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Slave labor in America: Union workers replaced by prisoners in Wisconsin


 
The highly controversial new law in Wisconsin gutting collective bargaining rights for state union workers is now in effect and already changes are afoot in the dairy state. Not good ones.

Via Think Progress:

As the Madison Capital Times reports, “Besides losing their right to negotiate over the percentage of their paycheck that will go toward health care and retirement, unions also lost the ability to claim work as a ‘union-only’ job, opening the door for private workers and evidently even inmates to step in and take their place.” Inmates are not paid for their work, but may receive time off of their sentences.

The law went into effect last week, and Racine County is already using inmates to do landscaping, painting, and another basic maintenance around the county that was previously done by county workers. The union had successfully sued to stop the country from using prison labor for these jobs last year, but with [Governor Scott] Walker’s new law, they have no recourse.

The use of free inmate labor to replace public sector workers is truly a disturbing trend. That’s right folks. Forget about the off-shore outsourcing of jobs. Forget about China’s cheap labor. India’s, too. And don’t blame the Mexicans and illegal immigrants for taking your job, either, bub.

Nope. We’ve got a bigger problem now: How are Americans going to compete in the jobs marketplace against slave labor?

Deeply unpopular Gov. Scott Walker promised to create 250,000 new jobs in Wisconsin during his term in office, but he didn’t say these jobs would be created in the county jails!

This is what you get when you vote Republican.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.08.2011
12:14 pm
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Marcus Bachmann made ‘honorary member’ of Gaydar


 
This is going to be the greatest presidential election cycle in American history, I just know it:

In light of Marcus Bachmann’s spike in popularity on gay and gay-friendly blogs across the U.S., internet dating megasite Gaydar.net is offering the the husband of Tea Party presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-MN) a complimentary lifetime membership. As a rep at Gaydar HQ explains, “Marcus Bachmann is popping up on everyone else’s gaydar, we figure he might want to be on the real Gaydar! With over six million members, we like to think Gaydar is the picture of inclusivity–from swarthy barbarians to piggy politicos–all are welcome!”

Niiiiice.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.07.2011
06:37 pm
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Bristol Palin segment on CBN sums up much that is wrong about America
07.07.2011
05:21 pm
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Bristol Palin, 20,  the CEO of BSMP, a lobbying, public relations and political consulting services firm, discusses her memoirs, Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far on CBN.

What has Bristol Palin done in her life except get pregnant, go on Dancing With the Stars and have some ill-advised plastic surgery? Seems like that would merit more a magazine article than an entire book...

And who would buy Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far and actually READ it? Someone who “reads” and who is literate, isn’t going to give a rat’s ass about a book by a 20-year-old idiot. No wonder the publishing industry is in the doldrums: They’re publishing books specifically targeted to PEOPLE WHO DO NOT READ. That seems like a good idea.

Then again, what do I know?

“How do you explain the viciousness and the bias of the liberal media against you and your family?

Um, how’s about ‘cos they’re pathologically shameless snowbilly grifters transparently desperate for the public’s attention and being able to “capitalize” on their rapidly ending moment in the sun?

The more pertinent question to ask is why the rightwing media builds up someone like Bristol Palin in the first place? She’s an odd role model for the Christian Broadcasting Network to push, that’s for sure. This interview is ridiculous, especially towards the end. That interviewer is a real pro, too. She acts like she can’t believe she’s in the presence of such an important celebrity. Then again, in the world of CBN, Bristol Palin kinda IS a big celebrity. This video says so much about America, don’t you think?

Via Joe.My.God.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.07.2011
05:21 pm
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Michele Bachmann and Lou Engle pray to stop healthcare reform


 
Rep. Michele Bachmann delivers a kooky and meandering entreaty to the Lord her God during the Family Research Council’s 2009 “Prayercast” event to thwart passage of healthcare reform legislation. GOD DOESN’T WANT EVERYONE TO HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE, HIPPIE!

Towards the end, when Lou Engle starts talking it gets truly spooky. I wish they were all wearing hooded robes like monks in that part (in my mind, they were wearing them).

Engle, if his name doesn’t ring a bell, is the asshat who traveled to Uganda to help promote the so-called “Kill the Gays” law there. He’s been called “the unofficial prayer leader of the Republican Party,” a distinction I for one feel he richly deserves!
 

 
Via Right Wing Watch

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.07.2011
01:22 pm
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Anti-gay TV commercial is not an Onion parody (although it’s difficult to tell)


 
This is not a parody, even though it’s kind of, sort of… (not really) funny. I guess it’s laugh at it funny.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s also vile and pure evil, but this puppy is also so patently ridiculous that it’s very, very close to being a self-parody. Crank up the volume on the absurdities therein about 5%—not even—and it could be an Onion video.

