Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Are You My Mommy?

Word has it that the Franklin Co. (Fla.) Humane Society is going to lose its funding and shut its doors. The no-kill shelter is near the vacation hot spot of St. George Island but, as with many places of its kind, Franklin County is riddled with contrasts: despite the multimillion-dollar vacation homes, it’s also one of the poorest counties in Florida.

If the no-kill shelter loses its funds, and it’s looking that way, dozens of cats and dogs will be sent to Animal Control to be euthanized.

Here’s where you come in: the following three kittens will be in Nashville soon. Can you give them a home? They are all clear on Feline Leukemia/AIDs, have their shots, and will be spayed/neutered. Let me know in Comments if you're interested.

This is Cookie, found hanging around a rental house on St. George Island. They also found what probably had been her mother, who had been hit and died. She is a little skittish, but when you pick her up she has the loudest purr. She is a big eater and very playful. She isn't crazy about dogs but will probably get used to them.

This is Boo. Three guesses how she got her name! I'm told she's gonna be a chunk. She is very talkative, also very affectionate and inquisitive. Not afraid of dogs, short hair and is also about 14 to 15 weeks old. She's one of 5 kittens that the owner of the Mother cat threw out in the yard.

Finally we have Moses. I'm seriously considering taking this one. Hey, I've got 7, what's one more? He's about 14 to 16 weeks old. He was one of 2 that someone left in a box one night at the door of the shelter. He's all legs & ears, with a long face. He is extremely affectionate, loves being held. Gets along with other cats and isn't afraid of dogs.

So that's it. Do something good for your karma, adopt a homeless kitten.

Premature Celebration

It’s sad when right-wing pundits like Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin, and even our own Bill Hobbs clutch so desperately to such flimsy shreds of hope as yesterday’s Ken Pollack and Mike O'Hanlon NY Times op-ed.

Glenn Greenwald thoroughly debunks the “rank deceit” of the “liberal” Brookings twosome, who claim to be war critics suddenly and unexpectedly impressed by the progress in Iraq. In fact, they’ve been cheering on the war from the beginning--Greenwald documents Pollack/O’Hanlon war boosterism and false claims of progress going back to 2003. So have Greg Sargent and ThinkProgress. But don’t trust them -- or me. You can read Pollack and O’Hanlon’s pro-war oeuvre for yourself over at the Brookings Institution.

So what we really have are two well-known war boosters and Bush surge supporters telling us how great everything is going after an 8-day Pentagon-guided tour of Iraq. Stop the fucking presses.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped the story from ricocheting across the mainstream media: “Harsh war critics do about-face! Huzzah!” I first heard such crowing on CNN yesterday morning, when Heidi Collins interviewed Ken Pollack about how swimmingly things were going in Anbar province. Another U.S. Marine was killed there today. That’s progress?

Today I learn that Fox News and other conservative media outlets are touting this Op-Ed piece as some kind of vindication, as if Pollack and O’Hanlon have never been wrong about anything (they have). This is the same group of people who routinely dismiss the New York Times as liberal propaganda, who write off everything the Brooking Institute publishes. Now they suddenly believe the rainbows-and-lollipops picture of Iraq portrayed by Pollack/O’Hanlon? Are they that desperate for good news?

Here in Left Blogistan, we know better. We enjoyed poking fun at the New York Times’ more clueless op-ed writers; Atrios has his “Friedman Unit,” a snort of derision that even has its own Wikipedia entry. Personally, I believe David Brooks is senile and should retire to his front porch. Liberals know better than to jump all over a NY Times Op-Ed as proof of anything; this one was particularly bad because everyone from CNN to Bill Hobbs have touted Pollack and O’Hanlon’s “liberal war critic” cred as proof that what they write about Iraq has to be true: “Hey, if even vocal war critics say the surge is working ...!”

Problem is, it’s not true. Pollack and O’Hanlon are not war critics, and as Greenwald has ably documented, they’ve got a history of seeing progress in Iraq where clearly none has been.

Here’s another Op-Ed to chew on. Top-ranking Republican and war supporter Sen. Chuck Hagel’s Washington Post piece from April 2007. You remember, the one in which the Vietnam Veteran and Senator from Nebraska writes:
I came home from my fifth trip to Iraq with one enduring impression. The Iraqi government must make the tough choices now to produce political reconciliation. If there is no such reconciliation in Iraq, there will be no progress -- no matter how many American lives we lose and how much American money we give. We will have squandered our resources and efforts, undermined our interests in the Middle East and, however unintentionally, produced a more dangerous world.

Well it must be true! He’s a Republican, and he voted for the war! I’m sure with these credentials, Bill Hobbs, Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt were all over that one.

No? I wonder why.

It’s curious to observe the orgiastic response to the Pollack/O’Hanlon piece. Again, I have to get back to, why? Some folks are saying it’s because conservatives are eager to paint a portrait of near-victory in Iraq. That way, when the Democrats take control in 2009, they can blame the Dems for “losing” in Iraq, like they’ve tried to blame liberals for “losing” in Vietnam all these years. That sounds about right; everything has a political motive with this crowd. Problem is, it’s not going to work. Truth shines through, it’s a natural law. Iraq was a mistake and nothing will fix it. All we can do is cut our losses.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bush Godson Quashes Surgeon General’s Report

The latest dispatch from the Republican war on science concerns a 2006 Surgeon General’s report on the link between poverty and poor health quashed by a Dept. of Health political appointee --for purely political reasons:
A surgeon general's report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration's policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.

The report described the link between poverty and poor health, urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, and called on corporations to help improve health conditions in the countries where they operate. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post.

Three people directly involved in its preparation said its publication was blocked by William R. Steiger, a specialist in education and a scholar of Latin American history whose family has long ties to President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Since 2001, Steiger has run the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services.

William R. Steiger is no ordinary “loyal Bushie,” however. According to the National Review of Medicine, he is George Bush Sr.’s godson. This also isn’t the first time he’s used his position to favor politics over science:

In a leaked confidential letter to the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Lee Jong-Wook, the US government has rejected decades of nutritional research and denied that there is any evidence of a link between junk food and obesity. The letter, from William R Steiger, special assistant at the Department of Health and Human Services and godson to George Bush Sr, is the United States' official response to an April 2003 report by the WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The report was released last spring, prompting American food manufacturers' groups to begin frantic lobbying in Washington. The Sugar Association wrote to Gro Harlem Brundtland, then WHO director-general, threatening to "exercise every avenue available to expose the dubious nature" of the report. Congressmen recruited by the food industry urged the Secretary of Health, Tommy Thompson, to cut off the $406 million annual US contribution to the WHO.

Yes of course, because when it comes to Americans' health and the obesity epidemic, we simply must put an expert in Latin American history in charge. That person will surely keep the interests of Kraft, General Foods, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo at the forefront.

Heckuva job, Billy!

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there's a connection between poverty and poor health, and that a high-fat, high-sugar junk food diet is causing America’s obesity epidemic. But it does take the removal of political cronies and Bush family friends and relatives from policy positions.

It’s time to shove Steiger off the government payroll. No, I won't feel sorry for him. I'm sure he'll land a cushy Heritage Foundation gig where he can do corporate America's bidding all he wants.

Hackers Crack Voting Machines

Since Nashville voters are in the midst of electing a new mayor and city council, I thought I’d scare the bejeezus out of you with this discouraging piece of news:
Most vote machines lose test to hackers

State-sanctioned teams of computer hackers were able to break through the security of virtually every model of California's voting machines and change results or take control of some of the systems' electronic functions, according to a University of California study released Friday.

The researchers "were able to bypass physical and software security in every machine they tested,'' said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who authorized the "top to bottom review" of every voting system certified by the state.

Holy rigged elections! You can read the entire report at the California Secretary of State’s website.

To be clear, Davidson County uses the ES&S iVotronic system; none of the systems California uses are of this type. Still, that doesn’t mean the ES&S iVotronic is immune to hackers or even bug-free. Verified Voting documents problems in Florida, Texas and North Carolina with the iVotronic.

The biggest problem I have with Davidson County’s switch to the iVotronic is that the system has no paper backup in case a recount is needed. That’s just plain stupid. Machines fail all the time; to not prepare for that inevitability is just irresponsible.

I also don’t understand how a vision impaired person is supposed to vote on these things. Ah, you may say: a vision impaired person can get a paper “absentee” ballot!

Really? Then why can’t we all?

Maybe we should use the purple finger method. I mean if it’s good enough for the Iraqis ....

(h/t Huffpo)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

$20 Billion Arms Deal

That popping sound you just heard was heads in Outer Wingnuttia exploding:
WASHINGTON, July 27 — The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq.

