Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why Dr. Tiller Was Killed

Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, makes a statement about the murder of Dr. Tiller:
Tiller's death comes at a time when all recent polling data shows that the peaceful proLife message has the support of a majority of American voters. We hope this terrible news does not hurt the steady progress that the proLife movement has made by peaceful legal means over the years.

Really? Let’s take a look at your “peaceful proLife message,” shall we? Terry has given us a wealth of examples, most recently at his protest of President Obama’s Notre Dame commencement with Alan Keyes:

Shortly before noon, on the last day of final exams for Notre Dame students, Keyes and a few dozen others gathered at the entrance of Notre Dame to pray. The protesters were holding signs and most were pushing strollers containing baby dolls covered in fake blood.

Lovely. And then there’s this:

Another group, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, has been sending a plane to fly over Notre Dame for hours at a time with banners featuring pictures of fetuses and sometimes unfortunate grammatical errors ("This is what your honoring," said one banner two days ago.)

This is the “peaceful proLife message”? Gee, can’t imagine how that kind of rabble-rousing wouldn’t set someone off. Someone a little unhinged to begin with.

Meanwhile, my friends on the left are doing their best to piss me off with remarks like “put down the bible & grow brain cells” and “I'm pretty sure I saw a Jesus fish on the back of the captured suspect's car.”


Let’s just quit the Bible-bashing here, okay? Dr. Tiller was murdered while handing out programs at his church before Sunday worship. So before we start bashing Christians it would be helpful to remember that Dr. Tiller was one. Don’t bring the family any more pain than they already must be experiencing by trashing their religion in the name of supporting a fallen man.

The problem is not religion. The problem is inflammatory rhetoric that incites people to violence.

You know, we’re just about at the one-year anniversary of the day James Adkisson shot up a Knoxville Unitarian church in an anti-gay, anti-liberal rage. Since that time we have seen the inflammatory rhetoric from the right escalate even further. President Obama has been hung in effigy, been called a murderer and a socialist. We have had innocent baby animals killed and we have had a newspaper apologize for running an advertisement calling for President Obama’s assassination. We have seen Glenn Beck pretend to set fire to a person in "demonstration" of Obama Administration policies with which he disagrees.

On the left we have seen Wanda Sykes wish for Rush Limbaugh to have kidney failure.

People need to calm the fuck down or none of us is going to get out of this decade alive. When is it going to stop? How much longer are we going to tolerate the vitriol? Who's going to be the first to say "enough, already!"

Tweeting The Tiller Killer

Suzanne Tobias, reporter for the Wichita Eagle:
Interesting: Fox News producer called me prior to interview to request that I *not* mention tonight's candlelight vigil on the air. Wha??


Domestic Terrorism

Proving the lie to their “pro-life” moniker, abortion foes gun down an abortion provider--at church:
Abortion Doctor Shot to Death in Wichita, Kan.

George Tiller, who performed late-term abortions, was shot to death outside of church.

May 31, 2009

America's most controversial abortion doctor, George Tiller, was shot and killed this morning outside the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kan., on his way to Sunday services, according to ABC News affiliate KAKE and other sources.

Authorities were called to the shooting at the Reformation Lutheran Church shortly after 10 a.m., where Tiller is a congregant, according to KAKE. Tiller was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after emergency crews arrived.

Tiller, who ran the Women's Health Care Services clinic, a high-profile abortion clinic in Wichita, was one of the few doctors in the country that still performed late-term abortions. Just this month, Tiller's clinic was vandalized, according to KAKE.

Tiller has been a target of anti-abortion violence in the past. In 1985, his clinic was bombed, and in 1993, he was shot in both arms outside the clinic by Shelly Shannon.

Nice “pro-life” movement you’ve got there, Kansas.

The suspect is still at large now in custody and is “a white male in his late 50s or 60s.”

There really are no words to adequately describe how heinous these sanctimonious phonies are. In a sane country these folks would be called what they are: domestic terrorists.

Meanwhile, showing there is no depth to the anti-choice crowd's stupidity, Priests for Life issued this ridiculous statement in which they suggest the shooter might have been

"an angry post-abortive man or woman ..."


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pro-Gun & Anti-Business? I’m Anti-Hypocrite, Thank You

As if we didn’t alredy know that the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals at the gun lobby only like the idea of “freedom” when it means freedom to agree with them, we have this story from Liberadio.

Apparently the pro-guns-in-bars crowd wants to target those business owners who choose to not allow guns in their establishments as the (soon to be new) guns in bars law allows. One of those businesses is Bosco’s here in Hillsboro Village, where the owner posted signs saying guns were not welcome in his establishment. That didn't sit well with TN Gun Owners, which sees a business owner's decision the opportunity to stage a protest:
So I am curious. How many of you would participate in a lawful, peacful protest in front of the Hillsboro Village location of Boscos restaurant following the presumed Tennessee House & Senate override of Governor Bredesen’s veto?

The goals of this would be to:

* Put these restaurant owners on notice that not only will they lose our business as pro-personal protection consumers, but they will also have unwanted attention drawn to their practice.

* Inspire restaurant owners to reconsider their decisions and remove their individual ban on being able to protect ourselves while dining in their establishments.

* By dressing nicely, having intelligently worded signs and flyers, and conducting ourselves peacefully and with tact and decorum, show that gun owners are not all neanderthal redneck backwoods hicks as the media paints us so broadly.

Here’s a thought: if you’re such a Nervous Nelly that you feel you need to protect yourself with a goddamned firearm everywhere you go, JUST STAY THE HELL HOME.

In the meantime, I plan to visit Bosco’s as I know this is one establishment where I’m safe from some trigger happy redneck going off half-cocked at the first sound of a car backfiring on 21st Avenue.


Jolene revels in her adorableness, and demands we all do the same.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Liberal Media Alert

Remember Rick Scott? The guy behind the biggest healthcare fraud in American history? Columbia/HCA ring a bell, anyone?

Funny story. Seems he’s working with the Swift Boat smearmongers to derail healthcare reform. And he’s made this hilarious 30-minute fake documentary which, ha ha, NBC is going to air on Sunday right after Meet The Press.

That’s so funny. God, I love the liberal media. Comedy gold.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Guns In Bars Vetoed

You could knock me over with a feather:
Gov. Phil Bredesen has used his veto against HB962, which would allow handgun carry permit holders to carry their weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol.

In front of a backdrop of law enforcement officials from across the state, including Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas, Bredesen spoke of a firearms safety class he took in high school.

“I remember from the course there was one thing that teacher drove into us day in and day out … that message was guns and alcohol do not mix,” Bredesen said. “That was a common sense proposition back then, and it is every bit as true today.”

The bill would allow handgun carry permit holders to take their weapons into any restaurant that serves alcohol, unless the restaurant owner posted a sign banning the weapons from his or her business. Supporters have said the bill protects Tennesseans’ Second Amendment rights; opponents have said having guns in areas with alcohol could be unsafe.

“We cannot support legislation that openly allows consumption of alcohol where guns are present,” Serpas said. “Weapons in a bar fight are never a good thing.”

The veto can be overturned by the legislature with a simple majority vote.

Good move, governor. I didn't think you would show that kind of spine.

If I were to make predictions, I'd say the legislature will overturn the veto. Fine, make 'em own it.

Another Healthcare Myth Debunked

Apparently Canadians don’t, in fact, come to America for healthcare by the busload.

I’ve heard that talking point before and always suspected it was bullshit, since I only know people who do it the other way: go to Canada for their Lasik surgery, for example, because it’s far less expensive. But regardless, conservatives love to repeat the myth that Canadians are lined up to get into America for their healthcare. The message being: sure American healthcare sucks, but it sucks even worse in the land of super-scary Socialized Medicine.

I have a friend who broke her foot while visiting India a few years ago, and was able to get it x-rayed, set, and all of the follow-up care (rehab, etc.) for $15. She promply cancelled her American health insurance policy, deciding that it would be cheaper to fly to India if something went seriously wrong. “The doctors are all trained in America or England, anyway,” she reasoned.

