Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Et Tu, Obama?????


Is that a Detroit Red Wings Jersey???!!!!!!

This gives me pause. A Red Wings fan for president??!!! Never!!!!

Just kidding. I'll overlook Obama's lapse in judgment this once. But when he comes to Nashville for the second debate next week, I'd better see a Nashville Predators jersey in his hands!


If Democrats acted like this, we’d be seeing another round of headlines like “Democrats In Disarray.”

Republicans, it seems, are just “leaderless”:
So who runs the Republican Party? Apparently nobody. Perhaps the most startling political development was the amazing lack of leadership on the GOP side of the aisle. Let's run down the list of Republican leaders who attempted to persuade skeptical House Republicans: President Bush, John McCain, Dick Cheney, and John Boehner. (We'd add Newt Gingrich to this list, but no one is quite sure if his last-minute support was actually cover for his behind the scenes whipping against the bill.)


And then there's John McCain, who last week decided to insert himself into the process and then (before the bailout failed) took credit for getting wavering House Republicans on board. Perhaps he did get a few wayward House GOPers on board -- but it wasn’t enough.

Heh. Funny.

I also don’t understand why Newt Gingrich is acting like he’s still a Congressman. Excuse me, but who asked his opinion anyway? Why is he talking about how he’d "vote for the bill reluctantly”? Why is he calling for Henry Paulson’s resignation?

Among prominent conservatives who publicly assailed the administration's proposal in recent days was former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But Mr. Gingrich said in a statement posted on his Web site Monday that he would "reluctantly and sadly" vote for the proposal if he were still in office.

"This bill is not the best proposal for solving the housing crisis. It is not even a good proposal for solving the crisis," the statement said. "However, it is the only proposal Secretary [Henry] Paulson would support, and his support was essential in this setting."

Mr. Gingrich then capped his tepid endorsement with a call for Mr. Paulson's resignation, saying that "having a former chairman of Goldman Sachs preside over disbursing hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street is a terrible concept and inevitably will lead to crony capitalism and the appearance of -- if not the actual existence of -- corruption."
That’s a great point but has anyone alerted Newt that he no longer holds office? Has anyone alerted the media?

Hey Newt! I’ve got a steaming cup of STFU with your name on it. If I wanted to hear from an ethically-challenged former Congressman I’d call Duke Cunningham.

Seriously, I find this whole thing truly bizarre.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Meanwhile, Back At The War(s)

Sad news from both fronts. From Afghanistan:
Afghan woman police director gunned down

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Two gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed a high-ranking woman police official in Afghanistan's largest southern city Sunday, while a suicide bomber killed three police and three civilians in the same region.

Malalai Kakar was traveling from her home in Kandahar city to the office Sunday when she was shot, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor. Her son, 18, was wounded in the attack, he said.

Kakar, 41, was the head of the department of crimes against women in Kandahar city, Ayubi said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility.

I know things are better in Afghanistan than they were back in 2001, but the ground that’s been gained is quickly slipping away. It’s shameful that almost seven years after the war started, the Taliban can still assassinate a top women’s advocate. This column offers a thorough assessment at how miserably we’ve failed in Afghanistan.

Over in Iraq, human rights took a blow, as well:

This morning, I received news from Iraq that the coordinator of Iraqi LGBT in Baghdad, Bashar, aged 27, a university student, has been assassinated in a barber shop.

Militias burst in and sprayed his body with bullets at point blank range.

He was the organiser of the safe houses for gays and lesbians in Baghdad. His efforts saved the lives of dozens of people.

“Homosexuality was generally tolerated under Saddam,” Hali, founder of Iraqi LGBT, said in 2007. “There certainly was no danger of gay people being assassinated in the street by police. … Life in Iraq now is hell for all LGBT people; no one can be openly gay and alive.”

And here I thought we went into Iraq five years ago to spread democracy.

Of course GLBT folks are vulnerable to persecution here, too.

Maybe before we try to export democracy, we ought to think about perfecting it at home, first.

So Much For Trade Delegations With Russia

Palin’s alleged “Russian experience” is turning out to be even thinner than watching Putin’s plane fly overhead.

Although she told ABC’s Charlie Gibson that there are "trade missions back and forth,” a look through the governor’s website finds very little evidence of any such missions. And Palin herself put the kabosh on what opportunities did exist for Alaska-Russia relations by slashing the budget of the Northern Forum.

Reader g in comments directed me to this story:
Opportunities abound for Alaska governors to engage in Russian diplomacy, with the state host to several organizations focusing on Arctic issues. Anchorage is the seat of the Northern Forum, an 18-year-old organization that represents the leaders of regional governments in Russia, as well as Finland, Iceland and Canada, Japan, China and South Korea.

Yet under Palin, the state government — without consultation — reduced its annual financial support to the Northern Forum to $15,000 from $75,000, according to Priscilla Wohl, the group's executive director. That forced the forum's Anchorage office to go without pay for two months.

Palin — unlike the previous administrations of Gov. Frank Murkowski and Gov. Tony Knowles — also stopped sending representatives to Northern Forum's annual meetings, including one last year for regional governors held in the heart of Russia's oil territory.

"It was an opportunity for the Alaska governor to take a delegation of business leaders to the largest oil-producing region in Russia, and she would have been shaking hands with major leaders in Russia," Wohl said.

Odd that the person John McCain called the country's best energy expert didn't feel the need to go to a meeting like this.

I guess she had other priorities.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain’s Ties To Indian Gaming

Well, this explains the McCain campaign’s pre-emptive war on the New York Times last week.

Seems the Times was working on a story that reveals the Senator’s gambling addiction and ties to Indian gaming.

It’s an interesting read and I urge everyone to head over to the NYT to check it out. I can’t help but think of how the wingnut right would call for the fainting couches were it a Democrat hitting casinos once a month in “weekend betting marathons,” while at the same time overseeing these same casinos as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

It’s another example of “mavericky” McCain’s bullshit lies. On the one hand he’s milking his reputation as a “reformer” who took down corrupt Indian gaming lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But at the same time, his top aides and fundraisers profited handsomely when Abramoff was out of the way, fleecing the Indian tribes in an almost identical fashion:
But interviews and records show that lobbyists and political operatives in Mr. McCain’s inner circle played a behind-the-scenes role in bringing Mr. Abramoff’s misdeeds to Mr. McCain’s attention — and then cashed in on the resulting investigation. The senator’s longtime chief political strategist, for example, was paid $100,000 over four months as a consultant to one tribe caught up in the inquiry, records show.


For McCain-connected lobbyists who were rivals of Mr. Abramoff, the scandal presented a chance to crush a competitor. For senior McCain advisers, the inquiry allowed them to collect fees from the very Indians that Mr. Abramoff had ripped off. And the investigation enabled Mr. McCain to confront political enemies who helped defeat him in his 2000 presidential run while polishing his maverick image.


David Sickey, the tribe’s vice chairman, said he was “dumbfounded” over the bills submitted by Mr. Hance’s firm, Hance Scarborough, which had been hired by Mr. Sickey’s predecessors.

“The very thing we were fighting seemed to be happening all over again — these absurd amounts of money being paid,” Mr. Sickey said.

Mr. Hance’s firm billed the tribe nearly $1.3 million over 11 months in legal and political consulting fees, records show. But Mr. Sickey said that the billing statements offered only vague explanations for services and that he could not point to any tangible results. Two consultants, for instance, were paid to fight the expansion of gambling in Texas — even though it was unlikely given that the governor there opposed any such prospect, Mr. Sickey said.

Even more awkward is McCain’s own love of gambling, which seems to border on addiction:

For much of his adult life, Mr. McCain has gambled as often as once a month, friends and associates said, traveling to Las Vegas for weekend betting marathons. Former senior campaign officials said they worried about Mr. McCain’s patronage of casinos, given the power he wields over the industry. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We were always concerned about appearances,” one former official said. “If you go around saying that appearances matter, then they matter.”

The former official said he would tell Mr. McCain: “Do we really have to go to a casino? I don’t think it’s a good idea. The base doesn’t like it. It doesn’t look good. And good things don’t happen in casinos at midnight.”

“You worry too much,” Mr. McCain would respond, the official said.

I dunno, I’m not much of a gambler. But none of this sounds very presidential. And it certainly would be a source of outrage were it the Democratic presidential candidate involved.

