Tuesday, April 29, 2008

High Prices Suck

Creepy neocon/Iraq War booster and now World Bank head Robert Zoellick is calling for--I kid you not--a “New Deal” to ward off a global food crisis.

“A New Deal.” Heh. When Neocons start wishing for a “New Deal”-type plan, you’ve gotta be worried.

I'm all for a New Deal right here at home. From Wiki:
The New Deal was the title that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave to a sequence of programs and promises he initiated between 1933 and 1938 with the goal of giving relief for the people, reform of the society, and recovery to the people and economy of the United States during the Great Depression. Based on the assumption that the power of the federal government was needed to get the country out of depression, the first days of Roosevelt's administration saw the passage of banking reform laws, emergency relief programs, work relief programs, and agricultural programs. Later, a second New Deal was to evolve; it included union protection programs, the Social Security Act, and programs to aid tenant farmers and migrant workers. Thus, the "First New Deal" of 1933 aimed at short-term recovery programs for all groups in society, while the "Second New Deal" (1935–36) was a more radical redistribution of power.

We're headed for a bumpy road, folks. This New York Times piece today explained why rising oil prices haven't led to more production. High gas prices affect the cost of virtually everything else.

Here are some interesting statistics:

Regular gas was $1.27 a gallon in 2000. Now it's $3.46. Gold was $256 an ounce in 2001. Now it's $895.

Over the past two years, commodities prices have risen even faster: corn has jumped to $4.58 from $2.08; wheat has surged to $8.75 from $3.46; soybeans are up to $12.20 from $5.80. In the past 12 months, the average price of cheese has jumped to $1.83 from $1.38

I don't understand why the Federal Reserve continues to lower interest rates to deal with this issue. Lowering interest rates only makes things worse by devaluing the dollar, making the price of foreign made imports (*cough*cough*oil*cough*cough*) more expensive, which then makes everything else more expensive. It's a vicious cycle.

We could use a new deal right now, or at least, a better one.

Corrupted By Politics

This stuff is old hat by now:
Sitting just feet from the courtroom table where he had once planned to make cases against military detainees, Air Force Col. Morris Davis instead took the witness stand to declare under oath that he felt undue pressure to hurry cases along so that the Bush administration could claim before political elections that the system was working.


Davis told Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred, who presided over the hearing, that top Pentagon officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England, made it clear to him that charging some of the highest-profile detainees before elections this year could have "strategic political value."

We’ve seen this time and time again from the Bush Administration. Everything is political, nothing has a purpose or function beyond manipulating public opinion, winning elections and keeping the Republican Party in power.

“Oh, but Democrats do it to,” you may say. Not like this, I answer.

Not like this.

This is the inevitable result of handing the reins of government to a group of people whose entire philosophy is that government doesn’t work. They don’t know how to make it work. All they know how to do is manipulate public opinion so they can hold onto power.

You know, it’s a neat trick turning “government” into a dirty word and telling people to vote for you, year after year and decade after decade, so you can get rid of “government.” Like it’s a flea infestation or something. If you hate government so much, what the hell are you doing making a career out of it?

Lewis Black once said something to the effect of, “government isn’t a building somewhere. It’s people.”

At least, that’s how a former president--a Republican president--saw it, back in the day: “Of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Not anymore. Now it’s just of the privileged, by the cronies, for the sheeple.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Real Deep Memory Hole

Elizabeth Edwards gives a searing indictment of the media in an op-ed in today’s New York Times. She articulates beautifully much of the frustration we’ve all felt this campaign season: the shallow campaign coverage, the media’s “casting” of characters as if they were filming a movie not covering a news story, or how they treat viewers like consumers who are buying soap, not citizens trying to make an informed decision about our nation’s leadership. It’s an excellent read and I urge everyone to go read the column.

The thing that’s astonishing to me--and Edwards herself admits this--is how it’s always been this way! Even during the McCarthy hearings, she notes, only one network televised the proceedings. Today we have more networks than ever, 24-hour cable news, and channels devoted to everything from shopping to health news, yet news coverage is as shoddy as ever.

I know what she means. I picked up the October 12, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone at a junk shop on 8th Avenue a year or so ago. I love old newspapers and magazines, it’s a great window into the memory hole.

This one has a column by founding editor Ralph Gleason called “Perspectives: Youth Won’t Vote For Nixon.” Gleason writes:
Newspapers, as A.J. Liebling explained in The Press, are neither public servants nor custodians of the Holy Grail.

They are private enterprises in a capitalist economy whose primary function is to make money. Just like a department store or a gas station.

They are not in the business of truth and honesty and the public good unless the owner of the paper sees that as a way to making money.

The other thing to understand about newspapers is that they are owned by rich people and rich people are, by and large, Republicans.

So when your friendly neighborhood newspaper dumps on McGovern, runs his campaign news inside the paper and spreads the latest bullshit about Nixon’s runaway lead in the polls all over page one, remember that Republicans own the newspapers. As Liebling once noted, Democrats only work there.

Just imagine, for a moment, what would have been the manner in which a story disclosing that the Democrats had hired industrial spies to bug the Republican Headquarters would have been played on the front pages of the nation’s press. It would have been banner headlines in the biggest type available and day by day every little bit of evidence which supported the original charge would have been played up. But since the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, scandals which would have resulted in impeachment proceedings against a Democrat get sloughed off in Republican papers because they concern a Republican president. And a very special Republican president, the one who has given the biggest, fattest green light to exploitation of the land by big business since Warren Harding.

This was published in October 12, 1972. See much change in the past 30+ years? Me neither.

In fact, as Edwards points out in today’s op-ed, things have gotten worse. Because rich Republican families no longer own the newspapers. Rich Republican corporations do--corporations which make their money from things like (in the case of GE, which owns 80% of NBC Universal), defense contracts. This is dangerous to our democracy.

Edwards writes:

News is different from other programming on television or other content in print. It is essential to an informed electorate. And an informed electorate is essential to freedom itself. But as long as corporations to which news gathering is not the primary source of income or expertise get to decide what information about the candidates “sells,” we are not functioning as well as we could if we had the engaged, skeptical press we deserve.

And the future of news is not bright. Indeed, we’ve heard that CBS may cut its news division, and media consolidation is leading to one-size-fits-all journalism. The state of political campaigning is no better: without a press to push them, candidates whose proposals are not workable avoid the tough questions. All of this leaves voters uncertain about what approach makes the most sense for them. Worse still, it gives us permission to ignore issues and concentrate on things that don’t matter. (Look, the press doesn’t even think there is a difference!)

Indeed. Going back to Ralph Gleason’s column, I was stunned to read this:

The Republican polls and surveys tell us that the so-called youth vote is in favor of Nixon. It defies intelligence to believe that young people will vote against their own best interest, in favor of war and reaction, in favor of Big Brother’s phone taps and spy service, in favor of discrimination against the blacks, the browns, the yellows and the poor.

Well, replace “Nixon” with “McCain” and “young people” with "Americans," and we’re looking at 2008. Same bad situation, just, you know, worse.

It’s disappointing, to say the least, that after 30 years we’ve made so little progress. It’s disheartening to think that our media and our culture have progressed so little. But I find hope and encouragement in knowing how the Nixon/Watergate story played out. If history is indeed repeating itself, then we know how this story ends. But progressives and liberals of all kinds must make sure we don’t visit this circus a third time.

I don’t want to read a blog post in 2040 about the 2008 election and think, “Oh my God, nothing’s changed!”

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pentagon Halts Analyst Propaganda Program--For Now

Interesting. Despite a near-universal media blackout since the New York Times broke the story of the Pentagon’s military propaganda campaign, the government is “temporarily” halting the program pending an investigation:
Pentagon halts feeding of information to retired officers while issue is reviewed

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, April 26, 2008 

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Defense Department has temporarily stopped feeding information to retired military officers pending a review of the issue, said Robert Hastings, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs.

The New York Times first reported on Sunday that the Defense Department was giving information to retired officers serving as pundits for various media organizations in order to garner favorable media coverage.