That struck me as absolutely crazy (still does), but I remembered all of those stories about "medical tourism” that we used to hear in the media. Everyone seems to have forgotten about those stories, now that the country is debating healthcare, which I find rather curious. But regardless, it seems increasing numbers of Americans are traveling to places like India, Thailand, and Mexico for major medical procedures that would cost ten times as much here at home.

There has always been a grand assumption that folks going abroad for their healthcare are undertaking elective procedures like nose jobs and facelifts and the like. However, that’s not true, as this story from 2006 attests:
As word has spread about the high-quality care and cut-rate surgery available in such countries as India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, a growing stream of uninsured and underinsured Americans are boarding planes not for the typical face-lift or tummy tuck but for discount hip replacements and sophisticated heart surgeries. Bumrungrad alone, according to CEO Curtis Schroeder, saw its stream of American patients climb to 55,000 last year, a 30% rise. Three-quarters of them flew in from the U.S.; 83% came for noncosmetic treatments. Meanwhile, India's trade in international patients is increasing at the same rate.

Medical tourism is a booming industry. According to this CNN story from March 2009, the number is expected to grow to six million next year.

Fueling this flood of medical refugees are American employers, who can no longer afford our bloated healthcare costs:

That's why three major corporations that collectively cover 240,000 lives asked Dr. Arnold Milstein, national healthcare "thought leader" at the consultancy Mercer Health & Benefits, to assess the best places to outsource elective surgeries. Procedures in Thailand and Malaysia, he found, cost only 20% to 25% as much as comparable ones in the U.S.; top-notch Indian hospitals sell such services at an even steeper discount.

The bottom line: If more private payers sent patients abroad for uncomplicated elective surgeries, the savings could be enormous. "This has the potential of doing to the U.S. health-care system what the Japanese auto industry did to American carmakers," says Princeton University healthcare economist Uwe Reinhardt.

That’s a scary thought. American car manufacturers haven’t exactly been the most forward thinking bunch.

You know, I’m looking at a future where healthcare is yet another thing Americans look to other countries to provide for us, along with our manufactured goods, our food, heck, our tech support. Other than consuming, what exactly do we plan to contribute to the global community, aside from war, mountains of debt and Hollywood blockbusters?

This is not a philosophy that will serve our country well.

Is there a reason we don’t choose to fix our healthcare system in America, instead of ceding this industry to other countries? If insurance companies, HMOs, hospitals, labs, pharmaceutical companies, etc. are going to piss and moan and whine that they can’t possibly cut costs, driving those patients who can afford it overseas and those who can’t out of the system completely, how can that be good for the industry as a whole?

This is indeed starting to look like a redux of the American car industry, which lobbied against national healthcare initiatives, higher CAFE standards, and kept manufacturing cars nobody wanted into their graves.

We simply must do better.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Horror of Abu Ghraib, Revisited

The Abu Ghraib photos President Obama has suppressed allegedly show prisoners being sexually violated by U.S. troops
At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He has now confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The graphic nature of some of the images may explain the US President’s attempts to block the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan despite an earlier promise to allow them to be published.

Maj Gen Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision, adding: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.

“I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.

“The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

Will there be no end to the horror that is the Iraq War, the insanity of our misguided exercise there, the fact that everything we've touched has turned to shit? Will no one be held accountable for this black spot on our country's name?

And from the Memory Hole, Rush Limbaugh’s justification of the Abu Ghraib abuses, saying troops were “just blowing off steam”:

"This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we're going to ruin people's lives over it, and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You [ever] heard of need to blow some steam off?"

Not like this, buddy. Not like this.

Miered Down In Conservative Idiocy

I suspected conservatives would try to frame Sonia Sotomayor as Harriet Miers, George W. Bush’s personal attorney whom right and left alike agreed was all wrong for the Supreme Court. And gosh darn it, I hate it when I’m right .

Conservatives really do appear to be imploding over the Sotomayor nomination. Let’s play a medley of their greatest hits, shall we?

• First, we have Tom Tancredo, calling Sotomayor a racist:
I’m telling you she appears to be a racist. She said things that are racist in any other context. That’s exactly how we would portray it and there’s no one who would get on the Supreme Court saying a thing like that except for a Hispanic woman and you’re going to say it doesn’t matter!

• Then we have Pat Buchanan, saying:

"She is not that intelligent,"

leading a parade of conservatives comparing her to Harriet Miers, facts to the contrary.

• Karl Rove, who once thought Harriet Miers would have been a splendid Supreme Court justice, is uncertain about ”how intellectually strong“ Sotomayor would be.

• At least he didn’t call her Maria like Mike Huckabee did. Common mistake, I know; most Latinas are named Maria, right?

• Or even worse, all of those references to her “judicial temperament.” Of course, we women are so emotional, hormonal, irrational. We really can’t be trusted to make sound decisions. Why, we might have really bad PMS one day and just on a whim ban puppies or something. We’re really unreliable that way. And Latina women, well, everyone knows how “hot tempered” they are.


Much of this criticism has come from Jeffrey Rosen’s anonymously-sourced hit piece in The New Republic. Yesterday, Rosen himself backed away from the criticism, saying his words have been mischaracterized:

"Conservatives are already citing my initial piece on Sotomayor as a basis for opposing her," Rosen notes. "This willfully misreads both my piece and the follow-up response. My concern was that she might not make the most effective liberal voice on the Court--not that she didn't have the potential to be a fine justice."

Someone alert the media, because CNN and MSNBC have been quoting that piece non-stop. We still don’t know who these anonymous “liberals” were that supposedly found Sotomayor unacceptable.

Anyway, I don’t see Republicans coming out of this a winner. They already look like asshats with their racist, misogynistic attacks.

Can’t See The Forest For The Democrat In The White House

No sooner had President Obama announced his choice of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court than the wackadoodle wing was giving us comedy gold:
As soon as Obama publicly named Sotomayor, two fundamentalist leaders and militant antiabortion crusaders--Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition and Rev. Rob Schenck of Faith and Action--held a prayer service in front of the Supreme Court to oppose the appointment.

God forbid either of these asshats should actually check her record on abortion.

Jim Wallis did, however:

For those who have been looking for more evidence of President Obama’s common-ground approach to the issue of abortion outlined last week at Notre Dame, here it is. As a judge, she has participated in more than 3,000 panel decisions and authored almost 400 opinions and only ruled once on the issue of abortion. In that case she wrote from a centrist position and ruled against a pro-choice organization. Many other possible nominations could have been a slap in the face to either side, but the president used this as an opportunity to further his common-ground approach.

Schenck and Mahoney and a huge block of the right wing are opposing Sotomayor simply because she was nominated by a Democratic president. But they shouldn’t.

Meanwhile, the media seems to assume that all liberals will support her nomination for the same reason. And they shouldn’t.

Sotomayor will be a fine SCOTUS justice but she’s by no means the wild-haired, pot-smoking, DFH jurist the right-wingers will have you believe, especially on civil liberties issues. Conservatives might want to think twice before trashing her candidacy; they could do much worse. Liberals should look at her record carefully; there's a good chance we could do better.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Graffiti Blogging

Woodland Street, East Nashville, today:

Some Things Never Change

William Kristol is still wrong, and conservatives decry Sonia Sotomayor as a "liberal judicial activist of the first order”
who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written,” Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, said in a statement. “She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one’s sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.”

Think they can bring 9/11 into this debate? You betcha!!!!

"On September 11, America saw firsthand the vital role of America's firefighters in protecting our citizens.  They put their lives on the line for her and the other citizens of New York and the nation.  But Judge Sotomayor would sacrifice their claims to fair treatment in employment promotions to racial preferences and quotas.  The Supreme Court is now reviewing that decision."

That didn’t take long!

Things I Wish I Could Unread

The internet is a magnificent, wild, crazy place and I am forever changed by the things I find. But this story both touched and appalled me.

