Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I Guess It's McWherter Then

Got this e-mail from Kim McMillan's campaign today:
Over the past days and weeks friends have gently (and some not so gently) encouraged me to run for Mayor of Clarksville, my home and Tennessee’s 5th largest city. My answer was simple, “I love Clarksville, but I’m running for Governor.”

And run I’ve been doing. Since April of 2008, with a notepad in my hand, a dream in my heart, and a commitment to listen to Tennesseans, I’ve visited homes and hospitals, schools and factories, diners and drive-ins . . . well, you get the point, I’ve been to a lot of places. I’ve loved every minute of it.

I’ve often been told that “timing is everything.” Well, I’m not sure timing is everything, but I do know it’s important. I also know that timing rarely consults our calendar – in fact, it often seems to disrupt our careful plans.

From the time of this writing, the 24 hours just behind and the 24 hours immediately ahead have become pivotal. Yesterday at 3 p.m., Clarksville Mayor Johnny Piper announced that he will not seek re-election. Tomorrow at noon is the filing deadline for Governor.

I‘m going to answer the call of my friends; I’m going to run for Mayor of Clarksville.

I hope you’ll understand and though it may be too much to ask, I hope you’ll forgive me if my decision disappoints you. Thank you so very much for your support and the many kindnesses you’ve shown to me. Please call on me if I can help you.

I believe I can make a difference as Mayor of Tennessee’s 5th largest city.

For our young people, the ones born here, and the thousands that come here to Austin Peay and Fort Campbell and don’t want to leave, I want to help make Clarksville America’s best place to live. Clarksville, we’re on our way, but there’s work to be done and I want to help do it!

I’ll work hard to link our academic resources, our military resources, our natural resources, and our amazing workforce into a 21st century economic engine.

I’ll concentrate on keeping the jobs we have and growing the jobs we need. I’m proud of our success in recruiting Hemlock Semiconductor, and I’ll continue to use my relationships across the state and across America to tell the tremendous Clarksville story to companies large and small.

And I also know this, behind the headlines of recruitment success lays the heart of long term job growth – existing businesses. As we reach out, we’ll also reach in. I’ll help existing businesses cut through the red tape that can stifle growth and I’ll work hard to connect them to opportunities in every way I possibly can. I know that keeping the good jobs we have takes just as much effort as recruiting the good jobs we need!

At the heart of American’s best place to live are safe neighborhoods. Crime and gang activity literally hold millions of American’s hostage inside their own homes – but we can’t let that be true here in Clarksville, America’s best place to live. I’ll make sure that our first rate law enforcement team leads all of us in a community wide commitment to public safety.

I’ve been working for Tennessee and for Clarksville for a long time. As a public leader, I’ve always taken fairness and openness very seriously, and I promise you that fairness and openness will continue to be at the center of all that I do.

Personally I think it's weird that someone would trade running for governor for running for mayor of Clarksville. Makes me think she wasn't all that serious to begin with. But I get that it was looking like tough sledding. So, whatever.

I'm still mad at Mike McWherter for his asinine gay adoption ban flip flop.


Honest to God, when I heard Sinead O’Connor and the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue were going to “debate” the church sex scandal story on Larry King Live last night, I just thought “shoot me now.”

Really, CNN? No wonder your ratings are tanking. I mean, clearly no one wanted to have a serious discussion of clergy abuse or you wouldn’t have booked a former pop singer famous for ripping a picture of the Pope on “Saturday Night Live” and a right-wing crackpot so far off the reservation that an entire episode of “South Park” was devoted to him.


CNN’s recent decision to hire another right wing crank, Eric Erickson, has launched a “Dump CNN” campaign. Erickson famously called Justice David Souter “a goat fucking child molester,” which tells me he’s not very serious either. I mean cripes, I say offensive, salty things on my blog all the time. CNN still hasn’t called.

Recently I got into a heated discussion with a notable local broadcaster who was offended by my assertion that the news media is a key part of the problem in this country. This broadcaster said I sounded “bitter,” and told me if I wanted to keep bashing their industry I should talk to someone else because they were tired of being polite to me.


What prompted this exchange was my complaint that their news station showed up with full camera crew at Legislative Plaza to film three--count ‘em--Tea Party protesters at 6 am. They looked like idiots with a full camera crew showing up for an “event” that hadn’t even begun. There simply was no story, at least not yet. Meanwhile, over 100 people showed up at Bart Gordon’s office the previous day to thank him for his healthcare vote. Naturally, there was no camera crew there. When I asked this broadcaster why one non-event was covered while an actual news event was ignored he said it was because the Gordon rally was “AFTER the fact. That's how we do things in the news .... preview an upcoming gathering.”

Oh. Well I guess it’s not really news then. I mean, you could have shown up before the Gordon rally and “previewed” that. Seriously, does this make sense to anyone?

You know what our news media used to do?

Inform people.

You know what our news media no longer does?

Inform people.

Our media is lazy. Locally, nationally, it doesn't matter. They turn the cameras on the crazies and just hit the play button as people go at it. There is no real information in this type of coverage, just a pass-the-popcorn style fireworks show. And without any real content, without a sharing of real information, the country stays divided.

I guess if your idea of information is to say “there will be a rally here today,” then talking to three people setting up chairs and tables makes sense. But that’s not the story. The story is that some people showed up pissed off about a piece of legislation they didn’t like. The story would have been to ask people what they don’t like about it, what are they afraid of, what do they hope to do about it. Which would have begged some more in-depth conversation, for example when someone says “I don’t like this law because it’s Socialism,” then that would require someone to say, “how do you figure, when it basically requires people to buy private, for-profit health insurance from the same companies you’re doing business with now?” That requires a little more effort.

The lazy way to do it is to put a bunch of cranks on the air and have them yammer at each other. Sinead O’Connor and Bill Donohue talking about Catholic clergy abuse is very lazy. It doesn’t foster serious debate, it doesn’t involve any in-depth discussion about the issue, it doesn’t inform anyone of facts.

And yes, Nashville Broadcast Personality, this lack of informative discussion is hurting America. It's keeping people ignorant, uninformed, and divided.

Am I bitter about that? You betcha. And you should be, too.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

‘Tis The Season For Pranks

It seems some folks were none too pleased with two Missoula, Montana corporate citizens who left the town and its residents in the lurch, while the CEOs still live the good life:
A big shout out to a group in Missoula who made waves in their community last week by widely announcing a shockingly generous "thank you" concert and giveaway on behalf of Macy's and Smurfit-Stone, two longtime Missoula businesses that had closed just before Christmas, laying off hundreds of workers and leaving the town with millions in unpaid property taxes and debt. (Macy's CEO Terry J. Lundgren noted that "we improved our profitability" in 2009 by reducing expenses, "enabling us to generate significant cash flow" of $1.6 billion; Smurfit-Stone, whose operations in Mexico and Asia leave them "well positioned for long term growth," paid out millions in executive bonuses while CEO Sir Michael Smurfit bought a $68 million yacht.) In part thanks to the "thank you Missoula" action, a bunch more folks in Missoula are wondering why the two companies haven't thanked the town for sacrificing prospects and jobs for their profits and yachts.

You can read more about the phony concert hoax here and here.

Meanwhile, April 1 is Fossil Fool’s Day. Rumor has it there will be actions in Johnson City, TN and Murfreesboro. Stay tuned.

The blogosphere is an especially fertile ground for April Fool’s Day hoaxes, and Google is famous for perpetrating a few. And no doubt a few celebrities will find themselves victims of premature Death-By-Twitter. My money’s on Jennifer Anniston; she seems to be the butt of a lot of jokes these days.

So, be careful out there on Wednesday. To our glorious Mainstream Media, remember things are never what they appear to be. To Sarah Palin: be careful of phone calls from foreign leaders.


The pranksters gold medal award goes to Code Pink which issued an arrest warrant to Karl Rove:

Monday, March 29, 2010

ACK I Hardly Knew Ye

Actually, I never even met Adam Kleinheider but, damn, this really sucks.

