Thursday, April 30, 2009

Is Glenn Beck Insane Or Just Hungry For Lunch?

Glenn Beck ranted on about fried chicken and hamburgers yesterday and we’re having a good time trying to make sense of it.

Here, give it a try:
And this is the argument that we have. We have two choices between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Popeye's. What a lot of Americans want is a hamburger. Kentucky Fried Chicken, if you will, took the hamburger choice away. They started calling themselves Kentucky Fried Hamburgers and so now people are saying, you want a hamburger? Well, you should be over here having chicken. No, no, no, you're eating chicken, too. "No, I'm not. I'm eating a hamburger, and we make the best hamburgers ever." And then pretty soon Popeye says, "We're making hamburgers as well." No, that's chicken, too. That's just called a chicken tender. "Nope, it's a hamburger and ours is flame broiled." No, it's not. You put it in oil. This is clearly fried. "No, that's Kentucky Fried Chicken." No. Neither of you guys are serving hamburgers! I just want a hamburger, please. This is what's happening. We're arguing about chicken places. When the real moment of revelation is when America steps back and goes, "Wait a minute. My gosh, it is chicken. Soylent Green! It's chicken!

As soon as somebody stands at the counter and says, "Where's the beef!" Then we'll be able to have an honest conversation in America about Arlen Specter.

Huh? Was Beck channeling Lyle Lovett?


(h/t, tiimbitz4786 at Kos.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TN Republican Majority = Polluted Water

Thank you, Tennessee Republican Party. Your fawning love of all things industry and all things money, as exemplified by this gift-wrapped present to the National Coal Company at the expense of the health of Tennessee’s environment and people, is truly stunning.

As the national Republican Party finds itself deeper in political exile, it’s refreshing to see one group of stalwarts bravely forging ahead with the same industry-friendly policies that have been rejected by the rest of the country. Truly this portends a bold new future for Tennessee as the Southern backwater we’ve always said we are not.

To wit:
The blasting that is part of mountain top mining exposes mineral called selenium which can contaminate nearby streams. 

In high levels selenium can kill fish and is toxic to people.

Last summer environmental groups did testing in streams around Zeb Mountain and discovered selenium levels well above state limits.

Environmental groups filed the lawsuit against National Coal last summer.

The lawsuit claims National Coal's own tests found selenium levels eight to twenty times higher than the state allows.

The lawsuit seeks more than $32,000 in penalties for each day the company releases high levels of selenium.

At the start of this legislative session coal industry lobbyists started pushing an unusual bill. 

It would raise allowable levels of selenium in Tennessee streams.

Shocking!!! So just to recap: National Coal Company pollutes East Tennessee streams with selenium, environmental groups sue, and the Tennessee Republican Party’s solution is to raise state limits of selenium. Prest-o bing-o problem solved!

Well, that’s one way to make coal “clean”! And what was it I said yesterday about hidden government subsidies to the coal industry?

Not surprisingly, the measure has already passed the Tennessee senate.

It’s ironic, but not surprising, that this is happening at a time when our Democratic Governor is trying to make Tennessee a center for solar energy development.

Everyone with a brain knows the economic future is in clean, renewable energy technology. But the Tennessee Republican Party is sticking to its guns and catering to the tired, old, polluting technologies of the past. Good to know that when the energy revolution happens, Tennessee will once again be dead last.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big Tent

Apparently the Democratic Party's big tent just got bigger. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is going to swtich parties and run as a Democrat in 2010. And according to David Shuster, the Democrats have apparently vowed not to field a primary candidate against Specter.

Specter's statement, in part, reads:
Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, RNC Chairman Michale Steele responds:

RNC Chairman Michael Steele put out a statement saying that "some in the Republican Party are happy about this. I am not." Steele then claimed that "Specter didn’t leave the GOP based on principles of any kind," but because he couldn't win in the GOP primary "due to his left-wing voting record."

I wouldn't call Specter's voting record "left wing" by any stretch of the imagination but compared to the outer limits of exile to which the Republican Party seems hell-bent on sending itself, I'd say hell yeah Specter wants to stay in the Senate and he figured he has a better chance of doing it as a Democrat.

But I have one question: What does this mean for him, Al Franken?

Obama Will Do What Bredesen Will Not

Scrap Bush’s last-minute mountain-top mining rule, that is. From the Washington Independent:
“In its last weeks in office, the Bush Administration pushed through a rule that allows coal mine operators to dump mountaintop fill into streambeds if it’s found to be the cheapest and most convenient disposal option,” Salazar said in a statement. “We must responsibly develop our coal supplies to help us achieve energy independence, but we cannot do so without appropriately assessing the impact such development might have on local communities and natural habitat and the species it supports.”

Yet no one is under the delusion that the change will end the practice of mountaintop mining, in which companies blow apart the tops of mountains to reach the coal seams within, often pushing the soil, rock and debris into adjacent stream valleys. Mary Anne Hitt, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, issued a statement Monday applauding the administration’s move, but warning that much remains to be done to protect the ecosystems and communities near mining operations.

True, no one is under that delusion. Which is too bad. But this is a start.

I live for the day when we can rally at the state capitol and demand that our Governor, who purports to be a Democrat, ban this heinous practice in Tennessee. Bredesen has already said he won’t do so, citing the most BS reasons.

Mountaintop removal mining, unchecked by the government, amounts to a huge government subsidy of the coal industry. "Clean coal," indeed. The price of this practice is never reflected in the cost, but the day will come when we have to pay the piper.

I live for the day when consumers such as myself can sufficiently express our distaste of the coal industry in our consumption choices. True, there’s the “Green Power Switch” (which I’ve done for a couple of years) and alternative energy sources -- I have solar panels on my roof. But like it or not, I’m still consuming coal.

Coal consumption is built into the system. I have no way of living coal-free and if anyone wants to choose an alternative energy source, say solar panels on the roof or a windmill in their backyard, the costs are passed on to the consumer, while other technologies enjoy government subsidies.

It’s time to level the playing field.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Can Solar Technology Save Print Media?

Maybe not ... but I thought this “solar-powered” magazine was pretty cool nonetheless:
Spring is here, and magazines are jostling to evoke the season. But the newsstand rags have got nothing on the latest issue of Visionaire. "Solar," a collaboration with Calvin Klein, arrives inside a sturdy paperboard slip case. All of the print and images inside the book are light grey and ghostly. But they've been printed in photo-sensitive inks: When exposed to sunlight, every page blooms into full color. The various spreads were created by art-world stars, including John Baldessari, Alex Katz, and Ugo Rondione.
How cool is that? Since it’s an effect that can’t be duplicated online, you have to purchase the print version to see it.

Maybe the application is limited, but I like to see people thinking creatively about this stuff.

Karl Rove Memory Hole

Hat tip to The Nation for catching this Wall Street Journal asshattery from Karl Rove. Back in February Rove outlined in a WSJ column all of the wasteful spending in the stimulus bill:
There's also $4 billion for health programs like obesity control and smoking cessation, $2 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $462 million for the Centers for Disease Control, and $900 million for pandemic flu preparations. Health care also added jobs last year.

