Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dracula Davis and his dumb excuses

The congressmoron from my district - the embattled Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Kentucky) - has struck once again! This time, he's coming up with flimsy excuses for his tobacco vote.

The House voted overpoweringly this week to give the FDA some oversight over tobacco. Tobacco is a drug. And that's what the 'D' in the FDA stands for.

But Drac voted against giving the FDA this power.

I realize that tobacco occurs in nature. And I know that scientists now work with tobacco to find alternate uses for it, instead of just letting the crop be monopolized by big cigarette makers. Today, researchers are close to making new medicines and petroleum substitutes out of tobacco.

But it's still a drug. And the government can and does regulate drugs. This is accomplished through the FDA. If you regulate, you can at least sort out what's safe and what isn't. The bill passed by the House wouldn't let the FDA ban tobacco outright - but it would allow tobacco to be regulated.

The FDA's ability to regulate tobacco is especially crucial because smoking is the cause of 25% of Americans' health expenses.

Still, Geoff Davis voted against letting the FDA regulate. His excuse is that the FDA is overworked already. Gee, whose fault is that? Drac's allies have helped defund the FDA for years. They believe in "big government for thee, not for me." (Or is that the other way around?)

If Davis is worried about the government getting too big, he's a hypocrite. This is the same creep who wanted to force schools to conduct strip searches, after all.


Eastern exposure (a blast from the past)

Eastern Avenue in Cincinnati was a lengthy street that largely followed the Ohio River east of downtown. The name of the road was solid, respected, and quite descriptive.

But in 2006, part of it was renamed to Riverside Drive - and in 2007, much of the remainder was renamed as well. This change to the city map exposed a problem that goes far deeper than just the name of a street in East End. It unearthed an entire saga of downright vile classism.

CityBeat reported that the name change was demanded by developers and by wealthy residents of new luxury condos along the road. Sounds more upscale, you see. Working-class folks who had lived for decades along this same long avenue opposed the measure.

The change followed a botched survey. City officials mailed surveys to people along the road asking for a vote on whether to change the street's name. However, instead of each person having one vote, people got one vote for each parcel they owned. So developers who had parcels to sell got to cast numerous votes.

A longtime grievance in Cincinnati - America's most conservative large city through much of my lifetime - is that money rules. People don't. If you're poor in Cincinnati, your voice doesn't count. It's like that still today.

While supporters of the name change said a majority of the votes backed their stance, a report by the city planner said only 38% of the surveys that were sent out were returned. Many of the remaining 62% weren't even delivered!

When the city recounted the ballots by limiting them to one vote per person, they found only 88 votes in favor of the name change - even though the neighborhood had about 1,700 residents.

In addition to the humiliation of hard-working longtime residents who are forced to call their street by a different name, after having no input on the name change, it turns out the city did its damnedest to try to make sure working-class residents got forced out of the neighborhood altogether.

Before the posh condos were erected around the early part of the decade, Eastern Avenue featured parks and old, small, sturdy homes that housed working-class Cincinnatians. But the city deliberately set the stage for the unasked-for transformation. When longtime residents refused to sell to developers, the city had building inspectors find issues with their houses - which the residents had to pay to fix. When they couldn't afford to fix them, they had to sell and move out.

Then they couldn't find a home in the same neighborhood, because luxury condos were the only dwellings being built! In other words, countless residents were priced out of their own neighborhood - at the hands of a city government that was eager to appease developers. Some of the folks who had lost their homes had roots in the neighborhood going back 6 generations.

They lost their homes all because of classism and greed.

Eastern Avenue will always be Eastern Avenue to me. If I drew a serious map of the city, I might call it Riverside Drive (which is more than what I would've done when Riverfront Stadium was fuckheadedly renamed to Cinergy Field, in which case I would've ignored the name change). But in conversation, it ain't Riverside Drive.

Is it too late to officially change the name back to Eastern Avenue? Better yet, is it too late to make sure residents who were forced out of East End are able to return?


Caught a live one!


Now I think I can catch who's been behind those harassing phone calls I was getting from 000-000-0000 a few weeks ago. I got another harassing call today at 1 PM, but this one was from a live number that I traced right to the culprit's doorstep.

The one today happened to have a 202 area code - which I knew was Washington, D.C. And nope, it ain't the Decider who's making these calls. I looked up the number online, and it turns out an outfit called Faith & Family owns a whole block of about 13 numbers in the 552 exchange in the 202 area code. And wouldn't ya know it, it just happens to include the number that called me today.

I checked my personal log, and it turns out other numbers in this block had been making similar calls to my old number back in 2006 and 2007.

So what is Faith & Family? It turns out its full name is National Committee for Faith & Family, a project of something called Citizens United. Citizens United is a dominionist right-wing hate group based in Washington, D.C. The founder of CU is the man behind the demonstrably false William Horton ads from Mad Dog Bush's '88 campaign.

Besides Faith & Family, other CU projects include Citizens United for the Bush Agenda. I swear I am not making this up. Another CU project is known as Boycott France. (Many suspect that this project killed off, depriving indie musicians of their livelihoods. If that's the case, CU is guilty of racketeering for that alone.)

One of Faith & Family's causes is its petition against hate crimes legislation. (They claim committing hate crimes is a constitutional right.)

Now (to paraphrase a popular song from before my time), why is CU pickin' on me? A better question is, who from my area who I attended school with has gone to Washington to work for this hate group?

It's obvious why an outfit like CU would object to my stances, for I'm a progressive populist. I founded The Last Word in 1993, and that alone put me in the crosshairs of the extreme right wing. I was somewhat well-known in my area at the time because of this endeavor.

It's only fitting that someone who harassed me when we were in school would go to work for an extremist group like this. All of the attackers from school who I can name offhand are conservative. Every damn one of them.

You know something? It's been almost 20 years since we were in school together. Get over it already. It's a sad state of affairs when spoiled brats who you went to school with get to be 35 and continue making harassing phone calls.

Another question: How did they end up with my number after I had it changed? It doesn't help when at least one online phone book lists it despite it being supposedly unlisted.

At least now I've caught the organization that's behind much of this harassment campaign. It seems almost beyond belief that a national organization would employ someone who makes long-distance harassing calls to someone they haven't seen in decades - thereby confirming what the victim of this campaign had already said. This is like when I predicted they'd post bad reviews of 'The Fight That Never Ends' without even reading it - then they proved me right by posting bad reviews.

I also wonder if the employee behind this didn't also volunteer for John Spencer's Senate campaign in New York in 2006 - for I also got a harassing call from the Spencer campaign at the time.

I'm going to make sure people know what Citizens United has been up to.

(More info:

Bank refuses to cash check for grieving family

Last month a Navy medic from southern California was killed in Afghanistan. But when the U.S. Treasury presented his family with checks for $50,000 to pay for his burial, his family was promptly told by the bank that they couldn't cash the checks for 2 weeks.

The family needed the money to pay for his funeral services - but the bank was refusing to let them have the money until after the funeral. This despite the fact that the family members were loyal customers of the bank for 10 years!

Investigating the situation a bit more, the story becomes even more outrageous. It turns out the bank's behavior is spurred by the financial reporting requirements of the Patriot Act.

You read that right: The Patriot Act is such a miserable excuse for a law that it's preventing the family of a fallen Navy medic from paying for the young man's funeral - with checks that came from Uncle Sam, no less. This is beyond outrageous.

What are the right-wing drones at Free Republic saying about this? Of course they're defending the bank and the Patriot Act. They're telling the family to "stop bludgeoning a bank manager who is following the law" and to "don't make a big stink about it."

Why do Free Republic and the authors of the Patriot Act hate the troops?

This is more proof that the Patriot Act (parts of which have already been struck down as unconstitutional) needs to be repealed at once.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Alaska governor faces investigation

If you're a Republican in Alaska, this hasn't been your week.

First, Ted Stevens got indicted. And now Republican Gov. Sarah Palin - considered a rising GOP star by the punditocracy and conservative intelligentsia - is facing an investigation amid allegations that she tried to get her sister's former husband fired from his job as a state trooper.

