Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The thing that strikes me most about this whole James O’Keefe deal is that, when you read the 13-page “Punking CNN” plan, you realize these folks live in some alternate reality in which they are resistance fighters in a war against the forces of evil. This is an “operation” which they’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to thinking out in great detail. This is very serious shit to these folks, and to those of us scratching our heads wondering WTF, I again go back to Julian Sanchez’s column from last December.

It really does all come back to losing the culture wars, to the fact that the right’s political ascendance has not been matched by cultural relevance. Somewhere, someone in Hollywood is making fun of them, always. A “Saturday Night Live” skit is being written that shames them. It’s why Stephen Colbert speaking before Congress really got to some of them, and it explains the persecution complex rampant throughout the “Punking CNN” plan: only a fantastic, evil liberal conspiracy can explain why they’re still oppressed -- despite, you know, not being oppressed.

It reminds me of 2004 and 2005, when Protest Warrior was trying to be a big deal. I’d go to their website and read about their planned “counterstrike” against “America’s fifth column” and think, “whaaa...??” Join the dang military, already.

But of course, they live in an alternate universe where they can be heroes in their own movie taking on the wicked establishment that holds them down. That’s fine if you’re in junior high but for anyone over the age of, say, 14, you have to really wonder if there isn’t some kind of sociopathy going on.

I mean, it's kinda sad, really.


John Cole observes:
And stop calling this a prank. What they wanted to do to this woman was much darker than a prank. If someone took one of my sisters onto a boat under false pretenses, filmed them without their knowledge, and deliberately sexually harassed them with the intent to intimidate or have sex with them or both, I’d probably be in jail right now.

Good point. And let me just reiterate, this should surprise no one, not the media, not people on either side of the (sane) political spectrum.

These are very serious, dark times to these Wingnut Warriors. They truly believe they are the last stand protecting America from the evil liberal usurpers. Born out of your modern conservative inferiority complex, itself a product of cultural irrelevance, we are looking at a generation of 20-something narcissistic Wingnut Warriors who have taken it upon themselves to write the script and cast the movie with themselves as our fair heroes. Anything goes when you’re the savior and the future of the nation rests on your shoulders.

I mean, it’s delusional, but what do you expect when you live in a world where truth is fungible and facts are what you think them to be?

Dude You HAVE No Seduction!

[UPDATE]: Folks are wondering if this in any way
violates his three-years probation related to the Landrieu case. Good question.

And Digby wonders if this wasn't a blackmail set-up. Another good question. Whole thing is very bizarre.


I’m sorry but the utter lack of self-awareness of this dweeb James O'Keefe -- he of the hyperinflated ego and underdeveloped maturity level -- is astounding. The guy who supposedly took down ACORN and got busted trying to tap Mary Landrieu’s Louisiana Senate office just scored another major fail trying to punk award-winning CNN investigative journalist Abbie Boudreau.

Read more about it here, and watch the video:

I love this part:
CNN obtained "a 13-page document titled 'CNN Caper,'" which elaborated on the prank in hilarious detail. For example, here is the equipment list:

Equipment needed

a. Video
1. hidden cams on the boat
2. tripod and overt recorder near the bed, an obvious sex tape machine

b. Props
1. condom jar
2. dildos
3. Music
a. Alicia keys
b. 80s romance songs, things that are typically James
c. avoid Marvin Gaye as too cliche

4. lube
5. ceiling mirror
6. posters and paintings of naked women
7. playboys and pornographic magazines
8. candles
9. Viagra and stamina pills
10. fuzzy handcuffs
11. blindfold

Hey what girl isn’t turned on by Alicia Keys and 80s romance songs? This is O'Keefe's idea of how to seduce a woman?


Seriously, who thought Abbie Boudreau would shuck her clothes on the floor at the mere sight of the studly James O’Keefe and a jar full of condoms!


How absolutely humiliating -- for O’Keefe. This is the right wing’s idea of journalism? Of a prank? Of a seduction? Grow the fuck up, dude.

Media Matters has more:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This Week In Greenwashing

One thing we’re always told to do is shop at farmer’s markets, which supposedly support local growers and give consumers a sustainable option when grocery shopping. I’ve been to plenty which are fabulous (my hands-down favorite is the one in downtown Santa Monica, California. The vegetables they sell there are quite literally works of art.) But I also know that not all farmer’s markets are created equal.

And now we learn that supermarket chains are trying to profit from the local food movement by setting up fake farmer’s markets to hawk their non-local produce. Another issue is vendors selling produce which they purchased at wholesale produce warehouses.

I caught wind of this practice right here in Nashville when I went to one of Johnny Howell’s red and white tents and saw the exact same packages of Chilean-grown red grapes, complete with UPC code, that I had seen at Kroger. And a lot of that is the same as what I see at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. So I knew right then that at least some of their produce comes from a wholesaler like Angelo Formosa.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they are a “fake” farmer’s market but it does mean that just because produce is merchandised in a rustic basket and sold out of a red tent by the side of the road we should assume it’s somehow better or different from the stuff you get at the grocery store. I mean, last I checked we don't grow avocados around here, and I'm not sure I've ever seen anything labeled "organic" at one of Howell's red tents.

And here’s another pet peeve: when I go to Whole Foods, why do I have to choose between organic or local/regional? Seems like most of the produce they label local or regional is never organic; the stuff that is organic is shipped up from South America. I’d rather have organic and I’d rather it hadn’t spent a week in transit from Peru.

Anyway, the point is: buyer beware. Consumers have increasingly been sending the message that they want "green" and sustainable options in everything from their household cleaning products to what they put on the dinner table. Instead of listening to consumers and adjusting their behavior accordingly, some factions of corporate America are cravenly trying to exploit consumers' green instincts to make a buck by selling the same ol' shit as something it's not.

“We Were The Messengers ... We Were Your Friends ... We Were Trying To Look Out For You”

See if we do that again. Scapegoating your own base for when you lose elections is really, really uncool.

Apparently the base being pissed off has been spun into the base not voting. I’m not sure where that’s coming from, but I’d say the base is going to vote. They may hold their nose and vote Democrat, they may vote third party or write-in. But the people you need to worry about showing up to vote in November is not the base, it’s the vast number of people who usually don’t vote in midterms -- the people you need the base to devote their weekends to reaching.

Hurling insults at the very people you need to knock on doors the next four weekends is not going to help your cause.

The Lefties Who Took Down Obama

Peter Daou actually has a good piece up about the progressive bloggers accused of taking down the Obama presidency.

There’s a lot bile directed at folks like Glenn Greenwald, Digby, Marcy Wheeler, Jane Hamsher and even Daou himself these days. I don’t agree with these folks all of the time, and Hamsher seems to have gone off into some territory that I can’t fathom, but it’s clear that criticism from these and other lefty bloggers has been a thorn in the side of the White House for some time. When the president’s chief of staff calls progressives “fucking retards” and then the Vice President tells us to “stop whining,” it’s clear that somebody’s fee-fees have gotten hurt on the way to the midterm elections.

I think a lot of the Democratic Party assumed The Left was just, ya know, an ideologically liberal version of The Right. Which is so not the case. During the Bush years The Right were all about “clap louder” and anyone who disagreed with the president even the tiniest bit was the worst sort of traitor and a cheese-eating surrender monkey who spit on the troops and wanted America to fail. Ah yes, good times, good times.

That script was read everywhere from the pages of the Weekly Standard to right wing blogs to the Drudge Report to CNN to NBC Nightly News to the Sunday bobblehead shows. I vented a lot of spleen writing letters to news directors who I’m sure decided I was a crackpot but really, hearing liberals impugned on a daily basis in our mass media is what got me involved in politics to begin with.

So I’m sure the Obama Administration was really disappointed that when they took over, they didn’t get the same unthinking, unblinking warm hug from their base that the Republicans received. But see, this is what separates us from them. We have principles, and they have politics. The shit we say matters to us really DOES matter to us!

Unlike, say, the Tea Party, which claims to be all worked up over a tyrannical government’s overreach and civil liberties, yet none of those assholes has said one word about the Anwar al-Aulaqi case, just as they didn’t say one word about the Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010. I mean, this is the stuff these people should be waving misspelled signs over. Not your health insurance company no longer allowed to drop you because of a pre-existing condition. How about the U.S. government assassinating a U.S. citizen without due process? How does that fit into your view of the Constitution? If it does, you’re a fucking moron and I don’t have time for you.

