Thursday, July 31, 2008

Damned If You Do Department

Via Atrios comes word that the McCain campaign had two sets of anti-Obama ads ready to go: one if he didn’t visit with wounded troops and one if he did:
What the McCain campaign doesn’t want people to know, according to one GOP strategist I spoke with over the weekend, is that they had an ad script ready to go if Obama had visited the wounded troops saying that Obama was...wait for it...using wounded troops as campaign props. So, no matter which way Obama turned, McCain had an Obama bashing ad ready to launch. I guess that’s political hardball. But another word for it is the one word that most politicians are loathe to use about their opponents—a lie.

I can’t say I’m surprised by this. Politics is what it is, and John McCain has shown he is ready, willing, and able to play as dirty and negative as he needs to.

But like Atrios, I am curious as to why the media continues to play along. Especially since this ad was clearly made for the media to report on, not to run as a campaign ad:

WASHINGTON — The number of times Senator John McCain’s new advertisement attacking Senator Barack Obama for canceling a visit with wounded troops in Germany last week has been shown fully or partly on local, national and cable newscasts: well into the hundreds.

The number of times that spot actually, truly ran as a paid commercial: roughly a dozen.

Result for Mr. McCain: a public relations coup that allowed him to show his toughest campaign advertisement of the year — one widely panned as misleading — to millions of people, largely free, through television news media hungry for political news with arresting visual imagery.

Welcome to Swift Boat 2008! This is a perfect example of why liberals say the media is biased. Either our mainstream media are willing participants in this election year kabuki theater, or they are the biggest suckers on the planet because they keep getting played over and over and over again.

Either way, it’s wrong.

And The Money Keeps Rolling In From Every Side

It’s another new record for ExxonMobil: the world’s largest corporation has just reported second-quarter profits of $11.68 billion.

That’s profits. Not gross. Profits. That means the expenses are already subtracted out.

Did I mention this is for the second quarter only? Not the entire year?

Meanwhile, Shell Oil reports higher profits despite decreased production:
LONDON – Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest oil company, reported a 33 percent increase in second-quarter profit Thursday, helped by a higher oil price even as production declined.

Like smaller rival BP earlier this week, Shell profited from an oil price that almost doubled in the second quarter from the year earlier, but a 13 percent drop from a record on July 11 raised some concern among investors about whether oil companies can keep up the pace of earnings growth.

Your concern is noted.

BP said earlier a higher oil price started to affect consumer demand for its gasoline, which declined as much as 10 percent in the United States and Europe.

Shell's profit rose to $11.56 billion from $8.67 billion in the same period last year. BP reported a 28 percent increase in profit earlier this week, and Italian oil company Eni said Thursday that profit in the second quarter had risen 52 percent, citing a higher oil price.

Again, this is profit, not gross. Profit. In the billions. With a “b.” Just for the second quarter.

Looking at the gasoline front, some bloggers point out that a "surprise decline in the nation's gasoline stockpile” (reported by CNN), coupled with a U.S. gasoline demand that is “significantly lower than the same week a year ago,” means that oil companies have cut production to inflate prices.

Could it be that the oil companies have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, so to speak? To certain record profits every quarter? As bloated as these profits may sound to us, when investors show "concern" when one record-breaking quarterly profit might not be quite as absurdly high as the last, it's reasonable to assume they will take appropriate action.

I read all of this as CNN touts their own poll claiming that most Americans favor off-shore oil drilling, though “Americans are divided over whether or not offshore drilling will have an immediate impact on high gas prices.”

Well, in that case, most Americans are grossly uneducated on this issue. If it were really as simple as supply and demand, then everyone would be in favor of the simple conservation measures that have been proven to lower gas prices immediately. After all, we're told lower demand is why gas prices dropped 20 cents a gallon two weeks ago.

Unfortunately, oil is a global commodity and the oil companies are global multinational corporations. It's not as easy as drilling off the coast of Florida or in the Alaska wilderness and all of our troubles disappear. What consumers in China and India do has as an impact on gas prices here in America too, and we have no control over that. In fact, anyone who is stupid enough to believe that increased oil drilling at home will do anything other than further inflate already obscene oil company profits is smoking something.

Oil companies don't give a crap about $4 gasoline in the U.S., except as it affects their bottom line. And when consumers start cutting back, ExxonMobil and Chevron, like their brethren at OPEC, turn off the spigot. They've gotten a taste of $149 barrel oil and they aren't backing down now.

So the American people can decide they want to trade tourism and fishing industries for the oil industry all they want. It isn't going to change the price of gasoline or heating oil or electricity rates at home.

The only thing that will accomplish that is getting off the oil tit. And if ExxonMobil and Chevron and the rest are too blinded by profits to read the writing on the wall and get on the new energy bandwagon, well, you can't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Over at Newscoma's place I learned one can make their own superhero over at the Marvel website.

So meet Puma. She's all about truth, justice and all that jazz. Plus she has a tail. I've always wanted one of those.

So Much For That

I’d really hoped the tragic shootings in Knoxville would have led to some kind of national dialogue about the inflammatory rhetoric that dominates our national discourse, primarily talk radio, and primarily on the conservative side, though I'd place some liberal talkers in that class as well.

But apparently the corporate media which rules our discourse has decided now is not the time for that conversation. Gee, I wonder why. I guess they’re making too much money off of keeping Americans divided and angry at one another.

Fox, CNN, ABC, ClearChannel -- they all disseminate intolerance over the pubic airwaves on a daily basis. They make money from it. Is it dangerous? Does it incite people to violence? Who knows? Is it worth talking about?


Nothing to see here, move along ... and up next! Tune in as KSFO's Brian Sussman says Obama is running for Antichrist! Over at Fox News, Charles Krauthammer compares Obama’s Berlin appearance to a Nazi rally. Bill O'Reilly says rich people pay for poor folks to smoke reefers 24/7. And in Alaska, conservative talk show host Dan Fagan asserts: "There's nothing wrong with being an extremist.”

In other words, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Your Liberal Media

I was suspicious when Ron Fournier, Washington Bureau Chief for the Associated Press, presented John McCain with a box of donuts at a press conference earlier this year. Geez, Mr. Fournier, are you covering the campaign or part of it?

Now we may have our answer:
NEW YORK Ron Fournier, the former top Associated Press reporter returned to AP in March 2007 and now serves as D.C. bureau chief, where he directs coverage of the 2008 campaign. But before he took that job, revealed tonight, he considered taking a job as a senior adviser to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign.

A source said that he had been approached for this job in October 2006 and in the following months talked to several top McCain advisers about it. 

Oh, that makes it all so clear! The AP spokesperson says it’s “not uncommon for journalists to be approached” by campaigns. But do those journalists then go on to direct campaign coverage for their news organizations, especially an influential outfit like AP?

I’m not so sure. I actually remember the dinosaur days when newspaper reporters weren’t allowed to donate to political campaigns out of fears their impartiality would be questioned. Good times.

This isn’t the first time Fournier’s impartiality has been questioned. It was revealed during an investigation into Pat Tillman’s death that Fournier sent Karl Rove friendly e-mails, encouraging him to “keep up the fight” during the 2004 Presidential campaign.

A campaign he was covering as a reporter.

Again: was Ron Fournier covering the campaign, or part of it?

At the very least this shows Fournier has a serious lack of judgment. Here’s the thing Ron Fournier doesn’t seem to understand: reporters cover the news, they don’t become part of it. Fournier is dancing very close to the edge here, and it calls the AP's coverage of the presidential campaign into question.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chickens Coming Home To Roost

This is sadly not surprising:
Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.

When news came out that Knoxville church shooter Jim Adkisson targeted the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist congregation because of its liberal views, I wondered if he was a consumer of right wing hate media. Michael Savage is the king of these clowns, and I'm not surprised to learn Adkisson had his book. He probably listened to his show every day.

Calvin Rye at Progressive Nashville has an excellent post up about this. Rye writes:

To those who demonize liberals… It’s not that I blame you for these murders. It’s that I want you to recognize them as a warning sign. When someone that sick and violent finds your message that appealing, it should make you stop and think. Do you realize how hate-filled your rhetoric has become? Do you recognize the bile you’re spewing?

