Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Congressman Cooper: Shut Down That School!

A stunning, yet entirely predictable, turn of events: Via Sojourners, the progressive Christian group, I learn that graduates of the School of Americas (aka, “School of the Assassins”) at Ft. Benning, GA, led the coup which overthrew Honduran President Mel Zelaya this weekend.

Kristin Bricker reports:
The crisis in Honduras began when the military refused to distribute ballot boxes for the opinion poll in a new Constitution.  President Zelaya fired the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Romeo Orlando Vasquez Velasquez, who refused to step down.  The heads of all branches of the Honduran armed forces quit in solidarity with Vasquez.  Vasquez, however, refused to step down, bolstered by support in Congress and a Supreme Court ruling that reinstated him.  Vasquez remains in control of the armed forces.

Vasquez, along with other military leaders, graduated from the United States' infamous School of the Americas (SOA).  According to a School of the Americas Watch database compiled from information obtained from the US government, Vasquez studied in the SOA at least twice: once in 1976 and again in 1984.

The head of the Air Force, Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, studied in the School of the Americas in 1996.  The Air Force has been a central protagonist in the Honduran crisis.  When the military refused to distribute the ballot boxes for the opinion poll, the ballot boxes were stored on an Air Force base until citizens accompanied by Zelaya rescued them.  Zelaya reports that after soldiers kidnapped him, they took him to an Air Force base, where he was put on a plane and sent to Costa Rica.

I first learned about the School of the Americas (now renamed WHINSEC, for Western Hemisphere Institute for Security & Cooperation) when Don Beisswenger spoke at our church a few years ago. Beisswenger is a former Vanderbilt Divinity School professor who served time in a federal prison for participating in a non-violent protest at Ft. Benning. When people tell me liberal Christians aren’t working hard enough or speaking loud enough, I always think of Beisswenger and want to smack those folks upside the head. Shame on you for not knowing who he is or what he’s sacrificed--he wrote a book about it, for crying out loud!

Anyway, School of the Americas is where the U.S. military trains Central and South American soldiers in “counterinsurgency”:

Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.

This is the kind of thing that America did a lot of back during the Cold War and the Reagan years, when the idea of a communist government in Cuba or Nicaragua was deemed a huge threat to American security for reasons I never understood, other than Latin America being the playing field where America and the Soviet Union played their war games.

Now that the Soviet Union has fallen and Communism isn’t the threat it once was, the School of the Americas should have outlived its purpose. However, corporations have found SOA graduates willing allies in helping them exert their oppressive influence in the region. This is never good for human rights, the environment, civil rights, or anyone else save the corporations who profit from abusing the poor and powerless.

Same as it ever was. And so now we have a Democratically-elected leader of Honduras overthrown by a two-time graduate of the SOA, using the techniques he learned at the knee of the United States military.

Your tax dollars at work, teaching South American soldiers how to “disappear” union organizers, use rape to terrorize local villagers into submission, and how to torture. Huzzah!

Years ago, when I first learned of SOA, I wrote Rep. Jim Cooper, who serves on the House Armed Services committee, asking him to cut funding for the SOA/WHINSEC. He wrote me back saying yes, he was aware of the SOA’s previous abuses but since the school was renamed in 2001 and supposedly had a new mission, he was inclined to continue funding the terror school until there was more evidence of misdeeds.

You know, the irony of it all is, America was attacked by terrorists, we’ve been involved in a “war on terror” for years, and yet we are training terrorists.

You reap what you sow.

Going Public

I received an e-mail from an acquaintance whose husband is dying from stage 4 cancer. She writes:
We have gone from middle class to abject poverty in the space of very little time.

She goes on to report that charities and governmental agencies which once offered assistance to people in her situation are now in desperate straights themselves and can offer little or no help. She has no family and feels alone, abandoned, and terrified.

I’d like to ask everyone where the private health insurance industry is for people like this. Because it seems obvious to me and everyone else who is helping a friend, loved one, or client in this situation that private insurance is not for sick people. It is for healthy people.

James Kwak notes:

“lightly regulated” private health insurance is a fantasy, because the whole point of a for-profit insurer is to charge premiums that expect the expected payout under the policy; as a result, no sick person would be able to afford insurance. You don’t need adverse selection or moral hazard to explain this: if I know someone has an expensive form of cancer, I’m going to charge him $100,000 for health insurance, and he won’t be able to pay. The free market for health care is one in which sick people die, and smart people who ignore that point are being less than honest.

Right now, private insurance companies enjoy a near total monopoly in the healthcare market:

The report, released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country's insurance markets are defined as "highly concentrated," according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that's led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.

Far from healthy market competition, HCAN describes the situation as "a market failure where a small number of large companies use their concentrated power to control premium levels, benefit packages, and provider payments in the markets they dominate."

So extreme is the level of consolidation, in fact, that one former top Federal Trade Commission official working with HCAN has sent a letter to the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, asking for an investigation into the health insurance marketplace.

This is not a shock to anyone, but it’s something I have yet to hear our liberal media mention in any discussion of healthcare reform and the public option. The public option, far from being a “Trojan horse” to scary “Socialized medicine” is in fact the only source of competition for a vast healthcare monopoly. And that’s why they are fighting it so hard.

Republicans like to say that competition is a good thing, but no one has explained why health insurance should be the sole exception to that conservative bromide.

Meanwhile, Marsha Blackburn (who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from healthcare professionals and lobbyists) has said the public option will fail because TennCare didn’t work in Tennessee :

“All approaches for a nationalized health care system simply don’t work, and we saw this with TennCare,” Blackburn said this week during a discussion on the future of employer-based health coverage at The Heritage Foundation.


“This program started to consume every new dollar that was generated in the state,” Blackburn said. Additionally, Tennessee residents who already had private health insurance were dropping their plans to get on the free health program, she said. “We started hearing stories of individuals trying to buy ‘uninsurable’ letters so they could get on TennCare.”
Blackburn seems to think the problem with TennCare was that it was a government program. But if private insurance were so wonderful, why did people want to drop their private coverage and get on TennCare? If private insurance were so wonderful, when 200,000 people were dumped from TennCare, why didn’t private insurance companies come in to pick up those people?

Why are nearly one million Tennesseans uninsured, and another 1 in 6 Tennesseans under-insured? Why haven’t private insurance companies come in to fill that void?

Why are one out of every 50 Tennesseans in “serious medical debt”?

Why does Tennessee get a “weak” rating from the Dept. of Health & Human Services?

According to conservatives, government can’t fix any of our problems, except for healthcare, which it would fix too well, creating an unfair advantage and putting private insurance companies out of business.

Does this make sense to anyone?

As the debate rages on, there are people in real crisis, people like my acquaintance who are literally crying out for help to anyone and everyone who will listen.

We can do better than this. Americans deserve better than this.

[NOTE]: call it a brain fart, call it stress from dealing with a dog with only one functioning limb, call it whatever you wish, but earlier version of this post said "public insurance" in a few places, when what I meant was private insurance.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Monday Is Mission Accomplished Day

Not that fake Misison Accomplished Day either, the one where President Bush strutted around an aircraft carrier. No, Monday is the day ExxonMobil, Chevron and the rest have been waiting for:
BAGHDAD — When Iraq puts development rights to some of its largest oil fields up for auction to foreign companies on Monday, the bidding will be a watershed moment, representing the first chance for petroleum giants like ExxonMobil to tap into the resources of a country they were kicked out of almost 40 years ago.


The oil companies are also somewhat disgruntled, being forced to compete for 20-year service contracts and not the more lucrative production sharing agreements they would prefer. Such agreements would allow them to share directly in the profits from oil production, rather than getting fixed fees.

In other words, they wanted something akin to the deal the Americans wrote for them exactly one year ago:

In their role as advisers to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, American government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting the contracts, advisers and a senior State Department official said.

That deal was withdrawn as it stoked outrage not only among Americans but in Iraq as well. As I wrote at the time, it was a little fishy that the contracts were awarded to the very same companies Saddam Hussein had kicked out of the country when he took power in the 1970s. You can’t really talk about “the central front in the war on terror” and “breeding Democracy in the Middle East” and all that other hogwash when you’re literally writing the contracts restoring foreign oil companies to their former status before the dictator you just deposed took power. At the time, the New York Times called it

a twist of corporate history for some of the world’s largest companies, [that] all four oil majors that had lost their concessions in Iraq are now back.