The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels, has made Israel and some of its supporters in Congress nervous. Senior officials who described the package on Friday said they believed that the administration had resolved those concerns, in part by promising Israel $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade, a significant increase over what Israel has received in the past 10 years.

But administration officials remained concerned that the size of the package and the advanced weaponry it contains, as well as broader concerns about Saudi Arabia’s role in Iraq, could prompt Saudi critics in Congress to oppose the package when Congress is formally notified about the deal this fall.

In talks about the package, the administration has not sought specific assurances from Saudi Arabia that it would be more supportive of the American effort in Iraq as a condition of receiving the arms package, the officials said.

This is pretty amazing. Now, which country spawned 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers? Which government aided the 9/11 hijackers? Which country spawned Osama bin Laden? And we’re selling them advanced weaponry why?

I’m sure there’s a reason. Since it’s not supporting our great Iraq adventure, I’m guessing it has to be Iran. After all Saudis are Sunni, Iran is Shia.

The news gets better. According to the BBC:

Other US allies in the Gulf - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - could receive equipment and weaponry as part of the deal, the officials said.

The officials said the arms deal aimed to bolster the militaries of the Sunni Arab states as part of a strategy to counter what it sees as a growing threat posed by Iran in the region.

"The role of the Sunni Arab neighbours is to send a positive, affirmative message to moderates in Iraq in government that the neighbours are with you," a senior State Department official told the New York Times on Friday.

So, the American government is supporting Sunni Arabs over Shia. Looks like we’ve picked a side. Armageddon here we come.

There Goes The Neighborhood

Don’tcha just hate it when someone keeps dumping back issues of “The Tennessean” in the woods by your house? I do.

And then don’tcha just hate it when someone runs over them with the mower? What a mess.

Thanks, “Tennessean.”

While we’re on the topic, I don’t understand the thinking of people who go to a fast food restaurant, eat in their car, and then dump the trash out the window as they drive down the street. Now, if you don’t want that trash in your car, why do you think I want it in front of my house?

Fast food is a disgusting, nasty business, all the way around. You couldn’t pay me to eat that crap. The food itself is garbage for your body, and the litter these establishments cause is a scourge on our neighborhoods.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dry Runs All Wet?

Last night, Keith Olbermann addressed the spate of phony terror scares we’ve been hearing about lately, the so-called “dry runs” the TSA has claimed are harbingers of a new 9/11, like, for sure.

Right.

Conservative bloggers like Michelle Malkin have dutifully jumped on this fear porn, repeating tales of suspicious “ice packs” and wired cheese to an audience so addicted to fear that if they don’t get their regular fix they start sniping at President Bush for insufficient national security mentions in the SOTU.

Olbermann had Will Bunch of the blog Attytood on to spill the beans about these TSA jokes swallowed whole by CNN. (Speaking of jokes, am I the only one amused that CNN’s security analyst is a guy named Clark Kent Ervin?) Velveeta cheese packed next to a DVD charger, not substitute bomb parts. Freezer packs leaking the usual blue gel in luggage owned by an American woman in her 60’s -- not, as it happens, “ice bags, wrapped or configured to mimic bomb components,” as CNN reported. As Bunch wrote, the problem is not that the TSA investigated this stuff--that’s their job, after all--but that they needlessly frightened Americans about it afterwards:
In the end, TSA inspectors did the right thing in thoroughly checking the suspicious baggage, but the aftermath raises a lot of questions. Why did TSA officials put such blatantly incorrect information into their memo and send it out across America. And more importantly, who decided to leak this memo to NBC News, knowing that it would become such a big national story.

Frankly I’m surprised the American people keep buying this bullshit. Time will come when they stop, to our detriment. Crying wolf isn’t good for anyone’s security.

The Administration isn’t stupid, they know this. I can only think that they either don’t care, or care more about keeping the Republican Party in power than protecting the country.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tuesday Was Thank A Democrat Day

On Tuesday the Federal minimum wage took its first jump in 10 years, the first of several planned increases over the next two years that will eventually set the Federal minimum wage at $7.25/hour.

I know there are folks who will argue that a hike from $5.15 to $5.85 an hour is peanuts. Two comments: If you are making $5.15 an hour then I bet you are damn glad to get that increase. Also, it is the Republicans who have consistently rejected raising the minimum wage, so please take your comments to them.

In fact, Republicans rejected an increase 11 times since 1998, while voting themselves nine pay hikes. Get this twisted logic:
Republicans argued that an increase in the minimum wage would discourage employers from hiring workers and would hinder people in the early stages of their careers from gaining skills and advancing.
Got that? The Republican Party thinks American workers will be so satisfied with $7.25/hour they will lack incentive to find a better job.

What planet are they living on?

This is one issue for which Democrats have fought long and hard. Harry Reid even halted Congress’ pay increase until the minimum wage increase was passed.

Let’s remember, who is the party of oppressing workers with slave wages and who isn’t:
[The increase] ends the longest span without a federal minimum wage increase since the pay floor was enacted in 1938. The last previous increase came in September 1997, when President Clinton signed a bill raising the minimum 40 cents to $5.15 an hour.

Although I suppose we must give President Bush his due: he is at least smart enough to realize that vetoing the minimum wage bill would have been a bad move. Oh, wait. Memory hole, dial us back to May of this year:

When President Bush vetoed legislation setting timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq yesterday, he also vetoed the first increase in the minimum wage in a decade.
...
The U.S. House passed a bill Jan. 10 that would have boosted the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25, without another round of tax breaks for business. Senate Republicans filibustered the House bill for a week in January, using Senate rules to force minimum wage backers to win 60 votes instead of a simple 51 majority and then killing the House bill on Jan. 24. 

By killing the House bill, Senate Republicans forced Senate Democrats to add $8.3 billion in business tax breaks. They then refused to allow the combined minimum wage and tax package to move to a conference with the House until the House produced its own package of tax cuts for business.

So just to recap: Republicans have been in charge of Congress and the White House since 2000. In that time they have voted themselves nine pay increases while giving American workers zero. When Democrats gain a slim majority in Congress they use parliamentary procedures to hold up a minimum wage increase until they secure billions in tax breaks for their big business friends.

And they think we’re too dumb to notice. Heh.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Farewell, Weekly World News

I always thought the coolest gig in fiction must be a news job at the Weekly World News. Sadly, it is not to be. The campy supermarket tabloid that brought us Bat Boy and alien abductions, the World’s Fattest Baby and regular Armageddon updates will fold after 28 years.

I always wondered what it was like to work there. Did the writers just sit around tripping on acid all day?

Publisher American Media says they will continue to publish an online version at www.weeklyworldnews.com but come on, that’s just something publishers say to keep fans from screaming. It’s only a matter of time.

So, farewell Bat Boy and POTUS-endorsing aliens. Goodbye Elvis sightings and cranky old Ed Anger. The supermarket checkout line won't be the same.

Current

Wow. I just got my computer back after three days and feel like I’ve returned to the land of the living.

The worst part? There wasn’t anything wrong with my computer. It was just getting its annual tune-up, but the Apple Store was a little busier than they thought and the promised 24 hour turnaround turned into 50+. Oh, the agony.

So for the past three days I have read a novel, cleaned house, paid bills, researched a story (without the internet! Who knew such a thing is possible!), went to a couple of meetings, had the roof repaired, worked in the garden. It felt like a mini-vacation, actually, minus the tan.

I also watched TV. Feeling desperately out of synch with the world, sans internet, I had to get my news the old-fashioned way. Trust me, it wasn’t worth it. TV news still sucks. On this, I think, both the right and left can agree.

But I did find my new favorite channel: Current TV, Channel 196 on Dish Network. I didn’t even know we could get it until my forced isolation from blogging prompted some desperate channel-surfing. Can I say how much I love Current TV? It reminds me of MTV in its infancy, when it was nothing but music videos, one after another, without end. My friend Ellen and I would watch until the wee hours of the night, bleary and red-eyed from hours of Eurythmics and David Bowie videos, until finally one of us would turn to the other and say, as if realizing it for the first time, “This program never ends. We have to stop it. We have to turn it off.”

You kids who weren’t around in the days before 24-hour television programming probably have no clue what I’m talking about.

Anyway, Current TV is a little like that, in that it consists of a lot of small vignettes, each as different from the other as Michael Jackson was different from Dexys Midnight Runners which was different from The Police.

I know there are some folks out there who won’t give Current TV the time of day because Al Gore had something to do with its formation. That’s their loss. They missed the fabulous story about the Iraqi basketball team, the one containing Kurdish, Sunni and Shia players who ignore sectarian differences in favor of teamwork and a love for sport. You know, some of that good news out of Iraq you’re always complaining the major networks refuse to cover? Yeah, I found it on Current TV.

