Saturday, January 31, 2009

Senator wants pay cap for bailed-out execs

Wall Street's looting of the American taxpayers via the government bailout has gone almost unchallenged - until now.

Now - after banking execs used bailout money to give themselves pay bonuses they didn't need to begin with - Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) wants to rein in these greed merchants.

McCaskill called these executives "a bunch of idiots on Wall Street" and introduced a bill to limit the pay of execs of companies that get federal bailout dough. Their pay would be limited to no more than that of the President of this great U.S. and A. nation - currently $400,000 a year.

This proposed law is actually more than generous to the execs. The companies' lowest-paid workers probably don't make $20,000 a year, so $400,000 should be more than enough for top execs (who frankly don't work as hard).

The Wall Street execs may seem to be idiots (as McCaskill put it), but apparently they were just smart enough to know how to game the system and loot hard-working taxpayers. Obviously they got a lot of help from people in high places to get their bailout.

Idiots or not, they're certainly corporate criminals.

Naturally, right-wing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani defended CEO's who looted the bailout funds to give themselves bonuses. Like anyone gives a shit what he thinks.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Freedent goes international (Bubble Gum Weekend)

If you ever wanted to hear the "Freedent's the one that took the stick out of gum" jingle in French, this may be your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Freedent - the amazing gum for people with no teeth - must be the smash hit worldwide that it is in the U.S. In other words, not much of a hit at all.

Anyhow, I ridiculed a Freedent ad from the good ol' U.S. and A. once before (though YouPube has since pulled that clip due to feewinghurt). But this ad campaign wasn't limited to the U.S. or to the English language. Now I've discovered a 1987 French-speaking Freedent ad from Canada:

Same jingle - only in French!

I'm not fluent in French, but it appears as if the jingle was translated almost verbatim from English. In fact, I think I detected a "oui" in the same place the English-speaking version says "yeah." The only difference is that the opening line seems to say "Freedent the gum" instead of "Freedent's the one."

The words printed on the screen seem to be saying something about Freedent not sticking to false teeth being a registered trademark.

So watch out! If you chew, say, Bazooka or Fruit Stripe, and it doesn't stick to your false teeth, Freedent can sue you!

Commuter Clot canceled

Can't say me didn't try!

I tried attending Commuter Clot (which is what I call the Critical Mass event in Cincinnati) today, but after I arrived on Fountain Square, only one other person showed up. When we realized nobody else was coming, we left, because we knew it was canceled because of the weather.

The event's MySpace page, however, made no mention of this cancellation.

I'm not peeved at Commuter Clot, because waiting there wasn't the difficult part. The hard part was getting to and from the event on a bike. Throughout Bellevue and Newport, here's what it was like: Roads that a bicyclist would otherwise be safe to use were not cleared of snow. Other roads - where the traffic is too heavy to bike - were. However, on these other roads, the sidewalks had not been cleared.

So the only conveyances that weren't covered with tightly packed, bumpy snow and ice were roadways that are too crowded to bike. As a result, on the way home, it took about an hour to walk the bike 4 blocks between Newport and Bellevue.

It's ironic that I discovered this on the way to and from an event designed to encourage better biking amenities.

If I didn't know any better, I'd think the way the roads were treated today was an intentionally classist effort to favor cars over bicyclists (as cyclists are less likely to be able to afford a car).

Hell, who are we kidding? It's classism. No point in living in denial this time (though inevitably someone will).

Bellevue and Newport, after all, have right-wing city governments that in recent years have seldom passed up an opportunity to discriminate against the poor. Bellevue, for instance, has been operating a program to pay apartment building owners to convert their buildings into single-family houses. Why? Because some city officials hate people who can only afford an apartment.

If a city is willing to actively attempt to drive poor residents out in this manner, why would we be surprised if the city clears roads used only by cars but lets ice pile up on roads that bikes use?

(More info:

Who are the programs in your neighborhood?

Well, who are they?

You know, the programs that you meet each day.

I'm concerned about something that might be going on in my very neighborhood right now. I received some information about this program before I went to bed last night, and after the program made a bunch of noise overnight that kept the neighborhood awake, I want answers.

Not far from my digs is a mysterious building that I've wondered about for years. Now I know that it houses some type of treatment program.

Is it abusive? Is it a cult?

Well, I've been directed to their website, and it seems to have an "our way or the highway" attitude. Like a cult, nobody else's way seems to be acceptable.

At minimum, we now know there are problems within the program, and I want to know whether anyone on the program's board knows what's going on. Either way, I will not tolerate abusive programs in my neighborhood. When a program is in my town, it has to cooperate - or I will make things very hard on it.

Very soon, I hope to be able to write a report here about an apparently unique law Kentucky has regarding the forced treatment of adults. I suspect this law generates business for this program, and it's time we get to the bottom of it.

Archdiocese faces federal probe

With a new administration in Washington, it now appears that Catholic Church officials' ongoing cover-up of sex abuse cases is starting to unravel even more.

Let me be frank: America's right-wing rulers - particularly the Bush regime - have not been serious enough about going after the Church's serial mishandling of the scandal. There was a policy for years in Toledo of not prosecuting sex abuse cases by priests, and I'm sure that's not the only American locale that had this policy. Parts of northern Kentucky have been little better.

But now there's finally a federal investigation. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is now the topic of a grand jury probe into its mishandling of child molestation by priests.

In 2007, the archdiocese reached a $660,000,000 settlement with over 500 alleged clergy abuse victims.

It'll be interesting - and maddening - to see what defense the archdiocese might come up with in this case. In Kentucky, our local diocese hid behind corporate law to try to avoid paying a settlement. Church officials have also tried abusing sovereign immunity on the grounds that Vatican City is its own country.

Bush's Justice Department intervened on behalf of officials in other cases that it didn't want facing lawsuits. But with a new administration, the cover-up in the Catholic Church might be unwinding.


A drywall scandal that stinks

The right-wing noise machine isn't shy about baselessly attacking my patriotism or that of other dissidents (because we didn't support Bush's illegal Iraq War). Yet our right-wing overlords don't even care enough about ol' red, white, and blue to encourage firms to buy American.

They'd rather allow cheap, docile labor to be exploited abroad than protect you, the American worker.

Lately, folks who have moved into new homes in Florida and Virginia have been driven out of their new digs by the insufferable sulfur stench of the homes' drywall. It turns out the homebuilders didn't use American-made drywall - but Chinese-made drywall.

This is a serious concern, because China has no equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency or other agencies that might have oversight over what goes into products. (America barely had an EPA under Bush, but that's in the past now.) Thus, China exercises little control over the environmental safety of items like drywall.

So this isn't just a problem of odors, personal inconvenience, or the blight caused by neighborhoods having to be abandoned because of the stink. This is also a potential health hazard.

The Chinese-made drywall contains heavy does of sulfur, which stinks of rotten egg farts. Sulfur gas corrodes metal, and residents have noticed that jewelry, air conditioner coils, and other metal objects have become tarnished. As for the health effects, residents have experienced respiratory problems that suddenly clear up when they leave their houses.

Meanwhile, brand-new houses sit ruined and empty because of the sulfur-laced drywall - never to be inhabited again.

Are the free trade ideologues happy now?


Utilities threatening not to restore power for weeks

It's another record!

No, I don't mean the good kind of record.

After the September blackout set a record for the largest electricity outage in Kentucky's history, state regulators say that record has already been shattered this week. For the record to be broken twice within a few months means either the weather has gotten more extreme or our power infrastructure has become even more fragile.

I think it's both.

And now, particularly in western Kentucky, utility companies say it will be at least mid-February before power is restored! By then it will have been 3 weeks since the power was lost.

The blackout has also caused water shortages, forcing some residents to haul dirty water out of creeks to drink.

What power companies rule the roost in western Kentucky, and who allows this situation? I know Kentucky has become a rubber-stamp state with regard to utility deregulation and rate hikes, but you'd think with people paying more for electricity, it wouldn't take 3 weeks to restore power.

