Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cold medicine law causes meth labs in cars

Will their Nazis shut their damn yips now about how they think the new laws against cold and allergy medicine are so great?

Following the passage of clearly unconstitutional state and federal laws limiting access to allergy and cold medicine, only the innocent have suffered. Predictably, these laws have failed to accomplish their stated purpose of curtailing meth labs. In fact, methamphetamine labs have proliferated more and more since the laws - which are today's equivalent of the Rockefeller drug laws - took effect.

In Leesburg, Indiana, police recently found 2 people passed out in a car that contained a meth lab. So now, instead of confining the labs to just a house to contaminate that immediate area, these death traps are now on wheels so the chemical contamination is spread far and wide.

Fine mess you've gotten us in now, Decider.

While moms have been sent to prison under these laws for buying too much medicine for their sick kids, the laws have (predictably) failed to stop those who might use the medicine to cook meth - because they just get it elsewhere.

I know the drug warriors are going to come here and babble about "prima facie" (and get laughed at for it like what happened on the old blog), but they've got nothing to stand on.

Any presidential candidate who doesn't want to repeal the federal law on cold medicine and require the states to repeal their illegal laws shouldn't be taken seriously.


Woman arrested for DUI without drinking a drop

Real DUI offenders (like Vito Fossella) should be punished.

But what if somebody gets arrested for drunken driving without even drinking a drop of alcohol? That would really bip, wouldn't it?

It happened recently in Mesa, Arizona. A 29-year-old woman who was driving home from a party was stopped by police, handcuffed, and booked for driving under the influence. Her pickup truck was searched and instantly impounded.

But her blood-alcohol level was precisely zero. She was the designated driver and had consumed no alcohol that evening.

How does a perfectly sober motorist get charged with DUI?

I think it's another case that shows that nowadays the authorities consider a person guilty even after being proven innocent. There's so little accountability for the system that the center of power in America has moved in the system's favor more so than at any other time in recent history.

A writer for the Phoenix New Times speculated that the arrest could have been retaliation for the fact that the woman's husband is an attorney who represents DUI defendants. If the arrest was retaliatory, that makes the system even more out of control than it appears.

But it's also been speculated that the woman looked younger than 29, so police assumed she was a minor and was out past curfew. That the cops would jump to such a conclusion and make an arrest based on this is also a sign of an out-of-control system.

About Arizona law: If you refuse a DUI blood test, your driver's license gets confiscated on the spot. But a field sobriety test is different. In that state, a motorist may refuse a field sobriety test. You cannot be arrested for refusing it. But the woman was arrested anyway.

We know this much: The woman was charged with DUI despite later proving she had nothing to drink. The charges weren't dismissed for another month. That's a problem.

Like I said, I think real drunken drivers should be prosecuted, convicted, and penalized. But it's not fair to keep a legal battle alive for a month against someone who's already been shown to be innocent.

How can we trust the system to ever be fair when it doesn't even follow the law itself?


More "zero tolerance" fascism

When you're talking about the "zero tolerance" Gestapo that fills America's schools, it seems like every story is more outrageous than the last. And these new stories have to be among the most mind-boggling yet.

This set of outrages stretches back a couple years. But they weren't widely reported until now.

A year ago, a teenage girl in Brockton, Massachusetts, was handcuffed and arrested at school for a dress code violation. You read that right: Arrested. For a dress code violation, of all things! She was wearing a t-shirt featuring a picture of a boyfriend who had been killed in a shooting.

What was the student charged with? "Causing a disturbance." A shirt caused a disturbance?

Massachusetts state law prohibits public schools from even having a dress code, so the school was violating the law by even enforcing such a policy at all. (State law says schools may not "abridge the rights of students as to personal dress and appearance.")

In Texas not long ago, a 14-year-old girl was sentenced to 7 years in prison for allegedly pushing a hall monitor. (The monitor had threatened her - and several students said the monitor had shoved her first.)

This is part of a trend of America's prison-like schools delegating discipline to police, the court system, and corrections facilities. It's part of a whole system that benefits the corrections industry and weeds out dissenters and small-time troublemakers.

Of course, the major troublemakers have gotten away with more and more. Everyone knows that if some spoiled brat was expelled for bullying, the bully would be defended to the death by the same people who support imprisoning students over a dress code violation. Count on that.

Now there's another incident, this one in the right-wing public schools of Winchendon, Massachusetts.

An elementary school student was suspended for 5 days because he took a souvenir rifle casing to school. The casing was not live ammo. It was an empty brass casing from a blank (not even from a real bullet), and it was given to him by a veteran during a Memorial Day festival.

If a vet presents an empty casing to a youngster during a festival, how can it possibly be dangerous? Anybody could have seen that it was not a live weapon. Scissors used daily in schools are far more dangerous than this casing was.

It gets worse. For starts, the school said it's keeping the casing and not returning it. That's commonly known as theft. For another, the school is also threatening to assign a probation officer to the boy.

For what??? They're going to assign a probation officer without even making sure he's guilty of a crime? He's only in 4th grade, for crying out loud!

Come on, lawsuits, where are you? With everyone cowed into not taking action against schools, there's little accountability for schools now. Maybe if schools knew they'd be sued, this shit would stop.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Wouldn't ya know it! Kentuckians still disapprove of Bush!

For all the gloating by the right-wing media about Kentucky supposedly being one of the new GOP strongholds, we may have to rethink the validity of this trend.

For about the fillionth time, a poll has been released showing hugely unfavorable approval ratings for Bush in Kentucky. The poll is by SurveyUSA, which isn't exactly the voice of an aggrieved proletariat. Their doings always seem to be quite a bit more right-leaning than where things really stand, so you know it's much worse for Bush than this makes it appear.

You ready now? Bush's current approval ratings in Kentucky are...37% approve, 62% disapprove, 1% unsure.

It's times like these you almost wish Bush could seek a third term - because he wouldn't stand a chance in Kentucky or nationwide.


Courts gut Vioxx verdicts

Alligator tears are often shed by conservatives complaining about what they call judicial activism from the left. But this is clearly a case of judicial activism from the right.

Yesterday, courts in both New Jersey and Texas gutted verdicts against drug giant Merck & Co. that resulted from its now-withdrawn painkiller Vioxx. (The drug was withdrawn when it was found to double the risk of heart attack and stroke.)

The Texas court tossed out a $26,000,000 judgment against Merck in the case of a man who died of a heart ailment after taking Vioxx for 8 months. An attorney for the man's family called this reversal a "new judicial activism" that improperly reinterpreted the existing evidence against Merck.

He also pointed out that all 3 of the judges on this panel took campaign contributions from law firms that defended the drug maker.

Isn't that some sort of conflict? And wasn't there a way to get the trial moved to a court that didn't have judges who took contributions from Merck's legal firms?

The $26,000,000 award that was thrown out wasn't even enough. That amount of money is mere pennies to a big corporation like Merck. The man's widow had been awarded $253,000,000, but the system in Texas is so favorable to Big Business that punitive damage caps slashed that judgment by almost 90%.

In New Jersey, the court voided $9,000,000 of a $13,900,000 verdict against Merck & Co. Like so many other recent activist rulings, this decision dashed the notion of federalism to smithereens by using the preemption excuse.

Recently, especially within Bush's regime, the battering ram of federal preemption has been wielded like never before. The court claimed federal law trumps the state law that allowed a larger award. This view, however, has no legal basis whatsoever.

The corporate empire has struck once again.


Mark Levin is the radio host of the st00pid!

Haw haw haw, you got me there, conservos - not!

Did the owner of the Mark Levin fan site really think I didn't expect them to change the photo of their hero that I linked to? (This is a separate matter from the hacks I discovered earlier.)

Man, they really stepped in it, didn't they? They don't even realize how much they hurt their cause when they did that.

You know, I've run websites for 12 years, and I know that people linking to pictures on it just goes with the territory - unless they're actively trying to waste bandwidth. If they link to it only once, so they can illustrate a point, it's hardly cause for concern. It's obviously not a copyright issue, because there is something called fair use, you know.

And people have linked to my pictures - almost always without my permission. I don't recall ever raising a stink about it.

But I guess the Levin fan site thinks the rules that apply to everyone else shouldn't apply to them.

