Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Sausage Is Made

Hey, aspiring citizen journalists: here’s a nifty primer on how to make a TV news segment.

God, I love the BBC.

(H/T, TV Newswer)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Great Moments In Corporate Personhood

Well isn’t this just peachy:
Corporations facing criminal prosecution could face reduced penalties if they meet standards for tackling white-collar crime at their companies, under changes proposed by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Under the proposal, corporations could receive credit during sentencing if they have corporate compliance programs designed to combat white collar crime. To qualify, a company's compliance officer must have direct access to the board of directors and be responsible for detecting criminal activity. The company must quickly report the misconduct to authorities.

The proposal, which the commission has released for public comment, would reduce fines and penalties even if company officers were involved in the criminal activity.

Corporations police themselves so well, don’t they? All they really need is a nice little get out of jail free card if they promise to pretend to look like they’re really, really serious and really, really sorry! Maybe we can all get that deal, even us non-corporate citizens.

Frankly I’m shocked as hell that this idea came from Judge William Sessions III, the guy who ruled against the auto companies on global warming emissions. But I’m not familiar with all of his legal opinions, so who am I to say.

This calls to mind the big issue we have in our country today, the one that is rarely if ever discussed by our professional punditry. It’s the way industry has peppered our government regulatory agencies with its own people, a tactic known as “regulatory capture.” It's been going on since Congress dreamed up its first regulatory agency, according to this article in the December issue of Harper’s:

When Congress created the first U.S. regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission, in 1887, the railroad barons it was meant to subdue quickly recognized an opportunity. “It satisfies the popular clamor for a government supervision of railroads at the same time that that supervision is almost entirely nominal,” observed the railroad lawyer Richard Olney. “Further, the older such a commission gets to be, the more inclined it will be found to take the business and railroad view of things. It thus becomes a sort of barrier between the railroad corporations and the people and a sort of protection against hasty and crude legislation hostile to railroad interests.” As if to underscore this claim, Olney soon after got himself appointed to run the U.S. Justice Department, where he spent his days busting railroad unions.

The story of capture is repeated again and again, in industry after industry, whether it is the agricultural combinations creating an impenetrable system of subsidies, or television and radio broadcasters monopolizing public airwaves for private profit, or the entire financial sector conjuring perilous fortunes from the legislative void. The real battle in Washington is seldom between conservatives and liberals or the right and the left or “red America” and “blue America.” It is nearly always a more local contest, over which politicians will enjoy the privilege of representing the interests of the rich.

This is America's dirty little secret, never to be spoken about publicly. We all pretend the right-vs-left arguing about “big government” and "small government," "free markets" and "competition" vs. "government interference" gets at the crux of the matter. But let's face it: it's all a circus sideshow. The real decisions have already been made in the board room. There are no free markets because for the most part corporations have already divvied up the pie amongst themselves.

And it's only going to get worse, now that the Supreme Court has decided corporations can contribute more of their unlimited resources to political campaigns. This follows just a few years after the Supreme Court's last controversial 5-4 decision, the disastrous Kelo case. In Kelo, let's remember, SCOTUS ruled that local governments can use the power of eminent domain to take private property and give it to another private owner. Think about these two decisions for a moment and their potential to impact our local communities. It's scary.

Every day one can find a story somewhere about a new slate of rights and privileges granted to private corporations, while politicians want to take away the few rights we citizens have. I'm talking about the right to seek redress for grievances and the right to seek reparations--those are the things which those crowing for "tort reform" are trying to limit. Now we have the U.S. Sentencing Commission suggesting we let corporations police themselves, which, heh heh, has always worked so well in the past (cue eyeroll).

One of these days we're going to have a national conversation about what's really wrong with this country. I'm wondering when that day will come and who will start it.

(h/t, Rising Hegemon)

Friday, January 29, 2010

.. And Oh My God

This is the quintessential "Nashville snow day" shot. Unfortunately this is my neighbor. Apparently they missed their driveway ... by a lot. Thank God they also missed their fire hydrant.

Meanwhile, the cat has still not returned. I know he's a bigamist -- he has at least one other family, maybe two. Perhaps he's asleep in someone else's living room. I guarantee you I am in big trouble with Mr. Beale for letting the cat out, though.

[UPDATE]: The prodigal feline has returned. Shhhh.... don't tell Mr. Beale I let him out in a snowstorm. It will be just between us.

Paw Prints In The Snow

I do not know why the cat insisted on going outside, but insist he did. Since I'm home to let him back inside when he's ready, I decided to let him have his way.

So far he shows no indication of wanting to come back inside. He's having too much fun stalking birds! I guess even cats like to play in the snow sometimes.

Later ... Dogs wanted to check it out, but quickly wanted back inside. Still no sign of the cat. Now I'm starting to get worried ...

Inquiring Minds

We DFH’s are jealous of the Brits for a lot of things: their socialized medicine, their costume dramas like "Young Voctoria," their Iraq Inquiry.

Yes, Great Britian is investigating how it got lured into a war of choice in Iraq, examining such things as non-existent WMD’s, rumored 2002 deals with President Bush, and who knew what, when.

Apparently American sensibilities are far too delicate for such an inquiry; neither the Bush nor Obama administrations are interested in looking under that rock. Nothing to see here, just move along.

I think the need for an official inquiry into the justification for our war of choice were well expressed by Reg Keys, father of a British soldier killed in Iraq:
Reg Keys said the point of the entire process is to ensure that both the country, and its politicians learn a lesson.

"A British prime minister must never again be allowed to take us to war based on falsehoods and deceit in such a shambolic and catastrophic way," said Keys.

American politicians aren't interested in learning any lessons, though. I suspect a lot of the information such an inquiry would generate here would be severely damaging to both parties, so they'd just as soon we anti-war folks put such silly thoughts out of our pretty little heads. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have never been publicly held to account for their war. It’s starting to look like they never will.

But I don't understand why the media hasn't jumped on board the calls for such an inquiry. Think of it, guys: all of the weeks of drama this would generate, a month's worth of Meet The Press panels featuring America's favorite torture mom, Liz Cheney--possibly even a chance for Judith Miller to reclaim a few rays of limelight. It would be the ultimate prime time drama.

Unless they think it would be too inconvenient for their own credibility.

But I still think the country needs a reckoning over Iraq. I don't get why that's yet another thing our cousins across the Atlantic get that Americans can only dream about.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bachmann Bails On Tea Party Convention

With Michelle Bachmann joining Marsha Blackburn in pulling out of the Nashville Tea Party convention, I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time before Sarah Palin says thanks but no thanks, too. After all, Palin doesn’t want to associate herself with anything that carries that stench of merde and the Tea Party confab is increasingly becoming just such a beast:
"Bachmann's office cited the same concerns that other Tea Party activists have voiced about the first-of-its-kind national gathering: namely, the for-profit model of organizer Judson Phillips, a self-described 'small town lawyer' with a history of financial problems."

Ouch. Now that’s gotta hurt.

I’m not gloating here: these folks are absolutely right to withdraw from this event. Setting up a for-profit corporation with yourself as the benficiary for an event of this kind doesn’t just "smell scammy” it is scammy.

I do think it’s a little telling that a movement which began as a right-wing astroturf campaign would continue to have issues with exploitation of their movement. Kinda shows that the anger and emotions behind the Tea Party are real but as an organized movement it’s got a long way to go.

But I’m sure the Tea Party folks will get their act together eventually and all will be hunky dory.

SOTU Think You Can

A couple decades ago I watched a different president deliver his State of the Union speech in my parents’ living room. None of us had voted for that president (George H.W. Bush) but nonetheless we listened to all of the promises, the smorgasbord of goodies presented, the pet projects that would get billions of dollars. Environmental projects were green-lighted, buckets of educational funds disbursed, funds for scientific research promised. Finally I turned to my mother and said, “and people think they voted for a Republican.”