Specifically, this information:
On memorial day, when I went to Arlington National Cemetery to visit my father's grave with my mother [...] I thought about a story that made my old man tear up every time he told it. The man didn't shed a tear when he was going through pain wrenching cancer treatments, or while lying on his death bed wondering which breath would be his very last - but every time he told me the story of how his Navy shipmates cheered when John F Kennedy was assassinated because they felt that he was sympathetic to the plight of black folks, I could tell that that experience ravaged his body far worse than cancer ever could have.

I did not know that.

I did not know that there were people who cheered the assassination of JFK out of racial hatred. Active duty military, in theater, cheering the murder of their commander in chief.

I did not know that such hatred existed. I mean, I knew it from an academic perspective, but I’ve never heard a story like that before about this period in our country’s history. All we ever heard about Vietnam is how a bunch of Dirty Fucking Hippies spat on soldiers when they got home.

We never heard this.

I like to think this country has moved past this but I know, too well, that we have not. We still live in a country where in some places, the high school prom is segregated, though the youth are not. A country that adheres to “the way things have always been,” without ever aspiring to the way things might be. It is capitulating to the worst of human nature, when we all know we can be better.

How can you not want to be better?

I’ve been thinking today that there are people who will never be happy with President Obama, no matter what he does or does not do. The folks who want him to fail, who will criticize every twitch of the eyebrow and second-guess every policy decision, who will critique his SCOTUS pick before it’s even been decided, let alone announced--these are the folks more worried about keeping things the way they are than looking forward to how we can be.

How we should be.

These are the people who have a very tiny focus, whose world must fit on the head of a pin because they cannot fathom something larger.

I just don’t get that.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Liz & Eugene’s Torture Comedy Hour

I made a movie!

And now I know why Robert Smigel gets the big bucks.

This is the actual dialogue between Liz Cheney and Eugene Robinson on MSNBC's Morning Joe--at least until the very end. (see the original here.)

Grateful h/t to The Kenosha Kid for directing me to the xtranormal site!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Liberty U. Bans Campus Dems

Oh the irony of calling yourself “Liberty” University and then banning the campus Democratic club--only eight months after it had first been recognized.

In what appears to be a politically-motivated move, University president Jerry Falwell Jr. explains:
“we are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by” the university.

Because the “moral principles” of the Republican Party--torture and unjust war, for example--are so much better. Apparently so, as the school’s Republican club has operated for years.

The school’s vice president of student affairs has basically stated that you can’t be a Christian and a Democrat but adds:

“We are in no way attempting to stifle free speech.”

Right. You can’t really call yourself “Liberty” when you’re denying one political viewpoint from the campus. But I guess the school thinks they just need one right wing to fly.

Speaking of which, I saw this hilarious item at the school’s Wikipedia entry:

The acceptance rate for students entering in 2008 was 94.3%[15], making Liberty one of the least selective schools in the United States.[16]

Both facts are based on U.S. News & World Report’s 2008 college and university rankings. I guess beggers can’t be choosers, and Liberty isn’t.

But back to the campus Democrats. Jerry Falwell Jr., school president, said:

“They are good, Christian kids who sit with me at ball games. I just hope they find a pro-life family organization to affiliate with so they can be endorsed by Liberty again.“

What. an. asshat.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Glenn Beck: Parody, Or Insane?

Once again we must ask the question.

HuffPo’s Jason Linkins was tasked with determining whether Glenn Beck has a Twitter account and sadly, he has discovered that yes, Glenn Beck has a Twitter account.

It appears the man doesn’t have much to say:
I like fish
about 6 hours ago from web

And then:

I’ve been thinking about it more, so I wanted to clarify. I don’t LOVE fish, I just like it.
about 4 hours ago from web

Okie dokie. I happened to remember that Beck announced a comedy tour back in April, so I suspect his Tweets are a lame attempt at showcasing his comedic skills.

Well, let’s hope that’s what this is.

Tea Party FAIL

Troubled Tea Party activist/TCOT co-founder Michael Patrick Leahy was a no-show at yesterday’s Rutherford County Tea Party. The Rutherford County Democrats report:
Barely 20 people showed up today for an anti-government protest organized by Rutherford County Republicans. The protest took place on a short stretch of sidewalk in Murfreesboro, TN.

Michael Patrick Leahy, a prominent Williamson County Republican and national tea party organizer, was scheduled to speak at the protest but was a no show just as we predicted he would be.

Leahy was recently exposed by a blogger for having over $100,000 in unpaid tax liens and civil judgments against him over the past 16 years. Leahy has virtually disappeared since our reporting. Leahy is now suing the blogger.

I wrote about the lawsuit here. I’m no lawyer but friends who are tell me that a lawsuit filed in Williamson Co. General Sessions Court has dubious jurisdiction over a blogger who lives and works in California.

The suit also looks like a do-it-yourself job lacking any sound basis in actual law.

It also bears remembering this story from earlier this month:

A Message from TCOT Co-Founder Rob Neppell

I’m sorry to have to do this, but effective immediately, I am shutting down Top Conservatives on Twitter.

TCOT as a group and as a ranking system is the work of two people: Mike Leahy, and myself, and we have agreed from the beginning that it was an equal, 50-50 partnership and would be run as such. Unfortunately, over the past week, Mike has reneged on that agreement.

One week ago today, I sent Mike my thoughts on how TCOT should be run and how we should work together in the near future. This is particularly important, as due to his inability to work in a group decision-making environment, Mike was recently asked to leave the leadership team of Tea Party Patriots, a group that I remain a part of, and I felt it very important to reach clear and mutual agreement on how TCOT should operate. Mike responded that my plan sounded “reasonable”, but that he “may have a few tweaks on it”. Since then, I have asked him repeatedly to follow through and respond with his “tweaks” so that we could resolve any differences and go forward. He has refused to do so, citing other priorities and demands on his time. I asked one final time for his input yesterday, stressing the importance of the matter, but was again ignored.

Sounds like someone doesn’t get along well with others.

Let me play armchair psychologist here and urge Mike Leahy to seek professional help. Filing frivolous lawsuits and alienating your friends and colleagues are cries from a troubled soul.

Welcoming Our Agribusiness Overlords

It’s bad enough that they have to give us Frankenfood and keep farmers on a tight leash: now agribusiness wants your children:
Washington State University is drawing the wrath of the sustainable-food community after word leaked out that pressures from agribusiness had caused the school to pull Michael Pollan's best-selling book "The Omnivore's Dilemma" off the reading list for college freshmen.


The story was first reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education. University officials said the decision had been made because of budgetary concerns.

But according to a story in the Spokesman-Review, "pressure apparently was brought to bear by a member of the board of regents, Harold Cochran, who disapproved of the author’s characterization of agribusiness." Cochran, the piece reports, owns a 5,500-acre farm near Walla Walla, Wash., and is a member of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.

While we’re on the topic, if you’ve never seen "The Future Of Food,” go get yourself a copy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I'm Sure The TNGOP Would Agree

The Republican National Committee has decided it wants to be the pro-slavery party:
On May 21, 2009, the RNC tweeted an out of context quote from Barack Obama regarding a flaw in the constitution. The "fundamental flaw" Barack Obama was referring to was slavery.

Remind me, to which party did Abraham Lincoln belong?

Absolutely hilarious.


Et tu Boehner?

IOKIYAR, CIA Lies Edition

Michigan Republican Peter Hoekstra, in yesterday’s Washington Times:
In disparaging the CIA and accusing the agency of lying last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become a "wrecking ball" to the morale of officers risking their lives in the field, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee said Tuesday.


"She has single-handedly become a wrecking ball, a wrecking crew through the morale of the intelligence community," he said. "These are people that have been on the front lines. They have seen their friends die, and they have taken risks to keep America safe, and this speaker has now said you may be prosecuted."

Oh, really? Here’s Michigan Republican Peter Hoekstra, in the Washington Post, November 2008:

An internal CIA probe has concluded that agency officials deliberately misled Congress, the White House and federal prosecutors about key details of the 2001 downing of an airplane carrying U.S. missionaries in Peru, according to a senior lawmaker who called yesterday for a new criminal inquiry into the case.


Unclassified excerpts from the report were released by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, who blasted the agency for actions that he said were tantamount to obstruction of justice.

