Friday, November 30, 2007

It’s Not Racism, Honest!

Via Digby, it’s really hard for the anti-immigrant crowd to claim they aren’t racist when they say stuff like this:
“We are where we were with the black folks after the revolutionary war. We can’t send them back and the more we p *** them off the worse it will be in the future. So what do we do. [.... ] I say the governor needs to try to enforce the law and sign the letter of understanding... and at least we can send the troublemakers back. Sure we are being overrun but we are being outpopulated by the blacks also. What is the answer, only time will tell.”

These words of wisdom apparently came in an e-mail from the chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, state Sen. Denny Altes, R-Fort Smith. Altes complained that:

[he] has been “in the trenches fighting this thing” but that he and former state Sen. Jim Holt, R-Springdale, were accused of being racists and bigots for their 2005 stance.

Gee, I can’t imagine why.

For The Record

Bookmark this now.

Because sure as God made little green apples, two years into a Democratic administration some wingnut radio host is going to claim that the U.S. economy was going gangbusters until the “evil libruls” were put in charge.

The source is Fox, because I’m making a point, but the story is from the AP: "Turn out the lights, the party’s over:”
White House Lowers 2008 Economic Forecast

WASHINGTON —  The deteriorating housing market forced the White House to lower its projection for economic growth next year and raise its forecast for unemployment. Inflation was expected to moderate.

The new forecast came as the Commerce Department reported Thursday that the economy barreled ahead in the summer at a 4.9 percent growth rate, the strongest showing in four years. That impressive performance, however, wasn't expected to last through the current quarter, given the strains of the housing slump and credit crunch — problems likely to weigh on individuals and businesses alike.

Under the administration's new forecast, the gross domestic product, or GDP, will grow by 2.7 percent next year. Its old projection called for a stronger, 3.1 percent increase.

"The housing market decline has been more significant than we expected," said Edward Lazear, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

The more pronounced housing slump — along with the expectation that problems will persist into next year — was a big factor in the administration's downgrade of its economic growth forecast for 2008.

In the third quarter alone, builders slashed investment in housing projects by a whopping 19.7 percent, on an annualized basis, the biggest cut in a year. That lopped just over a full percentage point off GDP from July through September.

Lazear said he expects the drag from housing on the economy to continue "at least through the first half of 2008." He also noted that the credit situation seems to have gotten "a bit worse again" in the last few weeks.

The pickup in overall national economic activity in the third-quarter — while a testament to the economy's resilience— didn't change the picture forming in the current October-to-December quarter. That scenario is somewhat grim, with indications the economy will lose considerable steam. Growth is expected to clock in at a pace of just 1.5 percent or less in the final three months of this year.

"Turn out the lights the party is over," said Richard Yamarone of Argus Research. "Fourth quarter growth is not going to be anywhere near the third-quarter's pace. It is going to be miserable, but we'll escape a recession."

Personally, I think this outlook is far too rosy. It’s going to take years to recover from the damage caused by the Bush Administration; some places, like the Gulf Coast, will take decades.

But let’s just wait and see.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Double Standards

Would someone please explain to me why Barack Obama's name is enough to fuel speculation that a Democrat is a Muslim and therefore (in the wingnut brain) an actual terrorist, but Rudy Giuliani's actual ties to a "terror sheikh" go unremarked by anyone?
The contradictory and stunning reality is that Giuliani Partners, the consulting company that has made Giuliani rich, feasts at the Qatar trough, doing business with the ministry run by the very member of the royal family identified in news and government reports as having concealed KSM—the terrorist mastermind who wired funds from Qatar to his nephew Ramzi Yousef prior to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and who also sold the idea of a plane attack on the towers to Osama bin Laden—on his Qatar farm in the mid-1990s.

This royal family member is Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar's minister of Islamic affairs at the time, who was later installed at the interior ministry in January 2001 and reappointed by the emir during a government shake-up earlier this year. Abdallah al-Thani is also said to have welcomed Osama bin Laden on two visits to the farm, a charge repeated as recently as October 10, 2007, in a Congressional Research Service study. Abdallah al-Thani's interior ministry or the state-owned company it helps oversee, Qatar Petroleum, has worked with Giuliani Security & Safety LLC, a subsidiary of Giuliani Partners, on an undisclosed number of contracts, the value of which neither the government nor the company will release.

But there's little question that a security agreement with Qatar's government, or with Qatar Petroleum, would put a company like Giuliani's in direct contact with the ministry run by Abdallah al-Thani: The website of Qatar's government, and the interior ministry's press office, as well as numerous press stories, all confirm that the ministry controls a 2,500-member police force, the General Administration of Public Security, and the Mubahathat, or secret police. The ministry's charge under law is to "create and institute security in this country." Hassan Sidibe, a public-relations officer for the ministry, says that "a company that does security work, they have to get permission from the interior ministry."

What's most shocking is that Abdallah al-Thani has been widely accused of helping to spirit KSM out of Qatar in 1996, just as the FBI was closing in on him. Robert Baer, a former CIA supervisor in the region, contends in a 2003 memoir that the emir himself actually sanctioned tipping KSM. The staff of the 9/11 Commission, meanwhile, noted that the FBI and CIA "were reluctant to seek help from the Qatari government" in the arrest of KSM, "fearing that he might be tipped off."

But “Obama” sounds like “Osama,” which is really, really scary.

Does this make sense to anyone?

I thought not.

(h/t, Digby).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trouble At Trent Lott's?

1 Update Below

Sharon Cobb is reporting the news that the Oxford, Miss., office of Trent Lott's brother-in law has been raided by the FBI. As she notes, the timing is tres awkward, what with Lott's just-announced retirement:
Late yesterday afternoon, news broke that Trent Lott's brother-in-law Richard Scruggs in Oxford, Mississippi had his law office raided by the FBI.

You want to know what they're looking for? Contracts and documents related to Katrina and State Farm, according to my sources.

Interesting timing on Lott's retirement, huh?

Very interesting, indeed. I haven't seen anything about this on CNN, but the AP has a short story up:

Langston told The Associated Press the agents were looking for a document that "might be ancillary to something pertaining to Katrina litigation," but is not directly involved in any of those cases. He declined to elaborate but said authorities are not likely to find the document at the office.

Scruggs is a high-profile lawyer who has represented policyholders in lawsuits against State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. over Hurricane Katrina damage claims. State Farm is based in Bloomington, Ill.


In June, U.S. District Judge William Acker in Birmingham, Ala., ruled Scruggs violated a court order to return documents given to him by two sisters who helped State Farm adjust claims on Mississippi's Gulf Coast after Katrina. The storm struck Aug. 29, 2005.

After U.S. Attorney Alice Martin declined to prosecute Richard Scruggs, Acker appointed special prosecutors for the case.

The AP story didn’t mention Scruggs’ famous brother in law, but his Wikipedia bio does.

Hmm, wonder what's in that document? Any guesses?


Someone’s been indicted.

CNN: Serial Offender

Memo To CNN: young women are not bimbos. Get it, learn it, spray paint it on your newsroom walls.

I just saw morning anchor Tony Harris perform the most sexist, condescending interview of two intelligent young women I've ever had the displeasure of witnessing. I really don’t want to see anything like this again.

The young women were high school students who had posed questions to the Republican candidates for tonight’s YouTube debate. Rebecca Durr asked about homeless Iraq War veterans. Hilarity ensued (I’m transcribing this by hand but will post a linked transcript when it becomes available):
TONY HARRIS: Becka let’s start with you, you’ve been watching the debates I understand, and you feel you know where the candidates stand on the issues that are important to you.

Rebecca Durr: Well I feel that it’s important for the public to be able to ask the questions that they want to ask to the candidates and declare issues that are on their mind. So the questions that we asked were important to us, and we did want to hear the ans-

TONY HARRIS: (interrupting) Look at you there all strong and poised! Very nice! Okay!

