Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nick Kristof Is Very Serious. Really.

Someone must have sent a World Vision brochure to New York Times columnist Nick Kristof because in today’s column he makes the startling discovery that there are Christian groups operating charities in Third World countries! Oh my God, stop the presses.

Kristof is one of the most annoying of the media elite, not just because he has defended Third World sweatshops in a dozen or more columns (“Hey! People are lining up for those jobs!”). No, he annoys me primarily because he has such a myopic view of the world. His opinions are clearly shaped by his position of privilege and his rounds of the cocktail party circuit. Kristof sits atop an ivory tower and as a result, his Very Serious New York Times columns are riddled with stereotypes. Worse, they carry that unmistakeable stench of superiority.

Today’s is no different. Indeed, he lost me at hello:
For most of the last century, save-the-worlders were primarily Democrats and liberals. In contrast, many Republicans and religious conservatives denounced government aid programs, with Senator Jesse Helms calling them “money down a rat hole.”

Over the last decade, however, that divide has dissolved, in ways that many Americans haven’t noticed or appreciated. Evangelicals have become the new internationalists, pushing successfully for new American programs against AIDS and malaria, and doing superb work on issues from human trafficking in India to mass rape in Congo.

”Many Americans,” Nick? You mean you, right? Right away he pisses me off by lumping everyone into two categories. There are no liberal or Democratic evangelicals in Kristof’s world, nor are there any Republicans who care about foreign aid. It’s all one big unhappy stereotype.

Please don’t tell Kristof that World Vision, the evangelical Christian organization he devotes much of his column to, was founded in 1950. Please also don’t tell him about groups like Sojourners, the evangelical liberal group founded by Jim Wallis in 1971.

Here’s another one:

Some liberals are pushing to end the longtime practice (it’s a myth that this started with President George W. Bush) of channeling American aid through faith-based organizations.

”Some liberals,” Nick? Who? Someone you talked to at a cocktail party, perhaps? Or an anonymous blog commenter?

Is there a bill? A movement? An organization backing this? Anything? Not that I’ve heard. You know, there will always be debate on blogs about this but the reality is, every policy maker from the local level on up to the State Department knows that charitable groups do the heavy lifting when it comes to aid. They have to. Tea Baggers' lamentations notwithstanding, our government is not that big. Be it homeless shelters in your local town or schools and orphanages in Africa, NGOs do the work. And the reality is, most of those groups are religious. This is not new, it's been this way for decades. I guess Kristof was the last to get the memo.

No one is seriously talking about doing away with government funds for these groups, it would be impossible to do so. But Kristof probably talked to someone at a cocktail party and therein lies the basis of his column.

And then we get to that telltale Kristofian air of superiority. Folks, I bring you last night's Tweet:

Snooty and sanctimonious? Kristof must have been looking in a mirror.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Girl Scout Cookie Recall

Heh. And they all laughed 10 days ago when I said Girl Scout cookies sucked. They not only suck, they stink:
A Kentucky bakery recalled one variety of Girl Scout cookie this week after customers complained of a "foul smell and taste," the Associated Press reports. The recall affects Lemon Chalet Cremes distributed in Maryland and two dozen other states.

The baker, Louisville-based Little Brownie Bakers, traced the problem to a breakdown of oils. They say:

No one has gotten sick and the company contends that the cookies, though "not up to our quality standards," are safe to eat.

Well isn't that special. Those oils that are breaking down, unfortunately, are trans fats. The nutritional label notwithstanding, food manufacturers are able to make their foods appear healthier on their packaging by manipulating the portion size.

Food blog Fork & Bottle explains:

Food manufacturers are allowed to list amounts of trans fat with less than 0.5 gram per serving as zero on the Nutrition Facts panel. As a result, consumers are seeing products that list zero gram transfat on the label, while the ingredient list will have "shortening" or "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" on it."

The serving size might be as small as two cookies, but let's be real: no one eats just two.

Anyway, the food blog makes suggestions on other ways to support the Girl Scouts besides buying cookies. The easiest thing is to make a donation and tell your scout to keep the cookies.

Personally, while I'm concerned about the trans fats and high fructose corn syrup, I'm even more annoyed that despite all this toxic crap the cookies still taste bad. If you're going to pollute your body at least you should get something enjoyable out of it.

The Anti War Movement Is Still Alive

Karl Rove spoke at UC Santa Barbara Thursday night, hawking his new book and sparking an anti-war protest. You can see video of the protest here:

I have to say I'm very encouraged to see the anti-war movement is still active. I had my doubts. President Obama didn't start the Iraq War but he hasn't done enough to end it, and he's escalated the Afghanistan War, resulting in escalated bloodshed among civilians. This is wrong, people.

We're coming up on the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. As they are every year, protests are being planned all across the country. Ask the Great Gazoogle for the one nearest you and make your voice heard.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Choosing Coffee Over Tea

Funny how the universe works: on Wednesday I ran into an old friend at the grocery store and she immediately started to talk about politics, how disgusted she was by the outlandish rhetoric coming from the Tea Party right, and her frustration with Republican Party obstructionism and Democratic spinelessness.

She said (I swear to God I am not making this up): “I would literally follow anyone right now if they were sane.”

And lo and behold, the Coffee Party has arrived:

You can learn more at their Facebook page.

From what I can tell, the emphasis seems to be on “civility.” It will be interesting to see how long that lasts. I like the emphasis on being rational, on “sanity.” I think one of the problems with the Democratic Party is that people have been trying to be too polite; we waste so much time and energy trying not to offend anyone we end up appearing mushy. Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is, whether someone’s feelings get hurt or not. Hopefully this movement won’t be like that. There's nothing worse than weak coffee.

Coffee Party founder Annabel Park, in a live chat at the Washington Post, was asked if she saw common ground (no pun intended) with the Tea Party. She replied:
It is true that both groups feel that the government is failing us in many ways. I think if we examine the language that some in the Tea Party have been using, there are some things that are alienating to many of us in the Coffee Party: the extreme rhetoric, and the hostility toward the federal government. We would have to ask them tone this down, so that we can focus on actively listening to one another and problem-solving.

Well, we saw how well that went yesterday at the Health Care Summit.

You know, once upon a time I thought the anti-corporate left might have something in common with the Tea Party right, until the nutballs rolled into Nashville with their religious fervor, homophobia, racism and Obama hate. That's when I realized the Tea Partiers were so far off the reservation that there would never be any common ground.

So to Annabel Park I say, good luck with that--and I mean that with all sincerity. Because she’s 100% correct when she says:

In the current climate, too many Americans are afraid to participate, and find the process itself too alienating, because it is dominated by people with extreme opinions and extreme tactics. 

It's hard to speak up when others in the room are screaming.

That’s absolutely true; what I’m not sure of is whether this alienating people from the process was by design or by accident. But good for Park to stand up and offer another way of engaging the electorate, instead of throwing her hands up and saying forget it.

Who knows whether the Coffee Party movement is sustainable and can grow into something meaningful. I’m just glad someone is trying something. 

A National “Coffee House Day” has been scheduled for March 13, where chapters will meet to, ahem, rationally and civilly discuss the issues of the day. So if you’re interested go to their website and see if there’s a chapter near you; if not, try starting one.

Hey, it can’t hurt.

(Note to teabaggers: so far there doesn’t appear to be any fingerprint of George Soros, DailyKos, MoveOn, Starbucks, Whole Foods, or any other “liberal” corporate/DFH entity behind this grassroots movement. Just sayin')

Obama Tax Cuts


In comments, Jim rightfully points out that the "Obama tax cut calculator" I link to was based on campaign promises, not what was actually implemented in the Stimulus. Fair enough, I didn't follow all the links before throwing up my post this morning.

I don't know how different the actual tax cuts in the economic stimulus are from what was promised during the campaign (though even the Wall Street Journal referred to Obama's tax cuts as a campaign promise fulfilled.) So yes, the "calculator" tool is useless. My bad.