Although the trooper had previously been deservedly disciplined for misconduct that he committed, other charges against him had been dismissed.

If Palin is found to have abused her office, she may face impeachment.

Of course, the Free Republic brain trust opines that the probe of Sarah Palin is politically motivated by "the liberals." Keep entertaining me, Freeper folks.


Election cheating begins early

I knew the Republicans cheat, but I didn't think they'd be so flagrant about it. In my view, the United States hasn't had a legitimate government since the 1994 midterm "election", but now the GOP's cheating is becoming even more obvious.

A new article by Greg Palast outlines several instances nationally in which the GOP is launching the latest round of cheating. Colorado's Republican Secretary of State purged one-fifth of the state's voters. Florida is refusing to accept tens of thousands of new voter registrations, despite the registrations being perfectly valid. Half of all the registered Democrats in one county in New Mexico found that their registrations mysteriously vanished - thanks to a Republican voting contractor.

There's a lot of biases guiding these purges. Not only do the purges affect Democrats almost exclusively. Not only do they disproportionately affect voters based on their race or ethnicity. They also affect voters based on their economic class: Several swing states are using a new federal law to purge voters who were victimized by foreclosures.

For too long, we've lived in denial about Republicans' cheating. This is not a problem we can just wish away. I'm now convinced that if the Republicans win in November, it will be only because of high-handed deceit like this. I'm also still convinced that a selective crackdown on vote carpools is a large portion of what did it in Kentucky from 2000 through 2004. (I admit the DLC's influence in the Democratic Party didn't help matters, but when the only other major party is the Republicans...)

Anyone who's an eligible voter probably expects to have a federally guaranteed right to vote. I would agree. If you find that your registration has somehow misappeared, or that the voting machine malfunctioned, or that your candidate received suspiciously few votes in your area, raise hell until the media gets off its high horse and takes notice.


Mustard gas leaks in Kentucky

What the fuck is a chemical weapons stockpile doing in my state?

Yesterday, it was confirmed that mustard gas was released by an Army depot in Richmond, Kentucky. For those unfamiliar with mustard gas, it's an incapacitating chemical weapon that burns and blisters skin. Mustard gas is potentially fatal.

Plochman's it ain't.

This leak comes less than a month after sarin, a nerve agent far deadlier than mustard gas, leaked at the same depot - and only 3 years after another mustard gas leak, which the media also ignored.

Officials deny that the mustard gas leak poses any danger. This is bullshit, of course. Any time you release mustard gas so close to a populated area, there's a risk. Sarin is even worse.

But have no fear. All the mustard gas at this depot is supposed to be destroyed - by 2017. That's assuming the Pentagon even bothers to pay to have it destroyed.


GOP asshole blocks disabled vets bill

I have no objection to calling this disgusting clod what he is.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) is the asshat who wanted a network broadcast of 'Schindler's List' to be canceled. As a senator, he ranks up there with Jim DeMint and Saxby Chambliss in arrogant worthlessness.

Also like Jim DuhMint and Saxby Clueless, Coburn hates America's brave veterans - even while attacking everyone else's patriotism.

Senate Democrats have a bill to help fund programs for paralyzed veterans and spinal cord injury research. Because the Democrats have a majority in the Senate, you'd think this bill would pass.

But in the Senate, a majority is no longer enough, because Republicans abuse procedure. And a perfect example of this is Tom Coburn blocking the disabled vets bill.

What a fucking prick.

Obviously, Coburn never served in the military himself. There's nothing in his bio that says he did, so I'll assume he didn't. I didn't either, but at least I appreciate the troops.

Coburn doesn't appreciate the troops. He spends his Senate career stabbing our courageous vets in the back.

I think this also proves that the entire Republican philosophy has turned into a big con game. Republican leaders' entire purpose in life seems to be to harm people for the sheer hell of it - but they hide behind bogus talking points, like when they accuse everyone else of not supporting the troops.

This GOP con act is the biggest fraud perpetrated in modern American political history.


Open 'Sesame Street'!

Admit it: If you're like most adults, you can't help but snicker every time 'Sesame Street' is mentioned. I know it's been the case for me ever since I was just barely too old for the long-running children's TV show.

I'm guffawing uncontrollably about it right now!

So why not have 'Sesame Street' Wednesdays? We need another gimmick like the weekend gum commercials.

Not everything related to 'Sesame Street' is uproarious. Some of it is deadly serious - but it's presented in a humorous way, because it's the ol' Ses, after all.

Recently I found this old 'Sesame Street' segment on YouPube, which I can almost guarantee would never be shown nowadays:

I remember that sketch from when I was growing up in the '70s. It's a cartoon about a spoiled bully (who bears a vague resemblance to Kearney on 'The Simpsons') stealing a baseball from some kids, and one of the victims of this theft going after him with a dog.

Don't count on that segment being up on YouTube forever. Apparently, YouTube pulled it once before because some fartpipe complained that it was too violent. Evidently, a sketch that was suitable for a children's show 30 years ago is now considered too much for a website viewed by adults and teenagers.

But skits like this are what 'Sesame Street' ought to still be showing today. The clip has several good lessons. One is the obvious: Don't appease bullies. Be firm instead. Another lesson of this piece is to think things through before acting. Another true lesson is that bullies are cowards.

If a clip like this was made today, the victim's thought balloon with the ice cream cone would probably be his ultimate course of action. That's what it would be if they wanted it shown in Kentucky schools, where they try to teach kids to appease aggressors instead of fighting back. (Fighting back against bullies is like a capital offense in Kentucky's so-called education system these days.)

Kids are brainwashed with so much appeasement crap nowadays that they're going to be miserable by the time they're 12. America's bully appeasement curriculum is a reason all the anger builds up for years - and we've all seen how that ends up.

We have to return to the America of 30 years ago. We simply must. We're raising too many kids who are browbeaten into not fighting back. This is one of the key reasons bullying is out of control in America's schools and communities.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Delta makes disabled woman crawl off plane

You hear so much about how the government supposedly can't legislate corporations. But if the government can tell glaucoma patients they can't get medicine or tell me I can't travel by bike in a public space (where biking does no harm to anyone), it can damn sure tell corporations what to do.

Recently, Delta Airlines made a severely disabled woman crawl off of a plane. The woman has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.

First of all, her Delta flight landed in Atlanta late because it was delayed. Her connecting flight to West Palm Beach was scheduled for only 35 minutes after she arrived in Atlanta. She missed her connecting flight because not only was her first flight late, but the airline didn't get her a wheelchair in time before the connecting flight left.

The airline did tell her she might make the connecting flight, but only if she crawled off the plane instead of waiting for a wheelchair.

After she ended up missing the connecting flight, Delta gave her a boarding pass for a flight that was supposed to leave hours later. But apparently Delta had no personnel on hand to bring her to the gate. And that flight was delayed for hours anyway.

Later the woman became dehydrated because she had no access to water during this ordeal.

She didn't arrive in West Palm Beach for hours until after she was supposed to, and she had to crawl to the shuttle service to get home.

Why can't the government regulate airlines? Actually it can. But it won't. And now - because of activist judges - it won't let the states regulate airlines either - let alone break up the monopoly Delta has in some markets such as Cincinnati.

Early this year, a right-wing federal judge voided a New York law that required grounded airliners to provide passengers with adequate water and toilet access. The court overturning the law was a blatant case of judicial activism, and it was clear that this decision wasn't based on real law. So clear, in fact, that the state of New York would have been within bounds to ignore the ruling. If the federal government wanted to start a civil war against New York over something like this, it wouldn't exactly win over the people's hearts and minds.

So the states need to shore up the duties the federal government has not only neglected but has (out of sheer malice) tried to prevent the states from carrying out.


More coverage of our July 11 protest!

I seriously debated whether to link to this clip, but it's up on YouPube for the whole wide world to ogle (beep), so I'm assuming it's intended for public consumption.