Gee, thanks Mr. Harris! Golly! But that didn’t end the trainwreck:

TONY HARRIS: Annie one last question for you, has the internet participation, CNN/YouTube debate, has it made the debate process more interesting, more compelling for you?

Annie Ulizio: Definitely. I think it’s really a way for kids that can’t vote yet to get involved, you know, because people are on the internet a lot, people hear about the YouTube debate and it’s just a great way to understand where the candidates are coming from on different policies so people can really be comfortable with what they’re voting for in November and really know what they’re doing.

TONY HARRIS: Boy, so smart! So poised! Both of you! How great is that!

How condescending! How sexist! How unprofessional! And no, Tony Harris, it’s not great. Had the students interviewed been young men, not women, I doubt the interview would have descended into verbal pats on the head.

But of course, it’s CNN. And we all know that CNN thinks young women should ask more appropriate questions, of the silly ”diamonds v. pearls” variety.

Saying No To Colin Powell

What the hell is Hillary Clinton thinking?
“I won’t even wait until I’m inaugurated, but as soon as I’m elected I’m going to be asking distinguished Americans of both parties — people like Colin Powell, for example, and others — who can represent our country well, including someone I know very well,” Mrs. Clinton said, according to a Fox News Web report. “Because I want to send a message heard across the world. The era of cowboy diplomacy is over.”

In Monday’s post I said these clowns should never be trusted with our foreign policy again. And that goes most especially for the guy who gave us this famous moment:

I’m sorry that Powell now wants a do-over, but I’m going to quote the famous Digby on this issue:

Powell himself should never be allowed anywhere near government again.

That goes for every one of the the Iraq War pushers, who by all rights should have been laughed off the world stage years ago. It’s only our celebrity-infatuated media that continues to give these people any credibility. They sure don’t have any anywhere else.

Again, from Digby:

No member of the Bush administration should ever be set out to represent this country abroad again. And aside from Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney, I can't think of anyone less credible than Colin Powell.

I agree 100%.

Monday, November 26, 2007

GOP Priorities

GOP House Reps show where their priorities lie: in scoring political points and playing political games, not making Americans’ lives better:
Democrats are struggling even to pass a middle-class tax cut under the banner of fiscal responsibility. A House plan to shield 21 million mainly Democratic households from the alternative minimum tax, and offset the lost revenue with higher taxes on Wall Street, appears to be unraveling. If it does, so does the vaunted "pay as you go" rule that Pelosi pledged would re-establish fiscal responsibility in Washington after years of rampant Republican borrowing.

Bewildered Democrats have concluded that Republicans simply want them to fail.


Even Republican moderates are furious. "I think it's disgraceful," said Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, as she left the Senate after the last vote before the Thanksgiving recess. "Unfortunately, there are not enough people building bridges. There are too many people destroying them."

[To clarify, those “21 million mainly Democratic households” are middle class taxpayers who live in high-tax states like New York and California.]

It’s always just about the politics with the Bush crowd, isn’t it? Well, what do you expect from a group whose sole ideology is that government doesn’t work? They’re right: their kind of government doesn’t work. We certainly learned that with Hurricane Katrina. And is anyone really surprised that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s Gulf Coast recovery plan has favored big-business casino interests over that of the people who lost their homes? It’s the GOP way to put profits over people.

I still fail to understand why anyone would put our domestic policy in the hands of a group of people who don’t believe in government’s ability to work. That’s like going to a doctor who doesn’t believe in medicine.

Now it’s time we stopped trusting these clowns wituh our foreign policy, too. From the above-referenced budget story is this:

The White House seems happy to make the argument that the war should be fully funded, while domestic programs should be contained. The war, now in its fifth year, has killed more than 3,870 American military personnel and wounded more than 28,000, and is estimated to have cost taxpayers more than $800 billion if the current request is approved.


James Horney, director of fiscal policy for the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said, "My impression is that the White House decided quite awhile ago that it was in the president's political interest to have a confrontation with Congress over budget issues.

"He's not really trying to take stances on the budget that necessarily appeal to the majority of the American public, but stances that will play well with people currently supporting him, and stances that allow him to still be relevant," Horney said.

That sounds about right. Who was it that said President Bush’s job is to serve those that voted for him? Oh yeah, that guy.

This is all such a shame. Because we’re talking about a war that every day takes more American soldiers’ lives. We’re talking about people without healthcare and senior citizens still living in FEMA trailers. This isn’t about President Bush or Karl Rove or political games. It’s about America -- or, it should be. Too bad the Republican Party has forgotten that.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

News From Down Under

Slow posting -- Mr. Beale and I are still traveling and I haven’t had internet access in three days. But I did pick up this piece of good news from Australia:
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has suffered a humiliating election defeat and the opposition Labor Party has swept into power.


Former diplomat Mr Rudd, 50, presented himself as a new generation leader compared with the 68-year-old Mr Howard.

Voters warmed to his promise to pull Australian troops out of Iraq and sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, further isolating the US, which had received strong backing from Mr Howard.

At least where Iraq was concerned, John Howard seemed to follow President Bush’s lead, not the wishes of Australians. I think there’s a lesson to be learned here for American politicians.

(h/t, Salon)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What To Do With Those Leftovers

Mr. Beale and I are still traveling, so I wanted to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving and offer up this novel thought:
San Francisco to Fuel Cars with Grease
Waste Oils Will Power the City's Vehicle Fleet

San Francisco is pioneering another environmental initiative, with the launch today of SFGreasecycle.

The free program will transform used cooking oil into biodiesel that will power part of the city vehicle fleet. It is believed to be the largest such program in the nation, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Not only does it provide a useful alternative to ditching old grease (which if illegally dumped can clog sewers) but it offsets the need for petroleum diesel, which is more highly polluting and has to be imported at high cost.

The genius of the program is embedded in its name: cycle. By using waste, rather than disposing of it, it treats consumption as a part of a cycle of usefulness, rather than a straight line from natural resource toward disposal.

I’m not the most technical person in the world so when I learned a few years ago that diesel engines can easily be retrofitted to run on used cooking grease, I was amazed. I actually spoke to someone who transitioned his pickup truck to run on oil he gets free from a local KFC. All that was required, he said, was a $200 part. Then he called around and found a local KFC willing to give him their used grease, which they were more than happy to do since they usually pay a waste management company to haul it away. Now he gets free fuel and his car smells like fried chicken.

This idea has intrigued me, and I love that San Francisco is transitioning their fleet to run on restaurant grease. Imagine if Metro’s city buses smelled like french fries and cheeseburgers instead of diesel smoke--I wonder if obesity rates in the city would climb accordingly?

We in the South have never seen a Fry Daddy we didn’t like. Fried food is a staple around these parts, and it’s hard to find a downtown street corner that doesn’t have a fast food restaurant. Has anyone ever wondered what happens to all that leftover fry grease?

Maybe it’s time to start reusing our cooking grease instead of dumping it. Anyone?

For more information on SF GreaseCycle, check out their website.

Monday, November 19, 2007

California Scenes

Mr. Beale and I are officially on vacation. We’re at the beach in Santa Monica; it’s overcast, chilly, and a little gloomy, which has made for a surreal visit to my hometown.

Probably the oddest thing was seeing Richard Kelly’s “sequel” to “Donnie Darko,” ”Southland Tales,” which coincidentally was filmed almost entirely in Santa Monica and Venice--the very places we had just visited that day. With its post-apocalyptic theme and a storyline involving the rift in the space-time continuum, I started getting this spooky feeling like I had spent the entire day inside a movie I hadn’t seen yet.

I don’t know if “Donnie Darko” fans will like the film, since the two are very similar. But I will say this: Richard Kelly doesn’t like the Republican Party very much! It’s worth catching on DVD, since I doubt the film will come to Nashville.

