Thursday, August 30, 2007

Are We Safer Yet?

I’m traveling this week. One thing I have always thought is a gigantic scam is the whole airport security thing. The rigamarole where you take off your shoes and dump your liquids strikes me as the kind of useless exercise designed to make travelers think something is being done for their safety while still reminding them to “be very afraid” because we have to go through this huge inconvenience.

It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that “terriss wanna kill us!!” because the two major procedures affecting passengers are the ones related to specific terror plots: Richard Reed and the shoe bomb, and those crazies with the liquids.

I’m not so sure either plot would have succeeded anyway, but I’m glad we're still protecting ourselves from the “Get Smart” crew. Let’s hope no one invents the exploding pen, or we’ll all have to dump our writing implements before boarding.

This is what happens after six years of endless fearmongering: A woman flying from San Diego to Chicago Tuesday night demanded to be let off a plane because fellow passengers were speaking Arabic:
The woman first complained to the flight crew that four to seven men were possibly speaking Arabic in the boarding area. The woman added that they "had odd behavior." The crew decided to return to the boarding area because the woman indicated she wanted off the plane.

As a result of this woman’s panic, the entire flight was cancelled and 126 people weren’t able to get where they needed to go.

Now it turns out the men were Iraqis helping America in our GWOT. They were in San Diego to train U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton.

But this is the result of endless fearmongering and four years of war. We’re all wound a tad too tight these days, I think. I guess this woman in San Diego didn’t feel safer after taking off her shoes at airport security and our troop surge in Iraq, our Guantanamo Bay, our warrantless wiretaps. No one feels safer, apparently. They don’t want us to.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Watch The Video Mitt Romney Doesn't Want You To See

LiveLeak has resuscitated the video of Larry Craig endorsing Mitt Romney. You can view it here at MyDD.

It's pretty boring stuff, but it is amusing to hear Craig say that he and Mitt share the same "family values." Ooops.

All in all, I think this is a sad story on all fronts. It’s sad that Larry Craig has lived a lie, soliciting sex in men's bathrooms (I mean, that’s just creepy, if you ask me). It’s even sadder that he used his political career to keep closet doors shut all across America.

You’d think someone who experienced this situation would have a little compassion and understanding, and would want to enlighten people. Sadly, no. Check out his anti-GLBT voting record:

• Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. (Jun 2006)
• Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes. (Jun 2002)
• Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. (Jun 2000)
• Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996)
• Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation. (Sep 1996)
• Rated 25% by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record. (Dec 2002)

He also supported a state ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

I realize that a closeted gay person can just as easily be a Democrat or a Republican, but if you look at the scandals that have grabbed the headlines lately, they have overwhelming involved Republicans. I’m sure this is because the GOP made its Faustian deal with the anti-gay Religious Right. Democrats simply don’t carry that baggage.

It’s time for the Republican Party to recognize that there are gays and lesbians in their own party and this hypocrisy serves no one. Grow a pair and tell the Religious Right to quit the gay bashing. You’re just hurting yourselves.

Monday, August 27, 2007

“Crunchy Conservatives”??!!

No. Just no.

You took the flag. You took Christianity. You took family values. But by God you will NOT take the counterculture. You are NOT hippies.

Being a hippie is about a set of values. It’s about being anti-war, pro-peace, pro-liberation, anti-establishment. It’s about expanding your consciousness, embracing your neighbor, being open to the alternative--any alternative.

Being a hippie is not about eating organic vegetables or wearing Birkenstocks. This is so typical of conservatives, who always confuse the outward trappings--the costume if you will--with the ideology.

And you, Mr. National Review, anti-Islamic, fear-mongering, pro-Iraq War, homeschooling global warming apologist: you are just bourgeois. Learn the difference.

Don’t even try it, buddy. From my cold, dead hands.

(h/t, VolVoters)

Atrios, Is It Time For A Blogger Ethics Panel?

Watching CNN’s coverage of the whole Alberto Gonzalez thing just now, I heard CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin casually mention that he once interned for Dept. of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, back when Chertoff was a prosecutor.

I did not know this.

I’m waiting for CNN to post this morning’s transcript, and will link to it when they do. In the meantime, I’m thinking it would have been nice of Toobin to mention this back when he interviewed Michael Chertoff about the UK terror bombings and illegal immigration on July 1. But I see no mention of that.

Toobin might also have mentioned it during the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings, when he incorrectly claimed that a then-judge Chertoff ruled with Alito that it was OK to strip-search a 10-year-old girl in Doe v Groody. In fact, Chertoff wrote the majority opinion in this case, that the strip-search violated the Fourth Amendment.

However, his history with “Mike” did come up on a January 11, 2005 appearance on Paula Zahn’s show:

ZAHN: I don't know if this will make you feel really old or really young, but the fact that you were actually interned for Michael Chertoff at one time, what were your impressions?

TOOBIN: It was 1986. It was a summer job for me. And he was in charge at a young age of the famous commission case, which was the prosecution of the heads of the five families who ran the Mafia in New York City. And Paula, I've got to tell you, I don't think it was just because I was a naive young law school graduate, Mike Chertoff is just about the smartest lawyer I have ever encountered. The guy is just absolutely superb.

ZAHN: But in spite of how smart he is, you heard a number of people in Jeanne Meserve's piece saying, smart is one thing, this is a guy who doesn't have a resume to suggest he could actually run a bureaucracy as unwieldy as this department is.

TOOBIN: Well, I think if you had told me a year ago that Mike Chertoff would wind up attorney general of the United States, I'd say, of course, that makes a lot of sense. That seems to be how his career has been pointed. Homeland security is completely new. In fairness to Mike, and I suppose anyone, it's not clear that anyone can run this department, given its vast size. But most of Mike's career has been as a lawyer, a judge, and a little bit as an administrator, and now, it's mostly an administrative function, as you point out.

ZAHN: And it seems to me the president was sending a clear signal, given the fact that this man has been confirmed three times so far by the Senate, he views this as almost a sure shot.

Is that the way you look at it?

TOOBIN: II think it is. You know, The only person voted against him consistently as attorney general and as a judge is Hillary Clinton, who, of course, was the subject in large a part of Mike Chertoff's Whitewater investigation. Which was, I think it's fair to say, not a high point of Chertoff's career. That was Al D'Amato's investigation in the Senate, which really didn't go anywhere. It made -- it made Mike some very good connections in the Republican Party and his career has flourished. But I don't think that was particular success of his.

ZAHN: But I wouldn't say that was a real high point from him. You can't blame it all on Al D'Amato. What share of the blame does he take for the tone of that investigation?

TOOBIN: I think, you know, when I've spoken to him about it, he sort of screws up his courage and says, well we did the best we could. I think he's a lot more comfortable. He -- I did a profile of him for the "New Yorker" when he was head of the criminal division. And that was job he really loved. He was in charge not only of the post 9/11 investigations but all of the post Enron white collar investigations. Chertoff did the Arthur Andersen case. He was basically single handedly responsible for putting Arthur Anderson out of business. Now, you can argue whether that's a good thing or bad thing, but that's the world he has so far been much more comfortable with, much more than politics and Whitewater or homeland security where he has next to no experience.

I’m sure if Michael Chertoff does become the new Attorney General (and that’s a big if, of course), Jeffrey Toobin will recuse himself from covering the AG’s office.

Ha. Good one, I know.

[UPDATE]: The CNN Transcript is up:

TOOBIN: Well, I have to confess a certain bias about Michael Chertoff. In the summer of 1986, right after I graduated from law school, I was Michael Chertoff's intern in the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. And you know, I've known Mike for a very long time. He was a wonderful prosecutor.

Again, I did not know this.

[UPDATE 2]: CNN reporting Chertoff will replace Gonzalez and Clay Johnson will replace Chertoff. (h/t, NiT).

Bedtime For Fredo

Woo hoo. Alberto Gonzalez has resigned. Blog rumor mill is buzzing that he will be replaced by Michael Chertoff. But we'll worry about that tomorrow. Let's just enjoy this moment, shall we?

