Thursday, April 29, 2010

No Free Ride On The Karmic Carousel


Those regulatory whatchamacallits sure do come in handy:
Nevertheless, regulators in two major oil-producing countries, Norway and Brazil, in effect require them. Norway has had acoustic triggers on almost every offshore rig since 1993.

The U.S. considered requiring a remote-controlled shut-off mechanism several years ago, but drilling companies questioned its cost and effectiveness, according to the agency overseeing offshore drilling. The agency, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, says it decided the remote device wasn’t needed because rigs had other back-up plans to cut off a well.

The post goes on to point out that "an acoustic trigger costs about $500,000."

Of course, as previously mentioned, BP is spending $6 million a day on this spill ... so far. And from the memory hole, it seems the Interior Department's Minerals Management Division had a few other things on its mind besides saftey.


Fingers are pointing at Halliburton:

An oil-drilling procedure called cementing is coming under scrutiny as a possible cause of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico that has led to one of the biggest oil spills in U.S. history, drilling experts said Thursday.


The scrutiny on cementing will focus attention on Halliburton Co., the oilfield-services firm that was handling the cementing process on the rig, which burned and sank last week. The disaster, which killed 11, has left a gusher of oil streaming into the Gulf from a mile under the surface.

Which gets us back to where I started with this post.


Free hand of the market FAIL:

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the doomed rig lacked a remote-control shutoff device commonly used in other major offshore oil-producing nations.

Would be nice if we had some sort of protective whatchamacallit, some kind of thingie mandating oil companies drilling in public waters take every available precaution to protect the environment so multi-billion-dollar fishing and tourism industries aren’t destroyed.

Another "flaw." Imagine that.


A temporary halt to new drilling has been instituted:

In a ‘GMA’ exclusive this morning White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod told me that in the wake of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, no expansion of off-shore oil drilling will take place until any investigation into how this spill occurred is complete.

Wonder how long that will last?


There's always a Halliburton connection, isn't there? A lawsuit filed by shrimpers names the company:

It also names Halliburton Energy Services and Cameron International Corp., which manufactured the blowout preventer that failed to cap the spill.

Thank you very fucking much. God I love the karma of this: Halliburton rakes in billions in Iraq War profiteering and now has to spend some of that fixing the mess it made in the Gulf of Mexico.

No one gets a free ride on the Karmic Carousel, people. This was absolutely, 100% predictable.

And I love how whenever a private company suffers a disaster we all pay to fix the mess.

Send in the U.S. Coast Guard! Send in the U.S. Navy! The EPA! Homeland Security! (Actually, it turns out there are 16 federal agencies involved in the effort.) Turns out Gov. Bobby Jindal "pleaded for federal help”; I wonder if he regrets scoffing at federal spending a few years back, or how he bragged about cutting Louisiana’s taxes six times--”including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state”?

Maybe he shouldn’t have ridiculed $8 billion for light rail projects around the nation, since such projects lessen our dependence on the very oil now washing up on his shoreline.

Yes, BP is spending $6 million a day on this disaster. Yes, President Obama says BP is responsible for the cleanup costs.

But I'm sorry, we're all going to pay for this. We just are.

It goes well beyond the costs of the federal response. It's bigger than the loss of wildlife. It’s the loss of an entire industry:

Louisiana has a $3 billion fishing industry—the source of a third of the seafood consumed in the U.S., according to the Louisiana Seafood Marketing and Promotion Board, a state-run agency. Seafood caught here also helps underpin the economy of nearby states that process it, such as Alabama and Mississippi. The impact could be long-lasting and could be made worse by the fact that it's spawning season for some fish and migration time for the young of some species of shrimp.

Hey guess what, solar power spilled all over my roof this afternoon and I didn’t need to call the fucking U.S. Coast Guard to help me clean it up. No local industries were harmed, either. What do you think of that?

Look, I’m tired of hearing people say solar and wind power aren’t developed enough to meet our energy needs. That’s bullshit. Seventy years ago this nation entered World War II and transitioned our economy to a war footing in a matter of months. Factories that once made consumer goods were suddenly making bombs and airplanes and materials for war, virtually over night. People rationed sugar and gasoline and turned their lights out at night. It was a massive national effort and it brought the entire country together in a display of patriotism wingnuts can only dream about today.

We can do this if we want to. Problem is, there's no want-to. There's too much money at stake. Too much greed. Too many Halliburtons profiting off of taxpayer-funded wars in the Middle East. Oil and coal get all sorts of federal concessions while solar and wind development get peanuts, so "free market" conservatives can then claim that alternative energy isn't developed enough to stand on its own. Yeah, well that's how it looks when you stack the deck and rig the books, isn't it?

The dirty little secret is that this country has been in an energy crisis for 50 years now. No one talks about it, but it's still there. We’ve had little shocks here and there, but we’ve always shaken them off. That was stupid, and short-sighted. It’s not foreign oil we need to wean ourselves from -- most of that comes from Canada, anyway. We need to get off the oil tit in general. God isn't making any more dinosaurs, the oil that's left in the ground is more difficult and more expensive to access.

If we’d learned the lessons of the very first Arab oil embargo we wouldn’t be in Iraq today, and we wouldn’t be worrying about Gulf Coast fisheries being wiped out for the next few years. If, after 9/11, George Bush had told us to get off the oil tit instead of telling us to go shopping, we'd be well ahead of the game.

Stupid Americans, we never learn, do we? It feels so much better to tell ourselves we can "drill here, drill now, pay less." When the truth is, oil refineries are cutting production or shutting down completely to keep prices high. It's the end of the oil road, a dying industry's last gasp.

Yes, our economy is dependent on oil, but it doesn’t have to be. Indeed, it won't be for much longer. There’s no reason in the world why every rooftop doesn’t have a solar panel, and why electric cars powered at solar charging stations aren’t widely available by now. If we could transition the country’s economy for war in a matter of weeks, then we can transition away from oil, too.

If we see this for the crisis it is, of course.

If we learn the lesson from this latest emergency, so close on the heels of the West Virginia coal mine disaster, itself right on the heels of Tennessee’s coal sludge disaster.

Is anybody listening?

Tennessee Republicans Put Party Over Jobs

It really is all about punching hippies for Republicans these days:
Twelve Republican members of the House Commerce Committee squashed the Green Jobs Act this week that would provide green jobs with federal money to unemployed people in Tennessee’s most distressed communities.   Many of these legislators come from communities with high unemployment and some of them actually voted for a stronger version of the bill in a March subcommittee hearing. 

The reasons for their opposition to the Act are murky at best but it appears this is all about party politics.  The bill’s key sponsor is Rep. Mike Stewart, a rising young Democrat from East Nashville, a liberal enclave.


There is no rational reason for the Republican rejection of the Green Jobs Act.   It does not ask for any money from the state’s troubled budget, relying totally on federal funding. It would simultaneously provide jobs and training for people who are longtime unemployed, which would help jumpstart the economy, and help Tennessee transition into a new green, sustainable economy. 

The Green Jobs Act will be back again next year.   Meanwhile, as the November election approaches, constituents of the legislators who voted against it need to be informed that, in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930s, their elected representative voted against jobs. 

As I wrote  earlier this week, it really is mind-boggling how paralyzed our state legislature appears to be when it comes to creating jobs for Tennesseans. We’ve got all sorts of culture war legislation, guns in bars, signage in abortion clinics, English as the state language, even an expensive and futile battle over the federal healthcare legislation. But can you people get off your asses and do something about the high unemployment rate in this state? No, you seem unable to figure that part out.