Some of these retired officers saw their access to key decision-makers as possible business opportunities for the defense contractors they represent, according to the newspaper. The story also alleged that the officers who did not repeat the Bush administration's official line were denied further access to information.

Hastings said he is concerned about allegations that the Defense Department's relationship with the retired military analysts was improper.

"Following the allegations, the story that is printed in the New York Times, I directed my staff to halt, to suspend the activities that may be ongoing with retired military analysts to give me time to review the situation," Hastings said in an interview with Stripes on Friday.

Let me point out to Stars & Stripes that the issue is not so much that the Pentagon was “feeding information” to retired military officers serving as network and cable news analysts. It’s that they they were feeding these so-called “analysts” spin, talking points and propaganda. And these so-called “analysts” were in most cases willing propaganda-pushers:

Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show.

Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.

“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”

Or, how about this one:

At the same time, in e-mail messages to the Pentagon, [Fox News analyst] Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive with his television and radio commentary. “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay,” he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to describe the surge strategy in Iraq.

Aww. That’s so sweet! Thanks for thinking of us!

It is tempting to fault the Pentagon and the phony “analysts” for this scenario, but really I fault the networks and cable news. Why weren’t they paying attention? Why weren’t they examining who these phony “analysts” were? Why this:

The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of them ideologically in sync with the administration’s neoconservative brain trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large budget increases to pay for an Iraq war.

Why, CNN? Why, MSNBC? Why, CBS and ABC?

Why didn’t you do your job and report the news? Why did you never once question the information your phony “analysts” presented on the air?

What’s truly amazing to me is that despite pulling out all the stops, despite all of the propaganda and media manipulation, 63% of Americans still think the war was a mistake.

After all of that, Americans still aren’t buying it.

But the news media--and this extends to the New York Times, which happily printed Judith Miller’s BS on page one--has a lot to answer for. Their willing compliance in the largest scam ever perpetrated on an entire nation’s populace will have deep repercussions years down the road. They have blood on their hands for pushing America to war.

And as they continue to promote the same thinkers and opinion makers who were wrong about everything on Iraq, all I can say is: Stop hurting America. And stop hurting yourselves.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Comfort Guy

Oh, good grief. Apparently President Bush’s “compassionativity” turns on and off like a spigot.

Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper (yes, that is my Congressman) shares the horrifying details of his Air Force One trip with President Bush back in February. The purpose was to tour Tennessee tornado damage; the entire Tennessee delegation was along for the trip to view the devastation.
“The only issue he cared about was asking us whether we could touch our toes” — something Cooper cannot do, for the record — he told Shenanigans last week. “[Tennessee Rep.] Bart Gordon can run a 5-minute mile and he can’t [touch his toes] either,” the congressman, who is indeed quite cordial, added with a hint of pride.

“The senators,” Cooper shared, “had too much dignity to try.” This ain’t their first rodeo.

Then Bush walked the gang to the nose of the plane and showed off two little beds. “These are astronaut mattresses,” Bush declared with glee, according to Cooper. “It conforms to your body. It has done wonders for my shoulder,” Bush told the gang.

Cooper wasn’t too impressed. “They’re Tempur-Pedic mattresses,” he shrugged. “My wife bought us some a while ago. Big deal.”

Bush then went on to divulge that he had been biking more than usual “in order to get in shape for my Africa trip.”

Cooper seemed a bit miffed. “Nothing about world problems? Does Vladimir Putin talk like this? We’re only the Tennessee delegation, but even Reagan could have been more clued in than this.”

President Bush never ceases to embarrass me. You'd think he could have mustered a little more interest in Tennessee after the devastating tornados. Apparently his interest stopped at physical fitness of our Congressional delegation.

How did this guy ever become President? Oh, never mind. I was there.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Media Trojan Horse

Why I don't trust the mainstream media:

Back To The Kitchen, Beeyatches! (Part 2)

Hey, John McCain! Yeah, I’m talking to you! Fuck you!
McCain opposes equal pay bill in Senate


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Republican Sen. John McCain, campaigning through poverty-stricken cities and towns, said Wednesday he opposes a Senate bill that seeks equal pay for women because it would lead to more lawsuits.

Instead, McCain says women need "more training and education." Clearly McClueless doesn't understand the concept of "equal pay for equal work." That means, you know, they already have the training and education because they are doing the same job, they just aren't getting the same pay.

Excuse me while I bang my head on the desk. Repeatedly.

But back to our story:

Senate Republicans killed the bill Wednesday night on a 56-42 vote that denied the measure the 60 votes needed to advance it to full debate and a vote. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had delayed the vote to give McCain's Democratic rivals, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, time to return to Washington to support the measure, which would make it easier for women to sue their employers for pay discrimination.

McCain skipped the vote to campaign in New Orleans.

Remember folks, “60 is the new 50.” Whatever happened to the glorious “up or down vote”? But I digress.

So with the Bush economy in the toilet, the Republican Party stands with Big Business against working women. Their standard-bearer this election, John McCain, supports that position whole-heartedly. Because “lawsuits” would be, like, icky and stuff.

Well excuse me but lawsuits are how we in this system right wrongs and past injustices. It would be nice if we could click our heels and sprinkle fairy dust and have everyone magically do the right thing but that just doesn’t happen. Sometimes we need to take people to court to right a wrong, for example, the one experienced by Lilly Ledbetter:

It is named for Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s plant in Gadsden, Ala., who sued for pay discrimination just before retiring after a 19-year career there. By the time she retired, Ledbetter made $6,500 less than the lowest-paid male supervisor and claimed earlier decisions by supervisors kept her from making more.

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 last year to throw out her complaint, saying she had waited too long to sue.

Ledbetter’s story actually gets worse. After 20 years of being treated inferior to other employees because of her gender, Ledbetter finally got some justice through the courts. Until the GOP-dominated Supreme Court took it all away, that is:

At the end of the trial, the jury found that Goodyear had discriminated against me in violation of Title VII. The jury awarded me backpay as well as $4,662 for mental anguish and $3,285,979 in punitive damages. Although the trial judge agreed that the jury’s verdict was amply supported by the evidence at trial, he had to reduce the punitive damages and mental anguish award to the $300,000 statutory cap.

The Supreme Court took it all away, even the backpay. They said I should have complained every time I got a smaller raise than the men, even if I didn’t know what the men were getting paid and even if I had no way to prove that the decision was discrimination. They said that once 180 days passes after the pay decision is made, the worker is stuck with unequal pay for equal work under Title VII for the rest of her career and there is nothing illegal about that under the statute.

Justice Ginsburg hit the nail on the head when she said that the majority’s rule just doesn’t make sense in the real world. You can’t expect people to go around asking their coworkers how much money they’re making. At a lot of places, that could get you fired. And nobody wants to be asked those kinds of questions anyway.

If you like this stuff then keep voting Republican, people. There will be a lot more under a McCain presidency.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ew. Just, Ew

Those wacky kids:
Yale University said on Monday that it would not allow a senior to participate in a campus art exhibition unless she made a written statement that her “performance,” in which she repeatedly inseminated herself and then induced miscarriages, was a fiction that she had concocted.

Call me old-fashioned, but that ain’t art. It also ain’t true. It can’t be, unless the artist in question is Fertile Myrtle. This story reeks of bullshit. I mean come on, people. Use some common sense.

To wit:

Yale said last week that Ms. Shvarts had told three university officials that she had not inseminated herself or induced abortions but had made up the story as part of the project. On Friday, however, Ms. Shvarts insisted she had really experienced “repeated, self-induced miscarriages,” although she said that she had not known if she was actually pregnant.

Note to Ms. Shvarts: if you aren’t pregnant, then you can’t have a miscarriage. The two kind of go together.

But I digress:

Yale officials said the denials were part of the continuing art performance, and on Monday demanded that it end.

Oh! It all makes so much sense now. I can see some whacked out “performance artist” trying to make “art” out of a public uproar. That kind of seems to be where this country has been headed for the past couple of years, right? I mean look at the election coverage of our 24-hour news channels. If they haven't raised "spectacle" to an art form, I don't know what has.

