Monday, May 31, 2010

How We Wrecked The Ocean

This TED lecture from ecologist Jeremy Jackson explains really well what I've been saying about the importance of understanding resources not just economically but as living systems. When "tree huggers" mobilize to save an endangered snail darter, it's not because everyone is so enamored of a little fish. It's because they understand that every living organism plays an important role in that system. Get rid of one component and you throw the whole thing out of balance. No one thought sea urchins were a big deal until they were gone, the seaweed took over the coral reef, and now there's no fish.

It's almost 20 minutes long but well worth it.

Stop Me If You’ve Seen This Movie Before

You know, I’ve about lost my patience with corporate America:
With salt under attack for its ill effects on the nation’s health, the food giant Cargill kicked off a campaign last November to spread its own message.

“Salt is a pretty amazing compound,” Alton Brown, a Food Network star, gushes in a Cargill video called Salt 101. “So make sure you have plenty of salt in your kitchen at all times.”

The campaign by Cargill, which both produces and uses salt, promotes salt as “life enhancing” and suggests sprinkling it on foods as varied as chocolate cookies, fresh fruit, ice cream and even coffee. “You might be surprised,” Mr. Brown says, “by what foods are enhanced by its briny kiss.”

Oh fer crying out loud. Give me a fucking break. Its “briny kiss”? Are you people serious? Do you really believe anyone buys that bullshit? Alton Brown should be ashamed of himself.

Now, tell me if this scenario doesn't sound awfully familiar:

When health advocates first petitioned the federal government to regulate salt in 1978, food companies sponsored research aimed at casting doubt on the link between salt and hypertension. Two decades later, when federal officials tried to cut the salt in products labeled “healthy,” companies argued that foods already low in sugar and fat would not sell with less salt.

Now, the industry is blaming consumers for resisting efforts to reduce salt in all foods, pointing to, as Kellogg put it in a letter to a federal nutrition advisory committee, “the virtually intractable nature of the appetite for salt.”

Geez, you’ve gotta be kidding. First you resist food labeling laws, then you dance around mandatory nutritional labeling by manipulating portion size, and then you use a bunch of astroturf campaigns to sell us some bullshit line about consumer choice, and then you say we want to eat this crap? That’s really rich.

You’re handing consumers a shit sandwich and telling them it’s a delicious, nutritious meal. And when we say, “Hmm, sorta tastes and smells like a shit sandwich to me,” you say “SHUT UP AND EAT YOUR SHIT SANDWICH!”

I’ve about had it with you people. I really don’t understand why companies like Cargill keep playing the same games with consumers. Once upon a time your job was to provide what consumers wanted. Now you create products first and then go out and find suckers to foist them on. You guys are doing it wrong.

You know, not too long ago, tobacco companies spent oodles of money extolling the health benefits of cigarettes. Today the Corn Refiners Assn. has spent oodles of money trying to convince us that corn syrup “is fine in moderation.” Yeah, good luck with the “moderation” part. High-fructose corn syrup is so ubiquitous--in everything from ketchup, mayonnaise, soups, bread, soft drinks, and other beverages--that the average American supposedly eats 60 pounds of the stuff a year. And you can’t even avoid the stuff if you tried, because food companies love to exploit loopholes in the food labeling law.

Ditto salt. Of course salt is necessary for life, but Americans eat more than twice as much as they should. And the reason we eat so much salt and so much high-fructose corn syrup is because we eat so much packaged foods. Salt and sugars are a way companies like Cargill and ConAgra can load your microwaveable dinner with a bunch of garbage and call it Healthy Choice, and they don’t want anyone in Congress telling them they can’t. Instead of just making food that’s healthy and nutritious but maybe costs more, they’d rather spend bazillions of dollars on PR and lobbying.

Corporate America loves to spend money on propaganda instead of just doing the right thing. This is how I know there’s no such thing as Free Market Fairy Dust: because corporate America has never, ever done the right thing unless Congress has forced them to. And if you need any more examples of that, look no further than the Gulf of Mexico, where millions of barrels of oil are still despoiling a major ecosystem on which millions of jobs depend.

Of course, we’ve all heard for years how safe offshore oil drilling is. We’ve all heard how safe modern nuclear reactors are. We’ve all heard that global warming is a fake, that clean coal is real, that trans-fats aren’t bad for you. We’ve all heard that "there is 'no
 difference' in the milk from untreated and rbGH-injected cows”, that Bispenol-A and pthalates are perfectly fine. And then along comes reality--an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a Yale medical study, a flood of coal sludge, or radioactive fish to show us all that corporate America was lying the whole time. I'm kinda done being shocked at this point, y'know?

I think we’ve all become accustomed to the corporate hucksterism routine by now. I have to wonder why these folks even bother. Do they think we’re stupid? After all these years? Or are they just on autpilot, doing what they’ve always done because they’re completely out of ideas?

Now let me say: we eat very little processed food in our house. I cook, and when I say cook I do mean I cook from scratch, because I have the time and I enjoy it and so that's what we do in our house. But that doesn't mean I'm not eating Cargill's crap because Cargill doesn't make processed foods, they make the crap that goes into processed foods, and they make the crap that goes into flour and sugar and animal feed. And so even if I wanted to avoid it by buying, say, an organic brand, most of those are now owned by multinational food conglomerates, too. So unless I grow my own wheat and grind my own flour and butcher my own hogs, I have very little control over the crap that's in our food, even someone like myself who would go hungry rather than microwave her dinner.

And what's really interesting to me is that while you have corporations spending bazillions lobbying for "consumer choice," at the same time they're trying to undermine things like organic food standards. So "consumer choice" and groups like Rick Berman's sham Center For Consumer Freedom are not about consumer freedom at all, they are about EATING THAT SHIT SANDWICH, BY GOD, AND LIKING IT.

It’s very bizarre. I’m sure we’ll be hearing lots about how harmless salt can be “in moderation,” even though consumers are given little control over how much salt they consume.

I’m sure newspapers like The Tennessean will happily run another pro-Cargill op-ed from one of Rick Berman’s flunkies, just as they have in the past. I’m sure we'll get a round of lobbying as Cargill spends millions of dollars buying members of Congress ads for the next election, especially now that the Supreme Court has given them its blessing.

And Americans will be dying of hypertension and heart disease and kidney disease and cancer until folks finally wake up or we're all too damned sick to care anymore.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Church And State

It’s Memorial Day Weekend so the fundamentalist church up the street from us has, per custom, decorated its front lawn with two dozen or so American flags in its annual display of patriotism. Meanwhile, we’ve all seen those hilarious TV ads for Madison’s Cornerstone Church proclaiming itself “Nashville’s most patriotic church.”

Evidently it is, in fact, a competition.

I have as much of a problem with churches waving the flag as I have with government entities banging on the Bible. Many American churches these days have a flag in their sanctuary; some even have a color guard on certain holidays (like Memorial Day or July 4). This is just so wrong to me. To any church that waves the flag in its sanctuary I simply have to ask: where exactly are you placing your allegiance? With the things of God, or the things of man?

We live in what theologians call the “post-Christian era,” which basically means Christianity is no longer the dominant force in society. This isn’t a new idea; Thomas Merton wrote about this back in the ‘60s. It’s simply a fact of life and it means that Biblical ideas and reference points that people once had in common no longer exist. I’m not saying that’s bad or good for people, but I do think it’s been especially bad for the church because we have a lot of wackadoodle ideas passed off as Christian these days that never would have been given the time of day 100 years ago.

