Friday, May 30, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance?

It would appear that’s up for debate. The harshest critic is the assistant manager-type who tries to end the shenanigans by walking off with the boom box about halfway through. Dude, that’s harsh.

Anyway, I submit this for your amusement. Blogging will be light as I’m off to spend my economic stimulus check in Norway and Sweden for a week. Vi sees!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Holy Warriors


The Marine in question has been reassigned:
The US military confirmed yesterday that a marine in Fallujah passed out coins with Gospel verses on them to Sunni Muslims, a military spokesman in the Iraqi city said. The man was immediately removed from duty and reassigned.

The coins angered residents who said they felt that the American troops, whom they consider occupiers, were also acting as Christian missionaries in a predominantly Muslim nation.


Yesterday, the US military apologised for the incident, telling McClatchy special correspondent Jamal Naji that action would be taken following an investigation.

This can’t be productive:

They checked to be sure that he was a city resident, and when they were done, Anad said, a Marine slipped a coin out of his pocket and put it in his hand.

Out of fear, he accepted it, Anad said. When he was inside the city, the college student said, he looked at one side of the coin. "Where will you spend eternity?" it asked.

He flipped it over, and on the other side it read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."

"They are trying to convert us to Christianity," said Anad, a Sunni Muslim like most residents of this city in Anbar province. At home, he told his story, and his relatives echoed their disapproval: They'd been given the coins, too, he said.

Proselytizing by members of the U.S. military in Iraq has been a consistent problem, and it goes straight to the top. It certainly doesn’t help win hearts and minds to cast our occupation of Iraq as a religious crusade.

To his credit, President Bush has consistently framed the Muslim faith in positive terms. A week after 9/11 the president gave his famous "Islam Is Peace” speech, and he’s continued to to say positive things about Islam since then. Last week the Administration even issued guidelines advising against use of words like “jihadi” and “Islamofascism” in government documents--much to conservatives’ dismay. Hatemongering is no fun when even the torturer in chief isn’t behind you.

So I have to wonder why so many in the military still have the mistaken idea they’re on some kind of holy mission. Why would former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld rally behind a zealot like Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, when he should have been reprimanded?

Why this?

The Anti-Defamation League Tuesday called on members of the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees to hold hearings on what the group termed "coercive proselytizing and religious activity in the military."

The organization said the effort was aimed at creating specific guidelines to ensure that the military remains "accessible and welcoming to servicemen and servicewomen of all faiths, and to those of no faith at all."

The 2007 Department of Defense Authorization bill, approved by the last session of Congress, directed the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Navy to rescind their existing guidelines on religious activity, the ADL noted.

And this:

A military watchdog group is asking the Defense Department to investigate whether seven Army and Air Force officers violated regulations by appearing in uniform in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization.

In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military.

The U.S. military is open to people of all faiths and no faith. We still haven’t adequately explained to the world why we’re in Iraq, but the absolute worst thing that could happen is for the people of the Middle East to successfully cast this as a clash of civilizations.

So, cut it out, people. This is not Christianity-vs-Islam. Making the war look like some holy crusade will only make a dangerous situation much worse. Jesus isn't going to return just because you memorized every word of the "Left Behind" series.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Scott McClellan, Administration Tool



Bush-Cheney eCampaign Director Mike Turk, 16 hours ago on his Twitter feed:
Feeling for Scott McLellan. Nice getting savaged for saying what everyone knows to be true anyway.

I really don’t understand this whole “Republican loyalty” thing. Scott McClellan was a loyal Bushie who kept his mouth shut and did what he was told. Now he’s come out with his book, the partisans are criticizing him for .... being a loyal Bushie who kept his mouth shut and did what he was told. But if he’d spoken up at the time, he’d have received the Joseph Wilson treatment.

Note to Republicans: you’re coming off as very cult-like. It’s kinda creepy.

(h/t Atrios)


Predictably, the White House and its enablers are portraying McClellan as "disgruntled":

"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad — this is not the Scott we knew," said current press secretary Dana Perino.

Of course, we've heard this tune before.

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has a memoir coming out, and it promises to be a doozy:

In his "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception" (Public Affairs, $27.95), McLellan writes about the war in Iraq that President Bush "and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war.


The White House "spent most of the first week in a state of denial" after Hurricane Katrina, McLellan writes. "One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush’s presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term. And the perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath."

Uh, yeah. That’s not exactly stop-the-presses news to those of us on the left who were screaming at the top of our lungs about this stuff at the time. Let’s replay a medley of McClellan's greatest hits, shall we?

On Hurricane Katrina:

"This is not a time for finger-pointing or politics. ... Flood control has been a priority of this administration from day one.”

On the Dick Cheney shooting incident:

Why was the White House relying on a Texas rancher to get the word of Cheney's hunting accident out over the weekend, asked Gregory, accusing McClellan of 'ducking and weaving.'

'David, hold on! the cameras aren't on right now,' McClellan replied. 'You can do this later.'

'Don't accuse me of trying to pose to the cameras,' the newsman said, his voice rising somewhat. 'Don't be a jerk to me personally when I'm asking you a serious question.'

On the outing of Valerie Plame:

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's talk about this. The subject of this investigation is whether someone leaked classified information. That's what this is about. And there are some that are trying -- some that see this as a political opportunity to attack the White House, and so they're talking about all sorts of other issues. The issue here is a very serious matter, and it needs to be pursued to the fullest, and we want to get to the bottom of it. The President expects everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. That is the tone he has set in his administration. That is the tone he has set here in Washington, D.C. And if someone leaked classified information, we want to know, and appropriate action should be taken against that person.

Wow, he should have got an award for that performance. Actually, not really: we all knew he was lying. McClellan was supremely bad at his job, which is why he didn’t last very long.

There’s more, so much more but my all time favorite must be this one:

Go ahead, Jeff.

Yes, that would be Jeff Gannon, of “Talon News.” In fact, MediaMatters documented that McClellan turned to the reporter/male prostitute for the softball treatment whenever things got a little too heated in the press gaggle.

I have little patience for former Bush Administration staffers who lied, cheated, and put partisan politics above the interests of this country and are trying to cash in now that it looks like the GOP’s fortunes have turned. Suck it up, folks. You made your bed, now lie down in it.

Great Idea Department, v.2

I’m all in favor of this, I just wonder what took them so long:
Military Chief Warns Troops About Politics

Published: May 26, 2008

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written an unusual open letter to all those in uniform, warning them to stay out of politics as the nation approaches a presidential election in which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be a central, and certainly divisive, issue.

“The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways,” wrote the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s highest-ranking officer. “It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway.”

Interesting that this reminder is coming out now, at a time when the war is even more unpopular than ever, the GOP is nixing troop pay raises and education benefits, and the military vote is no longer a surefire part of the Republican base. I’m sure that’s purely coincidental.

If only the Joint Chiefs had been worried about this a little sooner, we might have been spared embarassing photo ops like this:

Troops Put In a Good Word to Bush About Iraq
10 U.S. Soldiers Upbeat in Staged Teleconference

By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 14, 2005; Page A02

President Bush yesterday sought to rally U.S. troops behind his Iraq strategy -- and he and his aides left little to chance.

Before the president spoke via a video link, his event planners handpicked 10 soldiers from the Army's 42nd Infantry and one Iraqi soldier, told them what topics the president would ask about, and watched them briefly rehearse their presentations before going live.

The soldiers did not disappoint. Each one praised the president, the war and the progress in training Iraqi troops. Several spoke in a monotone voice, as if determined to remember and stay on script.

Whew, that was embarrassing. I wonder if Adm. Mullen's reminder means we’ll be spared campaign ads like this one come fall:

MIAMI, Oct. 28 - President Bush's campaign said Thursday that it was replacing one of its closing advertisements after acknowledging that it included an image that had been doctored to increase the number of soldiers appearing to listen to Mr. Bush.


The actual photograph used in the commercial showed Mr. Bush speaking from a lectern with the soldiers behind him. But Mr. McKinnon said the editors were asked to crop Mr. Bush to focus on the soldiers.

I don’t condone using our soliders as advertising tools and campaign props by anyone. I’m just curious why the Join Chiefs thought it was okay for President Bush to do so.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Great Idea Department

Oh noes, with brilliant minds like this, I don’t see how we can win in November!

