Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A God Who Hates

Wafa Sultan is truly a courageous woman.  Heroic.  Born in Syria into Islam, she and her husband emigrated to America in 1989.  Trained as a doctor, she was already familiar with, and disgusted by, the horrible treatment of women in Islamic countries;  when she discovered some real freedom in the "West", she turned against Islam.  Loudly.   

I just finished reading her excellent 2009 book, "A God Who Hates."  If you are ambivalent about Islam or think vaguely that Islam is a religion of "peace," you should read this book.  

If you are looking for a stronger foundation to oppose Islam, this book is gold.  

If you love Islam, you probably will not read it, will condemn Wafa to death, and go on proclaiming how Islam is a religion of "peace."  Sheesh, you thought the Bible was bloody?  Islam is one dark, dark religion.

I'd never heard of her until I saw her name mentioned on the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) website.  The FFRF honored her in 2006.  Click here.  And there's a short review of the book here. Hard to find much else.  

Greenland melting

NASA satellites allowed us to notice a rather extreme ice melt event in Greenland in early July 2012.  If you ask me, we're getting some fairly ominous messages from the ... planet.

Sometimes the remedy works, sometimes the medicine kills the patient.   But that certainly should not suggest that you just sit on your hands and do nothing at all.  Does it?

from NASA:

Nearly the entire ice sheet covering Greenland—from its thin coastal edges to its two-mile-thick center—experienced some degree of melting for several days in July 2012. According to measurements from three satellites and an analysis by NASA and university scientists, an estimated 97 percent of the top layer of the ice sheet had thawed at some point in mid-July, the largest extent of surface melting observed in three decades of satellite observations.
The data visualization above shows the extent of surface melting in Greenland on July 8 (left) and July 12, 2012 (right). The maps are based on observations from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMI/S) on the U.S. Air Force’s DMSP satellite, from India’s OceanSat-2, and from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The satellites measure different physical properties at different scales, and they pass over Greenland at different times. Taken together, they provide a picture of an extreme melt event.
On July 8, satellites showed that about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. By July 12, the extent of melting spread dramatically beyond the norm. In the images above, areas classified as “probable melt” (light pink) correspond to sites where at least one satellite detected surface melting. Areas classified as “melt” (dark pink) correspond to sites where two or three satellites detected melting.
Every summer, a fraction of the surface of the Greenland ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean.
In mid-July 2012, Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was analyzing radar data from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Oceansat-2 satellite when he noticed that most of Greenland appeared to have undergone surface melting on July 12. “This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result,” said Nghiem. “Was this real or was it due to a data error?”
Nghiem consulted with Dorothy Hall, who studies the surface temperature of Greenland from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She confirmed that MODIS showed unusually high temperatures over the ice sheet surface and that melt was extensive. Colleagues Thomas Mote of the University of Georgia and Marco Tedesco of the City University of New York also confirmed the melt with passive-microwave data from the DMSP.
The extreme melting coincided with an unusually strong ridge of warm air—a “heat dome”—over Greenland. The ridge was one in a series that dominated Greenland’s weather between May and July 2012.
Even the area around Summit Station in central Greenland, which at two miles above sea level is near the highest point of the ice sheet, showed signs of melting. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather station at Summit confirmed that air temperatures hovered above or within a degree of freezing for several hours from July 11 to July 12.
Such pronounced melting at Summit and across the ice sheet has not occurred since 1889, according to ice cores analyzed by Kaitlin Keegan at Dartmouth College. “Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years,” said Lora Koenig, a NASA scientist and member of the team analyzing the satellite data. “With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time. But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome.”
“The Greenland ice sheet is a vast area with a varied history of change,” said Tom Wagner, NASA’s cryosphere program manager. “This event, combined with other natural but uncommon phenomena such as the large calving event earlier this week on Petermann Glacier, are part of a complex story.”
NASA Earth Observatory images created by Jesse Allen, using data provided by Nicolo DiGirolamo (SSAI) and Dorothy Hall (NASA/GSFC) in the NASA/GSFC Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory. Caption by Maria-Jose Vinas and Mike Carlowicz.
Terra - MODIS

They make this sound like a "regular" event, occurring about every hundred years.  And so what's the problem?  

Paid no taxes?

None?  For 10 years?  Romney paid no taxes at all?  Is it true?  

