Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jane Austen's Fight Club

This cracked me up:

Mosque Ado About Nothing

Much is being discussed on the internets about the Anti-Defamation League’s stance on the so-called "Ground Zero” mosque. I always thought of the ADL as a rather mainstream group; heck, I remember my Dad was a member, even though our family wasn’t Jewish and he was a DFH, Amnesty International/ACLU loving beatnik. So the ADL’s fence-sitting statement that the issue is
"not a question of rights, but a question of what is right"

strikes many of us as the kind of contorted rhetoric worthy of a Kundalini master. Sorry, ADL, but there’s no middle ground on this one. You’re either on the side of religious tolerance, or you’re not. There’s no way of still being the nice guys and siding with the bigots and it's kinda pathetic that you'd try.

I think the whole thing was best lampooned by a commenter over at Balloon Juice who noted:

Heh. That ought to get a few panties in a twist.

What I don’t understand is why nobody save a few foul-mouthed bloggers on the internets have noticed that there is already a mosque near Ground Zero, has been since before 9/11, and it’s a mere city block from the site of the proposed mosque. In fact, according to its website the group says they have operated in Manhattan’s financial district since 1970.

Religious intolerance always pisses me off but no one has really said much lately about how this is another example of the right-wing claiming its ownership of 9/11, just as they have tried to own everything else: the flag, patriotism, Christianity, and even American history. And I’m sorry folks but you don’t “own” 9/11. This has been going on since Darryl Worley first warbled “Have You Forgotten,” turning the tragedy of 9/11 into conservatives' personal crucifixion event; it continues today with the idiots in Glenn Beckistan and their "9/12 movement." You think the world was so great on Sept. 12? Holy crap, I remember being shell shocked, depressed, scared. You say we're the ones who have forgotten? What the hell is wrong with you people?

Here’s a news flash for you guys: 9/11 was probably the most multi-cultural tragedy in American history. 9/11 didn’t just happen to white Republican Christian Midwesterners. Citizens of more than 50 countries perished, of every religion and no religion. What part of World Trade Center don’t you people get?

Collectively the conservative movement is dominated by a striving, "greedy grabber" sensibility. Maybe it's because they've convinced themselves that they are oppressed and everything is so unfair and the world is really, really mean to them. I guess it must be really hard out there for a middle aged Christian white guy, yeah you have my sympathies. But 9/11 isn't your event; it didn't just happen to you in your strip malls in Iowa. It happened to everyone, all around the world. Get a fucking clue.

There's already a mosque near Ground Zero, folks. You're arguing against something that already exists. If anything shows conservatives as a bunch of clueless sheeple eager to get foamy-mouthed at whatever manufactured controversy the folks at FOX News pull out of their asses on any given day, this is it. You folks need to wake up and figure out who is pulling your strings and then ask why. Who benefits by keeping 20% of the voting public in a constant state of high dudgeon? This is a question I'd like to see addressed.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Ground Zero Air Quality Memory Hole

Remembering how it was back then:
Yesterday, amid boos and hisses from the audience, Whitman tried to defend herself from allegations that she bowed to pressure from the White House regarding New York’s post-9/11 air quality:
WASHINGTON -- Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman angrily denied Monday that she misled New Yorkers about the safety of the air in lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11, 2001 collapse of the World Trade Towers.

Appearing for the first time before a Congressional committee investigating the federal government's response to the attack's health consequences, Whitman disputed that she soft-pedaled those concerns because of political pressure.

While acknowledging she had received a call from a White House economic adviser about the importance of reopening the New York Stock Exchange, she said her response was that it would stay closed until it "was cleaned and safe.

"Was it wrong to try to get the city back on its feet as quickly and as safely as possible?" she asked. "Absolutely not. We weren't going to let the terrorists win."

Ah yes. We can’t let the terrorists win and get in the way of our ability to make gobs of money. Fast forward a decade and the country is up to its eyeballs in debt thanks to the two wars we’ve started in response to 9/11. Ground Zero first responders are still suffering debilitating illnesses from breathing the foul air Christie Todd Whitman promised was safe so the terrorists wouldn’t win. And New York Congressman Anthony Weiner takes the GOP to task for blocking an amendment to the Public Health Services Act that would offer relief to everyone still sick from breathing that foul air:

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) literally lost it on the House floor Thursday over his Republican colleagues' procedural objection to an amendment to the Public Health Services Act. The amendment would extend and improve health care benefits for 9/11 victims suffering from lasting health complications.

So this is the Republican health care plan: tell everyone it’s okay to breathe polluted air, drink polluted water, eat contaminated food, etc. etc. Then when you get really, really sick they say tough luck. But we sure beat those terriss, yessirree!

See folks, this is why you should never listen to the Republicans. It’s all about making as much money as they can and if you happen to be the poor sap who stands in the way, well that’s just the free hand of the market driving the steamroller.

The Best Campaign Support Money Can Buy

Bad enough that some candidates put campaign signs in the public right of way to make it look like they have more support than they actually do.

But it’s far, far worse to learn some candidates are paying people to show their “support”:
Senator Henry has had people at the intersection of Thompson Lane and Nolensville Rd all week, wearing blue t-shirts and waving at people with signs.

I stopped and spoke with one of them this morning. They are working through a temp service and being paid by the hour. The man I spoke with didn’t know who Mr. Henry is or what he is running for.

It seems pretty pathetic to have to pay pretend supporters ....

Ditto for the campaign “volunteers” parked at West End and Murphy Road for the past week. I was pretty sure these were not actual campaign supporters but hadn’t had a chance to ask.

Yeah, pathetic is the word for it alright.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


You go, girl! Sue da bastards.

Tennessee Governors' Race Hilarity

Ron Ramsey embarrasses Tennessee with his "Islam is a cult" stupidity and still manages to not be the craziest candidate running. No, that dubious distinction goes to Basil Marceaux, now riding high on some national attention courtesy of The Colbert Report:

I saw that Basil Marceaux clip last week when someone posted it on Twitter and thought it was hilarious and sad all at the same time. I just wanted to say, "well bless his heart."

Thankfully Colbert got one thing wrong: Ramsey isn't anything close to the "clear favorite" in the primary; every survey I've seen has him ranked a distant third. Marceaux is the crackpot candidate that I suppose every race draws. Hey, buck up Tennessee, there are wackos and weirdos everywhere, right?

But pssst ... please don't tell the folks at Colbert Nation about perpetual candidate Vijay Kumar!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Procedural Voyeurism

I’m a huge fan of Walter Kirn, who wrote “Up In The Air” and “Mission To America,” to name just two of his novels. I wanted to call attention to his piece in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about what he dubs “procedural voyeurism”. I hope everyone gives it a read.

“Procedural voyeurism” is Kirn’s term for our modern culture’s obsession with procedure over outcomes, the backstory over the story, the “art of the deal [rather] than the art,” as the headline reads. I think this is a very important observation about our culture and speaks to a shift in how we Americans view our world that is vastly different from 20 or 30 years ago.

Kirn cites such examples as the LeBron James uproar, the fact that weekend box office receipts are reported on the nightly news and discussed by consumers, and the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno war. On the political front, I think it’s pretty much unprecedented that our national debate centers on procedural issues like the filibuster, and the fact that we’ve been discussing the 2012 presidential election since the 2008 election wrapped. Be it entertainment, politics or anything else, we’re all insiders now. Everyone has the “inside scoop,” a window into the boardroom.

I agree with Kirn that we’ve reached this state of affairs because the internet and cable news have left a gaping void in the information flow. That is the mechanism of procedural voyeurism; as for the why’s, he writes:
Procedural voyeurism grants us an illusion of control over realities that we secretly fear we have no power over — sometimes correctly, as with the BP oil spill, whose coverage has been rich in process and until recently short on meaningful developments. The Romanian religious philosopher Mircea Eliade wrote about mesmerizing narratives that he called origin myths. He said they helped people feel a sense of authority over an otherwise chaotic world. Today our origin myths are more mundane, but we still see the deal as a primordial act. We might do well to call these decadent versions “LeBron Announcements” or “Conan-Leno Matches”: rituals of symbolic participation in games-within-games that are way above our heads and occur within heavily guarded inner circles that we can peek into but never truly penetrate.

