Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In Which I Tell Digby & Atrios That They Are Wrong

Good Lord but there’s nothing I hate more than having to defend someone like Sharron Angle or Sarah Palin. I find them both repugnant. I do not support them in any way. But dammit people, when you attack someone’s religion out of your own secular ignorance, I just have to say something.

Look, I tried to hold my tongue last week when everyone chortled on the Twitters about how Palin said we need to pray for Divine Intervention to stop the oil spill. I was really hoping the Sharron Angle abortion-rape thing would blow over but then Digby did this post which got picked up all over the lefty blogosphere, from Atrios to Think Progress to the Huffington Post.


So here I go. Here’s the quote, pulled from a radio interview Angle gave back in January, in which she explains why she is against abortion even in the case of rape or incest:
MANDERS: So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something?

ANGLE: You know, I’m a Christian, and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things.

This has caused Digby and other liberal bloggers, people whom I respect and admire greatly and agree with pretty much 99.9% of the time, to raise the red flag:

On the other hand, Angle seems to see conception by rape and incest as something God purposefully directed and so the results of which are something the birthing vessel must embrace. That's a very disturbing point of view no matter where you come out on the issue.

This prompted Atrios to write:

But having the view that raped and impregnated women are all part of God's plan, well, interesting God you've got there.

Oh for Chrissakes, people. That’s not what she’s saying, okay? That’s not what Christians mean when they say “God has a plan,” and “have a little faith,” alright? I swear, are you folks being intentionally obtuse for the sake of scoring a cheap political point or are you really just that out of touch with the faith community that you don’t know what Christians mean when they say “God has a plan”?

I'm going with the latter only because this reminds me of the liberal uproar when Sarah Palin said people should "pray that there is a plan and that this plan is God’s will" regarding the Iraq War. Somehow that got twisted into “the Iraq War is God’s plan," but Christians know that’s not what she meant.

Look, no one is saying it's God’s plan for war or for a woman to be raped, or for anyone to be sexually molested. What they are saying is that even though these horrible things may happen, God has a plan to pull us through. God will make it right. God will create a blessing where humans create tragedy. That is what it means to say “God has a plan” and “have a little faith.” Every Christian regardless of their political persuasion knows what that means. Twisting the words around to make them horrible does not help your cause, it just makes you look like asses. It makes you look intolerant. And ignorant.

Look, liberals, I love you. I’m one of you. But for crying out loud, just leave the Christianity stuff alone, OK? When someone explains the religious basis for their policy views, how about saying, “your religious views may inform your views about national policy but I do not share your religious views. Therefore, I do not want you imposing them on me in the form of laws.”

Let me put it another way. When Sharron Angle says that she’s a Christian and believes God has a plan and people just need to have faith when something awful like rape or incest happens, it’s perfectly acceptable to respond with, “that is an excellent reason why you personally would not choose to have an abortion if you were raped or sexually molested. However, that argument does not give you the right to tell me what to do when faced with the same situation. You cannot force me to share your faith.”

I'm a political progressive and liberal Christian, and I do feel there is some truth to the conservative Christian lament that liberals are intolerant of Christianity. Honestly, I don’t know what it is with liberals and evangelical Christianity, because everyone was perfectly able to defend the Liberation theology of the black church during the whole Rev. Wright kerfuffle, and everyone is perfectly able to defend Islam and every other religion out there. But as soon as evangelicals express a belief about their faith people seem to go off the rails.

This is something liberals need to examine carefully because there are a growing number of liberals who are also people of faith. The “Moral Majority” is dead, there’s a whole generation of evangelical Christian kids who care about things like climate change and poverty and ending war, and attacks on peoples’ religious views to score a political point does not build a dialogue with these folks. It builds a wall.

I suspect part of the issue is most secular folks aren’t fluent in “Christianese,” the language of evangelical Christians honed over years of Bible study and Vacation Bible School and Christian radio and twice weekly church services and whatnot. I spent years in Christian music so I know what Christainese is. Heck, Michael W. Smith wrote a song about it. And look, going on the radio and saying "I believe God has a plan, which is why I'm against abortion" is a perfectly normal thing for a Christian to do, and it's a perfectly normal thing for a politician pandering to Christian voters to do.

Twisting that into "A-Ha! You believe God wants women raped!" is just wrong. It's bullshit. And if it's pissing me off, then it's got to be pissing off other people of faith, people with whom progressives actually have a lot in common.