Hmm ... Lindsay Graham (R-SC) was recently heard justifying Mitt's efforts to "reduce" the taxes he paid as "the American way."  It's very "American" to try and pay less in taxes, says Graham.  

So ... let's hear Lindsay again try to justify Romney paying ZERO taxes for 10 years.  And what if EVERYONE could reduce their taxes to zero? Of course, all of us cannot do that, as we don't have the ways and means and accountants to weave their magic.  

And what if everyone could avoid paying any taxes?  ooh! it might help them realize their dream of drowning the government in a bathtub.  And when it all goes to hell, well, they can blame the Democrats for it. 

It's kinda hard to believe that the Republicans nominated this guy.

Texas sucks

Texas has been firmly in the grip of the GOP for many years now (two extremely idiotic Governors in a row: Bush and Perry).  

In many cases, Texas Democrats were slightly more moderate than right-wing wackos, but at least Texas remained competitive when Democrats ruled the roost.  Not any longer.  Republicans must be sooooo proud.

I've said it before but not as well as Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle did in "Hard for Lone Star to shine at bottom of heap":
I love Texas. But I'm not proud of where it's going. Or, more accurately, where we've let it go.
Fifty-first. Dead last. Worst in the nation. That's where a federal agency ranked Texas health care services and delivery earlier this month. 

Lisa cites more statistics on the downward slide of the State since the GOP took over a decade ago. We rank at the bottom or near the bottom on most every category that is measured except for minimum wage job creation. Texas is #1 for burger flippers.
Sure, when Forbes ranks Texas No. 1 for business, the boosters crow about job creation. They don't say much about what kind of jobs we're creating. Texas has the nation's third-highest percentage of hourly workers paid minimum wage or less, behind only Georgia and Mississippi, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It is almost funny how major corporations haven't exactly rushed to move their HQs to the state. Maybe they don't want their kids growing up in a place that ranks near the bottom in education. Or swimming in polluted water, or catching fish they can't eat. They don't want to pay the highest rates for homeowners insurance in the nation, or skyrocketing electricity costs, or out of control rates for college. And maybe they don't want to move to a state that honors elected officials who are convicted felons and still holding their position at the capitol.

Eventually our statistics are going to catch up with us. Just remember, it didn't used to be like this.
At some point, we have to face the facts, acknowledge the rankings, and stop explaining them away with silly excuses like "the feds don't like us." I'm not saying we should get mad about them, or depressed, or move to Minnesota.

We can change course. But first we have to swallow our pride and admit we're on the wrong one.
posted by John Cobarruvias

Ed Note:  Most of the GOP are like Muslims in that they will NEVER admit they are wrong about anything.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

chile pequin

Woah!  That pic at the top of the blog is a macro of some of the tiny chile pequin peppers that are growing on a plant on the roof.  Holy cow, those tiny peppers are HOT!  I ate a ripe red one today for the first time since they started maturing, and my mouth was on fire for 10 minutes!!  It was a good burn.  

Here's another shot, safely stored in a baggie.

The wife was afraid to eat one after she saw my reaction.  But she does have a spicy sauce in mind.  Many thanks to our good neighbors for giving us a plant.  

The Chile pequin is a much sought after perennial native hot pepper that is well behaved in the garden. It is an easy to grow favorite that the birds will also appreciate. Chile pequins will grow with sun or shade and respond to good care with more growth and fruits. The fruits are edilble and on the hot side as a seasoning. Beautiful when used in mass plantings. 

And the professional, money shot.  

These miniature motherfuckers rate from 100,000 to 140,000 units on the Scoville scale and are up to 40 times hotter than jalapenos.

Atheist President?

Could an atheist be elected President of the USA?  Several years ago, I'd have said it was impossible.  Now, ya never know.  Perhaps this country is finally kicking the religious habit.  Finally.  

I'll be there are some atheists where you work, but they're afraid to "come out."

Not that I put much "faith" in polls, but ...

Majority Of Americans Would Vote For An Atheist For President (POLL)

(RNS) For the second time in less than a year, the Gallup poll reports that a majority of Americans would vote for an atheist for president.
The latest survey, from June, found that 54 percent of those asked said they would vote a "well- qualified" atheist into the Oval Office -- the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question in 1958, when only 18 percent said they would back a nonbeliever. 

Indeed, in the current poll, 43 percent said they would not vote for a well-qualified atheist, a percentage that was higher among Republicans than Democrats (58 percent) or independents (56 percent).

Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America, knows that first-hand. In 1990, he ran for governor of South Carolina where an old law banned atheists like him from holding public office. Silverman lost -- by a landslide -- though his candidacy did lead to the repeal of the law by the state's supreme court.
Silverman, who tells the story of his run for office in his book "Candidate Without a Prayer," says that to push their approval numbers higher, more atheists need to "come out," just as gays and lesbians have done.
"I think prejudices will always be with us, so I am not optimistic enough to think (atheists' approval rating) will be near unanimous," he said. "But I think the more role models we have the better things will be."
Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry magazine, an atheist publication, agrees.
"When you think you don't know any atheists then they seem horrible, but when the person at the desk across from you is an atheist then those stereotypes don't hold," Flynn said.
But he's a glass-is-half-empty guy, too.
"We have to keep in mind that we atheists are still the group that the smallest number would vote for," he said. "We are riding that train into the sunlight of equality, but we are still sitting in the caboose."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Choice

Do the rank-and-file Republicans really believe that Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born Socialist Muslim Communist dictator wanna-be who wants to destroy capitalism and the western way of life while enslaving the rich, fucking all the white women up the ass and hiring only Black Panthers?

Too bad so many have been brainwashed so badly (and easily).  Those of us on the left are disappointed the guy hasn't followed through on ENOUGH of his campaign promises.  Granted, he's had unprecedented opposition from the reactionary, fear-mongering GOP, and while that "excuse" is valid for many things, it doesn't fly for everything.  

I hope that in a second term, Barack Obama will be better than Barack Obama has been.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NASA Curiosity

Some exciting space events are coming up on Aug 6.  This craft has been orbiting Mars since 2001!

Mars Rover ‘Curiosity’ Readies For Tricky Landing, With Laser In Tow

NASA’s most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity, is a little under two weeks away from its scheduled landing on the Martian surface.

The August 6th landing is expected to be a nail-biting seven-minute long ordeal unlike anything NASA has attempted before, during which time the rover’s landing craft is supposed to abruptly slow from 13,000 miles-per-hour to zero, with the craft entering the Martian atmosphere, deploying a supersonic parachute, ejecting its heat shield, then the parachute itself, then igniting rocket thrusters underneath the rover, then the landing craft finally activating a “sky crane” to gently lower the rover into Mars’s Gale Crater near Mount Sharp, where scientists believe that liquid water once flowed over Mars’s surface.

“Landing on Mars is always risky,” said NASA Mars Exploration Program Director Doug McCuistion in a press briefing on the landing on July 16, “There are many unknowns Mars throws at you: Dust storms, atmospheric challenges, wind.”

Check out the trajectory of the landing in the following video simulation and graphic from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is in charge of the mission.

But if all goes according to plan, the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, officially designated the “Mars Science Laboratory,” will touch down on the Martian surface at 1:31 a.m. Eastern, Monday, August 6.

Onboard the 10-foot-long, 9-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall rover (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory notes it is about the size of a compact SUV), are 10 different instruments, among them a military-grade laser designed to vaporize rock samples to better analyze their composition.

The laser fires extremely short, invisible-to-the-naked-eye pulses, each lasting 5 billionths of a second, but containing more than a megawatt of power, enough to put it on par with some anti-missile lasers. The laser, as is the case with the other instruments, is powered by the rover’s battery, itself charged by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 onboard.

The 20-pound laser and telescope known as the Chemical and Camera instrument, or “ChemCam,” is due to be fired-up on around August 10, according to scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the instrument was originally developed.

“If all goes well we plan to use it within a week of landing, but we will have to wait and see,” said Roger Wiens, principal investigator of the Mars Science Laboratory’s ChemCam team, in an email to TPM.

Wiens further told TPM that the laser had a “design lifetime” of 5 million shots, more than enough to take it past the 2-year-working lifetime for the entire rover itself, according to NASA.

Before it gets to blasting any rocks to establish their constituent materials — scientists are keen to find any deposits of water or ice — the ChemCam will first have to be calibrated. This involves checking to ensure the instrument is working properly before it is extended on a mast above the rover. Then, the telescope portion of the instrument will “take images of a calibration target” mounted on the rover itself, according to Los Alamos National Laboratory spokesman James Rickman, in an email to TPM.

