Friday, February 29, 2008

Tag, I'm It

Uh-oh. I've been tagged by Marcellina in the 123 game.

This is a new game for me. I don’t know who started it. But here are the rules :

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Fortunately Amazon just delivered a shipment of new fiction, so my “nearest book” isn’t “Filing Your Taxes For Dummies” or some such.

Here are my three sentences, and they’re long ones. I can’t wait to read the book:

“For the first time in recent memory, perhaps for the first time since meeting Aileen, he had a purpose, and peace. He had always loved a university campus in summer, the mysterious abandonment of the medieval city, with just a skeleton crew of damned souls left to meet his few needs: a single heavy-eyed stamper of books, a single sleepwalking ladler of gruel in the one cafeteria. Now he found that the campus on a national holiday at the onset of winter was the purest distillation of that hush he’d first known in the summers.”

From, A Person Of Interest, by Susan Choi, 2008

Now I have to tag five people. Let’s see (cue maniacal laughter) ... How about Mack, Dolphin, Sinfonian, Madamab (who is in the middle of moving and probably has little more than a Chinese take-out menu at hand) and, just for fun, my old friend Glen Dean?

Consider yourselves tagged!

Welcoming Our Corporate Overlords

This is one of the most blatant attempts to hijack democracy by a corporation that I’ve seen in a long time. At this week’s FCC public hearing on net neutrality in Boston, Comcast paid its employees to fill all the seats, so the general public couldn’t attend: 
Comcast admitted to paying its employees to sit in at a F.C.C. hearing on net neutrality at the Harvard Law School today, depriving angry protesters from their right to sit in those folding chairs. Despite the venue being filled to over capacity, keeping some people from entering, not everyone inside seemed appreciative of their privilege. One Comcast employee admitted on tape, "I'm just getting paid to hold someone's seat, I don't even know what's going on." According to, the Comcast employees, "arrived en masse some 90 minutes before the hearing began and occupied almost every available seat, upon which many promptly fell asleep." The stacked audience's behavior was limited to wearing a yellow highlighter, sleeping during the proceedings, and loudly applauding when Comcast VP David Cohen got on the mic. has video and audio clips.

So a major corporation already in the news for violating American citizens' Fourth Amendment rights uses its wealth and power to deny citizens access to a public hearing. The mainstream media should be all over this story, right?

Wrong! They’re too busy covering this election sideshow: Texas poll numbers and Barack Obama’s middle name.

Thank God we have the internet to tell us this story.

Which might have something to do with Comcast’s interest in the net neutrality issue to begin with. Ya think?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Prison Nation

A source I used in Tuesday’s item about Corrections Corp. shill Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV mentioned this country’s “incarceration boom” -- a phrase that took me aback. I wanted to explore this issue further. Well, wouldn’t you know, today Pew Research has a study on this very topic.

It’s disturbing, to say the least:
1 in 100 Americans Are Behind Bars, Study Says

Published: February 28, 2008

For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report.

Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 is behind bars, but that one in 100 black women is.

Wow. That’s just astonishing. Think about it: of 100 adults you personally know, at least one of those people will have served time in the criminal justice system.

I thought about it and realized: yes, I know one of those people! I have a good friend whose punishment for their second DUI offense included serving time in jail.

What is going on here? A nation with incarceration rates this high needs to do some serious soul-seaching.

Are we breaking more laws than before? Do we really have this many "bad" people? Or are we locking people up for violations that really don’t warrant incarceration? Is this the inevitable result of decades of “tough on crime” talk from politicians and the media?

The article goes on:

The Pew report recommended diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and using punishments short of reincarceration for minor or technical violations of probation or parole. It also urged states to consider earlier release of some prisoners.

I know that law-and-order types get in a tizzy over the idea of early release for some prisoners, but something isn’t working here.

Who is benefiting--besides CCA, of course --from pulling so many people out of the mainstream of society and locking them up? So many of these “get tough on crime” laws haven’t served as a deterrent or made us safer. Instead, they’ve made a bunch of people feel macho and tough by doing what’s easy, not what works.

There's something seriously wrong with a country that would rather throw people in jail and forget about them, instead of fixing the social problems that cause people to break the law to begin with.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Parking Nazis


Just learned that the H.G. Hill Company has a longstanding philanthropic relationship with the YMCA.

There's certainly nothing wrong with that ... I just don't know why Hill Center customers must be duped roped into this particular philanthropic vision. Maybe I should change the name of this post to Charity Nazis?

Boy, were Mr. Beale and I surprised to see those fake parking meters spring up at the Hill Center in Green Hills over the weekend.

They look just like the real thing until you get up close and read the sign: then you learn the money supposedly goes to charity, not to pay for your parking space. Hill Center is private property, after all; there is no city parking. So in other words, these are fake parking meters, not real ones. Indeed, Hills reps say you won’t get towed unless you leave your car “for an extended period of time.”

As soon as I saw them I thought: you dirty rats. They look exactly like the real thing! I imagine most people will see them and pop a quarter in for their (gasp!) 8 minutes. How many people will read the sign and realize they’re not paying for parking, but donating to charity?

And who is this charity? Is it legit? Is it a charity that I want to support, one that matches my values? Who is Hill Center to assume that “their” charity is going to be “my” charity, anyway? And how dare they not tell me who this charity is?

Just because it’s for charity doesn’t mean I want my money going there. I stopped giving to the Salvation Army’s bell ringers when I learned how that organization used their good works as a hammer to force New York City to support their bigotry.

I caught WSMV's story on these voluntary parking meters tonight and learned proceeds go to the YMCA (after covering the cost of the parking meters, of course). Thanks for letting us know. Does the Green Hills YMCA need this kind of charitable donation? They look pretty flush to me.

Look, I don’t have a beef with the YMCA but I do object to the idea that I have to a) pay to maintain the Hill Center’s fake parking meters, and b) donate to their particular charity--just for the privilege of visiting their shopping center. Screw that.

I give a lot of money to charity--charities of my choice, that reflect my values. I don’t see why I’m obligated to donate to the charity of Hill’s choice, just because I want to park my car. What arrogance!

Bush Picks A “Brownie” For TN Bench

Oh, great. Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV, Bill Frist’s old legislative aide, is President Bush’s pick for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

This just reeks of partisan, good-ole-boy, glad-handing. “Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV” (what a mouthful!) is vice president and general counsel for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). He earned his cred with the GOP brass by investigating Bill Clinton’s fundraising back in the 1990’s, and even prepped Dick Cheney for the VP debates in 2000 and 2004.

That’s a great GOP political background, but for a seat on the federal bench, don’t you want some trial experience? Apparently not:
Of greater concern is that Mr. Puryear lacks familiarity with the federal courts and has little trial or litigation experience. By his own admission he has tried only two cases to verdict; he has been personally involved in only five federal cases, most recently a decade ago. He is not admitted to practice before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is over the Middle District of Tennessee, and received only a "qualified" rating from the American Bar Association rather than a "highly qualified" rating.

So, he’s a GOP loyalist, but without trial experience, why is he in consideration for the federal bench? It seems Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV is just another corporate shill:

Puryear has spent the bulk of his legal career at the Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company. As its general counsel since 2001, Puryear has made millions of dollars working for a company that profits from the country's incarceration boom, particularly through his recent sale of more than $3 million worth of the company's stock. (His financial disclosure form shows a net worth of more than $13 million.) His employer creates enormous conflicts for Puryear as a potential federal judge, as the CCA gets sued all the time, often in the very district where he hopes to preside as judge. Since 2000, roughly 260 cases have been filed in that court against the CCA, its officers, and subsidiaries. [ ... ] Inmate lawsuits typically account for more than 10 percent of the docket in Tennessee's Middle District, meaning that Puryear will see his share of them if he gets confirmed.

