Sunday, October 31, 2010

Government Is Not A Business

Can we please, pretty please, retire that tired old canard that “government needs to be run like a business”? I absolutely despise that little piece of conventional wisdom which politicians repeat each election. It’s bullshit.

Government cannot run like a business because it’s a completely different entity.

As the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hiltzik writes today:
It would be obvious to any business person who had spent a day in public administration that government and business are antithetical. That's not a flaw in the system. Government exists to take on precisely those tasks the private sector can't or won't do.

These include caring for the penniless; maintaining common amenities such as parks, schools, and universities; and creating infrastructure with broad value but unspecific beneficiaries, such as freeways and the Internet (which in coming days undoubtedly will be used by many readers to inform me by e-mail that they don't see how government serves any purpose).

Most of these functions can't be made to "pay" in the sense that a business strategy does. But they can be neglected or privatized only at great cost to society.

Thank you! Jeeebus, nothing annoys me more than hearing how government needs to be run like a business. No, it doesn’t! It can’t! I remember working for a Big Government Agency tasked with operating a National Recreation Area and being told we had to apply for-profit business practices to what we did. I’m sorry, but just how is that supposed to work? How do you make money break even off of maintaining hiking and mountain biking trails, campgrounds, and wildlife habitat? Especially when you have small businesses in the local town complaining about unfair competition from said Big Government Agency? If we operated like a business, then what would be left for the real businesses to do? It was laughable idea. We ended up having to explain that no amount of T-shirt and baseball cap sales and hunting permits would ever make us turn a profit break even. [Note: I hit send too soon on this one, but of course all government is not-for-profit -- another reason why it can't operate as a business. We weren't tasked with making a profit but they did want us to try to break even and they gave us a few years to do it which was just stupid.]

Government and business are separate entities. We need both to function as a democracy. Trying to turn one into the other is what has led to disasters like Soviet-style Communism and Mussolini-style fascism.

Another problem, which I've discussed elsewhere, is that we do not -- can not -- put a monetary value on things that are quite literally priceless. Things like watershed, clean air, clean water or the soil erosion protection which forests provide. As I wrote last spring:

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

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

I was writing about the environment but there are a whole bunch of non-easily quantifiable things. The education of your work force. The health of the population. The knowledge and experience of our senior citizens. Anyone who wants to be governor and tells you they plan to operate the state like a business is obviously not factoring in a whole bunch of things for which we cannot attach a dollar value because they are literally priceless.

And it's hard for me to take these business sector politicians seriously. So many of them have little respect for what government does anyway -- many of them don't even vote. As Hiltzik wrote:

Engagement in democracy starts with participation in the ballot box. That's the real significance of Whitman's and Fiorina's well-documented failures to vote over the years. This isn't a "mistake," as Whitman likes to call it. A mistake is getting the address of the polling place wrong, once. Not bothering to vote year after year? That's contempt for the very concept of democracy.

I couldn't agree more. Electing to office someone who not only holds the very concept of democracy in contempt but also misunderstands the function and role of government is the worst sort of mistake.

Ask Your Doctor If Hiatus Is Right For You v. 1,047

I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year. Blogging will be light to nonexistent (I hope) until Dec. 1. Of course, you know me. I’m the idiot who thought it would be fun to take a hiatus during the height of the healthcare debate. How’d that work out?

I’ll allow myself a post-election post, and of course we are traveling at the end of the month so there might be some Graffiti Blogging. But hopefully I’ll be making headway on a new fiction project.

I’m pretty much convinced that the news media has fucked this country over royally and the only solution is to just not participate in the bullshit. So if I’m not watching MSNBC or CNN or reading the newspaper I’ll be a lot happier and have less need to vent.

Visit my friends on my blogroll. See you on the other end.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Shorter ABC News: Online Stuff Matters?

So now ABC News is trying to distance itself from crackpot Andrew Breitbart:
Mr. Breitbart is not an ABC News analyst.

He is not an ABC News consultant.

He is not, in any way, affiliated with ABC News.

He is not being paid by ABC News.

He has not been asked to analyze the results of the election for ABC News.

Mr. Breitbart will not be a part of the ABC News broadcast coverage, anchored by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos. For the broadcast coverage, David Muir and Facebook's Randi Zuckerberg will contribute reaction and response gathered from the students and faculty of Arizona State University at an ABC News/Facebook town hall.

He has been invited as one of several guests, from a variety of different political persuasions, to engage with a live, studio audience that will be closely following the election results and participating in an online-only discussion and debate to be moderated by David Muir and Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg on and Facebook. We will have other guests, as well as a live studio audience and a large audience on and Facebook, who can question the guests and the audience’s opinions. 

This whole “clarification” reads to me like a slap in the face to its online audience. You know: “Hey! It’s digital! It’s the internet! We thought you kids loved the crazy shit!”

Jeebus, get a fucking clue or don’t do the internet at all. People don't distinguish between and "regular" ABC News, you idiots. The digital division isn't some "other thing" "out there" in the hinterlands. It's your same fucking brand. Fucking maroons, what the hell do you think the future of news is? It's the shit that's sent to your iPhone and iPad. You can't downplay a stupid decision by saying, "oh well it's just digital content and so it doesn't matter because no one but a bunch of college kids in their pajamas is paying attention." Are you really that dumb, or do you just think WE are?

Get. A. Clue.

Live From The National Mall


Aerial analysis estimates 215,000 at today's rally.


Live feed of the Rally To Restore Sanity/Fear here.

Some amazing pictures from the event have already been posted online. I think I will regret for the rest of my life not being there.

Some pics via Democratic Underground, here and here. Rumor has it there's a little girl dressed as a princess carrying a sign which reads "I Want My Tea Party Back." Would love to see that!

More from Talking Points Memo:

More from Buzzfeed:

"I Remember"

Wow. Powerful ad.

(h/t, Brilliant At Breakfast.)

So Much For That Anti-Incumbent Wave

Are we witnessing the death of another tired media meme? Yes, I think so:
The New Face of the G.O.P.? Grizzled Veterans

WASHINGTON — Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party favorite and Republican Senate nominee from Delaware, is trailing badly in the polls, but her every utterance seems to win national attention. Meanwhile, John Hoeven, the three-term governor of North Dakota, remains largely unknown even though he is virtually certain to win a Senate seat next week — not to mention that he was recently named a finalist for the American Mustache Institute’s Mustached American of the Year award.

Insurgent challengers may be grabbing all the headlines in midterm elections this year, but most of the Republicans who are best positioned to snap up Senate seats currently held by Democrats are veteran politicians — and most of them have already served in Congress.


The clear, if little noted, wealth of prior political experience among so many of the likely Republican victors in Senate races this year also highlights why voters often end up disappointed when they head to the polls eager for change in Washington. The overwhelming majority of winners on Tuesday in both the House and Senate races will be sitting incumbents, while relatively few will be neophytes with no background in politics.

Mustached American of the Year award? Okie dokie.

So, the Teanutties got pwned again. And you thought this was the year of the “anti-incumbent” wave. Hah! GOP stalwarts Dick Armey and Karl Rove brought all of the sign wavers into the fold, and it looks like it’s going to be business as usual.

You said you wanted change. You wanted to throw the bums out. You wanted fresh faces in Washington, an end to the status quo. Na. Ga. Ha. Pen.

It’s not just the Senate races. In Texas, "Gov. Rick Perry defying anti-incumbent mood.” Former California Governor Jerry Brown is still leading political newbie Meg Whitman. And let’s not even talk about that embarrassment in New York, Carl Paladino.

Of course, the folks with egg on their faces are the people who created this false “anti-incumbent wave” meme to begin with: the mainstream media. Guess they read something in the tea leaves that was never there.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Jim Cooper Story

My Democratic Congress Critter Jim Cooper has been running some positive ads to keep his name out there, and I think this is the best one:

It basically talks about how Cooper helped his constituents after the Nashville floods, and delivers a nice “Cooper Cares” message. Now, this is standard-issue political messaging, what one would expect from a sitting Congressman running for re-election. But I just had to share my own “Cooper Cares” story, because I actually think it’s pretty funny.