I think that’s very, very astute. The internet has opened up an entire world of information to the masses: everyone can be an expert when anything you want to know is just a mouse-click (or tap on the iPhone or Blackberry) away. What hasn’t changed is that our institutions are still an insider’s game. This is true from Wall Street to Washington D.C. to Hollywood, and everything in between.

Even as we get more educated about how our world works, we are ever more excluded from influencing that world. The internet has been a great democratizer but we’re still in the early stages of the process, and the established institutions aren’t giving up the keys to the kingdom any time soon. Just as the internet enables us plebes to raise money for the causes and candidates of our choosing, no longer relying on established organizations like political parties, along comes the Supreme Court to say let's give corporations unlimited spending power.

Here’s another example: Today I voted. I pushed the squares on the touch screen, reviewed my selections, and hit “vote,” wherein everything went into a void. I have no way of knowing whether my vote will be counted, or counted accurately. As far as I know it’s all been so much Kabuki Theater to keep the illusion of Democracy intact. Who knows.

But I’m not rioting in the streets about it ... yet. Because I have a flood of information at my fingertips which has basically opened the doors of the smoke-filled room. I have symbolically penetrated the halls of power, even as I'm ever further excluded from it.

I dunno, I'm kind of thinking out loud here. I do think Kirn is onto something. I wonder if we'll ever reach a point where we're satiated with the procedural conversation and demand more actual influence over our world?

Fiscal Phonies Revealed

Just repeating what I said yesterday, but when House "Blue Dog" Dems and Republicans approve billions for war on the Chinese credit card, you know damn well that talk about the budget deficit is just propaganda and empty rhetoric:
In the House vote, 148 Democrats and 160 Republicans backed the war spending, but 102 Democrats joined 12 Republicans in opposing the measure. Last year, 32 Democrats opposed a similar midyear spending bill. Among those voting against the bill on Tuesday was Representative David R. Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat and the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the panel responsible for the measure.

Some of the Democratic opposition stemmed from the decision by party leaders to strip from the bill money that had been included in the original House version to help address the weak economy at home, including funds to help preserve teachers’ jobs. But some of those voting against it said they were influenced by the leaked documents, which highlight the American military’s struggles in Afghanistan and support claims that elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service were helping the Taliban.

And count me among the few voices saying it was right to strip funds for teachers and other projects from this bill. Dammit, liberals, are you really trying to tell me that you think it's okay to hold education and our economic recovery hostage to war spending? Are you kidding me? The argument that we need to fund the war so we can fund teacher pay is the worst sort of immoral bullshit policy debate anyone ever cooked up. No, no, no. You do not "sweeten" war spending. That is appalling.

Here's how they voted. Big shocker that phony local fiscal hawks like Zach Wamp, Marsha Blackburn, Jim Cooper and the rest voted Yes to spend $59 billion on wars while our schools crumble, our infrastructure is in disarray, unemployment remains widespread, state budgets are strapped, etc. etc. I mean, these are the same frauds who said we couldn't afford an extension of unemployment benefits during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? Give me a break. You guys are worse than frauds: you're heartless and immoral. You'll pay for war but not food or education? You've lost any credibility where issues like the supposed "deficit crisis" are concerned. You just approved $59 billion that wasn't "budget neutral" to be pissed away in a sandhole on the other side of the world. And for what?

Am I the only one remembering when the healthcare bill had to be "budget neutral"? Why do wars never have to be "budget netural"? We're knocking on the door of 10 years in Afghanistan, people. A decade of war, costing us how many billions of dollars? Is it a trillion? This is, indeed, how empires fall. Study your history, people.

Of Tennessee's delegation, only Memphis Democrat Steve Cohen and Knoxville Republican John Duncan Jr. voted no on this farce. The rest of you guys, every last one of you, are frauds.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some Day Maybe But Not Now

Any Tea Bagger who tells you they are concerned about the deficit is a liar. None of those assholes are rallying in the streets about this.

When I was a kid we used to see this quote on posters all the time:

"It'll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers."

Sad that I'm nearly 50 years and not a damn thing has changed.

(h/t, Atrios)

Show Us The Money

While news that BP CEO Tony Hayward will be replaced by Mississippi native Bob Dudley broke yesterday, a far more important piece of news has gone largely ignored.

Which is: apparently BP has failed to deposit any money into the promised escrow account:
BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. -- Ken Feinberg said today he hasn't been able to start writing claims checks because BP PLC has not yet deposited any money into the $20 billion escrow fund it promised to create.

Feinberg, who was appointed last month to administer individual and business claims stemming from the oil spill, held an early morning town hall meeting in Bayou La Batre on Saturday before meeting with the Press-Register editorial board in downtown Mobile.


Feinberg said he doesn't have the authority to force BP to deposit the money, and that he can't start making payments until it does.

"I don't want the checks to bounce," he said.

He said he has been told that the money would be available in the next week or so.

Ah yes, “the check is in the mail.”

I don’t know what the hold-up is, what parts of “the company's agreement with the White House” still need to be “finalized.” I do know that people down in the Gulf have been promised that BP will “make it right,” and the White House has backed that pledge. The vehicle for this is the $20 billion compensation fund. If this doesn’t happen, the repercussions will be devastating.

Consider this:

We talked to several people afterwards, and with typical Southern courtesy they said they were "glad to see" Feinberg, and welcomed him to Alabama.

But most also said "talk is cheap," and "we heard all that from BP, too," just before they started denying claims and reducing compensation.

People aren't stupid. They know when they're being sold a bill of goods. The last thing anyone needs is for the White House to be a carbon copy of BP where dealing with the Gulf Coast is concerned.

Unfortunately, the White House's credibility is now tied to BP's. But let’s remember, when it comes to BP and the U.S. government, it’s a symbiotic relationship.

I don't have a good feeling about this.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Silly Campaign Promises

Dear Mike McWherter:

Please don’t send me an e-mail with the subject line “Focusing on Issues that Matter” and then as your first order of business declare you will
“...veto any attempts to impose a state income tax...”

I do not give a rat’s ass about a state income tax. I think we all know that attempts to pass a state income tax in Tennessee are dead -- indeed, it’s been a dead issue ever since a Republican governor tried to pass one over 10 years ago. Anyone with a brain knows that supporting a state income tax is political suicide, especially in this political climate.

Let me be clear: saying you are against a state income tax in Tennessee is tantamount to saying puppies are cute and you won’t ban kittens. For crying out loud, it’s bad enough that you feel you need to pander to conservative voters, but you’re not even very good at it.

I think we all can agree that the number one issue that matters to Tennesseeans is jobs. I’d like to know what you plan to do about that. Frankly I don’t see how a tax cut for small businesses will be sufficient to bring our 10% state unemployment down. On top of which, our state budget is cut to the bone as it is.

So, is that all you’ve got?

The Horror & The Stupidity

Hey, conservatives:

Just because they didn't use a rope, that doesn't mean it wasn't a lynching.

I can't believe we have to explain this to you people.

Got Price Controls?

Earlier this month I posted about how a drunken British oil futures broker, apparently confusing very real trades with a video game, single-handedly drove up the global price of oil in a weekend booze-fueled binge of laptop trades.

Yesterday’s New York Times has a story about hedge fund manager Anthony Ward cornering the market on cocoa:
Now, traders here are buzzing that Mr. Ward has placed an audacious $1 billion bet in the London market for cocoa futures. This month, he bought 241,100 metric tons of beans, they say.

His play has some people up in arms. While some see it as a simple bet that cocoa prices will rise on falling supply, others say Mr. Ward has created a shortage of cocoa simply to drive up the price himself.

Last month Harper’s did an excellent, in-depth story on how Goldman-Sachs’ Commodity Index created the global food riots of 2008 (for more on how international banks manipulate the price of food, see the World Development Movement.)

You know, didn’t all of this used to be illegal? Doesn’t it make anyone nervous that one trader--drunk or sober--can manipulate the global price of a commodity like wheat, cocoa, or oil? How is this a good thing?

Remember how after 9/11 we were all put on high alert over the security of our local water supplies? We were told all sorts of scary stories about how terrorists could poison the nation’s milk supply with botulism or slip a vial of something into the city reservoir. Dairy farmers were put on high alert and cities closed public roads and trails around reservoirs.