Oh, liberal media! You are adorable! A mere twist of corporate history, the turn of the karmic wheel. Just luck!


Anyway, as Bill Maher said at last night’s Ryman show, “if you’re going to invade a country for oil, at least get some damn oil!” So, Mission Accomplished.

That said, I do not want to hear any more whining from conservatives about the recently-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act (aka, “cap-and-trade” or the Climate Bill) as being a job crushing, tax-increasing boondoggle.

Don’t you even start with me about this being a “carbon tax” -- what do you think the Iraq War has been? The one that cost $700 billion in direct costs, is estimated to cost $1 trillion before all’s said and done, has killed thousands of Americans, wounded thousands more, destroyed our credibility on the world stage, and divided the country, all to maintain the status quo of an oil-based economy. How long will we be paying that bill, do you think?

Congressmen Jim Cooper and Bart Gordon get my thanks for voting to pass the climate bill, though other so-called “Democrats” in Tennessee didn’t have the courage (yes, Lincoln Davis and John Tanner, I’m looking at you. For shame!)

Lamar Alexander voted for the Iraq War, the bloodiest carbon tax this country has ever enacted. Bob Corker has indicated he at least understands the issues of climate change but he’s trying to prove his conservative bonafides, so I don’t hold out much hope for him supporting a bill that has generated ire from the tea-bag crowd. But he’s been known to surprise me.

All of which means to say: when we're talking about energy policy, let's not forget what the Iraq War was about.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Comedy Gold

What do you get when you combine Russian energy giant Gazprom with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company?
The new firm, to be called Nigaz, is set to build refineries, pipelines and gas power stations in Nigeria.

I didn’t realize the TNGOP was farming out its messaging to international conglomerates.



Zelda, two weeks ago:

As of yesterday she was still paralyzed. We'll know more today.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Feel Bad Friday

It feels odd when the icons of one’s youth die. It makes me feel terribly old, for one thing.

I got within 10 feet of Michael Jackson once. It was back in 1980, or maybe ’81, at a post-Grammy party at a restaurant in Los Angeles somewhere. He was with his date Brooke Shields. I was with my dad. I told him I wanted to meet Michael and we were working our way through the crowd trying to get close enough. But they were leaving the party and a throng of handlers, bodyguards and normally jaded music industry types had them surrounded. It was as if the entire party was following him out the door; wherever he was going, they wanted to go, too. There was this sea of people all moving one way and we couldn’t get close enough.

I remember thinking Brooke looked tall, elegant, and terrified. Michael Jackson seemed more sanguine about it all, as if he was used to the commotion, expected it even. I looked him in the eye and tried to imagine what living with this kind of commotion could do to one’s psyche. I think the ensuing decades answered that question for us.

Watching the media reaction to Michael Jackson’s death has been nothing short of ghoulish, but entirely expected. The guy who couldn’t leave an industry party 30 years ago without riveting every person’s attention could not leave this world without causing the same reaction.

It’s weird but I feel like Farrrah Fawcett has been ripped off, a footnoot to the Michael Jackson circus. Mark Sanford, of course, must be breathing a sigh of relief.

Meanwhile, on the homefront, we had to put Boomer to sleep on Wednesday night, and yesterday morning I walk into the kitchen to find our other dog, Zelda, collapsed on the floor. Turns out she had somehow ruptured a disc in her neck. So yesterday was spent rushing her to our vet, then to a surgical specialist in Cool Springs. The prognosis, thank God, is good, but we will know more today.

I'm just glad this week is over.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Green Light

This morning I received a phone call from Nashville Electric Service informing me that the issues putting NES and TVA at odds have been, if not resolved, at least worked out sufficiently that Generation Partners have been removed from the equation.

In other words, our solar panels are no longer caught up in green tape! We can sign a contract to begin generating green power off our roof and feed it to the electrical grid.

Apparently NES and TVA are giving themselves a 6-month window to hash out the most problematic of their issues, so things still aren’t 100% resolved. And Lightwave Solar was out at the house this morning switching something around which, mid-way through, they learned they would need to switch back when NES changed its mind about something technical. So there are still some problems to be worked out. But the bottom line is, people like us are no longer stuck in the middle of that dispute and can sign our contracts.

This is terrific news and I cannot wait to get my solar panels commissioned! I send out heartfelt thanks to Steve Johnson at Lightwave Solar, Christian and Jamey at The Mighty Deuce, ACK at Post Politics for linking to my first blog post about this, and most of all: NES and TVA for working out a solution!

Thank you everybody! And now: to the green future .... and beyooooooond!!

Forget Bruckheimer, Get Me Nora Ephron

There’s something about the Republican Party these days that’s just made for a summer blockbuster movie. If it’s not the Jerry Bruckheimer “terrorists are gonna blow us up and we’re all gonna die if we don’t waterboard this guy” scenarios peddled by Liz Cheney, we have the passionate e-mails sent by Mark Sanford to his Argentinian lady:
You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night’s light - but hey, that would be going into sexual details ...


In the meantime please sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul.

Damn, that’s good. What woman wouldn’t adore to hear that from her lover? Forget Dick Cheney’s memoir, I want to read Mark Sanford’s, and I want him to write it. Clearly he's tired of politics, tired of his marriage, tired of his life! You don't self-destruct like that and not have a certain awareness of what you're doing. Aw, honey.

The guy is a romantic and while I’m sure plenty of liberals are going to take pot-shots at him for those e-mails (yes I'm talking to you, Keith Olbermann) I’m enough of a sap to find them charming. Touching. And terribly romantic.

I see pictures of this stuffy politician and then read those words and think: ohhhh! Summer romance! Blockbuster! Get me Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks! Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant! Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor! Or, you know, whatever stars you kids today find hot.

Yes, it’s bad for a politician who, while in Congress voted to impeach Bill Clinton on the grounds the president

... lied under a different oath, and that is the oath to his wife. So it’s got to be taken very, very seriously.

But I’m not talking about the political stuff.

I just want to give Mark Sanford a hug. This guy poured his heart out onto the keyboard to his one true love and I just hate to see him mocked for it. Call me sappy, hormonal, sentimental, whatever, but this is the stuff of a great summer romance. If there's any redemption for Mark Sanford it's not in Washington but at the multiplex.

If this story plays out the way it should, Sanford realizes his dream of living on a small winery in the Argentinian Pampas with his lady and writing novels about Nazi hunters was a hopeless fantasy. It had always been so, an ephemeral dream of a life that might have been, had they been other people. But they were who they were, no use arguing about it. So he retires from politics and returns to private life with Jenny and the boys, and they try to make a last go of it.

But it’s too late. Too much has happened, there’ve been too many long, stony silences. There's been too much humiliation, dammit. And Jenny, well, she’s tired of the entire game, the forced smiles, the going through the motions of it all. Slowly the realization dawns that what’s been broken can never be repaired, and they divorce.

Mark lives a quiet life for a year, two, maybe even three. It’s a time of healing, contemplation, and taking stock of what’s important. Then one day he decides to take a little trip.

As he sips a robust Tempranillo at the Vincente Resto on a quiet street in Buenos Aires one afternoon, a familiar female figure approaches. They embrace.

Cue music. Roll credits.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Goodbye, Boomer


Thanks everyone for their kind words. I came home from an appointment just now and found him collapsed on the floor. We will be saying goodbye tonight.

And thanks to Murphy Road Animal Hospital for dispatching a doctor to our house to handle this. I just couldn't do it at the doctor's office, he was so frightened there.

Today has been rough, tomorrow will probably be worse. One of our dogs is losing his battle with cancer rather quickly, and will need to be put down. He has a tumor on his liver and he's now unable to hold his urine, eat, or sit still for more than 5 minutes. The vet has given us a tranquilizer to calm him down and he will be put down tomorrow.

Boomer wasn't the brightest dog in the world but he was the sweetest. He's always had a big heart -- figuratively speaking, though an irregular heartbeat was one of his many medical ailments. He's also suffering from dementia, and over the past few weeks has steadily declined. He now gets lost in his own yard.