Their site is truly a monstrosity. Looking at the blog portion, about half of it is devoted to the type of hate speech and propaganda that's typical of the right-wing noise machine. The other half is devoted to praising Mark Levin for spewing the type of hate speech and propaganda that's typical of the right-wing noise machine.

One of Levin's favorite sayings is, "Liberalism is the philosophy of the stupid." But Levin is the radio host of the stupid. If the owner of his fan site was so smart, they wouldn't have thought I wouldn't have dished out some industrial-strength humiliation for trying to pull one over on me.

How about if we just refer to Mark Levin as Speak-&-Spell-face? He looks like a Speak & Spell! Just because he looks like one of the smartest toys of my youth doesn't mean his show isn't every bit as stupid as his fan site.

Here's Levin (with right-wing agitator Ann Coulter, in a photo found on Levin's MySpace page):

Here's a Speak & Spell:

In this and other photos, Levin looks like a Speak & Spell, for his goofy grin appears frozen, and his face appears to be breaking out in a pattern reminiscent of the buttons on the classic Texas Instruments toy.

Maybe Speak-&-Spell-face's followers are just mad because their hero's face resembles a '70s electronic toy, and mine doesn't.

Pawlenty vetoes important foreclosure bill

Right-wing Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota has poopies in his Superman Underoos.

Much like the Bushes, Pawlenty is a particularly arrogant user of the veto pen to stand in the way of progress. Recently he vetoed a transportation bill passed by the Minnesota legislature because the bill would have pulled the state out of the fascist Real ID program. Now the Republican governor has vetoed a much-needed bill that would have placed a temporary hold on foreclosures against struggling Minnesotans.

Pawlenty's veto was cheered by the right-wing American Securitization Forum, a group of lenders and powerful Wall Street investment firms. By vetoing this important bill, Pawlenty has in effect bailed out greedy banks and cost many hard-working people their homes.

The gov has several excuses for his veto. One is that placing a moratorium on foreclosures will just make credit more expensive for other folks. Well, no, not necessarily. If there was any oversight at all over the banking industry, it's not likely to happen. He also claimed the bill would have unconstitutionally restricted contracts. Wrong again. There's nothing unconstitutional about the bill, and the bill has an airtight precedent: In the 1980s, Minnesota passed a strong law to defer farm foreclosures.

After vetoing the latest bill against foreclosures, Tim Pawlenty doesn't exactly sound like a champion of working-class populism, does he?


Hacked by the hacks!

You know this blog has hit the big time when conservative freakazoids start hacking into sites where the pictures are stored and replacing our pictures with their shitty wallpaper files with barely legible slogans.

Sadly (for them), any idiot could have probably done what they did (at least with the amount of help and resources they get from people in high places) and done a better job of it. Even more sadly (for them), they weren't smart enough to keep me from figuring out where the attack came from almost immediately. Oops!

In the meantime, I've noticed this blog is being blacklisted via lack of coverage, despite its growing following. So spread the word: The Online Lunchpail is open for business in case you want to stop by after a hard day of work for some chattin' and chewin'! Tell all your friends about this blog. Don't delay!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

School spies on teacher who helped write underground paper

The American school system isn't exactly known for being pro-people, but now it's gotten ridiculous.

In Everett, Washington (yeah, I know: "I'm alright...") a high school teacher was fired for the thoughtcrime of helping students publish an underground newspaper, after the regular school paper closed because the school tried to censor it. The school district later reinstated her at a different school, following a settlement with the district.

Now it turns out that just before she was fired, the school system spied on her by secretly videotaping her class. The spying took place from May 10 to June 11 of last year. (They were still in school on June 11? Well, that's at least the fourth fascist thing the school system has done - after censoring the paper, firing a teacher who made an underground paper, and spying on the teacher.)

At first, the school system denied videotaping the classroom. But they lied. They later admitted to using the camera.

What the school district did is illegal, of course. Now the teachers' union is filing a complaint against the district. Suspiciously, the videotapes are now missing. So it appears that not only did the school illegally record the teacher, but they destroyed the evidence as well. (Five! Five mistakes they've made!)

Obviously, the tapes failed to show that the teacher did anything wrong. Otherwise, why would the district have had to reinstate her?

The school's excuses for punishing the teacher are petty and ridiculous. The system overreached and overreacted at almost every turn. But in BushAmerica, policing thoughts has become par for the course.


Entertainment industry thugs wreck TV production firm

MediaDefender is a right-wing thug operation that trashes peer-to-peer networks by illegally gumming them up with bogus files that waste bandwidth. MediaDefender even created its own video sharing site to entrap folks into uploading copyrighted content. The firm's clients include major TV production companies, record labels, the RIAA, and the MPAA.

Revision3 is an Internet TV network that produces shows on assorted topics. Now MediaDefender has launched an illegal denial-of-service attack against Revision3. This was because Revision3 had locked out the spybots that MediaDefender was illegally using to spy on users.

MediaDefender not only vandalized Revision3, which is a legitimate business. It did so stupidly. Revision3 was able to trace the attacks right to MediaDefender.

What's really scary is that this could have just as easily happened to, say, a hospital or a fire department, if the idiots at MediaDefender wanted to accuse these agencies of violating its clients' copyrights. There's no boundaries on what the entertainment industry's hired thugs at MediaDefender have been allowed to get away with, and sooner or later, it could cause someone to be hurt or killed (instead of just costing someone business like it did this time).

If some teenager with a 300 baud modem had been able to do what MediaDefender did to Revision3, they'd be looking at hard time. Hopefully, authorities won't look the other way this time just because MediaDefender has the backing of the MPAA and RIAA Gestapos.


Town practices housing discrimination against unmarried people

This is the story of one municipal regime that didn't learn its lesson from past humiliation.

In 2006, the town of Black Jack, Missouri - a suburb of St. Louis - tried to remove an unmarried couple and their 3 children from their own home because the city did not consider them to be a family. The town defined a family as either:

• a person living alone
• at least 2 people who are all related by blood, marriage, or adoption
• a maximum of 3 people who are not related by blood, marriage, or adoption

Under these rules, an unmarried couple with one child would be allowed - but they would not be allowed if they had 2 or more kids. (Ooh, an Allowed Cloud!)

The policy was preposterous on several fronts. For one, it wrongly defined children and their parents as not being family (solely because the parents weren't married). For another, it's none of the city's fucking business if unrelated people live together. The town enforced this policy by forcing residents to obtain an occupancy permit - which is an internal passport.

The town of Black Jack is clearly run by dominionist whack-a-doos who couldn't help sticking their noses where they didn't belong.

If I was the family who was barred from living in that city, I would have just ignored the order to leave town. Especially if I owned the house (in which case I couldn't be evicted by a landlord).

It turned out this discrimination had been going on for years in that suburb. Back in 1999, parents of triplets were barred from living in the city because they were unmarried. And way back in 1985, the city of Ladue, Missouri - a notoriously right-wing St. Louis suburb - did the same to a couple, citing an outdated ordinance prohibiting an unmarried couple from living together. The pair had lived in Ladue for 4 years. Joan Kelly Horn, the woman who was victimized by this law, said of her plight, "It was, 'Get married or move out.'" Believe it or not, the right-wing Missouri Court of Appeals actually upheld the ordinance against the couple.

(Incidentally, Horn was later elected to Congress. But she was later defeated by none other than right-wing extremist Jim Talent.)

The ordinances found in Black Jack and Ladue were clearly cases of housing discrimination by the town government. These laws may be discriminatory, but are these laws illegal? I would say that they are. If nothing else, it's a situation where common law must prevail. (The notion of common law in this case has nothing to do with whether a state recognizes common law marriages, which is a completely different matter.)

Following the 2006 controversy, Black Jack reportedly changed its ordinance to allow unmarried couples with any number of children to be defined as a family. But now the same thing is happening all over again!

Recently, an unmarried couple along with the woman's 3 children buyed a house in Black Jack. But now the city is forcing them to leave, citing the ordinance that has already generated so much ridicule and legal worry.

Didn't city officials learn from 2 negative stories over the exact same thing just in the past 9 years?