It's a video featuring brief chitchats with several participants in our July 11 demonstration. I figured it would be nice to link to it while we're between protests, to keep the national scandal known as the teen torture racket in the spotlight:

I'm not afraid or ashamed of being seen on that clip. I'm effectively self-employed, and I know no corporation will ever hire me for anything anyway ever again because of my own anticorporate track record. So I probably don't have to fear any more illegal employer retaliation than I already do.

I'm damn proud of participating in that protest!

For the record, I was never in the particular program that was being protested. I was in a different gulag, which I can go into more detail about some other time.

Peace Bike violates another Allowed Cloud!

About an Allowed Cloud: It got violated!

I live to violate Allowed Clouds, like when I walked barefoot on the Purple People Bridge, or when I brang a marker to Bellevue Beach Park, or when I violated a trespass order at NKU that was 13 years old. (The trespass order was itself illegal, but I bet you they would've charged me for violating it 13 years later, except they knew I would just absolutely humiliate them if they did.)

Today I went Roads Scholaring in downtown Cincinnati - home of Fountain Square. Although Fountain Scare is a public gathering spot, around mid-decade the city began farming out management of this hardscape to CCCDC, a right-wing Big Business committee.

If you don't think CCCDC is right-wing, they are. They've tried to scrutinize rallies and prohibit ones they disagree with by making organizers buy insurance policies they can't afford.

The CCCDC champions regimentation. So they've enacted a list of rigid RULES governing how one must behave on Fountain Square. And they're still coming up with new ones. Just today, I noticed they had a new commandment against feeding pigeons who happen to congregate on the square.

But it's the Allowed Cloud against bicycles that really puckers my bip bone. Before the CCCDC's Fountain Square "renovation" (ruinage) of mid-decade, folks often biked through the square as the sun peeped through the permacloud. But now bikes on Fountain Square are prohibited.

So what did the Peace Bike opt to do? Visit Fountain Square, of course:


So take that, R2D2, I mean 3CDC!

One way we might be able to stop tyranny creep is to directly challenge it in all the little ways that I have during this Roads Scholaring season.

Ted Stevens indicted

If congressional Republicans aren't the most useless, corrupt bunch of fuck-ups ever to stink up the American landscape, I'll just poop.

Today, Ted Stevens, a Republican senator from Alaska since 1968, was indicted because he allegedly intentionally refused to disclose over $250,000 in gifts he got from businesspeople who sought his help on federal projects. The 7-count indictment accuses Stevens of lying about the gifts, which included a gas grill and improvements to his swanky mansion.

This is the guy who the Republicans made President Pro Tem a few years back? The position of President Pro Tem is third in line to be President. Stevens would have temporarily taken on presidential duties if Bush had major surgery and the Vice-President and Speaker of the House were unavailable to take on this task.

One of the people who gave gifts to Stevens was VECO's CEO Bill Allen, who got busted a while back for over $400,000 in corrupt payments to Alaska politicians.

And all this time, when they talked about how the Senate had banned gifts to members, I bet you thought it meant Dick Lugar wouldn't be getting any 'My Little Pony' coloring books for his birthday. Maybe that's what Ted Stevens thought it meant.

Stevens was already facing a tough reelection fight, and now he's got an indictment to deal with. It looks like Election Day may have some laugh potential at Stevens's expense.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Church shooter collected conservative books; Freepers blame victims

After having to explain itself in the '70s, the American conservative movement has become increasingly radicalized. American conservatism now has few voices of reason remaining and relies primarily on sound bite demagoguery.

I wish it wasn't the case, but it is. I know modern conservatism's track record all too well. Their ideology has become dominated by bullies who never grew up and decided to coast on the failures of their own policies - which they blamed on everyone else.

One aspect of the Knoxville church massacre was left out of the earlier story about it. It turns out that accused shooter Jim Adkisson was also a collector of conservative books from the likes of Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, and Bill O'Reilly.

A police officer who interviewed Adkisson said that - in addition to targeting that church because of its progressive teachings - Adkisson also had a belief "that all liberals should be killed" and that he planned to "target those that had voted them into office."

Not a comforting thought to end your day with, is it? But this is another indicator of how much right-wing commentators have ratcheted up the rhetoric.

Hannity, Savage, and O'Reilly can publish all the right-wing venom they see fit. But when their invective leads to tragedies like this, by golly, we should call them on it.

Meanwhile, the increasingly predictable clods at Free Republic blamed the shootings on the victims. One of them said that "the libs are ruining the country afterall [sic]" and that if they'd just go away, folks like Jim Adkisson "would also not use them for target practice."

The media outside Knoxville has generally ignored the fact that Adkisson is a fan of right-wing talk radio and stockpiles conservative books. But if the public had the information to connect the dots - namely, that right-wing invective feeds the fire that lurks in the heart of its followers - folks would become much warier of talk-shit radio and wingnut websites.


Uniforms cause student attacks

Are all those who insist school uniforms are so great going to pipe down now?

To my knowledge, there has never been a case in which uniforms were implemented to erase social and economic class distinctions, despite what uniform apologists claim. In fact, this story proves that these sumptuary rules only make the distinctions more obvious.

In London, England, schools are now telling students to change out of their uniforms and don normal clothes before going home from school. This is because of an increase in assaults and fatal knifings this year between students of rival high schools - who identify each other based on their uniforms.

For one thing, a ruling by education officials says that British state schools (the equivalent of American public schools) may not punish students for "breaching school uniform policy" - so students should already be protected if they attend a state school. The more important point is that uniforms have not only failed to prevent youth violence but have actually made it much worse.

I know what the rightist response is going to be. They'll say the uniform policy isn't strict enough, and that this is proof that schools should all move to the same uniform. Their answer as usual will be more regimentation.

But where does that stop?

Often you see uniform supporters boasting of the need to identify students, a goal that they say uniforms accomplish. But maybe the rise of interscholastic violence shows that forcing people to identify isn't always such a good thing.


Schwarzenegger guzzles science skeptic potion

Like most of the Republican intelligentsia these days, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be guzzling the same fetid glop that fuels the corporate-backed science skeptic movement.

Climate change is real. The jury's no longer out on that. We have to face up to the un-face-up-to-able.

But Schwarzenegger has just vetoed a bill that would have introduced climate change education into California schools. The bill had passed the California Senate by a smashing margin and would have mandated that science textbooks discuss global warming.

Schwarzenegger's excuse for vetoing the bill was that he opposes statewide educational mandates. Oh yeah? Well, he supports standardized testing. Isn't that a state mandate? I'm pretty sure California (like almost all U.S. states) already requires students to take certain subjects. Isn't that a state mandate too?

If Schwarzenegger is so worked up about state mandates in education, then the Kentucky school system ought to drop what seems to be a mandate of Republican worship.

Clearly he's being influenced by the corporate-supported cult of climate change denial that rules the roost in the GOP. If this cult had any credibility to begin with, it has none now after what happened a couple months back.

About 2 months ago, global warming skeptics kept boasting about how they had 30,000 signatures of scientists who were going to "prove" climate change was all a big put-on. For weeks, they were blustering about how this was going to blow the lid off our stance once and for all.

Welp, that turned out to be a big flop, didn't it? This pathetic skeptic stampede fizzled, and the wingnutosphere is reeling in so much embarrassment that they don't dare to bring it up now.

I guess this is like how they were going to "prove" Saddam still had weapons of mass destruction when the war began, right? Everything the wingnutosphere says falls flat.

It's time to say, "Hasta la vista, baby," to the discredited beliefs of climate change skeptics.


Church targeted over progressive views

Following yesterday's deadly massacre at Knoxville's Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, people are searching for answers.

But the right-wing media wasted no time in jumping to conclusions. The media painted the accused gunman Jim Adkisson as a liberal atheist who questioned religion. But the media's portrayal of Adkisson has turned out to be a lie.

Adkisson is actually a right-wing talk radio fan who objected to that particular congregation's progressive views. (The church has long supported fair wages, civil liberties, and other admirable causes.) The 58-year-old wrote a rambling manifesto assailing the "liberal movement" and progressive causes, and it indicated that he planned to keep shooting until police gunned him down.