But the point remains valid: conservatives reveal their cognitive dissonance when they claim Obama hasn't cut taxes (or in the case of clueless Tea Baggers, pretend he's even raised them). He hasn't; 95% of Americans will be getting a tax cut for 2009.

There’s a discussion going on downthread about why Obama hasn’t cut taxes, which would sprinkle fairy dust all over the economy and make everything wonderful again.

Of course, Obama has cut taxes. Tax cuts were a big part of the economic stimulus, to the tune of $300 billion, a concession to the Republicans who ended up not voting for it anyway. The Dems voted for it, it passed, and now--shocker!--they don’t get credit for it. So I don’t know why we even bothered. It's like it never happened.

The non-partisan Tax Policy Center has a neat tool where you can calculate your Obama tax cut. Check it out, it’s really cool.

Here’s what I love:
Only 12 percent of the public say that the Obama administration has lowered their taxes since coming to office, despite the fact that the White House's stimulus package cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, a new opinion survey found.

Here’s the poll. Not surprisingly, Tea Partiers were most likely to think Obama has raised their taxes, when in fact most have received a tax cut.

That certainly shows you the power of the right wing message. That’s some powerful Kool-Aid, blessed by Frank Luntz, spread by Dick Armey, and swallowed whole by a bunch of clueless idiots so desperate to hate on a Democratic president that they will believe anything they’re told.

Personally I'm not a fan of tax cuts, when our taxes are already at historic lows.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Is Charlie Crist Dumping GOP?

The rumor is that Charlie Crist is going to try to pull a Lieberman:
Two highly placed and independent sources, speaking strictly on background, tell me that Gov. Charlie Crist is preparing to leave the Republican Party and run as an independent in the race for the U.S. Senate.

Well, isn’t that interesting.

It would be a smart move -- it seems to me this would be Crist’s only chance of winning the Florida Senate race.

Wouldn't it be interesting if we had a Senate comprised of Democrats, Republicans and a healthy percentage of Independents? Seems to me that's where we're headed.

Permanent War Economy Electric Boogaloo, V. 2

A new milestone reached in Afghanistan, and a sad desensitization here at home:
Others see a fundamental change in American foreign policy after almost nine years of combat. "The American people and the governing class have accepted that war has become a permanent condition," said retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, a history professor at Boston University whose son was killed in Iraq in 2007. "Protracted war has become a widely accepted part of our politics."

What a difference a decade makes.

More on the permanent war economy here, here and here.

What Do Conservatives Want?

This has been making the rounds of blogs:
This chart comes from John Sides, who gathered information from the 2008 American National Election Study about spending priorites. Self identified conservatives, it turns out, aren't actually in favor of cutting spending on much of anything. Child care scored the worst for some reason, getting more hostility than even perennial bogeymen like foreign aid and welfare. Still, even at that, only 20% of conservatives wanted to cut child care spending, and scores dropped precipitously from there.

Drum goes on to say that the 12 programs listed account for about 95% of the federal budget. He concludes that conservative politicians are actually representing their base rather well:

They like to yammer endlessly about cutting spending, but when push comes to shove, there's not much they really think we're spending too much on. It's all just venting.
I touched on this yesterday when I questioned why Republicans keep yammering for tax cuts, then threaten to filibuster a bill that is nothing but tax cuts, then vote for the bill anyway when the filibuster fails.

It is indeed all just venting.

So, you folks are pissed off, we get that. Join the club. But until you can figure out what exactly it is that you want, please take some happy pills.

This chart has prompted much head-scratching among liberals as we try to figure out what the hell is going on in the conservative brain. Digby has an idea:
Maybe we could be a bit more polite and just call them "magical thinking" conservatives, but "conflicted" would imply that they feel some sort of dissonance, and it's quite clear that they do not. They truly believe that government should provide all the services they use but that nobody should have to pay any taxes to support it.

I believe it's the central economic difference between liberals and conservatives. We all like the welfare state and want more of it. They just think it should be paid for with fairy dust and we think progressive taxation is the more logical choice. Sadly, the political system has chosen to go with fairy dust. It's more marketable.

I’m going to offer a different interpretation. I don’t think they believe no one should have to pay for the services everyone says they want. They just think someone else should pay for it. They think they personally are taxed enough as it is (Lord knows we hear that often enough from conservatives, right?). They happen to think they’ve already paid their fair share.

And if that’s the case, then I don’t understand why they don’t think the wealthy shouldn’t pony up and pay more. Maybe it’s a mistrust of the system (“First they came for Paris Hilton, but I wasn’t Paris Hilton so I said nothing ...”). Maybe they aspire to be Paris Hilton someday. I dunno.

Often enough I’ve heard right here on my own blog that conservatives want “charity” to pay for things like healthcare or welfare programs. Well that’s great but who is going to pay the charity? Where are they going to get their money from? Everyone thinks they pay enough taxes and I guarantee you everyone thinks the $100 or $500 donation they made to charity is enough, as well.

It’s the unique conundrum of living in the wealthiest, most privileged country in the world. Wealth inevitably breeds fear; it’s a universal law, a flaw of human nature. Those who have much have a tendency to be closed, to want to hold on to what they’ve got, to hoard. That’s why the Bible is full of verses about giving your wealth away; even the ancients understood human nature and our tendency to think we've given enough. It's why the Old Testament is full of ideas like debt forgiveness every seven years, a 20% production tax during times of plenty to prepare for times of shortage, leaving a portion of your harvest aside for the poor, etc.

So, nothing has changed. People want services but they want someone else to pay for them. Yawn.

Anyway, the good news is that apparently most of us all agree that programs like bridges and highways, aid to the poor, Social Security, and environmental protection are worthwhile programs. That’s a starting place.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

At Long Last Bipartisanship?

While our illustrious news media wallows in the glow of bipartisanship they say passage of the Senate jobs bill represents, I counter it highlights how bad partisan gridlock in Washington truly is.

First, from the Los Angeles Times:
More notable, perhaps, than the bill itself was the fact that 13 Republicans crossed party lines to vote for it. The $15-billion bill passed by a 70-28 tally.

The bill would grant employers a "holiday" on their 6.2% Social Security payroll contribution for every new employee hired through the rest of the year, as long as that employee has been out of work for at least 60 days. It would also make it easier for businesses to write off equipment purchases and would extend federal highway and mass-transit funding programs.

This is a tax cut bill. Since when are we doing double back-flips over the fact that 13 Republicans voted for tax cuts?

Hey, Republicans: I thought you people hated taxes! That’s all we ever hear every time you folks open your mouths: “tax cuts tax cuts tax cuts.” Okay, the Democrats gave you your damn tax cuts. And only 13 of you voted for it? What the hell is wrong with you?

Even worse:

Eight Republicans who Monday didn't support a procedural motion to proceed with the jobs bill switched sides Wednesday to support it, including Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) Thad Cochran (Miss.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.). Hatch was a co-author, along with Schumer, of the payroll tax provision in the bill.

Yes that’s right, our own Sen. Lamar Alexander ended up voting for a bill he tried to block two days ago. Holy flip-flop!

And our grand wanker of the day prize goes to Orrin Hatch, a co-author of the bill, who tried to filibuster it on Monday, then voted for it on Wednesday. Yes that’s right, Orrin Hatch tried to filibuster his own tax cuts which he ended up voting for anyway.

This is the glorious “bipartisanship” we’re celebrating?


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Canaries & Coal Mines

I don’t know if anyone noticed this but yesterday ACORN dissolved, starved of the federal funds it used for things like helping low income people access loans to buy homes and start businesses, register them to vote, get the poor access to housing, and other stuff that we simply cannot have. We live in a country where the free hand of the market always seems to bypass the poor, save to slap their hands when they get uppity and think they deserve a place at the table too. How dare they.

But here's the lesson for liberals: don’t for a minute think the anti-ACORN campaign launched by the right won’t be repeated with other perceived “lefty” organizations. Indeed, it already has.

Two years ago a movement began to defund Planned Parenthood, even though no public funds go toward abortion services. They go toward prenatal care, pap smears, STD testing, birth control and even fertility treatment. You know, gynecological and obstetric care, like what you’d get at any OB/GYN.