Hatred is a strong motivator. It’s very effective in politics. If you can fill the voters with fury at your opponent, they’ll show up at the ballot box in a stampede. You can choose hate and fury as political weapons, if that’s what you want. It’s a free country. And it works.

But remember what it is you’re inspiring. Not murder -- a sane person won’t go that far. But anger. You’re fanning the flames of outrage. You’re filling people with hatred. The kind that would appeal to a madman.

The damage you do to our nation is greater than losing an election.

I'd only add that the corporate media which profits handsomely from this hate speech shares a huge amount of responsibility. The people at Talk Radio Network, which allows Michael Savage to spread his anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-liberal hate speech to an audience of over 10 million nationwide, should take a long hard look at the monster they've created. The news show bookers who bring Ann Coulter on to hawk her books so she can hurl insults at 9/11 widows and call liberals "godless" -- you share part of the blame too. CNN, which allows Glenn Beck to compare Al Gore to Hitler and call Hurricane Katrina survivors scumbags--you've just been lucky. One of these days some wackadoodle is going to go off on a crowd of people because he heard Glenn Beck say something about turning Mexican immigrants into fuel. Everything's a joke until someone gets hurt.

Every one of these media-created monsters has their fans. In these crazy, pushed-to-breaking world we live in, it was only a matter of time before someone acted on the hate spew they hear on the radio every day. And in an office building somewhere, someone is making money off of it.

It should make us all sick.

Hate Crime

The Knoxville police are giving a press conference on the church shooting. It appears Jim D. Adkisson targeted this particular church because of its progressive stance regarding gays and its liberal positions in general. Apparently the church had been in the news recently where its progressive attitudes were highlighted.

Via CNN (I’m transcribing it from the broadcast):
“It appears what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement. We have recovered a 4 page letter in which he describes his feelings and the reasons he claims that he committed these offenses.

“He indicated also in that letter that he expected to be in there shooting people until the police arrived and he fully expected to be killed by the responding police.”

I guess he didn't think the liberals would fight back. Now he will have to live with what he did, a punishment far worse than if he had got his wish and been killed by the police.

What a profound tragedy. I hope the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist congregation of Knoxville knows that we in Nashville mourn their loss, and pray that they may find healing and peace of mind.

I know there are conservatives out there who don’t understand why hate crimes are different from other crimes. They don’t understand that a hate crime, which targets individuals because of the class of people they represent--people of color, liberals, gays, immigrants, Muslims, Christians, etc.--is designed to intimidate an entire group of people. They don’t see the difference.

The difference is very obvious to me. As a liberal, and a member of a progressive church known by the community to be liberal, and which welcomes all people regardless of sexual orientation, I feel like this crazy person could have just as easily have targeted our church.

CNN has also reported that the State of Tennessee had recently cut off Adkisson’s food stamps. He was unable to find a job and had his assistance cut off, and for some reason he blamed all that on liberals. You can’t make sense out of that except to say: public policy affects people’s lives. And people in desperate situations do desperate things. They go off and shoot people who in their twisted minds symbolize the source of their problems. They fly planes into buildings. They lash out because they don’t feel like they have any other alternatives. And innocent people get killed.

We live in troubled times. People are scared and insecure. They can’t find jobs or healthcare, and our safety net that once helped people in times of financial trouble has huge holes in it. And instead of talking about these issues, right wing wackjobs like Michael Savage and Glenn Beck create scapegoats. Even worse, our “responsible” media falls into the trap by urging these people along, giving them the microphone to broadcast their hatred, or covering their spew as if it were news. It’s not news. The news is that people don’t have jobs, healthcare, food stamps, housing.

I close with Matthew 5:9-12:

 9Blessed are the peacemakers,
      for they will be called sons of God.

 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Putting Partisan Spin On A Claim Of Partisan Spin

Local right-wing wackadoodle Phil Valentine makes one of his most ludicrous claims yet in Sunday’s Tennessean column. Looking for media bias in all the wrong places, Valentine wonders why the media have not covered tawdry, unsubstantiated rumors about John Edwards alleged by that bastion of journalistic integrity, The National Enquirer.

Valentine writes:
Is it true? Who knows? And that's not really the point here. The point is the arbiters of news have a different set of standards as to what passes for news depending on the party affiliation of the person involved.

Valentine then has to go back a full 13 years to find an example of the “liberal” media attacking conservative Newt Gingrich over his affair (which, for the record, ended up being true).

Some would argue they printed Newt's story to accentuate his hypocrisy, but that was three years before the Monica Lewinsky affair. The only reason to run with the Newt story was because it was newsworthy. And because he happened to be a despised Republican elected official.

Oh, yeah. Monica Lewinsky. Remember her? I think she was involved with a despised Democratic elected official. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong.

Valentine also conveniently forgets the Eliot Spitzer scandal, which rocked all the major news outlets just four months ago.

I love the selective memory of people like Phil Valentine. It’s so cute when they confuse “liberal media bias” with “journalistic standards against covering unsubstantiated gossip as legitimate news.” But you can’t really blame them. I’ve watched a good bit of Fox News lately and one thing I’ve noticed is how little actual news they cover. Mostly, it’s celebrity gossip and tawdry sensationalism about missing white women and bizarre animal attacks.

Consume enough of that and no wonder you could come up with a line like

Is it true? Who knows? And that's not really the point here.

Okay, Mr. Valentine. I heard a rumor that you regularly have sex with farm animals. And I want to know why there’s a media blackout on covering this story.

Is it true? Who knows? That's not really the point here. The media has an obligation to cover this story anyway.

See how easy that was?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Is This Why Media Were Banned From That Karl Rove Dinner?

TN GOP flack Bill Hobbs needs to get his story straight about media access to the TN GOP’s Statesmen’s Dinner Saturday night. First he said it is a
"closed ticketed event and historically has not been open to the media."

Then, after prominent Republicans like Sen. Lamar Alexander criticized the move, Hobbs did a flip-flop:

GOP Opens Statesmen's Dinner To Reporters Who Buy Tickets and Wear Blindfolds

Turns out, the Tennessee Republican Party's annual Statesmen's Dinner sn't closed to the press after all. That's the news flash from party flack Bill Hobbs, whose email just popped into my inbox with a subject line asking "Fact Checker Off Today?"

"The event isn’t closed to the press," Hobbs writes. "Entrance requires a ticket. You could have known those things by contacting me before you typed."

To which, I replied, "I might call you more often if you’d call me back. So you’re saying if I buy a ticket, you’ll let me go in and report on what happens?"

"That has been our position all along," he shot back. "It is a ticketed event. People with tickets get in. But no recording devices allowed."

Oh, forget about that "closed" thing then. What an ass. Bill Hobbs is sure to have a long and successful career in the Republican Party.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that Rove himself put the kabosh on media attendance at the event. It seems there are allegations he has threatened a witness in a 2004 Ohio election fraud case currently being investigated by the Dept. of Justice. BradBlog has the goods:

Karl Rove has threatened a GOP high-tech guru and his wife, if he does not "'take the fall' for election fraud in Ohio," according to a letter sent this morning to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, by Ohio election attorney Cliff Arnebeck.

The email, posted in full below, details threats against Mike Connell of the Republican firm New Media Communications, which describes itself on its website as "a powerhouse in the field of Republican website development and Internet services" and having "played a strategic role in helping the GOP expand its technological supremacy."

Connell was described in a recent interview with the plaintiff's attorneys in Ohio as a "high IQ Forrest Gump" for his appearance "at the scene of every [GOP] crime" from Florida 2000 to Ohio 2004 to the RNC email system to the installation of the currently-used Congressional computer network firewall.

Connell and his firm are currently employed by the John McCain campaign, as well as the RNC and other Republican and so-called "faith-based" organizations.

In a phone call this afternoon, Arnebeck could not publicly reveal specific details of the information that triggered his concern about the threats to Connell. The message to the IT man from Rove is said to have been sent via a go-between in Ohio. That information led Arnebeck to contact Mukasey after he found the reports to be credible and troubling.

"If there's a credible threat, which I regard this to be," he told The BRAD BLOG, "I have a professional duty to report it."

Attempts to reach Connell for comment late this afternoon were not successful.