So anyway, this is what Daou has to say:
From gay rights to executive power to war to the environment, the left increasingly believes the Obama White House lacks the moral courage to undo Bush’s radicalism. If anything, the Aulaqi case is an indication Obama will go further than Bush to “prove” his strength.

As I wrote last week, using policy to prove anything to anyone on the right is a wasted exercise.

I’m trying to imagine why Obama the Constitutional scholar would claim the state secrets privilege on something like this. I don’t think it’s just to look tough. Maybe he’s had the crap scared out of him and thinks he needs to actually be tough -- un-Constitutionally, totalitarian tough. Maybe when one joins that elite club of U.S. Presidents you do stuff like this because you can. I mean, I really don’t get it, but I don’t think “I want to look like a badass” quite covers it.

But it’s the kind of thing right wingers don’t seem to give a shit about. So once again that leaves the left to take up the real battle for civil liberties, justice, and the Constitution. And by the way, y’all can join in anytime, because in case you haven't noticed, the President and Vice President don’t seem to care what we think on our side of the aisle.

Some things really do matter to us. I personally don't care if the president is a Christian, Muslim or none of the above. I don't care if he likes Grey Poupon on his burger or can't throw a pitch or bowl to save his life or doesn't wear a flag pin. But I do draw the line at the president saying he can order a hit on anyone he likes and he doesn't have to tell anyone about it since it's a "state secret."

Monday, September 27, 2010

The New Spiritual Work

Pastor John Shuck has posted another of his amazing sermons. One of these days Mr. Beale and I will make the long trek to Elizabethton (perhaps in my new all-electric vehicle) to hear him preach.

Here’s a taste, but do go and read the whole thing:
As a globalized industrial society we are going to be letting go of a way of living that extracts and exploits and destroys our home. At some point we will let it go. It is happening now. We will be relating to Earth and to one another in a new way. We are needing to learn to live with Earth rather than against it. It will be better for us if we are pro-active and conscious about it, rather than just letting it happen.


Those of us with conscience, those of us who see the need for systemic change have our work cut out for us. All of us need to be involved in peace and sustainability movements at many different levels based on our own sense of what we want to do and can do.

Whether we are taking on mountain top removal mining, or supporting local food growers, finding ways to help ourselves and others reduce consumption, or learning and teaching about what life will be like post-peak oil, now is the time to see this work as spiritual work.

Growing a garden is a subversive, spiritual act.

Not everyone can do that.

Not everything is for everyone.

We find our own way.

I’ve said this before, like a thousand gazillion times, but this idea that we all have to live in tents and churn our own butter to save the world is not just unrealistic, it’s not accurate. On top of which, it’s intellectually dishonest, since it’s the favorite argument of right wingers whose true agenda is to make sure we don’t change anything at all! So no, you people who think it’s so cute to point fingers at Al Gore’s electric bill, your argument amounts to nothing.

We can’t all do everything but we can each of us do something. It’s just as simple as that. If you want to ride around on a bicycle and live as a freegan in a zero-emmissions tent, that is great! Good for you. But the rest of the world is not going to join you in that endeavor. That is reality. And the thing is, they don’t need to. A tremendous impact could be had if everyone just did one thing. And it’s not going to be the same thing for everyone. Not everyone can plant a garden, but I bet everyone can close the blinds on their windows in the summer to keep the heat out. Or turn the thermostat down (or up, depending on the season). You get my drift here.

If you’re a legislator, you can start by initiating policies that encourage green technologies, such as this one. As Pastor Shuck says:

As Americans, we consume 18-20 million barrels of oil each day.

We extract 6-8 million barrels.

We need to import 10-14 million barrels.


We are five percent of the population and we consume 25% of the world's oil.

You don't keep up that level of disparity without massive bullying. I don’t say that to intentionally offend. I'm just calling it as I see it. That is why we spend more on our military than the next 20 or so nations combined.

We all have a part to play in changing that. The empire is going to be overturned, whether you take part in it or not -- some day the dead dinosaurs will have fueled their last generator and it will no longer be cost effective to devote our military to protecting the oil empire. My sense is that day is coming sooner than anyone expected.

On Sunday Tom Friedman wrote:

In essence, China Inc. just named its dream team of 16-state-owned enterprises to move China off oil and into the next industrial growth engine: electric cars.

Not to worry. America today also has its own multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing moon shot: fixing Afghanistan.

Friedman is right that our national priorities are supremely messed up. We’d prefer to fight wars and spend our grandchildren’s future on a massive military build-up in the Middle East to protect our access to oil. This is incredibly stupid, and the joke’s on us, since we financed all of this with the Chinese credit card. What fools we are. China has played a massive game of “gotcha” with America, letting us go off to sink our treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan and -- next up, Iran! -- while they are quietly getting off the oil tit.

But Friedman is wrong, because change is happening -- even (and most tellingly) in places where you’d think it doesn’t need to.

So we still have time to change our ways. And we are. Everyone can do something. One thing.

Whether you’re a suburban housewife deciding what to feed the family for dinner or city councilman or United States Senator or a book author, everyone can do one thing.

And that is all it’s going to take.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

First They Privatized The Prisons...

Holy crap, when the fuck did we start privatizing public libraries?

I had NO idea there was even a company in existence like Library Systems & Services Inc., let alone that they operated five public libraries in Tennessee. You can see the list here.

This is such a supremely bad idea on so many levels I don’t know where to start. Let’s start with my entire aversion to the concept of privatization, the idea that a for-profit company can somehow manage a public institution like a library better and cheaper when their entire raison d’etre is to make a fucking profit. I never understood the logic. They’ll just cut corners by paying employees less or doing a crappier job. I mean, that’s the point: to make a profit. Someone always gets screwed along the way, and usually it’s too late when we figure out it’s us.

Call me old-fashioned, call me a DFH with an inherent mistrust of Corporate America, call me a radical who thinks there are some things that some rich asshole shouldn’t skim a profit from, but I find myself having an allergic, visceral reaction to the entire idea of privatizing the public good. It makes me sick to my stomach to think we’ve so cheapened the idea of the commons that we’ll privatize the public library without batting an eyelash. Just like we’ve privatized prisons without batting an eyelash, and that's not just a disaster waiting to happen, it's a disaster for communities already, right now, today.

This is just ripe for abuse. Imagine if the Sage of Wasilla had a corporate CEO, not a city librarian, to approach about censoring library books? Wonder how that would have ended?

This is Banned Book Week and I have to say, beyond just worrying about some local puritan challenging the availability of “Heather Has Two Mommies” or the “Harry Potter” series at the local library, we need to worry about the more nefarious systemic changes that can slowly encroach on our intellectual freedom. And privatizing libraries is one of those changes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Forbes Magazine Regrets The Error ....

... but it’s doubtful they will change a damn thing, since as Michael Tomasky observes:
....from its perspective this whole episode couldn't possibly have gone better. Arch-conservative owner Steve Forbes got to spread a negative message about Obama. The magazine and its site received massive attention. They even got a White House meeting out of it!

Yes indeed. And this is what is wrong with journalism today: media outlets like Forbes are today less interested in covering news stories and more interested in actually being the story. That is not their job but the lure of the limelight is too much to resist.

Here’s my favorite part of the New York Times piece:

A Forbes fact checker recently contacted the bank to check on the assertion that Mr. Obama supported the 2009 transaction with Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil company. Mr. D’Souza asserted that Mr. Obama supported the deal, “not so oil ends up in the U.S. He is funding Brazilian exploration so that the oil can stay in Brazil.”

A note written by Kevin Varney, the senior vice president and chief of staff of the bank, and posted in the comments section of Mr. D’Souza’s blog — and verified by a spokesman for the bank — criticized Mr. D’Souza for not contacting the bank before publication.

“I received a call yesterday from Nathan Verdi, a fact checker at Forbes, who was calling to fact check your article after it was published. (Is this how journalism works now?)”