"These are the most serious and substantial allegations of wrongdoing I've seen in my time on the committee," said Hoekstra, whose western Michigan district was home to the two Americans killed in the 2001 incident.


Hoekstra, citing the still-classified portions of the report, said the CIA's program was "actually operating and being implemented outside the law." The investigators found that CIA managers "knew of, and condoned" the violations and failed to properly oversee the program, he said.


Hoekstra said he did not know how widely the problems were known within the upper ranks of the CIA's management. But he said he had personally presided over congressional hearings attended by CIA managers who knew the facts but did not speak up.

"CIA officials in front of my committee may have allowed incomplete or misleading statements to be made," he said.

Let me guess: Rep. Hoekstra finished with his wrecking ball last November and handed it to Speaker Pelosi. Is that about right?

C'mon. I can't imagine this ploy working. Who's gonna feel sorry for the spooks in the CIA who, let's face it, have been the villains in just about every Hollywood thriller movie of the past 20 years?

The only thing more amazing to me than this blatant political grandstanding is the fact that our media repeats these talking points to begin with. Kudos to the Detroit News for pointing out the hypocrisy but it was buried at the bottom of the story and I do think that bit of information provides some rather crucial context to Hoekstra's remarks. For one thing, it shows he's simply being partisan.

All In The (GOP) Family

Hey gang, guess what! Former Senate Majority Leader and video diagnostician Bill Frist has a new gig:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Former U.S. Senator William (Bill) Frist, M.D. is joining forensic chemical and drug-testing laboratory Aegis Sciences Corp. as a health care advisor and member of its board of directors.

That’s swell. In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I should mention that Aegis is the “family business” of Tennessee State Senator and Republican Senate Caucus Chair Diane Black whose husband, Dr. David Black, is Aegis' CEO and founder. I thought I’d mention it because no one else has, at least not that I’ve seen.

Nothing to see here, move along. All is on the up-and-up. And by all means, don't look in the memory hole:

WSMV investigative reporter Dagny Stuart details questions raised about state contracts held by a company owned and operated by the spouse of a prominent State senator. (Click here for video. See below for the text of the report.) According to Stuart, Aegis Sciences Corporation, a Nashville-based drug testing company, currently holds over $1.4 million in state contracts to perform “forensic drug tests for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and drug testing of state employees for a few other departments.” President and chief executive officer of Aegis is Dr. David L. Black, the husband of State Senator Diane Black, the recently elected chair of the Senate Republican Caucus.


Although Black claims that none of the Aegis contracts came before a committee on which she served, sources tell Go4Truth that one of these contracts, worth $460,000, is with the Division of Mental Retardation Services. This division’s budget is approved each year by the Senate’s General Welfare Committee. Black served as the vice chair of General Welfare from January 2005 until the Senate was restructured earlier this month. Aegis entered into its contract with the division on January 16, 2006.

That story is from 2007. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong here at all, though.

I only mention all of this because one of the areas in which Frist will advise Aegis, according to their press release, is

Federal and state policies governing health care treatment and reimbursement for laboratory based services

So it’s worth keeping an eye on, okay?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

That’s So Much Better

I was rather looking forward to calling myself a “Democrat Socialist,” despite the obvious grammatical cacophany, if only to mock the clueless Republicans who appear more hung up on labels and “framing” than actually doing anything that matters.

Alas, it was not to be:
The RNC has officially scrapped the much-ridiculed proposal to call for the Democratic Party to change its name to the "Democrat Socialist Party," which was originally set for a vote today.

Gosh darn it all.

To which I reply with this gem from Jim of EatEmAndSmile:

The Dems should pass a resolution recognizing the GOPs march towards asshatism.


So Much For The Free Hand Of The Market

All of you people hitting the Google to find out “why are gas prices going up again,” I have a very simple answer:


I’ve said this, oh, like a hundred thousand times before, but those old rules about supply and demand simply do not apply to oil and gasoline. So Newt Gingrich’s “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign of last summer (remember that?) was and is a lie.

I know, I'm sounding like a broken record. I just think you can't say it often enough, especially when Republicans are trying to pull the ol' switcheroo where their good buddies Big Oil are concerned.

Remember back in 2003 when fears of a supply disruption caused by the invasion of Iraq prompted gas prices to "skyrocket” all the way up to $1.60/gallon? Good times, good times.

Now, however, gas prices are jumping not because there’s too little supply, but too much:
Pitfield said refineries are charging retail gas stations more for wholesale gasoline because "the refineries aren't making money. They're not making money right now. We're awash in supply, in fuel. But they're not producing it to the degree that they would normally be, as at previous demand. And demand for fuel is probably off 20 percent to 25 percent across the board, worldwide, if not more. And I don't see a great reason for that to be coming back up anytime soon."

That is, except for a relatively small increase in demand, this year, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, he said.

Let the record reflect that gas prices have continued to rise in advance of Memorial Day Weekend this year.

Under "normal" laws of supply and demand, when demand is lower, prices should be lower.

"Prices should be lower," Pitfield said. "Prices will continue to go higher."

In short, refineries have decided to refine less to keep gasoline prices high so they can make more money. Well, fuck you very much. Basically, gasoline consumers can’t win for losing; when demand goes up, so do prices. And when demand goes down, prices go up anyway.

Hmmm, seems like the system is rigged.

Now that President Obama has raised automobile fuel efficiency standards, one wonders what impact this will have on gas consumers. Funny you should ask:

11Alive: "If we'll be using less gasoline because we'll all be driving higher-mileage cars, are the refineries going to kick up the prices because we're using less?"

Pitfield: "Oh, absolutely. I mean, that's basic economics."

The new basic economics of supply and demand.

It’s always good news for the oil companies.

Speaking of, last year ExxonMobil sold 2,220 gas stations, saying they weren’t profitable, even with gas at $4 a gallon. A friend of mine who works for Mapco calls gasoline a "loss leader" -- they make their money off of beer and cigarettes.


It’s amazing that we’re all paying through the nose yet nobody is making any money.

That Was Fast

Word is that Michael Leahy has dropped his complaint against a blogger who learned about Leahy's nearly $150,000 in tax liens and published the information on her blog.

Word of the lawsuit's demise might be premature.

The link is now dead but you can still read it here.

Harry Reid, NIMBY Du Jour

You know, it’s really hard to feel all hopey-changey when Senate Democrats do stupid shit like this. Take this asshattery from Sen. Reid:
“Democrats and Republicans do not want terrorists to be released in the United States,” he told reporters. “Part of what we don’t want is them being put in prisons” in the U.S., Reid said. “We don’t want them around.”

Well, boo fucking hoo. You voted to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the "war on terror," so you better sign on to dealing with the war's prisoners.

The entire argument is completely dishonest. First of all, no one is talking about “releasing” these people into the United States. Second of all, they are not terrorists, they are suspects. Since they haven’t been tried, they haven’t been found guilty of anything, therefore they are not “serving time.” They are in limbo.

Maybe that’s exactly what Reid and the other Senate Dems are afraid of: if Gitmo detainees are brought to the U.S., they will actually need to be charged with something, and there will be trials. Some icky stuff might come out that a few folks would rather not have revealed.

Why not just say that, Harry? Instead of picking up stupid Republican talking points?

Aw, crap. I’ll just post this Jon Stewart clip from way back in January. He makes the argument for how stupid this all is way better than I ever could.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Tea Party Lawsuit


Leahy seems to have dropped his complaint as it's now a dead link. However, you can still find it here.


Now this is what I call playing hardball.

Michael Patrick Leahy, founder of “Top Conservatives On Twitter” and a tea party activist (and apparently a resident of Nashville) has filed suit in Williamson County against blogger Stephanie Grasmick and someone who Tweets by the nym “Duke St. Journal” for libel, invasion of privacy, and other complaints.

The suit identifies Grasmick as the former Deputy Press Secretary to Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and “Facebook friends with
Shauna Daly, Research Director at the Democratic National Committee and a known bare knuckles political operative known for digging up dirt on political opponents.

Oh, my.