I also saw some astonishing behind-the-lines coverage of Israel’s attacks on Lebanon last year. And on the lighter side, I went with a guy named Nick to the Night Market in Beijing where he ate local delicacies like deep-fried grasshopper and scorpion-on-a-stick. Let’s just say I don’t think either will be coming to a state fair near you. The dish that made him gag? Sea urchin. Go figure.

I love the whole “user generated” feel to it. I love that technology enables us to have a global conversation. I love that we have entered a time in which corporate gatekeepers and media empires have less influence on that conversation. We saw a glimpse of it with the CNN YouTube debate. It’s not entirely here yet but it’s coming. I for one am ready.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Apocalypse Wow!

It’s the end of the world as we know it, if some folks have their way. On the Conservative Christian end we have church leaders like Pastor John Hagee, convinced we must restore the Jewish people to the Holy Land so Jesus will return on a white cloud:
Pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio and a world-reknowned TV evangelist, [Pastor John] Hagee organized the lobbying blitz (the second in two years) to try to exert political power in Middle East policy, including consideration of a pre-emptive strike on Iran.

Scary stuff, especially when you remember that Pastor Hagee has the ear of the White House, and he’s leading them right where they want to go. Hagee wrote a book about how an invasion of Iran was prophesied in the Book of Esther, and he’s doing his darnedest to make sure it happens on his watch. Yikes.

On the left side of the aisle, I’m getting inundated with scary e-mails warning of a pending apocalypse due to Peak Oil, President Bush’s Presidential Directive #51, FEMA’s REX-84 plan, etc. Either way, civilization as we know it is over, get yourself educated on permaculture, buy some land out in the country, move to Canada. etc.

Someone pass the popcorn.

Once upon a time we had crackpot evangelists predicting the end of the world at every turn. The Jehova’s Witnesses have made nine apocalyptic predictions, none of which happened. Maybe they’ve given up. In the ‘80s one Christian leader said the Africanized or “killer” bees dominating the news at that time were a sign of the Rapture. This year we had some Christians saying the massive, worldwide die-off of honeybees are a sign of the Apocalypse.

Anyone remember Edgar Whisenant and his “88 Reasons” why the Rapture would be in 1988? And 1989 ... and 1993 and 1994 ... Give it up, buddy.

I love my liberal friends but I wish they’d quit telling me all the reasons why Peak Oil is real and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. The world has run out of oil, they say, and because the world is dependent on oil, there will be massive riots, food and water shortages, chaos in the streets, etc. It’s “Mad Max” without a cute guy in leather. These are some of the most hopeless voices of despair I’ve heard; at least the Christians are telling me I can get to heaven if I repent.

Now I’m getting hysterical e-mails from friends telling me about how President Bush is going to declare martial law, after finding a reason to invade Iran. Excuse me if you’ve heard this one before ... in Oct. 2006 (the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007) ... in 2005 (bird flu) ....in 2004 (elections cancelled) ... in 2002 (internment camps) ... Etc. etc.

I no more buy these dire predictions than I believe the Rapture is imminent, or would be if only we’d invade Iran, prompting nuclear annihilation so the handful of Jews left on the planet could return to the Promised Land ... and convert to Christianity. Apocalypse, fuck yeah! It's the awesomest!

Tell me, does any of this make sense to anyone? Who thinks that Mr. Commander Guy Of 27% has enough support anywhere in this country to seize control of the government and declare martial law, rounding up the liberals and placing them in internment camps? That’s just silly.

I think we’re so programmed for fear in this country that we’re starting to go a little nuts. The news media is telling us to be scared of everything, including our shadows. I mean, for crying out loud, two weeks ago I saw a TV news report warning in ominous tones how running might be dangerous for your kids! Running!

Come on, people. Calm down. The apocalypse ain’t comming any time soon.

And if I’m wrong, you are all free to mock me until the end of day(s).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

God’s Work

From today’s New York Times, we learn that conservative Christians are fighting the prosecution of American GI’s in Iraq on charges of war crimes. Aided by talk radio nutcase Michael Savage, Christian groups have joined veterans’ organizations in raising funds for troops accused of violent crimes against Iraqi civillians.

I can understand veterans supporting their brothers and sisters in uniform, I can understand Michael Savage trying to wave the flag and ignore wartime atrocities, since his whole radio schtick is to be a morally rudderless blowhard. But for Christian groups to cite ”religious conviction” as their reason for supporting war while not demanding justice for civillians affected by conflict strikes me as a quantums shift in religious thinking.

For example:
One the most heinous episodes occurred last year, when a group of soldiers from Company B of the First Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killed her and her family, Army prosecutors said.
....
But in more than a dozen interviews, organizers and contributors said they were motivated by anger at the Bush administration and the military for prosecuting combat troops and commanders just for doing their jobs, they say, in life or death circumstances, as they were trained.

Reality check, folks: soldiers are not trained to rape and murder 14-year-old girls. That is not “their job.”

“We all feel like the big brass have eaten their young here,” said Ms. Jones, whose son is serving with the Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, the same unit as the marines accused in the Hamdaniya case. “You just can’t put people under a microscope when the lines of combat are so blurred.”

That, Ms. Jones, is precisely why the military should not intervene in a civil war. That is precisely why we do not belong in Iraq. When the lines are blurred, it puts Americans on very shaky moral ground. We are to be the world’s standard-bearer, not sink to the level of Third World dictators who use rape as an intimidation tactic. That so-called Christians don’t see this is very disturbing.

There’s more:

"Terry Pennington, a former Air Force technician whose son, Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington, was among the Hamdaniya marines who pleaded guilty, said in an interview: “Many of these people see this country as not having the guts anymore to fight a war. They’re outraged really all the way up to the White House.”

Ah. Now we get to the crux of the matter. This isn’t about faith, or religious values, or patriotism or even supporting the troops. It’s about the national penis anxiety.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The past decade has been about a group of (largely though not entirely) white males who feel disenfranchised from an increasingly multicultural society (what I call the “Falling Down” crowd), desperately trying to regain their manhood. It’s the last gasp of the American White Male. They have a “stomach for war” because that makes them feel manly and strong. They howl at such wussy, mamby-pamby notions as justice; right equals might to these folks, and they will stomp their feet and beat their chests just because they can. They found a national identity in George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and they enjoyed a momentary ascendency in the Bush years. But ultimately they will fail, because they are cultural dinosaurs. Their era is over.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Hullabaloo

I’m very amused at all this Harry Potter hysteria. Imagine: at this very moment, all around the globe, televisions are turned off and millions of people of all ages have their noses pressed to a book. This is way better than the iPhone! Pardon me while I swoon.

A friend of mine was in New York City last night watching the spectacle. He reports there was a huge countdown sign over the Toys “R” Us in Times Square, counting down to midnight -- just like they do for New Year’s Eve. He headed down to the Barnes & Noble at Union Square, where a Harry Potter festival was in progress. Thousands of little Harry Potters and Voldemorts running all over the place -- and one Jew For Jesus preaching the evils of Harry Potter. My friend told me that at the stroke of midnight, “lightning” went off inside the store, the crowd cheered, and then a police escort had to help the woman who bought the first book through the crowd. Then, as if by magic, thousands of Harry Potter books appeared all through the city: in the Starbucks, on the subway, everywhere.

Oh, my.

I’m heading over to Davis Kidd this morning; I wonder if there will be quite the same spectacle in Nashville as in New York City? Somehow I think ... not.

I’m not a big Harry Potter fan; I haven’t read the books and I only go to the movies because my husband makes me. But I can’t help but be amazed at the phenomenon that is Harry Potter. That a single mom with a story to tell could revolutionize the publishing world simply with the fruits of her imagination is an inspiration to writers everywhere.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Mayor’s Race, Up Close & Personal


Courtesy of at-large candidate Charlie Tygard’s “Election Guide,” which landed in my mailbox yesterday, we get an interesting look at the top six mayoral candidates.

No, this is not an endorsement of Charlie Tygard. In fact, I’ll state right now that I voted on Wednesday and Mr. Tygard was not one of my five. Sorry ‘bout that. In spite of that I did find his “Election Guide” a big winner. How else would I have learned that:

• Buck Dozier cites “easy listening” as his favorite music and The Carpenters and Tony Bennett as his favorite artists. Dude, could you be a bigger square? Come on, even President Bush’s iPod is better than that.

• Bob Clement’s household chore is “cleaning up after” the dog. Not to be outdone, Buck Dozier says he cleans toilets. Both good experience for the Mayor’s office, no?

Other tidbits:

• Howard Gentry’s’ favorite movie is “South Pacific.”

• Karl Dean is the coolest. He likes Neil Young, “On The Waterfront,” and a Vanderbilt/Kentucky basketball game is his “don’t miss” event.