In an interview, Mr. Varney explained that the transaction “was begun in 2008 with career staffers and approved in 2009 by five Bush-appointed board members.” Furthermore, he said a transaction like the Brazilian one — which provided loan guarantees for Petrobras to purchase drilling and safety equipment from United States manufacturers — did not even rise to the level of presidential awareness.

Mr. Varney said that to cite the deal as evidence of “an anticolonial, Kenyan ideology” on the part of Mr. Obama is “preposterous, it’s false and it’s wrong.”

D’Souza has admitted that his article has factual errors but apparently believes the huge criticism comes from “disagreements of interpretation.” Dude, when your essay’s main premise is supported by factually incorrect and fabricated information, then that is not a disagreement of interpretation. That's journalistic malfeasance and both your and Forbes' credibility is completely shot as a result.

But no matter. D’Souza has a book coming out next week and the uproar -- and steeply discounted bulk sales to conservative books clubs and right wing groups like Wingnut Daily--will surely propel his title (temporarily) to the top of the best seller list. And next time D'Nesh D'Souza pulls a crackpot idea out of thin air and publishes it in a national magazine, he'll be identified as the "best-selling author" his conservative patrons have made sure he appears to be. I just love wingnut welfare.

What annoys me is that no matter how many times the mainstream media gets pwned by politically motivated attacks on Democrats, they still fall for it. Because again, the media loves to cover itself, when it should have been covering the actual content of D'Souza's piece. Had they done their job they would have found it riddled with errors well before the story faded from the national discourse.

This is why no one trusts the media anymore, people.

Stephen Colbert Testimony

It's funny how outraged right wingers are about this, considering the buffoonery coming from the likes of Glenn Beck on a nightly basis. (Adding .... I don't need lectures on making a mockery of our government from the party who impeached a Democratic president over a blow job. Seriously.)

Colbert is absolutely right, there is no validity to the myth that Americans simply won't do agricultural field work. We've done it before, we'll do it again. But what American's can't do is agricultural field work for $50 a day. And the "free hand of the market" would rather plow fields in Mexico and Chile where the cheap labor is than pay people what their labor is worth in the U.S. So I don't have any answers, because Burger King and McDonald's and the rest have resisted modest wage increases in the interest of corporate profits. In America, we do what the corporations want, not what workers want. Don't see that changing any time soon.

[UPDATE]: And Chuck Todd weighs in:

Yes, if only you were in a position to do something about that.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Gov. Christie Is No Hero

What’s that hammering I hear? Why it’s the frame being assembled attempting to portray New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie as some kind of hero after this little contretemps.

Christie was in California campaigning for Meg Whitman when Ed Buck, a former candidate for West Hollywood city council whom Time Magazine described as a “conservative Republican,” called Whitman “Shwarzenegger in a dress.” Apparently he was angry that Whitman refused to answer his questions but instead of letting the candidate herself deal with her naysayer, Christie accused him of dividing the country.

Realllllleeee. Well isn’t that rich. This from the party of Joe “YOU LIE!” Wilson? The party of the GOP-backed town brawl meetings of Summer 2009?

Well, who said chivalry ain’t dead? Would have been nice to see the candidate herself deal with this guy but whatEVER. Here’s the video:

No, Gov. Christie. People who raise their voices and yell and scream are the folks who get shit done. So sorry that it makes you feel uncomfortable but learn to deal with it, dude. This isn't one of George W. Bush's stage-managed "Town Hall" meetings, full of hand-picked friendlies who ask questions like “can I pray for you?” Voters are pissed off and angry and if Meg Whitman can’t handle that then she doesn’t deserve to be governor.

Honestly, I'm tired of Republicans stirring shit up and then as soon as things get a little uncomfortable for them they demand a return to civility.

Petulant Pastors Seeking Headlines

This Sunday seven Tennessee pastors will take their marching orders from the Alliance Defense Fund--a Fundiegelical answer to the ACLU based in Scottsdale, AZ--and “bait” the IRS with pulpit politicking:
"For governor, I'm going to encourage people to vote for Bill Haslam," said David Shelley, pastor of Smith Springs Baptist, one of seven Tennessee religious leaders who plan to take part in the pulpit protest. He also will throw his support behind Republican congressional candidate David Hall and Republican statehouse candidate Jim Gotto and urge his congregation to skip the spot on the ballot where state Sen. Thelma Harper, a Democrat, is running unopposed.

"My support for these candidates has nothing to do with their party or their skin color or any other non-biblically related issue," he said.

This is absolutely hilarious, since Shelley is perfectly free to tell everyone who to vote for any time he wishes, save the one hour Sunday morning that he’s speaking from the pulpit in his capacity as pastor of a tax-exempt religious organization.

So you know, fine. More power to you. And be prepared to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s for your trouble. Hey Pastor Shelley: I just quoted the Bible at you. You do know that, right?


This is all about meaningless grandstanding and nothing about religion. Let's face it, pretty much anyone who attends Smith Springs Baptist Church is probably planning to vote Republican. So basically you’re hoping to open a legal can of worms just because some out of state right wingers are trying to make a name for themselves by keeping the culture wars alive.

Sadly, no one appears to be paying attention. Whaah! Yes, it appears Shelley and the rest of these Petulant Pastors pulled this stunt last year too. The IRS still hasn’t taken the bait:

Participants in the ADF's pulpit protest send audio or videotape of their sermons to the IRS, but so far the agency has ignored them. The agency declined to comment on the issue, other than to share a copy of its regulations for tax-exempt religious organizations.

I’m torn between gloating over the fact that their pathetic screaming for attention has been ignored and wishing they did get their tax-exempt status yanked just because they are violating law and I thought we had these laws for a reason. Someone point me to that place in the Bible where Jesus says to give your money to lawyers to fight a battle over the First Amendment instead of caring for the poor? Must be in the Gospel According To Wingnuts.

Anyway, I’ve written about this before (notably here) but what idiots like David Shelley don’t get is that separation of church and state protects the church from state interference, not the other way around. And as I’ve written before, one needs look no further than those evul abortion-loving homosexual-embracing morally bankrupt socialisticky Scandinavian countries, which until very recently (2008 in Norway’s case) had state religions. As I wrote in 2009:

Yes, that’s right, up until last year, every person born in “secular, liberal” Norway was automatically born a Lutheran. If you wanted to raise your kids Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Baptist or atheist, you had to petition the government. Can you believe that?

The Norwegian government still finances the Lutheran Church, and until last year appointed church bishops. In other words, the government had authority over the church. Can you imagine? Can you imagine your tax dollars funding church salaries?

Secular, liberal, socialisticky Sweden had a state religion until 2009. The constitution of Denmark still lists the Evangelical Lutheran Church as the country’s official state religion and they receive government subsidies.

I wonder if David Shelley really understands what this means. I’m thinking not. Let’s have President Obama pick the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention and appoint the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. How would you like that? That is what it means to have a state religion, assholes.

The wall of separation you try so hard to pretend does not exist protects the church from government influence. It’s what allows the Southern Baptists to discriminate against gays in their hiring -- except in those programs they take government money to perform. Because then you are acting on behalf of all of us, not just Southern Baptists, and we don't all believe what you believe. I know you think you are right but some of us disagree. I really don't get why this is so hard for some people to understand.

This wall of separation is also what allows Pastor Shelley to opt out of paying Social Security tax on his personal salary. It allows Smith Springs Baptist to not pay property tax on its rather substantial acreage off of Nolensville Road. It allows the church to not be taxed on its income. You enjoy these benefits because We The People have decided you benefit the community in other ways, such as caring for the poor and elderly and the sick.

So look, people. This stuff isn’t hard. There is a huge benefit to being a religious institution in this country. You are free to preach that “Negroes are not equal with other races” (actual 1966 LDS doctrine!) and the government will not interfere. You can be as mean and hateful towards gays, Muslims, or anyone else you want and call it God's Word, no matter how abominable some folks may find it. That is your right. You get a free ride and the government can't say squat to you. You can even host candidates' forums like the one Church of Christ-affiliated David Lipscomb University just held here in Nashville. Or the Southern Baptist-affiliated Belmont University's presidential debate in 2008. Heck, my own church had the candidates for Nashville Mayor appear in our Fellowship Hall every Sunday to speak to us about their vision for the city. It was very informative.