I’ve met Cooper once, at a bloggers’ coffee a year or two ago. I was with a group of people, and I introduced myself under my nom de blog. Now it’s true I call and write all of my Congress Critters pretty regularly about issues before the House and Senate, but when I do so I use my Citizens’ name, not my blog name, and most of the time I talk to whichever poor Beleaguered Intern has been tasked with answering the phone that day. So I’m pretty confident that Rep. Cooper doesn’t know me from Adam; I could be wrong but if anything his office knows me as the nutcake who calls all the time to ask when the hell we’re bringing the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan and why haven’t we closed SOA/WHINSEC?

So, last year -- I think it was when he was promoting his own healthcare reform plan -- I called his office to voice my concerns about healthcare reform. I left my name and number with the Beleaguered Intern and expected that to be that and went about my day.

Now, let me interject here and say: I am not a telephone person. I despise the telephone. I have a cell phone, which I rarely use; if I remember to have my cell phone with me, half the time it’s not even turned on. Which is fine because if it is turned on, I can never hear it ring. I also perpetually forget to check messages on the landline. Anyone who wants to reach me knows not to call me. Send me an e-mail. That’s just how I roll; I’m a writer not a talker.

Okay, so here I’m doing my civic duty calling my Congress Critter about healthcare reform and then I leave the house for errands or whatever. And it must have been eight hours or so later -- heck, it might have been the next day -- that I realized my house phone line was messed up. So I turn on my cell phone to call BellSouth and that’s when I discovered Jim Cooper had left me a message! Now, how he got my cell phone number I have no idea, and frankly I was pretty astonished he had called because, again, he doesn’t know me from Adam, I’ve never given his campaign any money, and I was really just accustomed to leaving my little citizens’ message of concern with the Beleaguered Intern and being done with it.

So I called Cooper back on the number he had left. He said he’d tried to return my call several times, and became concerned when my phone appeared to be disconnected. So somehow he was able to get my cell phone number -- I don’t really want to know how, but let me guess it’s through perfectly normal Tennessee Democratic Party channels and not something requiring security clearance -- and tried to reach me that way. He said it more than once: “I was concerned when I couldn’t reach you.” I mean, dang. My own family doesn’t get concerned when they can’t reach me: half the time I think they call when they know I’m not at home.

Anyway, this story actually warmed my heart. I thought, if anything happens to Mr. Beale and I’m all alone and something awful happens -- God forbid -- I won’t have to worry that my body will go undiscovered until the smell alerts the neighbors. As long as I keep calling Coop’s office, I’ll know he’s concerned about me, too. I know this sounds corny, but I’m not sure there are too many members of Congress out there so fired up to talk to a constituent who doesn’t give them tons of money but just wants to nag about peace, healthcare and solar panels.


Well, clearly the solution to this problem is more deregulation:
As early as February, oil-field service giant Halliburton was getting poor results in lab tests of the recipe for the cement it was planning to use, according to evidence collected by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

Three separate tests suggested that the mixture would be "unstable," according to a commission staff letter released Thursday.

Halliburton notified BP by e-mail about only one of the tests before the well explosion, according to the commission. The two companies went ahead with the cementing job anyway. Its failure became the first in a cascade of factors leading to the accident.

The results of a fourth Halliburton test - the only one indicating that the cement slurry might have been able to contain the high-pressure pool of oil and gas at the bottom of the Macondo well - were not available until the night of April 19 at the earliest and perhaps not until after the cement was poured, the commission staff said.


At the commission's request, Chevron recently carried out independent lab tests of a cement slurry that Halliburton said was the same as that used in the Macondo well. The commission staff said Chevron reported that "its lab personnel were unable to generate stable foam cement in the laboratory using the materials provided by Halliburton."

The commission staff said in the letter Thursday that the Halliburton tests before the Macondo well blowout and the new lab tests conducted by Chevron show that "Halliburton (and perhaps BP) should have considered redesigning the foam slurry before pumping it at the Macondo well."

Well, I’m sure the free hand of the market will take care of that. I mean, this is Halliburton, y’all! The company which fleeced taxpayers with its Iraq reconstruciton corruption, overcharged the U.S. government for fuel, tried to cover up a female employee’s alleged gang rape. The company which got fat off U.S. government warmongering then moved to Dubai to avoid paying taxes. Such a patriotic group of people.

So now BP can share some of the liability for the country’s worst oil spill with Dick Cheney’s old company. This should be fun to watch.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I mean, seriously? This is what you guys got from last night?

CNN’s Kieran Chetry:
"First of all, Jon Stewart called the leader of the free world ‘Dude,’ which was kind of a surreal moment...” which NPR's media critic David Bianculli replied:

“President Dude might have shown a little more respect…”

Wall Street Journal:

Should Jon Stewart Have Called the President ‘Dude?’

• Washington Post’s Dana Milbank:

Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief "dude" pretty well captured the moment for Obama.

Sure, because calling the President a Nazi, Socialist, racist, Fascist, etc. is so much more respectful.

God our media discourse is so stupid. C'mon, Democrats. Read my post from this morning about entertainment. This is what gets the media's attention. Use it.

Jon Stewart & The Celebrity Ball

Wow. How the hell did that happen?

How did Jon Stewart become the only liberal who can get the national media’s attention?

For years we Lefties have decried how the media ignores liberals, liberal rallies, liberal messages. Hundreds of thousands of people protest the Iraq War and the media can barely bother to mention it. The national news media descends on Nashville’s Tea Party convention -- one reporter for every three conventioneers -- and reports dominate the news cycle for over a week. But Netroots Nation draw twice as many attendees? Crickets. Glenn Beck’s D.C. rally gets covered ad nauseum, while the One Nation rally a few weeks later is barely noticed. There’s wall-to-wall coverage of the CPAC convention every year, but liberal conferences are ignored.

Heck, even CNN has cut away from President Obama’s events, though they covered every campaign appearance by President Bush.

With this in mind it’s been really interesting to see the mainstream media’s embrace of Jon Stewart. Obama’s appearance on The Daily Show dominates the news this morning -- even getting covered on my local news stations. The Stewart/Colbert rally has been covered in the national newspapers for days. What all this tells me is that, at least in the eyes of the national news media and punditry, liberals have a leader and his name is Jon Stewart.

As an observer of our politics and media I have to say I find this fascinating. How did a New York comedian get elevated to “influencer” status -- beyond even the President of the United States, or past presidents like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter? Is it because Stewart is an entertainer, like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck? Does our media pay more attention to entertainers than they do policy makers and politicians? It would appear so.

I mean, thank God. Thank God the Left finally has someone who can get the attention of the corporate media because, as I’ve said often enough, it seems like most of the time we’re shouting into the wind. And unlike Limbaugh and Beck, whose unyielding defense of all things conservative often requires them to stretch into absurd ideological contortions, Stewart calls bullshit on the Democrats as often as he criticizes the right.

I just find this fascinating. If I were ever to interview Jon Stewart I would want to ask him if he’s even aware of his influencer status, how the hell he thinks this happened, and what he plans to do with this responsibility.

I also don’t get liberal talkers such as Bill Press who have criticized Stewart and Stephen Colbert for holding their rally right before the election, as if everyone who is going to be on the National Mall could instead spend the weekend knocking on doors and phone banking. That just misses the point, doesn’t it? The point is the very last thing the folks attending this rally would do is spend their weekend campaigning. They’d be attending kids’ soccer games and watching college football.

No, this rally is garnering national media attention -- finally we get some fucking attention! Thank you, Jon Stewart, for accomplishing what actual door knockers/phone bankers and other activist-types have failed to achieve. You're getting the word out. And this can only be a good thing.

This tells me something important. I guess what we Lefties have missed is that, basically, this is how it works these days. If you want the media’s attention you have to be an entertainer. You have to dress up in funny costumes, say crazy things, and basically put on a show. I don't mean a street theater show, which liberal groups like Code Pink have been doing forever. I mean a real show.

