07/20/2011 archive

A Message For The LGBT Community: It Gets Better

Words only hurt when you let them. It’s who you are that is important, not what others say about you.

From It Gets Better Project

h/t Think Progress via Twitter

Striking Prisoners Denied Proper Medical Care

TheMomCat and I have been persuaded by long time contributor davidseth’s advocacy to support the California Prisoner’s Hunger Strike (commonly called the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike, though it has spread to other institutions).

What that means for you as readers and contributors is that we’ll be featuring pieces related to the strike as often as we can, even if there is some duplication in content and information.  This doesn’t mean that we’re uninterested in other subjects, but if you have something you’d care to add on the topic we certainly encourage you to do so.

It’s with that in mind I’d like to direct your attention to this post from FDL contributor Kevin Gosztola, who, with Jeff Kaye (Valtin), is now covering the civil liberties/justice/war crime beat (emptywheel and bmaz are now at www.emptywheel.net).

Pelican Bay Prisoner Hunger Strike: Prison Staff Not Following Medical Protocol

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Tuesday July 19, 2011 11:33 am

Prisoners engaged in a hunger strike at Pelican Bay supermax prison have been on strike for more than fifteen days now.  With a growing group of supporters on the outside, the strike against solitary confinement and other conditions in the prison has spread to at least thirteen other prisons. But, those providing support for the prisoners are concerned about the deteriorating physical conditions of the prisoners and whether the prison will be able to provide the prisoners with proper medical care.

Carol Strickman, staff attorney for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and staff to the mediation team representing the hunger strikers, reports medical protocol is not being followed. They are supposed to be doing “daily assessments after two days and that includes weighing, physical condition, emotional condition, vital signs (such as blood pressure) and hydration status.

Scales for weighing prisoners are not synchronized and sometimes the prison staff weighs prisoners with chains and sometimes without chains. So, the accuracy of information is questionable right now. Additionally, the doctors are supposed to be performing physical exams. Strickman reports, instead of providing physical exams, “The medical staff is doing what I have been told are called drive-by exams, where they stand outside the door with no physical contact and just ask if people are okay, which is basically saying, ‘Are you alive?'”

Strickman further reports “medications are being eliminated entirely or reduced.” Multivitamins and salt tablets were to be provided to prisoners. Prisoners were given a sheet of medical advice on what to do during the strike. Yet, none of the prisoners have been provided with any tablets.

“Many of these prisoners are older and have pre-existing conditions such as advanced lymphoma, congestive heart failure, hypertensive disease, debilitating muscle disease and so on,” Strickman explains. “So for all these reasons every day the situation is becoming more critical.”

News of deterioration of prisoners’ health may lead one to suggest that is what a prisoner gets for engaging in hunger striking or prisoner resistance activity. That may be true, but there is a callousness and inhumanity to such a statement. The prisoners have five core demands and, according to Molly Porzig, Critical Resistance representative in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, they are asking for “incredibly standard” and “basic” adjustments to prison policy.

I hope this is resolved soon and without permanent damage to the striker’s health.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day. Scroll down for the Gentlemen

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Citizen Murdoch-No Longer Untouchable

“We are sorry” read the full-page ads Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has taken out in Britain, part of a new atonement campaign clearly orchestrated by the public relations firm brought on to help “manage” the company’s phone-hacking crisis.

Well, they got that right. “Sorry” is as good an adjective as any to describe the Murdoch media empire. It’s a buccaneer enterprise that is scornful of laws and decency and that peddles, as Murdoch’s biographer William Shawcross summarized, “titillation, sensationalism and vulgarity” to gain broad audiences, then uses gossip, tripe, manufactured stories and a distorted lens to further a right-wing ideological agenda. “Sorry’ is also a good description of regulators and politicians on both sides of the aisle and the ocean, who were seduced by Murdoch’s money, feared his power and served as lapdogs rather than watchdogs as he consolidated and expanded his holdings.