Not really, of course. But check out a Freeper’s brilliant idea for a John McCain campaign ad:
Ad Idea for the general election, but don't really know how to pass on the idea.

Have a picture of Hussain Obama on one side wearing the turbine(the turbine picture) and to the right of that have a picture of John Mccain as a younger man in his uniform or after he was freed. Have the pictures side by side and on top either of the following

"What part of this don't you understand" or
"The choice is clear"

A great ad idea that goes right to the core of peoples fears. How do I get this idea to the powers to be or can you just do it for me?
A DKos diarist helpfully suggests this campaign ad:

(Thanks to The Red Pen at DKos.)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Can’t Go Back There

I can really identify with Atrios’ post about the HBO film “Recount.” In particular, this:
That whole saga was just really traumatic. It was my "holy shit everything is really screwed up" moment when I suddenly realized that all of our elites - politicians, supremos, and especially the media - did not deserve the modest naive faith that I had given them. I'm not saying that I lacked any cynicism about the various institutions before, but just watching the media piss on our Democracy over that time period was incredibly jarring.

I can’t watch it, either. It really is just too painful.

The 2000 election and Supreme Court decision that installed Bush in the White House was my wake up call. Prior to that I paid little attention to the daily drama of politics. I voted, and watched the news, and kept as reasonably informed about current events as any busy working person. The Clinton impeachment was horrifying to me, of course, and I felt it was wrong for a bunch of people to take out their political vendetta in this sleazy way. But I also felt like President Clinton’s tawdry affair had been stupid and reckless. Furthermore, I didn’t feel like it affected me one way or the other.

The 2000 election was different. The fact that we didn’t know the results of a presidential election for an entire month was deeply unsettling to me. Even worse, I wasn’t in the U.S. when a lot of this was going on. Watching it all in snippets on TV while in a foreign country was jarring.

At the risk of sounding elitist, I was in France. Yes, France. I had taken advantage of early voting and left the country for a holiday with my sister. We went in November because that’s when it’s cheaper. On election day we went to Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, famed watering hole for American expats. We took part in Harry’s famous straw poll (which to our dismay declared George W. Bush the winner) and were interviewed by French radio about the election. When someone told me in broken English that he despised Karen Hughes, I tried not to let on that I didn’t know who she was.

We declared our distaste for Bush Jr., drank more than a seemly amount of beer, and toddled our way back to the hotel in St-Germain-des-Prés, expecting to turn on CNN International and learn who our new president would be.

Instead we spent the rest of our trip uncertain about what we’d find when we got home. Every day the news from home got worse. I wondered if part of the story wasn’t getting lost in its transatlantic journey. I saw pictures of the famous Brooks Brothers riot and knew immediately it was a fake: all those pasty-faced white boys in their Oxford shirts is a riot? You gotta be kidding me, I thought. Katherine Harris was in charge of Florida’s elections and Bush-Cheney campaign co-chair? Is that even legal?

And I just didn’t understand why any of this was happening. What had gone wrong with our system? If this had happened in a third world country, I thought, we’d write it off to a broken, phony democracy. Surely this wasn’t happening in America. I had a sense that something had been going terribly wrong for a really long time, and I just hadn’t been paying attention.

When it all finally shook down, I was disappointed but relieved. At least it was over, I thought. I was used to dumb Republicans winning elections over far smarter Democrats, and the world hadn’t stopped turning. No really serious damage had been done, at least, nothing that couldn’t be undone.

And then 9/11 happened and Bush showed how much damage a truly horrible president could do.

The Bush presidency and the 2000 election that spawned it awakened a lot of us on the left. Like Atrios, I realized that the institutions I had taken for granted were corroding, and it hadn’t just happened over night. It had been going on for years, while I hadn’t been paying attention. It was a painful realization, and I’ve had to acknowledge my own complicity. While I was watching "L.A. Law" and "Thirtysomething" the nuts took over the asylum. All I can say now is, never again.

But do I want to spend three hours reliving the moment I realized much of what I thought was true about this country had rotted away? No, I don’t.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

It’s Only The Headline That Matters, Anyway

Interesting story-behind-the-story over at Majikthise about John McCain’s release of his medical records.

The document dump resulted in such glowing headlines yesterday and today as these. Wow, 1,173 pages! Incredible! The Senator is “fit and cancer free”! Zowie! It’s a “clean bill of health”! Take that, you nattering nabobs of negativism! Score another one for McCain transparency!

Of course, it pays to read the fine print:
Campaign staffers told the paper that the chosen reporters would be given only three hours to view about 400 pages of documents from 2000 to 2008. They wouldn't even be allowed to make photocopies for their own reference, or to show to experts.

Curiously, this year's crop of journalists were not given access to the records that McCain released to an equally select group during his last presidential bid. The last batch of records covered McCain's lifetime medical history through 1999.

The favored news outlets are the Washington Post, the Arizona Republic, Bloomberg, Reuters, and the Associated Press.  All other media will have to make due with a pool report generated by the elect, a 90-minute conference call with McCain's doctors and campaign-produced summaries to be posted online.

McCain let a group of hand picked lay-people view an incomplete set of medical records for a ridiculously short period of time. Their access was so limited as to render their opinions worthless.

Indeed. Few news outlets made mention of the way in which they obtained the information, and no reporter admitted that they had not personally reviewed the medical records. Even CNN seemed confused, with anchor John Roberts first saying Sanjay Gupta was “among a small group of reporters allowed to review the records.” But Gupta himself indicated his reporting was based on information from the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, what a difference eight years makes to the New York Times: in December 1999, information about how the records were released made the third paragraph of the Times’ coverage. Back then, Lawrence Altman reported the release of medicals records was “carefully controlled,” “incomplete,” and noted the campaign “selectively allowed some news organizations to examine the records before others.”

The same rules seem to apply this time, but readers must wade through 10 paragraphs about the Senator's robust health before learning that the reporters relied on “a pool report based on the review of the records” and participated in a conference call with doctors.

Gee, I think that information adds some much needed perspective to Altman and Elizabeth Bumiller’s assertion that the Senator is in “excellent health and shows no evidence of the recurrence of the melanoma skin cancer.”

You know, the McCain campaign made a decision to release these medical records, just like they released Cindy McCain’s 2006 tax return. But don’t act like you should be getting brownie points for transparency here; you’ve done less than the bare minimum, relying on an acquiescent press and a public that rarely drills deeper than the headline to get away with tossing out a few crumbs of information that paint your candidate in the best possible light.

As Lindsay Beyerstein says, “The only question is whether the press will continue to participate in the charade.”

I think we all know the answer to that.

Bush Not The Life Of The Party

It would appear President Bush is a bit of a fundraising dud these days:
Poor ticket sales, expected protests scuttle Bush-McCain fundraiser at Phoenix Convention Center

A Tuesday fundraiser headlined by President Bush for U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign is being moved out of the Phoenix Convention Center.

Sources familiar with the situation said the Bush-McCain event was not selling enough tickets to fill the Convention Center space, and that there were concerns about more anti-war protesters showing up outside the venue than attending the fundraiser inside.

Oh no! There goes the party! But here’s the funniest part:

Bush's Arizona fundraising effort for McCain is being moved to private residences in the Phoenix area. A White House official said the event was being moved because the McCain campaign prefers private fundraisers and it is Bush administration policy to have events in public venues open to the media. The White House official said to reconcile that the Tuesday event will be held at a private venue and not the Convention Center.

Way to go, Bushie! Blame it on the McCain campaign! Well, I’m going to call bullshit on that one. I distinctly remember President Bush attending fundraisers at private homes here in Nashville back in 2004 and 2006. I know this because one of those events was at a home just a couple of miles from my house. Some people I know protested in the yard of a sympathetic Democrat who lived across the street from the home where the fundraiser was held. A quickie Google search confirmed my memory isn’t entirely shot. It was almost exactly four years ago.

And then there’s this:

During the Bush presidency, the press has nearly always been banned from fundraisers in private homes. Former President Clinton sometimes allowed the press into such fundraising settings, at least for his remarks.

