Pleasant Valley Winery

Pleasant Valley Winery


Monday, March 30, 2015

Indiana Defines Stupidity as Religion

Governor Mike Pence of Indiana. (photo: Greg Nash)
Governor Mike Pence of Indiana. (photo: Greg Nash)

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
27 March 15

n a history-making decision, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana has signed into law a bill that officially recognizes stupidity as a religion.

Pence said that he hoped the law would protect millions of state residents “who, like me, have been practicing this religion passionately for years.”

The bill would grant politicians like Pence the right to observe their faith freely, even if their practice of stupidity costs the state billions of dollars.

While Pence’s action drew the praise of stupid people across America, former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was not among them. “Even I wasn’t dumb enough to sign a bill like that,” she said.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Amanda Knox and the wages of U.S. imperialism

Amanda Knox. (photo: The Guardian/Sipa USA)
Amanda Knox. (photo: The Guardian/Sipa USA)

By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News
28 March 15

This story first appeared on Reader Supported News January 31, 2014. Yesterday, March 27, 2015, Italy's highest court, the Court of Cassation, quashed the murder case against Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the death of British student Meredith Kercher. The decision by the Court of Cassation is permanent, final and not subject to subsequent review. As a legal matter the case is concluded. - MA/RSN

manda Knox and the international circus that surrounds her actually matter. It's really about something bigger.

If it looks as though the case against Knox and Raffaele Sollecito is superficial at best, there's a reason for that - it is. To say that because a speck of Knox's DNA may have been present - on a knife, or a bra clasp, in the apartment in which she resided - is absurd on its face and constitutes no evidence of anything. In addition, neither prosecutor got anywhere near presenting a viable connection between the man convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher, Rudy Guede, and Knox or Sollecito. The purported collaboration was the stuff of a poorly written work of fiction. In fact there was no evidence of collaboration between Guede and Knox or Sollecito presented to the court at all.

In their totality, the combined theories presented to the three courts by two prosecutors were so illogical and utterly lacking in substantiation that it's the prosecutors, not the defendants, who should have been on trial - for misconduct.

Further, that a second prosecutor could present a second case that all but abandoned the entire premise of the first case, after the first case was thrown out on appeal, is patently malicious, and absolutely does constitute a separate/unique judicial instance and double jeopardy in a very material sense. The whole thing makes a profound mockery of the entire concept of criminal justice. 

But while there is little chance that Amanda Knox is guilty of murdering anyone, she is in fact guilty of two very important things: being an inconveniently pretty young woman and being an American abroad in the Bush era.

By the fall of 2007, Italy was in a significant state of conflict with the US over the Bush administration's policy of extraordinary rendition. Of specific note were Italian kidnapping charges against nearly two dozen CIA agents for the kidnapping of Muslim cleric Abu Omar, resulting in 23 convictions. The New York Times reported, "Judge Oscar Magi handed an eight-year sentence to Robert Seldon Lady, a former C.I.A. base chief in Milan, and five-year sentences to the 22 other Americans, including an Air Force colonel and 21 C.I.A. operatives."

Italy's decision to confront America's cavalier disregard for their borders, laws, and judicial system was in line with objections and threats of prosecution by several nations, including German arrest warrants for CIA agents in the kidnapping and extraordinary rendition case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen.

What was at issue for those nations from which citizens and residents were taken was their national sovereignty and the integrity of their judicial process. None of which appeared to matter to the Bush operatives, but mattered greatly to those nations where the crimes occurred - including, significantly, Italy.

In the midst of this international conflict simmering just below the surface of broad public view, a young American woman traveled to Perugia, Italy, to study. Her subsequent arrest and high-profile trial for the murder of roommate and fellow student Meredith Kercher would rivet world attention on the very same Italian judicial system that the US had casually disregarded throughout the Bush years.

Italy never got their CIA agents, but they got a pretty young girl from Seattle, and with her the undivided attention of America and the world to the authority of Italian justice.

It's not clear if Amanda Knox will foot the bill for the 23 convicted CIA agents, but what is clear is that Italy and many other countries view America's policy of rendition as indeed extraordinary, and they have a point to make. 

Marc Ash was formerly the founder and Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.


+14 # Barbara K 2015-03-28 13:23
If that is how Italy runs its justice system, I will certainly avoid Italy. To have put this young lady thru all that pure hell for pure spite for something she had nothing to do with, is disgusting, to say the least.