Right-wing blogs and talk radio constantly prime the pump for terrorists like this. Typical of talk radio is one host's demand that a Cindy Sheehan supporter be "stomped to death." If you listen to almost any right-wing talk show for a few hours, you'll hear the host rant about how anyone who dissents should be silenced.

It's the same intolerant invective that helped spur right-wing terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph.

There's a right-wing power structure that props up this terrorism - not only in red states but in places like Sacramento, where Republican DA Jan Scully refused to prosecute thugs who vandalized an antiwar sign.

My solution? Watch the right-wing hate sites, talk radio, and right-wing organizations like a hawk. They should be monitored closely, because that's where terrorism brews.

The media was guilty of scapegoating when it tried claiming Jim Adkisson was a liberal and an atheist. It's no different from the scapegoating that talk radio has been guilty of for years. In the 1930s, Germany was plagued by a certain demagogue who practiced similar invective. His movement grew from a handful of followers into a whole political party.

Just remember that the next time you come across a wingnut blog or talk radio show.


War may become second-most expensive

The Iraq War has cost the lives of thousands of American military personnel and countless Iraqi civilians. But it's also about to become America's second-most expensive war ever in its dollar amount - even when you adjust the cost of older wars for inflation.

While World War II remains the costliest, the Vietnam conflict ranks second, with an inflation-adjusted price tag of $686,000,000,000 (over a half-trillion). But this is about to be surpassed by the Iraq War, which now stands at $648,000,000,000.

This sum is almost 7 times the inflation-adjusted cost of the '91 Gulf War. And that includes only the price of military operations. It doesn't even include spending on veterans' benefits or assistance to war allies.

All this after Mitch Daniels said the Iraq War would cost less than one-tenth of what it has. Disaster Daniels must have been using some of that "fuzzy math" Bush used to talk about.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

McCain ad blames Obama for gas prices

Yesterday I think I saw what may be the worst political commersh of the season (except for the lies about the troop surge allegedly "working" that I was force-fed last weekend).

This ad - which was personally approved by McComplain himself - blamed Obama for the out-of-control gasoline prices.

Uh, what???

McCain's party runs the White House, as it has for 20 of the past 28 years. And they're against breaking up the oil industry, they're against suing OPEC, and they're against any moves towards nationalizing Big Oil. They also started the war that drove up prices, and they have no energy policy and have shown no effort to find alternative fuels or bring about more efficient energy usage.

So how is it Obama's fault we have $4 gas?

You can blame the Democrats for some things, such as confirming David Petraeus or the failure to repeal the 1996 Telecommunications Act. But the blame for the high gas prices falls just about 100% on the Republicans' shoulders.

Despite this, the McCain campaign is making gas prices one of its key issues! Good. Because it's going to bite them right on the ass.

Bill would quiet noisy ads

It's about damn time. It truly is.

For years, studies have shown that TV commercials are much louder than the surrounding programming. These findings are believable to households all across the land, who find themselves confronted by ads that blare needlessly.

I think our local cable system was the worst offender. I'll never forget watching MTV or CNN's Gulf War coverage in 1991 and being almost knocked clean out of my chair when it cut to the local ads inserted by the cable company. It was loud enough that I was afraid it might have ruined the speakers.

Now there's a bill sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (both D-California) that would direct the FCC to stop commershes that are significantly louder than the programming.

Eshoo correctly observed, "What annoys all of us is the sudden increase of volume when commercials are aired."

While we're at it, I'd like to see the FCC crack down on stations putting up ads that cover half the screen during programming. If there's anything more aggravating than commercials' loudness level, that's got to be it.


Republicans block heating aid bill

One principle in modern American lawmaking states that incredibly bad ideas will pass Congress or a state legislature unanimously. But there's a related principle that states that strikingly good ideas inexplicably won't pass at all, even if you can't possibly imagine anyone opposing it.

Yesterday, the Republicans in the Senate blocked an important heating aid bill - despite the Democrats being the Senate's majority party. The bill would have expanded federal aid to the poor for heating and air bills.

Who could possibly be against it? And on what grounds? The GOPoo can't possibly argue that they're just trying to save money, because they've supported the Iraq War blank check that's cost hundreds of billions. So what's the excuse?

The public pays taxes, and all they're getting in return is a failed war - and no heat?

I also don't buy any doctrinaire arguments by conservatives about how assisting the poor is beyond the government's scope. Conservatives consider "morals, morals, morals!" to be within the government's purview, so why not economic assistance programs like this?

So another bill has been killed off by the Republicans who aren't even the winning party anymore.


Barbour frees convicted murderer

When Republicans rule the roost, crime pays.

Michael David Graham was convicted of murdering his former wife in Pascagoula, Mississippi, in 1989. Graham was sentenced to life imprisonment for the premeditated shooting that occurred at a busy intersection.

But last week, right-wing Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, freed Graham from prison and reduced his sentence to mere probation-style restrictions. You read that right: A man committed a premeditated murder of his former wife in front of dozens of people, and now he walks free under a Republican governor.

Now Barbour is threatening to pardon Graham altogether - thus removing even the restrictions Graham has now.

Democratic State Rep. Brandon Jones, who represents Pascagoula in the legislature, is now exploring legislative options to keep Barbour from abusing his pardon powers.

The Mississippi Constitution gives governors broad powers to suspend sentences and pardon convicts. But what Haley Barbour doing is clearly an abuse of this authority. Barbour is no better than the elder Bush was when he pardoned Iran-Contra traitors.

You mean the Republicans lied when they said they were tough on crime? They're tough on people who get caught with some weed when they're 14 or buy too much allergy medicine, but killers walk free. I guess they have to make room in the prison system for all the small-time drug offenders.


Study debunks media bias myth

How many times have you heard that the media has a liberal bias, even though evidence to the contrary stares the world in the face? Ironically, the myth of liberal media bias is spread primarily by the media itself - making it a self-debunking myth.

Now a study proves that not only does the media lack a liberal bias, but it actually has a conservative bias.

Gee, ya think?

George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs has long tracked TV news content. Now the center has released a study finding that the leading broadcast TV networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC) have been much tougher on Obama than on McCain during this presidential campaign.

Conservatives will likely charge that the Center for Media and Public Affairs is some sort of liberal organ. But the CMPA was actually founded by conservatives. If even the CMPA finds a conservative bias, then we have to question the sanity of anyone who still insists the media has a liberal tilt.

And the study covered only broadcast TV news. It didn't even cover talk radio, which is almost exclusively right-wing. (Even Air America has been taken over by the DLC, which isn't exactly liberal.)

I could see during the '88 campaign how conservative the media was. Now we should be able to put the liberal media fable to rest. But don't hold your breath. The media will still be spreading this discredited myth in another 20 years.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Probation service scams traffic violators

It's a scam, it's a scam, it's a scammity-scam, it's a scammity-scam-scam-a-scam! Burp!

You better hope you don't get a minor traffic ticket in Americus, Georgia. Americus is one of many towns that now farms out its oversight of traffic violators to a private probation service - a move that supporters claim saves the taxpayers money.

But this has turned out to be a load of roo gas. It's actually a scam that hits the poorest citizens the hardest. If you're well-off and you happen to get a traffic citation, you're probably pretty safe. But 28% of people in Americus live below the poverty line, and if you don't have the money to pay your traffic fine right away, you end up eventually paying more than those who do. That's because you have to pay it in installments for 3 to 12 months - and the private probation service charges $35 a month.

If it takes you a year to pay your fine, you may end up paying over 2 to 3 times the amount of the fine.

To add insult to injury, judges threaten to throw violators in jail if they dare to complain to the court clerks about this rip-off.

In Americus, an atmosphere of intimidation and fear now reigns. And I'm sure this environment isn't limited just to Americus. It probably plagues many towns that have probation scams like this.

The system knows that it's setting folks up for trouble by making them pay extra fees to the probation firm in addition to their fines. It's like when my county started making jail inmates pay for their stay and then sentencing them to extra penalties if they couldn't afford it. Or like that school system in Louisiana that suspends kids for dress code violations and then charges them with truancy.