Mary Bottari: ALEC Exposed: Milton Friedman’s Little Shop of Horrors

Although he passed away in 2006, states are now grappling with many of the toxic notions left behind by University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman.

In her groundbreaking book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein coined the term “disaster capitalism” for the rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies still reeling from shock. The master of disaster? Privatization and free market guru Milton Friedman. Friedman advised governments in economic crisis to follow strict austerity measures, combining radical cuts in social services with the full-scale privatization of their more lucrative assets. Many countries in Latin America auctioned off everything standing — from energy and water utilities to Social Security — to for profit multinational firms, crushing unions and other dissenters along the way.

Now, U.S. states are in crisis. The 2008 Wall Street financial meltdown, caused by years of deregulation and lack of government oversight, cost Americans $14 trillion in lost wealth and eight million lost jobs. Today some 25 million are unemployed or underemployed. This jobs crisis has tanked federal and state tax receipts, adding billions to state budget shortfalls.

Marjorie Cohn: Prisoners Strike Against Torture in California Prisons

The torture of prisoners in U.S. custody isn’t confined to foreign countries. For more than two weeks, inmates at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison have been on a hunger strike to protest torturous conditions in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) there. Prisoners have been held for years in solitary confinement, which can amount to torture. Thousands of inmates throughout California’s prison system have refused food in solidarity with the Pelican Bay prisoners, bringing the total of hunger strikers to more than 1,700.

Inmates in the SHU are confined to their cells for 22 ½ hours a day, mostly for administrative convenience. They are released for only one hour to walk in a small area with high walls. The cells in the SHU are eight feet by 10 feet with no windows. Flourescent lights are often kept on 24 hours per day.

Solitary confinement can lead to hallucinations, catatonia and even suicide, particularly in mentally ill prisoners. It is considered torture, as journalist Lance Tapley explains in his chapter on American Supermax prisons in The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.

Amy Goodman: Rupert Murdoch Doesn’t Eat Humble Pie

“People say that Australia has given two people to the world,” Julian Assange told me in London recently, “Rupert Murdoch and me.” Assange, the founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, was humbly dismissing my introduction of him, to a crowd of 1,800 at East London’s Troxy theater, in which I suggested he had published perhaps more than anyone in the world. He said Murdoch took that publishing prize.

Two days later, the Milly Dowler phone hacking story exploded, and Murdoch would close one of the largest newspapers in the world, his News of the World, within a week.

On Tuesday, Murdoch claimed before the British House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport that it was his “most humble day.” But what does it mean for a man with no humility to suffer his most humble day? The principal takeaway from the committee hearing must be, simply, that Rupert Murdoch is not responsible for the criminal activities under investigation, from police bribery to phone hacking. When asked if he was ultimately responsible, his answer was simple: “No.” Who was? “The people I trusted to run it and maybe the people they trusted.”

Dean Baker: President Obama’s Big Deal: Cuts for Social Security, But No Taxes for Wall Street

The ability of Washington to turn everything on its head has no limits. We are in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Even though the recession officially ended two years ago, there are still more than 25 million people who are unemployed, can only find part-time work or who have given up looking for work altogether. This is an outrage and a tragedy. These people’s lives are being ruined due to the mismanagement of the economy.

And we know the cause of this mismanagement. The folks who get paid to manage and regulate the economy were unable to see an $8 trillion housing bubble. They weren’t bothered by the doubling of house prices in many areas, nor the dodgy mortgages that were sold to finance these purchases. Somehow, people like former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and his sidekick and successor Ben Bernanke thought everything was fine as the Wall Street financers made billions selling junk mortgage and derivative instruments around the world.

Jon Walker: Catfood Commission II: A Cowardly Attempt to Dodge Democratic Accountability

It currently appears that the most likely resolution to the debt ceiling situation will be the use of the Mitch McConnell-Harry Reid back up plan. This plan will probably include some form of the Catfood Commission II. A bipartisan commission that would work in secret to come up with package that would be fast tracked through Congress. This means the bill wouldn’t go through the proper committees and couldn’t be amended or filibustered.