• David Briley’s favorite movie is “Field of Dreams” and his “don’t miss” event is roller derby at the state fairgrounds. For the record, I did not know they had roller derby at the fairgrounds.

• Kenneth Eaton is a fan of Aerosmith, Kid Rock and Pink Floyd. I would not have guessed that in a million years.

To read the whole thing, click on the image at the top ...

President Bush In Nashville

It sure is strange how much effort goes into keeping President Bush away from the American people.

I noticed this when President Bush visited the “Bun Lady” this morning. The factory’s Armory Drive location is so remote that it was difficult for both Bush supporters and protesters to get near. I find this strange, considering how the Albanians were allowed to manhandle the president like he was a $2 hooker just a few weeks ago.

Anyway, about two dozen protesters showed up to give the President a warm welcome. Protesters were relegated to one strip of public sidewalk in front of the National Guard Armory; a dozen or so employees of ADS Security had taken over the opposite corner and planted their yellow ADS signs in the ground (nothing like free advertising, eh?). They told protesters it was their property and no one was allowed to stand over there. Needless to say, the ADS employees all seemed to be Bush supporters, which prompted one protester to chant ”Boycott ADS!”

Metro officers told the protesters they had to stay on the sidewalk. Anyone not on the sidewalk would be arrested. As you can see, we are law-abiding citizens and we obeyed.

What was most interesting to me is how few National Guard soldiers had come out to see the president. I saw just three soldiers, although the motorcade passed right by the building. Maybe the rest of them were in Iraq.

Call Sen. Corker’s Office Today

Why? I’ll let Dover Bitch tell you why.

It’s time for the party of family values to stand up and say no to forced abortions, rape, and slavery for the sake of Gap jeans bearing a “Made in the USA” label.

Call, don’t write. It takes two seconds and Corker’s staff are much nicer than the assholes who worked for Bill Frist. It’s easy, it’s fun. Here’s where to call, pick one or go for the trifecta and call ‘em all:

Washington, D.C. -- 202-224-3344
Nashville -- 615-279-8125
Memphis -- 901-683-1910
Knoxville -- 865-637-4180
Jackson -- 731-424-9655
Chattanooga -- 423-756-2757

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Meet Cordia Harrington

It’s so cute to see the local news media gobbling up the White House press release on quaint little “minority business owner” Cordia Harrington. As if we’ve never seen this kind of political theater before.

Ms. Harrington is the “bun lady” who will host President Bush at her small little business tomorrow. The teeny tiny weeny little business that employs minorities and is minority owned. That’s so cute. All together now: "Awwwwwww.”

I don’t know how many small businesses have a CEO on the Federal Reserve Board. I wonder how Cordia Harrington landed that gig? I would assume one needs some big connections for that. And can someone tell me who Heritage Financial Partners LP is? Ms. Harrington is CEO of this company, too.

This won’t be Ms. Harrington’s first step into the spotlight. Indeed, the media-savvy Harrington is also represented by Premiere Speakers, a speakers bureau specializing in wingnut talking heads like Neil Cavuto, Neal Boortz, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Fox’s Steve Doocy, “Contract With America” co-author Dick Armey, Zell Miller, etc. etc. Very interesting.

I got a good laugh at “Cordia’s Corner,” a column she writes in the Bun Co. newsletter. In the May 2007 edition she reprinted that phony Jay Leno spam e-mail in which he calls Americans unhappy with the Bush Administration “spoiled brats.” Hey, maybe she’s never heard of Snopes.com.

There’s nothing wrong with all of this, of course. Cordia Harrington is probably a very nice lady. I’m glad she’s successful and has a good life here in Tennessee and employs a lot of good people. But for God’s sake, please don’t pretend President Bush is visiting your bakery because its “certified woman-owned status — and the fact that 80 percent of its employees are racial minorities — won over the president.” No one buys that bullshit.

Except, maybe, our local news media.

The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations

Via AmericaBlog, President Bush’s call for a Middle East peace conference is in disarray, now that Israel and Syria have given their ultimatums on the conference agenda.

This has prompted the White House to dial back expectations:
"I think a lot of people are inclined to try to treat this as a big peace conference. It's not," Tony Snow, the White House's press secretary, told reporters.

He added the conference would not address final status issues, such as borders, further lowering expectations. Israel had put Washington on notice earlier yesterday that it was not prepared to discuss such issues as borders at the conference.

"We have been very clear that we are not willing to discuss at this stage the three core issue of borders, refugees and Jerusalem," Miri Eisen, a spokeswoman for the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told reporters.

In Damascus, Syria's president, Bashar Assad, initially dismissed the idea of a conference as rhetoric. But he later proposed a number of conditions for Syria's participation, which were similar to those in operation during talks between Israel and Syria in the 1990s.

Look, why should anyone in the Middle East take this summit idea seriously? Bush is the self-described “War President.” He likes his wars, and diplomacy is not in his vocabulary. I’d no more buy President Bush talking about a “peace conference” than I believe Ted Haggard when he says he’s cured of “teh gay.”

Bush is not pro-peace and everyone knows it. The only way a peace summit will work is if someone else convenes it. Instead, he has left the task to Condoleezza Rice, who has alienated everyone in the Middle East with her inane ramblings last year about ”birth pangs.”

With Republican Senators telling Bush he ”fucked up the war,” I think it’s pretty obvious that this “peace summit” is really just a legacy-building exercise. Now, why would anyone in the Middle East care about that?

Right now everything Bush touches turns to shit. He should just sit at home and watch TV until January ‘08, and try to minimize the damage.

This Is News?

So, I turn on the Tee Vee this morning to find out something about the all-night session in Washington, maybe some news about the Brazil plane crash. Something. What do I find?

CNN: Sanjay Gupta talking about Tuberculosis Man’s lung surgery

MSNBC: Tucker Carlson Joe Scarborough bloviating about a crappy flight from Charlotte to Pensacola he had.

Back to CNN: Harry Potter mania! Oh, now it’s Kiran Chetry on “the latest celebrity accessory: ankle bracelets” (the punitive kind). Shoot me now.

TV is off, computer is on. ‘nuff said.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rent-A-Trolls

Holy shit. It's come to this.

Rent-A-Trolls. “Professional Blog Warriors.” Republican “net warriors” ready to “flood the zone with your talking points, 24/7.”

Freepers paid to blog whatever you tell them to.

Gee, do you think the mainstream media and corporate sponsors and ClearChannel Radio would react in the same way to things like the Dixie Chicks controversy if they knew the “irate callers” were really just paid to rant?

(h/t, Atrios)

Badgers In Iraq

File this under the “you can’t make this stuff up” category: Last week the story broke that there are giant badgers in Basra. Rumors that they were introduced by British forces have been vigorously denied:
British forces have denied rumours that they released a plague of ferocious badgers into the Iraqi city of Basra.

Word spread among the populace that UK troops had introduced strange man-eating, bear-like beasts into the area to sow panic.
But several of the creatures, caught and killed by local farmers, have been identified by experts as honey badgers.

The rumours spread because the animals had appeared near the British base at Basra airport.

UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area."

I wouldn't be surprised if they had: President Bush’s “coalition of the willing” continues to disappear, with troops from Denmark and Lithuania making their coalition exit, and the Iraqis certainly haven't stepped up. If a battalion of freocious badgers were pressed into duty, I wouldn’t be surprised. We need something to agument the ”Coalition Of the Billing.”

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thank You, George W. Bush

No, seriously, I meant it. There’s something interesting happening in Nashville this summer and I think we have George W. Bush to thank for it.

Here we are, getting ready to elect a new mayor, vice mayor, new council-at-large and city council members. This is an historic election, as local elections go, since most of the incumbents are term-limited out. We’re cleaning house in our city government.

I’ve lived in Nashville for over 20 years and I cannot remember a time when the candidates have made themselves so accessible to the voters. Whether it’s through community picnics, church Sunday school classes, or house parties, I’ve had an opportunity to personally talk with four out of the six candidates running for mayor. Thanks to numerous forums and debates, both on television and in person, I’ve had a chance to hear every candidate speak on key issues facing our city--even the kinda nutty “fringe” candidate that we all know won’t win.

Even better, the local media seems generally devoid of smears and attack stories and ads. Instead I’m hearing a lot about education, the homeless, growth and development, and city finances. Can I just say how refreshing this is?

The number of debates and public forums, the many opportunities to shake these candidates’ hands and actually ask them questions myself, strikes me as rather unprecedented for an election.

This is where I give President Bush the credit: I think people here realize, after six and a half years of the Bush misAdministration, that elections matter. People are interested in the process, and they want to make responsible choices. The fact that these candidates are not driving voters away with negative attack ads has also kept the public engaged.

