23 February 2011


BACKLASH. The above image shows the Wisconsin budget protests against Governor Scott Walker (a Tea Party candidate). His plans to cut benefits and collective bargaining rights are a sign of just how sick and inhumane the Tea Party's agenda is. Those protests are spreading to all fifty states. Jon Steward offers his own satirical commentary in Crisis in Dairyland. But the situation is all too grim, locally and nationally. The Republican party in the U.S. House of Representatives, an anachronism in the best of times, has been hijacked by a shrill minority of freshman Tea Party members. As a result, moderate Republicans have become an endangered species, and effective two-party government has become even more polarized.

Last week the House passed a bill to bar Planned Parenthood from all federal funding for any purpose whatsoever. That means no funding to Planned Parenthood health centers for birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, HIV testing, and other essential care. Click here to find out how your representative voted, and then send him or her a message. It is past time to take back our government from anarchists and the radical right. Given their way, they will return America to the Dark Ages.

The backlash against the Tea Party has even arrived on Facebook, with a rapidly-growing group called Americans Against The Tea Party. The group's slogan -- "When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die," a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre. Perhaps there is hope that the electorate is coming to its senses. Time will tell. In the meantime we are treated to surreal scenes right out of Alice In Wonderland, to which one wishes the Tea Party would return. For a stark comparison of liberal and conservative values, check out the video I'm a Little Confused. Thanks for the link, Irene.

PRISON FOR PROFIT. The Southern Poverty Law Center has long been a vital source of information on civil rights, hate groups, and issues of justice. In Destroying Young Lives Should Not Be Profitable, SPLC writer Sheila Bedi questions "the wisdom of allowing for-profit companies into the juvenile criminal justice system. The toxic effect of for-profit companies on the juvenile justice system is indisputeable. Across the country, nearly half of all children held behind bars live in facilities managed by private, for-profit companies. And tough economic times may spur more local governments to consider turning over their juvenile facilities to companies.

"But when we create a profit motive to imprison children we risk creating a public safety crisis. The bottom line is that private prison companies make money when young people fill their facilities. A private prison company has no incentive to provide rehabilitative services that -- if done correctly -- could decrease the demand for prison beds. These companies similarly have no incentive to question whether the children in their custody could be better served in far less expensive community-based interventions. These realities can stymie reform and create a costly, self-perpetuating cycle of imprisonment."

Bedi's remarks are right on the money, and they apply equally to the adult prison system, and more broadly to the privatization of ANY service which should legitimately be performed by local, state or federal governments. That is why we pay taxes, and for those who advocate cutting taxes, you get what you pay for. It is only through governmental oversight that we citizens can have control over the quality and cost-effectiveness of services -- be they criminal justice (private prisons), military deployment (mercenary "contractors"), consumer goods manufacturing (outsourcing overseas), or maintenance of our infrastructure (roads, water, power, telecommunications). Once oversight is removed, the potential for corruption and malfeasance becomes a certainty -- as in the case of the judge cited in Bedi's article who took kickbacks for finding accused young people guilty and sending them to juvenile prison. His was not an isolated case of abuse. We NEED governmental oversight, however faulty and itself in need of reform, far more than we need to flush money down the toilet of private enterprise.

CAT LASER BOWLING. Many kitties love to chase the dot of light from a harmless toy laser, often with hilarious consequences. This video shows how. Alas, my own cats are too hip -- after a minute or two, they just sit down and give me a look like "DAD, do we really look that juvenile?"

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