They’re Bad, They’re Countrywide

For those folks who would like to place blame for the mortgage meltdown on irresponsible, greedy borrowers who just couldn’t control their wild spending, the look at Countrywide Financial in Sunday’s New York Times is a dose of cold water on that fairy tale.

While I’m sure there were a few greedy, irresponsible borrowers (human nature being what it is), there were also greedy, irresponsible lenders:
... [P]otential borrowers were often led to high-cost and sometimes unfavorable loans that resulted in richer commissions for Countrywide’s smooth-talking sales force, outsize fees to company affiliates providing services on the loans, and a roaring stock price that made Countrywide executives among the highest paid in America.

Countrywide’s entire operation, from its computer system to its incentive pay structure and financing arrangements, is intended to wring maximum profits out of the mortgage lending boom no matter what it costs borrowers, according to interviews with former employees and brokers who worked in different units of the company and internal documents they provided. One document, for instance, shows that until last September the computer system in the company’s subprime unit excluded borrowers’ cash reserves, which had the effect of steering them away from lower-cost loans to those that were more expensive to homeowners and more profitable to Countrywide.

So excuse me if I don’t cry a river for Countrywide as it teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.

Sadly, nearly one-fourth of those with Countrywide subprime loans are delinquent--10% are behind 90 days or more. Meanwhile, Countrywide founder and chief executive Angelo R. Mozilo has made $129 million from Countrywide stock sales during the last 12 months. No, I don’t feel sorry at all.

There are those who claim that Countrywide is an innocent bystander in this trainwreck, having the misfortunte to purchase subprime lenders who had made these bad loans. Uh-uh, I ain’t buying it:

“In terms of being unresponsive to what was happening, to sticking it out the longest, and continuing to justify the garbage they were selling, Countrywide was the worst lender,” said Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “And anytime states tried to pass responsible lending laws, Countrywide was fighting it tooth and nail.”
As recently as July 27, Countrywide’s product list showed that it would lend $500,000 to a borrower rated C-minus, the second-riskiest grade. As long as the loan represented no more than 70 percent of the underlying property’s value, Countrywide would lend to a borrower even if the person had a credit score as low as 500. (The top score is 850.)

The company would lend even if the borrower had been 90 days late on a current mortgage payment twice in the last 12 months, if the borrower had filed for personal bankruptcy protection, or if the borrower had faced foreclosure or default notices on his or her property.

Why would Countrywide do this? Because, silly, these subprime loans are so much more profitable than the regular kind.

Countrywide even avoided offering eligible borrowers less-risky FHA loans because they are less profitable:

The monthly payment on the F.H.A. loan would have been $1,829, while Countrywide’s subprime loan generated a $2,387 monthly payment. That amounts to a difference of $558 a month, or $6,696 a year — no small sum for a low-income homeowner.

“F.H.A. loans are the best source of financing for low-income borrowers,” the former sales representative said. So Countrywide’s subprime lending program “is not living up to the promise of providing the best loan programs to its clients,” he said.

Er, no. That’s the understatement of the year.

The article also reveals Countrywide’s usurious practice of overcharging for things like credit checks and flood certifications. Perhaps the most outrageous fees: e-mailing documents ($100) and overnighting documents ($45). Free hand of the market will screw you every time.

What I don’t understand is why it takes something like the collapse of the mortgage industry for the predatory behavior of companies like Countrywide Financial to come to light.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

GOP Fingers In Iraqi Pie

Maybe this is how our government has always worked. Maybe I’m being naive. But personally I am alarmed to learn that a GOP lobbying firm has taken on former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi as a client, and they are using former administration security officials to lobby Congress and the Washington media elite to promote Allawi over current Iraqi PM al-Maliki.

Well, that explains why I’ve been hearing so much anti-Maliki rhetoric in the MSM lately.

Allawi, of course, was the interim Iraq PM who was defeated in the 2005 elections. Iraqi voters gave Allawi a purple finger in 2005 but democracy, shemocracy. Who cares about elections? He’s hired a bunch of former Bush Administration officials to help him get back into power where he thinks he belongs.

But gee, wasn’t it just last week that President Bush said this:
"Prime Minister Maliki's a good guy, good man with a difficult job and I support him," Mr. Bush said in a speech to military veterans.

"And it's not up to the politicians in Washington, D.C., to say whether he will remain in his position," Mr. Bush said. "It is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy and not a dictatorship."

Democracy, fuck yeah! Ain’t it grand!

Maybe President Bush can to tell Philip Zelikow, former foreign policy consultant to Condoleezza Rice, to quit meddling in the affairs of the “democratically elected” Iraqi government, then. Zelikow works for the GOP lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, (yes, as in former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the firm’s founder), which has a six-month, $300,000 contract to promote Allawi.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote, Zelikow has been hawking his pro-Allawi message all over ABC News --without revealing he was paid by Allawi to do so. Ooops.

And then there’s this little gem from Thursday’s press gaggle:

Q Gordon, can I ask -- a Republican lobbying firm, Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, has now signed on as a client to former Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi, and they're promoting him as a potential alternative to Maliki. They're starting to lobby members of Congress and their staff, saying Maliki is basically not the answer.

Is the White House concerned about allies, Republican lobbyists, allies of the White House lobbying against Maliki, essentially? And is the White House at all involved in this -- publicly saying you support Maliki -- privately, are you giving any sort of a wink and nod to Allawi that he could be an alternative?

MR. JOHNDROE: To your second part, no. Decisions about the Iraqi government are going to be made by the Iraqis in Iraq. This is an elected government right now. If former Prime Minister Allawi is interested in become Prime Minister again, that would be an issue that he would need to take up with the Iraqi people, probably best taken up in Baghdad rather than Washington, D.C. So I just --

Q But if the President keeps saying that Maliki is the answer and he thinks he's got the best chance of political reconciliation, why would Republican lobbyists want to undermine what the President is saying publicly?

JOHNDROE: Maybe it's a really good contract.

Maybe it was a good contract? Are you kidding me? If it’s private enterprise, it's OK? If someone is making money off of it, it's OK? Even if it undermines our foreign policy, even if it tries to unseat an “elected” head of state in the “sovereign” nation of Iraq? If these were Democrats pushing for this kind of regime change, we’d be hearing calls of treason. But it's Republicans, and someone is making $300,000 off of it. IOKIYAR.

It gets better. It’s since come out that the person working Allawi’s account at Barbour, Griffith & Rogers is none other than Robert Blackwill, former presidential envoy for Iraq and the guy who basically created the Iraqi government. From Friday’s press gaggle:

Q What does that say about the President's policy that one of his former deputy national security advisors is now working against Maliki?

MR. JOHNDROE: Far be it for me to judge why people sign contracts for whatever reason. I'm sure they have a desire to help out their client. But they're former administration officials; administration policy remains unchanged. There is a sovereign, elected government with Prime Minister Maliki and the presidency council. They are working to come up with some sort of political accommodation in Baghdad and that's where things stand in reality on the ground.

Yeah, well, until a bunch of Bush allies are successful in unseating that government.

You can only ignore the ramifications of this for so long. Either President Bush is lying, and he doesn’t support Maliki but he wants to continue with the charade that Iraq has some kind of sovereign, democratically elected government, or he can’t control his own party. Either way, it doesn’t look good.

[UPDATE]: Thanks for playing along, CNN:

Lineups for today’s TV news shows:•CNN’s “Late Edition,” 10 a.m. — Guests: Former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat; Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican; Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, No. 2 U.S. military commander in Iraq; former senator Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat.

(h/t, (Atrios)

[UPDATE 2]: TPM has tracked down all of BGR’s Iraq-related lobby contracts and it’s a bit of a shocker. Even more shocking:

It's not just Barbour Griffith & Rogers, and it's not just Ayad Allawi. Ten different U.S. firms are registered through the Department of Justice's Foreign Agents Registration Act database as having active contracts with various Iraqi factions.