“After getting back images of the Mars surface surrounding the rover, the team will select the first sample,” for vaporizing, Rickman told TPM. “If there are rocks near the rover, we will pick one of them as the first target, otherwise ChemCam will start by characterizing the soil.”

The data taken by ChemCam will be sent back to Earth via a radio transmission, first to one of three satellites currently orbiting the Red Planet (the NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the NASA’s Odyssey orbiter and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express ), then back to NASA Deep Space Network satellite dishes on Earth.

“The data transmission takes a little over a half hour plus the time it takes to travel to Earth, which ranges between three and twenty minutes depending on the positions of the planets in the solar system,” Rickman told TPM.

One of the satellites, the Odyssey, recently gave NASA scientists a bit of a scare when it suffered a glitch and entered “safe mode,” possibly further obscuring Curiosity’s landing, but fortunately Odyssey is now back in working order, helping to ensure that the rover gets to the surface in-tact.

As impressive as the laser may be, the other nine instruments are of equal importance in the Curiosity’s overall mission, the objective of which is to “assess whether the landing area has ever had or still has environmental conditions favorable to microbial life, both its habitability and its preservation.”

Check out the following video simulation of Curiosity’s instruments in action from NASA. The ChemCam is the camera-like instrument poking out of the top-center of the rover.

At last check — an in-flight test on March 16— the ChemCam laser was functioning properly, according to Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists.

“The test took less than half an hour and everything checked out fine,” Rickman told TPM. “The instrument will stay off until its next check-out shortly after landing.”


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012


A bit of wisdom from one of my admirers, aka pavethewhales, borrowed from Twitter.

The same people demanding multiple birth certificates now believe 2 years of tax returns are as far back as we need to go. Uh huh.

DISCLOSE Act fails - again - in the Senate today. So the philosophy is that you need an ID to vote, but not to buy an election?

Randi Shannon

I found this one at Veracity Stew.  Just when you think the Tea Party can't get any nuttier....

Iowa Republican Drops Out of Senate Race, Declares Herself a U.S. Senator

Randi Shannon - Self-appointed Senator of Iowa

OK, things just got certifiable over in the Tea Party Crazy Town. And I mean certifiable! Looney Tunes ain’t got nothin’ on this one!
Enter one Randi Shannon, a Republican candidate for Iowa’s 34th Senate district, whoannounced on Friday that she is dropping out of the senate race via her Facebook pageand an 1,800 word diatribe that claims the government is illegitimate (emphasis added):
Let me now announce to everyone in Iowa, I have become aware of the existence of the Original Republic for The United States of America.“We the People” re-inhabited our lawful de jure (de jur- “by right of lawful establishment”) government on March 30th, 2010. This is The Republic founded in 1787 and then abandoned during The Civil War in the 1860s.
It was then replaced in 1871 by the UNITED STATES CORPORATION. (de facto-without law). This Unlawful Corporate Democracy, established by the forty-first congress, has been acting as though it is the “official government” which clearly it is not! In point of fact, it is the reason why “We the People” Instead of Experiencing Freedom and Prosperity, suffer under the weight of Oppressive Statutes and an Out of Control, Monstrous National Debt which is Robbing Us and All Future Generations of Americans of Our Treasure and Our Legacy for which Our Founding Fathers’ so Valiantly Fought and Died.
But good news, people! A shadow government, the Republic of the United States of America, has been created and she has appointed herself to the position of Senator! Yippee!
Therefore, in order to affect the most good on behalf of The People of Iowa’s 34th District and in keeping with my conscience, I have accepted the position of U.S. Senator in The Republic of The United States of America, where I may better serve You and All of The People of Iowa. I want you to know I have taken an Oath to Uphold, Support and Defend The Constitution of The United States of America. This I will do to the best of my ability, So Help Me God.
By serving as your Senator in The Republic Congress, I am restrained to voting in line with Our Republic for The United States Constitution, which by the way does not contain the 14th Amendment or any thereafter as these are the product of “The De facto” UNITED STATES CORPORATION, and have no basis in Our Constitution. Therefore, “they are Their Problems” and when you join The Republic of The United States of America, they are no longer your problems! And as your Senator, I Proclaim here today that I am determined that “Their Problems” will never again become your problems in The Republic!
My mind is seriously blown right now, I have to say.
Therefore, “they are Their Problems” and when you join The Republic of The United States of America, they are no longer your problems!
So, from that statement, I can only assume that she and the other “citizens” of the “Republic of the United States” are seceding from the union, yes? Good! Can we kick them the hell out now? Or, are they just building a big, secret tree house somewhere in Iowa, where you have to have the secret password to get in, so they can pass secret notes to each other and decode them with their super-secret decoder rings?
Honestly, I cannot seem to put into words or vocalize the images going through my head right now, which are a mixture of lunatics running amok in an insane asylum, a bratty 10-year-old kid pitching a hissy-fit, some weirdo self-help guru ladling the kool-aid to his acolytes, and Daffy Duck running around with that goofy laugh of his.
C’mon! You know the one I’m talking about!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Annise on Colbert