The city vows to go to court to defend its ordinance, but it has no case. Nonetheless, I do think it's time for federal housing laws to be strengthened so there's less ambiguity about protecting the public from this type of discrimination.

(Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch 2/21/06;
USA Today 5/16/06;

MSNBC execs killed important Bush stories

Gee, tell me something I don't know!

The major American news media is in effect the country's official news organ. The commercial networks and news organizations effectively get government subsidies in the form of the '96 telcom law, a favorable regulatory structure, and the like. So who should be surprised that the media kills important news stories about the ruling regime?

Yesterday, in the wake of Scott McClellan's memoir, CNN's Jessica Yellin revealed that executives at MSNBC (where Yellin worked during the pre-bubbling of the Iraq War) pressured her into not doing devastating stories about the Bush regime.

Yellin said, "The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the President's [sic] high approval ratings."

What high approval ratings? I know Jessica Yellin is talking about 2003, but the high approval ratings she's referring to are the ones the right-wing media pulled out of its ass. In reality, Bush never had the high numbers the media claimed. Since his rise in the '90s, the media has built up Bush as some sort of folk hero - a messiah even.

The American media in recent years has been about on par with Pravda. MSNBC - known in the current campaign for doing an incredibly shitty job of doctoring a clip of a Michelle Obama speech - isn't alone in its suppression of negative stories about Bush.

This is far more than merely annoying, especially because the time frame Yellin refers to was just prior to the war. It was obvious then that the media was cheering the war and not digging deep or raising many incisive questions about the effort. As with the '91 Gulf War, the media in 2003 had a pack mentality that muzzled opposing views. And it still does.

We can also link this phenomenon to the Decider's buildup of any possible bombing or attack against any country besides Iraq - like Iran, for instance. A possible attack on Iran may be the real story now, and the media has done no digging into this story either.

Media outlets are supposed to ask questions so the public knows all the facts - not parrot party propaganda. The one-sided coverage the media offered is the model of corporatism and is antithetical to democracy.

I think we can also put this "liberal media" myth to rest too. We're decades past that point now.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Court lets drug dogs sniff house without warrant

Here's a mind-numbingly bad ruling, courtesy of the Michigan Court of Appeals.

According to the court, it's perfectly constitutional for police to use drug-sniffing dogs to sniff the exterior of a house even without a search warrant or probable cause.

It is??? Maybe I'm mistaken, but I was once told that there's something called a Fourth Amendment, which is supposed to prohibit these types of warrantless searches.

One of the judges on this court said this search is legal because your front porch is public property. Um, what's that again? Since when is a porch public property?

Does that mean you can make the city use public funds to pay to fix your porch? Does that mean we can go to the judge's porch and conduct an alcohol-laden party without even getting the judge's permission?


Circuit City calls FCC's bluff

Challenging the FCC's whole reason for being seems to be the latest tactic in Corporate America's moldy toolbox.

The FCC was created in 1934 to regulate the radio spectrum, wire communications, and devices including transmitters and receivers. But recently Comcast ignorantly tried challenging the FCC's power to mandate 'Net neutrality (which falls under wire communications). Comcast's case was laughable. The cable and Internet giant practically told the government right to its face that it can't make laws. According to Comcast, laws are only for the little people, you see.

The basic gist of Comcast's argument was that the FCC has no authority over it - even though the law clearly established that it does. So Comcast is just going to defy the FCC outright.

Now Circuit City is pulling a similar stunt. Recently, several retail chains were fined billions for not warning customers that TV's they purchased there were going to be useless a year from now. But Circuit City - in all its infinite inanity - is now saying the FCC doesn't have the authority to enforce the rule requiring retailers to warn customers about worthless TV's.

Seriously, Circuit Shitty actually said that. Heaven forfend the government actually regulate a corporation.

What's the point in having regulations if nobody has the authority to enforce it?

Now Circuit City may sue to have the FCC's regulation invalidated. Circus City has no case. I guess they think it's easier to try to have a friendly judge strike down the FCC's rule than to obey it.

Without oversight authority like this, what is the FCC for? The corporate empire is fine with the FCC as long it uses its power only to go after pirate stations that don't hurt anyone and put out misleading propaganda favoring digital TV. But when the FCC goes after a major corporation, Corporate America is never shy about flexing its muscle in the face of pending action.


Colon superbug cases soar

The Bush record of incompetence continues.

And yes, I blame Bush, or at least his party. He presided over this, and the Republicans controlled Congress during the time in question, so whose fault is it? Is the 20% crowd going to try to blame Jimmy Carter for this too, even though it started 20 years after he left office?

The CDC has revealed that cases of Clostridium difficile or C. diff, a superbug infection that afflicts the colon, are skyrocketing. C. diff causes diarrhea and even colitis. It can even be fatal.

Nationwide, the number of people hospitalized with C. diff has been growing by over 10,000 a year. In 2005 (the most recent year for which data is available), the number of C. diff hospitalizations was over twice what it was in 2000. And it was twice as likely to be fatal in 2004 than in 2000. C. diff outbreaks have been reported in other countries too, but none as severe as in the U.S., where it now afflicts 300,000 a year.

And this bacterial infection is resistant to antibiotics.

The real tragedy is that people died when they didn't have to. C. diff is likely preventable: It's spread by spores in fecal matter. You have to wonder how people end up with C. diff.

Much of this goes right back to the declining health care system. C. diff now afflicts a staggering 13% of hospital patients who are hospitalized for less than 2 weeks, and most C. diff cases follow exposure to hospitals, schools, or other institutions. Translation: Hospitals and schools have become dirtier. Whose fault is that?

I didn't know hospitals were here to make people sicker.

While it's clear C. diff is on the rise, it's unclear what the government is doing about it, other than sitting on its ass like it usually does.


Article blasts digital TV reception

Well, wouldn't ya know it? I'm not the only bloke who's concerned about TV having weaker reception once the government-mandated transition to digital TV happens.

In the past few days, I've written extensively about the problem of many Americans potentially being denied TV, a useful and educational medium that they've had access to for over 50 years. Now I've found an article from February expressing the exact same concerns I've had. It correctly says that when a station's signal becomes weak enough that a regular analog picture becomes snowy, a digital signal vanishes completely. So, "rather than getting a lower quality picture you get none at all."

The piece came on the heels of the discovery that the FCC was overestimating the range of digital signals - likely on purpose, in a propaganda effort to win support for digital TV. A study by Centris, an L.A.-based market research firm, says millions of Americans will need sophisticated outdoor antennas to receive the same stations they get now with basic rabbit ears.

"For the people with rabbit ear antennas, I would say at least 50% won't get the channels they were getting," said Dr. Oded Bendov, a consultant who helped install digital antennas on the Empire State Building. "I would say a lot of people are going to be very unhappy."

So now you know I'm not just speculating about digital TV signal loss. It's a very real problem, and I think it's going to doom digital.

And don't run by me this B.S. about getting cable. Cable is expensive, and I'm on a budget. I know folks in my county who live on roads where cable isn't even available. And their digital reception is going to be even worse than mine is, because they live much further from most stations' towers. So don't you dare try telling them to get cable.

If people are so disgruntled now at buying a new set or a $40 converter, think what it's going to be like when they have to pay $40 a month for cable or hundreds on an outdoor antenna with a coaxial - assuming they even can.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Veterans deprived of "stimulus" checks

This is the third story in 2 days about veterans getting stabbed in the back. The Bush regime conceals a knife in its hand to wound courageous veterans who put their lives on the line for their country.

Amid the hype about the "economic stimulus" checks that every American is supposed to receive, several key facts are forgotten: Many did not and will not receive one, because they made too little money to pay enough taxes - which proves the entire "stimulus" scheme is an underhanded method of gutting the progressive tax system. Furthermore, veterans are seeing their money withheld by the government to pay for treatment they received from the VA.

Many veterans won't see a nickel of the "stimulus" check they're supposed to get.

The thing about this is that the vets were told the VA treatment was free. Now they find out it isn't, so the government is taking away their check to cover the cost.

I'm a lifelong civilian and I loathe war, but I think veterans deserve better than this. It's a damn shame the troop haters (the same ones who urge the government to misdiagnose soldiers so they don't get as much disability payments) don't think so.