Fast tracked bipartisan commissions are very popular with some elected officials because they are purposely designed to destroy basic democratic accountability. They are meant to provide cover for politicians who are too cowardly to admit their desire is to pass legislation the electorate doesn’t want.

Jim Hightower: Prison Labor: A Right-wing Jobs Program for America

Here’s the core economic problem we’re facing today: Unemployment and underemployment are rampant and entrenched throughout America, stifling any hope for real recovery and threatening the very survival of the essential middle class that holds our society together.

The solution? Our ideologically pure, laissez-fairyland leaders in Washington and various state capitals, along with corporate funded think tank geniuses and Wall Street gurus, are pushing a massive jobs program across America. Great, just what we need! Uh … no. Unfortunately, theirs is not a program to create jobs, but a coordinated effort to add to America’s jobless hordes by eliminating hundreds of thousands of public-service jobs. If ignorance is bliss, they must be ecstatic!

They’re wallowing in the ecstatic right-wing mythology that prosperity will magically arise if only government budgets can be gutted, mainly by eliminating public employees. Yet, by going on a firing rampage that is targeting everyone from school librarians to NASA engineers, these political and economic elites are shoving the entire U.S. economy back into the Great Recession, or worse.

Day 20: Support The California Prisoners’ Hunger Strike!


(Note: This is my third essay in support of the California prisoners on hunger strike.  The first is here.  The second is here.  OPOL’s wonderful treatment of the situation is here.  The take away: California prisoners on hunger strike for almost 3 weeks have requested your support in their struggle to end long term, 23 hour a day solitary confinement in California’s Special Housing Units.  I urge you to support their struggle to be free from torture.)

Today is day 20 of the prison hunger strike.   This may be the most significant act of prisoner resistance in 40 years, since the Attica Uprising in 1971.

Le Tour- Stage 17

Gap to Pinerolo 112 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

The sporting press seems evenly divided over whether Contador or Evans benefitted the most from yesterday’s results.  At the very least it was a psychological boost to Contador’s chances as he aggressively attacked at least 4 times and was suddenly a part of the conversation after 2 weeks.

Looking at the times the results are not so clear.  There’s no doubt that Andy Schleck was hurt by his cautious descent into Gap, giving up 1:06, and Basso nearly as badly, but riders like Frank Schleck, Cunego, and Voeckler gave up just 18 Seconds and Evans gained 3.

Hushovd’s Stage win was also unexpected, and puts him in 4th place of the points competition some 84 behind the Mad Manx and 65 ahead of Greipel in 5th.  BruceMcF’s analysis of yesterday’s competition here.

In any event your adjusted overall times look like this today-

Rank Name Team ET delta
1 Thomas Voeckler Europcar 69h 00′ 56″
2 Cadel Evans BMC 69h 02′ 41″ + 01′ 45″
3 Frank Schleck Leopard Trek 69h 02′ 45″ + 01′ 49″
4 Andy Schleck Leopard Trek 69h 03′ 59″ + 03′ 03″
5 Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel 69h 04′ 22″ + 03′ 26″
6 Alberto Contador Saxo Bank 69h 04′ 38″ + 03′ 42″
7 Ivan Basso Cannondale 69h 04′ 45″ + 03′ 49″
8 Damiano Cunego Lampre 69h 04′ 57″ + 04′ 01″
9 Tom Danielson Garmin 69h 07′ 00″ + 06′ 04″
10 Rigoberto Uran Sky 69h 08′ 51″ + 07′ 55″

Today’s Stage has a category 3 climb before the sprint checkpoint and overall 2 category 3s, 2 category 2s, and a category 1.  The descent from Sestrieres is about 29 miles which is expected to be long enough to bunch the field before the final climb and descent into Pinerolo.  Since it’s not considered particularly difficult  the final section is thought by some analysists to favor Evans.

Vs. joins the race in progress at the relatively sane hour of 8 am.

On This Day In History July 20

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

July 20 is the 201st day of the year (202nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 164 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1881, Sitting Bull surrenders.