I dunno, maybe I’m giving the President too much credit. Maybe this all just feels new to me; maybe it’s always been this way and I never noticed before. If anyone else has a similar feeling, please let me know.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I Miss My Quiet Mornings

OK, I’m enjoying my Saturday morning cup of coffee in the backyard listening to the birds go a twitter and watching the butterflies dance on the flowers when ROOAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR ....

What the hell ...?

Starting around 6 am airplanes taking off from the Nashville airport are all of a sudden flying over my neighborhood, and no I’m not in East Nashville, the neighborhood getting all of the attention for this disruption. Actually, I’m in Green Hills, on a completely different side of town.

Someone, please tell me this isn’t because some asshole has to prove his manliness by building the tallest-ever skyscraper downtown. Can’t he get the same effect by, you know, driving a Hummer or something?

I remember when NewsChannel5 would park their traffic helicopter over my neighborhood in the afternoon in between broadcasts. they’d circle overhead for about 30 minutes, which is not what a writer on deadline whose office is above the garage needs to hear.
Finally one day when I was about to go out of my skull I asked them to find another neighborhood to harass; I don’t know if it was my complaint or what, but the helicopter hasn’t been back.

This isn’t quite as bad as that, but come on, it’s 6 am. I wonder, when the weather cools down this fall and folks start opening their windows if there will be more complaints?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Let's Hear It For The Weekend

Julius and Cleo assume the position.

It's been one helluva week. I'm ready to sleep in.

This Week In Religious Intolerance

More news you won’t hear on the MSM: History was made today when a Hindu gave the first-ever morning invocation in the U.S. Senate. Instead of feeling good about this ecumenical display, we can all be embarassed by the disruption caused by three Christian activists. Talking Points Memo has the scoop:
The three protesters, who all belong to the Christian Right anti-abortion group Operation Save America, and who apparently traveled to Washington all the way from North Carolina, interrupted by loudly asking for God's forgiveness for allowing the false prayer of a Hindu in the Senate chamber.

"Lord Jesus, forgive us father for allowing a prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight," the first protester began.

"This is an abomination," he continued. "We shall have no other gods before You."

TPM has the video clip which is worth watching, as well as a copy of Operation Save America’s press release, in which they make the absurd claim that "Not one Senator had the backbone to stand as our Founding Fathers stood. They stood on the Gospel of Jesus Christ!”

No, they didn’t, and neither did the Operation Save America folks.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Guts

[UPDATE]:

via Flying Junior in comments, Committee on Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson wonders:
What color code in the Homeland Security Advisory System is associated with a “gut feeling?” What sectors should be on alert as a result of your “gut feeling?” What cities should be asking their law enforcement to work double shifts because of your “gut feeling?” Are the American people supposed to purchase duct tape and plastic sheeting because of your “gut feeling?”

Heh.
-------------------------
I have a gut feeling Michael Chertoff is full of shit.

The Homeland Security chief may have a hunch that terrorists are gonna attack this summer, but I’d like to think the people responsible for protecting us are using more than guesswork.

You know, liberals have been saying from the beginnning that Bush’s war misadventure has made America less safe, that we’ve created a whole new generation of people who hate us for what we’ve done in Iraq, that Al Qaeda is using Iraq to train terrorists, and that this whole “they’ll follow us home” argument against troop withdrawal is just stupid since, guess what folks, they have maps there and they know where America is.

So, I’ve got a gut feeling we’re going to be attacked, too. Maybe not this summer. Maybe not this year, or even this decade. But it’s silly and childish to think it’s not going to happen at all.

But I also have more than a gut feeling that the Bush Administration uses these terrorist threats to manipulate and distract the public. After all, back in 2005 Tom Ridge told us so. And when something as abstract as Michael Chertoff’s “gut feeling” takes the place of real news, I have to wonder what’s up. You gotta wonder: what else is going on now that the Administration might not want us talking about? The Iraq War? A DoJ scandal? Administration officials refusing to testify before Congress? Scooter Libby’s free bird waltz? A “family values” Republican in the D.C. madam client list?

It boggles the mind that the people who are supposed to protect us are playing fast and loose with American fears about our security. It’s unconscionable.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MSM Report: End Of An Era

UPI has dumped its only White House Correspondent, Richard Tomkins, starting in August.

Why should we care? Well, partly because UPI is the once-vaunted news agency where Helen Thomas made her mark for 57 years, until quitting when the Moonies bought UPI in 2000. Also, it’s worth noting the shift in focus this represents for the agency:
UPI officials said the cuts were part of a restructuring that will focus more of its reporting on defense intelligence, security threats, and energy conflicts, according to Editor in Chief Michael Marshall.

The change is the latest in a long-running effort to keep the once leading news source profitable and in business since its 2000 takeover by News World Communications, which is owned by Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church and also operates The Washington Times.
...
The new approach will target defense intelligence, energy and resource conflicts, and security techniques and strategy, he said. That change will mean 11 positions in the Washington office will be eliminated and the news organization will seek "a network of correspondents around the world" to help with the international coverage.

Hmmm. Security threats, defense intelligence, resource and energy conflicts. Sounds really scary, huh?

Maybe that’s the point. I’ve been thinking the news media’s sole purpose these days has been to scare the crap out of everyone. It’s getting a little tiresome.

Fear sells, but I ain't buying.

Muzzled

The tubes are buzzing with this story about Dr. Richard Carmona, the U.S. Surgeon General from 2002-2006 who testified yesterday that the Bush Administration silenced him on issues like stem cell research and abstinence-only sex education.

Here’s a video of Carmona’s testimony, I urge you to watch it.

Carmona said when scientific facts were at odds with Bush Administration ideology, ideology won:
"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried," Dr. Richard Carmona, who served as the nation's top doctor from 2002 until 2006, told a House of Representatives committee.

"The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party," Carmona added.

Carmona said Bush administration political appointees censored his speeches and kept him from talking out publicly about certain issues, including the science on embryonic stem cell research, contraceptives and his misgivings about the administration's embrace of "abstinence-only" sex education.

This of course is nothing new. We’ve heard of Bush ideology trumping fact on the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, Scooter Libby and global climate change. This is just another instance of BushCo at work, going about its business the way it always does.

Republicans in Congress like to fein surprise when they hear these stories; I can see Arlen Specter now, in his firm, stentorian way, demanding answers and vowing to get to the bottom of this. In three days he’ll cave, just like he always does.

In truth, Republicans always defend this tactic, I guess because they think ideology is more important than facts, too.

The real proof on where they stand will come this week when the Senate begins confirmation hearings for Bush’s new Surgeon General pick, an ideologue named Dr. Richard James Holsinger. Dr. Holsinger is not going to get muzzled because he’s on board with the Bush ideology about gays and abstinence-only education. Republican Senators who decry Bush’s “ideology over fact” treatment of Dr. Carmona will, I’m sure, pretend that Dr. Holsinger is not the crazy homophobe that he clearly is. Why, lookie here, if it isn’t Sen. Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Kentucky GOP delegation coming to his defense. Told ya so.

I’m sure I could exhort everyone to call Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker about Holsinger, but what good will that do? They’ll just stick together like they always do, rubber stamb Bush’s ideology while thinking they can turn around later and deny they ever followed Bush, lemming-like, over the cliff.

I really don’t get their thinking.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Gods Must Be Crazy

This would definitely get my attention:
Religious Book Seller Struck By Lightning

(CBS4) HIALEAH
A man making a trip from Puerto Rico to South Florida to raise money for his religious education remains hospitalized Monday after he was struck down by a bolt of lightning which flew from clear blue sky on Sunday. He was selling religious materials when he was hit.

Hailu Kidane Marian was working with members of his religious group, selling religious materials door-to-door in a Northwest Miami-Dade neighborhood, when the bolt from the blue struck him down.

"I heard a boom, and I looked and the guy jumped back, and he just laid there, stiff," said witness Maria Martinez.

Paramedics say Marian was not breathing and his heart was not beating when they arrived, but they were able to revive him and rushed him to Jackson Memorial hospital, where he was in critical condition Sunday night.

Members of his religious group waited outside the hospital throughout the night for word of his condition.

"He's unconscious, he's in a coma," said Francisco Perez, leader of the Puerto Rico-based group. "It's difficult what happened, you know, but what can we do? Things happen in life, but we still believe in God."

This is the second incident in as many months of someone being struck down by lightning from a clear sky in South Florida.

Lightning from a clear blue sky has struck two people in two months? That’s crazy! I wonder why God would be mad at Florida? Hmmm ....

Nashville Town Hall

Via Sharon Cobb's blog, if you're in Nashville and interested in fixing our broken healthcare system, come to a Health Care Reform Town Hall meeting this Thursday, July 12 at the Cohn Adult Learning Center. Sharon has the details.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Yawn From Cincinnati

Just to step away from politics for a moment, I thought I’d let y’all know that I’ve finally given up on “John From Cincinnati.”