ACK and I were on opposite sides of the political spectrum on most issues, but I think he did one helluva job over at Post Politics. Sure, there were the occasional posts that got my goat, but they were rare. The thing I appreciated the most about ACK’s work at Post Politics, aside from all the great links, is that most of the time he was fair.

I read Post Politics all through the day. It was--is--was--my “one stop shop” for Tennessee political news. Losing a job in this economy and in this discipline sucks big time. So ACK, I hope you land on your feet.

And my heart also goes out to the other SouthComm employees, faceless and nameless to the local blogosphere at this point, who also got sacked. I don’t know who you are but I feel your pain.

I Love A Good Idea

I think this idea is fabulous and deserves some attention. Instead of trying to get folks to buy solar panels for their homes, this company is leasing them:
California company Sungevity has seen a surge in demand for residential solar power systems, after launching a new 10-year solar lease program.

The scheme means customers face no up-front capital cost for their solar power systems, paying a lease payment each month and an amount for their power that Sungevity says will reduce their overall electricity bills.

Sungevity, which has its head office in Oakland, California, said it will give customers a free assessment – called an “iQuote” – for a solar lease at the touch of a button via its website.

The company uses satellite and aerial photography to assess customer roofs to make a determination on what kind of solar system would be appropriate.

Customers will save money “immediately”, pledges the company, increasing their savings over the 10-year lease period.

Danny Kennedy, President and co-founder of Sungevity, said: “This is the killer app for driving the mass adoption of solar. We’ve made it more than affordable to access electricity free from the sun, and we’ve made it easy by selling it over the internet.”

”It’s a killer app.” I love it.

I’m a little leery of the “quote at the touch of a button” thing -- Google Earth satellite images are out of date, someone really needs to check things like trees and the pitch and condition of your roof, etc. But the basic premise, leasing solar panels instead of selling them, is brilliant.

And I have loads of questions. How much does a 10-year Sungevity lease cost? Can state and federal tax breaks be applied to a lease versus traditional installation? What kind of arrangements are worked out with the local utility? What percent does Sungevity get of the money from the energy generated?

Let’s face it: right now solar panels are prohibitively expensive. They just are. And while it’s nice to get $1,000 from NES and 30% tax credit from the IRS at the end of the day neither of those is sufficient to make a solar array of any useful size affordable for the average American family.

And here’s something else of interest:

The new solar lease scheme is being funded by US Bank, the nation’s fifth largest bank, which has set up a $24 million tax equity fund to support the service.

“We’re excited to partner with Sungevity on their solar lease program,” said Darren Van’t Hof, Vice President of Renewable Energy Investments for US Bank. “We like the residential solar space and are convinced its growth will outpace commercial solar development in the coming years.”

Well good for them! Financing something that helps people here at home, not a new hotel-on-steroids in Dubai. And for the first time I've found someone who agrees with me that residential solar is a growth industry. See, I knew it. I'm so excited by this I could just pee myself.

Installing solar panels creates jobs -- good, blue collar construction jobs, the kind that we saw evaporate with the pop of a housing bubble. It creates clean energy, helps lower our dependence on mountain-crunching coal, lowers carbon emissions, you name it. It’s simply a win-win all the way around. And with Tennessee getting into the solar game, more of these panels (we hope) will be made here at home.

There are miles of rooftops that could benefit from solar panels. Churches, schools and hospitals are another one -- those are all huge buildings which are just perfect for housing a solar array, yet the non-profit world lacks the upfront capital required.

Here's another idea: will we ever see a day when utilities like TVA pay us to put solar panels our our rooftops? Sorta like how outdoor advertising companies pay property owners to erect billboards?

So thumbs up on a good idea. Maybe some local entrepreneur can get to work on launching a solar leasing scheme right here in Nashville.

What I Did This Weekend

We were in New York City to catch this preview:

The verdict? Very good, and bound to be another big hit with you young kids.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hands Off My Cultural Icons

Hey, Tea Baggers: No, you cannot call your gathering of angry nutballs a "conservative Woodstock.” You have no clue what Woodstock was about (just as you have no clue what the Boston Tea Party was about.) And while we're on the topic, free market advocate Bruce Bartlett, an advisor to both Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush, says you folks don’t know anything about taxes, too.

You are not now and never will be counter-culture hippies. Here’s a hint: if you are showing up to protests with signs that read “We Came Unarmed--THIS TIME" then you are not a hippie. THIS is not a hippie:

Cripes, how many times do I have to tell you people this? Get your own damn cultural icons. The fact that you have to keep stealing ours is very telling.

(Bonus round: Mayor Bloomberg, while not a Tea Bagger, is also not a hippie.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Little Too Close To Home

Disturbing that this happened in my neighborhood:
Road rage, accident centers on Obama bumper sticker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Nashville man says he and his 10-year-old daughter were victims of road rage Thursday afternoon, all because of a political bumper sticker on his car.

Mark Duren told News 2 the incident happened around 4:30p.m., while he was driving on Blair Boulevard, not far from Belmont University.

He said Harry Weisiger gave him the bird and rammed into his vehicle, after noticing an Obama-Biden sticker on his car bumper.

Duren had just picked up his 10-year-old daughter from school and had her in the car with him.

"He pointed at the back of my car," Duren said, "the bumper, flipped me off, one finger salute."

But it didn't end there.

Duren told News 2 that Weisiger honked his horn at him for awhile, as Duren stopped at a stop sign.

Once he started driving again, down Blair Boulevard, towards his home, he said, "I looked in the rear view mirror again, and this same SUV was speeding, flying up behind me, bumped me."

Duren said he applied his brake and the SUV smashed into the back of his car.

He then put his car in park to take care of the accident, but Weisiger started pushing the car using his SUV.

Duren said, "He pushed my car up towards the sidewalk, almost onto the sidewalk."

Police say Harry Weisiger is charged with felony reckless endangerment in the incident.

Harry Weisiger is 70 years old, according to a story that was e-mailed to me. That story also said he was charged with driving under the influence, though I didn’t see that information in this story.

You know, if a 70-year-old man can’t be a grown-up, who can?

Years ago when Mr. Beale and I were youth advisors at our church I was driving through the dreaded Williamson County to take our youth group to play Laser Tag. I had our church’s associate pastor and four teenagers in my car. I also had some anti-war bumper stickers and one of those W’s with a line through it on the back of my car.

An SUV driven by a young guy rushed up to my bumper and tried to push me off the road. The incident fell short of what Mark Duren experienced, thank God, but it left us all shaken.

Perhaps people should take a cue from Chris Reichert, the guy who threw dollar bills at a Parkinson’s patient:

"I snapped. I absolutely snapped and I can't explain it any other way," said Chris Reichert of Victorian Village, in a Dispatch interview.

In his first comments on an incident that went viral across the Internet and was repeatedly played on cable television news shows, Reichert said he is sorry about his confrontation with Robert A. Letcher, 60, of the North Side. Letcher, a former nuclear engineer who suffers from Parkinson's, was verbally attacked as he sat before anti-health care demonstrators in front of Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy's district office last week.

"He's got every right to do what he did and some may say I did too, but what I did was shameful," Reichert said. "I haven't slept since that day."

"I made a donation (to a local Parkinson's disease group) and that starts the healing process."

Good for Chris Reichert.

What really struck me is that Robert Letcher, the guy who was berated for being for healthcare reform, is a former nuclear engineer: someone who went to college, got advanced degrees, worked in a field that requires a lot of experience and training. Not, as the Glen Casada’s of the world would have you believe, some lazy person who just never lived up to their potential and are now looking for a handout. He’s a professional who was felled by a powerful disease.

I think we need to hear more of Letcher’s story, and everyone’s stories. It is easy for the Harry Weisigers and Chris Reicherts to dehumanize those with opposing views when our discourse is polluted with hate speech from talk radio and viral e-mail campaigns, 24/7. Our corporate media profits handsomely from caricaturing the opposing sides, and there is money in keeping the nation divided. How many fundraising e-mails hit your inbox this week?