Now we finally have a jobs bill and what happens? Tennessee Republicans vote it down for no earthly reason except, I guess, it’s a “green” bill which means liberal, tree-hugger, latte-drinking, NPR-listening fake American and by God the “real” Americans of this state are going to punch that hippie but good.

I mean, what else can it be? Unless for some reason Tennessee Republicans don’t actually want to create jobs in this state. Do they think if people stay unemployed and angry and scared they are more likely to vote Republican come November?

I mean dang, I know I’m cynical, but that’s pretty cold, even for me. Surely Tennessee Republicans aren’t that evil, are they?

I’m not sure I like the hippie-punching alternative much better. But listen up, Tennessee legislators: people in this state can't wait until next year for jobs. They need them now. So quit dicking around and playing your political games. Enough with the bills about Jesus and guns and gays. You're wasting everyone's time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let's Talk About ACORN Some More!

Yes, let's:
Orange County authorities are launching an investigation into possible voter registration fraud after a local newspaper reported over a hundred cases of voters being tricked into registering as Republicans by petitioners who asked them to sign petitions for, among other causes, legalizing pot.

The Orange County Register reported last week that the Orange County District Attorney's office announced it would team up with the Secretary of State on the case, following a Register report that 99 written complaints were filed since March by voters who said they were registered as Republicans without their consent.

Another 74 voters reached by the Register said they, too, were unwillingly made members of the GOP.

In a lengthy investigation published earlier this month, the paper pointed to an $8 "bounty" offered by the California Republican Party for each new registration as a cause for the problems. It identified multiple petitioners who work for vendors "with ties to the California Republican Party." Back in 2006, a similar scandal led to the convictions of several

Of course, the California GOP is a repeat offender where voter registration fraud is concerned. (And despite his guilty plea and conviction, it seems Mark Jacoby is up to his old tricks again.)

You know, the thing that was such bullshit about the whole fake ACORN brouhaha is that conservatives claimed liberal activists were enacting vote fraud by registering "Mickey Mouse" to vote. Thing is, Mickey Mouse can't show up to the polls to vote, unless it's someone whose actual legal name is Mickey Mouse.

But California is a closed-primary state. When you register someone to vote as a Republican, then they must vote in the California Republican primary. They cannot, as we do in Tennessee, show up at the polls on election day and say "Oops that's a mistake, I want to vote in the Democratic primary instead." Sorry. You have to vote in the primary for the party in which you are registered.

So it seems this piece of fraud perpetrated by the California GOP has actually disenfranchised voters.

I'm sure the California GOP will blame an "overzealous staffer" or "inexperienced people" at the unaffiliated organization hired to register voters.

But ... um ... ACORN!!!!!

Corporate Hegemony Alert

Yes, I have a problem with this:
Nashville schools offer naming rights to academic programs

Credit union pays $150,000 to put name on Antioch program

Naming rights to academic programs in Metro Nashville's high schools are for sale, and one school has a buyer.

The Tennessee Credit Union now owns the signage to Antioch High School's academy of business and finance for a price of $150,000. The school board approved the two-year contract Tuesday night.

Administrators hope this is the first of many naming deals. It's the brainchild of Metro's new high school czar, Jay Steele, who had success with the idea as an administrator in Florida.

"It's not marketing to kids," Steele told The Tennessean in December. "It's tight guidelines that would align a targeted industry with a theme."

Oh bullshit. Don’t kid yourselves. Marketing to kids is exactly what this is.

Look, kids are marketed to from the day they leave the womb. They are assaulted on every side by consumer messaging everywhere they go, from the shopping mall to television programming to family destinations like Disney World and that horrid museum of corporate logos disguised as an aquarium in Atlanta. New media has made advertising all-pervasive: sales pitches are embedded in “product placement” ads in books targeted to our youth. At school corporate logos dominate the lunchroom, sports and other after school activities.

And now Metro Schools has opened up academics to corporate sponsorship, with only a promise that it would be “tasteful.”

There is nothing tasteful about advertising to kids, no matter how you do it. One has to ask the obvious question: What are we teaching our kids? To be good citizens? Or to be good consumers?

Look, I don’t think it is ultimately in the nation’s best interests to raise a generation of consumer drones, indeed, I think it’s terribly short-sighted (for more on this, read my The Business Of Dehumanization post from last October).

Advocacy group the Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood has looked at marketing in our schools and has raised some alarm bells:

• 67.2% of students are exposed to corporate advertising for foods of minimal nutritional value or foods high in fat and sugar in their schools.


• A review of seventy-seven corporate-sponsored classroom kits found nearly 80% to be biased or incomplete, “promoting a viewpoint that favors consumption of the sponsor’s product or service or a position that favors the company or its economic agenda.”


• Nearly 3/4 of schools that participated in income-generating activities with corporations that sell foods of minimal nutritional value and foods high in fat and sugar did not receive any income in 2003-2004.11

For more I urge people to read this report from EPIC (Education & the Public Interest Center). EPIC has tracked commercialism in our nation’s schools for around 15 years and as the latest report shows, the advent of new media and viral marketing makes advertising to youth more pervasive and insidious than ever.

Corporate-sponsored academics was a horrible idea from day one. Jay Steele may think it’s not “advertising” to sell naming rights to an academic program but he’s delusional (and as the Tennessean story makes clear, this program goes waaay beyond naming rights, anyway.)

It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when our school budgets are so thin that we’re happy to sell businesses access to our kids in exchange for a few bucks. It shows a deterioration of our values for one thing: suddenly we’re okay pimping out our kids to corporations? Have we lost our minds?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Kids Are Alright

Meet the Sierra Student Coalition, at a Ben Harper tour stop:

Tennessee's March Of Fools

If you thought our state legislature was finished wasting time on the guns-and-God agenda, think again:
Would the creation of a new specialty license plate, asserting that “Jesus is Lord,” violate any federal or state constitutional provisions, especially the provisions against the establishment of religion?

That question was apparently asked by State Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, of our Attorney General Bob Cooper (apparently this was news last week and somehow I missed it).

I have no idea why Democrat Eric Stewart was asking the AG about this but I just want to say the last thing in the world any of you clowns need to be worrying about is a freaking Jesus Is Lord license plate. For crying out loud, people, have you not noticed that unemployment in Tennessee is still 10.6%? Heck, it’s 15% in Bledsoe and Van Buren Counties, both in Stewart’s district. Why in God’s name are you wasting our time with crap like a Jesus Is Lord license plate?

How is another culture war going to create jobs in this state? If anything, you are scaring the crap out of any industry that might consider locating here. And that goes double for you, Ron Ramsey: you and your phony “we’ll give ‘em the boot” nonsense, you're making us look like a bunch of moonshiners ready to run off the revenue man.

And where is our governor? Why is there no leadership? Why isn’t our top executive telling everyone to cut the crap, we’ve got a crisis on our hands in this state, quit wasting your time on nonsense like Jesus Is Lord license plates and abortion clinic signage.

And let me add, I am furious to see this crap coming from Democrats. What is wrong with you people? Creating jobs should be number one for you folks. It should be your "brand." Putting people to work should be what Tennessee Democrats are known for, especially since Tennessee's Republicans can't seem to find their way back from Bible study and the NRA meeting. Tennessee's Republicans are handing you an opportunity to be grown-ups and you've completely wasted it.

Someone in the Tennessee Democratic Party needs to conk folks like Doug Jackson and Eric Stewart on the head every time they suggest a divisive culture war piece of legislation. It's hard for us to say that Tennessee Republicans are wasting everyone's time with bills that do nothing except get people riled up when you're in there doing the same.