And let's not kid ourselves: If it takes that long to restore electricity after a storm like this, the electric company isn't delivering the services it gets paid to deliver. Period. (This is not the worst blizzard Kentucky has seen.) And we need to hold utility companies' feet to the fire much as Massachusetts residents are doing to Unitil.

Too many Americans have been conditioned into holding utilities blameless no matter how unreliable their service is - for the media has rarely balked at amplifying the perspective of major corporations like power companies. Well, the buck stops here. I know corporate bullshit when I see it.

At very minimum, regulators should not allow utilities to increase rates again to cover business "lost" by the latest outage - as what happened after the Blackout of '08. But you know it's coming.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

PFC report posted!

Now that the KHK/PFC cult has been hounded out of both Cincinnati and Detroit, a new televised report about the long-awaited closures from WCPO-TV in Cincinnati has been posted online:

I usually don't rely heavily on established news organizations like (brrrrring!) Channel 9, but this is one of few regular news outlets that hasn't completely whitewashed the cult's abuse.

4 Bush anti-worker decrees erased

The past 9 days haven't been happy ones in conservaland.

Now President Obama has just announced plans to reverse 4 more of Bush's illegal diktats - this time regarding workplace rules.

One of them is Bush's fiat that directed unionized companies to post signs informing workers that they could decertify the union. Not only was this order illegal on the grounds that Bush had no authority to issue it. It was also patently unfair, as nonunion shops weren't required to post signs telling workers they could unionize.

But don't think Obama's work is done just because he's spent 9 days reversing some of Bush's edicts. He also has the Contract With America mess to clean up, and when he's done with that, he has to fix what Mad Dog and Rappin' Ronnie broke (because Clinton didn't fix it).

I know I sound like a parent lecturing a teenager, but we can't clean up 8 years of vomit only to let the previous 20 years continue to stink up the joint.


2 more political prisoners?

The War on Drugs appears to have taken 2 more innocent Americans prisoner.

This time it's in Washington state, where word has it that 2 middle-aged women have just received a year-long suspended jail sentence and fined heavily for mere possession of 3 packs of over-the-counter sinus medicine.

For the fillionth time, since when is mere possession of an over-the-counter drug illegal? It can't be, because it's over-the-counter. What's next? Throwing drugstores in jail because they have more than 3 packs of Sudafed in stock?

Were this in northern Kentucky and not southern Washington, I think a march outside the courthouse would have been in order. It is anyway, but it's too far for me.

The drug warriors need to just give up the fight or get out of the country. In their hearts, they're enemies of the American people.

PFC is R.I.P. in Detroit!

They just said it on Channel 9!

The Kids Helping Kids cult in Cincinnati that closed following protests and bad publicity was part of Pathway Family Center, which had 3 other facilities in other markets. They were all part of the same program and used the same failed methods.

Now WCPO-TV in Cincinnati has just reported that PFC's Detroit area facility has just closed today!

In Michigan, PFC is now R.I.P.!

However, the Channel 9 report also indicated that teens confined at the Cincinnati and Detroit facilities are now being shuffled off to the Indianapolis and northwestern Indiana centers - against the wishes of parents.

Nonetheless, PFC now has only half as much active space and has been weakened significantly. PFC blames the economy instead of negative publicity for the closures, but the American economy has been less than spectacular for decades. So of course it was the bad publicity.

In other words, PFC lied again. Surprise, surprise.

It also appears as if PFC still owns the Cincinnati building, so you know they're going to try to return in this market. If they do, I will be back on their case like stink on shit.

Blagojevich removed from office

You heard it here first: Illinois lawmakers have voted unanimously to remove Rod Blagojevich from office.

So he's gone.

This is what should have happened to Bush too, but it's a little late for that now, thanks to the DLC's nonstop dodging.

Commuter Clot still on tomorrow?

With Cincinnati under a weather emergency through tomorrow, I almost opted to ditch Critical Mass - which I lovingly refer to by its former name, Commuter Clot.

But I haven't heard that Commuter Clot is canceled. And after the electricity went out again today, I'm in a pumped-up mood like I should be!

So I'm probably going to take the Peace Bike down to Fountain Square tomorrow afternoon - snow or shine. To quote Channel 12's slogan of the early '90s: Just you watch. Odds are, I'm doing it!

See ya at 5th & Vine!

Ohio schools going corporatist?

These days, to say any American school system is going corporatist would be nearly redundant: American schools are run the way they're run precisely to meet the draconian demands of the gloBULL economy - not our young people's needs.

For 25 years, American schools have tried to outdo each other in the "standards" race - which is NewSpeak for molding our young into cheap, docile labor. Under capitalist education, their needs be damned.

This foul trend is being highlighted once again, this time in Ohio.

Gov. Ted Strickland's State of the State address demanded adding yet another 20 days to the school year, for a grand total of 200 - a figure exceeded only in some of the world's most oppressive dictatorships.

Nice to know the Buckeye State is taking cues from right-wing overseas regimes, but that just underscores the morass the "standards" race has dragged America into.

Children can't just be in school 100% of the time like the global greed merchants want. It's a truism that kids need time outside of school - whether it's for family, leisure, or community activities they might benefit from. With quality curricula, a 150-day school year should be more than sufficient.

The Republicans have been known for ideas like this since even before Democrats like Strickland started buckling. Nonetheless, this is the perfect example of the brand of corporate-backed ideas that are going to end up costing the Democrats their newfound political advantage.

It's also true that efforts like this are encouraged by unlawful federal ukases like Bush's No Child Left Behind law. Hopefully repealing No Child Left will be the next major action of the Obama administration (and not just because of this story).


Unitil blasted at hearing

Unitil, a New Hampshire-based utility monopoly, is already the target of lawsuits over its failure to restore electricity in a timely manner after a blackout last month.

Now Unitil's shoddy service is the topic of public hearings - at which Unitil's feet have finally been held to the fire.

This is what public hearings around Cincinnati ought to sound like after the repeated blackouts that result every time someone sneezes too loudly - especially after Duke Energy made customers pay for lost business when it didn't restore power in time. In Fitchburg, Massachusetts, angry citizens and local officials urged the state's Department of Public Utilities to take action against Unitil. A Democratic legislator was met with applause when he told regulators, "You folks must bring the regulatory hammer down on this company."

Like Duke, Unitil wants customers to pay for its own slow response to the outage, via increased rates. Also like Duke, Unitil already charges exorbitant rates. As with Duke, Unitil also enjoys rubber-stamp rate increases.

Ah, yes. Paying more for less reliable service. It's a BushAmerica hallmark.

At the hearing, Massachusetts regulators were asked to award local electric service to a different company.

I can't speak for New Hampshire and Massachusetts, but I know Kentucky and Ohio need to bring the hammer down on Duke pronto. Because Duke Energy is a corporation, it has no constitutional rights, so the state can start seizing Duke's assets this very minute if it chooses.


Rightists throw fit against "buy American" rules

Modern American conservatives like to portray themselves as superpatriots who have a monopoly on defending good ol' red, white, and blue.

But this is a Big Lie. They'd rather buy from right-wing dictatorships that allow exploitation of cheap labor than protect the American worker.

The House version of the stimulus package being hammered out by Congress contains a provision that would largely bar foreign steel and iron from infrastructure projects. The Senate version goes further and would require that almost all stimulus projects use only American-made products.

That's what the stimulus is all about. Stimulating the American economy. Not padding the coffers of corporate overlords who exploit docile labor.

These proposed "buy American" rules are sending conservatives into screeching shitfits.

The Washington Post reports that opponents of these rules, which include "some of the biggest blue-chip names in American industry", consider the rules to be "a declaration of war against free trade."

All together now: One, two, three. Aaaaaaaaaawwwww!!! Did those big meanies in Washington keep the poor widdle corporations from Making more Money?

Big Business's global greed merchants are poor students of history. They claim "buy American" rules of the 1930s caused the Great Depression. Which is odd, considering I was always taught that the Depression began in the 1920s.

