Archive for ‘On This Day’

May 18, 2011

The myth of privatization – Just another right-wing lie

by Ben Hoffman

PHOENIX — The conviction that private prisons save money helped drive more than 30 states to turn to them for housing inmates. But Arizona shows that popular wisdom might be wrong: Data there suggest that privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons — even though they often steer clear of the sickest, costliest inmates.

“There’s a perception that the private sector is always going to do it more efficiently and less costly,” said Russ Van Vleet, a former co-director of the University of Utah Criminal Justice Center. “But there really isn’t much out there that says that’s correct.”

Such has been the case lately in Arizona. Despite a state law stipulating that private prisons must create “cost savings,” the state’s own data indicate that inmates in private prisons can cost as much as $1,600 more per year, while many cost about the same as they do in state-run prisons.

Read more…

Not only do they not save the state money, they pay their employees less, are less secure, and in some cases have corrupted judges into sending people to prison in return for payoffs. That’s fascism, plain and simple.

May 18, 2011

The Conservative Cult

by Ben Hoffman

See more of these great images at Barkers and Rubes Blog

May 17, 2011

The Bush Administration taking credit for killing Osama bin Laden is akin to…

by Ben Hoffman

The Bush Administration taking credit for killing Osama bin Laden is akin to…

…if birds took credit for the “Miracle on the Hudson” landing performed by Chesley Sullenberger, after his plane hit a flock that disabled its engines.

…if King George III took credit for the United States of America after England lost the colonies.

…if neo-Nazis took credit for the hit Broadway musical “The Producers.”

Read more…

May 15, 2011

The deficit showdown: Republicans (corporations) vs. the American people

by Ben Hoffman

In an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Boehner conceded that Congress will need to eventually raise the debt ceiling, which currently stands at $14.29 trillion. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner wrote in a letter to Congress earlier this month that the nation will reach its debt limit on May 16, but can rely on “extraordinary measures” to prevent from defaulting on its loans until August. Geithner wrote that default by the U.S. “would have a catastrophic economic impact that would be felt by every American,” and other economists have said that failing to raise the debt ceiling would have a disastrous effect on the markets.

Despite these warnings, many members of Congress have said that they will not vote for a bill that raises the debt ceiling unless it is paired with other efforts to get the nation’s deficit under control, such as major spending cuts or changes to entitlement programs. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reiterated on Sunday that he sees the pending debt limit deadline as a “great opportunity” to talk about spending.

McConnell has said he will vote against any debt-limit deal if it does not include long-term cuts to entitlment programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

“Rather than thinking of this as a crisis, I think of this as an opportunity to come together,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that he would not support tax increases as part of the deal.

Boehner has also ruled out tax increases as part of a deal for grappling with the long-term deficit, despite appeals by Democrats to use revenue-increasing measures to avoid some program cuts.

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Let’s see who gets the shaft this time. Cutting Medicare benefits would be political suicide for the Republicans since the vast majority of Americans like that program. Remember the Teabaggers screaming “KEEP THE GOVERNMENT’S HANDS OFF MY MEDICARE!!!”? And Obama isn’t going to sign any bill that cuts Medicaid.

So who will win this time? Chances are, it won’t be the American people.