So cut it out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Show Your Papers, Tennessee

Gov. Bredesen capitulated to whatever insane forces have taken root in this state and signed Tennessee’s version of an Arizona-style immigration law. Now those who look foreign better keep their papers handy. Yes, I said “look foreign” because we all know that’s who this law applies to. Not everyone, just certain ones. Foreign-looking and foreign-sounding ones. People with accents. Others. Not, of course, “us.” It applies to “them.”

And no I don’t buy that whole “this only applies to people sent to jail” nonsense. I imagine that’s what they said about the fugitive slave laws 160 years ago, too. Tell that to Juana Villegas. Anyone can find themselves booked or arrested on some ridiculous charge any old Boss Hogg or Barney Fife wants to trump up.

When stuff like the Arizona immigration bill comes up I always think of one very close friend of mine: blonde-haired and blue eyed and a perfect English speaker who, as it happens, is a native of Canada and lived and worked in this country illegally for over 15 years. She was, in fact, an illegal immigrant, but you wouldn’t know it to look at her, talk to her or even to examine her shoes. And you know damn well if she was ever pulled over by a Metro cop no one would think twice about asking her for proof of citizenship because she looks and sounds like anyone else trying to make it in Nashville, even down to the guitar in the back seat of her car.

Not so her husband, who is from South Asia and has very dark skin and whose English is excellent but nonetheless heavily accented. He does happen to be in the country legally (my friend is too, now; in fact she’s become a U.S. citizen) but getting his visa was a prolonged, expensive ordeal involving lawyers and long waits and lots of paperwork. My point is this: if you put them side by side, which one is going to have their citizenship questioned at a traffic stop? The blonde, blue-eyed, English speaker or the dark skinned, obvious foreigner who speaks with an accent?

I just think it’s hilarious that the only illegal immigrant I personally have ever known to be illegal is a white person.

The reality is, if you’re going to be in favor of laws like Arizona’s then you have to acknowledge that all sorts of people can be illegal immigrants, not just brown people, not just Mexican and Central American and other so-called “undesirables.” White people can and are here illegally too. If you are okay with white people being here illegally but not brown and yellow people, then you are a racist.

Alternately, you have to recognize that any “show us your papers” law designed to identify illegals and send them back across whatever border they came from has got to apply to everyone, regardless of what they look and sound like. Otherwise it’s not fair, or objective or impartial. Because if nothing else, we are told the law is impartial.

So that means we all need to carry proof of citizenship with us, every one of us, and we have to be okay with showing that paperwork to law enforcement when they ask. I thought we weren’t in favor of things like National ID cards and Soviet-style “show us your papers” laws here but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I misread the mood of the country.

Alternately we can go at this issue another way. We can address the root of the problem, which is that this country was founded on cheap labor and remains addicted to cheap labor.

Part of this, I think, is related to our energy crisis: because at its root, what is cheap labor but a form of cheap energy? Perhaps our next abundant cheap energy source to replace fossil fuels will bring about technological innovation and replace the human sweat and muscle picking our tomatoes.

Part of it is that we’ve become accustomed to not paying what things actually cost. We might think a Big Mac only costs $3.50 but that’s because we’ve socialized all sorts of costs associated with food production. When companies pay poverty wages for fast food workers or hire illegal immigrants to pick lettuce and tomatoes and work in the meat packing plant, then there are going to be social costs attached to that.

And then part of it is the grinding poverty and lack of opportunity in some parts of the world that has people seeking a better life here. One of the selling points of “free trade” agreements like NAFTA was that they were supposed to spur economic development in other parts of the world. But I’m wondering if that’s really happened? We have GM, Ford and Chrysler opening auto plants in Mexico, Maytag shuttering historic U.S. plants and moving production to Mexico, GE, Honeywell and other U.S. companies all opening factories in Mexico and Central America, heck the entire U.S. garment manufacturing industry is practically wiped out for textile factories in Honduras and Guatemala. So it’s a veritable beehive of manufacturing activity south of the border and I wonder why the hell hasn’t that “trickled down” to the communities down there? Why aren’t people staying in Mexico since that appears to be where all the jobs are?

So there are a whole lot of policy issues associated with immigration and not a damn one of them is addressed by any “show us your papers” laws. In fact, all these laws do is basically make a bunch of people feel good about being bigots and puts a target on the backs of those who are least able to fight back.

It’s stupid policy and it solves nothing.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Green Is Green

GE is investing some serious change in its "Ecomagination” environmental initiative --$10 billion over the next five years, to be precise:
GE has a whole lot faith in its ecomagination initiative. So much faith, in fact, that the company is pumping $10 billion into the project's R&D over the next 5 years--effectively doubling its investment from the past 5 years. The reason is simple: ecomagination is a cash cow, generating $70 billion in revenue since its inception in 2005. With the world's attention turned toward clean technology, that number will almost certainly grow.