BGR is by a large margin the powerhouse firm representing Iraqi clients. Holding a contract that will be worth $100,000 come September 9 is the much smaller Focus on Advocacy and Advancement of International Relations, run by a certain Muthanna al-Hanooti out of Dearborn and Washington D.C. Since September 13, 2006, Hanooti has represented the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest constituent part of the larger Sunni parliamentary bloc, known as the Tawafuq.

So Iraq's Sunni's are also lobbying the U.S. Congress and media. I have to wonder if this has had any bearing on the anti-Shia rhetoric we've been hearing in the press.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Is Limbaugh Insane?

Rush Limbaugh claims Democrats are only interested in the humanitarian crisis in Darfur because people in Darfur are black, and African Americans (who are also black! Get it?!) are part of the Democratic base.


If this weren’t so sick, I’d be laughing:
On his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that Democrats "want to get us out of Iraq, but they can't wait to get us into Darfur." He continued: "There are two reasons. What color is the skin of the people in Darfur? It's black. And who do the Democrats really need to keep voting for them? If they lose a significant percentage of this voting bloc, they're in trouble." A caller responded, "The black population," to which Limbaugh said, "Right."

This means, according to Limbaugh, that only black Americans care about what’s happening in Darfur. And only white Democrats pretend to care, because they're sucking up to black voters. Now, what kind of sick mind would dream that kind of thing up?

I dunno, I drive around Nashville and see all of these churches with “Save Darfur” banners on their front lawns, and I think, the crisis in Darfur isn’t exactly a Democratic issue. It’s not a Republican issue, either. It’s a humanitarian issue -- you know, like the tsunami or Katrina or flooding in Ohio, where we put aside our political/ideological differences and recognize the humanity of those who suffer and pull our resources together to help fellow human beings.

I guess stuff like that is just beyond the comprehension of Rush Limbaugh, who views everything in black and white, Dem or Repug, liberal or conservative.

Which, I have to say, does not surprise me one bit.

Programming Note

“Ace In The Hole,” the cynical 1951 film about a journalist’s manipulation of a tragedy similar to the Utah mine disaster, will air on TCM this Sunday night at 9:15 pm. I wrote about it here.

I definitely recommend watching it, or setting the TiVo if you can.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why Don’t We All Wear Burkas & Be Done With It

Under Atlanta's proposed “indecency” legislation, a peek of bra strap or thong could get you fined:
Exposed boxer shorts and thongs would be illegal in any public place in Atlanta if the City Council approves a proposed amendment to the city's indecency laws.

The target is young men who wear their pants low off their hips to show off the two pairs of boxers they wear beneath their saggy pants, said Atlanta Councilman C.T. Martin, a college recruitment consultant who sponsored the ordinance. Saggy pants are an "epidemic" that are becoming a "major concern" in cities and states around the country, the ordinance reads.

Under the proposed ordinance, women also couldn't reveal the strap of a thong beneath their pants. Nor could they wear jogging bras in public or show off even a wisp of a bra strap, said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

The proposed ordinance states that "the indecent exposure of his or her undergarments" would be unlawful in a public place. It would go in the same portion of the city code that outlaws sex in public and the exposure or fondling of genitals and the breast of a woman. Martin said the penalty would be a fine in an amount to be determined.

Personally, I’ve always wanted to outlaw black socks and sandals in downtown Nashville. It just sends the wrong message to our children. Kids should look up to their parents, not be shamed and humiliated. How do you ever expect to talk to your kids about abstinence and saying no to drugs if you walk around looking like the biggest nerd on the planet? You've clearly lost all credibility because let's face it, no one in black socks and sandals ever got laid or took a bong hit for Jesus.

Seriously, nothing pisses me off more than some old fuddy duddy who thinks it’s his business to police people’s clothing choices. I’m old enough to remember when “hot pants” and tube tops were favorite targets of our morality police. I’m pretty sure archeologists have uncovered evidence of a politician in ancient Greece who tried to outlaw revealing togas.

Get over it, people. Fashions change. Try to focus on what’s important, okay?

[UPDATE]: As if to prove my point about black socks and sandals, President Bush was snapped in this atrocious ensemble today. Note: the socks actually have the presidential seal on them. That's a swag fetish, alright.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wrapped In the Flag, Carrying A Cross

I have always been fascinated by how we use symbols to identify ourselves and our ideas. We crunchy-granola hippie types have our peace sign, and right wingers are fascinated with eagles, brilliantly parodied in the opening montage of The Colbert Report.

Nationalistic Christians crack me up, because a simple cross is never enough for them: they have to wrap it in the flag (literally), place it in Lady Liberty’s hands, or--best yet, clutch it in an eagle’s talons.

We may laugh at these lame displays, but they are scary, too. It’s scary because the implication is that God is on our side and therefore all our actions are justified, no matter how heinous. But this is the worst sort of blasphemy, since God knows no nationality, and she doesn’t pick sides in our conflicts. When I see things like this I just feel sorry for these misguided Christians.

So when I see something on a Tennessee blog like this:

I really want to know how different it is from

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why Does Bush Hate Our Children?

Before going on break, Democrats and Republicans in Congress joined together in a rare display of unity to expand a successful children’s health care program, SCHIP.

And President Bush not only wants to veto the legislation, he’s making it harder for millions of kids to access existing state programs:
The Bush administration, engaged in a battle with Congress over whether a popular children's health insurance program should be expanded, has announced new policies that will make it harder for states to insure all but the lowest-income children.

New administrative hurdles, which state health officials were told about late last week, are aimed at preventing parents with private insurance for their children from availing of the government-subsidized State Children's Health Insurance Program. But Democrats and children's advocates said that the announcement will jeopardize coverage for children whose parents work at jobs that do not provide employer-paid insurance.


Atrios links to this point-by-point rebuttal of each lame Bush Administration excuse for attacking SCHIP. The lamest of all, IMHO, is the argument that SCHIP causes families to drop their private insurance.

First of all, so what? Personally, I think private health insurance is a scam. It might not have started out that way, but as it exists in 2007, it’s an anti-people boondoggle. We pay our health insurance premiums every month, only to have to beg, borrow and steal to get these assholes to pay up every time we go to the doctor. I’m sick of it. They love to take our money for premiums but they sure don’t want to pay anything out when they’re supposed to, do they? In any other business it would be called fraud. For insurance companies, it’s good business.

But the Bush Administration has completely overstated the problem of a big, bad government program competing with the poor innocent insurance companies. Because for one thing, virtually every state contracts with private insurance agencies to implement these government programs. You know, like how BlueCross BlueShield of TN administers CoverTN and the state’s SCHIP program, CoverKids. It’s not like they aren’t getting their piece of the pie.

Personally, I think the real reason the Bush Administration wants to cut SCHIP is simple: it’s all about politics. They’re just allergic to anything that carries the tiniest whiff of government-provided health care, aka, the evil “socialized medicine” (cue scary music here). If SCHIP is a success, then people might say, “Look! It works! Why can’t we have something like this for everyone?”

And lord knows, we can’t have that.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Philosophical Differences

In the hullabaloo over the Utah mine rescue story, the MSM seems to have missed this information about “mine safety czar” Richard Stickler. Apparently President Bush had to resort to one of his famous recess appointments to put Stickler in charge of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, because Stickler couldn’t get confirmed even by a lame duck GOP-dominated Senate.

Huffington Post and Keith Olbermann broke this story last week, although I still haven’t seen much in the MSM about this “mine safety Brownie” (in fact, CNN seems to have ignored the story). I can’t help but wonder if things wouldn’t be different had it been Drudge, not Huffington Post, that had broken the news. Liberal blogs just don’t seem to be on the MSM’s radar.

So in case you missed it, Stickler is a coal industry executive who has a history of overseeing mines with higher-than-average accident rates. His appointment was opposed by miners rescued from Quecreek in Pennsylvania, as well as the families of deceased miners in three states. I guess in the wake of the Sago disaster, putting an industry crony in charge of mine safety was considered bad PR, because the Senate opposed Stickler, too. But Bush wanted his coal industry buddy there, and here we are.