Those "buy American" rules helped lift America out of the Depression. And I'd bet that the new proposed rules will ease the chronic recession that's plagued America for the past quarter-century.

What good would the stimulus be if it doesn't even protect American jobs?


Blackout of '09???

It's happening again, folks.

Much like in last September's dry wind, in which electricity was knocked out in many neighborhoods for over a week, parts of the Cincinnati metropolitan region are now facing the same putrid roo gas all over again.

All because it snowed (like it does every winter), and our local electric infrastructure is so frail that it's incapable of handling such natural disasters as snow.

The power just went out here, even though no more snow has fallen in days. I'm not sure this had anything to do with weather though, because the power goes out here even during fine weather.

All this courtesy of the local utility monopoly that increased its rates to pay for last year's blackout that it wouldn't fix in time. And I will wager that they're going to demand another rate hike after the current blackout - which the power company now says won't be resolved until at least this weekend.

I want to see what excuses the corporatists come up with to defend the power company this time.

Methinks its time for local and state governments to take over the power company.

Obama signs fair pay law!

Let's hear it for the new administration, and let's hope the next 4 years are (by some miracle) like the past 9 days.

Today, President Obama signed his first bill passed by Congress into law. This new law restores the right to sue over pay discrimination - a right that had been robbed by a spurious Supreme Court ruling in 2007. (The Supreme Court had overturned decades of legal precedent.)

Meanwhile, Republican heads are exploding, as scarce neurons rub together to try to grasp why a Federalist Society-inspired court ruling wasn't allowed to remain in force forever. It's because you don't get to make the rules anymore, Repubs. Cope.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bush mismanagement may reduce mail to 5 days a week

Gee, thanks a heap, Katherine Harris.

If you pay more and more for a service, you at least have a right to expect it to perform better. But BushAmerica was a Bizarro World where the exact opposite happened.

Now - thanks to 8 years of Bush's mismanagement - the Postal Service is running such a deep deficit that it's now considering delivering mail only 5 days a week.

How can it run a larger deficit when we've been paying exponentially more for postage? One doesn't have to look too far to see why: The Postal Service keeps lowering the price to send junk mail, which slows down the entire system. For years, junk mail has been the biggest burden to the Postal Service - and the most costly for average households, as it gets subsidized more and more by skyrocketing stamp prices.

Junk mail is one of America's costliest forms of corporate welfare outside the bailout debacle.

Not only do stamps cost more. Public mailboxes have been dwindling in number, post office hours have been cut, and even home mail pickup has been slashed. Only under the type of mismanagement that's almost synonymous with modern American conservatism can fewer services and higher prices actually be followed by a bigger deficit.

The Postal Service has now asked Congress to abolish the law that requires 6-day mail delivery. Before Congress bites, it ought to pass a law requiring the Postal Service to make junk mail pay its own damn way instead of having us subsidize it.


Private schools to get stimulus money?

Few would doubt that an economic stimulus is sorely needed. Inevitably, however, a small percentage of stimulus expenditures are going to end up being questionable.

Abusive teen "rehab" cults and confinement facilities are sure to beg for some of this money, which is why we need to keep an eye out to make sure they get none.

I have another concern in addition to this though: Private religious schools are also demanding a share of stimulus dough. In Cincinnati, private schools are actively urging students, parents, and alumni to lobby Congress for stimulus funds. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is encouraging efforts like this nationwide.

Unfortunately, constitutional law seems to be getting the short end of the twig. (Surprise, surprise.) Separation of church and state is one of the central doctrines of our constitutional system. It's a sad day when the Constitution is forced to take a back seat to a school's demands.

For another thing, public schools and other functions need this money. Most of the private schools I've had dealings with were swimming in cash (as I've had to mention repeatedly lately) - and they already get plenty of government aid (especially in voucher states like Ohio). I don't feel as if they need another penny of my hard-earned money.

Don't be surprised if some congresscritter slips a giveaway to private religious schools into the stimulus package. Keep an eye out in case they do.


The Conservative Fool Of The Day is...Brent Warr!

Usually I don't like having more than one Conservative Fool Of The Day entry in the same day, but I know you're in the mood for yet another game of "guess the party affiliation."

Meet Brent Warr, mayor of Gulfport, Mississippi.

The mayor and his wife Laura are now the subject of a 16-count federal indictment over alleged fraud involving Hurricane Katrina.

If convicted, the Warrs each face up to 210 years in prison and $4,000,000 in fines. They are accused of filing a false claim for disaster assistance, lying to FEMA, stealing government funds, and committing wire and mail fraud.

Articles leave out an important detail about Mayor Warr: his party affiliation. If Warr was a Democrat - or, heaven forfend, a Green - the media wouldn't hesitate to make an issue of it. But locals are on the ball, and they unearthed the fact that Brent Warr is a Republican.

The Bush regime kept insisting folks should blame local politicians - not the federal government - for things that went wrong during the hurricane. This time we will.


Credit card racket ratchets up

Probably the biggest consumer scam going on in America right now is credit ratings.

Financial firms worship credit ratings much like the airline industry does the no-fly list. And it's wrapped in just as much secrecy. While firms conspire to keep credit scores on you, you can't even find out what your credit score is. You're supposed to be able to get one free credit report a year from each of 3 organizations - but I've tried getting my report, and they won't send it.

So that's another lie on their part.

This fraud is nothing short of organized crime - in other words, racketeering.

But, little by little, it just gets worse and worse.

Now credit card companies are profiling customers based not on what the customers do but on what shoppers at the same stores do. Companies lower customers' credit lines - which in turn lowers their credit scores.

Upon slashing by more than half the credit line of a customer who had an excellent credit rating, American Express sent him a letter saying, "Other customers who have used their card at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express."

So they're saying it's this customer's fault?

As you're reading this, I'm sure you're demanding a law against this practice. But I'm not certain there aren't already laws like this. Now that Bush is gone and laws are no longer just "damn pieces of paper" (as Bush would say), we need to see if there is such a law - and enforce it. If there is no law, we need to make one.

(Incidentally, American Express got federal bailout money.)

Also, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that Compucredit, a third party credit card issuer, reduced customers' credit scores if they used their cards for services like marriage counseling or retreading their tires. Compucredit evidently believed that these services were a sign that the customer was approaching financial ruin.

As for the man whose credit line was cut because of the stores where he shopped, he now has a news blog exposing the credit card industry's fraudulent ways. It's at:


The Conservative Fool Of The Day is...Antonia Novello!

Antonia Novello was Surgeon General under Mad Dog Bush and later headed the state of New York's health department under right-wing Gov. George Pataki.

As Surgeon General, Novello was known for the type of social engineering diktats you'd expect from someone who was appointed by a member of the Bush royal family. And now she's under a criminal investigation for her reign in New York.

A new report by the New York Inspector General's office says Novello routinely abused her staffers. The report referred her to the Albany area DA for felony charges of defrauding the government and offering a false instrument for filing.

The report says Novello forced employees to work overtime on personal errands such as picking up her groceries, watering her houseplants, and assisting her during shopping trips at swanky Saks Fifth Avenue. This cost New York taxpayers almost $50,000.

Novello also allegedly forced a health department security guard to use his teenage son as unpaid labor to rearrange heavy furniture. The report also says Novello made a publicly funded health agency spend $15,000 on an oil painting of herself. Her drivers also claim she yelled at them frequently.

The report also charges that Novello ordered another guard to use his own car to take her on a sightseeing trip.

The right-wing feeling of entitlement is once again on display for the whole wide world to ogle (beep), isn't it?


Oscar versus the airport ('Sesame Street' Wednesday)

Every so often, the cast of 'Sesame Street' used to go on a fact-finding mission!

In 1978, a series of episodes dealt with residents of our favorite TV alley going on a trip to Hawaii. Although this was before the days of no-fly lists, rubber-stamp airline deregulation, frequent outrageous delays, and Bush's fiat about shampoo bottles, our friend Oscar the Grouch was already highly suspicious of air travel.

