Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pet Peeve Thursday

I’ve been sick for four days now and am royally pissed off. So I’m thinking a pet peeve blog post would help, since nothing else has.

Pet Peeve #1

Why do I have to risk severing an artery to take cold medication? I know pharmaceutical manufacturers are scared of wrongful death lawsuits, but putting those caplets in inaccessible packaging armed with razor-sharp edges seems to be trading one problem for another.

Whatever happened to bottles? This is one plank in the “personal responsibility” argument that I buy. If everyone would keep their pills and poisons away from their children maybe the rest of us wouldn’t have to struggle to access the dang TheraFlu caplets. At the very least give those of us without children the option of buying this stuff in a package slightly easier to get into than Fort Knox.

And yes, I blame Ralph Nader for this.

Pet Peeve #2

I will never attend any church that spends its money on direct mail efforts. Somehow I don’t think Jesus said “go forth and buy thee a mailing list.” Call me a cynic, but as a resident of Green Hills I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m receiving these mailings because of assumptions about my bank account, not the state of my soul. I wonder how many folks in North Nashville get these things?

Pet Peeve #3

To the mainstream media: what doese it take for you to go off script and quit referring to John McCain as a “maverick”? He hasn’t been a maverick since he swallowed George W. Bush in a giant “I Wuff You” bear hug.

And I know conservatives like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity are saying John McCain is a closet commie liberal, which is just hilariously funny to those of us who really are closet commie liberals (OK, that commie part was a joke, people). I suspect they are trying to set the stage for a “there’s no difference between the two parties” narrative in the hopes of breeding disillusionment and suppressing voter turnout (remember: when voter turnout is low, Republicans win).

But just remember this: John McCain is the one who said staying in Iraq for 100 years “would be fine with me.” No Democratic candidate, not even Hillary, takes that position.

Bush’s Clean Coal About-Face

Am I the only one thinking President Bush doesn’t take this State of the Union stuff seriously? In Monday night’s SOTU address, the president declared:
To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. (Applause.) Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil. Last year, I asked you to pass legislation to reduce oil consumption over the next decade, and you responded. Together we should take the next steps: Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions.
Yes, let us fund those new technologies, shall we? Oh, wait, not so fast! Today we have this piece of news:
Energy Department Scraps Futuristic Coal Plant in Illinois

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Energy Department on Wednesday canceled a futuristic, virtually emissions-free coal plant scheduled to be built in Illinois, saying it preferred to spend the money on a handful of projects around the country that would demonstrate the capture and burial of carbon dioxide from commercial power plants.


The shift has stunned officials in Illinois, where an industry group announced in December it would build the $1.8 billion FutureGen plant, three-fourths of which was being paid for by the federal government -- funds now no longer available.

The FutureGen program was envisioned as a unique research project that would trigger development of a virtually pollution-free coal plant where carbon dioxide emissions would be captured and buried deep beneath the earth. It would produce both electricity and hydrogen.

Well, so much for that.

For the record, I’m not advocating this technology. Coal is a fossil fuel, and we’re going to run out of it just as we’re running out of oil. But this just further demonstrates how things like the State of the Union address have become just another piece of kabuki theater, with absolutely zero basis in real policy or, for that matter, fact.

(h/t, ThinkProgress)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

John Edwards Bows Out

CNN is reporting that John Edwards will officially bow out of the race today.

Ironically, CNN is giving Edwards more coverage now than they have over the previous six months. As an astute Eschaton commenter noted, “maybe he should drop out every day.” Heh.

I am supremely sorry to see Edwards gone. I liked his populist ideas, and with him in the race I think he effectively kept Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the progressive tact.

TPM says Edwards won’t endorse anyone for now, but might before the Feb. 5 primaries.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Iraq 4 Ever

President Bush issued one of his famous “signing statements” yesterday that waives certain crucial portions of the Defense Authorization Act, including the one barring funding for permanent military bases in Iraq:
In his “Memorandum of Justification” for the waiver, Bush cited his Nov. 26 “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship” between Iraq and the United States. This agreement has been aggressively opposed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress as not only unprecedented, but also potentially unconstitutional because it was enacted without the agreement of the legislation branch.

Today on CNN, Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) voiced concern that this declaration may indefinitely commit U.S. troops to fighting Iraq’s civil wars.

For the record, we liberals saw this one coming a mile off, which is why many of us have said you do not play with Bush on Iraq War funding, as he will thumb his nose at Congress and do whatever he wants, anyway. That is why those of us on the left, written off as “defeatocrats” and worse, have been saying all along that we need to cut off war funding. Period.

And for the record, let’s not forget that one of the major beefs that Osama Bin Laden and company had against the U.S. was our military bases in Saudi Arabia. So I really don’t see how permanent military bases in Iraq make us safer.

Unless protecting the oil supply for ExxonMobil is part of our national security. In which case, I wish they’d just come out and say it already. Quit lying to us.

And here’s another thought: if, as has been suggested in comments here that we are involved in a resource war spawned by a dying oil economy, wouldn’t it make more sense to spend our treasure on developing a new energy economy and technologies that will help us transition away from the old one, instead of killing thousands of people to control the last drops of a dying energy source?

But of course, we have a bunch of oil men in the White House. And those aren’t exactly the people who have an interest in transitioning us away from oil, are they?

We get the government we deserve. And we will be in Iraq forever until the American people demand better.


Mr. Beale and I contracted some form of viral plague in New York, so blogging has been light. However, I know the Senate had a big FISA vote yesterday, and it looks like the Senate hung together to fillibuster the thing. Glenn Greenwald has the goods.

I’m sure the Republicans will be up to their usual screetching about terrorists, but we all know this has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with protecting corporate cronies at Big Telecom. Liberals refer to it as telecom immunity, neocons as “liability protection,” but it all comes down to protecting AT&T and Verizon Wireless from scores of lawsuits because they knowingly broke the law.

Last night President Bush said we have to protect these companies that helped “defend America,” but the irony is, these telecom companies stopped “defending America” when the FBI stopped paying the bills:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.

A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI's lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation "was halted due to untimely payment," the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government's most sensitive and secretive criminal and intelligence investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

"We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence," according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

Heh. Looks like Big Telecom doesn’t care about defending America so much, since they’re all too eager to pull the plug when the bills aren’t paid. That’s patriotism for you--the free market kind.

The War On Terror is and always has been a giant farce, and telecom immunity/"liability protrection" is just another piece of theater.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Broadway

Walking up Broadway in Midtown this afternoon we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of about 50 people who were shouting: “Obama! Oh-Eight! For New York State!”

Not sure where they were headed, but I give them points for enthusiasm.

Back home in Nashville I know of a few events for the John Edwards and Hillary Clinton campaigns. Clinton is in Nashville tonight for an 8 pm campaign rally at TSU.

Edwards will be in Tennessee on Monday, starting in Chattanooga in the morning and then heading to Nashville for an afternoon campaign stop. Both events are free and open to the public:
What: Special Event with John Edwards
When: Monday, January 28, 11:15 a.m.
Where: IBEW Local 175
3922 Volunteer Drive
Chattanooga, Tennessee

What: Special Event with John Edwards
When: Monday, January 28, 1:30 p.m.
Where: Steelworkers Headquarters
3340 Perimeter Hill Drive
Nashville, Tennessee

If you can attend, please take a moment to RSVP here:

This event will be an excellent opportunity for you to see John in person -- and hear his message of change, strengthening the middle class and restoring the American dream. I hope you will let your family and friends know about this special event as well.

If I’m back from New York in time, I will be at the Edwards event in Nashville. Hope to see some of you there!

Desperate People Doing Desperate Things

Attaturk has this post up about these innocent victims of the subprime crisis:
CHICAGO (AFP) - Forget about the lost furnishings and finances, the most pitiful victims of the subprime mortgage crisis rocking the United States are the family pets.