But I ask you: why would a terrorist need to do that? All they have to do is get one commodities trader drunk and get him to play roulette with these index funds. These traders can wreak havoc on the global price of food, causing price-created food shortages. Banks profit off of the starving, just because they can; how is this not terrorism?

And why isn’t this illegal? What are all these assholes at the G20, G8 G-whizz summits doing? Carving up the goodies and handing them out to their buddies? The ability of banks like Goldman Sachs to manipulate global food prices presents a far bigger danger to our security than someone slipping a vial of botulism toxin into milk.

Why aren’t we doing something about it?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Home Again

We are back from our travels and came home to find our new kittens fat, healthy and happy! Our friends who took care of the animals and house while we were gone did an excellent job. Kittens have recovered from their surgeries and their personalities are really coming out. Etta (short for Julietta), right, is feisty and hisses at everyone (even me). The other cats give her that raised-eyebrow "you've gotta be kidding me" look. Ella (sorta short for Little Sister), left, is the mellow kitten, snuggling with everyone and just being your basic love bundle.

And let me take a moment here to express how profoundly the weather in Nashville sucks.

That is all.

The Ultimate IOKIYAR

Amazingly, right-wing Pajamas Media contributor Orit Sklar found someone dressed in a ridiculous costume at Netroots Nation:

And the offending picture:

You know, when the Tea Party began its amazing transformation from the far right fringe of racists and tinfoil hat conspiracy wackos we saw in Nashville last winter to the "non-partisan populist" movement it's desperately trying to present itself as today, I suspected the day would come when they'd claim no one ever showed up at a Tea Party rally dressed in funny clothes.

Seriously. Just you wait. Because when your entire movement is rooted in anger at your cultural irrelevance, nothing stings worse than the notion that the rest of the country is laughing at you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Saddest Story I Ever Read

Lions Gate Bridge, Vancouver, B.C.

The saddest story I ever read is just 29 words long:
Tasha Lyn, Still want my daughter, miss you evrey [sic] day I’m alive

healing from the cancer ops not on dope crack or meth never was!

Prostrate [sic] cancer since 1996

Funny how we writers can fill a page with hundreds of words, and fill a book’s bindings with hundreds of pages, yet these 29 words tell us so much.

And there is so much left out. This graffiti was scrawled on a sign at Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, B.C. A message that sad on the entrance to a bridge over the icy waters of English Bay and Burrard Inlet makes me wonder: how did the story end?

Will “Liberal” Media Cover Netroots Nation?

Dear Corporate Media:

Remember how you guys showed up in Nashville last February for the National Tea Party Convention at a rate of one reporter for every three Tea Partiers? For an event that drew 600 people? Yeah that was so fun!

And remember how we got daily reports from the event, nightly news coverage on cable and the major networks, and Sunday morning bobblehead panels devoted to the event? Again, all for an event that drew 600 people?

Yeah, we haven’t forgotten the barrage of news coverage for this gathering of wackos in tri-corner hats whose only message seemed to be they hated the President. So I’m sure you’re all going to descend on Las Vegas this week for Netroots Nation, right? Right?

I mean, a lot of progressives are really angry at the President right now, too. Not for being a socialist, of course, but for being not socialist enough. So it might be really fun for you guys. Nancy Pelosi will be there, and you might get to watch her booed by some DFH lefties. I smell an Emmy!

Plus, there are going to be panels on climate change, healthcare reform, social networking, gay marriage, immigration, the culture wars ... you know, all the stuff you guys devote so many gallons of ink and hours and hours of airtime to. So this should be a no-brainer. Especially since the event draws around 2,000 progressives.

So, Corporate Media, If you cover this event to the same degree you covered the National Tea Party Convention, I would expect over 650 reporters to be registered. Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Still, I understand CNN's Tarryl Clark is there. [Pardon the brain fart: Tarryl Clark is a candidate for congress, not affiliated with CNN. More coffee please.] Of course all the lefty blogs and cable folks are there. But will we get the national narrative of a "popular progressive uprising"? Don't be silly.

I wonder how many media folks were planning to attend Judson Phillips’ July Tea Party Convention in Las Vegas, now cancelled because of the heat (not lack of interest, they swear):
Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, said the group will try to reschedule the convention in October. He said many activists were interested in attending, but many also said they would not be able to come in July, when Las Vegas is likely to be baking in 100-degree-plus weather. (On Tuesday, Vegas was expected to hit a high of 106 degrees. But remember, it's a dry heat!)

Phillips would not say how many people signed up to attend the convention, to which he'd hoped to attract as many as 2,000 participants. He said it would be inaccurate to say that the convention was being canceled due to lack of interest. Among the speakers who had been booked for the event were Andrew Breitbart, Lou Dobbs, Sharron Angle, Laura Ingraham and Tom Tancredo.

Weenies. What kind of patriot wilts in a little heat? Think it didn’t get hot back in 1776?

I don’t for the life of me understand why the media is infatuated with the Tea Party but ignores liberals. If it’s an attempt to appear “not liberal,” it’s not going to work: last week I saw a car with a bumper sticker that read, “I Don’t Believe The Liberal Media.” You will never convince these folks otherwise and good riddance. One would hope in the wake of the media's latest Andrew Breitbart fail that they'd finally learn a lesson, but let's be real: all Andrew Bretibart's partisan ratfucking will do is get him a slot as a CNN "special correspondent."

Here's what I love: the media's endless musing over "what the Tea Party means" and "who the Tea Party is." C'mon. I'll tell you who the Tea Party is. It's the same 25% who gave George W. Bush high approval ratings at the end of his failed presidency, the conservative holdouts who believe climate change is fake, abstinence-only education works, evolution is a con, Saddam's WMDs were real, "trickle down" is a legitimate economic theory, and the only thing separating America from the Soviet Union is your insurance company's right to deny you benefits because of your pre-existing condition. It's the same far-right fringe we've always had, and attempts to dress up this pig in silk pajamas is the perfect demonstration of how thoroughly broken our national news media is.

C'mon, Corporate Media. Quit ignoring liberal voices. We're not going away.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Traveling Again

We left this beautiful place ....

... and are now here.

We left San Juan Island today in six-seater prop plane piloted by a kid old enough to be my grandson. For reals. Oy.

Island Scenics

We leave this afternoon but I couldn't resist sharing a couple of images. One of my most favorite things to do when I'm in a new place is to take a brisk walk and get the lay of the land. You can do this when you're in a place where you don't sweat as soon as you walk out the door (dig dig!). The top picture is a view from our walk yesterday; there is a restaurant right next to where I took this picture, and we ate there for dinner last night, watching the ferries come and go as we sipped our wine.

Below is from my walk this morning. I hoofed it out of town into the countryside.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fool You Once

Erick Erickson agrees:
Why haven't we learned not to trust these people?

Can we all now agree that Andrew Breitbart completely lacks any credibility whatsoever?
Initially, she said, "I didn't give him the full force of what I could do" and only gave him enough help to keep his case progressing. Eventually, she said, his situation "opened my eyes" that whites were struggling just like blacks, and helping farmers wasn't so much about race but was "about the poor versus those who have."

Sherrod said Tuesday the incomplete video appears to intentionally twist her message. She says she became close friends with the farmer and helped him for two years.

In the full 43-minute video of her speech released by the NAACP Tuesday evening, Sherrod tells the story of her father's death in 1965, saying he was killed by white men who were never charged. She says she made a commitment to stay in the South the night of her father's death, despite the dreams she had always had of leaving her rural town.

"When I made that commitment I was making that commitment to black people and to black people only," she said. "But you know God will show you things and he'll put things in your path so that you realize that the struggle is really about poor people."

Sherrod said in the speech that working with Spooner, who she does not name, changed her entire outlook.

"She's always been nice and polite and considerate. She was just a good person," Eloise Spooner said. "She did everything she could trying to help."

Thank you. Even right-wingers are distancing themselves from the Assclown of Asshattery.

And the NAACP has retracted its initial statement and issued a new one:

With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias.

Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans.   

The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech.  They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm. 

Moreover, this incident and the lesson it prompted occurred more than 20 years before she went to work for USDA.