One of these is this idea in vogue with a lot of churches (especially evangelical churches) that they need to be “relevant.” In fact, there’s an entire evangelical Christian-pop culture magazine called Relevant featuring interviews with people like Jake Gyllenhaal, and while I don’t mean to knock on the magazine which is actually pretty good, I do have a problem with the whole “relevance” concept. Christians searching for relevance in pop culture are looking in the wrong place. It leads them to do stupid things like hold up a movie like “The Blind Side” as an example of Christian values (I cannot tell you how offended I was by that movie. I thought it was paternalistic and patronizing ... but I’ll save the movie review for another time).

And it leads churches to search for “relevance” in things like mixed martial arts and karate-for-Jesus. The Daily Show did a great take on this recently, watch the video if you have a minute:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
God Smacked
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

This is post-Christian America. Churches showing how irrelevant they are in a desperate attempt to prove their relevance. Wave the flag, y’all.Outdo each other in your desperate attempt to show your allegiance to the flag of a country that wages war and tortures prisoners and pollutes God’s creation so we can enjoy a life of ease and leisure at others’ expense.

Go look for God at the multiplex, in movies that present a one-dimensional view of “Christian values” so we can all feel good about our white privilege. Whatever you do, do not challenge yourself in any way.

Because, WWJD?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Boycott Petroleum

Hey, Code Pink and the rest of you activist types, I love you dearly, you make me laugh and every time you try to arrest Karl Rove you make me want to pump my fist in the air and shout “hell yeah!” But the Boycott BP movement completely misses the point.

Please. Yes BP are pigs but so are Chevron, Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, and every other operation drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world right now.

Don’t boycott BP. Boycott petroleum!

Look, it’s just a fluke that this accident happened on a BP rig. It could easily have been another company’s operation. We could be making hilarious re-designs of the Chevron logo, not BP’s.

I realize in this modern age it is extremely difficult for consumers to single-handedly kick the petroleum habit. This is why we need our government to make strong, decisive, bold steps in this direction. But there are things we can all do to use less of the eco-disaster creating stuff.

I know we can’t all trade in our cars for EVs and hybrids (but those of you who can or are in the market for a new car might consider that). But we can all drive less, and drive more efficiently when we do use the car.

• Try taking one fewer car trip a day and see how that works. If you normally drive your car at lunchtime, try bringing your lunch to work, or walking to lunch. Try combining your errands so you take fewer trips. Car pool. Can you take a bike anywhere or use public transportation?

• Eat less meat. Yes, meat is destructive to the environment and uses a lot of fossil fuels. Mr. Beale and I are trying the Meatless Monday campaign. And let me tell you, it’s been a tough sell with my spouse, who a) doesn’t like vegetables and b) thinks if the plate doesn’t contain meat it’s not a meal (When I first mentioned Meatless Mondays to him he said, “so we eat fish?”). So I’m getting creative in the kitchen. He hasn’t divorced me yet, so maybe we can stick with it.

• Do you have an extra $4 a month? C’mon, you know you do. Buy a block of green power from NES. We buy 10 5 at our house (forgot we cut back when we had the solar panels installed). It’s a lot to add to the power bill every month, not everyone can do that, but surely you can find $4 in the sofa cushions. It’s a gallon and a half of gasoline. Maybe you can find it in what you save by not taking that extra car trip.

• Stop buying bottled water. Seriously, plastic water bottles are disgusting. Get yourself a stainless steel thermos and if your tap water tastes bad, put a charcoal filter on it.

• Raise (or lower) your thermostat. Open windows at night, close windows and blinds during the day. You will adjust, I promise you. Buildings don’t need to be cooled to meat locker temperatures in the summer.

Look, we don’t all have to live in tents and start churning our own butter. If everybody did just one extra thing I think it would have a huge impact.

This spill isn’t just BP’s fault. It’s everybody’s fault. We’re all responsible, every one of us.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tennessee Democratic Party Hall Of Shame

Really? Reps. Lincoln Davis and John Tanner voted against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? Why? Afraid of that “furthering the gay agenda” label, guys? Think it will cost you your seat in November? Good riddance if you don't have more spine than that. If you can’t figure out how to articulate why a gay person should be allowed to serve their country the same as a hetero person, I have no use for you.

Honestly, Tennessee Democrats wear me out.

Because There’s Always Money For War

I love how everyone talks about cutting federal spending especially on things like healthcare and unemployment benefits, but there’s always money for war:
The House on Thursday voted to keep funding a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, defying the White House and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Gates has repeatedly threatened that he would personally recommend that President Barack Obama veto any defense bill containing funding for an engine made by General Electric-Rolls Royce that the Pentagon does not want. The Office of Management and Budget on Thursday followed up with its own veto threat in a statement of administration policy. 

Both GE-Rolls Royce and primary engine maker Pratt & Whitney mounted vigorous lobbying campaigns in recent weeks aligning congressional supporters on each side. But when the House cast a vote on an amendment to strike funding for the second engine, the supporters of a second engine prevailed by a vote of 231-193.

The Pentagon doesn’t want this engine but Congress is going to make sure it gets built anyway. Of course they will. The Penatgon, as Rep. Jim Cooper pointed out a year or so ago, has become a de facto hometown jobs program. Didn’t Eisenhower warn us about this a generation ago?

Never mind. Congress will continue to mouth platitudes about cutting the deficit while refusing to touch the second largest item in the Federal budget:

At over $700 billion this year, total military spending rivals Social Security as the largest item in the federal budget. We are spending more than at any time since World War II, yet our principal enemy has no multi-million person army, no air force, no navy, no sophisticated anti-aircraft systems – in short, none of the kinds of weapons our arsenal is best designed to fight against. And of that $700 billion per year, the vast bulk – over $500 billion – goes towards the Pentagon’s base budget, not the wars in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. A forthcoming report from the Sustainable Defense Task Force  – a group of defense and budget experts convened with the encouragement of Rep. Barney Frank – presents a menu of options for making cuts in the Pentagon budget without undermining our basic security. Look for details within the next two weeks.

There are plenty of savings to be had from eliminating unneeded weapons systems and cutting waste, fraud and abuse, but it is important to note that any substantial reduction in Pentagon spending will have to involve reducing U.S. global commitments. We can’t and shouldn’t continue to structure our forces as if they should be able to go anywhere and do anything. This is directly relevant to the new National Security Strategy.

$700 billion year, much of it devoted to weapons for fighting the Cold War which, last I checked, St. Ronnie won for us over 20 years ago. This makes no sense.

Time to turn our swords into plowshares. Instead of spending $485 million to build an engine the Pentagon says it doesn’t want, why can’t these workers be retrained and factories retrofitted to build things this country does want: things that are even more important to our national security than weapons for a war no one is fighting anymore? Things like components for wind turbines and solar panels and parts for electric vehicles and the like?

Why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over again? It boggles the mind.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The End Of The Oil Age

Author and senior-fellow-in-residence at the Post Carbon Institute Richard Heinberg says what I’ve been saying for years:
But the following should be an even clearer conclusion from all that has happened, and that is still unfolding: This is what the end of the oil age looks like. The cheap, easy petroleum is gone; from now on, we will pay steadily more and more for what we put in our gas tanks—more not just in dollars, but in lives and health, in a failed foreign policy that spawns foreign wars and military occupations, and in the lost integrity of the biological systems that sustain life on this planet.