No, this isn’t another one of those “blame President Bush” posts. I really don’t think there’s any doubt about the depth of President Bush’s incompetence, and if you’re one of the remaining 27% who doesn’t agree with me, well, your mind won’t be changed by my little blog bloviatings. But Bush is not to blame for every single disaster this country has faced.

However, I do blame him for nurturing a philosophy in Washington where those in power don’t believe they serve the American people, just a privileged elite. At it’s core, that’s what cronyism does.

And I believe the American people deserve better. We’re entitled to a government that functions properly, where agencies charged with oversight of certain industries know their job is to keep the interests of people, not company profits, front and center. They know that’s why they’re there, because they remember that most of these agencies were created in response to some horrible disaster. That’s what American government does: it responds legislatively to disasters that grab the headlines and tug the heartstrings.

Look, the deadliest mine disaster in U.S. history occurred in December 1907 (the fourth-deadliest occured four days later). And in 1910, the Bureau of Mines (precursor to today’s Mine Safety & Health Administration) was created. Things change over the years, government agencies are phased out and new ones created, laws are modified--often in response to some other tragedy--but that’s basically how government responds.

But the GOP doesn’t seem to get that. Call it a philosophical difference, if you will, but they seem to view these things as “yet another useless government agency” that just gets in the way of business and profits, full of red tape and dumb rules that seem to serve no purpose other than to frustrate and just generally make things harder.

If you believe this, and you happen to be in power, then you will put your industry friends in charge of these oversight agencies so they can loosen the regulations that were created to protect people, and make it easier for companies to work around the rules. That seems to be a basic GOP philosophy. Somehow, the “free hand of the market” is supposed to be incentive enough for mine owners to operate safe workplaces, but it hasn’t been that way in the past few hundred years, so I don’t know why anyone expects anything to change now.

Yes, I realize the GOP doesn’t have the corner on cronyism. Yes, Democrats will put friends and fundraisers in positions of power, too. But I really think the Bush Administration has taken this to a new level.

There’s a tremendous lack of respect that borders on disdain for workers revealed here. Think about it: in the wake of Sago, which was a hugely publicized mine disaster that captivated the American people, President Bush installs an industry executive with a checkered past for mine safety to head the government body charged with .. mine safety. If that’s not a “fuck you” then I don’t know what is.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More Babies Need Homes


I mentioned Cookie and Boo a couple weeks back in this ”Are You My Mommy?” post. Now these babies have made it from Florida to Nashville. If you want to meet them, just to say hello, they are at Hillsboro Animal Hospital on Bandywood Drive in Green Hills.


According to the ASPCA, black cats are less likely to get adopted than other kinds because of that whole “unlucky” superstition. So these two already have a strike against them, through no fault of their own.

If you know someone who might be able to provide a home, please tell them to contact Hillsboro Animal Hospital.

Sunday Kitten Blogging

Moses assumes the position.

Moses is a new addition to our family. He's been with us about five days; I'd say he's settling in pretty well, wouldn't you?

He is the funniest looking kitten I've ever seen. Most kittens are plump, rolly-polly even. I call Moses Flat Cat; he's so lean that at certain angles he could almost disappear, save his ginormous head.

It's OK if he's funny looking, we love him anyway.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Crisis Garden Blogging

NOAA reports:

According to this report, since June 1 Nashville has recorded only 3.87 inches of rain; as for August, we’ve recorded just 0.03 inches.

This is a crisis for a lot of farmers around here, and while I wouldn’t compare the plight of my little suburban garden to that of the people who make their living off the land, it’s pretty sad in my backyard right now.

Yesterday evening a tree snapped in two in our yard. It had been weakened by NES’ neighborhood tree slaughter operation, to be sure, and the drought finished the deed. (And by the way: no, I was not there to hear it and yes, it fell anyway).

So as far as garden survival goes, I’ve moved from a first aid operation to full-on triage. I’ve given up on the flowers, impatiens were pulled up yesterday, hostas are a gonner. Now the goal is to minimize shrub and tree loss.

Pray for rain.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mortgage Meltdown Mugs Mitt

The victims of the latest hedge-fund meltdown on Wall Street include at least one well-known name: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The former Massachusetts governor, who wrapped up a victory in Iowa's symbolic GOP "straw poll" over the weekend, is among the investors hit by the crisis at the Goldman Sachs Global Equity Opportunities fund. That fund needed a $3 billion emergency cash injection to stay afloat this week after losing more than one-third of its value in the market turmoil after the subprime mortgage collapse.

Romney's financial-disclosure form for his presidential run reveals he has a substantial stake in the fund.
The precise size of Romney's investment in the Goldman fund isn't revealed in his filings because the form gives just a range of values and not exact amounts. Based on the range, Romney's investment in the fund is at least $1 million and could be much higher.

The article also points out that presidential candidates have “come to depend on the largesse of Wall Street and the real estate industry,” which leaves me to wonder what if any impact this financial crisis will have on presidential campaigns.

I’d also like to remind everyone that as the stock market continues to sink, there were some people--not me--who advocated investing people’s Social Security in this volatile place. And all I can say is, thank God we don’t have a bunch of retirees who just lost everything in a stock market crash.

Would The Last One Out Please Turn Off The Lights?

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow plans to resign, as will several other “high level” staffers. No exit dates were announced, but Karl Rove said he resigned Monday because “Josh Bolton told senior aides that if they stayed past Labor Day they would be obliged to remain through the end of the president's term in January 2009.”

If Karl Rove is to be believed (no irony in that statement), then these resignations should be coming in the next two weeks.

Frankly, I’m glad to see Tony Snow go. It’s become increasingly painful to watch him physically deteriorate from the podium in the White House Press Room.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Love Satire

Hilarious. Fake pharmaceutical ads for made-up diseases, brought to you by the sick minds at Fark.

This one’s my favorite, of course.

(h/t, Atrios).

Baby, You’re No Good

Roger Abramson shares his thoughts on why some blogs are no good (and h/t to Kat at Music City Bloggers).

Roger has some good ideas; for example, he’s right when he says “For the most part, the media (or, MSM, if you prefer), really doesn't "get" blogging, or the Internet, for that matter.” He’s absolutely correct. But why should they? How many television producers “get” book publishing? OK, maybe that’s a bad analogy, but what I’m saying is, they are different formats that serve completely different functions.

But I think Roger is wrong when he says this:
I do think that the most well-known (and most hated by bloggers) media criticism of blogs—that they could use editors—holds water. Because, well, this is the truth: most blogs are not very good. Many just plain stink. Really. Now, don't look at me like that. It's true. And the fact is, you know it too.

I think this argument only works if you are expecting blogs to be something that they're not. Which means, maybe Roger doesn’t “get” blogging any more than the MSM does.

Blogs are not news outlets. Yes, many serve as such, and a lot of us use them as a source of our daily news. But at their root, that is not what blogs are.

Blogs are diaries. And some diaries will be no good. Like, the dorky diary I wrote when I was 13 years old and filled with angst about why didn't Jon Safell like me and I poured my heart and soul into really lame poetry with names like “Diamond Face” and “Summer Sunset.” Yeah I’m sure someone would have said, “get this girl an editor” if anyone had read it. But, thank God, no one did.

The blogosphere is a collection of diaries, which you can choose to read or not, as you wish. It is a format for the open exchange of ideas. It’s a conversation, and you don’t need an editor to have one of those.

So that’s why I don’t think Abramson’s criticism of blogs is especially relevant. His main criticisms are that some blogs lack perspective, originality, are boring and filled with poor writing, and the blogger is “a pompous ass.”

I say: so what? It’s a diary, get over yourself. I’m sure my blog has suffered from all of the above and more at one point or another, and I’ve only been around a few months. So what? It’s my diary. If you think it’s boring, pedantic, pompous, etc., you don’t have to read it. Some days I feel boring, pedantic, and pompous.

Abramson’s advice to bloggers and the media is pretty spot-on, though:

“Being a blogger doesn't mean anything other than you have access to and write a blog.” Agreed. I think it’s pretty cool that technology has advanced to where we can have this kind of conversation, though.