Finally, she was sharing this account as part of a story of transformation and redemption. In the full video, Ms.Sherrod says she realized that the dislocation of farmers is about “haves and have nots.”  

"It’s not just about black people, it’s about poor people," says Sherrod in the speech. “We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn’t matter.”

This is a teachable moment, for activists and for journalists.

“Teachable moment,” indeed. How many "teachable moments" do we need? I’m sorry, but after the whole ACORN thing was revealed to be a sham, and then the whole trying-to-bug Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office thing, I just have to ask: why would anyone take Breitbart seriously? He has established that he has a political agenda.

Duh, people. He thinks you’re stupid. And unless this wrong is righted, he’s been proved correct. Because you don’t ask someone to resign when it’s been established that they were set up. You give them their job back and beg for forgiveness. The assholes here are Tom Vilsack and Andrew Breitbart: two different sides of the same coin.

I mean for crying out loud, they aren't "teachable moments" unless someone finally learns a fucking lesson.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hippie Heaven

I'm in Hippie Heaven, and yes, the weather is absolutely incredible. I realize this isn't the best photo, it was just a quickie I took before lunch. But trust me when I say I feel so sorry for you poor folks in that sweat lodge known as Tennessee right now. I already told Mr. Beale I hoped he packed a crowbar because he was going to need it to get me back to Nashville.

Actually, packing a crowbar wouldn't have done much good as American Airlines lost his bag. I keep saying American Airlines sucks and yet we still fly this airline, which is ridiculous. So really we have no one to blame but ourselves. Anyway, his bag finally showed up a day and a half late, just in time for us to leave Victoria, B.C. and move on to our next destination.

[ADDING .... Caught a "travel expert" on one of the morning news shows advising people to FedEx their luggage four days before departure. And I ask you: who is this solution practical for, save Federal Express? I'm sorry, I have two of some things but I don't have two of everything. I don't have two jackets and two pairs of running shoes and two sets of my favorite jeans and also if your travels involve more than one destination -- we are making three stops this week -- then really you haven't saved yourself much. On top of which, it's not like FedEx never lost a package. Just my luck our bags would end up on that island with Tom Hanks in "Cast Away." And he'd be the dufus who didn't open that package and find everything he needed for a 10 year exile in the Pacific. No, I have an idea: how about instead of making people pack and ship their bags a week ahead of time, how about you people in the airline business figure out how to not lose our fucking bags, mm'kay? How about that?]

Anyway, it's absolutely incredible where we are, and as usual I'm saying we need to move here. I'm even looking at real estate info. But no fear, I do this all the time. My threats are empty.

Four days before leaving on vacation we were adopted by an adorable little white and gray kitten. She'd been hanging around the bushes outside our house and I finally was able to lure her in with a plate of food. She was seriously malnourished and also very, very friendly: a trip to the vet confirmed that she was in heat. Ruh-roh. So four days before we left for our trip I had to schedule her to be neutered spayed so that we didn't have even more adorable white and gray kittens on our doorstep in a few months.

Anyway, pre-surgery we were keeping her separate from the other animals on our screened porch when Mr. Beale looks up and says, "Oh my god, there's another one." Sure enough, our little kitty whom we'd named Etta has a sister. Smaller, scrawnier, and way more active. So now we had twice the fun, and twice the vet bills. Here they are, and if they look a little woozy it's because this picture was taken after they'd both been neutered spayed :

We were prepared to adopt Etta but as many of you know, we have a lot of cats and dogs. Adding a second kitten is not in the cards. If anyone would like to adopt the kitty we are calling Little Sister, please give me a shout-out. She's had her shots, is negative for feline leukemia, and has been neutered spayed. She's also cute as the dickens.

In the meantime, we have two very wonderful and undertanding friends housesitting for us while we embark on our travels, taking care of the dogs and cats and making sure Etta and Little Sister assimilate into the family.

And that's the latest from .... where are we again?

Just A Reminder

Oil is a dirty, unsafe business:
Over 500 fishing boats join Dalian oil spill cleanup operations after pipeline explosion

DALIAN, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Over 500 fishing boats Monday joined a massive oil spill clean-up operation underway off the coast of northeastern China's Dalian City, three days after pipelines exploded near the city's oil reserve base, one of China's largest.

A dark-brown oil slick has stretched over at least 183 square kilometers of ocean near blast-hit Xingang port, with 50 square kilometers severely polluted.

The over 500 fishing boats have been loaded with oil absorbers and dispersants to help in the clean-up south of Dalian's Golden Pebble Beach and east of Bangchui Island.

We never did get that serious debate on our oil dependency and the harm it does to the environment. Instead we got ridiculous politicians like Haley Barbour, drunk on oil money, claiming offshore oil drilling was safe (it's not).

I'd rather we accept the very obvious risks as fact and move forward with the debate from there. If people think the risks are worth continuing our dependency on dead dinosaurs, then explain why. But I suspect we never have these hard conversations because Certain Important People won't like what most people believe in this country. Some facts are a little too inconvenient. So we never have the conversation, we just talk about the unimportant stuff. Nothing to see here, move along.

It's the dirty shame of our current political stalemate that nothing important is every seriously discussed so nothing substantial can ever be done about it. And the money keeps flowing. Huzzah.

Years from now we will look back on this time with astonishment.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How To Keep City Parks Clean

Here's one way: no to dogs, yes to needle drops:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

En Route

The view from my window:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Things I Can’t Do Well

Mr. Beale and I are getting ready to go out of town for some vay-kay. Can’t wait to post pics from our trip and see if you guys can figure out where we are!

Needless to say, posting will be light over the next few days (though I truly don’t know how to quit you, so don’t hold me to that).

In the meantime, if you know the secret to any of these things, please let me know:

• Cook brown rice: it’s freaking rice for crying out loud! And I’m a pretty good cook! But for some reason my brown rice always comes out either too wet or too dry or not cooked enough or overcooked or just plain yuck.

My Pitiful Cilantro

• Grow cilantro: This is my second attempt at growing cilantro. It goes like gangbusters for the first month or two and then wilts. Last time I planted it in the ground in a shadier area. This time it's in a pot in the sun. Same results.

Maybe it’s too hot here in Tennessee? I find that hard to believe, since cilantro is a staple of Asian, Indian and Mexican dishes. But for whatever reason I can’t grow it.

• Grow dill: see, Grow Cilantro. I think snails got it last time.

My Rockin' Patchouli

• Figure out what to do with patchouli: I’m growing patchouli in my garden, mostly because I saw it at the Herb Society sale back in the spring and thought it was funny. What Dirty Fucking Hippy doesn’t grow patchouli when presented the opportunity? It’s doing pretty well, the leaves have that distinctive patchouli stink, but I don’t know what the hell to do with it. Clip the leaves and dry it for potpourri? (We are not potpourri people.) Put some leaves in oil? Eat it? Anyone? Bueller?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What If The Tea Party Was Black?

... holding guns, like the Black Panther party was back? It’s the question we’ve all been wondering.

Via Oliver Willis:

One might also ask, what if the Tea Party were Hispanic, like those huge rallies back in 2006? Ah yes, I remember the classic right wing response.

It's The Refineries, Stupid

I realize it’s probably getting boring for people, but here’s another reminder that right wingers don’t know what they’re talking about: Oil demand has been steadily decreasing; demand peaked a few years ago and we're on the downward side of the slope. As a result, oil refineries are being shut down:
July 14 (Reuters) - U.S. oil refining capacity fell for the first time since 2003 as the weak economy reduced demand for gasoline, diesel fuel and other petroleum products, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

There were 148 refineries at the beginning of this year with an operating capacity of almost 17.6 million barrels per day, down 87,760 bpd from last year, the Energy Department's analytical arm said. It the was the first decline in total U.S. refining capacity since 2003.

The decline in capacity was due mostly to the shutdown of two refineries, Sunoco's (SUN.N) 145,000 bpd Eagle Point refinery in Westville, New Jersey and Valero's (VLO.N) 182,200 bpd Delaware City, Delaware refinery.

Those two shut refineries were offset, in part, by the 180,000 bpd expansion of Marathon's (MRO.N) Garyville, Louisiana refinery, the agency said.