But I wouldn’t label media hysteria and spectacle “art.” That gives it far too much credit.

The whole thing is just gross.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Don’t Think “Bipartisan” Means What He Thinks It Means

I rarely blog about Tennessee politics, especially those races where I don’t even live in the district. However, this snippet from WPLN’s interview with Monty Lankford , one of the Republicans vying for Democrat Lincoln Davis’ Congressional seat, struck me as emblematic of Republican attitudes:
At a stop in Nashville today, Lankford says congress has become too polarized and he’d like to work in a bi-partisan fashion. But he says that only goes so far.

Well I’d certainly like to work with any of them that work with our ideology. I’m not willing to compromise our values and to me, unfortunately, that is what Lincoln has done. He’ll talk about his values and he’ll say for instance, ‘I’m pro-life,’ but he goes to Washington and votes for Nancy Pelosi which totally knocks him out of the ability to push that agenda.”

Okay, Monty, honey, I know you are new to politics but let me explain to you what “bipartisan” means. It does not mean Democrats must come around to the Republican way of thinking and do everything that the Republicans say (or, for that matter, vice versa). It does mean both parties working together, each side offering compromises, to achieve goals beneficial to both party’s constituents.

But don't take my word for it. Here is Wiki’s definition:

In a two-party system (such as in the United States), bipartisan refers to any bill, act, resolution, or any other action of a political body in which both of the major political parties are in agreement. Often, compromises are called bipartisan if they reconcile the desires of both parties from an original version of legislation or other proposal. Failure to attain bipartisan support in such a system can easily lead to gridlock, often angering each other and their constituents.

Bipartisanship can also be between two opposite groups (e.g. liberal and conservative) to agree and determine a plan of action on an urgent matter that is of great importance to their voters.

Some key words worth remembering here are agreement, compromise, and reconciliation.

This is not how our Congress works anymore. For the past 15 years, Republican “bipartisanship” has meant Democrats shut up and Republicans do whatever they want. Even now, with Democrats holding an oh-so-slim majority in the Senate, “60 is the new 50”; Republicans threaten to fillibuster anything and everything, and gridlock is the rule.

And it all goes back to that basic idea that Monty Lankford expressed yesterday: bipartisan is great, as long as you do what I want, my way. Democrats, on the other hand, continually piss off liberal bloggers and lefty activists by their willingness to compromise our values in the interest of keeping legislation moving (yes, even I have been angered by some of our Democrats in Congress). A perfect example is the many compromises Senate Dems have made on the Iraq War.

So if you want gridlock, people, keep voting Republican.

An Earth Day Parable

This is a story about ME. I’ve come down with a fever. I’m hot all the time. I can’t breathe. I break out in a sweat, and I have no energy. I’m so uncomfortable. It’s so hot. Nothing makes my fever go away, not aspirin, not ice-cold baths, nothing.

So I went to a doctor. The doctor says I have cancer. So I got a second opinion. And a third. They all said I have cancer.

I went to 20 doctors. Thirty doctors. Fifty doctors. They all said the same thing: cancer.

Finally, after seeing over 80 doctors, I found one who said it’s not cancer. Dr. X says it’s normal and if I wait, it will go away eventually.

What a relief! So now I'm going to listen to Dr. X and ignore the 80+ other doctors who said I have cancer. I'm not going to get any medical treatment at all; instead, I will just wait for my fever to go away.

Question: am I the stupidest person on the planet or what?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Steve Gill Is A Dope

The factually challenged Steve Gill has struck again. High gas prices are Democrats’ fault? Because gas prices have gone up since 2006? Does anyone remember the price of gas in 2000, before Bush took office?

Hello, Memory Hole! Dial us back to March 14, 2000, please!
The average price of gasoline now is up to $1.54, higher than the $1.38 average in 1981.

But that 1981 price of $1.38 translates to $2.29 in today's dollars, adjusted for inflation, according to the Cambridge Energy Research Associates. And that price was, and still is, the highest-ever price paid for gasoline in the United States.

Things changed not long after. As Mary Mancini at Liberadio notes,

... the average price of gas rose a stunning $1.50 between January 2001 and August 2006 when Republicans had control of both Congress and the White House ...

Oh Noes! That shoots holes in Gill's half-baked theory. And the records keep falling:

Gas prices remain at record highs

The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in the Sacramento area is $3.83, up 2 cents in a day, almost 23 cents higher than last month, and more than 53 cents higher than a year ago.

Diesel in Sacramento averaged $4.343 a gallon on Friday, up 21.1 cents in a month and more than $1.18 higher than on this date last year.

Every one of the 25 markets AAA tracks in California set record high prices this week.

"Industry analysts report that oil and wholesale gasoline continue to break records because of investment in these commodities due to the declining value of the dollar, and this is pushing gas prices to daily records at the pump," Auto Club spokesperson Jeffrey Spring said in a statement.

Here’s a neat little photo I found over at Attaturk’s place that might jingle a few bells as far as high gas prices are concerned:

Someone needs to explain to me how someone this dumb can get a column in The Tennesseean and a gig as WKRN's "chief political analyst."

More Tax Breaks To Big Business

Shocker of the week! Our corporate-friendly government is preparing to hand out $40 million in tax breaks to “downtrodden” Ford and General Motors .

Awwww. Those poor “downtrodden” auto manufacturers! They’re so oppressed! And beleaguered! Whah!

Ford and GM both have shuttered their American plants, putting Americans out of work while opening factories in Mexico to take advantage of the cheap labor of a developing country. It’s not just factories and assembly plants that have moved overseas: in 2006 GM outsourced $15 billion in IT work to India.

Remember when all of those laid-off assembly-line workers were supposed to be “retrained” to work in new, “high-tech” industries? How’s that working out for everybody?

As if that’s not a kick in the gut, these companies continued to ignore obvious market and economic trends in the U.S., producing gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs that no one wants to buy. Check out this story from April 2006 about GM’s new $650 million assembly plant in Mexico. It was supposed to be okay because it's to build small “subcompact” cars that no U.S. customer would want:
Even with gasoline prices averaging $2.50 a gallon, there's little demand in the United States for such subcompact cars as the Chevrolet Aveo, said Catherine Madden, a senior analyst with Global Insight.

Gas prices would have to rise to $4 a gallon and remain there for a year to spur demand for subcompacts, Madden said.

"There's not a lot of indication that Gen Y is going to jump into the subcompact segment," Madden said.

GM sold 68,000 Chevrolet Aveos in the United States last year. Demand is much stronger for compact and subcompacts in Mexico and South America.

Yes, that’s the brilliant thinking that has Toyota in a dead heat with GM to be the world’s top automaker. Meanwhile, Honda and Nissan had sales increases this quarter, while Ford and GM continue to tank.

Way to go, Ford and GM. And we’re supposed to bail out these clowns with $40 million in tax breaks this year? Whatever happened to the "free hand of the market"?

We’re long past the days when the old adage ”What’s good for the country is good for General Motors, and vice versa” rings true. Because these companies no longer care about what’s good for the country (if they ever did). They care only about what’s good for their bottom line, and right now that happens to be good for Mexico and India--not so good for America.

When will we stop rewarding these corporate giants whose business policies do not benefit American workers?

She Was Lying

We know this because her lips were moving:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Smell The Propaganda

Some of us have known about this for a long time, but it’s good to see the media finally catching on to the fact that they’ve been had:
To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

So most of the experts and analysts the media trots out to give us objective information about the war in Iraq actually have ties to the very companies profiting from the war.

Knock me over with a feather.

I mean, GE owns NBC Universal. It’s also a defense contractor. We’re supposed to ignore that fact as we watch the NBC Nightly News. It’s the same issue, taken to a far more extreme, dangerous and lethal level, that I wrote about in this post last week. Business with an interest in manipulating coverage has infiltrated our news media.

A famous Republican President warned us about this many years ago:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Well, when the militaryindustrial complex has infiltrated the news media, you can scratch that “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” thing. Nice idea, though.

Wake up and smell the propaganda, people.