Shelters across the country have seen sharp upticks in the number of people giving up their pets in recent months because they have been forced out of their homes.

And -- more tragically -- neighbors, police and foreclosure agents are finding increasing numbers of pets left to fend for themselves in abandoned homes.

"We're finding too many animals who have starved to death," said Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for the Human Society of the United States.

While some people dump their pets on the street, others go so far as to lock the animal in a closet where their cries for help are harder to hear, she said.

It can take weeks for an animal to starve to death and desperate scratch and bite marks are usually found on doors and windows.

"They will eat anything -- furniture, or carpet or wallboard -- to try to ingest something," Shain said in a telephone interview.

There’s nothing like an animal cruelty charge to go along with your foreclosure.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who locks their pet in a closet to muffle its cries before leaving the house for good. I can’t get there, except I know that desperate people do desperate things, and this is definitely an act of desperation. And I don’t think a check for $600 $800 can make a dent in this level of desperation.

Check out these anecdotal “statistics” from just one animal shelter in Chicago:

About 15-20 foreclosed families are now coming into the shelter every week with their pets, and police bring in two or three pets a week found abandoned in foreclosed homes.

That’s one shelter in one city. Now wrap your head around those numbers multiplied across every shelter in every city in America.

Compounding the problem is the sorry state of most animal shelters in this country, which are ill-equipped to handle the upsurge in abandoned and rescued pets that a crisis like this causes. (Tennessee should be ashamed of itself for the pathetic state of most of its county shelters, a few of which have made the news lately).

People can argue about whether this country is technically in a recession or not. But according to RealtyTrac , “one out of every 63 households nationwide” is in foreclosure. Anyone who doesn’t think this country is already in an economic mess is delusional.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Room With A View

We're in New York City this weekend, and this is the view from our window. I love it! If you can't read what it says above the X-ed out "W," it's "Fuhgeddaboudit." (Click on pic for a larger view.)

I've never understood why the "heartland" is so eager to discount the negative opinion of President Bush held by most New Yorkers, considering 9/11 was experienced by New Yorkers directly whereas for most of the rest of us, it was just a horrible movie we watched being played out on TV.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Not That There's Anything Wong With That

Obama's not Muslim, people.

Nothing is more disappointing or amazing to me than seeing a smear campaign from the far right take hold in the average American's mind. We've seen it happen over and over again, from the old Vietnam War-era chestnut of hippies spitting on troops to the modern-era version of the same story: Clinton staffers trashing the White House and ripping W's off of computer keyboards. In case you didn’t know: neither story is true.

I'm not smart enough to know how to take a fake story and sew it onto the American narrative in such a way that no one sees the stitches. But we all know it happens: look at that iconic American myth of the "Wild West," for instance. It's so far removed from the truth, yet we rewrite our own history to match the story, not the fact.

I bring this up because this week I volunteered to drive senior citizens to the polls for early voting. It’s a lot of fun, and you get to meet some interesting, wonderful people. One such person was a vibrant, vivacious lady who lives in the north part of town. All I had to say was “good morning,” and she launched into rapid-fire conversation about Nashville, the news media, politics, you name it. What a fun lady!

She was a hard-boiled Democrat, said she remembered back to “when FDR had to clean up Hoover’s mess. Every time a Republican comes into office they mess things up, and a Democrat has to clean it up and make it right.” Oh, this was a lady after my own heart!

But I was shocked when she said to me:
“You know who scares me? That Muslim-- that Obama.”

I explained to her that Obama is not Muslim, he’s a Christian. She said:

“I don’t believe it! That’s not what I read!”

Let me be clear: this was the third time a senior citizen told me Barack Obama is Muslim.

How does this happen? How does a lie become prevailing truth in the mind of an average American?

It shouldn’t matter whether Barack Obama is Muslim or not. But the sad truth is, to millions of Americans, it does (Or rather, it would). Which makes it all the more difficult to beat back the lie. Because there’s nothing wrong with being Muslim, it just so happens that Barack Obama is not. How do you fight that phantom? You lose either way.

I wonder how the Obama campaign could have tackled this smear better. Appearing with Donnie McClurken was probably a lame attempt to coddle Christian audiences, though it pissed off the GLBT crowd.

The sad reality is, the “Obama is Muslim” lie has legs. And even though it shouldn’t be, for lots of folks it’s a negative. That’s just reality. And I’m starting to wonder if it wouldn’t cost him the election, were he the nominee.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008



TN Democratic Party website and blog are back up and running.


Looks like some hackers got ahold of the Tennessee Democratic Party's website (not sure how safe this is, so click at your own risk.)

It says the site was hacked by "Lion"of DevilByteCrew, whoever that is. I'm just old enough and square enough not to understand what the point of any of these cyber shenanigans may be.

So the blog, Donkey's Mouth, is down. The site has been hacked and plays loud obnoxious rock music. And it's apparently been this way for a couple of days now. Come on, Democrats, get with the program! Have you even noticed? How can you protect us from Al Qaeda if you can't keep your site hacker-safe?

Fred Watch


Fred Thompson is out.

Ironically enough, it's too late to take him off the ballot in Tennessee, where he's a shoe-in shoo-in. So, to whom will he release his delegates? Are we thinking John McCain?

Fred Thompson has lost some key GOP supporters to Mitt Romney and John McCain today; now word is out that he is bowing out of Thursday’s GOP debate, prompting speculation that he’ll soon announce the end of his presidential campaign.

Interestingly, from a human nature perspective, I’m seeing signs on the 'net of conservative anger directed at the candidate himself.

Things like this:
"His rivals would do more in a day than Fred would do in a month," said one disaffected Thompson insider. "He created the perception, fairly or not, that he was just going through the motions."

Ouch. A post at the conservative is headlined "Why I Never Drank The Fred Thompson Kool-Aid”. And in this post at RedState (which I linked to over the weekend), the anger is palpable:

We waited with bated breath, as expected announcement date after expected announcement date passed by, with little or no action on your part. As the summer wore on, and gave itself over to autumn, though, the game became a bit less enjoyable for the rest of us.

Like the townspeople who tired of hearing the young sheepherder cry "Wolf!" over and over again when there was no such threat to his flock, those who had supported you wholeheartedly at the beginning of this process began to waver in their commitment, and the field of "FredHeads," as so many of those enthusiastic supporters called themselves, began to dwindle.


Finally, in September, you made the announcement that so many had been dying to hear in April, in May, even in July. At that point, though, it was too late for any but the most dynamic of campaigners to make up the ground lost to the rest of the field in this longest primary election in my memory.

I find this all very interesting. Democratic voters don’t tend to blame their candidates when they don’t win primaries; at least, I don’t hear anyone blaming Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards for underperforming this primary season. I DO hear lots of criticism of the media for ignoring these two candidates, and barbs at the Obama and Clinton camps for some dirty politics.

I have to wonder what’s behind the Fred anger. It seems small at the moment (though his support was small), but if it spreads, it certainly won't help Thompson land the VP slot, if it should come to that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oh, The Irony

Memo to all the folks furiously hammering their “Vote Ron Paul” and “Who Is Ron Paul” signs to every public utility pole and every square inch of public right-of-way in Davidson County: let me point out that if Libertarians had their way, you would be trespassing, because there would BE no public utility or public right of way under a Libertarian world view. Someone would own that grassy corner or utility pole and it is they, not you, who would have the say-so over the messages posted on their land.

That is all.

Clean Your Own House

There’s been a lot of discussion about bipartisanship lately; I got into a discussion (okay, mostly it was me ranting) over at Sharon Cobb’s place yesterday with someone pleading for an end to partisan divisiveness. There’s even been mention of it in comment threads here.

It’s just really hard to take these pleas for unity seriously when conservatives play the same old games and pull crap like this:
The Tennessee Republican Party has chosen this occasion to diminish Dr. King's message of peace, hope, and equality and instead use it to score political points.