The article states that McCain’s gambling connections have been a source of concern with evangelicals. It will be interesting to watch this story develop and see if anything comes of it, or if it gets buried by the Wall Street bailout story.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nashville Gas Crisis, An Update

It seems to me things are getting better. I can see more gas stations are open for business, though prices are still around $4/gallon. I still haven’t needed to fill up, but I’m below 1/4 tank and will need to next week.

Dan Miller, anchor of our local WSMV-Channel 4 news station, just told me this:
”One of the reasons Nashville was hit so hard is because the city relies on Gulf Coast refineries for 80% of its fuel. If you’re heading ouit of town this weekend, Charlotte NC and Atlanta Georgia are in the very same situation.”
Remind me again: Why do we want to drill there?

Personally I’ve always wanted one of those converted-diesel engines that runs on used cooking oil. I bet people fueled by KFC or McDonald’s are laughing their asses off right now.

Some Foreign Policy Questions For Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin’s latest gaffe occurred when Katie Couric asked about her foreign policy experience. She replied:
"As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state."

Really? That's foreign policy experience? Watching Putin's plane fly overhead?

Surely there are some bigger foreign policy issues that Sarah Palin might have been involved with. For instance, what did she do last year when Putin claimed the North Pole:

Late last month, Moscow signaled its intentions to annex the entire North Pole, an area twice the size of France with Belgium and Switzerland thrown in — except all of it under water.

The ice-frozen North Pole is currently a no man's land supervised by a U.N. Commission. The five Polar countries — Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark — each control only a 200-mile economic zone along their coasts. And none of these economic zones reach the North Pole. Under the current U.N. Maritime convention, one country's zone can be extended only if it can prove that the continental shelf into which it wishes to expand is a natural extension of its own territory, by showing that it shares a similar geological structure.

So, the Russians claimed a great scientific discovery late last month. An expedition of 50 scientists that spent 45 days aboard the Rossia nuclear ice-breaker found that an underwater ridge (the Lomonosov ridge) directly links Russia's Arctic coast to the North Pole. This, they insist, surely guarantees Russia's rights over a vast Polar territory that also happens to contain some 10 billion tons of oil and natural gas deposits.

Did Gov. Palin do anything at all when Putin claimed this huge resource?

Probably not. Probably this is a matter for the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to take up (as indeed they will when the Commission meets in 2009). Because the truth of the matter is, when it comes to matters of foreign policy, the governor of any one individual state really doesn’t have that much input to give.

What about Canada? Alaska shares a physical border with Canada, which has been disputed since the Alaska purchase. Why doesn't anyone in the media ask Gov. Palin about her role now that global warming has caused the Canada-Alaska boundary dispute to heat up:

"(The treaty) will secure U.S. sovereign rights over extensive marine areas, including the valuable natural resources they contain," Bush said.

One of the areas Bush likely has in mind is the water along the border between Alaska and the Yukon.

Canada has long insisted the international border continues through the ocean in a straight line from the land. The U.S. argues instead that the border angles 30 degrees to the east.

The area is considered to have high oil and gas potential. Alaska has put exploration rights to the block up for sale several times, but no company has bid on it while its nationality remains disputed.

So, has Gov. Sarah Palin offered her foreign policy expertise on these delicate international boundary issues? Once again, it sounds like this is a foreign policy issue the President and U.S. Senate would handle.

I dunno, maybe she’s been an integral part of these Russian/Canadian boundary disputes. Somehow, though, I think not. Somehow I think if she had been involved in these issues affecting the boundaries of her state, we’d have heard her say something other than “you can see Russia from an island in Alaska” when pressed to give some foreign policy credentials.

Because the truth is, there's just not much foreign policy involved in being a governor, I don't care where your state is located. Remember in 2000 how Bush allegedly had foreign policy experience because Texas borders Mexico? That worked out so well for us.

(H/T, DailyKos diarist taricha).

Here He Comes To Save The Day, Part 2

Josh Marshall gives a recap of John McCain's savior complex, which was on full display this week.

Meanwhile, it seems Democrats and Republicans very nearly had a deal hammered out until McCain decided to inject presidential politics into the crisis.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Here He Comes To Save The Day

And you thought the fundamentals of our economy were strong! Wrong-o, bucko! We’re looking at a Great Depression starting Monday morning unless JohnnyMac saves us all!

Thankfully, John McCain has suspended his campaign for the good of the nation.

If only it were permanently.

Of course, after a week of negotiations and back-and-forth, a deal on the Wall Street bailout plan is pretty much finished:
In a briefing for reporters, Frank said agreement had been reached in several broad areas, among them: creation of an independent oversight board to monitor the Treasury Department's handling of the bailout and a requirement that the department seek to minimize home foreclosures by slicing the interest rate and even the outstanding loan amount of many of the troubled mortgages it buys.

Frank said at the early afternoon briefing that he and Paulson had also agreed to a Democratic proposal for Washington to get rights to buy stock in the companies whose troubled assets the government buys. That would allow taxpayers to benefit from increases in the companies' stock prices. But by the end of the day Frank indicated that an obstacle to agreement on such a provision had developed, though he didn't elaborate.


Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had agreed to demands from lawmakers in both parties to limit the pay of executives whose companies benefit from the bailout. The enormous pay packages of some Wall Street executives, coupled with the realization among nonwealthy Americans that the crisis could affect their financial foundations, have created an incendiary issue on Capitol Hill.

So, after a week of negotiations, progress has moved forward without JohnnyMac. McCain didn’t feel the need to be in Washington two days ago--indeed, he hasn’t been in Washington since April--so this "let's cancel the debate to focus on the economic crisis" is bizarre, to say the least.

Clearly he’s either too chickenshit to show up for a debate on Friday night while his poll numbers are sinking, or he’s trying to sail into town to claim credit for something he had nothing to do with.

And if it’s the latter, well, this wouldn’t be the first time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Culture Of Life Alert

Here’s a typically whacked out Republican policy solution to poverty:
LaBruzzo: Sterilization plan fights poverty

Tying poor women's tubes could help taxpayers, legislator says

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
By Mark Waller

Worried that welfare costs are rising as the number of taxpayers declines, state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, said Tuesday he is studying a plan to pay poor women $1,000 to have their Fallopian tubes tied.

"We're on a train headed to the future and there's a bridge out," LaBruzzo said of what he suspects are dangerous demographic trends. "And nobody wants to talk about it."

LaBruzzo said he worries that people receiving government aid such as food stamps and publicly subsidized housing are reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated people who presumably pay more tax revenue to the government. He said he is gathering statistics now.

Wow. Did I mention this clown is a Republican? Or is that self-evident?

So the problem is simply that poor women are having too many babies, huh? And they need to be sterilized? And if wealthier women pop out the kiddies we will magically breed a new generation of wealthy individuals because we all know that wealth is a genetic trait. So much for the self-made man (or woman).

Well I'm sure that's how it looks from the country club, eh?

LaBruzzo says he’s studying “any and all possibilities” to reduce “generational welfare.” Of course, stopping the cycle of welfare is a big issue. But it sounds to me like LaBruzzo needs to spend a little time looking at the causes of this problem. It’s a little more complicated than just “those poor people are breeding too much.”

Here’s a deep thought: how come people who don’t believe in evolution nonetheless try to apply evolutionary principles to social and economic problems?

Just wondering.

“Hindsight Is $2020 Billion”

As usual, Stephen Colbert nails it--including calling bullshit on Mitch McConnell’s flawed “fire in your kitchen” metaphor.

Great Nashville Gas Shortage Of Ought-Eight, Part 2

We’re number 1! We’re number 1!
NASHVILLE, TENN. -Nashville continues to see the worst gasoline shortage in the Southeast, the region hardest hit by supply problems after Hurricane Ike.

Problems are also reported in metro Atlanta and Tallahassee, Fla., said AAA spokesman Randy Bly.

"But you guys (in Nashville) rate number one," Bly said.

Gee, thanks.

It’s true, every gas station I pass on my usual morning route--and there are about 7 of them--have all been empty for the past two weeks. On Sunday we passed a Mapco that had gas and the line stretched so far out into the street, the police actually had to direct traffic around it.

Apparently Nashvillians are largely to blame:

In Nashville, gas at 85 percent of the stations dried up last weekend after a rumor of a shortage caused people to rush to top off their tanks.

Yes, well, that is the Nashville way.