Homeowners association may sue vet for flying flag

Homeowners associations have gotten so out of control that every story about their outrages seems almost anticlimactic. But this story is almost too much to bear.

In Clermont, Florida, a Navy war veteran may face a lawsuit by a homeowners association for flying the U.S. flag in his front yard.

It's clear the homeowners association has no case. I thought the United States Flag Code permits any American to respectfully fly Old Glory any time they opt to do so. Florida state law says the same.

That said, homeowners associations have little real legal recourse regarding most other matters too. But the center of debate has moved too far in homeowners associations' favor. Today, too many Americans take it for granted that they must surrender most of their autonomy to such a construct. Homeowners associations are organized under corporate law - not under the laws that form cities and municipalities, which legally have more power. By being in effect private corporations, the associations have been able to evade constitutional provisions that apply to city governments. By the same token, however, their power to enforce their rules is legally limited.

A lot of folks think the associations have a legal right to enforce petty guidelines that never would have held up if a city tried to enforce them. When you look at the law, quite the opposite is true.

Incidentally, the right-wing thought police at Freak Rethuglic is bashing the retired Navy man who chose to fly the flag. A Freeper cried, "This moron needs to shut up, and follow the rules he agreed to." Wrong again, Freeper loudmouth. The homeowners association needs to shut up, and follow the laws it agreed to when it decided to organize in the United States. I know of no real legal theory that permits these associations to turn neighborhoods into dictatorial fiefdoms.


Mr. Elbow Care trails in poll

I couldn't believe it either, but here it comes...

After 4 insufferable Senate terms, bubble gum expert and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell is actually behind in the polls now! A Rusmussen poll shows the hated Republican lawmaker from Kentucky is actually trailing Democrat Bruce Lunsford 49% to 44%!

He's losing to Bruce Lunsford, of all people!

Just think what Gatewood Galbraith would have done to poor ol' Mitch!

I thought McConnell would be allowed to sail to a fifth term after Lunsford won the Democratic primary, and I'm planning to support the Green candidate, but if McConnell is behind by 5% now, he has got to be getting very nervous! I've been eager since I was a teenager to see McConnell lose, and this could finally be the year!


When the FCC yelled at Sears

I found a link to the letter from the FCC's Dallas office to Sears that followed the store's failure to warn consumers about TV's that would soon become useless piles of metal thanks to the mandatory switch to digital:

Sears was later fined because it didn't heed this warning.

But the retail chain didn't learn from the fine either. If it did, it wouldn't have claimed the Sylvania I buyed there (which is one of the models listed in the letter) could receive digital.

Some people just never learn, do they?

I bet the woman who bubbled in the Sears commersh in the '90s would be mad if this happened to her!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Conservative Fool Of The Day is...Liz Trotta!

Here's another face that looks tailor-made for toilet paper.

Liz Trotta used to be the New York bureau chief for Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times, which is about as big of a scumbag rag as any paper can be. Now she's a contributor to the much-maligned Fox News Channel.

Yesterday, Trotta appeared on Fux News and not only deliberately confused Obama with Osama but also arrogantly joked about the notion of assassinating the presidential frontrunner. She mentioned something about a Hillary Clinton remark that "some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off, uh, Osama."

The anchor quickly corrected this intentional gaffe: "Obama."

Trotta continued, "Well, both if we could." Then she laughed. Because she thinks assassinating presidential candidates is funny. Which it really isn't, of course. But she thinks it is.

I'm no longer surprised by this type of unprofessional agitation by the Washington Times/Pox News crowd. The right-wing noise machine knows they're inciting their followers, so hopefully Liz Trotta will get a visit from the Secret Service soon.


Right-wing columnist calls PTSD a hoax

Leave it to a right-wing hack like Thomas Lipscomb to bash veterans on a holiday designed to commemorate America's war dead.

In a new column that came out today, Lipscum practically came right out and claimed post-traumatic stress disorder - a condition that commonly afflicts war vets - is a big hoax by the peace movement and the big, mean media to pump up the number of casualties caused by war. He didn't put it in those exact words, but that was the gist of his piece.

In a staggering run-on sentence, Lipscomb whines that "claims of injuries from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are being used to grossly inflate the casualty rate and establish a whole new class of dubious 'victims.'" He blames this largely on "those who hate the American military."

You're a loon, Thomas.

Lipscomb's piece is more or less a diatribe against veterans who have PTSD. He baselessly accuses injured vets of bilking the system, as he doubts the validity of PTSD diagnoses.

His attitude is enough to make you vomit.

In earlier unreadable columns, Thomas Lipscomb mercilessly attacked the military careers of John Kerry and Wesley Clark.

Right-wing websites that carry Lipscomb's pieces often claim Lipscomb was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his bogus reporting on Kerry in the 2004 campaign. But it turned out that this was a lie: Lipscomb's name was nowhere to be found on the Pulitzer folks' own list of nominees in 2004 or 2005.

This lie continues to be posted with his articles, 2 years after it was debunked.

If Lipscomb lies about something like that, can you really trust him?

It's sickening that the wingnutosphere chooses patriotic holidays to attack veterans who have PTSD - but no longer a surprise, because they stab vets in the back on all the other days lately too.


9 is greater than 4...

9 is greater than 4
Sky is better than floor...

(That's sung to the tune of "High Is Better Than Low", which I know nobody else remembers, because that was even before my time.)

Since we seem to be in an audiovisual mood here at the ol' 'Pail, I'm going to regale you with what digital TV has in store for you. Digital TV has been hyped endlessly by the right-wing media for years. I remember a few years ago how the Cincinnati Post kept touting it in the human interest section with what appeared to be a drawing of Jerry Seinfeld arguing with Kramer on a TV screen, and I thought at the time there was no way in hell the government would ever be able to make the switch to digital. But now I'm in a position to be a watchdog for all the digital travails that loom.

The digital TV set I buyed today is probably the best you can get as far as tuning goes. The analog mode has the best reception of any new set I've acquired since the '80s, so you know it's great by today's standards. Digital reception problems are inherent in the medium - not necessarily a problem with your set.

Here's an analogy: Records versus CD's. A scratched record will offer degraded sound quality. Do the same to a CD, and the CD won't work, period. CD's are digital, so it's all or nothing. With the regular, analog TV we're used to, signal interference might create some fuzz or static, but the station can still be watchable. With digital TV, the same interference will prevent you from receiving the station at all.

Apologists for digital TV claim this isn't so. But it's so.

True to form, I can get 9 stations in analog mode with the new TV reasonably clearly. Yet I can get only 4 stations in digital mode (and they break up so badly I can barely watch them). I can't pick up at all one of the 3 powerful VHF stations whose tower is directly across the river.

Last I checked, 9 > 4. What was this again about digital TV offering better picture?

There's certain locations where some stations can be clearer using digital. I believe that. But these are exceptions, not the rule. Most people don't live on high enough land or close enough to a station's tower to enjoy this advantage.

The reception problems with digital TV could have been avoided. Many '80s computing enthusiasts know about something called a checksum, which is the sum of a set of numeric data designed to ensure the data was entered properly. I don't think the current digital TV standard employs a similar method, because if it did, reception would be better. The government could have instituted a much better digital standard, but stations are like the Mafia: They have territory. Their territory is called a DMA. Stations don't want an out-of-town affiliate violating their exclusive "rights" to programming, even when the out-of-town station doesn't preempt it every 2 weeks like the local station does. So they lobbied to make stations less easy to receive, so people can't pull in distant signals.

And if some areas on the edge of a DMA or in low-lying areas can no longer pick up any stations, they're told to spend $25 a month on cable. The industry doesn't care about anyone who doesn't already have cable.

It's probably too late for the government to come out with a standard that corrects this issue, because then all the digital sets that are coming out now will probably be obsolete!

This reception problem is why I think digital ain't going to last. I'm the first person I know of who doesn't have cable but has a digital set, so most folks haven't had to deal with this problem yet. When people find out they can't even watch half as many stations as they could previously view, they're not going to like it too much, and they're going to be on Congress's case like stink on shit.

Seared by Sears

This one's gonna be long, so hold on to your bell bottoms...