Farewell to a sweet dog. Farewell, Boomer.

Mark Sanford Was In Argentina

It seems my bullshit meter is never wrong and Jeff Woods owes me a beer.

Because now Gov. Sanford says he was not, in fact, hiking the Appalachian Trail but was instead visiting Buenos Aires, Argentina:
ATLANTA -- Gov. Mark Sanford arrived in the Hartsville-Jackson International Airport this morning, having wrapped up a seven-day visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, he said. Sanford said he had not been hiking along the Appalachian Trail, as his staff said in a Tuesday statement to the media.

Isn’t that interesting. I guess the fact that his car was found in the Columbia, S.C., airport parking lot with a sleeping bag inside was our first clue that the hiking story was BS.

So just to recap: after getting his hand slapped by the South Carolina state legislature, Gov. Sanford decided to take his toys and go to South America.

Without telling his wife and family. On Father’s Day weekend.

Yes, this is erratic behavior. Not what we want in a president.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Caught Up In Green Tape

It seems I’ve hit a speed bump on the road to a clean energy future. As I’ve read absolutely nothing about this in our local news media, I thought I’d better say something here to let folks know what is happening in this obscure corner of the new energy economy.

As many of you know, we’ve installed a not-insignificant solar array on the roof of our house. Supposedly ours is larger than the Gores, not because our roof is larger but because we don’t live in Belle Meade and I understand they have more stringent zoning rules than we do in Nashville.

Anyway, we’re at the point of commissioning our system, which is where we sign our contract with NES to lock in a price at which the distributor buys our power. We are basically power producers, which I think is really cool.

However, we’ve hit a snag. It seems TVA and Nashville Electric Service are at odds over TVA’s new Generation Partners contract, and it’s left folks like us in the middle.

The good news is that the new contract is much more favorable to Generation Partners: we get a $1,000 signing bonus and receive our base rate plus 12 cents for every kWh we produce, which would add up to nearly 21-cents a kWh. This also means that what we are paid goes up if rates go up, because it’s base-plus. I love this deal!

The new contract goes into effect July 1 but NES has not signed on as of yet. I don’t really understand all of the issues preventing NES and TVA from coming to terms; it’s complicated and seems to relate to reimbursements for things like inspections, maintenance of meters, data lines, etc. None of the issues relate to us as a Generation Partner, it’s more of a headache for the people involved in installations at this point. However, the fact that NES and TVA can’t resolve their differences is keeping us from firing up our system.

I’m not the only one in this holding pattern, either; there are quite a few of us Generation Partners ready to start feeding the grid with clean, green energy but we haven’t signed our contracts yet.

So to deal with us, NES has told us we can sign on under the old Generation Partner contract: this one offers a $500 signing bonus and a flat rate of 15-cents per kWh generated. When (if) NES signs its new contract with TVA, NES will offer us reimbursement under the new rate structure (base + 12-cents), and sign a new 10-year contract with us.

This may sound like a good compromise but it’s not. For one thing, we are out the extra $500 in the signing bonus. And, here’s the real kicker: TVA told me all Generation Partners have to convert to the new contract by Sept. 30 or we are SOL. But Generation Partners have little to do with whether or not we can sign the new contract, that’s between TVA and their distributors! So why penalize us?! I’m ready to sign the new contract now, today, right this second. But I can’t because NES hasn’t climbed on board yet.

So, worst-case scenario, NES could drag its heels and not sign a contract by Sept. 30 and we Generation Partners are left out of TVA’s new rate structure for good. And right now, neither NES nor TVA nor anyone else can tell me when the two parties will come to terms. I could sign the old contract today and tomorrow NES and TVA will have resolved their differences and I’m out $500 for nothing. Or, I could wait, missing out on months of prime summertime solar power generation, only to arrive at a Sept. 30 deadline with nothing to show for it.

I’m not meaning to portray anyone as the bad guy here because both TVA and NES have been really great about answering my questions and trying to be as helpful as they can under the circumstances. But TVA gave its distributors a year to figure this out, and I’ve been told there are still 33 issues that need to be resolved.

Here’s the deal: I’m just a tiny little cog in the great wheel of the new energy economy, but if I could hit a snag this early in the game, it doesn’t bode well for the future. So figure it out, guys and gals.

The governor of Tennessee is seeking major investment in solar energy for the state. We’ve heard talk of Tennessee becoming the “Silicon Valley of Solar.” I just have to say: that ain’t never going to happen as long as major players like TVA and NES can’t come to terms on a Generation Partners contract after an entire year. I mean come on, people: this just looks bad.

Mr. Beale and I are not doing this for the money. We are doing this for Tennessee, for the economy, for the environment. We are doing this so I don't have another toxic coal ash spill or leveled mountain on my conscience. That said, we don't wish to be penalized because TVA and NES can’t figure out a contract.

Solar panels are not cheap, and unlike some states, there’s precious little in the way of incentives currently offered to residential producers like us here in Tennessee. We held up our end, investing an enormous chunk of our own money to begin generating clean solar power. Now I expect my “partners” to hold up their end and hammer out a freaking contract already.

So get down to it, folks. Time's a wasting.

American Morans, Elite Edition

Yes, that would be Pat Buchanan standing beneath a misspelled sign advertising his own conference while chatting up a white supremacist.

This is the guy who's on MSNBC 24-7. Thank you, liberal media.

Among the asinine topics discussed at the “conferenece”: how English-only bills will be a winner for the Republican Party, and mocking Sonia Sotomayor for doing the thing that they keep telling us they want all immigrants and their families to do: learn English.

Yes, by all means keep that up. Nobody could anticipate that would not be a winner for the Republican Party.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Do You Remember The Summer of 2007?

I do. I was reading Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” the grim, post-apocalyptic story of a boy and his father traversing the hopeless landscape that was America post-nuclear holocaust.

At the same time I was reading this thankfully fictional account, Neocon warhawks like Dick Cheney, John Bolton, and Joe Lieberman were calling for us to bomb Iran. Not in that joking “Barbara Ann” sort of way that John McCain had, either. They actually wanted us to send bombs to Tehran to teach them a lesson (and I’m not entirely sure John McCain was joking, either.) It was ceaseless; every news program, every newspaper, had a scary account of how we really needed to bomb the crap out of Iran. The fact that William Kristol, who has truly been wrong about everything, jumped on the bandwagon should have been telling. Heck, Bolton even tried to bring Europe into the game.

And a lot of folks on the right were cheering them on. We had self-described expert on all things Iran Michael Ledeen (who has never actually been to Iran) actually telling Katherine Jean Lopez that Shiite Iran and Sunni Osama Bin Laden were in cahoots and might possibly have cooked up 9/11 together.

Michelle Malkin stoked the fires of anti-Iranian outrage with phony photos; Norman Podhoretz made the case for bombing Iran in a commentary entitled, of course, “The Case for Bombing Iran.” And we had that mouthpiece of sanity Ann Coulter, telling Fox News that “it’s good for Wall Street if we bomb Iran.”

Oh, Ann! But don’t hate her, she was just repeating what Jonathan Hoenig had told Neil Cavuto.

Perhaps most chilling of all was the behind-the-scenes lobbying taking place by groups like Freedom’s Watch, the thankfully-now defunct club of merry warmongers which included Ari Fleischer, and was financed by Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon G. Adelson.

All of that saber-rattling stretched through the summer and into the fall, and to watch this play out while reading a harsh indictment of our warmongering ways like “The Road” was traumatizing. I literally wanted to crawl under my bed and hide for about two weeks.

So excuse me if I don’t buy all the hugs and kisses folks on the far right are sending toward the Iranian people now. Two years ago they were basically advocating incinerating a large number of the folks they’re now scolding Obama for ignoring. You know, over on the Twitter you hear all sorts of things like “Obama went out for ice cream while Iran burned.” As if it’s somehow akin to George W. Bush strumming a guitar with Mark Wills and Condoleezza Rice shopping for shoes while New Orleans descended into anarchy.

Two years after she was egging on the people who wanted to launch bombs at Tehran, we have Michelle Malkin acting all “bygones” and criticizing President Obama for not showing sufficient solidarity with the people she wanted to fry in 2007.