Friday, April 18, 2008

ABC Calls Central Casting

Looks like when the producers at ABC News were too ashamed to ask that ridiculous “flag pin” question at Wednesday’s debate, they found the perfect patsy person to do it for them. Meet Nash McCabe, Obama hater:
But she sees a difference between the two. In Clinton, she sees someone who has struggled for years, just like her, and has earned the right to be president. In Obama, she sees someone who rose like a rocket, always has a smooth explanation for everything — whether it's about his former preacher or the flag pin — and who makes it all look too easy.

"That's what upsets me about Barack Obama," she says. "He takes everything so nonchalantly."

So Nash McCabe, the lady who asked the infamous “flag pin” question, has some issues. She appears--dare I say it?--bitter. Okay, fair enough. But how did ABC find this lady?

Turns out it wasn’t too hard, seeing as how McCabe was interviewed by the New York Times on the flag pin issue earlier in the month.

What a coinky-dinky! Or, you know, not. Turns out McCabe wasn’t exactly a random representative of voters. She was “cast.” She’s certainly entitled to her opinions, no matter how much I may disagree with them. But heads up to ABC: You don't "cast" the news. That's crossing the line into manipulation.

Here's a good explanation:

So Nash McCabe wasn't located at random at all. Instead, someone at ABC News decided that they wanted to go after Obama on the patriotism issue, and they actively sought a Pennsylvanian who they knew wanted to bring it up. I assume they thought it would sound better if "a typical voter" asked the question instead of Charlie Gibson. "You see, we're only raising the issue the voters really care about," they can claim.

Uh-huh. Way to go, ABC. That’s a real class act.

For ABC News to set up Barack Obama--or any candidate--in a debate this way is a low blow. And it further proves what I’ve been saying all along: that this election is just Kabuki theater to the news outlets. It’s entertainment, just another story to file in between their coverage of today’s crazy polygamist cult and the celeb divorce du jour. They don't even take it seriously enough to cover it accurately. Instead they are going to "stage" it, to maximize the entertainment value.

This stuff matters, ABC. The ship of state has been steered into deeply troubled waters. We’re electing a leader. It matters. “Casting” your debate questioners is just wrong.

I doubt they get it. In fact, I’m sure they don’t.

Fuck ‘em.

Moses Blogging!

Apparently Slartibartfast thinks I need to do more cat blogging. I dunno, criticizing a political blog for covering politics strikes me as rather pointless, but I have been wanting to share this adorable picture of Moses for a while and this seems like as good a time as any.

Ain't he sweet?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

More Like This, Please!

The hubris of the White House to request a $108 billion emergency-spending bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while cutting programs at home in the FY 2009 budget, has Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) a little upset . Watch the video of Mikulski handing White House budget director Jim Nussle his ass.

Among what's angered Sen. Mikulski, via ThinkProgress:
Bush has requested $603 million to train Iraqi police. But at the same time, his FY 2009 budget includes a 61 percent cut for state and local law enforcement programs at the Justice Department.

Mikulski is rightfully outraged at the elimination of the COPS and Byrne grants, which provide federal funds for local law enforcement in places like Nashville. Bush’s budget eliminates these domestic programs completely, yet he wants $603 million to train Iraqi police?

Here’s a radical idea for the president: you want tax money to train the Iraqi police? You want taxpayers to fund more surges? You want more money for your war? Then ask the American people to pay a war tax.

Go on, I dare you. I double dare you.

Take it straight to the American people. What, are you scared we’ll say no? Maybe we’ll surprise you: with only one exception (in the 1840s), taxes have been raised to fund every single war America has ever fought. Until now.

So go on, ask us. If we say no, we'll pack up our bags and go home. If we say yes, then you have your "war mandate."

Just don’t bleed the homeland dry to pay for Iraq. Don’t rob America.

That's just stupid.

Stand Up Guys

Remember “as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down”? Remember this?

It’s looking like we’ll be doing all the standing up in Iraq for quite a while:
Iraqi Unit Flees Post, Despite American’s Plea

BAGHDAD — A company of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions on Tuesday night in Sadr City, defying American soldiers who implored them to hold the line against Shiite militias.

The retreat left a crucial stretch of road on the front lines undefended for hours and led to a tense series of exchanges between American soldiers and about 50 Iraqi troops who were fleeing.

Capt. Logan Veath, a company commander in the 25th Infantry Division, pleaded with the Iraqi major who was leading his troops away from the Sadr City fight, urging him to return to the front.

“If you turn around and go back up the street those soldiers will follow you,” Captain Veath said. “If you tuck tail and cowardly run away they will follow up that way, too.”

Captain Veath’s pleas failed, and senior American and Iraqi commanders mounted an urgent effort to regain the lost ground. An elite Iraqi unit was rushed in and with the support of the Americans began to fight its way north.

You got that? We are pleading with the Iraqis to fight, and they are turning tail and running. U.S. commanders are begging the Iraqi Army to fight. And they won’t.

Why should they, when they know we’ll bail out their bacon every time! They have no incentive to wade into harm’s way--let the Americans do it!

What is wrong this picture? Everything!

Scenes From Victory

Last night's Predators game was amazing! We scored another big victory against the Detroit Red Wings, after scoring some early goals and then keeping the lead throughout the game. Way to go Preds!

(By the way, I've never figured out how to get photos to position horizontally in Blogger. If anyone knows, pass the info on in comments.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It’s Always Good News (When You’re The Trade Association’s President!)

Is Nashville’s real estate bubble bursting? I would say yes, it is:
There were 2,227 home closings reported for the month of March, according to figures provided by the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors®. This represents a decrease of 28.7 percent from the 3,126 closings reported for the same period last year.

Numbers for the first quarter were 5,763 closings, down 27.8 percent from the 7,990 closings during the first quarter of 2007.

We’ve been seeing these reports month after month in the local paper for the past year and a half. But you wouldn’t know it from reading local real estate cheerleader columnist Richard Courtney, who in addition to writing for The Tennessean, Nashville Post and the Nashville City Paper, was also 2007 president of the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors .

Consistently Courtney has put a happy face on these dour numbers in columns and interviews, as one would expect from the GNAR president. But why didn’t our newspapers counter this industry source with a less, you know, biased perspective? (And why did the Tennessean and the City Paper think it was OK to give an industry rep a column, anyway?)

In the face of all evidence to the contrary, Courtney’s columns and statements to the media have been unfailingly sunny, and reporters interviewing Courtney have never questioned his reasoning. Every piece of bad news is always accompanied by the “but it’s actually good news because ....” codicil. It would be funny if it weren’t so irresponsible.

Want a trip into the memory hole? Let’s start with January 2007:

January home sales dip compared to 06 figures

With home sales either stagnant or tumbling in many markets nationwide, the Nashville area saw a similar lack of vigor last month, as there was a 3.4 percent dip in transactions compared to numbers from January 2006. According to figures provided by the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors released Monday, the multi-county area registered 2,289 home closings in January, compared to 2,371 closings reported for the same period last year. On a similar theme, the median price for a condominium unit remained flat when comparing same-month numbers.

Despite the sluggishness, the January 2007 numbers represent the second-best January since GNAR began totaling figures in 1977.

“The real figure is that other markets are down 15 to 18 percent, so we are bucking the national trend,” said Richard Courtney, GNAR president. “The reality of the market is that we could not sustain the extremely healthy pace we enjoyed the past 15 years.” Courtney, who writes a real estate column for The City Paper, said the healthy growth of the past few years has cushioned the market so as to experience a contraction with minimal pain.

“These figures are actually very encouraging,” he said. “They confirm that the market remains active and the level of home sales is being sustained as the year begins.”

Actually, a decrease shows the level of home sales is, you know, down. And if January 2007 was the second best January since 1977, and those sales were down from the previous year, that must mean January 2006 was the best year ever. That means we peaked in 2006 and started a down cycle two years ago.

You’d think a real estate columnist/source would tell us that, but I understand that Courtney was in a tight spot: torn between telling the truth to newspaper readers, and being the industry cheerleader his GNAR job required.