Our great, openly gay, mayor Annise Parker was a recent guest on the Colbert Report.  She did good.

UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Mayor Parker praises Houston’s economy and tolerance on The Colbert Report | Tubular | a blog

Blair Mountain

How many of you remember, or how many have even heard of, the Battle of Blair Mountain?  It truly is one of the neglected and buried stories of the labor struggle in this country.  People had to fight, and in many cases die, to advance the rights of workers. 

Chris Hedges recaps the little-known struggle of coal miners in West Virginia in The Battle of Blair Mountain.

The Battle of Blair Mountain

by Chris Hedges
Joe Sacco and I, one afternoon when we were working in southern West Virginia on our book "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt," parked our car on the side of a road. We walked with Kenny King into the woods covering the slopes of Blair Mountain. King is leading an effort to halt companies from extracting coal by blasting apart the mountain, the site in the early 1920s of the largest armed insurrection in the United States since the Civil War.

Blair Mountain, amid today's rising corporate exploitation and state repression, represents a piece of American history that corporate capitalists, and especially the coal companies, would have us forget. It is a reminder that citizens have a right to resist a corporate machine intent on subjugating them. It is a reminder that all the openings of our democracy were achieved with the toil, anguish and sometimes blood of radicals and popular fronts, from labor unions to anarchists, socialists and communists. But this is not approved history. We are instructed by the power elite to worship at approved shrines -- plantation estates erected for wealthy slaveholders and land speculators such as George Washington, or the gilded domes of authority in the nation's capital.

As we walked, King, a member of the Friends of Blair Mountain, an organization formed to have the site declared a national park, swept a metal detector over the soil. When it went off he knelt. He dug with a trowel until he unearthed a bullet casing, which he handed to me. I recognized it as a .30-30, the kind of ammunition my grandfather and I used when we hunted deer in Maine. Winchester lever-action rifles, which took the .30-30 round, were widely used by the rebellious miners.

In late August and early September 1921 in West Virginia's Logan County as many as 15,000 armed miners, some of them allegedly provided with weapons by the United Mine Workers of America, mounted an insurrection after a series of assassinations of union leaders and their chief supporters, as well as mass evictions, blacklistings and wholesale firings by coal companies determined to break union organizing. Miners in other coal fields across the United States had concluded a strike that lasted two months and ended with a 27 percent pay increase. The miners in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky wanted the same. They wanted to be freed from the debt peonage of the company stores, to be paid fairly for their work, to have better safety in the mines, to fight back against the judges, politicians, journalists and civil authorities who had sold out to Big Coal, and to have a union. They grasped that unchallenged and unregulated corporate power was a form of enslavement. And they grasped that it was only through a union that they had any hope of winning.

Joe and I visited the grave of Sid Hatfield in a hilltop cemetery near the Tug River in Buskirk, Ky. The headstone, which is engraved with an image of Hatfield's face, reads in part: "Defender of the rights of working people, gunned down by Felts detectives on the steps of the McDowell County Courthouse... His murder triggered the miners' rebellion at the Battle of Blair Mountain." Hatfield's brief life is a microcosm of what can happen when one does not sell out to the powerful. The police chief of Matewan, W.Va., he turned down the coal companies' offer of what was then the small fortune of $300 a month to turn against the miners. Law enforcement, with the exception of a few renegades such as Hatfield, was stripped, as is true now in corporate America, of any pretense of impartiality. Miners who wanted jobs had to sign "yaller dog" contracts promising they would not "affiliate with or assist or give aid to any labor organization," under penalty of immediate loss of jobs and company housing. Baldwin-Felts spies, private security goons hired by the mine owners, informed on miners who talked of organizing. This led to dismissal, blacklisting, beating and sometimes death. The coal fields were dominated by company towns. Corporate power had seeped into every facet of existence. And resistance was costly.