Even worse, Mayor Dean and Governor Bredesen have not exactly shown outstanding leadership. Mayor Dean told folks not to panic, which doesn’t work any better in real life than it does in Hollywood movies. Gov. Bredesen said he "wished there were something local and state governments could do” but try as he might he just couldn’t think of a single solitary thing.


The Nashville City Paper had a few suggestions:

The lesson for government is that nature abhors a vacuum. In the absence of good, proactive information from our elected leaders on this kind of crisis people will simply do what feels safe and prudent. That may not always be the right answer.

It is all too likely this kind of issue will become more a fact of modern life and not less of one. Our world is changing in its disposition toward energy consumption, which is a very positive thing. At the same time, current energy sources are becoming scarcer and now subject to the whims of natural disasters.

In other words, local and state government contributed to the panic by failing to adequately inform the public about the state of gas supplies.

But I disagree that information alone would be sufficient. I don’t know how it works anywhere else but here in Nashville, information just allows people to feel justified in saying, “screw my neighbor, I ain’t getting stuck on empty!”

We’re IGMY (“I Got Mine, Y’all”) central. Let the weatherman whisper a hint of snow on the way, and everyone rushes to the grocery store to wipe milk and bread off the shelves--even lactose intolerant people and folks with wheat allergies. It’s how we do things here. We’re a bunch of wusses.

And I guarantee you, the next time a big hurricane is headed for the Texas coastline, people will remember the Great Gas Shortage of Ought-Eight and rush to top off their tanks and we’ll be watching this bad movie again.

When people panic, someone needs to come in and take charge. I’m remembering what we did during the Arab Oil Embargo. There were dollar limits on gas sales, and restrictions on days you could purchase gasoline: even numbered license plates on certain days, odd numbered plates on others. Would these measures work now? I honestly don’t know. Back then we weren’t commuting in from the suburbs in Hummers and Chevy Subdivisions.

I have noticed more people walking and riding bicycles. I haven’t heard of anyone resorting to violence, or “dragging the pumps out of the ground with a big vintage John Deere,” as Sheryl Crow sings.

Consider this a little training exercise in Peak Oil survival. Maybe people will trade in their Hummers for a more gas-efficient model. It can’t be fun cruising around the city as the needle pushes empty just so you can feel like you have a big penis like Arnold Schwarzenegger while looking like a giant asshole.

As for me, I haven’t panicked. I drive a hybrid, and I don’t drive much. I fill up about once a month. Luckily for me, the gas shortage hit when I had about 3/4 tank. I still have 1/4 tank left so I’m going to be good for at least another week.

But after that ... I may hit the panic button myself.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Great Nashville Gas Shortage Of Ought-Eight

Via Jeffraham Prestonian, the Great Nashville Gas Shortage Of Ought Eight, now with subtitles.


Blame Game

Yesterday blog trolls started touting the expected line that our mortgage crisis is the fault of a) Bill Clinton, and b) black people.

Gee, what took them so long?

This particular line of reasoning, spread by the usual suspects over at The National Review, Townhall.com, and the like, is that the Jimmy Carter-initiated, Bill Clinton-pushed Community Reinvestment Act caused the mortgage crisis by forcing political correctness on the banking industry. The big, bad government forced banks to lend money to poor blacks in the projects, and, well, you know how those people are. Of course they defaulted on these loans and spent the money on Air Jordans and crack instead. Voila, the entire economy is crumbling as a result.

Besides being racist, blaming the Community Reinvestment Act is just flat-out wrong. For those who don’t know, the CRA mandates that federally-insured banks and thrifts make loans in the communities from which they receive deposits. So a bank taking money from a low-income community has a duty to reinvest in that community.

However, the law does not apply to independent mortgage companies like Countrywide. As the American Prospect pointed out when this line of bullshit first appeared back in the spring,
it is hard to blame CRA for the mortgage meltdown when CRA doesn't even apply to most of the loans that are behind it. As the University of Michigan's Michael Barr points out, half of sub-prime loans came from those mortgage companies beyond the reach of CRA. A further 25 to 30 percent came from bank subsidiaries and affiliates, which come under CRA to varying degrees but not as fully as banks themselves. (With affiliates, banks can choose whether to count the loans.) Perhaps one in four sub-prime loans were made by the institutions fully governed by CRA.

Most important, the lenders subject to CRA have engaged in less, not more, of the most dangerous lending. Janet Yellen, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve, offers the killer statistic: Independent mortgage companies, which are not covered by CRA, made high-priced loans at more than twice the rate of the banks and thrifts. With this in mind, Yellen specifically rejects the "tendency to conflate the current problems in the sub-prime market with CRA-motivated lending.? CRA, Yellen says, "has increased the volume of responsible lending to low- and moderate-income households."

The “blame CRA” line of reasoning first appeared back in the spring, and I'm not surprised to see it being floated again. But the facts show this argument to be flawed, racist, and designed solely to propagate the tried-and-true conservative myth that government regulations are always bad. But lack of regulation and lack of oversight allowed greed to run amok through our financial system. It is this, not the regulated Community Reinvestment Act, that caused our economic meltdown. It’s a textbook case of what happens when you put Ayn Rand-style philosophy into practice.

As the Prospect wrote last April:

And the worst offenders, the independent mortgage companies, were never subject to CRA -- or any federal regulator. Law didn't make them lend. The profit motive did.

Profits over people: not a winning economic model.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Right Wing Smear, College Edition

I’ve said for years that the right wing will attack university level education because it is the ultimate in information control. If they can control what colleges and universities teach, then they can churn out armies of misinformed conservative robots. That is, after all, how the conservative movement took over the American church: by first taking control of the seminaries.

So whenever I hear that Michelle Malkin, Jonah Goldberg or Bill O’Reilly are talking about the latest outrage coming out of liberal academia, my bullshit meter is primed and ready to go.

For example, take this scenario:
Instructor (not “Professor,” as many accounts have it) Andrew Hallam allegedly assigned students in one his Metro State freshman writing classes to write an essay critical of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. He reportedly later broadened the assignment so that students could write about any candidate.

One student said the instructor singled out Republican students in the class and allowed others to ridicule them.
"I was shocked. I was 'Holy cow, this is just an open door for him to discuss politics with us,' " said Jana Barber, a student in the class.

Oh, my. A college professor imposing his views on his classroom! This would be terrible except it seems the only person willing to even talk about it is, well, said “one student” Jana Barber.

And, what a coincidence!

Jana Barber is the sister of Matt Barber, director of cultural affairs for the conservative Liberty Counsel legal organization. Until June, Matt Barber held a similar title with Concerned Women for America, another conservative Christian organization.

Yes, my bullshit meter is in overdrive on this one.

Have no fear, WorldNet Daily and Bill O’Reilly are already on the case. Jana Barber is scheduled to appear on the O’Reilly Factor to flog this latest outrage to a gullible public. I’m sure Goldberg and Malkin won’t be far behind.

Who was it that said Sarah Palin represented a continuation of the culture wars? Oh right! Me!

I Have A Question

When did Treasury Secretary Henry Merritt Paulson suddenly become Hank Paulson ?

Is that supposed to make us swallow his bullshit easier, because "Hank" sounds so resolute and strong, uniquely American and superhero-ish? Is it supposed to make us feel all safe and snuggly that our 401(k) is safe in the strong, capable hands of Hank?

Just wondering.

McCain's Economic Advisor To Benefit From Bailout

Via Josh Marshall: someone in the media should ask Sen. McCain what role his top economic advisor, Phil Gramm, who is both vice chairman of UBS's US division and a lobbyist for UBS, had in successfully lobbying for a piece of the $700 billion pie:
Foreign banks, which were initially excluded from the plan, lobbied successfully over the weekend to be able to sell the toxic American mortgage debt owned by their American units to the Treasury, getting the same treatment as United States banks.

On Sunday, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., indicated in a series of appearances on morning talk shows that an original proposal introduced on Saturday had been widened. “It’s a distinction without a difference whether it’s a foreign or a U.S. one,” he said in an interview with Fox News.

I repeat: John McCain’s economic advisor will directly benefit from this bailout.

Now that’s what I call mavericky.

Every time McCain mentions his support of the bailout plan it should be noted that his chief economic advisor will benefit. News media: do your job.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

You Want Us To Do WHAT?

I am the first to admit that economics is not my forte. But handing a $700 billion blank check to the Bush Administration to dispose of as they wish, no strings attached and no oversight required, strikes me as the stupidest move anyone could make.