The corrections industry is built on making criminals out of everyone.


Before the Harangue's harangue

The programmies are still reeling from our July 11 demonstration against their kookish cult (not to mention our July 14 rally that hit them just as hard), and now another video has surfaced of the Harangue's shocking behavior.

After the July 11 protest, I posted an entry featuring a video showing the Harangue (the director of the program) stealing our sign. The latest video shows the moments just before the theft of the sign. It proves without a shadow of a doubt that we were being 100% peaceful, and that it was the Harangue who was acting like a maniac:

Of course the programmies will never grasp how silly they're being.

Lieberman seeks terrorist pardon

Is there any doubt remaining that Joe Lieberman has gone totally bonkers? And to think I actually went to a rally to make sure all his votes for Vice-President were counted!

As proof of the Connecticut senator's increasing right-wing radicalism, he's seeking a presidential pardon for Eduardo Arocena. Arocena is a right-wing terrorist who is serving a life sentence plus 35 years for murdering a Cuban diplomat and for masterminding 25 bombings against sites like Madison Square Garden and New York's JFK Airport. The bombings seriously injured bystanders and damaged buildings.

And Lieberman is the guy who chairs the Senate's Homeland Security committee? That's as bad as McCain making Phil Gramm a top adviser on economics.


Gum is cool

You know what? This blog needs a gimmick. I asked people for some gimmick ideas, and I got a reply: "You should focus on bubble gum and its influence today."

So maybe I will. Maybe each weekend, I should post a link to a hilarious bubble gum commercial from yesteryear.

I never chew the damn stuff myself nowadays, and this is a political blog anyhow, so why would it even deal with gum? Because gum is funny. It's funny because it is. No particular reason. It just damn is!

So why not a weekly bubble gum commersh? I won't embed a commercial, because that comes too close to giving the gum maker free ad time (even if the ad is 30 years old) - but I will provide the link. Also, I can't vouch for these links being around too much longer, because YouPube seems to pull any video that causes feewinghurt on any grounds.

Here's our first exhibit in our museum of gum mania:

That's an ad for Trident's soft bubble gum, circa 1983.

The commersh wasn't even meant to be humorous, but there's so many things to make fun of in it that the mind tobbles to and fro. I remember this ad, and that the absurd scenes with the pack of gum magically floating against a blue background caused our shitty cable TV system to emit a fart-like hum.

This is from Trident's "Taste the one that'll win you over" campaign, which I ridiculed endlessly back then. In reference to the 'Sesame Street' Muppet, I always sang, "Taste the one that'll smell like Grover." Which doesn't make any sense, of course. Then again, does it really have to?

And of course, the young woman in this commersh bubbled. What bubble gum ad would be complete without it?

If you're not rolling on the floor in a fit of uncontrollable guffawing right now at this hopelessly dated gum-related exhibit, then your laugh bone must be busted!

Another senseless drug war death

You know the War on (some) Drugs is a failure when its purveyors feel they have to use folks who are still fairly young to fight the war, without even training them on how to do so. And this time it caused a young woman to die needlessly.

Not long ago, a 23-year-old woman in Tallahassee, Florida, got in trouble for a couple of minor marijuana possession incidents. Part of the problem in her case was that it's Florida - where a minor drug charge becomes major. She was looking at 4 years and a felony record, even though she was only accused of mere possession.

But the Tallahassee police decided they'd exploit the situation by turning her into an informant. Without providing her with any training at all, they used her in a sting in an attempt to catch suspected drug dealers.

But the sting went bad, and she was gunned down.

The story proves how far beyond lost the drug war is. The War on Drugs is more or less a price support for violent gangs (who themselves pay off government officials).

Following this death, the Florida Attorney General's office is reviewing the Tallahassee police's policies. But authorities haven't shown much sensitivity to the young woman's family. Tallahassee's chief of police said, "I'm calling her a criminal."

Then I'm calling the War on Drugs a failure.

Maybe if the drug war's bills weren't being paid by drug lords, this garbage would stop.


Friday, July 25, 2008

City would banish suspects without convicting them

Here's an idea that ought to be struck down the minute it passes.

The city of Eugene, Oregon, is considering passing a new unconstitutional ordinance. Under this proposed law, anyone charged with any number of crimes - ranging from robbery to assault to who knows what else - would be banned from downtown Eugene for 90 days.

I didn't say people who actually got convicted. (Those who get convicted would be banned for a year.) I said people who merely got charged - without being convicted.

If this passes, all that will need to happen for a person to be banned is for someone to wrongly accuse them and for them to be arrested. They won't even get a chance to prove their innocence first.

Punishing people without even convicting them or proving they're guilty? There's no way that'll pass constitutional muster. Not a chance in hell.


Man institutionalized for trying to retrieve lost cat

This is yet another entry in the piles and piles of articles illustrating the excesses of the psychiatric industry.

A man in New York was committed to a psych ward all because he went searching for a cat that was missing. Police and shrinks insisted that the mere existence of the cat was a delusion.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? The psychiatric racket won't hesitate about telling victims of school harassment that their assailants are a delusion, so I guess it's no surprise that the industry thinks cats are a delusion too.

I think the only thing related to this story that's a delusion is psychiatry itself. I don't think any other industry been wrong about so many things so many times for so many years.

The cat was found by a professional rescuer. The man spent 4 days locked up, even though the cat that psychiatrists insisted was a delusion turned out to be real.

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney and Geoff Davis still roam the streets freely.


Yahoo! and digital "rights" mismanagement

This is another reason why Yahoo! needs to take its greedy attitude and shove it clean up its ass.

A few years back, Yahoo! ratted out journalists to the Chinese government, which issued stiff prison terms to the reporters. Though Yahoo! is an American company, the Bush regime refused to penalize Yahoo! for this - but consumers appear to have been voting with their browsers, as the service seems to have become but a shadow of its former self.

Now that Yahoo!'s music store is closing, its greed is becoming evident. Yahoo! has decided not to give customers the digital "rights" keys for songs that they've downloaded for a fee from its site. Thus, when a customer replaces their computer, there will be no way to get their music tracks to play ever again.

That's exactly like if a record store closes down and then the owners go to former customers' houses and smash their records the next time they get a new turntable.

Then again, it's not like I ever buyed music from Yahoo!'s shitty site anyway.

Mind you, these are paid downloads we're talking about here. Yahoo!'s customers paid to download them. So they're theirs. Yahoo! has no legal right to make customers pay to keep listening to the tracks they've already purchased or to make the tracks stop working on new computers.

Yahoo! is recommending that customers save their music files by recording them onto a blank CD (thus wasting the CD), playing the CD on a separate component, and recording the music onto the computer as it plays, as if it's an analog recording.

Or you could just use the analog "hole" - except the analog "hole" has been eliminated on many newer computers, because computer makers wanted to appease the digital "rights" Taliban that was paranoid about people copying DRM files!

Doesn't the hassle of dealing with analog recording defeat the whole purpose of digital music? You can probably get better results from a scratchy old 45.

Damn, Yahoo! is dumb!

Digital "rights" management is such a scam that all 4 major record labels have now realized they're better off selling music DRM-free than heaping so much frustration on customers that they turn to file-sharing sites. (Yes, we're down to 4 major labels now thanks to the Far Right's hero worship of corporate mergers.)


Big Comcast is watching you

Some years ago, when a family picketed a right-wing politician whose name has been lost to history, they soon received a Christmas card from the politician that included a photo of them at the protest.

What Comcast is doing now is no less chilling.

Recently a college student complained on his obscure blog about cable TV giant Comcast pumping its on-screen program guide full of ads. Almost immediately, he received e-mail from Comcast disguised as a friendly response.

Nobody had left a comment on his blog in months, but then he just gets e-mail from Comcast out of the blue?

A user of Twitter posted a comment about receiving a $183 cable bill from Comcast. A Comcast employee immediately responded with a Twitter comment of his own: "Can I help?"

It turns out Comcast uses special programs that lets it monitor blogs, Internet message boards, and social networking sites for any mention whatsoever of the company. If someone dares to criticize Comcast, the company responds to them with a sickly-sweet response.