IOW, healthcare added jobs so why does that sector need to be part of the stimulus? Rove had a theory:

It is not surprising that the stimulus package is laden with new spending programs. Congressional appropriators, not job creators, wrote H.R. 1. Much of it is spending Democrats couldn't get approved in the normal course of affairs. And it should not shock Americans that Democratic appropriators would funnel tax dollars to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, unions and other liberal special interests. Putting budgets of political allies above the budgets of struggling families is apparently the new Democratic trickle-down economics.

Yes, pandemic flu preparation is just another spending program that Democrats couldn’t get approved any other way! Just another way for us to put our friends and allies on the government gravy train, sorta the way Republicans did with defense contractors like KBR and Blackwater, except ours are all brown and socialist and poor and stuff.


This is classic projection. Rove was accusing the Democrats of doing exactly what Republicans had done. Because when that’s how you see the world, then of course you will assume everyone behaves the way that you do.

Rove and folks like Susan Collins of Maine were able to convince everyone that pandemic flu preparations needed to be removed from the economic stimulus, noting:

"Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill No, we should not."

They said there’s nothing stimulating to the economy about pandemic flu preparations, except when there are:

MADRID — The top EU health official urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to parts of the United States and Mexico because of the swine flu virus, and Spanish health officials confirmed the first case outside North America.

I hope you don’t live in a city dependent upon tourism.

Ooops. Sorry, Nashville!

It would be nice to counteract this European fear mongering by pointing to our brand new cabinet secretary in charge of Health & Human Services (instead of the Utah accountant who is a holdover from the Bush years) and an aggressive pandemic flu preparedness program already funded and already put into motion as part of the economic stimulus package.

Oh, sorry. Republicans are filibustering Obama's HHS pick and put the kabosh on flu-preparation funding.

I can already tell the debate over healthcare reform is going to be fun, fun, fun.

A Few Words On Marriage Equality

Just got an e-mail from a blog friend who has decided to wed his partner of 14 years this fall. They will travel to one of the handful of states to recognize gay marriages for the ceremony.

Here's the part of his e-mail that touched me the most:
Marriage may be no big deal to a lot of people, but it's every -- every -- little thing to me. [We] have been through everything a couple could possibly go through, from the greatest joys down to homelessness and near-death sickness. We're not redefining marriage -- we have lived it. Having that piece of paper and a ring on my finger means everything in this world to me.

Compare that to some folks I know--even some celebrities--who treat marriage like some silly little excuse for a party, and I have to think those folks who claim gay marriages threaten "traditional" marriages just don't have a fucking clue.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Party Of No: Swine Flu Edition


More from the Cavalcade of stupid:
When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year’s emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.

Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse—with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

See, Republicans, this is why American voters dumped y’all’s asses back in November. So why don’t you just step aside and let the grown-ups be in charge for a while, ‘mm’kay?


Joe at AmericaBlog is apparently the first to notice that the GOP is filibustering HHS Secretary nominee Kathleen Sebelius just in time for the swine flu pandemic:

Never underestimate the willingness of the GOP to put politics over the best interests of the nation. Last week, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell started a filibuster to prevent confirmation of Obama's choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.

Today, at the White House briefing, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, was there as was John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. They were joined by the Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). But, we don't even have a head of CDC because the Secretary of HHS appoints that person. And, no Secretary of HHS. In fact, as the White House transcript shows, Napolitano had to make the announcement about the "public health emergency" for HHS.

Thank you, GOP! Thank you, Mitch McConnell.

And thank you, George W. Bush:

For the time being, HHS is being led by Acting Secretary Charles Johnson, a Bush-appointee from Utah who spent most of his career working as an accountant.

Hecukva job, Republicans!

Gently Weeping For That Guitar

Nashville pickers: do you know where your guitar came from? Let’s hope it’s not from here:
VANCOUVER — When an old-growth maple tree falls in the majestic woods of British Columbia's Burnaby Mountain, does it make a sound?

Yes . . . but only once it's been transformed into a guitar.

Poachers have chopped down five trees and slashed at least 25 more within the mountain's conservation area in search of a specific grain used in high-end guitars.

“It just makes you sick,” said Henry deJong, a design technician for Burnaby Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.

“It's frustrating to walk into a pristine area and you expect to enjoy the flora and fauna and you find these giants cut down. Some of them are not even reaching half their lifespan.”

Constable Kevin Hamilton with the RCMP's three-man Forest Crime Investigation Unit says those taking the wood are looking for a grain commonly known as curly maple.

“They're looking for compression marks within the wood, commonly used for manufacturing musical instruments,” he said.

“These trees with these compression marks, once they're sanded and finished they have a beautiful marble look that's very esthetically pleasing.”

Shameful. I kinda feel how I did when I found out that chocolate is produced with child slave labor, or that wacko cult leader and right-wing financier Rev. Moon supplies 80% of this country’s sushi.

I hope the Nashville music community looks into the source of the beautiful wood grains that make their instruments. Let’s make sure we aren’t destroying beautiful old-growth forests to make beautiful new music.

We Understand Exactly What You’re Doing Marsha

I love Republican politicians who have no problem investing in companies from which they will profit handsomely while they are in public service (Dick Cheney and Halliburton, Donald Rumsfeld and Tamiflu, Kenneth Blackwell and Diebold ... the list goes on), but they love to pretend like it's a bad thing when Democrats do it.

Al Gore is no longer a member of Congress, a member of any administration's cabinet, or even our vice president or president. He thinks transitioning to a green economy is good business--and so do I. If he weren't putting his money where his mouth is, people like Blackburn would be saying he's obviously a snake oil salesman when he won't even invest his own money in it!

And while we’re clarifying relationships, Marsha, maybe you need to clarify a few of your own.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Feel Good Friday: Ukulele Edition

Jake Shimabukuro is a virtuoso ukulele player. He'll be playing the Belcourt at the end of May. Give him a listen:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Evils Of Socialism Revisited

In honor of the approaching one-year anniversary of my trip to Norway and Sweden (which, naturally, I blogged about here), Jon Stewart has followed my lead with a Daily Show take on the evils of Scandinavian-style government policy.

Not quite as eloquent as my blog posts, but you know, if you're into that Daily Show sort of thing (some people say Jon Stewart hurts America), have it.

Stockholm Syndrome, Part I:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
The Stockholm Syndrome
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

And Part II:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
The Stockholm Syndrome Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Did Bill Frist Heart Torture?

Amid all of this discussion about the Bush Administration’s approval of torture and holding Administration officials who justified its use accountable, it bears remembering that Tennessee’s own former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist played an important role in ensuring the use of torture became SOP.

He did so by quashing a Senate bill sponsored by John McCain, Lindsay Graham and John Warner which would have limited the use of torture and upheld the Geneva Conventions. And he did so at the behest of the Bush White House.

From the memory hole:
But Frist struck a more jarring tone, telling reporters that the trio's bill is unacceptable despite its majority support.

For a bill to pass, Frist said, "it's got to preserve our intelligence programs," including the CIA's aggressive interrogation techniques, and it must "protect classified information from terrorists." He said that "the president's bill achieves those two goals" but that "the Warner-McCain-Graham bill falls short."