“Oh, honey,” she said with a sigh and wave of the hand. “It’s all just empty rhetoric.”

Heh. At least I come by my cynicism honestly!

Of course she was right. All of those great made-for-TV promises disappeared in a puff of smoke over the ensuing weeks, never to be mentioned again. No one ever asked about them, certainly not anyone in the media; once the SOTU credits rolled it was back to business as usual.

Last night President Obama gave a rousing State of the Union speech, but all that SOTU euphoria will dissipate unless we hold our president and our Congress accountable. I do not want a return to business as usual, yet it appears that’s what we will get unless we DFH’s on the left demand more. And by demand I do mean back up our talk with action.

This morning I open my e-mail to find a fundraising plea from the DNC’s Organizing For America, sent out under the President’s name with the subject line “I Can’t Do It Alone.” The e-mail repeated some SOTU highlights, then asked
Can you help fuel our fight for the middle class with a monthly donation of $15 or more?

No, I can’t. You folks don’t get what deep shit you’re in, do you? POTUS cannot do it alone, but if your grand idea to mobilize the base is to ask for a donation, then you’re not listening. This is not business as usual, it can’t be. Our country has splintered, our media is distracted by every bit of made-for-primetime political theater that is tossed their way. Corporate kings are in the counting house, counting all of their money, but regular folks can’t get a loan for their homes or businesses. Things have continued to get worse for people, the President has issued a rousing call to arms, and the message we get from Democrats is we need to elect more Democrats? Puh-leeze. Y'all had your filibuster-proof majority and you screwed it up.

Listen, all of those Dems wearing purple last night to show their bipartisanship need to remember: we don’t care about bipartisanship. We care about results. We care about jobs, we care about access to healthcare not accompanied by financial ruin, we care about drinking water not poisoned with mercury and arsenic. We wanted change, we voted for change, we expect change. I tried to watch Gov. Bob McDonnell’s response and all I heard was the same failed Republican ideas that voters rejected over a year ago: tort reform won’t solve our healthcare crisis, scaring the crap out of people about terrorism does not make us safer, deregulation caused our financial meltdown, it won’t solve it.

So, yes I loved the President’s speech, he has a message and ideas, whereas the Republicans clearly have nothing new to say that wasn't already tried, failed, and rejected by the majority of voters. But unless these things actually get implemented into real policy initiatives, and not watered down by lobbyists, none of it will really matter. The problem is not who is President or which party has a fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Our problem is deeper than that.

Yesterday I happened by The Swashzone and saw this awesome post by our friend the Octopus. Go read it. And give some serious thought to what he suggests, see if it’s something you can do. Corporations see us as mere wallets and bank accounts to fatten their bottom lines, while politicians see us as votes to propel their careers. But it’s time those in both camps are reminded that we the people are in charge. I’m tired of being treated like a sucker by my corporate overlords and politicians of both parties.

Let’s face it: the State of the Union is just a speech. Our country is horribly, tragically, broken. It will take more than one president or one member of Congress to fix it. People need to take this shit seriously and act accordingly.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Let’s Talk About ACORN Some More

Please, let’s:
The FBI, alleging a plot to wiretap Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in downtown New Orleans, arrested four people Monday, including James O’Keefe, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group’s credibility.

FBI Special Agent Steven Rayes alleges that O’Keefe aided and abetted two others, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan, who dressed up as employees of a telephone company and attempted to interfere with the office’s telephone system.

A fourth person, Stan Dai, was accused of aiding and abetting Basel and Flanagan. All four were charged with entering fedral property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

Absofucking hilarious. Did these conservaclowns actually think they could wiretap a Senator’s office and not get busted?

Can’t wait to hear more.

[UPDATE]: There’s more! Already! Just read at MSNBC that Robert Flanagan is the son of William J. Flanagan, the acting U.S. attorney for western Louisiana.

[UPDATE 2]: Memory Hole: 31 House Republicans Supported resolution honoring alleged felon James O'Keefe...

[UPDATE 3]: Some folks are smelling a ratfucker...

(Via Wonkette.)

Fight For Your Rights, America!

Ohhhh this one was hilarious, too! Two videos, one day: yes I'm working on other shit today. But check this one out, it cracked me up.

Play Keyboard Dog Off, Keyboard Cat

This cracked me up:

(h/t, Andrew Sullivan.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why Is This Man On My TV?

Why is Ben Venzke, CEO of Intelcenter, on my TV again? Oh that’s easy: I’m watching CBS’ “coverage” of the new (alleged) Osama bin Laden tape.

I’m trying to figure out why, whenever OBL supposedly rears his head, CBS News runs to Venzke for comment. Here’s Venzke’s latest CBS moment, which was sent around the U.S. to local CBS affiliates in a news package. Although the piece came from CBS News’ London correspondent Mark Phillips last week, I caught it on NewsChannel5 (WTVF) this morning:
Bin Laden's audio message, one of more than 30 since al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks, comes at a time of heightened security in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. What is particularly troubling for analysts is bin Laden's use of language that preceded other attacks.

"Peace be upon those who follow the light of guidance," bin Laden said in the tape.

"This phrase, which appears at the beginning and end of the message, only appears in bin Laden's statements typically in messages that come in advance of an attack," said Ben Venzke CEO of Intelcenter, a private contractor that works with counter-terrorism agencies. "This could be in the coming weeks or as far out as 12 or 14 weeks from now."

Oh, well thanks for that insight (or should I say, incite?) At least CBS sorta identified Venzke’s company properly this time--I’ve seen reports going back a few years in which they refer to Intelsource as “an agency.”

They are not an “agency.” They are a military contractor. Like Halliburton, KBR, Xe (Blackwater), Boeing, Raytheon or any other military contractor. They have a contract with the Pentagon and they profit from our war on terror. They have a financial stake in scaring the crap out of people. So I’d say anything Venzke or Intelcenter has to say about Osama Bin Laden needs to be taken with that in mind and the news media should not use them as a source.

Unfortunately, it gets even worse for CBS News when you realize what the Pentagon contracts Intelsource to do. In fact, the Pentagon hires Intelsource to search for videos and other communications from terrorist groups--videos like this latest one of Osama bin Laden. Isn’t that interesting? So in other words, the Pentagon hires Intelsource to find videos of Osama bin Laden. Then when they find one, the CEO of the company which was hired to find the video in the first place goes onto the news to verify its authenticity.

Well isn’t that cozy. So, do we know that Venzke and Intelsource have ginned up phony terror videos which they then verified in their media appearances? Actually, it has been alleged by a few conspiracy-oriented blogs. I won’t link them, as I can’t vouch for these blogs. But there was one instance where an expert accused Intelsource of doctoring an OBL video it found and released (Venzke of course denied doing any such thing).

But all of that is beside the point. The issue is not whether Intelsource has behaved unethically, since we don’t know. The issue is that CBS News has provided a military contractor with the opportunity to do so. They should never have put their news division on such ethically shaky ground.

Could it get worse? Why yes, it can: I e-mailed my concerns to a NewsChannel5 anchor with whom I’m on friendly terms. I knew they did not generate the report but since that’s where I saw it, I asked them to pass my concerns along up the news division chain. My friend responded first with thanks that I’d call it to their attention, noting they were unaware of Venzke’s role as a military contractor.

But they then said there is nothing they can do about it because

quite frankly, it's something that comes to us and we don't have the resources all the time to catch that kind of thing.

Our broken news media: is feature, not bug.

I wonder if this is what Viacom intended of its news division. The Pentagon contracts with a company to find videos of terrorists and when that company finds them, the CEO gets to flaunt their authenticity on the news. No one is the wiser but we all stay very, very scared.

Mission accomplished.


I have a hard time understanding a business that expects people to pay for online content when they won’t pay for it themselves.

In my 15 years as a freelancer, no outlet has ever paid me additional money for the added benefit of putting my stories online. That is expected to be part of the deal. When I sell a story, I’m selling away my rights, and they can put it on the web, in a book, or on a billboard on the moon, and I see no more than the paltry sum I was paid when I first turned my piece in. But they can charge people to read it all they want.

