Monday, January 16, 2012

Last Call

And as we look back on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's legacy and message today, there's one person we know who absolutely doesn't understand a word of itFlorida Republican Rep. Allen West.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) used the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday to warn President Obama against race-based politics.

West, who is black, sent a message to Obama in a Facebook note titled: “Mr. President, please don’t play the race card in 2012...”

“This campaign must be about ideas, policy and the direction of this country, and the President must not hide behind a curtain of so-called racial bias,” West wrote.

In the post, West, a Tea Party favorite, criticizes Attorney General Eric Holder for a comment Holder made last month.

Holder told The New York Times in an article published in December, “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him … both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American."

"As we proceed into this general election cycle," West wrote, "it would be a disgrace if Mr. Holder’s comment is the first salvo in the upcoming campaign to deflect honest assessment of the President’s performance in office."

Which pretty much proves two things:  One, as an African-American, let me just say there are African-Americans who are completely ignorant about Dr. King's legacy and what it means for us, and two, I'm getting pretty sick and tired of Republicans doing everything in their power to co-opt and corrupt Dr. King's message.

President Obama on the other hand demonstrates yet again that he does get it.

President Obama called on Americans to contribute to community service in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The president, who was joined by first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia, celebrated the holiday by participating in a service project at the Browne Education Campus in Washington, D.C.

"There's no better way to celebrate Dr. King than to do something on behalf of others," Obama said during his speech Monday.

Considering Republicans like West scoff and fume at the idea that anyone should perform community service (other than maybe prison inmates) it's a message that West might want to pay attention to.  Dr. King may have been one giant among many in the struggle for civil rights in America (and that's a struggle that still goes on to this day) but the real backbone of the movement were the people who gladly sacrificed for others.  Sometime those sacrifices made were the ultimate price.

It's a message the "I've got mine" and "Unfettered capitalism rules all" Republicans never understood and still don't.  Dr. King's message was about class equality as well as racial equality, and when you throw that notion in there, Republicans simply tune it out for the most part.  They're too busy trying to pull the ladder up after them.

And Dr. King understood just how powerful economic forces were in social justice.  The reason he was in Memphis the day he was shot he was attending a strike by African-American sanitation workers who were fighting for equal pay compared to white workers.  If Republicans had their way, there would be no unions, no strikes, no collective bargaining.  And in many ways, we've taken massive steps backwards in that respect.

Our society now is one of the most unequal of industrialized countries when it comes to income, worse than in Dr. King's era.  Median real wages have stagnated for over a generation.  And Dr. King's battle is far from over.

The difference is President Obama chooses to move forward, while his opponents want to convince us that the civil rights struggle is over and that we need to go backwards, with voter ID laws designed to disenfranchise both the poor and the minority, with laws denying equality to the LGBT community, with referendums that break up collective bargaining.  That's the legacy of the Republican party over the last decade.  Backwards.

Allen West is part of that, and there's no way he should be invoking Dr. King to try to snidely prove the validity of his truly awful positions.

Incarceration, Incorporated

Florida state Republicans are eying a bill that would privatize prisons in 18 counties, which makes sense since the second biggest private prison outfit in the country spent nearly a million bucks in 2010 donating to the campaigns of Gov. Rick Scott and his fellow GOP lawmakers.  Gotta love payback, especially when the people making the laws are the ones playing the game.

“We’ve been saying all along that these proposed prison closures are about turning Florida’s prisons over to for-profit corporations,” Ken Wood, Acting President of Teamsters Local 2011, said. “This is payback to the powerful prison corporations that spend millions on lobbyists and political donations.”

“Both the privatization bill and these closures are being rushed through without any public input and zero transparency. We have no evidence that privatizing prisons would save money and plenty of evidence that it won’t. Closing and privatizing prisons would devastate the dedicated correctional officers, their families and nearby small businesses.

For-profit prisons are associated with heightened levels of violence toward prisoners and have limited incentives to reduce future crime, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The perverse incentives to maximize profits and cut corners — even at the expense of safety and decent conditions — may contribute to an unacceptable level of danger in private prisons,” the report stated.