Here’s another one:

Schwarzenegger isn't planning to join Bush at the library because of what the president is doing tonight: holding a fundraiser for the Republican National Committee at a private residence in L.A.

By the standards of presidential fundraisers, this one will be small. It's expected to yield $1 million, with 100 couples invited to pay a $25,000 door charge. (Some will get in free because they've already given big.)

Okay, as gotchas go, this one is small. I understand the White House is trying to cover for the fact that Dear Leader is the most hated Presidential figure in modern American history. It’s especially embarassing when ministers of the Methodist church campaign to block the Bush Library and think tank at Southern Methodist University. Ouch.

But there’s another component to this issue. Since the President cannot use the trappings of his office--like, for instance, transportation on taxpayer-funded Air Force One--for partisan political purposes, Bush has always coupled his nationwide fundraising travel with “official” business. A speech somewhere, followed by a swanky $25,000 a head private dinner. A lot of us think it’s pushing the rules a bit, and those of us who remember all of the pearl-clutching over which telephone Vice President Gore used to make his fundraising calls think the right’s being a little hypocritical here.

So we’re all going to be eagerly watching what the Righties do when a Democrat lands in the White House. Since there seem to be two sets of rules in the political playbook, one for Democrats and one for Republicans, I think we should all be paying attention to this stuff now, before the Memory Hole gets scrubbed and the conservatives get on their high horses criticizing Democrats for stuff they've been getting away with for years.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Name The Tanker!

According to Danger Room, the Air Force is in the midst of a contest to name that new $100 billion tanker fleet that the European company EADS is building for us in partnership with Northrup Grumman.

For those who forgot, EADS got the contract at the expense of U.S. aircraft giant Boeing. It was a controversial move and apparently Congress is trying to overturn the contract.

Do you think the aircraft will sport one of those “I”m spending my grandchildren’s inheritance” bumper stickers?

Anyway, looking at the names that have been suggested to date, it looks like they need a little help. They best they’ve come up with so far is “Revenge Of The Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys.”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Jumping To Conclusions

Re: the Farm Bill snafu, Ben over at Taxing Tennessee adds 2 + 2 and comes up with five:
Opps...Congress forgets 34 pg section of Farm Bill

so the vote to override Bush's veto is null and void. Hmmmm...this would almost lead one to believe that NO ONE ACTUALLY READ THE BILL!!!!!

These idiots pass legislation everyday without reading the bills!!

Um, not necessarily. It means a 34-page section of the bill sent to the White House was different from the one Congress passed. So while they hopefully read what they voted on (and who knows, right?) no one re-read it in the printed packet that was sent to the White House for the President’s signature. With all the many versions a piece of legislation goes through, I can see how that might happen.

But hey, Ben’s version certainly fits nicely with the “government doesn’t work” meme that is the anti-tax crowd’s mantra.

By the way, I would have told Ben this over at Taxing Tennessee but like many right-wing blogs he doesn’t allow comments.

Anyway, I don’t for a moment think our Congress critters read every piece of every bill. We all remember the huge stink that was raised after it become public knowledge that Congress didn’t read the Patriot Act before it was passed. But of course, that’s when Republicans were in charge of Congress. I don’t remember Ben raising a stink about that.

Depends On What You Mean By Future

Meanwhile, in other fuel cost related news:
High gas prices prompt TN farmer to switch to mules

MCMINNVILLE, Tenn. - High gas prices have driven a Warren County farmer and his sons to hitch a tractor rake to a pair of mules to gather hay from their fields.


Brother Robert Raymond added, "It's the way of the future."

Okie dokie.

Airline Travel Just Got Suckier

Hey, American Airlines! Fuck you!
American Airlines to charge for checked baggage

Starting June 15 most American passengers must pay $15 for checking a single bag. That comes on top of the airline's decision two weeks ago to charge $25 for a second bag.

Question: if you’re going to charge us to check our bags, do we get our money back when you lose them? Just wondering.

You know, it's not like we have an option about traveling without luggage. Of course there are the exceptions, for instance American’s frequent-flyer club members, active duty military, and for items like child car seats. In fact, the whole thing is rather confusing (you can view the policy here.)

For everyone else, don’t think you can skirt this fee by carrying your baggage on board: the airlines already limit how much carry-on you can have, plus there’s that ridiculous dog-and-pony show the TSA makes us go through which technically bans liquids like shampoo and most cosmetics.

All of these extra fees for this or that just pisses people off. Look, it’s simple: just raise the cost of a plane ticket. I know you really, really want to put those full page ads in the newspaper advertising 15 glorious destinations for under $250 but when you leave off all the extra fees and surcharges and taxes, you’re just lying to your customers.

Air travel is bad enough these days, with the flight delays and security nonsense. Don’t treat us like we’re stupid.

On top of which, let me add, who's the stupid one here? You people didn't know that fuel was going to get more expensive? No one knew the world is running out of oil? The industry never saw this coming? You just started looking for alternative fuels three years ago?

Looks like someone is feeling the effects of their own bad business decisions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

One Blade Shy Of A Sharp Knife

Over at TennesseeFree our old friend Serr8 got hoodwinked by a fake-petition drive campaign. It’s the oldest trick in the book, like when the Democratic Party “invited” me to be part of their “leadership team” but it’s really just another fundraising request.

Here’s the headline:
31,000 Scientists sign a petition urging the U.S. Government to rightly ignore the Global Warmalism cult inspired by that fool Albert Gore

Here are the highlights: The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine claims it got 31,000 bonafide scientists to sign its petition saying global warming is fake, don’t sign Kyoto, etc.

Now here are the facts: the petition is not credibile. It’s been bopping around for 10 years. When it first appeared in 1998, Perry Mason, John Grisham and Spice Girl Geri Halliwell were on the list of signees:

Asked about the pop singer, Robinson said he was duped. The returned petition, one of thousands of mailings he sent out, identified her as having a degree in microbiology and living in Boston. "It's fake," he said.

"When we're getting thousands of signatures there's no way of filtering out a fake," Robinson, 56, said in a telephone interview from Oregon.

Uh, yeah. Thanks for making my point.

Well it’s 10 years later and guess what. According to Wiki a new, albeit identical, petition hit mailboxes last fall. But “Perry S. Mason PhD” is still on the list of signees. So is “Anne Frank.” Plus some dubiously-named folks like “Mack Hunt.”

Anyone with a lick of sense would know that this thing doesn’t pass the sniff test. But let’s give Serr8 the benefit of the doubt, shall we? Pretend this petition isn’t 10 years old and an obvious fake.

You can see a copy of it here. It was mass-mailed to bazillions of people and the signees self-selected, which explains why even the petitioner admits there is no way to verify the identity of the signees--or if they are indeed “scientists.”

But I checked some of them out. The OISM helpfully lists all of the signees on its website, and it seems they’ve stretched the definition of “scientist” to absurd heights. Nearly half of them have just a Bachelors degree. Well, good for you if you made it through undergrad with degree in hand, but that doesn’t make you a scientist. Hell, I have a Bachelors degree--in Environmental Science, I might add. I could have signed this petition, but I didn’t, because I’m not a moron.

But let’s look at who did sign, shall we? Let’s start with the A’s: There are 10 veterinarians and 51 MDs. There’s a dentist named Joseph E. Adducci and an intellectual property expert named Sol Aisenberg. Not exactly experts in climate science.

Tennessee is well represented. James E. Vath, former owner of Praecis Pharmaceuticals (before selling to GlaxoSmithKline) supposedly signed. Dr. Nichola Tsambassis, a pediatric internist in Clarksville, is allegedly a signee. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t take a pediatrician’s advice on climate change any more than I’d take a sick kid to Lelan Statom for medical treatment. Just sayin’.

There are some real scientists on the list and I’ve contacted a couple of them. I’ll let you know if anyone writes me back.

So basically what we have is 31,000 people (we think, I'm still not convinced that Mack Hunt is a real person), who say they have college degrees who signed a petition denying global warming. This is not a shocker.

It says nothing about global warming, the human influence on global warming, any scientific debate on global warming or the consensus in the scientific community that global climate change is caused by human activity.

But it says a lot about the gullibility of certain conservatives on the blogosphere.