The only solution is to do proactively, and sooner, what we will end up doing anyway as a result of resource depletion and economic, environmental, and military ruin: end our dependence on the stuff. Everybody knows we must do this. Even a recent American president (an oil man, it should be noted) admitted, “America is addicted to oil.” Will we let this addiction destroy us, or will we overcome it? Good intentions are not enough. Now is the moment for the President, other elected officials at all levels of government, and ordinary citizens to make this our central priority as a nation. We have hard choices to make, and an enormous amount of work to do.

Call your Congress Critter.

What BP Does Not Want You To See

Shocking video from Philippe Cousteau Jr. and ABC News, a dolphin's eye view of the oil spill in the Gulf:

Please call your Senators today and tell them we need to pass robust, meaningful legislation that finally gets us off of fossil fuels, so we never again have to witness a disaster like this. We've been hearing about how oil is a "transitional fuel" for 30 years (and President Obama repeated that tired line again today). No, it's not "transitional," not when your entire economy is still dependent on it, not after oil shocks like the Arab Oil Embargo and on and on. This isn't transitional, this is a giveaway to multinational corporations trying to make gobs of money.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You People Have Too Much Time On Your Hands

Looks like you Dirty Fucking Hippies took the House Republicans up on their offer to “send us your best ideas.” Hilarity ensued:
"End Child Labor Laws," suggests one helpful participant. “We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories."

"How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way," recommends another. "That fake so called birth certificate is useless."

"A 'teacher' told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish!" a third complains. "And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story."

House Republicans, meet the World Wide Web.

Oh, the poor dears. Can you tell the fake conservatives from the real ones? I’m guessing the birther was a real conservative, “the child labor/dolphins are fish” commenters were fakes. But hey, you never know.

Check out these other ideas floated on the House GOP’s new website.

• American Values: Protecting the sanctity of life section:

“We're wasting our time protecting the sanctity of marriage by merely targeting gay marriage. We should immediately criminalize divorce.”

“Require all Muslims in the U.S. to wear ankle bracelet transponders so we know where the terrorists are at all times.”

“We should administer capital punishment to anyone who has an abortion. In order to cut costs that the death penalty normally entails, we will have lax gun laws that will allow people to obtain guns with greater ease. Then we would allow the "free-market" to dictate whose philosophy wins out – the liberals irrational philosophy or our logical and God following philosophy. Liberals who have abortions would be taken care of by a militia of the willing who will get rid of all liberals who take the life others irrationally and will allow us to remove all of our opponents to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

• American Values: Liberty and Freedom section:

”I want to drink from a separate water fountain again.”


• Job Creation:

“Eliminate the metric system. All the duplication in effort measuring everything twice could be used in creating jobs, not handouts like our Socialist European metric-users.”

“eliminating minimum wage laws will allow companies to hire many more Americans for just a fraction of the price. If Mexicans can work for 2$ an hour, so can we.”

Open Mic:

“STOP STEALING OUR WATER! I was watering my plant the other day and I noticed all the water disappeared! WHAT has the state of LIBERAL politics gotten to when your water is vanishing from everywhere!! Sometimes I go to the bathroom and there's no toilet paper either, they should FIX that!”

“At the present time I would suggest some Federal money would be well spent to employ everyone in Louisana that is not working to help clean up the coastline.”

“GOP BEWARE. Personal attacks against Tea Party backed candidates shows how desperate you are to gain power and move the country to the ultra-right. Which by the way is no better than what we have now in power, the ultra-left. There are millions of people that are tired of these kinds of campaign tactics and the majority of them believe in the tea party message. Be warned, if you choose to use personal attacks and not substance in your campaign, your party will see their numbers dwindle.”

I suspect GOP interns have been tasked with erasing the bogus/unwanted entries as fast as folks can input them.

Quit Yer Whining Sen. Corker

I’m trying to understand why Tennessee's Sen. Bob Corker is blaming President Obama for his own failure to get the Republican Party on board with financial reform.

Just two months ago Corker was complaining about how his Republican colleagues refused to participate in the process:
GOP Senator Bob Corker was emphatic on Wednesday that Republicans missed a big opportunity to influence what is perhaps the most ambitious financial reform bill to pass through the Senate since the Great Depression.

Republicans declined to offer any amendments during Monday's scheduled mark-up of the bill, choosing instead to vote against sending the legislation to the Senate floor strictly along party lines. It passed out of the Senate Banking Committee with 13 Democrats in favor and 10 Republicans opposed.

So, sorry, but exactly who is to blame for the lack of bipartisanship here?

I think it’s all theater. I think Corker got his hand slapped by the Republican Party for daring to speak the truth two months ago. I think Republicans are worried that this “party of no” stuff is starting to stick, so instead they hope that by screaming ever louder that there’s no bipartisanship, people won’t notice that they’re just sitting on their hands. Tennessee's junior Senator may have voiced initial opposition to this obstructionist game, but now appears only too happy to play along. I wonder what happened?

In April Yglesias wrote:

Corker is exactly right about this. Chris Dodd’s bill, as written, would make bailouts less likely not more likely. But Corker is also correct that there are a lot of doubts as to exactly how much punch it really packs. This is a concern that responsible Senators should actually look at and try to address, rather than just fling around vaguely as a cover for the fact that they don’t want banks to be regulated at all. But will Corker stand his ground on this, or will he follow the lead of so many of his past colleagues and end up giving in to Rush/Fox/Tea Party pressure to simply obstruct?

Well I guess we have the answer to that question.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Upside Down

Nearly two weeks ago Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski defeated a bill that would increase BP’s liability cap to clean up the mess it made in the Gulf of Mexico. Her stated reasons (looking out for the oil industry’s “little guys”: all together now, awwwwwww!) were completely bogus, as I explained in my post here. It was basically a big fat kiss to the multinational corporations which keep Alaska’s economy running. Why not just say it and be done with it? You’re not fooling anyone.

And now Murkowski has another gift for her friends at Big Oil: it’s called the Murkowski Resolution. This would basically gut the Clean Air Act by making it illegal for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Yes, you read that right. The Clean Air Act would no longer allow the EPA to regulate the crap that keeps our air from being clean.

While you’re trying to wrap your head around that legislative oxymoron, here’s another one for you: The Murkowski Resolution will come up for a vote on June 10 and three of the Democratic Party’s worst offenders are supporting it:
Murkowski's resolution would need 51 votes to clear the chamber. She already has 41 co-sponsors, including three Democrats: Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Well, isn’t that special. These three names are familiar burrs in progressive knickers, and I would just love to see them squirm on this one. Especially Lincoln, who is facing a tough primary race.

The timing on this should be lost on no one. The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert has an excellent commentary about the Gulf oil spill in this week’s issue. She takes us back to 1969 and the twin environmental disasters of the Santa Barbara oil spill and burning of the Cuyahoga River:

By the end of the year, Congress had passed the National Environmental Policy Act, known by the acronym NEPA, which requires federal agencies to file impact statements for all actions that could have a significant ecological effect. The following spring, millions of people took to the streets for Earth Day, and by the second anniversary of the spill President Richard Nixon had created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed into law the Clean Air Act.

For you young kids who don’t remember: Nixon was a Republican.

So now it’s 40 years later, we have a Democrat in the White House and we’re battling an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that, as Kolbert writes, “makes the Santa Barbara spill look like a puddle.”