Cut it out, already. A Jesus Is Lord license plate? It's time to get serious.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Goodbye White Sand Beaches

Nice tourism economy you have there, Gulf Coast. Be a shame if anything happened to it:
NEW ORLEANS -- Oil leaking from a sunken drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico oozed slowly toward the coast Monday, endangering hundreds of miles of marshes, barrier islands and white sand beaches in four states from Louisiana to Florida.

The areas, home to dolphins, sea birds, prime fishing grounds and tourist playlands, could be fouled later this week if crews can't cut off an estimated 42,000 gallons a day escaping two leaks in a drilling pipe about 5,000 feet below the surface.


The spill, moving slowly north and spreading east and west, was about 30 miles from the Chandeleur Islands off the Louisiana coast Tuesday. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said it would likely be several days before any oil reaches the coast.

George Crozier, oceanographer and executive director at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama, said he was studying wind and ocean currents driving the oil. He said Pensacola, Fla., is likely the edge of the threatened area.

Meanwhile, at least Gov. Jindal has seen fit to order the Coast Guard to protect the Pass A Loutre wildlife refuge. Haley Barbour of Mississippi is predictably dithering.

If you grew up in California then the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill has been seared into your consciousness. For those who don’t remember, a Union Oil platform exploded off the coast of Santa Barbara in January 1969, sending 200,000 gallons of crude into the Pacific over 11 days. It was a major environmental disaster by anyone’s estimation, tens of thousands of birds were killed, and oil washed up on the beaches literally for years afterward (trust me, I remember “beach tar.”) Many credit it with raising the nation’s environmental awareness and giving birth to the environmental movement.

Of course our memories are short, and “drill here, drill now” has become the new rallying cry of an energy-hungry nation.

Wonder what the shrimpers, oystermen and tourist businesses think about this?

NPR: Stop Hurting America

NPR’s “Morning Edition” asks if you remember when Jack Bauer was cool?
The show 24 was often ahead of the curve. It had a black president, years before President Obama. It offered a window into the fight against terrorism. It helped fuel a serious debate over the use of torture.

And now Fox has just announced that the ticking clock is winding down -- this is 24's last season. So is this another case of the writers of 24 predicting the future?

No. Just, stop it already.

I have never understood the fascination of our political betters with a TV show. It’s bad enough that conservatives used Jack Bauer to justify torture and changes to the legal code in times of crisis. I’ve never thought conservatives operated in the realm of intellectual complexity anyway.

But when the news media endorses that approach by positing its own ridiculous as-goes-“24”-so-goes-America theory, then Houston, we have a problem.

I would have thought NPR would take this shit seriously. Sadly, no.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Everybody Loves Us, Nobody Hates Us

As Bill Maher pointed out Friday night, nothing displays the hypocrisy of the Tea Party movement more than their disconnect on defense spending. I think this is as much about ego as anything else. Most conservatives seem to feel like Merka is so crucial to global stability that without us, the planet would stop in its orbit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discounting our importance to global stability and all, but I think for a lot of conservatives such feelings are rooted in fantasies going back to World War II: you know, the whole “we bailed your asses out” thing. We love to think that the world loves us--nay, owes us--don’t we?

It’s sorta like how Florida’s Teanuts rallied to keep the government’s hands off their NASA jobs. I love the idea of NASA and space exploration, but let’s remember that for much of Baby Boom America, it was our space program which brought us a collective ego boost back when we were battling the Russkies for global domination bragging rights. A lot of these folks don’t care about science or space, they care that we have these gazillion-billion dollar phallic symbols telling the world to suck on this.

So little wonder news like this rarely gets prominent play in the U.S. media:
Mass rally in Japan against US base on Okinawa

Nearly 100,000 people have attended a rally in Japan's southern island of Okinawa demanding that a US military base be moved off the island.

Under a 2006 agreement with the US, the US Marines' Futenma base was to be moved from the centre to the coast.

But demonstrators want Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to stick to an election pledge to remove it completely.

The row over the base has undermined relations between his centre-left Government and the US.


Japanese have long been resentful of the massive US base on the island, which is home to most of the 47,000 American troops based in Japan.

I’m sorry but why is it necessary for us to have 47,000 troops in Japan? Anyway, the Japanese government wants to move the base to the island of Tokunoshima, a place we don’t want to go. And they apparently don’t want us there, either. From April 19:

Tokunoshima residents rally against hosting Futenma


At least 11,000 people gathered Sunday on Tokunoshima to protest a plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Okinawa to the island.

The rally, which had been planned for weeks and was expected to draw about 10,000 people, took place only a few days after it was reported that the U.S. had rejected Tokunoshima Island as a Futenma relocation site.

U.S. officials say moving Futenma's air operations to Tokunoshima, which is hundreds of kilometers away, would make it impossible to effectively conduct joint air, land and sea training with other marine units in Okinawa.

It’s important for Americans to remember that we are not beloved around the world, much as we wish it were true. So many were puzzled by the 9/11 attacks, and “why do they hate us” became a national mourning cry. We heard that tired Bush line about being hated “for our freedoms,” which is asinine, simplistic, even jingoistic.

We are not hated for our freedoms. We are hated for our power, for our dominance, for the way we muscle our way around the world. Japan was once our foe, now our ally, but even here 100,000 citizens have rallied to get our troops off their soil. And our news media, if they cover the event at all, will relegate the story to the small print and back pages. It certainly won’t dominate our national conversation, where we talk about Tea Parties and Sarah Palin’s e-mail and the White House’s Wall Street reform plan.

Why do we have 47,000 troops in Iraq Japan? Because we won a war 65 years ago.

I am reminded of this excellent column by author Mohsin Hamid from 2007. Do read the whole thing, but I wanted to call attention to this part:

Americans need to educate themselves, from elementary school onward, about what their country has done abroad. And they need to play a more active role in ensuring that what the United States does abroad is not merely in keeping with a foreign policy elite's sense of realpolitik but also with the American public's own sense of American values.

Right now we have troops in Afghanistan, still mopping up “the final campaign of the Cold War” which Americans only know about thanks to a Hollywood movie starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

In Baghdad we have built an embassy-slash-military-base the size of Vatican City. In 65 years, will we still be in Afghanistan? Will we still be in Iraq? Will Americans wonder why we have thousands of troops in these foreign lands, will the Iraqis be rallying in the streets in numbers as high as 100,000 to get us to leave?

Or will the American empire have crumbled under its own weight by then?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Time To Party Like It's 1985

Once upon a time popular music artists were able to change the world and become a powerful voice for justice. That was 25 years ago, and while many of you whippersnappers are too young to remember the Artists United Against Apartheid campaign, let me say, it was a big, big deal.

So fast forward 25 years and here we are. How ironic that there is, in fact, a Sun City in Arizona. Might be time for some of the big names in music to rethink their summer tour stops.

Frankly, I was surprised that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed that horrid immigration law yesterday, but I don’t live in Arizona and I don’t know Brewer. Yes, immigration reform is needed and there are some issues at play which make this situation different from the apartheid law musicians protested 25 years ago.

But come on, folks. It all comes from the same place. And if we’re not vigilant and nip this crap in the bud, we just need to look back to 1985 to see exactly where it leads.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Lowden Plan

Poor Sue Lowden! She really stepped her foot in it.

Now we have a handy-dandy Medical Chicken Calculator. Find out just how many chickens that heart bypass surgery will cost!


Feel Good Friday

Sarah Palin gets schooled by the always awesome Sarah Hickman and the Austin Lounge Lizards:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Final Earth Day Message

I loved this ...

