Saturday, August 30, 2014

Who's This Benton Bribery Character Miss McConnell Just Fired?


The day after Rachel's report (above), McConnell fired Jesse Benton as his campaign manager. BOOM! Out! McConnell didn't like him much anyway, since Benton has been quoted and requoted telling Kentucky libertarians that he was "sort of holding my nose for two years because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit for Rand in 2016." Benton, a longtime Paul family retainer, is married to Ron Paul's granddaughter, Valori Pyeatt (Rand's niece). Before remaking himself into a Paulista, though, he worked for Louisiana sleaze bag David "Diapers" Vitter. He was Rand Paul's campaign manager-- and tenant, living in Rand's basement-- when he ran for Senate against McConnell's handpicked candidate. And then he was Ron Paul's very well-compensated presidential campaign manager two years later.

It has been widely known since the summer of 2012-- including by McConnell himself-- that Benton had bribed at least one Iowa Republican to come over to the Ron Paul campaign. At the time the Sorenson bribe was first exposed, the NY Times reported that "[a]nother top McConnell aide, Josh Holmes, said Mr. Benton would "absolutely" keep his job. He declined to say if Mr. Benton had apologized to Mr. McConnell" over the "holding my nose" comments. However, now that McConnell has won his anti-Tea Party primary battle against Matt Bevin, he no longer really needs Benton and as soon as it started becoming clear that Benton is likely to be arrested and indicted at some point, McConnell fired his ass, which was called, in typically dishonest political jargon, "reluctantly accepting his resignation." Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss: "The problem with the scandal is the negative attention it brings to the McConnell campaign, which will come regardless of whether it turns out Benton really did anything wrong. Any whiff of scandal within a campaign organization can bring criticism, because opponents suggest that it reflects on the judgment of the candidate who appointed the individual."

Now that "distraction" is out of the way, McConnell can go back to vowing to block a minimum wage hike on behalf of America's anti-democracy plutocrats for whom his entire political career is dedicated to. Voss added that the revelation of the recordings of McConnell sucking up to the billionaires won't help him among Kentucky working families any more than the Benton scandal. "Both revolve around big money in campaigns, so they threaten to reinforce each other. Even worse, both events reinforce a longstanding Grimes campaign theme that McConnell is too tied into the world of lavish election spending to represent Kentucky."

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Ghost of Sunday Classics preview: Attention, please!


Can you imagine a more ravishing musical attention-getter?

London Symphony Orchestra, Charles Mackerras, cond. Philips-Mercury, recorded July 1961

by Ken

What we hear above is really and truly a preview; we're not going to hear any more of this piece until tomorrow's Ghost of Sunday Classics post. Many of you will recognize it (we've actually heard it before), but for now I just want to focus on this ravishing opening.

This is a talent, I think, the ability to grab a listener's attention musically. Not in a mechanical, conk-over-the-head way, which I suppose can be done by formula, but in a genuinely imagination-engaging way. The talent can certainly be cultivated, shaped, refined, but I think either you've got stuff in you head that can do the trick or you don't. We've listened, for example, to the way Puccini opened nearly all of his mature operas -- that, I think, is simply astounding, and a measure of unique genius.

One reason I'm so bowled over by the way our composer above seizes hold of our imaginations is precisely because there isn't any conking over the head. Just listen to what he does with that out-of-nothing hush, then gradually gathers momentum. Gorgeous!

This makes me think of the musical solutions Puccini's great predecessor Verdi found for the first of his two supreme masterpieces, Otello. We've heard all of these before (if anyone would like links, please just let me know in the comments; it's so tedious gathering them when there's no earthly purpose), but let's listen first to the similarly quiet orchestral introductions to Acts II, III, and IV.

VERDI: Otello
Read more »

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Big Money Interests Investing Heavily In Their Most Subservient Political Handmaidens


I would call this Horsey cartoon from yesterday's L.A. Times pretty risqué. It uses an image of a cocaine snorting Miss McConnell to portray and mock his addiction to extreme right-wing Koch brothers cash. David Horsey is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Times and he can get away with stuff like this. He also wrote the piece the cartoon accompanied. "The dilemma," he wrote, "facing the true grass-roots tea party believers-- the dilemma they do not acknowledge-- is that their primary goal of whittling and whacking away at big government undercuts their secondary goal of saving the middle class from the greedy grip of big corporations." He contrasts this innocence from the right-wing populists with what the Democratic Party stands for.
If Democrats have a unifying philosophy, it is that government needs to be effective enough to curtail the economic and environmental abuses of unfettered capitalism. Republicans, on the other hand, preach the dogma that smaller government and unrestricted corporate power serves the best interests of the common man and woman.

The tea party folks have largely bought into that belief, but still are uncomfortable with Republicans who appear to be too much in thrall to big business. That is partly why a big tea party effort was mounted against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky’s Republican primary. McConnell was rightly seen as the epitome of the GOP establishment that the tea partiers so disdain. Yet, even with major support from national tea party organizations, such as FreedomWorks and the Senate Conservatives Fund, challenger Matt Bevin could not depose the incumbent senator.
Inevitably Horsey goes to the audio tape of McConnell paying abject obeisance to the Kochs and their billionaire guests at a soirée for extreme right-wing billionaires-- plus 3 of the most craven of this cycle's Koch-owned puppets, Tom Cotton (AR), Joni Ernst (IA), and Cory Gardner (CO)-- at the St. Regis Monarch Bay resort in Dana Point (ironically an area of Orange County first developed by L.A. Times right-wing publisher, real estate baron and eugenicist Harry Chandler in 1923). Darrell Issa is the congressman who represents this very white, very conservative GOP enclave. "Caught on an audio recording," wrote Horsey, "the message the minority leader gave to that gathering of super-rich campaign donors might dissuade the more populist-leaning tea party voters from ever giving their support to the man who stands a very good chance of being majority leader come January."
In his remarks, McConnell proved himself to be a devoted servant of Wall Street and big corporations, which should be no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to the man’s political career. He boasted about his pro-billionaire agenda-- he has tirelessly fought against raising the minimum wage, repeatedly opposed extensions of unemployment benefits and scuttled changes in student loan rules that would help struggling students with a small tax on the country’s wealthiest citizens-- and pledged to continue the fight against other so-called big-government programs, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and restrictions on the financial services industry that were imposed after high-flying bankers and financiers nearly destroyed the U.S. economy in 2008.

The core focus of his pitch to the plutocrats was a reassertion of his vehement opposition to campaign-finance limits. He praised the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that said corporations have the same rights to political activity as real human beings. “So all Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech,” McConnell said, as if corporate moguls like the Kochs are even competing in the same league as the common man on the street when it comes to political spending.

McConnell also reminded the audience that he had opposed earlier restrictions on campaign spending passed by fellow Republicans. “The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law in the early part of his first administration,” he said.

McConnell wants corporations to spend as much as they want in political campaigns, and he happily accepts their donations (for the last five years, Wall Street interests have been the biggest contributors to his campaign committee). In return, he will continue to fight any limit on corporate power, diligently carrying on a Republican tradition that stretches back to the days of the robber barons of the 19th century. When McConnell is out campaigning among coal miners and farmers, he speaks as if he is the champion of the little guy, but the real McConnell comes through when he is behind closed doors with his billionaire backers (according to one Democratic source, that group includes a fifth of the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans).