This isn’t ho-hum, so-what, it-doesn’t-affect-me stuff. By stacking the courts with corporate shills, we give more power to the corporate world, and take it away from ordinary citizens.

Look at the U.S. Supreme Court, and its corporate-friendly ruling last week:

The Supreme Court yesterday protected the makers of medical devices that have passed the most rigorous federal review standards from lawsuits by consumers who allege that the devices caused them harm.

The court ruled 8 to 1 against the estate of a New York man who was seriously injured when a balloon catheter manufactured by Medtronic burst during an angioplasty in 1996. Charles Riegel, who died three years ago, and his wife sued under New York law, alleging that the device's design was faulty and its labeling deficient.

Do you see where this is going? I do, and I don’t like it. This is a slippery slope that rings all sorts of alarm bells with me.

Puryear looks like just another corporate crony. In his job as CCA’s chief counsel, he's called inmate litigation “a nuisance,” and “an outlet for inmates .. something they can do in their spare time," despite the fact that CCA has been found in the wrong in several significant verdicts and settlements against the company:

For instance, in 2000, a South Carolina jury hit the CCA with a $3 million verdict for abusing juveniles. Other successful suits have alleged that the company's employees abused inmates and provided negligent medical care.

Great, just the kind of guy we want on the courts. I'd urge you to call Senators Corker and Alexander to oppose this clown's nomination, but being good GOP partisans, they probably won't listen:

Both Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker strongly support Mr. Puryear's nomination. Neither Senator has acknowledged the substantial financial contributions received from Mr. Puryear and his employer, CCA - which include over $80,000 to Senator Alexander and $27,000 to Senator Corker since 2004.

Is this the best judge money can buy? I want a government that takes care of people, not corporations.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Slave 2U


Just, no:
Looking to strike a blow against the proliferation of digital video recorders, the ABC network, its affiliated broadcast stations, and Cox Communications’ cable systems are establishing an on-demand video service that would allow viewers to watch ABC shows like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” any time they choose.

The catch: It uses a new technology that disables the viewers’ ability to fast-forward through commercials.

Am I stuck in a Pepé Le Pew cartoon, or what? Just when consumers figure out a way around those annoying TV commercials that we all hate to watch, corporate America finds another way to FORCE us to watch their sales pitch anyway.

STOP IT. Just, quit it. We don’t want to watch your ads, alright? You’re pissing me off here.

I hate being marketed to. I hate it. I’ve written about this before, notably here and here. I can’t tell you how offensive, intrusive, dehumanizing and manipulative I find this whole “you WILL WATCH” crap from corporate America.

Listen up, Corporate America: quit treating me like a giant, throbbing wallet. I know all you want is my money but geez, could you at least pretend we consumers are, you know, people?

Here’s what you people fail to understand: I want to buy your product. I’m a consumer. I live in America. That means I consume A LOT. It’s the American way, it’s how we show our patriotism, right? But the over-aggressive way you shove your products at me is a huge turnoff. I’m this close to going all lefty-commie-DFH and getting all anti-consumer on y’all's ass.

Keep this Advertising Nazi crap up and I will. Just you wait.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nader’s In. Oh, And The Sun Rose This Morning, Too.

In case you haven’t heard, Ralph Nader announced he's running on today's Meet The Press.

Let’s face it, we all saw this one coming. Personally, I could care less, and unless something really amazing happens, I plan to ignore Ralph Nader. But I’m sure the rest of the media won’t. I can already tell that this will be treated as the hottest news story since the invention of the bread slicer.

This completely defies logic. Let's see, Nader got 0.38% of the popular vote in 2004, a decline from the "whopping" 2.73% of the popular vote he got in 2000. But I'm sure the media will still treat him like he's relevant, offering all sorts of front-page stories and other Meet The Press appearances.

I'm trying to remember when any third-party candidate has performed so poorly in the general election and yet received so much national media attention. The same people who wrote off Ross Perot as a miserable failure after his second attempt in 1996 netted 8.40% of the popular vote are going to be treating Nader as some kind of player this time around. Go figure.

Will this hurt the Democratic nominee? Nah. Anyone voting for Ralph Nader these days isn't going to vote for HIllary Clinton or Barack Obama anyway, no matter what they tell you. If anything, this is good news for Democrats, seeing how a Nader candidacy will likely be a magnet for GOP money, like last time. I'm not sure the Republicans have this kind of money to throw away, though; their fundraising has been weak compared to that of the Democrats, and their low primary turnout doesn't bode well for the general election either.

Anyway, this hopefully is the last blog post I'll be doing on Ralph Nader.

(Figures are from Dave Leip’s Election Atlas, one of my favorite online resources.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Maybe It’s The Slightly-Askew Talk Express?

It seems John McCain’s “straight talk” is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

McCain vigorously denies doing any favors for clients of his friend/telecom lobbyist Vicki Iseman. But one of those clients, Paxson Communications, refutes McCain’s claims:
Broadcaster Lowell "Bud" Paxson yesterday contradicted statements from Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign that the senator did not meet with Paxson or his lobbyist before sending two controversial letters to the Federal Communications Commission on Paxson's behalf.

Paxson said he talked with McCain in his Washington office several weeks before the Arizona Republican wrote the letters in 1999 to the FCC urging a rapid decision on Paxson's quest to acquire a Pittsburgh television station.

Paxson also recalled that his lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, likely attended the meeting in McCain's office and that Iseman helped arrange the meeting.

Oops. Oh, Mr. Ethics! We’re so disappointed! Interestingly, McCain himself earlier admitted to meeting with Paxson:

McCain himself in a deposition in 2002 acknowledged talking to Paxson about the Pittsburgh sale. Asked what Paxson said in the conversation, McCain said that Paxson "had applied to purchase this station and that he wanted to purchase it. And that there had been a numerous year delay with the FCC reaching a decision. And he wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business."

The deposition was taken in litigation over the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law filed by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The contradiction in the deposition was first reported by Newsweek yesterday afternoon.

Ooops again.

Something else I found interesting was that in addition to Paxson Communications, one of Vicki Iseman’s other clients is the dreadfully right-wing and partisan Sinclair Broadcasting. Sinclair, of course, is the broadcasting company that ordered its 62 TV stations to air the anti-John Kerry propaganda piece “Stolen Honor” two weeks before the 2004 election. How ironic that the same folks accusing the New York Times of intentionally waiting for John McCain to sew up the nomination before dropping its Vicki Iseman bombshell thought it perfectly fine for Sinclair to broadcast its lies right before the actual election.

Bloggers note that Paxson Communications also jumped on board the “Stolen Honor” bandwagon, and McCain himself refused to denounce “Stolen Honor.” He’s such a maverick! EmptyWheel at Firedoglake has more on this, and I urge you to hop over there and read the post because it raises a lot of questions.

And let me add, none of this would be quite the big deal it is if John McCain hadn’t spent the past 10 years presenting himself as some kind of “new” politician with unimpeachable integrity. We all know that Republicans are in bed with big industry and lobbysists, and finding another one doing favors for his friends is, well, expected. But McCain has said he learned his lesson after the Keating Five scandal. Guess not.

(h/t, Atrios.)

Solar: The Future’s So Bright

Newsflash: oil is over. It’s history. It’s finished. Get over it, people, it’s time to move on.