All Your Energy Are Belong To Us

Suck it, Yankees! Watch this, you stolid Midwesterners and effete West Coast elites! We Southerners are hongry and we will be satisfied:
Thirty-six percent of Americans live in the study region, which consumes an outsized portion—44 percent—of American energy. The area supplies 48 percent of the nation’s power.

Got that, y’all? In a recent study it was discovered that the “South,” a 17 state region which included Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and the District of Columbia, contains 36% of the country’s population but consumes 44% of American energy. Because the South produces 48% of the nation’s power it looks like we are a little greedy with the rest of the nation. Even worse, energy consumption in the South is expected to increase by 15% over the next 20 years.

But even worse from an energy consumption standpoint is our own State of Tennessee:

With a population of 6.3 million people, the State represents about 2.1% of the U.S. population, 1.8% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and 2.3% of U.S. energy consumption (Figure 1). 3 Thus, compared to the rest of the nation, Tennessee has a higher-than-average level of energy intensity (that is, it consumes more energy per dollar of economic activity than most other states).

Unlike most states in the South that account for a disproportionately large amount of the nation’s industrial energy use, industry accounts for only 32% of Tennessee’s overall energy consumption. In contrast, its residential energy consumption as a percentage of its overall energy use exceeds that of the South and that of the nation (Figure 2).

Of course we do! Again, don’t blame us, blame the cheap energy we got courtesy of TVA. Houses were built leaky as sieves back during the post-WWII housing boom; no one bothered with something as silly as conservation back then, and why should they? Today those 1940s houses are charming but they’re also energy hogs (I live in one, trust me, I know.)

Although Tennessee has several important energy efficiency policies in place, we still lag far, far behind other states--indeed, we rank 38th for the adoption of energy efficiency policies, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

The reason this is important is not because saving electricity is a nice thing to do and we can all pat ourselves on the back and feel virtuous and self righteous. The reason it’s important is because, I repeat, we rank 38th out of 50 states and D.C. which means most of the rest of the county is leaving us behind. If we want to lure jobs and have nice communities and maintain a nice standard of living in this state then we need to be competitive, or the next Hemlock Semiconductor or Volkswagon will decide to locate its plant somewhere else. Someplace which has energy incentives in place, where cost of living doesn't reflect high energy costs, and where workers can actually take a weekend fishing some place where the streams aren't polluted with surface mining tailings.

Folks, the era of cheap energy is over. We now live in a world where demand is such that we are going to greater and greater lengths to generate the juice we need. At the same time we are living with a legacy of energy inefficiency and wastefulness from past decades. It's all going to catch up to us in the next 20 years, unless we take action.

It’s time to get on board. As we become more energy efficient we can create jobs, boost the state’s economy, and protect our environment. None of that is going to happen if we keep sticking our head in the sand and acting like it’s 1965.

(h/t mistermix at Balloon Juice)

Oil Rig Explodes Off Louisiana Coast

Happy Earth Day

A TransOcean oil rig under contract to BP exploded off the Louisiana coast last night. And the timing of this tragedy, so close on the heels of the Massey coal mine disaster, should be lost on no one.

Prayers to the families of the missing workers. And a reminder that oil and coal are a dirty, nasty, risky business. Think about that next time you fill up the SUV.

Hey Bill Frist: remind me, how many people were killed by wind power again?

The Value Of Things

I had plans to do a really awesome Earth Day message but this isn’t it.

I’ve been so angry at our Tennessee state legislature over its asinine mountaintop removal mining inaction and the even more asinine commentary we heard from these nimrods up at the legislature.

Folks like Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, who said:
"If we're going to have elk, you gotta have somewhere for them to stay. If they don't stay up in these highland balds, they're going to be down on the highways and they'll be down on my farm and spreading disease and tearing down fences and getting out on the road killing people. An elk weighs 1,500 pounds. A deer weighs 300 pounds. If you hit an elk, the people in the front seat are probably dead, at least one of them."

”Highland balds?” For elk? Are you kidding me? There’s just so much stupid in that comment I don’t even know where to start, but how about the fact that habitat destruction is why we haven’t had free roaming elk in the state of Tennessee since 1865. We just reintroduced them to the Smoky Mountains in 2001 and you’re already worried about the roadkill? Yeah, let me just say I’m laughing my ass off at you.

One of the things that annoys the hell out of me about the whole coal debate is when people say it’s “cheaper” than other alternatives right now, so goshdarnitall, we’ll just have to suck it up and blow the tops off those mountains and dump the tailings in those streams because we have to stoke the furnace of progress! You know, I’ve already blogged about how that’s cooking the books, about how these figures always ignore things like Tennessee’s $1.2 billion+ coal ash spill, all of the other leaky coal ash ponds, not to mention miners dying in Massey Energy coal mines, health problems like cancer and heart disease downstream from surface mines, and on and on and on.

But it’s bigger than that. We also don’t factor in the value of what we’ve lost when we destroy those mountains and streams. We don’t consider that a forest isn’t just a piece of land or something pretty to look at or even the economic value of its timber. It’s a living system and it performs a function. Forests and streams provide water storage, flood management, even reduce the severity of floods. Trees take the Co2 and pollutants out of the atmosphere and replace it with oxygen, earth’s natural breathing mechanism provided to us, free of charge.

And here’s the thing: we haven’t invented a substitute for these natural living systems! When they’re gone, we’re all screwed. We have no air-scrubbers, no one has created the photosynthesis machine. The reason we can’t put a value on this is because it is truly priceless. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Removing a mountain top to mine the coal is like taking all the sinks and toilets out of a new house and selling them at a yard sale. Sure you got some cash for the fixtures, but where are you going to pee and wash your dishes? You can’t keep borrowing your next door neighbors’ bathroom and sink because, ironically, they sold their fixtures at the same yard sale.

Maybe once upon a time we thought one little ol’ mountain didn’t matter but we’re at a point where we’re throwing things out of balance. Water is getting polluted, our weather patterns are getting disrupted. People are getting sick.

And to not care about that reality of life on earth just to score a political point, punch a hippie, throw your friends at Big Coal a bone, or whatever is just so ignorant and short-sighted. It really boggles the mind.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Party Of No Progress

Dear What’s Left of the Republican Party:

What century are you people living in? Bring a chicken to the doctor? Meet Nevada Republican Sue Lowden, running for Harry Reid’s seat:
Interviewer: Most people walk into a doctor’s office and the first thing they ask you for is your insurance card.

Sue Lowden: Yes they do.

Interviewer: When you make an appointment ...

SL: And as soon as you say you don’t have one, "can I speak to the doctor. Can I speak to someone in charge."

Interviewer: ...they want that insurance card before you get past go.

SL: Yes of course they are used to doing that, but let’s change the system and talk about what the possibilities are. I’m telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house. I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system.

Watch it here:

Lowden is just begging to be made fun of by the DSCC.

But I’m going to be fair to Sue Lowden and say she’s not actually telling people to bring a chicken to the doctor. She’s talking about “the old days” of what people did, and she’s trying to be all self-empowerment and “change the system” and “yes we can in a compassionate conservative way” and the reason it’s a huge fail is she doesn’t seem to know what people are already doing to get healthcare. They are filing for bankruptcy. They are cashing in their IRAs and 401(k) funds. They are filing lawsuits. They are raiding their kids’ college funds.

And of course the tried-and-true community fundraiser. The benefit concert. Or, for those not fortunate to have friends who are musicians, the pickle jar by the convenience store cash register. Such things are rare in countries not America; here, they have become so ubiquitous no one bothered to mention this staple of American life during the recent healthcare debate.