The ol' Osk loved trash so much that when he went out in public, he often wore his garbage can like a barrel - stowing much rubbish safely therein. Not only did this restrict his movement so much that it almost made the 'Sesame Street' kick-ass crew miss their flight. It also created an uproarious confrontation with the metal detector:

In that clip, we see Oscar in aviator gear trying to get his trash can through the metal detector. Oscar's garbage can has been said to be like Snoopy's doghouse in that it has considerably more space inside than it might appear from the outside. This episode proves it.

But the ol' Osk starts enjoying the inspection. At about 4:10 into the clip, you can tell he wants the inspector to frisk him.

Oddly, the metal detector detected all of Oscar's trash, but it didn't seem to detect his trash can. (I assume he's still wearing his can when he successfully passes through, though he is only shown from the neck up.)

Note also that Bob is allowed to bring a canister of tear gas aboard, and Mr. Hooper brings a small razor blade.

If the 'Sesame Street' gang put on a scene like this today, the TSA would be waterboarding them!

I was in kindergarten in the late '70s, and we went on a field trip to Cincinnati's main airport where they had a similar detector. My classmates and I kept throwing each other's thermoses through the detector, and we kept placing each other's belongings on the luggage carousel and losing them.

'Twas kinda neat!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bank of America uses bailout money to fight workers

Back in October, Bank of America looted the taxpayers to the tune of $25,000,000,000 in federal bailout dough.

Three days later, Wank of America promptly hosted a conference call with right-wing activists and business "leaders" to plot against pro-labor efforts. The call also included a representative from AIG - which also got bailout money - and attempted to raise money to give to Republican political candidates and to fight against the much-needed Employee Free Choice Act. The EFCA is a long-awaited bill that would make it easier for workers to organize, and conservatives have fought against it tooth and nail.

If Wank of America has enough money to give to right-wing candidates and fight against pro-labor legislation, it doesn't need a dime in bailout money.

The conference call was frenzied and ridiculous. During the call, Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus cried that the EFCA would be "the demise of a civilization." Also present was anti-labor propagandist Rick Berman.

All this on the taxpayers' dime.

The government needs to take back the bailout money Bank of America got.


Draft law tossed

Unbeknownst to most who haven't been on the receiving end of it, the Reagan regime passed a law in 1985 that barred men who failed to register for the draft from most federal employment.

Men affected by this law faced a lifetime ban from government jobs - even though draft eligibility ends at age 26.

Although Bush dodged the draft himself, the Bush regime enforced this law with a vengeance. Enforcement was so zealous that a man who was almost 38 lost his job when it was discovered that he failed to register for the draft 20 years earlier. This despite the fact that he had worked at the same agency for 17 years.

When another government agency offered him a job, that offer was withdrawn when it discovered he hadn't registered.

Furthermore, the man didn't even know he had to register back when he was 18!

The government spends its time investigating employees to make sure they registered with Selective Service 20 years earlier?

This might not be going on any longer though. Now a federal judge has thrown out this law because it violated constitutional safeguards against Congress punishing folks without a trial.

Now the next step is restoring jobs and giving back pay to those who lost their livelihoods under this law. This law sure turned out to be a costly endeavor, didn't it?


Elderly man dies after electric cut off

Banks and teen "rehab" cults get free money from the government just for asking for it, but a man who worked hard his whole life didn't even have enough money to keep from freezing to death.

In Bay City, Michigan, a 93-year-old man died from the cold after the municipal utility company limited his electric use because he couldn't pay all his bills.

According to the examiner who did the autopsy, the man suffered "a slow, painful death."

The utility had placed a limiter on the man's home to curtail his power use. The limiter blows if you use too much power, and electricity is not restored until the limiter is reset.

Although this was a public utility, think how dangerous it is for any utility to have this ability. About 15 years ago, there was a similar death when a private utility in another locale cut off electricity during record cold weather.

Maybe there ought to be a law that says utilities can't cut off power once the weather gets too cold.


Bush regime intervened to scuttle child trafficking suit

I get the feeling that (as with Reagan) we're going to be hearing about new Bush scandals for years after the end of his reign.

With the discovery that George Mitchell, who serves as President Obama's Middle East envoy, headed a law firm that defended Dubai's ruler in a child trafficking suit, damning facts about the Bush regime seem to lurk beyond the radar.

Kidnapping and trafficking children to use as jockeys in camel races has become an international scandal. A while back, a lawsuit accused Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and another official of using boys kidnapped from other countries in camel races.

Mitchell chaired DLA Piper, which represented the sheikh. Mitchell did not personally represent or lobby for the defendant, but he was aware of the case.

And we don't know whether the sheikh had any involvement in child trafficking, because the suit was tossed out. Why? Because Bush's so-called Justice Department said it would intervene on his behalf and argue that he was immune from being sued because he was a foreign leader.

In other words, instead of trying to get to the bottom of a serious child trafficking case, the Justice Department was helping a foreign ruler avoid a lawsuit.

Bush trotted out "head of state immunity" as a rationale for intervening, but there's no legal basis in a lawsuit like this for making a foreign leader immune.

Child trafficking for camel races is a serious human rights matter. It saddens me when I read about how widespread it has been in this decade. And it angers me that the Bush regime would do everything it could to gut efforts to fight it. I wonder if there's a lot more going on here than it appears.

I think some individuals in very high places were about to be exposed, and Bush had to make sure that didn't happen.


Citigroup's plane problems

After Citigroup got bajillions of simoleons in bailout dough, the financial services giant promptly planned to spend $50,000,000 of this money on its own private jet to add to its bloated fleet.

Shittypoop's new luxury aircraft was to feature leather seats, posh sofas, and a customizable entertainment center.

Talk about an entitlement culture, huh?

Chrysler and General Motors got a much smaller bailout than Shittypoop did, and they were told they had to give up their corporate jets (although Chrysler didn't even own one). But the bailout to Citigroup and other financial firms had no such strings attached.

Citigroup's jet isn't even built in America, so it won't help the American economy one iota.

Maybe the government should have just nationalized the damn bank instead of allowing this fleecing.

Say, I'd like to fly to Pittsburgh or Atlanta or wherever the next Roads Scholar meet is. Can I use Shittypoop's new jet? I paid for it with my tax dollars, so why not?

But the Obama administration didn't look kindly upon Citigroup's plane purchase. At all. So now Shittypoop has scuttled its plan to buy the elegant jet.

Of course, this still doesn't resolve Citigroup's squandering of hundreds of millions of dollars on stadium naming rights.


Monday, January 26, 2009

GOP accused of shitting their pants

If there's one place in America where the majority does not rule, it's the United States Senate.

Even though the Democrats hold a clear majority, Republicans can block presidential appointments almost on a whim. And the Democrats let 'em do it, naturally.

An anonymous Republican has blocked Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis's confirmation because of her support for organized labor. Now the GOP is also holding up the confirmation of Attorney General nominee Eric Holder.

You can say what you want about Holder's nomination, but he reportedly uttered a classic line about Republican obstructionism. Holder reportedly told Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee, "You have soiled the Justice Department, you have soiled the good name of this committee, and from the way many of you are squirming, I also believe you have soiled more than just your own reputations."

Hey, I had no idea "Diaper Dave" Vitter was on the Judiciary Committee!

When people say the Republicans stink, I guess they mean it literally.

Medicaid privatization falls on its face

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (pictured here) has a reputation for turning everything he touches into shit, and this scandal is no exception.

In 2006, Daniels signed a 10-year contract worth over $1,000,000,000 with private companies led by IBM to take over the task of determining eligibility for public benefits programs. These include programs like Medicaid and food stamps that serve the poor.

Almost immediately after Disaster Daniels inked this deal, these programs crumbled beyond recognition. In most counties, Medicaid applicants who previously would have had a qualified caseworker to review their case now have to use an automated phone number that shuffles their case among staffers who are otherwise unfamiliar with the applicant.

As a result, qualified Medicaid applicants get rejected. In at least one instance, this occurred after the private contractors lost all the applicant's paperwork - and blamed the applicant.