Twenty years ago I thought the oil companies would have to invest in alternative energy. It just seemed like the logical business move, what with oil running out and all. Silly me. What was I thinking? They’re oil companies, not energy companies. They’re scrambling after the last remaining scraps of a vanishing resource, like a flock of pigeons fighting over a lone saltine. It’s terribly short-sighted, but absolutely predictable. I was dumb to think they'd do anything else.

So we’re going to have to look elsewhere for new ideas. The oil companies aren’t going to do it, and the oil men in Washington who run our government aren’t going to do it.

The good news is, there’s a lot out there, and I thought I’d share some of what I’ve found in the next few blog posts.

1Watt in comments on the No Nukes thread shared this Scientific American article from January on A Solar Grand Plan. It proposes
A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants [which] could supply 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050.

Great! (Read the article for the details, BTW). But making this transition will come at a price:

The federal government would have to invest more than $400 billion over the next 40 years to complete the 2050 plan. That investment is substantial, but the payoff is greater. Solar plants consume little or no fuel, saving billions of dollars year after year. The infrastructure would displace 300 large coal-fired power plants and 300 more large natural gas plants and all the fuels they consume.

The plan would effectively eliminate all imported oil, fundamentally cutting U.S. trade deficits and easing political tension in the Middle East and elsewhere. Because solar technologies are almost pollution-free, the plan would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 1.7 billion tons a year, and another 1.9 billion tons from gasoline vehicles would be displaced by plug-in hybrids refueled by the solar power grid. In 2050 U.S. carbon dioxide emissions would be 62 percent below 2005 levels, putting a major brake on global warming.

I’m sure the notion of $400 billion in subsidies for solar energy over 40 years strikes fear in the heart of conservatives, but why not? Even by the most conservative estimates, the Iraq War will cost us $700 billion in direct spending alone. That’s a pretty nice subsidy for the oil industry.

The best news is, this is already happening. We don’t need the Federal government because private companies are already building large solar farms in the Southwest. Check out this plan for Phoenix:

Today, Arizona's largest utility, Arizona Public Service, is announcing plans to build the world's largest "concentrating solar power" plant, a $1 billion project to spread parabolic mirrors over a 3-mile-square stretch of desert 70 miles southwest of Phoenix. To be designed and built by the Spanish firm Abengoa, it would generate 280 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 70,000 homes.

That makes it four times as large as Nevada Solar One, near Boulder City, Nev., which last summer became the first CSP plant to open in the United States in more than 17 years. Tomorrow, Nevada Solar One's developer, a rival Spanish company, Acciona, plans a star-studded dedication ceremony for the facility ...


Unlike the solar energy that most people know, CSP doesn't use expensive semiconductor material to transform the sun's energy into electricity. CSP relies on mirrors to focus sunlight onto a heat transfer fluid, which in turn heats water into steam, which turns turbines to generate power. The big Arizona plant, which will be called Solana Generating Station, will take the technology an exciting step forward by using molten salt to store solar energy for up to six hours. "When the suns sets, this plant keeps on ticking," says Arizona Public Service President Don Brandt. "We'll have solar energy in the dark."

What is wrong with American companies? Why are European companies so far ahead of us on this stuff?

There’s a new energy future coming and America is going to be left in the dust because we’ve focused all of our attention on oil. How stupid is that?

Friday, February 22, 2008

McCain Campaign Official Rep. Renzi Indicted

John McCain is having a really bad week. First the Vicki Iseman revelations, and now Rep. Rick Renzi, co-chair of his Arizona campaign, has been indicted on 35 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, insurance fraud and extortion:
PHOENIX — Federal authorities announced corruption charges Friday accusing Rep. Rick Renzi of engineering a swap of federally owned mining land to benefit himself and a former business partner and stealing from his insurance company's clients.

A lengthy federal investigation that had put the three-term Republican congressman under a cloud for more than a year culminated in a 26-page indictment issued Thursday against him and two other men. Renzi announced Aug. 23 that he wouldn't run for re-election in Arizona's mostly rural 1st Congressional District.

The indictment's 35 counts include charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, insurance fraud and extortion. Most of the charges allege Renzi, 49, used his office to promote a land swap to collect on a debt owed by former Renzi associate James W. Sandlin of Sherman, Texas.


Authorities accuse Renzi of using his position as a member of the Natural Resources Committee to push land deals for Sandlin. Renzi wanted Sandlin to make money so the congressman could be paid for an earlier land deal they made together, according to the indictment.

Not surprisingly, Renzi has stepped down from the McCain campaign and House Minority Leader John Boehner is asking him to resign.

What a way to cap off a tough week.

One Nation, Really Scared

Are we wound a tad too tight, people? I’m thinking yes:
Gun scare defused at Cal State Dominguez Hills

Campus placed on lockdown because of reports of a man carrying a rifle. It turns out to be an ROTC student with a nonfunctioning training weapon.

By Susannah Rosenblatt and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
10:01 AM PST, February 21, 2008

An ROTC student carrying a nonfunctioning rifle on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson prompted a large police response after students reported that they had seen a man carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle on school grounds, authorities said today.

Alarm about a possible gunman at the school lasted for about 45 minutes this morning as school officials went into lockdown and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies searched for a person matching the description given them by witnesses.

I’m just glad there weren’t any gun-toting faculty or students determined to handle this “threat” on their own. I can see this story having a much different, more tragic ending.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

McCain In Bed With Lobbyist?


Bloggers wonder: What did Mike Huckabee know, and when did he know it?


Get your minds out of the gutter. I meant that as a metaphor, sillies.

It’s inevitable that people will latch onto this story’s more prurient elements. But that’s not where the news is.

The story is not whether John McCain did or did not have an affair with a woman 30 years his junior. The story is that a telecom lobbyist had a relationship with a Senator when her client had business before his committee. It speaks to his ethics, integrity and credibility, which is why his staff intervened:
[E]ven the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.

But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.

Indeed, it seems John McCain isn’t so much a “maverick” as arrogant and narcissistic. Just what we need in the White House. Again.

McCain has been a good friend to the telecom industry. Back when he was supposedly canoodling with Vicki Iseman he wrote a letter on behalf her client, Paxson Communications. In 2002 he sponsored the Telecommunications Ownership Diversification Act, which absolutely thrilled Clear Channel.

Last week he came through for Big Telecom again, voting to give them immunity from lawsuits related to warrentless wiretaps.

For you kids who don’t remember, here’s a little recap on the Keating scandal:

During Mr. McCain’s four years in the House, Mr. Keating, his family and his business associates contributed heavily to his political campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his private jet, a violation of Congressional ethics rules (he later said it was an oversight and paid for the trips). They vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year Mr. McCain was elected to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona shopping mall.

Mr. Keating had taken over the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association and used its federally insured deposits to gamble on risky real estate and other investments. He pressed Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to help hold back federal banking regulators.

For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating’s request, he wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board.
By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” Mr. McCain later lamented in his memoir.

When Lincoln went bankrupt in 1989 — one of the biggest collapses of the savings and loan crisis, costing taxpayers $3.4 billion — the Keating Five became infamous. The scandal sent Mr. Keating to prison and ended the careers of three senators, who were censured in 1991 for intervening. Mr. McCain, who had been a less aggressive advocate for Mr. Keating than the others, was reprimanded only for “poor judgment” and was re-elected the next year.

So, after barely emerging from a national scandal with his career intact, 10 years later he forges, ahem, a “bond” with a telecom lobbyist whose clients appear before his committee.