Going forward, the EIA expects continued excess refining capacity due to higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards and congressional mandates for the U.S to use more renewable fuels that "will limit the potential for growth in petroleum demand."

So just to recap: We are using less gasoline, in part because of the economy, in part because people are driving more efficient vehicles, and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time in the future. This is a good thing.

It also means the refineries are cutting back on their production and idiots like Jeff Hartline, who claim we need to build more refineries in this country, need to shut their yaps (and just as an aside, would someone for once please ask these people just where these refineries are supposed to be built? You think TN-5 wants an oil refinery in their back yard? Really? Unless you want to build the refinery in the district your’re running for, zip it.).

I’ve written about the refinery issue before, notably here and here.

We don’t need new oil refineries; we aren’t using the ones we’ve got. What we need is a national energy policy that further moves us away from dirty energy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blogger FUBAR'd

Please be patient ... something is weird with Google/Blogspot today, every time I try to approve comments or do anything on the blog I get an error message. Heard YouTube is messed up too.

Fuckin' Brilliant

Federal appeals court strikes down FCC’s ridiculous rules on cussing. And about damn time.

You know, we have become astonishingly prudish over the past few decades. I don’t get it. Anyone who spends any time at all reading old magazines, watching old movies or listening to music from 30 years ago is confronted with evidence of what was permissible in the 70s and 80s, and the difference is astonishing.

Have any of you ever really paid attention to the lyrics to “Afternoon Delight”? This was a number one hit in 1976, for crying out loud! By a pop group with the words “vocal band” in its name, no less! I hadn't paid much attention to it until I was listening to the 70s station on XM one day and heard the lyric, "...and the thought of rubbing you getting so exciting." Oh, my. Meanwhile, today they bleep out the word “shit” in the line "funky shit going down in the city" from Steve Miller's 1977 hit “Jet Airliner.” Weird. Context, people. Context.

Words like “damn,” “shit” and even “fuck” were regularly reprinted in the pages of Rolling Stone; today the publication must use a discrete “f**k”. When did this happen? It’s silly.

One piece of conventional wisdom holds that the culture has become more permissive over the years. That's true in some respects, but not universally so. We’re not in general as easily shocked as we once were; nothing surprises us. But our institutions have become far more timid. I blame the ruckus over Titty-Gate, which seems to have chilled broadcasters. I find this bizarre, considering the violence on prime time television.

Of course, it’s all just a reflection of the corporatization of our media, which tends to play it safe and value image and profits, whereas the arts is about pushing boundaries and challenging authority. So it's an awkward dance between the two, always has been.

Then again, the suit was filed by Fox Television, after it was fined by the FCC over Bono’s “fucking brilliant” exclamation. This particular case was an example of government overreach at the behest of the scolds at the Parents Television Council. Heh. What was I just saying about you folks having lost the culture wars?

So score another win for progress in the culture wars. People talk in expletives, and it’s ridiculous to argue that when Bono says it’s “really fucking brilliant” to win a Golden Globe that anyone would claim he’s talking about actual sexual intercourse. Just like when one hears the name “Dick Armey” they aren’t necessarily thinking of a platoon of a naked male soldiers.

I never understood some folks’ obsession with sex and their disconnect from violence. Years ago I was at Blockbuster and overheard a mom ask the clerk if the movie “Open Range” was “okay for young kids.” I had seen the film and knew it was extremely violent, so when the clerk hesitated I understood why. But all the mom wanted to know is if there was graphic sex in the movie. “Well, no...,” the clerk said, “but it’s really bloody.” “Oh, I don’t care about that,” the woman said.

Unbelievable. And we wonder why we’re fucked up as a country.

Personally I find images of graphic violence more psychically wounding to young minds than images of sex or profanity. Clearly, other people are okay with violence but not okay with the other stuff. I’m going to have to spend some time thinking about what that says about me and what that says about everyone else.

But in the meantime, I raise my glass in a “fuck yeah” to the federal appeals court. And I raise my middle finger to Brent Bozell and the Parents Television Council. Lost another one, suckaz.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We Live In Strange Times

Here’s a very strange scenario. I caught an interview with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, on the radio yesterday. It appears that there has never been a time in U.S. history when the unemployment rate has exceeded 7% and the U.S. Congress has failed to pass an extension of unemployment benefits. Never.

We are now in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with unemployment still near 10%. Amazingly, it appears our U.S. Senate may do what it has never done: fail to pass an extension of unemployment benefits. Of course, Republicans are filibustering the bill and of course Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, whose state has an enviable unemployment rate of 4.5%, has joined it.

This is very odd. Why would the Senate do this? Nebraska’s modest unemployment rate notwithstanding, there are unemployed people all over the country: red states, blue states -- even that 4.5% in Nebraska. With an election a few months down the road, why would you want to look like you aren’t responsive to the people in your state who are out of work? Why would you want to keep these people from having money to spend, when the economy depends on people spending money?

I’ve heard the argument that Republicans want the economy to keep sucking so they can blame the Democrats and the Obama Administration. The worse things are for Americans, the better Republicans look; at least, so goes the argument. And I realize not everyone pays attention to this stuff. But if you’re out of work you’re surely paying attention and if your unemployment benefits have run out, you surely know who is trying to hammer out an extension and who is blocking it.

For years no matter what your party affiliation it was generally deemed a good idea to at least put up the pretense of caring about the people in your district and state. You wanted to look like you “felt their pain,” that you understood where people were hurting and you were there to help. This is why every time unemployment rose above 7% Congress was quick to pass an extension of unemployment benefits.

These days we have a disconnect. For some reason, Congress doesn’t feel like there is a penalty to be paid for their inaction. Even if it were true that Republicans could mine the misery of the unemployed into electoral gold in November, what makes them think they won’t suffer some of the same blowback? If it’s true that politicians are facing an “anti-incumbent” backlash, and with Tea Partiers trying to oust less pure conservatives from the ranks of the Republican Party, wouldn’t you want to look like you are concerned about people in your state who are out of work?

I don’t get it. But hey, maybe someone can explain it to me. And I’m not the only one asking, too. Yesterday, Bob Herbert wrote:
What’s needed is the same sense of urgency about helping struggling families and putting people back to work as the Bush and Obama crowds showed when the banks were about to go bust. That sense of urgency is always missing when it’s ordinary people who are in trouble.


With our help, the banks and Wall Street have done fine. Better than they had any right to expect. It’s the ordinary folks outside the casino, in the real world, who are still in desperate need of help. But in a society of, by and for the rich, that help will be a long time coming.

I wonder if it’s as simple as that? This is the plutocracy argument, that a government of and by the wealthy is also only for the wealthy. Historically, times such as these are followed by populist surges and reforms. I’m just wondering if we’re there yet? The Tea Party, for all the media attention, seems bent only on reforming the Republican Party, and not in a good way: these far-right candidates support policies that further establish the plutocracy, not dismantle it.

True populism, it seems, is dead. Where are the "ordinary people"? The ones Washington has been giving the middle finger to for the past few months? Clearly there is some feeling that the "ordinary Americans" hurting right now won't lash out in some way, either through civil unrest or at the voting booth. Washington seems to think that it can ignore the needs of ordinary Americans for some reason, and I really don't get it.

It defies logic.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Culture, Politics & Faith

Whenever I blog about religion and mention that not all Christians are intolerant right wing Republicans who bash gays and oppress women, inevitably a few folks come forward to sniff, “well I sure wish these liberal Christians would speak up, then.” The implication being: liberal Christians aren’t working very hard thus their message is not seen or heard.

That always pisses me off enormously because I happen to know some very amazing Christians who are powerful social justice activists. These folks are working very hard and making tremendous sacrifices for the cause of justice. People like my friend Rev. Stacy Rector, former Associate Pastor at Second Presbyterian Church here in Nashville, and now executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. I think of another Nashvillian, Don Beisswenger, retired Vanderbilt Divinity School professor who went to Federal prison for six months for his non-violent protest of the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia. I think of Nashvillian Father Charles Strobel, who founded Room In The Inn. It’s thanks to him that hundreds of Nashville’s homeless have food, shelter and access to other services every winter (and you don’t get more Nashville than Father Strobel: his brother Jerry was manager of the Grand Ole Opry for 30 years).