Maybe if we all turned off the radio and turned off the TV and actually talked to one another and heard each other’s stories instead of letting the media and political groups profit from its divide and conquer strategy, we’d all be better off.

I dunno, just a thought.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sherry Jones Schools Glen Casada

Tennessee House Democrat Sherry Jones is my new hero. Watch her school Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada on why we need to feed the state's hungry children:

Casada, representing the state's wealthiest county, Williamson, proposed a bill that would end unemployment benefits for the state's families with dependent children. When a dumbfounded Jones asked Casada how he expected people to eat, he responded:
“Well, I think we all need you to do the best you can to find a job, is what I suggest.”

Yeah that would be great if there were any jobs but of course we have nearly 11% unemployment in Tennessee and the House Republicans haven't seen fit to lift a finger to do anything about it. Instead they have preoccupied themselves with allowing people to carry guns everywere (except the state capitol, of course. Ya big weenies.)

Casada's bill failed, and Tennessee Republicans once again show themselves to be utterly tone deaf on the plight of people in this state.

So let's repeat: if you think letting children go hungry and without access to health insurance is a good idea, then the Republican Party is for you.

Dodging The Blame

Two things today have me really pissed off. First of all we have Eric Cantor’s ludicrous, outrageous claim that Democrats are “fanning the flames” of hate speech.


You know, sorta like how the wife-beater says “she asked for it.”

Cantor claims that he, too, received threats because he’s Jewish. I have no reason to doubt him, though I wish he’d release some information about these supposed threats, just so we know what we’re dealing with. Regardless, he goes on to say that:
“I've received threats since I assumed elected office, not only because of my position but also because I'm Jewish. I've never blamed anyone in this body for that, period.

Yeah, well maybe that’s because no one in Congress, certainly not Democratic leaders, ever claimed that your being Jewish represents “the death of freedom” and “Armageddon.” I mean, come off it already. Enough of this childish, schoolyard “He did it toooo!!!” nonsense. If anyone is fanning the flames it’s you guys, and you damn well know it.

The other thing that killed me is John Boehner’s rather tepid statement about the threats to members of Congress, which included the lovely little dog whistle that liberals said and did mean things at Iraq War protests. Right, just like we spit on Vietnam Veterans and other things that may or may not have happened but we don't really know since there is no documented evidence of it. Yet it has become such a part of American lore that it's assumed to be true.

I was listening to the radio when Boehner made this claim and then, swear to Goddess, 15 minutes later as if on cue Norah O’Donnell repeated the same charge that the threats Democrats have received is similar to what Republicans faced during the runup to the Iraq War.

So here we go again. Is there anyone in the media who would ask if John Boehner knows the difference between “harsh words” and cutting the fuel line to a Congressman’s brother’s house?

Can anyone tell me which Republican members of Congress were targeted with physical harm by liberals during the Iraq War protests? Home addresses published on the internet? Bricks thrown through district office windows? Which liberal blogger told their readers to break windows at Republican Party offices nationwide?


I’m not saying it didn’t happen, I honestly don’t know. I don’t recall hearing it happening, and if it did, surely it would have happened to Democrats too -- after all, the Republicans are constantly reminding us that Democrats voted for the war too!

So: which members of Congress did we dirty fucking anti-war hippies who spit on war veterans target with acts of violence? Please name me one.

To our snooze media, I would ask you to please find that skepticism bone, the one that's supposed to be attached to your press pass. Just because John Boehner said it doesn't make it true.

And then please also learn the difference between mean words and actions.

Bill Frist Memory Hole

Those Republicans calling the health insurance mandate an “assault on liberty” might want to take it up with members of their own party--including Tennessee’s own Bill Frist, who wrote this op-ed last September advocating just such a mandate.

The former Senate Majority Leader wrote:
The argument for an individual mandate centers on three principles.

First, it would achieve fairness. No family in America should fear bankruptcy because of an accident, a child's cancer, or a heart attack. That is the purpose of insurance. An individual mandate is the only way to achieve affordable insurance coverage for every American in a pluralistic, public-private sector.

Second, it would eliminate wasteful cost-shifting. Though many uninsured people do eventually get care in emergency rooms, the $30 billion to $50 billion in bills for "uncompensated care" or "bad debt" they generate are inefficiently shifted to the privately insured, wasting scarce health dollars. These economic distortions are behind the dollar aspirin tablet and the $10 Band-Aid you discover on your hospital bill. No one knows the real price of anything. Such lack of transparency destroys any hope for true market forces, like prudent purchasing by the consumer, which would normally hold the "health spending curve" in check.

And few today who remain "voluntarily uninsured" fully appreciate the risks they would face in the case of a catastrophic event.

Third, it would reduce adverse selection. When healthier people opt not to carry insurance, only those with poorer health, and thus higher costs, remain in. This leads insurance prices to spiral up. And it further impedes markets' ability to mitigate risks and prevent personal economic catastrophe. The "free-riders" who do not purchase insurance and the "voluntarily uninsured" who depend on emergency room care paid by others would then pay their fair share for services received.

Indeed, some of my conservative commenters have mentioned over here that if you are going to ban “pre-existing conditions,” you must have an insurance mandate. Otherwise, people would go without insurance until something catastrophic happened, and the insurance pool would be dominated by sick people, without a balance of healthy people.

Of course, liberals are all over the fact that the mandate started as a Republican idea:

"The truth is this is a Republican idea,'' said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. She said she first heard the concept of the "individual mandate'' in a Miami speech in the early 1990s by Sen. John McCain, a conservative Republican from Arizona, to counter the "Hillarycare'' the Clintons were proposing.

McCain did not embrace the concept during his 2008 election campaign, but other leading Republicans did, including Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.

Seeking to deradicalize the idea during a symposium in Orlando in September 2008, Thompson said, "Just like people are required to have car insurance, they could be required to have health insurance.''

Among the other Republicans who had embraced the idea was Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts crafted a huge reform by requiring almost all citizens to have coverage.

"Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate,'' Romney wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2006. "But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.''

Romney was referring to the federal law that requires everyone to be treated in emergency rooms, regardless of their ability to pay.

In truth, I think it’s just as much a Democratic idea as a Republican one. Hillary Clinton embraced the mandate as a candidate for President, for example.

All of this arguing over the mandate, after the fact, is just so much Kabuki Theater and manufactured outrage. It’s dishonest for Democrats to say that this is purely a Republican idea but it’s even more dishonest for Republicans to run from the policy they once advocated--and it’s shameful that they would stoke outrage among their unhinged base for something they have supported for decades.

Just another sign of our broken system. I'm still waiting for the grown-ups to arrive.

Palin We Have A Problem

Much is being made of Sarah Palin’s Facebook page featuring Congress Critters like Bart Gordon in the crosshairs and her related Tweet to not retreat but “RELOAD!” In light of escalating violence and threats against pro-healthcare legislators, it is indeed irresponsible to egg on the thugs of the Tea Party movement.

Of course, the Palin crowd says she didn’t really mean to “target” certain members of Congress, those crosshairs on her map are just a graphic, ya big sillies, and when she said “reload” she meant to “reload Congress.”

Uh, yeah. You do realize that Bart Gordon isn’t running for re-election, right? So why is he in your crosshairs? Ditto with Vic Snyder and Brad Ellsworth -- indeed, that little fact is even mentioned on the map. Which makes the statement “Already retiring at the end of their terms. 17 more to go!” sound even more creepy.

Amygdala America is out of control. Try as they might to mainstream their movement, there is no hiding the hate in the Tea Party.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Meet Big Coal's Candidate

Did Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey ask former Republican state Senator Raymond Finney to drop his bill banning mountain-top removal mining at the behest of a big contributor?
A NewsChannel 5 investigation revealed the powerful leader of the state senate, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, who is also running for governor, gets far more from coal interests than anyone else. One former senator claims Lt. Governor Ramsey asked him to drop a bill that would have banned most types of mountain top mining.