I agree with folks like Josh Marshall and Matt Stoller who point out that the discourse feels eerily, tragically, like what happened in the run up to the Iraq War. We’re in a crisis, we have to act now, there’s no time for serious debate or serious information gathering, the Bush Administration is saying TRUST US! and Congress is about to hand another $700 billion over to a bunch of crooks who should never have been trusted with taxpayer funds to begin with.

This is insane. Laughably insane.

Where are the grownups?

Yesterday Paul Krugman sounded the alarm:
The Treasury plan, by contrast, looks like an attempt to restore confidence in the financial system — that is, convince creditors of troubled institutions that everything’s OK — simply by buying assets off these institutions. This will only work if the prices Treasury pays are much higher than current market prices; that, in turn, can only be true either if this is mainly a liquidity problem — which seems doubtful — or if Treasury is going to be paying a huge premium, in effect throwing taxpayers’ money at the financial world.

And there’s no quid pro quo here — nothing that gives taxpayers a stake in the upside, nothing that ensures that the money is used to stabilize the system rather than reward the undeserving.

I hope I’m wrong about this. But let me say it again: Treasury needs to explain why this is supposed to work — not try to panic Congress into giving it a blank check. Otherwise, no deal.

No deal, indeed. Because it looks like the Treasury is trying to panic Congress into signing off on a blank check. That’s exactly what is happening, and yes, it does feel exactly like the run-up to the Iraq War. And no, the people responsible for the Iraq War and the Hurricane Katrina debacle should not be given a blank check.

We’ve been down this road before. Congress, please do not make the same mistake three times.


Sound familiar, anyone?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledged on Sunday an emergency rescue plan aimed at stabilizing a financial system in freefall will cost taxpayers money, but argued that costs will not be as high the $700 billion limit of the package.

"The taxpayer is at risk," he said on "Fox News Sunday" television program, but added, "It would be extraordinary circumstances, highly unlikely, that the cost will be anything like the amount you spend for the assets."

Yes, and the $60 billion the OMB estimated the Iraq War would cost in 2003 was "the upper end of a hypothetical," and anyway,

an attack by Saddam Hussein or a terrorist ally "would cripple our economy"

according to President Bush and the morning bobbleheads. Plus, the president’s advisors assured us it "would be a short war”:

"The idea that it's going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990," [Rumsfeld] said on an Infinity Radio call-in program.

He said the U.S. military is stronger than it was during the Persian Gulf War, while Iraq's armed forces are weaker.

"Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that," he said.

How does five years sound, asshole?

Yes, this rush to bail out Wall Street feels a lot like the last time the Bush Administration hit the panic button to resolve a crisis and an acquiescent press and scared Congress eagerly fell into line, refusing to ask the hard questions and even play the dreaded “blame game” so we could learn how we got here and how we need to get out.

That turned out so well for us.

Look, everything these people touch turns to shit. They are children. They need to be taken by the hand and led very slowly and carefully across the street by someone responsible. They simply cannot be trusted.

No blank checks for criminals.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Remember The Alamo

Anti-Catholic Christian cult leader Tony Alamo’s Arkansas compound was raided today as authorities investigate child abuse allegations.

Back in the 1980s, when I first moved to Nashville, Tony Alamo had a store on Lower Broadway which sold elaborate rhinestone-studden denim jackets. Anyone else remember that? The window displays were always something to behold, especially at night. It looked like a mini Times Square behind glass.

I thought the jackets were terribly campy, and was shocked to discover that this was the same Alamo responsible for the virulent anti-Catholic screeds we’d find on our windshields in the parking lot of our Music Row office every few months.

Over time I learned that Alamo is a a dangerous cult leader who’s been hauled off to jail for tax evasion (just like dangerous cult leader Rev. Moon). The Village Voice did a comprehensive piece on his creepy empire, which I thought was a thing of the past. Sadly, no: he’s been rebuilding his operation and even has a a radio show:
During an April broadcast, the pastor proclaimed that the government had no right to take 10-year-old wives away from their rightful "husbands": "What I'm doing is fighting for these people that they, the ungodly beast, is throwing into prison for marrying someone 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11—10, if they've reached puberty."

I’m always amazed at the crap anyone can spew over the radio airwaves without raising an eyebrow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Remind Me: Why Do We Want To Drill There?

Gas stations in Nashville are still dry. My cousin, who lives in Houston, had this to report yesterday:
Gasoline? Well, that’s another story.  A lot of the stations are still closed because they don’t have electricity to pump gas; those that are open have  folks in long lines with short tempers and little patience.   Having to go through all of this stuff locally makes one think what it would be like if there was a national disaster.  (God forbid.)

Indeed it does.

In fact, this reminds me an awful lot of 1973. I was just a kid back then, too young to drive, but old enough to remember the long lines at gas stations, the gas rationing, the “vehicles with odd-numbered license plates can purchase gas Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, even-numbered plates get Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays.” Good times, good times. You’d think we’d have learned our lesson then, but noooo!!!

So now we have the same GOP morons singing “drill here, drill now!” Really? You think we can drill our way out of this mess? And in the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico, too?

Recent events show how insanely precarious it is to locate our energy security in this region. Hurricane Ike, like Katrina before it, has wrecked havoc on regional oil and gas supplies:

Hurricane Ike destroys 49 oil platforms in Gulf

WASHINGTON (AP) — At least 49 offshore oil platforms, all with production of less than 1,000 barrels a day, were destroyed by Hurricane Ike as it raced across the Gulf of Mexico, and some may not be rebuilt, the Interior Department said Thursday.

It said in the latest hurricane damage assessment that the platforms altogether accounted for 13,000 barrels of oil and 84 million cubic feet of natural gas a day.

That doesn’t sound so bad until you read the rest of the story:

The agency also said five gas transmission pipeline systems sustained damage, although the extent of damage is not yet known. It earlier had reported four oil drilling rigs had been destroyed and another damaged.

Meanwhile, the Energy Department reported that as of midafternoon Thursday, 12 of 31 refineries in Texas and Louisiana, with a total production capacity of 3 million barrels a day, remained shut down as a result of the hurricane that swept through the region on Sept. 13. A number of the others are operating at reduced runs.

About 93 percent of the Gulf's crude oil production remains shut down as does 77.6 percent of its natural gas production, said the Minerals Management Service.

The Energy Department said 10 of 39 natural gas processing facilities also were still closed as a result of the Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Gustav which hit two weeks earlier, giving the Gulf's energy infrastructure a glancing blow.

The Gulf region accounts for 25 percent of the country's domestic oil production, or about 1.3 million barrels a day, and 15 percent of its natural gas supplies, or about 7 billion cubic feet of gas a day.

Wow. So a region of the country responsible for 25% of our domestic oil production is vulnerable to storms. And hey, as we saw with Hurricanes Gustav and Hannah, the mere threat of a storm is enough to send gas prices hopping.

And this is the foundation of our so-called energy security/national security? Geeez. At least when dealing with unfriendly Middle Eastern regimes we can always, you know, send the U.S. military in to keep the oil flowing (ooops I mean spread democracy, gosh what was I thinking?) The National Guard is pretty powerless against the whims of weather and other “acts of God.” Talk about a faith-based policy.

The fact that Republicans fillibustered the energy bill last December is just further proof that they are in the pockets of Bil Oil. This has nothing to do with energy security and everything to do with giving more breaks to Big Oil, using high gas prices as a way of manipulating public opinion.

The American people may be singing “drill here drill now” today, but they will be singing the blues tomorrow. That’s not “our” oil. It’s ExxonMobil’s oil. It’s Shell’s oil. We do not have a nationalized oil industry in this country (unlike most of the rest of the world, I might add.) There is no assurance that oil pulled out of the Gulf of Mexico or off the coast of California or out of the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge will end up in U.S. automobiles. It’s all sold on the world market and it’s just as likely to end up in the car of someone living in Beijing.

So if you want to rape American land and waters to ensure the continued economic dominance of 1.3 billion Chinese, more power to you. Doesn’t exactly sound like a winning plan to me.

Nothing against the Chinese, of course. Just don't try to portray this as some kind of "patriotic duty" because it's not. It's more pandering to multinational corporations, and the American people are the chumps who swallow the lies every single time.

Alternately, you can start conserving NOW. You can start transitioning to alternative fuels NOW (we can’t sell our solar power to the Chinese). We can start rethinking how we live NOW. We should have started doing this back in 1973. If we had I guarantee you we would not be in the position we’re in today.