"Bloggers rarely break stories." True again. Also, I would remind Abramson that as diarists, we aren’t supposed to. Sometimes, though, the “breaking story” is just doing the legwork and connecting the threads that a journalist on deadline failed to do.

“The media is not your enemy.” Again, agreed. But one of the boring, pedantic, pompous issues I blog about is the media’s deterioration from being an information source to its current state as a source of entertainment. There are a lot of issue-oriented blogs, better ones than mine, that have the same concern. And by golly, we will blog about it. We will point out the lack of real information offered by the MSM, and how those of us desperate for news are forced to find alternative sources to get informed. And I do think bloggers’ criticism of the MSM for this failure is the reason we see a lot of anti-blogger criticism back at us.

The MSM loves to point out that “bloggers aren’t journalists.” No, we’re not. We aren’t supposed to be. But if you people would do your fucking jobs, we wouldn’t have to be.

Mourning News

We are blessed with satellite TV at the Beale household, which means we have 50 gazillion channels. I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Here’s what was on the TV this morning between 7:35 and 7:45 a.m.:

ABC News: commercials every time I switched over, which I tried about five times.

NBC Today Show: Should OJ’s Book Be Published?

CBS: (local): Knut the polar bear needs to go on a diet!

Fox 17 (local): newest “American Idol” hopefuls!

CNN: Have toy stores taken the lead-tainted toys off the shelves?

Fox & Friends: commercial, commercial, commercial. Finally, on my fifth try, chit-chat with Fox NFL Sunday folks.

MSNBC News Live: Joe Scarborough has been talking about baseball for about 10 minutes.

CSPAN, Washington Journal: Interview with Nevada journalist Jon Ralston

Democracy Now: A boring lecture about something, I think trade justice.

I ask you: is there no freaking news on the %$@*! television anymore??!!! No wonder Americans are hopelessly uninformed. Even if you wanted to, it’s impossible to find news in the morning.

The internet won’t kill network or cable news. Looks to me like they’re committing suicide.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Religion As A Political Weapon

Salon has an interesting story today about one of Karl Rove’s most craven legacies: exploiting religious voters for partisan political gain. Many people blame religious leaders like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson for rallying the faithful to political causes, and while modern politicians have courted religious voters since Jimmy Carter’s day, Rove turned it into a cynical art form.

Let’s dial the time machine back to Ft. Worth, Texas, 1994:
... [T]he Christian right showed up at the Republicans' state convention in Fort Worth, in 1994, with enough delegates to seize control of the party. The dominant Christian faction tossed George H.W. Bush's handpicked state chairman and longtime friend, Fred Meyer, out of office and replaced him with a charismatic Catholic lawyer from Dallas. It banned liquor from convention hotels and replaced hospitality-room bars with "ice cream sundae bars," where chefs prepared designer confections. It summoned delegates to Grand Old Prayer Sessions, required Christian fealty oaths of candidates for party leadership, and made opposition to abortion the brand by which Texas Republicans would be defined. [....] After initially fighting the dominant evangelical delegation at the state convention -- proposing Texas Rep. Joe Barton as a compromise candidate for state party chairman -- Rove joined them.

The article points out that Rove “found religion, even if he didn't find Jesus.” It’s interesting and not surprising, since Rove is the rare atheist in the Bush White House, at least according to Christopher Hitchens. The Texas Christian conservatives were enormous patsies; maybe they were so happy to be at the party that they didn’t notice when Rove denied them access to GOP funds and worked to replace their party chairman with the non-Christian conservative John Cornyn.

I wonder if Rove didn’t secretly enjoy playing the religious political novices for fools. Or maybe not so secretly: David Kuo revealed that Rove openly referred to top religious leaders as “the nuts.”

There were all sorts of wonderful things that could be done by harnessing the voting power of clueless Christians. Kuo, who was a top official at the President’s Office Of Faith-Based Initiatives, saw this play out in the most craven of ways:

... Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the [Faith-Based Initiatives] office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly “nonpartisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.

Nineteen out of the 20 targeted races were won by Republicans, Kuo reports. The outreach was so extensive and so powerful in motivating not just conservative evangelicals, but also traditionally Democratic minorities, that Kuo attributes Bush’s 2004 Ohio victory “at least partially … to the conferences we had launched two years before.”

That’s bang for your buck, eh?

And so a religious-political movement was spawned, the same movement defended by people like Antioch pastor Tim Alexander, who urge the Democrats to follow suit. Thank God they haven't listened.

Liberals spend a lot of time shouting about separation of church and state issues, while religious people giddy with access and influence have spent little time examining how this has affected their religious values. The religious right never noticed that it has traded mystery for certainty; that, as the late William Sloane Coffin said, their "God is too small ... [and] the mirror opposite of the Jesus we find in the four Gospels."

Some religious voters have awakened from their stupor, as shown by last August’s Pew Research Center study of politics and faith. The Democrats may not be getting Christian right converts, but they shouldn’t expect to, not after the anti-liberal propaganda that’s been spread by the likes of, well, Karl Rove. But the Republican Party is losing conservative religious voters; these folks are just staying home, and all the gay-baiting can’t seem to make a difference.

So it seems in this, Karl Rove’s greatest political triumph, is also his biggest failure. The architect's glass house is crumbling.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Buh-Bye, Turd Blossom

OK, this one’s for real:
Karl Rove, President Bush's longtime political adviser, is resigning as White House deputy chief of staff effective Aug. 31, and returning to Texas, marking a turning point for the Bush presidency. [...]

He said he decided to leave after White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten told senior aides that if they stayed past Labor Day they would be obliged to remain through the end of the president's term in January 2009.

In the story, Rove also looks into his crystal ball and predicts Hilary Clinton will get the Democratic nomination, the Republicans will win in 2008, the Iraq surge will be a resounding success, and President Bush’s approval ratings will rise.

Okie dokie.

(h/t, Atrios.)

Breaking: Thompson Drops Presidential Bid

Tommy Thompson, that is.

Fooled ya! Gave y'all a scare, didn't I?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

DLC: Dinosaur-Like Centrist

I wrote about this a couple weeks back when the DLC was making its way to Nashville, but never posted it. However, it seems the topic is still timely; Democratic “centrism” has turned up over at TN Guerilla Women, Volunteer Voters and a few other places, not to mention Friday’s Tennessean Op-Ed by Tim Alexander, so I thought I’d take another stab at it.

I’m sick of hearing people talk about the Democrats “ceding the South” when they do anything that makes them look less like Republicans. The Democratic Party’s “50 State Strategy” doesn’t “cede” any state or region of the country. What these people are really saying is that the Democratic Party has failed to suck up to Southern conservatives on cultural issues. And I say, why should we? We’re Democrats, not Republicans!

Tim Alexander wrote on Friday:
Democrats must admit they have been about silencing faith in the public square. They have been wrong about promoting abortion. They have been wrong to embrace illegal aliens. They have been wrong to attack traditional families and support gay marriage. Until Democrats admit they have been wrong to embrace policies that frighten those who elect them, they will continue to lose.

Alexander has a few choice words for Republicans, too:

They have made the world safe for Halliburton. Republicans protect countries that protect terrorists. Schools can crumble, factories can close, health care can vanish, and seniors can die destitute. But woe to the one who would attach community responsibility to individual freedom. Woe to the one who claims national interest trumps corporate greed. Woe to the one who values blood more than oil.

So I suppose that makes Alexander a “centrist.” But Alexander is wrong when he says Democrats have “promoted” abortion and “attacked” faith and traditional families. He’s merely repeating conservative talking points one hears on Fox News and conservative talk radio any day of the week. It’s right-wing propaganda designed to label Democrats as godless heathens, the implication being if you vote for a Democrat then you’re a godless heathen, too.

What folks like Tim Alexander are really saying is, “Democrats don’t agree with me on cultural issues, so they are out of touch with Southern voters.” I think that’s just wrong. The “cultural” issues he mentions are Republican issues, they are part of the GOP Platform. Alexander is probably pissed that the political party that agrees with him on cultural issues ended up being corporate suck-ups inept at governing. Well, sucks to be you. I really don’t see how this has anything to do with Southern voters or Northern ones; the issues he mentions are national ones.