In other words: newspapers like the New York Times expect to profit off of their internet readership by charging for online content. But content generators--writers--rarely see one penny of that money.

Even worse are those online outlets which now expect us to make a living at the going rate of $3-$5 for a 300-500 word blog post. Unbelievable!

A recent Craigslist ad reads:
I am outsourcing creation of 200+ articles a month. 300-500 words; I provide creative content direction. Must know how to write for KWD. Social website knowledge a big plus.

• Compensation: $3-$5 per article. Current writers making $15+/hr.

That’s a whopping penny a word! Are you kidding me? Hey, Steve Wyer: fuck you. And fuck anyone who thinks so little of themselves or what they do that they would willingly devalue their creative output this way.

Do you folks think we writers basically fart out our content? Do you expect facts to be checked or even a run of spell-check? Do you want the basic rules of grammar obeyed? This is what it's come to: writers' output is completely devalued so some middleman can rake in the profits, and who cares what the finished product is like. As long as it makes money for the Steve Wyers of the world.

And trust me, there are plenty of them. Craigslist and MediaBistro and are filled with "buyers" looking for suckers to exploit, writers so desperate for an outlet that they might as well give it away for free. And I'm sure there are folks lined up for a $5 gig because they don't know any better. Well, let me just tell you folks right now: not too many years ago I got $500 for that same article. Why are they getting away with devaluing our product? Because they can.

Listen, kids: Who needs to be exploited by the middleman (and we all know how to say that in French don’t we? “Entre-preneur” = "middle taker"). Just go straight to the source and offer your services directly. No one deserves to be treated like a Third World sweatshop laborer. Three dollars an article? That’s insulting. Write them yourself, asshole.

This is not the first time I’ve written about this but I’m still pissed off. I’m tired of people treating what we do like it doesn’t matter. What would happen if all writers went on strike for a week? There would be no blogs, no books, no newspapers, no magazine articles, no scripts. Yeah, I know it won’t happen, but a writer can dream.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Friend Indeed

A specialty license plate for “Friends Of Coal”??


You’ve got to be kidding me. Even worse: the co-sponsors (both Republicans, naturally--State Sen. Mike Faulk of Kingsport and Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol) are both within shouting distance of Kingston, site of the massive coal ash spill of 2008.

Hey, Roane County: looks like they just flipped you guys the bird. That’s some kind of messed up neighbors y’all’ve got.

So in conclusion: the same week we learn House Republican Caucus chair Glen Casada, anticipating last week’s SCOTUS decision, filed a bill to lift corporate campaign spending bans in state races, we have two guys from East Tennessee wanting a “Friends Of Coal” specialty license plate.

Good to know they are looking out for the little guy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Free Speech Is For People, Not Corporations

Is it time for a Constitutional Amendment saying that once and for all? These folks seem to think so. Watch the video, see if you agree:

Stay Classy, Tennessee

Some folks in Murfreesboro, Tennessee rolled out the unwelcome mat for a new mosque:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on local, state and national law enforcement agencies to investigate an apparently bias-motivated act of vandalism at the site of a proposed Tennessee mosque as a hate crime.  Over the weekend, a sign marking the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was spray-painted with the words “not welcome.”

Don’t know how I missed this story but then, it’s been a busy week and I’ve been focused on other things.

Some things never seem to change, including this penchant for some of my fellow Tennesseans to act like assholes. Probably kids, one might say. Yeah, but that doesn't make it okay.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Elections Have Consequences


Predictably, state Republicans show where their priorities lie by already having a bill in the hopper that would change Tennessee state law, enabling them to hop aboard the corporate electioneering gravy train.

I know y'all are shocked!


In 2004 quite a few of us worked our asses off to get John Kerry elected president, not because we wanted to have a beer with him or thought he was the most enigmatic speaker or liked the way he bowled or approved of the condiments he put on his hamburgers, but because we realized larger issues were at play.

And yesterday we saw one of them. A lot of people, for whatever reason, voted for George Bush and as a result we got Samuel Alito and John Roberts on the Supreme Court. And the result of that, my dear friends, was this.

The Supreme Court went straight down the predictable ideological lines, the corporatist conservatives on the “let’s give corporations more power in our government” side and the liberals on the “Oh my God are you freaking nuts?!” side, and Anthony Kennedy being the swing vote.

Slate had a good take on the proceedings which I urge you to read, in particular this:
But you can plainly see the weariness in Stevens eyes and hear it in his voice today as he is forced to contend with a legal fiction that has come to life today, a sort of constitutional Frankenstein moment when corporate speech becomes even more compelling than the "voices of the real people" who will be drowned out. Even former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist once warned that treating corporate spending as the First Amendment equivalent of individual free speech is "to confuse metaphor with reality." Today that metaphor won a very real victory at the Supreme Court. And as a consequence some very real corporations are feeling very, very good.

Yes indeed. So just remember you voted for this. If you didn’t vote for this, and stayed home, you voted for this.

I talked to a friend from the Kerry campaign for the first time in years today. She, like the rest of us, is disgusted with the state of politics in this country. She’s on a virtual news fast and vowed never to vote again, even though she’s voted in every election of her adult life. I can’t imagine she’s serious but just in case, a gentle reminder: elections have consequences.

I know we're all frustrated with the Democrats and their flaccid approach to government. I’m done with donating money to parties and donating time to candidates. But never vote again? Nah.

Elections have consequences, people. Just think about what happened yesterday if you're tempted to sit the next Election Day out.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Goodbye, Air America

Killed by a perfectly sucky storm. Trying to determine if there's any reason to continue subscribing to XM Satellite Radio any longer. Hopefully they will continue with some kind of lefty talk programming, guess I'll have to wait and see. Seems like all of their lefty talk came from Air America.

Kabuki Theater

Does anyone dispute the notion that our nation’s political discourse is mere Kabuki Theater designed to distract from what’s really important? If so, this should dispel all doubts:
Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced today that she will campaign for a handful of prominent conservative candidates this year, including her former running mate Sen. John McCain.

Are you fucking kidding me? After all the election post-mortems and passing of blame, after "Going Rogue,” which was basically one big venting of campaign spleen, to retaliation by McCain campaign head Steve Schmidt, and all the agita in between?

Remember McCain intentionally not mentioning Sarah Palin in his list of "GOP stars”? Remember Sarah Palin on vacation in Hawaii this Christmas wearing a campaign visor with McCain’s name X’d out?

I guess it’s all bygones.

So I’m thinking we’re all pretty much stage props in this theater of the absurd called American Politics. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Brown Can Do For Us

While Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts last night has prompted much soul-searching and teeth-gnashing among Democrats (and high-fiving among Republicans) at the very least it provided one more piece evidence that Republicans are still always wrong.

How so? I’m referring to this:
[...]CNBC's "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer says that Scott Brown's Massachusetts Senate win tonight will mean a "gigantic rally" is in store for stocks tomorrow.

Ooops. Not so much.

And then there’s this from ABC News at 1 pm yesterday:

The Dow Industrials are up almost 100 points at this hour and traders say the potential for a Republican to win Ted Kennedy’s senate seat is behind the rally.

Double oops.

And my utmost favorite:

Fox and Friends Suggests Brown Win Will Boost Your 401k (VIDEO)

Not yet!

The stock market has been tanking today. And I do mean tanking. Is it because of Scott Brown? Of course not. Reuters blamed bank results and earnings reports from IBM. The AP blames China. In other words, the usual smoke-and-mirrors voodoo magic bullshit that causes stock market fortunes to rise and fall on the tiniest sneeze from some far-flung corner of the financial world.

But Republicans peddling that whole “vote Republican and get rich” meme are looking a little silly today. One thing Brown did not do for us today is rally the stock market.

Cold comfort, yes, but there’s that.