So now that we know this, I expect every liberal gathering, press conference, rally, policy conference, legislative battle, candidates' forum, etc. to be an entertainment extravaganza. This should be easy for us, we apparently specialize in all things Hollywood after all. Think about it: the Tea Party has Pat Boone and Ted Nugent. We've got pretty much everyone else. This should be a no-brainer.

So come on, Liberals. It's show time. Want cap-and-trade legislation? A public option in your healthcare bill? Net neutrality, Wall Street reform, and an end to the endless wars? Then get the best writers you have in a room and storyboard it. Write the theme song. Cast it as you would a blockbuster movie. Roll it out with all of the promotion of a new Bruce Springsteen or Madonna album. Do it like they did in "Wag The Dog.”

I mean, apparently this is the secret. This is what it takes. We can do this.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Can You Really Buy An Election?

I’ve been pondering all of the corporate money flooding this election: the direct donations from outfits like Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp to the Republican Governor’s Assn., the corporate donations to groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the corporate PACs, and the bazillionaire self-financed candidates. And then there are the ads from liberal groups: the Democratic campaign committees, unions, and the like. Most of the donations are going to Republican candidates, and while Democratic groups are certainly spending money -- and asking for it, lord God almighty how they are asking -- the GOP has been outspending Democrats significantly.

I have a couple of thoughts on this. For one thing, I have to wonder if these corporate donations are the best use of those millions. Is it really worthwhile, spending all of that money trying to get Republicans elected? Funneling all that cash to the GOP via PAC donations and Chamber donations and “grants” to corporate front groups like the American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation? Really? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just deal with whatever regulation it is the Democrats supposedly want, or increase the fuel economy on the car you’re manufacturing (and which the American public wants too, I might add)? Is it really a good return on investment to spend tens of millions every two years trying to swing an election?

The general assumption is that they wouldn’t be spending this kind of money if they didn’t think it worthwhile, but let’s face it: American corporations do all sorts of crazy, stupid shit. New Gap logo, anyone?

(And here's another thought: if the majority of Americans really believed in Free Market Fairies and the tyranny of Big Government and the dangers of the deficit, would they really need to spend so much money selling us these ideas?)

Maybe it was a smart expenditure before the good ol’ days of Citizens United, when we weren’t talking about so many zeroes on every campaign donation and every Karl Rove and Karl Rove wannabe didn’t have his or her hand out demanding money for this or that organization, PAC, think tank, foundation, etc. I mean, seriously. Wouldn’t you people rather be expanding your factories and hiring people with that money or something? Or giving yourselves fat bonuses?

Just wondering.

Here’s something else. It’s looking like $2 billion will be spent on campaigns this election, a record for a midterm election. We’ve all been griping about the money coming from foreign sources but nobody ever finishes the sentence: no one stops to think where this money is going. The vast majority of it is going to buy television air time.

Elections are a media cash cow, from the ad agencies making the buys to the cable, network and local television stations cashing the checks. Where is all of this Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads money going? Straight to Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC and the rest.

Well no wonder campaign finance reform and public financing of elections never got off the ground. No wonder our news information sucks. Who stands to benefit from an undecided voting public, an electoral horse race in every district, hotly contested primaries orchestrated by a media-created Tea Party "movement"? I mean, think about it.

Since I started writing this post this morning I have received seven solicitations for political donations and one phone call. Swear to God. Here’s one from the DCCC:
There are just hours left before our most critical deadline of the election. The amount of money in the bank tonight determines tomorrow's television spending -- this is the FINAL time we can make adjustments to our ad buy for the final week.

Enough already, people. I have just one question for the DCCC, Organizing For America, the Chamber of Commerce, and everyone else with skin in this game: do TV ads even work anymore? Other than getting a candidate’s name and image out there, of course, but does anyone think they will sway a voter’s opinion on a candidate?

For years we’ve been hearing that product marketers are getting away from traditional ad buys to things like “guerilla marketing” and “branding.” Consumers have been assaulted with advertising for decades and I think we’re all savvy enough to assume the information in a television ad is going to be bullshit. Just because Tide says its detergent is the most fabulous thing out there doesn’t mean anyone believes it. Why would anyone think we believe political campaign ads?

Here’s what’s interesting to me: there are thousands of people who believe Barack Obama is a Muslim of Kenyan birth. I don’t recall seeing one television ad telling people that information, yet somehow it managed to spread around the country anyway.


I’m not the only one questioning the dubious effectiveness of all this campaign advertising. As I was wondering these things I happened across this post over at Gin And Tacos which pretty much articulates my own thoughts on the subject. Ed writes:

Accordingly, asking whether money matters is essentially asking if advertising matters. Much like money, advertising has a threshold beyond which its marginal effects are indistinguishable from zero. There are different schools of thought on this issue, but my personal bias favors the argument that the threshold is very, very low. Advertising is good for name recognition and not much else. As you sit through the barrage of TV commercials for this year's candidates, ask yourself who is actually persuaded by any of this crap. Individuals' own preferences and partisan predispositions are an effective screen; in other words, any message from the opposite party is heavily discounted if not ignored altogether. If you're a Republican, you're going to tell yourself that anything in the Democrats' commercials is untrue and untrustworthy anyway.

Naturally, Republican ads are discounted by Democratic voters, and please show me the independent/undecided voter who is actually swayed by a campaign ad featuring the Scary Voiced Announcer Dude and Soaring Chorus when Candidate X appears on screen?

The only people campaign advertising makes a difference to is the people selling the air time. And it makes a huge difference to them. It will continue to make a difference to them until the candidates and campaigns themselves decide TV advertising isn’t effective. When that happens, the local and national networks will have a huge sad. Maybe as big of a sad as the one we’ll see by the RSCC, RCCC, DSCC, DCCC, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and every other group with their hand out seeking donations for ad buys that we could all do without.

Then and only then will this highway robbery come to an end and maybe we can have some sane political campaigns.

The Very Model Of A Modern U.S. President

Via Balloon Juice:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Republican Woman

Okay, this is currently going viral, and it's well done so I thought I'd share it. But for the record, I'm not entirely comfortable with the message. Being a proud liberal woman let me remind everyone: the problem with these candidates is not their gender, but the fact that they are barking mad and not anything close to being fit for office. And there are plenty of Republican men who can join them in the nuthouse as far as I'm concerned.

Still, it's a riff on a classic song from 1970, so I'm not gonna get my thong in a twist about it. No harm, no foul. Enjoy:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Living The Gun Life


Comments now closed. Everything that could possibly be said has been said.



As usual, the personal attacks have begun. I've allowed plenty of pro-gun folks to comment on this thread and share their ideas. I welcome reasonable conversation but if you're going to be an asshole and attack me personally I'm going to close this comment thread.


I love sharing my thoughts about guns, gun violence, and gun policy. Without fail my blog gets trolled by gun loons, 99% of them the same folks -- directed here by the same pro-gun blog -- who have hated what I have to say since the Tennessee guns-in-bars bill that started this whole thing. They come over to my blog to whine about how I won’t let them trash me or my regulars with comment spam. Apparently the idea that shouting over everyone else is not conducive to a conversation is a completely foreign concept.

It’s thuggery, pure and simple: I know this because one of my regular trolls once promised to call off the dogs if I’d stop blogging about guns. I don’t like poking a stick at a hornet’s nest but I like being intimidated even less, so I’ll keep writing about stuff that strikes a nerve with me, gun loons be damned.

Back in August I was fascinated by Dan Baum’s CCW story in Harper’s: "Happiness is a worn gun: My concealed weapon and me.” Baum is a Boulder, Colorado-based avowed liberal, and also a CCW holder and gun enthusiast -- many liberals are, contrary to conventional wisdom and what Fox News pundits and NRA newsletters say. (Of course, Fox and the NRA have a vested interest in dividing the country into “us” and “them,” so what do you expect?)

Before I go any further, let me tell my pro-gun readers that Baum’s piece is probably the best argument for guns, open-carry, shall-issue laws, etc. which I’ve ever read. (Hint to the gun loons: trolling liberal blogs acting like dicks does not exactly do your movement or your point of view much service. But I digress.)