Sales continued to slide in April 2007. Still, Courtney looked on the bright side:

Nashville-area April home sales dip 7.6%

“What were acknowledging is that 2006 was an anomaly,” said Richard Courtney, GNAR president. “We might not see those [2006] numbers again next year or the next.” Still, Courtney said the numbers to date this year are encouraging. “The fact is that our cumulative numbers show this is the second best year-to-date so far,” he said.

By July of 2007, Big Shitpile was exploding all over the country’s real estate market. Foreclosures were on the increase:

Foreclosures pickup nationwide, statewide

Call it one more sign that Nashville’s red-hot housing market could be slowing down.

Or filling a demand, depending on how one sees it.


Because many, if not most, foreclosures are on lower-priced houses, Courtney said they could ease the crunch in the “affordable housing,” $160,000-and-lower price point.

“We probably have the demand to handle that,” said Courtney. “Some of that inventory might be welcome.”

Dude, give me some of what you’re smoking! But this is all ancient history. An entire year has past since Courtney donned his rose-colored glasses and told us all to relax! It’s good news that home sales are down!

Here’s Courtney’s Friday “Tennessean” column:

Sales in the Greater Nashville area are down a whopping 28.8 percent for March compared to March of 2007.

This information was provided by the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors.

Oddly, the prices are rising. Sales are down and prices are rising. James Taylor once wrote "well, the sun is surely sinking down, but the moon is slowly rising. So this ole world must still be spinning 'round." And so it is in Nashville.

For the year, sales are on an upward trend with 1,644 units in January; 1,892 in February; 2,225 in March; and 2,316 pending for April. And the sales numbers always surpass the pending number.

So, sales in units are down as compared to year to year, but more homes are selling each month than the previous month, a minimum of four months of increasing sales.

Oh Richard, always looking on the bright side of life. Surely it isn’t news that sales in April are higher than sales in January, February or March? It’s always that way! And right after he blamed February’s drop in sales on cold weather! It’s still down from last year, and that’s not good.

I don’t mean to pick on Richard Courtney, whom I’m sure is a nice person. I do mean to pick on this habit of the news media--local and national--of putting industry cheerleaders in the position of industry expert. They are not the same thing. I realize being an industry cheerleader is all part of the job for an association president--what’s wrong with the City Paper and the Tennessean? Courtney’s cheery analyses of the Nashville real estate market were never countered, challenged or even questioned.

I have friends who read these sunny reports and thought Nashville was immune to the real estate crisis who are now in some serious financial trouble. And GNAR has a new president now and she’s peddling the same shit:

"The number of closings is down significantly compared to last year, but the fact that home prices are rising is a good sign that the Greater Nashville market remains stable even in this time of market transition," says GNAR President Mandy Wachtler in a news release.

Please, Tennessean and City Paper, do not give Mandy Wachtler a real estate column. People need real, unbiased information about the real estate market, not fairy tales.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Peak Oil Is Here!

Not that we should be celebrating or anything:
Fears emerge over Russia’s oil output

By Carola Hoyos and Javier Blas in London
Published: April 14 2008 22:10 | Last updated: April 15 2008 15:43

Russian oil production has peaked and may never return to current levels, one of the country’s top energy executives has warned, fuelling concerns that the world’s biggest oil producers cannot keep up with rampant Asian demand.

Leonid Fedun, the 52-year-old vice-president of Lukoil, Russia’s largest independent oil company, told the Financial Times he believed last year’s Russian oil production of about 10m barrels a day was the highest he would see “in his lifetime”. Russia is the world’s second biggest oil producer.

Mr Fedun compared Russia with the North Sea and Mexico, where oil production is declining dramatically, saying that in the oil-rich region of western Siberia, the mainstay of Russian output, “the period of intense oil production [growth] is over”.

The Russian government has so far admitted that production growth has stagnated, but has shied away from admitting that post-Soviet output has peaked.

Viktor Khristenko, Russia’s energy minister who is pushing for tax cuts that could stimulate investment, said last week: “The output level we have today is a plateau, stagnation.”

Russia was until recently considered as the most promising oil region outside the Middle East. Its rapid output growth in the early 2000s helped to meet booming Chinese demand and limited the rise in oil prices.

It’s all over but the crying, people. Get ready for some really hard times, and I don’t mean the modest recession we’re seeing now, I mean some Depression-caliber save-that-ball-of-twine kind of belt-tightening. Our government and our media won’t tell you this, but I will.

If only, instead of throwing billions into an Iraqi quagmire to save our energy bacon we’d instead invested in a new energy future, maybe something that involves concentrated solar power or hydrogen fuel cells or who knows what else.

But we put an oil man in the White House. What did we think he was going to do? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

You Say Elite Like It’s A Bad Thing

Last night Jon Stewart took on the slam “liberal elite,” expressing what I’ve felt for years (and which my friend Mack articulated so well in this post).

That the GOP is able to selectively label liberals “elite” or else “dirty fucking tree hugging hippies who should get a job” has always amazed me. Conservatives throw these contradictory labels out as if they were interchangeable: we’re either driving our Volvos listening to NPR or we’re pot-smoking Grateful Dead holdovers who haven’t held a real job in decades. I’m so confused I feel like I might accidentally smoke my latte.

Every election the conservative blowhards label Democratic candidates “elite” -- it’s as sure as the sun rising in the East. John Kerry windsurfed and spoke French, for God’s sake! Al Gore lives in a big house in Belle Meade! Quelle horreur! (That’s elitist for “holy shit you gotta be kidding me!”) The irony that the folks leveling these charges are themselves multimillionaire “elites” seems lost on television audiences.

This drive to be labeled a populist makes candidates do and say stupid things. Even worse, it results in stupid photos that never do what they’re supposed to: Hillary Clinton with her shot glass, Barack Obama trying to bowl. Seriously, who bought John Kerry dressed in camo on his Ohio hunting trip 12 days before the election?

Pandering is stupid. Just quit doing it. If you’re elite, own it. We’ve had nearly eight years of a frat-boy, C-student president, himself the son of a political dynasty but elite only by association. Look where it’s gotten us.

I want elite. I want the president to be smarter, better educated, more experienced and more widely traveled than me. Speak a foreign language? Great! Why is that a bad thing? Attended the best schools America has to offer? Even better! Don't have "populist" hobbies? Fine, you won't have time for them anyway. I don’t want a president who bowls or mountain bikes, I hope he or she is going to be too busy leading the country for all that nonsense. I don’t want Average Joe for president. This is not a job that anyone can do.

Pollsters and the media have pushed this false “average person” meme on us with their ridiculous "who would you rather have a beer with” polling. I got news for you people: the president isn’t going to have a beer with any of you losers. He or she is going to be too busy, okay? So take your sixpack of Bud Lite and go home.

For those with a little time, here’s The Daily Show clip that started this rant (the best part comes at the end, IMHO):

Monday, April 14, 2008

Scary-Voiced Announcer Man

If you have XM Satellite Radio like I do, then you've been hearing Scary-Voiced Announcer Man intoning about Ben Stein's movie "Expelled." The ads have been running a lot--a lot--to the point where I can't listen to Lionel or Ed Schultz anymore, they are that annoying.

I haven't seen the movie, but I've heard the premise (Stein has been making the TV rounds) and it strikes me as the most ridiculous fake controversy I've ever heard. I can't get worked up over the "injustice" of people peddling religion and fake science in schools being told they can't by school administrators and school districts. Sorry, dude. I liked you better when you were challenging us to win your money.

Anyway, I think we've all heard enough of Scary-Voiced Announcer Man this campaign season. Which is what made this video so hilarious:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Gus Puryear: Still A CCA Crony

Why is Democrat Thurgood Marshall Jr. endorsing Gus Puryear, Bush’s controversial pick for the federal bench in Middle Tennessee?
Yet, sources close to Puryear as well as the Judiciary Committee said a renewed public relations push is getting a batch of letters from Democrats supporting Puryear in front of Democratic Senators on the committee. At the top of the stack is a letter endorsing Puryear from former Clinton White House staffer Thurgood Marshall, Jr., son of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

This is very odd since as I wrote here, Puryear investigated Clinton’s fundraising back in the 90s. Besides being a GOP loyalist, Puryear is the lawyer for Corrections Corp. of America, making him a corporate shill. This raises conflict of interest red flags, since CCA gets sued in this district all the time.