Yeah, I’d say someone was getting screwed all right--US.

No More Nukes!


Glenn at Pax Americana informs that he's just begun a series of stories on nuclear waste. Check it out.

Thank you, Bart Gordon:
Tennessee Congressman Bart Gordon is urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission not to allow foreign radioactive waste into the United States.

An American company called Energy Solutions wants to import 20-thousand tons of waste from decommissioned nuclear power plants in Italy. The material would be processed in Tennessee at Oak Ridge, then hauled to the company’s dump in Utah.

Gordon says that would set a precedent the nation can’t afford.

“It reduces our capacity to maintain the waste stream here in the United States, and quite frankly, we don’t have an adequate amount of storage here. Makes no sense to me that we would waste our limited storage capacity on foreign waste when virtually every country in the world does not allow foreign waste to come into their countries.”

And Gordon warns, if the existing American facilities fill up, there will again be pressure to create a dump in Oak Ridge.

You know what I love about this story? That there’s a company calling itself Energy “Soutions” claiming it’s

“solving the problems of global warming and energy dependence in addition to cleaning up the environmental consequences of the cold war.”

No, you’re not! You aren’t “solving” anything. You’re moving nuclear waste around the globe. That’s not a solution, that’s a huge problem! How’s this stuff supposed to get here, anyway--container ship? And since when has America The Beautiful been Europe’s radiocative dumping ground, anyway? It’s bad enough we have China dumping their toxic waste here in the form of pet food and children’s toys.

Calling nuclear energy a solution to global warming is laughable. At its most basic, global warming is a waste problem: greenhouse gases are the waste produced by burning fossil fuels. What’s the big problem with nuclear energy? Dealing with radioactive waste. Europe hasn’t figured out how to do it--that’s why they want to send their junk here. There is no “solution,” not yet, and until there is one, we shouldn’t be trading one global energy waste problem for another.

Nuclear energy is also one of the most heavily subsidized industries we have. Free market advocates take note: Without the intervention of the U.S. government nuclear energy wouldn’t exist. The reason is the Price Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, passed into law in 1957 and renewed ever since (most recently in 2005). The act basically acknowledges the potential for widespread, catostrophic damages from a serious nuclear accident, the cost of which would be far beyond the reach of any energy company to pay for. Price-Anderson provides a pool of money, primarily from the government although industry contributes, to cover the costs of insuring nuclear reactors.

When this legislation was first conceived back in the 1950s, nuclear energy was a scary new technology that no private insurance company would touch. Everyone expected that to change once the nuclear industry proved itself with a strong safety record, so the bill was set to expire in 1967. Except, of course, nuclear energy never did prove itself not to be the scary technology we all have every right to fear; the bill has been renewed repeatedly, because private insurance companies won’t go near it.

Have I mentioned I hate insurance companies? Here’s one case where I think they’re right on. Say what you will, but the insurance industry knows about risk.

Back when I was a young pup, working toward a degree in environmental science, nuclear energy was a hot button issue. Industry types and politicians tried to tell us it was our only path to energy independence. I call bullshit. It is a path, but not the right one. It has all the same problems that we have with fossil fuels, save the fact that “our” uranium isn’t under “their” sand. Instead, it’s in Australia, Niger and Namibia. And the open-pit uranium mines are an environmental disaster:

Lovely, yes?

(h/t, Volunteer Voters)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Silver Linings

I wonder if this trend has appeared in Nashville yet:
CLEVELAND - The nation's foreclosure crisis has led to a painful irony for homeless people: On any given night they are outnumbered in some cities by vacant houses, and some street people are taking advantage of the opportunity by becoming squatters.

Foreclosed homes often have an advantage over boarded-up and dilapidated houses abandoned because of rundown conditions: Sometimes the heat, lights and water are still working.

On a related note, the Nashville homeless census (.pdf here) showed a slight increase in the local homeless population:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn., Feb. 8, 2008) – An updated count of the city’s homeless population, coordinated by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, found 2,237 persons living either in shelters or outdoors. The number represents only a nominal increase from last year’s 2,176. The information will be used as part of the continuing effort to combat chronic homelessness in Nashville.

The count, which took place in the early morning hours of January 29, found 1,771 people living in homeless shelters and 466 in non-sheltered locations. Of the total number of homeless individuals counted, a majority are considered to be “chronically homeless.” The federal government defines a chronically homeless person as “an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”

I can’t imagine that too many of Nashville’s homeless are finding shelter in empty homes; it just seems like all of the new developments are in suburbs and places like Green Hills, while the homeless seem to be clustered around the shelters and other social services offered downtown.

But I could easily be wrong. I know full well that many homeless are adept at staying hidden. I know the park adjacent to the Green Hills Public Library has been home to several homeless individuals. These aren’t the folks dressed in rags and pushing a shopping cart (although Green Hills has its share of those, too), but rather folks who work hard to “blend in.” No doubt, they are not included in the recent census numbers, nor would be squatters taking shelter in an empty home.

I am reminded that these are people, not numbers: people with names, families, and stories to tell. They have problems we can’t even imagine. A lot of them are women with children: this year the Campus for Human Development said they had so many more women clients than usual, by December they had run out of feminine hygiene products. Our church actually took up a collection of sanitary products to help out.

I do know that we're seeing increased numbers of people seeking assistance, people who don't fall under the "chronically homeless" label but instead have jobs (sometimes two or three jobs) who have been affected by the credit mess. These are people who are just one illness or job layoff away from becoming homeless. They aren't the folks showing up in shelters or sleeping under bridges--yet. And I wonder if this city is at all prepared to deal with this potential time bomb.

Monday, February 18, 2008

USDA Orders Largest-Ever Beef Recall

Oh, urp. Torture of “downer” cattle--animals too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse on their own--has led to the USDA's largest-ever beef recall:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the largest beef recall in its history Sunday, calling for the destruction of 143 million pounds of raw and frozen beef produced by a Chino slaughterhouse that has been accused of inhumane practices.

However, the USDA said the vast majority of the meat involved in the recall -- including 37 million pounds that went mostly to schools -- probably has been eaten already. Officials emphasized that danger to consumers was minimal.


The action came nearly three weeks after the Humane Society of the United States released a video showing workers at the plant using forklifts and water hoses, among other methods, to rouse cattle too weak to walk. In addition to issues of animal cruelty, the video raised questions about whether so-called downer cattle were entering the food chain in violation of federal regulations.

”Downer” cattle might carry disease (Mad Cow among them) that could spread to humans. That’s why the USDA has the rule that if an animal is unable to walk into the slaughterhouse on its own, it can’t be turned into food.

My question is, where was the USDA while water hoses and forklifts were being used to push sick and injured cattle into the slaughterhouse? Why did it take an undercover operation by the Humane Society to protect our food supply?

And then there’s this:

Although the Humane Society said at least four non-ambulatory cattle had been slaughtered for food, the USDA had repeatedly said it had no such evidence. On Sunday, federal officials said for the first time that they had evidence such cattle from Hallmark had been processed for food.

Again, we have the denials from the government, the “everything’s OK” assertions, and then the inevitable acknowledgment that maybe things aren’t as hunky-dory as the government has claimed. I just wrote about a similar situation last week when the government finally admitted its FEMA trailers are making people sick.

I know all of this nicely supports the Republican view that government doesn’t work and should therefore be drowned in the bathtub. But I don’t buy that line. I think Republican government doesn’t work.

Yes, there have been problems at the USDA under both Republican and Democratic administrations, but I think when you go into government with the mind-set that it doesn’t work, you’re handicapping your ability to make it function. You've got the wrong mind-set.