We’ve had coal miners die in West Virginia and Kentucky, and we’ve had 1.1 billion gallons of coal sludge cover 300 acres of Roane County, Tennessee. And instead of a massive call to action to stop our polluting ways, we have Republicans and a handful of Democrats voting to gut the Clean Air Act and tie the EPA’s hands on regulating air pollutants.


I really hope everyone gets on the phone and calls their senators about this, pronto. Because if this Murkowski Resolution passes in the wake of a massive oil spill, then what that’s going to tell Washington and the rest of the world is that we really just don’t give a crap about the planet.

Hippie Punching, Tennessee Style

Yesterday afternoon the Republican-led Tennessee House approved a resolution commending Arizona for its racial profiling immigration law.

The language, specifically:
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED SIXTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that this body hereby honors and commends the State of Arizona and its government officials on the upcoming commemoration of Arizona's Centennial and that this body also salutes the initiative and the courage of the Arizona State Legislature and Governor Jan Brewer in their actions to protect their citizens and the borders of our great nation.

Oy. With state unemployment still over 10 percent and state tourism suffering from the recent floods, who thought wading into a controversy costing the state of Arizona millions of dollars in lost business was a good idea? House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, for one. Casada brushed away criticism from House Democratic Leader Gary Odom with a dismissive verbal wave:

"I've never heard so much belly aching in my life."

Yeah, protests over racial profiling are so silly!

What an idiot. Glen Casada, you are an embarrassment to the people of Tennessee.

(As if inserting Tennessee into Arizona’s economically-damaging immigration battle wasn’t bad enough, House Republicans dissed President Obama in a resolution offering thanks for flood assistance, too.)

It seems in this election year, certain factions in the Tennessee House are tripping over themselves in a battle to appear more right-wing and reactionary than their colleagues. Perhaps this particular brand of hippie-punching is seen as the key to re-election, a way to affirm one’s knuckle-dragging bonafides. But hippie punching doesn’t create jobs and it doesn’t convince industry that this is a place you want to do business. It does the opposite.

So Glen Casada and Rep. Joe Carr and the rest of the Republican House Caucus I have three words for you:

Stop hurting Tennessee.

More from Aunt B, including a list of those Tennessee Democrats who sided with the knucle-draggers. Shame on you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nashville Trash

A lovely place for a picnic

As if pictures of a flooded Second Avenue or Opryland Hotel weren’t enough, if you want to get an idea of the magnitude of the Nashville flood damage, head out to Edwin Warner Park, where some of the flood trash is now being hauled.

Yes, that’s right: one of Metro Nashville’s finest parks, a place that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now a trash dump. A massive trash dump. And I’m told this is just one of three such dump sites.

Yesterday Mr. Beale and I headed out with the dogs for a Sunday hike and were astonished to find mountains of flood trash covering what was once Edwin Warner’s Model Airplane Field. I came back today to take some pictures.

This raises all sorts of questions for me. Clouds of dust fill the air; is it safe? Has it been tested? Much of the trash is construction materials: dry wall, flooring, chemically treated wood, moldy carpeting. Are there toxins in this dust which could affect the surrounding neighborhoods? I saw lots of joggers and bicyclists -- this is a park, after all. Is anyone monitoring this? What about runoff? Will lead, PCB’s and other toxins wash into surrounding streams? How long will this stuff be here?

When I returned today I saw a NewsChannel5 team on the site; I guess (hope) we’ll get our answers soon.

It made my heart hurt to see it. Understanding that this represented peoples’ lives, their homes, their memories: that’s a hard pill to swallow.

And after seeing pictures of oil defiling the National Wildlife Refuges of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, to see a park in my own backyard turned into a garbage dump is ... well, it’s a kick in the gut.

(As always, click on the pics to make them larger ...)

Edwin Warner Park Trash Heap

The view from the Steeplechase
Like President Bush before him, President Obama is apparently determined to miss the opportunity he’s been handed to initiate some serious “get-off-the-oil-tit” policies and get this country out from under Big Oil’s thumb:
Mr. Obama said he would hold both the government and BP accountable. But he did not retreat from his plan to expand offshore oil drilling and in fact portrayed the commission as a means to make that possible.

“Because it represents 30 percent of our oil production, the Gulf of Mexico can play an important part in securing our energy future,” the president said. “But we can only pursue offshore oil drilling if we have assurances that a disaster like the BP oil spill will not happen again.”
Hey, you know what would ensure that a disaster like the BP oil spill never happens again?

A ban on offshore oil drilling.

Seriously, it's the only thing that will work. So why even talk about "safe" offshore oil drilling? If it were safe we wouldn't have a disaster on our hands right now. It's not safe.

I remember how after the 9/11 attacks, the nation was shell-shocked and everyone was donating blood by the gallon because we all wanted to give, we wanted to do something and nobody could think of anything else to do. I wanted to plant a Victory Garden, I was ready to give up sugar and nylons and ration gasoline and all the rest.

A smart president and Congress who had their eye on the future not their wallets would have said: now is the time to conserve energy. Now is the time for us to pull together and use public transportation and raise (or lower) our thermostats and start making the transition away from the policies that forced us to do business with people who hate us. The policies that saw us go to greater and greater extremes to secure oil for multinational corporations who might share some of it with us.

A smart president and Congress would have begun our nation’s transition to renewable energy, urged every municipality to implement strict conservation-oriented building codes, raised fuel efficiency standards, and all the rest. We all would have done it, too. Because we all understood that as long as we consume oil--any oil--we are participating in a game that includes terrorism.

Instead we were told to go shopping and support a war in a country that contains the world’s third largest proven oil reserves.

So here we are, nearly nine years later, and we have an ecological disaster down in the Gulf of Mexico, the magnitiude of which we are only just beginning to grasp.

A smart president and Congress who had their eye on the future not their wallets would say: now is the time for renewable energy. Now is the time for us to begin the transition away from the dangerous policies that destroy the ecosystems on which the entire planet depends, so a few can profit. Now is the time to say never again will we put the needs of one industry above the needs of the planet that sustains us--and the needs of the people and economy that depend on a healthy environment. Industries like fishing, shrimping, oystering, tourism. Never again will we allow the powerful to exploit resources shared by us all, when our food, water and air are at stake and when viable alternatives exist.

But no. We seek "assurances that a disaster like the BP oil spill will not happen again" so we can all go along as before. Pay no attention, move along.

Times like these call for greatness. Sadly, our nation sorely lacks such things. I think of Franklin D. Roosevelt, how he rallied the nation to pull together after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. How a nation weary from the Great Depression still managed to pull together, roll up their sleeves, and fight the threat from Germany and Japan. Women went to work, men went to war, we gave up creature comforts and rationed our gasoline, and bought War Bonds. I wonder if we'll ever see that kind of effort again.

We’ve had so many opportunities. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 and subsequent hostage crisis. After a few months we shake these warning signs off and carry on as before, because no one has had the fortitutude to make us do otherwise.

I don't know if Obama is playing some kind of political game here or not. But we don't need politics and we don't need games. We need leadership.

I found this prayer request from Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Present Chief and Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe of the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Nation of the Sioux. It's a prayer to all people of all religious traditions around the world. Please read it and consider adding your voice to this call.

Chief Arvol writes:
The dangers we are faced with at this time are not of spirit. The catastrophe that has happened with the oil spill which looks like the bleeding of Grandmother Earth, is made by human mistakes, mistakes that we cannot afford to continue to make.