The question is whether tea party voters can stomach this. Will they hold their nose and show up to vote for McConnell? As the nation moves into the fall congressional campaign season, the McConnell/Grimes race could go either way. If tea party voters really want to be rid of McConnell, all they may have to do is stay home on election day.
The Finance sector is investing very heavily in the 2014 elections. So far the biggest single donor from the sector is hedge-fund criminal and wing nut Paul Singer through his company, Elliott Management-- $6,842,53. This cycle the whole sector has already poured $148,543,210 into congressional races, $89,724,597 to Republicans and $58,739,217 to conservative Democrats (primarily Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, not real Democrats). Their biggest single investment was in getting Wall Street-owned Democrat Cory Booker into the Senate, which cost them $3,597,949. After that the politicians they did the most to help build power were John Boehner ($2,664,676) and McConnell ($2,458,418).

Here's a list of the 20 Members of the House who have taken the biggest legalistic bribes from the Finance sector this cycle alone. None serve the interests of their constituents. All of them serve the interests of the Wall Street banksters and each has wormed his or her way into a position of power and influence where he or she can be most useful to the worst enemies of American working families on planet Earth:
John Boehner (R-OH)- $2,664,676
Eric Cantor (R-VA)- $1,848,125
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)- $1,428,259
Tom Cotton (R-AR)- $1,288,662
Paul Ryan (R-WI)- $1,225,756
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- $1,003,136
Joe Crowley (New Dem-NY)- $956,722
Jim Himes (New Dem-CT)- $918,800
Scott Garrett (R-NJ)- $912,363
Shelley Moore Capitol (R-WV)- $847,365
Pat Tiberi (R-OH)- $821,450
Ed Royce (R-CA)- $821,218
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)- $801,750
Steve Stivers (R-OH)- $799,309
Gary Peters (New Dem-MI)- $786,080
Steve Israel (Blue Dog-NY)- $769,050
Peter Roskam (R-IL)- $702,149
Steven Daines (R-MT)- $667,056
Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)- $656,113
Ann Wagner (R-MO)- $655,138
With the exceptions of Wall Street favorites Tom Cotton and Gary Peters, each running for the U.S. Senate, none of these Members have even remotely competitive races. They are selling their souls to Wall Street to build personal power within their own respective caucuses. Banksters love that kind of ambition in their employees.

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Can Peter King Add This To The Republican Law Suit Against President Obama?


“No way any of us can excuse what the president did yesterday… a week after Jim Foley was beheaded"- Peter King

Roland and I have been traveling all over the world for decades. He'd eat grasshoppers, snakes, monkeys and, in Beijing, dog. So when I wondered if I knew anyone who watched the video of Jim Foley's beheading, I asked Roland. "Are you kidding," he declared in disgust. "I'd never watch the savage garbage." OK, so I don't know any friends or family who did. I asked a few congressmembers too and they all said no. I couldn't get an answer from Peter King's office but I bet he did watch it. He's that kind of guy. He's also the kind of guy who gets a free ride to reelection every year. His neighbor and crony, Steve Israel, refuses to allow the DCCC to recruit a candidate against him and when the local Democrats nominate someone, Israel threatens institutional donors and big contributors and does everything he can to undermine the Democrat trying to take on King, despite the fact that redistricting moved King out of most of his Nassau County comfort zone and into Democratic territory in Suffolk County. President Obama won the R+1 district with 51% in 2008 and with 52% in 2012. It's a far better shot for a Democratic pickup than deep red districts in Arkansas Israel is wasting DCCC money on.

But the two Long Island crooked pols are both connected to the Mob and both take plenty of cash from the same filthy sources. They have each others' backs. So when King regularly makes a monkey out of himself, there is no one to help local Democrats capitalize on it. Thursday King shot off his trap again: "There’s no way any of us can excuse what the president did yesterday. When you have the world watching… a week, two weeks of anticipation of what the United States is gonna do. For him to walk out-- I’m not trying to be trivial here-- in a light suit, light tan suit, saying that first he wants to talk about what most Americans care about the revision of second quarter numbers on the economy. This is a week after Jim Foley was beheaded and he’s trying to act like real Americans care about the economy, not about ISIS and not about terrorism. And then he goes on to say he has no strategy."

King may have not been trying to be trivial, but Peter King is trivial-- and Long Island voters deserve better. But Steve Israel would prefer to FedEx weekly packages of bagels and cream cheese to multimillionaire Sean Eldridge than actually replace a heinous and vulnerable Republican like Peter King, who he brought with him to the schule he ripped off.

Pelosi has consistently refused to fire Israel, even after his disastrous defeats in 2012 which resulted in another catastrophic Republican House-- and the last chance for Pelosi to reclaim the Speaker's gavel. Israel has no strategy to win, just a string of light-weight, failed tactics that he tried before and lost with. Steve Israel doesn't have the mental capacity to do anything but take bribes. If he's the chairman of the DCCC for 10,000 years, the Republicans will win the House for 10,000 years.