And here’s something else I’m sick of hearing. I’m tired of hearing how the Democrats have now lost their filibuster-proof majority, which seems to be all the mainstream news media can talk about. Ohmygosh that glorious super majority that did us all so much good for the past year, what will we do without it?

Puh-leeze. When did we ever have a super majority? Here’s “Party Of Joe” Joe Lieberman threatening to join a GOP filibuster. And here’s Democrat Ben Nelson threatening to filibuster the post-conference healthcare bill if it’s not to his liking. Here’s Ben Nelson again threatening to filibuster healthcare reform if it doesn’t have the Stupak Amendment. Oh lookie, here’s Democrat Blanche Lincoln threatening to filibuster the public option.

And here are eight Democratic Senators joining the GOP in support of the filibuster on cap and trade.

So give me a break. When members of the supermajority decide they aren’t getting enough attention and threaten to filibuster their own party's key legislation just because, you know, they can, then we’ve got a bigger problem than how many D's and R's are in the Senate.

Democrats need to grow a pair. I’m sure the predictable result from the Scott Brown win will be that Democrats conclude they need to be even more “Republican light.” Already Jim Webb has called for a halt to all healthcare votes until Brown is seated. And this makes me very sad, because it tells me Democrats have no fucking clue as to what's happening in the country.

I don’t think Scott Brown's win was a “referendum on healthcare reform” so much as it was a "referndum on the status quo." For one thing, Massachusetts already has universal healthcare which is in many regards far superior to that which the rest of the country would get if healthcare reform were to pass. So near as I can tell the federal healthcare legislation wouldn’t affect people in Massachusetts one bit.

I think more than anything people are tired of the status quo. Brown was an unknown state senator, from a party that had not held that Senate seat for an entire generation. People want change, and in Massachusetts that was Scott Brown. In another state it could be someone else, from a different party.

People are frustrated. They want Washington to work again. We were promised change with President Obama and we didn’t get it. We were promised an end to lobbyists running our government and we didn’t get it--the healthcare bill proved that.

So to the Democratic Party I send you a cautionary piece of advice: either lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. Your epic fail in Massachusetts signals a problem far bigger than just being too liberal or too conservative. You were handed the reins government and you promptly twiddled your thumbs. We've got the same corporate control of government and our discourse that we had under Bush. That is what people are tired of. We're tired of banks and insurance companies and Wall Street brokerages getting all sorts of wonderful legislative boons that ordinary citizens never get.

So people are frustrated and they want someone, anyone, different. Remember the root of populism isn't left or right, it's people. So, dear Democrats, focus on things that help actual people and you might be okay. Continue to bend and scrape before the mulitnationals and, well, see ya.

Time For A Blogger Ethics Panel?

So our daily fishwrap gave $15,000 to the Music City Center Coalition.

Umm ... I remember when a major daily newspaper donating large sums of money to further a political cause that it was also supposedly covering with impartiality was a no-no.

I also don’t want to hear about how much money The Tennessean is losing, forcing layoffs of experienced people, when they’ve got $15,000 to pass around to its favorite political causes.

Shame on you, Tennessean.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Housekeeping, Spam-Bot Edition

I'm being overrun with with Spam-bots in comment threads and will need to initiate that annoying Capcha until they flush out. Sorry and thanks for your patience.

Rifle Jesus Lives


Trijicon will remove Bible verses from its government rifle sights. I mean, duh. You get a government contract, you modify your product.



Faithful America responds with a petition.


Well now I’ve heard everything:
Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.


Trijicon confirmed to that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions "have always been there" and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them. Munson said the issue was being raised by a group that is "not Christian." The company has said the practice began under its founder, Glyn Bindon, a devout Christian from South Africa who was killed in a 2003 plane crash.

Well, fuck you and your $660 million contract, which I hope is yanked out from under your greedy little war profiteering hands faster than you can say “I never knew ye, ye evildoers.” What kind of sick fuck thinks putting Bible verses in rifle sights used by soldiers in war is anything close to appropriate? Are you people crazy?

I’m sick of these idiots and their Rifle Jesus and their warmongering in the name of the Lord. I’m sick of your twisted religion that glorifies death and your assumption that anyone who doesn’t agree with you “isn’t a Christian” so their opinion doesn’t count.

You’re an abomination.

And to "the church," which I realize is a diverse bunch: shame on you, too. The only way someone could justify such heresy with the remark that "the issue was being raised by a group that is "not Christian" is because the church has been timid on issues of war and violence. Yes, there have been plenty of church folks who have spoken out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but not enough have spoken out when their fellow Christians have used the Bible to endorse all sorts of corrupted theology. So shame on us all.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Institutionalized Racism, Media Edition

There’s a lament going around the intertubes imploring the media to stop calling earthquake refugees who have lost everything and are trying to get food and supplies “looters.” And I for one am glad that ordinary people are aware and sensitive to this even if our news media is not. Perhaps our media elites could learn a few things from us regular folks, who seem to be a little savvier than we are given credit for being.

Remember those reports of looters breaking into the UN warehouses? Turns out, not so much:
Some 6,000 tons of food aid will be distributed shortly in Haiti, a U.N. spokeswoman said Friday, adding that reports that U.N. warehouses in Haiti had been looted were overblown.

Officials checked four U.N. food agency warehouses in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Friday after receiving reports from local partners of looting, said Emilia Casella, a World Food Program spokeswoman.

"The food is there," Casella told The Associated Press. "They are also working on getting a peacekeeper contingent to secure the locations."

Well, isn’t that special. We just knew “those people” were going to loot, didn’t we?

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all is peachy keen in Haiti. The people there have suffered a horrific disaster. Tens of thousands are without food, clean water, and supplies of any kind. People trying to survive are not “looters,” they are disaster refugees. So, dear Western media, please check your elitism (and labels) at the door and cut these folks some slack as you follow up on every rumor you hear.

Check out this story from the Wall Street Journal. In addition to the banner headline, the story refers to “looter” and “looting” no less than a dozen times. These are people trying to get food, soap and wash basins from a grocery store, not carting off television sets. In a few cases, store owners actually helped distribute the supplies:

Still, just a few blocks away on the road, a store owner was calmly overseeing an orderly emptying of his broken shop. He was using a kind of bucket-brigade of some 30 young men stretching over the store's shattered roof, handing out goods can by can.

Is it looting when the store owner is actually handing the stuff out?

Of course, I’m immediately reminded of this media low point from Hurricane Katrina. The Associated Press labeled a photo of a black man wading through chest-high water as “looting” a grocery store, while a virtually identical photo of a white couple identified them as “finding food.” Apparently the only difference between “finding” and “looting” is the color of someone’s skin.

This is an example of the subtle racism and “framing” that goes on in our culture on a daily basis, and rarely gets questioned. Our media elites happily flogged the Harry Reid “Negro dialect” fauxtroversy, getting wrapped up in the minutiae of a dog and pony show while never addressing the actual topic of racism the opportunity presented. And God forbid they should look at the actual racism that exists in their own organizations.

So it’s left to the blogs, once again. Over at Future Majority I found this interesting post about how the media reinforces racial and class stereotypes when it covers disasters like Haiti and Katrina. Here’s a quote from Dr. Kathleen Tierney, professor of sociology and behavioral science and director of the Natural Hazard Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder:

There is an institutionalized racism in the way these poor black disaster victims are treated. The victims of Katrina were treated with so much presumption, as if you could assume they were going to loot, because they were black. Just like we know that the people in Haiti are bad because they’re black. Black men especially are demonized. During Katrina, the media picked up on every rumor—whether it was raped four-year-olds in the Superdome or people shooting each other. Actually, for a paper me and a couple of my graduate students wrote called “Metaphors Matter,” we found some transcripts of TV programs in which members of the media expressed regret. They were saying, “We really blew it during Katrina; we acted on all of these rumors.” I myself was on Jim Lehrer’s show, where they were asking about the looting [in Katrina], and I got into it with a police officer, and he ended up agreeing with me that it was a myth. It’s not real...