Tennessee Tea

Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Greg:
Eastern Indiana Man Taps Into Backyard Oil Well

SELMA, Ind. --
An eastern Indiana man is capitalizing on high crude oil prices with a backyard oil well that produces three barrels of crude a day.

Greg Losh said the oil his well produces comes from the Trenton oil field that fueled the growth of east-central Indiana cities more than a century ago.

He said it costs about $100,000 to drill an oil well, but that at today's oil prices, it's worth it.

There goes the neighborhood.

Okay, let’s do the math: three barrels a day at $129/barrel is about $14,000 a year, which means he’ll have paid off his well in .... a little more than seven years a year.

I guess that’s not too terribly bad, considering the well also produce natural gas which he uses to heat his home. Oh, wait:

Greg Losh's rig produces three barrels of crude oil a day, though he told FOX News that he hasn't started selling it yet. For now, he and his partners are keeping it in storage containers.

Geez, dude, what are you waiting for? Some “Max Max”-dystopia where it's kill or be killed for the juice? And you have partners? So that $14G isn't even all yours? Yikes. Doesn't seem worth it to me.

This story got me thinking, though. I have an oil well in my backyard. Well, technically, it’s on my roof. I could put a solar array on my roof, power my home, and sell what’s left to NES. There’s already a framework in place to buy this energy through NES’ Generation Partners program. I may not get $14,000 a year for my troubles, it’s true, but then it wouldn’t cost me anywhere near $100,000 to install, either. Plus, I wouldn’t have to look at this out my kitchen window.

On top of that, I’d be generating clean energy and helping build the new energy economy. I don’t have to pay to store or haul barrels of crude, and I don’t ever have to worry about my well running dry.

I think if I were our friend Greg I'd leave the oil in the ground and invest in solar panels on the roof. Just sayin' ....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This Is What 75,000 Looks Like

And no, they didn't all come out to see The Decemberists, you morons:
The Portland-based band has drawn rave reviews from Rolling Stone magazine, which gave their 2005 album Picaresque four and a half stars (out of five), and another four and a half stars for 2007's The Crane Wife.

How many of the people showed up to hear Obama, and how many to hear the band?

Let's see, a local band playing a free show. OMG OMG OMG! I had no idea that folk/rock was experiencing such a resurgence! Take that you American Idol swine!

(Pic courtesty of Racymind.)

The Anatomy Of IOKIYAR

Over at Salon, Greg Kamiya has a worthwhile piece up about why Republicans get a pass for their crazy pastors but Democrats like Barack Obama do not.

It’s interesting because it really, in a broad sense, explains why Republicans get a pass on, well, everything. Kamiya is spot-on when he writes this:
The media's double standard is all about deference to perceived mainstream norms, and tiptoeing around the Christian right. Despite their cartoonish views, the media treats Hagee and Parsley as quasi-mainstream figures, which makes McCain's relationship with them non-newsworthy. The dirty little secret of mainstream American journalism is that it operates within invisible constraints that conform to some imagined Middle American consensus.

This is true with just about everything the media does. For instance I never understood the pearl-clutching that errupted after John Kerry mentioned Dick Cheney’s gay daughter in a 2004 debate. She wasn’t in the closet, it was no secret, and she wasn’t a private figure, either: she chaired her father’s campaign. If anything it showed how hypocritical the GOPs position on GLBT rights is. Yet the GOP managed to spin that one into Kerry being the bad guy. The “long overdue national discussion about gay children” never happened. Why? Because although survey after survey shows this isn’t true, the media believes middle America thinks gay = icky, so Kerry's mention of the gay Cheney daughter was easily turned into a gauche airing of a family secret.

Kamiya goes on:

Afraid of coming across as arrogant elitists who don't understand or respect the faith of "real" Americans, the media has pulled its punches on the Christian right for years.

And yet, as I’ve said many times on this blog and elsewhere, the true picture of American Christianity is far more diverse and far less reactionary than the media portrays. Yet when the media does its election-year exit polling, they don’t even ask Democrats if they are born-again or evangelical Christians. They’ve already decided all Christians are Republican, so why bother? And all Republican Christians are right-wing wackadoodles like Rod Parsley and John Hagee. Ergo, Parsley and Hagee are mainstream. Neat how that works.

This media failure to go off-script and report the truth instead of the fantasy goes far beyond its coverage of religion. It extends through every aspect of this campaign: John McCain is still a “maverick,” reality to the contrary; Democrats are in “disarray” because we have two strong candidates for president; the Republicans aren’t, yet they can’t find a candidate to appeal to their fractured coalition. Barack Obama can’t bowl, which proves he’s “elitist” and out of touch with Middle America, but John McCain flies around the country on his heiress wife’s private jet and he's a regular guy.

There are dozens of examples of this double standard. It would be sad if it weren’t so dangerous. This could very well decide who our next president is, and it doesn’t appear that the media is poised to change its ways through any form of self-examination.

Kamiya writes a lot of the media's double-standard off to its need for "sensationalism" but I think they're just lazy. Only a press truly asleep at the wheel could present the contradictory narratives that Obama is a Muslim with a scary Christian pastor. You just want to go, “Huh?”

How many networks covered the news that President Bush was in Saudi Arabia last week to broker a deal on nuclear technology? You know, the kind we keep saying Iran can’t have?

Instead, all we heard last week was about “appeasement.” I don’t know what’s more sensational than our government selling nuclear technology to the country that spawned Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers. But we sure didn’t hear a word about it on the news, did we?

Some day a few decades from now we’re going to look back and wonder what kind of insanity took hold of America back in the Oughts. I don’t think it’s insanity. I think it’s willful ignorance.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Anyone Got A Sandwich?

Mr. Beale and I saw “Iron Man” this weekend. Two thoughts:

1- This is not a kid’s movie! I don’t know what age is considered the appropriate audience for a PG-13 rating these days but surely it’s not the 6 and 7-year-olds that sat in back of us.

2- Are we a demoralized country or what?

"Iron Man" is the story of a rich defense contractor who learns rather late in life that his weapons don’t just kill “bad guys.” Tony Stark certainly isn’t the typical movie hero: for someone so blazingly smart he’s awfully stupid about a lot of things. For instance, he seems completely unaware that his weapons can and do fall into the wrong hands. Dude, pick up a newspaper for once, will you? Even worse, he’s blithely clueless about how a major defense contractor like himself fits into America’s foreign policy puzzle. It’s like he’s never heard of the MIC.

So I had a hard time buying Tony Stark as the hero. Certain elements of the whole arms-race issue struck me as pathetically sad, for instance, the scene where Stark tries out his new Iron Man suit and we see it has a special device that magically distinguishes civilians from bad guys. Give me a break, people. War is never this easy or clean, and the line between good guys and bad guys is a hazy one.

In fact, the movie never does resolve its central question, which is: if building bigger and better weapons isn’t the answer to our problems in the Middle East, what is? There’s an obvious answer to that, of course, but I don’t think a movie in which Tony Stark negotiates a peace deal with our enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere would sell many tickets.

Which brings me back to my second question: Are we a demoralized bunch or what? If you look at Hollywood as a cultural reflection of what’s happening in America, then it’s obvious this nation is desperate for a hero. Hollywood is happy to supply them for us this summer, in all sorts of shapes and sizes (but, sadly, not genders. Where action heroes are concerned, women still need not apply.)

Iron Man started things off, but we have a new Indiana Jones movie, Will Smith as “Hancock,” Prince Caspian, and The Incredible Hulk all headed to movie screens this summer. That’s not including trusty stalwarts like Batman and James Bond, too. Surely one of these superheroes can save us!

It’s easy to see why we’re desperate for a hero. We’ve been let down in a hundred different ways, big and small: Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, and warrantless wiretapping, not to mention sleazy sex scandals and corporate misdeeds. There’s the real estate meltdown and the mortgage crisis which has tattered our economy. All is not well, and it would be so much easier if someone in a Lycra suit could just swoop down and save us from this mess.

The problem is that this is the same thinking that got us into this mess to begin with. Remember, it was a tough-talkin’, swaggerin’ George W. Bush who promised to save us from the embarrassment of a presidential blow job last time around. He spoke all the right Hollywood lines about wanting Osama dead or alive. Remember “bring them on”? If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past seven years it’s that Hollywood one-liners are no substitute for an effective foreign policy.