You can read the complaint here, but it’s a doozy. Apparently Leahy is pissed that Grasmick uncovered information about Leahy’s own tax-paying habits (or apparent lack thereof), which I guess he’s denying since he’s filed this lawsuit saying it was libelous. Or maybe he’s suing just saying Grasmick only published the information to discredit Leahy and the Tea Party movement. Actually, I think the lawsuit alleges Grasmick is a DNC operative and he's suing in the hopes of making her inoperative, so to speak.

Anyway, Grasmick’s blog post got Leahy named Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person In The World” on May 14, which he says is unfair since he’s just a private citizen and not a public figure like “Worst Person” runners-up Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly.

I was not aware one needed to be a public figure to get labeled WPITW. And I have to say, filing this lawsuit just might get Leahy ranked up there again. But I digress.

Here’s the offending Olbermann clip. Grasmick’s post says she obtained Leahy’s tax information

... by running a goddamned simple Nexis search on the internets ...

Leahy’s lawsuit states:

Specifically, Leahy has the right to know what resources Grasmick used to perform her Lexis/Nexis Search. Was it performed at work while Grasmick was employed as Assistant Editor of CIO Leadership Network, an Evanta Company within the DMG Media Media group of companies? Were computer resources of the Evanta Company and/or DMG World Media used ? Or was Grasmick provided a tip of inside information available only from an employee of the Federal Government that guided her to the information about Leahy she reported in her website on May 13, 2009?

Sounds like someone has gone on a fishing expedition. Just my opinion! Don’t sue me, bro! I’m not a “Democrat” Party operative (yes, the suit uses the word “Democrat” instead of “Democratic.”) Just a private citizen! With a blog!


(h/t, Tbogg)

The GOPup Tent

Hey, Republican Party: how are those tea parties working out for you? Not too well, according to a Gallup Poll:
Since the first year of George W. Bush's presidency in 2001, the Republican Party has maintained its support only among frequent churchgoers, with conservatives and senior citizens showing minimal decline.

So in short, the GOP resembles a Christian nursing home. Well, let me say it louder, then: GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!

This certainly explains Tennessee’s Republican majority. We’re the buckle of the Bible belt, 13% of our population is over age 65 and we’re predominantly white. Little surprise that our Republican-controlled legislature is discussing abortion restrictions as I write this; we’ve legalized carrying handguns everywhere save the state capitol, and the state Senate is set to vote on a resolution rejecting federal cap-and-trade legislation. Can they even do that? Who knows. Says the bill’s sponsor:

"The federal government can't make us do anything," he said. "But what they can do is hold a bunch of federal money hostage. And that's how they make us comply with every other thing they make us comply with."

Uh, duh. You don’t have to take the money, dude. Maybe now that we’ve declared our sovereignty, we shouldn’t be taking it, anyway.

I’m not serious about that last bit, of course, but I have to wonder: as Tennessee Republicans go further into the land of the lost, and nationally Republicans have become the political refuge of old religious conservatives, what will happen here at home? Will Tennessee eventually turn around as national trends take root here? Or are we so deeply stuck in the mud that we like a legislature that can’t focus on turning our economy around but saves all its energy and focus for ideological battles?

In short, has Tennessee become that vast hole into which what remains of the GOP has crawled? Or is there a chance the current crop of ideologues will be shown the door?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Beehive Failure Explained

The mystery of the disappearing honeybees, which has puzzled scientists and beekeepers for the past four years and alarmed environmentalists, since a world without bees is basically a world without food, has finally been explained. Via Salon:
Beekeepers have singled out imidacloprid and its chemical cousin clothianidin, also produced by Bayer CropScience, as a cause of bee die-offs around the world for over a decade. More recently, the same products have been blamed by American beekeepers, who claim the product is a cause of colony collapse disorder, which has cost many commercial U.S. beekeepers at least a third of their bees since 2006, and threatens the reliability of the world's food supply.

Whew, that’s a relief. Glad we got to the bottom of THAT little mystery. I’m sure the EPA will get right on banning that product, seeing as how the manufacturers’ own testing shows lethal doses of the insecticide in nectar and pollen.

Oh, wait:

Bayer CropScience spokesman Jack Boyne says his company's pesticides are not to blame. "We do a lot of research on our products and we feel like we have a very good body of evidence to suggest that pesticides, including insecticides, are not the cause of colony collapse disorder," he says. "Pesticides have been around for a lot of years now and honeybee collapse has only been a factor for the last few years." (Imidacloprid has been approved for use in the U.S. since 1994 and clothianidin has been used since 2003.)

Actually, it seems like colony collapse has been a factor for years, just reaching alarming proportions in 2006. That seems to have matched the more widespread use of this product over the past few years. And by widespread, I do mean ubiquitous: this shit is used everywhere, for termite control, on golf courses, even on flea collars for the family dog. It gets worse:

And the product's patent expired a few years ago, paving the way for it to be sold as a generic insecticide by dozens of smaller corporations. In California alone, imidacloprid is the central ingredient in 247 separate products sold by 50 different companies.

It seems obvious that the more widespread this toxic chemical’s use, the more honeybees have died. What I want to know is, why was this stuff even put on the market in the first place? Shouldn't we have determined whether it is safe a little sooner?

It would be really nice if we had a government agency charged with protecting the environment, you know, some group of scientists and policy makers who could help set some standards, some kind of, oh, I dunno, regulatory guidance for the use of toxic chemicals which could potentially destroy our entire agricultural economic base.

Sadly, no:

EPA critics suggest that the agency allowed economic considerations to take precedence over the well-being of honeybees when it approved imidacloprid for sale in the U.S. 15 years ago. "I think the EPA and USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] have been covering up for Bayer, and now they're scrambling to do something about it," says Neil Carman, a plant biologist who advises the Sierra Club on pesticides and other issues. "This review should have been done 10 years ago. It's been found to be more persistent in the environment than was reported by Bayer."

Yes, that would be nice, to test products thoroughly before releasing them into the environment, instead of treating the entire food supply as one giant laboratory:

Back in 2003, they point out, the EPA reported that clothianidin was "highly toxic to honeybees on an acute contact basis," and suggested that chronic exposure could lead to effects on the larvae and reproductive effects on the queen. Although the EPA asked Bayer for further studies of its effects on honeybees, it nevertheless authorized the chemical for market.

Thank you very fucking much.

In the interest of full disclosure, the story does state that other factors must be at play besides imidacloprid, because some bees are exposed to the chemical and do just fine. But come on, some people are able to smoke cigarettes for 50 years and not get lung cancer. That doesn’t mean smoking isn’t bad for you.

Some suspect that the death of honeybees isn’t considered a big deal to folks at the EPA, who I guess don’t realize that without God’s own little pollinators, stuff doesn’t grow.

Now is the time to pressure our Democratic White House and Democratic Congress to create an EPA that is more responsive to the concerns of environmentalists and advocates, and less a rubber-stamp for the chemical industry.

Anyone think that can happen?

Some Protests Are More Newsworthy Than Others

It appears New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has plagiarized liberal blogger Josh Marshall. Count me not shocked. It’s about what we’ve come to expect from the mainstream media these days. They are on life support, and they are doing their damnedest to make it hard for us to care.

Meanwhile, the rest of the MSM has covered anti-choice protests of President Obama’s Notre Dame commencement address ad nauseum. To be precise:
Since the announcement on March 20 that Obama would speak, The Washington Post alone has addressed the controversy in 11 articles and columns. The New York Times has dealt with it in eight columns and articles. And as for television news segments, there have been too many to count.

Even all three of our local TV news networks had to jump into the game last night. Which is, like, so funny because in all the times I showed up to protest President Bush the media only bothered to show up once. That was when Bush attended a fundraiser at Loew’s Vanderbilt Plaza; there were 200 protesters and five College Republicans. The College Republicans got as much air time as the protesters.

It wasn’t just Nashville. From the memory hole:

Hundreds of thousands of Americans around the country protested the Iraq War on the weekend of September 24-25, with the largest demonstration bringing between 100,000 and 300,000 to Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

But if you relied on television for your news, you'd hardly know the protests happened at all. According to the Nexis news database, the only mention on the network newscasts that Saturday came on the NBC Nightly News, where the massive march received all of 87 words. (ABC World News Tonight transcripts were not available for September 24, possibly due to pre-emption by college football.)