Even Peter King is entitled to a bad fashion decision every now and then

At least the local Long Island Democrats nominated a candidate, Pat Maher, even if she's being undermined by Israel. There are plenty of incumbents, around 80 of 'em, who are running without major party opponents in November. There are a few states, like California, Louisiana and Washington, where jungle primaries result in two Democrats or two Republicans facing off in November-- like Republicans Clint Didier and Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Republicans Tom McClintock and Art Moore (CA-04), Republicans Steve Knight and Tony Strickland (CA-25), Democrats Mike Honda and Ro Khanna (CA-17), Democrats Zoe Lofgren and Robert Murray (CA-19), Democrats Christina Gagnier and Norma Torres (CA-35), etc-- and then there are districts where incumbents aren't being challenged by the other major party. This is a list, along with each district's PVI:
Mike Thompson (CA-05)- D+19
Sam Farr (CA-20)- D+21
Adam Schiff (CA-28)- D+20
Janice Hahn (CA-44)- D+32
Juan Vargas (CA-51)- D+16
Ruben Gallego (AZ-07)- D+16
Trent Franks (AZ-08)- R+15
Jim Bridenstine (OK-01)- R+18
Sam Johnson (TX-03)- R+17
John Ratcliffe (TX-04)- R+25
Jeb Hensarling (TX-05)- R+17
Kevin Brady (TX-08)- R+29
Al Green (TX-09)- D+25
Mike Conway (TX-11)- R+31
Joaquin Castro (TX-20)- D+6
Lamar Smith (TX-21)- D+12
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)- D+7
Gene Green (TX-29)- D+12
Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)- D+27
Mark Veasey (TX-33)- D+18
Cedric Richmond (LA-02)- D+23
Charles Boustany (LA-03)- R+19
Steve Womack (AR-03)- R+19
Phil Roe (TN-01)- R+25
Robert Aderholt (AL-04)- R+28
Mo Brooks (AL-05)- R+17
Terri Sewell (AL-07)- D+20
Bennie Thompson (MS-02)- D+13
Ander Crenshaw (FL-04)- R+19
Gus Bilirakis (FL-12)- R+7
David Jolly (FL-13)- R+1
Kathy Castor (FL-14)- D+13
Ted Deutsch (FL-21)- D+10
Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25)- R+5
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27)- R+2
Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03)- R+19
Hank Johnson (GA-04)- D+21
John Lewis (GA-05)- D+32
Austin Scott (GA-08)- R+15
Barry Loudermilk (GA-11)- R+19
David Scott (GA-13)- D+16
Tom Graves (GA-14)- R+26
Mark Sanford (SC-01)- R+11
Trey Gowdy (SC-04)- R+15
Robert Pittinger (NC-09)- R+8
Bobby Scott (VA-03)- D+27
Bob Goodlatte (VA-06)- R+12
Morgan Griffith (VA-09)- R+15
Bob Gibbs (OH-07)- R+6
Mike Doyle (PA-14)- D+15
Charlie Dent (PA-15)- R+2
Tim Murphy (PA-18)- R+10
Gregory Meeks (NY-05)- D+35
Grace Meng (NY-06)- D+13
Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08)- D+35
Yvette Clarke (NY-09)- D+32
Jerry Nadler (NY-10)- D+23
Charlie Rangel (NY-13)- D+42
Joe Crowley (NY-14)- D+26
Jose Serrano (NY-15)- D+43
Eliot Engel (NY-16)- D+21
Richard Hanna (NY-22)- R+3
Richard Neal (MA-01)- D+13
Jim McGovern (MA-02)- D+8
Joe Kennedy (MA-04)- D+6
Katherine Clark (MA-05)- D+14
Mike Capuano (MA-07)- D+31
Stephen Lynch (MA-08)- D+6
I can understand why a Republican doesn't run against Jose Serrano in the Bronx.The last time the Republicans ran a candidate he got 4,427 votes (3%) to Serrano's 152,661 (97%). Obama also beat Romney with 97% in the district. The PVI is D+43. Similarly, it makes sense that Democrats don't relish running against Mike Conaway in his sprawling, superstitious West Texas district where no Democratic congressional candidates have even gotten to 20% of the vote since Conaway, a pathetic backbencher with zero accomplishments, was first elected in 2004. In 2012 Romney beat Obama there 182,438 (79%) to 45,083 (20%). But if the DCCC can't at least put up a good fight against vulnerable incumbents like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Charlie Dent, David Jolly, Richard Hanna and, most of all, Peter King, what are they even doing collecting money from grassroots donors… aside from feathering their own nests?

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Why Would You Vote For Anyone Opposed To Increasing The Minimum Wage?


No doubt Labor Day is about barbecuing for many people… or an extra day off from work that can be spent with friends and family or in blissful solitude. But this morning, in his weekly address, Presdient Obama chose to discuss the minimum wage, particularly since Mitch McConnell had just prostrated himself before the Koch brothers and some equally heinous billionaires and viewed he would never allow an increase in the minimum wage to even come up for a vote if he wins reelection. It probably angered Peter King again, but the president decided to talk about economic issues that face American families, rather than a beheading in Iraq. "We set aside Labor Day to honor the working men and women of America," he said. And this Labor Day, we’ve got more to celebrate. Over the past 53 months, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs. Last month, for the first time since 1997, we created more than 200,000 jobs for six straight months. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders worldwide have declared, two years running, that the number one place to invest isn’t China-- it’s America." Republicans don't want to hear this. Any good news for America makes their blood boil and their collective head explode. "[T]here are reasons to be optimistic about where we’re headed," the president continued, happy to infuriate them. "And the decisions we make now will determine whether or not we accelerate this progress-- whether economic gains flow to a few at the top, or whether a growing economy fuels rising incomes and a thriving middle class."
Think about it this Labor Day. The things we often take for granted-- Social Security and Medicare, workplace safety laws and the right to organize for better pay and benefits, even weekends-- we didn’t always have these things. Workers and the unions who get their back had to fight for them. And those fights built a stronger middle class.

To build a stronger middle class in today’s changing economy, we’ve got to keep fighting. We’ve got to fight for the right to affordable health insurance for everybody. The right to fair pay, family leave, and workplace flexibility. The right to a fair living wage.

Let me focus on that last one for a minute. In America, no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. A hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. And raising the minimum wage would be one of the best ways to give a boost to working families. It would help around 28 million Americans from all walks of life pay the bills, provide for their kids, and spend that money at local businesses. And that grows the economy for everyone.

The bottom line is, America deserves a raise. But until we’ve got a Congress that cares about raising working folks’ wages, it’s up to the rest of us to make it happen. And in the year and a half since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, Americans of all walks of life are doing just that.

Thirteen states and D.C. have done their part by raising their minimum wages. Four more states have minimum wage initiatives on the ballot this November. And the states where the minimum wage has gone up this year have experienced higher job growth than the states that haven’t.
Conservatives are now desperately trying to "compromise" on the minimum wage. The two conservative EMILY's List candidates in Hawaii, Colleen Hanabusa, a New Dem, and Donna Mercado Kim, a right-wing religious fanatic, were both defeated in Democratic primaries in part because of their refusal to get behind the already-too-low $10.10 minimum wage proposal. Hanabusa plotted with Maine Republican Susan Collins to cut back the $10.10 to as low as they could get away with. And Kim voted against legislation that passed the Hawaii Senate that did raise the minimum wage. Actual progressives understand why $10.10 is too low and that it's really just a baseline from which to go up-- not down. Monday Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is expected to announce his plan to raise the Los Angeles minimum wage to $13.25 in increments over three years. His proposal includes increases pegged to inflation so that workers don't lose buying power as prices of necessities rise.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Yes, we know, guns don't kill people


"Much like the long-running national debates about jumping off a roof, licking electrical sockets, and gargling with thumbtacks, the vexing question of whether children should fire military weapons does not appear headed for a swift resolution.

" 'Like the issue of whether you should sneak up behind a bear and jab it with a hot poker, this won't be settled any time soon,' [pollster Davis Logsdon] says."

by Ken

Yes, we know, guns don't kill people. Sometimes nine-year-old moppets frolicking with Uzis on gun ranges kill people {"Child firing Uzi at Ariz. shooting range accidentally kills instructor, police say").

Gun enthusiasts become heated in their defense of responsible gun ownership and use. And I'm sure many of them are responsible. And yes, we're hearing some of them saying, "Wtf?" At this point, however, it carries less and less weight in the face of their steadfast defense of a do-nothing policy on gun control.

Earlier tonight I voiced some reluctance to make a big deal of the news that, just as opponents of torture warned out at the time of the waterboarding scandal, the practice has now been turned against us, now that we know that executed newsman James Foley and others have been waterboarded by the ISIS thugs. Gosh, who coulda predicted?

Despite my reluctance I thought it extremely important for once to try to hold the right-wing slugs who had pooh-poohed waterboarding and the whole torture scandal for their avalanche of lies and delusions. Similarly, I think it's important that the scum-of-the-earth liars and deluders of the NRA be forced to work a little harder at their never-ending game of lying and deluding.

Over at Daily Kos, Hunter passes on this presumably accidental but, shall we say, embarrassing juxtaposition:
Here's what the NRA Women twitter account piped up with on Wednesday while the rest of American media was showing videotape of a presumably now-traumatized 9-year-old girl losing control of a fully automatic Uzi before spraying her tourist-friendly "instructor" with bullets, killing him.