The disagreement centers on the Geneva Conventions, which say wartime detainees must be "treated humanely." Bush backs language saying the United States complies so long as CIA interrogators abide by a 2005 law barring "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" treatment of captives. Warner and his allies say they are concerned that Bush's approach would invite nations to interpret the Geneva Conventions in lax ways that could lead to abusive treatment of captured U.S. troops.

The Warner contingent also opposes Bush's bid to allow detainees to be convicted on secret evidence they are not allowed to see.

So Bill Frist would not allow limits to the Administration’s use of torture. He wanted us to waterboard someone 183 times in one month, and he wanted this over the objection of the one U.S. Senator who has actually been tortured as a prisoner of war and knows torture doesn’t work.

And he’s a doctor?

(And I’m with Jon Stewart on this one: at one point does the law of diminishing returns come into play? After the 50th waterboarding, don’t you think a suspect will have figured out that he’s not actually drowning? And wouldn’t the interrogators have figured out they’re not actually getting any useful information? If torture worked, would it have been necessary to waterboard someone 183 times in one month?)

I suspect the Administration didn’t care if torture works or not. According to a Senate Armed Services Committee report, Gitmo interrogators used torture to produce a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, though none existed. They were just going to keep torturing people until someone gave them the information the Bush Administration needed to justify their illegal war. And Tennessee’s own Bill Frist had his own small role to play in making sure this happened.

I repeat: he’s a doctor???! Do no harm, Dr. Frist. Do no harm.

Bill Frist has undergone a major bluewashing in recent months. As part of his Great Political Makeover™, the kinder, gentler Bill Frist is suddenly concerned about progressive issues like global poverty and education. But that doesn’t mean we’ll forget the Bill Frist who was Senate majority leader, the one who sailed in to rescue Terri Schiavo and killed an anti-torture bill and, oh yeah, pushed Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, too.

Does Bill Frist seriously think we’re going to forget his dirty past?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Giant Gay Repellent Umbrella

I'm probably the last one to see this parody of the "Gathering Storm" advertisement, but in case you missed it, I think it is by far the funniest:

An Earth Day Message

Graffiti seen at Hematite Lake, Kentucky:

And yes, I am aware of the ironic ramifications of spreading an environmental message via graffiti.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mail I’d Like To Send

Dear Dick Cheney,

You left office with approval ratings of 30%. So why in hell do you think anyone gives a shit about what you think about anything, least of all, the new president? Sincerely, Southern Beale

Here’s another one:

Dear Chris Matthews,

Dick Cheney left office with approval ratings of 30%. So why in hell do you think anyone gives a shit about what he thinks about anything, least of all, the new president?

Should I go on?

War Is Over!!!

According to right-wing pundits, that is. For example:

• Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, April 17, 2009:
The Obama administration is spending money like none other in peacetime history.

• Andrew Biggs, American Enterprise Institute, April 15, 2009:

This new spending, dedicated to healthcare, energy, education, and other areas, is 14 percent above the 19.9 percent average during the Bush years and higher than any peacetime presidential administration in U.S. history.

• Diana Furchtgott-Roth , Hudson Institute, March 26, 2009:

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama said that “this budget is inseparable from recovery, because it lays the foundation for secure and lasting prosperity.” In fact, what it does is lay the foundation for unprecedented levels of peacetime deficits and government spending. That’s not an "investment" that the American people need to make.

• Karl Rove, Feb. 12, 2009:

The bill he signs will create a raft of new programs and be the biggest peacetime spending increase in American history, which will give us larger deficits and create pressure to raise taxes.

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, January 8, 2009:

The looming red ink is unlike anything in U.S. peacetime history.


Yet somehow none of those same voices are objecting now that the government is spending its way into deficits that are so large they dwarf any during peacetime in U.S. history.

Want more? There’s lots.

Funny that a bunch of conservative hawks who were so anxious to drag this nation into war six years ago, then pilloried Democrats for not sufficiently supporting the troops at every politically convenient turn, are now so quick to forget that America is still engaged in not one but TWO wars.


It's also uncanny how the word “peacetime” shows up in relation to any discussion of the Obama budget .... almost as if these right-wing pundits were working off the same crib-sheet. Gee, ya think? My money says this came straight off the Republican leadership’s desk.

Here’s a thought for the conservative thinkers out there. We could save more than $10 billion a month if we pulled put of Iraq and Afghanistan now. Let’s call their bluff on this, shall we? A week and a half ago Obama requested $83.4 billion more for the wars, which is supposed to last us another eight months. If you're so hot for fiscal belt-tightening, well, I think I just found a big pile of money that we could save.

President Bush never put his war spending in the budget. He hid it under the peanut shell called “emergency supplemental appropriations.” Again, this is another dishonest right-wing ploy designed to reinforce the stereotype that Democrats are “big spenders” whereas Republicans are supposedly fiscally responsible. Hilarious.

Reality is a lot different, of course, but in the world of manufactured Republican talking points, the only “truth” that matters is what sticks in the American subconscious. And that's why we keep seeing the word "peacetime" thrown about in relation to the Obama budget, as if we still didn't have a couple hundred thousand troops deployed overseas. As if we're comparing Obama's budget to, you know, Reagan's. It's the height of dishonesty.

You guys really think this is going to work? You think we're that stupid?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dear Magazine Publishers Of America

I would be more concerned about your inability to turn a profit right now if your subscription operations weren’t so fraudulent.

For example, just because I signed up for a 5K race back in February doesn’t mean I want to get People Magazine for $119 a year, or National Geographic Adventure for $31. These things were automatically charged to my credit card, without my permission or any notification, without so much as an e-mail or postcard. Suddenly I find I’m $150 in the hole, and while it’s possible I signed up for a “free trial offer” (I don’t remember doing so, but I can only guess that’s what happened) it’s reasonable to expect such offers to END when the trial period is over.

Should I have read the fine print? Maybe. But, you know, it’s obvious you’re counting on people to not read the fine print to make your money. IOW, you’re running a scam.

So, fuck you.

And when I call you to stop this nonsense and end my subscriptions, I don’t appreciate hearing a recitation of bizarre offers that sound an awful lot like I’m going to be out another $150 a year. Or how about the one where you say you’ll cancel my subscription and give me a full refund but send me two issues for $1. I mean, come on, you’re sending me those issues anyway, free, because it takes your fulfillment people that long to get their shit together. I used to work in magazine publishing, honey. I know how fulfillment works.

Or, how about this one, the one where you send some kids to my house who pretend to live in the neighborhood, selling subscriptions for a “school trip.” Ha ha, that’s a good one. Because no matter what magazine you think you're buying, you end up with some cheesy Christian family magazine you never heard of and never in a million years would ever want to read.

Hey, fuck you people, too.

Or, how about this one: if you want to subscribe to a magazine, how come the blow-in card says it’s one price, the on-line price is something else, the newsstand price is something else, and if you call the 800 number and do a little negotiating, you can get a “professional courtesy” price that’s completely different (and a lot lower)? What’s up with that?

No wonder you guys are going out of business. Buying a magazine looks increasingly like buying healthcare. Everything is a scam, they try to fleece you coming and going, and you never really know how much anything costs.

Times are tough for you right now, and I'm really sorry -- no, strike that, extremely sorry, since as a content provider (i.e., writer), I have depended on you for my livelihood. But when your business model depends on acting like con artists, I have to think we're all a little better off if we parted ways.