Yesterday, as you now know, I buyed an allegedly digital TV set. I quickly discovered though that the picture didn't work.

I wasn't planning on doing anything about it today, but at 1 PM, my mom called and insisted I get it taken care of, because I'm not going to be able to borrow her car again for another week. She informed me of something rather interesting about that particular set, the Sylvania CR202BL8, which I'll get into. But she said I had to exchange the TV immediately. Now. At once.

Now, I had a lot of pain in my youth (which I'm not getting into) that still makes my moods bubble to the surface 20 years later. After hearing of how I done got took, the old heartache momentarily gurgled back.

The TV I got yesterday was from the Sears in Florence, Kentucky. When my mom showed up at my place to pick up the Sylvania to be returned, she showed me a website she printed out off the Internet about the scam Sears is pulling. I knew Sears was one of several retail giants that was fined by the FCC for not telling customers who purchased TV's that their set won't be any good next year. But I thought that was only regular TV's, not ones that purported to be digital. And I didn't think this con game was still going on after they got caught.

It turns out Sylvania misled when it said the TV is digital. Although it has a digital setting, it needs a converter box to pick up digital video. Sears did not tell me this. The documents we got off the Internet featured a letter from the FCC to a Sears in Texas about this very model of TV, warning Sears it had to tell customers they'd need a box to use it, even though it was labeled as digital.

Didn't Sears learn a fucking thing from being slapped by the FCC??? I think the sales staff at Sears just didn't know any better. So the real blame lies with the store management and with Sylvania for being so misleading.

So I returned the TV, got my money back, and got a different brand at H.H. Gregg instead.

The set I got today works about as well as you could hope for, which is better than yesterday's set. We're still going to have to deal with the reception problems though (which I expected). I can tell already digital TV isn't going to go over too well when people see what it's like. Fortunately, today's set also has an analog setting for when digital goes the way of videodiscs (which I seriously believe is going to happen).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bob Barr, Libertarian?

Really? Bob Barr???

At the Libertarian Party's convention in Denver today, the party selected Bob Barr as its presidential nominee. Yes, this is the same Bob Barr who used to be a Republican congressman from Georgia. He was elected to Congress in the spittle wave of 1994 and made an embarrassing spectacle of himself throughout his 8 years in office.

Perhaps the greatest irony in all this is that - unless he's had some great political epiphany - Barr, now 59, isn't even close to being a small-l libertarian. Or a big-L Libertarian. The Libertarian Party even ran ads against Barr in his ill-fated 2002 congressional campaign because he was such a defiant backer of the failed War on Drugs. Barr even blocked a voter initiative that would have legalized medical marijuana in the District of Columbia, and he barred the vote tally from being made public. (It was later discovered that D.C. voters had approved medical marijuana with a staggering 69% of the vote.) Barr supported the Patriot Act too, and wanted the Pentagon to ban the Wiccan religion.

After leaving Congress, Bob Barr reversed his Patriot Act position and wanted to abolish his own law against medical marijuana. But it seems too little, too late. Maybe he has turned over a new leaf, but he was so right-wing while he was in Congress that it takes a lot of repenting to overcome that record. The Last Word used to rip into this guy so mercilessly that I can't imagine ever voting for him even if he abandoned his most odiferous stances.

What's really amusing is that Barr's candidacy could be a spoiler that dooms the McCain campaign. Remember, Bob Barr actually did build up a following (for what it was worth), and I'm sure he has followers who are just going to abandon McCain now.


Film festival wants contractors to hire veterans

This weekend, be sure to remember what Memorial Day is all about. The Traverse City Film Festival's State Theatre is doing its patriotic part by instituting a new policy requiring all of its contractors and vendors to try to hire veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts.

The festival was founded by filmmaking legend Michael Moore, who has always been a strong critic of the Iraq War. In announcing the new contractor policy, Moore pointed out that too many brave vets have had a hard time finding work after they return home from serving their country. Some of them have even lost their homes to greedy banks. Labor Department statistics even show a higher unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Moore had also hired veterans for important editing and production positions for his documentaries like 'Fahrenheit 9/11' and 'Sicko'.

Michael Moore certainly does more for veterans than the armchair chickenhawks who think the war is so great but have never served in the military in their lives. And Moore does more for vets than the Bush regime does. For example, Bush's appointees in the Veterans Affairs Department recently tried to bilk vets out of disability payments by misdiagnosing their PTSD.

The filmmaker also announced that the State Theatre will offer free admission to active duty military personnel to any film that the theater shows. He asked other local businesses to make similar pledges to veterans.

Chickenhawks like Jim DeMint need to start supporting the troops to the same degree Michael Moore and the Traverse City Film Festival do.


Subway...Eat stale!

Even the right-wingers are mad this time!

Politics can make strange bedfellows, but who'd have ever thunk I'd ever be on the same side as conservatives on anything school-related? While I favor homeschooling because schools are too right-wing, they like it because they think schools aren't right-wing enough. (I guess they've never been to Campbell County.)

However, Subway - the chain of sub sandwich shops - does not favor it.

Flubway has a contest now for elementary school children. It's a story contest, in which kids write a narrative starting with one of 4 story openings provided on the website:

The contest is open to children in public and private elementary schools. But I've found at least 3 different places where the forces of Subwaydom declare, "No home schools will be accepted."


It's not as if whoever designed this contest had such a great education. After David Burt praised Internet "fitlering", I hate to grade everyone's spelling, but it's spelled 'basket', not 'bastket' like Subway has on its site. And the country is called the 'United States', not 'Untied States' as the Flubway spelling whizzes have.

That Subway won't accept homeschoolers in this contest is blatant discrimination, and I know I'm not the only person who'd like to see this stopped.

Homeschooling. It's not just for conservatives anymore!

The trouble is in your set

This sounds like the trouble I was having with the stereo back in the early Last Word days!

Today I did something I shouldn't have had to do: I buyed a new TV. The picture tube on the 1983 set finally started to cack, so I knew it was on borrowed time. Besides, my DVD player didn't work with that TV because it was so old, and regular TV's aren't going to work a year from now anyway. I had to go all the way out to Florence to buy a new set, but I buyed one!

After being confronted by a Samsung monopoly at one store, I buyed a Sylvania at a different retailer. Now, mind you, this was a new digital set - the kind the government is making everyone buy, just for the shits and giggles of it.

And guess what? It don't work. I brang it home, hooked it up, plugged the antenna in, and all I can get is audio - with no picture.

Right away, I called Sylvania's customer service number, and they said right off the bat that it's a defective set. So I have to wait until I have access to a car again and go all the way back out to Florence and exchange it. And gas is not cheap, so I'm not too happy at Sylvania right now.

Gee, what were the odds I'd get a defective set? Probably pretty fucking high, considering the declining quality of everything. I bet it was at least 50/50. Quality of TV's and radios never improves but only gets worse, even as the price goes up. The assholes in the ruling party are more worried about people walking barefoot on the Purple People Bridge and smuggling bottled water into Taste of Cincinnati than in establishing some minimum standards for the quality of appliances.

It was bad enough 15 years ago when I had to take back several stereos, but now it's worse. At this rate, think what it's going to be like in another 15 years. By then, you'll be lucky to get a pair of headphones home without them undergoing spontaneous combustion.

(Before anyone asks, I already had someone take the old set off my hands.)

City council makes library censor 'Net access

I remember when Casey Kasem used to do his "What ever happened to..." feature where he'd talk about what became of some singer or band that had a song in the countdown years earlier. This article is kind of like that.

I recall in the late '90s doing a piece in The Last Word about David Burt, a librarian who avidly backed censorware. Not Bert (like Ernie's friend), but Burt. (That's the Burtster pictured here.) But just now, I asked myself, what ever happened to David Burt?

Welp, it turns out that in 2001, Burt was hired by Bush's Department of Justice as a consultant to help defend the clearly unconstitutional right-wing law that requires public libraries to install filtering software on computers. But he also runs a blog that provides links to mainstream news articles about censorware.

About a story in the Detroit News, Burt made a Freudian slip. He writes, "Over ten later, library fitlering fights still rage." Ten what later? And the Freudian slip is his misspelling of 'filtering'. I think 'fitlering' is the more suitable spelling, because installing censorware on public computers sounds like something a certain 20th century dictator would do.

