Saturday, June 30, 2007

Weekend Cat Blogging

Julius assumes the position. What a way to spend a holiday weekend, eh?

A Loss Of Personal Integrity

From today’s New York Times, a cautionary tale from Watergate figure Egil Krogh. It’s astonishing that we’ve forgotten the lessons of Watergate, but perhaps not surprising. I urge everyone to read the entire column (I don’t think it’s behind the Select firewall), but here are some pertinent excerpts:
In early August 1971, I attended a secret meeting in Room 16, a hideaway office in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building, across the street from the White House. Huddled around the table were G. Gordon Liddy, a former F.B.I. agent; E. Howard Hunt, a former C.I.A. agent; and David R. Young Jr., a member of the National Security Council staff. I was deputy assistant to the president.

Two months earlier, The New York Times had published the classified Pentagon Papers, which had been provided by Daniel Ellsberg. President Nixon had told me he viewed the leak as a matter of critical importance to national security. He ordered me and the others, a group that would come to be called the “plumbers,” to find out how the leak had happened and keep it from happening again.

Mr. Hunt urged us to carry out a “covert operation” to get a “mother lode” of information about Mr. Ellsberg’s mental state, to discredit him, by breaking into the office of his psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Fielding. Mr. Liddy told us the F.B.I. had frequently carried out such covert operations -- a euphemism for burglaries -- in national security investigations, that he had even done some himself.

I listened intently. At no time did I or anyone else there question whether the operation was necessary, legal or moral. Convinced that we were responding legitimately to a national security crisis, we focused instead on the operational details: who would do what, when and where.

For you younger kids who don’t remember, the Pentagon Papers was a top secret Dept. of Defense report on America’s involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1971. It was filled with a lot of embarassing revelations, like how America had expanded its military activities with attacks on Laos and North Vietnman at a time when President Johnson was publicly promising not to expand the war. Their publication helped turn public opinion against the Vietnam War.

Sound familiar?

Then we have all the president’s men, set out to publicly discredit an administration critic by trying to obtain embarassing personal information--this time by breaking into the man’s psychiatric records. They are so wrapped up in what they are doing that they’ve convinced themselves this vendetta is in the interest of “national security,” not Richard Nixon’s ego.

Again, sound familiar?

The premise of our action was the strongly held view within certain precincts of the White House that the president and those functioning on his behalf could carry out illegal acts with impunity if they were convinced that the nation’s security demanded it. As President Nixon himself said to David Frost during an interview six years later, “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” To this day the implications of this statement are staggering.

.......

I finally realized that what had gone wrong in the Nixon White House was a meltdown in personal integrity. Without it, we failed to understand the constitutional limits on presidential power and comply with statutory law.

In early 2001, after President Bush was inaugurated, I sent the new White House staff a memo explaining the importance of never losing their personal integrity. In a section addressed specifically to the White House lawyers, I said that integrity required them to constantly ask, is it legal? And I recommended that they rely on well-established legal precedent and not some hazy, loose notion of what phrases like “national security” and “commander in chief” could be tortured into meaning. I wonder if they received my message.

I think we know the answer to that question.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fred Thompson Underwhelms In N.H.

Maybe it was his famed laziness showing up, or maybe he had somewhere else to be, but when Fred Thomposon campaigned in New Hampshire yesterday, his nine-minute speech skirted the hot issues of the day. And that left Republicans at the $50/head event disappointed:
"It was short,'' said Richard Heitmiller of Nashua. "He's got a nice voice. But there was nothing there. He's for apple pie and motherhood. He's going to have to say what he's for.''

Heitmiller said he hadn't made up his mind about whom to support — way too early — and had come to learn more about this man he'd heard about but never seen.

"People want to get to know him. He hasn't been here, and he gives a nine-minute speech,'' he said dismissively. As Thompson exited, people started making their way to the doors midway through a reception.

"I told my wife we'd get home by 8. We'll get home a lot earlier than that,'' Heitmiller said.

"He looks good onstage, but I don't know if he has the gravitas,'' said Kathleen Williamson, a conservative Roman Catholic from North Weare.

"It seems like he's trying to win over conservatives, but I'm still not sure he has the credentials. I'm worried he's trying to get by on his celebrity.''

Ooops. Maybe Soft’n’Safe® is playing it a little too, well, soft and safe?

Fairness Doctrine: The New Gay Marriage

I’ve been listening to Ed Schultz a bit this week (if you have XM Radio he’s on Air America from 12-3 EST). Today he’s been talking about the “fairness doctrine,” something we’ve been hearing a lot about lately. I kinda wondered where this issue came from all of a sudden. It reminded me of when flag burning was suddenly a major topic on the blogosphere. I thought, Really? Flag burning? That’s so last century. The only people burning flags these days are drunken frat boys. Well, that and nativist nutcases who think it’s OK to burn a Mexican flag.

Now that the “fairness doctrine” is all of a sudden on everyone’s lips, I have to say I smell a conservative election rat. They kinda blew their wad with gay marriage and abortion, and immigration divides the Republican Party worse than it does Democratic voters. How on earth will they whip their faithful to the polls in ‘08? By telling them if you vote for a Democrat, the big meanies will take your Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly away, of course. It’s classic fear-mongering, and it seems the Kool-Aid drinkers are eating it up.

Ed Schultz agrees with me. Today he said basically the same thing on his show; he believes this “fairness doctrine” stuff is a preemptive strike for '08.

Right wingers are spreading all sorts of lies and distortions about what the fairness doctrine is and is not, that it would legislate liberal talk radio (no) and that it would make Rush Limbaugh illegal (as much as I wish that were true, it’s not). They’ve started the fear campaign with fabricated stories spread by Drudge and dutifully picked up along the right-wing echo chamber.

(Sadly, someone at the RNC forgot to clue in Trent Lott, who told the New York Times that ''Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.'' Ooops. Get with the program, Trent.)

A forum at Hannity.com is full of the usual right-wing scaredy-pants rhetoric, including posts claiming the fairness doctrine will “go into effect in 2009” and it will “shut down conservative talk radio.” The poor dears, scared shitless yet again, as well as woefully uninformed. Don’t you guys get tired of being scared of your shadows all the time? There is no “fairness doctrine law” and nothing is going into effect in 2009. Where do you get these silly notions?

I wish Republicans could try to win an election without scaring the pants off of their base all the time, but when fear is your drug, you’ll keep going back for your fix.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. If the fairness doctrine doesn’t gain traction (flag burning was a big dud in 2006), I’m sure they’ll find something else.

Elections Have Consequences

To those misguided liberal voters who simply could not vote for John Kerry in 2004 because he did not pass one liberal litmus test or another, I say to you: elections have consequences.

To those misguided, moderate/Independent voters who simply could not vote for John Kerry in 2004 because “I hate President Bush but I just could not vote for that other guy,” I say to you: elections have consequences.

To those misguided, African American voters who simply could not vote for John Kerry in 2004 because “I hate President Bush but John Kerry is for gay marriage and that’s against the Bible,” I say to you: elections have consequences.

To those misguided, Republican voters who simply could not vote for John Kerry in 2004 because “I hate President Bush but Kerry was a flip-flopper,” I say to you: elections have consequences.

Yes, people, elections have consequences:
Divided Court Limits Use of Race by School Districts

By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer

A divided Supreme Court yesterday restricted the ability of public school districts to use race to determine which schools students can attend, a decision that could sharply limit integration programs across the nation.

The nine justices split decisively along ideological grounds, with a five-justice majority ruling that school admission programs in Seattle and Louisville violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection to individuals. Educators said the decision may lead many districts to drop efforts at racially balancing schools.

In a dramatic 45 minutes on the final day of the court's term, three justices took turns reading sometimes-biting opinions that portrayed the ruling as either the natural affirmation or a bitter betrayal of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision of 1954.

Welcome to the “Scalito” effect. If it was good 50 years ago, it’s got to be good now. I’m sure the Kool-Aid drinkers are high-fiving each other now. Everyone else should be taking a long, sober look at what this means for our country.

The court's four liberals delivered a scathing dissent that was twice as long as Roberts's opinion. Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the decision is one "the court and the nation will come to regret.

"The lesson of history is not that efforts to continue racial segregation are constitutionally indistinguishable from efforts to achieve racial integration," Breyer wrote. "Indeed, it is a cruel distortion of history to compare Topeka, Kansas, in the 1950s to Louisville and Seattle in the modern day."


When you elect a reactionary right-wing extremist to the White House, you’re going to get reactionary, right-wing extremists on the nation’s highest court, who will issue reactionary, right-wing extremist rulings. Like this one.

There is a large element of this country, predominantly white males, who have been pissed off for the past 30 years about things like “political correctness.” It’s talk radio’s red meat. And mostly what they’re pissed off about is having to say goodbye to their world where white people are dominant and people of color and women “know their place.” Decisions like Brown v. Board of Education are why. So I’m sure the Rush Limbaugh crowd will be very happy today.