The disclosure from Arnebeck comes on the heels of a dramatic announcement last week, made at a Columbus press conference, announcing Arnebeck's motion to lift a stay on the long-standing King Lincoln Bronzwell v. Blackwell federal lawsuit, challenging voting rights violations in the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio.

Not that our local media would ever ask about such things, since they probably don’t know about them, but it sure would be awkward if they did.

Anyway, follow the link to read the e-mail. It’s certainly troubling.

Then again, maybe Karl Rove is just scared that he’ll run into Sheryl Crow again.

Hey! Nashville Predators!

THIS is what happens when you let the Detroit Red Wings have the Stanley Cup:
In Sweden, the Stanley Cup is used as baptismal font for baby's christening

PITEA, Sweden — Tomas Holmstrom had his day with the Stanley Cup on Friday, and he let his cousin use it as a baptismal font for a christening.

Holmstrom suggested the idea to his cousin, Robert Sundstrom, who baptized his seven-week-old daughter Alva Felicia during a private ceremony outside Holmstrom's hometown of Pitea in northern Sweden.

"Tomas came up with the idea when we were sitting in his summer cabin kitchen a week ago," Sundstrom said. "Me and my wife thought it would be fun to christen our daughter in such a priceless object."

The only outsiders at the ceremony were the two American security guards who travel with the massive silver trophy in Sweden.

Holmstrom won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings, and each member of the team gets to spend a day with the trophy.


Take Novak’s Keys Away

So 77-year-old Robert Novak mows down an elderly homeless man in the street with his black corvette, and is only caught because a witness riding a bicycle made a citizens arrest and called 911:
As he traveled east on K Street, crossing 18th, Bono said "a black Corvette convertible with top closed plows into the guy. The guy is sort of splayed into the windshield.”

Bono said that the pedestrian, who was crossing the street on a "Walk" signal and was in the crosswalk, rolled off the windshield and that Novak then made a right into the service lane of K Street. “This car is speeding away. What’s going through my mind is, you just can’t hit a pedestrian and drive away,” Bono said. 

He said he chased Novak half a block down K Street, finally caught up with him and then put his bike in front of the car to block it and called 911. Traffic immediately backed up, horns blaring, until commuters behind Novak backed up so he could pull over.

Bono said that throughout, Novak "keeps trying to get away. He keeps trying to go.” He said he vaguely recognized the longtime political reporter and columnist as a news personality but could not precisely place him.

Hit-and-run is pretty serious stuff. People go to jail for that. Not politically connected people, of course. Novak got a $50 ticket. For hitting a pedestrian and leaving the scene of an accident? That’s criminal.

And now the story gets worse. Turns out the guy he hit was an 86-year-old homeless man.

Some folks need to know when to hang up the car keys.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

That Scheiße Touch


Hah. I see This Modern World had the same idea I did--with much better photos. Go check it out.


Who is running the McCain campaign? When the RNC came up with its cockamamie idea to run radio ads in Berlin, PA; Berlin, WI; and Berlin, NH, on a day when Barack Obama was giving his big speech in Berlin, Germany, someone should have told them no.

And what idiot thought it was a good idea to schedule a McCain appearance at the cheesy Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant tourist trap in Columbus, Ohio? What a way to highlight the difference between the two candidates. While Obama makes the big, important, statesmanlike international appearance, McCain enjoys the Senior Citizen discount and orders “a couple of cream puffs to go”? Bizarre.

Maybe next time Obama leaves the country John McCain can open a shopping center.

Which is more impressive: the photo at left, or this:

And what’s up with Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tailing him wherever he goes? It’s starting to creep me out.

The funniest thing is how McCain is trying to play the “humble” card now:
McCain told reporters that he'd loved to give a speech in Germany. "But I'd much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for president."

This from the guy who was in Colombia, Mexico and Canada a month ago, who met with the leaders of these countries and yes, gave speeches.

This is the most inept presidential campaign I ever remember.

Toyota Tops GM--AGAIN

Here we go again:
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it sold more than 4.8 million cars and trucks worldwide through the first half of the year, putting the Japanese automaker ahead of rival General Motors in the race for the global sales crown.

I caught a small bit of NPR’s “Day To Day” yesterday where the subject was how Toyota surpassed GM. Among the things the guests mentioned were that in a couple of years, GM would be manufacturing more cars in China than in the U.S., and so it’s really no longer accurate to refer to GM as an “American company” just because they have a P.O. box in Delaware.


They also mentioned that the reason GM has been so far behind the eight-ball where the marketplace is concerned (something I’ve complained about a lot) is because of the way U.S. public corporations are structured. It stifles innovation and long-range planning, they said, because the need is to achieve short-term results to appease stockholders. Toyota was able to invest billions of dollars in their hybrid technology without seeing a return for years, but the corporate culture in Japan allowed for that kind of long-range planning.

GM, meanwhile, kept churning out the SUVs and pickup trucks that were profitable in the ‘90s. That was great for short term profits, but when market trends changed, they had nothing to fall back on. They were looking at the next quarter’s profits, not the profits of three or four years down the road.

I found that very interesting. I don’t think American innovation is dead but I do think our culture of immediate gratification is the source of a lot of our nation’s problems, not just in the business world but in politics and public policy, too.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Now THAT’S Ironic

I guess he was saved by the free hand of the market:
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A Continental Airlines flight carrying former presidential candidate Ron Paul and six other members of Congress to Washington, D.C., made an emergency landing in New Orleans on Tuesday after a loss in cabin pressure.

The seven congressmen, all from Texas, were trying to get back in time for a Tuesday night vote on an aviation safety bill when the flight landed without incident, a spokesman for one of the representatives said. No injuries were reported among the 128 crew and passengers.
Good thing there weren’t any pesky government safety regulations to get in the way of their safe landing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How To Lower Gas Prices

This story at the Los Angeles Times tells us how:
Gasoline prices fall in California, U.S. as demand drops

By Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 22, 2008

Worries that Tropical Storm Dolly could become a hurricane that might threaten the Gulf of Mexico sent crude oil prices past $131 a barrel Monday after big losses last week.

Meanwhile, gasoline prices retreated nationally and in California, the Energy Department said. Analysts attributed the decline primarily to lower demand.


Last week, worries that a weakening economy would further slow demand sent oil down more than $16 a barrel, the biggest weekly decline ever in dollar terms.

At the nation's gas pumps, a gallon of self-serve regular dropped 4.9 cents to an average of $4.064, according to the Energy Department's weekly survey of filling stations. The U.S. average was $1.106 lower at this time last year.

Wow, isn’t that interesting. Decreased demand--something we can achieve through simple conservation measures like parking the Hummer in favor of a Prius, car pooling, public transportation, etc.--has lowered gas and oil prices.

And we didn’t have to drill one drop. Or build one new refinery.


Asking McCain To Give What He Can’t Deliver

Silly New York Times! While wingnuts are trying to present the Times’ rejection of John McCain’s op-ed as an example of “liberal bias”, Times Op-Ed page editor David Shipley actually explained to the McCain campaign why the draft was rejected in this letter:
It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama’s piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq. It would also have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory — with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the senator’s Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan.

Of course, John McCain can’t do any of those things because he hasn’t a fucking clue. Like George W. Bush, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are mere props for a presidential power grab. It’s window dressing; hell, it’s barely real. It’s all just backdrop for the photo op.

But have no fear: Rupert Murdoch to the rescue! Murdoch’s NY Post had no problems publishing McCain’s “error-filled” op-ed. It seems to me the New York Times was doing John McCain a favor by not giving him an opportunity to embarrass himself.

Guess that’s what happens when you have no editorial standards.

Meanwhile, only "friendly" reporters who throw softballs will be allowed in the interview area on McCain's new "Straight Talk Express" campaign airplane. That ought to teach uppity journalists a lesson.

Let’s NOT Pump Up The Jam

I’m liking this idea a whole lot:
Have you ever noticed how some TV commercials sound louder than the programs you are watching? U.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-California, 14th) has noticed, says it’s done on purpose, finds it annoying and has introduced a bill to make it stop.

Rep. Eshoo’s Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM, would order the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create and enforce federal regulations requiring that television advertisements not be excessively noisy.