From their weekly message:
It was the Democrats who fought to keep blacks in slavery and passed the discriminatory Black Codes and Jim Crow laws. The Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan to lynch and terrorize blacks. The Democrats fought to prevent the passage of every civil rights law beginning with the civil rights laws of the 1860's, and continuing with the civil rights laws of the 1950's and 1960's.


Today, Democrats, in pursuit of their socialist agenda, are fighting to keep blacks poor, angry and voting for Democrats. Examples of how egregiously Democrats act to keep blacks in poverty are numerous.

You know, liberals have been getting kicked in the teeth by an elephant for at least the past 10 years, and as the above example proves, the right is still dishing it out. This goes further back than the Clinton impeachment, and continues today with such blatant examples as Jonah Goldberg's fact-light book calling liberals and liberalism “fascist.” (And that is almost a complement compared to what Ann Coulter has said about us in her books: Godless, Slander, and Treason.) The Republicans in Congress have been more obstructionist and threatened more filibusters than in any other period in modern Congressional history (Digby wrote the definitive post on this back in December), prompting "unifiers" like Trent Lott to gloat: "The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail … and so far it’s working for us.”

Apparently when liberals defend themselves against such absurd things, it’s divisive and partisan. But doing these absurd things, well, that’s okay. I just don’t get that.

Look, I’m just as sick of living in these Divided States as the next person, but I don't think any of this is anything new. Partisan sniping has been part of politics forever. In 1952 presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson uttered one of my all-time favorite quotes on the campaign trail: "I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them."

You think a line like that comes during a campaign of unity, hugs and kisses?

People are tired of the “lack of civility” in our public discourse I get that. I’m tired of it too. But these pleas from the right for Democrats to put aside partisanship for the good of the country just sound an awful lot like “shut up!” when the GOP and its henchmen in outter wingnuttia keep dishing out the mud.

Don’t tell us not to complain "in the spirit of unity" when the Tennessee GOP calls us racists and blames us for oppressing minorities, just in time for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We have every right to be offended.

Instead, get on the phone and call the TN GOP office and tell them you don’t think it honors Dr. King’s legacy to use him as a partisan tool. Threaten to withhold donations. Tell them to cut it out, “for the good of the country.”

How does that sound? If people really want unity, if people really want an end to partisan sniping, then let each side demand it from themselves first.

Because otherwise, all you’re doing is telling the other side to shut up. And that’s not in the spirit of unity, is it?

(h/t, Tennessee Views)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bye, Bye Fred?

Fighting for a distant third in the must-win South Carolina primary must be a disappointment for Fred Thompson, and McClatchey observed the former Senator sounds close to dropping out--though for the record, the campaign says it’s still moving forward:
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson didn't drop out of the Republican presidential field after his disappointing finish in Saturday's South Carolina primary — but he sounded close to it.

About an hour after the polls closed, Thompson addressed a ballroom in a college student union, an event that featured as many students enjoying free beer as it did hardcore Thompson supporters. He delivered a lengthy soliloquy, speaking in the past tense about "clear conservatism," the cornerstone of his campaign.

A surefire way to draw a crowd to your event is to stage it in a student union and offer free beer (and excuse me, but what university in South Carolina doesn’t have a no-alcohol rule?). Reminds me of the college rock band that named itself “Free Beer” to draw bigger crowds.

Anyway, despite what the campaign says, the folks at RedState have stuck a fork in Fred:

Though South Carolina may not even be the official final nail in the coffin of your candidacy, for those who took the realistic view -- unencumbered by their support of your bid for office -- the proverbial handwriting had long since been on the wall. After the third-place Iowa finish, there still may have been hope, even though your assured place among the frontrunners had been taken by another out-of-nowhere candidate, Mike Huckabee. However, after the abysmal performances in New Hampshire and Wyoming -- not to mention Michigan and, today, Nevada -- it became abundantly clear that any talk of Fred Thompson, Republican Nominee for President was, at best, a non-starter.

So, as the results come back in South Carolina, with exit polls showing it a McCain-Huckabee race with Thompson a nonfactor, it seems to be as good a time as any to thank you profusely for your time and for your ideas, to wish you luck in all of your future endeavors, and to turn out the lights once and for all on the Fred Thompson for President experiment.

Sorry, Tennessee Republicans. I know this is a huge disappointment to you. The folks at RedState blame the candidate himself:

Unfortunately, the campaign itself never came together. Despite the fact that it was built around the people's chosen White Knight candidate, and around the most solid slate of conservative ideas in the race, the Fred Thompson for President campaign suffered from being one of the most lackluster, disorganized, and uninspired electoral efforts that I can remember. For whatever reason, you as the candidate never quite took the ownership of your own campaign that was necessary to make it successful -- and, as a result, it foundered before ever really getting out of the harbor.

Indeed, this was the huge flaw in the Fred Thompson candidacy that gave liberals so much comedy gold from the beginning. Folks, when picking future GOP stars, make sure the candidate likes politics. Everyone knows Fred Thompson hates politics and hates campaigning--he’s made no secret of that since he was a Senator--and yet, for some reason felt he should be anointed POTUS anyway. You have to work for these things, Senator. No one hands you the reins of power on a silver platter.

Just as you can’t expect someone who doesn’t believe in government to govern well, you can’t expect someone who doesn’t like politics to run an effective campaign.

Anyway, I’m sure a lot of Tennessee conservatives are in mourning today, possibly even deep denial. As I posted last week, it's hard out there for a Fred Thompson supporter.

Sorry, folks. It's over. Stick a fork in him, he's done.

(For more on this, read Newscoma's excellent post.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's All My Husband's Fault

He's been humming this song for three days now, which I think should be grounds for divorce:

Friday, January 18, 2008

More Brilliant Ideas!

ACK at Volunteer Voters links to this proposed piece of legislation coming out of Kentucky:
Bill Would Require Women To See Ultrasound Before Abortion

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Women seeking an abortion would first have to undergo an ultrasound under a new bill proposed in Kentucky.


The new bill would make it mandatory for doctors to perform ultrasounds on a woman seeking an abortion, provide an explanation of the results and provide the ultrasound images to the pregnant woman and review them with her.

“I want to make sure women understand fully what is happening if they get an opportunity to see the little fingers and toes of the baby that they're thinking about aborting,” said Sen. Jack Westwood, R-Crescent Springs.

Thank you, Sen. Westwood! Your assertion that women have no clue what is happening inside their own bodies is stunningly patronizing!

Forget the logistics of such a bill, the fact that it places yet another economic roadblock before women seeking a safe, legal abortion.

Forget the irony that Sen. Westwood decries “government intrusion into the private lives of families” on his website.

I just can’t get past the arrogance such a bill reveals. That a state Senator would just assume that he knows what’s going on in women’s minds as they make this decision. It’s just stunning in its condescension.

So here’s my idea. How about we make visual aids a requirement for all sorts of things? How about before we vote on the next war funding bill we make our representatives in Congress look at pictures of the wounded and war dead?

On a state level, before Sen. Westwood votes to cut funding for social services programs, how about forcing him to look at pictures of the kids and elderly who will be affected? How about forcing state legislators to look at pictures of environmental damage caused by the coal industry in eastern Kentucky?

I can see all sorts of benefits to such a plan. What do you think, Sen. Westwood? Fair's fair, right?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chris Matthews: "I'm Sorrreeeee"

Chris Matthews' serial misogyny sparked outrage among women's groups and women in general, to the point where even the National Women's Political Caucus staged a rally outside NBC's Washington office today. Leaders of women's groups sent NBC President Steve Capus a letter, and then there was the deluge of viewer mail.

The result: Chris Matthews is very sorry! Really! Not for all his leering at women guests and condescending attitude toward powerful women, but for dissing Hillary Clinton. Well, it's a start:

(h/t, Digby)

Draft Lou Dobbs!