I’ve been wanting to write about Baum’s piece since I read it back in August but every time I try I end up basically quoting the whole thing, because it’s so full of insight. Unfortunately, Harper’s is subscription only, so if you don’t subscribe you’ll have to find some other way of getting your hands on a copy.

The truth is, I have a lot of friends and family members -- political liberals and Dem-leaning moderates -- who like to shoot firearms and hunt. Heck, I met Mr. Beale at a shooting party. Yes, it’s true! Go figure.

That said, there’s a difference between my liberal gun friends and the ideological purists who deny guns pose any danger at all, who claim that all CCW permit holders are always responsible, and pretend that guns are as innocuous as Bic pens. I detect a cult-like mindset, something which comes up again and again when Baum writes about what he calls “living the gun life.”

Let’s start with Baum’s description of the handgun class he was required to take by Colorado law:
The classes I took taught me almost nothing about how to defend myself with a gun. One, taught by a man who said he refuses to get a carry permit because “I don’t think I have to get the government’s permission to exercise my right to bear arms,” packed about twenty minutes of useful instruction into four long evenings of platitudes, Obama jokes, and belligerent posturing. “The way crime is simply out of control, you can’t afford not to wear a gun all the time,” he told us on several occasions. We shot fifty rounds apiece at man-shaped targets fifteen feet away. The legal-implications segment was taught by a cop who, after warming us up with fart jokes, encouraged us to lie to policemen if stopped while wearing our guns and suggested that nobody in his right mind would let a burglar run off with a big-screen TV. It’s illegal to shoot a fleeing criminal, he said, “but if your aim is good enough, you have time to get your story straight before I [the police] get there.” Thank you for coming; here’s your certificate of instruction. The other class, a three-hour quickie at the Tanner Gun Show in Denver, was built around a fifteen-minute recruiting pitch for the NRA and a long-winded, paranoid fantasy about “home invasion.” “They’re watching what time you come home, what time do you get up to go to the bathroom, when you’re there, when you’re not,” said the instructor, Rob Shewmake, of the Florida company Equip 2 Conceal. “They know who lives in the house. They know where your bedroom is, and they’re there to kill you.” (Eighty-seven Americans were murdered during burglaries in 2008; statistically, you had a better chance of being killed by bees.)

These are Kool-Aid drinkers who, like Zach Wamp, appear to be so drunk on the fear porn we get 24/7 from the news media that you’d think they were the last defense between civilzation and utter mayhem. Even though violent crime has been dropping for years, apparently thieves, rapists and murderers lurk around every corner, ready to defile their daughters and steal their flat-screen TV.

Their paranoid vision of America is not one I share. “Living the gun life” appears to require being in a constant state of fear, mistrust, and paranoia, viewing your fellow citizens as potential threats, and ready to fight to the death for material objects that are not nearly as valuable as a human life--even the life of a criminal.

Fear is a potent drug, as bad as heroin or cocaine, and equally addictive. Of course this is what the gun loons are selling -- a populace that isn’t in fear doesn’t need to arm itself, does it?

Baum continues:

Both classes were less about self-defense than about recruiting us into a culture animated by fear of violent crime. In the Boulder class, we watched lurid films of men in ski masks breaking into homes occupied by terrified women. We studied color police photos of a man slashed open with a knife. Teachers in both classes directed us to websites dedicated to concealed carry, among them, an online gathering place where the gun-carrying community warns, over and over, that crime is “out of control.”

In fact, violent crime has fallen by a third since 1989—one piece of unambiguous good news out of the past two decades. Murder, rape, robbery, assault: all of them are much less common now than they were then. At class, it was hard to discern the line between preparing for something awful to happen and praying for something awful to happen. A desire to carry a gun seemed to precede the fear of crime, the fear serving to justify the carrying. I asked one of the instructors whether carrying a gun didn’t bespeak a needlessly dark view of mankind. “I’m an optimist,” he said, “but we live in a world of assholes.”

At the conclusion of both classes, we students were welcomed into the gun-carrying fraternity as though dripping from the baptismal font. “Thank you for being a part of this, man. You’re doing the right thing,” one of the Boulder teachers said, taking my hand in both of his and looking into my eyes. “You should all be proud of yourselves just for being here,” said the police officer who helped with the class. “All of us thank you.” As we stood shaking hands, with our guns in our gym bags and holding our certificates, we felt proud, included, even loved. We had been admitted to a league of especially useful gentlemen and ladies.

Welcome to the gun cult! You are now in an exclusive, “special” group: defenders of freedom, liberty, chastity, and family. The fate of the Republic rests on your shoulders.

There's more:

Just as the Red Cross would like everybody to be qualified in CPR, gun carriers want everybody prepared to confront violence—not only by being armed but by maintaining Condition Yellow. Hang around with people committed to carrying guns and it’s easy to feel guilty about lapsing into Condition White, to begin seeing yourself as deadweight on society, a parasite, a mediocre citizen. “You should constantly practice being in Condition Yellow all the time,” writes Tony Walker in his book How to Win a Gunfight. Of course, it’s not for everyone; the armed life in Condition Yellow requires being mentally prepared to kill. As John Wayne puts it in his last movie, The Shootist, “It’s not always being fast or even accurate that counts. It’s being willing.”

This is a classic cult mind-control device: to portray those who are in the cult as having special, privileged knowledge, an exclusivity or "elite" status. Those who are outside the cult are portrayed as lost souls, in extreme cases they are evil. It's a separation of humanity into the privileged few and the "other."

This cracked me up, but it also made me sad:

When I mention that I’m carrying, their faces light up. “Good for you!” “Right on!” “God bless you!” The owner of a gun factory in Mesa, Arizona, spotted the gun under my jacket and said, with great solemnity, “You honor me by wearing your gun to my place of business.”

You honor me? Dang. That's some serious whack.

Fear is an effective tool; its opposite -- certainty -- is equally enticing. I don't want to live in fear all of the time -- I daresay most people don't, but when you live in a world where fear messages are thrust at you nonstop, it's a hard habit to quit. I've said more than once that if fear is what you're selling, I ain’t buying.

Neither do I want certainty. Certainty looks appealing but it's a chimera. There's no such thing. Destiny turns on a dime, the world is a maze of gray. Black and white exists only in morality plays and fundamentalist religion.

The problem is, fear is what they’re selling. Baum writes about the state of high alert, the hyper-vigilance which comes with carrying a gun and being in what's called “Condition Yellow.”

If I’m in a restaurant or store, I find myself in my own little movie, glancing at the door when a person walks in and, in a microsecond, evaluating whether a threat has appeared and what my options for response would be—roll left and take cover behind that pillar? On the street, I look people over: Where are his hands? What does his face tell me? I run sequences in my head. If a guy jumps me with a knife, should I throw money to the ground and run? Take two steps back and draw? How about if he has a gun? How will I distract him so I can get the drop? It can be fun. But it can also be exhausting. Some nights I dream gunfight scenarios over and over and wake up bushed. In Flagstaff I was planning to meet a friend for a beer, and although carrying in a bar is legal in Arizona, drinking in a bar while armed is not. I locked my gun in the car. Walking the few blocks to the bar, I realized how different I felt: lighter, dreamier, conscious of how the afternoon light slanted against Flagstaff’s old buildings. I found myself, as I walked, composing lines of prose. I was lapsing into Condition White, and loving it.

Condition White may make us sheep, but it’s also where art happens. It’s where we daydream, reminisce, and hear music in our heads. Hard-core gun carriers want no part of that, and the zeal for getting everybody to carry a gun may be as much an anti–Condition White movement as anything else—resentment toward the airy-fairy elites who can enjoy the luxury of musing, sipping tea, and nibbling biscuits while the good people of the world have to work for a living and keep their guard up. Gun guys never stop building and strengthening this like-minded community.

I don't know if Baum was aware he is describing a cult, but he is.

I can’t imagine what living in this constant state of hypervigilance does to one’s psyche. It’s not healthy, and it’s certainly an effective way to exert cult-like influence over a group of people.