Cable coverage wasn't much better. CNN, for example, made only passing references to the weekend protests.

Again, count me not shocked. When liberals protest a president, it isn’t news, because we all know that’s what DFH’s do: they protest. Always have, at least from the ’60s, right? We protest presidents, we protest wars. It’s such old news. *Yawn.* Dog bites man. But for some reason when conservatives protest a liberal president, it’s man bites dog. Suddenly, it’s “Backlash.” Thank you, CNN.

Even at the White House Correspondents Dinner last week, with all of the journalists in attendance, the only thing we heard was that Wanda Sykes offended Rush Limbaugh. Oh, boo fucking hoo. What, you can’t take it, tough guy?

Was that the only story from that night? No it was not. Seems a couple of DFH’s protested former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Not that you’d have known about it from watching CNN or reading the New York Times or Washington Post. Maybe they should have announced a "Protest With Arrests” on their website beforehand.

So in case you missed it, here it is:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shiny, Happy, Taxed People

Can paying taxes make you happy? This columnist seems to think so. He looked at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's global happiness survey and noticed that the world’s top 10 happiest people also pay some of the world’s highest taxes. He observes:
Northern Europeans pay some of the highest taxes in the world. Danes pay about two-thirds of their income in taxes. Why be so happy about that? It all comes down to what you get in return.

The Encyclopedia of the Nations notes that Denmark was one of the first countries in the world to establish efficient social services with the introduction of relief for the sick, unemployed and aged.

It says social welfare programs include health insurance, health and hospital services, insurance for occupational injuries, unemployment insurance and employment exchange services. There's also old age and disability pensions, rehabilitation and nursing homes, family welfare subsidies, general public welfare and payments for military accidents. Moreover, maternity benefits are payable up to 52 weeks.

Simply, you pay for what you get. Taxes in the U.S. have taken on a pejorative association because, well, we are never really quite sure of what we get in return for paying them, other than the world's biggest military.

Healthcare and other such social services aren't built into our system. That means we have to worry more about paying for things ourselves. Worrying doesn't equate to happiness.
Well, that’s certainly interesting. I can already hear the howls of protest from the folks over at Tennessee Free: “I’m quite certain taxes won’t make me happier, you Socialist! You go ahead and pay them if you want!” I love that argument. Taxes only work if everyone pays them, you dufuses.

As the article observes, America is the world’s richest nation, yet we don’t even rank in the top 10 of happiness. So apparently money can’t buy happiness, after all.

I still jokingly refer to Norway as “the promised land,” after seeing their healthcare system first-hand last year and learning about how they handle resources like oil. It certainly would be nice to not have to worry about things like paying for healthcare, childcare, and education.

I do think the author is correct in that because so much is not built into our system, people ramp up the whine factor where taxes are concerned. The anti-tax crowd acts like a bunch of spoiled children, selectively decrying where “their” money goes. Social services like welfare, food stamps and public housing--things that take “their” money and give it to “those people” (read: poor, usually brown) are always a waste, in their view. They don't benefit from it directly, or if they do (see Joe The Plumber, Welfare Queen), they pretend they haven't because this flies in the face of the iconic "rugged individualist" we so admire.

Military spending is never a waste, and the more the better, which I never understood. But what about the gazillion other things our taxes pay for: public schools, roads, dams, inspecting and protecting the food supply, national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, disaster relief after hurricanes and earthquakes, mail delivery, keeping shipping channels and harbors open, the interstate highway system that keeps us connected ... all of these things work so seamlessly most of the time that they are easily ignored. You forget who built and maintained that road you drove to work on, unless you drove over a pothole, in which case you probably cursed it..

Heh. Try driving down some of the roads in Costa Rica then, buddy.

Anyway, if people in countries like Norway and Denmark see how they benefit personally from taxation when they go to the doctor, take their kids to school, get a free college education, care for their aging parents, etc., I wonder if Americans would, too. And I wonder if this isn’t what scares the crap out of Republicans fighting “socialized medicine” tooth and nail: they aren’t afraid it would fail, but rather that it would work, too well.

Something to think about.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Happy “Whitey Tape” Day!

Remember the infamous “Whitey Tape?” Good times, good times:
I now have it from two sources that there is video dynamite–Michelle Obama railing against “whitey” at Jeremiah Wright’s church. Republicans may have a lousy record when it comes to the economy and the management of the war in Iraq, but they are hell on wheels when it comes to opposition research. Someone took the chance and started reviewing the recordings from services at Jeremiah Wright’s United Church of Christ. Holy smoke!! I am told there is a clip that is being held for the fall to drop at the appropriate time. The last thing Barack and Michelle need is a new clip that raises further questions about her judgment and temperament.

Wonder whatever happened to that tape. Oh, yeah:

One year later, no such tape has ever surfaced.

Did Larry Johnson get played, or did he pull it straight out of his ass? Enquiring minds would love to know.

I’m not feeling nostalgic for last year’s crass presidential campaign, but I do think that people who just made shit up for the purpose of character assassination should be held to account.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nobody Could Have Anticipated, Vol. XXIV

Dang, score another one for my bullshit-smelling nose. Remember those healthcare industry groups who vowed to do their very best to cut healthcare costs, as long as it doesn’t hurt them too much? And by "not much” we mean not at all? Seems they are having second thoughts:
Hospitals and insurance companies said Thursday that President Obama had substantially overstated their promise earlier this week to reduce the growth of health spending.

Mr. Obama invited health industry leaders to the White House on Monday to trumpet their cost-control commitments. But three days later, confusion swirled in Washington as the companies’ trade associations raced to tamp down angst among members around the country.

Oh, dear. Follow the links and you will see these healthcare groups boldly resolved in a press release:

By reducing the rate of growth in health care spending by 1.5% each year, the nation can achieve a savings of $2 trillion over the next decade.

To deciding

He and other health care executives said they had agreed to squeeze health spending so the annual rate of growth would eventually be 1.5 percentage points lower.

One of the lobbyists, Karen M. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said the savings would “ramp up” gradually as the growth of health spending slowed.

David H. Nexon, senior executive vice president of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, a trade group for makers of medical devices, said “there was no specific understanding” of when the lower growth rate would be achieved.

So we went from a specific "1.5% a year" to a "gradual" and very non-specific decrease. Amazing.

So in other words, not so fast! We’ll get there, eventually. Just not any time soon, which means, probably never.

My nose for bullshit is rarely wrong.

Once again, asking the people who profit off of healthcare to voluntarily take less profit is pure folly. It’s like Dick Cheney asking the oil companies to write our energy policy.

Come on, people. This shit is important. Too important to be left in the hands of a bunch of greedy assholes whose financial interests are diametrically opposed to seeing a functioning, affordable healthcare system in this country.

President Obama and the U.S. Congress, I say this to you: get tough with these assholes and tell them to bring their best offer to the table or be put out of business. Enough is enough.

Lost In Homophobic Translation


Welcome AmericaBlog readers!

The ironically-named columnist Charlie Butts of OneNewsNow (the American Family Assn.'s "news" division) is leading a parade of wingnuts crowing over a statement on sexual orientation from the American Psychological Assn. This is supposedly “scientific proof” that there is no gay gene:
The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch. An American Psychological Association publication includes an admission that there's no homosexual "gene" -- meaning it's not likely that homosexuals are born that way.

For decades, the APA has not considered homosexuality a psychological disorder, while other professionals in the field consider it to be a "gender-identity" problem. But the new statement, which appears in a brochure called "Answers to Your Questions for a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality," states the following:
"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles...."

This story has been picked up at WingNut Daily and conservative blogs as proof that gays don’t deserve to get married or even exist because if sexual orientation is a “choice” not, you know, something you have no control over, then we don’t have to protect GLBT folks with hate crime laws and stuff, and obviously they are just that way because everyone loves a great queer party.

Or something.