I can’t tell you how many times Mr. Beale and I have frantically searched the sofa cushions and piles of newspaper on the coffee table looking for the remote control because “HEAD ON! APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD!” is blaring at double the volume of whatever program we were watching. It’s annoying, infuriating and, sometimes, depending on the advertisement, frightening.

Actually, I thought we already had one of these laws. I kinda remembered a story going back to the ‘70s about a senior citizen who suffered a heart attack when she was scared out of her wits by a really loud advertisement. The FCC reacted by telling TV stations that advertisements couldn’t be louder than television programming. But maybe I’m making that up. Maybe it was just an urban legend.

Anyway, I know I’m not the only one annoyed by overly-loud advertisements; there’s even an online campaign.

I really despise the whole advertising/marketing industry. On NPR today I heard how they’re using neuroscience to rate ads’ effectiveness. “It studies brain activity to learn what TV audiences like,” says reporter Kim Masters.

Pssst! You know what TV audiences like? No commercials!

Here’s another thought: you can try all of the fancy neuroscience/viral/stealth marketing/hi-tech whizbang techniques you want but nothing beats old fashioned creativity for getting your message across.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oil Drilling In The Gulf

Interesting. Building on a point I made in this post last week, I'd like to direct readers to this afternoon's MarketWatch story:
Crude closes above $130 on Iran, tropical storm

By Moming Zhou

Last update: 3:08 p.m. EDT July 21,

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Crude futures rose Monday for the first time in five sessions, rebounding from last week's biggest weekly losses, after multilateral talks over Iran's controversial nuclear program didn't yield progress and as Tropical Storm Dolly headed toward the western Gulf of Mexico. Crude for August delivery, which will expire Tuesday, closed up $2.16, or 1.7%, at $131.04 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier it rose to an intraday high of $132.05 on electronic trading. Crude for September delivery also closed higher at $131.82 a barrel.

Fascinating. So the mere presence of a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico sends the price of oil soaring -- there doesn't even need to be an actual hurricane causing actual damage.

So why is the McCain camp telling us that oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are "hurricane safe"? If that were true, the market wouldn't respond with a jump in oil prices when drilling activities appear to be threatened by bad weather.

Brilliant. So let's keep pumping oil out of the Gulf of Mexico so every time there's a hint of bad weather we can all be on pins and needles about how it's going to impact the price of oil.

I Get Mail

Today's mail contained two--TWO--petitions from the English First people. There are six signature lines. I guess we're supposed to take this around to our neighbors or something. As if.

They must be sending these things to every registered voter in the county: Last month 30,000 postcards were mailed out. Imagine.

I'm thinking about how much money it has taken for all of the robocalls, mailings, petitions, etc. There's some big bucks behind this amendment push, no doubt about it. Yet the financing of this campaign is all very murky. Eric Crafton won't say where the financial backing for his initiative is coming from, except the cryptic "from folks."

I still can't believe that there isn't a reporter in this town who has been able to find out where all the money for this stuff is coming from. No, scratch that, I can believe it. Short of recycling record company press releases and AP wire copy, our local press is basically useless.

I have an idea. I bet if we scratched the surface we'd find some of the usual GOP moneybags behind this effort. Immigrants are the perfect whipping-boy for Republicans desperate for an issue that will beat their voters to the polls this November in progressive Nashville. They've already used up the gay-baiting issue, and there wasn't time to get an abortion measure on the ballot for this November. But the GOP has to be careful not to offend Latino voters; McSame has been busy courting Latino voters, promising pathways to citizenship at secret meetings.

All of which is the kind of stuff that would make the immigrant-hating GOP base in Nashville want to stay home come November. But: ta da! Lookie here! A piece of election year candy for you! Come, come out and vote! Vote for this useless piece of legislation that declares something that doesn't need to be codified in the Metro charter, and be sure to cast your vote for the GOP candidates while you're in the voting booth.

Maybe I'm just being cynical. But I really don't understand why we voters don't have a right to know who is funding this monumental campaign. And no, Eric Crafton, "just folks" just doesn't cut it.

Iraqi Puppet Theater

No one could have predicted ....
The statement by an aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calling his remarks in Der Spiegel "misinterpreted and mistranslated" followed a call to the prime minister's office from U.S. government officials in Iraq.

Maliki had expressed support for a withdrawal plan similar to that of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in an interview with Der Speigel. U.S. troops should leave Iraq "As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned," Maliki had said. "U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

But after the Spiegel interview was published and began generating headlines Saturday, officials at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad contacted Maliki's office to express concern and seek clarification on the remarks, according to White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

Later in the day, a Maliki aide released a statement saying the remarks had been misinterpreted, though without citing specific comments.

Yesterday, Kevin Drum revealed how shaken the White House was by al-Maliki’s statement. How absolutely predictable that someone would get on the horn and tug al-Maliki's strings, like they've done every time the prime minister tries to show some disapproval of White House policy toward their supposedly "sovereign" country.

I’m remembering this comment on a Kleinheider thread from Nashville blogger Bob Krumm, currently serving in Iraq:

I am not in “occupied Iraq.” I am stationed in Iraq. It is its own sovereign nation. Were it not, there would be no need for the Status of Forces Agreement currently so much in the news.

Right. I'm sure it helps to keep telling yourself that, but I have to wonder how "sovereign" a country is that gets its hands slapped every time the prime minister or parliament tries to assert Iraq’s sovereignty.

Al-Maliki owes his position to the Bush Administration, but it’s obvious he wants U.S. troops out of his country; even spinmasters like Joke Line have gotten the message:

In short, what Maliki is saying is: Please leave, as soon as possible. He may be saying this for local, political reasons, in the runup to the regional Iraqi elections, but he's saying it.

Yes, he’s been saying that, over and over. Meanwhile, President Bush has his heart set on 58 permanent military bases in Iraq. That’s not an occupation?

The Bush Administration has been pushing the so-called “sovereign” Iraq government around on everything, from ending our troop presence to oil contracts to permanent military bases (ooops, I mean "permanent duty stations”) in that country. Al-Maliki has such a tenuous hold on power over there that the tiniest push from Bush will see him toppled and replaced with someone more to our liking.

It’s just really sad to see this puppet theater play out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Memory Holes

I just don’t get it.

It seems like just yesterday the media was telling us about how gas prices zoomed after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita because the storms disrupted oil production in the Gulf. It became part of the "conventional wisdom" of the day: hurricanes in the Gulf = higher gas prices. President Bush even released some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a result.

Look, here’s one story from MSNBC:
Gas prices in cities across the United States soared by as much as 40 cents a gallon from Tuesday to Wednesday, a surge blamed on disruptions by Hurricane Katrina in Gulf of Mexico oil production.


Katrina knocked out about 95 percent of oil production in the Gulf -- a key supply point for the U.S. About a quarter of domestic oil comes from the region. The impact is being felt far from the Gulf.

Hey, here’s another story from CNN:

Rita could equal $5 gas

The timing and strength of the latest storm could cause worse spike at the pumps than Katrina did.

September 22, 2005: 9:32 AM EDT
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Remember when gas spiked to $3-plus a gallon after Hurricane Katrina? By this time next week, that could seem like the good old days.

Weather and energy experts say that as bad as Hurricane Katrina hit the nation's supply of gasoline, Hurricane Rita could be worse.

Katrina damage was focused on offshore oil platforms and ports. Now the greater risk is to oil-refinery capacity, especially if Rita slams into Houston, Galveston and Port Arthur, Texas.

"We could be looking at gasoline lines and $4 gas, maybe even $5 gas, if this thing does the worst it could do," said energy analyst Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover. "This storm is in the wrong place. And it's absolutely at the wrong time," said Beutel.

Heh. Good ol’ days, indeed.

So why in the hell are people in the McCain campaign--including John McCain himself--saying that Gulf of Mexico oil production wasn’t affected by Katrina and Rita? And why in the hell aren't interviewers calling them on it?

Has everyone forgotten that the hurricanes were the big reason everyone was given for the last big spike in gas prices? Cripes, I haven't forgotten. It was just three years ago, for crying out loud.

Is everyone on crack or something? Don’t you people remember anything?!