Today’s a travel day for us, so I thought I’d share some images from the past day, which seem to capture the eerie vibe sparked by the film.

Some graffitti we saw on the PCH underpass:Mitchie Yost surfing in the fog!Arlington West, a display about the Iraq War erected by Veterans for Peace. I saw this while walking down the Santa Monica Pier with my cousin, a Vietnam veteran who still suffers the physical effects of shrapnel he received over 30 years ago. It was quite sobering to tour this exhibit with him.

Each cross represents a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq:

Finally, some grafitti of the "biker rebellion" sort:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Getting There From Here

I know from blaring headlines like this one that President Bush wants to fix our holiday travel mess. And I know from headlines like this that people are so glad the President has resolved to fix something--anything--during his two terms in office, that no one has bothered to ask why he set the bar so low.

But holiday travel snares are what the president set his heart on. And here I am stuck on American Airlines flight 1773 from Dallas to Los Angeles three hours after boarding, and we haven’t even left the airport yet.

No one could have anticipated this.

OK, I can’t blame the president for my travel troubles; we’re grounded by some mechanical malfunction. But the whole thing strikes me as patently ridiculous.

Last night I picked up a friend at our Nashville “International” airport; her flight was 30 minutes late. Today Mr. Beale and I are flying from Nashville to LAX. Boarding for the DFW-LAX leg was already delayed one hour because our plane wasn’t cleaned up from its last service (who knew flights from Honolulu were so dirty?). When we finally taxied down the runway we had to immediately turn around because of a problem with a hydraulic rudder. We’ve been here three hours and no word on how much longer this will take.

Interestingly, Terry Bradshaw is also on our flight. The Travel Goddess hands out her justice to celebrity and peon alike.

Shit happens, which makes me wonder why President Bush made a big show of trying to do anything about it to begin with. I mean really, a live, televised announcement? Are you kdding me? Isn't that reserved for wars and stuff?

I suspect this was his “I feel your pain” moment, though with Air Force One tanked up and ready to go at a moment’s notice, we all know he doesn’t and neither do his fat cat friends scooting around the country in their Lear jets.

Of course, I don’t begrudge the president his plane or the super-wealthy their spoils of privilege. Just don’t try to tell me you understand what it’s like for us plebes trying to get home for the holidays:
"Airports are very crowded, travelers are being stranded and flights are delayed, sometimes with a full load of passengers sitting on the runway for hours," the president said in televised remarks from White House's Roosevelt Room. These problems "carry some real costs for the country, not just in the inconvenience they cause, but in the business they obstruct and family gatherings they cause people to miss," he said.

It took me 12 hours to get from Nashville to Los Angeles today. So what else is new. Trying to milk this to boost one’s polls, however, must be a new low.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Back To The Kitchen, Beeeeee-atches!

1 Update

Via Orcinus:
Lawmakers look for ways to keep moms at home to strengthen families

Task force blames breakdown of traditional family for social ills

Rep. Steven Thayn and his wife, Sherry, raised eight children on their family farm. She stayed home, and they home-schooled several of their children before eventually sending them to local schools.

Thayn said more two-parent homes and fewer working mothers could be both a social and economic boon. The Emmett Republican sees the breakdown of the traditional family structure as the root of societal ills such as drug abuse, crime and domestic violence.

That's why, as chairman of the Idaho House of Representatives' Family Task Force, he and others are considering controversial solutions such as repealing no-fault divorce laws and finding ways to encourage mothers to stay home with their children.

Thank you, Rep. Thayn! The breakdown of society is all women’s fault, eh? Not the fault of the stupid white men who’ve been in charge of everything since, oh, well, forever? There are women clamoring to stay in bad marriages, eh? If only women couldn’t get divorced everything would be so much better, eh? Hey, Rep. Thayn: fuck you.

But it gets better:

The six-member task force was convened this year by Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney and has been meeting with the lofty goal of finding solutions to what they see as the decline of the Idaho family. Controversially, the group is using the typical family of 1950 as its benchmark, though Thayn says it's simply a baseline and not a suggestion that families were perfect in 1950.

I’m sure it goes without saying that their benchmark “typical” 1950s family is white. I think the black or Native American family experience in 1950 was considerably different from what these Idaho legislators are investigating. Just a guess.

I always wonder when this mythic yesteryear was, where women happily lived in servitude to their husbands and families. Memo to Rep. Thayn: “Leave It To Beaver,” “Donna Reed” and “Father Knows Best” were television shows! They were fiction! It wasn’t real.

I love men, and I especially love men who love for women to be free to pursue their lives as they see fit. I do not love the regressive legislators who are convinced we women would be happier and the world would be better off if only we did what we were told.

Face it, Reps. Thayn and Denney, the genie’s out of the bottle. Deal with it. Women will go back into the kitchen when it’s their choice, not some legislated mandate by a bunch of whiny-ass men who want their dinner on time. And I hope the good voters of Idaho know enough to drum these knuckle-dragging troglodytes out of office first chance they get.


From Jack, in Comments, a few residents of Idaho have made their displeasure known with some strongly worded letters to the editor.

Stop Hurting America

To The Media:

Please stop hurting America with insulting fake “debates” (beautifully encapsulated by Digby) and even more insulting “balanced” right/left columns. Hiring insider/architect/Bush Brain Karl Rove as “balance” for ousider/blogger Markos is obvious pandering to the WATBs who complained about the Markos hire to begin with. Just come out and be honest about it.

Frankly, I’d be happy if the news media got out of the opinion business all together. Whatever happened to sticking to the facts? Americans are perfectly capable of coming up with our own opinions, we don’t need Time or Newsweek or anyone else force-feeding them to us.

As for these fake “debates,” try giving the candidates time to formulate an answer, already. The issues facing this country are complicated, the world is not black or white.

And finally, quit focusing on trivialities. That’s what blogs are for. If I hear one more spittle-flecked Chris Matthews panel cover the election like it’s color commentary for an NBA game, I’m officially turning my TV off for good. Enough with the he said/she said nonsense, the stories on John Edwards’ hair or Hillary Clinton’s cleavage or Rudy Giuliani’s cell phone calls from the wife.

Our country is in dire straights. This will be the most important election of my lifetime. This shit matters. Quit acting like it doesn’t.

And oh yeah, do your fucking jobs.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stifling Dissent, Bridge Club Edition

Haven’t we been down this road before?
[A] team of women who represented the United States at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the-moment protest.

At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, “We did not vote for Bush.”

By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”

“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”

Not so, said Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player, teacher and columnist. “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition,” he said by e-mail.

The offending message is right here:
Team members have apologized, but in what has become typical of the 30-percent crowd, that simply won’t do:

Many of those offended by the sign do not consider the expressions of regret sufficient. “I think an apology is kind of specious,” said Jim Kirkham, who has played in several bridge championships. “It’s not that I don’t forgive them, but I still think they should be punished.”

Punished? For a “We did not vote for Bush” sign? Take a few totalitarian pills with your Kool-Aid, Mr. Kirkham?

I don’t get this punitive craving from the hard-line conservatives. Actually, scratch that, I do; liberals have been crying for some kind of accountability regarding the Bush Administration’s various crimes and misdemeanors for years. But there’s a huge difference between holding up a sign saying “we didn’t vote for Bush” or making a casual remark about the president at a concert and starting a war based on lies, destroying personal freedoms, legitimizing torture, and letting the country’s infrastructure decay while spending billions on a war of choice. That these actions have stunned people around the world, not just Americans, is no surprise to anyone who travels overseas. I saw it in Italy last year.

Punished? Yeah, someone needs to be punished all right, and it’s not the women of the United States bridge team. But take heart, ladies: if history’s any judge, there’s a racy “Entertainment Weekly” cover in your future.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hell Week For GOP Candidates

It’s been a rough week for the GOP presidential candidates. Tom Tancredo (hey, he’s still running?) jumps the shark with this ridiculous scare’em ad that was so over the top, it prompted guffaws of laughter at our house.