As far as the food supply is concerned, the fact that much of this ground beef was sent to schools is very troubling. According to the Los Angeles Times, meat from this plant also was sold at CostCo, In-N-Out Burger and Jack In The Box on the West Coast.

I'm a meat-eater, and I'm not ready to go vegetarian. I buy organic meats in the grocery store, but I don't know from a slaughterhouse perspective if those animals enter the food supply any differently from the regular kind.

Buyer beware.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Here A Gun, There A Gun, Everywhere A Gun Gun!

The conservative response to the latest gun violence tragedy proves yet again how ill-equipped these people are to lead this country. On one end of crazy street we have Tennessee’s own state Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, who has reacted to the Northern Illinois University shootings with a bill allowing concealed handguns on Tennessee university campuses:
Campfield's bill would allow "all full-time faculty and staff at any post-secondary institution" to carry handguns when requested to do so by the head of the institution, provided they have received eight hours of training in handling firearms.

The bill also provides that faculty and staff who hold a conceal-carry permit would be able to take their guns onto campus anytime.

Campfield said he considered including students among those authorized to carry guns on campus but left them out "to sound more reasonable."

I think “sounding reasonable” is the least of Rep. Campfield’s worries. In Campfield’s fantasy world, the next time some crazy shoots up a classroom, students won’t just be dodging bullets from one person but from a multitude of armed individuals. Surely nothing could go wrong with that! Lord save us from these idiots who are the heroes of their own movies.

On the other end of crazy street is conservative blogger Rob Port wondering why none of the students “fought back” (it’s all liberals’ fault, of course) and praising this point made by one of his readers:

I am discouraged that no one took their books, laptops, anything and just threw it at the guy, no one fought back. It’s that passivity that troubles me.

Wow, is that compassionate conservatism I smell or just partisan hackery?

Neither Rob Port nor Stacey Campfield were anywhere near these school shootings yet they’re just convinced that more guns and a dose of good ol’ conservative machismo would have saved the lives of these students. Excuse me for calling bullshit.

I know the right likes to paint liberals as “anti-gun.” We’re not, we just read the whole Second Amendment, you know, the part about a “well-regulated militia” and all. I don’t want to get into a debate about gun control, though. It’s one of those things on which the two sides will never agree.

But I do have a suggestion--one actually made by a commenter at Eschaton, and which I think is a brilliant idea. Since the Republican Party seems to think the answer to gun violence is to put more guns in the hands of the people, let’s start with the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, shall we? Why not allow all RNC delegates to carry concealed weapons to the convention.

That should make everyone participating in the convention feel super-extra snuggly safe, right?

Friday, February 15, 2008

There’s Formaldehyde In The Double-Wide

Note to Tennessee tornado survivors: you might want to think twice before accepting the gift of housing from FEMA.

After initially denying any health risk existed, the government has finally admitted that those FEMA trailers housing thousands of Hurricane Katrina survivors are contaminated with toxic formaldehyde.

But it gets worse. Despite this, FEMA says it will continue to distribute these trailers to Tennessee and Arkansas tornado survivors.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday it will distribute mobile homes to victims of last week's tornadoes in Arkansas and Tennessee, despite a health warning about high formaldehyde levels in other trailers, officials said Thursday.

James McIntyre, a FEMA spokesman, said the agency would begin to process mobile homes stored at the Hope airport for distribution to victims of the Feb. 5 storms. McIntyre said FEMA will not be "putting anything on hold."

In Atlanta earlier Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced some trailers had levels of formaldehyde that were nearly 40 times customary exposure levels. The CDC urged that Gulf Coast hurricane victims living in government-owned trailers move out.

This is bizarre, since on Thursday, the Dept. of Homeland Security said it was dumping the trailers:

On Capitol Hill today, Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff said he's throwing in the towel on trailers.

"We are out of the trailer business, we are no longer going to provide trailers for people," said Chertoff.

Apparently Mr. Chertoff needs to communicate better with FEMA.

So why on earth are we asking those made homeless by last week’s tornadoes to move into these things? Apparently, to prove a point about government efficiency:

The decision to use some of the mobile homes for Arkansas and Tennessee twister victims comes after requests by state officials and members of Arkansas' congressional delegation, who have criticized the unused homes in the past as a sign of federal ineptitude after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said he was not aware of the CDC finding Thursday. DeCample said the governor's office likely wouldn't have that much of a say in how the mobile homes were distributed.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeremy Heidt said FEMA officials assured them any mobile homes shipped to his state would be tested.

"We're convinced they're safe," Heidt said.

Oh really?

I’m going to predict that these trailers are not going anywhere and won’t house anyone. Just a guess.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


In a world .... where a president is desperate to salvage his legacy ... and his flawed “Star Wars” program ....


I'm not the only blogger calling bullshit.

This guy takes a more scientific approach. Interesting read.


Considering how the Bush Administration could screw up eating a ham sandwich, I’m dubious about this plan:
US: Broken Satellite Will Be Shot Down

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon, under orders from President Bush, is planning to shoot down a broken spy satellite expected to hit the Earth in early March, the White House said Thursday.

U.S. officials said that the option preferred by the administration will be to fire a missile from a U.S. Navy cruiser, and shoot down the satellite before it enters Earth's atmosphere.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said that Bush made his decision during the past week and asked experts to come up with a way to destoy the satellite. He made the decision to shoot it down because the satellite was carrying the rocket fuel hydrazine, Perino said. Initally the administration believed that the danger from the falling satellite did not pose a large problem, but decided it was best to shoot it down when experts decided that the unused hydrazine did pose a danger.

What could possibly go wrong?!

I’m no, er, rocket scientist, but this whole thing smells fishy to me. Seems the likelihood of success is pretty small, we’re just as likely to miss and screw things up worse, plus don’t these things burn up when they hit the earth’s atmosphere anyway? Remember Skylab?

The whole hydrazine thing sounds completely bogus. Surely that would burn up on re-entry?

Sounds to me like the military doesn’t want any “unfriendly governments” finding this thing. Which strikes me as really insane. We launched our current two-front war thanks to a gang of crazies with boxcutters. Our troops are being taken down by IEDs in Iraq. Why worry about foreign governments finding our old spy satellite technology?

Unless we don't want someone finding out it isn't as good as we said it was.

Anyway, I'm calling bullshit on the whole dog and pony show. It would be nice if someone in the media would find out what's really going on, but I don't hold out much hope for that. In the meantime, an ounce of cynicism is worth a pound of propaganda.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why I Hate Insurance Companies

I support the general concept of insurance--I get that there is a benefit to pooling resources and all--but when you add the profit motive in there, you end up on pretty shaky moral ground.

Case in point, Blue Cross of California:
Facing a torrent of criticism Tuesday, Blue Cross of California abruptly halted its practice of asking physicians in a letter to look for medical conditions that could be used to cancel patients' insurance coverage.

[ ... ]

In a letter to physicians last week, Blue Cross asked the doctors to "identify members who have failed to disclose medical conditions on their applications that may be considered pre-existing."

It went on to say that "Blue Cross has the right to cancel a member's policy back to its effective date for failure to disclose material medical history."

Way to go, Blue Cross. Asking doctors to snitch on their patients kinda drives a wedge in the doctor-patient relationship, doesn’t it? I don’t know too many doctors who went to medical school so they could serve the needs of for-profit insurance companies, not people seeking healthcare.