The tweet was deleted about an afterwards; the article linked to is a look at various products meant to make shooting at things more fun for small kids, such as targets shaped like animals or zombies or targets with bright colors or things that explode when you shoot them. You know, kid stuff. They do note, parents, that with the exploding targets you "do need to be extra careful."

So smooth work yet again, NRA. And hey, technically you did hold off until the body was cold—we might even count that as an improvement over your past work.
It was just earlier this month that I was registering astonishment and horror at the publication of a kiddie book, My Parents Open Carry ("An Open Carry Adventure/Safe - Responsible - Fun"). Yes, this is what we need, teaching kiddies to drool over guns. Raw Story's Scott Kaufman noted in his report:
The book’s authors, Brian Jeffs and Nathan Nephew, claim that they were inspired to write the book because they “looked for pro-gun children’s books and couldn’t find any. Our goal was to provide a wholesome family book that reflects the views of the majority of the American people, i.e., that self-defense is a basic natural right and that firearms provide the most efficient means for that defense.”
Well, maybe Monday's incident was just one of those things that happens. What're you gonna do? Oh sure, people are wondering what the hell a nine-year-old was doing with a submachine gun in her hands. Well, go figure!

The CNN report linked above included this:
Charles Vacca was accidentally shot in the head as he instructed the 9-year-old girl how to fire an Uzi, an Israeli-made 9mm submachine gun. As she pulled the trigger, the gun jumped out of her left hand toward Vacca, who was standing beside her.

"To put an Uzi in the hands of a 9-year-old ... is extremely reckless, " CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes said.

Gun experts contacted by CNN on Wednesday said young children should be taught to shoot with single-shot firearms rather than submachine guns.

They also said that safe learning is connected to the ability and experience of the instructor.

"It's always the supervision," said Greg Danas, president of Massachusetts-based G-and-G Firearms. "But you also have gun enthusiasts running businesses where they place firearms in the hands of the uninformed, whether they're 9-year-old kids who are not capable or adults. It all stems from gun enthusiasts running businesses that require a level of professionalism and education. The unexpected with firearms is something that's only learned through years of being a trainer, not a gun enthusiast."

Representatives of the gun range declined CNN requests for comment on the incident. But Sam Scarmardo, who operates Bullets and Burgers, told CNN affiliate KLAS on Tuesday they "really don't know what happened."
Did you catch that? "Gun experts contacted by CNN on Wednesday said young children should be taught to shoot with single-shot firearms rather than submachine guns." I guess it's wisdom like this that qualifies them as "experts." Yessir, the system is working like a machine -- a death machine.

It seems to me that a bevy of idiots collaborated to make the Arizona incident possible. The nine-year-old girl behaved like an idiot, but then, she's nine. What can possibly have been going on in the heads of the adult idiots who collaborated?


August 28, 2014


By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — Across the United States on Wednesday, a heated national debate began on the extremely complex issue of children firing military weapons.

“Every now and then, the nation debates an issue that is so complicated and tricky it defies easy answers,” says pollster Davis Logsdon. “Letting small children fire automatic weapons is such an issue.”

Logsdon says that the thorny controversy is reminiscent of another ongoing national debate, about whether it is a good idea to load a car with dynamite and drive it into a tree.

“Many Americans think it’s a terrible idea, but others believe that with the correct supervision, it’s perfectly fine,” he says. “Who’s to say who’s right?”

Similar, he says, is the national debate about using a flamethrower indoors. “There has been a long and contentious national conversation about this,” he says. “It’s another tough one.”

Much like the long-running national debates about jumping off a roof, licking electrical sockets, and gargling with thumbtacks, the vexing question of whether children should fire military weapons does not appear headed for a swift resolution.

“Like the issue of whether you should sneak up behind a bear and jab it with a hot poker, this won’t be settled any time soon,” he says.

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Oh no, the evil ISIS terrorists are waterboarding! How dare those dastards . . . oops!


Kids, don't try this at home! But I've got some suggestions of blowhards who deserve to undergo a lovely round of waterboarding -- at the hands of professional CIA torturers technicians. (Artwork by Simon Scarr/Reuters Graphic.)

"Critics of waterboarding have said for years that the practice endangered Americans, putting them at risk of being subjected to the same brutal treatment at the hands of the enemy."
-- from "Captives held by Islamic State were
" on

by Ken

Let's try not to make too big a deal of it, but since the Lying LIars of the Right have taken control of public discourse by screeching lies and delusions at people who are both vastly smarter and more decent than they are, while virtually never being held accountable for their 24/7 barrage of the most grotesque and vile falsehoods, I think we need to pause to consider this news:
Captives held by Islamic State were waterboarded

By Adam Goldman and Julie Tate August 28 at 8:43 PM

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Waterboarding often involves strapping a person down on a gurney or bench and pouring cold water over a cloth covering the face. It causes the sensation of drowning. “The wet cloth creates a barrier through which it is difficult — or in some cases not possible — to breathe,” according to a Justice Department memo in May 2005 about the CIA’s use of the technique.

President Obama has condemned waterboarding as torture.

“They knew exactly how it was done,” a person with direct knowledge of what happened to the hostages said of the Islamic State militants. The person, who discussed the hostages’ experience on the condition of anonymity, said the captives were held in Raqqah, a city in north-central Syria. . . .

A second person familiar with Foley’s time in captivity confirmed that he was tortured, including by waterboarding.

“Yes, that is part of the information that bubbled up, and Jim was subject to it,” the person said. “I believe he suffered a lot of physical abuse.”

Foley’s mother, Diane, said Thursday that she had not been informed previously that her son had been waterboarded.

The FBI, which is investigating Foley’s death and the abduction of Americans in Syria, declined to comment. The CIA had no official comment.

“ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people,” said a U.S. official, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State. “To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”

Waterboarding was one of the interrogation techniques adopted by the CIA and sanctioned by the Justice Department when the agency opened a series of secret overseas prisons to question terrorism suspects.

Three CIA detainees — Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abu Zubaida and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — were waterboarded while held in secret CIA prisons. Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded 183 times, according to a memo issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. . . .

Critics of waterboarding have said for years that the practice endangered Americans, putting them at risk of being subjected to the same brutal treatment at the hands of the enemy.

“Waterboarding dates to the Spanish Inquisition and has been a favorite of dictators through the ages, including Pol Pot and the regime in Burma,” Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) said in an op-ed in 2008. “Condoning torture opens the door for our enemies to do the same to captured American troops in the future.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to release a report asserting that waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques used by CIA operatives were not effective, said Feinstein, who chairs the panel. Former agency employees dispute that conclusion. . . .


The right-wing scumbags I especially want to hear from are the ones who pooh-poohed waterboarding, insisting it was no big deal, and certainly not torture -- which we Americans don't do anyway, though of course it would be an intelligence gold mine if we could, or id. And in particular the ones who had a few drops of water splashed at them and pretended that they had actually undergone waterboarding their very own selves.

Forget for a moment the total illogic of this argument -- that if waterboarding is no big deal, then what the hell was the point of doing it? At the moment I'm more interested in the fundamental fraud of the make-believe waterboardees. So I propose that all those heroes immediately subject themselves to something closer to the real thing than their panty-ass Celebrity Phony Waterboarding adventure.