I appreciate that reporters on the ground in a place like Port-au-Prince or New Orleans post-Katrina are doing an extraordinarily difficult job under harsh circumstances. And I don’t know how much of this kind of “framing” is a product of the biases of those on the ground, or their editors/producers safely back home.

I just know that we have to stop reverting to type and repeating these same stereotypes about people in the grip of unimaginable suffering.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why We Help

Rush Limbaugh is an ass. He doesn't seem to know that a helping hand is far more powerful, and far more enduring, than a shower of bombs.

He forgets we come on the age’s most uncertain hour, and sing an American tune....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Your Burdens Will Be Shared

For the people of Haiti and those suffering everywhere, may you find Grace in the most unexpected places, a friend to help carry the load, and someone to lift you higher.

For more, read Bob Herbert's column today, ”Resolve Among The Ruins.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Deals With The Devil

I have one question for my local NBC affiliate, WSMV: is the money you get from Pat Robertson to broadcast The 700 Club worth the knock to your integrity as he spouts this kind of bullshit?

WSMV has aired Pat Robertson’s programming for years in its own “deal with the devil.” It gets a substantial amount of money for this programming, or so I’ve been told. While there are no less than half a dozen independent and cable stations in this market broadcasting Pat Robertson’s nonsense, when a major network like WSMV does it, it lends a credibility to Robertson and his intolerant message. And it's time for WSMV to own up to its responsibility to the community.

Even worse, WSMV airs Robertson's program right after The Today Show. Last time I was at my doctor’s office, they had The Today Show on in the waiting room. As we waited, the programming switched over to the 700 Club. I was appalled at what I heard. Although the waiting room was full, I asked everyone in the room if they minded if I changed the channel. Universally, to a person, they all expressed great relief. No one wants to hear that crap, WSMV. If they do, let them hunt for it on community access.

Pat Robertson’s stock in trade is outrageous, divisive, fear-porn. A few of his greatest hits:

• In January of this year Robertson told his viewers to "buy gold and get your money out of America as fast as you can.” Left unsaid was Robertson’s ownership of a Liberian gold mine--something Robertson finagled in his own “deal with a devil,” in this case former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor currently on trial for war crimes.

• In October 2009 Pat Robertson called on Israelis to "arm” the Temple Mount, the Jerusalem holy site claimed by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

• In 2005 he called on the American government to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

And of course Robertson is famous for numerous anti-Muslim remarks over the years, including most recently saying Islam is "not a religion” but “a violent political system bent on the overthrow of governments of the world and world domination.”

These are all things Pat Robertson said on The 700 Club. Not private conversations, but on the television show WSMV takes money to broadcast. If that’s not a deal with the devil, I don’t know what is.

And let me add: Pat Robertson is not just offensive to Americans, he’s also offensive to Christians. Many are speaking out now: you can read Jarrod McKenna’s piece on Robertson’s "gospel of disgrace.” Here Nashville’s own Jars of Clay tells Sally Quinn that perhaps Robertson shouldn’t have a platform any longer.

I can definitely agree with that sentiment. WSMV, pull the plug on Pat Robertson. Or is the money more important? You know, a couple years ago WSMV got in trouble with the FCC for not airing enough children's programming. Seems to me there's something better you should be doing with that time-slot.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Good news:
NEW YORK Editor & Publisher, the only independent news organization reporting on all aspects of the transforming newspaper business, has resumed publication in print and online following its sale Thursday to Duncan McIntosh Co. Inc., the Irvine, Calif.-based magazine and newspaper publisher. 

The announcement came exactly two weeks after the closing of E&P, the acknowledged "bible of the newspaper industry," which can trace its roots back 126 years.

I wrote about Editor & Publisher’s demise back in December.

UPDATE: Apparently several long-time editors are out.)


So, let’s say your neighbor, the most impoverished person in the neighborhood, suffers a disaster. Let’s say their house catches on fire and burns to the ground. Is the first thing you do:

A) Help your neighbor in whatever way you can;

B) Tell the world that any financial assistance sent to your neighbor will just get stolen, and conclude your neighbor "needs discipline”;

C) Assert that the mayor of your town will just use the disaster to pander to certain voters;

D) Claim your neighbor is paying for a pact they made with the Devil years ago to oust their French landlord. "True story!"

If you are an American conservative with your own TV or radio show, guess which of these scenarios you did yesterday?

International aid organizations and religious organizations have offices in Haiti and staff on the ground coordinating relief efforts. For a more productive response, check out this list of legitimate groups responding to the Haiti disaster. They will not steal your money.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Music City Center Blues

Last night Mr. Beale and I went to West End Middle School for a Music City Center community forum organized for residents of Council Districts 14, 24 & 25.

I haven’t really said much about our $600 million proposed convention center because I’m honestly on the fence about it. I see the merits to arguments both for and against the project, and frankly I also detect the waft of bullshit coming from both camps as well. All of which prompted me to attend last night’s meeting so I could hear what both sides had to say.

Let me say right now, Mr. Beale has come out in favor of the project and he spent a portion of last night’s meeting whispering train sounds in my ear (“chugga-chugga chugga-chugga chugga-chugga CHOO CHOO! Get on board!”) much to my annoyance. But he’s got a point: I’ve long sensed that this thing is a done deal and everything that’s happening right now is just so much Kabuki theater. Sorry for being cynical.

West End Middle School is a gorgeous old brick building, built in 1937. According to its website it sits in an affluent neighborhood
where the majority of homes costs upwards of half a million dollars
which if you ask me is probably a little conservative. The school has just undergone $7 million in infrastructure repairs, including a new roof and new windows. And yet, as we listened to everyone give their spiel in the assembly room, I picked up a loose screw and washer from a nearby chair that had fallen to the floor. On the ceiling above our heads, a large spray of peeling paint bloomed. This was the best school in an affluent neighborhood that had just been rehabbed and even it was crumbling around us. The irony was not lost on me.

This weekend a series of water mains burst, and businesses downtown are still suffering. Today we learn that Metro Schools will have a $35 million shortfall in next year’s budget. This year Metro budget cuts forced the city to slash public library hours and the Public Works budget. And while it’s true that this is an apples and oranges issue -- the money spent on the Music City Center is not the same money that would go to schools or repair water mains -- the philosophical argument is 100% correct: this city has other priorities. I have other priorities.

I find it really offensive that we as a city have devoted so much time and energy to talking about the need, nay the imperative, to build a $600 million convention center, when it’s quite obvious we have other needs, and other imperatives. What does it say about Nashville that we can find the time, funding, energy to wage a PR battle, newspaper column inches, and on and on to rally for a $600 million convention center at a time when people in our community are losing their homes and cannot afford to pay their utility bills?

What does that tell the world about Nashville, TN? I’m afraid it tells the world that our priorities are messed up. We have all the will and all the energy to ram this project through, yet we turn our backs on the people living in Tent City. Shame on us.

Three years ago I was drafting a letter for my church board’s approval wherein we as a congregation urged the mayor to commit to building 1,800 units for the homeless by 2015 at a cost of $2.3 million a year. That’s small change compared to the proposed new convention center, and yet we’re far behind on that pledge now.

I don’t understand why there’s always a massive push from folks like the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Partnership for these shiny-sparkly new toys. Where are you people when the schools budget is being hammered out? Where are you people when we talk about dealing with our chronic homeless population (other than handing out "Please Help, Don’t Give” flyers to tourists, that is)? Where are you when we cut public library hours and the Public Works budget?

You see, my problem is not that I’m “for” or “against” the Music City Center. My beef is a philosophical one. I just really hate what the whole debate says about this city. Personally, I want to live in a city where the grass in our parks gets cut before it’s knee-high. I want to live in a city where the library is open and well-staffed, and the homeless people currently panhandling downtown actually have a place to go. These are quality of life issues to me. It’s not all about the shiny-sparkly new toy that the Nashville business community wants to play with.