I’m sorry that you don’t know these people. They are a tremendous gift to Nashville and our city is lucky to have them.

On the national level, I’m sorry you don’t know of Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and Call To Renewal. He recently took on Glenn Beck when Beck attacked churches which practice social justice. Have you not heard of Shane Claiborne in Philadelphia? Surely I don’t have to remind folks that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a preacher man and President Jimmy Carter referred to himself as “born again”?

Have you never read the writings of the late William Sloane Coffin? His collection The Heart Is A Little To The Left: Essays On Public Morality is the quintessential primer on liberal Christianity for those wanting an answer to the religious right’s claims of Scriptural authority. Reading that book changed my life.

It does annoy me that I know these folks and others do not. But then I remember that my secular friends can’t be expected to read the same things I do and visit the same websites I do. If you aren’t interested in religion, then Pastor John Shuck’s website probably has not crossed your radar. Shuck, a tireless warrior for GLBT equality, pastors a Presbyterian church in Elizabethton, Tennessee--not the stereotypical Southern religious leader. But there you have it. There’s more than one face to Christianity, even here in the mid-South.

My secular friends by necessity operate in the world our corporate media has created, and for much of the past 30 years that has meant Christian = Right Wing Republican. For the most part the media ignores liberal voices of faith in favor of the James Dobson/Pat Robertson/Ralph Reed model, in part because we do not fit the established narrative and in part because right wing Christians have built media empires like the “Christian Broadcasting Network” through which they disseminate their message. The Network of Spiritual Progressives is not on every CNN producer’s Rolodex.

During the Bush years it seemed that every news show included an interview with Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention or Focus on the Family’s James Dobson or CBN’s David Brody or any of the other mouthpieces of the religious right. And it occurred to me that this is because the religious right operates in the realm of politics, which is about power. The religious left for the most part does not do this. The religious left seems to operate in the realm of social change. This is an important distinction.

People on the religious left are quietly doing their thing, trying to end poverty and injustice and serve the homeless and end wars while the religious right is making a lot of noise for the cameras at events like "Justice Sunday." And I really had to stop and think about why that is, and if it’s a good thing or if it even matters.

Thinking about this led me to revisit this post I wrote back in January, “Your Modern Conservative Inferiority Complex.” In that piece I quoted a column by Julian Sanchez in which he writes:
The secret shame of the conservative base is that they’ve internalized the enemy’s secular cosmopolitan value set and status hierarchy—hence this obsession with the idea that somewhere, someone who went to Harvard might be snickering at them.

That resonated with me then, and it still rings true today. Looking at the incoherent message of the Tea Party and the conservative flip-flopping on things like the budget deficit, which didn’t matter during Bush’s spending spree but suddenly matters very much as President Obama tries to rebuild the economy, it’s clear that the right is short on ideas and long on anger, and this anger comes from the right’s cultural irrelevance. The right might score political wins but it is forever complaining that it is oppressed, that “liberal Hollywood” or the “liberal media” treats it unfairly, that everyone is out to get them. Why is that? It’s because for all its political muscle, the right is culturally insignificant. The culture wars are over, and the right lost. That is increasingly obvious to everyone, including, in fact, the religious right.

And this seems to connect to the religious left vs right issue. The religious right battled its cultural insignificance by providing its own alternative to the established culture: Christian music, movies, books and the like, sold at Christian bookstore chains. They have responded to the culture at large by removing themselves from it, at the same time it tried to exert more political muscle. This strikes me as odd and might explain why the right's political wins are hollow ones, why their political leaders like America's Vuvuzela Sarah Palin leave most of us scratching our heads. The religious right, like the political right, is worried about power. The political left is about power too, but the religious left is not. Victories for the religious left are not necessarily political ones, and therein lies the difference.

The religious right is vocal, but it's become increasingly impotent, because it chose to remove itself from those areas of the culture where lasting change is made, and instead devoted itself to empty grandstanding. We need only look at the Justice Sunday events, which were all about not letting Democrats filibuster Bush's judicial nominees. Today we have conservatives claiming it's perfectly okay to filibsuter Obama's judicial nominees, and if you Google "Justice Sunday" the second entry after Wikipedia's is the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee's spring human rights program. Despite all of the media hoopla, the religious right's "Justice Sunday" events are no more than a Wikipedia entry--a footnote to history.

So the next time someone tells me they “wish the religious left would step up,” I'm going to hit the pause button for a moment to think about what it means. I'm not sure I want a religious left worried about power. I'd rather they leave the empty grandstanding to a culturally impotent minority, and instead keep fighting the good fight to end poverty, war, social injustice, environmental destruction and the like. Because political victories are temporal. Political winds blow right and left, but social change is lasting. And so far the left seems to have that battle won.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

American Morans, Glenn Beck Edition

Via Attaturk:

(Original American Moran here; more American Morans here.)

Disobedient Stars

This cracked me up on a whole lot of levels:
Once Tim Childress thought he was being patriotic when he went to buy an American flag at his local Dollar Tree store in Dallas. But he soon discovered that his purchase was a cheap swindler of Old Glory that was adorned with a not-so authentic 61 stars.

Childress noticed the strange crooked pattern containing 11 extra stars when he returned home from the store, local television station WFAA-TV reported. The extra stars disobey the standard set by President Eisenhower that requires the American flag should consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton (referred to specifically as the “union”) bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars. The plastic flag was made in China and marketed by a Virginia company, the television station reported.

The whole thing is hilarious, from the stilted English to this guy’s sad face:

Dude That’s What You Get For Picking The Shiny One
I’m not familiar with “Today24News” but it appears to be an Indian web aggregate of U.S. news.

I dunno, the story itself is funny enough but the way this outlet covered it is hilarious. A couple years ago I had briefly flirted with those sites like where creative people bid on projects. I quickly saw that it was a racket, few of the jobs are any good, many aren't even legit, and nine times out of 10 your bid was wildly undercut by some guy in India. Well, this is what you get, people. If you're going to write for American audiences, try hiring native English speakers to do your copy. Just a suggestion.

Anyway, Mr. Beale and I picked up a flag for the house before Fourth of July. Happy to report it has just 50 very obedient stars.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Don’t Drunk Dial FreedomWorks

I friendly little Public Service Announcement from Socialists Aquarians who care:

Death Of Another Right Wing Myth


At least some Democrats are paying attention:
Tomorrow the newest Blue America endorsed candidate, Fred Johnson (D-MI) will be joining us for a live chat at Crooks and Liars. This morning he told me that the Times report is "typical of the mindset. When it was working class folks who were underwater on their mortgages it was all about 'duty' and 'keeping your word' and everyone was supposed to just suck it up and keep paying their mortgages for the good of society. Now it hits the wealthy and suddenly a house is just a bad investment that they can simply walk away from. How about they start pulling on their own bootstraps for a change, instead of preaching to the rest of us? Of course, many of these folks got where they are through the very types of financial gimmickry that put the economy in the mess it's in now, so I guess it just shows that you reap what you sow."

Yes that sounds about right.


Haven't had time to really delve into this one but it looks like we have another one:

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) – A government program to bail out banks at the height of the financial crisis has so far turned a profit, according to a report by investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.

The Capital Purchase Program, part of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, has generated an average return of 10 percent on the initial investment in 61 banks that have fully repaid the aid, said the report, issued on Wednesday.

"Its pretty clear that unless the economy just craters, the bank portion of TARP will be profitable," said Fred Cannon, bank analyst with Keefe, Bruyette and Woods.

About $137 billion, or two-thirds of the initial government investment, has been paid back, with $65 billion still to be repaid, the report said.

Death of yet another right wing meme?


Today’s New York Times front page brings us the death of yet another cherished right-wing meme:

Biggest Defaulters on Mortgages Are the Rich

Whaaa...? You mean .... not those shiftless, irresponsible brown people in the projects which the big, bad Community Reinvestment Act forced banks to throw money at?

Whether it is their residence, a second home or a house bought as an investment, the rich have stopped paying the mortgage at a rate that greatly exceeds the rest of the population.

More than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are seriously delinquent, according to data compiled for The New York Times by the real estate analytics firm CoreLogic.