True energy security and national security means never having to say I’m sorry to a multinational oil conglomerate like ExxonMobil.

(As for the photo above, it's an oil slick surrounding a pumpjack September 14, 2008 in High Island, Texas. The photorapher is Smiley N. Pool/AFP/Getty Images).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Paging TN Guerilla Women

I got a delightful suggestion in my e-mail box today that really appeals to my sense of productive mischief. And I think those Hillary supporters still nursing hurt feelings might appreciate it, too.

If you simply cannot donate any money to the Obama campaign or, for that matter, the Democratic Party (paging Alma Sanford!), why not donate to Planned Parenthood instead. And--here’s the kicker--do so in honor of Sarah Palin, the faux feminist who doesn’t believe in choice or sex education for teenagers.

Your donation will be tax deductible. And Planned Parenthood will “mail a personalized card notifying the individual or family you have chosen to remember.”

By the way, this is not a campaign of Planned Parenthood. This is something that some folks dreamed up on their own. I guess they were completely dumbfounded that any true feminist would support a ticket like McCain-Palin, which stands against everything women have fought for since, well, forever.

Here’s how it works. Go to the Planned Parenthood website and click on “Donate,” then scroll down to “Honorary or Memorial Donations.” Fill in the McCain campaign headquarters address so the Planned Parenthood folks know where to send Gov. Palin her personalized card:

McCain for President
1235 S. Clark Street
1st Floor
Arlington ,  VA  22202

Pass it on.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Boris & Natasha Go To Washington

Did you hear about the folks who hacked into Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo e-mail account , the one she uses to conduct Alaska state business so she can skirt public records laws?

You can see some of them here.

The one I want to see is from Palin’s chief of staff Michael Nizich with the subject line "CONFIDENTIAL Ethics Matter."

Okay, who sends an e-mail about a confidential ethics matter with the subject line CONFIDENTIAL ETHICS MATTER? It’s like those old cartoons where there’s a bomb labeled B-O-M-B.

I find it increasingly difficult to take these people seriously.

Lying About Energy

Remember when John McCain trotted out Sarah Palin’s so-called energy expertise as an asset? Remember when he said she “knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America”?

Ah, good times, good times.

Turns out the Governor of Alaska knows so little about energy, she wildly exaggerated her own state’s energy production in that now-regrettable interview with Charlie Gibson. Palin claimed that Alaska "produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy." But the most recent figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show the figure is more like 3.4 percent.

Palin wasn’t even close. Not even in the ballpark.

The AP suggests that the McCain-Palin campaign got that figure from the Resource Development Council for Alaska’s website, in which it states
"Alaska's oil and gas industry has produced more than 16 billion barrels of oil and 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas, accounting for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production."

But they failed to read the fine print. That figure

is an average for what the state was producing throughout the 1980s and 1990s — long before Palin became governor at the end of 2006 — and production has steadily declined in recent years.

Good grief. Do these people not check any of their facts?

Apparently not:

To repeat: This assertion from the McCain/Palin campaign is demonstrably false, based on U.S. government sources. It's been debunked several times. And yet they keep repeating it.

Why repeat lies? McCain spokesman Brian Rogers offered some insight in a quote to Politico: "We're running a campaign to win. And we're not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it."

Geez. Put team McCain-Palin in charge and who knows: we might even invade the wrong country.

I Knew They Picked The Wrong Palin

Via Avedon, posting at Atrios, a Palin we can all get behind:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Get E-Mail

One of those "I'm a little confused" e-mails, to be precise:
• If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."

• Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.

• If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

• Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

• Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

• Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

• If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

• If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

• If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.

• If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

• If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

• If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

• If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.

• If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude," with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

Everything all clear now?

None of these things are substantive issues, except perhaps the experience one. But these are all things that have dominated our political discourse for the past few weeks. And still, looking at the superficialities, I don't see how McCain-Palin stacks up.

I also think the differences between the two candidates outlined in chain e-mails like this (there are others floating around, too) kinda get at the nut of the difference between modern conservatism and liberalism. Conservative columnist Richard Cohen touched on it today in his piece, "Why Experience Matters." Cohen writes:

Conservatism was once a frankly elitist movement. Conservatives stood against radical egalitarianism and the destruction of rigorous standards. They stood up for classical education, hard-earned knowledge, experience and prudence. Wisdom was acquired through immersion in the best that has been thought and said.

But, especially in America, there has always been a separate, populist, strain. For those in this school, book knowledge is suspect but practical knowledge is respected. The city is corrupting and the universities are kindergartens for overeducated fools.


In the current Weekly Standard, Steven Hayward argues that the nation’s founders wanted uncertified citizens to hold the highest offices in the land. They did not believe in a separate class of professional executives. They wanted rough and rooted people like Palin.

I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn’t just lived through the last eight years. For if the Bush administration was anything, it was the anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice.

And the problem with this attitude is that, especially in his first term, it made Bush inept at governance. It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.

I can't say I agree with everything in Cohen's hypothesis: the liberal movement has its classically educated roots and a separate, populist strain as well. But he hits quite a few right notes in his column.

Anyone paying half a bit of attention over the past seven years has to know that George W. Bush was a colossal failure as a president. He put cronies in positions of power, he listened only to a small inner circle of friends, he was incurious about issues that frankly demanded more leadership and in a thousand ways large and small this nation is worse off as a result of what happened in November 2000.

My friends, we can't afford to make a similar mistake.

Sick Of Conservative Arrogance

Specifically, I'm sick of arrogant conservatives spinning everything into a political issue:
Why no widespread looting in Galveston/Houston areas, just because a Hurricane comes ashore?

That's all we read about during Katrina.

Looting, rape, shoplifting, murder, gang activities, etc.

And while all that was going on, they were wanting to know why the Government wasn't giving them anything.

Texans must have the where-with-all to take care of themselves. So the media sees no story in that.

How refreshing.

But wait, what’s this?

"We are still doing search and rescue operations, and they will continue for two days at least.  We have had some looting, we have eleven arrested looters now who have been arrested,” LeBlanc said.

Oh, whoops, there’s more:

Police say 30 looting arrests after Ike

HOUSTON — Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says the department made about 30 looting arrests in the 24-hour period.

Houston officials have issued a weeklong curfew for the city devastated by Hurricane Ike, between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Hurtt says the looting arrests, between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday, were burglaries at pawn shops, convenience stores and auto-parts stores.

And finally, there’s this interview with Texas Gov. Perry:

Hopefully the federal government again will treat Texas just as well as Louisiana was treated when Katrina came. That's our request to them. We're not asking for anything more. Just give us the same type of treatment you did to Katrina back in 2005 and that will be very helpful.

So much for that “refreshing” “take care of themselves” wherewithal.

You know, each disaster is different. Katrina was vastly different from Ike. I would hope we all learned a lesson from Hurricane Katrina, lessons that will be reflected in future disaster management. And I don't begrudge Texas any federal help -- they're going to need help from FEMA to get back on their feet, and they're entitled to it. Yes, even the people who stupidly stayed to "ride out the storm," even the people who live on a barrier island that probably should never have human habitation. It's someone's home now. We rebuild because that's what we do.

Just don't tell me that those awesome Texans aren't a bunch of whiners like the people of New Orleans. That shit stinks.

For once in their lives it would be nice if conservatives could just view everyone as Americans. Now that would be refreshing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Best Memory Hole Ever!

Via commenter Sekmet at Atrios comes this gem from September 7, 2000:
Bush Says That the Bottom Line on Gore's Proposals Would Consume the Surplus

Published: September 7, 2000

Gov. George W. Bush opened a new line of attack against his Democratic rival today, accusing Vice President Al Gore of making so many promises in this campaign that he would devour the entire $4.6 trillion federal surplus projected for the next decade.

Mr. Bush chose to fight on the economy and fiscal policy on a day when Mr. Gore unveiled an ambitious and detailed economic blueprint and called for the creation of a $300 billion rainy day fund to be set aside as an emergency source of money if the economy slows down.

The Bush campaign took out a full page advertisement in some regional editions of USA Today quoting six Nobel laureates and nearly 300 other economists praising Mr. Bush's approach to fiscal policy. The Texas governor also seized on an analysis released by Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee, who said the cost of the vice president's programs could be as high as $906 billion more than he has estimated.