But 20 years from now, as this decision filters down into small town school districts, and we see the actual ramifications of this huge backward step, I wonder what your children will say?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Perverted Programming

From today’s AP, Dateline NBC botches a pedophilia sting:
NBC 'Catch a Predator' sting shakes up Texas town

DA won't prosecute any of the cases


By Grant Slater, ASSOCIATED PRESS

MURPHY, Texas – A sting in which police teamed up with “Dateline NBC” to catch online pedophiles was supposed to send a flinty-eyed, Texas-style warning about this Dallas suburb: Don't mess with Murphy.

Instead, it has turned into a fiasco.

One of the 25 men caught in the sting – a prosecutor from a neighboring county – committed suicide when police came to arrest him. The Murphy city manager who approved the operation lost his job in the ensuing furor.

And the district attorney is refusing to prosecute any of the men, saying many of the cases were tainted by the involvement of amateurs.

“Certainly these people should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but the fact that this was all done for television cameras raises some questions,” said Mayor Bret Baldwin.

It is the first time in nine “Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator” stings across the country in the past year and a half that prosecutors did not pursue charges.

“Dateline” has made prime-time entertainment out of contacting would-be child molesters over the Internet, luring them to a meeting place, and videotaping their humiliating confrontations with reporter Chris Hansen.

I hope this is the end of shows like this. Dateline NBC is peddling in fear-mongering, turning serious police business into entertainment, and turning the purient interests of the viewing audience into a profit point. Pimping fear, nice job, Dateline.

Funny Things In My Mail

This news release tickled my funny bone:
LEE GREENWOOD CELEBRATES 4TH OF JULY WITH US CITIZENSHIP CEREMONY

For Immediate Release

Nashville, TN – "Living The American Dream,” on July 4, 2007, the Department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will host a giant U.S. Citizenship Ceremony at the Magic Kingdom at WALT DISNEY WORLD.

Over 1,000 immigrants, from over 50 countries, will be sworn in as American Citizens on Main Street USA .

The ceremony will include all the key elements of a traditional citizenship ceremony including the formal Presentation of the Colors, the National Anthem performed by Gloria Estefan, Oath of Allegiance and Pledge of Allegiance. The program will conclude with LEE GREENWOOD singing "God Bless the USA'.

The program is expected to commence at 8:00 am (EST).

When asked about the event, Lee's response was "I feel honored and privileged to be part of this event because these immigrants obeyed our laws and played by the rules to meet the requirements for citizenship."

# # #

Heh.

Damn That Liberal Media!

Bloggers have been wondering why ABC Radio Networks is continuing to use Fred Thompson as a "special program host and senior analyst” as well as running his daily podcast, "The Fred Thompson Report,” now that he’s quite obviously a candidate for president. The podcasts are pretty stupid; this week he takes on the death penalty, observing in that fake populist manner: “Smart kids have been telling us the death penalty doesn’t work. Common sense tells us that an executed murderer can’t kill anyone else.” I’m paraphrasing here, but news flash to Fred Thompson: incarcerated murderers can’t kill anyone else either, and an executed innocent man can’t be brought back to life. It’s always amazed me that the same people who think government shouldn’t be involved in things like Social Security and healthcare are perfectly fine with letting Uncle Sam decide who lives and dies. But I digress.

The thing that bugs me about the Fred Thompson Report is that it’s an obvious election ploy. The dang things only started on May 7! That’s eight weeks ago. Like he didn’t know he was running back then? Get real.

It’s sneaky. The podcasts are a forum for Thompson to attack Democrats--to actually campaign for president--that no one else is allowed to have. Imagine the pearl-clutching, the teeth-gnashing, if, say, John Edwards were given a daily podcast to discuss poverty in America, or Hillary Clinton were to discuss healthcare every day. IOKIYAR. When righties wonder what liberals mean when we say "the fairness doctrine," this is what we’re talking about.


Anyone else remembering National Review’s complaints about CNN’s “Clarkathon”, back when Gen. Wesley Clark served as a commentator for CNN before his run for the Democratic nomination? I don’t excuse Clark; candidates shouldn’t be serving as media analysts, even if their “official announcement” is months away. But the big difference is that Clark was covering the Iraq War; he didn’t have an open forum to express opinion about anything he wanted, which is what ABC News has given Thompson. To my knowledge, NRO hasn’t uttered a word about the Thompson podcasts. Again, IOKIYAR.

I’m remembering the conniption fits back in 2004 when liberal bloggers Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong were hired by Howard Dean’s campaign. Right-wingers complained that a liberal Democratic candidate was paying bloggers to write good things about him, which was completely untrue. They worked for his campaign; Armstrong didn’t blog while he was on the Dean payroll, and Moulitsas posted a disclosure about his campaign affiliation on his blog DailyKos.

I don’t entirely blame Fred Thompson for this, I mean, you can’t fault a candidate (or soon-to-be-candidate) for taking advantage of every opportunity thrown his way. But what the hell is ABC News thinking? Did they think we wouldn’t notice?

Here’s something else few people have noticed. Mitt Romney’s company Bain Capital now partially owns Clear Channel, which controls hundreds of radio and TV stations around the country. I’m sure that will come in handy as the primaries approach.

The media is not supposed to have an opinion on political races, they are supposed to be impartial observers. But when a major media conglomerate like ABC gives one candidate an open forum to express opinion that is not available to everyone else, I have to wonder what’s up.

This creeping of the boundary lines is scary.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

VP Cheney Remembers His Place

Whether it was the endless ridicule or the threat to cut off his office’s funding, it seems the Vice President has suddenly remembered the branch of government in which his office sits. However, he’s still not giving up the goods.

David Addington,Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, sent this letter (.pdf) to Sen. John Kerry yesterday. In it Addington writes:
The executive order on classified national security information -- Executive Order 12958 as amended in 2003 -- makes clear that the Vice President is treated like the President and distinguishes the two of them from “agencies.” The executive order gives the ISOO [Information Security Oversight Office], under the supervision of the Archivist of the United States, responsibility to oversee certain activities of “agencies,” but not of the Vice President or the President. As you know, the President’s spokesperson reiterated on June 22, 2007 that the order does not give the ISOO authority to oversee the Office of the Vice President.

Constitutional issues in government are generally best left for discussion when unavoidable disputes arise in a specific context instead of in theoretical discussions. Given that the executive order treats the Vice President like the President rather than like an “agency,” it is not necessary in these circumstances to address the subject of any alternative reasoning, based on the laws and history of the legislative functions of the vice presidency and the more modern executive functions of the vice presidency, to reach the same conclusion that the vice presidency is not an “agency” with respect to which ISOO has a role.

Whew, that’s a mouthload of mumbo-jumbo. Thank goodness for the folks at Salon.com’s “War Room,” who translated that garbage thusly:

A translation and three questions:

Translation: Even though we're not using the legislative vs. executive argument anymore, we still think the executive order doesn't require anything of us.

Question No. 1: What, exactly, are "the more modern executive functions of the vice presidency"?

Question No. 2: Any chance that this "more modern" period began on, say, Jan. 20, 2001?

Question No. 3: While we realize that this argument may cut the other way, in what legal sense, exactly, does the "more modern executive functions of the vice presidency" trump "the law and history of the legislative functions of the vice presidency"?

Good questions. Today the Senate subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Cheney’s office about warrantless wiretaps. I have a feeling we might get answers to at least one of those questions.

I’ve Had Enough

[UPDATE]: Updated MSNBC contact info below. Southern Beale doesn't spend nearly as much time reading "The Hollywood Reporter" as she used to.

Gentlemen:

Watching Ann Coulter spew one nasty personal attack after another on "Hardball" last night turned my stomach. Not because of what she said -- let's face it, Coulter's schtick hasn't changed in years -- but because this hateful brew is what now passes for public discourse in this country. When did these mean-spirited, vindictive smears become acceptable for a legitimate news show like “Hardball”? This is not news, nor even legitimate opinion, it’s theater. It’s mean, intolerant and it’s tearing this country apart.

I’ve had enough. I will no longer participate in a one-sided conversation that serves no purpose except to rile viewers and breed intolerance and anger. You’re hurting America. Stop it.

I urge “Hardball” advertisers to withdraw their support from empty political theatrics such as this. I urge Chris Matthews to find some sense of decency and contribute to the uplifting of the American conversation, not its detriment. Mr. Kaplan Abrams I beg of you, find some sense of civic responsibility and bring it to work with you for a change.

I ask these things as a Christian, as an American, and as a citizen of the world. Stop the hate speech.

It’s time for this nation to come together. You, as sponsors and purveyors of content across the public airwaves, have a responsibility to bring about this change and undo the damage you’ve caused.