I know there are people who just want to “kick butt” and get on with it. They’ve got itchy trigger fingers and want to blow all the bad guys away. These are the same people who thought invading Iraq was a great idea, who bought that bullshit about how we’re “bringing democracy to the Middle East.” They are the same people who keep getting “terrorists” confused with “insurgents,” and who don’t know their Sunni from their Shia.

Well, grow up, people. You know, it’s bad enough that we have Congressmen and Supreme Court Justices acting like Jack Bauer is a real person. Story lines like this only feed that lizard brain element of the American psyche.

Here’s the thing: the world is complicated. Our relationship with other nations is complicated. America isn’t always the good guy, either. Things are not as easy as blowing the bad guys away and all our troubles are gone. This stuff is hard, and there are no simple answers.

We can no longer afford to indulge in this national fantasy life. There are no heroes coming to save us. We have to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work ourselves, people. That means educating ourselves about our world and this country’s place in it. That means taking the appropriate actions, not just in the voting booth but with our wallets too, with the choices we make every day. It’s not going to be easy or comfortable, in fact it may hurt. But there’s no other choice. The man in the Lycra suit isn’t going to save us because he doesn’t exist.

Because, you all know what a hero is, don’t you? It’s just a sandwich. Nothing more.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Cat Blogging

Jolene loves open porch weather!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Big Media Smackdown!

I love it. Big news today on the oh-so-dry FCC front. Via Editor & Publisher:
Senate Votes to Roll Back Media-Ownership Rule

WASHINGTON--The Senate Thursday night voted to nullify a Federal Communications Commission rule that allows media companies to own a newspaper and a television station in the same market.

The unusual "resolution of disapproval," sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and 26 other senators, was approved by a voice vote. The measures sponsors include both Democratic candidates for president, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

This is excellent news. Free-speech lovers have been worried about a massive takeover of our media by powerful, well-funded corporate interests like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Clear Channel. This is vindication.

Of course, President Bush has promised to veto the bill. Absolutely predictable. But right now, I’m loving the Democratic majority in the Senate, and hoping we can make it a veto-proof majority in November.

For more, go to

Does This Mean It’s Open Season On Cindy McCain?

The Tennessee Republican Party is attacking Michelle Obama? Really? Yes, it’s true:
(CNN) -- In a preview of the political onslaught Michelle Obama may face in the fall, the Tennessee Republican Party unveiled a Web video Thursday highlighting her comment that she was proud of America "for the first time in my adult life."

The four-minute video coincides with a visit to the state by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama's wife for a Democratic Party event Thursday evening.

That’s really classy, and so typical of GOP tactics. Taking a trivial comment, blowing it out of proportion, and making sure the press eats it up (which, as evidenced by my CNN link here, they have).

This is so cool because I’m guessing this means it’s open season on candidates’ spouses, and Cindy McCain provides us with all sorts of rich material. There is of course her abject refusal to release her tax returns, even though the conservative pundits went after Teresa Heinz Kerry for the same thing in 2004 (yesterday, Joe Conason reminded us that The Weekly Standard called Teresa a "sugar mommy." Since Cindy McCain is the breadwinner in that family, I’m sure they’ll waste no time throwing similar insults her way in 18-point type. No? Imagine that.)

There’s the private jet she allows her husband to use for campaign travel, a distinct financial advantage over the other candidates. And please note: when a Republican owns a private jet--even one who just gave a speech on climate change--it’s not elitist! Or hypocritical!

But the best dirt on Mrs. McCain is the stuff the press has largely ignored. In fact, it seems Mrs. McCain may have a checkered past with the law. She’s admitted to past drug addiction, but it seems there’s a little more to the story than that. In 1994 The Phoenix New Times covered the story in Opiate For the Mrs. It’s a long, fascinating read. And it shows us what a lapdog press we’ve always had, long before the current crop of stenographers started panting at the feet of the Bush Administration.

Do read the whole thing--while it lasts. It may get yanked off the 'nets as the campaign heats up.

Here’s the short version: In the early ‘90s, Cindy McCain was addicted to prescription painkillers. She stole narcotics from the medical charity she led and used the names of the charity’s employees to get prescriptions--sometimes in quantities as large as 400 or 500 pills. When one of the organization’s directors grew suspicious that prescriptions were being written in his name, she had him fired. When he tried to sue for wrongful termination, the McCains intimidated him with false claims of extortion.

Cindy McCain never served a day in jail (or even rehab, it appears). There are even serious questions about her claims of having been given a pretrial diversion. In fact, the whole thing was just made to go away, thanks to husband John McCain’s good friend John Dowd, the same attorney who helped him escape serious repercussions for his role in the Keating Five scandal. Dowd got Cindy McCain out of hot water and a quickie PR campaign touting a feel-good story about sin and redemption put a nice happy spin on the whole affair. Sweet!

So, let’s get this straight. Michelle Obama made a remark at a speech that quite obviously wasn’t supposed to be taken literally. Still it causes massive pearl-clutching among the flag-wavers and pin-wearers on the right who demand empty displays of patriotism to reaffirm their belief we are the greatest nation evah.

Cindy McCain is a drug addict who supported her habit with narcotics theft. Our nation’s prisons are full of men and women who have done less. Yet because she is rich and powerful she gets off scott-free.

And no one in the media will mention this because the Republicans will say candidates’ spouses are off limits.


Smoky Mountains: An Adjective AND A Destination

Thanks a lot, BushCo. It’s bad enough we’re tearing down the mountains in east Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia so your buddies at Big Coal can reap bigger profits. Now look what they’re ramming down our throats:
Clean-Air Rules Protecting Parks Set to Be Eased

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 16, 2008; Page A01

The Bush administration is on the verge of implementing new air quality rules that will make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas, according to rank-and-file agency scientists and park managers who oppose the plan.

The new regulations, which are likely to be finalized this summer, rewrite a provision of the Clean Air Act that applies to "Class 1 areas," federal lands that currently have the highest level of protection under the law. Opponents predict the changes will worsen visibility at many of the nation's most prized tourist destinations, including Virginia's Shenandoah, Colorado's Mesa Verde and North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt national parks.

Nearly a year ago, with little fanfare, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed changing the way the government measures air pollution near Class 1 areas on the grounds that the nation needed a more uniform way of regulating emissions near protected areas. The agency closed the comment period in April and has indicated it is not making significant changes to the draft rule, despite objections by EPA staff members.

And here I thought the “P” in EPA stood for protection not pollution.

Here in Tennessee, the National Park Service has already issued dire reports about air pollution affecting the Great Smoky Mountains:

Research and monitoring conducted in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has shown that airborne pollutants emitted from mostly outside the Smokies are degrading park resources and visitor enjoyment. The burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—causes most of the pollution. Inadequate pollution control equipment in power plants, factories, and automobiles is the primary problem.

Wind currents moving toward the southern Appalachians transport pollutants from urban areas, industrial sites, and power plants located both near and far. The height and physical structure of the mountains, combined with predominant weather patterns, tend to trap and concentrate human-made pollutants in and around the national park.


Plants and animals in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are also threatened by airborne sulfur and nitrogen pollution. The park receives the highest sulfur and nitrogen deposits of any monitored national park. These pollutants fall to the ground not only as acid rain, but also as dry particles and cloud water. The average acidity (pH) of rainfall in the park is 4.5, 5-10 times more acidic than normal rainfall (5.0-5.6). Clouds with acidity as low as 2.0 pH bathe the high elevation forests during part of the growing season. 

Research shows that certain high elevation soils in the park are receiving so much airborne nitrogen that they are suffering from advanced nitrogen saturation. This condition limits the availability of forest nutrients, especially calcium, to plants and causes the release of toxic aluminum that can hurt vegetation and streamlife. Mountain streams and forest soils are being acidified to the point that the health of the park’s high elevation ecosystems is in jeopardy. Nitrate levels in some streams are approaching the public health standard for drinking water

So we want to relax clean air rules because why?

All of this is so unnecessary when we know how to build power plants that run on clean energy sources. Sharp USA manufactures solar panels right here in Memphis, TN. Why aren’t we encouraging a clean power source that employs Tennesseans?