If you are “pro life” you should be lining up on the streets to get a Planned Parenthood clinic in your neighborhoods because they are the only access to healthcare a lot of women have, and that healthcare enables women to have healthy babies. But you can’t see the forest for the trees, can you? You’ve drunk so much Kool-Aid that you hear “Planned Parenthood” and instead of thinking, “oh, pre-natal care,” or “oh, a pap smear,” you immediately think “abortion.”

You are very silly, horrid people.

And liberals are silly too, for sitting on their hands while the anti-choice crowd organizes their plan, recruits candidates, circulates petitions (I won’t link to it but it makes the outrageous claim that “one in every two black children is aborted”), and gets on top of the message war with bogus “gotcha” videos.

Are we asleep? Look past the obvious misogyny in this news story which garnered most of the outrage today; instead, see if you can spot the money quote:
RICHMOND – Western Prince William Del. Bob Marshall, R-13th, says disabled children are God’s punishment to women who have aborted their first pregnancy.

He made that statement last Thursday at a press conference to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood.

Yes, that’s right, Virginia wants a law just like the one Tennessee passed, which blocks state funding for Planned Parenthood.

Why? No public funds go toward abortion services.

Look people, this isn’t a culture war issue. It’s a healthcare issue. While the right is vigorously fighting any change to a crappy healthcare system which leaves 40 million people uninsured, they are also vigorously working to cut off public funds to the one organization that provides affordable healthcare to some of those people. Those vaginal-Americans who need a variety of services, including birth control, and including a lot of other stuff that any wealthy, upper class woman in a Virginia suburb can get at her local doctor’s office. This makes no sense.

Perhaps they think this is a swell idea:

A bill passed by the Utah House and Senate this week and waiting for the governor's signature, will make it a crime for a woman to have a miscarriage, and make induced abortion a crime in some instances.


The basis for the law was a recent case in which a 17-year-old girl, who was seven months pregnant, paid a man $150 to beat her in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. Although the girl gave birth to a baby later given up for adoption, she was initially charged with attempted murder. However the charges were dropped because, at the time, under Utah state law a woman could not be prosecuted for attempting to arrange an abortion, lawful or unlawful.

Wow, you’ve got to be some kind of callous bastard completely lacking in empathy to hear that story and think the biggest problem that needs to be addressed is that arranging your own miscarriage isn’t illegal.

Clearly men need to be able to get pregnant and be faced with the consequences of that pregnancy. Men need to know what it feels like to be faced with raising a child when you are poor, single, or a teenager; men should suffer the tremendous emotional pain of surrendering your child to adoption (the dirty little secret we’re not supposed to talk about). Men need to walk a mile (or a month) in this girl’s shoes.

Or else they need to quit crafting policy that treats desperate women in desperate situations like criminals.

But neither of these things are going to happen. Men aren't going to start having babies and they aren't going to get out of politics. So women, and the liberal men who love us, need to wake up. We need to stop ignoring these attacks from the right as some kind of crackpot fringe wacked-out group that won't ever amount to anything.

In case you haven't noticed, the conservative fringe is now the Republican mainstream. So wake up, people. It's time to get active. Time to pay attention and get organized and act like this shit matters. Because it does.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Free Hand Of The Market Alert

A "Friends Of Coal” specialty license plate?

Is this a joke?

Sadly, no. Even worse is why they want the money:
Under their plan, the proceeds would go "to Tennessee surface mine reclamation fund to be used for reclamation and revegetation of property affected by mining and exploration operations."

Oh, I’m sorry, I thought that fell on your balance sheet. You know, it’s the cost of your fucking business. You want to fundraise for that via a state vehicle like specialty license plates? Well whoop-ti-do. Why don’t we have a specialty license plate for every business out there? Accountants, law firms, insurance companies, you name it. We could let the proceeds go toward buying copier paper and printer toner cartridges. Come to think of it, how about a specialty license plate for bloggers to pay for our ISP connections? Hell that makes more sense, since few of us make money off our blogs anyway.

I mean Jesus Christ on a blown-up mountain top. Who thought this was a good idea?

Not just no but HELL NO.

Sadly, with 0ur clueless, dysfunctional, wackadoodle state Republicans in charge, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that a “Friends of Coal” specialty license plate is the first one approved. Because there’s nothing conservatives like more than an opportunity to piss off liberals--it is, indeed, the only reason they exist. They just love to show us Dirty Fucking Hippies who’s boss, don’t they?

Specialty license plates were created to support non-profit ventures: the arts, schools, state parks. Not a for-profit business raking in fistfuls of dollars while destroying our environment.

How about a specialty license plate for people who can't afford healthcare?

Funny Things To Get Upset About

I have to point out something about the right’s snickering over Obama’s use of a teleprompter. The point seems to be that Obama is a two-dimensional media star, someone who needs to be coached or scripted and is somehow something less than genuine and extemporaneous.

Alarmingly, this has been picked up as some kind of inside joke among reporters within the mainstream press, even creating the oft-repeated lie that “he used a teleprompter at a school!” (he didn’t). The hypocrisy is not just that every other politician of the modern era uses a teleprompter. The hypocrisy--and I’m talking to our illustrious mainstream media here--is that for eight years the Bush Administration created all sorts of made-for-prime-time phony media moments, which the MSM gobbled up like a starving man at the all-you-can-eat buffet.

The obvious, most notorious example of this was President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” moment, a staged piece of political theater the media gleefully celebrated, from the manly flight-suit landing to the banner to the speech declaring
"In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

Only months later, when Iraq spiraled into chaos, did the media start to question this stunt, and they saved most of their criticism for the actual banner. Yet they were present on the USS Abraham Lincoln. They saw that the aircraft carrier was close to shore, that it had been turned so land would not appear within camera range. They knew the President could have helicoptered to the vessel, that a jet landing wasn’t needed, that it was just theater staged for them. Yet they said nothing at the time. They were complicit. Hey, they must have thought; it's good TV!

There are dozens and dozens of examples of this kind of theater staged for the media during the Bush Administration. Using a teleprompter during a speech kinda pales by comparison.

Over at the Swash Zone today I was reminded of Shoshana Johnson. For those who don't remember:

One of them was Specialist Shoshana Johnson, who would spend her 22 days in captivity with gunshot wounds to both legs. While the media frenzy was focused on the rescue of Lynch, the eventual rescue of the others by the Marines went largely unnoticed.

Ms Johnson, the first black female POW, came home but her troubles were far from over. While her physical wounds would eventually heal, her mental health was more precarious. To add insult to injury she not only suffered from PTSD but also had to endure being misaligned as being greedy for challenging her disability rating so that she could get better benefits.

The whole “Saving Jessica Lynch” storyline was even more embarassing for America’s media elites than their failure to adequately cover the Mission Accomplished incident.

The story was a highly packaged piece of Pentagon propaganda which our media again swallowed whole, sometimes even embellished on their own. Who can forget the exaggerations and outright fabrications of her story, the glowing NBC made-for-TV movie, the way the media completely ignored Shoshana Johnson and other members of Lynch’s unit? Even Lynch found this disparity upsetting.

There are tons of examples, Bush fielding softballs like “can I pray for you,” and “will you pray for Oregon,” and on and on and on. Funny how all of that has been forgotten amid snickers over Obama’s use of a Teleprompter.

You know, I expect the righties to try to make political hay out of anything they can get their hands on; a teleprompter seems kinda stupid, but whatever. But why is our media finding this funny?

The White House Press Corpse likes to be in on the joke, but what they don’t get is that they are the joke.

This really shows there are two sets of rules, one for Democrats and one for Republicans. For Democrats, even using a Teleprompter shows what a phony someone is. For Republicans, expensive and highly staged theatrical productions are no big deal, because it’s good TV.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The David Margolis Memory Hole

Apparently there is no law that cannot be circumvented if you are really, really scared:
The ethics lawyers, in the Office of Professional Responsibility, concluded that two department lawyers involved in analyzing and justifying waterboarding and other interrogation tactics — Jay S. Bybee, now a federal judge, and John C. Yoo, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley — had demonstrated “professional misconduct.” It said the lawyers had ignored legal precedents and provided slipshod legal advice to the White House in possible violation of international and federal laws on torture. That report was among the documents made public Friday.