We have John Bolton saying that the president is “not willing to carry through on the hard tasks” and voicing his own reluctance to “cheer on the Iranian dissidents” because, as he notes without any irony whatsoever, "a lot of blood could flow as a consequence.” Umm .... Just curious what he thought was gonna happen when he went on all the networks advocating pre-emptive bombings two years ago?

And we have Iran expert Michael Ledeen, who I repeat has never actually been to Iran, telling us about the awful repression in Iran and saying that “silence is a form of complicity.” Again: two years ago you claimed that the Iranians were working with Al Qaeda, and might even have been involved in 9/11. They were the enemy. Just curious: are you crazy? Or just corrupt?

I really don’t understand our media or why they think it is news when Lindsay Graham and John McCain, two politicians who clearly need to get a room already, disagree with the president.

Is it somehow news that the guy who lost the last election and his campaign doppelganger are going to be critical of the guy who won?

And no, I don’t feel the need to read Michael Ledeen questioning “why hasn't President Obama "gotten" Iran right”. Because, you know, neither have you, you fool.

Neither have any of you. And you get booked on the Sunday morning bobblehead shows and write your op-eds and you’re still wrong.

So I have a steaming cup of STFU for the lot of you. The grown-ups are in charge, and you can stamp your little feet all you want, but you were wrong in 2007 and you’re wrong now.

Lax Gun Laws Aid Our Enemies

You have to wonder what’s up when gun nuts fight strengthening gun laws that allow suspected terrorists to buy weapons:
WASHINGTON — People on the government’s terrorist watch list tried to buy guns nearly 1,000 times in the last five years, and federal authorities cleared the purchases 9 times out of 10 because they had no legal way to stop them, according to a new government report.

In one case, a person on the list was able to buy more than 50 pounds of explosives.

The new statistics, compiled in a report from the Government Accountability Office that is scheduled for public release next week, draw attention to an odd divergence in federal law: people placed on the government’s terrorist watch list can be stopped from getting on a plane or getting a visa, but they cannot be stopped from buying a gun.

Gun purchases must be approved unless federal officials can find some other disqualification of the would-be buyer, like being a felon, an illegal immigrant or a drug addict.

Does this make sense to anyone? A person on the government’s terrorist watch list can be stopped from boarding an airplane but can still legally buy a gun?

Apparently it makes sense to the gun nuts, who are actually fighting changing the law:

“We’re concerned about the quality and the integrity of the list,” said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association. “There have been numerous studies and reports questioning the integrity, and we believe law-abiding people who are on the list by error should not be arbitrarily denied their civil rights” under the Second Amendment.

Mr. Lautenberg introduced a similar gun-control measure in 2007, but it stalled after opposition from the N.R.A. The senator attributed the outcome to “knuckling under to the gun lobby.”

I have doubts about the integrity of the terrorist watch list too, but I’d rather we focus our energy and efforts on managing the list than run the risk that the next James VonBrunn, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, or Eric Roeder can buy a gun, explosives, and even semi-automatic weapons.

And it’s completely stupid that some of the same folks who rang alarm bells over Gitmo detainees being in U.S. prisons don’t seem in the least bit concerned that someone on the terrorist watch list can buy an AK-47 with nothing legally to stop him or her. It is simply far too easy to buy a gun in this country and the people who are fighting changes the loudest are ignoring the reality that guns are involved in 70% of all U.S. homicides.

If, as the gun nuts like to remind us, that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” then shouldn’t we have a law that stops people suspected of being dangerous from possessing guns? Especially when we're already restricting these people from things like boarding airplanes? Gun nuts stopped making sense to me a long time ago, however.

So here’s a plan: How about we do whatever needs to be done to clean up the terrorist watch list and get people who don’t belong on it off. Let those people board airplanes, buy guns, get their visas and basically get on with their lives.

And the people we have evidence of being a threat to the country: those folks let’s legally keep from buying weapons.

You got a problem with that?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fruiting Body

I'm no mycologist, but I thought this mushroom in my lawn was absolutely gorgeous:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

That Duck Was Somebody’s Mother

And a drunk with a gun in a restaurant blew it away:
DUMFRIES, Va. -- Apparently angry that bartenders wouldn't serve him saying he was too drunk already, a Woodbridge man stepped outside a Dumfries restaurant and fired his .40-caliber handgun into a crowd of ducks, killing a mother duck, police said.

David Yount, 33, was charged with driving under the influence, refusal to take a breath or blood test, and reckless handling of a firearm, InsideNoVA.com reported. He was not charged with duck murder because it isn't illegal to shoot an animal that can be hunted. Nor will Yount face charges for carrying a firearm because it is legal to carry a gun in plain view in Virginia restaurants unless the proprietor prohibits it.

And I thought there were never any problems at any states with laws like Tennessee’s?


InsideNoVa editorializes that “There is absolutely no need for a person to carry a gun into a restaurant”:

Opponents might say the fact that patrons can be armed could deter criminals from trying to rob restaurants. Guns in the hands of the law-abiding prevent criminal acts, or so the story goes.

But that line of thought actually raises more disturbing questions. Do we really want a criminal and a patron exchanging gunfire in a crowded restaurant? We think not.

And when a supposedly law-abiding person with a gun can get drunk, get angry, pull his gun and fire, something is wrong with the picture.

Furthermore, restaurants are usually family friendly, but it’s not so friendly when mom and dad take their children out to eat and have to sit close to someone with a gun strapped to their hip. In fact, it’s downright hostile.


According to InsideNoVa’s initial reporting of the incident, the ducks were a known presence at the restaurant and a woman was actually videotaping the mother duck and her babies when Yount went on his shooting spree.

Yeah, that’s a family friendly environment all righty. Try explaining THAT to your kids.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Root Of The Problem

I think I’ve figured out why Republicans and conservative Democrats are so at odds with progressives on the healthcare reform debate.

Progressives want to give everyone healthcare. The other side wants to give everyone health insurance.

Big difference, and it’s evident in the plans. Look at the GOP’s healthcare “plan”:
The four-page Republican health care outline lays out a plan that would allow states, associations and small businesses to pool together to offer health insurance. It would give tax credits to low and modest income Americans to help them buy health insurance. It would also let dependents under twenty-five stay on their parent's health insurance.

Here’s the plan that Tom Daschle, Howard Baker and Bob Dole have proposed:

Rather than a federal public option – a nonstarter for Republicans – the panel proposes financial and technical support for states that set up their own plans to compete with private insurers “on a level playing field.”

If after five years private plans aren’t meeting the need for affordable coverage, the president can use new fast-track procedures to set up a federal public plan.

Look, people: health insurance is not healthcare:

Over the last three years, according to research published in Health Affairs, out-of-pocket healthcare costs have increased 34% says WSJ.

Even having health insurance, it would seem doesn't appear to protect the average American against the rapidly escalating costs of health care and to prevent the health care system from taking a big bite out of household budgets.

So, everyone talking about making sure more Americans have health insurance: You’re focusing on the wrong thing.

I need you to show me how we can all get healthcare and if you think health insurance needs to be part of the mix, then let’s talk about why it’s necessary. But with healthcare costs going through the roof, even having health insurance doesn't guarantee that you can get the care you need. And again, Congress delivering 45 million uninsured on a silver platter to insurance companies will not solve the cost problem. It will simply make insurance companies richer.

And I have a special wag of the middle finger reserved for Sen. Lamar Alexander, who threw out the mother of all Hail Mary’s, fearmongering over a state income tax:

In an interview with The Tennessean on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander warned that a Democratic plan being considered in the Health, Education, Labor & Pension committee, on which he sits, would require a state like Tennessee to cough up a 10 percent income tax by 2015 to pay for it.

Geez, you can practically hear the refrain from “Psycho” playing in the background.

I called Senator Alexander’s office in D.C. to ask why he’d muddy the debate with fear tactics; the kid who answered the phone must have been hearing a lot from folks like me because he immediately explained that the Senator was merely giving a hypothetical. Oh, give me a break. This isn’t Alexander’s first rodeo, he knows how words like “state income tax” sound to voters. It’s another wingnut dog whistle, designed to rally the pack of rabid free-marketers across the state.

Let’s keep the debate fact-based, shall we, Senator Alexander?