EVen the following seems to me a fairly mild description of real waterboarding, but since we just read it, it's worth underscoring:
Waterboarding often involves strapping a person down on a gurney or bench and pouring cold water over a cloth covering the face. It causes the sensation of drowning. “The wet cloth creates a barrier through which it is difficult — or in some cases not possible — to breathe,” according to a Justice Department memo in May 2005 about the CIA’s use of the technique.
You can be sure that the phony waterboardees underwent no such thing. More importantly, perhaps most importantly, the phony waterboardees had complete control of the process, which was bogus from start to finish -- not least including their certain knowledge that there would be a safe finish.

For their new round of waterboarding, I propose for starters that our heroes have no idea of what's going to happen. They will have to a liability waiver relieving everyone involved from any culpability for anything that may happen, up to and including death. It may take them one or two preliminary dunks to grasp that when they feel those first signs of suffocation, they may very well be allowed to die. By the second or third dunking, they should have grasped that their future is up for grabs, that they may in fact have no future.

To add some reality to the game, beyond the fact that anything could happen in it, perhaps we should build in a buy-out option, calculated in terms of each victim's net worth, Perhaps a spinning wheel could be used to determine -- unbeknownst to the "subject" -- the maximum percentage of the subject's net worth that the "technician" can try to extract, with a floor of, say, 25 percent, going on up to 100 percent. Perhaps another spin of the wheel could determine -- again unbeknownst to the subject -- how long each session can be allowed to continue, and how many sessions the subject can be subjected to, assuming he/she doesn't go for the buy-out.


. . . that any right-wing scumbag who offers waterboarding as proof of ISIS's evil will be immediately removed from the conversation. I'd suggest removal via secret flight to an undisclosed black sight. Never to be heard from again.

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Rob Ford-- Four More Years?


When Richard Nixon was narrowly elected president in 1968-- beating war-tainted Herbert Humphrey by seven tenths of a percentage point, 43.4 to 42.7%-- I decided to move to another country. I travelled around the world and finally settled down in Amsterdam. By the summer of 1972 it was obvious to me that Nixon couldn't possibly win another term and I started thinking about moving back to America. When the votes were counted on November, Nixon-- who we later found out stole the election through a criminal fraud that later forced him to resign in disgrace-- had 47,168,710 votes (60.1%) to George McGovern's 29,173,222 (37.5%), a rout. Nixon won every state but Massachusetts (and DC). By the time he resigned on August 9, 1974, I wasn't that eager to return to the country that had reelected him so overwhelmingly.

Nixon? How could anyone vote for that cesspool to begin with-- let alone after 4 years confirmed everyone's worst fears about him. Apparently not quite everyone's. A couple decades later I was living in the U.S. and it happened all over again. Canadians may have been looking on in horror and wondering how America could reelect George W. Bush… but they did. Really-- and he beat John Kerry 62,040,610 (50.7%) to 59,028,444 (48.3%). Well, the shoe is on the other foot finally, Canada. We may have reelected a collection of bizarre political characters and criminals like Jesse Helms (NC), David "Diapers" Vitter (LA), Mark Sanford (SC) and, just 2 weeks ago, Scott DesJarlais (TN) but most of the jokesters are from the backward parts of the Old Confederacy where people are expected to be especially dumb. Canada may be about to reelect Rob Ford in Toronto, their 3rd smartest city (behind Vancouver and Montreal).
Rob Ford’s support appears to be rising as the gap between him and frontrunner John Tory narrows with two months left in Toronto’s mayoral race, according to a new poll.

The Forum Research opinion survey also found that Olivia Chow’s momentum continues to slip.

The poll, which was conducted on Monday and Tuesday, put support for Mr. Tory at 34 per cent, 31 per cent for Mr. Ford and 23 per cent for Ms. Chow – the three leading candidates.

...The poll suggests Mr. Ford is enjoying support levels not seen since March.

In addition to his rising popularity, fewer poll respondents want Mr. Ford to step down than did in previous Forum Research surveys. Half of Toronto voters said they want the mayor to resign, down from 58 per cent two weeks ago and 63 per cent in early June.

The poll found that Mr. Ford’s support was highest among men, those aged 18-34, residents of Etobicoke and Scarborough, people with a household income between $60,000 and $80,000 and those with a high school education or less.

By contrast, support for Mr. Tory was highest among senior citizens, North York residents, voters with household incomes over $250,000 and those who have gone to graduate school. His support is almost evenly split between men and women.

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The Environment Has Many Enemies In Congress-- And Fred Upton Is The Most Dangerous Of All


There may be more than one reason so many voters in southwest Michigan want this to be Fred Upton's last term. First elected in 1986 (when Ronald Reagan was president), there's a general feeling that Upton's been in Congress too long and that he's now "one of them," not "one of us." He's become a creature of the Beltway and he pushes policies for K Street lobbyists and big special interests rather than for working families back in Kalamazoo, Portage, Niles, Benton Harbor/St. Joseph or Paw Paw. Or maybe it's because 69% of MI-06 residents say they opposed shutting down the government in order to stop Obamacare, something Upton voted for. People in southwest Michigan know he doesn't give a damn what they think… he's all about DC now and the only politics he's come to pay attention to are the politics inside the GOP House caucus.

Or maybe it's because Upton's role as one of the single most pollution-enabling politicians in the entire world has finally started sinking in. Filthy air, filthy water, Climate Change and global warming, all have Upton's paw prints all over them. The non-partisan, non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council-- which boasts 1.4 million members-- made yesterday Fred Upton Day. Their political Action Fund is in the midst of exposing the worst Members of Congress. "For some members of Congress casting dirty votes and accepting campaign contributions from polluters is a normal day in Washington," they explained last month. "But, this August, as members return home to face voters, the NRDC Action Fund will expose some of them for exactly who they are: dirty deniers. Beginning August 4, the NRDC Action Fund will name “Daily Dirty Deniers” each weekday, featuring members (#DailyDenier$) who allow polluters to foul our air by casting dirty votes and accepting dirty money."
The NRDC Action Fund will highlight 20 total members during the August recess which leads into the unofficial kickoff to election season. The “Daily Dirty Denier$” campaign is focused on bringing attention to these member Congress while they are home and trying to convince voters they have their best interests in mind. We will expose:
House members who have now voted almost 200 times in just this Congress to weaken or eliminate environmental protections;

How outside polluter money is being used to support #DirtyDenier$;
Why polluters lost in 2012 and why they will lose again in 2014; and
Support for climate action specifically among the rising American electorate.
We'll get to Upton in a minute. These are the other dirty crooks they've exposed so far: Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Henry Cuella (Blue Dog-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Tom Latham (R-IA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mike Coffman (R-CO), John Boozman (R-AR), John Kline (R-MN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Scott Brown (R-MA), John Shimkus (R-IL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and, of course, Miss McConnell (R-KY).
Today’s Dirty Denier$ is Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan and Chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Upton has used his leadership position to try to move the nation backward, and his record on clean air and climate change keeps getting worse.

Upton has been all over the map on the facts about climate change. In 2011, he said he didn’t believe humans are contributing to global climate change. Since then, he’s been mostly silent on that basic issue, but he’s been loud in his opposition to doing anything about climate. He has used extreme rhetoric to characterize the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, calling it “an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs” and a “train wreck.”