I’m not one of those “Deadwood” devotees who were royally ticked when HBO kicked “Deadwood” to the curb in favor of this new series from the same creator. I actually hated “Deadwood.” I need a little more to my dialogue than “cocksucker” this and “cocksucker” that.

But “John From Cincinnati” is no better. I’ve waited four weeks for a character with any redeeming qualities to enter the scene, but all I get are the same boring misfits. Rebecca De Mornay plays a screeching harpy whose emotional setting is set on permanent high. I keep expecting her to drop from an aneurism. I’m tired of her one-note hysterics.

Her grandson Sean, the surf wonderkid, is played by a real-life surfer/skater/non-actor, which you can tell by the way he stares woodenly through strands of long blonde hair and utters lines like “but I’m supposed to go surfing tomorrow.”

Everyone else is a loser/drug addict/whore, except for the character John, who moves through each episode wearing the same wry smirk and a dorky James Dean cowlick. John is some kind of Jesus Christ figure but he can only repeat the words he hears around him. I’m sorry, but Chauncey Gardener he ain’t. Jerzy Kosinki and Hal Ashby handled this sort of thing with a lot more finesse.

Snore. Big snore.

Wingnuts On Kool-Aid

Eighteen years ago Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) said something stupid, therefore Al Gore is unfit to protect Merka from terriss.

Right. Got it.

Colin Powell’s Buyer’s Remorse

Great, now he tells us.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says he tried to talk President Bush out of the Iraq War:
The former American secretary of state Colin Powell has revealed that he spent 2 1/2 hours vainly trying to persuade President George W Bush not to invade Iraq and believes today’s conflict cannot be resolved by US forces.

“I tried to avoid this war,” Powell said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.”

Okay, when exactly did he try to avoid this war? Was it before or after he went before the UN and sold the entire nation on this bloodbath? Uh-uh. I ain’t buying it.

Colin Powell and every other Johnny-come-lately now calling for troop reductions in Iraq (yes, that would be the Voinovich-Domenici-Lugar trio) can just STFU. It’s buyer’s remorse for following George W. Bush over a cliff but they have no one to blame but themselves.

I remember a time when Colin Powell was seriously discussed as presidential material. He had authority and credibility and that all important “gravitas” everyone seems to want these days. (BTW, can someone please tell me exactly what “gravitas” is?) Powell closed that door when he obediently showed up at the UN with his vials of anthrax in tow and shoved an immoral and unpopular war down America’s throats. Now he’s regretting that stupid maneuver, but someone needs to tell him that in politics there are no second chances.

(h/t, Huffington Post)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Watergate Tapes: Thompson Was Nixon’s Mole

... and Nixon didn’t return the favor, calling Fred Thompson ”dumb as hell.” That shouldn’t stop Republicans, we’ve been saying that about George W. Bush for years.

Anyway, the Associated Press has given a listen to the Watergate tapes in the National Archives and is reporting that a then-30-year-old Fred Thompson served as Nixon’s mole in the Watergate hearings, not the dedicated patriot committed to uncovering the truth as has been believed. According to the transcripts, Thompson informed Nixon that the Senate committee looking into the Watergate break-ins knew of the famed secret tapes--the same tapes that would eventually lead to Nixon’s downfall. Thompson also agreed to work with Nixon to discredit star witness John Dean. Read, weep:
Publicly, Baker and Thompson presented themselves as dedicated to uncovering the truth. But Baker had secret meetings and conversations with Nixon and his top aides, while Thompson worked cooperatively with the White House and accepted coaching from Nixon's lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt, the tapes and transcripts show.

"We've got a pretty good rapport with Fred Thompson," Buzhardt told Nixon in an Oval Office meeting on June 6, 1973. The meeting included a discussion of former White House counsel John Dean's upcoming testimony before the committee.

Dean, the committee's star witness, had agreed to tell what he knew about the break-in and cover-up if he was granted immunity against anything incriminating he might say.

Nixon expressed concern that Thompson was not "very smart."

"Not extremely so," Buzhardt agreed.

"But he's friendly," Nixon said.

"But he's friendly," Buzhardt agreed. "We are hoping, though, to work with Thompson and prepare him, if Dean does appear next week, to do a very thorough cross-examination."

Count me not shocked. Republicans have been trying to present Thompson as “his own man,” a person who is far different from the rubber-stamp loyalists who have dominated the party for the past 15 years. But I’ve known all along that Soft-n-Safe® is just SOS: Same Old Shit. Who else hires rubber stamp loyalists like Mary Matalin, Liz Cheney and George P. Bush to be his advisors? Come on, wake up and smell the Kool-Aid.

Anyway, in a sane world the tanscripts themselves would be damning. Of course, we live in an insane world at the moment, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re calling Soft-n-Safe® Mr. President in January 2009.

New Commenting!

At the request of several folks (Mack, I'm talking to YOU), I have installed HaloScan comments on my Blog. However, in doing so I completely lost all of the wonderful comments posted here previously. They are there in Dashboard but I couldn't figure out how to get them to appear again in the blog. For that matter, I couldn't figure out how to have both HaloScan and Google commenting. Considering I've been calling HaloScan "HaloSux" for about a year now, I'm more than a little perturbed at this turn of events. I was under the impression that I could offer both forms of commenting for my four readers.

This blogging stuff is way too techno for me, I just know how to follow the directions.

Anyway, if HaloScan lives up to its name, please head over to Mack's place and give him a piece of your mind for me.

Thanks.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Not Answering “The Call”

I’m more than a little disturbed at our local broadcast snooze media’s benign coverage of “The Call,” a gathering of 100,000 charismatic Christians at Nashville’s LP Field. As just one example, WSMV anchor Demetria Kalodimos said the group’s goal is “improving society.” Well, yeah, if your idea of “improving society” is persecuting gays and lesbians, outlawing abortion, and making sure socially conservative Republicans of the Sam Brownback variety are elected in 2008.

(Lest you think this is a uniquely Nashville event, The Call is going on tour, hitting several cities over this summer before ending at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.)

Being interested in these sorts of things I visited ”The Call” website and was more than a little alarmed at what I found. Here they state that they are responding to the 2006 midterm elections, which “showed us that there is no clear moral foundation upon which the nation votes.” Well, not their moral foundation which seems to be exclusively anti-gay and anti-choice. They’ve completely ignored the broader issue of the 2006 election, the war in Iraq. Peace used to be a Christian value, but I guess not to these Christians.

Here is the purpose of The Call, from their online vision statement:
God has a word to say to the Republican Party: "Line up with moral issues--Marriage Amendment and Abortion--and show compassion to the poor and the oppressed--show Justice--or I will remove your lamp stand". He is sifting the Republican Party for its refusal to stand for moral principle and for playing political games with its constituents, who in 2004, voted on moral issues.

This is not your average Billy Graham crusade. This is not, as WKRN reported, just a day of “prayer and music.” They are not trying to “improve society,” not in any way I can see.

The Nashville Scene did an excellent story on “The Call,” noting that this is the group who was active in the Terri Schiavo gatherings in Florida, and are seen at abortion protests with their mouths taped over with the word “Life.”

According to the Scene's interview with founder Lou Engel, this weekend's focus is "radical purity." As an aside, I worked in Christian music for many years before quitting in disgust. “Radical” is a word they like a lot since it conjures up images of a counterculture movement, which they identify with as they see themselves as social outsiders. Lots of things are “radical” in the evangelical Christian subculture. Personally, I don’t think it really means anything other than as a marketing buzzword. It’s code for “we’re cool.”

Anyway, this is more of the anti-sex talk we’re accustomed to hearing from many politically active Christian groups. For example, today’s Call participants are being urged to fast. (And I’m sure our local merchants are just thrilled at the idea of an event bringing 100,000 visitors downtown who refuse to buy anything. But I digress.) Few media outlets have mentioned the fasting angle; no one has mentioned that The Call’s website tells participants to fast for 21 days from all media. All married participants are also instructed to abstain from sex this weekend. Unmarried participants, of course, are already abstaining, in the interest of “radical purity.”

My big complaint about The Call is not that they hold these beliefs or that they are trying to get converts, or even that the Tennessee General Assembly honored Engle and The Call with a resolution saying they embody “the spirit and commitment that are characteristic of a true Tennessean.” OK, that last part bothers me a bit.

Mostly I don’t understand why our local media refused to even look at The Call’s website and read up on this group before deciding they were here to “improve society,” not further an extremist political agenda.

Apparently the word got out anyway. According to a roundup at Music City Bloggers, folks from the local gay bookstore OutLoud handed out bottles of water to “Call”ers participating in a “repentence walk” from Centennial Park to LP Field.

Good for them. If I’d known they were doing that, I’d have joined them.