House GOP Circulates Anti-Climate Bill Document Written By Coal Company CEO


ThinkProgress has more.


Wow, you know it’s bad when you’re so deeply in bed with the country’s largest coal company that you forget to take the CEO’s name off of a PowerPoint presentation you’re circulating:
House Republicans are circulating a PowerPoint document that purports to show the regional breakdown of costs for energy consumers under the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill. The header: “Most States Lose Under the Pending Climate Bill.”

The catch? It appears to have been authored by the coal giant Peabody Energy.


A line at the bottom of the document reads, “Based on Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) data”—but there’s no indication of the particular studies used. (The CBO numbers likely come from a report that the CBO itself says is not about Waxman-Markey and almost certainly overstates costs, since it only quantified costs, not benefits.)

Dig a little deeper by looking at the “properties” of the PowerPoint document and you learn that it was produced by Peabody Energy—with CEO Greg Boyce listed as the “author” and communications services manager Chris Taylor listed as the “manager.” Yes, the world’s biggest coal producer is literally writing Republican talking points. Oops!

Oh, oops indeed.

Meanwhile, the Democrats aren’t getting off scott-free, either. My e-mail in-box has been flooded with calls to remove a “Trojan Horse” inserted in the climate bill:

Unfortunately, members of the House who answer to the worst polluters have succeeded in including a Trojan Horse at the heart of the legislation - a prohibition on Obama's EPA being able to use the Clean Air Act to take additional action on CO2.

This little known, almost secret provision actually guarantees that the United States will fall short of doing what the scientists tell us must happen - a reduction of 80% of CO2 emissions from their 1990 level.

The coal and oil lobbies are spending every last ounce of energy and creativity to hold onto their old business model, instead of working towards a clean future. Isn’t that the same short-sighted thinking that kept GM making gas-guzzling SUV’s for the American market while manufacturing fuel efficient cars for overseas buyers? They kept saying Americans wouldn’t buy the cars Europeans were buying. Once again: Ooops.

And I don’t get these global warming deniers who refuse to believe that climate change is caused by human activity. That’s asinine but fine, if you want to believe that, go ahead. That still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop polluting our air, blowing up Appalachian mountains, dumping billions of gallons of toxic coal ash sludge on rural communities, and giving our children increasing levels of asthma and the like when there’s a cleaner alternative. The excuse that “those green companies are just trying to make money” is pretty stupid, too: I thought making money was the engine that drove our economy?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More GOP Hypocrisy, Message Manipulation Division

Gosh the Republicans sure do like to control the message don’t they? Apparently the RNC is planning to spin rebut an upcoming ABC special on healthcare reform with their own lies and distortions:
In a Wednesday memo to media and scheduling contacts for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the RNC offered GOP legislators the use of its TV studio on June 24, the scheduled air date of ABC’s planned health care reform special, so the lawmakers could discuss their own health care views in satellite interviews with their congressional districts’ ABC affiliates.

The RNC has offered to pay for satellite time and set up the interviews with the affiliates.

National legislators from the Chattanooga region don’t yet have plans to participate.

“We don’t know all the details of this special, but we do hope that as the media covers this important issue they will present all sides,” said Todd Womack, chief of staff for Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

I don’t know why Republicans have their boxers in a knot over this. No one clamored to “present all sides” when NBC ran Rick “Medicare Fraud” Scott’s 30-minute infomercial on May 31 that questioned “the effectiveness of government-run health care.”

Rick Scott is a criminal who by all rights should have been sent to jail. Instead he cut a deal and Janet Reno let him off the hook. Big mistake.

Bob Corker is my Senator and his participation in more lies and message manipulation about healthcare will be a huge FAIL in my book.

Look, I wasn’t going to blog about this today but here goes. Every argument I’ve heard against a public healthcare option seems to say it will be too successful, too efficient, too affordable. Yeah, that’s a horrible problem to have. Why on earth would we want that? Those poor, endangered insurance companies. If only they were as cute and cuddly as, say, marsh mice.

At the same time we're supposed to feel sorry for insurance companies and worry about unfair competition from the government, the Republicans and some Democrats are giving us the hilarious talking point about the government inserting a “bureaucrat” between me and my doctor.

Look, I already have a team of bureaucrats between me and my doctor, the only difference being they work for BlueCross/Blue Shield of Tennessee, not the government.

Republicans and Democrats who are putting up roadblocks to a public option need to get a fucking clue. If it’s going to be so horrible, then no one will want it and private insurers can relax. If it’s going to be too good, then private insurers are basically proving our argument that they are parasites on the healthcare system. I suspect that is what they are afraid of.

Oh, and quit picking on the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, postal service and other government operations, Republicans. Those scare tactics just don't work. I can’t remember the last time I went to the DMV, I do all of my business online or at the County Clerk’s satellite office in Green Hills. Today I renewed my car tags, at lunchtime no less. Door to door, including the emissions test at the Craighead station, then schlepping to Green Hills to the county clerk’s office, then actually putting the stickers on my car took 25 minutes. There were no lines, anywhere. Pretty efficient.

The postal service is pretty awesome, too. And you know what? Our military, public utilities, power grid, highway system and other "public" stuff works pretty well most of the time, too. They work better when they have the funds to keep stuff like bridges and roads maintained, but that's another issue that involves mentioning people who want to shrink the government to the size where you can drown it in the bathtub.

Look, these "scary government" buzz words aren't working for me. I don't want the government running everything but neither do I want someone making an obscene profit off of things like my trip to the doctor, my hospital stay, or my monthly prescriptions. I don't want the need for obscene profits to be used as a barrier preventing tens of millions of people from accessing the healthcare they need. That's not right.

The healthcare industry is all in favor of reform so long as it brings them those 45 million uninsureds and nothing more. They want Congress to bring them 45 million new customers, but they aren't willing to do anything to actually make healthcare affordable. They still want to charge obscene amounts of money for stuff that costs a fraction of what we pay elsewhere. They just want to charge this whole new pool of people. That's dishonest.

Here's the thing. Our healthcare system is majorly messed up. It will not be fixed by tax credits, health savings accounts, and other "market" solutions. And by the way: my health is not your marketplace.

(h/t, Kleinheider.)

Paging Mr. Orwell To The Red Courtesy Phone

There ought to be a law against linguistic gymnastics like this:
The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday proposing to triple the US non-military aid to Pakistan to US $1.5 billion per annum, but imposes strict accountability conditions on Islamabad with regard to its fight against terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation.    

The Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement (PEACE) Act 2009 was passed by the House of Representatives by a roll call vote of 234 to 185, following a heated debate on this issue among US lawmakers.

The PEACE Act? You’re kidding, right?


Does anyone remember what the USA Patriot Act is an acronym for? I’ll tell you: “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.“

This is so lame, Democrats. Don’t be pulling the same contrived linguistic bullshit that the Republicans did! Especially when your “PEACE Act” for “non-military aid” looks like this:

The PEACE Act authorises military assistance to help Pakistan disrupt and defeat al Qaeda and insurgent elements, and requires that the vast majority of such assistance be focused on critical counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism efforts. In addition, the bill requires that all military assistance flow through the democratically elected Government of Pakistan.

Don’t call this “PEACE.” This is just another shade of warmongering.


Looks like the Republicans have been hitting their Faux Umbrage Concern Kits, this time over Sonia Sotomayor’s membership in a women’s club. Over at Pith we’ve got more phony cries of “double standard” in the comments. It would be hilarious if it all weren’t so stupid.

Here’s Congress “man” Marsha Blackburn, promoting her book at the Woman’s Club of Nashville in January:

I’d say Congress “man” Blackburn is also familiar with the Brentwood Woman's Club because she's participated in candidates' forums there. Meanwhile, we have the Nashville Republican Women and the Davidson County Democratic Women.

Woman's clubs all.

Some prominent Nashville business women have also formed the Nashville Women’s Breakfast Club:
In 1985, Lynn May was the only woman in her department of the bank that became Sun Trust. She decided she needed some female friends who worked downtown. Lynn formed the Gang of Four with Suzanne Braden, Patty Bryan and Lucy Owen, and by early 1986 they had founded the Nashville Women’s Breakfast Club.