We're No.3! We're No.3!

"Thank God for Mississippi" should be the official Tennessee state motto. Once again, Tennessee tops a nasty national list:
Top 10 Obese States

These are the 10 states with the highest levels of adult
obesity, according to a 2007 survey by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.

1. Mississippi, 32.0 percent
2. Alabama, 30.3
3. Tennessee, 30.1
4. Louisiana, 29.8
5. West Virginia, 29.5
6. Arkansas, 28.7
7. South Carolina, 28.4
8. Georgia, 28.2
9. Oklahoma, 28.1
10. Texas, 28.1
Source: Associated Press

But hey, we're not number one! Not yet! That distinction goes to Mississippi. Whew.

I don't know why we Southerners are so fat. I know we like our fried chicken and biscuits 'n gravy and all-you-can-eat buffet and big honkin' SUVs instead of walking and it's so freaking hot here in the summer that being athletic takes twice as much effort as it would in a bottom-ranking state like Colorado. But geez, people. Don't you get tired of being stereotyped as fat and lazy?

We really need to pull ourselves together. This calls for a statewide intervention. This affects everything: healthcare costs, education, jobs, the economic vitality of our communities. Come on, Tennessee. We can do better. Restaurants: cut the portion-size. I don't know why Cheesecake Factory feels the need to serve a trough of food, or why I feel the need to eat it all at one sitting.

Here are some ideas: Eat at home more often. Eat fresh more often. Walk more. If you do eat out, split an entree with your dining companion. Can we at least strive to be number 5 in next year's list? And number 10 the year after?

Immigrant-Bashing Republicans

How embarrassing. According to this post over at Pith In The Wind, the Davidson County Republican Party has a bigot problem:
Jon Crisp, “chairman emeritus” of the Davidson County Republican Party, seems to be working from an aged playbook. In a recent mass email, he warned that Nashville is nefariously close to becoming a “Sanctuary City for illegal immigrants… such as San Francisco.” This, apparently, is bad. Very bad. Writes our crusader:

“Sadly in general, today’s immigrants are not the same as those of our past and seem to want to reap America’s bounty while not committing to our culture. Will we become a patchwork quilt of third world nations that have set up shop in Nashville?"

Wow. And then they turn around and complain about “anchor babies.” I guess by “committing to our culture” Crisp means, completely abandoning their own culture and assimilating into American life by eating native dishes like pizza and sushi and taking part in American traditions like St. Patrick's Day and decorating Christmas trees.

And what's this reference to San Francisco? Everyone knows that San Francisco is a sanctuary city for teh gai, not immigrants. Are we overrun with gay immigrants here in Nashville? Or is Crisp making a statement about the Chinese? Is he saying Nashville will have a Latinotown like San Francisco's Chinatown? That would be way cool. We need a tourist attraction here, it just hasn't been the same since Opryland theme park closed.

Don't be scared, Mr. Crisp. Every immigrant group has brought something new to our culture, not taken anything away. If it weren't for our immigrants from south of the border, I wouldn't have burrito-and-margarita night every Friday.

Republicans need to quit being scared of everything all the time. It makes them look, and act, silly.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Book Your Next Vacation In Baghdad!

It is easy to understand the frustration Iraqis have with the opening of a 5-star hotel in Baghdad’s Green Zone, when ordinary citizens still lack electrical power, running water, hospitals, security, and all of the other comforts we take for granted here in America.

Writes one Iraqi journalist:
I wish I have the magical stick. I would bring all the Iraqi and American officials and force them all to live one full week in Shoula neighborhood, one of the poorest neighborhoods of Baghdad. I wish they try for seven days managing their life with ten Amperes power for only five hours a day, without clean bottled water and of course with the ration food cards. Do you think they would ever think about building a five star hotel?

Of course not. It’s clear that this 5-star hotel is purely for visiting dignitaries, businessmen, and Western officials who anticipate doing business in Iraq as things settle down on the security front. Surely no one expects top officials with ExxonMobil, Chevron or BP to stay in any old, war-battered hotel, do they? Perish the thought.

This is our priority. It has always been our priority. We don’t care if the citizens of Baghdad have reliable power or fresh running water or garbage pick-up. But come hell or high water, Rex Tillerson, Ray Hunt, Jeroen van der Veer, David O'Reilly and their minions must have luxurious accommodations when they visit Iraq to work on their contracts.

Free hand of the market. Huzzah!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wingnut Logic Escapes Me

CNN’s American Morning interviewed Mike Meehan, the guy behind that tasteless 9/11 billboard in Florida.

I found this quote rather enlightening:
"I believe 9/11 could have been prevented if we'd had a Republican president at the time," Meehan said Wednesday on CNN's "American Morning."

Before we get all hysterical, let me clarify that Meehan is referring to the years before the 9/11 attacks. He is well aware that 9/11 occurred on Bush’s watch and knows Bush is a Republican. But, he claims President Bush “inherited” the problem of terrorism from Clinton.

You can read a transcript of the entire interview here . However, here’s the nut of his argument:

MIKE MEEHAN, BEHIND CONTROVERSIAL BILLBOARD: Well, the bigger picture, John, that I'm trying to convey to Americans is a reminder of terrorism that is still here. And it was during the Democrat Party of President Clinton that America was first attacked at the USS Cole killing many Americans. Our U.S. embassy in Africa, and even our trade towers in New York were first all attacked by the terrorists on Bill Clinton's watch. And, of course, George Bush pretty well inherited this problem and we had the catastrophe of the trade towers falling.

Wow, it's like he forgot every previous terror attack that ever occurred. His world is a clean slate that begins in the Clinton years. How ... odd.

I don't know about you, but I remember when reports of airline hijackings were a regular part of the nightly news. I remember the American hostage crisis back in the 70s. We all put yellow ribbons around our trees back then. I remember IRA bombings in London. I remember the Munich Olympic Games. I remember a lot of terrorism during both Republican and Democratic presidencies. If you ask me, Mike Meehan is a moron.

However, he's not the only one. This "Bush inherited Clintons problem" thing is a popular wingnut fantasy. So let’s just look at a handy timeline of some major attacks on U.S. targets:

October 23, 1983: Beirut Barracks Bombing. Suicide bombers attack French and American barracks in Beirut. U.S. death toll: 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and 3 Army soldiers. Who was president then? Ronald Reagan.

December 12, 1983: Kuwait City Bombings. Suicide bombers attack the French and American embassies in Kuwait, as well as a desalination plant and Kuwait’s main oil refinery. In all, six people are killed, none Americans. Who was president then? Ronald Reagan.

August 8, 1985: Hijacking of the Achille Lauro. Palestinian terrorists hijack a cruise ship off the coast of Egypt. A wheelchair-bound American passenger is thrown overboard and drowns. Who was president then? Ronald Reagan.

December 21, 1988: Lockerbie bombing, aka, the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 103. Death toll: 270 people, including 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie. 189 of the victims were American. Who was president then? Ronald Reagan.

February 26, 1993: First World Trade Center Bombing. A car bomb detonates beneath Tower One. Death toll: six. Who was president then? Bill Clinton. He had been inaugurated one month prior, on January 20, 1993.

June 25, 1996: Khobar Towers Bombing. A fuel truck is detonated inside the residential complex housing U.S. Air Force personnel in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Death toll: 20, 19 of them American soldiers. Who was president then? Bill Clinton.

August 7, 1998: U.S. Embassy Bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Simultaneous car bomb attacks kill hundreds at the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. Death toll: In Nairobi, about 212 (12 of them American). In Dar es Salaam, 11 (none Americans). Who was president then? Bill Clinton.

October 12, 2000: USS Cole Bombings. Suicide bombers attack the U.S. Navy destroyer the USS Cole while in Yemen. Death toll: 17 U.S. sailors. Who was president then? Bill Clinton.

September 11, 2001: the 9/11 Attacks. Who was president then? George W. Bush. He was inaugurated January 20, 2001.

Now, what can we infer from all of this? For one thing, one could argue that Ronald Reagan left as much of a legacy of terrorism as Bill Clinton did. I won’t argue that however, because terrorism has been around forever, and it’s just as silly to claim Ronald Reagan didn’t lick it as it is to blame Bill Clinton for not eradicating it. Mike Meehan is right: terrorism is still here. Guess what: it will be here long after this election is a dim memory in Meehan’s dimentia-addled brain.