Sincerely,

Southern Beale, Nashville, TN

hardball@msnbc.com
phil.griffin@msnbc.com
rick.kaplan@msnbc.com dan.abrams@msnbc.com
ivan.g.seidenberg@verizon.com
bob.ingalls@verizon.com
eric.rabe@verizon.com
cdelvecchio@us.luxottica.com
sodland@officedepot.com
rciavola@officedepot.com
heiner.springer.hs@bayer-ag.de
michael.schade.ms@bayer-ag.de
jay.kolpon.b@bayer.com
don_esmond@toyota.com
pat_pineda@tma.toyota.com

(List compiled by refinish69)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

GOP: Trying To Run From Bush’s Iraq Policy

Yesterday Republican Senator from Indiana Richard Lugar said it’s time for a “thoughtful Plan B” in Iraq:
Arguing that time for coming up with a "thoughtful Plan B" is running out, Lugar said President Bush must downsize the U.S. military's role in Iraq and place more emphasis on diplomatic and economic options.

"A redeployment would allow us to continue training Iraqi troops and delivering economic assistance, but it would end the U.S. attempt to interpose ourselves between Iraqi sectarian factions," Lugar said.

That’s so cute. Seems to me Democrats, oops, excuse me, ”Defeatocrats” have been calling for economic, diplomatic and political solutions in Iraq for quite some time. Commander Codpiece and his minions of yes men can’t imagine a “win” in Iraq involving anything other than bombs and bullets, though. The only victory palatable to this crowd is a military one; peace through diplomatic means is just so wussy to these guys.

Well, Sen. Lugar, I hate to break it to you, but the idea of a “Plan B” was nixed long ago. Last spring, when Gen. Peter Pace and President Bush met with a group of governors, Pace told Tennesse Governor Phil Bredesen: “Plan B was to make Plan A work.” Awesome!

From the memory hole:

In the weeks since Bush announced the new plan for Iraq -- including an increase of 21,500 U.S. combat troops, additional reconstruction assistance and stepped-up pressure on the Iraqi government -- senior officials have rebuffed questions about other options in the event of failure. Eager to appear resolute and reluctant to provide fodder for skeptics, they have responded with a mix of optimism and evasion.


So, to Sen. Lugar and your partner, Republican Sen. George Voinovich, who today joined the “pull ‘em out” ranks, I say: it’s a little too late. You should have thought of Plan B before you voted against the Democrats’ bill to begin troop withdrawals in October. Or before you voted against a measure that voiced the Senate’s disapproval of Bush’s troop surge.

Bush keeps telling us he has a plan, and that plan “is to win.” Got that? The plan is to win. Now shut up and go polish your rubber stamp. You're late to the party, as always.

Is Christie Todd Whitman A Liar Or Am I Just Crazy?

I blogged about this last September when former EPA head Christie Todd Whitman blamed the city of New York for the thousands debilitated by chronic respiratory diseases and rare cancers in the wake of 9/11. Certainly the EPA’s assurances on Sept. 13 that the New York air was safe to breathe had nothing to do with it. Surely pressure from the White House to reopen the New York Stock Exchange “or the terrorists win” had nothing to do with it.

Right.

One of the best things about the Democratic majority is watching these folks try to squirm their way out of the tight spots they put themselves in. They have only themselves to blame, and yet the “party of accountability” seems to have precious little when it comes to their own fuck-ups, doesn’t it? Yesterday, amid boos and hisses from the audience, Whitman tried to defend herself from allegations that she bowed to pressure from the White House regarding New York’s post-9/11 air quality:
WASHINGTON -- Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman angrily denied Monday that she misled New Yorkers about the safety of the air in lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11, 2001 collapse of the World Trade Towers.

Appearing for the first time before a Congressional committee investigating the federal government's response to the attack's health consequences, Whitman disputed that she soft-pedaled those concerns because of political pressure.

While acknowledging she had received a call from a White House economic adviser about the importance of reopening the New York Stock Exchange, she said her response was that it would stay closed until it "was cleaned and safe.

"Was it wrong to try to get the city back on its feet as quickly and as safely as possible?" she asked. "Absolutely not. We weren't going to let the terrorists win."

(It’s worth noting that Whitman is named in a class-action lawsuit filed by residents and office workers over air quality which might play into her vociferous denials).

First of all, can someone explain to me why it’s been SIX years and we’re only now getting an investigation into the government’s response? Manhattan Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler called for a Justice Department investigation back in August 2003. What took so long? Oh, right, Republicans are allergic to looking at their own dirty laundry pile. I forgot.

But this “we weren’t going to let the terrorists win” BS really ticks me off. You simply cannot trot out that empty canard every time someone asks you to be accountable for your fuck-up. Protecting American citizens from disease caused by a terror attack is not “letting the terrorists win” it’s called responsible government, something this “government is the problem, not the solution” crowd wouldn’t know if it bit them on the ass.

Let’s take a look at the EPA’s September 13, 2001 Press Release, shall we:

At the request of the New York City Department of Health, EPA and the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have been on the scene at the World Trade Center monitoring exposure to potentially contaminated dust and debris. Monitoring and sampling conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday have been very reassuring about potential exposure of rescue crews and the public to environmental contaminants.

EPA's primary concern is to ensure that rescue workers and the public are not exposed to elevated levels of asbestos, acidic gases or other contaminants from the debris. Sampling of ambient air quality found either no asbestos or very low levels of asbestos. Sampling of bulk materials and dust found generally low levels of asbestos.

The levels of lead, asbestos and volatile organic compounds in air samples taken on Tuesday in Brooklyn, downwind from the World Trade Center site, were not detectable or not of concern.

Additional sampling of both ambient air quality and dust particles was conducted Wednesday night in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and results were uniformly acceptable.

"EPA is greatly relieved to have learned that there appears to be no significant levels of asbestos dust in the air in New York City," said Administrator Whitman. "We are working closely with rescue crews to ensure that all appropriate precautions are taken. We will continue to monitor closely."

The release said they tested “on the scene at the World Trade Center,” as well as Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Notice use of words like “acceptable,” “no concern,” and “greatly relieved.” This was two days after 9/11. Talk about rainbow fairytales and lollipop dreams! This wasn’t a press release, it was a pep talk.

But in August 2003, the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA released a report (.pdf available here) saying the EPA did not have scientific evidence to support those air quality claims, not the cheery “no concern” reassurances in the Sept. 13 press release nor those made in a Sept. 18 news conference.

It’s also completely at odds with this Oct. 5, 2001 internal memo from then-NYC Health Dept. Associate Commissioner Kelly McKinney, who wrote:


“The EPA has been very slow to make [air test] data results available and to date has not sufficiently informed ... the public of air quality issues arising from this disaster.”

The following week, as a news conference outside Mount Sinai Medical Center after a keynote speech she gave at an asthma summit, then-EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman said, “The good news continues to be that the air samples have all been at levels that cause us no concern.”


Yesterday Whitman claimed that these “reports” did not refer to the actual WTC site (though the 9/13 release refutes that), but to Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. This must be good news to the thousands sickened in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, many of who have filed suit. Ms. Whitman just made their case.

The EPA Inspector General’s report also noted that "the White House Council on Environmental Quality influenced . . . the information that EPA communicated to the public through its early press releases when it convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones." An example was given at yesterday’s hearing:

Nadler and others also pointed to the vetting of EPA press releases through the White House. They cited one Sept. 13 draft that said preliminary EPA sampling indicated "no or very low levels of asbestos. However, even at low levels, EPA considers asbestos hazardous in this situation."

They noted the tone of the final release was reassuring rather than cautionary, saying, "EPA is greatly relieved to have learned that there appears to be no significant levels of asbestos dust in the air in New York City."

This is the stuff that makes me mad enough to hit the streets with a protest sign. You should be mad, too. Every piece of this story should be front page news: we didn’t have a hearing until six years later, after the Democrats took control? Whitman’s blatant lies and CYA-ing now that she’s named in a major lawsuit? Using banalities like “we can’t let terrorists win” to excuse negligence and stifle calls for accountability?

The corporate media has seen fit to cover this story, although CNN did break away from its report to cover the “breaking news” that Paris Hilton was out of jail.

Wake up, people. You’re being shafted by your own government. Quit making excuses for them.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lorrie, Honey, Watch Your Back

A lot has been made of Lorrie Morgan’s statement that former beau Fred Thompson is “soft and safe,” as in:
"He’s a soft, safe place to be and that could be Fred’s ticket. Women love a soft place to lay and a strong pair of hands to hold us.”

Egads. “Soft and safe”? Sounds like toilet paper. Or maybe a feminine hygiene product. Definitely not a president. Definitely not your go-to guy on the “warren terra.”

Thompson advisor Mary Matalin must be ready to wring Lorrie Morgan’s throat (and if you’ve ever seen Mary Matalin, VP Dick Cheney’s advisor, you know she’s just scary enough to do it, too.) Liz Cheney, also on Thompson’s team, might be planning a hunting trip with dad Dick and Lorrie Morgan as we speak. Tim Griffin, Karl Rove’s former aide and another Thompson advisor, might be bugging Morgan’s phone. Or maybe he’s taking a page from his own 2004 election playbook and figuring out how to revoke her voting rights, you know, the way he disenfranchised 70,000 African American veterans and low-income folks in Arkansas.