Ecomagination projects are diverse, global, and span a variety of industrial and consumer platforms. They include investment in renewable energy and energy conservation, smart grid technology, water conservation, and development of energy efficient products for industrial and consumer use. Once again I say: when oh when will green technology prove it is comepetitive? {/snark} You can find a list of the many Ecomagination projects here.

What really blew my mind is this:

Ecomagination is so big that it may soon top the federal government's investments in research and development, according to Earth2Tech. The government spends approximately $5 billion annually on energy innovation R&D.

But GE isn't on a mission to best the government for fun--the company believes it will generate $25 billion in 2010, up from $18 billion in 2009. Over the next 5 years, GE hopes that ecomagination revenue will grow at twice the rate of the company's total revenue. If this doesn't prove that green technology is both a financially and ethically responsible investment, we're not sure what does.

The fact that our government invests such a paltry sum in new energy technology is very sad. It tells me that it is stuck in the past, tied to the old economy, and is not interested in partnering with private industry in creating the new energy future. Many of us have wanted to hear President Obama call for a "Manhattan Project for energy" (I prefer the term Apollo Project, since the Manhattan Project is what gave us the atomic bomb). We could do it right there in Tennessee -- the Manhattan Project, after all, is what gave us Oak Ridge. Nobody yammered about the need for the "free hand of the market" to develop atomic technology back then, indeed it was of strategic national importance. It seems to me that getting off fossil fuels and demonstrating our energy independence from foreign energy sources is at least as important to our national security as building deadly bombs.

Sadly, as I've said a thousand times before, what this nation lacks is not the technology nor the resources to make this happen but the political will. Too many people in positions of power under the thumb of too many people whose continued existence depends on us living in the past.

But there's hope. Green technology is coming, it's here, it's competitive, and it's profitable. While BP sets aside $20 billion to cleanup its mess in the Gulf of Mexico, GE allocates half that amount for a different kind of future. Its first $5 billion investment has now generated $70 billion in revenue: I ask you, who will get more for their investment? BP or GE? Simple question, simple answer.

Progress happens, whether the American Enteriprise Institute and Koch Industries likes it or not. Green technology is the wave of the future, people. And it’s profitable right now.

Climb on board or be left behind.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hands Across The Sand

Beautiful. Already seeing pictures from today's event like this one:

The video from February’s event made me cry:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Media FAIL

Turns out “Climategate” was a manufactured controversy and the media regrets the error:
But not only did British investigators clear the East Anglia scientist at the center of it all, Phil Jones, of scientific impropriety and dishonesty in April, an investigation at Penn State cleared PSU climatologist Michael Mann of “falsifying or suppressing data, intending to delete or conceal e-mails and information, and misusing privileged or confidential information” in February. In perhaps the biggest backpedaling, The Sunday Times of London, which led the media pack in charging that IPCC reports were full of egregious (and probably intentional) errors, retracted its central claim—namely, that the IPCC statement that up to 40 percent of the Amazonian rainforest could be vulnerable to climate change was “unsubstantiated.” The Times also admitted that it had totally twisted the remarks of one forest expert to make it sound as if he agreed that the IPCC had screwed up, when he said no such thing.

Of course, we'll still hear about “Climategate” in Bill Kristol columns and Fox News reports for years and years to come. Because the point was to discredit scientists, not get at any truth or fact. That's the point of these smears, isn't it?

Meanwhile, it turns out that ACORN has also been cleared:

A preliminary report from the General Accounting Office has cleared ACORN of allegations that it misused millions of federal dollars over a four-year span.

According to the report, nine federal agencies gave the community group more than $40 million in eight housing-related grants from 2005 to 2009. There were no problems with seven of the eight grants, and ACORN supplied correct documentation for the eighth after it was notified the paperwork was missing. The GAO said it found no evidence of fraud or misuse of federal dollars.

ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis said the report "does nothing more than add to the growing list of government entities who have vindicated us," according to The Hill. ACORN has vigorously disputed charges that surfaced after a video sting by conservative activists showed low-level ACORN staffers giving tax advice regarding a prostitution ring. The group also faced charges from conservative media of voter fraud after the 2008 election.


A December 2009 report commissioned by the House Judiciary Committee found ACORN violated no federal regulations. That study, conducted by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, also found that ACORN correctly used all federal dollars it received and did not improperly register any voters during the 2008 presidential election. An investigation by the California attorney general reached the same conclusion. An independent investigator hired by ACORN also cleared the organization of wrongdoing.