But here’s another thing I never understood. Wingnuts love to blame Clinton for not doing anything about terrorism because the World Trade Center was attacked in 1993--one month after he was inaugurated. In that case, how come George W. Bush gets a pass on 9/11, since he was in office a full nine months? Even if you buy into the argument that President Clinton didn’t do enough, what the heck was Bush doing for nine whole months, besides ignoring Presidential Daily Briefings titled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.?

President Bush knew about the 1993 World Trade Center attack, he knew about the USS Cole. It’s not like anyone erased the U.S. history tape as soon as Bush came into office. They knew everything the Clinton Administration knew. They didn’t do anything either. Why does Bush get a pass and Clinton doesn’t?

That just never made any sense to me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


(Via David Horsey at the Seattle P-I.)

Have You No Decency, Sir?

Florida musician Mike Meehan paid for this Florida billboard.

Proving yet again that some conservatives have no taste, class, or sense of decency. Also proving that I'm not ready to give up my boycott of Florida.

(h/t, ThinkProgress.)

Elitist: Yes, or No!

Okay, kids, it’s time for that wacky new game: Elitist: Yes or No? (Cue cheesy game show music)

First, we have Cindy McCain, heiress to a beer fortune, telling CNN that the only way to get around the state of Arizona is by private plane! Elitist: yes, or no?

Answer: No! Of course not!

Next, we have Michelle Obama, and her famous “proud of her country” speech. Here’s what she actually said:
let me tell you something ... for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.

Is this elitist! If you answered yes you are correctimundo!

Next: conservative columnist George Will, calling Americans the “crybabies of the western world.”

Elitist? Yes, or no!

If you said no, give yourself 10 points!

Barack Obama said working class voters are bitter about the economy. Elitist, yes or no?

The answer: Yes!

The McCains don’t pay property taxes for four years on one of their seven homes. Elitist? This is tougher: a lot of people nowadays are having trouble paying their taxes. But seven homes?

(tick tock tick tock tick tock)

Answer? No! It’s not elitist!

And now the final round. It gets trickier! Cindy McCain is a wealthy heiress worth millions. She wears designer suits, owns seven homes, and a private plane. She also racks up astronomical credit card bills, $500,000 in a single month on one card, $250,000 on another. Elitist? Out of touch? Never!

Teresa Heinz Kerry is also a wealthy heiress worth millions who wears designer suits, owns a private plane, and owns five homes. But she would have mandated federally-funded Botox clinics.

Which is the elitist? Can you tell?

Sadly, this isn’t a game. This is serious business. We’re choosing the president of the United States here. There’s a lot at stake. And I can’t believe our national media has steered the national conversation in such a moronic direction.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I’m Number 9

The Centers for Disease Control have documented eight cases of salmonella in Tennessee. Well, I guess that makes me number 9.

Although I had planned to resume normal blogging last week, on July 6 I ate something that left me crying for mercy for the next four days. Let me tell you, nothing will leave you weak as a newborn kitten like running to the bathroom four times an hour for three days. A course of Cipro finally killed the bug but I didn’t actually start feeling better until Saturday. And it took until today for the test results to come back.

Yup, it was salmonella poisoning.

Let me add, I’m quite sure that more than nine people in Tennessee have been affected. I just don’t think everyone goes to the trouble of pooping in a cup for the doctor. I’d say most people assume they have a “stomach bug” and wait until they feel better. But I never did feel better. I felt like, pardon the pun, crap--for days. And I’m normally a pretty healthy person. I shudder to think what would happen to an elderly person, a young child, or someone who’s already sick with cancer, who then got hit with this. It is evil.

Since I’m not sure where I contracted this illness, I think it would be irresponsible to publish restaurant names in this post; however, I will say this: I do not eat jalapenos, and I most likely contracted this from tomatoes or raw cabbage. Since cabbage has not yet been linked to the salmonella outbreak, I would tell all of my friends in the blogosphere to be very, very careful about your tomato consumption. Tomatoes have not been given the all-clear.

Of course, I don’t know if mine was the “Saintpaul” strain that has sickened over a thousand people nationwide. Metro Public Health is supposed to be working on the case. Heh, yeah, I know, like they’ve got nothing else to do over there than track the origins of my illness.

Did you know that this outbreak first appeared back in April? Why the hell don’t we know the source yet? It’s been four months!

There are folks who have no problem with the hundreds of billions of dollars this country spends on the military. “It’s for our nation’s defense,” they say. Well let’s fund the Centers for Disease Control, Food & Drug Administration, and Consumer Product Safety Commission. They're for our nation’s defense, too. Those anti-tax crusaders who keep grumbling that “the government is too big” need to get a dose of what I had last week and then mull the idea that it was entirely preventable.

We should have figured this out by now. I suspect if our county, state and federal health departments were properly funded, we've have done so already.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Breakfast With The Senator

This morning Mr. Beale and I headed out for a late breakfast at a local eatery not too far from the house. Who is sitting behind us but Sen. Bob Corker, dining with what appeared to be a staffer. Plenty of folks were stopping by his table to say hello, so when we had finished our meal and I saw the senator was still there, I screwed up my courage to do likewise.

Keep in mind, I’m someone who has sent copious amounts of letters to both of my senators, and my House representative, too. At this point I figure they must think I’m a delusional crackpot (if they think of me at all), and if nothing else I could present myself as a reasonably normal citizen, as well as share my concern about an issue I care about. After all, when congresscritters return to their home states for the summer break, they expect to find out what’s on the mind of constituents.

So I did introduce myself, and I told Sen. Corker I hoped he would do everything he could to bring the troops home from Iraq. I told him I thought it was immoral that Americans were dying in Iraq for oil, that soldiers and their families were the only ones sacrificing at a time of war while everyone else in America could pretend the war didn’t exist. That's just wrong.

We had a very brief conversation about the war. He seems to feel that whether John McCain or Barack Obama is elected, troops will begin coming home soon after the new president is sworn in--that there’s very little difference in policy between the two where Iraq is concerned. I’m not so sure about that. But regardless, I told him our representatives in the Senate have a role to play in bringing the troops home, and I wanted him to know I was someone who cared about it.

Anyway, he thanked me. He knew this is an issue I cared about deeply, and it is. The stolen election of 2000 and the Iraq War are the two main events that set me on a path fighting this corrupt administration, which I’ve been doing for the past seven years.

So that was my breaksfast with the senator. I figure that was worth at least two letters to Washington, eh?

Friday, July 11, 2008

McCain’s Free Pass: IOKIYAR

Over at Huffington Post, Max Bergmann has an excellent post up called The Week That Should Have Ended McCain's Presidential Hopes.

Bergmann points to 10 major McCain fuck-ups this week, only one of which elicited more than a passing nod from the mainstream press. In fact, other than Phil Gramm’s “whiner” remarks, I’m not sure any of these stories percolated beyond the blogosphere. Yet every single one of them would have put our media punditry into fits of apoplexy had they come from a Democrat. Every one of them would have dominated the news cycle for days and days, causing massive pearl-clutching and calls for the smelling salts.

So go read about them now, because I guarantee you won’t find out about them on the Nightly News. That teflon suit that George W. Bush has worn for the past seven years has been handed down to John McCain 100% intact.

Writes Bergmann:
This Sunday expect the ten incidents above to get short shrift from pundit after pundit, because after all Jesse Jackson said he wanted to cut Obama's nuts off.

Well, it’s worse than that, Mr. Bergmann. I found a few other stories that have been ignored by the mainstream media. True, most of them were reported in a mainstream outlet, but they never got “traction” -- they didn’t dominate the 24 hour news cycles, they were not picked up beyond where they originally appeared. But had any one of these happened to the Democratic nominee, I assure you a media firestorm would have errupted.

• John McCain changes his POW story to pander to Pittsburgh voters :

Asked what first comes to his mind when he thinks of Pittsburgh, McCain chuckled, "the Steelers.  I was a mediocre high school athlete but I loved and adored the sports but the Steelers really made a huge impression on me particularly in my early years."