In Royal Oak, Michigan, the right-wing city council passed an ordinance requiring the public library to install fitlers (sic) on all but one computer in the grownup section of the library. This isn't the kids' section we're talking about, but the big people section.

Like the law Burt defended, this is blatantly unconstitutional suppression of free speech, and the mayor and the library director oppose it. But tyranny creep seems to have caused the new ordinance to go pretty much unchallenged - though if I lived in that area and one of my sites was censored, there'd likely be a lawsuit. A decade ago, I had my first censorware encounter when I found that the Kenton County Public Library in Kentucky was blocking my website. I immediately wrote a letter to the Kentucky ACLU, which got on the library's case until the libe wrote back saying the censorware had been removed. (I don't remember if I ever tested to see if the library was telling the truth about this.)

Luckily, Michigan is more on the ball than most states. Under Michigan law, all public libraries must (and I mean must) have at least one computer that is unfiltered, and that's why Royal Oak's ordinance lets one computer go uncensored instead of blocking access from all of them. Kentucky needs a law like Michigan's that requires at least one uncensored machine. And badly. It's a shame Kentucky's legislature has so many fascists that it likely won't pass a law to curtail library censorship any time soon.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Freeway ruins neighborhood

All over America, this has happened to poor neighborhoods for decades. But now even middle-class neighborhoods aren't safe from freeway mania.

In Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., a new toll freeway is being built, and it's destroyed almost a whole neighborhood. Evidently, this is a middle-class area. But it's also clear that this would have never happened if this was a richer neighborhood, because if it was, the freeway would have been routed away from it at all costs. (I've watched the Interstate building boom, so I know.) Sadly, many poorer neighborhoods all over the country have already been needlessly lost to feed the freeway fetish.

In the meantime, thieves have been raiding some of the now-empty houses - as well as some that they mistakenly thought were empty.

Is this new road really necessary? Many say it's not. Although it's only 19 miles, it has a $2,400,000,000 price tag. The money could have instead been used on more efficient transportation projects that do far less damage to the environment or neighborhoods - and which serve more people.

As this situation is far from unique, one of the key reasons I'm mentioning this story is to clear up a misconception that's raged for far too long. Highway officials say that because the vacant homes are now state property, anyone who tampers with them is guilty of theft and trespassing. Do you see the contradiction here? It's theft maybe, but not trespassing. You know why? If it's state property, it's public. And it's impossible to trespass on your own property. Funny how that works, isn't it?

It's probably too late for me to go Roads Scholaring in that area. But road enthusiasts in southwestern Maryland who are born today are going to be piecing together that neighborhood 30 years from now and looking for traces of what was lost. And they'll be shaking their heads and asking, "Why???"


Torture in Texas "rehab"

I've written extensively on this blog about youth confinement facilities such as behavior modification centers, drug "treatment" programs, and psychiatric "hospitals." Now their tactics are being found in "rehab" centers for adults in Texas convicted of drug offenses.

Over the years, the characteristics of the American gulag system have been created or refined by the likes of Synanon, the Lester Roloff shitpits, and Mel Sembler's scams. The torture chambers of today have practices that can be traced seamlessly to the hated pioneers of this field.

And now it's happening in privatized "rehab" programs for adults in Texas. The Lone Star State has sent some 900 adult women to these centers for nonviolent drug offenses. And many of the women say the program - known as SAFPF - is far worse than what you'd see even in jail or prison.

The program is state-funded but staffed by both public corrections officers and employees of a private Chicago-based firm. But numerous accounts by inmates describe various torture methods that alumni of the American gulag system will find familiar. These include being forced to sit silently in hard plastic chairs for weeks on end. Detainees also claim staffers have been highly verbally abusive. Medical treatment was also reportedly withheld, and the inmates claimed a disabled woman was forced to march on crutches until a staph infection developed under her arms.

Detainees also say they were required to spend many hours each week singing children's songs, which is described as a "mind-crushing" activity. This too is a practice associated with the gulags I've written about here before. In effect, SAFPF appears to be a brainwashing cult where inmates are broken down and made into unflinching followers of the program. Having inmates rat out other inmates (under threat of punishment for those who fail to snitch) is another example of SAFPF's climate of fear.

The "treatment" was so severe that a lawsuit may be in the works because of it.

Many former SAFPF prisoners are afraid to come forward because of potential retaliation by the state, such as loss of their probation.

So it's not only abuse by a privately run facility but also government corruption. It's not news to me that various levels of government within the U.S. have coddled and stoked privately owned gulags, and that's one of the reasons America today has become little different from an old-fashioned totalitarian state.


And now...figure out your Walk Score!

As a much-needed respite from the Bushist order, I've found a nifty website that lets you figure out your Walk Score!

What, indeed, is a Walk Score? It's an invention that lets you conduct yourself in an orderly manner by showing you how easy it is to walk to various businesses. You type in your street address, and it gives you your Walk Score, based on a scale of 0 to 100 (with 100 being the best).

Granted, some of the businesses covered are ones I'd never use, and the system still has limitations in neighborhoods that are broken up by freeways, but you get the idea. It also doesn't take weather into account.

So peep and weep:

My current digs has a walk score of 82 (in a bottle of poo). (Just joking about the bottle of poo part. It's from a poem I wrote as a youth.) The place where I lived in Highland Heights through much of the '90s has a current walk score of 52. I'm surprised it's that high, frankly. My previous residence in that community has a mediocre 51.

GOP official loses deportation suit

You can't believe anything the Republican life destroyers say, because their actions undercut their words.

Michael Kamburowski is an Australian citizen who came to the U.S. in 1995 to work for conservative causes. Although he had only a tourist visa and no work permit, he worked for 5 years for Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, a right-wing think tank.

In 2001, immigration officials discovered Kamburowski had overstayed his visa. When he ignored several orders to appear at a deportation hearing, a judge ordered him deported and issued an arrest warrant.

Three years later - while still a fugitive - Kamburowski had the nerve to apply for a green card and went to an immigration office in New York for an interview. Then he was finally arrested and jailed. Amazingly, a judge later gave him legal immigration status, despite him being an illegal immigrant for years.

Last year, the California Republican Party rewarded Michael Kamburowski for his lawbreaking by hiring him to oversee the party's finances. You read that right: A party that rails against illegal immigration and crime hired someone who spent years as an illegal immigrant and a fugitive.

It's no wonder we can't trust a damn thing the Republicans say. "Do as I say, not as I do" seems to be the philosophy that guides the whole party.

It gets sillier. Kamburowski actually had the audacity to sue the federal government for $5,000,000 over his arrest. Why??? How could Kamburowski possibly have sustained $5,000,000 in damages? Maybe if he had gotten a work permit and gone through the legal immigration process, he never would have been arrested.

But now a federal judge has rightly thrown out Kamburowski's frivolous lawsuit. Ha ha!

It amazes you. It would have been so much easier for him to get a work permit and immigrate legally than to get arrested and gum up the court system. But nobody here said Michael Kamburowski isn't a complete and utter fool.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Another patient denied transplant over medical marijuana

It's happening again: Another man is being denied an organ transplant because he uses medical marijuana, which is legal in his state. This comes on the heels of the death of a man who was denied a liver transplant because of his legal marijuana use.

The latest outrage involves a man from Washington state whose kidneys and pancreas have failed because of diabetes. The man is only 33, but has been denied a spot on 2 organ transplant programs because he uses medical marijuana that was legally prescribed to him.

The programs' denial of marijuana patients isn't based on science but on the fear of a failed federal law. Even though state law permits marijuana, they cite the federal prohibition of marijuana as the reason for denying these patients, some of whom are still relatively young.

In other words, the programs equate legality with medical safety. They're putting an irrational law ahead of science - and it's killing people. Many prescription drugs that are not illegal in any state are not a cause for being denied a transplant, even though these drugs may pose a serious danger.

There ought to be a federal or state law preventing people from being left off organ waiting lists over medical marijuana.


The end of the SUV era?