ACORN is now suing to get its federal funding restored. Really, they should sue Andrew Breitbart and his minions for slander. (Incidentally, back in May, the New York Times issued a correction for its erroneous reporting on the James O’Keefe/ACORN affair.)

Again, it doesn't matter: ACORN will forever be synonymous with something unsavory in peoples' minds, and none of our gutless Democrats have the spine to go to bat for a bunch of community organizers who helped a bunch of poor people with their legal troubles. I mean, who gives a shit, right?

So with two right-wing smears down the toilet (and let’s not forget the whole “Saddam had WMDs” thing), all we can hope is that our establishment media has learned a lesson here. It's looking doubtful. Recent events indicate the “liberal” media runs for the fainting couches when the right wing tells them to. (More here.)

Summer Of Oil

Lovely Destin, Florida, June 23, 2010, 3 p.m.:

I'm watching a toddler get this crap on the bottom of his/her feet and have to wonder at the people letting their kids play in this stuff. Do they not know that it's toxic? Their great solution is to pack Goo-Gone with them? Are you people insane? Goo Gone is petroleum based, for crying out loud. Even the manufacturer says to avoid repeated and prolonged exposure to the skin.

Is Florida's tourism business more important than people's health? Why in God's name has Destin not closed its beaches? This is incredibly irresponsible.

Tennessee Know-Nothings

Remember Vijay Kumar? Of WTVF’s famous “Homegrown Jihad” expose? He’s the one running for Jim Cooper’s seat on an “anti-Sharia platform.”

He’s erected a few billboards around Nashville. Here’s one:

Kumar is a crank of the highest order and I’d say his chances against Jim Cooper are slim to none. Interestingly, another crank, Lou Ann Zelenik, is running for Bart Gordon’s seat. She, too, has made anti-Muslim sentiment a focal point of her campaign:
In a Thursday evening statement, 6th District candidate Lou Ann Zelenik said she stands with those who oppose building what she calls "an Islamic training center." She says the center is not part of a religious movement, but a political one "designed to fracture the moral and political foundation of Middle Tennessee."

"Until the American Muslim community find it in their hearts to separate themselves from their evil, radical counterparts, to condemn those who want to destroy our civilization and will fight against them, we are not obligated to open our society to any of them," Zelenik says in the statement.

Wow. Only in Tennessee -- and maybe South Carolina, Texas, and a few other Southern states -- could your intolerance be a campaign issue ... as a selling pont.

Frankly, I am surprised at this turn of events. I thought the Hispanic community would be the Republican punching bag this election; instead, they seem to have decided that Muslim hate is the issue that can rally their base. How convenient that they can all identify a common enemy to inspire fear and hatred in the hearts of their followers. Because what’s an election without a convenient punching bag?

It’s so weird to me. Am I the only one who remembers conservatives touting how wonderful it was that Nashville was selected as a polling site for ex-pat Iraqis, how this proved the war had been worth it? Remember all of those purple fingers?

I don’t get it. You’ll let these folks vote, but you won’t let them worship?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lies, Damn Lies & The Washington Times

Are You Now Or Were You Ever A Muslim?

Wow. They’re not even trying anymore, are they?
The Washington Times printed a doctored photo of Elena Kagan wearing a turban to accompany a column by Frank Gaffney making the absurd charge that Elena Kagan is "enabling efforts to insinuate" Shariah law in the United States. The Washington Times' print edition gave no indication that the photo had been doctored (while online, the photo bore a caption stating "Illustration: Kagan and Shariah.")

Well that’s a neat trick: characterize an accomplished Jewish woman as somehow wanting to instill Shariah law in America? Why do they think they can get away with that? It's absurd. (Note also that they added some massive man-hands to the picture. What’s that supposed to imply, do you think?)

Remember all of those pictures of George W. Bush with Prince Bandar? No one raised the fear flag about Shariah law and whatnot then. Of course they didn’t. Because it wasn’t true then and it’s not true now. The smearmongering from the right just knows no limits.

Funny I don't remember the Washington Times having a problem with this...

... or this.

Good News, Bad News

First, the good:
KNOXVILLE — TVA is reversing course and resuming new enrollments in its Generation Partners pilot project to encourage renewable energy use throughout its service territory after being criticized by area alternative energy contractors.

The federal utility made the announcement this afternoon after meeting with contractors who have complained that TVA’s recent decision to suspend the Generation Partners program will harm their business.

This is great news. Momentum continues to build for alternative energy in the Tennessee Valley, and TVA has decided to stick with its successful, though modest, incentive program. It only makes sense; as was pointed out here, TVA is spending $3 billion cleaning up the Kingston Fossil Plant’s coal sludge spill, yet devotes just $50 million to its solar program. Sorta like BP spending $20 billion to clean up the Deepwater Horizon mess, when it could have spent $500,000 on a blowout preventer. Very, very stupid.