Sarah Palin: Pro-Choice At An Anti-Choice Event

Thank you, Sarah Palin, for your stirring support of reproductive choice--at an anti-choice fundraiser in Indiana, no less:
"So we went through some things a year ago that now lets me understand a woman's, a girl's temptation to maybe try to make it all go away if she has been influenced by society to believe that she's not strong enough or smart enough or equipped enough or convenienced enough to make the choice to let the child live. I do understand what these women, what these girls go through in that thought process."

Palin has grabbed headlines and warmed right-to-lifers hearts on sharing her story about being “tempted” to “make it all go away” when she discovered she was pregnant at the age of 44, and then again on learning that the fetus had Down’s Syndrome. As Ruth Marcus writes in today’s WaPo,

For the crowd listening to her at last week's dinner, Palin's disclosure served the comfortable role of moral reinforcement: She wavered in her faith, was tempted to sin, regained her strength and emerged better for it.

As for those us less certain that we know, or are equipped to instruct others, when life begins and when it is permissible to terminate a pregnancy, Palin's speech offered a different lesson: Abortion is a personal issue and a personal choice. The government has no business taking that difficult decision away from those who must live with the consequences.

Palin and her followers do seem purposely stupid about the whole “choice” issue. Sarah Palin had a choice. Her daughter Bristol had a choice. They seem to spend a lot of time talking about the choices they made, even at events where they are trying to take that choice away from everyone else!

This is incredibly, shockingly incongruous. And it kind of illustrates how the anti-choice movement really doesn’t want to end choice--doing so would end the pro-life cash cow that keeps themselves and a lot of conservative groups and candidates in business.

Think about it: if Sarah Palin had her way and abortion were illegal, there would be no Vanderburgh County Right to Life banquet, which

started with approximately 100 people attending in the late 1980’s and has grown to become the largest pro-life banquet in the world with attendance of 2,000. 

(This year, an additional 2,500 got to watch a “live-feed” broadcast of the event at a nearby auditorium for $16 a pop, too.)

There would be no fundraiser. There would be no stirring testimony from a politician with presidential ambitions. No passionate speeches about how Sarah Palin understands the “temptation to make it all go away,” so she’s really like the rest of us, just another working mom, yada yada.

None of this would exist because there would have been no choice. There would be a law, and your only choice is to follow the law or break it. And since Sarah Palin is a politician, she would never give a stirring testimony about how she was tempted to break the law.

No, the decision would have been made for her and everyone else by the law, and Sarah Palin would have to find another issue to foist on the people of Evansville, Indiana, another hook from which to hang her political aspirations.

What’s interesting is that no one, save a few bloggers and a Washington Post columnist, even bothered to recognize the inherent contradiction of Palin’s entire speech.

It’s really quite simple: you don’t talk about the choice you made at a dinner where the point is to raise money to take that same choice away from everyone else.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wild About Wisteria

I love wisteria! Pictures don't do it justice.

I love how it smells. I love the color, that pale lavender but if you look up close there are darker shades of purple on the petals. I love how it sounds... positively humming with bees. I love how it's a crazy-wild sort of plant, with branches reaching everywhere, climbing all over everything, screaming, "Look at me! I'm wisteria, beeyatches!"

I grew up with a wild wisteria in my backyard and I got married under a tamer wisteria arbor at Cheekwood.

I think if I could be any flowering plant it would be a wisteria.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Secession: That’s Just Crazy Talk

Ever since Texas Gov. Rick Perry mentioned seceding from the union, wingnuts have been jumping on that talking point like ticks on a hound.

Perry is now backing away from his comment, but the usual suspects in the wackadoodle contingent--Tom DeLay, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck--are all over it.

So, it has come to this. Gov. Rick Perry, facing a serious primary challenge from Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, needs to prove his conservative bonafides. How does he do this? By talking secession!

Good grief. Have conservatives really disintegrated to this level? I remember when pandering to the conservative base simply required talking about guns, God and abortion. Good times, good times.

I’ve been thinking about this and I find it truly shocking. The conservative base really, truly cannot live in an America with a Democrat in the White House. It’s sort of like those tea partiers with their “No Taxation Without Representation” signs. Unless you live in Washington D.C., you’ve got representation, people. You may not have voted for it, but you’ve got it. That's kinda been our system of representation since, you know, forever.

How do you think liberals felt for the past eight years with Bush in the White House? Liberals like me who live in Tennessee, represented by two Republican Senators? Since I didn't vote for them, do you really think I don’t have “representation”? Of course not. You'd tell me to suck it up.

I really feel sorry for conservatives. It must be awful to live in such ideological exile. At least liberals have moving to Canada as a backup plan. And oh yeah, remember how conservatives mocked liberals who threatened to do just that in 2004? Of course, few if any made good on their promise, and they were ridiculed mercilessly by the right. Fair enough. But hey, at least they offered to leave the country; they weren’t threatening to take a huge chunk of real estate with them.

It must be truly terrible to be on the conservative fringe. You have no place to go, save declare independence and start your own country. And let’s see what that would look like:
The new nation would have to raise an Army and a Navy and an Air Force from scratch, of course. For the first few years, if it didn't want to be gobbled up by Mexico or intimidated by the hugely irritated United States to the north, there would probably have to be confiscatory taxation, and a draft of a million or so healthy men and women over 18, just to guard its thousands of miles of borders. The drug violence and corruption in Mexico would quickly move north and permeate the new nation. Loyal Americans would no doubt launch a resistance movement. Under such conditions, in this militaristic state, we can assume that certain "adjustments" would be made in civil liberties.

So, high taxes and repressive government. Texas could play its hand like Cuba, and become a satellite of China or Russia, and save money on defense that way, but that sort of defeats the purpose of independence, no? Isn't escaping "socialism" the whole point?

With all that local tax money going to defense, the state's schools and roads and bridges and medical infrastructure would suffer. Agribusiness and ranchers and old folks and colleges would decline as well. No more of that dreaded U.S. federal aid.

What’s truly amazing is that a Republican running for governor is actually pandering to this viewpoint. I mean, what does this tell us?

The conservative movement has reached rock bottom. You can practically see moderates and independents backing away from the crazy people in horror.

I've discussed the end of the Republican Party before. I don't see anything in this current state of affairs that portends otherwise.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fake Outrage = Fauxtrage

The predictable right-wing pearl clutching over a Dept. Of Homeland Security report about extremist groups has put my bullshit meter into overdrive. The fact that the report was initially requested by the Bush Administration, although the Malkintents refer to it as the “Obama report,” was my first clue.

The fact that they completely ignored this January 26, 2009 report on left-wing extremists was my second clue.

But, facts be damned, this is a made-for-prime-time, right-wing talking point, neatly manufactured and packaged by the conservative echo chamber to reinforce the stereotype that Democrats/liberals hate the troops, Obama is gutting the military, and ZOMG we’re all gonna diiiiiiieeeee!!!!!!!11!!1!

So why the hell DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano is apologizing, when no apology was necessary, is beyond me. Have you people not been paying attention for the past eight years? At all? No?