Lorrie, honey, watch your back. Thompson advisor and presidential nephew George P. Bush might break into your bedroom in the middle of the night, as he did to his ex-girlfriend in 1994, and tear up your front lawn with his car.

Wait a minute. I just noticed something. There’s a lot of Bush-Cheney-Rove folks on the Thompson team. Wow. Imagine that. I thought Mr. Soft & Safe was supposed to be some kind of outsider?

Huh. Whaddya know?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Spoil(er)s of Politics

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has suggested that Michael Bloomberg could be the Ralph Nader of ‘08.

Well, of course. I don’t entirely agree with Mr. Herbert that it’s because Bloomberg is a Democrat. It will be because he’s running.

I’m not a fan of third party candidates. In fact, I think running as a third party candidate, no matter who you are, liberal or conservative, is a colossally stupid idea. I’ve had many heated debates with people on the far left about this, and I’ve been called a lot of names (“Bush Democrat” is one of the funniest. Sounds like “jumbo shrimp” to me.) No matter how well-meaning they may be, third party folks ignore a basic fact of reality:

We have a two-party system. Period.

Sucks, I know, but there it is. Until our system is changed, allowing for instant runoff elections or some other way of making third party candidates more viable, these folks will always be spoilers. Always. This lollipops-and-unicorns fantasy that some mythic candidate can ride in on his or her white horse and captivate the majority of the voting public is just hilariously delusional.

There is just too large a chunk of the American population that are “hereditary voters.” That’s not a term I made up, by the way, it’s one I heard recently from Ralph Nader, the most disingenuous candidate I’ve ever seen. Nader confessed on “Hardball” the other night that “two thirds of the voters are hereditary voters.” Great, now he tells us. But this is one issue on which he’s correct.

Nader supporters like to counter that it’s wrong to assume that all of Nader’s votes would have gone to, say, Al Gore in 2000, to pick one example. Of course, but Gore didn’t need every Nader vote. He needed (depending on which standard one uses) 154 votes in Florida. Does anyone really think that of the thousands of votes Ralph Nader received in Florida that 154 people wouldn’t have voted for Gore had Nader’s name not been on the ballot?

Or, what if Pat Buchanan’s name hadn’t been on the ballot? Or Harry Browne’s?

On Hardball Nader said of being a spoiler:
NADER:  Yes, but if we all have an equal right to run for election, then we‘re either all spoilers of one another, trying to take the votes from one another, or none of us are spoilers.


Please. It just seems incredibly dishonest to claim that the 2,912,253 votes that were officially credited as going to Al Gore in Florida somehow spoiled it for Howard Phillips, who received 1,378 votes. Come on, people.

Nor do I buy the whole argument that third party candidates “draw attention to their issues.” This is also terribly dishonest. Do American voters really remember what Ross Perot’s issues were? Does anyone even remember John Hagelin? Or, digging back deep into the memory hole, John Anderson, for whom I cast my first-ever presidential vote at the tender age of 18, before I realized what a chump I’d been as I watched Ronald Reagan sail into office?

As Bob Herbert put it, regarding Michael Bloomberg’s run as an independent:

There are myriad ways this thing could play out. But the weirdest would be if Michael Bloomberg, who sees himself as such a serious person, plunged headlong into this race with little or no chance to win, and ended up spending $500 million to $1 billion on a venture that undermined the core issues and values he claims to believe in.


Isn’t that what always happens?

Look, I get that the Democratic and Republican parties leave a whole lot of folks out of the process. I think everyone should be encouraged to run in the primary race of the party with which they most closely identify. I love hearing what Mike Gravel and Ron Paul have to say, and they certainly are making this extended presidential primary season more interesting.

But when the primaries are over, these folks are always shut out. The media and the two dominant parties see to that. And hearing Michael Bloomberg and Ralph Nader talking about wanting to run on third party tickets makes me want to tear my hair out. Their time would be better spent working toward changing our electoral system and allowing for things like instant runoff elections, so third party candidates can truly have a chance. Until our system changes--and it’s a system that benefits the two dominant parties, so it’s not likely to change without a big fight--you’re just making a lot of folks miserable.

Pick a side, people. If the Democrats are too conservative or the Republicans are too religious or whatever your view of the dominant parties may be, work your butts off to change your party. It’s the only way things are ever going to change.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pentagon Weaving More Tall Tales

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Pentagon says U.S. combat forces in Iraq may be ”reduced by spring.” No, really:
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon from his headquarters outside Baghdad, Odierno gave an update on the U.S. offensives under way in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad and in areas south and west of the capital. He said U.S. and Iraqi troops have made important progress.

"I think if everything goes the way it's going now, there's a potential that by the spring we will be able to reduce forces, and Iraq security forces could take over," Odierno said. "It could happen sooner than that."


Ha, that’s a good one. Reminds me of the time in January 2006 when President Bush announced U.S. combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan would be reduced because of improving security. Or the time in June 2006 when they announced the same thing.

Or, in December 2005.

Or wait, remember that time in April 2005 when Fox News announced U.S. commanders were “so pleased with events in Iraq” that troops would be coming home soon? That was so great.

{banging head on desk ...}

Drudge: Still Wrong

I’m actually not sure who to blame for this: crackpot Sen. James Inhofe or Matt “Who Me? Fact Check?” Drudge. But the latest fauxtroversy to have right wing knickers in a twist is this fabricated conversation that apparently took place between Sen. Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton, in which it’s alleged they advocated “a legislative fix” for talk radio. (That would be the same talk radio that Trent Lott decried as “running America,” adding, “We have to deal with that problem.” But I digress.)

The ankle-biters of the right--Free Republic, Faux News, etc.--are already in full dither. Freeper post says “Hillary, Boxer hatch nefarious plot," it’s a major headline at Fox News and since it came from Drudge, I’m sure Politico is already on it.

Guess what, folks: the alleged conversation never happened. Completely made up. TPM has statements from Boxer and Clinton flatly denying the story:
Here's a statement sent to me from Natalie Ravitz, Boxer's communications director:

"Senator Boxer told me that either her friend Senator Inhofe needs new glasses or he needs to have his hearing checked, because that conversation never happened."

And:

And from Hillary spokesman Philippe Reines:
"Jim Inhofe is wrong. This supposed conversation never happened - not in his presence or anywhere else."


I’m sure Drudge and Fox News have already run corrections.

* cricket * *cricket* *cricket*

California Dreamin’

I realize the current dry spell in Tennessee is a potential disaster, but in my “every cloud has a silver lining” way of thinking, it’s certainly made this summer a whole lot more pleasant. I am digging the cool nights and mornings (open windows rawk!), the lack of mosquitoes, the dry heat. It reminds me of growing up in Southern California, where no matter how hot it got during the day, the nights always offered a refreshing, cool breeze.

I’m not digging the fire hazard, my thirsty garden, the economic problems our farmers will face. But it sure is pleasant walking through the neighborhood in the morning.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

VP Cheney Doesn’t Know His Place

UPDATE: Via Talking Points Memo, Rep. Rahm Emanuel has asked Vice President Cheney to vacate the premises and return his salary to American taxpayers, now that he’s no longer a part of the Executive Branch.

He even has a chart. Abso-FREAKING-hilarious. If you don't know what I"m talking about, read my original post:

Uh-oh, someone must have been absent from civics class in high school!
The Oversight Committee has learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from the presidential order that establishes government-wide procedures for safeguarding classified national security information. The Vice President asserts that his office is not an “entity within the executive branch.”

If the Vice President’s office is no longer part of the Executive Branch, just where exactly is it? Shall we impeach President Bush and find out if Cheney still thinks he’s next in line to the throne, er, Presidency?

Sadly, the Veep just needed to check the federal government’s “Executive Branch” website which does, in fact, include the office of the vice president. Sorry, bud. Nice try, though.

It gets worse:

As described in a letter from Chairman Waxman to the Vice President, the National Archives protested the Vice President's position in letters written in June 2006 and August 2006. When these letters were ignored, the National Archives wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in January 2007 to seek a resolution of the impasse. The Vice President's staff responded by seeking to abolish the agency within the Archives that is responsible for implementing the President's executive order.

Power hungry much? Ya think? It must really kill him to be in the number two slot.

The sad thing is, the National Archives are probably wasting their time. A Mid-Atlantic Shredding Services truck was spotted making its way to the Cheney compound back in October---two and a half weeks before the election.

(h/t, Huffington Post).

Freegans: They’re Not Down With Capitalism

Today’s New York Times has a fascinating article on a burgeoning movement of modern-day scavengers called "freegans.” These are folks who reject the consumer economy and live by dumpster diving. They aren’t bums, many are middle class and have jobs, they just don’t see the need to go out and buy a bunch of crap when they can get what they want for free:
Freegans are scavengers of the developed world, living off consumer waste in an effort to minimize their support of corporations and their impact on the planet, and to distance themselves from what they see as out-of-control consumerism. They forage through supermarket trash and eat the slightly bruised produce or just-expired canned goods that are routinely thrown out, and negotiate gifts of surplus food from sympathetic stores and restaurants.