Last night I heard the same “trickle down” fairy tales we’ve been told for years about these kinds of massive projects. Somehow the economic impact of a new convention center (or arena, or football stadium, or symphony hall, etc. etc.) will “trickle down” like fairy dust on the entire county.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the arena, I’m a huge Nashville Predators fan, and Mr. Beale and I have been to many Titans games. I moved here in 1986 and I well remember what downtown Nashville used to look like. So yes, the past 20 years have seen some wonderful changes to our city, positive changes.

Yet every year our schools budget is cut to the bone. This year Metro Public Works laid off employees and cut back on things like cutting the grass in the public right-of-way, making some intersections in my neighborhood rather dangerous. The Green Hills Library was closed on Fridays, and now it looks like more cuts are likely.

In other words: we have these wonderful downtown facilities like a stadium and an arena and we still have the same budget issues we’ve always had. So don’t tell me that all of the business from a new convention center is going to have a positive economic impact on my neighborhood because I haven’t seen it yet.

These are the things I care about. If all our budget ducks were in a row, I’d say great, let’s build the thing. But they’re not, and we’re sending the wrong message. What do you think of someone who can’t afford to keep their grass cut, repair the roof on their house, or send their kids to school who then runs out and buys a brand-new Porsche? You think that’s messed up. And if they tell you, “oh, someone who lives in Germany bought the Porsche for me, so it’s not like I was using my own money,” do you think, Oh, that’s cool then. No! You think, sell the damn Porsche, fix up your house, and send your kids to school.

So. Nashville needs to table this Music City Center thing for the time being. And I’m tired of hearing whining from the business community about it. Pony up, boys. Put your money where your mouth is. If tourism is supposed to have some kind of economic impact for Nashville beyond your bottom line and the shiny-sparkly facilities that residents of Music City get to enjoy alongside the tourists, then I want to see it. I want a year where the Metro budget isn't accompanied by another round of Metro employee lay-offs and shuttered community centers. Maybe some of our tourism taxes can go to stuff like that--stuff that people in this city and county actually use on a daily basis.

Something for you Chamber folks to think about.

You Gotta Be Kidding Me

Students at the University of Tennessee rioted last night because football coach Lane Kiffin announced he’s leaving for USC. You know, Kiffin may be an asshole, but is that really riot-worthy?

Time was kids rioted because of civil rights, the Vietnam War, shutting down political speech on college campuses. I’ve spent two days watching documentaries like this one about Berkeley student activism. I’ve been amazed and impressed at how well organized the Berkeley students were, how committed to their cause, how mobilized. Those students were able to get the hospitality industry to halt its discriminatory hiring practices, tried to shut down the Oakland induction center, got the UC Board of Regents to change its policy banning political speech on campus. Those students became today's leaders.

And what do today’s youth riot about? The wars in Iraq of Afghanistan? Torture? Environmental destruction in their backyards by coal companies?

Nope. It’s over the football coach. People, we are so screwed.

Watch it here:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Offa My Lawn: Things I Miss Edition

I read that the Dixie Chicks are working on a new album supposedly without Natalie Maines. And even though I’m well aware that Maines was the latecomer to that group, I can’t imagine the Dixie Chicks without her. Still, I’ve missed themm and look forward to hearing what they're working on.

Other things I miss:

• Paper straws. When I was a kid straws were made out of paper, not plastic. Nowadays, you can’t find paper straws to save your life (though I found a box at a store in New York, restaurants seem to have gone all-plastic. And I don’t drink with straws at home.) Seems like switching to paper straws would be a great use of a recycled paper product.

• Real news about, you know, news. This morning’s news has all been about Simon Cowell leaving American Idol, Mark McGuire using steroids, the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien story, and Sarah Palin getting a show on Fox. None of which is actual news. I guess the assumption is that we’re getting our information about the world from somewhere, leaving the media to cover itself the rest of the time. Very odd.

• Late night TV. Used to be if you were up late at night you could catch a really cool old movie on TV. Now it’s all infomercials. I miss the cool old movies.

• CNN’s Style show. For 20 years I had a regular Saturday morning date with Elsa Klensch on CNN. We used to make fun of Klensch because she’d always ask designers the same questions: what kind of colors do you use, what kind of fabrics? Still, it was a guilty pleasure and I miss it.

• Green Hills Grille and American Artisan. Two Nashville establishments that, while they haven’t been gone all that long, are still missed. Green Hills Grille had a great salmon Caesar salad that I was addicted to, plus their strawberry shortcake every spring was a Beale family tradition. American Artisan had the most beautiful, unique art and jewelry.

I will probably think of other things I miss as the day goes on.

And oh yeah, offa my lawn!


I won't continue to go down the road of shuttered restaurants I miss .. too many in Nashville to count. But I thought of something else I miss today:

• Real blue jeans! Remember those? You bought them three sizes too big, and had to wash them twice before wearing them once. They were Levi's and they buttoned at the fly (never zipped) and the more you wore them (and washed them) the more they became a second skin. After a few years, when they could no longer be patched you turned them into shorts. If you didn't have the patience to wash-and-wear your blue jeans you went to the thrift store and bought used jeans.

Kids today don't know about real blue jeans. The stuff you get these days either costs $300 and has some bizarro "name" attached to it (Citizens For Humanity, 7 For All Mankind, Rock & Republic, True Religion) or else they are so cheap you could read a newspaper through them.

I miss real blue jeans.

And now: offa my lawn!

Monday, January 11, 2010


Don Schmierer, former board member of “pray away the gay” group Exodus International, was one of three American evangelicals who traveled to Uganda last year to participate in a conference about sexual orientation. Following that visit Uganda proposed legislation that would imprison and execute gays. Needless to say, there’s been a bit of negative fallout from that trip.

So Don Schmierer and the rest have gone into damage-control mode. I heard a short interview with him on today’s Here & Now (give it a listen yourself here, it’s short). Schmierer is trying to distance himself from some of the more hateful messaging at that conference by fellow panelist Scott Lively, who compared homosexuality to beastiality and pedophilia. But Schmierer is in deep denial if he thinks his stance on gays is any less intolerant or hateful than those of folks like Lively.

Schmierer did say he thought the Ugandan anti-gay law was “horrible”:
I can’t believe anybody’s doing that type of thing. Not today. I mean, good night.

Shocking that our patented American fearmongering tying gays to pedophilia and beastiality would, in a Third World country not known for its high democratic standards, result in extreme measures like a gay death penalty. I kept waiting for Schmierer to take some responsibility but he never did, in fact, he denied any responsibility at all and tried to claim he was brought to the conference under false pretenses. He said he “didn’t know what I was walking into.”

That explains why he vociferously objected to Scott Lively’s hate speech at the time, to make sure his Ugandan audience knew where he stood. Oh wait. It doesn’t appear he did. (Furthermore, it’s a lie: Ex-Gay Watch says they warned Exodus International about what they were getting into.)

Here & Now interviewer Robin Young asked Schmierer what he counsels parents whose children have come out and he responded (keep in mind this is my own quickie transcript):

I teach parents how to help connect with their kids. One of the first things I say .. some of the nicest people I’ve ever met on the face of the earth are gay people. We talk about how to listen to each other. The second thing I teach them is how to affirm them for who they are.

“Affirm” is one of those liberal church words which means to accept GLBT folks and their families unconditionally. If you are a gay person looking for a church home, you look for one that advertises itself as “affirming,” or sometimes, “welcoming and affirming.” It’s a type of code word and everyone in the church world knows what it means. And let me add: there are lots of affirming churches out there, even right here in the Bible Belt. I can think of half a dozen here in Nashville right off the top of my head.

So to hear Don Schmierer say he counsels parents to “affirm” their gay children when he in fact meant no such thing struck me as the height of weasledom. I’ve got no doubt in my mind that Schmierer knew exactly what he was saying. I suspect he’s trying to change the definition of “affirming” among church people from “we accept you and your family--your partner, your children--unconditionally, just as you are. Welcome to God’s table,” to “we won’t kill you or throw you in jail.”