Please, get a Democrat in the White House, pronto. The Republicans will just rape, pillage and plunder the earth for short-term gain. We need some people in Washington whose vision extends beyond the next shareholder report.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bill-O Freak-Out: The Dance Remix

Hilarious. Play us out, Bill-O:

(h/t, Xark.)

691 Words

Oh for crying out loud.

With all the ridicule thrown at the MSM for its infatuation with stupid stories like this one, and they still don’t get it. Yes, Time’s online edition actually has a 691-word story on--wait for it--Barack Obama’s flag pin.

That’s 691 words that could have been devoted to something of substance, like what differentiates Obama from John McCain. That’s 691 words that could have looked at the issues Americans care about, and how that will affect the election. Forget Obama--what about devoting 691 words to John McCain’s lobbyist connections to the dictators of Myanmar and Zaire?

It was a lame story, made all the lamer by writer Jay Newton-Small’s closing paragraph:
Obama is not the only candidate to wear the pin intermittently. Rival Hillary Clinton is often without it. When asked she simply says, "There are many ways to show your patriotism." The only GOP candidate to wear the pin faithfully was Rudy Giuliani. Is it fair that Obama is singled out for pin scrutiny? Probably not. But it's likely that Obama's pin will keep sticking him until he brings some consistency to his lapels.

No, Jay, this empty non-story will go away when reporters such as yourself get off your lazy asses and decide to do some real work for a change, instead of recycling Republican talking points.

Here’s a news flash for you incurious jackasses: John McCain doesn’t wear a flag pin, either. And you know what? I don’t give a shit. It’s so far removed from anything that remotely affects my life. I don’t know why McCain get a pass on this, but I certainly am not calling for John McCain flag pin stories. I am saying that the fact that he doesn’t wear one should put this stupidity to rest.

This was 385 words telling you people to cut the crap and get serious. We’re electing a president, not accessories editor at Vogue.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Edwards Endorses Obama

Breaking on CNN: John Edwards is endorsing Obama. And he's saying some really nice things about Hillary Clinton as he does so:
She cares about our men and women who are putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. This tenacity has shown her strength and determination, she is a woman who in my judgment is made of steel and she's a leader in this country, not because of her husband but because of what she has done. Because of speaking out. Because of standing up.

And when this nomination battle is over, and it will be over soon, brothers and sisters we must come together as Democrats and in the fall stand together for what matters for the future of America and make America what it needs to be. And we are a stronger party because Hillary Clinton is a Democrat. We are a stronger country because of her years of public service and we're going to have a stronger presidential nominee in the fall because of her work.

Now, what brought all of us here is a profound belief that we can change this country. That there are service men and women in Iraq who can come home starting today. That our kids deserve to go to better schools than we went to. That we can run our cars on something other than oil. That have good jobs that fill these empty factories. And that the anxiety that all of our people face every day can change when we finally make two Americas one America. For every single one of us.

Sigh. He was my pick for president. I thought he combined the rhetorical skills of Obama and the steel and strength of Hillary Clinton. Oh well.

Obama it is.


And Loud Obbs is throwing a hissy fit that this great show appears to be over. Hilarious.


[1 Update below]

In wading through one of the transcripts in the Pentagon’s document dump referenced here, I came across an intriguing passage. It’s from an April 18, 2006 briefing with then-Secretary Rumsfeld and General Casey.

The questioner is one of the military analysts connected with a broadcast network, though it’s difficult to tell exactly who it is. Since he’s later referred to as “Tom,” this leads me to believe it’s Retired Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, senior military analyst for Fox News. I am not sure of this but regardless, the quote is priceless:
QUESTION: So the fact is, I don’t think the American people, because the administration hasn’t explained it as well, understand why we’re forward, why we want to be there.

The other day I’m driving in and Chris Coor’s got a vote on do we need to bring the troops back to protect the border, or do we need them over there? I was amazed. People are talking about bringing them back. Two entirely different issues.

Islamic extremism is coming here like they did on 9/11 if we don’t have a forward strategy. It’s been very successful. Almost five years we’ve kept them away.

So I say you’ve got a brilliant strategy but I’m not sure we’ve articulated it in a way that every day it comes up.

Their strategy over there of Islamist extremism, and every day, as you know, it’s open source. Number one, it’s a crusade.

Number two, they want our oil. Number three, they want to humiliate us.
If you stay with this we’ll bring victory and we will not let them humiliate us. Every day on the internet, every day in Al Arabiyah and every day on Al Jazeera they’re seeing that.

OK, pick your jaws up off the floor.

The notion that we are engaged in a “crusade” is inflammatory enough. But “our” oil? How did “our” oil get under “their” land to begin with? Who says it's “our” oil, anyway? And if you read the transcript, no one disputes this viewpoint, not even Gen. Casey.

But the kicker is that whole “humiliation” thing. The idea that we’ve got soldiers dying in Iraq and we’re spending billions of dollars a month just so we won’t be humiliated is nauseating. Again, no one corrects this military analyst for his twisted view of why we are in Iraq. Not Secretary Rumsfeld, or General Casey or any of the other retired generals in that briefing. It's as if they all agree with him.

Look, General Questioner, whomever you may be: we’re already humiliated. We were humiliated the moment the Pentagon hired you Kool-Aid gulping mouthpieces to drag this country into a war of choice. We were humiliated when your colleagues dreamed up modern-day torture chambers like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and the CIA’s extraordinary rendition flights.

Is that really what people are dying for? A bunch of military guys' fragile egos? I'll make you a deal: pop a few Viagra and see if that helps your humiliation problem. Feel better? Now can we bring the troops home?

[By the way, does anyone know who “Chris Coor” or “Chris Coors” is?]

[Update 1]:

Jim in comments writes: "The way I am reading his comments makes the bold remarks in reference to the Islamists' view of the war. I think his point was that we were not effectively countering that view."

This might be the case, at least in part. Remember, the context of this discussion is, how do we sell the war to the American public, not how do we get the Iraqis behind our presence in their country. General Questioner is not saying, how do we counter that view, but how do we do something similar here. The excerpt starts with this: "I don’t think the American people, because the administration hasn’t explained it as well, understand why we’re forward, why we want to be there."

That's what he's explaining. Feel free to read the transcript and share your thoughts with me, though. Forward strategy stuff is on Page 11.

How Dirty Is Our Media

Since the New York Times revealed the Pentagon’s propaganda campaign and use of “surrogates and message-force multipliers” to sprinkle fairy dust on our failed Iraq misadventure, we’ve been learning a lot about the astonishing breadth and depth of this misinformation campaign.

Most interesting is the Pentagon’s massive document dump, which through the miracle of the internet allows ordinary dweebs like you and me to read transcripts and e-mails between the Pentagon and these propaganda mouthpieces. Folks like ThinkProgress and Talking Points Memo are combing through these files and have posted some interesting things. For example, one military analyst who is also a radio host promised a “softball” interview of Gen. Casey on a right-wing radio show, prompting a Pentagon flack to warn:
Just fyi, probably wouldn't put "softball" interview in writing. If that got out it would compromise jed and general casey.

What’s astonishing to me is, despite the tremendous effort and energy put into this propaganda program, it’s been an utter failure. The Pentagon went all out to seed the news media with Iraq War boosters and friendly faces who promised to be “on message,” yet the majority of Americans still think the Iraq War was a mistake and the occupation has been mishandled. Truth wins out, people, every single time.

I spent a little time wading through the document dump today and really came face to face with evidence of our massively corrupted right wing media. Of course, we always knew the Fox folks were cheerleaders for the Bush Administration, but looking through these documents, we see Fox News and right-wing radio in deep collusion with the Pentagon propaganda machine. They were active, willing, knowing participants.

A favorite is this April 18, 2006 briefing with then-Secretary Rumsfeld and General Casey. At one point an analyst marvels to Rumsfeld:

“You go on O’Reilly and you’ve got him eating out of your hand.”

On page 14 of the transcript, Rumsfeld gloats about Gen. Russell Honore calling journalists stupid:

Question: Right. One of the things that impressed me about how the initiatives (inaudible) after the hurricane in New Orleans was when Honore chastised the press about getting stuck on stupid. [Laughter].