Under the new system, Indiana also now has one of the worst rates in the country for improperly denying food stamp applicants. While Indiana still provides emergency food assistance in a timely manner 62% of the time in counties that haven't yet switched over to the new privatized system, the rate is only 44% in the privatized counties.

Legislators are now demanding answers. But Disaster Daniels isn't known for answers but for excuses.


I get mail...wait, actually I don't

...because it gets stolen!

The rise of militant conservatism has meant paying more for less reliable services. It's called less accountability. Under a 2006 Republican law, the Postal Service no longer even has to prove itself before increasing the cost of a stamp. Now the stamp price just goes up automatically each year.

While postal rates increase, the mail becomes less reliable.

I've had problems for years with people stealing my mail (as well as packages sent via companies like UPS and FedEx). This isn't the fault of the Postal Service per se, but the Postal Service has been less reliable at dealing with it.

Around 2000, I filed a formal complaint with the Postal Service about the thefts. I received a letter indicating in a very firm tone that postal inspectors took the thefts very seriously and would investigate pronto. They indicated that they were opening a file on these crimes in an attempt to get to the bottom of it. I was aware of the challenges of catching the culprit, but at least I had some assurance it was being investigated.

In 2006, I was victimized by more mail thefts. I know who stole my mail this time, because I caught her almost red-handed. I made another formal complaint with the Postal Service. This time, however, I got no reply at all, and there's no indication that any investigation was ever launched. In fact, the perp is still out there, because I saw her in her truck just this past Thursday.

This month, I ordered an inexpensive computer mouse (because my old one kept giving out). When it failed to arrive after a week, I visited the Postal Service's website and discovered it had been delivered.

Because it was clear this package had been stolen after it was delivered, I complained again.

This time, I got a form e-mail from the Postal Service saying that its postal inspection division "gathers data on mail-related crime" to "possibly prevent other people from being victimized."

In other words, it appears that all the Postal Service does now is count how many thefts there are in the area in the hopes that this will somehow stop future crimes. Judging by this e-mail, it no longer investigates thefts at all.

(Amazon sent me another mouse to replace the one that was stolen, but I intercepted it before it could be swiped as well.)

Stamps cost twice as much as 20 years ago just for this???

The Republicans insist they're the party of accountability, but this is almost as bad as their EdChoice scam that preys on poor families and throws money at private schools that don't perform as well as public schools. How is this even conservative? It's right-wing, but it's not conservative by any other definition of the term.

Every time we mail a letter, it subsidizes junk mail (which costs far less for the sender to send). One of the things the new administration needs to seriously look at is making junk mail pay its own way. The mismanagement can't continue.

Change may put the wi in Wikipedia

Wikipedia is one of the great online innovations of recent years. The online encyclopedia lets you - yes, you - edit entries.

But this concept has been slowly chiseled away at by domineering volunteer admins who instantly revert any edit they disagree with. I'll let you guess what political affiliation many of these admins are. Here's a hint: They ain't exactly leftists.

I'm certain this is a deliberate effort by right-wing operatives to turn Wikipedia into another revisionist retelling of The World According To Conservatives. Not a shadow of a doubt about it.

Now, after Wikipedia was hit by yet another campaign of right-wing misinformation, what's Wikipedia's response?

Welp, now Wikipedia is proposing giving these rogue admins even more power!

Under this proposal, only "trusted users" would see their edits appear immediately. Everyone else would have their edits vetted by the volunteer admins - many of whom helped create the crisis that this proposal is supposed to solve.

Doesn't this defeat the whole purpose of Wikipedia? Wikipedia exists for the public to edit - not for right-wing elites to censor information. If I wanted a filtered right-wing resource, I'd just turn on almost any TV talk show these days.

Wikipedia head honchos say a poll shows that 60% of the website's users favor such a change. But where was the poll? The poll sure as shit wasn't anywhere I could see it.

What Wikipedia ought to do is curtail the power of these volunteer admins - not expand it. Wikipedia was much more accurate and detailed several years ago before the right-wing intelligentsia learned it could infiltrate it. The last thing Wikipedia needs is to let the infiltrators win.


ADHD drugs found to cause hallucinations

I learned years ago that if you want to get hounded off the supposedly public Internet and have your personal life exposed, criticizing ADHD drugs is a surefire way to get the ball rolling. The Internet has a powerful contingent that won't tolerate any negative information about these toxins - no matter how many studies you cite.

Now yet another study proves that ADHD drugs cause hallucinations in children and teenagers - reinforcing earlier data that was almost completely ignored by the media. These poisons cause hallucinations even when taken as directed, according to FDA researchers. Often, children hallucinated that bugs, snakes, and worms were crawling on them.

Among the drugs covered by the study are Focalin XR, Adderall XR, Daytrana, Concerta, Strattera, Metadate CD, and the old warhorse Ritalin.

How much coverage do you expect this study to get after today? The media doesn't like keeping stories like this in the spotlight, so hang on to it.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yet another Bush power grab reversed!

I was afraid that after Obama reappointed Robert Gates, he was just going to be a third term of Clinton, but Obama's first week in office has been great!

President Obama has already reversed several of Bush's illegal power grabs on homeland security, and now he's on his way to restoring rules for Big Business that Bush gutted.

Tomorrow, Obama is scheduled to allow the states to set tougher car emissions and fuel efficiency standards. Bush - who apparently thought of himself as an emperor rather than as a leader of a republic - had spitefully robbed the states of this constitutional power.

Obama is also instituting fuel efficiency regulations to comply with a 2007 law Bush ignored.

Will things continue at this rate? I wish I could say so, but with the DLC around, I'd probably just be setting myself up for a '90s-style disappointment.


The very first Gum Fighter ad? (Bubble Gum Weekend)

Have we finally found the very first TV commercial for Hubba Bubba bubble gum ever to hit the airwaves?

Aaaww! I think we did!

It's from 1979, and you can tell because the Gum Fighter's sideburns were bigger. However, this appears to be the British version of the ad rather than the American version. (I've described before how the jingle in the British version was sung in a British accent.)

"There's gonna be a gum fight!" laughs the Fighter's trusty sidekick.

As was often the case with these ads, the Gum Fighter blows the germs off the wad of gum after he peels it off his face.

I've also discussed how bubbling experts feared the introduction of Hubba Bubba would decimate their hobby. But once everyone warmed up to the ol' Fighter, bubblers were disappointed that too few stores carried this product. Meanwhile, Bubblicious - with the old logo that blew a bubble - proliferated wildly at grocery checkout lanes.

This was also back in the days when kids who were shopping with their parents knew how to exercise more restraint when demanding the oldsters buy them candy at the checkout lane. Nowadays, probably no brand of bubble gum is easy to find there, because parents just give in and buy it all.

Real ID meets its match?

Real ID - the unconstitutional national ID card system - was one of the most outrageous Bush initiatives and was among the most likely to be scuttled once America got a real President.

Just days after President Obama took office, it already looks like Real ID may be on the way out.

Obama's Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has opposed the far-right Real ID. As Governor of Arizona, she signed a law to bar that state from complying with this unfunded mandate. Now Napolitano says the government has to "rethink" Real ID.

"Rethink" it? Hell, what's there to "rethink"? The Bush regime obviously didn't think at all when it passed Real ID, so why delay scrapping it? The Bush cult is mere background noise now, so what can they do if Real ID is abolished - other than whine about it on the Internet?

If Kentucky complies with Real ID, state officials will have been guilty of treason for surrendering to the rogue Bush regime.


Bush worst President since...? ('Pail Poll)

Last week's 'Pail Poll asked you whether President Obama should institute court-packing to restore sanity to the Supreme Court. You voted 22 to 19 in favor of such an effort.

Our new 'Pail Poll asks whether Bush was the worst President...uh, wait a minute! Was Bush even President? He was installed in office by the Supreme Court, remember? And who could forget how Bush wanted to delay the 2004 election because he was afraid he might lose?