Well, this was inevitable. Following the collapse tremendous success that made the very existence of Unity 08 no longer necessary, the 2008 election needed fresh comedy gold. And where better to look than the immigrant-hating populist with the polo ponies, CNN’s own Lou Dobbs.

Yes, the Draft Lou Dobbs campaign is off and running, brought to you by ALIPAC (Americans for Legal Immigration PAC):
Lou Dobbs is right about the issues concerning illegal immigration, no AMNESTY, and secure borders! Lou Dobbs is right about our deplorable trade agreements and the war on middle class America. Lou Dobbs is right about the rising military threat from communist China!

Lou Dobbs does not want to run for President and does not consider himself a politician. Sometimes, history demands that good people do what someone must do!

Okie dokie.

If you’re interested, check out their platform. Oh wait, don’t bother, since they say, “Only Lou Dobbs could tell us what his campaign platform would be, but those of us that are fans can tell what many of Lou's top issues are on the show. ”

You people realize that Lou Dobbs is a television personality, right? Kinda how Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and Stephen Colbert are personalities?

Sigh. Never mind.

Draft Lou Dobbs really does read more like a fan site than a serious political effort. CNN claims ALIPAC president William Gheen said the group has “over 25,000 active supporters” for Dobbs but the Draft Lou Dobbs site shows they’re still a little short of that: they’ve registered 1,239 supporters who have pledged $171,603 as of this writing.

One of them is me. Because, you know, the kabuki theater that is the 2008 election just isn’t bizarre enough. I think we need the rantings of a phony populist like Lou Dobbs, who makes up statistics about leprosy just for the entertainment value.

Go, Lou Dobbs, go!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Please Help, Don't Shop Redux

Though it's only slightly related to the new anti-pandhandling ordinance passed by the Metro Council this week, I've noticed Google is directing folks over here anyway (ah, the benefits of Sitemeter!). Must be the post I wrote last summer related to "Please Help, Don't Give," an anti-panhandling campaign spearheaded by local downtown merchants last summer.

I wrote of my strong moral objection to this campaign at the time. I hold this opinion today.

Let me just say that the problem of panhandlers, "vagrants" and homeless people congregating around downtown is the predictable result of poor planning, poor social services, and Chamber of Commerce, pro-business, pro-development cheerleaders who never saw a highrise they didn't like, but never bothered to consider what will happen to all the folks these new developments displaced. Everyone is to blame for this: the greedy developers, Mayor Purcell, the Metro Council, and the Downtown Business Partnership (and by the way, who exactly are you people "partnering" with, anyway? I've never figured that out.)

Now that the housing boom which has caused this flurry of development has gone belly-up, I predict we will be looking at a glut of fancy, high-priced, high rise downtown living. We will be in the unenviable position of having a lot of glittering new empty buildings, and a lot of people left homeless who can't afford these pricey palaces.

Way to go, folks.

Heckuva Job, Zelly!

Proving yet again that Neocons will screw up boiling a pot of water, Robert Zoellick’s World Bank is mired ijn unprecedented corruption with its Indian projects:
• In the $54 million "Food and Drug Capacity Building Project," for which money is still being disbursed, the INT found "questionable procurement practices, some of which indicate fraud and corruption, in contracts representing 87 percent of the number of pieces and 88 percent of the total value of equipment procured." That is nearly $9 of every $10 in aid funds.
• For the $194 million "Second National AIDS Control Project," the INT discovered that "some of the test kits supplied by particular companies often performed poorly by producing erroneous or invalid results, potentially resulting in the further spread of disease."
• In the $114 million "Malaria Control Project," the review found "numerous indicators of poor product quality in the bed nets supplied by the firms." And in the $125 million "Tuberculosis Control Project," the INT discovered "bidders sharing the same address and telephone numbers, unit prices showing a common formula, and indicators of intent to split contract awards among several bidders."
• After visiting 55 hospitals connected to the bank's $82 million "Orissa Health Systems Development Project" (Orissa is one of India's poorest states), INT investigators found "uninitiated and uncompleted work, severely leaking roofs, crumbling ceilings, molding walls, and non-functional water, sewage, and/or electrical systems." It also found "neonatal equipment that lacked adequate electrical grounding, potentially exposing babies and their medical staff to electrical shocks."

No one could have anticipated this!!! Well, almost no one! I questioned Pres. Bush’s pick of Zoellick back in May, when he was named to replace Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. Wolfowitz, if you remember, was forced out after an embarassing scandal involving his girlfriend.

No one could have anticipated that, either!!

The truth is, the Bushies have always looked down on international bodies like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the UN. Anything that smacks of a cooperative effort by wealthy nations to aid developing countries--you know, all that icky Socialist-sounding stuff left over from the post-WWII era--has received nothing but scorn from the Bush Administration. Predictably, such organizations have been the ideal pasture for their inconvenient Neocon loyalists. Hey, why not? No one pays attention to what’s going on at these places, anyway. If a Neocon or his girlfriend or an important western corporation gets rich in the process, so much the better!

There’s simply no respect for the mission of these organizations, so why not put a crony in the top post? Who cares if there’s a misuse of funds?

I have a lot of problems with the World Bank, don’t get me wrong; for one thing, more often than not their loans support projects that will benefit Western businesses, not the local communities. But putting a corporate Neocon crony in charge doesn’t really solve that problem, does it? Indeed, it simply ensures the problem will continue.

And that, of course, was the entire point all along.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's Hard Out There For A Fred

... A Fred Thompson supporter, that is! Near as I can tell, the only people still pushing for Fred Thompson are Tennessee Republicans and wingnut bloggers like Michelle Malkin and JimRob of the Freeper brigade.

Haven't you folks heard that "change" is the new buzzword? But with Mary Matalin and Liz Cheney on your campaign staff, good luck selling the "I stand for change" message. It's just more of the same.

(Thanks to Watertiger at Dependable Renegade for the pic!)

Zetia: NOT Right For You

A few months ago I heard one of the Air America morning folks say that cholesterol-lowering drugs are just another Big Pharma boondoggle. I was shocked, I mean, we all know cholesterol causes heart disease, right? So lowering cholesterol has to be a good thing, right?

We’ve all been such chumps:
A clinical trial of Zetia, a cholesterol-lowering drug prescribed to about 1 million people a week, failed to show that the drug has any medical benefits, Merck and Schering-Plough said on Monday.

The results will add to the growing concern over Zetia and Vytorin, a drug that combines Zetia with another cholesterol medicine in a single pill. About 60 percent of patients who take Zetia do so in the form of Vytorin, which combines Zetia with the cholesterol drug Zocor.

While Zetia lowers cholesterol by 15 percent to 20 percent in most patients, no trial has ever shown that it can reduce heart attacks and strokes — or even that it reduces the growth of the fatty plaques in arteries that can cause heart problems.

This trial was designed to show that Zetia could reduce the growth of those plaques. Instead, the plaques actually grew almost twice as fast in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor than in those taking Zocor alone.

Well, at least Merck and Schering-Plough rushed these results out to the public, I mean, goodness, this article says the drugs cost $3 a day -- that’s over $1,000 a year, a considerable sum for some people.

Not so fast:

Merck and Schering-Plough completed the trial in April 2006 and had initially planned to release the findings no later than March 2007. But the companies then missed several self-imposed deadlines, citing the complexity of the data analysis from the study and saying they did not know when or if the data would be ready for publication.

Last month, after several news articles highlighted the delay, they finally agreed to release the results soon.

Well, no one could have anticipated that. 70 percent of Schering’s earnings come from this drug, I’m sure they were eager to rush news of it’s uselessness to the market.

I’ve been really concerned about the increasingly lax clinical trials and approval procedure at the FDA. Some of these drugs may even be dangerous. They don’t fix the problem they’re supposed to, and yet they account for billions of dollars in sales. And the media won’t tell us this information because geez, have you turned on a television lately? Pharmaceutical ads are just about all there is anymore. Big Pharma is keeping the mainstream media flush.