But David Margolis, a career lawyer at the Justice Department, rejected that conclusion in a report of his own released Friday. He said the ethics lawyers, in condemning the lawyers’ actions, had given short shrift to the national climate of urgency in which Mr. Bybee and Mr. Yoo acted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Among the difficulties in assessing these memos now over seven years after their issuance is that the context is lost,” Mr. Margolis said.

So apparently the law is fungible, susceptible to circumstance and the political climate of the times. This is good to know.


The report quotes Patrick Philbin, a senior Justice Department lawyer involved in the review, as saying that because of the urgency of the situation, he had advised Mr. Bybee to sign the memorandum, despite what he saw as Mr. Yoo’s aggressive and problematic interpretation of the president’s broad commander-in-chief powers in trumping international and domestic law.

Mr. Philbin said that “given the situation and the time pressures, and they are telling us this has to be signed tonight — this was like 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock at night on the day it was signed — my conclusion” was that it was permissible for Mr. Bybee to sign the memorandum. “They” apparently referred to White House officials.

So this was the "climate of urgency" Margolis was referring to. Apparently a really urgent deadline, and someone yammering at you that they need this thing right now goddammit! and it being past someone’s bedtime, are also more important than what the document actually says and the specious legal arguments to which it lays claim.

I would say there are some rather obvious flaws to David Margolis’ conclusion. The whole idea that you can commit professional misconduct if the situation is really really urgent is absurd. But I’m sure if anyone were so impolite as to point that out he would just say he was on a really tight deadline, and it was like 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock and his boss was yammering at him to turn the goddamn report in already, and also he was really scared that Liz Cheney would be mean to him on Meet The Press.

Although I just read the piece in yesterday’s New York Times, news of the Margolis report was leaked at the end of January. Jeff Kaye looked into the David Margolis memory hole at the time and found some pretty interesting “skeletons,” including a possible connection to the government’s persecution of Leonard Peltier.

He also may have covered up alleged misconduct by FBI interrogators:

More speculatively, and intriguing, given the claims involved, is Margolis’s involvement in the investigation of a forgotten FBI sting operation against NASA contractors in the early 1990s. Operation Lightning Strike was, according to a Washington Post article at the time, a "20-month Justice Department sting operation focusing on NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston… [resulting] in criminal fraud and bribery charges against nine men and one contractor."

Later, in 1996, a defense committee was formed to support the "NASA-13". The committee, in a petition to the U.S. House of Representatives Government Reform and Oversight Committee claimed that the men caught up in the Operation Lightning Strike, some of whom were victims of "’frame-ups’ and torture, to obtain prosecutions." David Margolis was mentioned as admitting that an OPR investigation into the case was begun in 1994 to look into "investigative and prosecutive misconduct." However, no results from that report were ever made public. The involvement of Margolis in this case deserves further scrutiny, given it involved serious allegations about coercive interrogations and torture.

There’s more over at the link, including excerpts of this press release claiming torture and “CP”--Coerceive Persuasion, aka “brain washing.”

It gets worse. Harper's found this:

But “Yoda” Margolis also knows the “dark side” of political intrigue. He was long the man to whom political appointees could turn for protection and guidance when the going got rough, in both Democratic and Republican administrations. For instance, Bloomberg reported that both Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling turned instinctively to Margolis for protection and support when the U.S. attorney’s scandal erupted.

What this means in practice can be seen in dozens of cases involving seriously unethical conduct by political appointees. Margolis has a one-size-fits-all solution for these cases: sweep them under the carpet.


Justice Department insiders also note that Margolis single-handedly blocked efforts to secure a meaningful review of the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman, after more than 90 attorneys general from around the country advised the Justice Department of a series of gross irregularities. Instead, with Margolis’s apparent knowledge, the Department fired a member of the prosecution team who had blown the whistle on some of the misconduct. (“What the Justice Department is Hiding.”)

As Kaye observed:

Margolis appears to have a long history of involvement in government frame-up and/or obfuscation of internal misconduct by the FBI or Justice Department prosecutors.

It would not surprise me in the least to learn that the FBI and DoJ have a “fixer” at the Justice Department.

Surprises me even less to learn that we’ve possibly been torturing people (and covering it up) for decades.

During the Clinton years I seem to recall an Independent Counsel being appointed for the most ridiculous fauxtroversies, from the death of Vincent Foster to Monica Lewinsky to "Whitewater." But the Independent Counsel Act was allowed to expire in 1999, which in retrospect seems unfortunate.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Great Olympic Moments

I think if Tennessee ever hosted the winter Olympic games they might look something like this:

I'm Not Here

I have a post up over at The Swash Zone, catch me over there today.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hey Teabaggers: At Least Our Signs Are Spelled Right

Tweeted two hours ago from Chuck Todd:

And the above was taken about 30 minutes ago at the corner of West End and Murphy Road here in Nashville.

There were about 20 people at the lunchtime rally to support healthcare reform. About what I've seen at past events. Lots of horn-honkers and thumbs-up to show support, plus the obligatory asshole shouting "get a job." There's always one.


Digby has an interesting post up about Joseph Andrew Stack and the anti-tax scam he wrote about in his manifesto. There have been several of these groups, I even had a couple friends/acquaintances who at one time waxed enthusiastic about books which claimed to hold “the secret” to not paying taxes and how it’s all perfectly legit.


By the way, did I mention I have a bridge to sell you folks?

Digby digs through the memory hole and reflects:
IIRC, this group was one of those "common law" groups that set up mirror governments and declared that the "sovereign" state of wherever didn't have to abide by the US Constitution. They are also loosely affiliated with the Posse Comitatus white supremacists, militias and other garden variety Anti-government fringers. It's all part of that great American wingnut tapestry.

Obviously, I'm just guessing that one or both of these scams are what this guy was referring to, but it fits. If it was, then this fellow was not only an anti-tax loon, he was a victim of anti-tax loons, which makes him a double dupe.

This is the prosperity gospel for the non-religious. I don’t know if there are more of these kinds of groups out there than there used to be, but it sure feels like it. Maybe America’s loony bin just seems bigger because the internet has given greater visibility to their crackpot ideas. Plus, our mainstream media has given some of these nutters a platform they never used to have (yes Orly Taitz and Jerome Corsi I’m talking about you.)

Last month’s Harper’s Magazine wrote about a similar group of anti-government nutters who bought snake oil in the form of “100% inflation proof” Liberty Dollars hawked by “Monetary Architect” Bernard von NotHaus. Here’s the story of serial sucker Dr. Ned Van Valey who fell under NotHaus' spell::

Since the 1970s, Ned had hitched his train to a succession of maverick economists and doomsday prophets. He had once made a pilgrimage to Jekyll Island, cradle of the Federal Reserve, and in the late Nineties spent his savings retrofitting his house in New York’s Hudson Valley to survive the Y2K computer bug. He installed a diesel generator and a cistern for fuel; in case of an oil shortage, he rigged the place for solar; he stockpiled bullets and guns, precious metals, and a year’s supply of food, which arrived one day, to Ruth’s amazement, in a tractor-trailer. “We expected the world to come to an end, you know,” she told me. “You name it, he did it.”

Lately they had spent some of their gold and silver survival cache on more quotidian needs, and they were slowly eating through their rations. Whatever these measures cost him, Ned retained a good-natured regard for his past obsessions, as if they were old flames who had run off with his wallet but whom he still remembered fondly. Now he hoped a quorum of survival-minded Americans would stock up on Liberty Dollars so that a Weimar-style hyperinflationary crash could be avoided here at home. (“They had paper currency with a thousand zeroes on ’em!” he said.) When the Monetary Architect got around to the couple’s order, eight troy-ounce Libertys, Ned accepted the silver gingerly, as if handling a chunk of uranium.

And how did that work out for Ned and his fellow hard money advocates?