So smelling the aroma of bullshit wafting my way, I headed over the APA to read this supposed new statement for myself. Tell me if you notice anything missing:

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

Again, did anyone notice anything missing from Butts’ quote?

That's some "knockout punch," all right.

Feel Good Friday!

Heard this song on the radio on my way back from the gym (no, I did NOT bike to the gym today. I value my life too much.)


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rebutting Cheney

Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, rebuts Dick and Liz Cheney’s lies with a column that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Note. It is an absolute must-read.

Some highlights:
[W]hen Cheney claims that if President Obama stops "the Cheney method of interrogation and torture", the nation will be in danger, he is perverting the facts once again. But in a very ironic way.

My investigations have revealed to me--vividly and clearly--that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering "the Cheney methods of interrogation", simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.

What I am saying is that no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama's having shut down the "Cheney interrogation methods" will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency?

Excellent point and one which all of the Cheney lies cannot ignore. Plus, if torture is so good at preventing attacks on the homeland, what kept attacks at bay from 2005-2009? (And let me point out, there have been plenty of terrorist attacks over the past few years. Just not here at home.)

There’s more:

Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

This is really the nut of the matter. Cheney and his daughter Liz are doing their damnedest to keep daddy and his friends out of jail.

Meanwhile, in today’s Wall Street Journal Karl Rove does some finger-pointing of his own:

Someone important appears not to be telling the truth about her knowledge of the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs). That someone is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The political persecution of Bush administration officials she has been pushing may now ensnare her.

Here's what we know. On Sept. 4, 2002, less than a year after 9/11, the CIA briefed Rep. Porter Goss, then House Intelligence Committee chairman, and Mrs. Pelosi, then the committee's ranking Democrat, on EITs including waterboarding. They were the first members of Congress to be informed.

”EIT’s,” for those of you who haven’t kept up, is the polite way former Bush Administration officials refer to torture.

Of course, the name “Nancy Pelosi” is a Republican dog-whistle for “scary-lesbo-San Francisco-liberal-socialist-vagina.” Somehow this whole mess is supposed to be Nancy Pelosi’s fault but someone needs to remind Karl Rove which party was in power in 2002, and it wasn’t the Democrats. Someone is trying to insinuate that a member of the House Intelligence Committee from the minority party, who was not even House Minority Leader at the time (that was Dick Gephardt) would somehow be able to exert some kind of influence over the Republican Party and its rush to war at a time when we were being told to run out and buy duct tape and plastic sheeting because ZOMG WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!11!!1!!1!

Right. So torture was perfectly OK and if it wasn't, well, it's all Nancy Pelosi's fault. Nice try, buddy.

This is, of course, not even taking into account Pelosi’s own assertions that the CIA misled Congress, which was corroborated by former Sen. Bob Graham.

We still have a lot to pick apart here, but the basic argument--torture works, it's legal, it’s OK if it’s used to protect Americans, Jack Bauer is real and oh yeah, we didn’t torture anyway--that argument seems to have been lost. And let's not get distracted by Karl Rove's "ooh look, shiny sparkly Pelosi thing over there!" ploy.

It's time to start some serious investigations into criminal activity here.

Why Are Gas Prices Going Up AGAIN, V.2

Once again, oil prices are falling, yet gas prices are going up.

What gives?

One more time with feeling, people: drilling here, drilling now has not in the past and will not now affect what you pay at the pump.

I have written about this a lot, most recently back in February, when refiners cut back on production in response to decreased demand, which lowered gas prices so much the refiners felt it in their own pockets.

Back then USA Today reported:
Beset by weak consumer demand and losses on gasoline sales, oil refiners have scaled back production since late December. The average utilization rate at U.S. refineries was 81.5% as of Feb. 6, the lowest in 17 years, not including hurricane-related slowdowns, according to the Energy Information Administration. As recently as early December, refineries were running at 87.4% of capacity.

Here, via the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, is what gas and crude oil prices were doing in December:

Note when gas prices hit rock bottom: yep, that would be December.

I don’t know what the profit margin is on a refinery, but clearly the refiners have become accustomed to a certain level of dough rolling in. Thus they responded by cutting back on refining the crude, at a time when crude oil was relatively cheap (compared to recent history, at least).

None of this has anything to do with drilling for oil off the coast of the United States or in an Alaskan wildlife refuge. The oil companies already have more domestic leases than they know what to do with, because with oil priced below $60 per barrel, it’s not profitable to pull that stuff out of the ground. There’s a reason this stuff hasn’t been tapped before, and it has nothing to do with tree-hugging environmentalists.

Rising gas prices do, however, provide the perfect opportunity for people in Washington to score political points and try to sway low-information voters who think gasoline is a commodity like corn or pork bellies. And yes, I do mean the usual suspects:

Republicans believe that rising gas prices are their trump card against a Democratic-sponsored climate change bill.

The GOP is struggling to regain footing after two successive electoral blowouts, but party leaders are relishing an opportunity to debate what they call a “national energy tax.”

The Democrats’ plan of moving a cap-and-trade bill this summer plays into GOP hands because as the cost of gasoline spikes, so does the public’s awareness of energy prices, Republican leadership aides say.

Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), the former House GOP conference chairman, said that the cost of gas is not likely to hit last summer’s national high of $4 a gallon, but he noted that oil prices have been creeping up recently.

Putnam said most Americans want to increase oil production, not restrict consumption, adding, “At some point, gas prices become a very potent political weapon again.”

I don’t know about that. I think all of this yanking consumers around by the gas nozzle fosters anger and ill will toward oil companies. It makes me want to send a big “fuck you” to Exxon and Chevron and find another way of getting around town.

And yes, I did buy a used bicycle a couple weeks ago.

Here's a handy reference tool to keep bookmarked for the coming debate. Next time you hear a politician tell us we need to "drill here, drill now," follow the oil money.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stop Me If You’ve Already Seen This Movie

Holy cow. Er, I mean pig :
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is to investigate claims that the swine flu currently infecting the world was the result of genetic experiments by scientists which then leaked from a laboratory.

The extraordinary claims were made by 75-year-old Australian researcher Adrian Gibbs, who was part of the team behind development of the Tamiflu drug. Gibbs contends the deadly H1N1 strain may have been accidentally born in eggs scientists use to grow viruses and in vaccine research.

Okay, EVERYBODY PANIC!!!! The latest pandemic was released from the lab where scientists were researching viruses and vaccines? Somebody call Michael Crichton! And, um, Steven Spielberg!

Of course, it’s all just a theory. Like the one about how swine flu was really a bioweapon:

The UN scientist is convinced that the swine flu virus, A-H1N1, and Ebola and HIV viruses were in fact manufactured biological weapons.

As proof, they state that the usual process of transmission is that the virus is transmitted from a pig to a human, which is not the case in this outbreak because no case of a pig being infected with the A-H1N1 virus has been registered. Furthermore, the A-H1N1 virus partly contains American pig genes, partly human and bird flu strains and the virus of the Euro-Asian swine flu.


Meanwhile, south of the border Mexicans have their own made-for-prime-time swine flu conspiracy:

The main example cited is that while Mexicans were panicked into staying at home, the government quietly introduced two new laws.

The rumour is that one was a law that allows the authorities to check people’s internet traffic and emails and the other was a law banning drugs. Another piece of ‘evidence’ is the fact that US President Obama visited Mexican President Felipe Calderon just before the outbreak occurred. What the two leaders are supposed to have concocted together in secret is a mystery.
What???! The American and Mexican presidents conspired to use fear of a deadly pandemic to manipulate the citizenry and rob them of their civil liberties?

Hey, I thought that’s what wars were for! Well, EVERYBODY PANIC anyway.

Dang. Who can we torture to get to the bottom of this?

Tortured Logic

Sen. Lindsay Graham says that because torture techniques are still around after 500 years, “apparently they work.”
Lindsay Graham: The Vice President is suggesting that there was good information obtained, and I’d like the committee to get that information. Let’s have both sides of the story here. I mean, one of the reasons these techniques have survived for about 500 years is apparently they work.