Note To Media: We’re Frustrated With You

Three guesses who said this in a Washington Post interivew this week:
I was in an airport [last Wednesday] when that whole Paris Hilton interview was going down. I was watching "The Situation Room" and they were talking about this interview that hadn't happened yet and then counting down to it. I'll never watch CNN again.

I mean it. I think something's happened to news and entertainment. News has become entertainment. They don't give you what you need, they give you what you want. And entertainment has taken a turn, too. People aren't much interested in virtuosity. They just want to feel better when they watch something and that changes it all. So I don't know, maybe that's why Broadway was so great and I'm going to Vegas.

If you answered Tony Danza, of “Who’s The Boss” fame, you’d be correct.

Tony freaking Danza. I'd say if you've lost Tony Danza, you've lost that last shred of the American public that wasn't already thoroughly disgusted with what passes for news these days.

Tony Danza is only half-right on this one: they aren’t giving us what we want, they’re giving us what they think we want. According to this week’s Entertainment Weekly, Larry King Live’s interview with Paris Hilton drew a paltry 3.2 million viewers. If that were a show on a non-cable network, it would have been cancelled long ago.

Tony Danza, from the mouths of babes (and I mean that in every positive sense of the word imaginable).

Friday, July 6, 2007

Costs Of War

Is it worth it?
War Costs Soar by a Third; Total Could Top $1.4 Trillion

It's not just the troops that are surging.  War costs are up for American operations in Iraq -- way up, more than a third higher than last year.  In the first half of this fiscal year, the Defense Department's "average monthly obligations for contracts and pay is running about $12 billion per month, well above the $8.7 billion in FY2006," says a new report, obtained by DANGER ROOM, from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.

Meanwhile, Inside Defense reports that "top Pentagon budget and program officials have directed the military services to prepare spending proposals to finance Iraq and Afghanistan operations... through fiscal year 2009, which will span the last days of the Bush administration and the early months of the next administration."

$12 billion a month on war. I can’t even conceive of that much money, I’m sure few of us can, which is why it seems so unreal to us. Imagine if we spent $12 billion a month on, oh, I dunno, finding alternative fuels besides oil. Educating each and every child in America. Healthcare. Finding a cure for cancer. Housing the homeless. Anything.

Anything except war.

Repent, America.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”--Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34.

O’Reilly Yanked In D.C.

A follow-up to yesterday’s story about Bill O’Reilly: apparently, his Weekly World News-style program is wearing thin, at least in the nation’s capital. Today’s Washington Post reports on the train wreck that is Bill O’Reilly:

...WJFK (106.7 FM) yesterday dropped Bill O'Reilly's nationally syndicated show, "The Radio Factor," and replaced it with a sports-talk program hosted by Jim Rome. O'Reilly, an avowed independent who takes many conservative views, occupied a two-hour afternoon slot on WJFK.

The popular Fox News Channel TV host never attracted much of a radio following in Washington -- in the most recent ratings period, his program had about 1.2 percent of the audience. But then, neither have many other conservatives, whose programs are popular in many cities but barely move the ratings needle in the Washington area, the nation's eighth-largest radio market.

In defense of Bill O’Reilly, the article goes on to say that political talk radio isn’t especially popular in Washington D.C. at all; liberal talkers haven’t fared much better than the conservative ones. That’s understandable: when you work in politics all day, who wants to listen to politics in your leisure time?

Still, I can’t resist a bit of schadenfreude at hearing Bill O’Reilly got yanked from a radio station in Washington D.C., of all places. That’s more than irony; it might explain why he’s so unpopular:


Chris Berry, president and general manager of WMAL, says there's nothing particularly unusual about Washington and political talk radio, except that "people in D.C. are smarter" than talk audiences in other towns. "In Boston, Chicago, even L.A., it's more emotional," he says. "In D.C., people really do know the issues."

Oh, snap!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

It’s Not A Gang, It’s A Club

Actually, it’s not even a club. It’s a made up story. Well, what do you expect from those clowns at Fox News?

As Bill O’Reilly and Fox News sink ever deeper into self-parody, the jokes just write themselves. Last week Bill O’Reilly claimed that pink pistol-wielding “lesbian gangs” are taking over American cities, including one right here in Tennessee called GTO (for Gays Taking Over).

Pink pistols. I kid you not.

O’Reilly’s “expert” for this shocking news story was Fox News “crime analyst” Rod Wheeler, whose bio says he is in “corporate security and safety management” at Boston Market. Some bloggers are wondering if that means he’s a security guard. Heh.

Blogger Erin Wiegand looked into the incidents Wheeler detailed in his O’Reilly appearance and found there’s nothing behind them. Read her post, it’s absolutely hilarious. Those “pink pistols”? It’s the name of a pro-gun gay organization--you know, NRA types. They aren’t a gang and they don’t really carry pink pistols.

Hilarious. Well, what do you expect. Fox News doesn’t even know real news from parodies. A school administrator in Maine is suing after he got harassed when Fox failed to check out a bogus story about ham bones supposedly thrown at Somali students at a Lewiston, Maine, middle school.

I remembered this one: all the wingnut bloggers were apoplectic about it. The ham bone throwers were supposedly suspended, since Somalis are Muslim and throwing a ham bone would be considered offensive. Sadly for our dumber right wingers and Fox News, the story was bogus; it came from a parody website. That didn’t stop Fox from thinking it was real and unleashing its hordes of bigoted viewers on the poor Lewiston Maine school district.

None of the scary lesbian gang stories checked out either, but that hasn’t stopped the story from getting picked up by conservative Christian groups. With hate crimes against gays a reality in this country, this kind of shoddy fear-mongering is incredibly irresponsible.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

More Bush Hypocrisy

[UPDATE]:

via TN Guerilla Women:

Bush screwed up the commuting of Libby's sentence. The judge needs clarification from the White House about Libby's probation, since it's supposed to be served after prison time. Lawyers working around the clock this holiday weekend to give him their recommendations. Way to go, Bushie.
----------------------------
President Bush may think 30 months is an “excessive” jail sentence for an obstruction of justice charge, but it falls far below the standard set by Bush’s own Justice Department:
WASHINGTON — In commuting the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, President Bush said that the former vice presidential aide had suffered enough and that the 30-month prison term ordered up by a federal judge was "excessive."

But records show that the Justice Department under the Bush administration frequently has sought sentences that are as long, or longer, in cases similar to Libby's. Three-fourths of the 198 defendants sentenced in federal court last year for obstruction of justice — one of four crimes Libby was found guilty of in March — got some prison time. According to federal data, the average sentence defendants received for that charge alone was 70 months.

Just last week, the Supreme Court upheld a 33-month prison sentence for a decorated Army veteran who was convicted of lying to a federal agent about buying a machine gun. The veteran had a record of public service — fighting in Vietnam and the Gulf War — and no criminal record. But Justice Department lawyers argued his prison term should stand because it fit within the federal sentencing guidelines.

I wonder how many of these 198 defendants were convicted of obstructing justice in a case involving national security during a time of war? Oh, I forgot, the War on Terra is to be trotted out by the Republican Party for photo ops, election years, and executive power grabs. Silly me.

Anyway, it’s all moot. None of these defendants had the advantage of being friends with President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and that’s what is so galling. Our system of justice is supposed to be meted out equally and impartially, whether you are a friend to the powerful or a schlub on the street. How sad that President Bush and the Kool-Aid drinking sycophants defending this move have missed that basic point.

Recent efforts by Tony Snow, Bill Kristol and the like to pass this off as “routine” are clear attempts to get the national conversation to move on to something else. They are wrong:

Sentencing experts said Bush's action appeared to be without recent precedent. They could not recall another case in which someone sentenced to prison had received a presidential commutation without having served any part of that sentence. Presidents have customarily commuted sentences only when someone has served substantial time.

"We can't find any cases, certainly in the last half century, where the president commuted a sentence before it had even started to be served," said Margaret Colgate Love, a former pardon attorney at the Justice Department. "This is really, really unusual."

Said Ellen S. Podgor, a professor at Stetson University law school: "This is a classic case of executive activism as opposed to judicial activism."


On that note, Happy July Fourth.

“Even Nixon Knew It Was Time To Resign”

For anyone who missed Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment last night, Salon.com has posted a transcript.

His words are incredibly powerful in print, perhaps more so than hearing them read on television. I urge everyone to read it and pass it on.

A couple of points struck me as especially pertinent. The first was the warped notion of “public service” to this current Administration:
We as citizens must, at some point, ignore a president's partisanship. Not that we may prosper as a nation, not that we may achieve, not that we may lead the world, but merely that we may function.

But just as essential to the 17 words of John Wayne is an implicit trust, a sacred trust: that the president for whom so many did not vote can in turn suspend his political self long enough, and for matters imperative enough, to conduct himself solely for the benefit of the entire republic.