The world had changed in ways that von NotHaus had not forseen. For nineteen weeks, the thirty-day moving average of silver had hovered below $15, and so the Liberty Dollar was forced to return to the $20 base, the first such reversal in its ten-year history. Patriots who had bought silver or eLiberty Dollars during the prior ten months saw their inflation-proof cache lose half its trade value overnight.

Oops. Well, the stock market didn’t do too well during that period either.

Last June Von NotHaus was arrested and is facing multiple criminal charges. He was forced to shut down the Liberty Dollar operation in July. And no one could have anticipated any of this [/sarcasm].

I have to wonder about people who buy every apocalyptic piece of fear-porn out there. This is a unique brand of American loon, embracing both right and left: not just the anti-U.N. black helicopter crowd but also the Peak Oil doom-and-gloom folks, the anti-banking folks, the “martial law is coming soon” folks. We mock the religious nutbars who see the End Times with every politically expedient interpretation of the Book of Revelation and we recoil in horror at the bigots who talk of a coming race war, but are these anti-tax, anti-Federal Reserve, money-cult folks any different?

You'd think after Armageddon didn't happen and Y2K was a big bust, and the race war didn't happen, and Jesus didn't come back to Rapture you and your ark up to heaven that you'd have figured out there is no big boogey man out there after all. You aren't privy to special information, you aren't going to be saved while everyone else is doomed, and this world is the way it is not because of some cabal or conspiracy but just because.

But they don't. It's like a drug of some kind.

I don't get it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's Rubber Meets The Road Time

Hey you liberals whining about how no one has “hit the streets” for healthcare reform? Yeah, you know who you are.

Well I’d better see you at the corner of West End and Murphy Road from Noon to 1 pm on Friday. Bring a sign, or don’t... bring your lunch, or don’t ... bring a friend, or just yourself ... just be there or shut up already.

Just sayin’.

For more information enter your zip in the “find and event” box (yes I know the home page says Feb. 17, but Nashville’s event was scheduled for the 19th, I don’t know why...)

The Most Trusted Name In News

My friend and fellow writer Hugh Ashton calls out CNN for peddling a floating hotel concept fairy tale as real news:
Incredibly, this nonsense got taken up by the mainstream media, for example, the Daily Telegraph, which shows the “docking concept”, and, possibly the worst offender of all, CNN, who report that although the design is a “concept” and only a “feasibility study”:
designers have developed a detailed and achievable technical plan for the craft that could allow it to be built in the future

The point is that there are no technical plans available in the release. Materials, propulsion, hard calculations (other than gross lifting force) are totally ignored. Moreover, the headline: “Could we soon be staying in floating hotels in the future?” completely ignores the weasel words buried in the rest of the article. Many journalists, myself included, are sometimes guilty of this to a degree, but this seems to be a particularly egregious example.

I try to keep off politics in this blog, but it is worth noting that CNN is often regarded as being trustworthy and unbiased. When faced with something like this, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that many half-truths and biased points of view on the political front have been packaged as “fact” by CNN and others. Readers of the blog are left to provide their own examples, but the implication is relatively obvious–read past the headline and look for the fnords.

Of course we are well acquainted with the numerous half-truths CNN and other media outlets parade as fact: Saddam had WMD; Dems refused to let anti-choice Gov. Robert Casey speak at the 1992 Clinton convention; angry liberals turned Paul Wellstone’s memorial into a Republican hate fest; hippies spat on Vietnam veterans. You know the drill. They’re called zombie lies over here (though I love the “Fnords” idea) and as Atrios says, they never die.

What’s truly weird is that an outfit like CNN would distort a story that really doesn’t matter. Were they so hard up for news that day that they needed to embellish someone’s quirky dream project by adding words like “achievable technical plan”? Isn’t there enough real cool stuff happening in the world?

Hey, CNN: head over to Fast Company; it’s like the “Reader’s Digest” of cool stuff.

We American viewers are used to this stuff. Hugh lives in Japan and (though I haven’t asked) probably gets to watch CNN International, which is far superior to our domestic version; no doubt he also gets to watch the “real” BBC as well (we just get BBC America here, which is mostly lame reality shows like Cash In The Attic and How Clean Is Your House?). Sad to learn the media sucks internationally, not just at home.

Of course, some would say this is by design. In a piece that’s now a few years old, Thom Hartmann quoted Vice President Henry Wallace’s answer to the New York Times, which had asked him if fascism could take root in America:

"The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

Here's a scary thought: The news media sucks because it’s meant to.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Something Else Corporate America Has Ruined

Nothing against the Girl Scouts, who are a worthy group despite being an elite paramilitary Nationalistic propaganda organization (wingnuts note: this is my first Red Dawn reference of 2010!). But let me be the first to say: Girl Scout Cookies suck.

Seriously. Today’s Girl Scout Cookies are revolting. Sorry, but you know it’s true. They are nothing at all like what I remember getting when we were kids. The Thin Mints and Tagalongs taste like they are coated in wax, and whatever excuse for sweetener they use leaves a nasty aftertaste. Blech. You couldn’t pay me to eat that crap.

I suspect Girl Scout Cookies started sucking when Keebler started making them. I really despise all Keebler products, they taste like they’re made of toxic waste imported from China. Keebler is owned by Kellogg, the same people who bought Famous Amos cookies and made them suck, too.

I’m sorry, but you people just seem to have that merde touch.

Now, let me give you a little tip, and trust me, I am not getting paid one penny for this plug (I don’t do that “pay to blog” crap.) But if you like Thin Mints and want a cookie that doesn’t taste like it was manufactured in Beelzebub’s kitchen, Back to Nature makes these Fudge Mint cookies that are to die for. I kid you not. Mr. Beale and I have been known to go through an entire box in one evening. Plus, they are made without partially hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup and who knows what other nasties.

Of course, Back To Nature Foods is owned by Kraft -- information you really have to dig around to find. Most natural foods companies have an evil corporate parent these days (Odwalla juices = Coca Cola, Tom’s of Maine = Colgate, Burt’s Bee’s = Clorox, Silk Soymilk = Dean Foods, etc.), a fact of life known as corporate greenwashing . They won’t tell you they are owned by a multinational corporation responsible for environmental destruction and human rights abuses in third world countries. But that’s the fact.

It's kinda cute. Sorta like how all those Southern Baptist churches stopped calling themselves "Baptist" because the brand had been tarnished. Now they are "community churches" or "the people's church" or some other nonsense. But inside, it's Southern Baptist.

So Kraft it too ashamed of itself to put its name on its Back To Nature products? Good to know.

This “greenwashing” is a fairly new development, and there is still considerable debate among lefties as to whether this means the natural foods industry has won the war or sold out. I’m still undecided though I will say it makes it impossible to live “responsibly” unless you grow your own food and churn your own butter. It’s also a good example of why boycotts never work any more, because basically there are just five companies left in the whole world, with everything a wholly-owned subsidiary of something else, and that a piece of a venture capital firm, and that owned by Chinese and Saudi bankers. You know, we Americans are so fucking clueless about our economy and I’m sure that’s by design. The less we know, the better.

But getting back to cookies, the Back To Nature Fudge Mint’s taste exactly like a Thin Mint should taste without the toxic waste. And if Kraft Foods fucks with Fudge Mint cookies there is going to be hell to pay.

Just sayin’.

Great Moments In The Message Wars

A Wisconsin man representing a group of small businesses which paid several thousand dollars to put up an “Impeach Obama” billboard in Oshkosh says:
Wroblewski says despite the billboard's language, he's not suggesting Obama committed an impeachable offense.

Dude, you’re doing it wrong.

(h/t, Southern Female Lawyer.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dick Corporate Moves: Toyota Edition

It’s that glorious, grand free hand of the market again, helping Corporate Person Toyota avoid fixing a dangerous technical flaw in its vehicles for years:
Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- At least four U.S. investigations into unintended acceleration by Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles were ended with the help of former regulators hired by the automaker, warding off possible recalls, court and government records show.