Democrats have cultural issues, too. Like poverty, better wages for workers, and healthcare for all. It’s true that on the right’s cultural issues, Democrats are horribly inept at articulating a position. For instance, I don’t see Democrats embracing gay marriage--if anything, they run far and fast from it, too scared to take a stand. The reason is people like Tim Alexander, Harold Ford Jr. and the DLC “centrists” who keep telling them to be more middle-of-the-road on this stuff, better to avoid alienating independent voters.

Bullshit. I don’t see Democrats winning any hearts and minds by adopting the same conservative cultural stands that have driven a wedge through the Republican Party and created the largest block of independent voters in recent memory. Here’s an example: Democrats don’t “promote” abortion but they do believe it should remain legal, safe and accessible for those who choose that option. If you believe abortion is murder, then by all means, don’t have one. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

President Bush and the other Texas GOPers at the Republican helm steered their ship hard right. That may make Democrats look ultra liberal by comparison, but it doesn’t mean they are ultra-liberal. And I don’t see why Democrats have to veer right just because the Republicans made the mistake of going that way.

That’s what Harold Ford Jr. and the other DLCers don’t get. Noam Scheiber’s July 28 New York Times Op-Ed explained it well:

... George W. Bush taught Democrats of all stripes that their differences with one another were minor compared with the differences between them and Republicans. For seven years, Democrats have faced a radical administration that operates in bad faith. Yet there was the Democratic Leadership Council, still arguing that teachers unions endanger the republic.

Democrats, moderate and liberal, have been bewildered by the group’s post-Clinton agenda. Take, for example, the law passed by Congress in 2005 that makes it harder for ordinary people to declare bankruptcy. The measure’s only obvious beneficiary was the credit-card industry, and most Democrats opposed it. One main exception was a coalition of House members allied with the council. In an implicit rebuke to their Democratic colleagues, these New Democrats declared their support for the bill “as champions of both personal and fiscal responsibility.”

But Democrats had by this point done much to establish themselves as proponents of “personal and fiscal responsibility.” They were in no danger of trashing the party’s post-Clinton reputation. More important, the bill hardly seemed like a high priority amid the Bush administration’s vast upward redistribution of wealth.

The bankruptcy bill was just one of several DLC-engineered mistakes that prevent Democrats from sending a clear message to voters about who they are and what they believe. The DLC picks fights with the “netroots” on this stuff, as if the biggest problem Democrats face are the liberal activists that brought them a majority in 2006. But the DLC is out of touch with American voters on a whole range of issues.

They seem to be the last people to know this. Scheiber explains:

Today, the council has almost no constituency within the Democratic Party. About every five years, the Pew Research Center conducts a public opinion survey to sort out the country’s major ideological groupings. In 1999, Pew found that liberals and New Democrats each accounted for nearly one-quarter of the Democratic base. By the next survey in 2005, New Democrats had completely disappeared as a group and the liberals had doubled their share of the party. Many moderates, radicalized by President Bush, now define themselves as liberals.

I take issue with the term “radicalized,” since I don’t think opposing a war waged to control the last drops of a vanishing resource is all that radical; it's just common sense. But Scheiber’s point remains: the DLC has no constituency in the Democratic Party. It’s out of touch, plain and simple.

See ya, DLC. Thanks for the memories. Now, don’t let the door hit you on the fanny on your way out.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Julius assumes the position.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Latest In LOL

If you liked LOLcats you’ll love LOLcons. Brought to you by the sick minds at Sadly, No!

GOP Fear Tactic Of The Week

Does the Republican Party know how to do anything without scaring the crap out of people? Josh Marshall has the goods on an intimidating RNC fundraising letter that implies the recipient is ineligible to vote unless they donate money to the RNC. The official-looking letter comes identified as a Voter Registration Verification And Audit Form:
What 83 year-old William Sidwell of Queen City, Missouri found in his mailbox last week scared him. It was a letter from the Republican National Committee, but it seemed to bear grave news: "Our records show that you registered as a member of our Party in Schuyler County, MO," the letter said. "But a recent audit of your Party affiliation turned up some irregularities."

Audit? Irregularities? Was he in trouble? Were they threatening him? Sidwell went immediately to his ask his son, Dennis, a licensed public accountant, for advice. You can see the letter, and the accompanying "Voter Registration Verification and Audit Form," right here. Particularly puzzling to the both of them, Dennis told me, is that his father is a life-long Democrat.

The letter, it turns out, is just a misleading pitch for a contribution to the RNC -- one of the "irregularities" cited in the letter is that "I cannot find a record of you taking a single action in support of the Republican Party -- not locally, not nationally!" A contribution, the letter suggests, would help set the record straight.

In addition to a donation, recipients are asked to fill out a survey listing their voting history.

Wow, nothing like intimidating elderly voters into thinking there’s something wrong with their voter registrations. This is even worse than the time the RNC sent letters to voters in Arkansas and West Virginia warning that liberals were going to ban the Bible. I mean, anyone stupid enough to believe that wouldn’t be voting for a Democrat anyway.

Look, if you can’t raise money without pretending to be some kind of election official using scary words like “audit” and “irregularities,” maybe you should give it up.

Monsanto Issued Smackdown Over Patents

And it’s about time. Corporate evildoer Monsanto has been issued a righteous smackdown by the United States Patent & Trademark Office, which rejected four of the corporation’s GMO patents challenged by activists “because the agricultural giant is using them to harass, intimidate, sue — and in some cases literally bankrupt — American farmers. ”

Challenges to Monsanto’s GMO patents were filed by the Public Patent Foundation which reports:
Monsanto has filed dozens of patent infringement lawsuits asserting the four challenged patents against American farmers, many of whom are unable to hire adequate representation to defend themselves in court.  The crime these farmers are accused of is nothing more than saving seed from one year's crop to replant the following year, something farmers have done since the beginning of time.  

One study of the matter found that, "Monsanto has used heavy-handed investigations and ruthless prosecutions that have fundamentally changed the way many American farmers farm. The result has been nothing less than an assault on the foundations of farming practices and traditions that have endured for centuries in this country and millennia around the world, including one of the oldest, the right to save and replant crop seed."

I first became aware of this issue when I saw the excellent documentary ”The Future Of Food.” I’ve since talked about the issue with my brother in law who is a farmer, and have had my eyes opened in a big way.

One of the most under-reported stories out of Tennessee concerns Covington cotton farmer Kem Ralph. Ralph was sued by Monsanto and actually sentenced to prison and fined $3 million for allegedly violating Monsanto’s copyright agreement -- an agreement he says he never signed. Ralph put up a strong fight but last year had to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

This David and Goliath tale shows how far Monsanto will go to oppress one family farmer:

Through a tip placed to the company, Monsanto discovered Ralph was saving seed - which he admits he's always done - and took him to court. The company has an all-purpose 800-number that generates some 500 calls a year, an undetermined percentage of which are tips from farmers who say they know of people saving seed.

"It's gotten to where they've got family members spying on each other," said Ralph's son, Josh. "And you know what? The thing of it is, we were making a lot more money even before their (enhanced seed) ever came out."

One of the four patents that the Patent & Trademark Office rejected is the one Ralph was convicted of violating.

According to the Public Patent Foundation, Monsanto can respond to the Patent Office's rejections but in similar cases, “the reviewed patents [were] either changed or completely revoked more than two-thirds of the time.”

Score one for the little guy.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Brookings Two Iraq Account Challenged

Interesting. The O’Hanlon/Pollack account of the glorious success of President Bush’s surge in Iraq has been challenged by someone who actually accompanied them on their tour. Anthony Cordesman, military analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joined the Brookings Institute’s Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack on their recent trip to Iraq and said he did not see the same progress that they recounted so glowingly in their infamous New York Times editorial. Yeah, that same editorial that had bloggers like Bill Hobbs, Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt screaming “I told you so!!!”