Here is the predictable pattern of these things: Drudge, Malkin, Reynolds et. al. get in high dudgeon over some imagined slight, Rush and the Fox-heads flog it mercilessly, Democrat apologizes, and it’s all filed away in the collective unconscious as another case of liberals behaving badly. So what have we learned, people?

Here are the facts of the story, which Napolitano or one of her underlings could easily have trotted out. From the memory hole, 2006:
A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, estimated that the numbers could run into the thousands, citing interviews with Defense Department investigators and reports and postings on racist Web sites and magazines.

Give the Bush Administration credit for doing the requisite follow-up with its own report--begun last year!--to determine what impact this may have on domestic security.

Does it mean all veterans are racists or white supremacists? No. Does it mean serving your country in the military makes you susceptible to hate group indoctrination? No.

Does it mean anyone even said any of those things?


It’s all just manufactured, more Kabuki theater for the gasbags to chew over, and people in the Administration and Democratic Party in general need to quit apologizing for the right-wing’s insistence on getting their facts wrong and spinning lies.

What’s that famous quote from Adlai Stevenson? “I’ll stop telling the truth about Republicans when they stop telling lies about Democrats”? Something like that.

Anyway, it’s time everyone got a clue. Stop empowering the lies and the lying liars who tell them, Democrats.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't Tread On Him

File this one under "a picture is worth a thousand words": tea party protester flies his freak flag ... from his Porsche.

(h/t, dogdad @ Kos)

Tea Pot D'oh

Hopefully this will be my last Tea Party post, but I just had to share Jon Stewart's skewering of yesterday's Tea Parties.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
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American Morans 3

Oh, conservatives. Do you not own a dictionary?

More wacky tea party pictures here, including one event that had a guy dressed up as Jesus.

Um, guess they forgot that whole "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" bit.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Major Cojones At The FL Tea Party

This would be my friend Sinfonian, taking the open mic in Pensacola. Watch as the realization that he’s not spouting Limbaugh talking points slowly dawns:

Tea Party Twitters From The Left

Funny stuff.

From San Francisco, Joan Walsh Twitters:
homeless city hall regular shakes head, "8 years of Bush and NOW y'all out here?

From Washington, D.C., AnaMarie Cox Twitters:
Ultimate irony with the DC tea party: we in Washington actually are taxed without representation

From Pensacola, Sinfonian Twitters:
now marching down to bay to dump tea. Oh, 1 spkr said we're in this mess bc of US acceptance of abortion.

And the winner is a tweet from jshecket, not sure where he's from, I think Columbus:

Hey #teaparty, yes you are in the millions but Obama won without any of your votes. What do you plan for #2010 and #2012?

Yes, that is the question, isn't it?

Hey Tea Baggers: Even CNN Is Laughing At You

A Mad, Mad Tea Party

So, today is tea bag day.

I’ve said pretty much all I need to say about the tea baggers here, here, and here. The tea parties are hardly a “grassroots” effort, even less so since they've been promoted (not covered) shamelessly by Fox News and the rest of the organized conservative media over the past month. That is undeniable, even if you buy the “movement’s” authenticity, even if you believe that news that these events are the brainchild of GOP consultants and PR firms is all liberal propaganda.

But there’s no doubt that the people showing up at tomorrow’s events are sincere in their protest. I am just not sure what, exactly, they are protesting. There seems to be some ire over the bailouts, which everyone conveniently forgets began with President Bush last September. And there seems to be the usual dissatisfaction over taxes, though I have little patience for anyone angry over a plan to raise taxes for the rich to where they were under President Clinton.

I guess people are just angry, and with the economy in a tailspin, that’s natural. What we have here is a political elite trying to harness that anger, channel it in a direction favorable to their cause, which is to return themselves to power. Considering that this party represents the rich and powerful elite, Big Oil and Big Pharma and Big Business, I find it all rather .... pathetic.

We’ve got full-blown cognitive dissonance going on here, and it’s got most of the country scratching their heads in puzzlement. Here’s Matt Taibbi to explain it all for you:
This must be a terrible time to be a right-winger. A vicious paradox has been thrust upon the once-ascendant conservatives. On the one hand they are out of power, and so must necessarily rail against the Obama administration. On the other hand they have to vilify, as dangerous anticapitalist activity, the grass-roots protests against the Geithner bailouts and the excess of companies like AIG. That leaves them with no recourse but to dream up wholesale lunacies along the lines of Glenn Beck’s recent “Fascism With a Happy Face” rants, which link the protesting “populists” and the Obama adminstration somehow and imagine them as one single nefarious, connected, ongoing effort to install a totalitarian regime.

This is not a simple rhetorical accomplishment. It requires serious mental gymnastics to describe the Obama administration — particularly the Obama administration of recent weeks, which has given away billions to Wall Street and bent over backwards to avoid nationalization and pursue a policy that  preserves the private for-profit status of the bailed-out banks — as a militaristic dictatorship of anti-wealth, anti-private property forces. You have to somehow explain the Geithner/Paulson decisions to hand over trillions of taxpayer dollars to the rich bankers as the formal policy expression of progressive rage against the rich. Not easy. In order to pull off this argument, in fact, you have to grease the wheels with a lot of apocalyptic language and imagery, invoking as Beck did massive pictures of Stalin and Orwell and Mussolini (side by side with shots of Geithner, Obama and Bernanke), scenes of workers storming the Winter Palace interspersed with anti-AIG protests, etc. — and then maybe you have to add a crazy new twist, like switching from complaints of “socialism” to warnings of “fascism.” Rhetorically, this is the equivalent of trying to paint a picture by hurling huge handfuls of paint at the canvas. It’s desperate, last-ditch-ish behavior.

I think I liked the Righties better when they were “Going Galt.” Remember that? Yeah, I didn’t think so. That sure didn’t last long, and neither will this teabag street theater.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is That A Klan Hood Under Your Desk Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Seriously, Fox 61 of Chattanooga, WTF? (Click on image to enlarge.)

(h/t, FARK)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mourning The Imminent Death Of The GOP

Dear Republican Party:

I know you and I have some serious policy differences but I also want you to know that I really do appreciate the concept of a robust opposition party. I think it is crucial to create serious debate about the issues that face this nation.

So it’s with great sadness that I mourn your passing as a substantive contributor to the national dialogue. You guys have stepped over the edge into Crazyland and I can’t help but think the nation suffers as a result.

There are so many real issues that you guys could be challenging President Obama on, important stuff such as the state secrets flip-flop, for example. But that’s not what we get from you guys. No, we get stupid shit like this. Sadly, I have no hope for any serious dialogue coming from the opposition.

I’m not just talking about right-wing blogs like Red State; let’s face it, blogs can get away with being a little looney. But come on, Rush Limbaugh supposedly has an audience of 20 million; that’s not fringe, that’s mainstream.