But it’s not.

Note that the name to send the money to is that of loathsome bigot, Sid Roth, a Jew for Jesus-type who is the host of his own idiotic Christianist pukefest called It’s Supernatural! The book was written by his frequent guest and crony, Dr. Michael Brown.

For quite reasonable, uh, reasons, I normally strongly suspect all anti-gay Christianists of being closet cases themselves. The more they are against gay rights, I say the more likely they’re smoking “Tina” with rent boys. It seems to be a natural law or something, doesn’t it? For the record, though, I don’t feel this way about Sid Roth. I don’t think Roth is a closeted gay man at all. I just think Sid Roth is a fucking idiot.

In the end, it’s assholes like Sid Roth, his buddy Michael Brown and the likes of Bryan Fischer and Tony Perkins who are their cause’s own worst enemies. They themselves are actually hastening the day when homosexual men and women across America will have the same civil rights that the rest of us enjoy. By consistently turning out hateful, idiotic nonsense like this, they are performing the same task for today’s younger people—who will want NOTHING to do with Christianity if this is how it defines itself—as those hateful little Chick Christian comics did for my generation. I’ll say it again: It’s guys like this, who by virtue of being so repulsive and bigoted, simply turn young people off Christianity altogether.

No matter what these guys come up with, our side always wins in the end: Because they are wrong.
 

 
Bonus moronic Sid Roth clip: “Man Proves Hell is Real (Includes Live Action Hell)”
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
The Supernatural Evil Spell of Homosexuality
 
Via On Knees for Jesus

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.06.2011
10:38 pm
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KY Tea Party vendor sells ‘Yup, I’m a Racist’ tee-shirt
07.05.2011
11:51 am
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Happy 5th of July! I hope everyone had a nice weekend. We certainly did, but then again, we weren’t anywhere near Lexington, Kentucky and this idiotic vendor of (patriotic?) racist tee-shirts.

The other tee this Tea partier sells reads: “INFIDEL: Everything I Need to Know About Islam I Learned on 9/11.”  Charming.

Here’s what Wonkette had to say about this gentleman and his wares:

This is how serious the birth control situation is in Kentucky, because broken condoms result in tragedies like this man, selling apparel to people who want to honor America’s founding dressed like hobo Klansmen.

This photo works on so many levels. It deserves a Pulitzer prize. So heavy meta. Someone who lives in the area should do a documentary about this guy. He’s such a ONE-MAN SYMBOL OF AMERICA TODAY.

I wonder how many of these tee-shirts he sold?
 

 
(With apologies to Wonkette for heisting their post, but this one is too good not to reblog.)

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.05.2011
11:51 am
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The U.S. Is a Kleptocracy
06.29.2011
01:04 pm
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A guest essay from Charles Hugh Smith, cross-posted from his Of Two Minds blog:

If we dare look at the plain facts of the matter, we have to conclude the U.S. is a kleptocracy not unlike Greece, only on a larger and slightly more sophisticated scale.

Yesterday, I noted that Greece Is a Kleptocracy; the U.S. is a kleptocracy, too. Before you object with a florid speech about the Bill of Rights and free enterprise, please consider the following evidence that the U.S. is now a kleptocracy worthy of comparison to Greece:

1. Neither party has any interest in limiting the banking/financial cartel. The original Glass-Steagal bill partitioning investment banking from commercial banking was a few pages long, and it was passed in a few days. Our present political oligrachy spends months passing thousands of pages of complex legislation that accomplishes essentially nothing.

As Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Thomas Hoenig recently noted (in a rare admission by an insider—I wonder how long it will be before he “resigns to pursue other opportunities,” i.e. is muzzled):

The problem with SIFIs (“systemically important financial institutions,” a.k.a. too big to fail banks) is they are fundamentally inconsistent with capitalism. They are inherently destabilizing to global markets and detrimental to world growth. So long as the concept of a SIFI exists, and there are institutions so powerful and considered so important that they require special support and different rules, the future of capitalism is at risk and our market economy is in peril.

Do you really think Dodd-Frank and all the other “fooled by complexity” legislation has accomplished anything? Hoenig cuts that fantasy off at the knees:

As late as 1980, the U.S. banking industry was relatively unconcentrated, with 14,000 commercial banks and the assets of the five largest amounting to 29 percent of total banking organization assets and 14 percent of GDP.