With the smoldering ruins of the past 8 years behind us, now you can vote in the 'Pail Poll, which Katherine Harris can't rig.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

GOP tosses Palin's clothes in trash bags

The ongoing scandal surrounding Failin' Palin's $200,000 wardrobe that she wore only once expands to even more embarrassing heights!

Now $180,000 worth of the RNC-provided garb has been found crammed into garbage bags at party headquarters. This after the Republican Party promised to donate the fancy clothes to charity.

Throwing away $180,000 of clothes is supposed to benefit Americans how? I suspect party operatives were either going to throw the clothes out or leave them in the trash bags until everyone forgot about the scandal and then take the clothes for themselves. Does it really take this long to find a charity to take the clothes?

If indeed they planned on throwing the clothes away, maybe it was so Norm Coleman could find a new outfit - seeing how he likes to rummage through dumpsters and all.


Murder may prompt new restraint policy

After scuzzbag guards at Parmadale Family Services (a so-called "treatment" facility in Ohio run by Catholic Charities) murdered a 17-year-old girl by brutally restraining her, answers have been slow to come.

However, following this death, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland wants a statewide policy on face-down restraints - the type of restraints that killed the teen.

And there should be a policy. A policy to outlaw restraints completely, that is.

In fact, there already is, apparently. Unless I'm missing something, face-down restraints seem to be already banned in Ohio. One has to ask to why the regulations aren't being enforced.

This restraint method has killed over 40 young people in America since 1993.

In the meantime, murder charges should be pursued against the guards.



The Last Word of 8/16/07 touched on a Washington Post piece that showed that students in D.C. who attended private schools under a federally funded voucher "experiment" showed no academic gains.

But in BushAmerica, if a program fails, it's more likely to be replicated elsewhere. Ohio did just that when it began its misnamed Educational Choice Scholarship program - or EdChoice.

EdChoice in effect gives taxpayer money (over $70,000,000 a year) to private and religious schools - in open defiance of the Constitution. The money could have been spent on public schools in poor neighborhoods, but instead it goes to private schools with the patronizing expectation that the schools will gain a captive audience of poor students.

I'm not exactly rich, but I went to several private schools as a youth - and believe me, most of the ones I attended ain't hurting for money. Private schools also don't have to follow regulations that govern public schools, and they even get tax breaks and other handouts besides vouchers.

Most of the private schools I attended ain't good either, which proves good money was just being thrown after bad. I'm sure there's fine private schools out there, but my experience is far from unique.

Now Ohioans have learned this the hard way, as the Republican-backed EdChoice has also proven to be an unqualified disaster.

About 3 out of 10 EdChoice students failed the writing portion of all-important statewide standardized tests. About 4 in 10 failed reading. About 6 in 10 failed math - and the same amount flunked social studies. And about 7 in 10 failed science.

This is how private schools "educate" our kids? Public schools keep having to close down and slash courses because they don't have money, but private schools get gobs and gobs of dough just to turn out uneducated young people.

I'm not in the least bit surprised. I'm only surprised this was actually reported. The Ohio Department of Education does not compile such statistics for private schools as it does for public and charter schools. The Cincinnati Enquirer had to make a public records request just to gather them. Officials won't even disclose which private schools get EdChoice money.

Because state education officials don't compile these numbers, private schools won't lose voucher money if they fail. So there's not even any accountability.

But the Republicans continue to support EdChoice, despite its failures. It suits their agendas of privatizing everything and of intensive social engineering.

The right-wing brain trust is blaming the Cincinnati Enquirer for daring to run this story (even though the Enquirer has editorialized in favor of vouchers for years). They accused political foes of "feeding" facts to the newspaper. So the facts are supposed to just be covered up for political reasons, according to them.

Even in an era when accountability has become a four-letter word, EdChoice's fleecing of Ohio taxpayers just about takes the cake. Public funds can be spent on public schools or health projects, but instead it gets squandered on private schools that perform more poorly than their public counterparts.

The Buckeye State should ask schools that accepted EdChoice vouchers to return the money they've received. That would be accountability.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Jeweler faces a different kind of ring

In apparent retaliation for the weakening of right-wing hegemony, I was rousted out of bed this morning by another hang-up phone call.

I could just see some moron thrashing about their office or living room like a baby, cursing "libs", smashing flowerpots, and angrily spewing saliva while they frantically dial my number.

Until very recently (like a few weeks ago) I would have complained about this phone call here but not done anything about it - except maybe photograph the house or business where the call came from. For decades now, the policy of both the phone company and local law enforcement has been to do nothing, so I couldn't do much either.

But this is the 2009 Tim they're dealing with - not the 1988 Tim. So I traced the call and called 'em right back. When a man answered, I mashed the keypad of my phone with my hand and flooded him with a cacophony of high-pitched touch tones.

Oh, did I commit phone harassment? Well, obviously the phone harassment I've suffered is legal, because the authorities don't do anything about it - so I'm assuming it's legal for me to call the harassers right back.

Later I looked up the number and found that it belongs to a jewelry store a couple miles away.

These assholes didn't think I'd fight back, did they? Before the call, they were probably saying to themselves, "Ha ha, he's just going to write up an entry about how we called him, and we'll just do the same thing again later."

But ask the man whose ears are ringing now who got the last laugh this time.

You fuck with me, and I respond in kind.

Fair wage bill nears passage!

Instead of dwelling on issues like "dirty" and "druggie" video games, we should be worried about economic woes that hit American families harum-scarum in the wallet.

Now Congress finally is.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that you couldn't sue for pay discrimination if you waited more than 6 months after the discrimination occurred - even if you didn't discover the discrimination within 6 months. In doing so, the court tossed out a $360,000 award to a female Goodyear worker who was paid less than male colleagues.

The Supremes' ruling that denied workers their right to equal pay was an activist one - and it gutted years of established law. Years and years and years of it.

A bill in Congress last year would have remedied this outrage for future victims of pay bias. Unbelievably, however, Congress didn't pass this bill. (And this was a Democratic Congress?)

But now things may be changing. A new fair wage bill to clean up the Supreme Court's rancid mess has now cleared the Senate and is likely to become law.

Finally! Of course, this only restores the law that existed before the right-wing Federalist Society cultists on the Supreme Court got a hold of it. Still, you have to start somewhere.


We're on a trail to nowhere...

Well, we were (past tense) on a trail to nowhere. But now we're finally on a trail to somewhere, and what I did yesterday proves it.

As the Peace Bike and I took a tour of the east side of Cincinnati, the very first thing we did was contravene an Allowed Cloud. Allowed Cloud defiance was all the rage last year, but even then, I wouldn't have done what I did yesterday. But along comes 2009, and I went right ahead without hesitation.

Cincinnati has a trail to nowhere: It runs northeast from downtown and simply ends at a roped-off industrial ruins. But yesterday I noticed that US 52 doesn't have the best cycling amenities, even after the multimillion-dollar reconstruction. So I asked myself what could possibly go wrong if I continued biking on the trail past the barrier:

Was I legally wrong? It would take all the legal knowhow of Clarence Darrow, Griffin Bell, and Abraham Lincoln to figure that out. Even if it was private property, it was certainly abandoned. If you abandon perfectly good items by leaving them out on the curb for the trash collector to take, do you have any business complaining if someone bops along and takes them?

I benefited from what I did yesterday - and society benefited as well. If I didn't take the initiative, who would? Real property has become concentrated so heavily in the hands of a few that it's an oligopoly. These days, you're on the property of a large business if you take a step in almost any direction, and the problem has to be exposed because it's unsustainable.

Now we know how emboldened I might have become if the '88 election had turned out better.

While I was biking through the forbidden zone behind the Allowed Cloud, I thought I was busted when I saw an official-looking white truck milling about up ahead. But all it did was turn off onto US 52.

As icing on the cake, I went through the roped-off area again on the way home. Quickest route, so why not?

Obama supporter's house burns

Bush cultists seem to be in the retaliation phase of their Post-Election Derangement Obsession Syndrome. And if you don't think they're unhinged enough to violently retaliate against opponents, then you don't know them like I do.