May 15, 2011

Kentucky Republicans convicted of election fraud

by Ben Hoffman
  • Freddy Thompson, 47, Republican Clay County Clerk, Chairman of the Board of Elections, 150 months (12 1/2 years): “As chairman of the board of elections, Thompson helped the Clay County elections board control the outcomes of the primary and general elections for the years 2002, 2004 and 2006. … He also instructed the officers how they could use the voting machines to steal votes. … As part of the scheme, Thompson and others switched the votes of county residents. … On more than one occasion, after the elections had ended Thompson helped prepare false election reports to be sent to Frankfort that intentionally contained inaccurate voting totals.”
  • Cletus Maricle, 67, Clay County Circuit Court Judge, 320 months (26 1/2+ years): “Described as the leader of a long running criminal enterprise that made millions of dollars and controlled politics in the county … Maricle helped create a culture of lawlessness in the county that existed for three decades. … Maricle led a scheme that used $400,000 to bribe 8,000 voters during the course of the conspiracy. … Maricle headed up the Clay County board of elections that controlled the outcomes of the primary and general elections for the years 2002, 2004 and 2006. … Maricle promised one female election officer a job and to help with her brother’s case, who was a defendant in Maricle’s court, if she promised to participate in the criminal enterprise by stealing votes as an election officer. … Maricle served as circuit court judge from 1991 until 2007.”
  • Douglas C. Adams, 59, Clay County School Superintendent, 293 months (Almost 24 1/2 years): “[O]ne of the most powerful individuals in Clay County … Adams recruited other members from the school board to join the conspiracies and used his power to bribe others to get prominent jobs in the county for individuals who cooperated with the conspiracies. … Prosecutors described Adams as a political boss and a conspiracy leader in the county who used his influence over others to corrupt the election process in the county. … As a result, the enterprise gained power and authority over the county’s politics. … Smith said Adams solicited bribe money from candidates for city and county offices. He told the candidates that they had to contribute money to the enterprise in order to get elected. … Testimony proved that he also bribed other county residents to join the criminal scheme. In one instance, he promised an individual that drug charges against him would be dropped if he joined the enterprise.”
  • Stanley Bowling, 60, former Magistrate, 180 months (15 years): “Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Parman described Bowling as a ‘crucial cog’ in the conspiracy to fix elections. … [U.S. District Judge Danny] Reeves recommended that Bowling, who suffers from multiple medical conditions, serve his time at a federal medical facility near his home.”
  • Paul Bishop, 61, Republican Precinct Judge 36 months (3 years) after pleading guilty and cooperating with prosecutors: “Reeves credited Bishop…for his cooperation with the government and reduced his potential sentence because of his age, poor health and other factors. … Bishop admitted he allowed Adams to use his garage for a meeting where vote-buying was discussed. … At that meeting before the May 2002 primary election, candidates pooled at least $150,000 to be used to buy votes. … Bishop also said he served as an election officer in the early, absentee voting in May 2002, working inside the polling place to make sure people who had sold their votes cast ballots for the people they’d been paid to support. … [Also] Bishop said that in 2004, Clay County school Superintendent Douglas C. Adams gave him $2,000 to bribe voters. Bishop said he paid around 100 voters about $20 each to vote for a slate of candidates that included state Rep. Tim Couch. … Couch, a Hyden Republican, had defeated Rep. Barbara White Colter in the 2002 GOP primary and was running for re-election in 2004. … Bishop said people involved in the scheme pooled $150,000 to $250,000 at a meeting in his garage days before the 2002 primary election.”
  • William E. Stivers, 58, Board of Elections Officer, 292 months (24+ years): “As an election officer, Stivers helped control the Clay County board of elections … Testimony at last year’s trial proved that during the elections, Stivers helped ensure victories for the candidates the conspirators wanted in office by changing votes at the voting machines, paying voters, and recruiting others to transport voters to the polls for the purpose of vote buying among other illegal actions.”
  • Charles Wayne Jones, 71, Board of Elections Commissioner (father-in-law of County Clerk and Board Chair Thompson), 240 months (20 years): “A former democratic election commissioner in Clay County … Jones picked election officers who assisted in corrupting the voting process at Jones’ direction. Jones also gave specific instructions to the officers on how to manipulate the voting machines to steal votes. This was done so that the enterprise could ensure victory for the slate of candidates they wanted in county offices. … Jones also intentionally prepared false election reports to be sent to Frankfort that inaccurately reported voting totals to help conceal the conspiracy.”

    [NOTE: Though Jones is said to have been a “Democratic” official, most of the gamed elections were Republican primaries, as Clay County is one of the poorest and most Republican counties in the state. Generally, the winner of the Republican primary in many races would go on to run unopposed in the general, or otherwise win it handily. Moreover, during the course of the trial, as we reported last year, at least one witness testified that, after being asked to do so by Judge Maricle, she changed her party affiliation from Republican in order to serve as a “Democratic” official at the polling place in order to help pull off the conspiracy by changing voters’ votes at the touch-screen machine after they thought their vote had been cast. As Jones was also the father-in-law of Republican County Clerk Freddy Thompson, Jones’ party affiliation is likely to have been as much a matter of convenience in order to help pull off the years of criminal conspiracies to steal elections, rather than a true conviction to the Democratic Party. In any case, the conspiracies here seemed to be much more about money and power than about party ideology.]

  • William B. Morris, 52 and Debra L. Morris, 51, 240 months (20 years) and 120 months (10 years), respectively: “The couple bought votes for individuals running for city council because those council candidates controlled contracts related to their sanitation company to perform city work. The company was given millions of dollars worth of contracts as a result of the criminal enterprise. … Both defendants distributed some of that money to absentee voters and to other conspirators to buy votes. They also transported voters to the courthouse where other co-defendants stole their votes.”