And then McCain told a rather moving story about his time as a P.O.W. "When I was first interrogated and really had to give some information because of the pressures, physical pressures on me, I named the starting lineup, defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers as my squadron mates."

Except he didn’t. He named the Green Bay Packers--that’s what’s in his autobiography, and that’s what he’s said every single time he’s told that story. So why did he pick the Steelers this time? The McCain campaign says he “made a mistake.”

Oh my gosh, imagine if John Kerry had done that. When McCain does it?


McCain's sticky divorce from his first wife. In his autobiography, John McCain fudged the facts a bit on his divorce from first wife Carol and his marriage to Cindy. In fact, according to public records:

In his 2002 memoir, "Worth the Fighting For," McCain wrote that he had separated from Carol before he began dating Hensley.


An examination of court documents tells a different story. McCain did not sue his wife for divorce until Feb. 19, 1980, and he wrote in his court petition that he and his wife had "cohabited" until Jan. 7 of that year -- or for the first nine months of his relationship with Hensley.

Although McCain suggested in his autobiography that months passed between his divorce and remarriage, the divorce was granted April 2, 1980, and he wed Hensley in a private ceremony five weeks later. McCain obtained an Arizona marriage license on March 6, 1980, while still legally married to his first wife.

I am remembering some conservative tongue-cluckers attacking John Kerry for his divorce; Kevin McCullough over at WorldNet Daily was a particularly sharp scold, noting: “Voter's [sic] have the right to know what kind of decision process Kerry goes through before making such important moves.” Uh-huh. I’m sure McCullough will get right on the McCain divorce story, but in the meantime ....


* Constitutional scholars say McCain is not eligible to be president because he wasn’t born in the US. There’s a 1937 law conferring citizenship on children of American parents born in Canal Zone, but it was passed a year after McCain was born. John McCain is not a “natural born citizen,” as the constitution requires. Oh, oops! Hey, this is a minor issue. No one cared that the vice president and president weren’t supposed to come from the same state seven years ago, either. And that worked out so well.

Anyway, while wingnuts pour over their loops checking the kerning on Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate, their response to McCain’s citizenship issue?


Yet Another Reason I Don't Feel Sorry For GM

I'm sorry, Detroit. I do feel sorry for you. But I don't feel sorry for General Motors.

I’ve complained about the short-sightedness of General Motors before. The way they scared the unions into backing their campaign against raising CAFE standards was sheer idiocy, for one thing. When they kept manufacturing gas-slurping SUVs when all signals pointed to a shift in market trends, I threw my hands up. It was just suicide.

But yesterday I ran across this tidbit:
General Motors established its pension in the “treaty of Detroit,” the five-year contract that it signed with the United Automobile Workers in 1950 that also provided health insurance and other benefits for the company’s workers. Walter Reuther, the union’s captain, would have preferred that the government provide pensions and health care to all citizens. He urged the automakers to “go down to Washington and fight with us” for federal benefits.

But the automakers wanted no part of socialized care.
They seemed not to notice, as a union expert wrote, that if Washington didn’t provide social insurance it would be “sought from employers across the collective bargaining table.”

Oh, yet another dumb move, General Motors! So that’s why we don’t have socialized medicine here. Thanks a lot, assholes!

But it gets worse:

General Motors got into the dubious habit of steadily increasing worker benefits. In 1961, G.M. was able to get away with a skimpy 2.5 percent increase in wages by also guaranteeing a 12 percent rise in pensions. Such promises significantly burdened the company’s future. As workers lived longer, the cost of fulfilling pension commitments rose. And health care costs exploded.

Putting these things off to the future is such a Republican way of doing things; anyone wonder how we’re going to pay for the Iraq War? Well, look in the eyes of your grandchildren (or imagine them if you don’t have any yet). And then apologize, profusely, for saddling them with this debt.

You know, these things always come back to bite you in the ass, as GM found out too late:

In the ’90s, the consequences of maintaining a corporate welfare state became too obvious to ignore. In that decade, General Motors poured tens of billions of dollars into its pension fund — an irretrievable loss of opportunity. What else might G.M. have accomplished with that money? It could have designed new cars or researched alternative fuels. Or it could have acquired half of Toyota — a company that the stock market now values at close to $150 billion.

Well, thank God that didn't happen. GM in its wisdom would have killed the Prius.

What’s good for General Motors hasn’t been good for America. And it's just a small piece of a much larger problem, a mindset of irresponsibility that puts off to the future things we're too chickenshit to resolve today. "I'll worry about it tomorrow" didn't work for Scarlett O'Hara and it won't work for us. It really makes me wonder what problems this country is going to face when our own $3 trillion war bill comes due.

What a phenomenal waste.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

We Live In Interesting Times

Wow. No one could have anticipated that the super-scary photo of Iranian missiles might have been Photoshopped:
For its part, Agence France-Presse retracted its four-missile version this morning, saying that the image was “apparently digitally altered” by Iranian state media. The fourth missile “has apparently been added in digital retouch to cover a grounded missile that may have failed during the test,” the agency said.

But hey, three missiles or four, what does it matter? Either way it’s still super scary, right?

Meanwhile, at a think tank far, far away, nervous old white men get to work:

Former secretaries of state James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher issued a report today calling the 1973 War Powers Resolution "impractical and ineffective." They urged the next president and Congress to repeal the law and replace it with a new one, the "War Powers Consultation Act of 2009," within 100 days of the new president taking office.

In the report, done under the auspices of the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs, the National War Powers Commission notes that all presidents have side-stepped the 1973 law's requirement to file a report to Congress once hostilities start. "This is not healthy. It does not promote the rule of law. It does not send the right message to our troops or to the public. And it does not encourage dialogue or cooperation between the two branches," co-chairs Baker and Christopher and their fellow commissioners write.

I see. Our warring presidents have failed to turn in their homework, Congress has failed to hold them accountable, so the entire law is bad.

So let’s replace it with a law that doesn’t address the key issue of warmongering--how much power does a war time president really have?--and instead gives the executive branch all the power it needs to wage any war it wants.

The new law that the commission proposes is silent on the more than two-century old constitutional debate on what war powers belong with the executive and legislative branches of government. It focuses on the practical, repealing the 1973 law and establishing a Joint Congressional Consultation Committee. The president would be required to consult with this committee before ordering U.S. armed forces into "significant armed conflict." The president would not have to secure Congress' approval, however, but merely consult, and the president could wait until three days after the beginning of conflict if the need for secrecy makes consultation beforehand risky.

Oh, I feel so much better now, knowing that the POTUS would have to consult with a committee, but not be obliged to adhere to anything that committee recommends. Brilliant.

It gets better:

Another section of the proposed bill gives Congress more of a say, requiring it to hold a timely vote after the initiation of hostilities. If a resolution of approval is defeated, than a resolution of disapproval would be introduced. It would become law--and force an end to U.S. troop involvement--only if the president signs it, or it is passed over the president's veto.

Ah yes, because after the initiation of hostilities is always the best time to decide if we should have gone to war in the first place. It’s worked so well for us in Iraq.

So in other words, all we need is our clueless press to push doctored photos of an Iranian missile test, Rush Limbaugh and the clowns at Fox News and CNN to send super-scary messages about links to terrorist groups and hidden WMDs, and the president can declare war against whomever he/she wants with absolutely no regrets? It will be the Iraq fiasco times ten.

What could possibly go wrong?

Then again, we could just abide by what’s already in the Constitution:

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution, sometimes referred to as the War Powers Clause, vests in the Congress the exclusive power to declare war, in the following wording:

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

I don’t think we want to change that.

What The Other America Thinks

If you have a hard time making ends meet in a world of $4/gallon gasoline, you’re just a bunch of whiners. At least, that’s what former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, John McCain’s economic advisor, told the Washington Times:
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

"We've never been more dominant; we've never had more natural advantages than we have today," he said. "We have benefited greatly" from the globalization of the economy in the last 30 years.

Mr. Gramm said the constant drubbing of the media on the economy's problems is one reason people have lost confidence. Various surveys show that consumer confidence has fallen precipitously this year to the lowest levels in two to three decades, with most analysts attributing that to record high gasoline prices over $4 a gallon and big drops in the value of homes, which are consumers' biggest assets.