In Cumming, Georgia, an Obama supporter's house has burned to the ground in a suspicious fire. This occurred after the house was vandalized with racist graffiti, and not long after the resident received a threatening letter.

Cumming is in Forsyth County. To give you an idea of how right-wing that county is, it went 78% Republican in the presidential election. My county went only 60% GOP, but if a fire like that happened here (even if there was no vandalism or harassing mail beforehand), I'd be almost certain it was arson.

Also, Forsyth County received national attention in the late '80s for its virulent racism.

If this was a politically motivated arson, it wouldn't be the first such case in America in recent years. Several years ago, right-wing terrorists burned a Virginia family's home because they opposed the Iraq War.

Do you see why it's not irrational to strongly suspect that right-wing extremists intentionally burned the house in Georgia? Always keep an eye on your enemies, folks.


Statue of Liberty to reopen

This may seem like a small move - but (as the White Cloud commercial used to say) little things mean a lot, as Bushists are now slowly becoming mere background noise.

President Obama is scheduled today to reopen the Statue of Liberty to visitors. This national treasure was closed several years ago by the cut-and-run Bush regime. Bush conservatives liked to think of themselves as America's tough guys, but they were such cowards that they kept the Statue of Liberty closed for years.

Maybe Bush should be the one to cut the ribbon just so he has to climb 400 stairs. But he probably doesn't know how to hold scissors without cutting his finger off.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Catholic school sued over student's sex assault

This might be the story that finally sets everyone straight in their view that private schools can do no wrong.

A $250,000 lawsuit now accuses St. Joseph Elementary School, a Catholic school in Crescent Springs, Kentucky, of letting a student sexually assault a female schoolmate. (It's unknown whether the perpetrator was male or female.) Apparently the sexual assault happened in only 2nd grade.

The victim had been bullied repeatedly from January to May of last year. These incidents all occurred at school or under the school's watch. The school was notified - but the lawsuit says the school refused to act. The pattern of abuse finally culminated with the sex assault.

The suit also alleges that the perpetrator also had a history of harassing other students.

I don't think I know any of the individual school employees who are being sued, or to what degree they would be responsible for the incidents. But I do know for a fact that other schools in the Diocese of Covington have a proven record of condoning bullying. At several Catholic schools that operated under the diocese's auspices that I attended, student harassment was the norm, not the exception. At these schools, administrators not only knew about it but encouraged it outright.

In the Crescent Springs case, I don't know the details, so I can't speculate.

Unfortunately, schools in northern Kentucky (private and public alike) have a lot of clout with the system. A school's side of things is usually considered an incontrovertible truth, even if there's overpowering evidence the school is wrong. So I can't guarantee that justice will ever be served.


Even members of Congress not safe from bank hassles

You'd think federal legislators wouldn't have to put up with this shit, but I guess nobody's safe.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) had to spend most of 2 hours on hold trying to get Bank of America to help a constituent. This included several disconnections and transfers to lines that did not work. The ordeal finally ended when she was confronted by a recording that told her to use the bank's website.

Waters said this exemplifies how average customers are treated.

Am I correct in my belief that Bank of America got quite a bit of bailout dough? If so, Congress needs to just take it all right back.


Gitmo to close; torture banned

When I woke up this morning and turned on the TV to check the weather for today's bike jaunt around Cincinnati, the first thing I saw was the words "GITMO CLOSED."

As President Obama's first major act in office, he's ordered the Guantanamo Bay death camp closed within a year.

Why would it take a year? Because the Bush regime bungled the cases against the detainees so spectacularly. Because of Bush cronies' incompetence, we'll never know how many of the men who are detained at Gitmo now are actually terrorists. If the government truly thought they were, why didn't it put them on trial instead of locking them up for 7 years without trying them? If they're terrorists, they should be punished, but how do we know they are without even a trial?

Incompetence and failure to abide by the Constitution can have consequences - and this time, the Bush regime is to blame.

One also has to ask why Cuba didn't evict Guantanamo Bay.

At least the DLC didn't get to Obama on this issue. I bet some crackpot congressperson is going to try to block Obama's order from taking effect, just because they think Bush's actions are supposed to be sacrosanct and irreversible. But if that happens, think how bad it's going to look for them.

Obama also signed an executive order that bans harsh interrogations that constitute torture. The order also closes CIA detention centers worldwide.

See, folks, these are the kinds of actions we have a right to expect from our leaders. No more GOP/DLC bullshit like that which ruled the roost for 28 years. America may finally have a leader who gets it.

But like I've said, with the DLC around at all, don't get your hopes up too much.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Freepers in meltdown mode over county's vote (more Freeper Madness)

The Internet's most notorious outpost of fascism has been roll-on-the-floor hilarious lately!

Some of you have expressed disappointment with this feature, on the grounds that Free Republic is so irrelevant these days that it's not even worth my time to poke fun at them. But I think this feature highlights what a simpering mess Freak Rethuglic has become.

Much noise was emitted by the rightwingnutosphere after candidate Obama made a statement referring to the supposed bitterness of rural America. But this installment (like the one in which Freepers called western Pennsylvania a "traitor area") shows that Free Republic's regulars look down on working-class rural areas far more than most other individuals ever could.

The Freeper brain trust's ire was stoked by an article about the fact that Obama won Menifee County, a tiny, rural bailiwick in east central Kentucky. In response to the article, one Freeper declared:

"These peckernecks just want mo' benefits so they can keep the oxycontin rollin' in."

You know, if conservatives such as those on Free Republic want to be seen as in step with the country, it might be wise if they'd shed the bigoted stereotypes about working-class Kentuckians. This statement of theirs makes them sound just like the spoiled preps I encountered in high school - almost verbatim (except OxyContin wasn't introduced in America until after I was in high school).

That Freepers would make such a statement speaks volumes about their intolerance.

Folks often make comments about regions that might be misinterpreted. But the above quote leaves no doubt as to the nasty spirit in which it's intended. That quote is an active volcano (not one that's been dormant for years) - and it's hard to misread a volcano.

Another post of theirs however is downright uproarious. I almost had to do a double-take, because I couldn't believe they said it. Here it comes:

"The largest employer in Menifee is the school district. Those are lib just about anywhere you go."

Stop it! Stop it! You're killing me via excessive laughter!

I know, man. Schools are really, really "lib", aren't they? I've known for a while that Freepers have monitored The Online Lunchpail - but obviously they don't understand any of it, if they think schools are "lib." There's probably 5 to 10 entries on my blog per week about the right-wing leanings of America's schools.

Out of about 10 different schools, I don't think I ever had a school principal who was left of center.

Free Republic may well be the Internet's best comedy website!


Obama retakes oath

Gee, thanks a heap, Katherine Harris, for giving America 30 years of John Roberts.

Ironically, much as the 2000 election recount had countless do-overs because of Harris, now Obama's swearing-in has had to have one too - all because Roberts mangled the Oath of Office so spectacularly.

So today, Obama retook the oath.

At least now this knocks the wind out of the sails of those in the blogosphere who insisted Obama wasn't really President just because of Roberts's blunders.


DeMint and Diaper Dave think it's still 1992

You'd think most opposition to Hillary Clinton being Secretary of State would be from the left (following her support of the Iraq War). But in the upside-down world of the Senate, her only opponents are from the right.

The only senators who voted to reject Clinton are...Jim DeMint and David Vitter (2 of the most right-wing Republican senators).

Why? Apparently they're still upset that Mad Dog Bush lost in '92. In conservaland, almost everything since then seems to have been refracted through that single event. Never mind that the conservatives almost always had their way for years after that. Someone told them "no" once, and they haven't gotten over it yet.

Not exactly the behavior of winners, huh?


Mukasey v. ACLU

The title of this entry says it all, doesn't it?

But it's the name of a real court case.

The case involved the Bush regime's ongoing defense of the misnamed Child Online Protection Act. COPA was a law that censored online content by forcing some websites to make folks provide a credit card number.