+60 # Archie1954 2015-03-28 13:31
But Italy's judicial system has proven that it is both fair and just. The case against both defendants was dismissed. It is the US that has a politicized, corrupt and unfair system of "justice"! It also has a corrupt government and DOJ. Request for the criminal CIA agents to be returned to Italy to serve their sentences has been ignored by the US government even though Italy's request meets all the terms of the extradition treaty it signed with the US. No American has any standing to question the judicial systems of other countries, not when their own is so corrupt.
+39 # opinionaire 2015-03-28 14:14
while I cannot argue that the USA has many problems with both its justice system and its foreign policies, I cannot agree with your first statement. The Italian courts indicted, acquitted, reversed the acquittal, and generally dragged this young woman's life through years of unnecessary hell. That is not fair and just, it is abusive.
+7 # nogardflow 2015-03-28 17:36
Barbara, I think this article is more about the US justice, 'or injustice', system, rather than Italy's justice system.

+18 # djnova50 2015-03-28 14:48
Some foreign courts will do this if they do not have viable suspects. The prosecutor and investigating team did not do a good job, became embarrassed and basically tried to fix their bungles.

Amanda has led a relatively quite existence at home in WA. But, I started seeing articles about her over the last week. The articles were more about the court system in Italy.

I never believed that Amanda Knox was guilty of what the Italian court was charging her with. I certainly hope she will now be allowed to live her life without all the turmoil she encountered in Italian court system.

+41 # MidwestTom 2015-03-28 14:56
The American Justice system summed up in one short question:
"How much justice can you afford"?

0 # RLF 2015-03-28 16:22
You a carpenter Tom?

+9 # Philothustra 2015-03-28 14:57
Marc Ash is exactly correct: the fanatical anti-American tone of the police, prosecutor and blog was a reaction to building resentment in Europe over American imperialism and intrusion. The extreme rendition thing was just one factor- US jets blowing through a crowded ski lift in a north
valley was another.
Italy's judicial system is a joke. the prosecutors are given to wild flights of fantasy (the orgies, the blood feast) that defense lawyers are not allowed to protect of confess, despite lack of any evidence.

But is US "justice" any better?

+26 # WestWinds 2015-03-28 15:12
The way our government has and is conducting itself makes me totally ashamed to be an American. Once upon a time, I was a proud American, now I hesitate to admit I belong to such blatant corruption. But this is what you get when corporations run a country. May they never truly own and run the world.

+32 # turnoutthelights 2015-03-28 15:29
It's all about the religion of American Exceptionalism. It deprives us of insight to other cultures and values----much to our continuing national detriment.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why Conservatives Who Say $15 Minimum Wage Kills Businesses Are Wrong

The $15 minimum wage has not been hurting small businesses. (photo: AP)
The $15 minimum wage has not been hurting small businesses. (photo: AP)

By Alan Pyke, Think Progress

23 March 15
s Seattle prepares for the April launch of the highest minimum wage law in America, conservatives are warning that businesses are already shuttering under the pressure of higher labor costs and pointing to a recent report of a rash of restaurant closures as evidence. The problem is, the actual owners of those restaurants say that they’re not closing because of wages, and the city seems to be enjoying robust growth in that industry.

The New York Post editorial board, American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark Perry, Forbes contributor Tim Worstall, and Rush Limbaugh all cited a Seattle Magazine article from March 4 that claimed a “rash of shutterings” was afoot in the Seattle restaurant world. The magazine suggested that the minimum wage law might be a contributing factor in the closures of the Boat Street Cafe, Little Uncle, Grub, and Shanik.

“That’s weird,” Boat Street Cafe owner Renee Erickson told the Seattle Times when fact-checkers emailed to confirm the Seattle Magazine story. “No, that’s not why I’m closing Boat Street.” Erickson’s three other restaurants remain open, and two brand new ones are in the works in Seattle. “Opening more businesses would not be smart if I felt it was going to hinder my success,” said Erickson, who described herself as “totally on board with the $15 min.”

Poncharee Koungpunchart and Wiley Frank of Little Uncle “were never interviewed for these articles,” they told the paper. They are closing one of their two locations, “but pre-emptively closing a restaurant seven years before the full effect of the law takes place seems preposterous to us.” Frank reportedly asked one conservative writer who had picked up the wage-menace red herring to “not make assumptions about our business to promote your political values.”