Christopher Tinto, vice president of regulatory affairs in Toyota’s Washington office, and Christopher Santucci, who works for Tinto, helped persuade the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to end probes including those of 2002-2003 Toyota Camrys and Solaras, court documents show. Both men joined Toyota directly from NHTSA, Tinto in 1994 and Santucci in 2003.

While all automakers have employees who handle NHTSA issues, Toyota may be alone among the major companies in employing former agency staffers to do so. Spokesmen for General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and Honda Motor Co. all say their companies have no ex-NHTSA people who deal with the agency on defects.

Gosh that’s just so John Galt-”greed is good,” ain’t it?

It’s that revolving door between government agencies and those major corporations in the industries they are meant to regulate. Throw in a few lobbysists and a few million dollars in K Street money and you’ve got a very cozy scenario, indeed. It's all just so "Club For Growth," isn't it?

No wonder our government is broken: it’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corporate America. And Corporate America doesn’t care about real Americans, just their money.

Hey Toyota: dead Americans don’t buy cars.

So no, I’m not crying for Toyota. They are reaping the karmic rewards of dodging their corporate responsibility for decades. And people died as a result. Tell me why those people who lost family members shouldn’t be allowed to sue?

Come Together Right Now

[UPDATE]: Oh my god. Just got invited to yet another progressive organizing meeting next week. C'mon people. Let's get all of these various and sundry groups organized and working toward one common goal. This is ridiculous.


You know, I rarely wade into local liberal politics on my blog because ... well, I just don’t. Who am I to lecture my fellow liberals about how things ought to be done, anyway? I don’t have much to contribute to a conversation like that, so I usually keep my mouth shut.

But something is really bugging me and I’ve just got to speak up. In short: Why are we so scattered? Why did I receive, this weekend alone, not one, not two, but three invitations to organizational meetings of local progressive political groups? And, of course, two of the meetings conflict.

I mean for crying out loud, this isn’t Berkeley. There aren’t that many progressive activists around here. Why can’t we all be on the same page and focus our energies on a common goal, instead of doing everything in such a scattershot way?

This was a constant issue for me last summer and fall during the height of the “town brawl”/healthcare reform madness. I’d get three or four e-mails a day about this rally or that meeting for healthcare reform, from five different groups. And on top of that I was also getting stuff from the local RePower America folks about their town hall meetings and canvassing events, and then I’d get stuff from Nashville Community Organizers about their volunteer needs, and then the Tennessee Democratic Party was wanting me to phone bank for some dufus in a far-flung rural county. And all I could think was: don’t you folks ever talk to one another? Schedule around each other? You know, organize?

I understand that everyone was trying to energize the base and get us active and wanting us to make noise and all, but for crying out loud, when there's two or three or four events a week planned you're sort of watering down the message.

So here it’s February and I’ve got three different progressive groups in the organizing or re-organizing phase, all needing activist/volunteers, and two of them have scheduled their meeting for the same day and time. Again: don’t you folks know about each other? Talk to each other? No?

I just don’t understand why this is a constant problem for us. Do Republicans have this issue? I have no idea, but I'd guess not. I doubt there are a half a dozen different grassroots conservative groups meeting, planning, and basically hoping to get stuff accomplished. Seems like most of that stuff comes down through one or two big groups. But I could be wrong, I’m not on those mailing lists.

Here's an idea: why don't all the various and sundry progresive and liberal and Democratic groups get together in one giant meeting and stage ONE event that covers everything. One giant march on the state capitol, or one big town hall event. Why do we need so many different groups, anyway? How is MoveOn different from Nashville Community Organizers, anyway?

I dunno. It bugs me. It's this week's kvetch.

Trace Sharp has more at Speak To Power ...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Utah Republican Drowns School In The Bathtub

Who says Republicans don’t have any ideas:
(NEWSER) – Utah is considering battling its $700 million budget gap, and wiping out senioritis in the bargain, by eliminating the entire last year of high school. GOP state Sen. Chris Buttars' proposal to eliminate 12th grade altogether could save the state up to $60 million. The plan is supported by those who argue students goof off their last year, and that it's not needed for college. But the proposal is facing stiff opposition from parents, teachers and students.

This is your country on Republicanism, people. Read it and weep.

Er, scratch that. Just weep. Because when you shrink government down to where you can drown it in the bathtub, you get rid of stuff like schools, levees, bridge repairs. Figures this boneheaded idea would come from a Republican in the reddest of the red states, Utah.

Naturally Chris Buttars' idea has been highly controversial. Thoroughly pilloried by people who think the richest country in the world should be able to educate its kids for the full 12 years, the Republican legislator has dialed back his proposal, making it one of those classic Republican ideas that simply restate what has always been on the books:

Buttars has since toned down the idea, suggesting instead that senior year become optional for students who complete their required credits early. He estimated the move could save up to $60 million, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.


But some education officials say they don't think the plan represents a change.

"We've always had an option in place for early graduation," said Debra Roberts, chairwoman of the Utah Board of Education, adding that it was OK to give students the choice to graduate early, but that they shouldn't be pushed to leave.

About 200 students a year take advantage of early graduation, said Brenda Hales, state associate superintendent.

Buttars, who did not respond to calls for comment, has said he would offer incentives to encourage students to graduate early.

Well that’s one way to boost your graduation rate.

Let The Women Jump

Welcome, Eschatonians!

I’ve always wondered why there is no women’s ski jump event in the Winter Olympics. And literally, I have always wondered that, ever since I was a little kid, because it's obvious women have been doing every other winter sport in the games--luge, downhill skiing, ice hockey, etc. So women’s ski jumping has always been notable for its absence.

It makes no sense: we can fly through the air on snowboards, do back flips on the moguls, yet we can’t ski jump? What’s up with that? Especially since men’s ski jumping has been an Olympic event since the 1920s.

It seems the issue is a hot topic this year and via this video I finally have my answer. Although some very thin and lame excuses have been floated around, what it seems to boil down to is that the European men don’t want to be shown up by a bunch of girls, one of whom holds the record on the actual ski jump used at the Vancouver games.

Yes that’s right, Lindsey Van beat the men’s record on the exact same ski jump the men will be sliding down to claim their Olympic medals this week. I ask you: how fucked up is that?

This quote cracked me up:
In 2005, Gian Franco Kasper, FIS president and a member of the IOC, said that he didn't think women should ski jump because the sport "seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."

Oh my God are we still having that same argument? Seriously? In this day and age? What does Gian Franco Kasper think is going to happen? Vaginas scattered all over the hill? Menstrual blood on the start bar? Boobies flying through the air?

If you think about it, it seems like men with all that stuff dangling around down there would be less "medically" suited to a whole bunch of sports, not just ski jumping. Imagine if one of y'all's testicles just flew off in mid-air. Someone could get hurt. An eye could get poked out.

Even worse is IOC member Dick Pound, who withdrew his head from his ass long enough to utter this asinine warning to the women ski jumpers:

"If in the meantime you're making all kinds of allegations about the IOC and how it's discriminating on the basis of gender," he warned, "the IOC may say, 'Oh yeah, I remember them. They're the ones that embarrassed us and caused us a lot of trouble of trouble in Vancouver, maybe they should wait another four years or eight years.'"

Oh, man. Is that a threat? Are you fucking serious?

You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see all female athletes stick together on this one--and I mean all of them. Skaters, skiers, gymnasts, track stars, tennis players, golfers, you name it. Because if bogus “medical reasons” and lies about “competitiveness” are still being used to bar women athletes from the Olympic games, then they will be used to bar women from every avenue of achievement. The Olympic Games are not just about medals; for the athletes involved, it’s about sponsorships, it’s about access to gear and training facilities. It’s about validating your sport.

In the meantime, to learn more about the isssue or help the cause, go to Women’s Ski Jumping USA.

Rebel against the patriarchy--and the stupidity!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Godly Economics


Pastor Bob has more to say on the subject here: "Economic Principles: Gleanings from Genesis"

I know a lot of folks don’t think God belongs in any discussion of economics and that’s fine, but we live in a country where snake-oil salesmen (and women) peddle a bastardized version of Christianity in which we all worship Free Market Jesus, and they think this is appropriate public policy.

