clearer. I'd also like to see the law make it harder for banks to foreclose. Outside the right-wing intelligentsia, there's long been general agreement that it's too easy for banks to foreclose on homes.

As for the part about the abandoned pets, I don't know where that came from. Nobody with any sense would leave their dog behind in a foreclosed home. Such an inhumane act would be more the province of Freepers, except they're well-off enough that they never have to worry about losing their homes.

There's no doubt that some foreclosed homes have suffered some serious damage at the hands of residents (who were usually scammed by confiscatory interest rates and banking practices, which are nearly unregulated). But this destruction is not the national pandemic that the forces of reaction claim.

It speaks volumes about the wingnutosphere that they repeatedly side with banks against financially ruined residents, even when the banks are legally and morally wrong. The right-wing blogs are dominated by spoiled, self-righteous pricks who've never gotten their hands greasy in their lives but complain about people who are less well-off having it too easy. Because the facts don't jibe with their paranoia about the doors of their mansions being beaten down by hordes of indignant working-class and poor people, they exaggerate news items they see - or they make up bullshit out of thin air.