Before you go “eww, that’s gross,” take a moment to think of your own garbage, or maybe if you’re more thrifty, think of the trash from your workplace or your neighborhood. For instance, there are several houses on my street that are rented to college students and when moving day comes, it’s a regular Wal-Mart shopping spree on trash day. One year, the kids left a satellite TV programming box in the trash. That’s the principle at work here:

As of 2005, individuals, businesses and institutions in the United States produced more than 245 million tons of municipal solid waste, according to the E.P.A. That means about 4.5 pounds per person per day. The comparable figure for New York City, meanwhile, is about 6.1 pounds, according to statistics from the city’s Sanitation Department.

“We have a lot of wealthy people, and rich people throw out more trash than poor people do,” said Elizabeth Royte, whose book “Garbage Land” (Little, Brown, 2005) traced the route her trash takes through the city. “Rich people are also more likely to throw things out based on style obsolescence — like changing the towels when you’re tired of the color.”

Dumpster diving isn’t just for young kids on the far left, the kind you see protesting G8 summits and the like; there’s actually a growing movement among social justice and “red letter” Christians. Sojourners Magazine covered this movement last fall in their article, The Tao Of Dumpster Diving. Author Ryan Beiler, Sojourners web editor and a dumpster diver since 2005, says he subsists largely on food reclaimed from dumpsters. Here he explains why:

Reason number one--you get a lot of really, really good food really, really free. I often come away with a decent segment of the food pyramid: vegetables, meat, milk, eggs, and almost always lots of bread. And we’re not talking Wonder Bread--we’re talking sprouted wheat berry, pita, ciabatta, foccacia, and any number of Mediterranean-themed baked goods.

Though I’ll occasionally supplement my dumpster bounty with a trip to the natural foods co-op for some local produce or organic oats for homemade granola (bring on the stereotypes), I’ve come to rely mostly on society’s waste for my provision. As Jesus taught, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’... Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matthew 6:32). In this spirit, dumpstering’s spontaneity is both liberating and satisfying. Instead of the anxiety of bargain-hunting among the throngs at corporate ├╝bermarkets, I enjoy the surprises of late-night expeditions and never worry about finding enough to eat.

BEYOND BASIC NECESSITIES, there’s also the allure of the big score. On my very first dumpster run, I went into Homer Simpson-drool mode at finding several pounds of smoked salmon--a delicacy I could never justify buying in real life. I ate it three meals a day for a week. It’s really great with eggs.

On a subsequent trip, I found six jars of caviar. I’ve also developed an addiction to grocery-store sushi (all pre-cooked or veggie). Just tonight I had a simple dinner of dumpster fare: soup and bread. But the soup was lobster bisque, and the bread was a lovely sourdough boule.


I never thought I’d pull food from a dumpster to feed my family but hey, you never know. Caviar? Lobster bisque? Sourdough boule? I have to say, as a city dweller, this intrigues me.

I can’t call myself a dumpster diver, but I have been known to pull something I wanted out of the trash; in fact, when I first moved to Nashville I found a perfectly lovely bamboo trunk on my first trip to the dumpster at my new apartment complex. I pulled it out, cleaned it off and it became the centerpiece of my living room for years afterward.

One of the worst things I ever heard about Wal-Mart was that stores padlock their trash dumpsters. Former Wal-Mart employees have told me of the perfectly good food and merchandise that is thrown away on a daily basis, yet Wal-Mart locks people out of its trash. When your trash is so valuable that it requires padlocks, something is seriously wrong. Hey, Wal-Mart, if it’s thatvaluable, try donating this stuff to a shelter, OK?

Americans generate a lot of trash. Contemporary American society, indeed our entire economy, is based on marketing consumer goods that folks don’t really need. When you buy stuff you don’t really need, it makes it a lot easier to throw it out later.

Which makes me wonder: why do we need to be buying it in the first place?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fiction Vs. Reality: A Primer

Would someone please remind the dumber Republicans among us that Jack Bauer is a fictional character?
Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge’s passing remark - “Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra ‘What would Jack Bauer do?’ ” - got the legal bulldog in [Justice Antonin Scalia] barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent’s rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

“Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?” Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. “Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so.”


I’m a writer. So let me explain something to conservatives about the creative process. When writers, you know, write, they control the outcome of the story line. They “play God,” as it were. That means they can do things like allow Jack Bauer to save Los Angeles, make terrorists cough up terror plot details under torture, save the girl tied to the train tracks, make the good guys win and the bad guys lose, give the nerdy guy the pretty girl, allow people to take multiple gunshot wounds and still not die, etc. etc. etc.

Now, here’s the tricky part: This is not real life. These are plot points and story devices based on imaginary situations and characters. Some of them may even be based on what we call archetypes, which is what Jack Bauer is: the lone hero archetype.

Real life is not fair, or easy, or black and white. Real life is hard. It’s not television.

And for you truly dumb Republicans out there, I’m sure this is gonna come up this summer, so let me get ahead of the game here: Bruce Willis is an actor. John McClane is a character in the Die Hard movies. These do not depict real incidents.

You might want to print this out and tape it to the bathroom mirror of your favorite conservative or Supreme Court Justice.

And now, I’m going to go bang my head on a wall.

What’s The Matter With China?

We’ve turned to China to manufacture everything from cough syrup to dog food to cheap plastic crap sold at Wal-Mart, but I think it’s time we got to the bottom of this:
WASHINGTON, June 18 — China manufactured every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States so far this year, including the enormously popular Thomas & Friends wooden train sets, a record that is causing alarm among consumer advocates, parents and regulators.
. . .
Over all, the number of products made in China that are being recalled in the United States by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has doubled in the last five years, driving the total number of recalls in the country to 467 last year, an annual record.

It also means that China today is responsible for about 60 percent of all product recalls, compared with 36 percent in 2000.


This is very scary to me. Because it’s not just cheap plastic toys anymore, it’s everything. Not only have we had the pet food-melamine scare originating in China, but also recalls of toxin-laced monkfish, tainted cough syrup and toxic toothpaste. People are dying around the world because of this. Hello! Is anyone paying attention?

What’s scary is that, in this globalized economy, you can’t look for the “made in China” label and avoid those products. Stuff isn’t made anymore, it’s assembled, and the components come from all over.

Remind me, who thought this was a good idea?

Last week the Chinese authorities destroyed U.S. imports of raisins and health supplements. They cited safety reasons:

"The products failed to meet the sanitary standards of China," the agency said in a brief notice posted on its Web site. No details were given on when or how the inspections were conducted.

The agency said it was asking "all local departments to increase quarantine examinations of foods imported from the United States."


Oh, we’re so sorry. I'm just glad to know you folks have standards. Now, would you mind applying them to the stuff you send to us?

Not coincidentally, yesterday the Chinese balked at U.S. lead limits on children’s toys.

The Chinese government opposes a proposed U.S. standard limiting the amount of lead allowed in bracelets, necklaces and other jewelry sold for children.

All but three of more than 30 Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls for lead in children's jewelry since 2003 were for China-made items. The others were made in India.


Little bit of tit-for-tat here, you think? Maybe a bit of, “you take our melamine wheat gluten or we won’t buy your California raisins”?

I’d say “screw ‘em,” except I really don’t think the American consumer is willing to pay the price--literally. What would these things cost if they were made here in the USA? What does it cost us when they’re not?

I realize China is a communist country, but as it operates with the rest of the world, it's the "free market system" run amok. No standards, no regulations -- it's like the freaking Wild West out there! When the "free hand of the market" intervenes in the form of product recalls, it's already too late for thousands of people and pets, dead from diethylene glycol or melamine poisoning. Next time I need to buy cough syrup or dog food, I'd like to know that key pieces of it aren't made in China. But there's no way of knowing.

The only way to be perfectly safe is to make this stuff yourself. Great. Can the model for consumer safety in the new millenium really be "Little House On The Prairie"?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mitt Romney Flop-Flips

Back when I was a single, I had a girlfriend tell me that if you just listened carefully enough, a guy would tell you everything about himself in the first two hours.

She was absolutely right. So often we hear what we want to hear, not what a person is actually saying. Once I learned to actually listen, I found my wonderful husband.

I think choosing political candidates is very similar. Let’s look at Mitt Romney, shall we? Here’s a tasty bit from his interview with CNN’s John Roberts yesterday:
ROBERTS: You have said or at least intimated that, look, I changed my mind, people should move on. They should allow me to change my mind.

ROMNEY: No. I'm saying, I changed my mind, and you can look at my record as governor, and you can see in my record as governor that I have consistently been pro-life. Every piece of legislation that dealt with life...

ROBERTS: Even though you were effectively pro-choice?

ROMNEY: You know, as governor, all the decisions I made as governor and all the bills that came to my desk were -- I came down on the side of life. So when I ran for office, I was effectively pro- choice. I didn't call myself pro-choice, but I said I would keep the law the way it was. But the first time as governor that I saw a piece of legislation that dealt with life, I came down on the side of life.