Since 2009, people with an interest in coal contributed more than $300,000 to people running for office in Tennessee. We found that more than $195,000 went to the powerful leader of the state senate, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey or his political action committee.

The NewsChannel5 report points out that coal is a small industry in Tennessee, employing fewer than 400 people. Yet when asked if he’s the “pro-coal candidate,” Ramsey responded:

"No, I'm the pro-business candidate. No, I'm pro-jobs candidate. That's exactly what I am," Ramsey responded.

Yeah well you’re also an idiot if you think anyone buys that line of BS. How many jobs do tourism and outdoor recreation provide? How about the jewel of Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? How many jobs do our beautiful mountains brings us, clean water for sport fishing and deer hunting in our mountains? More than 400? I think so--squared. And squared again.

You know what I find interesting? The fact that just one new solar energy project -- ONE -- will employ more people in its new Knoxville plant than the entire coal industry in the entire state of Tennessee.

Cripes. What a maroon. You’re not pro-jobs. You’re pro Ron Ramsey’s campaign account. And you’re certainly not pro-Tennessee, pro-clean air, pro mountains.

What a fraud.

Repeal THIS Suckaz

Minutes ago President Obama signed the healthcare bill into law. Here are 10 benefits that go into effect this year:
1. Adult children may remain as dependents on their parents’ policy until their 27th birthday
2. Children under age 19 may not be excluded for pre-existing conditions
3. No more lifetime or annual caps on coverage
4. Free preventative care for all
5. Adults with pre-existing conditions may buy into a national high-risk pool until the exchanges come online. While these will not be cheap, they’re still better than total exclusion and get some benefit from a wider pool of insureds.
6. Small businesses will be entitled to a tax credit for 2009 and 2010, which could be as much as 50% of what they pay for employees’ health insurance.
7. The “donut hole” closes for Medicare patients, making prescription medications more affordable for seniors.
8. Requirement that all insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.
9. Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states (Bernie Sanders’ amendment). Community health centers provide primary, dental and vision services to people in the community, based on a sliding scale for payment according to ability to pay.
10. AND no more rescissions. Effective immediately, you can't lose your insurance because you get sick.

Good luck repealing this Republicans. Seeing as how your grand idea to solve our national healthcare crisis is .... ??

Party Of No, Tennessee Edition

Tennessee’s state legislature, led by Republicans and Conservadems like Doug Jackson, think the healthcare bill is unconstitutional. And they’re looking into launching a challenge. Grab the popcorn.

Hey Ron Ramsey: name me one medical decision you will be unable to control under the new law. Just one.

Can’t do it, can you?

I just have one question for you folks in the state legislature. What’s your solution for the 1.7 million Tennesseans who lack health insurance? Here’s a hint: making sure they can carry a gun into a restaurant or have a constitutional right to hunt and fish ain’t it.

You folks are wasting everyone’s time with your jingoistic legislative agenda. Hunting! Fishing! Guns! God! America! I think my favorite is the constitutional amendment that would forever ban a state income tax, so we can all enjoy paying 10% sales tax on everything while our schools run out of money. Brilliant.

In case it’s escaped your notice we have 10.7% unemployment in this state. We’re tied for 37th place in the nation in terms of unemployment. Unemployed people don’t have health insurance, folks. Hey, Rep. Mike Bell, sponsor of the “Health Care Freedom Act”: McMinn County--your district!--had 13.3% unemployment in January. What are you doing to help those people?


Any ideas at all? Bueller?


Hey, Ron Ramsey: Tennessee ranks 44th in a nationwide survey of healthiest states. What’s your grand idea to help millions of unhealthy people access healthcare?


Hey, Tennessee state legislature: we’re number two in the nation for bankruptcies. You know what a major cause of bankruptcy is? Medical debt. 62% of personal bankruptcies are due to medical debt.

What are you yahoos at Legislative Plaza doing about this? Anything? Any ideas at all? Any of your gun-loving, gay-bashing and hippie punching going to help folks in this state meet these challenges? Just what exactly do you think you folks were elected to do, anyway? Here's a hint: spending a work day at the shooting range ain't it.

Y'all are wasting our time. I have no use for any of you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lessons Learned

Like everyone else, I have a lot of thoughts about the healthcare bill’s passage. I’ve made no secret of my dislike for the bill, calling it a “crap sandwich” on numerous occasions and observing that without a public element, it is indeed the very definition of fascism.

But regardless, it has passed, and it is what it is. I’m not popping champagne corks or high-fiving my fellow liberals. I’m glad that we have a good start toward curbing insurance company abuses, that finally the people have a little more leverage against a for-profit system that makes millions of dollars off of denying people access to what is supposed to be the best healthcare system in the world.

I do think this marks a good opportunity for both Republicans and Democrats to learn a few lessons. I’ll start with the Republicans, who were shameless in their lies and fearmongering about death panels and socialism, egging on their unhinged base to the point where we had Congressmen hung in effigy, a Parkinson’s patient taunted, a Civil Rights icon called “nigger” and a gay Congressman called “faggot.” You guys really humiliated yourselves in your race to the bottom, and don’t think the vast majority of Americans who don’t waltz around in tri-corner hats didn’t see your shenanigans and find them repulsive.

It wasn’t just protestors who seemed dangerously unhooked from reality, but Republicans in Congress. I caught just a little bit of the debate over the weekend, enough to see Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn lament that “freedom has died a little bit today,” which is really rich coming from someone who:
• Voted NO on requiring FISA warrants for wiretaps in US, but not abroad. (Mar 2008)
• Voted YES on removing need for FISA warrant for wiretapping abroad. (Aug 2007)
• Voted YES on allowing electronic surveillance without a warrant. (Sep 2006)
• Voted YES on continuing intelligence gathering without civil oversight. (Apr 2006)
• Voted YES on making the PATRIOT Act permanent. (Dec 2005)

So, ya know, don’t talk to me about the death of freedom when you want the government to eavesdrop on peoples’ phone conversations without a warrant. You’re living in your own little world, lady, where “freedom” is defined on some pretty bizarro terms, and I sure don’t want to go there with you.

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum has this to say to the Republicans:

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.
Frum called the healthcare bill’s passage a “huge win for the conservative entertainment industry” because Limbaugh gets to keep his angry listeners and he gets to keep them angry by telling them lies about Democrats wanting to abort your babies and haul grandma off to a death panel. This is good for Limbaugh’s ratings and his advertisers, but it’s not good for the Republican Party either.

Frum is absolutely right. The entertainment wing of the Republican Party -- Limabugh, Hannity, Glenn Beck and, yes, Sarah Palin -- can only succeed when their listeners are enraged and uninformed. They operate in an alternate reality created by talk radio and FOX News. They parade around with signs referring to themselves (with no irony whatsoever) as the “Silent Majority,” and use “I am the mob” hashtags on Twitter.

Unfortunately, their alternate reality doesn’t make room for a few hard truths, which Frum points out: that Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, and the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than when Clinton was president. And also the fact that polls have been back and forth on the healthcare bill, but those showing high negatives included people like me, dirty fucking hippies who wanted socialized medicine and are pissed we aren’t getting it. And that individual components of the healthcare bill, like an end to pre-existing conditions, are actually popular .

You folks created a fantasy world, so don’t come crying to me when the cold light of reality crashes your tea party.

And to Democrats I have to say, you guys blew it big time, even as you celebrate your historic victory. How in the hell did you let the opposition present a massive expansion of our private, for-profit health insurance system as socialism? Hello? How many times did we hear Republican politicians and pundits repeat, robotically, the scripted talking point about a “massive government takeover of healthcare.” I mean look, John Boehner is still doing it. How many times did we hear that fallacy and the Chuck Todds, Jake Tappers, Joe Scarboroughs, Chris Matthews’ etc. never once said: hey wait a minute, that’s not true.