Secretary Rumsfeld: It was wonderful. Can you imagine? I’d like to think I was a genius and I had him located there to -- [Laughter] - just in case there was a Katrina. But it was just an accident. The guy is fabulous.

Actually, Honore was discussing Hurricane Rita, and chastising the media for having the temerity to ask what lessons from Katrina would be applied to the Rita evacuation effort (you can watch a YouTube clip of Honore here.) Right wing media pundits like Michelle Malkin ate it up. They love it when someone gets tough with CNN reporters because they see themselvs as perpetual victims in a world where their extreme views have them inreasingly marginalized.

This certainly doesn’t let the rest of the mainstream media off the hook, it does seem that the folks at CBS, CNN, etc. were at least for the most part sloppy and incurious, but not necessarily knowing participants in a government misinformation campaign. You can't say that for the right wing media, though.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

War Of Words

Ruh-roh. The Bush Administration is banning conservatives’ pet vocabulary. So much for Islamofascism Awareness Week:
UPI’s Shaun Waterman reports today that congressional conservatives are riled up over new government guidelines shunning the use of terms like “jihadist” and “Islamo-fascism” to describe terrorists. On Friday, every Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence voted for a failed amendment to ban “the use of federal cash to produce documents like the terminology guidelines.”

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), who authored the amendment, attacked the guidelines as “McCarthyism in reverse.“

In reverse? Where's the "reverse" part?

That is hilarious. Hey, Congressman Hoekstra: you want a plate of Freedom Fries with that bill?

The Republicans have turned the political use of language into high art. Frank Luntz made a career out of it. But when it comes to labeling our enemies by phony terms such as “Islamofascist,” even the Bush Administration seems to understand that this kind of inflammatory language is counterproductive. But good luck getting the fear mongers in your party to stop, President Bush. Without scary Muslim-ish terms like “jihadis” to throw around, what will David Horowitz and Michelle Malkin write about every day?

You know, people, you go into your Unitary Executive with the authoritarian presidential figure you have, not the authoritarian presidential figure you wished you had.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What’s Your Walk Score?

Over at Atrios folks are discussing “walk scores” today. A “walk score” is an assessment of how walkable your neighborhood is, based on walking distance to amenities like post offices, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. You can calculate yours here.

Mine is 46, which strikes me as awfully low. I always thought we lived in a fairly walkable neighborhood--I live less than a mile from the Green Hills Mall, which means technically we could walk to all sorts of wonderful amenities. But the truth is, other than walking to the post office and Starbucks, we rarely walk anywhere. It’s hotter than Hades here in the summer, or else it’s rainy in the spring and winter. Mostly, old habits die hard.

The city has constructed new sidewalks all through Green Hills, including a wonderful new sidewalk on Graybar, which makes walking from Belmont to Hillsboro much safer and more doable. But there are still all sorts of bizarre obstructions to walking. The cross walk at Hillsboro and Glen Echo is insane. Depending on one’s destination, they might have to walk through parking lots or climb through landscaping separating different retail establishments. I tried walking down Crestmoor once and got stopped by a freaking hedge planted where a sidwalk used to be. Cripes.

This city is definitely getting better, but it’s not nearly as walkable as it could be. Which is a shame because with gas pushing $4/gallon, walking is looking like a better and better idea.

Anger Management Alert

By now it's been all over the blogosphere, but this is too hilarious to not post. Well, maybe hilarious isn't the word. Scary. Sad. And most definitely: Tragic.

Via Attaturk, this video clip of Bill O'Reilly throwing a temper tantrum because he's too stupid to understand the copy on the teleprompter is a window into his dark soul. Sure we all have bad days now and then, but this extreme ranting is the height of unprofessional behavior. Abuse of one's co-workers like this used to get people hauled off to anger management classes. I can honestly say I feel sorry for the poor dweebs who have to work with him over at Fox News.

It's My Blogoversary!

One year ago today I signed on with a Welcome statement. It sure has been fun.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Were You There When They Misquoted Al Gore

Of all the low-down, dirty, rat-dog, cheap shots, this takes the cake:
Right-wing echo chamber promotes doctored and deceptive audio clip of Al Gore.

Earlier this week, the Business & Media Institute (BMI) – a right-wing front group founded by Brent Bozell – spliced and doctored an NPR interview of Al Gore in order to allege that Gore said something which he did not. The organization published a false headline which blared that Gore called the Myanmar cyclone a “consequence” of global warming. Drudge promoted it on his site.


But in the NPR interview, Gore asserted that melting polar ice caps — not cyclones — were a “consequence” of global warming (which is unequivocally due to global warming). BMI inverted Gore’s comments to make it seem like his remarks about the cyclones followed from his remarks about “the consequences of global warming.” Yesterday, Fox News promoted the doctored clip to make the same false allegations about what Gore actually said.

Indeed, the truth-challenged folks at Faux News offer us this blaring headline:

Al Gore Blames Global Warming for Myanmar Cyclone

Brent Bozell is a smear campaign veteran (for more on Bozell, read here). But Gore has been a target of all sorts of smear campaigns: remember when the Tennessee Center for Policy Research made the shocking allegation that the Gores actually use electricity? Bring the fainting couch!

I really don’t get this antipathy toward Al Gore from the right. Yes, I know his anti-global warming crusade has challenged the power structure and Big Oil. But the right has been gunning for Gore since before the 2000 election. They’ve been acting like he’s some kind of major threat to their plan for world domination since forever.

Maybe he is. All I know is, I'm sick of these kind of smears. If you have something real to slam Gore on, then do it. But don't doctor and edit the soundbite. That just proves you've got nothing. It's evidence that your motivation is the smear. We're all just tired of it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The TRS Scam Is Back

I wrote about my issue with solicitors from Tuscan Reader Services last August:
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.

Well, they’re back. We’ve had three such kids come to the door already this year. The last one, Thursday night, really pissed me off. If we hadn’t been rushing out for the evening I’d have given her a piece of my mind, but I didn’t have time for a confrontation.

The kid lied to me. I mean, I always figured they were lying, but this was a lie I could verify. She told me she lived in a particular house, but in fact I actually happen to know the family that does live there, and she isn’t one of them. She made up a whole big story about how they’re selling the house and moving one street over--also a lie. I know the family has their house on the market and they’re moving to another part of town.

This is what kills me. Every time they come to the door they make up a family name, pick a house in the neighborhood, and claim to live in it. Well, our neighborhood is pretty sociable with one another. We’ve had quite a few neighborhood get-togethers and while we don’t know everyone, I certainly know the people on my street. The assumption seems to be, since this is a suburban neighborhood, no one will know one another. Maybe that’s true for some neighborhoods but it’s not true for us.

I just find this tactic so offensive. It’s a blatant lie, for one thing. If you’re going to lie about who you are and pretend to be part of the neighborhood, then I’m going to assume you’re also lying about delivering books to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

I don’t know if Tuscan Reader Services is technically a scam (though plenty of folks on the internet say they are.) In the past I’ve bought magazine subscriptions and I have actually received a magazine--eventually. And not necessarily the one I ordered, either: once I started getting some magazine for Christian moms. That went over well in our house.

But I do know these kids are liars. And that right there is reason enough for me to feel justified in not giving them one penny.

So take this as a warning. If these fresh-faced college kids come to your door saying they live up the street and are raising money for an art trip to France, rest assured that the only trip they are taking is to another neighborhood to scam some other folks out of their money.

Friday, May 9, 2008

How To Screw Up A War, Part 2

A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran.

Our bad!

(h/t, Atrios)

How To Screw Up A War

Hint: talking tough and developing a crusty persona so that the media can call you sexy while being completely incompetent in your job is a good start. Bonus points for blaming those under your command for your piss-poor planning:
According to documents recently released by the Pentagon in response to The New York Times’s expose on its propaganda program, however, Donald Rumsfeld claimed in a 2006 briefing that the reason why he did not support a larger invasion force was because commanders did not request it:

RUMSFELD: They were in the queue. We would have gone right on if they’d wanted them, but they didn’t, so life goes on.