Look at some of the nonsense you’ve brought to the table of late:

• Here’s Brit Hume, supposedly a respected Fox News anchor, calling the Obama’s dog “girly”.
• Here’s Michelle Bachmann, U.S. member of Congress, waxing hysterical over Obama bowing before the Saudi king (BTW, I don’t recall anyone on the right tsk-tsking President Bush’s "girly" lip lock & garden stroll with the same Saudi King. Just sayin’.)
• Here's Karl Rove, a former top advisor to a U.S. President, getting his panties in a wad over something Joe Biden said.
• Here’s Lyin’ Bill Kristol, editor of the Very Serious Weekly Standard, former New York Times columnist and the Washington Post’s conservative voice:
He complained to Brett Baier of Fox News on April 6, "Look . . . We have defended Muslim nations against terrorists. It would have been nice if President Obama could have said a word about the young Americans who went to Afghanistan . . . and . . . Iraq. But could Barack Obama say something that would be mildly unpopular to an audience [to] which he was speaking? No."

Somehow Kristol seems to have missed the part of Obama's speech where he emphasized that Turkey and America were fighting a common enemy, side by side, in Afghanistan. "Finally," said the president, "we share the common goal of denying al-Qaida a safe haven in Pakistan or Afghanistan. . . Turkey has been a true partner. Your troops were among the first in the International Security Assistance Force. You have sacrificed much in this endeavor. Now we must achieve our goals together." In other words, Obama said precisely what Kristol alleged that he did not.

It’s really sad to see the Republican Party--the party of Abraham Lincoln, with a history going back nearly 150 years--crumble before my very eyes.

Painful though it may be, I highly recommend Republicans read Paul Krugman’s column today. Krugman shows how when you could be serious, when you think you’re being serious, you come off looking like idiots. For example:

Thus, President Obama is being called a “socialist” who seeks to destroy capitalism. Why? Because he wants to raise the tax rate on the highest-income Americans back to, um, about 10 percentage points less than it was for most of the Reagan administration. Bizarre.

But the charge of socialism is being thrown around only because “liberal” doesn’t seem to carry the punch it used to.

True, Krugman goes on to warn us Lefties that Republicans have been crazy for a while and that hasn’t kept you from winning elections. But I have to think that the bloom is off the rose.

As you gather for your little tea parties, where you complain about “oppressive” taxes while enjoying the benefits they provide, I wonder how much longer you can withstand mocking such as this:

The day was dark already, but the atmosphere became foggier and more indistinct with each new speaker. It all seemed to boil down to a battle of good nouns against evil nouns.

“Liberty, yes! Tyranny, no!”

“Keep your socialistic dance! We don’t want to live in France!”

Before you could say “Marquis de Lafayette,” it was time to hurl tea. A man with a megaphone gave a warning about littering. Then a bagpiper led the crowd through the harbor town’s loveliest taxpayer-supported amenities, from the municipal gazebo in the municipal park, across the municipal parking lot and down the municipal dock.

The chief of the Northport Fire Department, which like many on Long Island is bristlingly equipped by compliant taxpayers with enough gear to protect small European principalities, kept watch from his official S.U.V. The Northport Police directed traffic as a search-and-rescue boat idled over by the marina. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, alerted to the possibility of tea dumping without permits, had sent two armed officers.

You know, the vast majority of Americans see these shenanigans for what they are. You’ve lost the middle, and you’ve lost the argument.

We live in an information age. You can't get away with spreading hysteria over Obama re-education camps or the coming one-world currency, and not think a large number of people aren't going to go home and hit the Google and research this stuff for themselves. Maybe not your base, that hard-core 25%, but the rest of the country, yes. So stop fooling around with the lies and conspiracy theories and get serious.

Republicans, we need you. We really do. Come back from the edge. As Krugman says, it’s just not right to make fun of crazy people. And I really don’t want to spend the next three years talking about stupid shit like whether Obama bowed before the Saudi king or if the Obama family dog is teh gaii.

Just something to think about.


Southern Beale

Graffiti Monday

Anyone want to take a stab at answering this question?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Glenn Beck Comedy Show

Apparently, this is not a joke:
Glenn Beck, Fox News Channel's latest sensation, is taking a comedy show on the road for six live performances over six days during the first week of June.

Beck calls his act a "poor man's Seinfeld" and intends to mix topical humor with his modern-day reimagining of Thomas Paine's 1776 pamphlet "Common Sense."

I’m starting to wonder if Glenn Beck isn’t one giant performance-art experiment along the lines of Andy Kaufman.

Maybe Glenn Beck is Andy Kaufman.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bankers Behaving Badly

Yesterday’s New York Times took a look at some of those risky municipal bond deals that were sold by Morgan Keegan to Tennessee cities and counties. Apparently the deals were highly complex, involving something called interest rate swaps, and some of the municipalities who took part are now complaining they were sold a lemon:
Officials in the small cities of Lewisburg and Mount Juliet, and in Claiborne County, have complained that Morgan Keegan’s bankers failed to warn them about the consequences if the bonds’ insurer, Ambac Financial Group, was downgraded. When that occurred, the bonds’ interest payments quadrupled and the pay-off time increased. The cost of terminating the interest-rate swaps was exorbitant.

Experts in municipal bonds have said that bond derivatives are inappropriate for small towns and rural counties, and that higher fees associated with the derivatives often eclipsed any savings the transactions had provided.

Even worse, the folks hawking these financial deals, Morgan Keegan, were the same folks leading “day-long seminars” designed to inform city and county officials about the risks of the transactions.

Here, y’all will like this:

Asked if it had been a conflict for Morgan Keegan to serve as adviser and underwriter of the bonds, the governor said, “I think that really is probably at the core of what went wrong here.”

Gee, ya think?

You know, it’s not just homeowners and clients of Bernie Madoff who were sold investment deals they either couldn’t understand or else were not fully informed about. It’s municipalities like Mount Juliet and Lewisburg (and possibly Cleveland, TN), too.

Meanwhile, Morgan Keegan Managing Director Joe Ayres told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that the New York Time’s article was “politically oriented,” and that

some people look for a scapegoat for the effects of the world economic troubles, which is beyond the reach of his investment bank.

You buying that? I’m not. Especially when you remember that Morgan Keegan has been ordered to repay investors over losses incurred in the subprime mess:

The award – which is the largest arbitration award against Morgan Keegan’s bond funds as of late – set a precedent for pending arbitration lawsuits against the company, Stoltmann said.

“There has been some nefarious stuff that (has) come out in the last two months that has changed the dynamics of these cases and made them better,” he said. “An award like that is a real clear sign that the arbitrators were upset with what they heard.”

Wow, nefarious stuff, huh? Where have we heard this before? Sounds an awful lot like the greedy, predatory lending behavior of the folks at Countrywide Financial.

The problem, as Paul Krugman noted in his column yesterday, is that deregulation opened a Pandora’s Box of funny money deals that no one can understand, certainly not the average first-time home buyer and not even a city or county commissioner. So you rely on an expert in the investment banking world, someone like a Morgan Keegan. But when the guy telling you all the risks and benefits of these convoluted arrangements is the same guy making money off of the deal, aren’t you just asking for trouble?

You know, there oughta be a law. I'm just sayin' ...

Krugman waxed nostalgic for the days of “boring banking,” which he called

an era of spectacular economic progress for most Americans.

After 1980, however, as the political winds shifted, many of the regulations on banks were lifted — and banking became exciting again. Debt began rising rapidly, eventually reaching just about the same level relative to G.D.P. as in 1929. And the financial industry exploded in size. By the middle of this decade, it accounted for a third of corporate profits.