Someone needs to take a fresh look at the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry, And it’s not going to be a big business GOPer or a Democrat taking campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical lobby.

It’s going to take someone who cares more about people than corporations.

Now, who would that be, I wonder?

Monday, January 14, 2008

I’ve Heard Of Crappy Jobs But This Is Ridiculous

This one’s for you office workers who might have the Monday blues today.

One of last week’s overlooked stories concerns a Merrill Lynch employee who reacted rather strongly to news that he wouldn’t be getting his expected bonus:
It's fast becoming the Wall Street equivalent of an urban legend. Here’s what didn’t happen: a guy did not urinate on his desk because he was “pissed off.” The real story is so much worse.

In the first place, it wasn’t piss. It was shit. DealBreaker can confirm this much. After that the details get a bit fuzzy. The way we first heard it is that a guy took a dump in the rest room, stomped in it, and then dragged it all over the place by walking around with it on his shoes. Merrill’s story is that there was “an unfortunate accident” in one of the stalls—which we take to mean that some guy smeared his shit all over the bathroom because how the Hell could you miss the toilet—and that another person inadvertently stepped in it and tracked it all over.

And you thought your workplace sucked.

My Kind Of Awards Show

Yay! Finally, an awards show I can almost tolerate. Thanks to the Writer’s Guild strike, the Golden Globes were axed and instead replaced by 30 minutes of people reading a list of winners--surely a “record for award-show brevity,” says the San Jose Mercury News.

Would that they could all be that way. No lame dance routines, cheesy film montages or dorky acceptance speeches from actors thanking their agents. All they needed was a fashion show starring Keira Knightly and George Clooney and it would have been perfect.

No, I didn’t watch it. I was at the hockey game, of course.

I hate awards shows. I think they’re patently stupid. I’ve sat through more than my fair share of CMA’s, ACM’s and Grammys as an audience member, and let me tell you: without the benefit of a bowl of popcorn and the remote control, the evening is excrutiating.

The Grammys are the worst. Hours of self-congratulatory snores as the industry awards the Best Salsa Performance By A Redhead On A Tuesday. Come on, Recording Academy, do you really need to award every musical genre imaginable--and broadcast a smattering of them to boot? No one cares about that classical stuff and most people don’t know the difference between Banda, Norteno, Mexican American and Tejano musical styles. Plus, don’t you have a Latin Grammy show to address that stuff, anyway?

The only awards show worth watching is the Oscars and the only reason to watch that is to see beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes.

The real reason I hate awards shows is that they're simply glorified advertisements, and as everyone knows, I hate being marketed to in such a dishonest way.

Awards shows have become very popular with the entertainment industry as a way to promote their product to a national audience. So they've basically become elaborate sales pitches for CDs and movies, and big advertising generators for the networks that carry them -- the actual “awards” are beside the point, selling advertising and giving artists exposure is the goal. That’s pretty much the point of the MTV Movie Awards, the CMT Awards (remember the “Flame Worthy” Awards? Agh.), the Billboard Music Awards, the Teen Choice Awards, the American Music Awards, MTV Video Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, the Kids Choice Awards, etc. etc. I can’t imagine enough people watch this crap to make staging these shows worthwhile, but apparently they do.

Anyway, Sharon Cobb has the list of Golden Globe winners, for those of you interested. If you read it with a copy of InStyle magazine in hand, it will almost be like a real awards show.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rude People Suck

To the people who thought it would be a good idea to bring your infant to the 4:30 showing of Atonement at Regal Green Hills on Saturday: fuck you.

I guess you thought the baby would sleep through the movie. Well, guess what: it didn’t. It was fussy and disruptive throughout the entire film, most annoyingly at the very end when Vanessa Redgrave, playing Older Briony, makes the film’s Big Reveal.

So thanks to you and your child, we missed most of the film’s climax. I guess you didn’t want to miss it either, since you let your baby cry in the theater, instead of taking it out of the auditorium until it settled down. Again: fuck you.

How unbelievably, incomprehensibly rude of you.

I guess it never occurred to you that there might be 150 other people trying to watch the film, too. In fact, concern about those other people was the only thing preventing me from yelling “get a baby-sitter!” from my seat 15 rows behind you.

You know, I hate to break it to you, but having a baby means you might have to make sacrifices. It means not going out to see the hot new movie everyone is talking about whenever you want; you just might have to wait for the DVD. This might come as a shock to you but guess what: your world now revolves around your child. That was the choice you made when you decided to have this child. And I don’t appreciate you including me in that choice.

I’ve seen you people in the future. Two couples just like you brought four toddlers to Mafiozas and proceeded to drown out their screams with wine and beer while the rest of us in the restaurant tried to have our dinner. We watched as your children threw their food-filled plates on the floor, while you did absolutely nothing save order another round of drinks. Whoever you are: fuck you, too.

That is all.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

IOKIYAR, Local Edition

Oh, hypocrisy thy name is Republican!

We all know that GOP moneybags Lee Beaman is financing the Oak Hill WATB’s fighting Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen’s “conservation hall” project. I wrote about it back in December, when it became apparent to anyone with half a brain that this was just another case of TN GOP partisan poo-flinging. This project has little relevance outside the wealthy and privileged neighborhood NIMBYs affected by construction noise, specifically blasting to build the underground facility. But let’s get real here: someone at the TN GOP has their eye on the governor’s seat, and thinks they can turn this into a statewide smear.

Personally, I just don't think we’re that dumb here in Tennessee.

I hope.

Anyway, funny story: turns out Mr. Beaman dynamited when constructing his own house in nearby Forest Hills. Oh, snap! From the Nashville Scene:
It turns out that Lee Beaman, the zillionaire businessman who’s leading neighbors fighting “Bredesen’s Bunker” partly to prevent blasting for the gigantic underground banquet hall at the governor’s mansion, isn’t opposed to dynamiting at his own house. Beaman blasted away last year for the home he’s building in ritzy Forest Hills, but denies any hypocrisy.

“My concern with the governor’s project is not the blasting,” Beaman tells the Scene by cell phone from the ski slopes of Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he’s vacationing. “That doesn’t bother me at all. It’s the inappropriate use of taxpayer money. I’ve never taken issue with the blasting.”

Maybe not, but other of the governor’s Oak Hill neighbors, including Beaman’s wife Kelley, have made blasting one of their major complaints during raucous public meetings on the bunker—at times verging on the hysterical on that topic, in fact. Blasting is supposed to last two months in the otherwise quiet neighborhood, and contractors haven’t reassured anyone by promising to blow a horn whenever the dynamite’s fuse is about to be lighted, presumably so residents can cover their ears.

“I find it arrogant for you to come in one month before you are going to start blasting and say this is what we are going to do,” Kelley Beaman scolded state officials at one meeting.

One resident, Lorelee Gawaluck, fretted aloud that dynamiting might damage the tender young minds of neighborhood kids. “Are they going to send in a psychologist to tell us how to prepare our children?” she demanded to know.

Oh, get over yourselves. A psychologist? Yeah, just like Belmont University dispatched psychologists to help citizens cope during construction of the Curb Events Center--NOT!!!! (A project, I might add, named for and financed by another major GOP moneybags, Mike Curb).

Anyway, these Oak Hill people sound like the worst group of whiners. Try living in Green Hills for the past 10 years, where massive construction projects have sprouted on every corner. We’ve had plenty of blasting going on--one right next door to my house, thank you--and a lot of these Oak Hill folks got rich off of it. So now they’re worried about the blasting when it’s in their neighborhood? Oh, whaaah! Welcome to (pun intended) boomtown! They've been blasting around my street for years. We survived. So will you--your lots are at least five times as big as mine.

Grow up, already.