By contrast, homeowners with less lavish housing are much more likely to keep writing checks to their lender. About one in 12 mortgages below the million-dollar mark is delinquent.

Though it is hard to prove, the CoreLogic data suggest that many of the well-to-do are purposely dumping their financially draining properties, just as they would any sour investment.

“The rich are different: they are more ruthless,” said Sam Khater, CoreLogic’s senior economist.

Well, that’s certainly nothing new.

I’ve been spending a lot of time debunking cherished right wing myths these days. There’s the “Obama has halted all offshore oil drilling” myth, which I’ve devoted several posts to debunking. Fat lot of good it’s done, as the oil industry’s false claims about lost jobs has worked on some bought and paid for judges. Still, let me repeat:

The administration’s order halted 33 exploratory drilling projects and suspended new permits, but did not affect more than 3,000 platforms already in production.

Thirty-three risky, ultra-deep wells operating in dangerous conditions. Such is the power of Big Oil that they've been able to spin this as a sad over lost jobs.

One of my favorites is the “Obama took more money from Big Oil than McCain did” myth, sometimes presented as “Democrats are now the party of Big Oil.” Sorry, FOX News fans, it’s not true:

Without getting into whether the administration’s response has been adequate, we can say that the oil and gas industry leans heavily Republican in its campaign contributions, and the 2008 presidential race was no exception. Republican candidate John McCain and his ticketmate Palin took in nearly three times the amount of money from the industry’s political action committees and employees as did Obama and running mate Joe Biden from industry employees: about $2.4 million compared with $890,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (The Obama presidential campaign did not accept any PAC money.) Obama, however, received about twice as much from British Petroleum’s executives as McCain did: $71,051 compared with $36,649. Neither received money from BP’s PAC.

So, personal donations from BP employees to the tune of $71,051 somehow trumps the millions the Republican tickets received from oil and gas industry PACs. Okie dokie.

Paul Krugman regularly debunks right wing economic memes. Here’s a good one, about fear of government hampering investment:

Truly, we live in a time of mass delusion — or maybe make that elite delusion — where there are lots of things that everyone believes, without a shred of evidence to back that belief. Here’s one more: everywhere you go, you encounter the claim that businesses aren’t investing, they’re just sitting on piles of cash, because they’re worried about future government policies.

There is, of course, a much more prosaic alternative: businesses aren’t investing because they have lots of excess capacity. Why build new structures and buy new machines when you’re not using the ones you already have?

There’s a neat little chart-y thingie with red and blue lines and it shows basically this “fear of socialism” meme is bunk.

Finally, we’re seeing serious fearmongering about the deficit, which most right wingers seem to have swallowed whole. This despite the fact that just a few years ago, Republicans were the ones telling us that “deficits don’t matter,” something which “Reagan proved.”

So what happened? Krugman has an idea, and it’s not what you think. It’s not a sudden stab of conscience or realization that they were wrong for Bush’s two terms. No, it’s far more heinous:

There’s only one way to read this: it’s not about the deficit — it’s about the deficit as an excuse to dismantle social programs.

So you people yammering about wanting the government’s hands off your Medicare and Social Security just may get your wish.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

McWon’t. McCan't Make Me

There’s been a good bit of talk in the Tennessee blogosphere about Mike McWherter, our Democratic candidate for governor. For my readers not in Tennessee, McWherter is the son of Ned Ray McWherter, who became governor right after I first moved to Nashville.

So now we have his son Mike running for the same office. He “won” the Democratic primary simply by hanging in there while all of the other candidates dropped out. He hasn’t said much, preferring to sit back while the Republican gubernatorial candidates suck up all the air in the room in advance of their August primary. But what he has said hasn’t pleased Tennessee’s liberals. Last fall he came out in support of a ban on gay adoptions, which sparked an uproar among lefties here. And now he has decided that the Obama Administration is wrong to sue Arizona over its immigration bill, citing a right wing argument about state’s rights (and see Aunt B for a classic response).

He’s even, for crying out loud, against selling wine in grocery stores. Not a big shock, since he’s Mr. Beer Distributor. But still, his exact words were:
“I support the current state law with respect to wine sales.”

Everyone knows our current state law in respect to wine sales is antediluvian, designed to protect distributors not serve consumers. Heck you can’t even buy a freaking corkscrew in a wine store in Tennessee. How stupid is that? You’re not open to a minor bit of tweaking? Anything?

So this is the Democrat we’ve been given for governor. Needless to say, a lot of us Democrats are none too pleased. He hasn’t told us much about himself but what he has told us offends some major Democratic Party constituencies (I’m thinking gays and immigrants, not wine drinkers, though we liberals have been known to love our elitist swill.) All we need now is to learn he supports SJR 127 and we’ve hit a home run.

Look, I realize it’s still early. Lots of things can change between now and November. But here’s my sense of things. Not only are the Dirty Fucking Hippies on the internets not jazzed by McWherter, but some far more moderate folks than myself aren’t psyched either, and they’re talking about voting Republican. They’d like to vote for a Democrat, they really would, because with all the culture war crap coming out of the state legislature last year they think the Tennessee Republican Party has jumped the shark. But with McWherter looking like a TNDP sacrificial lamb, they'd just as soon vote for Bill Haslam, assuming he gets the GOP nomination. I'm not sure I get the logic, I think it has something to do with sending the message that Tennessee is a moderate state, not the wingnut Mecca we've been portrayed as. Maybe it's an attempt to send a message to the Zach Wamps and Ron Ramseys of the TNGOP. I dunno, I don't get it, but there it is. People like to back a winner, not a loser. And McWherter has that unmistakeable stench of fail wafting around him right now which turns off that segment of voters who can go either way.

Left Wing Cracker writes:

Look, if Mr. Pilot Oil becomes Governor, he'll be the GOP version of Bredesen, except that it will be the wingnuts screaming for 8 years that Haslam has betrayed them, which he will, which could be real fun to watch.  I would still rather have a DEMOCRATIC governor, if Mike will just stay away from the the right-wing bullshit, this could still be salvageable.

Well, I don’t want to see Mr. Pilot Oil become governor either (that's Haslam, for my non-Tennessee readers). Can't imagine Mr. Pilot Oil will support things like the smart grid solar-powered EV charging stations TVA is planning across the state, for one thing. So maybe McWherter can step it up at this late date. I don’t know. A lot depends on who his opposition is going to be.

But I can tell you, I’m not excited about voting for someone who seems to think he can win by running as a Republican, without the big money the TNGOP brings in. I really don’t get that logic, either. And it occurs to me that maybe there is no logic. We bloggers tend to overthink these things sometimes, but perhaps it’s possible that Mike McWherter really does believe that having two gay parents is bad and maybe he really does think that Arizona was right to pass a racial profiling law targeting Hispanics. In which case, dude, I’m so never voting for you.

I’ve never been a believer in third party candidates, ever. It’s a nice idea but most of the time third party candidates, if they are at all competitive, end up being spoilers. That’s just the reality of our winner-take-all elections. Personally I’d love to have some kind of election reform, instant runoff voting or some such, which I imagine would appeal to people on the right, too. Maybe those Tea Party candidates might actually win a few elections for a change.

But we go into the voting booth with the elections we have, not the elections we wish we had. On top of which, Tennessee’s third party candidates can be a little nutty. Not voting in a race is simply not an option. So, what to do?

Election day is four months away but I’m thinking we’re going to have a Republican governor. I can’t be like my "mushy middle" friends who see the writing on the wall and prefer to back the winner, provided he's not batshit insane. I’d sooner cut off my arm than vote Republican, at least in this political climate. Good grief what a thought.

I’m thinking we lefties need to write in a candidate. We need to put our heads together and figure out who our ideal candidate would be, maybe Sen. Andy Berke or Rep. Steve Cohen -- and don’t worry guys, you won’t win, so no fear, carry on with your day jobs as usual. But just write that person’s name in on the ballot in November to -- and I shudder as I write this -- “send a mesage.”

I know it sounds lame, “send a message,” who am I kidding. I used to laugh at people who said they were casting a vote of conscience to "send a message." Oh how the worm has turned. But honestly, I don't see McWherter having a chance anyway and I'm pissed off. What is wrong with the Tennessee Democratic Party that it can't seem to find any Democrats to run for office? Hello?