Change the system? Yeah I think we just did tried that. Your side didn't want to play along. Now instead of no ideas, we find out your grand idea is to take the country back to the Great Depression? WTF? How do you "negotiate" on an $80,000 bill? A $150,000 one? How much is that in chickens? In house painting? For crying out loud, lady, have you looked at a hospital bill lately?

[Post updated to reflect what several commenters pointed out which is that no, we did not change the system, though many of us wanted to.]

For more insight on this story see Athenae and Atrios.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Speak American"

South Carolina Tea Party speaker starts out on an anti-immigration rant, cheers Arizona's "show us your papers" law, says immigration reform is a conspiracy to "stuff everyone into a big brother biometric National ID system" and then around the 6:26 mark he goes into a homophobic rant calling on Sen. Lindsey Graham to come out of the closet in the interest of national security. He wraps it up telling everyone to be unified: white, black, and Latino.

Okie dokie. I think I am watching the death of the Tea Party and the death of the Republican Party.

The Candidates On Wine In Grocery Stores

Last week I happened to be chatting with a wine distributor about the whole wine in grocery stores stuff. The question came up as to which gubernatorial candidate would be most likely to support wine sales in grocery stores. Since Mike McWherter operates a beer distributorship, we were told not to expect him to support wine in stores -- he wouldn’t want the competition. Wamp and Ramsey were unknowns but Bill Haslam was deemed a likely yes, simply because of he’d want wine sales in his Pilot truck stops.

So I was interested to get an e-mail from the Red White & Food folks today outlining where (sorta) the candidates stood. Of course, only the Democratic candidate stated his position clearly (though it’s not the way I’d like to see him go on the issue). All three Republicans were predictably squishy. God forbid they would actually have to stand by their word down the road.

Without further ado:
The legislature is winding down, which means the gubernatorial campaigns will kick into hyperdrive. The Tennessee Newspaper Network recently polled gubernatorial candidates about their views on selling wine in food stores. Here’s what they had to say.
    • Republican Bill Haslam -- “I understand and respect the concerns of both consumers and small business owners on this issue. But perhaps most importantly, we must make certain that whatever solution we arrive at takes every possible step to ensure the safety of minors.”

    • Democrat Mike McWherter --  “I support the current state law with respect to wine sales.”

    • Republican Ron Ramsey -- “I support allowing wine in grocery stores, but we need to find a way to protect our local small business owners as much as possible. If a compromise cannot be reached, then I believe local communities should make this decision, just as they do on the ‘liquor-by-the-drink’ issue. There are some communities in Tennessee where a majority of the population overwhelmingly support wine in grocery stores - they should be allowed to vote for it by referendum. Other communities feel it is not a good fit and they should have the option to decline it.”

    • Republican Zach Wamp -- “At the present time, I believe the decision on this issue is best left to the legislature, as that body already has studied and grappled with the issue during the past few legislative sessions. However, I’m hesitant to support any effort that will take revenues away from Tennessee-owned small businesses and shift them to large, out-of-state corporations.”

That’s so cute. Haslam wants everyone to know he's thinking of the children, Zach Wamp is pretending to be an anti-corporatist looking out for the little guy, Ramsey is passing the buck to someone else and McWherter, as the distributor said, wants to keep things the way they are.

Don'tcha just love election years?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Echo Chamber Populism

E.J. Dionne’s column in today’s WaPo is excellent. Dionne looks at the New York Times/CBS News survey of the Tea Party “movement”--I use quotation marks because is a gathering of angry people who aren’t sure what and why they’re mad or what to do about truly a “movement”?--and he makes some really strong points. For one thing, he points out that
This must be the first "populist" movement driven by a television network: Sixty-three percent of the Tea Party folks say they most watch Fox News "for information about politics and current events," compared with 23 percent of the country as a whole.

Yes, thanks for noticing. We liberals have been saying this all along.

Dionne also points out that Tea Partiers hold beliefs that are actually far outside the mainstream of America:

The poll asked: "In recent years, do you think too much has been made of the problems facing black people, too little has been made, or is it about right?" Twenty-eight percent of all Americans -- and just 19 percent of those who are not Tea Party loyalists -- answered "too much." But among Tea Party supporters, the figure is 52 percent, almost three times the proportion of the rest of the country. A quarter of Tea Partiers say that the Obama administration's policies favor blacks over whites, compared with only 11 percent in the country as a whole.

So race is part of this picture, as is a tendency of Tea Party enthusiasts to side with the better-off against the poor. This puts them at odds with most Americans. The poll found that while only 38 percent of all Americans said that "providing government benefits to poor people encourages them to remain poor," 73 percent of Tea Party partisans believed this. Among all Americans, 50 percent agreed that "the federal government should spend money to create jobs, even if it means increasing the budget deficit." Only 17 percent of Tea Party supporters took this view.

Asked about raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year to provide health care for the uninsured, 54 percent of Americans favored doing so vs. only 17 percent of Tea Party backers.

Again, this reaffirms what we lefty types have been saying for the past year now: that the Tea Party is the same wackadoodle far right fringe we’ve always had whose ideas are far outside the mainstream. They are pissed because they lost an election and are out of power and that happened because, I repeat, they are a far right wackadoodle fringe outside the mainstream.

See folks, this is echo chamber populism: a group of people who talk only to each other, who get all of their information from like-minded sycophants, whose news and information and views are formed inside a bubble. It’s warm and cozy in the bubble but it’s also not reality. No wonder they believe they are some kind of majority and something went terribly, terribly wrong for them to not have their viewpoints codified in the halls of power.

Feeding this belief is a mainstream news media which covers every fart and belch at a rate of one reporter for every three Tea Party convention participants, and which repeats the spin that this is just a mainstream group of folks because to do otherwise is an admission they were foolish to jump aboard the bandwagon to begin with.

Sorta reminds me how the media was all like, "America fuck yeah!" during Shock & Awe and then when Iraq was revealed to be a huge lie they were all like, "What? Who? Us? Why we'd never be so irresponsible!" Except for a handful of Jake Tapper-types who said maybe they could have done a little better job of reporting in the run-up to the Iraq War. But, bygones!

But I digress. Anyway, Republicans will pander to this group because that’s how they roll, but Democrats need to run far and fast from the Tea Baggers.

Writes Dionne:

Democrats face problems not from right-wingers who have never voted for them but from a lack of energy among their own supporters and from dispirited independents and moderates who look to government to solve problems but have little confidence in its ability to deliver.

Ayyy-fucking-men to that. The biggest mistake Democrats at any level -- local, state, or nationally -- could make is to try to run to the right. Liberals needs to be energized and motivated, and independents and moderates need to see that there is, in fact, a reasonable alternative to the fringe wackadoodles that the Republican Party is busy sucking up to.

Fun With Photoshop, Civil War Edition

[UPDATE 4/23/10]:

As one of my commenters pointed out, the license plate is a neo-Nazi code. Now the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has recalled the plate, saying it violates their policy regarding offensive messages on license tags:
The number 88 stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, doubled to signify “Heil Hitler,” said CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper. “CV” stands for “Confederate veteran” — the plate was a special model embossed with a Confederate flag, which Virginia makes available for a $10 fee to card-carrying members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. And 14 is code for imprisoned white supremacist David Lane’s 14-word motto: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

Sounds like the Virginia DMV is shocked--shocked!--to find neo-Nazi white supremacists in its Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate club.


What's a picture worth? Well via Gawker, we meet this patriot asshole, appropriately parked in a handicapped spot:

And in the comment thread, someone issues their reponse:

Happy Oklahoma City Bombing day, peeps.