Today, we have a far more concentrated and less competitive banking system. There are fewer banks operating across the country, and the five largest institutions control more than half of the industry’s assets, which is equal to almost 60 percent of GDP. The largest 20 institutions control 80 percent of the industry’s assets, which amounts to about 86 percent of GDP.

In other words, nothing has really changed from 2008 except the domination of the political process and economy by the financial cartel has been masked by a welter of purposefully obfuscating legislation. This is of course the exact same trick Wall Street used to cloak the risk of the mortgage-backed derivatives it sold as “low risk” AAA rated securities: by design, the instruments were so complex that only the originators understood how they worked.

That is the current legislative process in a nutshell. Much of the 60,000 pages of tax code are arcane because they describe loopholes and exclusions written specifically to exempt a single corporation or cartel from Federal taxes.

The U.S. is truly a kleptocracy because its political leadership actually has no interest in limiting the banking/financial cartel. When questioned why their “reforms” are so toothless, legislators wring their hands and bleat, “Honest, I wanted to limit the banks but they’re too powerful.” Spoken like a true kleptocrat.

2. Our stock markets are dominated by insiders. It is estimated that some 70% of all shares traded are exchanged in private “dark pools” operated by the TBTF banks and Wall Street, and the majority of the remaining 30% of publicly traded shares are traded by high-frequency trading machines that hold the shares for a few seconds, or however long is needed to skim the advantages offered by proximity to the exchange and speed.

If that’s your idea of an “open market,” then you’re the ideal citizen for a kleptocracy.

3. The rule of law in the U.S. has been divided into two branches: one in name only for the financial Elites and corporate cartels, and one for the rest of us mere citizens. Between corporate toadies on the Supreme Court who have granted corporations rights to spend unlimited money lobbying and buying legislators as a form of “free speech”—ahem, how can something that costs billions of dollars be “free”?—and vast regulatory brueacracies that saw nothing wrong with MERS and the complete corruption of land and mortgage transfer rules, the U.S. legal system is now a perfection of kleptocracy.

As economist Hernando de Soto observed in The Destruction of Economic Facts, the ForeclosureGate mortgage mess is not just a series of petty paperwork mistakes—it is the destruction of the entire system of trustworthy transfer of property rights for non-Elites:

Knowing who owned and owed, and fixing that information in public records, made it possible for investors to infer value, take risks, and track results. The final product was a revolutionary form of knowledge: “economic facts.”

Over the past 20 years, Americans and Europeans have quietly gone about destroying these facts. The very systems that could have provided markets and governments with the means to understand the global financial crisis—and to prevent another one—are being eroded. Governments have allowed shadow markets to develop and reach a size beyond comprehension. Mortgages have been granted and recorded with such inattention that homeowners and banks often don’t know and can’t prove who owns their homes. In a few short decades the West undercut 150 years of legal reforms that made the global economy possible.

The results are hardly surprising. In the U.S., trust has broken down between banks and subprime mortgage holders; between foreclosing agents and courts; between banks and their investors—even between banks and other banks.

Frequent contributor Harun I. summarized the reality of this political and financial coup by kleptocrats:

As described by Georgetown University bankruptcy expert Adam Levitin, in testimony to subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, “If mortgages were not properly transferred in the securitization process, then mortgage-backed securities would in fact not be backed by any mortgages whatsoever, [and] could cloud title to nearly every property in the United States.” It would also raise the question of the legality of the resulting millions of foreclosures on American homeowners, since the banks cannot prove “ownership” of the foreclosed property.

The statement above gets to the elemental issue that apparently is lost on many otherwise intelligent people. This is not about frivolous claims based on technicalities. This is about securities fraud (theft) on a ludicrously massive scale. These so-called securities were sold to governments, pension funds and other financial institutions globally. Trillions were made by banks selling what is becoming clearly understood to be worthless pieces of paper and when the jig was up, which ultimately led to the destruction of economies globally, they made ordinary citizens the losers by sliding their worthless pieces of paper to the balance sheet of taxpayers worldwide.

And while some are quibbling over whether someone should get a free house, those who have perpetrated the greatest swindle in the history of mankind are about to get away with it, because they are “systemically important”, code for TBTF (too big to fail).

You think money laundering and tax evasion is a specialty only of Caribbean island “banking centers”? Think again; we have corporate oversight equivalent to that of Somalia. U.S.A. a haven for corporate money laundering: A little house of secrets on the Great Plains:

Among the firm’s offerings is a variety of shell known as a “shelf” company, which comes with years of regulatory filings behind it, lending a greater feeling of solidity. “A corporation is a legal person created by state statute that can be used as a fall guy, a servant, a good friend or a decoy,” the company’s website boasts. “A person you control… yet cannot be held accountable for its actions. Imagine the possibilities!”