And as for the Beamans, who are happy to finance a smear of the Democratic governor while blasting away on their own residential construction project, no one buys your lame "think of the taxpayers!" screeching. The project will be financed by private donations. You know, like the kind you made to smear John Kerry's war record.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Stop The Inanity

President Bush continues to embarrass and humiliate us with stupidity like this:
President George W Bush has said that America should have bombed the Nazi death camp Auschwitz during the Second World War.

The comment, which Mr Bush reportedly made to his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a visit to Israel's Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, appeared to be the first acknowledgement by an American president of failure to strike Nazi death camps.

Let that one settle in for a moment. Let's stop the killing by bombing the place to smithereens. Now, how exactly is that supposed to work?

Perhaps, as one commenter at Eschaton noted, he thinks we have "Kill-Only-Bad-Guys" bombs.

A perfect example of Baruch's Law: "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

We have got to get these people out of the White House NOW. And never let them near the reins of power again.

I'm Wearing Orange Today

And so should you! Here's why:
JANUARY 11, 2008, is the six-year anniversary of the first arrival of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

On January 11, we are calling on everyone opposed to torture and indefinite detention to WEAR ORANGE to symbolize their sadness and disgust with the national shame that is Guantánamo Bay.

There will also be rallies, protests, and candlelight vigils all across the country today, which I'm sure our "liberal" media will refuse to cover, just as they always do. I guess they think, like the SoCal bureau of the Associated Press, that Brittney Spears is more important.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tired Of People Who Are Tired Of It

I rarely discuss the insane ramblings going on in the local blogosphere here, but when someone writes something this stupid, I have to speak out.

Case in point is this nonsense from local conservative Glen Dean:
Meanwhile, the Guerilla Women use the term misogyny in the title of a post to describe anybody that doesn’t bow at the altar of Billary. I am so sick of seeing that word. It’s like a new word that everybody learned and can’t wait to type themselves. It reminds me of the time bloggers started using the word xenophobe to describe anybody opposed to current immigration policy. The ladies at TGW seem to even be accusing Maureen Dowd of being anti-woman. Good grief.

First of all, Glen, you need to read more. Just because a word is new to you, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been used for decades to describe something very real. I first learned the word “misogyny” when it was used to describe the late comedian Andy Kaufman--you know, the guy who used to challenge women to wrestling matches. I think he started doing that back in 1979, when I was 17.

Anyway, I’m sorry Glen Dean is tired of misogyny. Oh, the poor dear. Those big long words, with all those funny “y”’s where vowels should be. It’s hard to type, and it’s got that awkward “gyny” thing in there, which makes one think of the wife’s trips to the ob/gyn. Ewwwww., icky!

But you know what? I’m tired of experiencing it. I’m tired of seeing it on TV every night, spewed from the mouth of Chris Matthews as he attacks Hillary Clinton for her cleavage, her pantsuits, her “tears.” I’m tired of seeing this crap presented as some kind of joke, or radio jerks shouting “iron my shirt.” I don’t find it funny.

I don’t expect the Glen Deans of the world to get it; they seem allergic to the concept of putting themselves in anothers’ shoes for five minutes.

We have come a long way--but we still have a long way to go.

And quit calling me “baby.”

More Blackwater Dirty Tricks

Stuck in traffic? In a hurry? Next time the busy sidewalks and roads at the Hill Center get you in a tizzy, why not move through the traffic the Blackwater USA way: with teargas!
Suddenly, on that May day in 2005, the copter dropped CS gas, a riot-control substance the American military in Iraq can use only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of top military commanders. An armored vehicle on the ground also released the gas, temporarily blinding drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating the checkpoint.

[ ... ]

Both the helicopter and the vehicle involved in the incident at the Assassins’ Gate checkpoint were not from the United States military, but were part of a convoy operated by Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor that is under scrutiny for its role in a series of violent episodes in Iraq, including a September shooting in downtown Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead.

[ ... ]

Officers and noncommissioned officers from the Third Infantry Division who were involved in the episode said there were no signs of violence at the checkpoint. Instead, they said, the Blackwater convoy appeared to be stuck in traffic and may have been trying to use the riot-control agent as a way to clear a path.

And we wonder why they hate us.

Meanwhile, over at ThinkProgress comes the news that Blackwater has hired yet another D.C. lobbying firm--their third since October.

You know, maybe if Blackwater didn’t act like such irresponsible bullies, they might not need to spend so much money on lobbyists. Just a thought.

(h/t, Cab Drollery)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

No One Could Have Anticipated This! No, Really!

The Davidson County Election Commission burglary has had repercussions:
A private security firm didn't cover a vulnerable Nashville government building on Saturdays for months — but did send the city a bill for its services, according to a government audit.

Gosh, where have we heard that one before? Oh yeah, here:

A Halliburton subsidiary agreed to pay the government $8 million to resolve accusations of overbilling related to the firm's work for the Army in the Balkans, the Justice Department said yesterday.

And here:

U.S. Protection and Investigations, a private security firm working for the State Department in Afghanistan, “is accused of overbilling the U.S. government by charging for nonexistent employees and vehicles.” The overbilling “could add up to millions of dollars,” an American security official with close ties to the company told the AP.

And here:

The federal government is investigating possible price gouging and corruption by food companies that supply meals to U.S. troops in Iraq. Marketplace's John Dimsdale talks to Alex Cohen about the deals made between the Pentagon's key vendor and firms, including Perdue Farms and Sara Lee.

We still haven’t learned the lesson:

Halliburton Co. repeatedly overcharged the government and exhibited "profound systemic problems" under a $1.2 billion contract to restore oil services in Iraq, according to internal government documents released yesterday by one of the company's fiercest critics.

And here’s an oldie but a doozey, with a local angle:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - HCA Inc. (formerly known as Columbia/HCA and HCA - The Healthcare Company) has agreed to pay the United States $631 million in civil penalties and damages arising from false claims the government alleged it submitted to Medicare and other federal health programs, the Justice Department announced today.

This settlement marks the conclusion of the most comprehensive health care fraud investigation ever undertaken by the Justice Department, working with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Defense, the Office of Personnel Management and the states. The settlement announced today resolves HCA's civil liability for false claims resulting from a variety of allegedly unlawful practices, including cost report fraud and the payment of kickbacks to physicians.

Want more? No?

Look, I’m as big a fan of private enterprise as the next person, but can we dispense with the notion that profit-oriented private companies can somehow do government work better, cheaper, more honestly, or more efficiently than the government can? Their goal is to make a profit. I’m not saying there aren’t circumstances where hiring a private contractor doesn't makes sense, but this whole trend under the Bush Administration of privatizing the government is costing taxpayers billions of dollars in “waste, fraud and abuse.” The only folks who come out winners in these relationships are the contractors themselves.

Conservatives act like privatization is some kind of magic wand that will instantly save taxpayers money, remove red tape and do all sorts of other shiny, sparkly, wonderful things. This is bunk. It's just as wasteful as letting government do these jobs, and often there's less transparency and accountability. I mean, my God, why the hell are we still doing business with Halliburton? Oh, right. Forget I asked.

And now this privatization trend has trickled down to state and local governments--surprise surprise--so has the fraud, abuse and waste.

No one could have anticipated that!

Monday, January 7, 2008


Another one bites the dust.

Yesterday’s New York Times carried a story about the purchase of Burt’s Bee’s by Clorox. Burt’s Bee’s is the company that makes natural, eco-friendly body products (I love the Milk & Honey body lotion and lemon cuticle butter myself). And now Clorox has bought the entire company.

This is happening with increasing frequency, and it’s easy to see why. Consumers have shown they care about how their food and body products are made. Consumers will pay more for healthy, organic products that are manufactured without abusing workers or the environment. Corporate America got the message: “green” is in, “sustainability” and “eco-friendly” are the new buzzwords.