I agree that boring is highly underrated these days. Boring banking is fine with me, and we get that way by implementing some serious regulation of the banking industry. Whether it will happen, however, I don't know. Seems like a lot of folks have just accepted the fact that the financial world needs to be exciting and all Gordon Gekko-like because it's been that way for 20 years and it's all a lot of folks know.

Says Krugman

[...] boring banking would mean poorer bankers, and the financial industry still has a lot of friends in high places. But it’s also a matter of ideology: Despite everything that has happened, most people in positions of power still associate fancy finance with economic progress.

I suspect folks at some city and county governments across Tennessee feel likewise. But unless there are some serious changes, we're going to be walking down this road again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rick Warren Spins Those Prop. 8 Claims


Rick Warren a no-show on This Week .... Spokesperson cites "exhaustion."


Rick Warren’s spokesperson has sent a letter to Shuck & Jive blogger John Shuck, a progressive Presbyterian minister here in Tennessee who supports marriage equality and who rightfully called Warren on his “I never campaigned for Prop 8” lie.

Apparently some other folks got the letter too (I didn't), so it seems Warren’s spokesperson is doing a little damage control in the wake of that Larry King Live appearance. Warren, it appears, was against Prop. 8 before he was against Prop. 8 before he was for gays before he was against them .... or somethin'.

She actually thinks folks will buy this nonsense:
When Dr. Warren told Larry King that he never campaigned for California's Proposition 8, he was referring to not participating in the official two-year organized advocacy effort specific to the ballot initiative in that state, based on his focus and leadership on other compassion issues. Because he's a pastor, not an activist, in response to inquiries from church members, he issued an email and video message to his congregation days before the election confirming where he and Saddleback Church stood on this issue.

This is really rich. I’ve never seen someone in such deep denial about the craven ambition of their client. Rick Warren is just a simple pastor, not a limelight-seeking celebrity with a coterie of media handlers. A guy whose video messages to his congregation are inconsequential little things that go completely unnoticed by anyone outside his small little church community. Right.

Shuck rightfully calls him on this little BS, too, and the rant is awesome:

He thinks that somehow having "gay friends" absolves him from actively working to pass Proposition 8. Yes, he actively worked to pass Proposition 8. He didn't stuff envelopes. He didn't go to meetings. He didn't knock on doors. He didn't make telephone calls. He helped the cause of Proposition 8 more than thousands of hours of activism by those who did those things.

He did it with a two minute fifteen second video. Care to see it again?
Do go over to Shuck & Jive and read the rest of the post. Let me say, as a progressive Presbyterian myself, Pastor Shuck rawks.

I just don't get this fence-riding by Warren. I guess he wants everyone to love him, from conservative evangelicals to the gays he claims as friends. But when you take a public stand on someone's civil rights, and classify certain people as more equal than others, you're gonna piss folks off.

Here a lesbian woman is about to get deported because she can’t legally wed her partner of 23 years, the woman with whom she has two children. She is not a U.S. citizen but her partner is; if she were straight she could wed and be a citizen. She’s not straight, she’s gay, and the federal government won’t recognize her relationship because of ignorant people like Rick Warren who have taken certain passages of the Bible as the inerrant word of God, while completely ignoring others. What they end up with is a world view that discriminates and destroys families.

Here’s a reminder for Rick Warren: people used the Bible to justify slavery, Jim Crow, anti-miscegenation laws, the slaughter of Native Americans, the oppression of women, and a host of other atrocities. Those people were wrong then, and you are wrong now.

The Best Global Warming Denial Money Can Buy

Global warming denier Marc Morano, former spokesman for global warming denier/wackadoodle Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, has gone into the global warming denial business fulltime:
Now, with Congress debating legislation to curb carbon dioxide emissions, Mr. Morano is hoping to have an even greater impact. He has left his job with Mr. Inhofe to start his own Web site,

The site, scheduled to debut this week, will be a “one-stop shop” for anyone following climate change, Mr. Morano says. He will post research he thinks the public should see, as well as reported video segments and ratings of environmental journalists.

Wow, that’s great. Morano, as the article says, has been very successful pushing misinformation, exaggerations, and outright lies about climate science. Now he’ll get to do it fulltime.

Just in time for a pitched battle in Congress over carbon cap-and-trade. How conveeeeeenient. Or, not:

Mr. Morano’s new Web site is being financed by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a nonprofit in Washington that advocates for free-market solutions to environmental issues.

Craig Rucker, a co-founder of the organization, said the committee got about a third of its money from other foundations. But Mr. Rucker would not identify them or say how much his foundation would pay Mr. Morano. (Mr. Morano says it will be more than the $134,000 he earned annually in the Senate.)

Public tax filings for 2003-7 — the last five years for which documents are available — show that the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the ExxonMobil Foundation and from foundations associated with the billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, a longtime financer of conservative causes best known for its efforts to have President Bill Clinton impeached. Mr. Rucker said Exxon had not contributed anything last year.

A quick check of CFACT’s Wiki listing shows the group also received $60,000 from Chevron from 1994-1998, $25,000 from the DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund in 1997, and a paltry $500 from Ford Motor Co. Fund in 1996.

Good to know.

Shameless Shilling For The F-22

This is depressing, yet entirely predictable. On Monday I wrote we needed to watch for those retired military “analysts” boosting the F-22 without disclosing their financial ties to military contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman.

As if on cue, Fox News brings us this:
Yesterday, Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney appeared on Fox News to discuss the Somali pirates situation, and managed to use it as an opportunity to shill for the F-22:
McINERNEY: I’d put F-22s and combat air patrol out there, two of them, with tankers. … The reason I’d put the F-22s is because they can go 1.6 to mach 2, and they have a very quick reaction time and a 20 millimeter canon.

“It doesn’t take an Air Force general to see how bizarre McInerney’s military reasoning is,” Gawker’s Ryan Tate writes, noting that the F-22 — an exceedingly expensive fighter jet designed for air combat — could do nothing to solve the current problem.

Indeed, McInerny spread good ol' fashioned propaganda and misinformation:

He neglected to mention virtually every U.S. fighter made in the last 30 years carries such a cannon (usually the six-barrel M-61 Vulcan), including the F/A-18 Hornet already in use by the U.S. Navy. He also fails to mention that, no matter how fast the F-22 might be, it can't be based off an aircraft carrier. So its reaction time could never be as good (from a land base on, say, the Arabian Peninsula) as a Hornet or other existing Navy jet floating in the waters nearest the pirates.

As I noted yesterday, we were attacked on Sept. 11 by the lowest of low-tech: men armed with box-cutters, slipping through lax airport security. It seems the world of warfare has changed and big, expensive weapons systems can’t combat the low-tech terrorism we’re seeing on the high seas or on the streets of Baghdad. I'm not saying we don't need any big fancy weapons systems, I'm just thinking we don't need any more.

And here’s Fox News putting an “analyst” with ties to a defense contractor on the air so he can pluck a piece of news from the headlines and fashion it into a talking point to save the F-22.

Utterly predictable.

How utterly reprehensible. He should have his “military analyst” pass revoked.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Torture, It’s Strictly Confidential

A confidential Red Cross report on the use of torture by the CIA on high level detainees has been leaked.