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I can see the responses by right-wing sheep already… “But ACORN did… ummm… Democrats do it too… ummmmm…”

May 13, 2011

Everyone but the wealthy suffers when conservatives get their way

by Ben Hoffman

Because Republicans and right-wing sheep defeated any meaningful health insurance reform, we’re paying higher and higher premiums. Obama can be considered complicit for not fighting for the American people. The Democrats should have fought hard for a public option for health insurance. That would have given us another option. Those who like to pay high premiums for private health insurance administration could continue to do so. Those of us who don’t believe insurance companies add much value and should be run as non-profits would have an alternative. But, because of the overly emotional right-wingers and the Republicans bought and paid for by insurance corporations, we don’t have any choice but to pay through the nose.

What would happen if we had a government option? People would have more money to spend on other things, which would stimulate the economy. More people would be able to afford insurance, which would increase demand for health care, which would increase demand for health care workers, which would stimulate the economy. People would be more inclined to seek out preventive care, which would cut down on emergency room visits. Our tax dollars pay for these people to use the emergency rooms and pay for their care when they don’t have insurance. If they did have insurance, it would save us money.

The overly emotional right-wingers just don’t like the idea of government providing services. To them, if you can’t make a profit from it, it isn’t worth doing. Unless, of course, it involves THEIR Social Security or Medicare. Then it’s “hands off!”

So this is what we’re dealing with, now that conservatives have gotten their way:

Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care
The nation’s major health insurers are barreling into a third year of record profits, enriched in recent months by a lingering recessionary mind-set among Americans who are postponing or forgoing medical care.

The UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest commercial insurers, told analysts that so far this year, insured hospital stays actually decreased in some instances. In reporting its earnings last week, Cigna, another insurer, talked about the “low level” of medical use.

Yet the companies continue to press for higher premiums, even though their reserve coffers are flush with profits and shareholders have been rewarded with new dividends. Many defend proposed double-digit increases in the rates they charge, citing a need for protection against any sudden uptick in demand once people have more money to spend on their health, as well as the rising price of care.


Significant increases in how much people have to pay for their medical care may prevent a solid rebound. In recent years, many employers have sharply reduced benefits, while raising deductibles and co-payments so people have to reach deeper into their pockets.

In 2010, about 10 percent of people covered by their employer had a deductible of at least $2,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group, compared with just 5 percent of covered workers in 2008.


High deductibles also can be daunting. David Welch, a nurse in California whose policy has a $4,000 deductible, said he was surprised to realize he had delayed going to the dermatologist, even though he had a history of skin cancer. Mr. Welch, who has been a supporter of the need to overhaul insurance industry practices for the California Nurses Association union, said he hoped his medical training would help him determine when to go to the doctor. “I underestimated how much that cost would affect my behavior,” he said.


Because they say they expect costs to rebound, insurers have not been shy about asking for higher rates. In Oregon, for example, Regence BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit insurer that is the state’s largest, is asking for a 22 percent increase for policies sold to individuals. In California, regulators have been resisting requests from insurers to raise rates by double digits.

Read more…

BlueCross passes itself off as a non-profit while paying its CEOs over 10 million dollars a year, as do many insurance companies. Medicare operates at about a 4% overhead with no multi-million dollar salaries for people whose objective is to figure out ways to deny coverage. Profit is the reason private insurance companies are in business and denying coverage increases profits.

May 13, 2011

Medicare and Social Security going broke sooner than expected, due to conservative policies

by Ben Hoffman

The government says that a bad economy has shortened the life of the trust funds that support the nation’s two biggest benefit programs.

The annual checkup said that the Medicare hospital insurance fund will now be exhausted in 2024, five years earlier than last year’s estimate.

The new report says that the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2036, one year earlier than before.

The trustees for the trust funds said in their annual report that the worsening financial picture emphasized the need for Congress to make changes to avoid disruptive consequences in the future for millions of people who depend on health and pension benefits.


There are some easy fixes to the Social Security problem.

First, cut off benefits to the wealthy. John McCain doesn’t need to be collecting welfare when he and his wife are worth millions.

Second, eliminate the income cutoff point for Social Security taxes. Currently, most people have their entire incomes taxed for Social Security. But for the wealthy, only the first $102,000 is taxed.

Of course, if we do that, right-wingers will whine that “it’s not fair to the wealthy!” Right-wingers are just whiny-assed, over emotional little children who should be bitch-slapped until they get a little sense.