So I repeat: why is Thurgood Marshall Jr. endorsing Puryear?

Marshall is a member of CCA’s board.

Never mind.

Media (And Malkin) Eat Up Texas Teen’s Fake Attack Story

You gotta wonder what would make a 13-year-old do this:
Bowers claimed earlier this week that she was beaten and threatened with violence and rape by a group of students at Athens ISD last Friday, for creating a protest sign saying, "If you love our nation, stop illegal immigration." 

After Melanie's accusations, administrators reviewed school survellience videotape of the incident - which, instead of showing students beating or attacking her, showed Bowers scratching herself on her arms, face, and neck, and walking through the halls of the school calmly long after she claimed the incident happened.

What’s even more horrendous is KLTV’s original reportage. First, the headline:

East Texas Teenager Attacked Over History Project

Whatever happened to “allegedly”?

Then, the story itself:

It was an assignment for history class--to make a protest sign for or against an issue, and Melanie said she chose illegal immigration.  Her sign read, "If you love our nation, stop illegal immigration." Somehow, Melanie said the sign got passed around lunch and angered a group of Latino students. 

"I didn't know any of these people," she said.  One young, she claimed, jumped on her back and he put her in a choke hold.  "We have brick walls in the middle school and he slammed my face on the bricks."

Melanie said a group of boys also threatened to rape and kill her.  Eventually, the boys let her go and when she went for help, she was ordered back to class, and told she could not call her parents, she said. 

"They handled this wrong, you know, they put a child back in danger," said J.R. Bowers.  "It was a very racially motivated crime."

It looks like little Melanie and her parents need to have a long chat with their Hispanic neighbors, and it looks like someone needs to apologize. The girl’s parents have apologized to the school, but has anyone apologized to the Latino community?

Indeed, one Hispanic student was sent to detention for no reason:

"They were passing the sign around at school. I saw it. I just got up to ask her about it. Nothing else, nothing more," said Gaby. "They placed me in ISS because they accused me of hitting her, scratching her and threatening her, when I didn't do that. I didn't touch her. I didn't do anything to her. To me they put me in ISS for something I didn't do."

Gaby's mother didn't speak much English, but said through an interpreter she is humiliated and thinks her daughter was targeted because of her race.

"She's very upset that the little girl lied, you know?. Being the fact that she's Hispanic, what the sign said - it's very offensive to Mexican people."

Hispanic students were wrongfully accused, KLTV reporter Molly Reuter’s original story presented the accusations as fact, and now we have what appears to be a troubled young teen who needs to learn a lesson in "racially motivated crime."

(h/t, Avedon)


You know who else needs to apologize? Michelle Malkin:

"... the open-borders mob reaction to one girl’s project is absolutely unacceptable...."

Uh, yeah.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Red Bud Blogging!

The best part about spring in Tennessee!

(Click on a pic for the full effect)

Energy Saved Is Energy Found

This should be a no-brainer, but since conservation doesn’t fill Big Oil’s bank account, it’s no surprise that the Bush Administration has been dragging its feet. But the states aren’t waiting; look what Maryland did yesterday:

Washington, D.C.—Maryland's legislators gave final approval this week to two landmark energy bills that together aim to reduce the state's energy consumption by 15% by 2015.  The legislation, proposed by Governor Martin O'Malley, sets the stage for Maryland to become a leader in capturing the benefits of energy efficiency.

"These two bills provide a foundation for a clean and sustainable energy future for the state of Maryland," said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). "Maryland's policies now recognize energy efficiency as the 'first fuel' for meeting its future energy needs.

A study released in February by ACEEE evaluated a suite of energy efficiency policies for Maryland and found that more than enough energy efficiency resources exist in the state to meet Governor O'Malley's ambitious 15 by '15 goal, and confirmed that reducing electricity consumption is the quickest, cheapest, and cleanest way for policymakers to bring consumer bills down and keep the lights on in the state.

OK, 15% doesn’t sound like much but it’s a great start.

Tennessee isn’t going to be left behind, either. I read that Tennessee’s House passed an energy conservation bill yesterday (though there’s been precious little information about this bill printed in the media). More to the point, Gov. Bredesen has called for a comprehensive state energy policy. This is something we desperately need, since the government is the largest energy consumer in the state, and apparently it’s an energy hog. State Senator Rosalind Kurita made an interesting revelation:

The Clarksville Democrat said she wants to be able to turn off the lights in her state office when she's not there.

"It's ridiculous that you cannot turn a light off in the Legislative Plaza. In our office the lights are on 24 hours a day. That defies logic, and we're going to fix that.

"That is a wanton waste of energy."

I did not know that you cannot turn a light off in Legislative Plaza. How absolutely insane! And while we’re doing energy audits, let’s get Metro on board, too.

People, this just makes sense. A kilowatt saved is a kilowatt earned. Energy efficiency is a "first fuel." It's time we all got on board this bandwagon.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Finally Get An Answer

That was some awesome kabuki theater Congress saw this week courtesy of Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker. Buried deep in Act 2 came the answer to the question I asked here and here.

Thank you, Congressman Robert Wexler, Democrat from Florida’s 19th:
Underscoring the tragedy of the Administration's failed policy, one of my constituents died in an attack on the Green Zone on Monday. I spoke with his parents yesterday, and they asked me to ask General Petraeus a simple question: For what? For what had they lost their son?

I asked him this question, and then asked him to define "victory."

I did not expect General Petraeus to answer either directly, but he did.

He stated that we were fighting for national interest, including the region's "importance to the global economy." (In my mind, a stunning admission of the true motives behind this war.) He stated that they were trying to achieve a country that is "at peace with itself and its neighbors," "could defend itself" that was "reasonably representative of and broadly responsive to its citizens." These are not reasonable objectives. Half the countries around the world are not able to defend themselves. Many have internal and external conflict - and few - including our own, are broadly responsive to its citizens.

Read the transcript here.

This is not political. Republicans as well as Democrats understand the point Wexler makes. If we’re in Iraq for economic reasons (cough*cough*OIL*cough*cough) then let’s have a freaking conversation about it already. It’s beyond time to have that conversation. Enough with the BS about WMD and terrorism and democracy and ponies. If the president thinks our stability depends on Iraqi oil, come out and say so already. What, is he chicken?

This week Amb. Crocker finally admitted the war on terror is in Afghanistan, not Iraq. Last month Karl Rove said if we left Iraq, oil would be $200/barrel. It’s pretty obvious that everyone knows Iraq is about oil, not terrorism--except maybe the American people, because no one has come out and told them.

I hate to make a bad pun here, but there IS an elephant in the room, and it’s not just the sucky Republican president. So come on, America. Do you want your sons and daughters to die for oil? Does this make sense to you? Speak up, don't be shy. Let your represenatives know what you think.

Because we can no longer pretend ignorance about the true reasons we are in Iraq.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wal-Mart Finds Payback’s A Bitch


Oh my god. There's video on YouTube:

Wal-mart fired the independent video production company it used to document its internal meetings, and now a video archive spanning 30 years has been opened for our perusal. Everyone from attorneys to unions to the press can now see some hidden gems from Wal-Mart’s history, for a fee.

Can you say awkward!
Those moments never meant for public display include a scene of male managers parading in drag at an executive meeting, a clip used by union-backed critics at Wal-Mart Watch for a recent advertisement castigating the retailer's attitude toward female employees.

"The videos provide insight into the company's real corporate culture when they're not in the public eye," Wal-Mart Watch spokeswoman Stacie Lock Temple said Tuesday.

Much of the interest in the candid videos is coming from plaintiff lawyers pursuing cases against Wal-Mart.

Is this legal? The production company says it is, since apparently Wal-Mart and Flagler Productions never signed a contract. Flagler is selling access to the Wal-Mart archive to stay in business.