But autonomy from the government is a two-way street. If you want the government to leave you alone no matter how heinous you want to be, even if your beliefs are far outside the mainstream, then you have to stay out of politics. You can talk morals and beliefs and current events and issues all you want but you can't tell people who to vote for in your sermon. That's the one line you can't cross, and it's the line that allows you to enjoy all of those other benefits.

But people like David Shelley don't get that. They want to have their cake and eat it too.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why I Am Not Sufficiently Enthusiastic

No one can rant like Athenae:
You know what else dampens the fuck out of my enthusiasm? Talking all the goddamn time about how insufficiently enthusiastic I am. I mean, quit bitching about how I'm not excited and go fucking do some stuff to get me excited. God.

Yeah, I can dig that. You know what dampens the fuck out of my enthusiasm? Shit like this:

Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said Thursday that she would block confirmation of President Obama’s new budget director until the administration lifts the moratorium on deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ms. Landrieu, a steadfast supporter of the oil and gas industry, said that although she believes that Jack Lew is qualified to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, she will place a hold on the nomination as long as the drilling pause is in place. The moratorium is set to expire on Nov. 30, although Department of Interior officials have hinted that it may be lifted sooner.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that the moratorium affects just 33 rigs while thousands in the Gulf of Mexico chug merrily along, let me just say: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU THINKING?! You’re going to hold hostage a key nomination presented by the President who is a member of your own fucking party over 33 oil rigs? After your state has just been devastated by the country’s worst oil spill? Ever?

Son. Of. A. Bitch.

Hey Democrats: This is why I’m not busting my hump hosting house parties and writing checks and making phone calls and knocking on doors for you. What kind of caucus is this? Can you not get your shit together for one goddamn month?

The buzzword of this election season is “enthusiasm gap,” and you’ve got an angry and disillusioned Democratic base, yet this is the perfect time for Mary Landrieu--who is not up for re-election--to step forward and demand obeisance? On her pet issue which the Democratic base deplores? Seriously?

Are you fucking serious?

I’m so over this shit I could spit. Instead of calling me "fucking retarded" or bemoaning the fact that I'm not sufficiently enthusiastic to volunteer for your GOTV campaign and spend my weekends knocking on doors, maybe you should go fucking do some stuff to get me excited. Like, for starters, telling Mary Landrieu to save her pity party over 33 deepwater oil rigs for after the election.


Shorter GOP Pledge

The Republican’s 21-page pledge, summed up in 16 words:

(Via Balloon Juice.)

Empty Pledge

[UPDATE]: Lying With Graphs, Republican Style. Hilarious.

Why don't Democrats ever think of this stuff?


The GOPs “Pledge To America” is about what we all expected:
The document speaks constantly and eloquently of the dangers of debt -- but offers a raft of proposals that would sharply increase it. It says, in one paragraph, that the Republican Party will commit itself to "greater liberty" and then, in the next, that it will protect "traditional marriage." It says that "small business must have certainty that the rules won't change every few months" and then promises to change all the rules that the Obama administration has passed in recent months. It is a document with a clear theory of what has gone wrong -- debt, policy uncertainty, and too much government -- and a solid promise to make most of it worse.

Ezra has more details on the specifics.

My favorite part is here:

We will permanently end taxpayer funding of abortion and codify the Hyde Amendment.

Hey great, you guys already have a head start since there is no taxpayer funded abortion! Apparently they are aware of this because they reference the Hyde Amendment, which prevents Medicaid funds from paying for abortion. The Republican Party promises to “codify” something which has been attached to every Health & Human Services appropriations bill since 1976. Hey, way to go out on a limb there, guys. That’s some bold leadership! Just one question: how come you didn’t do that four years ago when you were in charge of Congress and the White House? I guess you “forgot.”


The pledge also includes this:

We will require that every bill contain a citation of Constitutional authority. We will give all Representatives and citizens at least three days to read the bill before a vote.

A “citation of Constitutional authority”? What the hell is that? Is that like the Good Housekeeping Seal Of Approval? Actually it's some meaningless Tentherism nonsense that John Shaddegg of Arizona cooked up. Question: does it say anwhere in the Constitution that legislation has to cite constitutional authority?

Ditto that three days to read the bill stuff. Is that in the Constitution? Or is it more useless claptrap designed to slow down the legislative process; I’m trying to decide how this will work, since it seems to me that most bills we’ve been discussing have been in the hopper for weeks if not months so the whole “three days” stuff is really puzzling. Does that mean three days after every little tweak and change to a piece of legislation? Looks to me like the Republicans are pledging gridlock to be the new normal. I’m just surprised they didn’t put a page limit on legislation, since they seemed really really upset at the length of some of these bills this year. Poor dears. Congressin’ is really hard work!

Looks to me like the Republicans are pledging to make your government even more stupid.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

They Will Never Like You

Jonathan Bernstein's alarm bells go off in response to rumors that President Obama will replace Lawrence Summers “with somebody from the business community--i.e., a current or former CEO” in order to “disarm critics.” Bernstein writes:
But getting back to the main point here: this is a remarkably stupid plan, if true. It will not "disarm" critics who say that Obama is reflexively anti-business, any more than having Bob Gates at Defense "disarmed" critics of Obama's approach to terror -- indeed, actually expanding the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and killing a lot of terrorists didn't slow down those who were intent on claiming that Obama was some sort of secret bin Laden sympathizer.  It doesn't work like that.  Critics will say what they will say, and it mostly doesn't matter, and at any rate there's nothing you can do about it.  What you can do, however, is have a well-run White House and do your best to have a well-run government.

This cannot be stated often enough, loud enough, or broadcast widely enough.

Let me point out something very obvious which Bernstein missed: the "critics" which the Obama Administration is supposedly trying to disarm are conservative ones. Apparently no one gives a crap about left wing critics. I know, y’all are shocked.

And yes, this is incredibly, stunningly stupid. Dear, sweet Democrats: conservatives will never, ever like you. NEVER. EVER. Quit trying to “please” them with your policies. Just do your shit and be done with it.

Bernstein writes:

Now, if these reports are simply a nod to an important constituency on the way to choosing whoever is the best available man or woman for the job, well, no harm done.  But if the administration is really more concerned about the short-term reaction to the selection -- how it plays in the press, rather than how it will help the president govern as well as possible -- then it's both a terrible mistake and a sign of real screwed up priorities.  It will certainly be interesting to see which it is.

Oh, I’m pretty sure we know which one it is. I think we’ve seen politics trump policy pretty much repeatedly, on everything from GITMO and terror trials and the anemic stimulus to the bungled healthcare "reform" and Wall Street "reform." And this is the great failure not just of President Obama but the Democratic Party in general.

Look, people: You cannot govern under a fear of criticism. The Republican Party wants back in power. They twisted the president’s Nobel Peace Prize into a negative. Conservatives criticized the president partaking of Sunday communion. Does that not tell you something?

Rush Limbaugh will NEVER like you! Sean Hannity will always say mean things about you! Mitch McConnell will always cast aspersions on your motives and character. This is as sure as the sun rising in the East each morning. And if there isn’t something real these people can criticize, they will make shit up. Hell, they’ll make shit up anyway. So quit trying to please the very people whose entire relevance as a political force is based on hatred of you. President Bush did whatever he wanted because he was resolute, and resolute trumps wrong every single time. Learn a lesson here, people.

During the primaries my biggest concern about Obama was that he wouldn’t have the spine to fight off conservative criticism and fulfill his campaign promises. My biggest concern about Hillary Clinton was that Clinton Derangement Syndrome would dominate our politics once again -- the “Clinton is a serial rapist” and "they-killed-Vincent-Foster" conspiracy crap. Turns out I was right about the former and wrong about the latter. The conspiracy crap is just as bad if not worse than it was in the Clinton years, but the Obama Administration has shown itself completely unable to deal with it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Crying Wolf Alert

“Hi Kevin.”


Geez. If you’re going to hate on your Muslim neighbors by trying to keep them from building a house of worship at least have the balls to defend your position when someone asks you about it. And if you’re not prepared to do that a simple “no comment” is usually the way these things are done.