''I want America to add up all the promises my opponent has made,'' Mr. Bush told a crowd at an early morning airport rally in Scranton, Pa. ''All the promises over the course of this campaign. He has the easy style of campaigning. Go to one community and make a promise here, go to another community. When you add it all up, he's spent the entire surplus on bigger government. He won't admit it.''

Ah, good times, good times.

Let’s add it up, shall we, America? After seven years, Bush has not only consumed the entire surplus but left the country $438 billion in debt--not including the government bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And don’t even start that whole “but ... but ... but Democrats are in control of Congress!” Er, no. They have a one-person majority in the Senate. They aren’t in control of Congress because their majority is not fillibuster-proof and the Republicans have brought obstructionism to new heights.

So after seven years of Republican economic policy, you think you want more? Heh. Joe Klein has more.

Hockey Moms Against Sarah Palin

Oh, those wacky kids on the internets! As a hockey fan, let me tell you: not knowing the difference between icing and off-sides is just inexcusable.


I’m not sure these times call for a president who admits he is not an expert on Wall Street and a vice president who slashed the state budget by giving her oil field worker husband a red pen.

I want my mommy.

Lying About Lies

They’ll even lie about a lie debunked by FactCheck.org:
A McCain-Palin ad has FactCheck.org calling Obama's attacks on Palin "completely false" and "misleading." That's what we said, but it wasn't about Obama.

Our article criticized anonymous e-mail falsehoods and bogus claims about Palin posted around the Internet. We have no evidence that any of the claims we found to be false came from the Obama campaign.

The McCain-Palin ad also twists a quote from a Wall Street Journal columnist. He said the Obama camp had sent a team to Alaska to "dig into her record and background." The ad quotes the WSJ as saying the team was sent to "dig dirt."

Update, Sept. 10: Furthermore, the Obama campaign insists that no researchers have been sent to Alaska and that the Journal owes them a correction.


We don't object to people reprinting our articles. In fact, our copyright policy encourages it. But we've also asked that "the editorial integrity of the article be preserved" and told those who use our items that "you should not edit the original in such a way as to alter the message."

But they have no integrity. How can they maintain FactCheck.org’s?

( h/t, Liberadio.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Still Embarrassed By My Fellow Tennesseans

Today’s Tennessean asks:
Should Family Members Be On The Campaign Trail?

I found this answer particularly sad:

For me, it’s an inspiration to watch them all. To be able to see Sarah Palin as a governor with five children and one’s a special-needs child. And she’s beautiful and she has great hair!

I shit you not.

Just shoot me now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

George W. Bush With Lipstick

That about describes Sarah Palin, if you read this New York Times profile:
WASILLA, Alaska — Gov. Sarah Palin lives by the maxim that all politics is local, not to mention personal.

So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as one of her qualifications for running the roughly $2 million agency.

Ms. Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Ms. Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages.

Oh good. Just what the federal government needs: more Brownies. They’ve done such a hecukva job for us so far!

I found quite a lot of disturbing information in this story. We see a politician who has “pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance.” She’s used her position to benefit family and friends, and seems to embody the GOP motto that “government doesn’t work unless it works for me.” It’s the same failed ideology of government we’ve seen from the Bush Administration for the past seven years; the same ideology of Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham and Tom DeLay.

But what’s exceedingly disturbing to me is the active role in public policy her husband Todd has played. For example:

When Ms. Palin had to cut her first state budget, she avoided the legion of frustrated legislators and mayors. Instead, she huddled with her budget director and her husband, Todd, an oil field worker who is not a state employee, and vetoed millions of dollars of legislative projects.


Last summer State Representative John Harris, the Republican speaker of the House, picked up his phone and heard Mr. Palin’s voice. The governor’s husband sounded edgy. He said he was unhappy that Mr. Harris had hired John Bitney as his chief of staff, the speaker recalled. Mr. Bitney was a high school classmate of the Palins and had worked for Ms. Palin. But she fired Mr. Bitney after learning that he had fallen in love with another longtime friend.

“I understood from the call that Todd wasn’t happy with me hiring John and he’d like to see him not there,” Mr. Harris said.

Excuse me, Todd Palin, but who elected you to anything? Is this what we can expect if Sarah Palin becomes Vice President or—God forbid—President? I seem to recall much pearl clutching and tsk-tsking over Hillary Clinton’s more active role in her husband’s administration. I would hope people would find Todd’s inserting himself into policy decisions equally disturbing.

Ah, who am I kidding. IOKIYAR.

Bottom line is, Sarah Palin looks like George W. Bush. With lipstick.

Where Does McCain-Palin Stand On Stem Cell Research?

Some candidates--Democratic ones, of course--would get labeled a flip-flopper if they pulled stuff like this:
McCain Runs Pro-Stem Cell Ad, While Campaign Website Criticizes Research Involving ‘Human Embryos’

In a new radio ad out today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) dubs himself and Gov. Sarah Palin as the “original mavericks, stating that a McCain-Palin administration would enthusiastically support stem cell research. [...] On his website, however, McCain says he will “strongly support” scientific studies that do “not involve the use of human embryos“ ....


In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, Gov. Palin said, “no, stem-cell research would ultimately end in destruction of life. I couldn’t support (it).’” The 2008 GOP platform included language calling for a ban on “all embryonic stem-cell research, public or private.” It seems that the “original mavericks” are using a tried right-wing tactic of disguising their opposition to embryonic research with rhetorical tricks.

Looks like the original pander-bear is saying whatever he thinks will get him the most votes. How ... mavericky!

Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator

It was only a matter of time before those wacky kids on the internet came up with the Sarah Palin baby name generator. You know, name your kids stuff like "Track" and "Trig" and you're just asking for it.

My Sarah Palin baby name is "Seam Marauder."

I love the internet.

Friday, September 12, 2008

With Friends Like These ....

I got this plastic bag at The Wingnut Grocery™ (*cough *cough* Osbornes *cough *cough*) up the street. I thought it was a hilarious propaganda ploy, no doubt sparked by the growing movement to ban plastic bags.

It says “Nature’s Friend,” over a picture of a tree, and, “Thank you for using plastic bags!” Then there’s a graphic with some interesting statistics:
1,000 plastic bags equal 17 pounds, 1,219 cubic inches.
1,000 paper bags equal 122 pounds, 8,085 cubic inches.

I wonder if they included in that figure all of the plastic bags that end up billowing in the breeze from tree branches, clogging storm drains, floating around in the oceans, and strangling wildlife who either try to eat them by mistake or get various body parts tangled in them.

I detest plastic bags. Salon.com did an article on how environmentally damaging they are, and included these facts:

They're made from petroleum or natural gas with all the attendant environmental impacts of harvesting fossil fuels. One recent study found that the inks and colorants used on some bags contain lead, a toxin. Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags after they've been used to transport a prescription home from the drugstore or a quart of milk from the grocery store. It's equivalent to dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil.

Wow. China’s country-wide ban, which went into effect in June, will reportedly save that country 37 million barrels of oil a year.

To be fair, the plastic bag industry says these figures are a myth, but frankly I don’t care. I’d be a lot more sympathetic to the plastic bag industry if their product didn’t wind up on every tree branch and fence row from California to the New York Island. Or how about flapping atop every redwood tree and swirling around the gulf stream waters.

Anyway, I have a ginormous cloth bag that I usually bring to the store, simply because it’s easier to swing one huge bag over my shoulder than try to juggle five little plastic ones.

I’m not sure when the world got on the plastic bandwagon; when I lived in Europe in the early '80s it was normal to pay a nominal fee for plastic bags, say 10- or 25-cents. But I’ve noticed that's changed in the past 10 years or so. European grocery stores give plastic bags away for free now, just like here. And boy you can sure tell: they’re as ubiquitous in the litter over there as here.

I'm hoping it's a passing fad. I know more and more municipalities and store chains are banning them. I'd be happy to see them gone for good.

Friday Cat Blogging!

Moses puts the ol' kitten death grip on Julius. Julius knows it's all in fun, but he'll swat Moses away with a mighty paw when he's tired of these shenanigans -- in 5, 4, 3, 2 ....

And by the way, this post should not be construed as an endorsement of Scoop Away. We don't use the stuff.

We just use the plastic bin to hold our cat food. Reduce, reuse, recycle, y'all.

And Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Iraq Cancels No-Bid Oil Contracts

Say goodbye to those no-bid contracts for Iraq's oil that western oil companies snapped up earlier this summer:
Iraq Cancels Six No-Bid Oil Contracts

Published: September 10, 2008

An Iraqi plan to award six no-bid contracts to Western oil companies, which came under sharp criticism from several United States senators this summer, has been withdrawn, participants in the negotiations said on Wednesday.

Iraq’s oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, told reporters at an OPEC summit meeting in Vienna on Tuesday that talks with Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, Total, BP and several smaller companies for one-year deals, which were announced in June and subsequently delayed, had dragged on for so long that the companies could not now fulfill the work within that time frame. The companies confirmed on Wednesday that the deals had been canceled.

While not particularly lucrative by industry standards, the contracts were valued for providing a foothold in Iraq at a time when oil companies are being shut out of energy-rich countries around the world. The companies will still be eligible to compete in open bidding in Iraq.

I criticized these deals here when they were first announced in June. They further proved my suspicion that we are in Iraq for oil; it was especially suspicious that the exact same Western oil companies that Saddam Hussein had thrown out of the country 36 years ago—Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP—were the same companies now negotiating for no-bid oil contracts. Just a coinky-dinky, I’m sure!

Of course, oil and natural gas deals are still being signed at a fast and furious pace. Most noteworthy is that Iraq’s Oil Ministry signed a major deal with China’s national oil company, China National Petroleum Corporation. Our little Iraq War has worked out very well for the Chinese. Maybe they’ll send us a thank you note.

Meanwhile, an interesting little sidebar to all of this comes buried at the end of the story:

Senator Schumer said Wednesday that he would propose an amendment to the defense appropriation bill in Congress that would specify that should Iraq sign any petroleum contracts before passing the [hydrocarbon] law, profits from those deals would go to defray United States reconstruction spending in Iraq.

I’m wondering how fair that is. One the one hand, Iraq is sitting on $79 billion in oil profits while we’re sinking deeper into debt.

On the other hand, they certainly didn’t ask us to invade their country and ruin their infrastructure and stoke the fires of sectarian violence that left Iraq teetering on the precipice of civil war.

Plus, we’ve done a piss-poor job of reconstruction--and yes, I know security has been the main stumbling block hampering this effort. But still, corruption has been rampant , war profiteering and fraud by contractors like KBR has added considerably to the cost. So who should pay for this? The U.S. taxpayers? The Iraqis? Should KBR and Halliburton give back some of the billions of taxpayer dollars they stole misused?

Maybe we should just send the bill to George and Dick.

Blunders of Biblical Proportions

Roger Cohen’s New York Times column today is a must read. So go read it, now.

Surely after seven years we can take the time to contemplate the wages of our sin and the truth in our folly. Surely after seven years the nation can take a sober look at what divides and unites us, our standing in the world, and our fragile economy.

Oh, wait. Obama said something about putting lipstick on a pig yesterday.

Never mind.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Drill, Baby, Drill!

Hey, the Republicans came up with it first. We just had no idea they meant it literally:
Report: Sex links government, oil company execs

By The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 10, 2008

WASHINGTON - Government officials handling billions of dollars in oil royalties engaged in illicit sex with employees of energy companies they were dealing with and received numerous gifts from them, federal investigators said Wednesday.

The alleged transgressions involve 13 Interior Department employees in Denver and Washington. Their alleged improprieties include rigging contracts, working part-time as private oil consultants, and having sexual relationships with - and accepting golf and ski trips and dinners from - oil company employees, according to three reports released Wednesday by the Interior Department’s inspector general.

The investigations reveal a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” by a small group of individuals “wholly lacking in acceptance of or adherence to government ethical standards,” wrote Inspector General Earl E. Devaney.

The reports describe a fraternity house atmosphere inside the Denver Minerals Management Service office responsible for marketing the oil and gas that energy companies barter to the government instead of making cash royalty payments for drilling on federal lands. The government received $4.3 billion in such Royalty-in-Kind payments last year. The oil is then resold to energy companies or put in the nation’s emergency stockpile.

Between 2002 and 2006, nearly a third of the 55-person staff in the Denver office received gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies, the investigators found.

Devaney said the former head of the Denver Royalty-in-Kind office, Gregory W. Smith, used illegal drugs and had sex with subordinates. The report said Smith also steered government contracts to a consulting business that was employing him part-time.

Heh. And here you thought the price of oil was all "supply and demand" with a few Gulf hurricanes or Middle Eastern terrorist plots thrown into the mix.

You forgot all about the extra charges for sex-and-drugs for oil and gas traders, the rigged contracts, the ski trips for government workers and such. So that's what they meant by "in kind"!

It’s Gutter Politics As Usual

Andrew Sullivan has suddenly discovered that John McCain is not a man of integrity:
The one thing I always thought I knew about him is that he is a decent and honest person. When he knows, as every sane person must, that Obama did not in any conceivable sense mean that Sarah Palin is a pig, what did he do? Did he come out and say so and end this charade? Or did he acquiesce in and thereby enable the mindless Rovianism that is now the core feature of his campaign?

So far, he has let us all down. My guess is he will continue to do so. And that decision, for my part, ends whatever respect I once had for him.

Well, duh. I said this the week Palin was chosen. I’ll say it again:

Sarah Palin as Vice President is a cravenly laughable political stunt. It’s wedge politics as usual. Hearing her snide jabs at Barack Obama in her RNC speech proved to me that Sarah Palin represents nothing more than the same divisive, anything-goes, culture-wars, red vs blue, "War On Christmas," fear-based, Karl Rove-style politics of destruction we've lived with for the past eight years.

That's not small town America, that's just more of the same. I’m sick of the national narrative being set by troglodytes like Limbaugh and O’Reilly, who will try to spin a “lipstick on a pig” colloquialism into a smear on the Democratic candidate because campaign operatives think it’s a good power play. You like playing games like that? Then vote for McCain-Palin. Because that’s what you’re gonna get--for four whole years.

It’s irresponsible, party-before-country politics as usual. If you’ve enjoyed Monica Goodling at the Dept. of Justice and Lurita Doan at the GSA, then you will love McCain-Palin.

Sullivan goes on:

And then, because he could see he was going to lose, ten days ago, he threw caution to the wind and with no vetting whatsoever, picked a woman who, by her decision to endure her own eight-month pregnancy of a Down Syndrome child in public, that he was going to reignite the culture war as a last stand against Obama. That's all that is happening right now: a massive bump in the enthusiasm of the Christianist base. This is pure Rove.

Yes, McCain made a decision that revealed many appalling things about him. In the end, his final concern is not national security. No one who cares about national security would pick as vice-president someone who knows nothing about it as his replacement. No one who cares about this country's safety would gamble the security of the world on a total unknown because she polled well with the Christianist base. No person who truly believed that the surge was integral to this country's national security would pick as his veep candidate a woman who, so far as we can tell anything, opposed it at the time.

There you have it folks. There’s one ticket that’s offering a new direction for the country and a new conversation with the American people. There’s another ticket that’s offering the same divisive “War On Christmas” crap we’ve had for the past eight years.

The choice is clear.

Rick Santorum: Still An Asshole

Some politicians just need to go away. For example, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who went on the Laura Ingraham Show yesterday to spout this nonsense:
SANTORUM: Sarah Palin is the Clarence Thomas for feminists. The civil rights community, the African-American community obviously should have rallied behind Clarence Thomas and his achievement, but they hammered him because he was a conservative. And the civil rights establishment was first and foremost liberal and then for the liberal rights of — as liberals saw it, what blacks should have in this country. And the same thing with the feminist community.

Oh, obviously.

Thank you, Rick Santorum, for telling us on the left who we should be supporting. I guess the fact that we didn’t and don’t support these folks is lost on you. I guess any person of color, no matter how extreme to the right, and any vaginal-American, no matter how anti-feminist her beliefs, should be OK with us.

In Santorum's world, a woman who doesn’t believe in choice, sharing the ticket with a Senator who is against equal pay legislation, should still be OK with feminists simply because of her gender.

Heh. Well, thanks for explaining why Sarah Palin is on the ticket to begin with. I suspected as much. Out of the mouths of idiot wingnuts, eh?

Here’s a news flash for Rick Santorum. Unlike the Kool-Aid drinking Republicans, it’s not just about superficialities with us on the left. It’s not just about a person’s gender, or sexual orientation, or skin color, or religion. It’s also about what stands they take, the policies they support, what they will actually do. It’s about what people believe in.