As we pray, we will fully understand that we are all connected. And that what we create can have lasting effects on all life.

We humans seem awfully slow to learn our lessons. We need some divine intervention here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Print Journalism Still Dead

This atrocity from Robin Givhan being one of the many reasons:
In the photographs of Kagan sitting and chatting in various Capitol Hill offices, she doesn't appear to ever cross her legs. Her posture stands out because for so many women, when they sit, they cross. People tend to mimic each other's body language during a conversation, especially if they're trying to connect with one another. But even when Kagan sits across from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has her legs crossed at the knees, Kagan keeps both feet planted firmly on the ground. Her body language will not be bullied into conformity.

She does not cross her legs at the ankles either, the way so many older women do. Instead, Kagan sits, in her sensible skirts, with her legs slightly apart, hands draped in her lap. The woman and her attire seem utterly at odds. She is intent on being comfortable. No matter what the clothes demand. No matter the camera angle.

Hat tip to DougJ at Balloon Juice for the “I smell bullshit” alert:

Elena Kagan doing what Robin Givhan says she won't do

Robin Givhan is one of our worst serial offenders; who can forget her shock over Hillary Clinton’s cleavage, or her sneering disapproval over the clothes worn by Justice John Roberts’ wife and children at his confirmation hearing.

But the coup de grace was her (actually flattering) piece on newly-anointed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Yes, Pelosi’s wardrobe is “chic” but cripes, a professional woman who has just taken a huge chunk out of the glass ceiling by becoming the country's first female House Speaker doesn't need to be judged by her wardrobe. How many stories did Givhan do on Denny Hastert’s rumpled suits? None.

Remembering that this person won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism makes me think something is seriously wrong with the world.

I get that she’s a fashion editor, and I get that I’m not in the fashion world so maybe I don’t understand the Super Incredible Importance Of A Person’s Fashion Choices And The Deep Significance Implied Therein. But honest to God I think you people takes yourselves waaaay too fucking seriously sometimes. Image isn’t everything on the Supreme Court -- hey, SCOTUS Justices all wear the same black robe, which probably means fashion is the last barometer we are to use when considering these folks.

Honestly, unless they are wearing a clown suit (or Dick Cheney’s “I’m cleaning out the garage today” garb worn at the Auschwitz memorial) I don't care what they are wearing, really, I don't. And I'm tired of the media holding professional women to a different standard regarding clothing than they do men. You can call it "fashion" all you want, but to me it's just another way you're being sexist.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sending BP A Message

Folks around the world are not happy with BP and they are spreading the word in a variety of interesting ways. National news media has done a piss-poor job of covering what’s happening on the grassroots level, so I've compiled a list of stuff you won’t see on CNN.

• On Tybee Island, Georgia, protestors staged a mock oil spill.

• A market in New Orleans bakes a cake:

• At BP’s London, England HQ, Greenpeace protestors re-style the BP logo:

You can watch video here:

People have staged protests in cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, Palm Beach and St. Petersburg, while in New Orleans there are calls for a more organized march.

Meanwhile, on the Wall Street end of things:
(Reuters) - A BP Plc shareholder in Alaska on Thursday sued the corporation's chairman and board members, alleging the officials' mismanagement led to the disastrous Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and spill and have devalued BP stock.

That should be interesting.

Anyway, I'm sure there's lots more stuff happening at the grassroots level. Keep your eyes and ears open.


They are donating campaign contributions (albeit small ones):

May 18, 2010 (Chula Vistas)– Assemblymember Mary Salas, Democratic candidate for State Senate in the 40th District, donated a $500 contribution she received from British Petroleum (BP) to the San Diego League of Conservation Voters in protest of the company’s response to the massive Gulf Oil spill.She also accused her primary opponent, Juan Vargas, of being "in the pocket" of big oil companies.

Budget Fun

Think you’ve got what it takes to cut the U.S. debt? Here’s your chance. It’s the Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget’s on-line simulator.

Not that bogus “you cut” exercise the House GOP is touting, either. That one is hilarious because the only things you’re allowed to cut is stuff the GOP thinks is useless anyway, like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund. As ThinkProgress observed,
eliminating every single one of the proposed YouCut items would amount to cutting 0.017 percent of the federal budget.

This exercise wasn’t nearly as difficult as I expected. I got within 3% of the goal simply by reducing our troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan to 30,000. Personally, I’d like to reduce our troops levels to zero. I honestly have no clue why we are still in either theater, we aren’t accomplishing squat in my inexpert opinion.

Interestingly, repealing the healthcare reform legislation actually leads to a $160 billion budget increase, while enacting cap-and-trade legislation creates a $330 billion decrease.

Anyway, I reduced the debt to 54% of GDP in 2018, and I kept it at a sustainable level through 2030. Yay me.

It wasn’t all that painful, either. I did it while increasing funds for mass transit and expanding the college tax credit. I should be president, y’all.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Finally Stepping Up?

This took way too long:
The Environmental Protection Agency informed BP officials late Wednesday that the company has 24 hours to choose a less toxic form of chemical dispersants to break up its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to government sources familiar with the decision, and must apply the new form of dispersants within 72 hours of submitting the list of alternatives.
That decision is related to this story from last week.

I am getting a little tired of all this: of the U.S. Coast Guard enforcing BP’s media blackout on the Gulf Oil spill and all of the other “mother may I, may I pretty please try to avoid environmental catastrophe?” attitude the Feds seem to have toward BP. I’ve been saying for a week now that Lisa Jackson doesn’t get it. Nobody at the White House seems to get it.

Here’s what I want: I want you to take over this cleanup. I want accountability and transparency, and I think the people who caused the disaster who are now facing the grim reality of billions of dollars in liability costs are probably not the folks who are going to provide that. There’s a teensy bit of a conflict of interest there.

I want the EPA and Fish & Wildlife and the Coast Guard and Commerce and the State Department and every other agency with a stake in the Gulf of Mexico to tell BP to stand the fuck down and get out of the way because their fuck up is now threatening a massive region that will in all probablity reach beyond our borders. And at this point, the “free hand of the market” would dictate that BP’s survival depends on covering up and passing the blame and denials. Not trying to fix anything.

So come on, President Obama. Show some fucking leadership and do your job. Time for the government to take over, and send the bill to BP.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How BP Is Like The TN Legislature

Both want to stop news from being reported.

CBS News journalists were threatened with arrest for attempting to film oil washing ashore. Watch the video here:

Yes, if nobody sees the oil washing ashore, then it surely doesn’t exist! Hey, it works for Britt Hume, right?

Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, tried to permanently ban AP reporter Erik Schelzig from the House chamber after Schelzig photographed a collapsed House Speaker Kent Williams last week (Williams was suffering from low blood sugar and recovered). In other words, Schelzig was doing his job.

Look, I’m glad Schelzig hasn’t been banned from the chamber, but the resolution misses the point. I want to make sure neither he nor any other reporter is ever again ejected from the chamber by the sergeant at arms and a state trooper for, I repeat, doing his job. Because seeing your colleague ushered out under threat of arrest sends a pretty powerful message--one that transcends House resolutions. If the rules of conduct need to be clarified then so be it, but let’s make one thing absolutely clear: when a legislator collapses it is a newsworthy event, and if there’s a photographer on the scene he or she damn well better be allowed to cover it. And shame on any politician, Democrat or Republican, for sending any other message.