The last half of Baum's article addresses the issue of gun policy. He makes some really interesting points. For example:

Shall-issue may or may not have contributed to the stunning drop in violent crime since the early Nineties. The problem with the catchy More Guns, Less Crime construction, though, is that many other things may have helped: changing demographics, smarter policing, the burnout of the crack-cocaine wave, three-strikes laws, even—as suggested by Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner—legalized abortion. And crime dropped more in some states that didn’t adopt shall-issue laws than in some that did.

But shall-issue didn’t lead to more crime, as predicted by its critics. The portion of all killing done with a handgun—the weapon people carry concealed—hasn’t changed in decades; it’s still about half. Whereas the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., can produce a list of 175 killings committed by carry-permit holders since 2007, the NRA can brandish a longer list of crimes prevented by armed citizens. I prefer to rely on the FBI’s data, which show that not only are bad-guy murders—those committed in the course of rape, robbery, and other felonies—way down but so are spur-of-the-moment murders involving alcohol, drugs, romantic entanglements, money disputes, and other arguments: the very types of murders that critics worried widespread concealed-carry would increase.

This is all good information but it’s not a compelling argument to me.

Here is what resonates with me:

When I called Mike Stollenwerk, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who is a cofounder of, he told me right away he thinks displaying a gun outside a presidential event is for “the Tea Party nutties.” He wants more people carrying handguns openly because “we want everybody to have that right.” Wearing guns openly so you can wear guns openly sounds to me like the old Firesign Theatre joke about the mural depicting the historic struggle of the people to finish the mural. Open-carry is already legal almost everywhere. But Stollenwerk said the movement is about changing culture rather than law. “We’re trying to normalize gun ownership by openly carrying properly holstered handguns in daily life,” he said.

And this is my objection. Baum provided an excellent window into “the gun life” and it’s not a life I want, or a community I want to call home. I don’t want the culture changed into this high-stress, hyper-vigilant “Condition Yellow.” I don’t want to be a member of your cult and the eroding of community standards it represents, where killing a fellow human being to defend your big screen TV is a virtue. I’d rather sip tea and nibble biscuits with the other airy-fairy elites. And if that’s something you want to do, then fine - I’m not an abolitionist, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to ask a few assurances. Like, for instance, that you’ve cleared a thorough background check, you have been thoroughly trained, and your permit is revoked if you’re an idiot like Debra Monce. Of course, these things are supposed to happen but we’ve seen what a joke this is. Because when you’re in gun cult country, where those who go unarmed are viewed as parasites and the man teaching the gun class refuses to get a carry permit on principle, such things are not just inconvenience, they are a downright threat.

Baum writes:

We may all benefit from having a lot of licensed people carrying guns, if only because of the heightened state of awareness in which they live. It’s a scandal, though, that people can get a license to carry on the basis of a three-hour “course” given at a gun show. State requirements vary, but some don’t even ask students to fire a weapon before getting a carry permit. We should enforce high standards for instruction, including extensive live firing, role playing, and serious examination of the legal issues. Since people can carry guns state to state, standards should be uniform. States should require a refresher course, the way Texas does, before renewing a carry permit. To their credit, most gun carriers I’ve talked to agree that training should improve, even if some of them get twitchy at the idea of mandates. The Second Amendment confers a right to keep and bear arms. It does not confer a right to instant gratification.

Baum said he’d probably stop wearing his gun. He missed “Condition White,” he felt it put up a barrier between he and his friends. It “militarized” his life and he didn’t like it. And I don't like it either. I don't want to live in a militarized community, just as Dan Baum didn't want to live a militarized life.

Tennessee is a nice place to live. Nashville is a nice city. One always hears that it's "a great place to raise a family." Bringing guns into every school, church, restaurant, bar, park, etc. will change that spirit. And I don't like it.

Apparently Guns DO Kill People

Remington Arms Co. evidently considered a nationwide recall for its Model 700 hunting rifle, which customers complain will fire without the trigger being pulled. Inexplicably, they decided not to:
The rifle series—which debuted with the Remington 721—featured a unique trigger system patented by a young Remington engineer named Merle "Mike" Walker. Walker has called his design "a perfect trigger," with a smooth pull favored by expert shooters.

According to Walker's patent, the secret was a tiny piece of metal called a "trigger connector," which is mounted loosely inside the firing mechanism. But critics, including ballistics experts who have been hired to testify against the company, say small amounts of rust, debris, or even a small jolt can cause the trigger connector to become misaligned, forcing the trigger itself to lose contact with the rest of the firing mechanism.

Then, the gun can be fired when other parts are operated, such as the safety or the bolt. Barbara Barber says her Remington 700 discharged as she moved the safety to the off position to unload the gun. Others have reported their rifles discharging when they opened, closed or even touched the bolt.


But internal documents obtained by CNBC show that in 1948—before the gun went on the market—Mike Walker himself proposed a design change to prevent the trigger's internal parts from falling out of alignment.

Other documents show the added cost for Walker's "trigger block" came to pennies per gun, but with the rifle already over budget, officials decided against making a change.

I heard that story on the news last week and my first thought was: even if they wanted to issue a product recall, how much do you want to bet the NRA pressured them not to? Because then us Dirty Fucking Hippies who who say guns are not safe would have been proved right.

That’s certainly how it appears:

Documents show that in later years, Remington decided at least twice—in 1979 and 1994—to abandon the idea of a nationwide recall of the 700 series, in part because officials feared it would undercut their message to the public about firearm safety, including making certain the gun is pointed in a safe direction and not becoming overly reliant on the gun's safety mechanism.

"If proper firearms safety rules are followed, no accidental injuries would ever occur," Remington says in its statement.

Amazing that any accidents ever occur, isn’t it? If all guns are safe, and all gun owners are responsible, fine upstanding citizens, why are our children being maimed and killed?

On a related note, it seems Bill Haslam’s pandering has got him into trouble. He’s tried so hard to look like the “everyman” Republican: the reasonable businessman, the moderate, the family-values Christian. But when he got nailed on the guns thing, his attempt to look like a Zach Wamp-style right wing wackadoodle--pardon the pun--backfired. Ooops.

It’s been kinda cute to watch Haslam backpedal on this one. First he promises to sign a bill that gets rid of carry permits. Then people are like, “hey wait a minute that makes no sense and makes Tennessee look like a bunch of hayseed backwater hicks who love their guns more than their safety.” And he’s like, “well, I’d prefer we didn’t change the law but ... hem ... haw ... I’ll do what the legislature wants. Because while my folksy TV ads show that I’m a leader, I’m not that much of a leader! When it comes to crazy gun laws I’ll do whatever the nutballs say!”

The next few years don’t bode well for Tennessee.

So now we have people who want to do away with the gun carry permits, let everyone carry a gun, anywhere they want! Why the hell not, right? At the same time, you’re doing away with the most modest of public safety procedures, ensuring the person walking around with a weapon is a legal U.S. resident or citizen, not a felon, a stalker, a terrorist, drug addict or a mental case, and more importantly, if any of these things do become true, you eliminate the mechanism for taking the person’s carry permit away.

And the reason some folks want to do this? Because everyone who carries a gun is a fine upstanding citizen! Don’t you follow the logic?


As more people carry more guns around to more places we will have more shootings, accidental and otherwise. Count on it. And some day when the nuts have all shot themselves in the face we can get back to having some sane gun laws in this country. Until then, Congress will pass all sorts of laws protecting the gun industry because they're too cowed by the industry thugs and the NRA.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Buy One Anyway!


This one hurt. I laughed at this one... but it was through tears:

This Too Shall Pass

I think pretty much everything that needs to be said about Juan Williams’ firing by NPR has been said, from Sarah Palin’s ghost-written Tweets to more sane commentary from real media analysts. I just want to remind everyone that this latest hissy fit will be forgotten as soon as the next shiny-sparkly thing comes along to divert everyone’s attention, probably a wardrobe malfunction or celebrity tweet or stupid thing from Christine O’Donnell, Carl Palladino or another car in the Teanut trainwreck.

I need to go through my blog archive to remember what the last big fauxtrage was about -- and I don’t even write about most of them. Let’s see: three weeks ago it was CNN dumping Rick Sanchez. Gosh I’d already forgotten about that.