SUV's are almost synonymous with exurban excess - even in an era when more Americans can't even afford a car. By mid-decade, SUV's were so tied with America's widening economic gap that they constituted a majority of vehicles on the country's roads. (It was like a "two Americas", where a few people could afford an SUV and the gas it took to run it, while everyone else couldn't afford a car at all.)

The government promoted SUV mania just as strongly as Corporate America did. The Bush regime began granting tax breaks for buyers of extra large models. A town in California even began ticketing folks if they had a regular car rather than an SUV. (An official from a city in that area was ticketed for parking a small car in that town.)

With SUV's being such amazing gas guzzlers, people are now being forced to come to their senses. Maybe they could afford to buy an SUV, but they can no longer afford the (ppphh!) gas.

So now America's used car lots are bulging with hulking SUV's, as folks are trading SUV's in for more efficient cars. And used auto dealers can't get rid of the things. Nobody wants to buy a vehicle that uses so much gas.

For the first 4 months of the year, SUV sales declined a mind-numbing 32.8%. A $40,000 SUV may only be worth half that now.

If there's one good thing about today's rip-off fuel costs, it's that it may finally break the SUV habit.


"Hospital" fined for killing detainee

Psychiatric "hospitals" are the American gulag. The United States has become known for using such facilities to lock up dissidents - more now than ever before. It's a demonstrable fact.

Laws vary from state to state, but it took until last year before California finally passed a law giving the Department of Public Health the power even to fine a psychiatric facility if a detainee died because of poor care.

Now Sierra Vista Hospital in Sacramento has been fined $25,000 because of a death caused by poor care there. An unidentified individual who was held there complained of poor health, but employees failed to notify a doctor. The person later died. A physician later said the person should have been taken to an emergency room before it was too late.

Only a $25,000 fine? Since when does murder (which is really what this was) bring only a $25,000 fine? Twenty-five thousand bucks is nothing to corporations that own these "hospitals."

Other facilities in California were also fined for placing folks at risk of serious injury or death.


City should fight Postal Service

My mind has really been reeling about something that's irritated me for a year or so.

What can my town to do remedy the loss of several public mailboxes - a loss that has forced me and many others to travel close to a mile every time we need to mail something?

We shouldn't even have to use a public box, but apparently there's no home pick-up of mail here. (Well-to-do neighborhoods still have home pick-up; we apparently don't.)

With the United States Postal Service gaining its annual stamp rate increase this month - which is now automatic due to Republican legislation - now is the right time to ponder what can be done about this. Stamp increases used to require at least some effort to show the Postal Service needed it (as weak as these efforts were). Now they can just increase it without any accountability at all.

I don't doubt that it needs an increase in postage rates. But this increase should be against junk mail, not normal-sized letters and bill payments that we all send. For years, we've been forced to subsidize mountains and mountains of slick ads and deceptive credit card offers. It costs much less for junk mailers to mail this cheap firewood than it does for us to mail a letter that's a fraction of the size.

Public mailboxes don't even accept some of the items they used to accept, which forces us to travel even further to the post office.

So let's get the city on the Postal Service's case about the disappearing public mailboxes. I also believe there should be a city ordinance requiring public boxes to accept the same items that they used to. "We, the people" are supposed to be the boss. Not "we, the corporations." When it comes to standing up for the people, local autonomy has dibs over federal fiats that only harm us.

"Weird behavior" no cause for pat-downs

At least the state of Washington still has a Constitution (to some degree, at least).

The Washington Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that "weird behavior" (to use the phrase used in news accounts) is not a justifiable cause for police to search a person. This decision is seen as a sign of the Washington Constitution's generous protections of the right to privacy.

As if the U.S. Constitution doesn't also protect the right to privacy? Silly me. I used to think it did. The state of Washington supposedly offers stronger safeguards against unwarranted searches than the U.S. Constitution does, but the U.S. Constitution had pretty many until that was gutted. (The Fourth Amendment is probably the most oft-violated part of the Bill of Rights in my adult life.)

By issuing the ruling, the Washington Supreme Court has tossed out the drug conviction of a man who was searched because police deemed his conduct "weird." The court said police can't frisk someone with a warrant or probable cause unless they have a "reasonable belief" that "the suspect is armed and presently dangerous." Again, I thought that's what the U.S. Constitution already said. At least it used to.

The Washington Supreme Court's ruling is correct, but let's get this straight: It's correct not only under the state constitution but also the U.S. Constitution.

And since I know you've been waiting with basted breath for more Freeper Madness, the Freak Rethuglic intelligentisa isn't too pleased at this ruling. One right-wing crackpot whined:

"The democrat pro-criminal vermin on the Washington State Supreme Court have an astonishing narrow definition of probable cause. Crime rates will soar in Washington State, as they have in the UK, where similar monsters abuse judicial power."

Quit making me laugh, Freepers!

If anyone is guilty of "weird behavior", it's those on Free Republic who weirdly behave as if the Bill of Rights doesn't exist.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

California criminalizes homeless

It's hard to say what aspect of this story is more shocking.

Is it that people who were once thought to be reasonably secure are now becoming homeless (which I knew was happening anyway)?

Or is it the fact that people who make more than minimum wage still can't afford a small apartment?

Or is it that the state of California has criminalized the homeless by making it illegal for people to sleep in their own cars?

When did that law pass? I don't remember ever hearing of such a law anywhere. I don't think it's the law in Kentucky or Ohio, because I know that plenty of people in my area have to do it.

A better question is, why is so little being done to keep people from staying homeless? The good news is that an organization in Santa Barbara tries to find housing solutions for the newly homeless. But various levels of government have done so much more to punish the homeless than to prevent homelessness that it almost makes you keck.

If the country was run by people who had half a brain, we could probably cut homelessness by 80% in 6 months. We can start by constructing housing that people can afford, instead of more subdivisions full of million-dollar fall-apart mansions.

(And yes, the obligatory victim-blaming by the right-wing thought police in the wingnutosphere has already occurred.)


Student barred from graduation for riding horse to school

This is yet another example of arbitrary, capricious, make-it-up-as-you-go tyranny in America's schools.

A senior at Dickson County High School, a public school in Tennessee, opted to ride his horse to school to save (ppphh!) gas. As a result of this equestrian endeavor, the school barred him from his graduation ceremony.


What rule was he violating? I know this "zero tolerance" shit has gotten out of control, but I can't imagine there's actually a stated policy against going to school on horseback. He parked the horse in a friend's pasture near the school - not on school property.

The school bureaucrats would have had an absolute conniption fit if they had been around 100 years ago when everyone rode horses to school.

Isn't attending graduation a right? I used to think that if you graduated, your right to attend graduation couldn't be taken away, at least not for something as silly as this. Oh well. I guess I'm old, and I don't understand a lot of things. But if I was banned from my graduation just for riding a horse to school, I'd sue.


Congress overrides Bush veto!

Finally! I think this has only happened once before in almost 8 years, so we were due for this!

Today, Congress enacted a major bill covering farm issues and programs for the working poor - overriding a typically asinine Bush veto. The House approved the bill 316 to 108, then the Senate passed it by a smashing 82 to 13.

Not all of the bill becomes law, because Washington clerks made a printing error that left out an important section on international food aid and trade. (Republicans blamed the Democrats for this mistake, even though it was the Republicans' own damn fault.) Hopefully there'll be a chance to clear that up.


Self-anointed "expert" says we're stupider

Imagine if you can what the outrage would be if some academic released a study claiming rich folks weren't as smart as working-class people. But someone puts out a paper claiming the opposite, and the media slurps it up like it's gospel truth.

Bruce Charlton, a psychiatrist at Newcastle University in England, has written a report claiming that working-class people like you and me have lower IQ's than the rich. Charlatan says that this - not economic prejudice - is why so few poor and working-class students are admitted to prestigious universities.

This report is academic arrogance, elitism, and class bigotry at its worst. Where I come from in Kentucky, we call it bullshit.

Charlton calls himself an evolutionary psychiatrist. He's a shrink who's trying to cloak his right-wing class bigotry under the guise of science. As a discredited pseudoscience, psychiatry now seems to be the refuge for followers of eugenics, which itself was discredited years ago.

The doc further tries to imply that other academics won't publicly take the same position because there's a big, mean, left-wing conspiracy to censor it. He calls it a fear of creating controversy. But it looks like the Free Republic bullshit trust is about the only folks who agree with him.