Got that, kids? Mitt is saying that he ran for Governor as a pro-choice candidate, but once in office, his actions were anti-choice. In other words, for those of us listening, he’s telling us he will say whatever is necessary to get elected.

So those of you who are anti-choice, better pay attention. Those of you who are pro-choice Republicans--and I do believe you are out there, in the millions--better pay attention. We don’t know what Mitt Romney believes about abortion or any other issue because as he just told us, he will say whatever he thinks he needs to say to get elected.

Stuff like this is what gets Democrats labeled as opportunists and flip-floppers. I eagerly await the return of the flip-flop sandals distributed by the Bush campaign and MSM stories like CBS’ ”Kerry’s Top 10 Flip-Flops”--this time directed at Mitt Romney.

Oh, wait, I forgot, IOKIYAR.

Monday, June 18, 2007

You Might Be A Libertarian If ...

There are a lot of folks out there calling themselves “Libertarians” these days. I hate to break it to you, but most of you are idiots.

The majority of you Libertarian converts have no freaking clue what Libertarians actually believe. All you know is that they aren’t Democrats, they aren’t Republicans, and they seem to have this thing against taxes. A lot of new Libertarians were recently Republicans, until the Republican Party got hijacked by a bunch of crazy Bible thumpers. Before that, I daresay a lot of you were Democrats, before the Democrats became a bunch of spineless wimps scared of their own shadows.

Face it, you just want a political affiliation that doesn’t embarrass you, right? Admit it, you know I’m right.

Well, before you fill out that Libertarian Party membership card, let’s take a look at the official Libertarian Party platform, shall we?

• Freedom of Speech. Personally, I love freedom of speech, but I also believe in limits. For example, I don’t think we should have televised executions, or let young children watch XXX porn. I don’t think we should publish blueprints of nuclear power plants on the internet, or tell people how to bypass Secret Service security measures to assassinate the president.

Libertarians don’t agree. Libertarians also believe in “full market ownership” of the airwaves and abolishing the FCC. That means anyone with a bucketload of money--say, Rupert Murdoch--could own all the media in this country and broadcast whatever he felt like. Sorta like Pravda, without the government (Or, in the case of Murdoch, with the government.) Bye-bye dissent, unless you can find someone with another bucketload of money to build you a radio station. If all of this sounds good to you, then you might be a Libertarian.

• Freedom of Religion. Libertarians believe in strict separation of church and state. No problem there. They “defend the rights of individuals to engage in (or abstain from) any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others.” This all sounds great on paper. Now, if you believe that Scientology, the Moonies, or even Pastafarians should be classified as a religion, then you may be a Libertarian.

• Property Rights. If you don’t believe in building codes, zoning ordinances, resource management like protecting the watershed or air quality, National Parks, State Parks, public parks like Centennial, public ballfields, levees and dams, public boat ramps, etc., then you may be a Libertarian. If you like the idea of paying a steep fee to put your canoe in at the Harpeth, to hike the trails at Warner Parks, or to picnic at Centennial, you may be a Libertarian. There’s a decidedly feudal principle at work here, this whole “all publicly owned infrastructures including dams and parks shall be returned to private ownership” thing. Don’t forget, we had revolutions over such things.

• Right To Privacy. True, the Libertarian platform emphatically opposes the government’s use of any kind of covert surveillance or snooping on citizens. They also oppose random sobriety checkpoints on holiday weekends. They also oppose any kind of government-issued identification: passports, Social Security cards, voter registration cards, etc. I can’t imagine how people are supposed to travel out of the country without a passport, or how elections are supposed to be managed without voter registration cards.

• Right To Bear Arms. No restrictions. None. Honey, is that Nike missile in your backyard, or are you just happy to see me?

• Conscription. An all-volunteer military service, with no Selective Service registration. In fact, the Selective Service System will be abolished and all records destroyed. I guess if a foreign army lands on American soil, we can all just aim our personal tanks and nuclear missiles in the right direction and fire away. Yee haw.

• Sexuality & Gender. Libertarians call for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Defense Dept.’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, “one man, one woman” marriage laws, etc. This sounds great on paper but I wonder how many “New Libertarians” are willing to take this to its next logical place: legalized polygamy, polyandry, marriages to pets and trees, etc. Just wondering.

• War On Drugs. It’s over! And the drugs won! If you believe in the legalization of marijuana, heroin, meth, cocaine, etc., and if you believe that all drug offenders should be pardoned and released from jail, then you might be a Libertarian. Also, if you think that children should be allowed to purchase these things, alcohol, and tobacco, you are definitely a Libertarian.

• Immigration. Give us your tired, your hungry, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Seriously, they mean it.

I’m sure some of this sounds good to a lot of us. But I don’t think the majority of self-professed “Libertarians” agree with half of this claptrap.

Lessons For The Present

I think time capsules tell us more about the present than they do the past. For example, looking at this 1957 Plymouth Belvedere, buried that year to commemorate Oklahoma’s 50th anniversary of statehood, I feel we’ve let the previous generation down:
Buried on June 15, 1957, as a publicity stunt to honor 50 years of statehood, the gold-and-white car and its contents — artifacts like a pack of cigarettes and an unpaid parking ticket — were to be dug up in another five decades.

The car was interred with 10 gallons of gasoline, in case fuel would be obsolete in 2007, and a time capsule containing civic records, a prayer and a history of Tulsa churches.

I have to wonder about that previous generation of Sooners, who thought we’d have moved beyond fossil fuels by now. Did they know, even then, that gasoline was not a sustainable way to propel the global economy? I want to apologize: we let you down. We stopped looking for the new juice and now we’re stuck between Iraq and a hard place.

And what’s this history of Tulsa churches thing? Did they think that Americans would no longer worship in churches in 50 years? That some brand-new religion would have taken over? That we’d forgotten our basic religious beliefs? This sounds like a fear we hear from right wing theocrats today. I want to tell them: “Relax, people. Y’all have been yammering about Americans turning away from God for decades. Hasn’t happened.”

And then there’s this::

The 1957 two-door hardtop — buried to celebrate Oklahoma's 50 years of statehood — was encased in a 12-by-20-foot concrete vault, supposedly tough enough to withstand a nuclear attack.

Event officials already had to pump out several feet of water from the crypt that held the Belvedere for a half-century.


Fifty years ago nuclear destruction was on people’s minds in Oklahoma. Sadly, it still is. But their “bomb-proof” vault couldn't even keep the groundwater out. And here we are today, talking about building “missile shields” in Europe and stirring the pot with Russia over a system that has continually failed, at a cost of $85 million a pop. Even a Canada goose can foil the missile defense system. Not good.

When will we learn? Looking at time capsules from the past, we learn a lot about what we thought the future would hold. How have we measured up? How have we failed?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

RIP, Norton

If I’d known he was that sick when I visited him in May, I would have left a get well card.

I’m referring to the untimely death of the Georgia Aquarium’s young whale shark Norton, the second such death in five months.

Back in May, I criticized the Georgia Aquarium for offering a lousy aquarium experience. I’ve been to a few aquariums in my day, but I’ve never been to one where the facility’s corporate sponsors get more prominent play than the animal exhibits themselves. I was especially appalled by the screaming sales pitch from Home Depot, whose orange “Deepo” mascot was obviously targeting young children.

Now it seems I should have been worried about the animals, too:
In June 2005, Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, thrilled this city and raised the eyebrows of marine biologists with the news that he had bought the biggest fish in the world to swim in the biggest tank in the world — a facility he had designed specifically to accommodate whale sharks, bus-size swimmers that would be on display for the first time outside Asia.

But very little is known about these fish, a species that is considered to be endangered by many countries, and critics warned that whale sharks, which may live for decades in the wild, tend to fare much worse in captivity. A study of 16 whale sharks kept at the Okinawa Expo Aquarium from 1980 to 1998 found they survived, on average, 502 days in captivity. That facility has kept at least one whale shark for more than 10 years since that study ended.

Ignoring naysayers, the Georgia Aquarium has already replaced the two dead sharks with two new males, Taroko and Yushan, flown in from Taiwan on June 1. Those two fish, along with Alice and Trixie, the two females that joined the exhibit in 2006, are all eating on their own and behaving normally, Mr. Davis said.

On Wednesday, after news of the shark’s death, some marine biologists criticized the aquarium.

“It’s appalling, of course,” said Lori Marino, a biologist who studies whale biology and behavior at Emory University in Atlanta. “We all knew something like this was going to happen.

“I wonder how many more animals have to die before they realize that this is not a viable exhibit for these animals.”

I guess better a few endangered fish than Bernie Marcus’ ego.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Darrell Issa, Democrat?

Nashville, Tennessee is a lot like California in that most folks you meet here are from somewhere else. Many of you may not know that Southern Beale is actually a native Californian. Second generation native, actually (my mother was from Eagle Rock, my grandfather taught at Occidental). This is a matter of pride with Californians; back in the ‘80s we sported bumper stickers modeled after the telltale blue and yellow California license plate with the words “NATIVE.”