You can read it here.

I’m reading it now. Next time someone asks if we’re a Christian nation maybe we should just point them to this report.

BTW, none of the prisoners tortured were either Iraqi or arrested in Iraq. So much for “flypaper” and "the central front on the war on terror."

Permanent War Economy Redux

I just came from a coffee with Congressman Jim Cooper and a few other bloggers--the first of many, I’m told, so if you’re a Nashville blogger who didn’t get word of this meeting, don’t feel left out, as there will be others.

Our conversation hopscotched around a variety of topics, but one issue of interest to me was Defense Secretary Gates’ plan to halt production of the F-22 in late 2011. It’s a decision Cooper supports--I liked his statement earlier this week that "we no longer have the luxury of running the Defense Department as a hometown jobs program”--but it’s significant that Cooper and Sen. John McCain were the only members of Congress to signal support for the plan.

It of course all comes down to politics, and Cooper told us that of the 60 people on the Armed Services Committee, “I may be the only one who doesn’t have a major defense contractor or base in their district.” It’s why Lockheed Martin's F-22 is assembled from parts made in 44 states, he noted; that's not a manufacturing necessity, but a political one. It spreads their sphere of influence over a broad swath of congressional districts.

What’s alarming is that our snooze media has done its usual half-assed job of reporting on the proposed Pentagon budget, framing it as a budget cut when it is in fact a budget increase. And while lots of attention has been given to the phase-out of the F-22, not too much attention has been given to the part of Gates’ budget which calls for accelerating production of the F-35.

Republican Senators Chambliss and Isakson have vowed to keep F-22 production going, and they will make an economic argument, which I find morally reprehensible:
His tactic likely will be to target union-state Democrats and convince them that the F-22 is a "shovel-ready" jobs program and a necessary deterrent.

Excuse me, but if you base your economy on building weapons, then aren’t you also basing your economy on war? Aren’t you pretty much guaranteeing more unnecessary debacles like Iraq? What are we building all of these weapons for, if not to use them? If they're just for "show," as a "deterrent," then how many of these damn things do we need?

It’s a popular saying these days that America no longer manufactures anything; I’ve probably said it myself. But it’s not true. We make weapons. Lots of ’em.

Isn’t this the “permanent war economy” we’ve all said we don’t want?

Over in Fort Worth, Texas, Lockheed Martin expects to do very nicely under Gates’ proposed budget, the F-22 notwithstanding:

Even with no additional F-22 work, Lockheed Aeronautics, which is based in Fort Worth, should "be a $20 billion company within five years," Stevenson said. It was worth $11.5 billion last year.

Wall Street analysts were nearly unanimous in the view that Lockheed should fare well under Gates’ plan.

Gee, that’s nice. Too bad about that ethanol plant that just declared bankruptcy, though. Ditto these biofuels producers that also declared bankruptcy in recent weeks.

I’m trying to remember the last time a defense contractor went bankrupt.

It’s certainly disappointing to me that our best argument supporting the phase-out of an expensive and obsolete fighter jet is that “we’re still increasing the Pentagon’s budget, so quit yer whining!” Why is there never a conversation about slashing the size of our military, period? And by the way: Why are we still spending $10 billion a month on Iraq?

I can certainly foresee a future in which political pressure on "union-state Democrats" wins out, and we keep manufacturing the F-22 so Georgia doesn’t lose any jobs while at the same time boosting production of the F-35 for the people in Texas. And this is how we grow our military and maintain the power and influence of the military industrial complex. The permanent war economy is here and it's, well, permanent.

I don't have any answers but I sure do have some questions. Rep. Cooper told us he's the ranking Democrat on a panel looking into reform of the defense contracting process. I eagerly anticipate hearing what this panel has to say. Because right now, the defense contractors have far too big an interest in making sure we're building more and bigger weapons, which means they have an interest in making sure we are always under threat. It's now part of our "economic stimulus." People forget we were attacked on Sept. 11 by some individuals armed with no more than boxcutters. All of the fighter jets in the world wouldn't have prevented that.

With that in mind, for those who missed Jon Stewart's smackdown on the media misinformation surrounding the Defense budget, enjoy:

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I Hate Haloscan

Is it me or has Haloscan gotten suckier of late? Haloscan outages occur on a daily basis; it's ridiculous. I need a new commenting system. Please leave your suggestions in comments.

The Amazing Transformation Of Rick Warren

Shuck & Jive calls out Rick Warren on his Prop. 8 hypocrisy. Seems Pastor Warren told Larry King last night that reports portraying him against gay marriage and a supporter of Proposition 8 were all one big misunderstanding.

Why, Warren claims, he
never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going.

Really? So this video statement from October 2008 where he says...

Now Let me just say this really clearly. We support Proposition 8. And if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8.

... was not an endorsement, and just part of this big misunderstanding, huh?

Warren has undergone an amazing makeover these past few years. Once a proud member of the wackadoodle far-right fringe, who sent this pre-2004 election letter to his flock informing them that abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research were the most important issues of concern to Christians, he now claims that he's "impartial." BTW, in that letter he closed with the admonishment:

this election REALLY counts more than most others have.

Yes, it sure did. Pay no attention to the war and torture your president did in your name, Pastor Warren.

Meanwhile in 2005, Warren was enjoying fresh celebrity thanks to Ashley Smith. So he appeared on Hardball, where he all but called Michael Schiavo a murderer:

MATTHEWS:  What do you do in that situation, after four or five years of sitting in a room with a person, in this case, 15 years of being in a room where he knows, when he goes in that room, there is not going to be another person in there?  What do you do for hope?

WARREN:  Well, my first question is, I wonder why he is in a hurry to pull the feeding tube on her.  In the first place...

MATTHEWS:  Fifteen years is a hurry? 

WARREN:  Well, he has already began his own life.  He is living with another girl. 


MATTHEWS:  So why is he doing this, do you think?

WARREN:  I have no idea.  Well, I don‘t know.

There‘s 1,000 reasons could you speculate.  What if she came back out of the—out of this state and had something to say that he didn‘t want said?

Wow, that’s some amazing compassion and understanding right there.

Interestingly, despite being such a prominent religious voice during the Terri Schiavo debacle, Warren had nothing at all to say when President Obama lifted the ban on federal funding for stem cell research. According to Warren’s spokeswoman,

Kristin Cole said he will not be issuing a public statement on it. Cole said in a brief phone conversation that Warren typically avoids making public statements on political matters.

Really? Since when? He said in that October 2008 video that he won’t endorse a candidate but he will speak out on moral issues. I guess stem cell research and "right to life" are no longer moral issues for Pastor Warren. What an amazing flip-flop.

However, let's give Rick Warren credit for taking on the evangelical establishment on issues like global warming and AIDs in Africa. These issues are popular with young evangelicals; it allows him to hobnob with President Obama and rock star Bono. But it’s hard for me to take anything he says seriously, knowing that Warren’s commitment to a cause seems to shift with the political winds--and the all-important desire to take his "brand" global.

Rick Warren has always been a limelight-chaser. He’s ambitious, and ambition and religion are a deadly combination. He wants to be “America’s pastor” but the thing is, America doesn’t need a pastor. This is post-Christian America, remember?