And consider that one of the first bills that Upton sponsored upon assuming the chairmanship of the committee would have permanently blocked EPA from doing anything at all to address carbon pollution. Moreover, the bill would have increased America’s dependence on oil by undermining efficiency standards for motor vehicles, and cost consumers $58 billion. Upton has also given his blessing to multiple bills to undo various aspects of the Clean Air Act.

The dirty fuel interests that have given nearly $2 million in campaign contributions to Upton over the course of his career are no doubt pleased with his record. However, the same can’t be said for his constituents back home. According to recent polling from the NRDC Action Fund in key states including Michigan, overwhelming majorities of voters in that group of states support strong action to stop dangerous carbon pollution. This includes 53% of Republicans. Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder has said, “People may not agree about why climate change is happening, but it is certainly affecting Michigan.”

Michigan has a lot to gain from a clean energy policy. In 2013 alone, Michigan announced more than 1700 jobs in the renewable energy sector, placing it 12th in the country for new job creation. And in a signal that better days are ahead for both the economy and the environment, 380 of those jobs were in clean vehicle manufacturing.

Our advice: It’s time for Congressman Upton to once again reinvent himself. It’s time to stop being a Dirty Denier$ and start being a clean energy champion for his state.
Obviously there's no chance whatsoever that Upton-- an hereditary multimillionaire, scion of the job-exporting Whirlpool fortune-- will be taking that advice to heart. So our advice is to replace him with progressive Democrat Paul Clements.

After the statement from the Natural Resources Defense Council we reached Clements in Kalamazoo and he told us that "when the Los Angeles Times singled Congressman Upton out as the #1 enemy of Planet Earth, they weren't exaggerating. He has used his role in Congress to raise millions from special interests, over $644,000 from the oil and gas industry alone, and advocated for those that fund his campaigns, not his constituents. He has led the extreme fight against the EPA, stopped any progress on Climate Change, and fought against creating the sustainable hi-tech jobs that will employ thousands in Michigan. He's voted against requiring companies to report dangerous chemicals found in our drinking water and has taken over $20,000 dollars from a company that has one of America’s most toxic waste sites here on the Kalamazoo River, which puts our Great Lakes in danger. The technology and the incentives are there to protect our planet and create the jobs of the future in the Midwest, but we can't do it with backwards, bought and paid for, members like Congressman Upton in Congress."

Blue America wants to remind you that you can help Paul Clements replace Fred Upton here.

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Is There A Democrat In Congress More Corrupt Than Debbie Wasserman Schultz?


This morning I got my daily "give me your money" e-mail from one of America's most corrupt politicians, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). The subject line was "Petition: Clean Up Campaign Finance" and instead of deleting it unopened like I do with 90% of her spam, I opened it to examine the latest hypocrisy from the sleazy New Dem trying to accumulate as much money as she can in a push to bribe fellow Democratic House members to make her party leader when Pelosi retires or when Pelosi and Hoyer retire. "Dear Friend," she began with every bit of the ugly insincerity that defines her being.
Outside right-wing groups are on track to spend more than $2 billion on this year’s elections. And we can all thank Citizens United for that deluge of spending.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United has fundamentally changed the way our elections work. Anonymous donors like the Koch brothers can now hide behind front groups and pull the strings in a way that corrupts and debases our democracy.

…The whole point of elections is to make the voice of the people heard. The whole point of campaign finance laws is to restrict the corrosive influence of money on politics."
Two of the industries helping to finance Wasserman Schultz's rise to power inside the House caucus are private prisons-- on whose behalf she opposes legalizing medical marijuana-- and, much more so, Big Sugar.

It was her ties to Big Sugar, in fact, that first made DWT aware of the depth of corruption that defines what a revolting character Wasserman Schultz is. Back when Wasserman Schultz was the head of the DCCC's Red to Blue program in 2008, she endorsed 3 corrupt Republican amigos-- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart-- over three Democrats. Chris Van Hollen fired her a Red to Blue chair, but not before her toxicity had taken root. That year Wasserman Schultz helped beat Joe Garcia, who eventually made it to Congress anyway and helped beat Annette Taddeo, who is running for Lt. Governor today. Neither likes talking about Wasserman Schultz's corruption but both have told intimates she's lower than a snake. In Florida Democratic politics if you don't make an effort to get along with her, you can find yourself face down in a swamp, metaphorically speaking. That was when other Members of Congress first started telling me that Wasserman Schultz was a funnel for far right Cuban money to Democratic members of the House and for sugar cane money (which is behind anything that will keep the U.S. from normal relations with Cuba). One Member pointed me to an August 15, 2007 article in The Hill:
When Democrats gained control of Congress, hopes were high that Cuba travel and trade restrictions would be eased by a party historically opposed to a so-called hard line on Cuba.

So far, however, the Democratic-led House has been tougher on Cuba than when Republicans controlled the lower chamber.

Sixty-six House Democrats-- including 20 members of the freshman class-- recently voted against a farm bill amendment offered by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) that would have made it easier for U.S. farmers to sell agricultural goods to Cuba.

...Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was instrumental in winning Democratic votes against the Rangel amendment. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told the Miami Herald that Wasserman Schultz was “a tiger” on the Rangel vote, while Antonio Zamora of the U.S.-Cuba Legal Forum described her as a key party in building Democratic opposition.

“I was about as active as you could be,” said Wasserman Schultz, a second-termer who serves as a deputy chief whip for Democrats. At the same time, she said other members such as Reps. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) also worked hard to whip opposition.

...Wasserman Schultz’s position on Cuba puts her at odds with some Democratic leaders, but she said she has no worries that this might affect her if she seeks a higher leadership position in the future.
Wasserman Schultz directed payments from a Big Sugar-funded right-wing front group, the US-Cuba Democracy PAC to hand over $320,000 to Democrats of her choice that cycle. Fifty-two of the 66 Democrats who voted against Rangel’s amendment received one or more contributions from the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC that year. Wasserman Schultz's own leadership PAC gave nearly a quarter million dollars to Democrats running for re-election and election in the House that year. Between the US-Cuba Democracy PAC and her own sleazy Democrats Win Seats PAC this is how much loot Wasserman Schultz was able to direct to Democratic freshmen willing to sell her their votes, even from congressmen representing agricultural districts where this amendment would have had widespread support. The first amount comes from the US-Cuba Democracy PAC and the second came directly from the shady Wasserman Schultz PAC. You'll notice that the majority of these corrupt conservative Wasserman Schultz allies have since then been derated for reelection by their constituents:
Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA) $8,000 + $5,000
Mike Arcuri (Blue Dog-NY) $4,000 + $2,000
Bruce Braley (D-IA) $5,000
Chris Carney (Blue Dog-PA) $7,000 + $7,500
Kathy Castor (D-FL) $2,000
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN) $3,000 + $5,000
Brad Ellsworth (Blue Dog-IN) $3,000 + $3,000
Gabby Giffords (Blue Dog-AZ) $5,000 + $5,000
Kirsten Gillibrand (Blue Dog-NY) $8,000 + $4,000
Phil Hare (D-IL) $9,000 + $1,000
Ron Klein (D-FL) $10,000 + $4,000
Tim Mahoney (Blue Dog-FL) $10,000 + $7,500
Harry Mitchell (Blue Dog-AZ) 0 + $4,000
Patrick Murphy (Blue Dog-PA) $6,000 + $4,000
Joe Sestak (D-PA) $1,000 + $2,000
Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC) $7,000 + $5,000
Albio Sires (D-NJ) $10,000
Zach Space (Blue Dog-OH) $7,000 +$4,000
Today Wasserman Schultz is fighting against Florida Democrats who want to legalize medical marijuana. She's against that but will have your legs cut off if you do anything that is perceived by her crooked financiers, the sugar baron Fanjul brothers, as undercutting a much bigger health risk to Americans: sugar.