Anyone remember the Great Laura Schlessinger Debate of August 2010? All of that “Don’t retreat: reload!” advice from the Sage of Wasilla? Of course we've forgotten it! Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of what happens in the media fishbowl is irrelevant to everyone who is not in the media, and therefore it's forgotten within a week.

Anyone remember the furor over Dave Weigel being forced to resign from the Washington Post? David Frum’s firing from the American Enterprise Institute? CNN hiring right-wing hack Erick Erickson?

I mean seriously. The way the media covers itself is indecent. So many politicized outrages over media personalities losing (or getting) jobs, and they all follow the same pattern. Something happens, Sarah Palin Tweets about it, conservatives get up in arms, liberals get up in arms, there's endless analysis on blogs and news shows like Moanin’ Joe, and then in a week it’s gone. (Though I must say: the national media is far less likely to be interested in something when it pisses off the Left. I don't recall nearly as much media interest in the Weigel and Erickson stories. I still haven't figured that out.)

Anyway, I’m tired of the bullshit, and it occurred to me that so few people have come out and said that this is bullshit. So I will: it's all bullshit, people. It matters not one iota to anyone's life, save the man who just landed a $2 million contract at Fox. Heh heh, who could have seen that coming -- besides everyone, that is!

Let me just offer conservatives like Andrew Breitbart and Mike Huckabee a tip: saying you will now boycott NPR is seen by the left as a win. Just sayin’.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Whining All The Way To The Bank

I’m playing the world’s tiniest violin for the CEO of healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group, who turned a conference call about the company’s staggering profitability into a whine about new federal healthcare legislation. The business press, for the most part, ate it up:
Steven J. Hemsley said during a Tuesday conference call to discuss the company's third-quarter performance that UnitedHealth expects "some level" of an operating earnings and net earnings per share reduction next year, when insurers will be required to meet minimum medical loss ratios (MLRs) or provide refunds to consumers.

MLRs measure the percentage of customers' premiums that insurers spend on medical claims.
Oh whaah. The poor dears, why they are completely oppressed by Big Mean Government! How will they ever survive if they can no longer rob their customers blind? Indeed, the CEO’s dire warnings about 2011 profitability caused the stock to drop 3%, for about half a second. But no worries:
THE SPARK: The insurer's stock price fell about 3 percent Tuesday even after the insurer reported a 23 percent hike in third-quarter profit to $1.28 billion, or $1.14 per share. Other managed care stocks dropped as well.

UnitedHealth shares then rallied Wednesday as part of a correction to Tuesday's overreaction to the CEO's comments, Miller Tabak analyst Les Funtleyder said.

THE BIG PICTURE: UnitedHealth also said Tuesday its third-quarter revenue rose 9 percent to $23.67 billion. Its performance trumped expectations on Wall Street. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast earnings of 84 cents per share on about $23 billion in revenue.

THE ANALYSIS: Funtleyder said UnitedHealth had a "terrific" quarter. He added that the MLR guidelines shouldn't have a big impact on such a large and diversified company like UnitedHealth.

Thank you, United States Congress, for delivering 40 million new customers to these assholes. Steven Hemsley and UnitedHealth’s board of directors and WellPoint and all of the rest of these assholes should be on their fucking knees thanking Congress and President Obama for not just keeping these greedy grubbers in business but actually giving them more customers. Instead we got whining and moaning and political donations to Republicans and all manner of false claims about what “Obamacare” really is.

It’s really hard to find any sensible conservative who can articulate a valid opposition to the healthcare legislation. Once the lies about death panels and socialized medicine have been stripped away, what you usually end up with is some kind of baseless fear that the Affordable Care Act is just a “first step” toward single payer. And God, how I wish it were true. But it’s just not. It’s the exact opposite. In fact, it entrenches our failed, private, for-profit insurance system more deeply into American healthcare. And this is why a whole bunch of Americans don’t like the healthcare bill.

I’m always amused when I see this Diane Black ad on TV. She reminds us that she’s a nurse, and she “led the fight against TennCare’s unsustainable growth.” In short, she’s reminding us all how she helped deny tens of thousands of the most vulnerable Tennesseans -- the poor, elderly and disabled -- their access to healthcare, by denying them insurance. She’s proud of this. And our clueless Tennessee Democrats have their thumbs up their asses and aren’t calling her on it.

People like Diane Black never have any ideas to offer on how to get people access to healthcare. It’s all “repeal healthcare reform” and “no government spending,” but what you are really saying is that you think things are just peachy the way they are. You think it’s fine for people to keep paying escalating insurance premiums while UnitedHealth, WellPoint, BlueCross BlueShield and the rest rake in ginormous profits.

You think our old system was fine. You think it’s perfectly OK for someone to pay insurance premiums on time every month and still get denied the care they need because of “pre-existing conditions” and lifetime caps. In short, you’re saying there isn’t a problem.

And you’re dead wrong, lady. We all know our system is broken. The Republicans haven’t offered any ideas to solve it, while the Democrats’ brilliant idea was to keep the current failed system and just force insurance companies to stop being dicks. Meanwhile, health insurance companies are whining all the way to the bank.

It’s absolutely insane. So, sorry UnitedHealth Group. You just got a profit of $1.28 billion for the third quarter alone. Profit, people. That’s net. That’s after expenses. That’s ... pretty fucking huge. I’m not going to rally in the streets on your behalf complaining about how oppressed you are. That’s just stupid.

Quit your whining, Mr. Hemsley. America's healthcare system is still horribly broken and you're still making money hand over fist off of the misery of millions.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


George Soros has finally donated $1 million to Media Matters and right-wing heads are exploding:
George Soros announced today that he was making his first-ever contribution to Media Matters, in the amount of $1 million.  Rush Limbaugh denounced this as "foreign money in American politics" and called Soros "a foreigner."  Right-wing bloggers echoed this claim ("Foreign Money in Politics: Soros Donates $1 Million to Media Matters"), and the comment section of right-wing blogs discussing this donation are filled with accusations that this constitutes "foreign money in politics."

Problem is, Soros is an American citizen -- has been since 1961. Ooops.

Yeah, I know: they were probably thrown by the funny accent.

Rupert Murdoch, on the other hand, became a U.S. citizen in 1985. I don’t recall any of these right-wing blowhards decrying Murdoch’s “foreign money” donations to the Republican Governors Assn. and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


So, am I the only one who thinks the Democrats' slamming the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its foreign donors has struck a raw nerve? Yeah, I thought so, too.

Conservative Psychosis

Yeah I know we’re all supposed to be really dumbfounded by Virginia Thomas’ bizarre voicemail message to Anita Hill. I admit, my first reaction was, “Really? After all of these years? And demanding an apology, too?”

This morning on MSNBC journalist Karen Hunter opined that Mrs. Thomas was either “in an Ambien haze or filming a reality TV show.” Which I thought was pretty hilarious, though Hunter might get a Saturday morning demand for an apology from Mrs. Thomas for her trouble.

But really: filming a reality show? Yes of course she is. Ginni Thomas is a Tea Party activist. And hasn’t our modern political discourse become just one giant non-stop reality show?

I understand Ginni Thomas’ behavior perfectly. She is a member of the Teanut cult, a group of people defined by their victimhood. Poor conservatives, they are perpetual victims at the hands of big mean liberals: Katie Couric was so mean to ask Sarah Palin a “gotcha” question like which newspapers and magazines she reads! How dare anyone call Carrie Prejean mean names like “hypocrite” for taking her top off in a modeling session, then pretending to be Miss Purity & Moral Values? Christine O’Donnell is a victim of “character assassination” because tapes of her saying stupid things have resurfaced now that she wants to be a U.S. Senator. That is so mean, you guyz!

Conservatives have been calling for the whaaambulance for years now, a neat little turning of the tables: these are the folks who have railed against “liberal victimhood” forever. Minorities, women, the disabled, the poor ... those folks need to stop demanding special treatment and buck up, already! Quit yer whining and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!

But it’s always IOKIYAR in conservative land. They’re always the oppressed ones, unable to understand why they can no longer be assholes and not get applauded for it. The liberal media and culture of political correctness oppresses them every day. There are gays out in the open, demanding that their “lifestyle” be sanctioned by the government, fer crying out loud!