And in fact, kudos to Robin Young for asking the follow-up question,

Do you teach parents to affirm their children if they are gay?

to which Schierer responded

I didn’t say that!

Schmierer sounded annoyed that Young even asked the question. Methinks Schmierer got smacked in the face by the reality that his own argument is just as intolerant as Lively’s, just a different shade.

Schmierer and his fellow “pray away the gay” people have this crackpot theory that sexual orientation is connected to a person’s “disconnect” from the same sex parent. In other words, if you’re a gay guy, you are that way because you didn’t connect with your father, and if you’re a lesbian woman, you are that way because you didn’t connect with your mother. That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, and it’s certainly completely at odds with modern psychiatric beliefs and practice. It sounds like an old wive’s tale, to me.

Schmierer went on in this interview to equate sexual orientation with “other addictions” (!!) and said he’d never met a healthy, happy homosexual person. So that pretty much tells us all we need to know about Don Schmierer. He can say he was “duped” all he wants, but you are deep in denial if you think a life’s work devoted to telling gays that there’s something wrong with them could somehow not lead to an extreme measure like the Ugandan gay death penalty.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Obama: The Musical

Well this is bound to set the right wingers off:
Barack Obama Musical to Kick off in Frankfurt

By Jess Smee

Barack Obama and his dramatic ascent to power has inspired a raft of books and articles. Now a German musical is set to pay an all-singing, all-dancing tribute to the world's most powerful man. Hope! will soon premiere in Frankfurt.

Wearing a knitted cardigan and crooning into his microphone, Barack Obama paces around the stage, wooing Michelle with a love song. In another number, now clad in a suit, Jimmie Wilson who plays Obama, struts up and down, clasping his mike and leading a euphoric gospel chorus of "Yes We Can."

These two scenes are part of an unusual new musical called "Hope!" which is to premiere in Frankfurt on Jan. 17. The production, the biggest of its kind, is an all-singing and all-dancing take on the US president's victorious campaign in 2008.

OMG. Wonder if it will come to TPAC? I’m thinking .... not. But this is my favorite part:

Sarah Palin also has her own solo, surrounded by a troop of scantily clad dancers.

Aboslutely hilarious!!! The story goes on to say that most of the musical is in English, with the script taken from political speeches and public statements.

Man, if you thought the hysteria over President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was bad, imagine what they’re going to say when they hear about this! Can't wait for the tour, though!

(h/t, Marcellina)

Beach Music

I wanted to introduce folks to one of my most favorite artists, Pacifika. They're Canadian by way of Peru and the Caribbean, and their music gives off so much warmth, I feel like I'm on the beach in Costa Rica. The perfect warm-up to a snowy January day.

I also think vocalist Silvana Kane is so unbelievably gorgeous and sexy that I'd like to come back in my next life as her. Just in case I get to pick these things.

So enjoy. I'm thrilled to learn that they're putting the finishing touches on a new album right now. Can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Happy Snow Day

You might have heard that we’ve had a bit of a cold snap in Nashville this week. We got a little dusting of snow, too -- not enough to do anything fun with (in the interest of editorial honesty this snowman picture was taken in New York a week before Christmas). But because it’s so cold, what little snow we did receive is going to be with us for a few days.

I guess I need to move to Canada or something because I absolutely love this cold weather. It’s not something we see too often anymore; check out my garden in December 2007, when it was 78 degrees. Last February it was over 70 degrees and spring flowers were blooming. I’ve had irises bloom in January for more years than I can count and last winter my roses never went dormant.

We haven’t had a real winter here in years and I’ve missed it. I love the bracing cold air on my morning walks, I like how your breath makes clouds in the air. I like getting bundled up to go out and I like how a pot of chili on the stove smells so much better when there’s a tinge of woodsmoke in the air. I like how the prolonged cold helps keep the bugs at bay the following summer. I don’t even mind the mess and the hassle of all those bulky winter clothes and snow-covered boots.

Even though I was born in Southern California and spent my middle and high school years there, my childhood was in New Jersey. As a kid we dragged our sleds to the neighborhood hill and came home to mugs of hot chocolate. We had snow days and snowmen and snow clothes and snow angels.

After we moved west I remember my dad sitting outside on a balmy February day, catching rays with his shirt off and calling everyone he knew “back east” to gloat about the beautiful California weather. I always thought that was a little sadistic, and it became such a regular thing that I’m sure it annoyed the hell out of people.

On top of which: not everyone wants sunshine and suntans in the winter! I like my seasons. Give me snow. And if I can't have snow, give me the cold.

Friday, January 8, 2010

For Shame


Behold the power of Twitter. H&M says it will stop this practice, while WalMart said "oops." But this is what gets me:
It's hard to know why the employees of H&M and Walmart felt it their duty to destroy clothing in the first place, but my guess is it is a growing resentment against so-called freegans and other dumpster divers in the city. The New York Times itself has covered this phenomenon a few times, and it's well-known that many employees of restaurants and grocery stores occasionally render food inedible so the freegans won't come rummaging. There's the sentiment among some that no one deserves a free ride (or a free pair of pants) -- even if it's in someone else's trash.

Excuse me??!! You resent the freegans? Well fuck you. I resent that there are people without food and clothing in the world's most prosperous nation. I resent that we're the most wasteful nation on earth.

So take your resentment (and your boxcutter) and stuff it. Here's a little tip: if you don't want freegans rummaging through your trash, then don't throw it away. Use it. Recycle it. Don't buy it to begin with.

Things have got to change, America. We can't be the world's Hoovers, sucking up everything within our reach, and not expect to pay some kind of price for this profligacy.

I’ve known that big companies like Wal-Mart do this, but kudos to grad student Cynthia Magnus for spreading the word about this shameful practice:

This week the New York Times reported a disheartening story about two of the largest retail chains. You see, instead of taking unsold items to sample sales or donating them to people in need, H&M and Wal-Mart have been throwing them out in giant trash bags. And in the case that someone may stumble on these bags and try to keep or re-sell the items, these companies have gone ahead and slashed up garments, cut off the sleeves of coats, and sliced holes in shoes so they are unwearable.

This unsettling discovery was made by graduate student Cynthia Magnus outside the back entrance of H&M on 35th street in New York City. Just a few doors down, she also found hundreds of Wal-Mart tagged items with holes made in them that were dumped by a contractor. On December 7, she spotted 20 bags of clothing outside of H&M including, "gloves with the fingers cut off, warm socks, cute patent leather Mary Jane school shoes, maybe for fourth graders, with the instep cut up with a scissor, men’s jackets, slashed across the body and the arms. The puffy fiber fill was coming out in big white cotton balls.”

You know, there’s so much human pain associated with modern American retail, from the overseas sweatshops which manufacture these items to the child labor used to pick the cotton to the feudal systems in third world countries which force farmers to grow cotton instead of food. All so we can have a $20 T-shirt that, when it’s not sold, will be torn to shreds to ensure no one can ever use it. It is then thrown in a New York landfill to be buried with the other garbage.

These are the sins of American life for which we will be judged. Not gays and abortion and failure to post the 10 Commandments in the courthouse. It’s this. When the wealth of the powerful and enfranchised is used to oppress the powerless and disenfranchised, that’s sin. The Bible is very clear on that. And someday, whether you’re religious or not, we’re all going to have to answer for that--indeed, we already are. It's not just a Biblical law, it's not just a religious law, it's a universal law. It's karma.

A couple years ago I wrote about how Wal-Mart padlocks its trash dumpsters to deter dumpster diving. I wrote:

One of the worst things I ever heard about Wal-Mart was that stores padlock their trash dumpsters. Former Wal-Mart employees have told me of the perfectly good food and merchandise that is thrown away on a daily basis, yet Wal-Mart locks people out of its trash. When your trash is so valuable that it requires padlocks, something is seriously wrong. Hey, Wal-Mart, if it’s that valuable, try donating this stuff to a shelter, OK?