Former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan responded, “Because, sir, there’s a lot of people who don’t know how to interrogate, and it’s easier to hit somebody than outsmart them.”

Hey Senator Graham: Here are some other things that have survived for hundreds of years, of dubious efficacy:

• Tossing a pinch of salt over your shoulder after accidentally spilling it.

• Astrology, palm reading, rune stones, reading tea leaves, tarot cards, etc.

Knocking wood to ward off bad luck.

• Wishing on a shooting star.


This is so stupid, I almost feel sorry for them:
A member of the Republican National Committee told me Tuesday that when the RNC meets in an extraordinary special session next week, it will approve a resolution rebranding Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party.”

HA HA HA HA HA. Yes, that’s me, laughing at you. The party of no ideas has disintegrated into name-calling children throwing playground taunts. Note it’s “Democrat” not “Democratic,” to be extra insulting.

Wow, you sure showed us! That’ll teach us to win elections!

It just boggles the mind that a bunch of grown men and women who are supposedly Very Serious and who are tasked with doing the people’s business would spend time their time crafting a resolution like this and then actually voting on it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tortured Arguments

Liz Cheney tries to defend the indefensible, and it’s painful to watch. There’s so much wrong with this clip, it’s hard to know where to start. Really, the whole thing is just awful.

Watch it:

I feel sorry for Eugene Robinson, who at one point seems to throw up his hands because Liz Cheney isn't making any sense. She's still living in some wingnut post 9/11 fantasyland, Eugene. Reality does not live there.

One of the worst aaaargh moments starts at 10:45 when Liz Cheney makes what I call the “24” argument. Here’s my written transcription, if you don’t have the time--or blood pressure--to watch the whole clip:
Liz Cheney: Eugene let me ask you a question then. So, if you knew that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had information about an imminent threat on the United States. Information that would result in the death of your family members and the death of the people you care about and love, and that if he were waterboarded you would be able to get that information and prevent the attack, you wouldn’t do it? You’d let him go ahead and launch the attack?

Eugene Robinson: How would I even know that?

LC: That’s exactly the situation these folks were in. That’s the choice you’ve got to make.

I put the word “if” in bold face because it seems quite obvious to me that when your entire argument is predicated on an “if” situation, you’ve lost the debate.

The reality is, we weren’t in that situation, not one terror plot was uncovered by torture, but we got plenty of false information:

Libi was captured fleeing Afghanistan in late 2001, and he vanished into the secret detention system run by the Bush administration. He became the unnamed source, according to Senate investigators, behind Bush administration claims in 2002 and 2003 that Iraq had provided training in chemical and biological weapons to al-Qaeda operatives. The claim was most famously delivered by then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in his address to the United Nations in February 2003.

Powell later called the speech a "blot" on his record, saying he was not given all available intelligence and analysis within the government. The Defense Intelligence Agency and some analysts at the CIA had questioned the veracity of Libi's testimony, which was obtained after the prisoner was transferred to Egyptian custody for questioning by the CIA, according to Senate investigators.

In their book "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War," Michael Isikoff and David Corn said Libi made up the story about Iraqi training after he was beaten and subjected to a "mock burial" by his Egyptian interrogators, who put him in a cramped box for 17 hours. Libi recanted the story after being returned to CIA custody in 2004.

(Hat tip to Attaturk for that link, BTW.) This is the whole problem with torture as an interrogation technique: besides being immoral, it’s simply ineffective because the information obtained is always unreliable.

But I’m not sure efficacy was the point. I am starting to fear that obtaining a certain kind of information, accuracy be damned, might have been the point all along. But Bush-Cheney got their pet war, KBR and Blackwater got their lucrative government contracts, and Liz and Dick Cheney can continue to flog 9/11-related fear mongering, because without fear, the Republicans have got nothing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tennessee Republicans Are A Drag

What is it about Republicans in drag? They don't seem to think very highly of gay people and you can tell they get all nervous when Gay Pride week rolls around and yet they seem to enjoy dressing up in women's clothes. I really don't get it.

This is the Hawkins County (TN) GOP fundraiser. Their largest ever, I might add. I believe the guy in the gray suit is Zach Wamp, the man who wants to be our governor. I have no idea who these other assclowns are but I am going to enjoy making fun of them because they are very silly. I'm sure folks in Nashville will recognize a few faces. Oh, and thanks to Aunt B for calling this to my attention.

There are more photos at the link. And apparently--hint hint--you can order copies of photos if you wish. I'm remembering the photos of Rudy Giuliani dressed as Marilyn Monroe and have to think someone could have some fun with these.

(h/t, Aunt B)

If Only They’d Thought Of This Sooner

Apparently various healthcare industry groups have had a major V-8 moment and suddenly realized they can cut costs, after all. They’ve even written a letter to President Obama telling him not to hurt them, they promise to be good:
The letter lacks much detail but suggests savings could come from simplified billing, restructuring the way hospitals are paid and using more information technology, among other steps.

Wow. They just thought all that up, all by their li’l ol’ selves?

Bless their hearts.

And all these years we’ve been told that this just wasn’t possible, that healthcare costs were so high because of trial lawyers and illegal immigrants and other nonsense. Imagine that.

But I digress:

Although the agreement does not outline any industry commitments to accept specific reductions in revenue, it does signal continued engagement by powerful healthcare interests in the Obama administration's effort to overhaul the nation's troubled healthcare system.

So in other words, they still want to keep making money hand over fist while some Americans must choose between food and healthcare.

Signatories include the American Medical Assn.; the American Hospital Assn.; the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; the Advanced Medical Technology Assn., which represents device makers; America's Health Insurance Plans, which represents insurers; and the Service Employees International Union, which shepherded the agreement.

Many members of those groups, whose leaders have been working for weeks behind closed doors on the letter, could lose some money if healthcare spending were substantially slowed.

Spending on healthcare reached $2.2 trillion in 2007 and is expected to increase by more than 6% a year, on average, over the next decade, faster than the economy's growth in general, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Excuse me if I’m underwhelmed. I know the president is going to go on TV and tell us how awesome this all is, but frankly I don’t get it. I guess we’re supposed to take whatever crumbs they throw at us and be grateful. These industry groups want to continue to profit off of sick people, and they're putting on a good show of playing along when the reality of the situation is, they're looking to lose money because people can't afford their insanely overpriced product.

To that I say, fuck you.

For their part, conservatives are peddling fear and talking points like this gem, Stop Obamacare, seen over at the Weekly Standard (and do note the Novartis logo strategically placed adjacent to the comments bar):

Conservatives can make it clear they support reform. But they must make it even clearer that the Democrats' plan would displace tens of millions of happily insured Americans and exacerbate the worst elements of the current system: gross inefficiency, high costs, and bureaucracy. President Obama and his congressional allies are pursuing a mammoth, complex, hugely expensive, ill-designed reform that is not likely to be popular when understood. Conservatives have a very real chance at stopping it if they highlight its key weaknesses and supply a superior alternative.

The patronizing message here seems to be: “don’t try to understand this complicated issue, just trust us when we tell you that whatever the Democrats do will suck.”

I really fail to understand how anything could get any worse than it is now, or how offering a public option could be a bad thing. Frankly, while we’re on the subject, I’ve never, ever understood the point of insurance companies, either. I get the idea of trying to pool risk and all, but they lost me when they started “repricing” stuff so that some folks pay one amount and other folks pay a different amount for the same thing.

I don’t get how we are supposed to save money on healthcare by going through a company that is in business to make a profit. Why do they even exist? They are parasites. I’m not an anti-capitalist, not by any stretch, but we’re dealing with people’s lives here. If you’re sick, or your child is sick, you just want treatment. You don’t want to shop for the best deal, shopping around might not even be an option. You want the best care available, period. There’s a moral component at work here, and it’s immoral to make money off of people’s suffering.

So, I’m sorry, I know I’m supposed to be applauding and CLAPPING LOUDER when the healthcare stakeholders promise to not skim quite so much off the top cut costs by getting more efficient--something, amazingly, they haven’t thought to do until now.

I’m just detecting the aroma of bullshit wafting my way.