The owner of Shanik told the Times that closing has “nothing to do with wages,” and Grub’s owner explained that they’re being bought out and rebranded by new ownership because the breakfast and sandwich bistro has been “a huge success.”

The Seattle Magazine article itself notes that new restaurants are opening at a healthy clip around the city, and that the Capitol Hill neighborhood is in the middle of “an unprecedented dining boom.” And while numbers compiled by data wonk Evan Soltas offer only an imprecise snapshot of restaurant employment in the Seattle area, the empirical evidence shows “no sign of a minimum-wage hit to employment.” These details did not make it into the punditry that initially swirled around the article’s suggestion that some closures might relate to the wage law. Forbes’ Worstall published a follow-up piece insisting that his point stands despite the crumbling narrative of specific Seattle restaurant closures. AEI’s Price has not yet responded to an request for comment.

Worstall, Price, and the other conservative economists and pundits who latched onto the overblown narrative from Seattle Magazine argue that minimum wage hikes reduce job growth, but many other studies and analysts have challenged the assumptions about business behavior that underlie the opponents’ claims. A recent academic analysis of how fast food companies would adapt to a law very similar to Seattle’s found that the industry would not have to fire anyone to cover the jump to $15. And states that increased their minimum wages in 2014 experienced faster overall job growth than states that did not.

All of this is happening weeks before anyone in Seattle has been forced to change anything about how they pay workers, and about six years before small restaurants like these will have to pay $15 per hour. The first tier of the city’s wage increase law goes active on April 1. From there, businesses will have between three and seven years to gradually step up to $15, depending on both the total number of people a firm employs and the health care benefits they offer workers.

Seattle’s business community was heavily involved in crafting graduated wage hike schedules that provide deferential treatment to employers who are already offering workers some non-cash compensation. The law’s complexity and flexibility owes in large part to the business community’s fierce negotiating in months of meetings with labor officials and local politicians. All sides left “a little bit of blood on the floor and some deeply held principles,” the business community’s lead negotiator told ThinkProgress last summer.

With time and data on what Seattle’s economy actually experiences as the wage hike phases in, the spread of the $15 idea seems almost inevitable to another key negotiator. “When we enact this law and our state does not slide into the ocean,” venture capitalist Nick Hanauer told ThinkProgress in the summer, “that will make it easier for people to be like, ‘well, fuck, why shouldn’t we do that?'”


+14 # caphillprof 2015-03-23 09:45
The opening and closing of restaurants is a fact of life in dynamic urban environments.

Some folk never let the facts get in the way of any political argument.

+4 # ronnewmexico 2015-03-23 09:58
Hey birdbrains…we did this more than ten years ago in Santa Fe, Albuquerque followed about 5 or so years later…..

why did they follow…nothing bad happened.

A quote on it, Wash Post….…"Since the rollout of a living wage in The City Different, not a whole lot is. At least not in the big picture. The unemployment rate stays where it always stays, lower than the rest of New Mexico. Gross sales tax receipts have climbed back out of the trough of recession. The number of new business licenses issued rises and falls, rises and falls, never far from about 600 a year. The number of people working in the area’s leisure and hospitality sector, where the bulk of low-wage workers are employed, remains steady. No one has done a recent study to see what’s happened with food stamp and public assistance caseloads, but early data seemed to indicate mixed results — none of which could be directly tied to an increase in minimum wage."

Santa Fe was one of three cities nationwide at the time to initiate this. The wage is not up to 15 per hour but this is after all New Mexico. It is ited to the cost of living index last I checked.

Really it is old news on this not workng Studies were produced right after it clearly showing it did not work….know what….the actuality of it proved them absolutely completely wrong….nothing bad happened. It was junk science based on junk statistics..

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The GOP Has Money to Kill

Blood Money

Leo Gerard

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Disturbed Man Tries to Get Into White House

Senator Ted Cruz. (photo: Texas Observer)
Senator Ted Cruz. (photo: Texas Observer)

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
disturbed Canadian man wants to try to get into the White House, according to reports.

The man, who was born in Calgary before drifting to Texas, has been spotted in Washington, D.C. in recent years exhibiting erratic behavior, sources said.

In 2013, he gained entry to the United States Senate and was heard quoting incoherently from a children’s book before he was finally subdued.

More recently, he was heard ranting about a plan to dismantle large components of the federal government, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the nation’s health-care program.