I mention this because I will always have an interest in California politics. In my post downthread about the California GOP, Flying Junior commented about Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, and his role in the recall of CA Governor Gray Davis.

I always thought Gray Davis got royally ripped off in that scam, the American people had the wool pulled over their eyes (and if the media were doing their job, the subsequent collapse of Enron would have made that clear), and American politics got stuck with a new Republican star in Arnold Schwarzenegger. What is with Republicans, anyway, that allows them to make derisive comments about liberals’ “Hollywood values” on the one hand and worship actor-politicians like Ronald Reagan, Fred Thompson and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the other?

Anyway, this is a long preamble to poke fun at Darrell Issa, a former car thief who’s done a lot wrong in his career as a Congressman, too. I always got the whiff of the opportunist from Issa, but this is ridiculous:

According to The Hill, when the House of Representatives had their official congressional photo taken last week, Issa sat on the Democrats’ side of the aisle.

Ooops. What a dufus.

Then again, maybe it was just wishful thinking?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Immigrants Doing Jobs Americans Won't

Because clearly there wasn’t an American for the job:
State GOP fills a critical post with Canadian

The California Republican Party has decided no American is qualified to take one of its most crucial positions -- state deputy political director -- and has hired a Canadian for the job through a coveted H-1B visa, a program favored by Silicon Valley tech firms that is under fire for displacing skilled American workers.

Christopher Matthews, 35, a Canadian citizen, has worked for the state GOP as a campaign consultant since 2004. But he recently was hired as full-time deputy political director, with responsibility for handling campaign operations and information technology for the country's largest state Republican Party operation, California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring confirmed in a telephone interview this week.


Hilarious! But you know, with the GOP in tatters, maybe they really can’t find an American to do the job. I mean, I wouldn’t do it.

But it gets better:

Matthews was hired by Michael Kamburowski, an Australian citizen who was hired this year as the state GOP's chief operations officer. But neither new official has experience in managing a political campaign in the nation's most populous state -- and as foreign citizens, neither is eligible to vote.


Dudes! Are you trying to lose elections? Come on! Two of the top state GOP officials can’t even vote because they aren’t citizens? You gotta be kidding me!

Abso-freaking-hilarious.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oil: “It’s People! Agghh!”

Those wacky Yes Men have struck again.

Mike and Andy, the artful activists known to wreak havoc on WTO meetings and the like have pulled a fast one on the Go-Expo energy confab in Calgary, Canada.

Posing as representatives from ExxonMobil and the National Petroleum Council, the two delivered the Go Expo keynote address today. And what a keynote! According to a Yes Men news release, the speech was supposed to deliver results of a long-awaited study commissioned by US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. Here’s what the oil execs got instead:
In the actual speech, the "NPC rep" announced that current U.S. and Canadian energy policies (notably the massive, carbon-intensive exploitation of Alberta's oil sands, and the development of liquid coal) are increasing the chances of huge global calamities. But he reassured the audience that in the worst case scenario, the oil industry could "keep fuel flowing" by transforming the billions of people who die into oil.

"We need something like whales, but infinitely more abundant," said "NPC rep" "Shepard Wolff" (actually Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men), before describing the technology used to render human flesh into a new Exxon oil product called Vivoleum. 3-D animations of the process brought it to life.

"Vivoleum works in perfect synergy with the continued expansion of fossil fuel production," noted "Exxon rep" "Florian Osenberg" (Yes Man Mike Bonanno). "With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster, but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left."

The oilmen listened to the lecture with attention, and then lit "commemorative candles" supposedly made of Vivoleum obtained from the flesh of an "Exxon janitor" who died as a result of cleaning up a toxic spill. The audience only reacted when the janitor, in a video tribute, announced that he wished to be transformed into candles after his death, and all became crystal-clear.

BWAAAHAAAAAAA!!!!!

According to a local news report, Go Expo attendees were not amused, especially since attendees paid $50 a head to hear a speech from what they thought were American energy policy bigwigs.

Neither Andy nor Mike were arrested, according to their news release, although they were tossed out of the event once the hoax became clear.

Funny Things In My In-Box

This was a strange confluence of disparate sociopolitical and infotainment perspicacity:
For Immediate Release

Kaplan, LA – Speaking in his hometown of Kaplan, La, Sammy Kershaw ended weeks of speculation this morning and officially announced he will run as a Republican candidate for Lt. Governor of Louisiana.

“I am proud to be a citizen of this state and I want to be a part of building its future. I'm committed to ensuring that the unique culture and proud heritage of this state is preserved and promoted,” said Kershaw.

Kershaw is running to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to help move Louisiana forward at a time when strong leadership is critical.


”Weeks of speculation?” For real? Who does he think he is, Fred Thompson? And speaking of Fred Thompson, isn’t his ex girlfriend, Lorrie Morgan, still married to Kershaw? Imagine if both of these candidates won. I’m thinking of the annual National Governor’s Assn. conference, which the POTUS traditionally addresses. Awk-ward!

You know, Louisiana native Tim McGraw has made no secret of his political ambitions. Imagine if he were governor of Louisiana and Kershaw were Lt. Governor. Faith Hill as First Lady of Louisiana and Lorrie Morgan as ... Second Lady?

That would certainly be in keeping with Kershaw’s “entertainment first” platform:


As Lt. Governor, some of Kershaw’s top priorities include:

• Making the entertainment industry a viable source of economic development in Louisiana.

• Creating education programs that will train a sustainable labor force for this industry.

• Ensuring that the people, places and culture of Louisiana are truly made a top priority within the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

• Creating a program to promote the diversification of our natural settings to capitalize on the “sportsman’s paradise.”


Who needs science and math when you’ve got music, hunting and fishing, right?

I’ve often wondered what makes celebrities think they can succeed in politics. I guess it’s no different than what inspires anyone to seek political office: a desire to change things for the better. Personally, I think the best way to change the world is through the arts. A great book, movie or song can change people; a politician can only change laws.

Maybe that’s the point of Kershaw’s platform.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Carbon Dating

I’m not a big fan of "carbon offsets." They always struck me as a "guilt balm," where a bunch of rich white Westerners could soothe their conscience for living like a bunch of, well, rich white Westerners. They pay their offset and feel they can enjoy their Hummer guilt-free. I don’t think you should be able to buy your way out of planetary responsibility.

This is Paris Hilton thinking--the kind of stuff you'd expect from some vapid blonde heiress who is too stupid to know better. The truth of the matter is, a lot of America’s super wealthy are Paris Hiltons: they just don’t give a shit. That’s what stuck in my craw about the whole “Don’t Give” campaign. Too many people already don’t give a shit in this world, and I don’t think that’s something which should be encouraged.

But I won't object to carbon offsets on the whole, especially for folks who are doing other things to reduce their energy consumption. For people like Al and Tipper Gore, who also have solar panels on their home, drive hybrid vehicles, buy green power shares, etc., it’s just another item on the green menu, not the whole enchilada. And I think criticism of the Gores--in particular, nonsense like this--is pretty disingenuous:
Gore's people tout his purchase of "carbon offsets" as evidence that he lives a "carbon-neutral" lifestyle, but the truth is Gore's home uses electricity that is, for the most part, derived from the burning of carbon fuels. His house gets its electricity from Nashville Electric Service, which gets its from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which produces most of its power from coal-burning power plants. Which means most of the power being consumed at the Gore mansion comes from carbon-emitting power sources.


Big fat duh. That's what the carbon offsets are for, ya nitwit.

As I’ve written on this blog before, unless you’re Jeremiah Johnson living in a deer-skin tent, you’re consuming carbon fuels. I can’t imagine the right wingers are surprised to learn that a former U.S. Vice President and Senator doesn’t, you know, churn his own butter. What a shocker.

So quit being hypocrites yourself. Just living in America, enjoying the cushy lifestyle we have here, has an impact on the planet. We all know it. That’s the point of carbon offsets. You can’t eat, live, work and raise a family in this country without consuming more carbon and creating more pollution than your grandfather did doing the same things. All you can do is try to minimize your personal impact, and try to spread the word and get others to do the same thing.

I'm tired of the “Al-Gore-is-a-hypocrite” BS. It’s stupid. Unless you’ve found a better way of doing it, shut up. It's not productive to the conversation (and of course it's not supposed to be), and it's the worst sort of partisan hackery.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Credit Where It’s Due

There’s something hugely pathetic about President Bush’s hero’s welcome in Albania.

First of all, Albania? “He’s big in Albania” should be met with the same derisive snorts we gave press releases telling us Cristy Lane was #1 in Nigeria back in my music journalism days.

But what’s even more pathetic about this “Albania Mania” coverage is that no one bothers to point out why Albanians gave President Bush the hero’s welcome. In no small degree, it’s because of something--hold onto your chairs-- President Clinton did.