You know, people like crackpot Gary North (let’s hope he knows more about economics than he does theology). Or Ralph Reed and his “Faith & Freedom Coalition,” which touts free markets right along side limited government, lower taxes, aid to Israel and oh, yeah, helping the poor among its founding principles. Dude, that don’t ad up.

(And why are these groups always coalitions? Coalitions of what? Idiots?)

Indeed as some astute observers have noted, the GOP’s sole idea for pulling us out of the economic abyss they placed us in seems to be prayer for Divine intervention.

Excuse me for calling these phonies out by name, but it just seems to me that so few of these people have actually read the Bible--and I mean the whole thing, not just the parts that conveniently support their politics. So for this I turn to my friend the reverend, aka Pastor Bob, for a look at what a Biblical economic plan really looks like.

Do read the whole post for an education on what the Bible says about how nations should run their economies. And then look at our supposed "Christian nation," and the policies that right wing Christians have espoused for decades, and see if you don't notice a wee bit of an inconsistency. I do:
First of all, the entire land belonged to God: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” Pious, empty-sounding religious words? No, an economic principle: All land, and its produce, belong to God. No property is private. It was God who made sure each family had an inheritance on it. In acknowledgement of this, they were called upon to offer tithes. Not only that, they were forbidden to fence off their lands, and were not allowed to go over their fields a second time after harvesting, and the same was true of the grape vines: “you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: for you were aliens in Egypt.”

Wonder what Sarah Palin or Ralph Reed would say to a Washington economic policy which looked like that? They’d cry “wall of separation” so fast your head would spin.

Pastor Bob goes on:

Next came the matter of debt, and here the rule was very simple: All debts were to be forgiven every seven years. Period.

Many years and much watering down later, we now begrudgingly allow some debts to be released, maybe once in a person’s lifetime, with that event a blot on their economic record that lasts at least seven years. And I am willing to bet that a lot of “Bible-believing” Christians are pretty sure that anyone who takes advantage of this provision is a victim of his or her own moral failure, and ought to be ashamed.

Now, along with requiring all creditors to release the obligations of all debtors once every seven years, without exception, the biblical law also expressly prohibited the accumulation of extreme wealth:
“Woe to those who add house to house, and field to field!”

Christian America, are you listening? To implement this, there was a provision that once every fifty years (seven periods of seven) any family who had sold their own homestead to pay off debts would have that property returned to them, free and clear. This was expressly to prevent the accumulation of wealth by some at the cost of the permanent impoverishment of others.

Wow, we sure don’t hear that economic policy espoused by the so-called Christians in the Republican party.

Gee, I wonder why.

As Pastor Bob says, he’s just reading his Bible. Maybe some other folks who claim to espouse Biblical beliefs should do so as well.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another Reason I Love Sweden

Because only in Stockholm can you go to a city food festival (I shot this picture at Smaka på Stockholm (Taste of Stockholm) a couple of summers ago) and find a penis balloon.

Yes, it's true. In Stockholm, you can buy a gigantic penis balloon at their city-wide food festival. Here in Nashville we have pearl-clutching over Musica.

Just another reason why I love Scandinavia.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

NewsChannel 5's Next Hot Scoop

Now that they've busted the "Islamville" terrorist cell wide open, we hear the crack investigators at NewsChannel5-WTVF are looking into another hotbed of religious radicalism ... right here in Middle Tennessee!

(Script by “Anonymoose” from this comment thread ...)

Meanwhile, NewsChannel5 gets some national attention for its shoddy reporting via ThinkProgress ...)

.... and now The Washington Independent piles on ... WTVF, y'all are so screwed. Do I smell a Keith Olbermann "Worst Person's" award?

It’s Not All About You Though, Is It?

Atrios has suggested that a lot of the right-wing global warming stupidity which surfaces every time it snows--gasp! In WINTER!--is really just about pissing off liberals; they know better, Atrios claims, they just want to poke a stick at the icky DFH.

I dunno. I do think that’s where a lot of Sarah Palin’s “how’s that hopey-changey stuff workin’ out for ya” rhetoric comes from. It’s not about making a point or being a leader or having ideas, it’s about directing anger at a politically expedient target. People are besieged on a variety of economic fronts, their kids are having to deal with crap they never had to worry about at that age, our major systems and institutions have all failed, yada yada. Easy to point at the DFH and say it’s all their fault.

But on the climate change thing, I really think ends up being about narcissism. Hey, says Sean Hannity, it’s cold in MY yard so therefore it must mean Al Gore is FAT! Ha ha! Seriously, these folks have such tunnel vision, they can't think beyond their little circle of sycophants, let alone stop to consider why it's called global climate change.

You know, never mind that Vancouver is experiencing record warm temperatures and lack of snow, just in time for the Olympic Winter Games.

Or that record heat and drought in Australia is causing massive crop loss--this after last January’s heat wave which claimed 37 lives. Meanwhile, a heatwave in Brazil has killed 32 people, and over in South Africa, folks are also suffering under oppressive, record heat.

Of course, it’s summer in most of those places (well, not Vancouver ...) which is why we DFH’s always say: there’s a difference between weather and climate. And all of these bizarre weather patterns, from wild and wooly winter in Washington, D.C., to searing drought in the Southern Hemisphere, confirm that things are changing.

The World Meteorological Organization reported at the end of 2009:
This year above-normal temperatures were recorded in most parts of the continents. Only North America (United States and Canada) experienced conditions that were cooler than average. Given the current figures, large parts of southern Asia and central Africa are likely to have the warmest year on record.

But to Hannity, Inhofe, Beck and the rest, only what happens in North America matters.

That's just so typical of conservatives, isn't it? Conservative ideology is all about IGMY-ism (I Got Mine, Y’all) -- it denies everyone else a shot at healthcare, jobs, clean air, clean water, a decent education for their kids. It's a drawbridge mentality: as long as they and theirs are OK, forget about letting anyone else into the party.

So I think Atrios is being too generous in regard to conservatives like Hannity and Limbaugh. It's not about pissing off liberals, it's about a "world" view that can't see past its own nose.


As usual, I write something, schedule it to post the next morning, shut down the computer, then watch The Daily Show say what I was thinking a thousand times better than I ever could. For your viewing pleasure:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Unusually Large Snowstorm
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Wonder If WTVF Feels A Teensy Weensy Bit Responsible

If they don't, they should:
On February 10th, 2010, Al-farooq Masjid of Nashville, TN was vandalized with religiously motivated hate-speech spray painted on their outside walls. Whoever did this also left a hand written letter at the Al-farooq Youth Center that said ugly things about Muslims and Islam.

This event is particularly troubling as it comes on the heels of a sensationalist report by News Channel 5 this past weekend about a long-time Muslim community in Dover, TN, who they initially insinuated as having links to terrorists.

Well no one could have anticipated THAT.

Way to go, Nashville's ”yellow journalists.”

Pith has more...

Don’t Have To Read The News

I was first introduced to the amazing folk musician Greg Brown thanks to “Prairie Home Companion.” Now I’ve been reintroduced to him thanks to the movie “Crazy Heart,” where this extraordinary songwriter’s “Brand New Angel” appears. So I dusted off a couple of my old CD’s, including a favorite, One More Goodnight Kiss, and found this gem of a song, “Our Little Town.”

Sorry for the cheesy video, it was the only one I could find on YouTube. Give the song a listen, and give the lyrics a read.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Er, No. But Thanks For Asking

Someone in Minnesota wants to know:

(h/t, Digby)


WTVF-NewsChannel5 has lost me forever. In a pathetic ploy for ratings, or perhaps an effort to sell more Depends, they have sent reporter Nick Beres out to cover the extremist anti-Muslim video “Homegrown Jihad.” The video claims that there are terrorist training camps right here in Tennessee!!!! OMG!!!!!11!!1!ELEVEN!!!!