There seems to be general agreement that this goes well beyond creepy. It actually stifles the free flow of information by reinforcing the fear that bloggers and Internet users are being watched by Comcast.

I've hardly ever seen anything good written about Comcast. In fact, out of over 200 companies, the American Customer Satisfaction Index ranks Comcast dead last in consumer opinions.

And don't bother to contact me, Comcast. From what I've seen of Comcast, it's actually good that my area has a direct descendant of the wretched Storer Cable instead. It was Comcast that provided the cable TV to my hotel room in Memphis during my vacation last year where the cable went out. Luckily, I had better things to do on my vacation than watch a cable system that didn't work.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dracula Davis's opponent speaks

Geoff "Dracula" Davis, a Republican, has been the congressmoron from my district (Kentucky's 4th District) for 4 years. In case you've never seen Davis on teevee, then trust me, he's a nasty, nasty, nasty little man.

Someone just sent me links to a televised interview with Michael Kelley, M.D., who is running for Congress as Davis's Democratic opponent. Of course, I'm a registered Green and an uncompromising economic populist, but I think it's important to hear what Democrat Kelley has to say (especially because Geoff Davis keeps hogging the spotlight).

Part 1:

Part 2:

Parts 3 and 4:

This could be the year the Drac Davis dirigible finally runs out of bunk gas.

Conservatives urge preemptive pardons

If this isn't a potential abuse of presidential pardon powers, what is?

The conservative (bowel) movement's great legal minds (such as they are) are urging Bush to issue preemptive pardons to regime officials who were involved in illegal programs. If they are pardoned, they're less likely to undergo a legal investigation that would make the Republicans look even more idiotic than they already do.

Victoria Toensing, a former official in the Reagan regime, said Bush "should preempt any long-term investigations." Because Bush is the Decider, I guess. Toensing said, "If we don't protect these people who are proceeding in good faith, no one will ever take chances."

Problem is, the people who the conservative intelligentsia wants pardoned weren't proceeding in good faith. They were intentionally subverting the Constitution.

The Bush White House refuses to say whether Bosh will take this advice and abuse his pardon powers. After Bush's daddy pardoned all those traitors who were involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, I wouldn't be in the least surprised if Bush issues ready-made pardons for his own cohorts who were involved in torture and warrantless phone-tapping.


Kentucky Post still right-wing after all these years

The Kentucky Post???

Yes, this article is about the remnants of the Cincinnati Post and its northern Kentucky edition, the Kentucky Post. The Post became an Internet-only publication this past New Year's Day.

I read the Post for years when it was a print daily, and by 1988 it was clearly conservative. By the end of its print era, its editorial stance was kookish, as seen in its 2007 editorials claiming Hugo Chavez is a dictator and spreading debunked statistics about his administration. (Unlike Bush, Chavez was democratically elected.) Even its articles that were not editorials bore misleading headlines, such as one that incorrectly claimed that the new Rockefeller drug laws were working. (The headline was parroting official government propaganda.)

The 'Net-only incarnation of the Kentucky Post appears to be no less out of touch. It's still owned by the E.W. Scripps Company, which carries loopy op-eds from the Scripps Howard News Service. Like today, it ran one from Bonnie Erbe that was headered, "Is The Media Pro-Obama?"

Are you kidding???

Surely the media is more pro-Obama than pro-Nader or pro-McKinney - but they clearly favor McCain over Obama. The media shrieked for months about Obama's membership in Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church (as if Obama somehow caused Wright to make controversial statements), but there's been hardly a peep from the media about McCain actively seeking support from right-wing bigots like Rev. John Hagee.

I think there's even less doubt where the media stood in the primary. It's been clear since the '90s that the media has wanted Hillary Clinton to someday be the Democrats' candidate. For one thing, the Clinton wing of the party is the one the media finds most ideologically acceptable. For another, it's the wing that's most likely to lose in a general election match-up versus the GOP anyway.

Throughout the current cycle, the media has thrown together so many tenuous anti-Obama stories that anyone who scrutinizes them can see they're grasping at straws.

But they've got a nice racket going. Because they're the media, they can - after displaying a bias throughout the campaign - claim the bias is the exact opposite of what it really is. Thus, this claim is self-discrediting. That Erbe would claim the media has a pro-Obama bias, in spite of reams of evidence to the contrary, is just more evidence of an anti-Obama bias.

Erbe claims the media has paid too much attention lately to Obama's overseas trip, but I think it only seems that way because McComplain simply never does much that's that exciting anymore. McCain's rerunning of timeworn Republican grievances is frankly a bore.

In 2000 and 2004, the Bush campaign manipulated the media more than any presidential campaign before or since. No other major U.S. politician has ever gotten a free pass more often than the Decider.

So the next time you see some talking head bellyaching that the media is more favorable to Democrats than to Republicans, it's just a ruse by the right-wing noise machine - one that the Post has fanned for years.

Giuliani's son sues over being removed from golf team

This is a lawsuit that would be frivolous no matter who filed it. But when the plaintiff is the offspring of a right-wing politician who railed against alleged legal abuse by everyone else, it looks especially hypocritical.

Andrew Giuliani - the son of former New York City mayor and failed GOP presidential contender Rudolph Giuliani - is suing Duke University because he was removed from the golf team. The 198-page federal suit charges that the university's golf coach has sidetracked the younger Giuliani's chance of becoming a pro golfer.

All together now: One, two, three...AAAAAAAAAAWWWWW!!!!! Gee, it must be tough being the spoiled child of a Republican politician.

If 1,000,000 Americans die today, and 1% of them are in the top 1% richest Americans, the GOP's upper crust will try to sue God by claiming that the Almighty discriminated against them for being rich. That's how the GOP entitlement culture works.

If they're so worried about frivolous lawsuits, they should start with their own useless legal filings.

The fact is that Duke was cutting its golf roster by half. Andrew Giuliani happened to be among the school's least skilled golfers - ranking 12th out of 14. Despite what he thinks, he was not the victim of a grudge by the coach.

Are the 6 other golfers who got cut going to sue too?

Grow up, will ya, Andrew?

Andrew Giuliani has no idea of what life has been like for folks like you and me who weren't born into privilege.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lawmakers block attempt to stop Rottenberg abuse

From what I've seen, I'd expect the Kentucky legislature to drop the ball over something like this - but Massachusetts???

The Judge Rotenberg Center, an abusive residential facility in Massachusetts, has long been known for administering electric shocks to autistic and mentally challenged children and adults. Recently, State Sen. Brian Joyce and State Rep. John Scibak (both Democrats) sponsored a measure to greatly limit this evil practice.

But now the Massachusetts House has gutted the effort. DLC State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez praised the shock "discipline" that remains widespread at Rottenberg to this day. Rotenberg administers electric shocks to students for such "crimes" as giving wrong answers to classroom questions and mumbling.

Joyce had earlier introduced a bill to outlaw the shock punishment outright, but the legislature rejected that bill too.


Yankees lift sunscreen ban

Well, that sure as shit didn't last long, did it?

After the outcry against Yankee Stadium banning sunscreen even over a scorching 96° F weekend, the ballpark has now lifted this totalitarian policy.

Now maybe if the NFL would start obeying the court order barring it from frisking fans, we'll know that this bit of progress isn't just a blip.


SPF '1984'

America today is so clearly a command state that it's almost impossible not to mistake it for George Orwell's '1984'.

Yankee Stadium in New York is doing its part to assist America's excruciating swirl down the toilet of tyranny. The ballpark opted a month ago to ban sunscreen lotion, calling it a terrorist weapon.

Under this ban, security personnel have begun searching fans for contraband sunblock and throwing away any they find. The ban was in effect even over the past weekend when temperatures in New York reached almost 100° F and the UV index topped a dangerous 9 out of 10. The stadium managed to fill several trash bags with bottles of sunscreen.

The claim that the policy is an attempt to protect the stadium from terrorism is of course a lie. If security personnel would open the bottles of lotion, sniff it, and squeeze out a few dollops, they'd be able to see it wasn't an explosive liquid.