Crying “racial harassment” because you’re too lazy to come up with a better argument is a slap in the face to the thousands of people who have faced real racial harassment in this country’s history. Shame on you.

(h/t, Post Politics)

That Can’t-Do Spirit

This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read:
This immediately begs the question, if America isn’t doing so well in non-green industrial development in an ever more competitive globalized world, why would we think that it will be any better for green industry? Why isn’t that going to move to China too?

The very simple answer is that ... it is! To the point where it’s ringing alarm bells here at home. The point is, green energy development is the new Holy Grail. Right now, it’s a modern-day (clean) version of the Texas oil boom of 100 years ago. It’s the California Gold Rush of energy. You want to sit back and just cede ground to the Chinese because they're already making our cheap T-shirts and television sets? Seriously?

This pisses me off enormously because we in Tennessee have seen a great deal of green energy manufacturing: the Sharp solar plant in Memphis, the new Hemlock Semiconductor facility in Clarksville, Nissan’s Leaf built right here in Smyrna, the Wacker Chemie polysilicon plant in Cleveland ... there are probably others but those come to mind. Plus all of the other stuff, the roofers and electricians who install solar panels, etc. And I haven’t even thought about wind turbines and the rest. So you compare this to the shuttering of the last incandescent bulb factory in the United States which employed a mere 200 people and I’m going to say: bullshit. That’s some fancy selective logic there, dude. As your own link states, the reason CFLs are manufactured in China is because of cheap labor, not an act of Congress:

Consisting of glass tubes twisted into a spiral, they require more hand labor, which is cheaper there. So though they were first developed by American engineers in the 1970s, none of the major brands make CFLs in the United States.

Remember children, it always comes back to cheap labor.

And BTW, the GOP is trying to turn this lightbulb thing into a major issue, which MoJo has already debunked. It’s sad to see people like Aaron Renn and Andrew Sullivan take the bait. Regardless, Renn concludes:

But in the meantime, I’d suggest cooling the rhetoric that green industry is somehow going to save our economy from the mess we’re in, because in the short term at least it’s probably only going to dig the hole deeper.

Really? Who says? You? That’s completely crazy. The short term is our window of opportunity! This is our generation’s race to the moon, you moron! This is our Manhattan Project, our Apollo Project! This is our shot at getting back in the game, at having a future at being more than just the world's arms dealer and global couch potato.

Where does Renn get off? Can you imagine if John F. Kennedy had said to forget about landing a man on the moon before the decade’s out since the Russians already got it going with that Sputnik thing?

I've said it before oh, like a thousand times, but I'll say it again: the green train has left the station. We don't want to be left behind on this one, but that's exactly what will happen if we listen to idiots like this.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hallowed Ground Alert

Can’t imagine how we missed this:
Pros and anti's square off over Gettysburg casino proposal

By Angela Couloumbis

Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau

GETTYSBURG - The developer of a proposed casino Tuesday called this historic community the "last untapped gaming marketplace" in Pennsylvania and contended that his casino would rejuvenate the area's recession-ravaged economy while respecting its rich history and tradition.

David LeVan, a onetime Conrail chairman who wants to develop the casino a half-mile from Gettysburg National Military Park, told state gaming officials at a packed hearing that his $75 million Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino would lure new jobs, more tourists, and much-needed tax revenue.

He also said it would not affect the 6,000-acre park, one of the nation's first hallowed grounds, where 160,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought a bloody battle over three days in the summer of 1863 that helped seal the outcome of the Civil War.


Tennessee Republicrites Visit Spring Hill

File this one under "taking credit where it’s not due": Senators Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander and Congressman Marsha Blackburn all went to Spring Hill today Friday to take credit for what the Democrats did:
The irony of the Republican lawmakers' presence wasn't lost on the workers who attended the ceremony; they booed Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, and one UAW official made clear from the stage that the union still remembered which politicians had voted to rescue Wall Street but opposed an auto industry bailout.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker
Then: "This administration has decided they know better than our courts and our free market process how to deal with these companies....This is a major power grab." - March 30, 2009.

Now: "At the end of the day we all have to feel good about what we did," said Corker, who did attempt to negotiate the failed 2008 aid package. "I contributed to strengthening the auto industry in this country."

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
Then: "This is not the right direction: taxpayer money down the drain, and Washington politicians trying to run auto companies. The sooner the politicians get out of the way, the sooner auto jobs and taxpayer dollars will be secure." - March 30, 2009.

Now: "The center of the auto industry is still moving to Tennessee and the mid-South," Alexander told WSMV-TV.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Then: "I certainly can't think of the last time the federal government stepping into an industry caused that industry to be more successful, or more efficient. " - December 2008.

Now: Blackburn attended, but no quotes from her have been reported. She has been busy with other issues, including a bill to overturn the upcoming ban on incandescent light bulbs.

Bob Corker, of course, voted yes on the bank bailout, no on the auto bailout. Lamar Alexander voted yes on the bank bailout, and missed the auto bailout vote because of surgery, but said he would have voted no. Corker tried to negotiate an alternate auto deal because, as he said at the time, the Big Three Bailout wouldn’t help the industry one bit:

"I mean you couldn't make it almost more ineffective and more complicated," said Corker about the White House plan.

Oops. Looks like you were way wrong on that one, buckaroo! And look who shows up expecting chocolates and roses when GM is back in the black and rehiring laid-off workers one year later?

File this one under assholes.

(h/t, ThinkProgress.)

The Fighter Pilots Of Capitalism

Apparently the “fighter pilots of capitalism” feel they should be rewarded with fat bonuses for crashing billion dollar jets. And they think it’s totally unfair that the rest of us rubes in flyover country don’t agree with them.

That’s the general viewpoint of the bankers and Wall Street casino jockeys who vent a little spleen at Middle America in this piece (and a big tip of the hat to John Cole at Balloon Juice.) While the Teanut brigade likes to accuse Liberal Hollywood Elites of mocking them and treating them and all they value with disrespect, it’s their capitalist brothers in arms who seem to be looking down their noses at Real America® these days. For example:
“No offense to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck?” e-mails an irate Citigroup executive to a colleague.

Welcome to the meritocracy! Isn’t class warfare fun?

Here’s another one:

“We’re in a hypercapitalistic society. No one complains when Julia Roberts pulls down $25 million per movie or A-Rod has a $300 million guarantee. We have ex-presidents who cash in on their presidencies. Our whole moral compass has shifted about what’s acceptable or not acceptable. Honestly, you can pick on Wall Street all you want, I don’t think it’s fair. It’s fair to say you ran your companies into the ground, your risk management is flawed—that is perfectly legitimate. You can lay criticism on GM or others. But I don’t think it’s fair to say Wall Street is paid too much.”

Well, actually, people do complain about movie star and athletes' salaries, all the time. And there are also salary caps in pro sports, and yada yada. But the big answer, as author Gabriel Sherman points out, is if Julia Roberts makes a dud movie, the entire economy doesn’t come crashing down. And let me add: Julia Roberts does not make $25 million a picture, not even close, in fact after after “Duplicity” failed, she was reportedly forced to accept $10 million to make “Eat Pray Love,” also a dud, and one can imagine her asking price will continue to fall until she hits box office gold again. And let's remember all of the endorsement deals Tiger Woods lost when he turned out to have a little problem with his zipper. Yet this is the very “free hand of the market” salary deal the banksters think they are too good to accept. Think about it, Tea People: even free market capitalists don't believe in the free hand of the market! How hilarious is that?

Here's another one:

To Wall Street people who have grown up in the bubble, the meaning of the crisis is only slowly sinking in. They can’t yet grasp the idea of a life lived on less. “Without exception, Wall Street guys have gotten accustomed to not being stuck in the city in August. So it becomes a right to have a summer home within an hour or two commute from Manhattan,” says the Goldman vet. “There’s a cost structure of going with your family on summer vacation that’s not optional. There’s a cost structure of spending $40,000 to send your kids to private school that is not optional. There’s a sense of entitlement, that you need that amount of money just to live, that’s not optional.”