Five years after General George A. Custer’s infamous defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrenders to the U.S. Army, which promises amnesty for him and his followers. Sitting Bull had been a major leader in the 1876 Sioux uprising that resulted in the death of Custer and 264 of his men at Little Bighorn. Pursued by the U.S. Army after the Indian victory, he escaped to Canada with his followers.


Hunger and cold eventually forced Sitting Bull, his family, and nearly 200 other Sioux in his band to return to the United States and surrender on July 19, 1881. Sitting Bull had his young son Crow Foot surrender his rifle to the commanding officer of Fort Buford. He told the soldiers that he wished to regard them and the white race as friends. Two weeks later, Sitting Bull and his band were transferred to Fort Yates, the military post located adjacent to the Standing Rock Agency.

Arriving with 185 people, Sitting Bull and his band were kept separate from the other Hunkpapa gathered at the agency. Army officials were concerned that the famed chief would stir up trouble among the recently surrendered northern bands. On August 26, 1881, he was visited by census taker William T. Selwyn who counted twelve people in the Hunkpapa leader’s immediate family. Forty-one families, totaling 195 people, were recorded in Sitting Bull’s band. The military decided to transfer him and his band to Fort Randall, to be held as prisoners of war. Loaded onto a steamboat, Sitting Bull’s band, now totaling 172 people, were sent down the Missouri River to Fort Randall. There they spent the next 20 months. They were allowed to return to the Standing Rock Agency in May 1883.


I just need some friends to support me right now.  I am crying, alone, and completely twisted from what I thought was reality not too long ago.

Agony is my best friend right now.

Do not feel sorry for me; it is all my own fault.


Dave, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Could someone call me?  859 626 5059

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

Congressional Game of Chicken: Invoke the 14th Amendment Option

I have no idea what President Obama is thinking. What I do know is that he is partly responsible for the brinkmanship that is being played out as the debt ceiling looms putting the US credit rating on the line and many Americans at dire financial risk. Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars says she thinks  former President Bill Clinton may know what Obama is thinking as the deadline to raise the debt ceiling nears. What ever Obama is thinking, Pres. Clinton offers some very audacious advice. In an interview with columnist Joe Conason, he said:

{} he would invoke the so-called constitutional option to raise the nation’s debt ceiling “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me” in order to prevent a default, should Congress and the President fail to achieve agreement before the August 2 deadline.

Sharply criticizing Congressional Republicans in an exclusive Monday evening interview with The National Memo, Clinton said, “I think the Constitution is clear and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy.”

Lifting the debt ceiling “is necessary to pay for appropriations already made,” he added, “so you can’t say, ‘Well, we won the last election and we didn’t vote for some of that stuff, so we’re going to throw the whole country’s credit into arrears.”

Having faced down the Republican House leadership during two government shutdowns when he was president — and having brought the country’s budget from the deep deficits left by Republican presidents to a projected surplus — Clinton is unimpressed by the GOP’s sudden enthusiasm for balanced budgets. But he never considered invoking the Fourteenth Amendment — which says “the validity of the US public debt shall not be questioned” – because the Republicans led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich didn’t threaten to use the debt ceiling as a weapon in their budget struggles with him.

I am fairly certain that Clinton would do just that. Would that President Obama had that courage.

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Murdoch hit by foam pie at ‘humbling’ British hearing

By Danny Kemp, AFP

2 hrs 23 mins ago

A protester hit Rupert Murdoch with a foam pie Tuesday as the media mogul testified to British lawmakers on the phone-hacking scandal, in a bizarre finale to what he called the “most humble day of my life.”

The 80-year-old News Corporation chief’s Chinese-born wife Wendi Deng leaped up and slapped the assailant, who was dragged off by police after the attack during a parliamentary committee hearing quizzing Murdoch and his son James.

The Guardian newspaper and Sky News named the attacker as a comedian called Jonnie Marbles. In a Twitter message shortly before the incident, he said: “It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat.”