Dear TNDP: Better Democrats, please.

It's Always Good News For Republicans

Picking apart the media narrative generated by yesterday’s election has been interesting, to say the least. According to the media gatekeepers, Rand Paul’s win shows the power of the Tea Party, while the success of progressive candidates supported by MoveOn simply shows voters’ “anti-Washington mood.”

Neat how that works. Indeed, yesterday’s election was a big win for MoveOn candidates. Don’t expect our media to point that out, though.

In fact, the “liberal” NPR struggles mightily to avoid stating the obvious:
It's hard to make the case that Specter's defeat in Pennsylvania is a sign Democrats want to move the party further to the left.  Thirty years in office, mostly as a Republican, made it tough for him to sell himself to his new party.  Ultimately, it was really about Arlen Specter.  And voters apparently had had enough.

Really? How do you figure? Pennsylvania Democrats wanted a real Democratic candidate, not a party-switching Republican. That certainly doesn’t speak to voters wanting to move rightward.

Remember how just last week the New York Times told us that the battle for Jack Murtha’s congressional seat was the real midterm bellweather? Democrat Mark Critz won that race handily, which today the Times refers to as simply "a bright spot" in a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment. Hmm. Can't help but think what the headline would be today had Critz been a Tea Party candidate.

Meanwhile, Rand Paul is already using words like “mandate” to describe his victory in a party primary. Interestingly, a solid string of Democratic wins is apparently not sexy enough for our mainstream media:

That makes ten straight special elections to fill House seats in which Democrats have either retained or stolen a seat. You have to go back to May 2008, when Steve Scalise replaced Bobby Jindal, to find a Republican victory. (Of course, Scott Brown won a special election in January. But the GOP probably has more realistic hopes of flipping the House in November if there is a genuine “wave” a la 1994.)

So just to recap: when a Tea Party candidate wins a primary race, it's the sign that Democrats are in trouble and the Tea Party is a force to be reckoned with. When MoveOn candidates win their primary race, it's a sign that Democrats are in trouble and there's an "anti-incumbent mood" among the voters.

Okie dokie. Remember folks: it's always good news for Republicans.

(MoJo's Nick Baumann has more...)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Return Of The Schiavo Vultures

Well, file this one under nobody could have anticipated:
Now more than five years after Terri Schiavo died at the Pinellas Park hospice that was the scene of protests, lawsuits and even Congressional action, her family is still working to keep her name alive, but according to IRS records we obtained they are also profiting off of her name.


In most recent IRS report that the Foundation filed for 2008, it shows the foundation took in $91,568 and paid Terri's dad Robert Schindler Sr., her brother Robert Jr. and her sister Suzanne Vitadamo $59,275, or 64% of the money they raised.

Charity Navigator a respected Charity Rating organization says any charity spending more than 30 percent on salaries gets a zero rating. The foundation doesn't come close.

In the meantime, since the report was filed, the salaries have increased to $80,000 a year, but the Foundation says one salary is in arrears causing some family members to work without pay. Also since the IRS report was filed and Terri Schiavo's father died.

We stopped in to talk to Schindler's siblings after they referred us to their attorney David Gibbs, who first told us he would set up a meeting but then said there were scheduling problems. When we found both Bobby Schindler and Suzanne Vitadamo in the office, we were told they weren't available. That's when Bobby Schindler said we should direct our inquires to their attorney, Gibbs. Schindler said they just would rather work it that way.

Schindler didn't tell us anything, including how the organization spent $34,000s more than it collected in 2008; about the money it raised from a concert with country stars  Randy Travis and Colin Ray,  why as it told the IRS, the Foundation doesn't have a conflict of interest policy; and why it is using the name Terri Schiavo. A court document gives Michael Schiavo intangible rights to his wife's name.

Well, isn’t that interesting. I always got a skeevy feeling from that band of vultures.

Teaching Kids How To Assassinate The President


Teacher now placed on leave, may be fired.


Yes, that would be Alabama, where a geometry teacher decided assassinating President Obama would be the perfect way to teach 9th graders angles and parallel lines:

A Jefferson County teacher picked the wrong example when he used assassinating President Barack Obama as a way to teach angles to his geome­try students.

Someone alerted autho­rities and the Corner High School math teacher was questioned by the Secret Service, but was not taken into custody or charged with any crime.

Sexton said he generally doesn't discuss threat cases, but confirmed his of­fice investigated the inci­dent. No federal charges followed the probe.

The teacher was appar­ently teaching his geometry students about parallel lines and angles, officials said. He used the example of where to stand and aim if shooting Obama.

"He was talking about angles and said, 'If you're in this building, you would need to take this angle to shoot the president,' " said Joseph Brown, a senior in the geometry class.

Apparently the teacher has not been fired though he’s not talking to reporters, either. 

This is, after all, Alabama, where assassinating the country’s first black president is no doubt a fantasy harbored by many of the state’s fine upstanding citizens. For example, this parent:

Caroline Polk, the parent of a ninth-grader at the school, said she doesn't believe the teacher ought to be fired.

"We all make mistakes, and we should be able to learn from our mistakes," she said. "What he said was just wrong and inappropriate. Everyone's got their own opinions, but we have to be aware of our surroundings. At this point, it just needs to be handled in a way that it won't be repeated."

We have to be aware of our surroundings? That’s “real America” for ya, where discussing assassinating the president is a legitimate opinion that you, ya know, just need to keep to yourself when in polite company. The way you don’t talk about those dirty brown people who are ruining everything for everyone else. You know, in order to be politically correct and all.

Jeeeeeezus. What the hell is wrong with those people?

But you know, the best part about this whole story is going to be the inevitable false-equivalency that right-wingers will draw, once St. Rush has had time to hit the Great Gazoogle and find some small town teacher who said a mean thing about President Bush that one time. I’m sure that story is out there, and I’m sure it will be exactly the same as teaching kids where to stand to shoot at the president of the United States.

More from Shaw Kenawe.

First Admit You Have A Problem

As all we continue to watch the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico let's all remember the rest of the world's oceans and the creatures who live in it. Here, this video might help:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Media Fail, Flood Edition

Today’s Washington Post looks at why the Nashville flood story was passed over.

Some interesting things here, including this:
Newsweek's Andrew Romano writes that the problem with the Nashville story was "the 'narrative' simply wasn't as strong" as in the suspense-laden Times Square and BP dramas. "Because it continually needs to fill the airwaves and the Internet with new content, 1,440 minutes a day, the media can only trade on a story's novelty for a few hours, tops. It is new angles, new characters, and new chapters that keep a story alive for longer."

Eh, I’m gonna call bullshit. “Man fights nature” is one of the classic literary narratives. It’s why every time there’s a hurricane headed to land we get to see Al Roker and Rob Marciano in rain slickers buffeted by high winds as they try to shout into the mic. It’s why we are constantly having our regular programming pre-empted by local weatherbots chasing Doppler Radar color blobs over a map of towns you’ve never heard of. Weather is news.

Nope, that wasn’t it.

There’s this:

"On that side of the Hudson, they really lose sight of the rest of the country," says Sellers, who grew up in Kentucky. "They view it as flyover country. . . . There's just a feeling among folks here, 'Look at what the national media are talking about, they're not giving any attention to this.' "
Meh. Not buying that, either. We are “real America,” remember? That’s what the national news media keeps telling us, anyway. And they love “real America,” indeed they’ve invented entire reality TV series around us (“Ice Road Truckers” and “Deadliest Catch,” anyone?). On top of which, the Gulf of Mexico ain’t exactly “coastal elites,” it’s the Redneck Riviera. The oil spill story is taking place in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi. C’mon.