So, these are the people the GOP wants to hand your Social Security over to. Talk about needing a reality check! The problem is one which Brad DeLong explained so beautifully over the weekend. We live in a world of haves and a growing number of have-nots. The have-nots do not have summer homes in the Hamptons and cannot afford to send their kids to private school and do not have housekeepers and personal trainers and aestheticians and country club dues and spring break trips to the Caribbean and a highly-paid accountant to do their taxes and a lawyer to handle their legal troubles. These may feel like the necessities of life for the family of a Wall Street banker but they are not, in fact, the necessities of life in general. You can do your own taxes and clean your own house and send your kids to public school.

And let me add: No one wants to begrudge anyone these things. If you can afford them, great! But when your entire industry only survived because of taxpayer assistance, don’t be surprised to learn your sense of entitlement about such things rubs taxpayers the wrong way. If the rest of the country must tighten its belt, then you can do your part too, buddy. You know. For the duration, and all.

I'm reminded that once upon a time Americans pulled together to do the hard things. Those days, sadly, are gone.

Despite what the National Bureau of Economic Research may say, our economy is not out of the woods yet. And while the banksters are stunned anyone would want to make their casino abide by some rather modest house rules, the rest of the nation is dealing with some much more sobering issues. There are people who have been out of work for over a year now, thanks to you. They aren’t worried about where they’ll “summer,” they are worried about where they’ll live. And a lot of those people went to college, too, Mr. Citibank Executive.

So yeah, people are still pissed, and they don't want to hear you whining about how hard you have it because I guarantee you that far more people have it far worse and they are just as worthy as you. So if you can't "suck it in and cope," then here's another idea:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Penny Is Keeping Tennessee Afloat

I’m not entirely sure what Jarden Zinc has to do with this but apparently the entire U.S. economy is subsidizing an obscure company based in Greeneville, Tennessee:

(h/t, Balloon Juice...)

This Is Why Al Gore Invented The Internet

Comedian/liberal agitator Marc Maron got seated next to Ken Mehlman on an airplane and he's live-Tweeting it right now.

Your Tax Dollars At Work, Literary Edition

I’ve been hearing about this on the interwebs for the past two weeks but I didn't think it was true. But now that it’s in the New York Times, well, I guess we are given to believe that it is:
WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency, headquarters for the government’s eavesdroppers and code breakers, has been located at Fort Meade, Md., for half a century. Its nickname, the Fort, has been familiar for decades to neighbors and government workers alike.

Yet that nickname is one of hundreds of supposed secrets Pentagon reviewers blacked out in the new, censored edition of an intelligence officer’s Afghan war memoir. The Defense Department is buying and destroying the entire uncensored first printing of “Operation Dark Heart,” by Anthony Shaffer, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, in the name of protecting national security.

Another supposed secret removed from the second printing: the location of the Central Intelligence Agency’s training facility — Camp Peary, Va., a fact discoverable from Wikipedia. And the name and abbreviation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, routinely mentioned in news articles. And the fact that Sigint means “signals intelligence.”

As a writer, I think this is sheer genius. Now you, too, can zoom to the top of the bestseller list by compiling some common knowledge -- hey, what are those 11 secret herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken? -- and wait for someone to buy up all the copies to keep a lid on things. Oh, wait, looks like only America’s security agencies are dumb enough to fall for that one.

What’s really stupid is that the Army already approved the book for publication way back in January. But then two months ago the Defense Intelligence Agency and NSA decided the book contained "sensitive" information (some of it common knowledge already readily available) -- well after copies had already been made available to reviewers and book clubs. And now by trying to buy up every copy, they’ve called attention to a book that probably would have gone ignored by most folks. Now, says the Times, uncensored copies of the book are going for $2,000 on eBay.

Pretty big screw-up if you ask me. Will anyone get fired? Nah. That's not how we do things.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hey TVA: Have You Read Your Mission Statement Lately?

Amazingly, TVA had no legal obligation to keep this from happening!

I guess this is some kind of legal maneuver over “standing” or some such (I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer), but apparently the Tennessee Valley Authority’s lawyers claim that 58 people suing over the Kingston coal ash spill were not harmed by their 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry spill back in December 2008.

The money quote is this:
The motion filed in Knoxville said TVA has no legal obligation to keep its reservoirs safe for public recreational use and enjoyment.

Really? You so sure about that?:

Mission Statement

The mission of the Tennessee Valley Authority is to develop and operate the Tennessee River system to improve navigation, minimize flood damage, and to provide energy and related products and services safely, reliably, and at the lowest feasible cost to residents and businesses in the multi-state Tennessee Valley region. TVA’s integrated management of the entire Tennessee River watershed optimizes the benefits of the water resource. Major functions of the corporation include:

• Management of the Tennessee River system for multiple purposes including navigation, flood control, power generation, water quality, public lands conservation, recreation, and economic development;

• Generation of electricity;
• Sale and transmission of electricity to wholesale and large industrial customers;
• Stimulation of economic development activities that generate a higher quality of life for citizens of the Tennessee Valley;
• Preservation and environmentally-sensitive management of TVA assets and federal lands entrusted to TVA; and
• Research and technology development that addresses environmental problems related to TVA’s statutory responsibilities for river and land management and power generation.

Again, I'm not a lawyer, but it sure sounds to me like TVA has a legal obligation to keep its reservoirs safe for public recreational use and enjoyment. We're always hearing about TVA's tri-fold mission of power generation, economic development and natural resource management. It's something they tout everywhere, including places like this:

What is TVA?

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a federal corporation and the nation’s largest public power company. As a regional development agency, TVA supplies reliable, competitively priced power, supports a thriving river system and stimulates sustainable economic development in the public interest. TVA operates fossil fuel, nuclear and hydropower plants, and also produces energy from renewable sources. It manages the nation’s seventh-largest river system to reduce flood damage, produce power, maintain navigation, provide recreational opportunities and protect water quality in the 41,000-square-mile watershed.

I realize lawyer-types like to weasel their way around the law by saying things like "our client has no legal obligation to keep its reservoirs safe for public recreational use and enjoyment," leaving us all to assume that whatever river and land management they've done up to this point has been out of the goodness of said clients' hearts. But having worked for TVA in a former life and constantly having their trifold mission drilled into my head I am thinking ... no. I have to say all of us in the Tennessee Valley are certainly operating under the assumption that there is a legal obligation to manage the river system for things like recreation which, let's face it, is a key part of the economic development picture.

But again, I'm not a lawyer. I will say this: if the courts agree that TVA has no legal obligation to keep its reservoirs safe for public recreational use and enjoyment, then the first order of business should be amending the TVA Act to make sure that they do.

Anti-American American Businesses

You know, nothing makes me want to “go Galt” liberal-style more than reading shit like this. Businesses have apparently told Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) that they want “complete gridlock” in Washington. And the best part is the “clarification” from DeMint’s camp:
A spokesperson for DeMint reached out to ThinkProgress and provided the following statement: "The story about 'gridlock' was a glimpse of how upset businesses are with President Obama and Democrats in Congress, not DeMint's legislative goals."

Okay, assuming DeMint isn't pulling this out of his ass and is in fact repeating some Chamber of Commerce bullshit, here's my response to that line: Oh, whah. I have a sad.

You’re upset? You despoil our environment and ship our jobs to China and Mexico and locate your corporate headquarters in a Cayman Islands-based Mailboxes-R-Us so you can dodge taxes and set up phony astroturf front groups to deceive the citizens over the public airwaves and you’re upset?

Fuck you. With a rusty slide-ruler. Sideways.

You simply cannot expect to be allowed to rape, pillage and plunder America and not have a few citizens think that maybe this isn’t in the country’s best interests.

I’m tired of hearing that we need to bend and scrape before grand and glorious “business interests” who apparently think a non-functioning government is just peachy. We’ve been doing that for a generation and look where it got us. I’m tired of hearing that being “pro-business” is the be-all and end-all of every legislative endeavor. Whatever happened to being pro-people? Business has its place but it’s not our purpose. There is more to this life than business. And President Obama has done double back flips for business interests, at the expense of the peoples’ interests. And somehow these assholes are still unhappy?

Y'all can just quit yer whining because this consumer is tired of hearing about it. You guys do not deserve one dime of the tax breaks and government contracts that’s making your wallets fat, when you turn around and spit in the American peoples’ collective face spouting some bullshit about how you want “gridlock” in Washington.