Fred Thompson scores the coveted National Right To Life Committee endorsement, prompting outrage among Mitt Romney supporters. You know it’s bad when even a major right-to-life group won’t vote for a Mormon.

The endorsement is even stranger, considering National Right To Life General Counsel James Bopp Jr. is working for the Romney campaign. It was also a slap in the face to former Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee, now second in the Iowa polls. Some have speculated the Committee made a purely pragmatic choice, feeling Thompson was the most likely to beat pro-life Rudy Giuliani.

If that’s the case, they may regret the divisive decision, now that Giuliani has been rolled into the juicy Judith Regan-Bernard Kerik-News Corp. scandal:
Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Publisher Judith Regan, fired last year from News Corp.'s HarperCollins unit, claims her dismissal was part of a “deliberate smear campaign'' aimed at protecting presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani.

Regan, former president of HarperCollins' ReganBooks division, sued her former employer for defamation in state court in New York, seeking at least $100 million in damages. She claims in her complaint that News Corp. tried to destroy her reputation because she has information about former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik that would be harmful to ex-New York Mayor Giuliani and his presidential campaign.

“The smear campaign was necessary to advance News Corp.'s political agenda, which has long centered on protecting Rudy Giuliani's presidential ambitions,'' Regan said in the complaint filed yesterday.

As a sidebar, I’d like to point out that this is a perfect example of why deregulating media ownership is such a bad idea. Rupert Murdoch has far too much power as it is, and I don’t see the free hand of the market doing anything to rein that in. Now this whackadoodle Australian billionaire is picking our presidents?

According to the New York Times, Regan claims in her suit that a News Corp. “senior executive”...

... encouraged her to lie to federal investigators about her past affair with Bernard B. Kerik after he had been nominated to become homeland security secretary in late 2004.


One of Ms. Regan’s lawyers, Brian C. Kerr of the firm of Dreier L.L.P., said she had evidence to support her claim that she had been advised to lie to federal investigators who were vetting Mr. Kerik and who might have sought to question her about their romantic involvement. But Mr. Kerr declined to discuss the nature of the evidence.

Grab the popcornl this one’s going to be fun to watch.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Compare, Contrast

Hillary Clinton is taking a lot of heat for a planted question at one of her Iowa campaign appearances:
The Clinton campaign operation in Iowa was forced to admit that it had set up the question on climate change at a town hall rally in Newton last Tuesday. The meeting had been an important set-piece for Clinton, with several members of the national media present.

After Clinton spoke, a student in the crowd was invited to pose a question. "As a young person, I'm worried about the long-term effects of global warming. How does your plan combat climate change?" the student asked.

Okay, I can’t defend this, planting a question when the national media is present is the worst sort of PR manipulation. And this was such a lame setup; Clinton might as well have been wearing an “ask me about global warming!” T-shirt.

But hey, it’s not the worst thing. She wanted to talk about global warming. That’s a softball? It’s not like she set up a phony town hall meeting and filled it with adoring supporters who wanted to know what brand of pantyhose she wears or her favorite lipstick shade. But you’d think she had, judging from the head-spinning rage of folks like Michelle Malkin, who used insults like “crapweasel” and “phony baloney” after the incident.

I don’t recall Malkin having a problem with President Bush’s planted questions or his staged “town hall” meetings that were as scripted as a Tony winning production. (She may have--I’m not, ahem, one of her regular raeders.) Still, wrong is wrong. Let’s hope Hillary has learned her lesson.

That said, let’s do a fun little comparison exercise. Can you spot the phony-baloney crapweasel?

Hillary Clinton:

"As a young person, I'm worried about the long-term effects of global warming. How does your plan combat climate change?"

And now, President Bush, 2007:

What do you pray about, and how we can we pray for you?

Yikes. Let’s try that again.

Hillary Clinton:

"As a young person, I'm worried about the long-term effects of global warming. How does your plan combat climate change?"

And now President Bush, 2004

THE PRESIDENT: You got a question?

Q I, too, want to say God bless you, Mr. Bush. My husband and my twins and I pray for you daily, as do many home schoolers. (Applause.) Thank you for recognizing home schoolers.

THE PRESIDENT: Let's see, who've we got here? You got a question?

Q Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. President, for visiting Oregon. I've heard through the grapevine that Oregon is one of the most unchurched states in the union, and I really feel like it shows up in every walk of our society. Could you take a moment to pray for Oregon, for us, right now?


THE PRESIDENT: -- Jack in the Box. Go ahead.

Q -- I want to thank you for everything you did after September 11th. I was in Israel then, and it was hard getting back. And it was very devastating. And you -- no one could have done what you did any better. (Applause.)

Wow, that was fun! Let’s try just one more. Hillary Clinton:

"As a young person, I'm worried about the long-term effects of global warming. How does your plan combat climate change?"

And now President Bush, 2005:


Q Thank you. Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock-solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you said you're going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

Okay, who can spot the phony-baloney crapweasel in these examples. Anyone?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Meet Ron Paul, v2.0

1 Update below

I realize that the Rondroids believe Ron Paul is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being they've ever known in their life. For the rest of us who haven't drunk the Kool-Aid, Orcinus has a comprehensive outline of Ron Paul’s congressional record. “Extreme” is putting it mildly. Among the more “out there” bills he’s sponsored are:

• H.R.1095: To prohibit any Federal official from expending any Federal funds for any population control or population planning program or any family planning activity

• Four different bills that would provide that the inferior courts of the United States do not have jurisdiction to hear abortion-related cases.

• Three different bills providing that human life shall be deemed to exist from conception.

• H.J.RES.80: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing the States to prohibit the physical destruction of the flag of the United States and authorizing Congress to prohibit destruction of federally owned flags.

• H.R.2310: A bill to repeal the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

• H.R.2962: A bill to repeal all authority of the Federal Government to regulate wages in private employment. (This would repeal the minimum wage).

• H.R.2139: To repeal the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. (The Motor Voter Act).

• H.R.1146: To end membership of the United States in the United Nations.

There’s lots more over at Orcinus. Check it out.


Kleinheider at Volunteer Voters has posted this video: A Libertarian questions his support of Ron Paul

It seems the Congressman's "sanctity of life" legislation has given some freedom lovers pause--as well it should.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The New Normal

Frank Rich’s column today brought tears to my eyes. He clearly outlines the destruction of our democracy which has happened before our very eyes. Had it played out through a bold coup, there might have been some kind of protest. But it happened subversively, through soft lies delivered to a gullible populace, frightened and desperate to be comforted with fairy tales.
In the six years of compromising our principles since 9/11, our democracy has so steadily been defined down that it now can resemble the supposedly aspiring democracies we’ve propped up in places like Islamabad. Time has taken its toll. We’ve become inured to democracy-lite. That’s why a Mukasey can be elevated to power with bipartisan support and we barely shrug.

This is a signal difference from the Vietnam era, and not necessarily for the better. During that unpopular war, disaffected Americans took to the streets and sometimes broke laws in an angry assault on American governmental institutions. The Bush years have brought an even more effective assault on those institutions from within. While the public has not erupted in riots, the executive branch has subverted the rule of law in often secretive increments. The results amount to a quiet coup, ultimately more insidious than a blatant putsch like General Musharraf’s.

I often hear people lament, “why aren’t we hitting the streets? Why aren’t we protesting?” But we are. Millions of us protested in New York, in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and elsewhere. When the media covers these events, it’s a brief blip on the radar between celebrity news and the latest government propaganda. We have short attention spans in this country; if it didn’t happen last week, we have trouble remembering it happened at all. And half the time, we don’t even know what is happening. For example, I don’t remember hearing about this:

Take the Musharraf assault on human-rights lawyers. Our president would not be so unsubtle as to jail them en masse. But earlier this year a senior Pentagon official, since departed, threatened America’s major white-shoe law firms by implying that corporate clients should fire any firm whose partners volunteer to defend detainees in Guantánamo and elsewhere.