How many times are the Democrats going to let their message get away from them before they figure out how to deal with this? How long before they figure out that the so-called “liberal media” is not your friend and they won’t correct the record and report facts, they operate solely on the level of opinion?

Get on message, people. I don’t expect Democrats to be robots and read off a script like the Republicans do, we aren’t that disciplined or that brain-dead, but for crying out loud, there is no way in hell an expansion of a private, for-profit business is anything close to “government run healthcare.” When you hear that kind of BS about future legislation, please in God’s name, call them on it!

Anyway, that’s enough ranting for now. I’m glad the sideshow is over ... for now.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


[UPDATE 2]: Meet "Solly Forrell", the "death Tweeter" mentioned at the bottom of this post. Apparently he is rethinking that assassination thing. Might have something to do with a Secret Service investigation.


Wondering how much longer our mainstream media will try to mainstream the racists, bigots and whackjobs that are the bulk of the Tea Party movement:
WASHINGTON — Demonstrators outside the U.S. Capitol, angry over the proposed health care bill, shouted "nigger" Saturday at U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia congressman and civil rights icon who was nearly beaten to death during an Alabama march in the 1960s.

Protesters also shouted obscenities at other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, spat on at least one black lawmaker and confronted an openly gay congressman with taunts.

This after Tea Party protestors mock a man with Parkinson’s.

Cue the right wingers’ retort that “liberals are mean too!” Yeah, we might be big fat meanies but unhinged hostility seems to dominate the Tea Bag crowd. It was on full display in Nashville last month.

[UPDATE]: Hey Blue Dogs: you really want to cast your lots with this crowd?

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Tennessean Got Duped--AGAIN

Someone needs to clue in the editors of our local Gannett fishwrap about a little something called professional sock-puppetry. Because they keep falling for it.

For example, who is this Sarah Longwell person who penned an anti-MADD column for the “Tennessee Voices” section of The Tennessean back in February?

Just another PR professional on the staff of D.C. lobbyist Rick Berman:
Short Bio: Sarah Longwell works in public relations for Berman & Company, listed as the principal media contact for the Center for Consumer Freedom, the Center for Union Facts, and the Indoor Tanning Association. She is also listed as both the managing director and communications director of the American Beverage Institute. Longwell has written many editorial pieces on behalf of these industry-funded front groups and often serves as a media spokesperson. She previously served as the director of communications at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to spread the conservative message on college campuses.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a Rick Berman PR employee has sock-puppeted for a client in the pages of The Tennessean by hiding behind a non-existent non-profit. Back on December 23, 2009, Kristen Lopez Eastlick slammed the minimum wage increase in an opinion piece in our daily, which identified her as “senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute” (the column has been pulled, but you can read a copy of it here.)

But there is no such organization as the “Employment Policies Institute.” It’s another phony group established by lobbyist Rick Berman, no more than a website. Eastlick, like Sarah Longwell, is an employee of Rick Berman’s. In addition to being the “senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute” she also holds the titles of...

• Chief Administrative Officer, Berman and Company
• Senior Research Analyst, Employment Policies Institute
• Government Affairs Director, Berman and Company
• Government Affairs Director, Center for Consumer Freedom
• Director of State Affairs, American Beverage Institute
• Spokesperson, American Beverage Institute
• Lobbyist, American Beverage Institute
• Chief Administration Officer, American Beverage Institute
• Director of Policy Analysis, Employment Policies Institute
• Spokesperson, Employment Policies Institute
• Economic Analyst, Employment Policies Institute
• Senior Research Analyst, Activist Cash

... in other words, whatever best fits the needs of the moment to better dupe the clueless reporter/opinion page editor/producer, etc. And it's all on behalf of Berman & Co. clients which include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Philip Morris, Smithfield Foods, Coca-Cola, Wendy's, Tyson's Foods, Cargill, and Outback Steakhouse (to name a few).

So, way to go Tennessean. Here's some advice for you: before you run any “Tennessee Voices” columns from people named Sarah Kapenstein, David Martosko, Trice Whitefield or Tim Miller, you might want to hit the Google.

(h/t, Pylon in comments.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Republicans Are Rubber, Democrats Are Glue

Rep. John Shaddegg, R-AZ, says he supports single-payer:
When Shuster accused Republicans of supporting insurers, Shadegg balked.

"No we don't! You guys keep saying that, but I'm not the guy pushing the bill that says we should compel people to buy insurance from the for-profit guys. That's the Democrats," he said.

Then, after some back and forth with Shuster: "I would support single-payer."

"You would support a government-run medical system?" Shuster asked.

"Absolutely," Shadegg said. "I would support forcing American insurance companies to compete. Right now they have a monopoly."

Shaddegg is lying, of course: last fall he likened healthcare reform to “full on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care”. It doesn't matter though. It doesn't matter that he's shamelessly confused single payer with the public option. It doesn’t matter because he’s just repeating the new talking point, which is this:

“I'm not the guy pushing the bill that says we should compel people to buy insurance from the for-profit guys. That's the Democrats."

So this is how it’s going to be. Democrats get pwned again by the Republican message machine. Only this time, the Democrats are going to find it awfully hard to counter the pro-health insurance company label because it is correct. If this healthcare bill passes (and I suspect it will), Democrats will force people to buy insurance from private, monopolized, for-profit health insurance companies, without competition from the public sector. It's true.

So expect to hear more of this line in the ensuing months and years. Shaddegg was first out of the box but I guarantee you, he won’t be the last. We live in a nation of amnesiacs, where constant repetition of talking points in the echo chamber rewrites history on a daily basis. Now we hear that 9/11 happened on Clinton’s watch and the economic decline happened on Obama’s watch. And now the Democrats have been pwned by the right wing message machine once again.

It doesn't matter that the Republicans were being really mean and shouty people with racist signs showed up at town hall meetings and elites on the Washington Post and New York Times editorial pages had big sads and things like single payer and the public option were called "socialized medicine" and "communist" and "fascist" all at the same time. No one will remember that, all they will remember is that we were forced to eat a shit sandwich and don't think for a moment that the Republicans won't make Democrats own it.

By trying to do what was expedient, instead of fighting for what was right and what would actually work, the Democrats have saddled themselves with the “pro-health insurance company” label. They have forgotten (if they every knew it to begin with) that when it comes to the message wars, Republicans are rubber and Democrats are glue. Whatever Republicans say about Democrats sticks.

By refusing to put single payer on the table, we never got to have that debate (though as I’ve said, we’ve been fighting anti-single payer arguments with the Tea Shouters and their “no socialized medicine” messaging). Now Democrats have the pro-health insurance company albatross hanging around the necks--health insurance companies, probably the most universally reviled business in this country.

Way to go, guys.

(h/t, Kleinheider)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marsha’s Got Some 'Splaining To Do

The FEC has a few questions for Congressman Marsha Blackburn:
- Schedule B of your report discloses a disbursement to the candidate for "Symphony Ball Event Tickets" that appear(s) to constitute personal use of campaign funds by the candidate, as defined at 11 CFR § 113.1(g). Personal use is any use of funds in a campaign account of a present or former candidate to fulfill a commitment, obligation or expense that would exist irrespective of the candidate's campaign or responsibilities as a federal office holder.

The committee must seek reimbursement for the full amount of the personal use violation(s) from the beneficiary and notify the Commission of such a reimbursement. The reimbursement(s) must be reported on Schedule A supporting Line 15 of the Detailed Summary Page of the report covering the period in which the reimbursement is received.

Please amend your report to clarify what action you will take concerning the apparent personal use of campaign funds.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Blackburn or her treasurer, Tea Hoffman, have been in trouble with the FEC.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Resistance Is Futile

Once again, I repeat: if you aren’t reading Harper’s, you’re wasting your time.