This post sparked outrage among the free-market greed brigade (sadly, those comments got lost when I switched commenting formats.) No one could believe that I would be so anti-free market as to advocate “dumpster diving.” Now, I’m not a dumpster diver, but if something is trash, then why shouldn’t it be someone else’s treasure? It seems that the fear is that people won’t buy things if they can get it for free, but quite a lot of people can’t or won’t buy it anyway. And if the problem is that the “trash” still has value, then it’s not trash, is it? Donate it to an American charity, recycle it, mark it down, send it to an orphanage in India or Africa where the cycle of abuse started, quit overbuying to begin with.

Stop the sin cycle. Corporate America and American consumers alike need to come clean.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Did Sarah Palin Back Out Of Nashville Booking?

No, not the National Tea Party convention--at least, not yet. At least, not while she’s allegedly getting $100K to speak at that event.

I’m talking about the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, where Palin was supposedly set to appear with Pat Boone at a Feb. 28 dinner. It was announced waaay back in October. Even Glenn Beck’s 912 project had the booking on its national calendar.

The dinner was sponsored by a pro-Israel group called “Proclaiming Justice To The Nations,” which appears to be one of those scary Fundiegelical organizations which manufactures anti-Muslim fear porn such as their latest film, “The Forgotten People.” The organization’s work has been criticized by local Jewish religious leaders as “an abuse of the memory of the Holocaust, and a manipulation of Holocaust survivors." (As an aside, PJTN’s president and founder, Laurie Cardoza Moore, is a Nashvillian and former lobbyist for Tennessee Right To Life.)

So perhaps Sarah Palin was smart to back away from this PR disaster-in-waiting. From keynote speaker a few months ago, she was downgraded to a "special invited guest” in early January. Now, however, the PJTN website advertises Michelle Bachmann as its keynote speaker on Feb. 28. The NRB Convention schedule makes no mention of Palin, either.

Of course, Palin could still show up as a surprise guest. She and Bachmann appear to be thick as thieves these days, with Bachmann also booked for the Tea Party confab.

Bachmann/Palin 2012, anyone?

Your Modern Conservative Inferiority Complex

Quite possibly the best thing I’ve read on politics in a long, long time. It’s old and I don’t know how I missed it. But go read it. Now. I’ll wait.

{waiting ... waiting ... waiting ....}

Okay, I think there’s a lot of truth to what Sanchez says. And conservatives are not gonna like it. But too bad. There is so much incoherence running through the conservative base right now that when trying to make sense of what those folks are complaining about, all we can conclude is that the problem is not political but psychological.

A big chunk of you folks live in an alternate universe. We’ve got Tea Party ralliers saying they want to “take their country back” (From what? And from whom?). They want to “stop government control of (fill in the blank),” when they had one branch or another of the government for over 15 years. They want to stop “socialized Obamacare” when the proposed healthcare bill is so far removed from anything resembling government-controlled healthcare that those of us who pay attention to the facts not the spin are just going, “huh?”

There’s been talk of death panels and FEMA re-education camps and all sorts of wacko stuff that’s way off the radar (the latest is Obama--aided by ACORN--intentionally ruining the economy. No one seems to remember that the economy tanked while Bush was still in office.) You’ve got folks like Michelle Bachmann wishing you a Merry Christmas as “a federal official”, as if there’s something subversive in that (and the Tea Party Nation, on cue, cheers.) You’ve got Carrie Prejean acting like some persecuted Joan of Arc because people happened to notice she made a sex tape and posed topless and campaigned for a political group, all in violation of her pageant contract. But Larry King asks why she dropped her libel lawsuit and he’s being “inappropriate.” Sarah Palin, well, just about everything she says is beamed in from some alternate reality.

Here in Nashville we’re gearing for an onslaught of wackadoodle when the Tea Party folks hold their convention in early February. And let me just say right now: it’s like you guys are speaking some kind of secret language of disaffection and alienation that the rest of the country (including a lot of Republicans) just don’t get. You folks need to broaden your messaging beyond the bumper sticker bromides and develop some coherent, substantive, arguments so we can all figure out what you folks are so mad about. Because right now it looks like you're just pissed off about being pissed off. I'm trying to understand you, really I am, but I can't get past the placards that use words like "socialism," "communism" and "fascism" as if they were interchangeable.

There’s been this sense of persecution from the right going back even into the Bush years and it’s truly puzzling to those of us in the reality-based community because we don’t understand what folks who have been in control of everything since forever are complaining about.

So I think Sanchez has hit the nail on the head when he writes:
What we saw in ‘04 was fury at the realization that ascendancy to political power had not (post-9/11 Lee Greenwood renaissance notwithstanding) brought parallel cultural power.  The secret shame of the conservative base is that they’ve internalized the enemy’s secular cosmopolitan value set and status hierarchy—hence this obsession with the idea that somewhere, someone who went to Harvard might be snickering at them.

Harsh, yes, but I also think there’s truth to that.

We saw it in the right-wing attack on the Dixie Chicks and we see it in the right-wing hissy fit over the film “Avatar.” As’s Andrew Leonard noted, the free hand of the market has spoken and it’s got right-wing knickers in quite a twist:

Simplistic left-wing environmentalist propaganda, as realized by Cameron, turns out to be spectacularly popular! Ouch! That's gotta hurt. For right-wingers convinced that a cap-and-trade mechanism to restrict greenhouse gases is an affront to American values, it must be extraordinarily galling to see  the explicit environmental message of "Avatar" embraced so heartily.

Nothing says "fail" louder than a conservative "backlash" against a film that's already grossed over $1 billion worldwide. The problem for conservatives, says Sanchez, is a psychological one, not a political one. This means there is no cure for what ails them in mainstream Republican circles. Because what you are looking for is a cultural impact, and that’s not happening, no matter how many branches of government your fingers are on.

We saw this national inferiority complex manifest last year when the National Review released its Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs list and "Best Conservative Movies of the last 25 Years" list. At the time I wrote:

The poor dears. For years the conservative movement has tried desperately to prove their ideology has some kind of cultural relevance beyond the tiny clique of like-minded souls sequestered away in their alternate universe so aptly named "The Corner." Meanwhile, the rest of us just scratch our heads in puzzlement.

So now they've got a "movement" which David Broder compares to the hippies of the '60s and the feminists of the '70s. Can the movement be sustained? Even Broder doesn't know for certain because, as I said at the beginning of this piece, anger for anger's sake is not a movement that will be sustained.

Sanchez calls the Tea Partiers a "doomed project":

Even if conservatives retook power, they wouldn’t be able to provide a political solution to a psychological problem, assuming they’re not willing to go the Pol Pot route. At the same time, it signals a resignation to impotence on the cultural front where the real conflict lies.  It effectively says: We cede to the bogeyman cultural elites the power of stereotypical definition, so becoming the stereotype more fully and grotesquely is our only means of empowerment.

And no, I don't think remaking "Red Dawn" is going to satisfy you. Because your modern conservative base suffers from a vast inferiority complex. You don't want political power -- you had it for years! For nearly an entire decade. What you want is cultural power. And unless you dial back the crazy, I don't see that happening.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gah Gah

The daughter granddaughter of “God Hates Fags” cult leader Fred Phelps has made a parody of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” as part of the cult’s campaign against the performer. Apparently because Lady Gaga is supportive of gays (or wears weird outfits or who knows what) the Phelps cult has decided to picket Lady Gaga concerts.

But you gotta give the song a listen. It’s comedy gold:

@LadyGaga "Poker Face" parody by WBC is done! Lyrics: Music: sound bite

Just a reminder: this isn’t the first time the Phelps crew has cut a song parody. However, their previous efforts have sparked lawsuits by music publishers.

I don't think we can mock these folks enough.