This is shocking. I don’t remember any outrage in the media last January when this news first broke; in fact, I don’t remember hearing about it at all. Have we really become so numb that the Pentagon can threaten law firms for defending certain clients and we don’t even notice?

If this isn’t an errosion of democracy I don’t know what is. Rich concludes with this sobering thought:

To believe that this corruption will simply evaporate when the Bush presidency is done is to underestimate the permanent erosion inflicted over the past six years. What was once shocking and unacceptable in America has now been internalized as the new normal.

This is most apparent in the Republican presidential race, where most of the candidates seem to be running for dictator and make no apologies for it. They’re falling over each other to expand Gitmo, see who can promise the most torture and abridge the largest number of constitutional rights. The front-runner, Rudy Giuliani, boasts a proven record in extralegal executive power grabs, Musharraf-style: After 9/11 he tried to mount a coup, floating the idea that he stay on as mayor in defiance of New York’s term-limits law.

Indeed, when whackadoodle politicians like Rudy and Huckabee and Ron Paul are considered viable candidates instead of being laughed out of the room, I have to wonder at the mass psychosis that has created this chilling “new normal.”

The Democrats refuse to throw any cold water on this insanity, instead they’ve bought into it: Waterboarding is and always has been illegal in this country, but instead of demanding the Attorney General abide by the established law of the land, Sen. Chuck Schumer vows to write a new law stating what is already established law. The whole purpose is to get Mr. Mukasey out of the awkward position of having to prosecute senior administration officials for breaking anit-torture laws. That would just be too embarassing for the new Attorney General. And in the “new normal,” it’s perfectly acceptable for the opposition party to ignore basic facts to provide cover for the criminals that have launched this quiet coup against our Democracy.

I don't like this "new normal." And I want my country back.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Is It War On Christmas Season Already?

Seems like the War On Christmas comes earlier and earlier. On Thursday night Bill O’Reilly and his guest, Denver radio talker Dan Caplis, fired the first shot:
O’Reilly’s target last night was a decision by the Fort Collins, Colorado City Council to celebrate the holiday season with “an educational museum display, plain wreaths and garlands on city property, and trees with white lights” rather than traditional Christmas decorations such as trees with “colored lights.”
[ ... ]
DAN CAPLIS: Yes. Well, Bill, this is horrible. I mean, this should be a wake-up call to every member of your audience. If this kind of attack on American values can happen in Fort Collins, it can happen everywhere.

You have this arrogant minority that wants to go to the point of stripping away Christmas trees and colored lights. I mean, this sounds like something out of the old Soviet Union. And people need to be very aware.

This group on the left is mobilized. They’re sophisticated. They’re determined. And if you don’t stand up and fight for your culture, they will take it away from you.

You gotta fight .. for your right ... to colored Christmas lights!

I used to wish that O’Reilly and his fellow Christmas Warriors would just have a steaming cup of STFU, but the entertainment value is too rich. With Hollywood writers on strike, I think Bill O’Reilly offers us some much needed comedy gold.

So fight on, Christmas warriors, fight on! This tune’s just for you!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Conservative Authors Sue Regnery

Welcome to the Karmic Deli. How may I help you?

Yes, I’ll have a large order of irony with a side of schadenfreude, please. Oh yeah, and can I have the extra spicy hypocrisy?
Five authors have sued the parent company of Regnery Publishing, a Washington imprint of conservative books, charging that the company deprives its writers of royalties by selling their books at a steep discount to book clubs and other organizations owned by the same parent company.

You mean, no one would buy these crappy books unless they were in the 99-cent bin? Oh, snap!

But there’s more:

Some of the authors’ books have appeared on the New York Times best-seller list, including “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,” by Mr. Corsi and John E. O’Neill (who is not a plaintiff in the suit), Mr. Patterson’s “Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security” and Mr. Miniter’s “Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush Is Winning the War on Terror.” In the lawsuit the authors say that Eagle sells or gives away copies of their books to book clubs, newsletters and other organizations owned by Eagle “to avoid or substantially reduce royalty payments to authors.”

Anyone who’s spent five minutes in book publishing knows this shit goes on all the time. It's also the only reason these titles got on the best seller list to begin with. Pssst... fellas, I think you just got goosed by the free hand of the market. Suck it up!

The jokes just write themselves:

Joel Mowbray, author of “Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America’s Security,” said he was particularly disappointed in Regnery and Eagle because they had so championed conservative authors. “These guys created the conservative book market,” Mr. Mowbray said. “Before them, conservatives were having to fight, generally unsuccessfully, to get books published.”

Imagine that. A company looking out for its own bottom line! You mean, it's not about the ideology? I’m shocked to learn a conservative publishing company cares more about profit! No one could have anticipated that!

But finally, we have the punchline:

But Mr. Miniter said, “We’re not looking for a payoff; we’re looking for justice.”

This, from Richard Miniter, Mr. Tort Reform himself, author of the 1996 paper, "Under Siege: New York’s Liability Ordeal”? In which he sounded the alarm about rising settlements in personal injury lawsuits?

Indeed, there is some reason to fear that New York and its taxpayers will be swept up in the most feared of all types of injury litigation: the “mass tort,” a new legal lifeform that arose as a mutation of the class action suit.  The most recent victim was Dow Corning, which was bankrupted by silicone breast implant litigation. Personal injury lawyers are looking avidly for the next mass tort.  Lead paint litigation may be their vehicle. With mass mailings and 1-800 numbers, they are recruiting thousands of plaintiffs to sue paint makers, landlords, realtors, former brownstone owners and many more for the reputed ill effects of lead paint.

Oh, poor Dow Corning! Victimized by those greedy women suffering from auto-immune disorders. and those parents whose kids have permanent disabilities due to injesting lead paint. They didn’t want justice, right Mr. Miniter? They were just a new breed of welfare cheats, eh?

Justice: it’s just for conservatives.

(h/t, Sadly No!)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

It’s a Floor Wax AND A Dessert Topping!

Oh for crying out loud. I’ve blogged about this before but who the hell makes a child’s toy out of a freaking date rape drug? China, that’s who:
Toys linked to a date-rape drug recalled

China-made beads for kids metabolize into GhB when ingested

WASHINGTON - Millions of Chinese-made toys have been pulled from shelves in North America and Australia after scientists found they contain a chemical that converts into a powerful “date rape” drug when ingested. Two children in the U.S. and three in Australia were hospitalized after swallowing the beads.

With only seven weeks until Christmas, the recall is yet another blow to the toy industry — already bruised by a slew of recalls last summer.

In the United States, the toy goes by the name Aqua Dots, a highly popular holiday toy distributed by Toronto-based Spin Master Toys. It is called Bindeez in Australia, where it was named toy of the year at an industry function earlier this year.

Moose Enterprises said Bindeez and Aqua Dots are made at the same factory, which is located in Shenzhen in China’s southern Guangdong province. Last week the Chinese government announced an export ban on more than 700 toy factories in the region because of shoddy products.

It’s the free hand of the market, Chinese-style. The same free hand that brought us melamin-tainted dog food and antifreeze-contaminated cough syrup.

Side effects of swallowing the GhB-laden Aqua-Dots include “unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death”:

The two U.S. children who swallowed Aqua Dot beads went into nonresponsive comas, commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said Wednesday. A 20-month-old has recovered completely while the other child, whose age was not known, has been released from a hospital after five days and is recovering, he said.