April’s cover story, The Vanishing Liberal: How The Left Learned To Be Helpless (subscription only, getcha one), is a case in point. It traces liberal movements going back to the 1870s, points to globalization in the 1990s for its current woes, and arrives at this assessment of President Obama and the Dems:
Whereas the Populists’ soapbox lecturers or the Progressives’ magazine exposés or FDR in his radio “fireside chats” explained the way of the world to the people and argued for why and how that way must change, Obama—like most Democratic leaders—concedes that the way of the world is wrong but tells us why it must stay that way because, some time in the past, powerful interests decreed it so.

Thus we are told that single-payer or a public option may be a good idea but that private insurance companies are simply too well–ensconced for reform. Afghanistan may be hopeless, but we have already committed to it. The power of the people is never activated, nothing much is asked or required of us, even as thugs overrun congressional town-hall meetings.

Instead, the party that claims to represent all progressive interests in this country proceeds with its impervious, self-interested agenda. The administration’s stated priorities for the near future are to balance the budget before a deep recession has abated and to commit the nation to a long-running war in a dysfunctional Asian country that we neither understand nor care about—thereby promising to repeat, simultaneously, the two worst mistakes made by liberal presidents in the past seventy-five years. As for the long term, the White House will form a commission bent on cutting “entitlements,” such as Social Security and Medicare, that are the bedrock of retired Americans’ prosperity.

This situation has most sentient folks on the left deeply disturbed -- hell, I was just chatting with my 78-year-old mother-in-law on the phone 20 minutes ago and she said in her sweet Southern way, “the only thing I’m mad at Obama about is that I just don’t understand why he didn’t open Medicare up to everybody and be done with it.” Indeed.

And the money quote:

Obama, the congressional Democrats, and most of our politicians at every level now maneuver within political confines defined by financial and military interests they cannot conceive of challenging.

The Tea Party is in no better shape:

No one is going to abolish the Federal Reserve, or the income tax, or Social Security and Medicare; if they did, small businesses and working people would be trampled beneath the corporate entities bent on their exploitation.

Liberalism is dead, the “great, forced opening of the past 130 years” it spawned has ended. And a true reformist movement? Good luck with that.

Hate to piss in peoples' Wheaties but even if healthcare reform passes, we're still doomed.

Adding .... All is not completely lost, of course. But the point of the article is to show how liberalism has been reborn repeatedly throughout history by appealing to new constituencies -- farmers, workers, immigrants, blacks, women, gays. A place was made at the table for those who had been excluded from the halls of power; now, the "ruling elite" is one of

unparalleled diversity, and includes unprecedented numbers of women, minorities, and individivuals who have worked their way up to power on brains and determination alone, usually without having inherited connections or wealth. It is a meritocracy much like the one long envisioned by many liberal reformers--and it has decided to capitulate, reap its considerable rewards, and draw the ladder up after it.

In this environment it will take a massive effort to bring that ladder down again. Will it happen? I just don't know.


God I love the Italians. This just cracked me up.


[UPDATE]: Ralph Reed jumps on board the gravy train. Of course he does.


Don’t know how I started getting these “Conservative Action Alerts” from AmeriPac AmeriPAC: American Political Action Committee (not to be confused with AmeriPAC: The Fund For A Greater America, which supports Democratic candidates) on the e-mail, but today’s has the subject line
ObamaCare Imposes $2.5 Trillion In New Taxes


The e-mail quotes an analysis by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, John McCain’s economics advisor. He is also president of the American Action Forum, a “think tank” set up by Republicans to counter the left-leaning Center For American Progress. So excuse me if I don’t take his word for it.

Anyway, the thing is filled with lots of EXCLAMATION POINTS! and SHOUTY ALL CAPS and UNDERLINING like those Publisher’s Clearinghouse solicitations I get. It felt “scammy” so I clicked through the “Select Here SEND YOUR FAXES NOW! ” link and saw this:

For less than what it would cost you in time and telephone charges, you can send Blast Faxes to:

ALL 59 Democrat/Independent Senators AND President Obama for just $19
ALL 41 GOP Senators AND President Obama for just $19
ALL 100 Senators AND President Obama for just $29
ALL 261 Democrat/Independent Representatives AND President Obama for just $59
ALL 174 GOP Representatives AND President Obama for just $55
ALL 435 Representatives AND President Obama for just $99
ALL 535 Senators & Representatives AND President Obama for just $119

Really, AmeriPac? $119? Talk about a scam.

I dimly remember receiving one of these things last year, in fact I may even have thrown up a blog post about it (can't find it now). I just wonder how many people receiving this blast e-mail will shell out big bucks for something that actually costs just pennies. And they accuse us of lies and misrepresentation? Oh, the irony!

The fax itself is full of lies about government rationing and other nonsense. The funniest part? This:

When All Else Fails Lie, Cheat & Deal

Uh, yeah. Well, y'all would know.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

When Corporations Go To College

Have we sufficiently welcomed our corporate overlords yet?
Yale University Office of Public Affairs announced that PepsiCo is going to fund a graduate fellowship to aid "nutritional science research" in the Yale School of Medicine's M.D.-Ph.D. program.

PepsiCo funding a graduate fellowship in nutritional science? What could possibly go wrong! In addition to chemical and sugar laden soft drinks, PepsiCo owns Quaker Oats and Frito-Lay. Just who we need funding research on nutrition.

I’ve warned for years of conservative groups taking over the halls of higher education; indeed, there are several right-wing groups (Students For Academic Freedom is one) funded by the usual conservative moneybags (Koch and Scaife Foundations) all devoted to wringing every last drop of liberalism out of higher education.

But the truth of the matter is, the battle was lost long ago. Because corporate money, more than political ideology, has been polluting higher education for decades.

For a great example of how it works look no further than your neighborhood veterinarian:

Borrowing a page from the pharmaceuticals companies, which routinely woo doctors to prescribe their drugs, Hill's has spent a generation cultivating its professional following. It spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year funding university research and nutrition courses at every one of the 27 U.S. veterinary colleges. Once in practice, vets who sell Science Diet and other premium foods directly from their offices pocket profits of as much as 40%.

"Vets trust them," says Janil Norris, a fresh graduate of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. While she was in school, a Hill's program allowed the struggling student to pay just $3 a bag for a special prescription brand for her cat, Buffalo Sean. A bag normally runs about $25. She also received a small stipend, courtesy of the Hill's program, to study orthopedic surgery with a Los Angeles vet. "Hill's was just always around," she adds.

That story was from 1997, I might add.

It's not just pharmaceutical companies, designer pet food companies, or PepsiCo. Thanks to cuts in public funds to land grant schools, ag schools around the country have been forced to go to the corporate sector for their research funds--bad corporate citizens like Monsanto, for example.

Conflict of interest, much?

Of course, no one pays attention to stuff like this. Hey, ya know, corporations are people after all. I guess they just want to go to college like everyone else.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Where Was The Media?

Look at this big crowd of pro-healthcare reform activists rallying outside a meeting of health insurance executives in Washington D.C. this week:

Here’s another video of the same rally:

Where was the mainstream media? Where were all of those reporters who descended on Nashville at a ratio of one reporter for every three Tea Baggers? Where was the wall-to-wall news coverage that we get whenever the nincompoops on the right drag their misspelled signs and their racism and homophobia out of the attic and parade them out in public?

The only news coverage I saw on this event was on The Daily Show. And that just figures.

Maybe next time pro-healthcare reform folks rally, they should remember to wear tri-corner hats. Seems to be the only thing that gets our news media’s attention.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just Another Phony Rick Berman Astroturf Front Group


On a whim I did a Google news search for Berman & Co. employee David Martosko. Looks like the media is still getting pwned by Berman's tricks. Martosko is now masquerading as some kind of beef and dairy industry expert in an effort to discredit the Humane Society of the United States.

For what it's worth, Wikipedia says the phony front group Center for Consumer Freedom was founded with money from Berman client Philip Morris.