As far as Medicare, there are a lot of things that could bring down costs, like competitive bidding for drugs and the elimination of Medicare Advantage, which is a giant scam.

But the biggest problem is the economy. Conservative tax policies have resulted in the massive export of our jobs overseas. Until we do something about that, our economy is screwed.

May 12, 2011

Los Alamitos, CA high school teachers required to balance science with right-wing spin on science

by Ben Hoffman

Los Alamitos Unified will require teachers of controversial subjects to prove political balance to the school board each year.

Before Los Alamitos High School science teachers can tackle topics such as global warming, they will have to demonstrate to the school board that the course is politically balanced.

A new environmental science course prompted the Los Alamitos Unified School District on Tuesday to rewrite its policy for teaching controversial subject matter. Concerned that “liberal” faculty members could skew lessons on global warming, the board of education unanimously voted to make teachers give an annual presentation on how they’re teaching the class.

“I believe my role in the board is to represent the conservative voice of the community and I’m not a big fan of global warming,” said board member Jeffrey Barke, who led the effort. “The teachers wanted [the class], and we want a review of how they are teaching it.”

Read more…

Global climate change isn’t a controversial subject in the science community. The vast majority of scientists around the world support the theory of anthropomorphic global climate change. It’s only in politics that there’s a controversy.

It turns out this Jeffrey Barke, who is not a big fan of science, is an actual medical doctor who treats people with medical problems. Yikes!

May 11, 2011

Bush’s wars could cost $6 TRILLION

by Ben Hoffman

The authors of the book “The $3 Trillion War” noted in a conference call on Wednesday that when they first released their findings two years ago, the estimates were widely criticized as being too high. Now, the researchers believe they may have been too low.

Joseph Stiglitz, who received the 2000 Nobel Prize for Economics, and Linda Bilmes, a public policy professor at Harvard University, said the number of veterans seeking post-combat medical care and the cost of treating those individuals is about 30 percent higher than they initially estimated. That, combined with increases in the cost of military medical care and the lagging economy, will likely push the true long-term cost of the war over the $4 trillion mark.

“This may be more of a crisis than the Medicare and Social Security problems we have looming,” said House Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif. “It rivals both in the potential impact. This is another entitlement we’ve committed ourselves to, and it could break the bank.”

Read more…

Had the Bush administration used intelligence to go after Bin Laden rather than simply bombing the hell out of Afghanistan and invading Iraq, he could have actually gotten Bin Laden without destroying America. In the end, Obama got him with intelligence, not wars.

May 7, 2011

George W. Bush upset that he wasn’t given credit for Bin Laden killing

by Ben Hoffman

WASHINGTON – George W. Bush won’t be at Ground Zero with President Obama Thursday in part because he feels his team is getting short shrift in the decade-long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden.

“[Bush] viewed this as an Obama victory lap,” a highly-placed source told the Daily News Wednesday.

Bush’s visit to the rubble after the 9/11 attacks was the emotional high point of his presidency, but associates say the invitation to return with his successor was a non-starter.

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After all, if Bush hadn’t allowed us to be attacked on 9/11, there would never have been the massive manhunt. And if Bush hadn’t let Bin Laden get away when he was cornered in Tora Bora, Obama would never have gotten the opportunity to kill him.

Unbelievable. His turning down the invitation to honor those killed in the most deadly terrorist attack in the history of the U.S. for purely political reasons is just rubbing salt into the gaping wound that he inflicted on our country. Of course, his close ties to the Bin Laden family could have something to do with his snubbing the victory. We’ll have a good celebration when he and Cheney are put six feet under. Those days can’t come soon enough.

May 1, 2011

The 9 most violent states in the U.S. are also the most conservative

by Ben Hoffman

We’ve all heard that crime doesn’t pay. Peace, it turns out, just might.

The newest edition of the U.S. Peace Index, developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace, ranks states by level of peacefulness. The index is based on five primary indicators: (1) number of homicides per 100,000 people, (2) number of violent crimes per 100,000 people, (3) number of people in jail per 100,000 people, (4) number of police officers per 100,000 people and (5) general availability of small arms.

Combining these figures, the U.S. Peace Index calculates a number summarizing the overall peacefulness of each state, with low numbers being safer. Currently, the national average is 2.056.