Thankfully, we still have a somewhat-functioning government, where underfunded government agencies the Consumer Product Safety Commission are at least able to read news reports from Australia and issue a product recall.

Keep that in mind next time a Republican or Libertarian tells you the government is too big and we need to get rid of “useless agencies” like this one.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Our Political Discourse

Oh woe is me. Someone let the teeming masses into the ivory tower and it's the end of the world as we know it.

At least, that's my take on's interview with law professor/author Cass Sunstein, author of 2.0, the follow-up to The article is titled "The Internet is making us stupid," which should give you an idea where Sunstein stands on the whole blogging/internet phenomenon.

In a nutshell, he thinks the “echo-chamber” aspect of political blogs is killing democracy. It’s bad for America, he says, because it further entrenches people in their political views, and makes them more extreme -- be they on the right or the left.

For example:
There's a book, "The Long Tail," by Chris Anderson, which celebrates the "niche-ification" of the world. I like the book -- I should say, I think it's a very good book -- but what's amazing to me is the extent to which Anderson and the Internet enthusiasts really can't even see a problem and can't see the individual and social benefits of being exposed to stuff you didn't choose.

Well, I’m going to challenge Sunstein’s premise here. Internet blogs do not exist in a void, they’re almost always responding to a news story or cultural phenomenon or something else from the traditional media or the outside world. Some blogs do original reporting, it’s true, but most do not. This is why I get annoyed when someone complains about my “reporting” or says I’m a lousy journalist. On Southern Beale, I am not a reporter and I’m not a journalist. I may commit the occasional act of reporting, but 90% of the time I’m just a blogger expressing an opinion; here’s the link to the story, go read it and come up with your own opinion.

I think what Sunstein is really complaining about is the partisan nature of blogs. He’s saying blogs are not objective. But who said they’re supposed to be? Traditional newspapers and journals have offered partisan editorial opinions since forever. A Rasumussen survey from this July shows conservatives overwhelmingly believe the media has a liberal bias, and liberals believe the media has a conservative bias. I really don’t think this is the fault of blogs; I think this is the fault of a lazy, profit-oriented media that keeps getting the big stories wrong, which frustrates engaged citizens on both the right and left.

All of this sounds suspiciously like traditional media complaining about a busload of riffraff who crashed their country club party, overturned the Chivari and spiked the fruit punch with a shot of Chateau Tuesday.

Sunstein is ringing the alarm bells about “self isolation breeding polarization,” and yet I really don’t think we’re all that isolated. What we do have on the internet is a lot more people representing a broad slice of America engaged in the conversation in a very public way. I guess that’s threatening to some people, but it should be embraced. "Regular" Americans have always had an opinion about these issues, we just never had a chance to throw 'em back in the face of the opinion-makers before. Well, genie's out, folks, and it ain't going back in that bottle.

America’s been through a tough decade. These are polarizing times, and I don't think the internet made us this way. I think we're being shaped by the events themselves, not the technology we have at our disposal. We had a president impeached for a blow job, an election decided by the Supreme Court, attacks on our homeland, and a foreign war sold to us on faulty evidence. Our communities are fraying and our Constitution is being redefined--some might say torn apart--as we watch. It’s laudable that the nation would want to digest these things, discuss them, hash them out, instead of blindly accepting the opinions of some self-appointed "elite." We're part of the conversation now; get used to it.

Viva la internet.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Who Is Ron Paul?

(1 Update Below)

I have to say, all of this hollering about Ron Paul’s big payday is very disturbing to me. I’m equally disturbed by all of those “Who Is Ron Paul” signs I’m seeing around town. Because if you have to ask, then you clearly don’t know.

Ron Paul is crazy, possibly even batshit insane. I realize it’s comforting to find an anti-war Republican who isn’t also a Bible-thumping fundie but guess what folks, this ain’t a perfect world. There’s no free lunch. So if you don’t know about Ron Paul’s racist past or his endorsement by David Duke and the Neo-Nazis at Stormfront, then please hit the Google before you find yourself at a Ron Paul fundraiser-slash-cross burning.

Let’s start with the good news. The least crazy thing I don’t like about Ron Paul is that he’s anti-choice. I don’t agree with that position but I don’t think it’s necessarily crazy. However, on that score alone I would never support him.

But there’s so much more. Ron Paul doesn’t like black people. Enough so that when he ran for Congress in 1996, some of his earlier statements came back to haunt him:
""Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty and the end of welfare and affirmative action," Paul wrote.

Paul continued that politically sensible blacks are outnumbered ""as decent people." Citing reports that 85 percent of all black men in the District of Columbia are arrested, Paul wrote:

""Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal justice system,' I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal," Paul said.

Paul also wrote that although ""we are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers."

When the Houston Chronicle called Paul on this stuff in 1996, he claimed “he opposes racism and that his written commentaries about blacks came in the context of "current events and statistical reports of the time."

Years later when this shit came back to haunt him yet again, he denied writing it entirely. But since it appeared in the Ron Paul Political Report, that excuse is too flimsy to be credible. Whether he wrote it himself or not, it needs to be held accountable for the idea that appeared in his own political newsletter.

But let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say he’s really not all that racist, we’ve all said insensitive things, right? He still has the endorsement of Stormfront, a white nationalist organization classified as a hate group. Stormfront says Paul is not a White Nationalist, but they endorse him because his policies are. That’s encouraging.

Areas of agreement, according to the Stormfront website, include:

• Ron Paul is the strongest opponent of "Hate Crime" Laws.

• Ron Paul is the strongest opponent of welfare programs that among other things, would redistribute the income of hard-working White families into the hands of lazy non-Whites.

• Ron Paul is the least likely to support government crackdowns on Pro-White organizations, and the most likely to veto any legislation to that effect.

Be sure to check out some of the comments over there, by the way. They’re a hoot, in that sick, oh-my-God sort of way. Like this one, from “Aryan Gentleman”:

[Ron Paul] does, however, publicly state that the war of northern aggression was unjust, which certainly distinguishes him from any other presidential candidate even further.

Whoo-yeah, bet those Ron Paul Klan meetings meet-ups are a lot of fun. Maybe former Klansman/Ron Paul supporter David Duke will show up.

Ron Paul has about as much chance of winning the nomination as my dog Boomer, who is also white, male, and certifiably batshit insane. But I do think of the two of them, Boomer would make a better candidate.

At the end of the day, iIt’s pretty sad to me that folks are so disgruntled with this Administration and so opposed to the war in Iraq that they will turn to an extremist like Ron Paul. I just don't know what the hell you people are thinking.


Glenn Greenwald has an interesting piece up today about Ron Paul which I recommend. On the issue of abortion:

At the same time, Paul is as much of an anti-abortion extremist as it gets, having proposed federal legislation to define conception as the beginning of life, and denying federal courts jurisdiction to adjudicate abortion cases.

Hey, candidate Paul, get your crackpot laws off my body, OK? Thank you.

Cuckoo Bananas

Why do they hate us? This may be one reason:
A major U.S. corporation stood accused of routinely funneling large sums of money to a vicious right-wing Latin American militia that the United States government officially had branded a terrorist organization.

But then the corporation involved, Chiquita Brands International, admitted it had paid $1.7 million to a Colombian paramilitary unit known as "Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia" (AUC) over a six-year period ending in 2004. Suddenly, an episode that had seemed like rabid conspiracy-mongering was recast as unsavory corporate misdeed.

Last month, a U.S. District Court judge formally accepted a settlement of the charges between the Cincinnati-based company and the Justice Department. After pleading guilty to a felony, Chiquita was fined $25 million and required to institute an ethics program to prevent future violations.

Yeah, those “ethics programs” always work well, don’t they? That ought to take care of it!

Western corporations don’t have a good track record in the Third World. In Central America, you just have to look at the United Fruit Co.’s meddling in Guatemalan elections and the Colombian banana massacre to understand that.