I won’t not vote and I won’t vote Republican or Green. And if no one I like has a chance of winning anyway, then maybe this is the one time I really should cast a vote of conscience.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Liberal Media Fail, NPR Edition

Apparently no one told NPR’s Jeff Brady at All Things Considered that the offshore oil drilling moratorium affects just 33 rigs operating in deep water. Well they did -- but that didn’t stop him from spewing oil industry propaganda. On tonight’s All Things Considered, he buys the oil industry’s bullshit propaganda hook, line and sinker. First we have the headline:
Small Businesses May Sink Under Drilling Hiatus

That’s some lovely fearmongering. Then we have this:

There's a sign in front of Delmar Systems' headquarters in Broussard, La., that reads "Mr. Obama you should not eliminate our jobs."

If the current moratorium continues it could hit Delmar especially hard. The bulk of the company's business is anchoring and mooring semi-submersible drilling rigs. If there are no rigs drilling in the Gulf — there's nothing to anchor. So, it's a little surprising how much activity there is in Delmar's shop these days.

Yes, surprising, isn't it? Why is that? Maybe it’s because the moratorium, I repeat, affects just 33 rigs doing exploratory drilling in water deeper than 500 feet.


Then we have this:

"We figure that for every deepwater well, there's about 1,400 jobs affected," says Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association.

Currently 33 rigs are idled — by Luthi's calculation that's more than 45,000 jobs hanging in the balance. Luthi says the bulk of those workers are employed not by the big names in the oil industry, but by companies like Delmar.

Well by all means let’s take Luthi’s calculation as gospel, why don’t we. Your entire business is predicated on 33 rigs when there are thousands operating in the Gulf of Mexico? Sounds like a bad business plan to me.

Okay, so who is NOIA? According to their website:

NOIA’s mission is to secure reliable access and a fair regulatory and economic environment for the companies that develop the nation’s valuable offshore energy resources in an environmentally responsible manner. NOIA members include producers of oil and natural gas, renewable energy, contractors, marine engineers, service and supply companies and others with an interest in producing energy from the nation's outer continental shelf.

Oh, okay. In other words, an industry group. A trade group. Fair enough. Does NPR’s Jeff Brady tell you that? No he does not. They never do. Like how last month NPR’s April Fulton quoted “Justin Wilson” from the “Center For Consumer Freedom,” one of DC lobbyist Rick Berman’s many phony front groups. Wilson is a busy guy, holding lots of titles with lots of different fake “consumer groups,” all funded by Rick Berman. Did NPR’s April Fulton tell you that? No she did not.

Brady repeats the oil industry talking point thusly:

Some of the companies likely won’t survive a six-month moratorium. Luthi says that’ll lead to more consolidation in the industry and less competition — something he thinks will hurt his industry in the long run.

Oh I have a sad. Oh wait. No, I don’t. Maybe Jeff Brady needs to take this up with all of the tourism and fishing folks who really are suffering right now. Most of them didn’t just lose 33 points of business while thousands of others chug merrily along. These really are small businesses. Take it up with the mom-and-pop shrimp and oyster shacks which have been put out of business. Or New Orleans’ 134-year-old P&J Oyster House , shuttered by the BP oil spill.

Honestly, this is why I go nuts when people tell me that NPR is somehow the “liberal” equivalent of FOX News. No, it’s not. They don’t spew anything close to Democratic Party propaganda in the same way FOX spews Republican Party propaganda. Most of NPR’s programming is cultural, like “My Front Porch” and stories on obscure African drumming ensembles in Zimbabwe. There's no political slant in that. And when they do cover news, it’s poorly done.

This is why I don’t give you people money.

Hey Jeff Brady, maybe next time instead of just buying the oil industry's sad tale of woe, you might try checking with someone else, too. Just to give your piece a little, ya know, balance.

Adding .... And one more thing, because I didn't have time to research it earlier: I know we're all supposed to worship at the altar of the "small business" these days, but Delmar Systems apparently has 200 employees and annual revenues of $10.9 million. That might technically qualify as "small" by Small Business Administration standards, but it's pretty gigantic compared to some of the truly small operations now shut down by the oil spill. People like Vicki Guillot, owner of Debbie’s Cafe, or Tarek Tay, owner of Catch Seafood Pub, both shuttered by the spill. Or people like Cassie Cox, who rents beach umbrellas. Or any of the hundreds of tiny little shrimp shacks and oyster outfits catering to tourists in the summer.

Jeff Brady and the people at Delmar Systems need to talk to these folks and see if anyone is crying for them right now.

All Of Those Leaky Offshore Oil Wells

Well this is just peachy. AP has discovered the Gulf of Mexico is littered with over 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells, some dating back to the 1940s. None are being monitored to determine if they are leaking which, considering the age of some of these wells, they undoubtedly are.

I wrote about one such well three weeks ago. Taylor Energy’s Ocean Saratoga rig has been leaking 10 miles off the Louisiana coast since Hurricane Ivan hit back in 2004! (Remember when John McCain said hurricanes don’t affect offshore oil rigs? Yeah, me too.)

The Ocean Saratoga leak has been small -- an estimated 14 gallons a day -- but over six years it’s created a 10-mile-long oil slick captured on satellite. Worse, Taylor Energy says they’ve been working all this time to plug the leak. Okay, I’m going to call bullshit on that. Six years, people? You can’t stop a small oil leak after six years? If that’s the case, then things look pretty dim for BP's gusher. Excuse me for saying this, but I don't think the folks at Taylor Energy are trying very hard.

Anyway, I’m not surprised that the AP has uncovered leaky oil and gas wells going back decades. I’m not surprised that this is suddenly a news story. But I am surprised that people in the industry whose business it is to know about such things have basically kept quiet about it. I’m disturbed that the Interior Dept. has not conducted inspections, nor did it mandate that the oil industry do so. I'm tired of us ignoring things until a major disaster occurs, at which point we pass some legislation which inevitably is ignored.

I’m not surprised, but I’m very, very bothered by this:
Regulations for temporarily abandoned wells require oil companies to present plans to reuse or permanently plug such wells within a year, but the AP found that the rule is routinely circumvented, and that more than 1,000 wells have lingered in that unfinished condition for more than a decade. About three-quarters of temporarily abandoned wells have been left in that status for more than a year, and many since the 1950s and 1960s — even though sealing procedures for temporary abandonment are not as stringent as those for permanent closures.

As a forceful reminder of the potential harm, the well beneath BP's Deepwater Horizon rig was being sealed with cement for temporary abandonment when it blew April 20, leading to one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation's history. BP alone has abandoned about 600 wells in the Gulf, according to government data.

(Before we go any further, let me say the very first thing on the agenda for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation & Enforcement (formerly MMS) should be an immediate and thorough assessment of all abandoned oil wells.)

There seems to be a pattern here. After the Kingston coal sludge disaster, we learned about more leaky TVA coal sludge ponds. But what was done about it?

The EPA has spent the past year assessing coal ash containment facilities. Last month they announced two options for dealing with coal ash, one regulating it as “special waste” and one treating it as “non-hazardous” which means basically keeping things exactly the way they are:

The EPA itself admits that under its weaker option, many states will not adopt strict federal guidelines and that approximately 50% of the coal ash generated in the U.S. will continue to be managed under state programs that do not require basic disposal safeguards.

I wonder which option the coal industry and electrical utilities support?

It cannot be stated often enough or loudly enough: there is a cost to our inaction and denial. We simply can no longer afford to put the needs of the energy industry above the needs of everyone and everything else. We can no longer tolerate one industry riding roughshod over everyone and everything else.

We cannot allow Big Oil and King Coal to dictate the health of the water we drink and the air we breathe, to destroy an entire fishing industry for which we have no alternative. Oil and coal are important to our economy right now, that’s a fact of life. But they are transient. Guess what: we have alternatives to oil and coal. We don't have alternatives for clean air and water.

My message to Big Oil and Big Coal is a simple one: you’re selfish, greedy and irresponsible. Sorry guys, but you know it's true. You're important, but we do have alternatives. On top of which, your business depends on a finite resource. God stopped making dinosaurs a few million years ago. So if you want to keep playing on our playground, quit being bullies.

Learn to share.