Wal-Mart was about 95 percent of Flagler's business, Villaneuva said. The loss meant the company nearly collapsed. So it looked to its assets and realized that it could charge for access to its video library.

"We would like to go back to being a production company, but right now we're getting by as an archive," Villaneuva said.

Looks like someone just got goosed by the free hand of the market.

I Still Have A Question

Earlier this week I asked what the hell we’re still doing in Iraq. Via dday at Digby comes a stunning admission from Ambassador Ryan Crocker, our ambassador to Iraq, from yesterday’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that makes my question even more pressing:
He asked Ryan Crocker, who used to be ambassador to Pakistan, whether it would be better for U.S. interests to go after Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border or Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Crocker, in an impossible political position -- give the correct answer and humiliate the Bush administration; give the administration's answer and look like a fool -- dodged as much as he could. Then Biden forced him down. Crocker: "I would therefore pick Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border."

Our man in Iraq, who used to be our man in Pakistan, just blew every Bush-Cheney-McCain-Lieberman lie about the Iraq War out of the water.

dday writes:

Every single argument that the Administration and their lapdogs like John McCain have made or are making break down after that answer. The Ambassdor to Iraq just admitted that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terror. He just admitted that the potential for Al Qaeda to gain a beachhead in Iraq should the United States withdraw is miniscule compared to the already-established beachhead along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He admitted that the global fight against terror is currently misdirected.

To which all I can add is, yeah.

Why are we in Iraq again?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

No One Could Have Anticipated This

Oh, wait. Yeah, we probably could:
US Water Pipelines Are Breaking

The Environmental Protection Agency says utilities will need to invest more than $277 billion over the next two decades on repairs and improvements to drinking water systems. Water industry engineers put the figure drastically higher, at about $480 billion.

Water utilities, largely managed by city governments, have never faced improvements of this magnitude before. And customers will have to bear the majority of the cost through rate increases, according to the American Water Works Association, an industry group.

Engineers say this is a crucial era for the nation's water systems, especially in older cities like New York, where some pipes and tunnels were built in the 1800s and are now nearing the end of their life expectancies.

''Our generation hasn't experienced anything like this. We weren't around when the infrastructure was being built,'' said Greg Kail, spokesman for the water industry group. ''We didn't pay for the pipes to be put in the ground, but we sure benefited from the improvements to public health that came from it.''

This one’s a no-brainer. Back in 2006 it was estimated the Iraq War cost us $2 billion a week. So, $480 billion is, what, 4 1/2 years in Iraq? And we’ve been there five years?

And what’s the bigger threat: no clean water at home, or some mythic WMD that never even existed?

(h/t, Atrios)


If you agree we should invest in America, not in Iraq, there's a petition going around.

What Would Thomas Jefferson Say? (Or for that matter Ben Franklin?)

Something about folks who trade liberty for security deserve neither, I suspect. At least, that’s what I thought when I read about the unlimited, unilateral power the GOP-led Congress gave Michael Chertoff in 2005 to build a border fence:
Last week, Mr. Chertoff issued waivers suspending more than 30 laws he said could interfere with “the expeditious construction of barriers” in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The list included laws protecting the environment, endangered species, migratory birds, the bald eagle, antiquities, farms, deserts, forests, Native American graves and religious freedom.

The secretary of homeland security was granted the power in 2005 to void any federal law that might interfere with fence building on the border. For good measure, Congress forbade the courts to second-guess the secretary’s determinations. So long as Mr. Chertoff is willing to say it is necessary to void a given law, his word is final.

The delegation of power to Mr. Chertoff is unprecedented, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. It is also, if papers filed in the Supreme Court last month are correct, unconstitutional.

I know conservatives think environmental laws are quaint little things that look nice but should be dispensed with as soon as they become inconvenient to the greater goal of making money. But what about other laws Chertoff can suspend?

“It is only happenchance that the secretary’s waiver in this case involved laws protecting the environment and historic resources,” the groups told Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of Federal District Court in Washington. “He could equally have waived the requirements of the Fair Labor Relations Act to halt a strike, or the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in order to force workers to endure unsafe working conditions.”

This is the GOP Congress’ idea of “protecting” us? To voluntarily surrender its authority to someone else--in this case, Michael Chertoff? To abdicate its oversight responsibility and forbid the courts from hearing challenges? To, in effect, completely muzzle the voice of the people?

This is how the GOP Congress "protects" us?

Proof yet again that these people should not be allowed near the reins of power ever again. Because look what they did with it: they handed it over to Michael Chertoff: a man who was never even elected to any office.

Monday, April 7, 2008

1-2-3-4 What The Hell Are We Still Doing In Iraq?

The brilliant minds at fafblog have some ideas. My favorite:
You wanna be president, you gotta pop at least one third-world country before you're parta the gang

That’s as good a reason as any. But the other suggestions are good, too. Check it out.

Meanwhile, dday at Digby's reminds us why Cokie Roberts is a blathering idiot. Honestly, I don’t know how lefty bloggers can bear to watch the Sunday morning gasbag shows anymore. They kill far more brain cells than a fifth of Jack Daniel’s, without the benefit of the buzz:

VANDEN HEUVEL: If we withdraw responsibly, the region would be more stable in the long term, America will be restored as a responsible global leader, and there are 42 challengers, you are absolutely right Cokie, who have a responsible plan to withdraw.

ROBERTS: Convincing the electorate of that I think would be very difficult, and I also agree that the notion that Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham you heard this morning putting forward, that Americans would prefer to win, is--

As Atrios says, the stoooopid it burrrns! There is no “win” for us in Iraq. Iraq is in a civil war. John McCain and his poodle, Huckleberry Graham, keep pretending this is some great military struggle between "us" and "them" but at its heart it's nothing more than a tawdry civil war, the inevitable result of us removing the dictator whose iron rule had held the pieces together. Iraq is in disarray, and we had to have seen that coming. I'm starting to wonder if this instability wasn't the point all along.

And here's something else I'm wondering. I think McCain keeps confusing “Sunni” and “Shia” and Al Qaeda and Iran because he really doesn’t care what’s happening in Iraq, or who's doing what, or which parties are fighting. He just wants a war--any war will do, thank you. He will be a war president, dammit, and he’ll do it far better than Junior ever did!

Which brings us back to where I started with this blog entry:

You wanna be president, you gotta pop at least one third-world country before you're parta the gang.

That’s really all it’s about: throwing our weight around. If it weren’t Iraq it would be some other disastrous third-world country, maybe a Central American one or Caribbean island like St. Ronnie did, or some poor imporverished place in Africa. The “where” doesn’t matter, what matters is that we remind the world that we’re still the biggest bastards in town, despite the looming threat from China, despite the economic crisis, despite the EU’s growing world influence. We’ve got the power, bay-bees, and don’t you forget it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Irony & The Ecstasy

Honestly, the jokes just write themselves these days:
A year ago, the Mortgage Bankers Association was thrilled to sign a contract to buy a fancy new headquarters building in downtown Washington. Interest rates were low, the group's revenues were steady and the prospects for quickly renting out part of the structure were strong.

But since then, the association has fallen on tough times as many of the subprime mortgages dispensed by some of its members proved dicey. Borrowers discovered the loans were more costly than they had anticipated. Foreclosures soared, and cheap, inexpensive credit dried up, slowing the economy.

The result: The trade group is about to find it harder than it imagined to pay its own mortgage.

Scheduled to close on the building in the coming weeks, the association will have to pay millions of dollars more than it would have a year ago when it contracted to buy the 160,000-square-foot structure -- millions of dollars it is now less able to afford.

No one could have anticipated that the predatory lending practices of folks like Countrywide would have industry-wide repercussions! No one expected those chickens to come home to roost.