Today's Message

Berry Road railroad crossing, Nashville, Tennessee

My favorite thing to read is Harper's Magazine and I just got the new issue in the mail so I will be busy for a while. I'm also still reading Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, and then I have a stack of fiction and non fiction I need to read. Some of it is for work, some of it is for pleasure. There simply is not enough time in the day for reading.

What are you reading?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Story About Zelda

Better times: Zelda at play

Yesterday Mr. Beale and I had to put Zelda down. She’d been ill for quite a while, and yesterday morning she let us know that she didn’t have the strength to fight any longer.

Zelda was my first dog, abandoned by some puppy dumpers at Land Between The Lakes. She managed to find her way to the Admin building where I saw her on my way in to work one morning. She was covered in sores, ticks, and fleas, looked pretty emaciated, but nevertheless did her best to lay on the doggie charm in the hopes that someone would give her a forever home. I was the sucker who bit. That was 15 years ago and I never looked back.

Zelda was a charmer. She looked like a Lab that got shrunk in the wash; her small stature gave her a bit of a Napoleon complex in that she hated any dog smaller than her. But she loved children, I think because they were her size.

One summer day after work Zelda and I were hiking LBL’s Honker Trail--one of my favorite places to hike because one travels thick woodlands, gentle meadows and gorgeous lakeshore, all in 4 1/2 miles. Wouldn’t you know, halfway into the hike Zelda disappeared after a critter, not to be seen again.

This had never happened before and I grew increasingly alarmed as I called and called for her, but no Zelda. As the light began to fail I grew seriously worried that night would fall with me in the middle of dense forest with no flashlight. I was kicking myself for my stupidity, hiking alone in the late afternoon; when you work in a place like that you tend to ignore all of the safety guidelines you tell the tourists.

Just as I thought I’d be forced to leave Zelda lost in the woods, I heard this great crashing through the forest. What should I see but a huge fallow deer buck with a massive rack of palmated antlers, running through the trees not 200 yards away. I stood in awe at the sight of this magnificent animal--then busted out laughing as I saw my little dog Zelda right on the buck’s heels, a huge grin on her face. She had flushed a fallow deer buck and by God she was in it to win it. Never mind that the buck was 10 times her size. What the hell did she think she'd do with it, even if she managed to catch it? It was hilarious.

She was big in heart and spirit. That’s what I loved about her. Without further ado, a Zelda retrospective:

Time for a swim!

Does this cat bed make my butt look big?

I can haz war on Christmas?

This belly won't rub itself!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Run, Haley, Run!

This cracks me up:
Barbour, advisers privately mull 2012 run

Yes, please run for President, Haley. You are governor of the state that is:

• Dead last in median family income;
• Dead last in percent of people who have completed high school (including equivalency);
• Dead last in a ranking of “best states to live”;
• Second to last in a state by state ranking of personal income;
• Second to last among “best educated”;
• Second to last in health and physical exercise;

.... as well as being dead last in internet usage, home of the country’s third-highest teen pregnancy rate and ... oh, it just seems cruel to go on.

What the hell: Findings from A Portrait of Mississippi: Mississippi Human Development Report 2009:

• Though whites are doing better than African Americans in Mississippi, they are doing less well than whites in other states. On the overall Index, whites in Mississippi rank 48th on the state list. They are 46th in education and are tied for last with West Virginia whites in terms of health. They perform somewhat better on the income index, ranking 40th on the list. A white resident of Washington D.C., which has the country's highest score for whites, lives eight years longer, earns 2.4 times more, and is five times more likely to have a college degree than a white resident of Mississippi.

• African Americans in Mississippi, on average, are worse off than African Americans in most other states. Of the 39 states with an African American population sufficiently large to be included in this analysis, Mississippi ranks second-to-last on the overall state index as well as on the health index and income index (Louisiana is last) and last on the education index. Compared to an African American from Mississippi, an African American living in Maryland lives four years longer, earns twice as much, and is twice as likely to have a college degree.

• The average cost per year of keeping an inmate in prison in Mississippi in 2006 was $15,000; the average expenditure per pupil for elementary and junior high school in the state that same year was just over $7,000. Thus the state is spending twice as much per prisoner as it is on education per schoolchild.

• An African-American baby boy born today in Mississippi can expect to have a lifespan shorter than that of the average American in 1960.

There’s a reason “thank God for Mississippi” is a national punchline. Haley Barbour thinks the country wants what he’s selling?

Hey Haley: before trying to fix the rest of the nation, maybe you ought to clean up your own house first.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Putting The "Yahoo" In Yahoo! News


Oh for crying out loud. The conservative outrage has festered resulting in ridiculous ideas like this one.

I'm tired of hearing this attack was "vicious" and "savage." Just look at the picture.


God I love the liberal media.

Conservative persecution complex hit high dudgeon today when Yahoo! News erroneously “reported” that a mugging of two Bobby Jindal staffers in New Orleans last week was politically motivated (apparently the victims were wearing Sarah Palin buttons).

Here they are after the attack, courtesy of the Times-Picayune:

Looks like a typical Friday night in the French Quarter to me, but what do I know. Apparently the woman, Allee Bautsch, has a broken leg in this picture which required a six-day hospitalization and rods in her leg and ankle to repair, according to Yahoo! News. Her boyfriend, Joe Brown, apparently has a broken nose here. I’d call bullshit on both claims but that would get me labeled a hater plus I wasn’t there so I don’t know jack. I’m just sayin’. (Plus, where are the Sarah Palin buttons?)

Anyway, Yahoo! News went straight to the source, in this case a conservative blogger, to report in a banner headline that the attack may have been politically motivated :
Brutal attack on Republican fundraiser and boyfriend may have been politically motivated (UPDATED)

Turns out, not so much. Yahoo! News national affairs writer Brett Michael Dykes got that info from right wing blogger Pat Dollard, who claimed to be quoting the New Orleans Police Dept.--you’d think a reporter for a news outlet like Yahoo would have actually called the NOPD himself, but I guess that’s why it’s called “yahoo.” Politico actually picked up the telephone and spoke to NOPD spokesman Bob Young who told them Dollard had completely misquoted him.

More specifically:

Dollard quoted him saying the attack was politically motivated, but an irritated Young said the quote was the opposite of what he'd said and "completely incorrect."

Hmm. I followed this story all day long, by dinner time Yahoo! News had “updated” its story but still has not changed its headline, even after the Times-Picayune got a hold of the police report which says the attack was not politically motivated after all.

Yahoo! News has not offered a correction of any kind, in fact, but has just “updated” its story to report on what other media outlets now say (and not very accurately, I might add: after Politico reported Bob Young's claim he was misquoted, Yahoo! News said Young had "backtracked.") Anyway, I guess they just want us to decide.

In the meantime, all day long the Freeperati have been all like, “OMG OMG OMG liberals are big fat meanies and we’re all gonna die.” Whatever, liberals have done the same, that’s not the point. The point is that fucking Yahoo! News still hasn’t corrected its incorrect report and the liberal media still isn't liberal.

For a more complete rundown of today’s events, check Gawker’s rundown of the story.

Christian Music’s Loss Will Be Mainstream Music’s Gain

This week the enormously talented Christian singer/songwriter Jennifer Knapp came out.

I have interviewed Knapp many, many times over the years. I’ve always admired her as a songwriter and performer. She’s been nominated for Grammy Awards, won Dove Awards, had major Christian radio hits, you name it. And now, of course, her Christian music career is over.

Seriously, if Amy Grant’s albums could be yanked off store shelves for getting a divorce, I’m not holding out much hope that the Christian music industry will continue to play Knapp’s music or sell her CDs. Hey, they could surprise me, but I’m a realist.