As a Tea Party activist and founder of Liberty Central, Ginni Thomas drinks this victimhood Kool-Aid every day. Of course she’s held a grudge all of these years. Of course she hasn’t forgotten all of those mean things Anita Hill said about her husband so many years ago. Of course she sees herself as the real victim here.

Thomas is the perfect Teanut standard-bearer for this cult of victimhood, since she can’t be accused of being a racist as her husband is African American. I’d say she knew exactly what she was doing stirring up this pot after so many years. She’s reminding her fellow cultists of a divisive time in our nation’s history where mean liberals demanded special treatment and attacked one of their heroes (anyone who doubts Clarence Thomas is a hero to the right wing need only remember he officiated at Rush Limbaugh's third wedding -- which was held at the Thomas home.) She’s telling her fellow Teanuts that if tyrannical liberals are allowed to win, honest American patriots will continue to be oppressed by Commie idealists who demand everything handed to them on a platter, instead of working hard for what they want, like they do.

It’s the mother of all dog whistles, people. Don’t think Ginni Thomas blew it by accident.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Suppressing The Latino Vote

I guess the Republican Party has conceded the Hispanic vote, judging by this ad telling Latinos not to vote. The ad is running in Spanish and English.

Seems the guy behind this “don’t vote” campaign is linked to the Republican Party and his organization was once connected to a prominent Swift Boater.

I know, y’all are shocked. Well, not everyone is taking this lying down. Here’s a counter-ad explaining why Latinos should vote on November 2:

Back in 2004 when I was registering voters I’d occasionally run across African-American women who said they didn’t vote on religious grounds. The first time I heard that I was stunned. What religion preaches that people shouldn’t vote? They always said it was a “church” thing, as in, “my church doesn’t believe in that.” So these were Christians. Anyone know what church does not believe in voting? Is this a Jehova’s Witness thing? I honestly have no clue.

All I could think was: what better way to make sure people remain disempowered and oppressed than to tell them voting is against their religion?


Yet another reason to vote:
PHOENIX – Lawmakers in at least 14 states are collaborating on proposed legislation to deny U.S. citizenship to children of illegal immigrants, according to lawmakers, including the sponsor of Arizona's 2010 law targeting illegal immigration.

Gotta love those family values! Because there's nothing more compassionate than breaking up families.


DOJ investigating voter intimidation by Texas Tea Party group:

Harris County, the biggest county in the state, is where a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots launched an anti-voter fraud initiative called "True the Vote," which recruited poll watchers and amped up fears over groups like the community organizing group ACORN.

Chad Dunn, a lawyer who is representing the Texas Democratic Party, told TPMMuckraker a number of witnesses have been interviewed by Civil Rights Division lawyers already. "We've gotten a number of reports -- quite a few out of the Houston area -- that poll watchers, King Street Patriot training poll watchers, are following a voter after they've checked them out and stand right behind them," Dunn said. There's at least a dozen reports that they could confirm with witnesses, he said. "Interestingly, it's all in the polling places in Hispanic and African-American areas," he added.

Terry O'Rourke, the first assistant in the Harris County Attorney's office, told TPMMuckraker that there have been allegations of poll watchers talking to voters, which they are not allowed to do, as well as hovering over voters as they are waiting to vote. He said the complaints came from Kashmere Gardens, Moody Park, Sunnyside and other predominantly minority neighborhoods of the county.

Of course. Because when brown people vote, Republicans lose.



New York TImes covers the story.


Hey James O’Keefe! Here’s how you punk the media:
If we had to get punked, we're glad it was by the Yes Men, who have quite a track record of pulling really convincing stunts. Their slightly off URL,, was a spitting-image spoof of the real Also, Yes Men hucksters clearly watch Mad Men as often as we do and were riding high from Don Draper's nuclear-option "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco" letter in the New York Times.

Yes Men's version involved an ad with a smiling elderly indigenous man wearing a bandana, with the words "OIL COMPANIES SHOULD CLEAN UP THEIR MESSES," along with a red stamp that reads "We Agree"--followed by the signatures of Chevron higher-ups. The ad was supposed to be a reference to a years-long lawsuit in Ecuador, where Chevron is accused of being responsible for $27 billion of oil pollution clean-up costs. refers to the Ecuadorian lawsuit as "a meritless case"; according to the Christian Science Monitor , Chevron has taken out quarter-page newspaper ads with defensive headlines like "the fraud of the century." Nevertheless, Ecuadorians appeared to be the heroes of Chevron's new ad campaign. It was fake, we now know.

Well, don’t feel so bad: you weren’t alone! Advertising Age also fell for the hoax, as did AFP and some online energy journals.

Chevron is not amused:

SAN RAMON, Calif., Oct. 18, 2010 – Earlier today, a group of environmentalists cyber-posing as Chevron officials illegally spoofed Chevron’s just-launched “We Agree” advertising campaign. While such a campaign does exist, its official URL is The advertisements released earlier today, at, were an elaborate subterfuge and must not be mistaken as real.

“Chevron does not take this attack lightly,” said Hewitt Pate, General Counsel for Chevron. “We invest extremely heavily in our campaigns, and we take them extremely seriously. Such actions can never be tolerated.” Though the exact cost of “We Agree” must remain confidential, Chevron routinely spends $90 million per year on US advertising alone.

Pate also noted that the environmentalists have made libellous allegations regarding Chevron’s record and obligations in Ecuador and beyond. “Despite what some will say, we are not obliged to abide by decisions that Ecuadorian judges make or do not make. This is because we have binding agreements with the Ecuadorian Government exempting us from any liabilities whatsoever, granted in exchange for a $40 million cleanup of some wells by Texaco in the 1990s.”

See! That totally proves that they didn’t do anything wrong! Nothing whatsoever! Because Chevron cares! And they proved it by signing a binding agreement with the government of Ecuador to clean up some wells. Problem solved! Agree?

Last year the Yes Men punk’d the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by holding a fake press conference. In 2007 they posed as executives from ExxonMobil at an oil industry conference.

A Real Chevron Press Release. Accept No Substitutes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

New York Times Fail

The New York Times regrets the errors:
Correction: October 17, 2010

An article last Sunday about Pamela Geller, a blogger who attacks Islam, misidentified the location of a beach from which she video-blogged about her visit to Israel during the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006. She was in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at the time of her reports, not at a beach in Israel. The article also overstated the number of monthly unique visitors to Ms. Geller’s Web site, Atlas Shrugs. The site attracts 194,000 such visitors, according to Quantcast statistics — not one million. (The Nielsen Company estimated 184,000 in September.) And because of an editing error, the article misspelled the surname of the lead singer of the Who whom Ms. Geller was likened to for being the “front man” in the attack on Islam. He is Roger Daltrey, not Daltry.


(Via Sadly No.)

TSA Security Perverts

A pilot refused a full body scan at the Memphis airport and now may lose his job:
A pilot for ExpressJet Airlines refused to submit to a full-body scan in Memphis on Saturday, saying the technology amounts to "virtual strip searching." Detained by airport security, he now may lose his job. Here's his heroic first-hand account.

I have to say: good for him. I’ve written plenty about this ridiculous security theater, that it’s designed to give the appearance of making us safer while doing absolutely nothing at all.

No fucking way I am submitting to one of these things. Ever. Not that I need to worry about it, being white, female, nearing 50, and well past my hotness expiration.

When Mr. Beale and I traveled to Canada this summer I got to see one of these thingamajigs in action. A young couple in front of us at SEA-TAC were pulled out of the TSA line and put into these cylinder-thingies that I realized were full body scanners. She: young, blonde, cute, in a spaghetti-strap top and mini skirt. He: young, blonde, cute in those super-tight jeans you kids wear these days and a T-shirt. They looked like rock stars or models.

And I thought: of course. Of course the people pulled out of the security line for a full-body scan are the people you just wish would pose nude for Playboy. But they don’t have to -- you can have your own private viewing, whenever you want, if you're in the TSA!