And private prisons are a growing industry in the US.  The best part?  Prisons still run by the state, with unionized state employees, are the ones being slated for closure by Scott and friends.

The head of the union representing Florida's corrections officers is calling on state lawmakers to hold community hearings on Gov. Rick Scott's plan to close seven prisons and four work camps.

Ken Wood says the planned closures will put prison workers out of jobs and also hurt local vendors who do business with the prison in their county. Wood is acting president of Teamsters Local 2011.

Corrections Secretary Kenneth S. Tucker says he would try to transfer as many workers as possible to other facilities. He also will ask other state agencies and county sheriffs to hire the displaced. About 1,300 jobs are affected by the closings.

The closings could save the state at least $75 million. Wood complained that none of Florida's private prisons were slated for closure

Gosh, I wonder why that is?  You mean Scott's bagging all the union boys in the state and leaving the private prisons untouched...and making more private prisons, costing thousands more union jobs in the state?

Who's the thug here?

Read more here:

The Science Of Cyber Bullying

Hey wingers, pesky scientists harshing your buzz over climate change?  Now you too can target them with cyber bullying and go after their families and loved ones!

Prominent MIT researcher Kerry Emanuel has been receiving an unprecedented “frenzy of hate” after a video featuring an interview with him was published recently by Climate Desk.

Emails contained “veiled threats against my wife,” and other “tangible threats,” Emanuel, a highly-regarded atmospheric scientist and director of MIT’s Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate program, said in an interview. “They were vile, these emails. They were the kind of emails nobody would like to receive.”

“What was a little bit new about it was dragging family members into it and feeling that my family might be under threat, so naturally I didn’t feel very good about that at all,” Emanuel said. “I thought it was low to drag somebody’s spouse into arguments like this.”

Climate Desk has seen a sample of the emails and can confirm they are laced with menacing language and expletives, and contain personal threats of violence.

Emanuel began receiving emails “almost immediately” after the video was posted on Jan. 5, and the volume peaked at four or five emails a day. The threats have now petered off.

Threats are nothing new in the world of climate science.

Nope.  Ask abortion providers how that works.  I don't think we're too far from that particularly fatal next step, either.  It's only a matter of time, I suspect.

Emanuel says climate scientists are not used to the intensity of political debate around climate change: “We scientists are usually not in any kind of heated public debate, as is the case in climate; we’re not used to this, we’re not trained for it.”

That needs to change, and quickly.  Lord knows sooner rather than later.

Practical Stupidity: Credit Card Edition

Speaking of credit card companies, Yahoo Finance gives a little insight as to how credit scores are calculated, and what you can do to swing the numbers in your favor.  Some common theories, such as using cash or cutting up cards that have a high balance can backfire if not done in the right way and for the right reasons.

It's good reading, and here is the one that really surprised me:

Myth: Your Income Affects Your Score

People tend to assume that the more money they make, the higher their credit score will be, but that’s not the case. While it’s true your income may affect your ability to pay your bills on time, it has no bearing on yourcredit score, Albary says.

Your income can, however, influence a lender’s decision to approve you for a loan. This is because lenders often compare the income you’ve listed on your application to the debts listed on your credit report in an attempt to judge your ability to make monthly payments.

Someone Finally Takes On Credit Card Companies

Let me say I'm not an expert in finance law.  However, after reading this article I agree that the major credit card companies are overstepping themselves, and that I have a whole new appreciation for "cash only" businesses.

Stephen and Theodora “Cissy” McComb, owners of Cisero’s Ristorante and Nightclub in Park City, Utah, have filed a lawsuit against U.S. Bank claiming that the financial institution, which used to process the restaurant’s credit and debit card transactions, wrongfully seized money from the McCombs’ merchant bank account.