The “Committee To Rethink Reform” is running TV ads in Tennessee full of scary lightning bolts and trillion-bazillion dollar figures pulled out of some Heritage Foundation flunky’s ass claiming we’ll all be doooooooomed if healthcare reform passes.

It’s typical fear propaganda, but they’re telling people to call Lincoln Davis so I thought I’d find out who this “Committee To Rethink Reform” is. Turns out it’s the same group that ran scary ads in the New York Times last December telling senior citizens that if healthcare reform passes, they’d have to walk 71 miles in the desert with a character out of Ben Hur snapping a whip in the air to get to the nearest doctor.

Well, something along those lines.

So who is the “Committee To Rethink Reform”? Apparently it’s another creation of conservative lobbyist/corporate flack Rick Berman. Remember him? He’s the guy dubbed “Dr. Evil” for setting up phony “non-profit” front groups to peddle corporate lies. Among his greatest hits: hiring actors at $30 an hour to pretend to be anti-debt “protestors,” and running full page ads in the New York Times linking the Humane Society to terrorists.

Berman & Co. uses the Rethink Reform campaign as one of its case studies on its company website. Berman never reveals where his funding comes from, but if I were to take a guess I'd be looking at AHIP and PhRMA for this campaign. Just a guess.

In 2009 CREW launched a website “ripping the cloak of secrecy” away from Rick Berman’s phony campaigns, called It's pretty shocking what a sleazebag this guy is. Lies and deceptions are his stock in trade.

Here I learned that Rick Berman’s employees pose as policy experts to get op-eds published in newspapers around the country:
Berman and Company’s public relations professionals, posing as policy experts, have landed pieces in the opinion pages of newspapers throughout the country. Unfortunately, most of these news outlets fail to sufficiently vet and identify these hired guns.

For example, David Martosko, a Berman employee, who is frequently cited as a scientific expert, received his graduate degree in opera from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University.

In Mr. Martosko’s efforts to discredit the National Cancer Institute’s findings on red meat consumption and increased mortality, he spearheaded a letter-writing campaign publishing his opinions in papers including the Sacramento Bee and the Athens Banner-Herald. Mr. Martosko was not identified as a Berman and Company employee, but rather as “Director of Research for the Center for Consumer Freedom.”

Tim Miller, another Berman hire, has also been identified in his letters and op-eds by his association to the company’s front groups. For example, Mr. Miller opined in response to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that his “organization,” the Center for Consumer Freedom, was in opposition to the Payday Loan Reform Act to counter “antiloan activist rhetoric” and went on to rehash the newest slogans from the Center’s latest payday loan ad campaign. In addition, Berman's Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy is behind a pro-payday loan site masquerading as a 'financial education' site.

Mr, Miller’s real job is the director of communications for Berman and Company and his listed positions include a number of its affiliated front groups: the Center for Consumer Freedom, the Center for Union Facts, the Employment Policy Institute, the Employees Freedom Action Committee, the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy, the American Beverage Institute, and Activist Cash. Mr. Miller has served as the communications coordinator for Sen. John McCain’s Iowa caucus campaign. Before that, he was the communications director for Jeff Lamberti’s failed 2006 congressional campaign in Iowa’s 3rd district, the political director for Bill Dix’s failed 2006 congressional campaign in Iowa’s 1st district, the field director for Jerry Kilgore’s failed 2005 campaign for Governor of Virginia, and as a travel aide for Bill Lee’s failed 2004 campaign for Governor of Delaware.

Well isn’t that special. Now that Rick Berman’s latest phony front group is targeting Lincoln Davis, I wonder how long before we read a Berman employee’s op-ed in the Tennessean?

You know, if you have to misrepresent who you are to such an outrageous degree, perhaps that should tell you something about your position. Just sayin'.

Anyway, just thought I’d let folks know who the “Committee To Rethink Reform” is. Just another phony front group spouting the corporate line. I know y’all are shocked.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Weird Crap I Read

I think listening to Karl Lagerfeld on climate science must be akin to listening to Glenn Beck on theological matters.

Corker Looks Out For His Loan Shark Buddy

Who’s looking out for you? Not Sen. Bob Corker, who is charged with using his position on the Senate Banking Committee to protect his good buddy W. Allan Jones, founder of Check Into Cash, one of those usurious payday lending chains that suck financially strapped people in with false promises, then keep them in debt forever by charging outrageous fees and interest rates as high as 400%.

TPM reports:
Lately, Congress has been mulling how to structure a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), so as to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis. And reform advocates have argued that increased regulation of pay-day lenders is an essential piece of the puzzle. But after lobbying by an industry group that Jones helped establish, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) acted to thwart the new agency's ability to effectively monitor Jones's industry.


There, Corker reportedly has weakened the section of the major financial regulatory reform bill that deals with pay-day lenders. Thanks to Corker, who sits on the Senate Banking committee, the new CFPA will have to get permission from a body of regulators in order to enforce rules against payday lenders and other non-bank financial companies -- a step that consumer groups say will significantly hamstring the agency's ability to crack down on predatory lending practices.

Corker's intervention came after intense lobbying from the Community Financial Services Association (CFSA), a trade group of pay-day lenders created in 1999 by Jones and others in the industry. In the last three months of 2009, CFSA spent $500,000 lobbying Congress on the financial regulatory reform and other issues affecting regulation of the pay-day loan industry, according to disclosure records examined by TPMmuckraker. (One of the top Washington lobbyists hired by CFSA, Wright Andrews of Butera & Andrews, was also the prime lobbyist for the sub-prime mortgage industry earlier this decade.)

Jones is a longtime backer of Corker -- as well as of several other lawmakers, from both parties, on the Banking committee. Since 2001, Jones, his relatives, and his employees, have contributed $31,000 to the campaigns of Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, according to the New York Times.

For shame, Bob Corker. For shame.

These payday lenders are the worst sorts of vampires, preying on those in crisis situations who are least equipped to understand the pitfalls they face. Many of them, sadly, are our military personnel:

A study by Professors Chris Peterson of the University of Florida and Steven Graves of California State University, Northridge showed geographic evidence that payday lenders aggressively target military personnel. Payday lenders target service members because they are often young, financially inexperienced and strapped for cash, especially at the time of deployment. A December 2004 New York Times study revealed that 25 percent of military households have used payday lenders. The prevalence of high-cost borrowing among service members led the Department of Defense to list predatory lending as one of the top 10 threats to members of the military.

In 2006 the bipartisan Talent-Nelson Amendment was added to the Defense Appropriations Bill to protect military personnel from such predatory lenders. It was signed into law and went into effect in October 2007.

Now, how about the rest of us? Just once I'd like our Republican Senators to think about the people of this state who sent them to Washington, not the industries that send them campaign cash.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Palin Hustle

Yes, I think when it comes to Sarah Palin, the word "hustle" is apt:
Medicine Hat News reports on a speech Sarah Palin gave in Calgary (tickets as low as $150), where a folksy monologue took a shocking turn — an admission about how her family received health care.
We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada. And I think now, isn’t that ironic.

Palin, born in Idaho, lived in Wasilla, Alaska for most of her life. The nearest city in Canada, Whitehorse, is a 15 hour drive away. Anchorage is only 45 minutes away. I definitely want to hear more about this.


Let's also remember that as governor of Alaska, Palin accepted free health, dental and veterinary care for remote Alaskan villages courtesy of Uncle Sam and U.S taxpayers, called "Operation Arctic Care." While I won't question that decision--these villages are some of the poorest in the nation and are in desperate need of assistance--I do think it's a tad hypocritical to criticize "government giveaways" on the one hand, while taking the same on the other.

And as for this healthcare thing, well, she can just take a big steaming cup of STFU next time she wants to open her yap about "socialized medicine" and "death panels."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What The Hell, WSMV?

I’m wondering why WSMV, our local NBC affiliate, is devoting an hour of prime time tonight to an infomercial for’s “Pop Memories From The ‘60s” collection.

Does it have anything to do with the fact that the episode of Law & Order SVU which viewers in other markets get to see tonight is a re-run of the one featuring Kathy Griffin as a lesbian activist who--gasp--kisses a girl?