Since 1995, the U.S. has become 8 percent safe, according to the index. Not all states have improved, though. New York’s become 32.3 percent safer since 1991, but other states have actually become more dangerous, like North Dakota (47.7 percent more dangerous) and Tennessee (9.3 percent more dangerous). Generally, Southern states tended to be the least safe, with the region scoring 3.13 on the index, compared with the Northeast, calculated to be the safest region with a score of 1.99.

Reducing crime seems to have more benefits than just an increased sense of well-being, too, with the index’s authors hinting that safety might have notable economic benefits. If the United States peace index was as low as Canada’s (1.392 compared to 2.056), for example, the U.S. Peace Index’s authors argue that state governments could save up to $89 billion in incarceration, medical, judicial and policing costs. Add to that an increase in nationwide productivity equivalent to a $272 billion stimulus, as well as 2.7 million newly-created jobs, and it starts to become pretty clear: peace pays.

Indicators are weighted, allowing homicides to carry the greatest significance, while availability of firearms carries the least. The index also groups into four categories an additional 37 secondary factors like high school graduation rate and median income: politics and demographics, education, health and economic conditions.


May 1, 2011

Wasting Billions in Afghanistan While Cutting Essential Services at Home – Our Privatized Wars

by Ben Hoffman

GARDEZ, Afghanistan — When construction crews faced attacks while working on a major American-financed highway here in southeastern Afghanistan, Western contractors turned to a powerful local figure named simply Arafat, who was suspected to have links to Afghanistan’s insurgents.

Subcontractors, flush with American money, paid Mr. Arafat at least $1 million a year to keep them safe, according to people involved in the project and Mr. Arafat himself.

The money paid to Mr. Arafat bought neither security nor the highway that American officials have long envisioned as a vital route to tie remote border areas to the Afghan government. Instead, it added to the staggering cost of the road, known as the Gardez-Khost Highway, one of the most expensive and troubled transportation projects in Afghanistan. The 64-mile highway, which has yet to be completed, has cost about $121 million so far, with the final price tag expected to reach $176 million — or about $2.8 million a mile — according to American officials. Security alone has cost $43.5 million so far, U.S.A.I.D. officials said.

Read more…

The Cost of Bush’s wars is expected to reach $3 TRILLION by the time it’s all over. Obama continues to funnel billions into these foreign policy blunders and at the same time, capitulates to Republican demands to cut funding for education, science, and programs and services that make our country better.

April 30, 2011

Mitch Daniels knows what’s best for Indiana women

by Ben Hoffman

INDIANAPOLIS — Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels plans to sign a bill that will restrict abortions and make Indiana the first state to cut off all government funding for Planned Parenthood.

The move puts at risk $4 million a year in federal family planning grants likely to be cut off because of the bill. The legislation also would ban would abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless there’s a substantial threat to the woman’s life or health.

Read more…

Yes, decisions regarding women’s reproductive systems are best made by our government. Governors, especially male governors, are best able to make decisions regarding birth control and abortions.

It’s also an economically pragmatic move. Children who are born to mothers who don’t want them or are unable to care for them, often become criminals during their late teenage years or 20s. This will stimulate the economy by creating more jobs for private prisons, surveillance devices, gun manufacturers and retailers, and security guards.

Criminals are usually required to do a great deal of running, which also creates more demand for running apparel.

“It’s a win-win situation for all,” Daniels said at a press conference.

April 29, 2011

Arizona Now Has An Official State Gun!

by Ben Hoffman

PHOENIX — Arizona’s governor has signed a bill designating the Colt Single-Action Army revolver as the state’s first official firearm.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill without comment on Thursday. Legislative supporters argued that the designation was appropriate because the revolver was widely used during Arizona’s territorial days.

Read more…

Next month, Brewer is going to announce the official state beer!

Maybe it’s the heat down there that has fried everyone’s brains.

April 29, 2011

Science Wins Out Over Religion (Barely)

by Ben Hoffman

WASHINGTON — A divided federal appeals court has ruled that opponents of taxpayer-funded stem cell research are not likely to succeed in a lawsuit to stop it.

In a 2-1 decision Friday, the panel of the U.S. court of appeals in Washington overturned a judge’s order that would have blocked taxpayer funding for stem cell research.

The panel reversed an opinion last August by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who said the research likely violates the law against federal funding of embryo destruction.

The 1996 law prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars in work that harms an embryo, so private money has been used to cull batches of the cells. Those batches can reproduce in lab dishes indefinitely, and the Obama administration issued rules permitting taxpayer dollars to be used in work on them.