Insurance companies make their profit by ensuring you don't get the healthcare you need. That’s just wrong. We need to take the profit motive out of the healthcare mix, because it doesn't work. If that sounds all scary “socialist,” then fine.

Healthcare is a mess in this country, and one of the primary reasons is because it’s been treated as a for-profit, money-making enterprise. I happen to think that’s immoral. I think it’s wrong to profit from the suffering, disease, and general healthcare needs of people. Healthcare isn’t a luxury item, it’s a necessity.

This is why I’m against the whole “marketplace” argument related to healthcare. When a doctor says I need x, y or z, I don’t want to shop around. I’m not buying laundry detergent, I’m trying to get healthy. I’m not a “consumer,” I’m someone who wants to feel better, or else I’m trying to keep from getting sick later.

The way we approach healthcare in this country is truly idiotic.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A-Hunting We Will Go

Or, er, not.

Grab your bullet-proof vests, Vice President Dick Cheney is going quail hunting again:
Vice President Dick Cheney is returning this weekend to the South Texas ranch where he accidentally shot a hunting companion two years ago. Anne Armstrong said Cheney was expected to arrive today at the Armstrong's 50,000-acre ranch.

"We have a wonderful quail crop, and he is a fabulous shot," said Armstrong, a former U.S. ambassador to Great Britain and adviser to Republican presidents.

Yes, fabulous! I wonder if Ms. Armstrong’s tongue was firmly in cheek with that remark? But this is hilarious:

Cheney missed last year's annual trip to his longtime friends' ranch because of scheduling conflicts, Armstrong said.

Armstrong said Whittington hunted at the ranch last year, but couldn't make it for this weekend's visit.

No one could have anticipated that!

Wit & Wisdom Of Antonin Scalia

Just to remind everyone about what’s at stake in November, we have these pearls of wisdom from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia:
“Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to determine where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited in the constitution?" he asked.

“It would be absurd to say you couldn't do that. And once you acknowledge that, we're into a different game."

Oh wow! I saw that episode of “24,” too! Yeah, that was so cool how Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles by smacking that .... oh, wait. That was a TV show.

Never mind.

British human rights law expert Conor Gearty exposed Scalia’s intellectual dishonesty:

"Antonin Scalia works hard to protect himself from having to think seriously about torture," he said. 

"His devices are quite obvious, the idea of a smack on the face - rather than sensory deprivation, or waterboarding or any of the Abu Ghraib images - and the comment about 'so-called torture'..."

Professor Gearty accused Justice Scalia of creating a "nightmare scenario of mass destruction that all defenders of torture so need, to hide the fact that the reality of torture will be quite different."

Indeed it is. And the last thing this country needs are more intellectually dishonest people like Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Short Memory, Huckabee

Poor Mike Huckabee is furious that Washington State awarded its delegates to John McCain instead of counting all of the votes. He thinks Republicans should be up in arms about this travesty. Hmmm.... this is sounding familiar.

Hey, Huckabee! Why don’t you sell your sad story in Florida:
"That is not what we do in American elections," Huckabee said on CNN's American Morning Monday. "Maybe that's how they used to conduct it in the old Soviet Union, but you don't just throw people's votes out and say, 'well, we're not going to bother counting them because we kind of think we know where this was going.'

Hate to break it to you, buddy, but that’s exactly how we got stuck with Disaster Bush to begin with.

"I was just stunned," Huckabee said. "It's the kind of thing that Republicans across America, not just in Washington State, ought to be outraged over."

And yet, they’re not. Gee, I wonder why. Oh, right! That’s how the GOP won the 2000 election.

It just doesn’t get any dumber. Governor, are you sure you're not a Democrat? You might do better if you switch parties. Just a thought.

10,000 Years

If you liked that Barack Obama video that's been getting millions of YouTube hits, then you will love the John McCain parody:

Yes, Republican Party. Good luck with that.
(h/t, AmericaBlog)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

It’s Always Good For Republicans

Have you seen the latest storyline about Democrats working its way through the media? Apparently, because we have two excellent candidates to choose from in the presidential primary, “Democrats are in disarray”!

Yes, that’s right, even though Democratic voters have turned out in record numbers for the primaries, folks like the Washington Post have decided the story is that “Democrats are divided.” The party is split, there’s division in the ranks, it’s Obama v Hilllary!

Even though everyone from President Bush to Fred Thompson are begging, pleading with Republicans for unity, even though conservatives booed putitive GOP nominee John McCain at the CPAC conference and James Dobson said McCain would get elected over his dead body, it’s the Democrats who are in disarray.

This bullshit storyline even made the cover of this week’s Time Magazine, which blares: "The Struggle For the Soul of the Democrats"! Yowza! Writes Time:
Super Tuesday was supposed to settle the Democratic race, but a split decision means it's just getting started--and could get truly ugly

In fact, it was idiots in the media like Time Magazine who decided Super Tuesday was going to settle everything. So don't blame us voters for not meeting your arbitrary deadline.

It’s time for the media to take a big chill-pill and let the voters do their thing.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Hatred That Dare Not Speak Its Name

I’ve been going around the block on the Obama v. Clinton, Clinton v. Obama thing. Really, I don’t care which one gets the nomination. They both have terrific credentials. They both have assets that make them great candidates, and they both have negatives.

I wrote earlier about the “Obama is a secret Muslim” lie, which seems to have legs (indeed, a Kansas newspaper reprinted the phony allegations from that e-mail as if they were fact. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that other small town weeklies have done likewise.)

So when a friend tells me that she thinks Obama will “at least get a honeymoon,” I’m not convinced.

On the other hand, when Hillary Clinton supporters say she’s been “vetted,” I just don’t buy it. The Clinton hatred out there is palpable. A Clinton still can’t get a fair shake by the media (this nonsense from Clown Hall is a case in point, as is this bullshit from ABC News’ Jake Tapper).

The media will peddle the most insane things about a Clinton, just because they can get away with it. No lie is too outrageous, from Bill Clinton being a serial rapist to Hillary Clinton murdering Vince Foster. Really, these right-wing lies set a low bar for what is acceptable from the rest of the punditry. The media has been poisoned by these smears, and we need to quit acting surprised when “legitimate” media figures like Chris Matthews make outrageous anti-Clinton statements. It’s tame compared to what’s been said by DrudgeCo, and is absolutely predictable after 15 years of well-poisoning by the right-wing media.

You’re not vetted, Sen. Clinton, because they keep making up more shit about you, and they show no signs of stopping.

This is going to be a problem if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. But as the “secret Muslim” e-mail makes clear, it’s going to be a problem if Barack Obama is the nominee, too. It's a problem for both candidates, and Obama supporters need to wake up and quit acting like they're getting some kind of pass. You're not.

Bottom line: Democrats need to address this reality, or we’re going to lose in November.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Better Democrats, Please


Volunteer Voters has a video clip of Sen. Henry making his statement in all its hideous context. It's even worse than we thought.


Oh, lordie. I’ve been thinking that Sen. Douglas Henry is long past his expiration date, but this settles it:
Sen. Doug Henry, an 81-year-old Nashville Democrat, explaining to the state Senate his votes surrounding amendments to the abortion resolution: “Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse. Today it’s simply, ‘Let’s don’t go forward with this act.’ ”

I live in Sen. Henry’s district. Let me say that this kind of attitude about an act of violence is woefully ignorant, insensitive and offensive.

Sen. Henry, you need to retire. Now. Please. I say this as a constituent. Just. Go. Away.

I’m sick of this ignorant shit from our representatives in the legislature.