Yes, Albanians have loved us since President Woodrow Wilson’s day. But in modern times, you cannot ignore the fact that Albanians are grateful to America because we rescued ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo war--something which prominent Republicans actually criticized at the time and actively fought against. In fact, President Bush himself, then governor of Texas, said of the Kosovo action: “Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." Gee, ya think? How’s your exit strategy coming along, Mr. President?

The New York Times pointed out that there are thousands of Albanian children named Bill and Hillary as a result of Clinton’s intervention, and they expect a deluge of little Georges in the wake of Bush’s visit.

Still, if there’s a sadder commentary on the past seven years, I can’t think of it. President Bush has alienated America from the world, and has resolutely denounced every policy of the previous Administration. The one place he can go where he’s not faced with anti-American protests, and it’s because of something his predecessor did.

Very, very pathetic.
UPDATE: AP wonders what happened to the President’s watch during the frenzy:
June 12,2007 | TIRANA, Albania -- Whatever happened to the president's watch?

One moment President Bush was glad-handing Albanians on Sunday, proudly sporting a watch with a dark strap on his left wrist. Moments later, it was gone.

Did it fall off? Did one of his bodyguards remove it? Or did one of the crowd artfully slip it off his wrist and pocket it?


Heh. Maybe the Albanians are just like us after all.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gingrich 4 Sale?

Looks like folks are onto Huckster Newt. It seems his “think tank,” The Center for Health Transformation, just might be willing to “think up” an idea to benefit your company for the price of $200,000 a year.

From the AP:
Among his ideas is a health system that lets consumers, not health maintenance organizations, choose the best doctors, medical treatments and hospitals. Such a goal would be accomplished with health savings accounts, which are sought by companies that fund Gingrich's think tank. The accounts would encourage people to shop for cheaper care and forgo treatments they do not need.

A second idea, electronic records to keep better track of people's medical care, is a potential boon to technology companies that underwrite the center.

Rarely does Gingrich acknowledge his opinions would benefit the drug makers, insurers and others who each pay the center up to $200,000 annually.

Critics say Gingrich is doing free advertising, not the free thinking he is admired for by conservative supporters. Gingrich aides say his ideas are aimed at helping all people and not a particular company.

"This is a massive financial conflict of interest: taking money from organizations that have a set of views, then using the weight of your name, Newt Gingrich, to advance the views of these organizations," said Sid Wolfe, director of health research for Public Citizen, a liberal-leaning watchdog group.

Ellen Miller, an open-government advocate who runs the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, said: "It's a phony think tank. He's nothing but a corporate shill and everything he says about health care should be regarded with complete skepticism."

Gingrich aides say companies give money because of Gingrich's views, not the other way around.


And that makes him less of a corporate shill how?

Anyway, the article says there are more than 60 companies who are members of Gingrich’s “think tank,” paying $10,000 to $200,000 a year in dues each. The founding members include:

• Drug makers AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline
• Diabetes care leader Novo Nordisk and MedImpact, a pharmacy benefits management company.
• Insurance, health management and health support companies Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, GE Healthcare, Healthways, SHPS, UnitedHealth Group and ValueOptions
• Hospitals and hospital networks Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Sutter Health
• Electronics company Siemens and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton
• The Gallup polling organization
• General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler.

The Gallup organization?! Holy rigged elections, Batman!

This is important to know as Gingrich passes himself off as some kind of healthcare “expert,” a title the lazy media is increasingly inclined to bestow upon him. As an example of how the Gingrich snake oil can directly impact consumers, look at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The company has hired Gingrich, based on his Center for Health Transformation credentials, to advise them on what to do with a $400 million gift from a benefactor.

This is a story worth watching.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Welcome, Citizens of Elgaland-Vargaland

No, this is not the next Borat movie.

I read about this in yesterday’s New York Times and thought it was fabulous. Two Swedish artists have proclaimed themselves rulers of their own kingdom, a place that consists of cobbled-together no man’s lands :
[I]n 1992 they decided to declare themselves kings of their own country, one made up completely of the borders between other countries: the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea; the blue line between Lebanon and Israel; the porous line between Mexico and the United States.

In many cases their vast, far-flung territories can be measured only in conceptual terms, just as thousands of infinitesimal, invisible lines exist only on maps and in international law. Wherever borders are disputed, the lands of Elgaland-Vargaland can be measured in actual miles: its land, in other words, is no man’s land, the places that don’t quite belong to anyone.

The artists print stamps and issue passports to anyone who wants one; they say they now have about 850 citizens, many of them fellow artists.

They have “established” embassies in about 20 places around the world and give their ambassadors wide latitude to do basically anything they want in the name of the kingdom. (One in France recently annexed the “distance between high tide and low tide,” Mr. Elggren said.) They have also claimed possession of some mental states, like the one just between sleeping and waking.


What a fabulous idea, full of possibilities. Imagine if large chunks of Elgaland-Vargaland’s Antarctic holdings were threatened by global warming; they could dispatch a delegate to the U.N. and demand action. Quick, someone call the Yes Men. Or, Elgaland-Vargaland could be a powerful advocate for net neutrality in defense of its digital territories.

I recently visited Elgaland-Vargaland’s cyberspace territories and saw that they actually list all of their citizens. So, a big shout-out to Zoonie Thistlebottom and Dr Decent, two of the kingdom’s very interesting residents.

I’m going to look into becoming a part of the Elgaland-Vargaland diplomatic mission. I’d like to be governor of a territory. Looking around my city, I see a lot of forgotten places I could claim: run-down alleys, crumbled buildings, patches of weeds that the city claims are the homeowner’s and the homeowner claims are the city’s.

That has a nice “Mother Theresa” vibe to it, but that’s not me, plus it seems to be in the spirit of Elgaland-Vargaland to claim a disputed territory that everyone wants, not a place that no one wants. So I poked around a bit and found the perfect place: 5000 acres of disputed boundary between Missouri and Nebraska at McKissick Island. It was created by a flood of the Missouri River in 1867 and they've been arguing over it ever since. So I hereby proclaim this patch of land, which sounds quite lovely, as a territory of Elgaland-Vargaland. I have no authority to do this, not even from the Kings of Elgaland-Vargaland, except in my own mind, which I understand is a perfectly acceptable way to conduct business in the kingdom.

As we say in Elgaland-Vargaland: “Det Finns En Kula F├Âr Varje Konung.” I have no idea what it means, but it’s the kingdom’s motto, so folks on McKissick Island better get used to it.

UPDATE: Thanks to Sojourner Joe, who informs me that the motto translates to mean "Find A Land For Every King."

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Adam Was A Porn Star?

Who knew?
Creation Museum Actor Owns Porn Site

The man picked as Adam by a museum based on the Bible's version of Earth's history led quite a different life outside the Garden of Eden, flaunting his sexual exploits online and modeling for a line of clothing with an explicit mascot.

Registration records show that Eric Linden, who portrays Adam taking his first breath in a film at the newly opened Creation Museum, owns a graphic Web site called Bedroom Acrobat. He has been pictured there, smiling alongside a drag queen, in a T-shirt brandishing the site's sexually suggestive logo.

Linden, a graphic designer, model and actor, also sells clothing for SFX International, whose initials appear on clothing to spell "SEX" from afar and serve as an abbreviation for its mascot, who promotes "free love," "pleasure" and "Thrillz."

The museum's operators, informed Thursday by The Associated Press of Linden's online appearances, acted swiftly to suspend airing of the 40-second video in which he appeared.


There is simply nothing these people can do that does not subject them to ridicule. More proof that there is a God, and she’s got one helluva sense of humor.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Things That Aren’t In The Bible

1- The Lord Helps Those That Help Themselves
Guess what, it’s not there! We have Benjamin Franklin to thank for this ditty, not Scripture. In fact, the Bible actually teaches the opposite: “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” Proverbs 28:26

2- God Bless America
This one should be obvious but I think some folks need to be reminded of it every now and then.

3- God Hates Fags
Sorry, “Rev.” Phelps. Hate to disappoint you. The real “sodomy,” according to Ezekiel 16:49: 
"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Got that?

4- The Rapture
The word doesn’t appear in the Bible, nor does the whole “Left Behind” scenario peddled by hucksters like Tim LaHaye. The rapture doctrine is the creation of a handful of 19th century British evangelists, including Edward Irving and John Darby. Both were heavily influenced by a 15 year old Scottish girl named Margaret McDonald, who in 1830 saw visions of a rapture while in a fevered state due to a severe illness.

5- Abortion
If you’re going to interpret certain Scriptures as being against abortion (“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee” is a popular one, although this passage relates specifically to the birth of the prophet Jeremiah), then you’re also going to have check out Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 and 6:3-5, which says it’s better to never have been born--the Bible specifically states “miscarriage”-- than to live a life of suffering and poverty.

6- Creation Story
OK, this isn’t entirely true: of course there is a creation story in the Bible. In fact, there are three. There’s the whole “And God said let there be light ...” thing, there’s the whole Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden story, and then there’s the New Testament’s version, “In the beginning was the Word ...” So next time your Fundie in-law tries to tell you she believes in the Biblical creation story, ask her which one.