American consumers do not want gridlock in Washington, you fools. We want and deserve a government that functions. We elected a president and a Congress to do that.

I am about this close to selling all of my worldly possessions and living off the grid in a yurt somewhere, eating hippie tofu and home-grown vegetables. At least then I won’t be part of your bullshit game.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Dude You Have No Koran": The Dance Remix

Of course, nothing will ever be as awesome as the Bill O'Reilly dance remix (now pulled from YouTube because someone named get pwned noob claims copyright ... whatever):

Paging Erin Brokovich

Someone ought to go to jail for this .. but we know all know they won’t:
The Utility Reform Network (TURN) has obtained documents detailing the energy giant’s request to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a rate hike in 2007. PG&E asked the PUC for permission for a $5 million rate hike to “replace a section of the same pipeline that blew up in San Bruno.” The PUC approved PG&E’s request, allowing it to hike its rates so that it could repair the line in 2009.

Yet the energy giant failed to go through with its scheduled repairs. And in 2009, it once again requested a rate hike from the PUC, again for $5 million. In its request, PG&E warned that if “the replacement of this pipe does not occur, risks associated with this segment will not be reduced. Coupled with the consequences of failure of this section of pipeline, the likelihood of a failure makes the risk of a failure at this location unacceptably high.” Despite these admitted risks, the company could only promise to make its repairs by 2013.


While the company failed to spend the $5 million it took from customers in 2009 to repair the faulty pipeline, it did spend that exact same amount in the same year on bonuses for its executives, according to TURN.


Calitics notes that while PG&E failed to use the millions it charged consumers in rate hikes to repair its pipeline, it did manage to spend millions of dollars supporting Proposition 16, which would've allowed it to secure its monopoly over the power sector in the state.

There is always money for politics, power grabbing and pocket-lining.

Protecting the people of California? Not so much.

Utility FAIL. Yes, someone should go to jail. People were killed in this accident. Will they? Well, in our glorious plutocracy, the only people who ever suffer the consequences of this kind of malfeasance are the little ones.

The Party Of Tax Cuts For Millionaires

So now the Democratic Party is the party of tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires? When the hell did that happen?
Washington (CNN) – Thirty-one House Democrats, most of whom face tough re-election bids this fall, have signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer urging them to extend expiring tax breaks for all income levels, including the wealthy.
Apparently this happened when a few Democrats started to wet their pants over the prospect of losing re-election. These 31 House Democrats want to give millionaires and billionaires tax cuts that will add $700 billion to the deficit that they claim to care so much about. Apparently the conventional wisdom is that a Bush Tax Hike® (hey, he’s the one who designed them to expire this year, remember?) is not a good idea during a down economy.

I just have one question for you people: if giving the nation’s upper 2% of income earners a tax cut was such a brilliant economic stimulus, why the fuck are we in this mess to begin with?

Paul Krugman did a nice piece explaining why high end tax cuts don’t deliver enough “bang for the buck.” If Krugman is too much of a Dirty Fucking Hippie for you, let me direct you to Moody’s:
Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush were followed by increases in the saving rate among the rich, according to data from Moody’s Analytics Inc. When taxes were raised under Bill Clinton, the saving rate fell.

So if the goal is economic stimulus, giving rich people a tax cut won’t do the trick.

But it doesn’t matter if this is good policy or not, because this isn’t about policy. This is about politics. This is about 30+ Democrats in the House who are scared they are going to lose re-election. That’s all these things are ever about: the politics, not the policy. And this is why the Democrats are in trouble. Because if we had people in Washington worried more about governing, not getting re-elected, then maybe we’d have some actual workable policies in place, not more Republican-lite crap. Maybe our economic stimulus would have been stronger and maybe our recession would have been over and maybe people would be back at work and maybe we wouldn’t be talking about letting “Bush-era tax cuts expire” but instead talking about the coming Bush Tax Hike® and maybe those 30+ Democrats wetting themselves over losing re-election might actually be in a stronger position today because the economy is stronger.

But that’s my alternate hippie liberal fantasyland. In the real world we have Democrats who think governing like Republicans is the surest way to success. Despite the fact that time and time again they are proved wrong, they keep doing it.

What a strange world we live in.

[REMINDER]: The tax cuts were set to expire so Congress could pretend they won't add to the deficit:

One of the most notable characteristics of EGTRRA is that its provisions are designed to sunset, or revert to the provisions that were in effect before it was passed. EGTRRA will sunset on January 1, 2011 unless further legislation is enacted to make its changes permanent. The sunset provision sidesteps the Byrd Rule, a Senate rule that amends the Congressional Budget Act to allow Senators to block a piece of legislation if it purports to significantly increase the federal deficit beyond a ten-year term. The sunset allowed the bill to stay within the letter of the PAYGO law while removing nearly $700 billion from amounts that would have triggered PAYGO sequestration.

It was a dodge, plain and simple. So does the deficit matter or doesn't it? Who among the Teanuts wants to take that one?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Midterm Messaging

It’s been interesting to watch the narrative take shape regarding the midterms. For the past few months the pundits and media types seem to be in agreement that a Republican sweep of Congress is a foregone conclusion. I’m not so sure, and I’m glad to see Nate Silver debunk some of the conventional wisdom, as well.

One oft-repeated line we hear is that there is an “enthusiasm gap” because the Democratic base is not “fired up.” Writes Silver:
Late in a political cycle, it tends to be easier to motivate a voter than to persuade him, and the Democrats do have some rallying points with their base like the health care bill (even if they are hush-hush about some of the same points when independents are in the room). They also have, as a consequence of the huge reach of President Obama’s campaign in 2008, very good voter lists and databases. There is actually some evidence that Democrats closed their enthusiasm gap late in elections like Massachusetts and the New Jersey governor’s race of 2009, even if they ultimately lost them. And the Democrats have won a couple of elections with strong base support, like the special election in May in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. Still, the pluralistic nature of the Democratic base tends to make it harder to rally, and much of the party’s work work — even if it were eventually to succeed – remains to be done.

I know the Democratic Party is worried about this supposed “enthusiasm gap” because I keep getting e-mails trying to scare me into voting this year. They point out how scary and fringey the Tea Party candidates are, what wackadoodles Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are, blah blah.

I happen to think this is a horrible message. For one thing, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck aren’t on the ballot. Instead of trying to motivate the base out of fear of right wing crazies, maybe the Dems should try motivating people based on what they see as their accomplishments. Isn’t it better to get people to vote for something, not against something? By not doing so they seem to be conceding the progressive’s point, which is, "We gave you guys the White House and huge majorities in the House and Senate and instead of the promised change we got some left-leaning tweaks."

You know, maybe it's me but I don't happen to think the liberal base is as stupid and uninformed and clueless as, say, the right-wing base is. We can smell the bullshit and as I've said in the past, using Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to scare us into the voting booth makes some of us think that maybe you helped create the Teanut Brigade just so you could exploit them later.

So no, I don’t need any more e-mails from James Carville trying to psyche me up by pointing out how crazy the Tea Party is. I’m well aware of that. If you want to motivate me, tell me what great things you did and what great things you’re going to do. Because what the party strategists aren’t getting is that the base is pissed off and there’s a sense of “you deserve to lose to a bunch of crazies.” That is what you guys are dealing with. So show us why we’re wrong to be pissed off.

And here’s another thing. I’m not any great political strategist or message manipulator, but I do believe that Tip O’Neill was right when he said all politics is local. So I care less about Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and more about what is going on in my neighborhood, my city, and my state. So again: if you want to motivate Democrats to the polls, show us what you’ve done, what your plan is, and why your candidates deserve to go to Washington. Simply saying, “because the other side is batshit insane!” isn’t enough.