Oh, really? ThinkProgress points us to this link:

At a Pentagon news conference with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Mr. Rumsfeld echoed his deputy's comments. Neither Mr. Rumsfeld nor Mr. Wolfowitz mentioned General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, by name. But both men were clearly irritated at the general's suggestion that a postwar Iraq might require many more forces than the 100,000 American troops and the tens of thousands of allied forces that are also expected to join a reconstruction effort.

"The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark," Mr. Rumsfeld said. General Shinseki gave his estimate in response to a question at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday: "I would say that what's been mobilized to this point — something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers — are probably, you know, a figure that would be required." He also said that the regional commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, would determine the precise figure.

A spokesman for General Shinseki, Col. Joe Curtin, said today that the general stood by his estimate. "He was asked a question and he responded with his best military judgment," Colonel Curtin said. General Shinseki is a former commander of the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.

(As a sidebar, I thought I’d point out that the main purpose of the Rumsfeld-Karzai press conference in February 2003 was to announce “the war against terrorism is ‘largely over’ in Afghanistan.” Another mission accomplished!)

Of course we all know what happened: Gen. Shinseki was fired, and when Army Secretary Thomas White spoke up in agreement with Shinseki's estimate, he got fired, too:

Former Army secretary Thomas White said in an interview that senior Defense officials "are unwilling to come to grips" with the scale of the postwar U.S. obligation in Iraq. The Pentagon has about 150,000 troops in Iraq and recently announced that the Army's 3rd Infantry Division's stay there has been extended indefinitely.

"This is not what they were selling (before the war)," White said, describing how senior Defense officials downplayed the need for a large occupation force. "It's almost a question of people not wanting to 'fess up to the notion that we will be there a long time and they might have to set up a rotation and sustain it for the long term."


Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz criticized the Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, after Shinseki told Congress in February that the occupation could require "several hundred thousand troops." Wolfowitz called Shinseki's estimate "wildly off the mark."

Rumsfeld was furious with White when the Army secretary agreed with Shinseki.

Well no wonder the commanders “did not request” a larger force. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz fired everyone who dared dispute their chocolates and roses vision of post-Saddam Iraq.

But now they're lying about it? That's not sexy. That's cowardly.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

John McCain, Confused Again

Boy, this sure is scary. John McCain keeps getting confused about things liked who we’re fighting in Iraq and the military chain of command --two things he should be intimately familiar with. And this week he got confused about where he was speaking.

In fact, Google “McCain, confused” and there’s more than enough material there to cause alarm. Which makes his failure to release his medical records all the more suspicious. Forget the melanoma--is there some hardening of the arteries, maybe?

Last week the New York Times published an editorial raising the issue:
No presidential candidate should get to the point that he has locked up his party’s nomination without public vetting of his health. And Mr. McCain, in particular, knows that. Early in his first run for president, in 1999, he provided an in-depth look at his medical history: 1,500 pages of medical and psychiatric records collected by a Navy project on the health of former prisoners of war. He has released precious little medical information since his surgery for melanoma in August 2000.


The McCain campaign says it will make his health documents available and arrange for follow-up questioning of the candidate’s doctors on May 23. Why has it taken so long? Having repeatedly postponed this moment over the past year, the McCain camp’s excuse that the doctors are too busy to take the time to brief Americans about a potential president’s health has worn thin.

This stinks to high heaven. I suspect these records will be scrubbed as clean as Bush’s military records were.

These aren't isolated incidents. McCain keeps getting confused about the difference between Sunni and Shia. After this embarassing moment, he really shouldn't need to be reminded any further:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

About Those Primaries Last Night

No, not the Democratic primaries. I’m sick of the Democratic primary! I’m talking about the Republican primary, and some pretty strange election results.

Last night was also the Republican primary in Indiana and North Carolina. John McCain won of course, but Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney still collected a large percent of votes --large considering two out of those three aren’t even running anymore.

In Indiana, Huckabee collected 10%, Paul 8% and Romney 5%. In North Carolina Huckabee received 12%, Paul 8% and “No Preference” 4%.

What this tells me is that 25% of Republican voters are dissastisfied with John McCain as their candidate and wanted to “make a statement” with their primary vote. Either that or they’re so hopelessly ill-informed and out of touch that they thought Huckabee or Romney were still in the race. Hey, we’re talking about Republican voters here, so anything is possible.

I kid, I kid. I kid because I love.

No, not really.

Anyway, I think this is an issue for the Republicans. McCain has had the Republican nomination sewed up for weeks, and yet a quarter of the Republican voters still aren’t wowed by him? I don’t for a moment think that this 25% could be brought to the Democratic side of the aisle but I do think unless the Republican Party is able to inspire these voters with one of their famous “wedge” issues, a lot of them are going to stay home in November. They're just not that into him.

And can we put an end to discussion about Rush Limbaugh’s ridiculous Operation Chaos? Hillary Clinton won Indiana by 2%. Hardly a decisive victory.

And finally a word to Ron Paul: can we take those damn "Google Ron Paul" signs down, already? I admire the Paulistas for their enthusiasm; they can hammer up a poster like nobody's business. But give it a rest already. The revolution didn't happen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Paging Dr. Gupta

I actually heard Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's physician-in-residence, say this on my TV this morning:
Finally, and a lot of doctors may not tell you this, but you can actually break a lot of pills in half. In fact, a lot of them are actually scored down the middle. Again talk to your doctor about this, but if you can break it in half, you get double the number of pills for the same amount of money.

I have a suggestion: how about some freaking universal prescription drug coverage so I don't have to game the system and make my doctor an accessory to insurance fraud just to afford my medication?


American Morans

Submitted without comment, because sometimes a picture says it all.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Or, How Not To See It

A classic example of how the media continues to get Iraq wrong was in yesterday’s New York Times Op-Ed page. Nine contributors were asked to offer their views on "How To See This Mission Accomplished.” Here’s the intro:
For the fifth anniversary of President Bush’s declaration of the end of “major combat operations” in Iraq, the Op-Ed page asked nine experts on military affairs to identify a significant challenge facing the American and Iraqi leadership today and to propose one specific step to help overcome that challenge.

Nine contributors. Nine “military experts.” Let’s meet them, shall we?

• Nathaniel Fick, former United States Marine Corps officer, now with the Center for a New American Security.

• Anthony H. Cordesman, former National Security Assistant to John McCain, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

• Frederick Kagan, pro-Iraq War booster and “surge” architect, now at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute.

• Paul D. Eaton, retired Army general in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, now an advisor to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

• L. Paul Bremer III, former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, loyal Bushie and the guy blamed with screwing up the Iraq occupation.

• Danielle Pletka, Ahmad Chalabi’s BFF and pro-Iraq War booster at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute.

• Richard Perle, Neocon and PNACer, and loyal pro-Iraq War booster, now at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute.

• Anne-Marie Slaughter, pro-Bush Administration booster and dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton.

• Kenneth M. Pollack, the pro-Iraq War booster at the Brookings Institution.

The vast majority of these nine contributors are people who have all been horribly, hopelessly wrong on Iraq. They are almost entirely people who beat the pro-war drums from the beginning, then offered “clap louder” lies and disinformation as it all disintegrated into a pile of shit from which no pony has yet to emerge.

And all nine of these people offer just one viewpoint on Iraq: the military viewpoint. There are no peace activists. There are no human rights activists. There are no diplomats. There are no energy policy experts or even economic policy experts.

It’s atrocious enough that the “liberal” New York Times would deliver an Op-Ed piece on the Iraq War and provide a predominantly pro-war, pro-Bush Administration slate of opinion writers. Failure to ask even one peace activist, UN official or diplomat their views shows how one-sided this “conversation” really is.

But like most news outlets they cover war from a solely military angle. War isn’t just a military exercise. It’s a human exercise. It's involves the entire nation, the entire world. There is far more to the story of war than just what the Pentagon has to say. If we're going to discuss how to "accomplish the mission," asking only a bunch of pro-war people doesn't give us the complete picture.

I’m tired of hearing from the Generals. I’m tired of hearing from Paul Bremer, Richard Perle, Kenneth Pollack and the buffoons at the American Enterprise Institute. These people have been wrong for too long. Why the New York Times continues to give them column space when they’ve yet to be right about anything is a mystery to me.

Let’s hear from some of the people who were right about Iraq for a change. Maybe we'll finally learn something.