Chiquita Brands claimed it needed to pay the AUC to protect their workers from leftist guerillas; of course, those “leftist guerillas” say they are fighting to improve working conditions and address human rights abuses. You know, like giving workers the right to form unions--stuff that major corporations don’t like. Neither side has acted like angels, but Chiquita playing the "poor pitiful me" card stinks like last week's fish.

And who is this AUC which Chiquita supported? According to Wikipedia:

The AUC now asserts itself as a regional and national counterinsurgent force. Former AUC supreme leader Carlos Castaño Gil in 2000 claimed 70 percent of the AUC's operational costs were financed with drug-related earnings, the rest coming from "donations" from its sponsors.
A February 2005 report by the United Nation's High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that, during 2004, "the AUC was responsible for 342 cases of violations of the cessation of hostilities. These include the presumed reincorporation of demobilized persons into its ranks, massacres, forced displacements, selective and systematic homicides, kidnappings, rape, disappearances, threats, intimidation and lootings. These actions took place in 11 departments and targeted the civilian population, in many cases indigenous communities."

Chiquita gave these people money? Why would they even do business in Colombia, if that means making extortion payments to a brutal group using rape, murder and “dissapearances” to intimidation pro-labor activists?

Funny you should ask. According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice:

By 2003, Chiquita's Colombian operations were its most profitable, and the company earned $49.4 million in profit from them between Sept. 10, 2001, when the AUC was designated a terrorist group, and January 2004, when its payments stopped.

More than 4,000 people were killed in the Uraba banana-growing region during the period when Chiquita admits to paying the AUC.

"Chiquita's money helped buy weapons and ammunition used to kill innocent victims of terrorism. Simply put, defendant Chiquita funded terrorism," the Justice Department said last month in court filings.

In this brutal, shadowy war, which drew only episodic attention outside Colombia, the interests of the paramilitaries and big business overlapped, according to labor leaders and critics of the Colombian government. The AUC and similar groups regarded all union organizers not as worker representatives seeking better pay and working conditions but as guerilla allies in a left-wing campaign to topple the government. To the private armies of a fractured society, they were legitimate (if unarmed) targets in the ongoing conflict. And businesses wanted compliant, low-cost labor.

I guess in some cuckoo bananas land, funding a terrorist organization is just part of the cost of doing business. Somehow, the "free hand of the market" wasn't able to stop this company from funding a terror militia, either. I'm shocked.

I’m watching our government continue to support Pakistan’s president, even after Gen. Musharraf has shuttered the newspapers, fired the Supreme Court as it prepares to deliver a ruling on last month’s elections, rounded up opposition leaders and even cut off cell phone service. After all that talk about bringing “democracy” to the world, and we’re still giving this guy F16s and billions of dollars in aid?

And when it's not our government, it's American big business doing the dirty work. Our corporations set up business in Third World countries to take advantage of the cheap labor, and when that labor tries to organize to demand higher wages or better working conditions, they finance terrorist groups who rape, kidnap and murder.

And people still want to know why they hate us? You've got to be cuckoo bananas to ask a question like that.

Monday, November 5, 2007

No One Could Have Anticipated This

From the comments on my post about Thompson's drug dealer campaign co-chair, Blake writes:
I think there's a bit of difference between a guy that is 49 now and took care of his legal issues when he was 20-25 and Norman Hsu who has been on the lamb for the past 5 years.

I just don't think there are that many similarities, and if that's all the mud diggers can find, there must be some straw grasping going on.

Of course you do, Blake. I must say, a cocaine-dealing, felonious campaign co-chair sure beats a $400 haircut in the straw-grabbing department (cue sarcasm). And if you’re going to call pleading no contest to conspiracy and cocaine trafficking “taking care of one’s legal issues,” well, wake up and smell the hypocrisy.

Let’s see, Barack Obama attended an elementary school with a funny name when he was a child; it's OK to delve into Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis at Wellesley looking for hidden clues, or read her secret letters to her college pen pal. The Clintons 1978 land deal is torn apart looking for wrongdoing and John Kerry’s 1988 divorce papers arouse suspicion, but having your campaign co-chair be convicted of felony drug trafficking is A-OK!


Rights: Yours, Mine & Ours

I hate cell phones. I rarely use mine; I only keep it for when I go out of town and I find this generation of cell phone addicts annoying beyond belief. So I can sympathize with anyone driven to desperate measures like these:
He sat down next to a 20-something woman who he said was “blabbing away” into her phone.

“She was using the word ‘like’ all the time. She sounded like a Valley Girl,” said the architect, Andrew, who declined to give his last name because what he did next was illegal.

Andrew reached into his shirt pocket and pushed a button on a black device the size of a cigarette pack. It sent out a powerful radio signal that cut off the chatterer’s cellphone transmission — and any others in a 30-foot radius.

“She kept talking into her phone for about 30 seconds before she realized there was no one listening on the other end,” he said. His reaction when he first discovered he could wield such power? “Oh, holy moly! Deliverance.”

Yeah, that probably felt good; I get why there’s a boom market in these illegal cell-phone jamming devices. But the fun’s all over when a doctor can’t receive her emergency page, or a mother doesn’t get that desperate phone call from her child, or a law enforcement officer doesn’t get that phone call he needs to receive, or a thousand other scenarios, both profound and mundane, that make cell phone jamming devices illegal.

Just because it annoys you isn’t reason enough to keep me from using my phone. And, on the flip side, just because you want to yak, like, ohmygawd, like, everyone does it, doesn’t mean it isn’t annoying.

When did people lose all patience and tolerance for the feelings and habits of their fellow commuter, co-workers, neighbors? When did it become OK to forget about other people in general? When did we decide that our wants and needs were the only ones that mattered? has an interesting story today about the biological basis for altruism. Apparently all primates but especially humans are hard-wired for altruism by something called “mirror neurons.” In addition to allowing us to feel another’s pain, these neurons could be responsible for such human advancements as language and social structure. It might also answer the old question about the evolutionary basis of altruism and empathy.

But back to our cell-phone jammer. How does ones justify this kind of behavior in light of our neuro-biology?

“If anything characterizes the 21st century, it’s our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people,” said James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University. “The cellphone talker thinks his rights go above that of people around him, and the jammer thinks his are the more important rights.”

Ah yes, that old individual rights vs communal good argument. We seem to be having this debate a lot lately. As the Salon article notes,

Alan Greenspan and the rugged individualists may love Ayn Rand's libertarian vision of each person alone against the world, but another set prefers to think of humans as inextricably tied to one another, creating codependent realities and sharing inter-subjective space.

In other words, humans are above all social animals, this aspect of human behavior is hard-wired into our DNA, and it’s why humans have evolved into the dominant force on the planet that we are today.

But I’m not seeing much empathy at work in this country these days. I’d like to ask these neurobiologists under what conditions--fear, for example, or stress, or malnutrition or who knows what else--might these mirror neurons be repressed. We seem to be getting meaner as a society; witness the fact that we’re actually discussing whether or not torture is acceptable, when for centuries we’ve prosecuted those who participate in these activities.

Digby wrote the quintessential piece on this last week. Here’s the thought that resonated with me:

I think the debate is over, folks. Every time they normalize state sanctioned sadism, from tasering to waterboarding, we are one step closer to fully accepting a police state. That's how they do it. It never happens over night. It happens one taboo at a time.

We are a torture culture, immoral, vulgar and profane. We actually think it's fun. If college boys and reporters can laugh about it, how bad can it be? Thanks Dick and George.

Unlike Digby, however, I’m not going to heap all of the blame on Dick and George. I think the blame is ours. It’s been in us all along. Like the frog in the pan of water that heats slowly to boiling, when we indulge in little “punk’s,” can we be surprised that torture isn’t far behind?