Knapp’s decision to come out was extraordinarily brave; already I’ve seen so-called Christians label her “an example of hellbound Christianity.” I'm sure the next few weeks will be un-fun for Knapp as the intolerant freak show rears its head. So I just wanted to send a cyber-hug to Knapp for having the courage and faith to step out of the closet in which so many of her fellow Christian music artists remain--you know who you are, people! And guess what: so does everyone else!

This is the dirty little secret of the Christian music industry, of course. There are loads of gay artists, and I daresay most of them suffer with the psychological trauma of feeling there is something wrong with them, of having to live a lie or live in the shadows. How screwed up is that: make someone choose between a career and living an authentic life, just so we can maintain the comfortable status quo? That was the exact opposite of what Jesus was about.

And here's another thing: everyone knows who these gay artists are and they are happy to ignore it because they are all making loads of money off of these artists. Until someone has the courage to step out and say, “enough. I’m not going to live like that anymore.” And then they’re gay-listed from the radio playlists and their CDs are pulled off the shelves of the Family Christian bookstore. That’s pretty hypocritical, if you ask me. And it also just proves how wrong your worldview is and how intolerant and anti-Christian your brand of religion is.

So here’s one of Jennifer Knapp’s songs, performed on Live From Studio B. It’s a Christian music TV program, so watch it before they yank it to purge themselves of teh gaiii. If you like her style of music, consider checking out her new CD, “Letting Go,” which releases in May.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy Tax Day

Congratulations, you just paid more federal income tax than the world's richest corporation. Huzzah.

More fake Tea Party signs from today's rally at Boston Commons here.

I'm Not Here

Today's post washed up over at The Swash Zone.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Don’t Look Under That Rock

Knowledge is power, which is perhaps why our glorious liberal media has ignored this story:
George W. Bush 'knew Guantánamo prisoners were innocent

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.

The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.

Let’s be clear: this isn’t some hearsay or gossip Wilkerson is spreading to boost book sales. This declaration is significant:

Still, Skinner said Wilkerson's declaration is signficant because it marks the first time a Bush administration official is willing to state, under oath, that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others knew many of the prisoners were innocent when they were sent to Guantanamo.

And had them tortured.

I’ve said this before (notably here) that the point of our torture program was not to gain accurate, actionable intelligence. It was to justify war. No one cared that intelligence obtained under torture might be wrong. Who cared? In fact, the more wrong the better (see Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi).

Some folks are calling for a "truth commission.” Screw that shit. I want a special prosecutor. I want subpoenas and frog marches and jail time.

We won’t go there, of course. We’re too candy-assed to look under the high crimes and misdemeanors rock of the Kennedy assassination let alone something that happened five or six years ago.

C’mon, America. What are you scared of? A little justice? A little soul-searching? It would do you some good.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Primal Elderly Scream


Dems notch huge win in Florida special election. Ruh-roh. And it was a "referendum on healthcare reform," too.
BOCA RATON, Fla. — Republican backlash over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul had little effect in the nation's first U.S. House race of 2010.

Florida Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch handily won Tuesday's special election to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler after his underdog GOP opponent attempted to make the contest a referendum on the massive health care bill.

"We've heard for months that tonight ... is a referendum on health care, it's a referendum on the (Obama) administration, it's a referendum on what direction this country is going," Deutch told supporters. "Let me tell you something, what we learned today is that in Broward County and Palm Beach County, Florida, the Democratic Party is alive and well."

So sad when a right wing talking point fails. Eagerly await the mainstream media's 24/7 coverage of this event. Oh, wait. Silly me, elections are only important when Republicans win.

- - - - - - - - - - -


Heh. Red State's Eric Erickson tells Tea Partiers: "See ya, suckaz!" He's dropping his protest signs to campaign for Republican Party candidates--and tells everyone else to do likewise.

Come back into the fold, chickadees. Apparently you're scaring people.

Oh and by the way, all of those "independents" and "Democrats" supposedly in the Tea Party -- you think they're going to campaign for GOP candidates now? Of course, none of those people ever really existed. The Tea Party is, was, and always has been a conservative movement, not the "non-partisan" group Dick Armey claimed it to be.

- - - - - - - - - - -

The Tea Parties have been with us for a year now. But despite our media’s fascination (some might say addiction), I maintain that from an electoral perspective, they are a rather weak brew. Andrew Sullivan explains it better than I could:

From all I can see, the Tea Party movement is not simply about the size and scope of government. If it were, it could be a useful force in our politics, if it only spelled out honestly how to balance the budget without raising taxes. (Even Rand Paul won't be drawn on specifics.) It is a movement about identity politics, in which the US Constitution is an emblem of a certain demographic, and that demographic is as much about the Christianist right as it is about fiscal responsibility. Gingrich hit the two pillars of what they hate: "secularism" and "socialism." 

Secularism isn't atheism; it is the principle that religious disputes and political disputes should be regarded in separate categories, for fear of unresolvable sectarian conflict (i.e. culture war). Anti-"socialism" means ... well I'm not sure what exactly. Abolition of social security? Medicare? More tax cuts? I wish I knew.

I don't think it has any real traction or coherence apart from a cultural revulsion against modernity, a majority-minority country, separation of church and state, and an abstract loathing and suspicion of anything to do with government. When they offer us some concrete proposals or policy options, I guess we can make a judgment as to the impact on the GOP. But right now, it feels like a primal, and somewhat elderly, scream.

In other words, “Offa my lawn!” This is not a recipe for electoral success, and indeed Tea Party candidates have not fared well so far. From the Wall Streeet Journal:

Grassroots support remains vigorous, as evidenced by the thousands of tea-party activists who gathered Saturday in Searchlight, Nev., to protest the health-care law and urge the ouster of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Yet despite thronging primary races across the U.S., true tea-party candidates have stumbled at the polls. In the March 2 Texas primary, 18 incumbent Republican House members faced multiple challengers, including a flock of tea-party faithful. The incumbents won handily, with only one garnering below 60% of the vote.

If Tea Party candidates can't win in Texas, where can they win? Missouri? Nope: One of the Tea Party’s biggest failures was in St. Louis County, where last week voters overwhelmingly approved a half-cent sales tax increase to expand mass transit in the county. Tea Partiers rallied against the measure in an organized campaign which was a massive FAIL:

As you can see when comparing this election (with the tea party as the primary opposition) and the last election (when the tea party did not yet exist in its current form), every single county increased it's support for the sales tax! The tea party considered this across the board loss "not too bad," and claimed that John Burns did a "remarkable" job.

Let's hope they continue to run "remarkable," "not too bad" campaigns for a long time to come!

Back in February in St. Joseph, Missouri, Tea Party candidate Jason Gregory lost a race for the state House by 30%.

It seems to me the only electoral “victory” our media can point to for the Tea Party is Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts. While the Tea Party Express endorsed him, Brown himself never claimed to be part of the movement, and has thrown the Tea Party under the bus by voting for the despised $15 billion jobs bill and declining to appear at a Tea Party rally with Sarah Palin. If this is the Tea Party’s big “win” the honeymoon is clearly over.

I really don’t understand the media’s fascination with a movement that has shown little electoral traction with the majority of voters, brought just 600 people to its first national convention, and has been dogged by charges of racism, intolerance and radicalism. The Tea Party’s candidate for New York governor just got busted forwarding racist e-mails and pornography, adding to the movement’s freak show element and repulsing most independents and moderates.