I don’t know Michael Roberts, ExpressJet pilot. Hey, he may be a fat schlub like me. But I’m guessing there's more to this story. I’m guessing he was targeted for some reason.

Maybe being the spokesperson for a group railing against “TSA tyranny” has something to do with it.

Ya think?

I have one message to the -- how many of you guys are left now, is it, three? Four? -- commercial airliners. The more unpleasant you allow air travel to become, the less likely we are to use your service. I will take my last airplane trip when I get pulled out of the TSA line to put on a peep show for some sick, bored airport employees. Consider this fair warning.

Holy Crap We’re Living In A Tim Robbins Movie

I’m not really sure what prompted John Cole of Balloon Juice to dig through the memory hole and find this trailer for the 1992 Tim Robbins political satire “Bob Roberts” but it has caused me great gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. Well, not really, but watch it and tell me aren’t looking at the modern-day Tea Party:

Here’s the thing. I remember going to that movie with a girlfriend, and sorta liking it and sorta thinking ... “Naaah! Too outrageous! Too crazy!”

Seriously. We both were sort of stunned by it for a second, especially the ending (which I won’t divulge here for any who haven’t seen it), and then brushed it aside as waaaay too unrealistic. I mean, especially the whole Revolutionary War costume stuff, which I recall was extremely hilarious and decidedly over the top. No way in hell anyone would march around in tricorn hats and knee britches outside of Colonial Williamsburg, right?

And oh my God. All it took was 18 years and the Gingrich Revolution and here we are. Holy crap. We’re all living in a Tim Robbins movie!

I decided to do some digging in the memory hole myself and see what folks said about the film back then. Here’s the New York Times’ review:
"BOB ROBERTS," written and directed by Tim Robbins, who also plays the title role, is a very funny, sometimes prescient satire of American politics, and of the comparatively small, voting portion of the electorate that makes a Bob Roberts phenomenon possible. Recent events haven't completely overtaken the movie, but they do indicate just how wild a satire must be these days to remain on the cutting edge of the outrageous.

In the person of Mr. Robbins, whose performance is a career-defining achievement, Bob Roberts is a smoothly ingratiating, guitar-playing businessman, a self-made millionaire who wants to be the next United States Senator from Pennsylvania. He's good-looking, but in the way of a familiar television personality, not of a major movie star. His charisma doesn't intimidate.

He's young, healthy and sincere. More important, he appropriates gestures and language associated with 1960's protest movements and uses them in the cause of his own brand of 1990's right-wing rabble-rousing. He calls himself a "rebel conservative." He's the kind of guy who answers a young fan's letter by cautioning her not to do crack, adding, "It's a ghetto drug."

Welcome to the modern Tea Party. So desperate for some cultural relevance that they’ve appropriated the words, language and actions of the ‘60s protest movement, the most culturally revolutionary movement this nation has produced.

But there’s more:

When Bob strums his guitar and sings such upbeat numbers as "My Land," "Times Are Changin' Back" and "Wall Street Rap," he is selling family values and patriotism and assuring his supporters that, in effect, it's their duty to "take, make and win by any means," even if they can't. Among other things, Bob understands the appeal of an ultra-conservative political and economic policy even to those who have nothing: anticipating the day when they do have it all, they want to make sure they will be able to keep it.

Let me remind everyone that this is the New York Times review. The New York Times talking about the "comparatively small" voting block that votes against their own interests and adheres to these fringe right wing ideas. Eighteen years ago they called the scenario presented in this film a "wild" satire. Heh.

And it's the same New York Times which, 18 years later, now covers the Tea Party as a serious political movement, not a piece of corporate astroturf political theater starring that same “comparatively small, voting portion of the electorate” who are easily manipulated because they’re scared and the economy sucks. What was once written off as a wild satire is now Very Serious front page news.

So all of this time I’ve been yammering on about how the battle is on the cultural front, and here we have this movie from 18 years ago predicting exactly where we are today, and not a damn thing has changed save one thing: the crazy is now mainstream. What was once satire and cartoonish is now Very Serious political thought. Crazy.

If nothing else, it really illustrates how long we’ve been in this political morass. You young kids, I hate to disillusion you, but consider this an inspiration. Clearly my generation fucked things up and didn’t have the brains or guts to change the political landscape, even though apparently we were given ample warning. So, it’s up to you.

And to the Tea Party I have this to say: apparently, we Hollywood Liberal Elites have been making fun of you guys for nearly 20 years. Suck on that!

And to Tim Robbins and the Weinstein brothers and anyone else involved in this film, I would like to remind you: in two years we have a presidential election. And if you don't re-release this film on Blu-Ray DVD in a special 20 year Anniversary Edition with commentary and analysis and Tea Party references and all that, then I am personally revoking your Dirty Fucking Hippie Membership in the Hollywood Liberal Elite.

Just sayin'.

Yet ANOTHER Reason To Regulate Carbon Emmissions

Suck on this, Sen. Bob Corker:
"We found a link between post-menopausal breast cancer and exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is a 'marker' for traffic-related air pollution," says Dr. Goldberg. "Across Montreal, levels of NO2 varied between 5 ppb to over 30 ppb. We found that risk increased by about 25 per cent with every increase of NO2 of five parts per billion. Another way of saying this is that women living in the areas with the highest levels of pollution were almost twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those living in the least polluted areas."


Dr. Labrèche adds "Some studies published in the US have also shown possible links between cancer and air pollution. At the moment, we are not in a position to say with assurance that air pollution causes breast cancer. However, we can say that the possible link merits serious investigation. From a public health standpoint, this possible link also argues for actions aimed at reducing traffic-related air pollution in residential areas."

The study was a collaborative effort by researchers from the Research Institute of the MUHC, McGill University and Université de Montreal. It was funded by a research grant from the Canadian Cancer Society and another one from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

So, scientists have linked traffic-related air pollution to breast cancer. Yes, there needs to be more study, blabbedy blah. But traffic-related air pollution has already been linked to a host of other diseases: from cancer and leukemia to asthma and other upper respiratory diseases. All the more reason why we should dump polluting internal combustion engines in favor of EVs, light rail, and other non-polluting transportation.

And why my dig at Bob Corker? Because this was a Canadian study, of course. I can’t forget how last year, during the height of the healthcare debate, Sen. Corker embarrassed not just Tennessee but all of America by chastising Canada’s former Health Minister for sponging off of American innovation, technology and scientific breakthroughs.

Totally, completely, ridiculously false.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

More Sunday Cat Blogging

Regular blogging to resume tomorrow, I promise. I just thought this picture of Ella (on Mr. Beale's lap) and Frasier illustrated the new feline dynamic in our house very well.

...and then baby bear said, "Someone is sitting in MY bed and that someone is STILL THERE!"

Sunday Cat Blogging

Ella is fascinated by the underwater programming on HDNet:

Saturday, October 16, 2010


It's been a busy past few days and haven't had time to blog. But I did have time to capture Etta doing her new favorite thing: crawling under the dining room tablecloth. Etta is fierce, but she's also adorable.

She's also a perpetual motion kitten, which is why this photo is out of focus:

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Neat Twist On Religious Hate

Hey, boys and girls! The burning of religious texts isn’t just for Korans anymore!
CANTON, N.C. (October 13, 2009)—The Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, N.C. will celebrate Halloween by burning Bibles that aren’t the King James Version, as well as music and books and anything else Pastor Marc Grizzard says is a satanic influence.

Among the authors whose books Grizzard plans to burn are well known ministers Rick Warren and Billy Graham because he says they have occasionally used Bibles other than the King James Version, which is the sole biblical source he considers infallible.

According to the church’s Web site, members will also burn “Satan's music such as country, rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul (and) oldies.

Nooooo! Not soft and easy music? CCM? Amy Grant?!


Here’s the best part:

During the book burning, according to the Web site, barbecued chicken, fried chicken and “all the sides” will be served.

Hey, this one's a real barbecue! So bring the kids! It’s gonna be a party!

Honestly, just when I think we’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel of religious intolerance someone crawls out from under a rock somewhere to prove me wrong. Amazing, yes. Grace? Not so much.

(h/t, Jesus’ General)