And corporations like Clorox have decided the best way to get their “green” bonafides is to buy an independent company like Burt’s Bee’s, rather than changing how they do business themselves.

More often than not, there’s no indication that the wholesome product you’re buying has a big nasty corporate parent--and that’s no accident. It’s called “greenwashing,” and Clorox isn’t the only one getting on board. Last year, Colgate bought 84% of Tom’s of Maine, the company known for its organic toothpaste, deodorant and mouthwash. In 2001, Coca Cola purchased Odwalla, the organic juice company. Nothing beats Odwalla limeade on a hot summer day, in my book. In 2003, Group Danone, the French company that owns Evian and Volvic waters, among other things, purchased controlling interest in Stonyfield Farm/Brown Cow, the organic dairy. If you’ve never had Brown Cow cream-top vanilla yogurt, you are in for a treat--it’s more delicious than a pint of Haggen-Dazs.

Yes, globalization and corporatization have come to the natural foods store. (An interesting diagram of who owns what can be found here.) Much as I love these brands, this all makes me a little sad. Because one of the reasons I buy this stuff, aside from the fact that they are wonderful products, is that I try to be a socially responsible consumer. Whenever possible, I try to spend my money with companies that don’t abuse their workers or the environment, whose corporate philosophy reflects my ideals of social justice and environmental responsibility.

After all, it’s supposed to be the consumers’ voice in this “free market economy,” right? Aren’t we supposed to be able to vote with our wallets? But it doesn’t work when a big corporation known for human rights abuses in Third World countries (cough*cough*CHIQUITA BRANDS*cough*cough) gobbles up my nice little eco-friendly independent company. It’s not illegal, or course, but it really sucks. The consumers’ voice just got muzzled by a corporate King Kong.

Now, some folks will argue that when Clorox sees how profitable it is to be wholesome and green from their Burt’s Bee’s division, they’ll change their own practices. But that isn’t traditionally the way these stories have played out. Take a look at the case of Horizon Organic dairy and Silk soy milk. Both are now owned by Dean Foods, the country’s largest processor and distributor of dairy products. Horizon, part of Dean’s “WhiteWave” division, now passes off operations like an 8,000 head industrial dairy as organic, despite complaints that they don’t meet the legal requirements for an organic dairy farm. Meanwhile, Dean’s “Silk” and “White Wave” brands of soy milk use soy beans from Brazil and China, countries with specious environmental and human rights records. I mean, come on, China? Yeah, I tried to boycott China, too--for about five minutes. Good luck with that.

I don’t have any answers; I’m not suggesting that there oughta be a law or any such thing. I’m mostly just trying to raise awareness here. And point out what utter bullshit the whole “free hand of the market” concept is, when corporate behemoths barge their way into whatever market they want, often hiding their tracks to keep consumers in the dark. "Free hand," indeed.

I guess the answer is for me to do without Odwalla limeade and Brown Cow vanilla yogurt and Burt’s Bee’s Milk & Honey body lotion and all of the other things that make life so enjoyable. I guess I can do that.

But I’m not giving up toothpaste. No way.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Outsourcing Elections

I’ve made no bones about how I feel about electronic touch-screen voting. I don’t trust it, I don’t want it, and I don’t understand why we have to have it.

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine has an excellent, albeit alarming. article about the problems with touch screen voting. It’s long, but it’s a thorough and comprehensive overview of the issue.

By now, most of us on the blogopshere have heard about the undercounts and switched votes, vulnerability to hacking and the election-night crashes. Etcetera. Etcetera. But about halfway through this article, author Clive Thompson gets to the really scary part of this issue:
This has created an environment, critics maintain, in which the people who make and sell machines are now central to running elections. Elections officials simply do not know enough about how the machines work to maintain or fix them. When a machine crashes or behaves erratically on Election Day, many county elections officials must rely on the vendors — accepting their assurances that the problem is fixed and, crucially, that no votes were altered.

In essence, elections now face a similar outsourcing issue to that seen in the Iraq war, where the government has ceded so many core military responsibilities to firms like Halliburton and Blackwater that Washington can no longer fire the contractor. Vendors do not merely sell machines to elections departments. In many cases, they are also paid to train poll workers, design ballots and repair broken machines, for years on end.

“This is a crazy world,” complained Ion Sancho, the elections supervisor of Leon County in Florida. “The process is so under control by the vendor. The primary source of information comes only from the vendor, and the vendor has a conflict of interest in telling you the truth. The vendor isn’t going to tell me that his buggy software is why I can’t get the right time on my audit logs.”

There you have it. The vendor has a conflict of interest in telling you the truth. This is why I want the “free hand of the market” out of my elections. Touch-screen voting is complicated, it’s high-tech and requires computer literacy to fix bugs and crashed machines. It requires an expertise beyond the ken of most poll workers, who are senior citizens. But even the tech-savvy can’t handle the problems that have been experienced with this equipment. The manufacturer has to fix these problems. But voting machine manufacturers have a political agenda, just like any business owner will.

Why are we ceding control of our elections to the companies that make the voting machines? This is no small thing. People have died for the right to vote in this country. And we’re just giving it away to some corporation? Why?

One of my conservative readers, responding to an earlier post on this issue, observed, “I'd just as soon everybody mark their choices on serialized paper ballots and count them by hand, even if we have to wait a week to find out who won.” I actually agree. I don’t think it will take that long, but I’d rather it be late, and accurate vs. fast and wrong. It’s just too important.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Graffiti Saturday

I can't remember where I saw this but it seems an apt representation of certain corners of the local blogosphere. Just sayin' ...

Friday, January 4, 2008

This Doesn’t Smell Right

Last night, NBC Nightly News aired Lisa Meyers’ story on identity theft (video clip here). The piece talks about how state and county governments make identity theft easy by making personal information like Social Security numbers readily available.

I daresay none of them make it as easy as the Davidson County Election Commission, which apparently just hands out laptops containing unencrypted personal information on every registered voter in the county. (Last night WSMV’s Dan Miller reminded us that information on every Davidson County voter was stolen--including Vince Gill and Gov. Bredesen. Oh, my. Because, you know, it’s not like anyone knows who they are.)


Anyway, there’s just so much that’s not right about this story. Coverage from The Tennessean, WSMV, Nashville City Paper, and other local news outlets have revealed some rather implausible patterns that make me question the “just thieves looking for computers to steal” story:

• In a breach of protocol, all 81 laptops were locked up, save two.
• Those two computers’ hard drives were not encrypted.
• Passwords and user IDs were taped to the computers.
• The digital video recording system providing surveillance of the Election Commission office had been unplugged well before the break-in.
• The incident occured on a long holiday weekend, when security is provided just part-time.
• The security guard on duty (since fired), “listened to Christmas music, ordered food and visited the break room, failing to make his hourly rounds.”
• This all happened one month before our presidential primary, and eleven months before our presidential election.

I’m glad the security guard was fired, but I want them to aim a little higher as far as accountability goes. I’m thinking Election Administrator Ray Barrett should be dusting off his resume right now. I understand Barrett started his Election Commission career working in the warehouse that stores all of the county's voting machines. You’d think he’d know something about security.

As I’ve written before, if anyone wants to hack our elections we have no back-up. No paper trail, no way of recounting votes, except to ask a computer to spit out its data again. If you’re worried about hacked computers, and the ES&S iVotronic has proven to be vulnerable, then this is not reassuring.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Musings On $100/Barrel

Those futures traders are so cute! It’s just like playing Monopoly:
Crude oil futures for February delivery hit $100 on the New York Mercantile Exchange shortly after noon when a single trader bid up the price by buying a modest lot and then sold it immediately at a small loss. Prices eased somewhat in later trading, settling at $99.62.

But while the trader was apparently looking for vanity bragging rights, the spike in crude prices of $3.64 for the day reflected deeper worldwide trends, including the surge in energy demand from China, India and the oil-producing countries themselves.