But there is no desire to “suspend the political self” in the Bush Administration; in fact, the entire Bush government has been pressed into creating a “permanent Republican majority.” After all, that’s what “Attorney-gate” is about, and to a lesser extent, that is the principle at the root of Plame-gate: the need for permanent war, constant threats of terror, so the American people can turn their fearful eyes to their protector, the GOP.

I am remembering ex-UN Ambassador John Bolton’s appearance on The Daily Show, of all places, in which he informed us that President Bush is only obliged to represent those who voted for him. This is wrong on so many levels: morally, Constitutionally, and practically. But this is clearly what the Bush Administration believes. That’s why the Vice President feels justified in telling a Senator from the opposition party to “go fuck yourself” on the Senate floor. It’s hyper-partisanship: a winner-take-all mentality, that is destroying this country and has brought us to the brink of collapse. It has created a majority of the voting public who feels disenfranchised from the political process. This simply will not end well; it never does.

Olbermann stated that in commuting Scooter Libby’s sentence, President Bush “ceased to be the president of the United States” and “became merely the president of a rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party.” I believe that moment came long before Monday. It came when the president put his signature on Cheney’s torture memo. It came with his recess appointment of extremists and the unqualified to key posts: Julie Myers at the Immigration & Customs Enforcement bureau at Homeland Security, John Bolton to the UN, Lester Crawford as FDA Commissioner, or the recess appointment of Swift Boat financier Sam Fox as Ambassador of Belgium--a “fuck you” to the Democrats if ever there was one.

Olbermann goes on:

It is nearly July Fourth, Mr. Bush, the commemoration of the moment we Americans decided that rather than live under a king who made up the laws, or erased them, or ignored them -- or commuted the sentences of those rightly convicted under them -- we would force our independence and regain our sacred freedoms.

We of this time -- and our leaders in Congress, of both parties -- must now live up to those standards which echo through our history. Pressure, negotiate, impeach: get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our democracy, away from its helm.


Today is July Fourth. Bush and Cheney have steered this ship straight for an iceberg. And the American people are to blame. We are too easily distracted by the latest Lindsay Lohan escapade or Paris Hilton’s jail sentence to pay attention to the real crimes going on in our names. Why is this? Why do millions of people tune out the news of corruption and misadministration from Washington D.C., some even calling it biased or partisan by the “liberal media,” but the latest manufactured celebrity gossip is consumed and even trusted as gospel fact? Why have we not demanded more of our news media, our representatives in Congress, and our government?

Olbermann asks the president and vice president to “achieve a very low threshold” and “display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed on August 9th, 1974” by resigning, for the good of the republic.

But they won’t. They are too entrenched in the quicksand of power. And even if they were removed, they leave behind a new generation of civil servants, Regent and Liberty University graduates, partisans who have been brainwashed into the GOP “permanent Republican majority” mindset. I wonder if they will believe that the president is only required to serve those who voted for him (or her) when that president is a Democrat?

It’s that “us versus them, party over nation” ideology that has hijacked the government and spread like a cancer. And I don’t see it leaving with the exit of Bush and Cheney.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Equal Justice*

* Offer not valid for Friends of Dick.

It’s really nice of President Bush to decide that the laws governing sentencing that were used in the Scooter Libby case were excessive. I’ve been thinking that the “hang ‘em high” crowd with their “three strikes and you’re out” and “no appeals for death row convicts” and other punitive measures really just want to apply the hammer of the law to people they don’t like. People they can look down on.

Isn’t it odd that when it comes to their friends, and the friends of their friends, suddenly the “sentence was too harsh”? Digby digs into the memory hole to remind us that just a couple of weeks ago, President Bush was calling for mandatory minimum sentences:

Bush Seeks To Re-Impose Mandatory Minimums

Crime Bill Would Limit Judges' Sentencing Power; Critics Call It "One Size Fits All Justice"

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2007
(AP) The Bush administration is trying to roll back a Supreme Court decision by pushing legislation that would require prison time for nearly all criminals.

The Justice Department is offering the plan as an opening salvo in a larger debate about whether sentences for crack cocaine are unfairly harsh and racially discriminatory.

Republicans are seizing the administration's crackdown, packaged in legislation to combat violent crime, as a campaign issue for 2008.

In a speech June 1 to announce the bill, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urged Congress to re-impose mandatory minimum prison sentences against federal convicts — and not let judges consider such penalties “merely a suggestion.”

Minimum sentences for Federal criminals? Except for Scooter Libby? I thought justice wore a blindfold. Oh, wait -- IOKIYAR.

I’d like to see the Republicans try to run on this “crackdown on crime” issue when they’re supporting the President’s cowardly actions. Good luck with that.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Bush Commutes Libby’s Sentence

AmericaBlog, Atrios and my friend Peggy all reporting: Bush has commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence.

I can’t believe he had the balls. Still, Libby has to pay the fine and probation. But no jail time. Judith Miller must be pissed off.

No justice, no peace.

Yeah, I really want to know who he's talking to in these little kaffeklatsches he's having at the Oval Office. "Why don't they like me! What will the history books say about me!" Oh, Waaah. This is why we hate you, you sonofabitch.

Enjoy your little war, Georgie.

Oh, and by the way: British intel reporting that an Iraqi Kurd is behind the UK bombings. Got that? An Iraqi Kurd. Not Al Qaeda. Not Iran. Told you so.

Yes I know they're supposed to love us because we avenged Saddam's gassing of the Kurds with the nerve agents we'd given him. He was supposed to use them on the Iranians. Pesky little dictators, they are SO unreliable.

Damn ingrates, so ungrateful.

This is what Bush commuted? No, I don't think history will remember this very kindly. Not at all.
[UPDATE:]

Josh Marshall nails it:
The only basis for this decision is that Libby is the vice president's friend, the vice president rules the president and this was the minimum necessary to keep the man silent.


Yup.

Being President Bush

This shocking revelation comes from today’s Washington Post:
At the nadir of his presidency, George W. Bush is looking for answers. One at a time or in small groups, he summons leading authors, historians, philosophers and theologians to the White House to join him in the search.

Over sodas and sparkling water, he asks his questions: What is the nature of good and evil in the post-Sept. 11 world? What lessons does history have for a president facing the turmoil I'm facing? How will history judge what we've done? Why does the rest of the world seem to hate America? Or is it just me they hate?

These are the questions of a president who has endured the most drastic political collapse in a generation. Not generally known for intellectual curiosity, Bush is seeking out those who are, engaging in a philosophical exploration of the currents of history that have swept up his administration. For all the setbacks, he remains unflinching, rarely expressing doubt in his direction, yet trying to understand how he got off course.

These sessions, usually held in the Oval Office or the elegant living areas of the executive mansion, are never listed on the president's public schedule and remain largely unknown even to many on his staff.

I’m not sure what author Peter Baker wants us to think when we read this presidential profile, but I feel as if I’m reading about a president who’s taken up knitting.

While President Bush is pontificating about “the nature of good and evil” in a post 9/11 world, it seems to me he’s left the actual work of “good and evil” to Darth Cheney and his minions.

It must be nice to sit around and gab over drinks about philosophy and history with the leading minds of the day--in another era, we called these tete-a-tetes “salons.” I once bemoaned to a friend about the loss of “salon society,” as people stopped gathering to talk about literature, politics, art and the like; instead, we chatted about celebrity gossip and the latest TV sitcom characters. Well, seems I was wrong; at least one person has brought back the salon.

This sentence also struck me:

For all the setbacks, he remains unflinching, rarely expressing doubt in his direction, yet trying to understand how he got off course.


I have to wonder what the purpose of these discussions is, if not to merely entertain the president, or perhaps offer him a shoulder to cry on. If he wonders why people hate him, don’t you think doing things like, I dunno, nominating a homophobic, anti-choice nutcase to be surgeon general might be one reason why? Instead of spending three hours lunching and talking to creepy neocon historian Andrew Roberts, author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900:

Bush, Cheney, and--in a recent, glowing cover story--National Review, have, in fact, embraced a man with links to white supremacism, whose book is not a history but an ahistorical catalogue of apologies and justifications for mass murder that even blames the victims of concentration camps for their own deaths. The decision to laud Roberts provides a bleak insight into the thinking of the Bush White House as his presidential clock nears midnight.

Which begs the question. Who exactly are these authors, historians and theologicans President Bush spends his afternoons with? This Roberts guy raises some big red flags. Let me guess at some others: Tim LaHaye, maybe? Rev. Sun Myung Moon?

In between the president’s mountain biking excursions, book clubs, brush-clearing and Crawford, Texas vacations, I have to wonder: who is minding the store?

(h/t, AmericaBlog)