Despite a record of such bizarre episodes and unhinged utterances, observers expressed little concern about his plans to get into the White House, calling them “delusional.”


+79 # LeeBlack 2015-03-23 13:08
Funny now, hope it stays funny. Voters in Texas also thought it was funny when he announced his run for the Senate.
+37 # HowardMH 2015-03-23 14:34
Texas voters thought it was funny, they elected him to the senate, but all of them have forgotten that, it has been a couple years and well their average 3 brain cell brains just can't keep track of all those details.
+36 # Gootarama 2015-03-23 15:17
There was a book written fairly recently..."Wha t's the matter with Kansas?"......t ime for a sequel, "What's the matter with Texas?" Voters in Texas can really pick 'em....Bush, Perry and now Cruz; makes Cornyn look like a genius (which he isn't)!!
+20 # Granny Weatherwax 2015-03-23 16:45
I would go for What's the matter with Wisconsin, actually.
+5 # Kootenay Coyote 2015-03-23 21:20
Or What's the matter with America...& Canada too,for that matter.
+3 # Old4Poor 2015-03-24 00:09
Don't forget Louis Gohmert!
+87 # bmiluski 2015-03-23 13:12
I don't understand. The repugs got all into Obama's face about his not being born in the US even though he had a Hawaiian birth certificate. But, they don't seem to have a problem with someone who readily admits he's NOT American born and wants to run for president of the USA????
+16 # OldLady 2015-03-23 16:34
As I recall, one of the qualifications for being U.S. President is having been born in the United States, so I don't understand why Cruz even thinks he can become President! (BTW, McCain was not born in the U.S. either, but because he was born of US parents on a US military base his status wasn't seriously questioned. But I think that's where the tea party-ers got the idea that they could get Obama disqualified from office on the basis of their claim that he wasn't born in the U.S.)
+11 # revhen 2015-03-23 17:24
The difference is that he is a) Republican and b) mostly white. Both Obama and Cruz had mothers who were US citizens, had fathers who were NOT US citizens. But the Republican and white issues outweigh any questions.
+7 # ericlipps 2015-03-23 18:02
Quoting OldLady:
As I recall, one of the qualifications for being U.S. President is having been born in the United States, so I don't understand why Cruz even thinks he can become President! (BTW, McCain was not born in the U.S. either, but because he was born of US parents on a US military base his status wasn't seriously questioned. But I think that's where the tea party-ers got the idea that they could get Obama disqualified from office on the basis of their claim that he wasn't born in the U.S.)
Neither was I, and I always assumed that meant I was disqualified at birth. But it turns out that the First Congress passed a law extending eligibility for the presidency to people born to U.S. citizens living abroad, which would cover my situation (and more importantly, Sen. McCain's, military base or no).

As for President Obama, nothing will ever convince birthers that he's legally president. A lot of them think he isn't even a U.S. citizen, let alone a native-born one. How they imagine the Hillary Clinton campaign, the McCain campaign, and, four years later, Romney's people, could all have missed this if it were actually true, they don't say.

Is AZ next to legalize recreational pot?

Carlos Alfaro, Arizona political co-director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said a broad coalition is pushing to put recreational use of marijuana on the Arizona ballot in 2016. (Cronkite News Photo by Kelcie Grega)

Advocates see Arizona moving closer

By KELCIE GREGA Cronkite News 

PHOENIX – Democratic bills to legalize the recreational use of marijuana have gone nowhere at the Arizona State Legislature, but advocates say their main strategy has always involved the ballot box.

The Marijuana Policy Project, the Washington, D.C.-based group behind the effort that legalized medical marijuana in Arizona, plans to begin collecting signatures in late April to get the issue before voters in 2016.

While an effort to make the 2014 ballot foundered, Carlos Alfaro, Arizona political co-director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said there is a larger coalition for legalization this time around, in part because Washington and Colorado have done so.  (Washington D.C. and Alaska also recently legalized recreational use.)

“Law enforcement, parents, students at Arizona State and beyond – all the other universities in the state are going to be crucial to this,” he said.

Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, authored bills to decriminalize marijuana possession and to legalize and tax recreational marijuana for adults age 21 and older. Both failed to even see a committee.

With conservatives in control of the Legislature, Alfaro said legalization would have to be done through voters.

“Most people don’t have the time to go through the politics of the Legislature, contact the Legislature and actually get something done,” he said. “It’s going to have to be through the building of coalitions and the ballot initiative we’re building for 2016.”