He uses his "findings" to attack the British government's verifiable claim that prestigious schools are rejecting prospective students based on social class. "Higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes," sniffs Charlatan, and he says that because of this, the government should just stop worrying about the problem of economic discrimination.

I can't find any evidence of Bruce Charlton backing up his assertion that we're stupider than he is because we have less money. Maybe it's because he can't back up his hate speech, so he pulls it out of his ass.

It's amazing that any mainstream newspapers actually have the gall to give a soapbox to this shit, which only serves as more grist in the Far Right's long war against the working class.


Comcast fires host for criticizing Bill O'Reilly

The Comcast cockheads strike again!

The first question I have is, what the hell is CN8? CN8 is also known as the Comcast Network and is a TV channel offered by the wretched cable firm. CN8 was the first channel or station ever fined by the FCC for breaking the sponsorship identification rules regarding video news releases.

Barry Nolan was a noted host on CN8. But now he's been fired by Comcast because he dared to criticize longtime radio and TV blowhard Bill O'Reilly. Nolan was furious because the Boston chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences gave O'Reilly an award. Nolan distributed a 6-page document listing some of O'Reilly's many blunders and gaffes.

Comcrap reportedly whined that Nolan's dissent jeopardized the company's relationship with Fox and the academy.

Sounds to me like Nolan has a good case for a lawsuit against the cable firm.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Arkansas sues drug maker

The corporate drug kingpins are facing another much-deserved lawsuit!

In the U.S. and A., 11 states have sued Eli Lilly over Zyprexa: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. Five have sued Janssen over Risperdal: Arkansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. Three have sued AstraZeneca over Seroquel: Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Arkansas has just joined the Seroquel suit, charging that London-based AstraZeneca illegally encouraged doctors to prescribe the risky antipsychotic to children and the elderly for uses that it was not approved for. The reported unapproved use of the drug is said to have hurt patients and cost the state millions of dollars.

The state says AstraZeneca misled doctors, and that the company knew the drug was dangerous.

Arkansas's lawsuit also says the drug firm marketed the antipsychotic for conditions such as ADHD and sleeplessness, even though it wasn't approved for these things. The suit says AstraZeneca didn't properly warn patients the drug could cause diabetes, stroke, pancreatitis, and other side effects. The FDA had already twice reprimanded the drug company for giving misleading information about Seroquel.

This isn't the first time I've posted about drug makers improperly marketing their insufferable wares, and the fact that so many states are suing shows what a national scandal this is.


How to waste 2 radio stations

I try to keep track of radio stations (even miserable ones), and this is about as lame-o-rific as it gets.

This story comes to us from Jackson, Tennessee, where they now have 2 - count 'em, 2 - stations carrying the exact same right-wing mumbo-jumbo.

The operations manager of WTJS-AM and WTJW-FM boasted, "This is an exciting time for Jackson area listeners, who can now find Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly at 1390 and 105.3." Yes, but why the fuck would they want to? Why put this crap on 2 stations? One isn't enough anymore?

WTJW had just ditched a successful music format (which bore the call letters WLSZ) that was separately programmed from WTJS's talk format. Why shut off successful programming to replace it with loudmouth diatribes that are already heard on another station?

Another WTJW/WTJS big shot said, "The Jackson market has demonstrated their desire to speak out, and the news/talk format on TJ-105 gives them the opportunity to do exactly that." Well, that they're doing - only I don't think they're using WTJW to do it. People are mad!!!

It sounds like the only people to whom the station has granted the opportunity to speak out are Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly. (Isn't it lovely when a company provides 2 stations in the same city for 4 people who got a ConservaFool entry?)

Talk about a station setting itself up for failure! In the past 15 years I've seen this happen in the American radio business so many times, and with increasing frequency (no pun intended). And this story is in a city that's not that big, so there aren't many stations to spare.

I can almost guarantee that this ain't gonna last - at least not with the same right-wing blowhards on 2 different stations. If it does last, it won't be with spectacular ratings.


Low turnout dooms judge who backed free speech

Wendell Griffen (pictured here) is a longtime appeals court judge and ordained Baptist minister in Arkansas.

It's unfortunate when people don't vote, but I'll admit the system discourages folks from voting. After the lack of good candidates in the '96 presidential campaign (when Kentucky refused to put Ralph Nader on the ballot), I've been in an almost constant state where I've just wanted to vomit.

Several years ago, the state judicial ethics panel tried to punish Griffen because he dared to criticize Bush and the Iraq War. The commission battled Griffen until just last year before finally dropping the case.

Griffen's remarks weren't made in court, and weren't directly related to his judicial duties. A previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling had effectively ensured his right to speak on these matters even if he is a judge. The long and short of it is, the ethics commission was going after Griffen because of his views. That much is clear.

But look at what happens when people don't vote: Yesterday, Griffen was up for reelection. But hardly anyone voted. As a result of this, he lost. He was probably opposed by Bush cultists, who have oodles of resources to make and distribute voter guides, so their side had much better turnout. Their side has the more powerful machine.

Even though Bush conservatives haven't been at the top of their game lately like they were a few years ago, they still pull off upsets in important judicial elections. I think it's because turnout is suppressed, which in turn is because it's hard to get information in judicial contests. Media coverage is generally very poor, and judges don't have stances on issues that are connected to their duties. They have philosophies, not stances, and that's too much for the pop-up media to digest.

So try to get all the available facts before an election. Sometimes it's too important to stay home from the polls.


McCain recruits echo chamber

Imagine having not just one John McCain, but gobs and gobs of him - on every blog!

The McAin't campaign is recruiting volunteer trolls to flood comment sections of blogs with inane posts praising the candidate and his ideas. These trolls are instructed to report the details of their actions back to the campaign - I guess so they could slap each other on the back and cheer each other on. The campaign tells these comment trolls exactly what to say, providing a daily list of talking points.

You know, with the McCain campaign supposedly being the biggest thing since the invention of toilets and all, you'd think it would have more effective ways of getting its message across than doing this babyish shit. But I guess not.

I've known since 1995 that shit like this has been going on from the Right. I think within a few days of getting my first Internet account, I noticed conservatives all seemed to post the same talking points (which they got from talk radio) in unison. A lot of them were RNC operatives. It continues today, often with unintentionally hilarious results. And that's likely the source as such amusing right-wing rants as this:

"I cant [sic] beleive [sic] that a pogrom than [sic] our President [sic] Bush devised to protect us from another 9-11 attack was exposed by the New York Times!"

I believe the person who posted that also posted this gem:

"But heaven forbid a conservative fuck his wife with a hard dick"

I suspect both of those entertaining outbursts from several years ago were from a professional disruptor hired by the Republican National Committee.

McAin't at least attracts slightly higher caliber followers than the clown who apparently posted those remarks. Still it's going to be amusing when they post blog comments that are almost identical to each other and end up having their efforts go to waste.


Credit card mystery solved

Love a good mystery?

On Monday, after I clued you in on the latest in my ongoing battle against the credit card ultrarightists, I finally discovered what happened with my credit card account.

Out of the blue, I received a check in the mail from the bank that issued the card. Apparently they were done "borrowing" my money I had on the card, for the check was for that precise amount. But it offered no explanation.

I called the number on the check, and they said that brand of card had been discontinued. Whoopee! I don't have to deal with them anymore! I had problems with that card before, like when they wouldn't transfer my money to the card within the time frame they promised. The receptionist said the bank sent out a letter to all customers in January saying the card would be discontinued in March. However, I never received a letter.

This was only one of about 4 credit cards I even qualified for, and now it's gone. However, this figure includes one I applied for later that evening, which I was supposedly approved for - but after I filled out all the forms online, it said it couldn't access my bank account to transfer the startup fee. Which is a lie, because it clearly wasn't trying. This number also includes one I had previously, but which I got rid of because it discontinued its bank account transfer option (which would have forced me to initiate a wire transfer every time I needed to add money).

Morally, the issuer of the credit card that got discontinued recently still owes me for the portion of the startup fee I didn't get to use because the bank discontinued the card. I don't appreciate getting took by these scam artists. There ought to be a law.