When we indulge ourselves like this:

“Just watching those dumb teens at the mall get their calls dropped is worth it. Can you hear me now? NO! Good,” the purchaser of a jammer wrote last month in a review on a Web site called DealExtreme.

can we honestly claim surprise when millions of people scream “nuke ‘em all” about fellow human beings in the Middle East?

When we put ourselves above our community, when we forget our innate connectedness to one another, when we ignore our very biology that enables us to feel empathy for one another, we descend into barbarism. We become animals.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Criminal Past Of Thompson’s Co-Chair

Uh-oh. Fred Thompson’s campaign co-chair, longtime TN GOP moneybags Phillip Martin, has a criminal record, (guilty pleas for conspiracy, cocaine trafficking and marijuana trafficking), which the candidate denies knowing about, although they’ve been close friends for over 10 years. Heh.

I think we need to ask the TN GOPs new spokespeson about this. After all, Martin has been a close affiliate of the Tennessee Republican party for over a decade.

Meanwhile, Thompson Spokesbot Karen Hanretty says:
"Senator Thompson was unaware of the information until this afternoon. Phil Martin has been a friend of the senator since the mid-1990s and remains so today." Thompson communications director Todd Harris added that Martin was not subjected to the campaign's standard vetting process because "he's a longtime friend."

That’s so cute. In the good ol’ boys club of Washington politics, you don’t need to vet your wealthy friends and associates because as we all know, no one ever did anything wrong to get where they are. And everyone is always above-board and honest about their past. Isn’t that right, Bernie Kerik?

I’m remembering all of the handwringing and pearl-clutching over Hillary Clinton’s donations from Norman Hsu; she finally returned $800,000. I wonder if there will be the same shock and outrage over the cash infusion Thompson received from his close friend the drug dealer? A convicted drug dealer who owns a plane? (Not that I'm insinuating anything, of course).

Martin has been more than just a key fundraiser to Thompson, though. The use of his plane eases a major logistical burden stemming from the intense demands on presidential candidates this year for appearances in more than 20 states holding early primaries. It also may have saved the campaign at least $120,000, given that Federal Election Commission rules allowed Thompson to reimburse Martin for the use of the private jet at the commercial ticket rate until Congress changed the rules in September.

So. will Fred Thompson and the GOP return this money? Or is it another case of IOKIYAR?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dude, Where’s My Water?

Today I read that Orme, TN, near the Georgia border, has run out of water. Water had been rationed so severely, residents only got three hours of running water a day. But now it's gone.

Their big solution? Hooking up to the water supply in Bridgeport, Ala. Great, no drought there. That oughta solve the problem--for about five minutes.

I’ve about lost patience with folks in Georgia, Alabama and everywhere else in the South. People are steeped in denial about the water situation. Frankly, I was shocked that we didn’t have mandatory water rationing in Nashville this summer.

We’re in a drought. Quit sticking your head in the sand and deal with it, people. It’s not that hard--people out west do it all the time.

In October the governor of Georgia finally--finally--ordered some modest conservation measures:
Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered North Georgia businesses and utilities to cut water use by 10 percent to conserve more of the state’s dwindling water supply during an epic drought. Mr. Perdue called the order a “first step” to reducing water use and encouraged residents to treat their drying lawns and dirty cars as a “badge of honor.”

Geez, that must’ve hurt. What took him so long? Meanwhile, Purdue is pissing and moaning about how the Army Corps of Engineers is withholding Georgia’s water, that snail darters or whatever are given precedence over people. Whaah.

I started to write this post back in September, when I read this in my morning paper:

The response to the worst drought on record in the Southeast has unfolded in ultra-slow motion. All summer, more than a year after the drought began, fountains sprayed and football fields were watered, prisoners got two showers a day and Coca-Cola’s bottling plants chugged along at full strength. On an 81-degree day this month, an outdoor theme park began to manufacture what was intended to be a 1.2-million-gallon mountain of snow.

For shame. For shame! They whine about Tennessee stealing their water, but while 145 residents of Orme are rationed to three hours of water service a day, they’re making snow at a theme park on a hot day. For shame.

“We are not here because we consumed our way into this drought, as some would suggest,” said Carol Couch, Mr. Perdue’s director of environmental protection.

I’m going to call bullshit on that one.

Anyone who’s grown up out west knows how to deal with a drought. First of all, you cancel the theme park snow festival. The fountains in front of the subdivision are turned off. You don’t water your lawn, you don’t fill your swimming pool, you quit washing the car, and when you go to a restaurant, they don’t automatically give you that glass of ice water that no one ever drinks anyway--not to save the water in the glass, but to save on what’s used in the dishwashing. If you want a glass of water you ask for it, and if it's a drought, you might have to pay for it. Whaah.

I mean, come on people. This isn’t hard. It’s common sense. It’s called conservation. Why are people so steeped in denial about this?

Even worse, there was plenty of warning--like a massive drought in 2000 that the media seems to have forgotten about. That should have been Georgia’s first clue that maybe they should institute some long-range policies. But no:

Last year, a bill died in the Georgia Legislature that would have required that low-flow water devices be installed in older houses before they are resold. Most golf courses are classified as “agricultural.” Water permits are still approved first come first served.

And Georgia is not at the back of the pack. Alabama, where severe drought is even more widespread, is even further behind in its planning.

Grow up already, people. What are you, five? Can we put some adults in charge, please? This problem is not going to go away--not for long, at least. The climate has changed. Drought is going to be a reality in the Southeast, and coupled with population growth, you’re looking at a big problem. Deal with it now, not later. Be a grown-up, for crying out loud.

Two years ago a Merrill Lynch financial advisor told me “water is the new oil.” I don’t doubt it. Hey, Bechtel tried to privatize water in Bolivia, which has got to give you a heads up on that score. Someone in this country needs to be an adult and make some hard decisions.

Drought is the new reality. Deal with it.

Let’s Go, Predators

Moses sinks his teeth into our local hockey news. In particular, he wants to know what’s up with our goalie, Chris Mason.

Come on, Mase. You’re a phenomenally talented goalie. I’ve seen you pull off some saves that just weren’t humanly possible. You came in and saved our bacon at playoff time when Tomas Vokoun was sidelined by a blood disorder. You’ve got the stuff. You’ve always been able to perform under pressure. So this seven-game losing streak just isn’t you. I’m just not buying it.

It’s all in your head, Mase. It’s not real. So let’s focus on the things that are real. Your save percentage. Your talent. Cripes, you’re credited with scoring a goal for us in 2006 -- how many NHL goalies have done that? Nine, to be exact, ever.

This setback is temporary. Get your head clear. Come back to us.

That is all.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ask Your Doctor If Hiatus Is Right For You

I was sad to read that Sean Braisted is taking a break, and even more worried when he mentioned the dreaded “personal issues.” I hope the recent discussion over at Music City Bloggers in which he was voted “hottest male blogger” didn’t have something to do with it. Be well, kiddo.

Seriously, blogging is a deceptively easy addiction. It’s incredibly cathartic, but before you know it you’ve got Audrey from “Little Shop of Horrors” screetching “feed me! feed me!” every morning. You have to give yourself ground rules. One of mine is that it’s okay to put aside the politics and just go with pictures of the cats every once in a while. Hey, they’re cute, we’ve got eight of ‘em, and it’s about time they started pulling their weight around here.

I started this blog on May 12, 2007. My hope was to get my political fix for the day so I could devote the rest of my writing energy to my book, which I’ve been working on for two years. It hasn’t worked out that way.

I had no idea anyone would read this blog; that anyone does amazes me. I’m not ready to throw in the towel. The truth is, if I weren’t writing this blog I’d spend my days commenting on someone else’s blog. I do enough of that already.

But I’d be interested in hearing how others manage blogging with “the real world.” Does blogging interfere with your "real life," and have you ever had to pull the plug? Did you miss it?