Contrary to press reports, the law was enforced. And I lost access to material that wasn't even pornographic because of it - even though I was an adult at the time.

I (a grown man) couldn't access historic maps, because I didn't have a credit card yet (even though the maps were free). All because of COPA.

But now COPA is gone, finished, dead. This time for good.

Even the current Supreme Court wouldn't uphold it. After Mucus Man appealed lower court rulings again and again, the Supremes have now let COPA wink out without a whimper.

What's astounding though is that Congress passed this unconstitutional law when they could have been worrying about important things like the economy. They were more interested in appeasing the self-anointed smut cops than in making sure Americans had enough money to feed their kids on.


Separation of church and state? Not in Ohio!

Here's a little secret: Ohio doesn't have separation of church and state.

I know the response to that statement is a collective gasp, but it's true, at least in practice.

Ohio hasn't had church-state separation in years. Other states aren't perfect either, but Ohio ranks near the top in taxpayer funding of religious schools.

This unconstitutional fusion of government and religion goes almost unnoticed, so some will accuse me of splitting hairs with a waterpick. But it's gone on probably my whole adult life and has only expanded.

I'm not opposing religion. But I'm hopping furious that any American jurisdiction would take the taxpayers' money and give it to religious bodies.

One of the biggest such expenditures is vouchers for religious schools. This is one of conservatives' perennial pet issues and possibly the most potentially damaging. Voucher backers claim to be "friends of the poor" by supporting it, but make no mistake about it: This is one of the most nauseating and underhanded abuses of America's poor occurring today.

I'm clearly below the poverty line, and I think vouchers are exploitative. Vouchers are marketed by right-wing think tanks and wealthy industrialists but almost never by representatives of the poor or working class. Vouchers actually weaken public schools and draw students into private schools that may be no better. In fact, some private schools are joined at the face with right-wing causes (including economic issues). I know this, because I've experienced it firsthand.

And vouchers have failed. Congress's voucher experiment in the Washington, D.C., schools did not improve academic performance or the quality of education. Furthermore, in Arizona, 76% of voucher money has gone to cover students who already attended private schools.

Is it any wonder that, in every state that's had a voter referendum on vouchers, the idea has been rejected by the widest margins in the poorest areas?

If conservatives are such "friends of the poor", why did they support the '96 federal welfare "reform" law?

Although Ohio has slashed benefits to needy families, it has become more and more generous to private schools (many of which are already swimming in dough). In Cincinnati alone, private and religious schools were set to make millions from it. This has gone on with very little media coverage.

But now many believe that budget woes may force these handouts to be slashed.

Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland wanted to eliminate this program altogether. But the legislature - which at the time was run by right-wing Republicans - stymied his efforts.

None of this should even be an issue, as the program is clearly unconstitutional. Despite the flagrant unconstitutionality of it, the U.S. Supreme Court approved a related program in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, an activist ruling in 2002 (surely one of the worst SCrOTUS decisions of recent years).

I don't have any illusions that the current Supreme Court cares what the Constitution says, but we need a tool to help knock the wind out of its sails. In 1875, the U.S. House overpoweringly approved a constitutional amendment saying in part that "no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefor, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect; nor shall any money so raised or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations." The Senate rejected the amendment, but many state constitutions added a similar provision.

We need to revive this amendment and pass it.

Ohio, however, appears to be among the states that have a provision like this in its own constitution. So I wonder if the courts will even pay heed if it's a federal amendment.


Grover's nose ground into powder ('Sesame Street' Wednesday)

Not one person who has ever seen a television screen doesn't think it's uproarious when something gets ruined on TV. Americans familiar with the medium love to cite the 'Seinfeld' episode in which Poppy pees on Jerry's sofa, or the 'Simpsons' installment in which a rare comic book gets utterly destructimated.

But when something gets ruined on 'Sesame Street', it's 100 times as funny.

And that's why you'll laugh at this 'Sesame Street' sketch that was probably made around 1973:

The Frank Oz-directed segment features a red ball rolling down an elaborate roller coaster-like track, as a voice repeatedly counts sets of 3 items over a Lawrence Welk-style music bed. Oz spent months building the track. It is believed by many that the ball is the nose of a Muppet - most likely Grover. The setup is similar to something I remember seeing outside a museum on an out-of-town vacation once or twice. (I think it was either COSI in Columbus or that science museum in Chicago, but I'm not sure.)

The first minute of the piece is mesmerizing, educational, and clever - but not laugh-out-loud humorous. The real amusement comes at the end, when Grover's nose falls into a metal box where it is ground into useless red powder.

Unfortunately, many believe this ending was phased out because the sight of grinding up the detached nose of a lovable, furry Muppet scared many of the show's young viewers. It was replaced by an ending in which the nose becomes a cherry on top of a sundae. The dessert is promptly devoured by a little girl.

One envisions the manager of a Friendly's stalking Sesame Street with a butcher knife.

I personally feel more uncomfortable about the replacement ending, because of the idea of eating something coated with grime from rolling down a roller coaster track.

Original ending or not, this sketch was far more creative than what appears on 'Sesame Street' these days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

America turns a corner?

I don't want to get my hopes up, because I've been let down before. (Bill Clinton's mind-numbing lurch to the right in the '96 campaign is one of the reasons I later switched to the Greens.) But I think with Obama's inauguration today, America may have finally turned a corner.

If I had this blog 5 years ago, I'd have a lot less trouble finding material, thanks to the myriad examples of unprecedented right-wing tyranny unfolding at the time. Tyranny creep is a form of natural selection: In order for me to notice some new right-wing policy, it often has to be even nuttier than what came before it. Generally, this trend has gone on since 1981.

But I think now we'll have more success at reversing it. One has a right to hope so. Public sumptuary laws and pseudoephedrine logs are among the only major examples of bugfuck insanity that continue to expand now, so the trend may already be cracking.

What people have said to me really is true: No excuses. But that goes for me as well as every person who reads this. I will fight harder than ever - yes, even harder than last year. It starts tonight and continues until I get called home.

County doesn't know what state it's in

Does San Diego County even know what state it's in?

In 1996, California voters approved a referendum to legalize medical marijuana. It's a valid law passed by voters. San Diego County doesn't get to decide that it's not a real law.

But they sure do try.

The county has now gone to the U.S. Supreme Court in the hopes that it will rule that federal prohibitions against marijuana trump California's law. San Bernardino County has joined San Diego County in its efforts.

So these counties don't want seriously ill people to have access to a substance that state law allows them?

There's no legal basis for superseding the state law and the will of the voters, because the Constitution puts such powers in states' hands. A state court has already ruled on this.

San Diego County is already undergoing a budget crisis because of right-wing mismanagement. I guess launching a war against seriously ill residents takes priority over reining in the fiscal crisis.

How's that for right-wing meanness?


Talk show host threatened with prison for disagreeing with drug war

Bushism lives (unfortunately).

Ian Freeman of the radio show 'Free Talk Live' is now facing hard time in New Hampshire all because he dares to oppose the failed War on Drugs.

The talk show host is being threatened with 90 days in prison just for writing about and attending a protest against the country's draconian drug laws. The official charge? He's being charged with "criminal liability for the conduct of another." This means he's actually being charged just for reporting about others' drug offenses.

That's like if they charged a newspaper just for having a police blotter column.

One is reminded of Dan Lungren's attempts to imprison people for making anti-DARE shirts.

When people are threatened with prison just for their views, it's not exactly a sign of freedom.


Did John Roberts intentionally flub his lines?

Did anyone else catch this?

The Chief Justice fumbled and stumbled so much while administering the Oath of Office that one wonders if this wasn't a gimmick to invalidate it - and presumably force Obama out of office.

I don't think it will work though, because Obama, for his part, seemed to catch Roberts's flubs.

The wingnutosphere is already trying to suggest that the swearing-in is invalid because of this. Naturally, they're blaming Obama for Roberts's inability to form complete sentences.

The next few years are going to be whiny ones in conservaland, methinks.