“In the U.S., (business incorporation) is completely unregulated,” says Jason Sharman, a professor at Griffith University in Nathan, Australia, who is preparing a study for the World Bank on corporate formation worldwide. “Somalia has slightly higher standards than Wyoming and Nevada.”

The U.S. was declared “non-compliant” in four out of 40 categories monitored by the Financial Action Task Force, an international group fighting money laundering and terrorism finance, in a 2006 evaluation report, its most recent. Two of those ratings relate to scant information collected on the owners of corporations. The task force named Wyoming, Nevada and Delaware as secrecy havens. Only three states - Alaska, Arizona and Montana - require regular disclosure of corporate shareholders in some form.

4. Just as in Greece, taxes are optional for the nation’s financial Elites. In Greece, you don’t mention your swimming pool to avoid the “swimming pool tax.” Here in the U.S., that sort of tax avoidance is against the law (smirk). Here, you hire a Panzer division of sharp tax attorneys and escape taxation legally (well, mostly legally—whatever it takes to win).

If you are unfortunate enough to be a successful small entrepreneur who nets $100,000 a year, you pay 15.3% self-employment and 25% Federal tax on the bulk of your income, a combined rate of 40.3%, and a combined rate of 43.3% on all income above $82,400.

Those who net millions pay less than half that amount, somewhere between 17% for the top 1/10th of 1% and 21% for the top 1%: Citizens for Tax Justice, which looks at all taxes paid including federal, state and local taxes, said that in 2010 the top 1 percent of earners will pay 21.5 percent of taxes.

Note that the 21.5% paid by the top 1% includes all state and local taxes. Here in California, the small businessperson earning $100,000 pays between 5% and 9% state tax, so their combined state and Federal tax burden on their highest earnings is a whopping 50%. Then there are property taxes and the 9.5% sales tax, and endless junk fees skimmed from small business. Add all that together and the total taxes paid rises to the 60% level, or roughly triple what the top 1% pay.

(Bitter note from a tax donkey: To all those tax-and-spenders who whine that California has “low taxes,” please pay my “low” property tax bill, will you? It’s “only” $11,000 a year.)

Super Rich See Federal Taxes Drop Dramatically:

The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

Eric Schoenberg says to sign him up for paying higher taxes. Schoenberg, who inherited money and has a healthy portfolio from his days as an investment banker, has joined a group of other wealthy Americans called United for a Fair Economy. Their goal: Raise taxes on rich people like themselves.

Schoenberg, who now teaches a business class at Columbia University, said his income is usually “north of half a million a year.” But 2009 was a bad year for investments, so his income dropped to a little over $200,000. His federal income tax bill was a little more than $2,000.

“I simply point out to people, ‘Do you think this is reasonable, that somebody in my circumstances should only be paying 1 percent of their income in tax?’” Schoenberg said.

Do you really think you don’t live in a kleptocracy? Why? Because the truth hurts?

A guest essay from Charles Hugh Smith, cross-posted from his Of Two Minds blog:

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.29.2011
01:04 pm
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The answer is ‘free gay porn’ & ‘God,’ but what’s the question?


 
As Wonkette ever so drolly points out (so blame them, disgruntled Mississippians, not me):

[E]ver since the nation’s poorest, most obese and reliably Republican-voting state got Internet access last year, the main thing the people of Mississippi have been looking for, on the ‘puter, is “free gay porn” and “God.”

In that order.

Make of that what you will…

See the full chart at Calamities of Nature

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.24.2011
04:45 pm
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Miss USA contestants sound off on Darwin being taught in the classroom
06.21.2011
01:26 pm
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As I was watching this clip of the 2011 Miss USA pageant contestants sounding off about the issue of whether or not evolution should be taught in schools, I had the reaction that I think most intelligent people would also have: “Who gives a shit what these pretty pinheads think? Why am I watching this?” (Maybe someone at the pageant has an offbeat sense of humor?)

Not all, but nearly all of them equivocate furiously on the matter. They basically say nothing at all, in other words, but even THAT often comes out in a garbled logic word salad that’s somewhat amusing to watch. Nearly all of them sound just like Sarah Palin!

Beauty and no brains = not very attractive in my book. Only two of the contestants said they believed in evolution, winner Alyssa Campanella from California and Alida D’Angona from Massachusetts.
 

 
Via Nerdcore

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.21.2011
01:26 pm
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If evolution is true, then…


 
Caption THIS…

My entry is:

“What Would Jethro Do?”

Via Christian Nightmares

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.20.2011
09:37 pm
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