Florida Democratic Party heavy-weight, John Morgan, pointed out to the Miami Herald that among "most-powerful players in Washington, D.C… Debbie Wasserman Schultz isn’t just disliked, she’s despised. She’s an irritant." Her status as "an irritant" is still something most Florida politicians only whisper about, but the whispering is becoming louder and louder and more persistent. "Yeah," one Member told me, "everyone thinks she's a total phony you have to watch your back around... everyone is afraid of her. Pelosi hates her too but she's like a force of nature… She's grasping in a way that very few other Members are and she's pretty single-minded when it comes to blind ambition. She does buy a lot of 'friends' though."

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ted Lieu To The Rescue... x 2


A few weeks ago a some people alerted me to an issue they knew I would be concerned about-- a tendency for doctors to over-medicate foster kids with dangerous drugs. I knew exactly what to do. The good thing about having a candidate like state Senator Ted Lieu running for Congress, is that you don't have to make up your mind about him based on campaign promises. He has a long, sterling record of achievement and leadership in the Assembly and the state Senate. And I knew he would care about this isa as much as I do. This is what I sent him as soon as I heard about it and before all the press on the scandal broke this week:
Thousands of foster children in California are being given medications that have not been tested for safety in children, called psychotropic medications. Foster children are given multiple drugs at adult dosages as early on as 6 years old. These medications alter the chemistry in children’s brains and have a laundry list of side-effects that can be irreversible, like developing tics, extreme weight gain leading to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, among other serious side effects.

Psychotropic medications are very costly. Taxpayers pay more for psychotropic medication prescriptions for foster children than total expenditures on all other medications combined. Taxpayers are footing the bill-- and so far there is little to no effective regulation in place in our state.
I thought of Ted first and foremost for another reason than just because I know how much he cares about issues affecting children. His response was just what I thought it would be: "The shockingly high incidents of powerful psychotropic drugs being prescribed to foster children shows there is a significant problem. There appears to be a breakdown in the doctor-patient relationship in many of these cases. My hope is that regulators such as the California Medical Board can root out the problems and make recommendations to mitigate this issue in the future."

In the state Senate, he's the chairman of the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, which oversees medical licensing. The next day-- you read that right-- he read the San Jose Mercury expose and immediately sent a letter to David Serrano Sewell, President of the Medical Board of California-- with copies to every member of the Board. He wrote that if the information he was reading is correct "then the doctors who are prescribing these psychotropic medications are likely operating outside the reasonable standard of care." He went on: "I am writing to request the Medical Board of California conduct an investigation into doctors who (1) prescribed psychotropic medications to foster care children even though the medications were not approved for children and/or (2) prescribed psych tropic medications to foster care children without reviewing the children's medical records or drug history. I also request the Board to come up with recommendations to minimize the above two dangerous practices."

The biggest local paper in Lieu's district, Torrance's Daily Breeze covered it yesterday by pointing out Lieu's role:
Lieu’s letter pointed to findings that doctors are prescribing drugs that have not been approved for children and that they are sometimes prescribing without reviewing the children’s medical records or drug history. Lieu called on the medical board to come up with recommendations to minimize those “two dangerous practices.”

“It doesn’t seem that in every one of these cases there was a powerful reason to prescribe unauthorized medication to a child,” Lieu said in an interview, referring to individual cases cited in the newspaper story. “There is a focal point for all of these cases-- there is a doctor, a prescriber who has to issue the prescription-- and it seems there’s a breakdown at that point. And that’s why I want the regulators to look into this situation.”

Lieu said he is concerned there has been a breakdown in the trust of the “doctor-patient relationship” that all patients deserve. “You shouldn’t be prescribing powerful psychiatric medications that are not approved for children,” he said. “I’m not even sure what the reason for that would be to do that.”
This evening the editors of the San Jose Mercury publicly thanked Lieu for his role in a powerful editorial: Sen. Lieu to the rescue of overdrugged foster kids.
Exposing serious societal problems is always better than turning your head. Always. That's why staff writer Karen de Sá has spent nearly a year on research to bring to light the excessive use of powerful psychiatric drugs to control the behavior of California's foster children.

But shining light on a problem doesn't automatically change anything. That takes a public outcry and ideally a champion with the power to bring about change.

So thank you, Sen. Ted Lieu.

The Redondo Beach Democrat heads the committee that oversees the state medical board. At his request, the board is investigating whether some doctors have been "operating outside the reasonable standard of care" in prescribing meds-- not necessarily to treat illnesses, but to change behavior. Many of the kids are younger than 10.

…The medical board has an advantage over the public. It can get information on who's prescribing what. For months, this newspaper tried to pry the information from social services, but the state has resisted. The board can find out which doctors are the primary purveyors of psychotropic drugs, for example, or are prescribing drugs in excessive amounts or inappropriate combinations.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a longtime child advocate, is termed out this year, but he hopes this matter will be part of the budget debate in the spring. We hope his successor as Senate leader, Kevin De Leon, will agree, and that other lawmakers step up; Santa Clara County Sen. Jim Beall, for example, has been a champion for foster children. It will take courage to vote to invest in foster kids, the most vulnerable and voiceless of Californians, when politically powerful interests want the money for other purposes.

The public is reacting to de Sá's stories. Professionals in the field tell us we are only scratching the surface. We won't stop. But we can't change things without people in power making a stand.

So-- at the risk of repeating ourselves-- thanks, Ted Lieu, for being the first.
Blue America has endorsed Ted Lieu as the replacement for Henry Waxman-- and so has Henry Waxman. His opponent, Elan Carr, appears to be the #1 priority for Vegas mobster Sheldon Adelson who is funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race. Lieu is in a good position to win, but he can use some help-- and you can help him here. Not convinced? Today his bill to keep California from cooperating with unconstitutional NSA domestic spying passed the state Senate and went to the Governor's office for Jerry Brown's signature. Ted has been first in California on all the cutting edge progressive legislation that needs to be dealt with-- from holding mortgage banksters accountable to protecting LGBT youth from torture disguised as therapy. These things are not the kind of work Ted Lieu promises… it's the kind of work Ted Lieu does!

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Pay no attention to the Lying Liars of the Right -- inequality of economic opportunity was NOT always the law of the land


The sainted Ronald Reagan bequeathed Americans the right to revel in their ignorance, bigotry, and savagery even as they were being so carefully lined up in the bent-over position.