ThinkProgress has the video and written report:
I did not see any dramatic change in Iraq during this trip. Many of the points, the problems which exist there are problems which have existed really since late 2004, if not earlier. I didn’t see a dramatic shift in the ability of the Iraqi’s to reach the kind of compromise that is almost the foundation of moving forward. […]

But I also want to stress another thing. I did not see success for the strategy that President Bush announced in January.

I’m sure the media, and right-wing bloggers, are going to be all over this story.

** crickets ** crickets ** crickets **

I have to wonder how many people have to die to save the egos of a handful of desperately wrong people? What a tremendous waste.

Ace In The Hole

Watching CNN’s Kiran “Chit-Chat” Chetry and other MSM outlets cover the Utah mine story in agonizing detail, I’m reminded of the wonderful Billy Wilder film ”Ace In the Hole” (later re-released as “The Big Carnival”), which covers a similar scenario.

First released in 1951, the film stars Kirk Douglas as a manipulative news reporter who prolongs the rescue of a man trapped in a cave so he can milk the story for all it’s worth and return to the big time from his exile in Bumfug, New Mexico. It’s inspired by the true story of a trapped Kentucky caver, whose story earned a Courier-Journal reporter a Pulitzer waaaay back in 1925.

You mean, media manipulation, crooked local officials, sensationalist journalists, and gullible Americans aren’t new issues? People were talking about this stuff back in 1951? Even back in 1925? Be still my cynical heart.

Although the film was nominated for two Oscars, it seems to have disappeared from our film lexicon, rarely surfacing on cable TV. It’s almost as if the big media companies don’t want us to see a film about how Americans are manipulated by big media companies.


But just last month the film found its first video distributor. You can now rent it on Netflix, for the first time ever.

I highly recommend that you do.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Republican Chickenhawks v2.0

If you liked Vice President Dick Cheney’s ”I had other priorities” excuse for dodging the Vietnam War, then you’ll love Mitt Romney’s idea of service to our country. Asked why none of his five sons are in the military, Romney claimed:
"One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."

Good lord, the arrogance of that sentence leaves me speechless. We already have a president who is stumped when asked to find something, anything, he did wrong as president. Do we really need someone who thinks helping get him elected is as noble a sacrifice as wearing the country’s uniform?

At least these members of “generation Chickenhawk” have a slightly less half-baked excuse for not serving in the war they so ardently support: “I got a scholarship,” “I’m in school,” “I have knee problems,” “I’m more career oriented,” etc.

(h/t, Atrios)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Oh, My

Courtesy of Yoss at DailyKos we have the low-down on another Republican sex scandal.

The 33-year-old national chair of the Young Republicans has resigned after just three weeks on the job; seems he is accused of sexually assaulting a colleague while he lay sleeping:
It seems that the newly elected leader of the Young Republican National Federation has been forced to step down amid allegations that he sexually assaulted another man after a Young Republicans party. Details are still emerging, but the accused man, Glenn Murphy, was a rising star in the Indiana GOP, and his resume includes the leadership of the Clark County Republicans -- a relationship that no longer exists -- and also a position within a consulting firm that has represented Republican politicians such as former Rep. Mike Sodrel.

The diary includes all of the lurid details, including links to police reports and the news that this is not his first offense. There’s also the text of Murphy’s resignation e-mail, in which he tells YRNFers that he is resigning for business reasons, a decision made after “prayer with his family.”

Awwww ....

Let's see, lies and a sex scandal, all before the age of 35. Sounds like his career in the GOP is off to a promising start.

License Plate Madness

Look, it’s terror porn in Oklahoma! Doesn’t it make you want to thump your chest and invade Iran or something?

This is the height of wingnut idiocy and it deserves to be mocked. Anyone who shells out $37 for this license plate is a moron.

What I want to know is, why did they choose to put the World Trade Center on this license plate? Why not the Murrah building? After all, that terror attack actually occured on Oklahoma soil. Oh, wait, I forgot .. domestic terrorism doesn’t count! It’s not terrorism when it’s perpetrated by white Christian men.

Silly me.
(h/t, ThinkProgress.)

Bush In The Corner

And no, I don’t mean wearing a dunce hat. Dr. Justin Frank, the psychiatrist who wrote "Bush On the Couch," speculates about how President Bush would react to being cornered by Congress and other hypotheticals.

It’s interesting stuff, although since Dr. Frank has not actually interviewed the president, you have to take it all with a grain of salt. But Frank’s psychological profile of the president echoes what I’ve long believed about the President’s psychological make-up. It’s long been clear to me that President Bush is a classic narcissist. He’s a pathological liar, lacking conscience and contemptuous of others, with a deep-seated fear of humiliation and an overriding need to prove himself to his mother. To take it a step further, I’d say those last remaining 27 percenters who have drunk the Kool-Aid and continue to defend Bush have a lot of the same psychological issues, especially the fear of humiliation part. To which I say: too late, folks. That ship sailed somewhere around 2003.

Anyway, I know everyone has their problems. But Bush’s problems are bad for America because, as Frank explains:
[We have] a regressed president who needs to protect himself more than ever from diminishment, humiliation, and collapse. He is so busy trying to manage his own anxiety that he has little capacity left to attend to national and world problems.

And so, we are left with a president who cannot actually govern, because he is incapable of reasoned thought in coping with events outside his control, like those in the Middle East.

Again, this stuff is like horoscopes to me: amusing, maybe even entertaining, but ultimately worthless. Still, let’s play this movie a little longer. Frank has given a few scenarios that challenge President Bush, and posited his reaction.

1- A devastating attack on the Green Zone or U.S. forces in Iraq. Frank predicts Bush would order an “immediate retaliatory series of air strikes, and let the bombs and missiles fall where they may. The reaction would come from deep within and would warn, in effect: This is what you get if you try to make me look bad.”

That sounds about right. It’s the complete opposite of Ronald Reagan, who immediately withdrew U.S. troops from Lebanon after the 1983 attack which killed nearly 250 Marines and 58 French paratroopers. The French launched retaliatory air strikes; the Americans went home (something the wingnuts always forget when they call Democrats “cut and run.”)

2- Scenario two involves an Israeli attack on Iran. Frank writes:

Psychologically, Bush would almost certainly need to join the attack, mainly to sustain his illusion of safety and masculinity. And Cheney, knowing that, would be pushing him hard on U.S. energy and other perceived strategic interests.

This also sounds about right.

3- Scenario three gets more interesting. How would President Bush react if Congress were to cut war funding this fall? I always like to see Bush stamp his little foot and suck his thumb when he doesn’t get his way in Congress. Frank says this is the most dangerous scenario of all, causing Bush to search for some excuse to attack Iran:

With Cheney egging him on from the wings of the “unitary executive,” but Congress no longer bowing to that novel interpretation of the Constitution, Bush will be sorely tempted to lash out in some violent way, if further funding for the war is denied.

To do that effectively, he will need senior generals and admirals as co-conspirators. It will be up to them to choose between career and Constitution. All too often, in such circumstances, the tendency has been to choose career.

Impeachment hearings, though, could encourage senior officers like Admiral Fallon to pause long enough to remember that their oath is to defend the Constitution, and that they are not required to follow orders to start another war in order to stave off political and personal disaster for the president and vice president.

Interesting stuff.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Stuff I Hate

I hate these college kids who come to the door and tell you they’re raising money for a (fill in the sport) team trip to (fill in the foreign country). They want you to buy magazines or books, or there’s this new thing where they just want you to write a check and claim they’ll donate the books to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for you.

My bullshit meter goes into overdrive when I hear these stories, and yet, I am the sucker who ends up writing a check, nine times out of 10. I strongly suspect they take down your name and address so they can send other teams of enterprising youth to your door in future months.

A young kid named “Lee” just came to my door, saying he’s a student at Vanderbilt and his soccer team is going to France. Now I’m out $40; I’m supposed to get a tax write-off receipt in the mail for my trouble.

Again, Bullshit.