From the beginning the focus of the club has been on networking, on sharing referrals and customers. Membership nominations are screened to avoid professional competition; the idea is that members use each other’s services.

Then we have the Junior League, a woman’s group that claims 160,000 members worldwide. Here’s their mission:

The Association of Junior Leagues International Inc. (AJLI) is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.

The Junior League touts such famous members as former First Ladies Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush, and, ZOMG, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

So, the men in the Republican Party are going to say they have a problem with all of this?

Good luck with that.

Going Galt On The Census

Our favorite wackadoodle Rep. Michelle Bachmann has announced she’s going Galt on the U.S. census:
"I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home," said Bachmann, who warned of corrupt ACORN involvement in the census. "We won't be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that."

Turns out boycotting the census was a campaign of the Libertarian Party in 2000. Some Libertarians are calling for a repeat this time around, as well.

Okay, here’s the deal, folks. The census is used to determine how much Federal money your state receives. And the census is used by your state government to determine how much money your local government receives. And Congress uses Census information to determine how many seats your state receives in the House of Representatives. It’s how the government plans stuff like spending on education, healthcare, senior citizens programs, etc.

So, opting out of even part of the Census is not only illegal, it’s just plain stupid. Especially for a Congress Critter who, as part of the government, should know better.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist


Blue Collar Muse FAIL (below via Pith):
Update: Well, it turns out Mr. Graves isn't a Democrat at all. According to Pith's multitude of informed sources, he's a Republican. Whoopsies! Guess that's why the Republicans haven't held their little media event about this yet. Graves voted in the 2006 GOP primary. In addition, he lists among his Facebook groups the College Republicans, Bush is my Homeboy (whatever that is), and Republicans for Alternative Energy. Also on his Facebook, he says he's a fan of Bob Corker. We're not sure how he wound up in Camper's office.

Yeah I'd like to know how he ended up in Camper's office, too.

Regardless, I'd like to know why he was fired and Goforth was not. What's the HR policy, Kenneth?



So the aide who sent the e-mail from the Democratic legislators office has been fired. Sherri Goforth, on the other hand, still has a job.

Wow. I was certain Blake Graves would get the same "reprimand" as Goforth. I guess I was wrong.

I'm confused because it was initially reported that he was an intern. Perhaps he still is; Braisted reports Graves was honored with a resolution recognizing his work with the College Republicans.

Now I'm really confused. What was a College Republican doing working for Democratic legislators?


Just to clarify, while I did receive the e-mail in question, I did not get it from anyone involved in state government or party politics. My only e-mails from politicians or Democratic Party officials are of the "please send us money" variety.

I simply don't move in those circles, despite being, ahem, "a popular Left wing blogger."

I'm still giggling over that.

Anyway, the e-mail I received came from a personal contact who is not involved in politics in any way.


ACK didn’t think the Sherri Goforth story was newsworthy but he calls our attention to this e-mail sent by a Democratic Party staffer an aide intern to a Democratic legislator.

Oddly enough, someone sent me that e-mail; at the time I didn’t see it as racist but I found the kids in the dog crate picture off-putting as it looked to me like it was making fun of child abuse. I trashed it.

So everyone’s a little bit racist, after all. Hey, it’s Tennessee! We’re all doing it! With that in mind (wish this had a picture but it's just music):

TNGOP Petty Party V.2

So we finally have the reason why Republican legislators voted against locating privately-funded statues of Al Gore and Cordell Hull, our state’s two Nobel Peace Prize winners, on state capitol grounds: it’s because Gore’s not dead yet:
On largely party lines, the Senate voted Tuesday not to support a proposal to erect statues depicting Gore and fellow Nobel laureate Cordell Hull, on the basis that recipients of Capitol Hill honors should be dead. Hull died in 1955.

This, of course, is silly. Republicans named every square inch of public space after Ronald Reagan while he was still alive; here in Nashville there’s a statue of Billy Graham in front of the Southern Baptist Convention just up the street from the state capitol, and last I checked he’s still alive.

But I realize these are not the state capitol grounds and didn’t require legislative approval. Yada yada. Fine.

From The Tennessean:

Few references to Hull were made during the debate. A bust of Hull — who served as Secretary of State during World War II under Franklin D. Roosevelt and helped establish the United Nations — sits directly across the hall from the Senate chamber, and a government building near the Capitol has been named in his honor. Rather it was the idea of honoring Gore that seemed to make lawmakers balk.

Since we’re talking state capitol statues, I wonder if we will ever get around to removing the statue of devout racist Edward W. Carmack? Carmack was a former U.S. Congressman, Senator, newspaper editor and racist who was killed on the streets of Nashville after advocating the repeal of the 15th Amendment in his newspaper:

"I don't think anyone knows who he is or why he's there," said attorney and professor Lewis Laska. "Edward Ward Carmack was one of the most racist politicians in Tennessee history." Laska feels the statue should come down because of what Carmack stood for.

"He wanted the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution repealed. That's the amendment that gave black men the right to vote. He thought that lynching was a good idea because it kept black people 'in their place,'" said Laska.

Well by all means let’s keep the statue of Carmack on the state capitol grounds, then. And let’s make sure no Republican legislator has to gaze upon the visage of Al Gore on his or her way into work. That would be just too awful.

Meanwhile, I suggest we find another place for the Gore and Hull statues. How about dedicating a Nobel Peace Park? Yesterday I suggested the traffic circle in front of the new convention center, but any place prominent will do. Perhaps the new Riverfront Park? The Nobel Peace Prize is an international achievement; recognition of Tennessee’s honorees should be located where our city’s visitors can learn about the achievements of Tennessee’s native sons and daughters. The State Capitol? Feh. We can do better.

And as for the statue of Edward W. Carmack let me suggest a dark closet deep in the bowels of the state legislature where the rest of Tennessee’s racists remain.

It’s Just About Hating Obama

Apparently “dozens” showed up for the fire David Letterman rally in New York: about 100 people, estimates the Village Voice, if one includes the media, “rubberneckers” and counterprotestors like these guys:

Among the protestors was PUMA Harriet Christian, one of the disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters who endorsed John McCain in the last election rather than support an "inadequate black male" (her words, not mine). Air America interviewed her at the rally:

She was substantially more subdued than the last time we saw her, ejected from the DNC rules and bylaws meeting shouting “God damn the Democrats!” and telling Neil Cavuto that Obama’s nomination was invalid because “99% of the blacks don’t even know why they’re voting for him.”

Okie dokie.

Air America also interviewed a conspiracy theory nutter who rolled David Letterman, Air America and George Soros into one big soup-pot of liberal fascism. However, he knew the correct pronunciation of “Soros” with proper Hungarian inflection.

I repeat: okie dokie.

Jim My Conservative Commenter® has been trying, with great difficulty, to conflate the lame Letterman joke with the racist Goforth e-mail, as if the two are flip sides of the same coin. Even though plenty of feminists (including NOW) have decried the joke as in poor taste, he's trying to use this as an example of liberal hypocrisy. It's not working very well, though, and even Jim doesn't seem to have his heart in the argument.

Still, the two events are alike in one respect: the racist e-mail and the fauxtrage about David Letterman both reflect partisan hatred of President Obama. After all, we haven’t seen any racist e-mails about Michael Steele circulating around Tennessee state legislative offices; of course not, he’s a Republican. A year and a half ago when we were all blogging and e-mailing about misogyny at "liberal” MSNBC these folks outside The Ed Sullivan Theater were absent. Where was Harriet Christian? She said she was protesting Letterman to make a stand for women's equality. Where was she in Feb. 2008? Where were any of the PUMAs?

Really, the one thing that unifies this group is their hatred Obama. Any fake controversy, fauxtrage, boycott, offensive e-mails, you name it can boil down to that one fact. We saw it at the tea parties, where organizers tried to say their movement was "bipartisan" while telling cameras not to film the "Obama Is A Socialist" signs.

It’s partisan BS targeting the Democratic president. There is so little substance behind these right-wing activists it’s shocking.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TNGOP: Petty Party

Tennessee Senate Republicans have just said no to locating statues honoring Al Gore and Cordell Hull on capitol grounds.