What's really behind this? Well, it just so happens that once you get inside the stadium, you can buy sunscreen. It costs $5 for a tiny 1-ounce bottle of very weak sunscreen that probably costs only $1 at the supermarket.

So the ban of sunblock is really a scam to force people to buy it from the stadium at a heavy markup.

Dr. Babar Rao of the Skin and Cancer Center of New York called the sunscreen ban "very dangerous" and "especially bad for children", for the lotion must be reapplied every 2 hours (while the average baseball game lasts 3 or 4 hours).

If a spectator gets sunburned because of Yankee Stadium's fartpipery, they ought to sue 'em to court. Maybe we ought to all stop going to professional sporting events. That'll hit the wealthy team owners' pocketbooks like there's no tomorrow.

And they will cry!

Bullshit mass index

A death match between the twin heads of the hydra of doom may be brewing. Which head will win - powerful government officials, or even more powerful fast food corporations?

I personally feel the "obesity pandemic" is mostly a media creation designed to draw attention away from government scandals and to shift blame for America's health care crisis onto the victims. One of the main reasons the obesity rate appears to have increased is that the government redefined obesity in the late '90s by using the body mass index.

I call it the bullshit mass index. According to the new BMI rules, I'm well within the overweight category. After I realized in high school that I could hide behind classmates and make myself invisible to avoid the many objects that seemed to fly across the room, I find that to be preposterous. I also find it odd that the media plays up the "obesity pandemic" while ignoring real pandemics like those that ferment in America's filthy, virus-laden school buildings.

But officials in Los Angeles apparently think the "obesity pandemic" is real. A City Council member wants to ban fast food restaurants from opening in a 32-square-mile section of the city.

I'm suspicious of corporations, but I still occasionally buy fast food. I know the quality of fast food has declined precipitously in this decade, and I boycotted Taco Bell because of its enslavement of agricultural workers - but it wasn't long ago that you could get an adequate meal cheaply at a number of fast food outlets.

Are folks in L.A. supposed to go to fancy suit-and-tie restaurants instead?

I can understand a city criticizing a fast food restaurant if it abuses workers or disrespects animal welfare. But what's going on in Los Angeles sounds more like a "for your own good" measure that simply falls flat.

The L.A. proposal sounds like a Prohibition-style move that wouldn't do any good for the public. And it smacks of class warfare, for most working-class people like you and me are less likely to be able to afford anything fancier than fast food.

If you want to tackle the city's health woes, consider that L.A. is one of the smoggiest regions of America. Why are more and more inefficient gas guzzlers encouraged to choke the city's freeways to transport wealthy exurbanites to their spacious mansions 30 miles out of town?

And doesn't Los Angeles still have its school calendar problems that the media hailed as so innovative? That likely spreads disease, which would be as much of a health threat as fast food is.

So who's going to win this Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot match - the fast food industry or City Council?

In fairness to city officials, they also want to encourage grocery stores to move into the neighborhood where fast food will be taboo. I'm all for more grocers, but the city can at least wait until grocers move in before keeping restaurants out.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New laws in New York include making game ratings mandatory

This is another mixed-bag story: The state of New York has just passed a flurry of new laws - some of them good, but some of them downright atrocious.

First, the good news: One of the good new laws makes it easier to fire teachers who are convicted of heinous sex crimes. Other good new laws would help fight abuse in residential programs by making it illegal for employees to kick, bite, or withhold food or water from detainees.

Apparently, it was legal until now to kick, bite, and starve people in residential programs and psychiatric institutions in New York. Shocking, yes. But I'm glad that the new laws outlaw these abuses.

Another good new law strengthens domestic violence protections.

But a bit of bad news has put a damper on my glee over these new laws: Another new piece of legislation puts the force of law behind the video game rating system - a system that is almost universally agreed to be stupid.

This new law requires retailers to display the "voluntary" rating system on every game - or face a fine. Not so "voluntary" now, is it?

I remember in the '90s, when the rating system began, how its apologists claimed endlessly that it was just voluntary and not a government mandate. I knew that was a load of bullshit and that sooner or later, the government was going to make it mandatory. Now the state of New York has.

And that's why there's a "Censorship Alert!" banner at the top of this entry.

Requiring the rating system clearly violates the First Amendment. If I owned a store that sold video games, do you honestly think I wouldn't ignore the new law? This is as bad as the now-gutted law in Indiana that forced bookstores to register with the sheriff if they sold magazines with a sex advice column.

So many good bills were signed into law in New York today, but this disgraceful video game legislation utterly ruins the mood. It's exactly like if you accidentally crush your foot with an RV while you're loading the vehicle up for your cross-country road trip you've spent 20 years planning.


COPA struck down...again!

I coulda swore this law got struck down already. But the government had to waste money appealing, didn't they?

Yep, actually it did get struck down. The misnamed Child Online Protection Act was an Internet censorship law that was the progeny of the hated Communications Decency Act. The 1998 law required certain websites to use a credit card to verify even adults who accessed their site. The law had nothing to do with protecting children.

Later, this law was struck down as unconstitutional. The Bush regime appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court, which upheld the earlier injunction and referred the case back to district court. Last year, a district judge ruled COPA unconstitutional again.

But the Bush regime appealed that ruling too. And now they've lost yet again! The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's decision.

Guess what? Bush's so-called Justice Department is threatening to appeal again.

You mean even more of my hard-earned tax dollars are going to go towards this shit?


More EU metric imperialism

The (bowel) movement capitalists who dominate the European Union are at it again! This story is as bad as when the EU forced Spain (a Spanish-speaking country) to post stop signs only in English.

The undemocratic EU has now issued a fiat that orders Britain to stop using the acre (the unit of land measurement) and replace it with the hectare (a metric unit).

Why??? Who the hell knows why. The EU has never seemed to have had the burden of making sense - preferring instead to serve corrupt corporate interests. Because of the EU's corporatism, the acre is now banned from use effective in 2010.

Britain's Conservative Party is blaming its political opponents - even though it was the Conservatives that caused most of this mess by allowing their country to be subjected to arbitrary, greed-driven EU diktats like this. It's not as if New Labour (the British DLC) is completely free of blame though.

The real miracle is that Bush hasn't required Americans to switch to the metric system yet. Back when his daddy was in the White House, the United States probably came closer to undergoing forced metrication than any time before or since. (Not like the ruling regime can force me to switch, seeing how the U.S. is supposed to be a free country and all.)


Fascists kill anti-bullying bill

A long-overdue bill in North Carolina that would have cracked down on school harassment read in part:

"Bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socio-economic status, academic status, masculinity, femininity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics."

So who would be against a bill like this? Bush conservatives, that's who.

And what's their excuse this time? Their excuse is their opposition to including one of the items listed in the paragraph of the bill printed above. Can you guess which one?

Well, which one do the rightists these days seem inordinately obsessed with?

You know, I hate to even dignify the Far Right's unexplained obsessions, but they're the ones who decided to rail against this bill.

Let's cut to the chase: The Bush cult is against the bill because they claim that including sexual orientation is a government endorsement of homosexuality. To give you an idea of what a flawed argument this is, that's like saying that including religion is an endorsement of a specific faith. That's like saying that including disability is an endorsement of being disabled.

The bill's opponents know their own argument is ridiculous, but it's a situation where the whole world looks like a nail so all they have is a hammer. Quite frankly, I believe school harassment on any basis is wrong. But it's the bill's opponents who keep obsessing about that one item. And if that item wasn't included, they'd obsess over some other horseshit issue.

The fact is, they support bullying. They'll come up with any excuse they can to oppose the bill. The serial bullies of your youth are the right-wing hired thugs of today.

To make a long story short, the right-wing activists who support school harassment flooded lawmakers with mail and phone calls demanding that they vote against the bill. And their efforts worked. They managed to kill the bill entirely.

Though lawmakers had planned to vote on some form of legislation to tackle school harassment after this version was killed, they appear to have dropped the ball again - forcing them to wait until next year's session.