"What [William Lazonick] has uncovered is a shift in corporate conduct that transformed the U.S. economy -- for the worse. From the end of World War II through the late 1970s, he writes, major U.S. corporations retained most of their earnings and reinvested them in business expansions, new or improved technologies, worker training and pay increases. Beginning in the early '80s, however, they have devoted a steadily higher share of their profits to shareholders."
-- Harold Meyerson, in his Washington Post column
"In corporations, it’s owner-take-all"

by Ken

Last night I shared Jen Sorensen's lovely Daily Kos comic strip that neatly and crucially made the connection between the institutionalized social inequality on display in Ferguson and the institutionalized economic and legal inequality on display in Bankster America. And as I said, while I was focusing yesterday on the social-inequality side of this coin, tonight I planned to flip the coin over to the economic-inequality side, noting that they are the twin legacies of the sainted Ronald Reagan.

When it comes to Saint Ronnie, I write a lot (to whoever said "incessantly," was that really helpful?) about his disastrous sociopolitical legacy, the benediction he bestowed that whatever you believe to be, or even wish to be, reality is the real thing -- assuming, of course, that it's compatible with an ultra-right-wing way of looking at, or not looking at, the world. I guess that's the side of the Reagan Legacy that usually makes me crazy, since the consequences are incalculable.

That benediction, after all, comes with an official Seal of Good Americanism for every crackpot chemical impulse flits through a person's brainm such that if it feels right, or just feels good, to you, then it's for real -- again assuming it's compatible with ultra-right-wing doctrine. Not to put too fine a point on it, the "it" here includes every species of ultra-right-wing hatred, savagery, bigory, and urge to violence. If you feel it, preached Saint Ronnie, and if it's real American (translation: compatible with ultra-right-wing doctrine), it's real.

It's called, you know, "Morning in America."

But I tend not to dwell on the other branch of the Reagan legacy, the more nuts-and-bolts kind. For while Saint Ronnie was bestowing upon Americans without access to the levers of power this blessing of unlimited ideological insanity, to those Americans manning the levers of power he was bestowing the country itself, tied in a bow -- again, assuming that those lever-manners subscribed to the ultra-right-wing vision of "free-market capitalism" wherein the mission of government is to force Americans without power to their knees, bent over, ready to receive what ever might be shoved up their posteriors.

It's possible to construct a working model whereby either branch of Reaganism can be seen as providing "cover" for the other. But the power of money being what it is -- which is to say the power of money -- if you were a betting person, you would probably want get behind the view that the crackpot, emotionally exhilarating savagery of Ronnie the empowerer of the masses was providing cover for the rape of those masses by followers of Ronnie the phony free-market capitalist.

One of the crucial elements of the permanent institutionalizing of crackpot ultra-right-wing reality, of course, was Saint Ronnie's open war on labor unions. And doggone if his folksy, largely reality-free or even reality-defying schmoozing skills weren't perfectly suited to turning large numbers of Americans against the only institution our economy has (or rather had) to resist the pulverizing will of the Economically Empowered. He pulled the trick of making the Great American Masses feel empowered while joyfully positioning themselves in the Great Bend-Over.

Now, it has probably always been true that if you tried to talk about equality of economic equality, the right-wing powers who depend so heavily on inequality of opportunity cried, "Class warfare!" And who would know better than the people who had made class warfare a way of life, except on their terms, which are roughly the class-war equivalent of the military-war C-in-C Reagan waged on Grenada. Make sure they're bent over for optimal insertion.

However, over the last decade or two, as the War on Equality of Opportunity has become the American Way, a wrinkle has been added: pretending that the way things are now is the way things have always been, so shut your pieholes, you whining "takers." Don't you know it's Morning in America?

With Labor Day approaching, Harold Meyerson -- bless his soul -- is here to tell us that uh-uh, this is not how it has always been, and what's more, there was a time in the not-so-distant past when this was understood by almost as many Republicans as Democrats. I provided a link last night to Meyerson's Washington Post Labor Day-themed column. For those who haven't already read it, and perhaps even those who have, it begins: "Labor Day -- that mocking reminder that this nation once honored workers -- is upon us again, posing the nagging question of why the economy ceased to reward work."

He ticks off a couple of frequently proposed culprits, globalization and technological change, but then directs "anyone seeking a more fundamental answer" to the article "Profits Without Prosperity" by William Lazonick in the September Harvard Business Review, which he later says "does nothing less than decode the Rosetta Stone of America’s economic decline."
Like Thomas Piketty, Lazonick, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, is that rare economist who actually performs empirical research. What he has uncovered is a shift in corporate conduct that transformed the U.S. economy — for the worse. From the end of World War II through the late 1970s, he writes, major U.S. corporations retained most of their earnings and reinvested them in business expansions, new or improved technologies, worker training and pay increases. Beginning in the early ’80s, however, they have devoted a steadily higher share of their profits to shareholders.

How high? Lazonick looked at the 449 companies listed every year on the S-and-P 500 from 2003 to 2012. He found that they devoted 54 percent of their net earnings to buying back their stock on the open market — thereby reducing the number of outstanding shares, whose values rose accordingly. They devoted another 37 percent of those earnings to dividends. That’s a total of 91 percent of their profits that America’s leading corporations targeted to their shareholders, leaving a scant 9 percent for investments, research and development, expansions, cash reserves or, God forbid, raises. [Emphasis added.]
"As late as 1981," Meyerson writes, "corporations directed a little less than half their profits to shareholders." But then came Morning in America.
[T]he shareholders’ share began rising in 1982, when Ronald Reagan’s Securities and Exchange Commission removed any limit on corporations’ ability to repurchase their own stock and when employers — emboldened by Reagan’s destruction of the federal air traffic controllers’ union — began large-scale union-busting. Buybacks really came into their own during the 1990s, when the pay of corporations’ chief executives became linked to the rise in the value of their company’s shares. From 2003 through 2012, the chief executives of the 10 companies that repurchased the most stock (totaling $859 billion in aggregate) received 58 percent of their pay in stock options or stock awards. For a CEO, getting your company to use its earnings to buy back its shares might reduce its capacity to research or expand, but it’s a sure-fire way to boost your own pay.
And it gets better, Meyerson notes. "With companies lavishing virtually all their net income on shareholders and executives, the way many of them cover their actual business expenses -- their R-and-D, their expansion -- is by taking on debt through the sale of corporate bonds." And better still:
A number of companies, however — most prominently, IBM — borrow specifically to increase their payout to shareholders. And IBM is not alone. Friday's Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. companies are currently incurring record levels of debt, much of which, the Journal noted, “is being used to refinance existing debt, being sent back to shareholders as dividend payments and share buybacks, or banked in the corporate treasury as executives consider how to potentially deploy funds as the economy expands.” Many of the companies that have spent the most on buybacks, Lazonick demonstrates, have also received taxpayer money to fund research they could otherwise afford to perform themselves.
"What Lazonick has uncovered," Meyerson writes, "is the present-day American validation of Piketty’s central thesis that the rate of return on investment generally exceeds the rate of economic growth."
Indeed, Lazonick has documented that wealth in the United States today comes chiefly from retarding businesses’ ability to invest in growth-engendering activity. The purpose of the modern U.S. corporation is to reward large investors and top executives with income that once was spent on expansion, research, training and employees. To restore a more socially beneficial purpose, Lazonick proposes scrapping the SEC rule that permitted rampant stock repurchases and requiring corporations to have employee and public representatives on their boards. [Emphasis added.]
"The lesson for Labor Day 2014 couldn't be plainer," Meyerson says. "Unless we compel changes such as those Lazonick suggests to our model of capitalism, ours will remain a country for investors only, where work is a sucker’s game."

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