From Pith:
Senate Republicans have defeated a resolution urging the state to raise private money to build a statue of Al Gore and another famous Tennessee Democrat, Cordell Hull, on the Capitol grounds. Gore and Hull are Tennessee's only Nobel peace prize winners. So what? Republicans hate Gore. They didn't even take the trouble to explain why they're against the statues. The 15-14 vote in favor of the resolution fell two votes short of a majority. Does this make Senate Republicans look petty and ridiculously partisan? You bet.

Yup, sure does.

I say fuck ‘em. Let’s locate the statues somewhere else, say, off capitol grounds yet somewhere prominent, perhaps the new convention center roundabout. Take that, assholes.

Conservatives’ Silly Protest

Hey, Tea Partiers! I believe the David Letterman protest scheduled for New York today is still a go.

It’s all very funny to me. We have people in Tehran protesting their stolen election, a popular uprising to take their country back and bring about reform.

And in this country you have conservatives hitting the streets to protest David Letterman’s bad joke he made about Sarah Palin’s daughter.

Seeing the two side by side provides a rather stark contrast, don't you think?

I think some folks have been hitting the Faux Umbrage Concern Kit (Extra Dose) a little too hard:

Monday, June 15, 2009

TNDP Responds To Racist E-mail

TNDP Chair Chip Forrester is demanding Sen. Diane Black fire her staffer who sent the racist e-mail.

He says:
“Is this indicative of what Senate Republicans think about our Commander-in-Chief?” Forrester asked. “This email is reprehensible, insults the office of the President, and is embarrassing to all Tennesseans regardless of political party.”


“I am calling on Sen. Black to reject this racist smear and fire this staffer who, on state government time, on state government computers, using a state government email account, launched this bigoted attack on our president,” Forrester said. “Keeping her on the staff would send the message that this type of behavior is condoned by the House Republican Caucus.”

Here’s the kicker:

“We have hundreds of state employees facing the possibility of losing their jobs due to the budget deficit and no fault of their own. I think we could save at least one of those jobs by firing Sherri Goforth.”


At the same time the Tennessee GOP is dealing with a racism scandal, South Carolina Republicans are doing likewise. First there was the slur about Michelle Obama’s ancestors being gorillas; then we had this:

Green posted this, then deleted it some time later:


I think it’s abundantly clear that the Republican Party has a race problem. As someone who lives in the South, these kinds of things reflect very poorly on the region. If I were an international corporation looking for a new U.S. headquarters, why would I choose a place that seems to be going out of its way to portray itself as an intolerant backwater?

Republicans are in charge of our state legislature. Turning a blind eye to these kinds of racist slurs further cements the impression that the Republican Party endorses intolerant views. This is bad for the state of Tennessee, it's bad for the Republican Party, and it's bad for the South.

The progressive blogosphere has spoken out against these attacks. The Tennessee Democratic Party has spoken out against these attacks.

I am still waiting to hear from the Republican Party.

Just STOP It Already!


Apparently Goforth just “feels sick” about sending the e-mail to the wrong list:
When I asked her if she understood the controversial nature of the photo, Goforth would only say she felt very bad about accidentally sending it to the wrong list. When I gave her a second chance to address the controversial nature of the email, she again repeated that she only felt bad about sending it to the wrong list of people.

They just don't get it. And Goforth will keep her job. Figures.


I’m still fuming over Newscoma’s post.

That anyone thought e-mailing that photo was funny, cute, clever, or anything close to appropriate boggles the mind. That it was a staffer for State Senator Diane Black, chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, well, what can I say. Tennessee is the state of Chip “Barack the Magic Negro” Saltsman; it seems the problem is endemic to the TNGOP. I hope Sen. Black does the right thing and puts her house in order.

But it's not just Tennessee. Today I saw this news on CNN:

A South Carolina GOP state activist has apologized for calling a gorilla an "ancestor" of first lady Michelle Obama. Affiliate WIS reports.


This shit matters, people. Frank Rich gave a rundown of some of the racist, inflammatory, offensive rhetoric that regularly passes for public discourse from conservatives toward President Obama and I have to say I’m shocked and ashamed:

But hyperbole from the usual suspects in the entertainment arena of TV and radio is not the whole story. What’s startling is the spillover of this poison into the conservative political establishment. Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan G.O.P. chairman who ran for the party’s national chairmanship this year, seriously suggested in April that Republicans should stop calling Obama a socialist because “it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.” Anuzis pushed “fascism” instead, because “everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.” He didn’t seem to grasp that “fascism” is nonsensical as a description of the Obama administration or that there might be a risk in slurring a president with a word that most find “bad” because it evokes a mass-murderer like Hitler.


Obama’s Cairo address, meanwhile, prompted over-the-top accusations reminiscent of those campaign rally cries of “Treason!” It was a prominent former Reagan defense official, Frank Gaffney, not some fringe crackpot, who accused Obama in The Washington Times of engaging “in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain.” He claimed that the president — a lifelong Christian — “may still be” a Muslim and is aligned with “the dangerous global movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood.” Gaffney linked Obama by innuendo with Islamic “charities” that “have been convicted of providing material support for terrorism.”

If this isn’t a handy rationalization for another lone nutjob to take the law into his own hands against a supposed terrorism supporter, what is? Any such nutjob can easily grab a weapon. Gun enthusiasts have been on a shopping spree since the election, with some areas of our country reporting percentage sales increases in the mid-to-high double digits, recession be damned.

Indeed. There was a time when entertainers like Limbaugh, Savage and Coulter were seen as the circus sideshow to the national discourse; now the corporate media treats them like legitimate pundits, and their brand of vitriol spills over into the real world. Politicians now think nothing of saying the most outrageous things. Conservatives love to ridicule "political correctness" but some of y'all need some manners or you shouldn't be in office.

So stop it. Cut it out now. Do not emulate the yakkers who should be exiled to the far edges of the talk radio dial. And if someone on your staff sends this out under the banner "Historical Keepsake Photo," I hope you show them--and others--that it's inappropriate and there are consequences.

And the photo:

TNGOP Racism Alert

Newscoma has the goods.

And people wonder why right-wing extremism is on the rise. Come on, who thought this was even close to appropriate?

The person responsible should be fired.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More Vigilante Violence From Extreme Right

The fact that these people are armed to the teeth doesn’t make me feel safer:
Head of a minuteman group arrested for double homicide

TUCSON, AZ - Three people have been arrested in connection with last months deadly double homicide in Arivaca that left a nine-year-old and her father dead. One of the people arrested for the homicide is the National Executive Director of the Minuteman American Defense group (M.A.D.), a group known for patrolling the border, and is dedicated to "Defending America's Borders" according to their website - http://minutemenamericandefense.org/

Jason Eugene Bush, 38, Shawna Forde, 42 and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 43, were all taken into custody and charged in connection with the murders of 29-year-old Raul Flores and 8-year-old Brisenia Flores. Both were killed during an alleged home invasion.

M.A.D. is a separate group from the better-known Minuteman Project, but according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s dossier on Forde, she has appeared at anti-immigration events with that group’s founder, Jim Gilchrist.

Writes the SPLC of Forde:

As head of Minutemen American Defense, or MAD, she straps on a yellow armband and carries a two-way radio to patrol the U.S.-Canadian border "against unlawful and unauthorized entry of all individuals, contraband, and foreign military." Acting on what she claims are "insider personnel tips," the group also has assigned members to patrol the Everett, Wash., main branch public library in search of suspicious-looking Middle Eastern men. Fortuitously, the library's windows overlook the Port of Everett, which MAD deems a high-profile terrorism target.


Forde's belief that in two years undocumented immigrants will "outnumber real Americans" is mild compared to other statements on MAD's website, such as a claim that Al Qaeda terrorists are recruiting U.S.-based members of the violent Latino street gang MS-13. A photo of the Ford Foundation's New York building is captioned, "This is where La Raza gets money to help destroy the U.S."
Lovely. Anti-immigrant and completely crazy. These wackos get nuttier by the day. And I do mean that in the clinical sense: According to the KVOA story:
"If you look at her history closely, and you know what we know, she is at best a pyschopath," says Sheriff Dupnik referring to Forde during a press conference Friday.

The Anti-Defamation League has its own dossier on Forde, and it’s even more alarming. It’s alleged she has fabricated claims about being violently attacked by Hispanic gangs, even alleged that her daughter has been targeted by Hispanic gangs.