It’s not like the Mortgage Bankers Assn. didn’t try to keep foisting their higher cost, dirty-dog subprime mortgages off on an unsuspecting public, even after the collapse of Big Shitpile, or force borrowers into foreclosure. Oh, wait. They did:

Indeed, under pressure from the lobby, the House already gutted some of the better parts of the Frank bill. For example, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the American Banking Association lobbyists persuaded legislators to allow lenders to continue the insidious practice of paying an increased fee to brokers for steering borrowers into higher cost sub-prime mortgages. It also bars borrowers whose predatory loans have been sold on Wall Street from suing investors for relief until the homeowners are facing foreclosure. In effect, it forces borrowers into foreclosure as a condition for asserting their rights. Wall Street and the big players in the mortgage market won't be held accountable for buying abusive loans.

Well, there is a God: apparently the Mortgage Bankers Assn. has hit on some hard times. According to the Washington Post, the lobbying group’s membership is down 17% and its revenue will be down 15%.

Not the same as a family being tossed out of their home, of course. But I won't be crying for the Mortgage Bankers Association if they have to eat it on their new HQ.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Peace Sign!

Apparently today is the 50th birthday of the peace sign. No kidding! According to Wiki:
This forked symbol was designed for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) and was adopted as its badge by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in Britain, and originally was used by the British nuclear disarmament movement. It was later generalised to become an international icon for the 1960s anti-war movement, and was also adopted by the counterculture of the time. It was designed and completed February 21, 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer and artist in Britain for the April 4 march planned by DAC from Trafalgar Square, London to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in England.

The symbol itself is a combination of the semaphoric signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for Nuclear Disarmament. In semaphore the letter "N" is formed by a person holding two flags in an upside-down "V," and the letter "D" is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down. These two signals imposed over each other form the shape of the peace symbol. In the original design the lines widened at the edge of the circle.

I had no idea.

You can create your own peace sign here.

Our Great Equal Opportunity Employer

In the post below I quote John McCain as saying the U.S. military is the “greatest equal opportunity employer in America.”

Look what our great equal opportunity employer has done to a dead soldier’s Wikipedia entry:
Pentagon employee erases mention of homosexuality on dead soldier's Wikipedia page

The Washington Blade reports that a computer with a Pentagon-registered IP address removed references of Maj. Alan Rogers’ sexual orientation:

Information that was deleted included Rogers’ sexual orientation; the soldier’s participation in American Veterans for Equal Rights, a group that works to change military policy toward gays; and the fact that Rogers’ death helped bring the U.S. military’s casualty toll in Iraq to 4,000.


The IP address attached to the deletion of the details and the posted comments is The address belongs to a computer from the office of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2) at the Pentagon. The office is headed by Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, who was present at Rogers’ funeral and presented the flag from Rogers’ coffin to his cousin, Cathy Long.

I can think of some adjectives right now but “great” and "equal opportunity employer" aren't among them.

McCain Nixed King Holiday


McCain's history with the MLK holiday gets even worse. According to ABC News, he was not only against it for the state of Arizona, he supported rescinding it after it was already state law:
In Arizona, a bill to recognize a holiday honoring MLK failed in the legislature, so then-Gov. Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat, declared one through executive order.

In January 1987, the first act of Arizona's new governor, Republican Evan Mecham, was to rescind the executive order by his predecessor to create an MLK holiday. Arizona's stance became a national controversy.

McCain backed the decision at the time. But eventually he changed his mind.

If John McCain learned his lesson, he sure took his time.

The GOP is trying hard to, pardon the pun, whitewash its racist past with claptrap like this from the state GOP. Now via the Wall Street Journal we are reminded that John McCain voted against a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. back in 1983:

But when McCain first came to Congress in 1983, he opposed creating a federal holiday. The House vote was 338-90 and President Reagan signed the bill into law later that year.

McCain said earlier this week that he had not understood the issue. Asked what he later learned, he said, “I learned that this individual was a transcendent figure in American history. He deserved to be honored… I had not really been involved in the issue. I just had not had a lot of experience with the issue.”

He grew testy when asked what he did not understand. He also noted that his adopted state of Arizona does not have a large African-American population, and said the U.S. military, where he had spent his entire adult life before running for Congress, is the “greatest equal opportunity employer in America. It was then and it is today.”

Well, except for the gay thing. But I digress.

So, McCain didn’t understand what the civil rights movement was about? Really? One didn’t have to live in the thick of it to understand what was happening in the 1950s and 1960s. His "failure to understand" shows either a shocking lack of interest or an even worse disengagement from one of this country's most transcendent struggles.

Geez, do we really need someone like this as POTUS? We’ve barely survived eights years of “no one could have anticipated” ... do we need another four?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Clinton Petition

I got a copy of Hillary Clinton’s petition to seat the FL and MI delegates in the e-mail via Emily’s List. That just ticked me off. Look, if Hillary is the nominee, great, she’s got my support. But there’s no need for dishonesty, and comparisons to the 2000 “count the votes” thing are offensive.

In comments at Eschaton Falstaff posted this hilarious video, which illustrates the issue perfectly:

Come off it, already.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Trader Joe's In Green Hills!

If this is a late April Fool's joke, I'm gonna be really mad. A friend just e-mailed me this, with no attribution from The Tennessean. We believe the location is the old Wild Oats building on Hillboro Road:
Trader Joe's, a grocery chain some Nashvillians have long clamored for, is set to open a Green Hills location by Thanksgiving of this year.

The store will be located at 3909 Hillsboro Pike and measure 14,000 square feet, said spokeswoman Alison Mochizuke.

That's in line with the California-based company's average store size of approximately 10,000- to 15,000-square feet.

I'll update if I find out more.

Welcoming Our Corporate Overlords, Part 2

As if network television weren’t crappy enough already, someone at NBC has come up with this lame idea:
At a presentation on Wednesday afternoon, senior executives of NBC, part of the NBC Universal unit of General Electric, will describe how they are seeking to make advertisers into long-term partners rather than just sell them 30-second commercials.

One example is a new deal with the Liberty Mutual Group insurance company that is centered on a pair of two-hour TV movies to be broadcast under the banner of the company — “Liberty Mutual Presents,” for example.

The movie plots are intended to complement a campaign for Liberty Mutual that was introduced in 2006 by Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston, which carries the theme, “Responsibility. What’s your policy?” The scripts, which Liberty Mutual will help develop, will discuss subjects like taking responsibility for one’s actions and deciding how to do the right thing.

Oh great, just what I need: to take my moral cues from a freaking insurance company.

This all worked so well in the 1950s, didn’t it? I’m sure the fact that Phillip Morris sponsored I Love Lucy had nothing to do with the fact that Lucy, Ethel and Ricky smoked like chimneys on the program.

Let me be clear, as a “content creator” (i.e., a writer) I absolutely detest this idea. I find it abhorrent to allow anyone--government or corporation--to have control over the creative process. I know newspapers and magazines do it all the time with advertising inserts and “special sections,” and I don’t like that, either.

The Times article quotes Michael Pilot, president for sales and marketing at NBC Universal:

advertisers “are not asking us to be programmers,” Mr. Pilot said, but rather “they want to be more connected to the programming; they want a seat at the table.”

Excuse me, I thought programming was a network's job, and who said advertisers should be involved in programming anyway? Who said that’s in the best interest of TV viewers? They're hawking products at us, why should they have a seat at the table?

I’ve voiced my distaste for being marketed to several times. I realize that this dislike of advertising is why corporations are forced to get more creative with their sales pitch to begin with. But it’s getting downright predatory. It’s like there’s some phantom lurking in my home reaching out to sell me shit I don’t want at every turn. Ads on supermarket shopping baskets, in the movie theater, on television, in my mailbox, and now even snuck into the content of my entertainment. I’m sick of it

Here’s a novel idea to Liberty Mutual: how about making a better product? Yeah, I used to have your insurance and I cancelled it because your premiums got way too high and you didn’t offer the same bells and whistles that other insurance companies did. How about just providing a product people want, and trust the “free hand of the market” to do its job?

Anyway, the NBC/Liberty Mutual partnership will debut in September with “Kings,” which Liberty Mutual’s PR guy described as

a “fast-paced, contemporary drama, kind of like ‘The West Wing’ set in a kingdom,” and inspired by the biblical story of David.

Good luck with that.