Organizations that aroused their followers to flood lawmakers with demands to oppose the bill are hate groups. Period. And they're terrorist groups, because they support school harassment. They should be called out as such. The Christian Action League of North Carolina, for instance, is one such hate group. So is the North Carolina Family Policy Council.

Like I've said, school harassment is Public Enemy #1 of America's young people. It doesn't matter what the reason for the harassment is.

So if you live in North Carolina, and your kids are getting attacked at school, blame the Bushists when nothing gets done to remedy it. It's entirely the fault of right-wing extremists if the harassment continues. Entirely, completely, 100% the right-wingers' fault.


Contractor arrested over pool death

Although the trend in the United States in recent years has been towards weaker protections for consumers from dangerous products, once in a while something happens that's so outrageous that there's almost a consensus that action has to be taken.

Last year, a 6-year-old boy in Connecticut drowned when he was trapped under water by a swimming pool drain. Faulty drains have long been a national scandal: In the past 25 years, there have been dozens of instances in the U.S. of children being killed or having their intestines literally sucked out by dangerous drains.

The contractor who installed that pool has now been arrested on manslaughter charges for the boy's death. This is the first time a pool contractor has been arrested in the U.S. for violating pool safety codes. Perhaps this is a sign that authorities - at least in Connecticut - aren't going to let tragic deaths slide. The arrest may signal to other contractors that they have to make their pools safe.

But it took until the end of last year for Congress to act. In December, the federal government finally enacted a law regulating pool drain covers. When the Contact With America era began, Congress wasted no time in revoking college aid from students who got caught with a joint when they were 15 - but it took another 13 years to pass a law to protect consumers from faulty products like pool drains.

Incidentally, Freeper types are abusing other websites to attack the family of the boy who drowned in Connecticut. I'm surprised the new federal law passed, because the corporatists' world is one of "buyer beware", in which victims of defective products are told to just keep quiet. The right-wing propagandists who infest the blogosphere have long claimed that anyone who files a legitimate product liability suit is just trying to cash in. They consider product safety regulation a "communist" constraint on their so-called right to Make Money.

The tort "reform" movement is all about protecting corporations from having to pay victims of their faulty wares.

The Connecticut contractor is expected to plead not guilty. But the fact that authorities did go after him may be a sign that Connecticut is serious about enforcing safety regulations. Many American locales would have let the case slide.


Monday, July 21, 2008

MSNBC downloads pirated music?

You expect a fuck-up like this from the network that did a shitty splicing job on a Michelle Obama speech to try to change the speech's meaning.

In a segment about the film adaptation of 'Mamma Mia!' (a musical based on Abba songs), MSNBC used the song "Walking On Sunshine", apparently thinking the song was by Abba. Wrong, brainiacs, it was Katrina & the Waves.

Now, why would they think it was Abba? Because file sharing sites that offer unauthorized copies of the song often wrongly credit the song to Abba. Obviously that's where MSNBC got its copy from.

Clearly, a producer for the network wanted some Abba music for the piece, so they went on a file sharing site and downloaded a pirated copy of that song for free because it was mislabeled as being by Abba. How else could a mistake like that happen?

Now is the RIAA going to go after MSNBC for using pirated music, creating a rare wingnut-versus-wingnut death match? Or is this like how the insurance industry doesn't do anything to teen confinement facilities when they commit insurance fraud?


Right-wing judge tosses bipolar teen in boot camp

Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is known for its corrupt GOP machine that locks kids away for nothing. In 2005, the county falsely convicted a teenage boy of threatening to blow up his school all because he wore a "Joe Canadian" shirt. (The conviction was later overturned.) And now the county is embroiled in a scandal in which a teenage girl was sent to a wilderness boot camp.

In May, Republican Judge Robert Mellon sent a 16-year-old girl to the camp because she has bipolar disorder. Wilderness boot camps are a national scandal - part of the teen gulag racket that I've lambasted for years. Wilderness camps have caused the deaths of quite a few teenagers.

And bipolar disorder is not uncommon, especially among teens. Being bipolar is certainly not a crime.

But in BushAmerica, once you're born, you're pretty much government property, and you can be sent anywhere. The system doesn't have your best interests in mind. The system is built on greed and control, and if you're unwilling or unable to be exploited as a disposable spoke in the capitalist tire, there's a chance you'll find yourself locked up.

After the girl was placed in the boot camp, her mother asked Democratic County Commissioner Diane Marseglia to intervene. Marseglia, a licensed social worker, then contacted other officials about the documented dangers of sending a bipolar teen to a boot camp.

But then the county GOP machine totally lost its shit. Right-wing judges accused Marseglia of interfering with the judge's order. Now - all because Marseglia disagrees with them - the judges want court oversight over the agency that represents at-risk young people.

How's that for interference?

Marseglia noted that the Republicans' tantrum is fueled by partisan politics.

Now the teenager has been assigned a new attorney, because her old lawyer was obviously so inadequate.

I honestly don't think the judge in this case had the teen's best interests in mind at all. This sounds like just another remake of a tired old story that's been played out all over America countless times in recent decades. But this time, a county commissioner stood up and did the right thing by expressing her concerns about boot camps - and got promptly raked through cess over it.

In summary, the commissioner criticized boot camps, and then a right-wing judge totally went bonkers. Which shows you how far the Party is willing to go to protect the teen gulag racket.


Meet the Eyewitness Cam; 8 nighttime Action Cam photos posted

Like the pinnacle of populism that I am, one of my fave hobbies is something called Roads Scholaring - the practice of visiting and exploring roads just because they're roads. Now, in the digital era, photography is inexpensive, so now this pastime usually involves photographing roads or strange features.

The Action Cam has served me spiffily for 5 years. We all love the Action Cam. Recently the battery cover broke, but it'll still work if you have it taped up very, very tightly. (Wow! An electronic device from this decade that lasted 5 whole years! Better call Guinness!)

Now the Action Cam is being retired in favor of the Eyewitness Cam. Don't ask me how I procured the Eyewitness Cam. All I know is that it's here, and it's eager to get to work.

I guess the people weren't joking when they said they wanted me to keep taking Roads Scholaring photos. The Eyewitness Cam wants to serve you, so that it shall do.

In the meantime, I still owe the people 8 photos from the now-retired Action Cam. These photos followed our successful but haunting July 14 protest against the teen torture racket.

So check it out (like a library book):

Surge protector

Yesterday I kept seeing an extravagant TV ad that disturbed and shocked me greatly.

It was like a political commercial, but it didn't directly endorse a party or candidate. The entire premise of this ad was (in so many words): "THE SURGE IS WORKING LOLOLOL!!!!!"

According to this ad, last year's Iraq War surge worked, and everybody (even those who oppose the war) agrees that it worked. This is a lie, of course.

I know advertising is supposed to be persuasive. But aren't there some sort of regulations against making blatantly false claims in ads (especially political ads)? TV stations have pulled political commercials over false claims.

For the record, the surge was a failure. The statistics bear this out. But the technique of the ad is to repeat a lie over and over again until people believe it. This propaganda technique works better than you might think. Even those who are adamant about certain facts start questioning their own competence when the media constantly bombards them with lies year after year.

More about the Clayton County school scandal

This entry is about another important point about the embattled school system of Clayton County, Georgia. This is the district that nearly lost its accreditation and implemented mandatory uniforms to cover up for its own many failures.

Being the honest left-leaning populist guy I am, I think it's important to clarify something that was reported earlier about this school system. Some of the news stories I saw from early this year said that if Clayton County lost its accreditation, its high school graduates wouldn't be eligible for college. But I'm told that's not completely accurate - though accreditation loss would complicate things. A lot of colleges would still accept Clayton County alumni, but it would be much harder to get in, and many scholarships would be off-limits.

Either way, the loss of accreditation would harm students and render much of their work a waste. Although my own local school system never lost its accreditation, I know what going to school for nothing is like, because of my own many battles with the educrats. (They never did give me credit for the summer I fought Mad Dog's gulag, despite being forced to attend class almost every weekday of the summer.)