Conclusion: unless the Tea Party can stand for something besides rage, they won’t find much election success outside a few nativist backwaters.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nashville Trash

I’m sure we’ll hear lots of whining about this, but I happen to think it’s a great idea, and long overdue. In fact, count me among those who think it doesn't go far enough.

I’ve said this before, but Nashvillians are very spoiled where public works services are concerned. I remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth that ensued several years ago when Public Works decided they could no longer go down your driveway to collect your trash: you’d actually have to take your trash receptacles out to the street yourself. Oh, my. You’d think we’d told people to go work in the salt mines.

The last time this issue came up a bunch of whiners ran Solid Waste Director Chace Anderson out of town for having the temerity to suggest that people can get by with one 96 gallon container a week if they “stomp” their trash down into the bin, or even--gasp!--recycle more.

That elicited responses from spoiled brats like this asshole:
In other words, it is my God-given right as a Metro taxpayer to have two of those carts!!!

Umm, no.

This time around the suggestion to charge a modest monthly fee for an extra bin has elicited these concerns:

"That just doesn't seem reasonable to me because different households are just going to have different needs," said Sharon Shaw-McEwen, a professor of social work at Middle Tennessee State University who lives on the Davidson County side of Brentwood and regularly uses two trash carts.

"There would have to be a way worked out so families aren't penalized just because they have more children."

What? Why the hell not? Hey if you choose to have 10 kids, more power to you. But you’re going to suck up more landfill space than the rest of us and yeah, you should pay for it. Whatever happened to “personal responsibility”? Teach your kids to recycle, teach them how to generate less trash. Teach them some simple stewardship lessons that will benefit them for years to come. And if one can isn’t enough then you’re going to pay an extra $36/year for your large family. News flash: you’re going to pay a helluva lot more than that over the next 20 years. Take your crying elsewhere.

I wonder if any of these folks have ever lived in a rural area. When you have to pay to have your trash picked up by a private service, or haul it to the dump yourself, or even (God this is awful but I know tons of people who do it) burn it yourself, yeah you definitely try to decrease the amount of trash you generate. Trust me, I've lived in rural Kentucky and I have seen what families are able to do and yes, you can get by with one 96-gallon trash receptacle.

Here’s my message to Public Works: how about picking up recycling more than once a month? Mr. Beale and I have two 96-gallon recycling bins and one small one. It’s never enough. And how about picking up yard waste as part of the recycling program? In the summertime, yard waste is what fills up our trash, more than anything. Yeah I know we should compost. We don’t.

Think about it.

Adding: I never understood attempts by some to paint this as an "elitist" issue. It's the exact opposite of elitist. We all generate trash. Every one of us. We all share the same landfill. We all pay the tipping fees. We are all in this together.

You know what's elitist? Wasteful profligacy. Dumping as much trash as you want in someone's back door because hell, it's not your neighborhood, so what do you care? Thinking that you have a "God-given right" to use up more of a limited, expensive landfill than everyone else because by God you are you and you won't be inconvenienced by something like putting your cardboard in a separate container.

That's elitist.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Please Pay Attention, v. 2.0

Hey, you!

You Tea Shouters in the tri-corner hats yammering about how your freedom is slipping away because your health insurance company can no longer deny you coverage due to your pre-existing condition. You’re all idiots, following the trail of breadcrumbs left by Dick Armey and other tools of big business.

Instead, if you really want to crap in your knee-britches consider that President Obama has ordered the assassination of a U.S. citizen:
Reporting from Washington — After concluding that he has taken on an operational role in attempted terrorist attacks, the Obama administration has authorized the capture or killing of a U.S.-born Muslim cleric who is believed to be in Yemen, U.S. officials said.

Anwar Awlaki, 38, who was born in New Mexico, recently was added to the CIA target list after a special government review of his activities, prompted by his status as a U.S. citizen, one of the officials said.

Oh, I know he has a Muslim-y name and lives in Yemen and is suspected of being a terrorist and all but Christ on a cracker, he’s a United States citizen! And he’s been added to the CIA’s “target list” without benefit of trial, without formally being accused of a crime, without any of the benefits our Constitution affords us all-- the very same Constitution you assholes claim to hold so near and dear that you’re going to go all Tenther over healthcare? Seriously, if there was ever a more useless “grassroots” movement, this is it.

This is some serious, serious shit, people. The government cannot just assassinate U.S. citizens, even Muslim ones, okay? Even ones we think are terrorists. That’s not cool. That’s not how we do things.

This story was bubbling under the radar all week, with lefty bloggers like Glenn Greenwald raising alarm bells, and a few conservative ones, too. Some conservatives, like Andy McCarthy at National Review say this is “obviously the right call,” once again showing how intellectually bankrupt that side of the aisle is. You cannot bitch and moan about government’s overreach into people’s lives and then say it’s OK for the government to kill a U.S. citizen without benefit of trial.

It is not legal, people. It’s not legal just because you’re really, really scared. It’s not legal because we’re at “war.” It’s not legal because you are a Christian and don’t like Muslims.

Spencer Ackerman explains why. Glenn Greenwald explains why.

Cripes, even George W. Bush didn’t go this far.

This is why we need a real opposition party. A real grassroots movement. We liberals cannot do this heavy lifting alone. Folks, there is some real serious shit going on, and we are trying to raise the alarm bells, but you folks need to pay some fucking attention here. Quit listening to Victoria Jackson and Michelle Bachmann and other folks who haven’t a clue. They are steering you in the wrong direction.

The government has issued the death penalty on a U.S. citizen without benefit of formal charges, without a trial. Without any due process at all. This scares the crap out of me. If y'all had any sense at all it would be scaring the crap out of YOU.

Fit that on a rally sign and shout about it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

End Of Civil War

Well folks, today marks the 145th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. On this day in 1865, Robert E. Lee signed surrender papers to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House. One week later, President Lincoln was shot.

The Republican Party, once the proud party of Lincoln, today basically a Southern regional political party, might want to take note of these facts as they gather in New Orleans for the Southern Leadership Conference. This history remains relevant today, perhaps more so than ever.

Michael Tomasky takes note of this historic milestone and draws some comparisons to our modern political climate:
I don't want to be hyperbolic and say we're in another civil war. But by the same token I don't want to diminish what's happening in this country. As I've noted, it was the concept of nullification that started the process that led to the civil war. You have some people today talking about nullification of health care. They probably have no idea the fire they're playing with, and if they knew they wouldn't care. If it can help make Democrats lose elections, it's fair game.

Last December Mr. Beale and I took in the Lincoln And New York exhibit at the New York Historical Society. I admit my knowledge of the Civil War is spotty; I grew up in California so the focus of high school history class was on the Gold Rush, westward expansion, the Mexican-American War. Stuff that happened in our backyard, so to speak. I went to elementary school in New Jersey, where we focused primarily on the Revolutionary War in school -- again, stuff that happened nearby. So I found this exhibit especially interesting and educational.

More than anything I was struck by comparisons to our modern era. Lincoln didn't enjoy much support in New York prior to the Civil War; in particular the monied (i.e. “corporate”) interests objected to his policies toward the South, because that is where their markets were. They were looking out purely for their own economic self-interest, just like today. Meanwhile, we had the news media fanning the sectarian flames, also just like today. Something to consider.

It ended with Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Some interesting facts about that which I did not know:

Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, April 14, and in the midst of Passover. He died the next day, which had been scheduled as a national day of prayer marking the end of the Civil War. These circumstances contributed to the transfiguration of his death into an act of Providence.

Wow. Imagine if they had the internet back then. There would be all sorts of wild conspiracy theories about the Anti-Christ and whatnot.

Amazing how little has changed in 145 years.

Something to consider, folks.