By the way, I should have done this earlier, but feel free to drop Sen. Henry a line and tell him how you feel:

(h/t, Volunteer Voters.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dems To Lieberman: Ta Ta

Jane Hamsher reports:
Lieberman Has “Superdelegate” Status Stripped Because of McCain Endorsement

By: Jane Hamsher Wednesday February 6, 2008 6:00 pm

Thanks to Zell Miller, there is a rule to deal with Joe Lieberman:

Lieberman's endorsement of Republican John McCain disqualifies him as a super-delegate to the Democratic National Convention under what is informally known as the Zell Miller rule, according to Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo.

Miller, then a Democratic senator from Georgia, not only endorsed Republican George Bush four years ago, but he delivered a vitriolic attack on Democrat John Kerry at the Republican National Convention.

The Democrats responded with a rule disqualifying any Democrat who crosses the aisle from being a super delegate. Lieberman will not be replaced, DiNardo said.

Couldn't happen to a nicer turncoat!

What Does It All Mean, Vern?

Yo, Tennessee Republicans. I have a question.


Y’all went for freaking Mike Huckabee? Are you kidding?

Look, I know everyone is distraught that Fred Thompson never captured that special mojo that is the conservative zeitgeist. But Huckabee?

All I can think is, the rank-and-file conservatives did not vote, or else they took advantage of our state’s ridiculous open primary law and voted in the Democratic race in a lame attempt to game the system. Heh. Hey, Mr. Jim Smith of Franklin, you will now be the recipient of a deluge of Democratic Party mailings, canvassers and phone bankers. Serves you right, you loser.

That left the rural religious voters to swing the vote to Mike Huckabee. Not to mention the major effort the Huckabee campaign put into Tennessee. I mean good grief, they even robocalled me yesterday, which leads me to believe they robocalled everyone.

I have to say, I actually like Mike Huckabee. He’s a likable guy. I heard him on NPR a few weeks ago and I found myself nodding my head in agreement with him--until the interviewer pinned him down on specific policies. Then we were miles apart, much to my tremendous relief. But at least Mike Huckabee and I agree on what the country’s problems are. I certainly can’t say that for anyone else on the GOP side.

But I don't see this ending well for Gov. Huckabee. I know too many conservatives who are horrified at the Huckabee populism. All of this icky "let's help poor people stuff," sounds awfully Democratic, doesn't it?

I also wonder what this means for the Tennessee GOP establishment. You know, the Marsha Blackburns who supported Mitt Romney, then Fred Thompson, then Mitt Romney again. Looks like your influence wasn't very, well, effective. Should we stick a fork in them? Are they out of touch with Tennessee GOP voters?

Or does none of this matter because the Tennessee GOP primary ballot was reportedly about 50 pages long and did not contain candidates' names but rather the names of delegates? Who thought up that brilliant plan?

It's all very confusing to a simple-minded liberal.

John McCain’s Free Pass

We’ve been having a good time mocking John McCain’s new television ad. You know, the one where he says, “As a prisoner of war in Vietnam, John McCain was inspired by Ronald Reagan,” and his years of Vietnam service flash on the screen: 1967-1973.

Let’s see, what was Ronald Reagan doing during those years? Well, he was Governor of California. He wasn’t birthing the modern conservative movement, he was raising state taxes, releasing state mental patients onto the California streets, and dispatching the California Highway Patrol to quell student protests.

Word of what the new governor of California was doing reached across the oceans to a prisoner of war in Vietnam? Really? I’m calling bullshit on that one.

It wouldn’t be worth mentioning except as one person noted, if Al Gore--or any Democrat--made such a ludicrous claim in a campaign ad, the media would jump all over him or her.

Where are the fainting couches for John McCain’s obvious pandering? Where’s the outrage over his exaggeration?


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

TN Picks Hillary

MSNBC just called Tennessee for Hillary Clinton.

.... and on the GOP side, WSMV just called Tennessee for McCain, with Huckabee second.

Ooops, they're wrong. Reuters said Huckabee. That should teach me to listen to the local news.

No Pink Houses For John McCain

John Mellencamp wants John McCain to stop using his songs:
At some recent John McCain campaign rallies, John Mellencamp’s “Our Country” and “Pink Houses” have been booming out over the speakers. Uplifting heartland rock must have seemed like a smart pick, but there’s just one problem: Mellencamp is an ardent Democrat. And, until recently, he supported John Edwards – who had been playing “Our Country” and “Small Town” at his rallies. Mellencamp hasn’t yet made a public response, but his reps are quietly reaching out to McCain and asking him to stop playing his tunes. (McCain’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Not to mention that the far-right types whose votes McCain is seeking won’t love the mildly progressive lyrics to “Our Country,” which call on the government to “help the poor and common man” and suggest that “there’s room enough here for science to live/ And there’s room enough here for religion to forgive.” And does McCain really want to associate himself with those “Pink Houses” lines about the “simple man” paying for the “the thrills, the bills and the pills that kill”?

I always thought it was hilarious that Sean Hannity uses Gretchen Peters’ “Independence Day” for his theme song. A song about an abusive husband, written by a lefty liberal who said she just uses her Hannity roylaties to make bigger donations to the ACLU. Heh.

Monday, February 4, 2008

No One Could Have Anticipated This!


A sidebar to today’s NPR story on mortgage fraud illustrates how one developer was able to “dodge the mortgage fraud bullet” that plagues Las Vegas by not allowing speculators to buy his new homes in bulk. As a result, his development has fewer foreclosures and fewer drops in property values.

Imagine that!

Like we didn’t see this one coming a mile off:
Just a few years ago, everyone was screaming for condos downtown. There’s a shortage so build, build, build. And developers did.

Now, it’s “Gosh, they built too much.” Maybe there wasn’t that much demand. Maybe the investors buying units hid the true demand for urban living. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Suddenly it all looks bleak because buyers aren’t streaming in and sucking up the units in a day or just hours. Buyers supposedly aren’t in the buying mood because of the general housing malaise and talk of recession, although agents say they are working like crazy in January, usually a slow month.

Just give it a few weeks. I have no doubt we are headed for a massive real estate bust, with all of those fancy downtown condos the first to go belly up.

Yes, they overbuilt. Yes, there’s too much inventory--or rather, too much of the same inventory. How many $200,000-$1 million units do we need downtown? Who’s supposed to buy these things, anyway? You can still get a nice house in Nashville for that kind of money, you know.

Plus, Nashville has no “downtown living” infrastructure. There are no grocery stores, dry cleaners and parks downtown. Public transportation in Nashville is notoriously crappy. This isn’t Chicago or Manhattan. You can sleep and work downtown and eat in a restaurant and go to a hockey game, but for everything else you’re going to need a car to schlep to another part of town. Downtown “living” is something of a misnomer.

I’ve never understood the massive building frenzy that has resulted in Viridian, Velocity, Encore and Icon, not to mention Terrazzo, Exchange, Phoenix, Westin and the Signature Tower. I don’t understand why there wasn’t some kind of plan for more diversity of housing options, a wider variety of price points to appeal to a wider variety of buyers. Nashville has a critical housing shortage--but not in these high price ranges.

Why did they let this happen? This kind of inventory glut will ripple across the local economy, and could drag down property values everywhere. We’ve already displaced low income residents by gentrifying neighborhoods like 12South and Waverly-Belmont, and we still haven’t replaced the inventory these folks were priced out of.

And now the money quote. Was this supposed to be tongue-in-cheek?

All of this is President George Bush’s fault anyway. Five years ago, he pushed for increasing homeownership in America with programs for zero-down payment and loan programs targeting low-income borrowers.