"For more than twenty years, coal operators had controlled their very being; had arranged for their homes and towns, churches, schools, and recreation centers; had provided doctors and teachers and preachers; had employed many of their law officers; had even selected silent motion picture shows that were beginning to appear in theaters; had told them, finally, where and how they were to live and discharged those who did not conform," Lon Savage wrote of the coal miners in his book "Thunder in the Mountains." "In this context, the union's organizing campaign gave the miners a new vision: not only better pay and working conditions but independence, power, freedom, justice, and prestige for people who felt they had lost them all."

Denise Giardina, in her lyrical and moving novel of the mine wars, "Storming Heaven," has union organizer Rondal Lloyd wonder what it is that finally makes a passive and cowed population rebel.

"Who can say why the miners were ready to listen to me?" he asks. "They broke their backs and died of roof falls and rib rolls and gas, their children went to bed hungry, and died of the typhoid, their wives took the consumption, they themselves coughed and spit up. True enough.

They stayed in debt to the company store, they had no say at the mine or freedom of any kind, they could be let go at a moment's notice and put out in the road, or beaten, or shot. All true. But it had always been that way, and they never fought back. Everything had always been the way it was, we were all pilgrims of sorrow, and only Jesus or the Virgin Mary could make it right. So why did they listen this time? Why did they decide that Jesus might not wait two thousand years for the kingdom to come, that Jesus might kick a little ass in the here and now?"
"Hell, it aint got nothing to do with Jesus," the character Talcott tells him. "Half of em dont believe in Jesus. They just stood all they can stand, and they dont care for it."

Sound familiar? It is an old and cruel tactic in any company town. Reduce wages and benefits to subsistence level. Break unions. Gut social assistance programs. Buy and sell elected officials and judges. Fill the airwaves with mindless diversion and corporate propaganda. Pay off the press. Poison the soil, the air and the water to extract natural resources and leave behind a devastated wasteland. Plunge workers into debt. Leave them owing more on their houses than the structures are worth. Make sure the children will be burdened by tens of thousands of dollars lent to them for an education and will be unable to find decent jobs. Make sure that everything from hospital bills to car payments to credit card fees exact increasing pounds of flesh. And when workers stumble, when they cannot pay soaring interest rates, jack up rates further and deploy predators from debt collection agencies to harass the debtors and seize their assets. Then toss them away. Company towns all look the same. And we live in the biggest one on earth.

The coal companies, to break a strike in the spring of 1920, sent in squads of Baldwin-Felts detectives, nicknamed "gun thugs" by the miners, to evict miners and their families from company housing. Soon hundreds of families were living in squalid, muddy tent encampments. During an eviction on May 19 of about a dozen miners and their families -- in which, as today, possessions were carted out and dumped into the street -- Hatfield ordered the arrest of the company goons. He confronted the "gun thugs" at the train station at Matewan after the evictions. Shooting broke out. When it was over, seven Baldwin-Felts detectives, including Albert and Lee Felts, were dead. Another detective was wounded. Two miners were killed. Matewan's mayor, Cabell Testerman, was mortally wounded. The gun battle emboldened the miners. By July there was almost no coal coming out of the mines.

"It is freedom or death, and your children will be free," Mother Jones told the miners. "We are not going to leave a slave class to the coming generation, and I want to say to you the next generation will not charge us for what we have done; they will charge and condemn us for what we have left undone."

Hatfield was acquitted of murder charges in January 1921. The decision infuriated the mine owners. And Hatfield became a marked man. After his acquittal of murder, coal bosses had him charged with dynamiting a coal tipple. When Hatfield and his young wife, as well as a friend, Ed Chambers, and Chambers' wife, walked up the courthouse steps in Welch, W.Va., for the new trial, the two men were assassinated by Baldwin-Felts agents standing at the top. The assassinations set off the insurrection and triggered the Blair Mountain rebellion. The coal owners hastily organized militias and recruited units of heavily armed law enforcement officers. They hired private airplanes to drop homemade explosives on miners encamped on the mountain. Billy Mitchell, one of the early advocates of air power, volunteered the Army's 88th Squadron to carry out aerial surveillance for the coal companies.

The armed miners, many of them veterans of World War I, fought militias and police, who were equipped with heavy machine guns, for five days.

You'll have to click here to read the rest, and you should.