U.S. Bank seized about $10,000 from the McCombs’ account to pay $90,000 in fines that Visa and MasterCard imposed after alleging that Cisero’s had failed to secure its network and suffered a data breach that resulted in fraudulent charges on customer bank cards. U.S. Bank sued the McCombs to obtain the remaining balance on the fines, saying a contract the McCombs signed with the bank makes them liable for such fines.

But in their countersuit against U.S. Bank (.pdf), the McCombs allege that the bank, and the payment card industry (PCI) in general, force merchants to sign one-sided contracts that are based on information that arbitrarily changes without notice, and that they impose random fines on merchants without providing proof of a breach or of fraudulent losses and without allowing merchants a meaningful opportunity to dispute claims before money is seized.

In this case, there was possible fraud and fines were assessed without notice or a chance to investigate. These guys were found guilty in the court of MasterCard and that was all there was to it. These companies will only accept investigations from companies they allow (yeah, that's going to be fair, right?) and in this case the results came out in favor of the McCombs. They could not prove they had any involvement in the stolen identities and fraudulent payments. Yet they were still fined without explanation, and after the investigation their money was not returned.

The McCombs filed a countersuit saying they were not given any notice of the fines, nor were they given an opportunity to present any evidence or see any evidence against them. They have included the bank, saying the bank had a duty to at least give them notification of what was happening. Instead, their account was violated for a breach they don't have proof occurred. One victory on their part can change how credit card companies can fine merchants, which is important for them and the consumers who are using their services. We need to know our information is protected, and this giant round of "Not it!" isn't helping anyone.

Howling Mad Murdoch

I still think Rupert Murdoch's Twitter account is the biggest, most complex scam in media history, but while we're all going on the notion that Rupes is really the man behind the screen here, it's instructive to point out everything you need to know about SOPA in the House and the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate is that Rupert is pissed that President Obama is against them.

“So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery,” Murdoch said in a tweet.

Activists and Internet professionals argue that the bills give outside agencies too much control over Internet content and could result in censorship and the erosion of free speech.

Internet-base companies like Google and Yahoo oppose the measure, saying it would put U.S. tech policy on par with “China, Malaysia and Iran.”

“Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying,” Murdoch said in a follow up tweet.

“Just been to google search for mission impossible. Wow, several sites offering free links. I rest my case,” he added.

Gosh, Rupert Murdoch would sure love to see Google and other user-generated content sites be closed down, which is what these pieces of legislation would do:  effectively end user-generated content sites on the internet.  Google, Facebook, Twitter, all gone, all shut down because the legislation would support Rupert Murdoch's myopic view of "piracy" and allow people like him total control over the net.

So he's using Twitter to attack it.  The guy whose news outfits hacked and stole voice mails and phone data.  He's worried about piracy.  That's pretty damn funny.

A Tale Of Two Ricks

Rick Santorum and Rick Perry are heading in opposite directions, for this weekend one has been crowned the Anti-Romney...

A group of conservative activists decided Saturday to throw its support behind Rick Santorum in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council and a spokesman for the group of roughly 150 activists, said that a “strong consensus” emerged for the former Pennsylvania senator after a three-ballot process.

“I think it was vigorous discussion of who they felt best represented the conservative movement and who they think had the best chance of succeeding,” said Perkins, adding that he was surprised that the group was able to coalesce around one candidate.

The activists gathering in Texas, a week before South Carolina voters go to the polls in their primary, said their get-together was meant to unite behind an alternative to President Obama and not to “bash” Mitt Romney – the front-runner for the nomination who is viewed with skepticism within some conservative and evangelical circles.

...and the other has crowned himself the King of Fools.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Sunday vowed to continue his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in Florida, regardless of his finish in the South Carolina primary.

"That's our intention," he told Candy Crowley on CNN's State of the Union.

When she pressed him on whether he would stay in the race even if he finished last in South Carolina, Perry repeated that was his intention.

Of course, I'm all for these guys extending the battle with Mittens and using those Super PAC dollars to destroy each other and not President Obama, so nothing makes me happier than to see this delirious, deleterious double-barreled effort by the Tea Party to sink Romney.

Keep up the good work, boys.


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