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Where would we be without the right to bear arms and pretend we’re homesteaders, defending our sod houses and log cabins against surprise attacks by West Indians and gangsta rappers? More here.

The new professionalism

Radley Balko:

Maybe there’s a legitimate law enforcement reason to strip a man naked, strap him to a chair, tie a “spit hood” around his mouth, put a hood over his head (see video at the link), and douse him with pepper spray until he dies. That’s what sheriff’s deputies in Lee County, Florida did to 62-year-old Nick Christie two-and-a-half years ago.

I certainly can’t think of any such legitimate reason. But Lee County State’s Attorney Stephen Russell apparently can. Because he cleared the deputies involved of any wrongdoing.

Tonight

Tuesday, Jan 3 | 9 pm eastern | 6 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking Tuesdays | This week, Spocko and Mike Stark talk about today’s media environment, effective activism, organizing strategies and the power of the 99%. Follow @spockosbrain @mike_starkListen live and later on BTR 

The United States of ALEC

Why bother having elected officials at all? Cut out the middleman and let the corporations pass the laws directly!

RICHMOND — In recent years, Virginia legislators have proposed bills that would legalize the use of deadly force in defending your home, call for companies that hire illegal immigrants to be shut down and give businesses tax credits to fund private school tuition for needy students.

All of those bills — and more than 50 others — have been pushed by a conservative group that ghostwrites bills for legislators across the nation, according to a study set to be released in the coming days.

In many instances, the bills are identical to model legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a pro-business, free-market group whose members include legislators as well as private companies, which pay thousands of dollars to have a seat at the table.

ALEC, as the group is known, has seen seven of its bills passed by the Virginia General Assembly, including measures on education, taxes and health care, according to the study, conducted by the liberal group ProgressVA. One of the resulting laws laid the groundwork for Virginia’s legal challenge of the federal health-care law passed in 2010.

And for the coming legislative session, the first bill introduced in the Senate is an ALEC bill that changes voter requirements — forcing registered voters to cast provisional ballots if they cannot provide identification.

Critics say the group’s low profile cloaks an ambitious agenda driven by corporate interests.

The peaceful atom

Time to bury the nukes:

The year 2012 has opened with news that Fukushima’s radioactive cloud may already have killed some 14,000 Americansaccording to a major study just published in the International Journal of Health Services.

Germany and Japan, the world’s third and fourth largest economies, along with numerous others countries, have definitively turned away from the “Peaceful Atom.”

But it hasn’t yet been buried. That’s up to us. And 2012 is the year to do it.

We are already very close. The mythical “Nuclear Renaissance” has been gutted by Fukushima, low gas prices and the escalating Solartopian revolution in green energy. Solar panels, wind turbines, sustainable bio-fuels, geo-thermal, ocean thermal, increased efficiency and much more have simply priced atomic energy out of the market.

There is virtually no private money to build new reactors—except where there are huge government subsidies and guarantees. In 2012 we must make those all go away.

Likewise, there are increasingly powerful grassroots movements focused on shutting reactors that still operate. Germany has shut 7, and the rest will be gone by 2022, if not earlier. In Japan, just 11 of more than 50 reactors now operate. Because local governments can prevent reactors from re-opening once they go down for refueling, Japan could emerge from 2012 without a single nuke on line.

Save the bay

As you already know, I love the Chesapeake Bay. But since they lifted the building moratorium in the watershed about 15 years ago, it’s getting dirtier and dirtier – again. Here’s some encouraging news:

RICHMOND, Va. – A report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation concludes that storm water and sewage plant upgrades intended to help nurse the environmentally-battered bay back to health would create nearly 250,000 jobs.

The report released Tuesday is aimed at countering claims that the multi-state, multi-billion restoration directed by the Environmental Protection Agency will be harmful to the economy and result in job losses, the foundation’s president said.

“That is not borne out by the facts,” William C. Baker said in a statement. “Whether the target is EPA or the bay pollution limits, it is essential that the public understand that environmental regulations will create jobs to reduce pollution, and sustain jobs that depend on clean water.”

The report, called “Debunking the `Job Killer’ Myth,” relies on a variety of industry experts such as engineers, reports and other sources to assess the impact of water pollution projects within the six states and the District of Columbia that comprise the bay’s 64,000-square-mile watershed. It also reviews job-killing threats dating back to 1976 and Henry Ford II claimed that clean air and fuel efficiency standards would “shut down” Ford Motor Co. to illustrate historic claims that environmental efforts are bad for the economy.

Punitive

I remember waiting for the train and talking to some woman about politics. I told her that the Republican party and the pro-life movement eventually wanted to outlaw birth control, and she told me I was crazy.

I only wish I was.

Montana and Citizens United

Go read Charlie Pierce. But here’s the money quote from Justice James Nelson:

Corporations are artificial creatures of law. As such, they should enjoy only those powers—not constitutional rights, but legislatively-conferred powers—that are concomitant with their legitimate function, that being limited liability investment vehicles for business. Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people—human beings—to share fundamental natural rights with soulless creations of government. Worse still, while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency, and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons.

Congratulations

To Aretha Franklin, who just got engaged.

John Roberts

Defends SCOTUS and their self-inflicted ethical wounds.

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