As for the Republicans, Silver says folks may be overestimating the right’s enthusiasm:

What conservative voters seem to be most engaged by is their distaste for the establishment. But they seem to be somewhat equal-opportunity in this respect, disliking the Republican establishment nearly as much as the Democratic one. So what happens not in a case like Florida where they have nominated a fresh and compelling face in Marco Rubio, but instead in Ohio where they have nominated a familiar and establishment one like Rob Portman? Or in Illinois, where they have nominated a candidate in Mark Kirk who is both establishment and quite moderate?  Will Republican voters have the same gusto — and turn out in the same numbers — for these candidates? In Mr. Portman’s case in Ohio, it might not matter — he is doing well enough with independents that he’s liable to win, even with mediocre base participation. But for someone like a Mr. Kirk, or a Dino Rossi in Washington State, Republicans could find their “enthusiasm gap” isn’t as large as they were expecting.
Indeed, when looking at individual races -- say the Delaware Senate race -- as E.J. Dionne notes, the “enthusiasm gap” may just be on the Republican side:
Ross notes that the state Republican convention endorsed Castle. These are not some shadowy party bosses, but, as he put it, “the grass-roots delegates who knock on the doors and pass out the literature and pound the pavements.”

Wonder how many of those folks will go to bat for Christine O’Donnell? I’m guessing very few. That, and the fact that O’Donnell’s extreme views will turn off independents makes me think the Republican tidal wave is a lot of wishful thinking.

Of course, the economy still sucks and the Democrats are really bad at messaging and the media is not liberal etc. etc. So, as the saying goes: stay tune, more shall be revealed ....

Great Moments In Corporate PR

I guess the Corn Refiners Assn.’s lame “it’s fine in moderation!” ads have been a big fail, as they are seeking permission to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar.” Riiiight! Sorta like when Madonna renamed herself Esther or when Sean Combs became Puff Daddy, then Puffy, then P. Diddy, then Diddy. I’m sure if approved this move will go just as swimmingly.

Vanity Fair thinks “corn sugar” is sorta lame, though, and I have to agree. Their suggestions aren’t much better: “Syruption” and “Freshness”? Surely the brilliant minds at Conde Nast can do better.

I have a few ideas: How about “Freedom Syrup,” in recognition of the tremendous amount of corporate welfare taxpayer money which subsidizes corn production? Or maybe they should take a cue from my spam e-mail box and call it something which has been tested by international marketers: “Winning Notification” or “Miley Cyrus Illegal XXXX.” Surely I wouldn’t be getting so much crap with these kinds of subject lines if they weren’t effective?

Or we could call it “isoglucose” or “glucose-fructose syrup,” two actual alternative names for the stuff according to Wikipedia. Or, what the hell, how about Frankensyrup? Doesn’t sound so friendly, of course, but that’s what it is. Frankenfood created in a lab:
The enzyme process that changes the 100% glucose corn syrup into HFCS 90 is as follows:

1. Cornstarch is treated with alpha-amylase to produce shorter chains of sugars called oligosaccharides.

2. Glucoamylase - which is produced by Aspergillus, a fungus, in a fermentation vat — breaks the sugar chains down even further to yield the simple sugar glucose.

3. Xylose isomerase (aka glucose isomerase) converts glucose to a mixture of about 42% fructose and 50–52% glucose with some other sugars mixed in.

Yummy! So yeah, with long unpronounceable words like “Xylose isomerase” no wonder they want to change the name to “corn sugar.”

I always hated those stupid, “it’s fine in moderation!” ads that we’ve seen courtesy of the Corn Refiners Assn. for the past year or two. Yeah, good luck with the “moderation” part. High fructose corn syrup is in everything, from soups and breads to soft drinks and popsicles. “Moderation” is a fantasy where this stuff is concerned.

A few parody ads were made of the Corn Refiners Assn. campaign. Here’s one:

I just find it so annoying that corporate America thinks we’re stupid.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What Breed Of Liberal Are You?

I'm an eco-avenger. Take the test:

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are an Eco-Avenger, also known as an environmentalist or tree hugger. You believe in saving the planet from the clutches of air-fouling, oil-drilling, earth-raping conservative fossil fools.

Fringe Factor

Historian Rick Perlstein wrote an excellent piece of media criticism last Friday which I wanted to call everyone’s attention to.

In particular, this:
The problem is not the Web. Anti-JFK rallies "revealing" to every school child in Orange County, California that Communists planned to colonize the United States by the year 1970 drew bigger crowds than Tea Parties today, with nary a blogger among them.

The problem is that elite media gatekeepers have abandoned their moral mandate to stigmatize uncivil discourse. Instead, too many outlets reward it. In fact, it is an ironic token of the ideological confusions of our age that they do so in the service of upholding what they understand to be a cornerstone of civility: the notion that every public question must be framed in terms of two equal and opposite positions, the "liberal" one and the "conservative" one, each to be afforded equal dignity, respect — and (the more crucial currency) equal space. This has made the most mainstream of media outlets comically easy marks for those actively working to push public discourse to extremes.

Don't blame the minister and his bait-and-switch bonfire either. Once upon a time anticommunist book burnings and threats of book burnings were not unheard of. The difference is that Associated Press reporters did not feel obliged to show up. That shift in news values, not the rise of the Internet, is the most profound way that times have changed.

I think this is correct, however I think Perlstein is remiss in completely discounting the influence of the internet. Certainly our news media’s suckiness is no one’s fault but the media’s. However, I do think part of the problem is that the news media has been so freaked out over competition from web-based “news” sources -- blogs and the like -- that they’ve chucked all judgment by the wayside.

Perlstein is right, news values have changed. But there's a reason. It's because news is a business and there are boards of directors who must be coddled and stockholders who must be pleased and profitability is an issue (even though newspapers remain insanely profitable, for bean counters it’s never profitable enough) so everyone is kinda flailing about looking for a way to stay relevant in this changing environment. This means the news media has abandoned what Perlstein calls its “moral mandate” in a rush to cover every bit of chatter and gossip on the internet. It’s like the entire news media has decided to become the National Enquirer, hanging out at the mall food court and deciding that their very future depends on covering the conversation they overhear, most of which is completely irrelevant.

Just because people are talking about Snookie and Area 51 and a new diet fad and FEMA camps doesn’t mean the news media has to cover it. The media decided it was in competition with the internet and decided to cover whatever idiocy we bloggers are chatting about without bothering to apply any judgment to these stories. Is WikiLeaks news? Yes. Is everything on the internet news? No.

You know, my sister is absolutely convinced that sometime around 2004 there was a nuclear incident of some kind which the government is hiding from us. She's convinced of this because she knows too many people with brain tumors and health issues all of a sudden, while the fact that we’re getting older and happen to know more people of an age where illnesses crop up hasn’t occurred to her. But hey, if she’s lucky, maybe Anderson Cooper or the Associated Press will devote some time to her theory. It's on the internet, after all.

Monday, September 13, 2010

“Dude You HAVE No Koran!”

Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and a skateboarder foil a plan to burn the Koran at Sam Houston Park in Amarillo, Texas:

(H/T, Talking Points Memo.)

Permanent War Economy Redux

[UPDATE]: Wow sure glad we're sending them $60 billion in weapons!


Just heard NBC’s financial spokes bubblebot extoll the economic bonanza which this deal represents:
The Obama administration is set to notify Congress of plans to offer advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion, the largest U.S. arms deal ever, and is in talks with the kingdom about potential naval and missile-defense upgrades that could be worth tens of billions of dollars more.

The administration plans to tout the $60 billion package as a major job creator—supporting at least 75,000 jobs, according to company estimates—and sees the sale of advanced fighter jets and military helicopters to key Middle Eastern ally Riyadh as part of a broader policy aimed at shoring up Arab allies against Iran.

Huzzah. Well, it’s good to know America still manufactures something!

Who wants to guess how this will end? Like this? America is a twilight empire. All we know how to do is build bombers for oppressive Middle Eastern regimes. Our only export is war. I know the corporate news media wants us to clap louder at the “75,000 jobs created” (really? Really? Did you check the numbers on that or are you just repeating the press release?) and my Democratic president is going to extoll the economic win this represents for people who are out of work. But I’m calling bullshit.

Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.

For shame, America. For shame. These things never end well, people. One of these days we will learn our lesson. You don’t build an economy on war. You don’t arm a dictatorship in an unstable region of the world. You don't plant these seeds and expect to reap anything other than a bitter harvest down the road.

I wish America still made things that benefitted the human race, instead of destroyed it. Sadly, when you are an empire in twilight, the simplest most logical things are beyond anyone’s capabilities.