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Friday Open Thread

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For those who missed Barry’s comment, the Nation‘s John Nichols included “Mountain Moral Monday” in the Progressive Honor Roll of 2013 as “Most Valuable Protest” in America this year:

When up to 10,000 North Carolinians rallied August 5 on Mountain Moral Monday in Asheville, the Rev. William Barber II, president of the state NAACP, announced: “This is no momentary hyperventilation and liberal screaming match. This is a movement.” The protests against legislative attacks on voting rights, public education and programs for low-income families began last spring at the state Capitol in Raleigh. But when the GOP-controlled legislature adjourned, the massive rally in Asheville signaled that the movement had spread. Barber declared that “from the mountains to the coast,” there is a movement for “a new South, a new North Carolina and a new future.”

What makes your Honor Roll?

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The cattle barons are nervous and getting reckless.

The United States has come to resemble those iconic westerns with a Wild West economy in which cattle barons rule, politicians and lawmen are on their payrolls, and struggling settlers are either compliant or prey.

But after the 2008 crash and bailout on Wall Street, one after another Occupy, the Consumer Protection Bureau, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Moral Mondays and now Pope Francis have put the cattle barons on notice that their grip on power is weakening.

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Saturday Afternoon Amusement

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The Tampa Bay Times, the home of has gone online with PunditFact. The new site fact-checks your favorite (and least favorite) pundits.

PunditFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times and the Poynter Institute, dedicated to checking the accuracy of claims by pundits, columnists, bloggers, political analysts, the hosts and guests of talk shows, and other members of the media.

The site has been live for less than a month, so the quantity of the rulings is small. But it’s entertaining to see who has gotten the most “Pants On Fire” rulings to date.

Please return to consuming mass quantities.

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Rabbit Punch

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Wow! That’s terrific bunny …

Updated below.

Was Election Day drug bust an attempt to intimidate black voters in NC?

Residents of Mount Gilead, a town of about 1,100 people in central North Carolina, are reeling from a police sting operation that netted 59 arrests the morning of Election Day. All of those arrested were African Americans, all for possession of drugs, alcohol and guns. Some there are questioning the timing of the bust and believe it was an attempt to intimidate African Americans from showing up at the polls that day.

Springfield, IL wants to privatize Abraham Lincoln’s grave

StoneMor Partners, a Pennsylvania based cemetery company, has been quietly talking with Springfield Mayor Mike Houston and other top city officials about taking over management of Oak Ridge Cemetery.Calling StoneMor “a good company,” Houston acknowledged Tuesday that he has spoken with no other firms about taking over cemetery operations. He has said that the city plans to issue a request for proposals aimed at soliciting bids to privatize Abraham Lincoln’s final resting place. The city council must approve any management deal.

Occupy Wall Street: Rolling Jubilee spent $400,000 to purchase debt cheaply from banks before ‘abolishing’ it, freeing individuals from their bills

Rolling Jubilee, set up by Occupy’s Strike Debt group following the street protests that swept the world in 2011, launched on 15 November 2012. The group purchases personal debt cheaply from banks before “abolishing” it, freeing individuals from their bills.

By purchasing the debt at knockdown prices the group has managed to free $14,734,569.87 of personal debt, mainly medical debt, spending only $400,000.

UPDATE: I didn’t want people to miss part three of this series by Josh Holland at Bill Moyers’ place.

Rip-off: High Out-of-Pocket Social Costs are a Stealth Tax on the Middle Class and the Poor

And the irony is that many households pay no income taxes as a result of a policy that conservative politicians have long favored. As David Cay Johnston, author of Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich–and Cheat Everybody Else, told Moyers & Company in October, the situation is primarily due to the child tax credit Republicans put in place in the ’90s. “A married couple with two children does not pay any federal income taxes until they make at least $44,000 a year,” said Johnston. “And with a little bit of tax planning, you could make $70,000 and pay no federal income tax. So the Republicans create this situation where middle-income families with children pay no income tax and then they complain about it.”

That working couples with kids making up to $70,000 are routinely shamed as deadbeats and freeloaders says a lot about the nature of our political discourse regarding these issues.

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MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Dylan Scott of Talking Points Memo take on the misleading media reporting and deceptive insurer letters directed at Obamacare. It’s a version of the nominal vs. effective corporate tax rate debate. You hear more about the “high” U.S. nominal rate and little about what companies actually pay (some pay nothing). The stories about the costs of Obamacare coverage are similar. The stories are all about sticker shock and cancelled policies, with virtually no coverage of what people actually pay.