Imagine that.

I’m not surprised that you don’t get that, Little Ricky. You’ve always been about as deep as a creek bed in August, and about as bright as a dying light bulb.

Now fuck off you little twerp.

Not Like Bush

“The architect” of the whole, sorry, divisive, culture-war plagued past eight years has a role in the McCain campaign. As if we didn’t know that already:
Eight years after helping George Bush defeat John McCain in a bitter primary, Karl Rove appears to be playing a significant role in helping the Arizona Republican win the presidency.

Rove has downplayed his contact with the McCain campaign, but the former adviser to President Bush met with GOP delegates from Colorado last Wednesday. Rove, who is now a Fox News analyst, told reporters after the meeting that he has friends in the McCain organization who occasionally seek his advice.


A GOP operative said Rove has had a consistent, “medium”-sized role with the McCain campaign.

But John McCain is not like Bush. Not at all.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ron Paul Is To Ralph Nader As ...

I knew all of those “Google Ron Paul” signs would eventually amount to something:
Ron Paul to announce presidential endorsement plans

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul will call on supporters to back a third party candidate for president Wednesday, rejecting his own party’s nominee and offering equally harsh words for the Democratic candidate.

Paul, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination, will tell supporters he is not endorsing GOP nominee John McCain or Democratic nominee Barack Obama, and will instead give his seal of approval to four candidates: Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney, Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr, independent candidate Ralph Nader, and Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, according to a senior Paul aide.

Change--any change--is change we can believe in! Far left, far right, hell it doesn’t matter: as long as it’s different!

(h/t, Kleinheider.)

Free Speech Zones

Why, when you try to access the Women Against Sarah Palin blog, does one get this warning:
Possible Blogger Terms of Service Violations

This blog is currently under review due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations.

If you're a regular reader of this blog and are confident that the content is appropriate, feel free to click "Proceed" to proceed to the blog. We apologize for the inconvenience.

If you're an author of this blog, please follow the instructions on your dashboard for removing this warning page.

Very curious.

How’s That For Fiscal Responsibility?

What is it about these red-meat conservatives that makes them act like pigs at the trough when they get anywhere near taxpayer money? We’ve seen it time and time again: the very same people who campaign on trusty old bromides about “government waste” are the first to help themselves to the kitty when they get put in charge.

And yes, Sarah Palin is the same as all the rest:
Palin Billed State for Nights Spent at Home

Taxpayers Also Funded Family's Travel

ANCHORAGE, Sept. 8 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official "duty station" is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor's daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.

Hey, I used to work a job where I got a per diem. But I don’t think I ever turned in a T&E report that listed my “travel” as going to my own home. My boss would have rightfully demanded some ’splaining for that.

But, you know, “Obama’s gonna raise your taxes!!”* (*if you’re one of this country’s rich who’s enjoyed a free ride during the Bush years), so that’s all anyone needs to know.

Heh. Sure is a funny country.

Monday, September 8, 2008


The GOP Vetting Emporium & Taco Stand! Hit 'em with humor, folks. It's the one weapon we have that conservatives have never mastered.

Apparently the video is no longer available. If you missed it, well, we told you the offer wouldn't last. You might try finding it at YouTube here.

I don't understand the Tubes.

(h/t, Left Wing Cracker)

Media Bashing For A New Century

Bless their hearts. The “media elites” can’t catch a break--not from the Republican Party, and not from liberals.

The so-called “liberal media” (and I can’t even type those words with a straight face) got quite a drubbing at the Republican National Convention last week -- so much, in fact, that it sparked this hilarious video featuring the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank as the face of the “Eastern media elite.” If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s hilarious.

In yesterday’s New York Times Mark Leibovich addressed the GOP’s media bashing, correctly pointing out that it’s SOP for Republican candidates to blame “the liberal media.” This is true, and it’s not just politicians who like to portray themselves as a poor, oppressed minority unfairly battered by a biased press. I hear that line from conservatives all the time. They just haven’t owned up to the fact that truth has a well-known liberal bias.

But it works, for some bizarre reason. They circled the wagons and cried foul when the New York Times uncovered John McCain’s relationship with a Washington lobbyist, then cried foul when the Times didn’t cover the stalkerazzi lying in wait to nail a trysting John Edwards, who wasn't even a candidate any longer. Hello?

It’s okay for Ron Fournier, who is directing the political coverage of the Associated Press this election, to have been in consideration for a job on the McCain campaign. It’s not okay for Keith Olbermann to make his views known. In fact, Olbermann has been bumped from the anchor chair on election night, to appease the WATBs on the right:
The McCain campaign has filed letters of complaint to the news division about its coverage and openly tied MSNBC to it. Tension between the network and the campaign hit an apex the day Mr. McCain announced Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. MSNBC had reported Friday morning that Ms. Palin’s plane was enroute to the announcement and she was likely the pick. But McCain campaign officials warned the network off, with one official going so far as to say that all of the candidates on the short list were on their way — which MSNBC then reported.

“The fact that it was reported in real time was very embarrassing,” said a senior MSNBC official. “We were told, ‘No, it’s not Sarah Palin and you don’t know who it is.’ ”

Whaaah!!!! Reporters doing their jobs instead of taking talking points and press releases from the campaigns! Must stop! Must stop now!

Tell it to Fox News, assholes.

Unfortunately, there are some legitimate issues with our media elites, which those in the media themselves don’t seem to recognize. It’s what folks like Digby and Atrios refer to as “The Village,” the insulated bubble in which those who hold power and the media that is supposed to be covering them exist. We saw it when John McCain hosted the media at a chummy barbecue--and was rewarded with such glowing verbiage as “grillmaster” and “all-American dad.” We were horrified when the AP’s Ron Fournier and Liz Sidoti greeted John McCain with that box of donuts at a luncheon. Barack Obama was likened to a terrorist. No donuts for you, black man!

Is it political bias or personal bias? The Washington press corpse, as we call it, is all about access and cocktail parties. It’s really hard to objectively cover a subject whom you’re playing golf with tomorrow.

Here's what I mean: Buried in Leibovich’s story, where he defends the press against charges of liberal bias, is this tidbit:

At the last Republican National Convention, in New York City, Mr. McCain hosted 50-or-so media A-listers to a 68th-birthday party for himself at La Goulue on Madison Avenue. The guest list included network anchors, network news executives, Sunday talk show hosts and a lot of other media types who all qualify as Kind of a Big Deal. Mr. McCain proposed a hearty and gracious toast to his guests that night, raising his glass to “my base.”

This kind of chummy cliquishness is what bothers me. It’s not liberal-vs-conservative, it’s insider-vs-outsider. The anchors and Washington powerful put on a good show for the 6 o’clock news, then everyone goes out for cocktails afterwards. Meanwhile, Amy Goodman and two Democracy Now! staffers are arrested at the Republican National Convention for covering protestors. That’s some free speech for ya.

I wrote about this a long time ago in a post called Real Deep Memory Hole. I dug up an old Rolling Stone column from 1972 which criticized the media’s deference toward candidate Richard Nixon while burying stories about George McGovern. Replace the word “newspaper” with “mainstream media” and you have a pretty accurate portrait of where we are today:

Newspapers, as A.J. Liebling explained in The Press, are neither public servants nor custodians of the Holy Grail.

They are private enterprises in a capitalist economy whose primary function is to make money. Just like a department store or a gas station.

They are not in the business of truth and honesty and the public good unless the owner of the paper sees that as a way to making money.

The other thing to understand about newspapers is that they are owned by rich people and rich people are, by and large, Republicans.

So when your friendly neighborhood newspaper dumps on McGovern, runs his campaign news inside the paper and spreads the latest bullshit about Nixon’s runaway lead in the polls all over page one, remember that Republicans own the newspapers. As Liebling once noted, Democrats only work there.

Thirty-five years later, what has changed? As I wrote then, it’s gotten worse:

Because rich Republican families no longer own the newspapers. Rich Republican corporations do--corporations which make their money from things like (in the case of GE, which owns 80% of NBC Universal), defense contracts.

Will the internet change things? Will talk radio? Probably not. Corporations have infiltrated every level of political process. Corporations exist solely to make money. And the media that could protect us from this creeping tyranny of the corporation is so deeply entrenched in that world, they don't even see the problem. They think it's liberal-vs-conservative; it's not, and don't let them fool you into thinking that. Look deeper.

Follow the money.