He told me to write a check to “Tuscan Reader Services.” When I checked the internet for that name, I got a big nothing. The company is supposed to be in Georgia.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

For all I know I just gave $40 to the International Society of Gay-Hating Republican Youth, or, ISGHRY.

I have no problems telling the Mormons, Jehova’s Witnesses, or Seventh Day Adventists to hit the road. The Scientologists just throw stuff in my driveway, which can I throw away (that’s the nicest thing you will ever hear me say about Scientology). It’s these young college kids that get me every time.

I’m such a sucker.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Speaking Of Infrastructure

Hearts and minds, people. Hearts and minds:
Iraqi Power Grid Nearing Collapse
BAGHDAD -- Iraq's power grid is on the brink of collapse because of insurgent sabotage, rising demand, fuel shortages and provinces that are unplugging local power stations from the national grid, officials said Saturday.

Electricity Ministry spokesman Aziz al-Shimari said power generation nationally is only meeting half the demand, and there had been four nationwide blackouts over the past two days. The shortages across the country are the worst since the summer of 2003, shortly after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, he said.

Power supplies in Baghdad have been sporadic all summer and now are down to just a few hours a day, if that. The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed by power blackouts and cuts that have affected pumping and filtration stations.

Karbala province south of Baghdad has been without power for three days, causing water mains to go dry in the provincial capital, the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
. . . .
The power problems are only adding to the misery of Iraqis, already suffering from the effects of more than four years of war and sectarian violence. Outages make life almost unbearable in the summer months, when average daily temperatures reach between 110 and 120 degrees.

Of course, the electrical grid was in poor shape when American troops arrived in 2003. Years of sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime saw to that -- and the U.S. had imposed these sanctions since 1990. Indeed, under this economic strangulation, much of Iraq's infrastructure fell apart.

Perhaps one reason American troops weren’t met with chocolates and roses in 2003 is because many Iraqis blame us for their humanitarian crisis that started long before the first "shock and awe" bombs fell. Whether you agree with them or not isn't the point. The point is that we have no moral standing in the Middle East as a result of these kinds of actions, and waging war in Iraq has only made the situation worse.

This is one reason why I say there will be no American-brokered “democracy” in Iraq and why the Bush plan for a “win” won’t happen, not in September, not ever. We haven’t won the hearts and minds. They don't trust us, they don't want what we're pitching. Only an organization that doesn't bear America's fingerprint can broker peace in Iraq.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Thank God For Weekends

Jolene assumes the position.

Boy, it's hot out there. Thank God for air conditioned movie theaters.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Blame Game

It’s been about 36 hours since the collapse of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis and we’ve reached the funnest part of the modern American disaster cycle: the finger pointing stage.

Yes kids it’s time to dive into that truly awesome new American sport: the blame game! Pick a side and play!

On the right we have racist James Buchanan, who blames minorities and liberal political correctness:
One picture of the bridge shows massive rust on the I-beams making up the arch support. It seems the liberals running Minnesota were too busy providing welfare for the Blacks in Minneapolis and the huge Hmong population. Spending taxpayer money on basic bridge maintenance apparently didn’t make the top ten list for the liberals mismanaging Minnesota.
. . .
Giving building contracts to minority-owned businesses has become commonplace for our government. Trusting an important civil engineering structure to a company which was chosen on the basis of a racial set-aisde can be a disaster waiting to happen.

Yes when anything bad happens, it’s always convenient to blame the people with the least amount of power, blacks and other minorities.

Anyone want to guess how long before Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson jump on the bandwagon and blame gays and abortion? Hey, after Michael Savage blamed Democrats for John Roberts’ seizure this week, I wouldn’t be surprised.

On the left side of the aisle we have Digby, whom I happen to think is the brightest liberal blogger on the internet. However, I also happen to think she’s wrong when she blames years of Republican fiscal conservatism:

Again, you cannot look at something like this and not wonder if the years and years of infrastructure neglect at the hands of GOP propagandists who have been starving government for decades now is finally coming back to haunt us.

Plenty of people on the left have also wondered if we’d have more money for infrastructure were we not spending billions in Iraq. It’s a fair question: “make levees, not war” has been my mantra since Hurricane Katrina.

But Congress has passed huge highway infrastructure bills every year. The problem with our infrastructure is not lack of funds, it’s simple greed and childish irresponsibility. Am I the only one remembering the pork-laden $286 billion transportation bill of 2005?

We’re a wealthy nation. We’ve got all the funds we need to repair bridges and roadways. Instead, we choose to spend the money on feel-good, ego-enhancing projects like new baseball stadiums.

Here in Nashville, Chamber of Commerce types have been trying to ram a new convention center and a new baseball stadium down our throats, uprooting low income families in the process. These kinds of showpiece projects are favorites of the economic development folks, who love to say these kinds of things will broaden our tax base and “trickle down” to prosperity for all. But Nashville isn’t a hick town lacking in entertainment amenities; we already have a baseball stadium and a convention center. We have an arena and a football stadium. We have museums and auditoriums and a symphony hall.

These are all nice things that make living in Nashville so wonderful. But it’s time to get down to business and focus on people, not money. It's time to set some sensible priorities.

We need housing for the homeless. We need healthcare for our low income families. We need to work on our sewage treatment plant. We need to give inner city kids something to do in the summer so they will quit setting dogs on fire.

While we’re at it, let’s finally fix the Wolf Creek dam so we don’t get washed away after the next heavy rain.

Blaming liberals or conservatives for these disasters is just stupid. We all bear the blame for behaving like children who want to eat ice cream instead of vegetables. And trying to score political points when disaster strikes only makes the problem worse, not better.

Grow up, America. Fix your bridges, roads and dams.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Michael Savage Blames Dems For Roberts’ Seizure

And they call us crazy? Conservative nutcase Michael Savage (AKA Michael Alan Weiner) claims that a conspiracy by Democrats is responsible for Chief Justice John Roberts’ seizure on Monday:
On the July 30 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage reacted to news that Chief Justice John Roberts had suffered a seizure that day by raising the possibility that "his health was in some way tampered with by the Democrats." Savage said, "Something's wrong with this picture," after noting that Roberts' seizure occurred just three days after Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said he would seek in general to reject any future Supreme Court nomination made by President Bush.
Savage asked, "Am I to believe there's no connection between Charles Schumer on Friday saying he would never appoint, or never, excuse me, approve another Bush appointment to the court, to any court? And then the chief justice suffers a so-called seizure two days later? You're telling me there's no possibility of a conspiracy by the Democrats to have caused this seizure in some manner?" He added: "Tell me it's not possible, and I'll tell you you're a liar."

Of course what Schumer actually said was, “... we should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances.” Let’s play along with Mikey here for a moment and say it is possible to cause a seizure in another person; maybe the Chief Justice was shown the London Olympics logo. Regardless, I’d say losing the Chief Justice to a serious health issue would qualify as an “extraordinary circumstance.” Using Savage’s “logic” (which I realize is an oxymoron), one could just as easily argue that the Republicans were responsible through some medical foul-play.

I mean does Michael Savage really expect us to believe that John Roberts has a vacation home in Port Clyde, Maine -- 120 miles from the Bush vacation compound in Kennebunkport, which is in the same state! The Republicans had motive and opportunity ... what else do we need?

See how easy that is?

It’s tempting to write off tin-foil “haters” like Michael Savage as just another right wing crackpot. But we live in an era where corporate media outlets like CNN are bending over backwards to mainstream the craziest of wingnuts. Don’t forget: Savage had a regular gig on MSNBC until his hate speech got the better of him.

A few months ago I watched a marvelous old movie called A Face In The Crowd. It starred Andy Griffith as “Lonesome” Rhodes, a populist media hero who's not exactly as he appears to be. It’s an excellent film that offers a few cautionary lessons for today’s media stars.

Bridges Falling Down

It’s my biggest fear: trapped on a bridge in bumper to bumper traffic and the whole thing collapses into the river below. CNN got its hands on some incredible video of the accident as it occured. You might have to watch an annoying UPS ad first, unfortunately.

If the death toll stays at 7 it will truly be a miracle.