Oh, please. You can blame President Bush for a lot of things, but this isn’t one of them. It’s the fault of greedy out-of-state developers who are not invested in our local community, just here to make a quick buck and move on. It’s the fault of a flaccid Planning Commission that never saw a construction permit it didn’t like. It's the fault of cheerleaders like the Downtown Partnership who are blinded by their own self-interest.

And it’s the fault of local reporters like Richard Lawson whose fawning coverage of the local real estate scene never raised an eyebrow of concern over all of this overbuilding. Instead, all we got was “clap louder!”

If Only He’d Been In A Position To Do Something About That

Bill Frist is milking his corporate shilling for evil soft drink giant Coca-Cola with James Carville during the Super Bowl. He says:
The theme is bringing people together in the political arena, something I wish we saw a bit more often in D.C.  I hope this commercial will encourage others to reach across divides - political or otherwise - for the greater good of our nation.

Hilarious. Bill Frist thinks we’re going to forget all of the back-door dealings and parliamentary maneuvering that he and he alone used to silence and oppress the minority party.

Like the time he held open the Medicare roll call vote for three full hours, or the time his top judiciary aide Manuel Miranda hacked into Democratic computers and was forced to resign, or what about the time he threatened the “nuclear option” if President Bush didn’t get his way on his judicial picks. That was reaching across the aisle, all right--with a baseball bat!

I expect we’ll see more and more of this kind of soft-focus reimaging of hard-boiled GOP partisans and Bush water carriers in the coming months. Yes, the country’s political pendulum is moving back to the left, hard-right conservatism is out of vogue, and political opportunists like Bill Frist who aren't ready to go out to pasture are hoping we'll forget their very active roles in the hyper-partisan Bush/Rove years.

Hah. Fat chance, Fristie. As if. You really think we’re going to forget Terry Schiavo and Justice Sunday because you’re mouthing a lot of pretty words now in a desperate attempt to revive your dead political career? Not on your life.

(h/t, Volunteer Voters)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Self-Perpetuating Myth

Yesterday’s New York Times carried an excellent story about exit polls and how they create self-perpetuating media myths:
[I]n five states, voters in Republican contests were asked their religious affiliation, and in four states they were asked how frequently they attended religious services. Voters in Democratic contests were asked those questions in only three states.

In four states, voters for Republican candidates were asked how much it mattered that a candidate shared their religious beliefs. Nowhere was that question put to voters for Democratic candidates.

And most notably, in every state voters in Republican caucuses and primaries were asked if they were born-again or evangelical Christians. Voters in Democratic caucuses and primaries were never asked.

The media has long perpetuated the myth that all Christians (especially Evangelicals) are Republican. They support this myth by presenting far-right people of faith like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed and Richard Land as the face of American Christianity. Even though American Christianity is far more diverse than that, and even though there are prominent and influential people on the religious Left -- Jim Wallis, Sister Joan Chittister and Rev. Welton Gaddy are three names that come to mind -- and even though these leaders represent millions of faithful, they are rarely invited to participate in news panels and their views are rarely offered to the public. It’s as if they don’t exist.

Of course they don’t exist. Because the media has already decided on the storyline: Christian = Republican. Why present any views that differ from that? Why, in an exit poll, would anyone want to ask Democrats if they are Christian? We all know that all Christians are Republican!

This is what I hate about exit polls and the Corporate Media. They aren’t interested in facts, or real news stories. They’re only interested in spreading their approved version of the facts. They only want to tell their approved version of the story. Who are you going to believe: ABC News, or your own lying eyes?

The National Election Pool conducts state and national exit polls. It consists of representatives from the corporate media: ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and The Associated Press. The exit poll questions asked, according to the article, are “what the polls’ “journalist clients” feel is most important for their articles.” In other words, the corporate media comes up with exit poll questions based on stereotypes they’ve created about the two political parties. And I think these stereotyped views are evident in the corporate media’s day-to-day political coverage, too.

I'm not the only one. Evangelical leaders have complained about this disparity in exit polling, but their complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Sorry, folks, the story has already been written:

In the meantime, the nine unhappy evangelical leaders fear a kind of vicious circle. Is “an outdated script” about religion and Republicans, in Mr. Dean’s phrase, unduly influencing the exit poll questions, the answers that are in turn influencing reporting and analysis by reporters, newscasters and pundits, which in turn influence future poll questions. Is campaign coverage and discussion being diverted from new developments among both evangelicals and Democrats?

Of course it is. And it’s not just the media’s assumption about Christians. It shows up in a whole variety of other places.

For example, the media always assumes that people in the military are Republican. But the military is as much a cross-section of America as any other profession. Trust me, there are plenty of Democrats in the military--especially since so many Republicans these days have better things to do than fight their precious Iraq War.

Exit polls will continue to paint a skewed portrait of American political views, as long as the media insists on weaving their pet narratives into the process.

And media coverage of American political life will continue to suck, as long as the corporate media only asks those questions to which it already has the answers.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Stupid GOP Legislation

Republicans just love, love, love butting their noses in other people’s business, don’t they?
W.T. Mayhall, Jr, Republican House member in Mississippi, has introduced a bill so obnoxiously wrong that I very seriously doubt it will make it out of the Public Health and Human Services committee to which it has been referred. HB282 is:

An act to prohibit certain food establishments from serving food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the State Department of Health; to direct the Department to prepare written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is obese and to provide those materials to the food establishments; to direct the department to monitor the food establishments for compliance with the provision of this act; and for related purposes.

And they call us the party of the “nanny state”?


Well, someone’s pie is getting higher:
Exxon Mobil Profit Sets Record Again


Exxon Mobil delivered its strongest performance ever last year, earning a record $40.6 billion in net income because of surging oil prices, the company said Friday.

The figure, a 3 percent increase from the previous year, exceeded the company’s own record for profits at an American corporation, set in 2006, and is nearly twice what it earned in 2003.

Exxon said its fourth-quarter net income rose 14 percent, to $11.7 billion, or $2.13 a share. That also made it the company’s most profitable quarter ever.

Remember: $40.6 billion is the net income. Not gross. NET. Chevron also reported similar good news, posting a 29% increase in profits.

It’s not just the American oil companies. The highest-ever profit by a European company was posted this week by Royal Dutch Shell, at $27.6 billion.

So considering how flush ExxonMobil and Chevron are, would someone please explain to me why the GOP continued to coddle Bloated Big Oil at the expense of tax credits for renewable energy?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a $32 billion package of tax breaks for renewable energy that would have been financed mostly by new taxes on major oil companies.

Democrats came three votes short of overcoming a threatened GOP filibuster that was keeping the measure from being attached to a broader energy bill. Republican senators argued that the nearly $29 billion in additional taxes on major oil companies would have led to reduced production and higher gasoline prices.

For the record, this was not $29 billion in “additional taxes,” it was repealing existing tax breaks that the oil companies have enjoyed since, well, forever, but especially since the GOP-controlled Congress passed the 2005 Energy Billl.

Thanks, liberal media, for getting the story wrong--again.

And can someone explain to me why, with over $40 billion in net profits in their pockets from this year alone, ExxonMobil continues to fight (all the way to the Supreme Court!) paying $2.5 billion in punitive damages to over 30,0000 fishermen and others whose livelihood was ruined by the Valdez spill? Yeah remember that? Some of you kids reading this weren't even alive back then. It happened nearly 20 years ago, but ExxonMobil is too greedy to pay up, even after all this time.