Aww. Bless his/her heart! I tell ya, that’s one for the grandkids, alright! Or maybe, one for eBay:

Of the trader who sent oil to $100 in New York on Wednesday, Mr. Gheit added, “He’s probably going to frame the ticket and sell it on eBay for $100,000.”

Sure, why not? It’s not like this stuff matters, or anything. It’s not like what happens on the New York Mercantile Exchange has any effect on real people. It’s all fake, right? Free hand of the market, wheee!

Am I the only one thinking these Wall Street folks are as out of touch as the Washington press corps?

Anyway, those annoying Henny Pennies over at Peak Oil have been sending me dire “How to survive $100/Barrel” screeds for months. Now that it’s actually here, I thought I’d see what they have to say:

$100 oil in itself is no big deal - its 1% higher than $99 oil. But it serves as a milestone reminder that the future is likely to be less 'easy', and perhaps dictated by new rules. Questions abound: will high prices bring about more production? Will high prices begin a "hoarding" phenomenon among exporters and producers? Will $100+ oil spur energy alternatives with the scale and quality of energy dense crude oil? Is this even possible? Will society start to realize the dichotomy between natural capital and financial capital? Will $100 oil reduce demand in developing countries? Will OECD oil-importing countries (like the US) take the lead on changing the cultural carrot of consumption that drives energy use?

That last question is the biggie. That “cultural carrot of consumption” keeps our economy afloat. Everything is predicated on getting people to buy an increasing amount of stuff, and the juice driving this engine is oil. As people pay more for oil, they’ll buy less stuff.

If we had half a brain we’d be preparing for this bumpy road, maybe figuring out how to use less oil and investing some serious time and money into non-carbon fuels, the ballyhooed “Apollo project for energy.” That would be nice but it won’t happen. Because our government is run by the oil companies, and they have no interest in transitioning the economy away from a centralized resource they control from oil field to gas pump to an energy source that everyone has access to, like wind, solar or even biofuels.

Because we’re about to get our asses kicked in a hellacious recession, which means oil prices will stabilize, temporarily, as we go into panic mode. By then we'll be thinking $80/barrel is a steal, in the same way that I filled up on $2.86/gallon this morning and fleetingly thought it was a bargain.

And then things get worse:

There is absolutely no reason why oil will stay at $100 a barrel or anything close.

To emphasize how well the world’s economy is doing at the minute, the Journal points out that the IEA in Paris sees world oil demand in the fourth quarter rising by 2.3 million b/d over last year to nearly 88 million b/d.

What they don’t tell you, however, is that in August 2007 world production (all liquids) was estimated by the IEA to be 84.6 million b/d down by 854,000 b/d from August 2006. In 2006, and so far in 2007, world production has been just about 85 million b/d, some 3 million b/d less than we are forecast to consume in the current quarter.

We could of course take the extra 3 million b/d out of the world’s stockpiles, which would then be dropping by 90 million barrels a month — not really a long-term solution. Will OPEC bail us out with a 500,000 b/d increase in production? Could be, but considering that 140,000 b/d of that increase is supposed to come from Venezuela, where production has been stagnant for years, I wouldn’t count on it.

So there you have it. From the perspective of imminent peak oil, $100 oil is not something to weather for a while. It is merely a milestone on the way to still higher prices. The Journal’s bold conclusion that we can handle $100 “quite well” may be perfectly true, until you ask “then what?” and the only possible answer is higher and higher prices.

Somewhere the bubble will burst, for at the close of every day, the world’s oil reserves are 85 million barrels smaller and smaller and smaller ....

And somewhere a NYMEX trader has a souvenir of the day the big unraveling began.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hooked On Edenics

The cavalcade of clowns continues:
Here you will discover that ALL human words contain forms of the Edenic roots within them. These proto-Semitic or early Biblical Hebrew words were programmed into our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, before the language dispersion, or babble at the Tower of Babel -- which kickstarted multi-national human history.

Oh, for crying out loud. I thought I put you morons on my Burn List this year. 

Amusing though this may be, the problem with religion-as-fake-science is that before you know it, some idiot in Kansas is going to want to teach “Edenics” as an alternative to Linguistics, and they will find another group of idiots--maybe, for instance, the Alliance Defense Fund--to pay for the series of lawsuits to try to force this garbage onto American kids. Meanwhile, another group of idiots, completely unrelated, will complain about “frivolous lawsuits.”

And no one will get the irony.

(h/t, Pharyngula)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Middle? WHAT Middle!

Paul Krugman’s column on Slate is full of wisdom that one hopes the Democrats heed. Chief among them is his advice to forget the middle, because, contrary to the miopic views of Beltway insiders like David Broder, the country is actually trending more liberal:
... [I]t's true that even now, polls suggest that Americans are about twice as likely to identify themselves as conservatives as they are to identify themselves as liberals.

But if you look at peoples' views on actual issues, as opposed to labels, the electorate's growing liberalism is unmistakable. Don't take my word for it; look at the massive report Pew released earlier this year on trends in "political attitudes and core values." Pew found "increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies." Meanwhile, nothing's the matter with Kansas: People are ever less inclined to support conservative views on moral values—and have become dramatically more liberal on racial issues.

And it's not just opinion polls: Last year, the newly liberal mindset of the electorate was reflected in actual votes, too. Yes, some of the Democrats newly elected last year were relatively conservative. But others, including James Webb of Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, have staked out strikingly progressive positions on economic issues.

In such a climate one could have banked on a group of so-called “moderates” to suddenly clamor for “bipartisanship" and “political unity”--of course they have. They’ve been sitting on their hands for nearly eight years as the Bush Administration shred the Constitution; another eight years of irrelevancy must look really scary to these folks.

Sure enough, faster than you can say kumbaya, we have the “national unity movement” threatening to back an independent run by Michael Bloomberg. Okie dokie. Good luck with that.

I have the same problem with Unity ’08 and the "unity movement" as I do with those ridiculous “United We Stand” bumper stickers one still sees on occasion: No, united we don’t stand, and anyone who thinks we do either is awash in wishful thinking or believes anti-war sentiment is some kind of fringe movement.

By the same token, we do not have political unity right now. The nation is polarized, and as long as we have conservative and liberal talk radio, Fox News, and hate-spew coming from the Ann Coulter crowd (coupled with folks in the MSM who continue to give her ilk a national platform)--in other words, as long as there exists entrenched, established partisanship and people who profit from it--then there will be no political unity in Washington.

I mean, gosh. Isn't that why we have two parties to begin with?

Look, I'm as tired of the gridlock and ill-will as the next person, but this isn't a new thing. And these calls for “unity” ring awfully hollow when you remember this little incident from the 2004 Republican National Convention:

As Krugman points out, the problem is not George W. Bush but the movement that spawned him. Pat Peale was not some ordinary delegate who thought it would be cute to mock John Kerry’s Purple Heart, she’s a Texas GOP insider. These people aren’t going away, and they aren’t going to play nice with Democrats “in a spirit of Unity.”

Does anyone seriously believe that Ann Coulter will stop calling liberals “Godless” and Jonah Goldberg will quit fabricating his bogus histories of “liberal fascism” and Chris Matthews will get over his creepy Clinton fetish in a spirit of unity? Get real.

Digby exposed this sham for what it is, a way of telling Democrats to shut up “in the spirit of Unity” (which they seem to be doing very well anyway, without any help from the David Broders of the world):

I guess everyone is going to have to pardon us cynics here on the liberal side of the dial for being just a teensy bit skeptical of this demand for bipartisanship. The last time the country elected a centrist conciliator who wanted to leave behind the "braindead politics of the past", he first got kicked in the teeth by fellow centrists Sam Nunn and David Boren over gays in the military and raising taxes on the rich, and then faced an opposition so vicious that it ended with an illegitimate impeachment and a stolen election. A lot more has happened since then, all of it bad.

Damn straight.