The segment I saw interviewed local anti-Muslim nutball/perpetual Republican Congressional candidate Vijay Kumar. From the link:
Vijay Kumar believes otherwise. He's a Nashville member of ACT for America – a national group concerned with Islamic radicalism in the U.S. Kumar says it's hard to know for certain what happens at the community near Dover because they keep to themselves.

"It's my feeling they are introverted and live among themselves and think the whole world is hostile," says Kumar.

It would have been nice if Beres or someone else at WTVF had bothered to check into ACT For America's or Kumar’s background. For one thing, he’s the Republican candidate running for Jim Cooper’s seat--again--on an “anti-Sharia platform.”

Seriously, an anti-Sharia platform? Are you kidding me? What world do these idiots live in?

Saying ACT For America is "a national group concerned with Islamic radicalism" is soft peddling pedaling it. They are a rabid Islamophobic group headed by hyper-Zionist Brigitte Gabriel, author of anti-Muslim books with charming titles like "Because They Hate" and "They Must Be Stopped." Sorta like an anti-Muslim KKK.


Not surprisingly, Kumar's campaign website is full of fearmongering about immigrants and Jihad. Did Beres’ piece mention any of this? No it did not. Not one word.

Did it mention any of the radical anti-Muslim ideas he has espoused? Of course not.

Did it mention this psycho-talk?

Kumar: The Left and Islam share many of the same values. Both deny that individuals have a personal ethic. A central authority should control all things. Both insult and denigrate their opponents and see themselves as victors in the movement of history. Both hate the native cultures and individual efforts.
The mindset of the Leftist is one of deliberate ignorance.  I was a Leftist, a bleeding heart liberal until a few years ago.  I came from a Marxist family in India.  The Left, by its silence on the issue of radical Islam, has betrayed its own professed ideals, if it has any.
The fight against Political Islam should have been led by the liberal intellectuals in our universities, but instead they deliberately and systematically support a seventh century totalitarian ideology that negates all forms of rational thinking, intellectual pursuit, and pluralism - the very ideals which are supposed to be central to the philosophy of the Left.
The Liberals have become the lackeys of Islamic imperialism in their words and deeds. They fail to mention the 1,400 years of Jihadists' terror in this world.  How can we cry for the genocide in Darfur and ignore the cause?

So this is NewsChannel5’s “expert” on the so-called “Jihadi’s” in Stewart County, Tennessee.

Since when did local news media peddle intolerance as some kind of credible story? We live in a state where shit like this is in the news. And now we give airtime to a far-right zealot who is hardly a credible source. Thanks, Nick Beres and NewsChannel5 for mainstreaming the crazy.

Local journalism has hit a new low.

I eagerly anticipate the expose on the intolerant phony "Christians" who distributed this video to begin with. Part Two, NewsChannel5?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Deep Thought

I cannot believe I live in a place that has received this much snow yet lacks universal healthcare and a robust social safety net.

RIP Rep. John Murtha

Congressman John Murtha has died at age 77, apparently from complications related to gall bladder surgery last week. I remember him being a vocal opponent of the Iraq War, his opposition given greater weight as he was a decorated Vietnam War hero.

Naturally, right wing hate mobsters like Ann Coulter tried to Swift Boat him.

RIP, John Murtha.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tea Party Perspective

Welcome Crooks & Liars!


For further perspective, note that in another part of the sprawling Opryland complex this weekend a group of 500 women bloggers, many of them "mommy bloggers," gathered for their sold-out convention. To my knowledge no national news media covered the event. 500 women bloggers vs 600 right wing nutjobs in white wigs and tri-corner hats. Which one gets the national news media's attention?

The New York Times did an awesome job of buying the spin that this is just a mainstream group of folks. Clearly they did not listen to any of the keynote speeches, in which we heard homophobic rants about morality, anti-immigrant bigotry from Tom Tancredo, and birther conspiracy theories.

So thanks, New York Times. Way to mainstream the Obama hate.


So everyone says around 600 people showed up for Nasvhille’s Tea Party Convention, right?

For some perspective, the first Netroots Nation drew over twice that amount:
But even after acknowledging this relevant context, what we're left with is an event with 600 participants and a grand total of zero current House members, senators, or governors. There were, by some estimates, 200 journalists on hand to cover this convention, creating a bizarre dynamic -- one reporter for every three participants.

It's all terribly odd. The first Netroots Nation gathering (the conference formally known as Yearly Kos) had 1,400 attendees. The Tea Party convention had less than half this total.

The media attention seems a little disproportionate to what, by all appearances, was an underwhelming get-together.

Indeed it does. But this is just another case where the “liberal media” lie is shown in all of its glory.

And let's remember the national media’s coverage of the left’s anti-war protests was tepid, at best. It seems if a bunch of liberals get together, it’s not news. But some wacko anti-gay, anti-immigrant right wing nutballs gather for three days of hating on the President and 200 media representatives descend on the convention hall.


Atrios is right, the right wing rules their world.

Memory Hole: TV Advertising Edition

Gosh, remember this?
CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays
Networks wont run church spot featuring gay couple; say ad runs contrary to company policies.

December 2, 2004: 9:47 AM EST
By Steve Hargreaves, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The CBS and NBC networks have refused to run an ad by a liberal church promoting the acceptance of people regardless of sexual orientation because the networks believe the ad is advocacy advertising.

The 30-second spot, run by the United Church of Christ, features two muscle-bound bouncers standing outside a church, selecting people who could attend service and those who could not. Among those kept out are two males who appear to be a couple. Written text then appears saying, in part, "Jesus didn't turn people away, neither do we."

For those who don’t remember, the ad is here:

Apparently that message was too offensive to CBS five years ago. Now, they not only are airing a Focus on the Family ad about abortion, they actually worked with Focus on the Family to vet scripts and other ad content to ensure it would pass network muster:

[...]Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian group founded by Dr. James Dobson, says that it has actually been working closely with CBS executives for months on the ad's script.

"There were discussions about the specific wording of the spot," said Gary Schneeberger, spokesperson for Focus on the Family. "And we came to a compromise. To an agreement." Schneeberger declined to comment on exactly how CBS changed the ad's message.

CBS has said that in the last year, in an acknowledgment of "industry norms," it loosened previous restrictions on advocacy advertisements, accepting ads that pushed for health reform and environmental activism.

But pro-choice advocates complain the network didn't publicize the policy change and hasn't applied it consistently, citing a rejected Super Bowl ad from gay dating Web site According to Schneeberger, Focus on the Family was not aware of an explicit policy change inside the network, either. "It was only last week that they indicated that they changed any policy," he said.

"We've worked with [CBS] almost since the beginning," Schneeberger added. "Our senior vice presidents talked to CBS executives throughout the process. It was a very cordial, very professional, fruitful relationship."

Well isn’t that cozy. So apparently CBS has taken sides in the culture wars, deciding a progressive denomination’s message of GLBT tolerance is unacceptable, but a right-wing church organization’s message about abortion is suitable for airing during the Super Bowl.

Good to know.

It also sounds to me like CBS worked hard to get this Focus on the Family ad on the air and only after people pointed out their hypocrisy, did they invent this "policy change" excuse.

Of course I'm just speculating.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Looking For A Black Person

... in a sea of white:
A side effect of the wall-to-wall coverage: I've been stopped by several journalists anxious for reaction from a black Tea Party member. The guy from CNN looked so disappointed when I told him I was a working journalist, too.

And the prize goes to MSNBC, which found him first.

Our news media is so stupid.

(H/T, Kleinheider.)

Meet The New Dog

Yes, we took the plunge! This is Chaka, adopted from Bonaparte's Retreat, the wonderful animal rescue organization here in town founded by Emmylou Harris. Bonaparte's Retreat takes adoptable animals due to be euthanized at Metro Animal Control and gives them a second chance at finding a family.

Let me say she is adorable, sweet, playful, eager to learn, and in every regard an awesome dog. Of course, she's been with us all of four hours.

Cats are handling the new dog pretty well, mostly curiously cautious, or cautiously curious. Cleo the dog has ignored her most of the day, I think she's in denial. And Zelda the Wonder Dog, well, let's just say she's been giving me the hairy eyeball all afternoon.