In 2010, when voters passed Proposition 203 to legalize marijuana use for medical reasons, Alfaro’s group led the campaign.

He said public opinion is heading in the right direction this time around.

A poll by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University suggested that 45 percent of Arizonans support making recreational marijuana legal for those 18 and older.  (In the poll, 42 percent preferred only medical marijuana, while the remaining 13 percent opted for making all marijuana use illegal.)

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said David Daugherty, associate director of the Morrison Institute. “There has been over the years more and more acceptance of marijuana, and I suspect more and more states will legalize it for recreational use.”

Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said it’s common-sense to legalize marijuana.

“It’s unconscionable to saddle someone with a crime for something less harmful than alcohol,” he said. “You would never arrest an adult for drinking, so it shouldn’t be a crime to use a safer substance like marijuana.”

On March 17, the marijuana advocacy group Safer Arizona sponsored a march through downtown Phoenix promoting legalization.

“The plant itself is an incredible medicine that has been used for tens of thousands of years,” said Mikel Weisser, the group’s treasurer. “Yet in the last 80 years our country has led the world in destroying the lives of people who would otherwise be taking care of their health.”

Monday, March 23, 2015

What you need to know about Ted Cruz

nra leadership forum

While Ted Cruz announced it on Twitter, he will make a formal announcement about his presidential bid expected today at Liberty University, a Lynchburg, Virginia-based Evangelical University. But here are some things you need to know about Cruz.

Cruz has repeatedly rejected overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, making the debunked claims that recent weather and non-oceanic temperatures create great doubt. Moreover, by pushing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a ban on fracking regulation, the repeal of EPA regulations that he says “kill jobs,” increased drilling, and greater fossil fuel exports, his energy agenda would increase CO2 emissions and hasten climate change. 

2. Calls same-sex marriage “tragic and indefensible.”
Nearly a decade since Congress rejected a federal constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages, public sentiment has hugely shifted to the point that 60 percent of Americans indicated support for marriage equality in a recent poll. But Cruz continues to fight against equal protection for same-sex couples, pushing for legislation and a federal constitutional amendment to allow states to deny them the freedom to marry. He denounced 2014 court rulings overturning state same-sex marriage bans as “judicial activism at its worst,” calling them “tragic and indefensible.” “Traditional marriage is an institution whose integrity and vitality are critical to the health of any society. We should remain faithful to our moral heritage and never hesitate to defend it,” he said. 

3. Refers to emergency contraception as “abortifacients.”
Cruz is a strong opponent of abortion rights, but also has opposed access to contraception. He backed the Blunt Amendment to decimate the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of contraception coverage and denounced emergency contraception as “abortifacients,” incorrectly suggesting that Plan B causes abortions. 

4. Believes Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme.”
Cruz, in a 2011 interview with the Texas Tribune, agreed that Social Security was indeed a “Ponzi scheme.” While he called it a “vital bulwark of our society,” he also proposed a three-part plan to raise the Social Security retirement age, cut future benefits, and privatize much of the program. A similar privatization proposal by President George W. Bush died at the hands of a solidly-Republican Congress in 2005. 

5. Worried about Sharia Law being imposed on America.
Although the U.S. constitution expressly prohibits the establishment of a national religion, Cruz has expressed concern that a religious group that makes up only about 1 percent of the nation’s population might do just that. At a 2012 candidate forum, Cruz warned “Sharia law is an enormous problem” in the United States.
6. Fears a United Nations plot to ban golf courses. 

In a 2012 article on his Senate campaign site, Cruz sounded the alarm that “Agenda 21 is wrong, and it must be stopped.” Cruz wanted that George Soros and others backed a 1992 United Nations agenda to “abolish ‘unsustainable’ environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads.” The non-binding resolution, signed by 178 nations including the United States (under then-President George H. W.Bush), was nothing more than a general statement about reducing policy and building sustainable environments — and has, more than two decades later, not been used to eliminate golf courses.


Bio: Josh Israel is a senior investigative reporter for at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Previously, he was a reporter and oversaw money-in-politics reporting at the Center for Public Integrity, was chief researcher for Nick Kotz’s acclaimed 2005 book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America, and was president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club. A New England-native, Josh received a B.A. in politics from Brandeis University and graduated from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, in 2004. He has appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox News, Current TV, and many radio shows across the country.