I also don’t think it had anything to do with our lack of looting (which, hate to break it to you, isn’t even true. Yes, we had looters).

And this:
The reasons are more complicated -- and troubling -- than Music City's distance from the big media centers. Downtown Nashville was unfortunate enough to be under water while the news business was grappling with two other dramatic stories: the attempted bombing in Times Square and the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Each, of course, raised a bewildering array of questions that could be endlessly debated by the pundits. Was the Obama administration too slow in reacting to the offshore explosion? Why didn't federal regulators crack down earlier on BP? How could a permit have been issued when the company had no real plan for stopping an oil spill?

And: Why was Faisal Shahzad allowed to board that plane even though he was on the no-fly list? Should the feds have read him his Miranda rights? Were we just lucky that he was a bumbling bombmaker?

Ah, yes. Of course, that kind of nitpickery could have been used to address the Nashville flood story, too. Really, it could have. And that misses the point.

What do a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a thwarted terror attack in a major U.S. city, or a major immigration battle in Arizona (the other story making headlines that weekend) have in common? Fear, of course. These are news stories for which the fear angle can be pushed on a national scale. A flood in Nashville? Not so much.

Add to this the fact that our flood happened so fast--unlike a hurricane, which is tracked for days before landfall--and on a weekend, and on a particular weekend when so many news folks were at the White House Correspondents Assn. dinner, it’s easy to see why the lumbering national news media got caught off guard.

The good news is that the story did get out nationally (the fact that the Washington Post did this column is evidence of that). Not on the traditional national news outlets but on blogs, social media, Twitter. There were shocking photos and compelling videos and wonderful writing. And our local news media, once they figured out that the story was not in the Doppler Radar color blobs but on the ground, in real life, did a good job, too.

The national news media seems to be saying a collective “we’re sorry,” and frankly, I don’t give a damn. Because the fact that you overlooked our story isn’t bad for us. It’s bad for you. It’s just another example of an outdated media model involving gatekeepers and a centralized hierarchy of decision makers that control the information flow which is completely at odds with the current, decentralized model taking hold among actual consumers. The Nashville flood story showed the limitations of the national news media in the inernet/wireless/cellular age.

There will always be a place for the national news media of course, but as far as where people go to get their information, that is getting more personalized and decentralized. You guys no longer hold the keys to the kingdom.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Out Of Ideas

SNL captured the "we have no fucking clue what we're doing but trust us anyway" message we've been getting from BP. Seriously, the "junk shot"? Are they kidding? Meanwhile, over at the Swash Zone are some alarming photos of the spill.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rick Berman Fools The Tennessean For 3rd Time

Oh, Tennessean. Your gullibility would be laughable were it not so very appalling. Seriously, what does this say about your reputation that a D.C. lobbyist has managed to fool you not once, not twice, but three times in one six month period? Somewhere on K street a corporate lobbyist is laughing his ass off at you.

On Thursday I posted a blog item about D.C. corporate lobbyist/professional astroturfer Rick Berman and his staff of sock puppets, namely David Martosko.

On Friday, The Tennessean runs a “Tennessee Voices” column by, you guessed it, David Martosko, attacking the HSUS. Yes that would be the same HSUS that just filed an ethics complaint against Martosko’s employer Rick Berman. Timing is everything, isn't it?

The Tennessean of course identified Martosko as:
...director of research at the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit watchdog group that deals with activities of tax-exempt activist groups.

Hah! I think I’ve already covered that ground but for those who haven’t been paying attention (ahem, Gannett employees!) that’s a bit of a stretch. It’s a more like an industry front group, funded by Cargill, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, Monsanto, and others. From Wikipedia:

IRS records show that in 2007, the CCF paid more than $1.5 million to Berman and Company for "research, communications, and other services."[25] Both the Center for Consumer Freedom and American Beverage Institute are managed by and share facilities with Berman and Company,[26] a public affairs firm owned by lobbyist Richard Berman and also associated with Center for Union Facts.

This is now the third time The Tennessean has fallen for Rick Berman’s propaganda game. Back in February they ran an anti-MADD Tennessee Voices column by “Sarah Longwell,” who fronts several of Rick Berman’s phony organizations, including the restaurant industry-funded American Beverage Institute.

But wait, there’s more. In December 2009, The Tennessean ran an anti-minimum wage op-ed by “Kristen Lopez Eastlick,” identified as “senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute.” Eastlick is a very busy lady:

Kristen Lopez Eastlick has been listed in many different capacities for nearly all of Berman & Company’s front groups. She has been cited as everything from director of policy analysis to chief administrative officer, and has been linked to the Center for Consumer Freedom, the American Beverage Institute, the Employment Policy Institute, the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy, Activist Cash, and the Employee Freedom Action Committee. Eastlick is a frequent editorial writer and Berman spokesperson.

Okay, Tennessean. Will the third time be the charm or is there going to be a fourth incident before your Opinion page editors learn how to hit the Google?

And they say the internet killed the newspaper business. Yeah, right. Looks like a suicide to me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Modern Corporate Patriotism

Under the new Republican mantra of “privatize gains, socialize losses,” yesterday Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski defeated a bill that would cap BP’s liability at $10 billion, an increase from $75 million. That means us taxpayers have to pay for the rest of the cleanup if BP opts not to.

How’s that for a Big Oil bailout? Let them make as big of a mess as they want, and we taxpayers will pay for the cleanup. Easy peasy.

The reason, she claims is that
It would be impossible or perhaps close to impossible for any energy company that is smaller than the supermajors, smaller than the national oil companies, to operate in the O.C.S.

which is patently dishonest because, for one thing, drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf is already prohibitively expensive, and thus only something the “supermajors” can tackle. And too:

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, said Murkowski's argument didn't hold up. "The risk is what has to be calulated here. If you drill, you need to be able to pay for the damages," Menendez said.

Interestingly, there is a similar law over on the nuclear energy side called the Price–Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act. In the event of an accident at a nuke plant, the federal government pays all liability claims above $10 billion. So much for that free hand of the market stuff!

The American taxpayer needed to come to the rescue of the nuclear power industry because, as Wikipedia notes,

At the time of the Act's passing, it was considered necessary as an incentive for the private production of nuclear power — this was because investors were unwilling to accept the then-unquantified risks of nuclear energy without some limitation on their liability.

Ah yes, just another way the “free hand of the market” isn’t really all that “free” but instead gives a generous government assist to the oil and nuclear industry--an assist I daresay the solar and wind power industries never see.

So don’t talk to me about how “competitive” green energy could never be, not when the game is rigged.

Anyway, all of this is preamble to what’s really outrageous about the whole “privatize gains, socialize losses” tactic at play here. Because where the BP oil spill is concerned, none of these players are American companies. They are all headquartered overseas, and therefore pay few U.S. corporate taxes.

Transocean Ltd.? They’re based out of Zug, Switzerland. They moved there two years ago--from the Cayman Islands. Formerly based out of corproate-friendly Delaware, they haven't called America home since 1999.

Halliburton? Once based in Houston, they now call Dubai home. This despite raking in billions in U.S. government contracts.