"Misery sells newspapers," Mr. Gramm said. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."

By the way: is this elitist? Because I can’t tell anymore. I think these kind of statements are only elitist if a Democrat says them.

It certainly shows how out of touch Phil Gramm is from the lives of ordinary Americans. You know, I don’t think it’s the headlines that have caused Americans to lose confidence, it’s their own experience. It’s the fact that there’s too much month at the end of the money, and the cost of gas and groceries have made things like healthcare a luxury. It’s the fact that President Bush’s $64 billion economic stimulus plan fizzled like a soggy firecracker.

But let’s blame the media and call Americans facing real economic trouble “whiners.” And remember: telling people that their economic woes are all in their head is never, ever elitist.

(Via ThinkProgress)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Oh The Irony

Communism means stability? That’s what corporate America thinks, according to this column in today's WaPo:
Vietnam's edge, it seems, is political. "Communism means more stability," Laurence Shu, the chief financial officer of Shanghai-based Texhong, one of the world's leading manufacturers of cotton fabrics, told Bradsher. This view, Bradsher reports, is common among Asian executives and some American executives, too, though they have the presence of mind never to say so on the record. After all, Vietnam, like China, outlaws independent unions. Absent free speech and free elections, no radical shifts in the government's economic policies are likely to be sprung upon unsuspecting American businesses.

Now, far be it from me to begrudge the Vietnamese their moment in the sun before global capital finds them too costly and moves on to Bangladesh and Somalia. But didn't we fight a war to keep Vietnam from going communist? Something like 58,000 American deaths, right? And now American business actually prefers investing in communist Vietnam over, say, the more or less democratic Philippines? In all likelihood, it would prefer investing in communist Vietnam to investing in a more chaotic, less disciplined democratic Vietnam, if such existed.

Ah, yes. The old “stability” question. American businesses and the American government have always preferred dealing with totalitarian regimes, for the same reason: “stability.”

Remember this?

So why did we fight in Vietnam? Meyerson has a few ideas, but this one seems to make the most sense:

American business, backed by the American government, has realized that the problem with communism wasn't that it was undemocratic but that it was anti-capitalist. And that once communism was integrated into a world capitalist system, its antipathy toward democracy not only wouldn't be a bad thing but would actually be good.

Because when all is said and done, fighting to save capitalism has to be a good thing, right?

Which makes me wonder about why we're in Iraq. Saddam had nationalized his oil companies, cutting out Western interests. What other "anti-capitalist" ideas was he harboring? In September 2000 Saddam announced he was switching to the euro frpm dollars for its oil currency. This article suggests Iraq is our first oil currency war:

Candidly stated, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ was a war designed to install a pro-U.S. government in Iraq, establish multiple U.S military bases before the onset of global Peak Oil, and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency (i.e. “petroeuro”).

Iraq switched back to petrodollars in June 2003--three months after the invasion. Pure coincidence? I don't think so.

Vietnam will end up with the government it was always meant to have, whether we had invaded or not. So will Iraq.

Whether we're there or not.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

Is everyone ready for a third Rove term? Because that’s what it’s looking like a John McCain presidency will be. Paul Krugman writes:
But the McCain campaign went beyond condemning General Clark’s remarks; it went out of its way to distort them. “This backhanded slap against John as not being a worthy warrior because he just got shot down is one of the more surprising insults in my military history,” said retired Col. Bud Day, who participated in a conference call organized by the campaign. In fact, General Clark had said no such thing.

The irony, not lost on Democrats, is that Col. Day himself has done what he falsely accused Wesley Clark of doing: he appeared in the 2004 Swift boat ads that impugned John Kerry’s wartime service.

The willingness of the McCain campaign to engage in these tactics, employing such tainted spokesmen, tells us that the campaign has decided to go negative — specifically, to apply the strategy Karl Rove used so effectively in 2002 and 2004 (but not so effectively in 2006), that of portraying Democrats as unpatriotic.

I was sorely disappointed that Sen. Obama capitulated so quickly in the face of this classic Rovian smear. It was a phony controversy -- a “fauxtroversy” -- and it deserved to be mocked. The absolute last thing Obama should have done is treat the mock outrage seriously.

Memo to Democrats: just because the Rove Machine yanks your tail, it doesn’t mean you have to respond every time. It makes you look wishy-washy. It makes you look weak. No, it makes you be weak.

You know, you never see Republicans apologize to anyone for anything one of them says or does--real or imagined. They close ranks. They present a united front.

Look, I was a John Edwards supporter during the primary. When he dropped out, I said I’d support either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama--I could see strengths and weaknesses with both. But my main fear about Obama was that he wouldn’t know how to fight the Swift Boat machine. I was afraid he’d make the same mistakes that sank John Kerry’s campaign: capitulating and apologizing for every comment taken out of context, every word our “liberal” media blows out of proportion, every Rovian smear.

One thing I knew without a doubt: Hillary Clinton knows how to fight back against the kabuki theater that now constitutes our political discourse.

So I have a memo to Barack Obama: don’t apologize out of fear of looking weak. That is the surest way to make yourself look weak. The right wing will be relentless in their attacks, and apologizing at every turn, especially when it’s not warranted, is the surest way to lose in November.

That is all.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

How About Some Cat Blogging?

Blogging has been sporadic this week because of a death in the family. All is well, just lots of going back-and-forth, family coming in from out of town, etc. So how about some cat blogging today? Moses the half-pint tackles Julius the Gargantuan--all in good fun. Moses is about to get put in his place by the mighty Jules, however.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Obama’s Faith Based Idea Will Work

Count me among those liberals welcoming Barack Obama’s announcement about giving faith-based groups a role in his administration.

Not the phony-baloney Office Of Faith Based Initiatives that President Bush used to varnish his Christian cred and shove tax money to his pet abstinence-only education programs that don’t work. But a real department that can work with faith-based community groups, do some oversight, help with coordination, and yes, offer funds:
"Every house of worship that wants to run an effective program and that's willing to abide by our constitution - from the largest mega-churches and synagogues to the smallest store-front churches and mosques - can and will have access to the information and support they need to run that program," Obama said.

The Obama campaign distributed a statement from John DiIulio, former director of Bush's White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, praising Obama's proposal as "a principled, prudent, and problem-solving vision for the future of community-serving partnerships involving religious nonprofit organizations."

I really don’t see why anyone would have a problem with this. Congregations of all faiths provide valuable community services, from drug and alcohol programs to day-care centers to housing the homeless. To give just three examples, my church houses the homeless during the winter, has an after school program for refugee kids, and houses Senior Citizens’ Inc.’s Meals On Wheels and Adult Day Care services. All of the clients receiving these services are low-income. No one gets religion forced on them, and no one is turned away because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or for any other reason (indeed, most of the refugee children are Muslim).

The government can’t provide all of these services; the need is just too vast. I don’t have a problem with secular groups providing these services too, but I think it’s silly to shut faith-based groups out of the mix. Faith groups have always done service work, and in many instances, faith groups are the best equipped to provide certain services. City governments have contracted with the Salvation Army to operate soup kitchens for years.

The problem is when religious groups use their role as service provider to proselytize, discriminate, or further a partisan political agenda. That’s been a big problem for the Bush Administration. Not only did the Silver Ring Thing promote Christianity, the ridiculous program doesn’t even work! The Salvation Army was happy to take government money, but they didn’t want to abide by non-discrimination laws. Under Bush, faith-based federal funds became “slush funds for conservative interest groups.” This is how not to do a faith-based program.

Obama is right. Faith-based groups provide important services to our communities. But just because a group is faith-based doesn’t make it perfect. Not every program works, not every program is even legitimate. There are a lot of charlatans out there wanting to dip their fingers in the money pot. There needs to be oversight, accountability, and follow-up. You can’t just hand a grant out because a church asks for it.

Under a President Obama, I think a faith-based office would actually have a chance of functioning properly. I don’t see President Obama using this office to send money to buddies like Chuck Colson, or stage phony events to help swing elections. That’s the Republican way of doing things. Democrats know better. We know how to run government.

You know, we’re the party that believes government can actually work, remember?