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Categories : Health Care, Media, National, News
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Can I Be Frank With You?

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Saw this yesterday, but Susie beat me to it. NJ Democrat, Rep. Bill Pascrell :

Susie says, “I have a favorite T-shirt that says, “I’m not angry, I’m from Philly.” I bought it because people always seem to think I’m being hostile when I’m just a little more, um, direct than most people. (If I ever do go ballistic, you’ll know.)”

Pascrell’s target in this “direct” exchange is former interim U.S. attorney and T-party candidate, Rep. Tim Griffin (R – Arkansas), who resigned his earlier job “a day after the BBC broadcast linking him to illegal ‘voter caging.’” Griffin has just announced he will not seek another term so he can spend more time with the family, as they say in Washington.

But perhaps Griffin will be remembered as he didn’t want to be—for the 2004 “voter caging” story. In 2004 the Bush-Cheney campaign and RNC sent mail to voters’ addresses to check whether those addresses were current. If the mail bounced back, the names were “caged,” and the party had reason to challenge the ballots of these voters if they showed up. In 2004, while at the RNC, Griffin received spreadsheets of “caged voters”—a fact that came up during his confirmation process when he was seeking to become a U.S. attorney. Greg Palast, the muckraking journalist who had originally reported the story, also argued that the voters being targeted were disproportinately nonwhite. That sort of discrimination would have been illegal.

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R.I.P., Lou Reed

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What’s that saying about never going full on something or other?
(Video courtesy of dixiegirlz.)

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Rabbit Punch

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Wow! That’s terrific bunny …

Meet CGI Federal, the company behind the botched launch of

(Worked fine for me on Sunday.)

Some people think that the system was underfunded: Donald Berwick, who administered the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2010 and 2011,says the site failed because they didn’t have enough money to build it from the start. Others point fingers at the Department of Health and Human Services, which took years to issue final specifications, preventing CGI from really getting started until this spring.

Either way, it’s clear that the site itself isn’t well constructed: IT professionals told the Wall Street Journal that in addition to specific pieces not working, the whole thing was “built on a sloppy software foundation,” potentially due to the haste with which code was written. Slate described just how difficult it is to coordinate multiple contractors creating different components of a complex Web portal.

The irrational fear of President Obama

Remember false memory syndrome?

Jonathan: Talk more about that. Why are you afraid of him? He’s taller than I am, but he’s barely bigger than I am.

Jackson: Size doesn’t matter. It’s what’s in his heart. He does not have the American people’s best interests at heart. He doesn’t respect the American people as a whole. There have been many veterans groups that asked to have meetings with him or come to the White House and have a picnic on the East Lawn and he said no. And at the same time, this was about two years ago, the Muslim Brotherhood had 1,000 of their people come to the East Lawn for a prayer session.

Capehart: The Muslim brotherhood had….?

Jackson: They had a huge gathering. They had prayer on the East Lawn of the White House. It was in the news.

Men Got Us Into The Shutdown, Women Got Us Out

Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said on Wednesday afternoon that their female colleagues can take most of the credit for driving the compromise that is expected to temporarily reopen the U.S. government and raise the debt ceiling before Thursday’s deadline.

“Leadership, I must fully admit, was provided primarily from women in the Senate,” McCain said after the bipartisan deal was announced.

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Progressive Group’s “Long Game” Paying Off

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Working Families Party shakes up New York city politics (video from this summer), backing Democrat Bill DeBlasio for mayor. DeBlasio leads in the polls. Their “long game” is paying off, says the New York Post:

“On the issues they care about, from minimum wage to tenant issues to development, they are absolutely definitional — they can set the debate at the city and the state level,” de Blasio said of the WFP in 2010.

The party, founded in 1998 to take advantage of New York’s fusion voting system, which allows candidates to run on multiple ballot lines, effectively represents organized labor. Despite its small membership, its used its ballot line and operational resources to push Democratic officials farther left, and elect new ones who are already there. That plan has paid off.

Firmly backing a list of progressive issues from bank bailouts to paid sick leave to affordable housing, WFP helped organize the recent fast food strikes in New York and across the country.

Categories : Labor, National, News
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