BP, as we all know, stands for “British Patroleum.” They are based out of the United Kingdom.

So there you go. American taxpayers will be paying for this oil spill in a lot of ways: loss of jobs in affected industries such as tourism and fishing. There’s the damage to the ecosystem. There will be health costs associated with the toxic mess. And while Lisa Murkowski blocks raising BP’s liability, meaning Joe and Jane taxpayer will pay for more of the cleanup, we’ve got three two major players who have dodged paying their full share of corporate taxes by moving to overseas tax havens. Talk about "starving the beast"!

Even worse, as I frequently remind my readers, all of this talk about us "needing" to drill offshore for our "energy security" is just a load of bull. We don't have a nationalized oil industry in this country. Oil is traded on the world market. That oil pulled out of the deep sea bed is as likely to end up in South America, China, or the EU as it is American SUVs.

So how about this. Since American taxpayers are paying to clean up this mess anyway, why don't we make sure we're the ones reaping the rewards of offshore drilling? How about nationalizing the oil companies, or at the very least creating a nationalized oil company. If you're going to drill in U.S. waters, then that's who's going to have to do it. Hell, we're paying for it anyway.

Sound too socialist for you? Maybe. But the alternative isn't looking much better.

All In The Family

Apparently what’s most important to BP in this oil spill disaster is helping out their corporate cronies, not trying to minimize the toxic soup brewing in the Gulf:
BP PLC continues to stockpile and deploy oil-dispersing chemicals manufactured by a company with which it shares close ties, even though other U.S. EPA-approved alternatives have been shown to be far less toxic and, in some cases, nearly twice as effective.


So far, BP has told federal agencies that it has applied more than 400,000 gallons of a dispersant sold under the trade name Corexit and manufactured by Nalco Co., a company that was once part of Exxon Mobil Corp. and whose current leadership includes executives at both BP and Exxon. And another 805,000 gallons of Corexit are on order, the company said, with the possibility that hundreds of thousands of more gallons may be needed if the well continues spewing oil for weeks or months.

But according to EPA data, Corexit ranks far above dispersants made by competitors in toxicity and far below them in effectiveness in handling southern Louisiana crude.

Well, that’s unfortunate. But let’s find out more about Corexit:

Critics say Nalco, a joint partnership with Exxon Chemical that was spun off in the 1990s, boasts oil-industry insiders on its board of directors and among its executives, including an 11-year board member at BP and a top Exxon executive who spent 43 years with the oil giant.

"It's a chemical that the oil industry makes to sell to itself, basically," said Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser for Defenders of Wildlife.

Well that’s certainly nice. So they make money when they drill oil and they make money when they spill it. Neat.

Of course, I’m concerned about the toxicity of this chemical, and the fact that more effective alternatives exist. It’s not just toxic to wildlife, but humans, too. Workers involved with the ExxonValdez cleanup had severe health problems some link to the toxic dispersants.


EPA has not taken a stance on whether one dispersant should be used over another, leaving that up to BP. All the company is required to do is to choose an EPA-approved chemical, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told reporters yesterday during a conference call aimed at addressing questions about dispersants being used in efforts to contain the Gulf spill.

"Our regular responsibilities say, if it's on the list and they want to use it, then they are preauthorized to do so," Jackson said.

”Regular responsibilities”? ”Regular”?! Excuse me but there is nothing “regular” about this oil spill. We need some fucking leadership here, people. The spill is bad enough, but we’re compounding the situation with hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemical compounds we’re piling on top of the oil. We're basically poisoning the ocean food supply, destroying the economy of the coastal region, which let me add Lisa Jackson still refers to quaintly as a "way of life." No, it's not a way of life. It's our FOOD.

They don’t get it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

They Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City

Cypress Hill joins the ever-growing boycott of Arizona. And they’ve written a song about it:

Yes indeed, it’s time to party like it’s 1985, people. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the arts can change the world. Who else is on board? Crosby, Stills & Nash? Chicago and the Doobie Brothers? Robert Plant? Carrie Underwood? Joe Nichols? You all have Arizona dates coming up. What about the artists on this list? Or this one?

Time to step up, people.

(h/t, Crooks & Liars)

Now On Video: Gulf Oil Leak

Via Gizmodo (someone else who apparently doesn’t get it, calling this video “mesmerizing”), comes the BP-released video of the Gulf oil spill. Watch it and remember that this gusher flows 24/7 and will keep flowing until BP figures out how to fix its fuck-up or the entire oil field empties into the ocean.

And to think, it all could have been prevented.

Fighting Back Against Rick Berman

Well, looks like someone is finally firing back against D.C. lobbyist/professional corporate astroturfer Rick Berman:
Mothers Against Drunk Driving and The HSUS File Ethics Complaint Against Rick Berman

Groups allege American Beverage Institute violated N.Y. law

Two of the nation's leading public interest charities — Mothers Against Drunk Driving and The Humane Society of the United States — formally asked the New York State Commission on Public Integrity on Tuesday to open an investigation into illegal lobbying by Washington lobbyist Rick Berman and one of his many corporate front groups, the American Beverage Institute.

The complaint alleges that Berman and ABI violated New York state's lobbying law. The Lobbying Act requires every lobbyist who spends more than $5,000 on lobbying activities to register and report their activities to the Commission. The complaint alleges ABI violated the law by failing to register and report lobbying activities, including expenditures in excess of $70,000. ABI spent more than $70,000 to purchase and publish advertisements to influence and defeat pending legislation intended to make roadways safer by cracking down on recidivism by convicted DWI offenders.

ABI is run by Washington-based lobbyist Richard Berman, who oversees a network of tax-exempt organizations that serve private business interests by attacking advocacy organizations deemed a threat to the profitability of Berman's alcohol, tobacco, agribusiness and fast-food clients.

I first got hip to Rick Berman during the healthcare reform debate when his astroturf group “Committee To Rethink Reform” started running ads in Tennessee.

Wonder if he registered as a lobbyist in Tennessee? I'm thinking ... not. Might be something for some folks to look into.

Berman is a stealth lobbyist. His sock puppets blanket local media with op-eds, masquerading as experts at dummy "non-profit groups" given impressive names. Most media outlets appear to have been duped (including our own Gannett fishwrap). Berman employee David Martosko, tasked with targeting HSUS and PETA, has been making the rounds of ag publications like “” and The Modesto Bee, which all quote Martosko as a representative of “The Center for Consumer Freedom” (heck, Martosko has even given testimony to the U.S. Senate). Indeed, Martosko's Twitter feed is a vertiable index of media gullibility.

None of these publications mention that the Center for Consumer Freedom is another one of Berman’s phony front groups and David Martosko is its chief sockpuppet.

It's all so sleazy. Kinda makes you wonder: if the industries hiring Rick Berman had a leg to stand on, why resort to the subterfuge? Why the astroturfing and the sock puppetry?

According to Berman Exposed:

David Martosko has served as director of research for Berman & Company and its front group the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) since 2001. He is a frequent spokesperson and editorial writer for both organizations. He previously served as a senior research analyst for the Berman front group Guest Choice Network, which later rebranded as CCF. Frequently cited as a scientific and economic expert, Martosko received his graduate degree in opera from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in 1995.

When called on this blatant dishonesty back in 2006 Martosko responded:

David Martosko: "Welcome to Washignton. This is the way things tend to be done here."


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Happy Blogiversary To Me

Today's my third blogiversary. Yay!