I mean, it’s just speculation, but is it possible that WSMV thinks the “L” word is too hot for our delicate ears (or eyes)?

Of course, NBC in its infinite wisdom already edited out the offending kiss. So maybe the station is so strapped for cash that they need to devote an hour to hawking CDs featuring “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport,” instead of offering some real programming.

Just wondering which it is. I think I already know.

Nut Allergies

Here’s where I apologize to my readers for politicizing something that shouldn’t have been politicized. John Patrick Beddell suffered from bipolar disorder, a brutal disease that knows no politics. I was wrong to label him a right-wing nut.

I jumped on that Christian Science Monitor story because frankly I was pissed off. Pissed off that we had yet another senseless shooting, pissed that yet another unhinged person managed to get their hands on a gun, pissed that yet another symbol of the United States government was targeted. After weeks of wall to wall media coverage of the conservative hate fests known as the Tea Party Convention and CPAC, both of which peddled in paranoia about birth certificates, immigrants, America-hating liberal “socialists,” death panels, terrorists, etc., I reacted. So I’m sorry.

And here’s where I piss you all off again.

If this incident proves anything it’s that everyone has nut allergies. No one wants to claim their nuts, and it’s been interesting to see where people draw the line here. Beddell espoused virulent anti-government views on his podcasts and politically claimed Libertarian affiliations. So we lefties have labeled him a right-winger.

Meanwhile, the right-wingers claim that because he was a 9/11 Truther, he must have been a lefty. As an aside, it’s news to me that 9/11 Truthers are lefties--we’ve always associated the 9/11 Truthers with the far right fringe--the anti-Semitic, Stormfront, Klan crowd who claim Jews were tipped off not to go to work at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. And for crying out loud, the Tea Party candidate for Texas governor was a Truther. So I learned that no one wants to claim the Truthers, either.

So listen, folks. I’ll be the first to admit when I’m wrong but that street goes both ways. John Patrick Beddell suffered from mental illness, end of story. So did all of them, that's obvious. I mean, anyone who does something irrational like shooting up a Unitarian Universalist Church production of “Annie” because they hate liberals is nuts. But it seems to me that we have more nuts getting off their sofas and actually taking action these days. And I have to wonder why that is.

We live in a time where there’s inflammatory hate speech dominating the airwaves and the vast majority of it is coming from the right. Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck and the rest pollute the airwaves on a daily basis with outlandish lies blaming Democrats, liberals, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi etc. with every imaginable sin against God and country. I don’t see anyone standing up to that, in fact, your politicians have embraced it.

So I want to see a scintilla of responsibility from your side of the aisle. Your grassroots movement is hawking stuff like this, and your protestors are showing up with signs like this one (and they aren’t even true since several of you made a point of bringing your warm gun to an anti-government protest). Your leadership conference features a Pelosi pinata and Harry Reid punching bag. You’re breeding paranoia, filling peoples' heads with bizarre conspiracy theories about FEMA re-education camps and the U.S. Census and claiming liberals are attacking Christianity and all sorts of irresponsible crap that isn't remotely true. No one on the right has said that any of this goes too far, in fact, y'all are pumping your fists in the air going "fuck yeah!"

So don't act shocked when your movement gets blamed when someone of any political stripe goes off the deep end. Y'all need to dial back your rhetoric a couple notches.

Send In The Lyricist

This cracked me up. I hear he's really big in Vladivostok:

Friday, March 5, 2010

This Terror Attack Brought To You By Another Right Wing Nut Job


Turns out the parents had warned authorities that their mentally deranged son may have bought a gun.

Wow, if only it weren't so damn easy for crazy people to get their hands on guns.

Of course, we have no "national registry" for mentally ill people, nor would we want one. Problem is, people are snapping all over the place. You never know who is gonna snap. Like this guy. Or this guy. Could be this guy. Or this park ranger, who just snapped and killed his whole family. It's not just guys: some folks think the Alabama researcher snapped.

Yep, people are snapping all over place, like rubber bands, just snap snap snap. And I don't want to be around the next gun nut when he or she goes snap.


Nobody could have anticipated this:
John Patrick Bedell, whom authorities identified as the gunman in the Pentagon shooting on Thursday, appears to have been a right-wing extremist with virulent antigovernment feelings.

If so, that would make the Pentagon shooting the second violent extremist attack on a federal building within the past month.

As someone recently commented, “I can’t imagine where they get their ideas.”

Indeed. One really must wonder.

Let’s also not forget Virginia post office hostage taker Gator Taylor, the unhinged right wing shooters from last year, and the rednecks preparing to live out their “Red Dawn” fantasies like the Texas Taliban’s David Grisham and Louisiana’s Operation Exodus. Seeing how tenuous your grip on reality is, let me say I really don’t feel safer knowing you folks are looking out for me.

And by all means let’s not be so impolite as to refer to John Patrick Bedell and Joseph Stack as terrorists, which as we all know is a term used to reference brown, Muslim-y people who attack government buildings, not honest hard-working white Merkins.

Funny, we aren't even at the one-year anniversary of last year's outrage over a Dept. of Homeland Security report looking at right wing extremist groups. Remember that? I didn't think so. No one remembers anything that happened longer than two weeks ago. Hell, if I didn't have this blog I'd probably have forgotten it, too.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Another Quickie

I dunno, but if I managed a nuclear bomb facility, I'd be a tad concerned that a nutjob like David Grisham worked for me as a security guard.

Quick Question

Just curious how much longer conservatives will slam the “Hollywood elite” when their own beloved Sarah Palin increasingly acts like a member of that club.

Monday, March 1, 2010

What A Difference Same Sex Marriage Makes

Feb. 25, 2010::
Catholic Charities USA Calls for Affordable and Accessible Healthcare for All

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In accordance with its 100 year history of working to reduce poverty in America, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) and its President, Rev. Larry Snyder, today called for Healthcare Summit attendees to put politics aside and unify behind the need to once and for all bring affordable and accessible health care to all Americans.

March 1, 2010:

Letter from Catholic Charities president and CEO to staff


Catholic Charities will continue to honor the health plan coverage that current employees have as of March 1, 2010. As of March 2, a new plan will be in effect that will cover new employees and requests for benefit changes by current employees. The new plan will provide the same level of coverage for employees and their dependents that you now have, with one exception: spouses not in the plan as of March 1 will not be eligible for coverage in the future. If your spouse currently has coverage in our Plan, he/she may continue to be covered by the health benefit plan, even if you later add a dependent or decide to change your option level (e.g., change from low option to high option).

We sincerely regret that we have to make this change, but it is necessary to allow Catholic Charities to continue to provide essential services to the clients we serve in partnership with the District of Columbia while remaining consistent with the tenets of our religious faith.

Summary: The District of Columbia’s new law recognizing same sex marriage has prompted Catholic Charities to drop insurance coverage for all spouses of employees not currently covered by their insurance plan.

Catholic Charities had already shut down its foster care and public adoption program.

To which I respond: assholes.

Ask Your Doctor If Hiatus Is Right For You, v.3

It’s March madness, and I don’t mean the NCAA basketball tourney. No, I’m talking NaNoEdMo, National Novel Editing Month.

I’ll have red pen in hand, working on my draft and fixing some major holes in the manuscript. Also have some other paying assignments due this month, some travel planned, a dog dying of cancer and a new puppy needing lots of exercise. So the blog is going to have to go on the back burner for a while.

Of course, I don’t know how to quit you. This doesn’t mean I'll be shutting the blog down entirely. I'm just giving myself permission to not have a new post every day. If I do have a new post every day, you have my permission to kick my butt in comments, remind me that blogging is not writing, and shame me back to work.

I will thank you. I promise.

In the meantime, visit some of my favorite peeps listed on my blogroll.

As usual let me recommend Phila’s Friday Hope Blogging and the beach bums on the Swash Zone.