And of course, Forde and her army of vigilantes are armed to the teeth:

One of Forde's activities has been coordinating vigilante border patrols in Arizona.  In an Internet radio interview in January 2009, Forde explained, "I have many weapons that I borrow when I go down on the border…All of our Minutemen all have weapons and long arms and all that kind of stuff."

The woman is clearly delusional, a wackadoodle just primed to go off with all guns blazing.

Would love to know why she was allowed to get within 10 feet of a gun.

Don’t answer that, I already know: she has a “right” to “defend herself” against the imaginary Hispanic gangs she is convinced have attacked her. Looks like she went too far and a young child was killed as a result.

I Think Bill-O Is Booked For The Wrong Awards Show

Bill O'Reilly's greatest hit, and it wasn't country. From the memory hole:

Friday, June 12, 2009

More Dishonesty From “Pro-Life” Republicans

Hey, Tennessee Republicans! You folks who claim to be “pro life,” who want to take away a woman’s right to an abortion because it’s immoral and that’s in the Bible and all that! Yoo hoo!

Let Southern Beale give you some advice, okay?

This shit really isn’t that hard. The most effective way to stop abortion is not to make it illegal since--news flash!--women have been having abortions for thousands of years! Here’s how you cut the number of abortions: You help women choose to deliver their babies, and deliver healthy babies, by supporting them. Not browbeating them, shaming them, criminalizing them and all the other things you seem to have a jones to do.

Support them. With services they need, like healthcare, education, and mentorship.

In other words, you don’t kill funding for programs like MIHOW.

I know it’s a lot more fun for you to browbeat, shame and criminalize women for getting knocked up to begin with. You know what? That’s self-indulgent crap. Take out your Freudian psychodrama on the therapist’s couch. If you want to stop abortion, and lord knows you keep telling us that you do, then maybe you should stick to what actually works.

Unless, of course, you don’t actually want to stop abortion. Which I’m starting to suspect, since you’re doing everything you can to make sure women are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Birth control kills! No healthcare! Let’s send all of our jobs to China and Mexico and Vietnam! Become a slave to banks by racking up huge amounts of debt! And if you get pregnant, tough!

Does this seem like a workable plan to you? Of course not. But you don’t care. You like the grandstanding that the abortion issue provides, the news headlines, the emotional impact of all those cute little babies ripped from their mothers wombs. Sure makes the donations flood in, doesn’t it?

C’mon, we’re onto you. You’re a fraud. And the way you want to kill the one program you should have embraced just proves it.

Those Wacky Kids & Their Ethernets

Bows in bars? The “Archery Foundation” demands 
equal rights:
The Archery Foundation is pleased to announce that next January Rep. Stacey Campfield (R‐Knoxville) and Rep. Brian Kelsey (R‐Germantown) will sponsor landmark legislation to allow law abiding archers the right to carry their bows and arrows into Tennessee’s fine eating establishments.

The “Bows in Bars” bill will ensure that all of Tennessee’s law‐abiding citizens are provided equality of protection throughout the state. Like current concealed handgun permit holders, Archers will be able to apply for a “carry” permit, though due to the size of most compound bows and arrows, it’s not practical to “conceal” them.

“The Archery Foundation is pleased with the leadership shown by these fine legislators and looks forward to working with them in the future to ensure the rights of law abiding archers”, said Johnathan Comlatly, Executive Director of The Archery Foundation of

LOL. There’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the faux press release--I admit I missed it the first time, though it’s obvious this is a hoax.

Meanwhile, local folks on Twitter have been amused by the Tweets of someone named FakeTNGOP, who is mostly still pining for ex-TNGOP Communications Director Bill Hobbs.

Comedy gold.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

TDOT: The Dept. Of Concrete Is Baaack!

I’m going to step away from my regularly scheduled programming for a moment to get all hyper-local and voice my disdain for the TN Dept. of Transportation’s Hillsboro Pike “fix.” I say “fix” because this project seems designed solely to fix TDOT’s reputation and make a lot of noises about being responsive to business owners in Green Hills, while pissing off the people who actually live here: namely, people like me.

Yes, Hillsboro Pike, which happens to be a state highway, is a major clusterfuck, but I don’t see how adding a center turn lane south of Woodmont is going to solve anything. For one thing, there already exists a center turn lane--and traffic lights!--through the most congested part, which is from the Starbucks strip mall, past the Green Hills Mall, all the way down to the Hill Center. In short, the busy retail areas and Hillsboro High School, which is the destination of most of this traffic.

I live in this neighborhood and I have to say, rare is the time I’m stuck behind some clueless left-turner. The problem is simply too much traffic for too little road. Exacerbating this problem is commercial vehicle traffic like delivery trucks traveling in peak hours, and hundreds of Hillsboro High School students who all leave campus at the same time. Adding center turn lanes won’t do diddly to solve those problems because for one thing, as I already mentioned, we already have center turn lanes!

The most problematic clusterfuck is the double-light intersection on Hillsboro at Glen Echo and Crestmoor which, let me repeat, has a left turn lane but it’s too short to be useful, the lights aren’t timed properly, and the whole thing is a giant mess.

Meanwhile, the proposed “fix” could have a devastating impact on the surrounding residential neighborhoods, since it won’t actually solve the problem but could make it easier for frustrated drivers to turn onto residential streets in an effort to avoid the ever worsening clusterfuck. As if we don’t have a bad enough cut-through problem as it is.

I’m not being a NIMBY here, I’m just saying, I live in this neighborhood and I know what the problems are and what it’s going to take to fix it. TDOT would know it too if they had bothered to ask us, but they didn’t. There wasn’t one neighborhood meeting about it, though there were plenty of meetings for the business community which just figures, doesn’t it? Kinda puts the whole charade into perspective.

I called TDOT and asked how they come up with this cockamamie idea to begin with and was told the name of some consultant (of course) who had worked really hard to come up with a totally awesome plan, though again, they never bothered to speak to all of the constituents in the area, just the business ones. So in other words, the state paid someone a few hundred grand to pull something out of their ass, which they did while chuckling about what a bunch of suckers the folks at TDOT are.

Of course, I suspect TDOT and Metro aren’t interested in fixing any real problems. That would require either 1) widening the road (a hugely expensive and unfeasable solution) and 2) restricting the amount of traffic, by such means as building bike lanes and sidewalks, restricting commercial traffic to certain times of the day, and getting the high school to stagger its schedule so hundreds of kids aren’t all descending on Hillsboro Pike at the same time.

TDOT has already said bike lanes and sidewalks are not gonna happen, which is really too bad since as the new owner of an old bicycle, I’d love to bike to the grocery store but I value my life too much and those soccer moms in their Chevy Subdivisions can’t drive for shit. Seriously people, you know I’m right.

This plan appears to be a bunch of smoke and mirrors to appease the ever-growing chorus of developers, business owners and, yes, residents wondering why the city and state haven't done anything about the traffic mess that is Green Hills. And yes, they are right, it is a mess, it's a horrible mess, and anyone who lives in the neighborhood knows to use the back roads and avoid Hillsboro Pike at all costs because if you don't, good lord you'll regret it. That fact alone has got to strike fear in the hearts of those whose livelihood depends on bringing people into town, not turning them away.

I get that but let me repeat: TDOT's brilliant plan will not solve the problem. All it will do is give the appearance of solving the problem. And maybe that is the point.

The person I spoke to at TDOT said there were “traffic studies” and “accident reports” that verified the need for this center lane (which, did I mention, already exists where the worst of the traffic is!). But when I asked to see a copy she grew vague, said it wasn’t online, didn’t know where there was a copy, in fact, even she hadn’t seen a copy, yada yada.

I’m pretty good at smelling bullshit and I think I was just handed a pile of it.

In the past TDOT has been criticized for basically paving over every perceived problem and guess what, that’s what they seem to be doing here. They’re treating Green Hills like it’s I-40 and it’s not, it’s a mixed neighborhood of residential, retail, and institutional uses. At least one of those constituents was forgotten in this equation.

So TDOT and everyone involved in this waste of taxpayer money, including Mayor Karl Dean, you get a middle finger from Southern Beale today.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled rants against Republicans.