Now, the bad news:

But about three miles off the coast of Alaska, BP is moving ahead with a controversial and potentially record-setting project to drill two miles under the sea and then six to eight miles horizontally to reach what is believed to be a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil under federal waters.

All other new projects in the Arctic have been halted by the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling, including more traditional projects like Shell Oil’s plans to drill three wells in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Beaufort.

But BP’s project, called Liberty, has been exempted as regulators have granted it status as an “onshore” project even though it is about three miles off the coast in the Beaufort Sea. The reason: it sits on an artificial island — a 31-acre pile of gravel in about 22 feet of water — built by BP.

Well that’s special. BP doesn’t exactly have a proven track record, yet they were allowed to dump a 31-acre pile of gravel in the water to classify their risky, untested drilling operation as “onshore”? That just screams Bush Administration-style shuck and jive, doesn’t it?

It gets worse:

Rather than conducting their own independent analysis, federal regulators, in a break from usual practice, allowed BP in 2007 to write its own environmental review for the project as well as its own consultation documents relating to the Endangered Species Act, according to two scientists from the Alaska office of the federal Mineral Management Service that oversees drilling.

The environmental assessment was taken away from the agency’s unit that typically handles such reviews, and put in the hands of a different division that was more pro-drilling, said the scientists, who discussed the process because they remained opposed to how it was handled.

“The whole process for approving Liberty was bizarre,” one of the federal scientists said.

The scientists and other critics say they are worried about a replay of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico because the Liberty project involves a method of drilling called extended reach that experts say is more prone to the types of gas kicks that triggered the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon.

I’m sorry, but why are we allowing this to move forward? Now that we know BP ain’t exactly honest brokers here, that their accident “response” plan for the Gulf of Mexico included such impossible scenarios as walruses in the Gulf of Mexico, that they cut corners and were blinded by the dollar signs in their eyes. That pretty much proves they aren’t paying close attention to stuff like safety and environmental protection. And we're going to let yet another "never been done before" drilling operation move forward?

I've said it before a thousand million gazillion times but I'll say it again: the easy oil is gone. All that's left are oil reserves that are more difficult, more expensive, and riskier to tap. This means for a company like BP to make money, they will cut corners and they will take unnecessary risks. Their business model depends on it.

Look, now that we know what we know, it is unconscionable to allow this project to move forward without, at the very least, a more thorough review of safety and risks. C’mon, people. Don’t be stupid.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some Simple Advice To Campaign Volunteers

Lost In The Weeds:
Is this the message Zach Wamp wants to send?

It’s that time of year, when campaign signs spring up like sunflowers. I’m sure we’ll hear the usual stories about campaign signs getting stolen and I’m sure some blogger will post the usual photo of a dog peeing or pooping on some candidate's sign. Ha ha hilarious.

Anyway, here’s my pet peeve: I really really hate it when people put campaign signs in the public right-of-way. It looks tacky and trashy and it tells me that you couldn’t find a real person who wanted to show their support for your candidate. On top of which, they end up getting trashed by mowers, traffic and the sun; they always end up looking pretty battered over time and let’s face it, no one ever picks these things up. I mean cripes, I’m still seeing “Who Is Ron Paul” signs on utility poles from two years ago.

So just some friendly advice. If you can't find a real person who's proud to support your candidate by putting a campaign sign on their property, maybe you should volunteer for another candidate.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Activist Judges In Louisiana?

The judge who overturned the Obama Administration’s six-month deepwater drilling moratorium which affects just 33 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico should have recused himself from the case:
According to Feldman's 2008 financial disclosure form, posted online by Judicial Watch [pdf], the judge owned stock in Transocean, as well as five other companies that are either directly or indirectly involved in the offshore drilling business.

It's not surprising that Feldman, who is a judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, has invested in the offshore drilling business—an AP investigation found earlier this month that more than half the federal judges in the districts affected by the BP spill have financial ties to the oil and gas industry.

Doesn’t bode well for any future lawsuits on this.

Remember people: the moratorium affects just 33 rigs. Hundreds are still operating in the Gulf of Mexico. The industry has not come to a grinding halt, fearmongering about economic destruction and job loss and all the rest are completely overplayed. It’s the oil barons trying to show their muscle.

Thirty-three rigs, people. All of this fearmongering and lawsuits are over 33 rigs.

Things I Don’t Give A Crap About

• I don’t care that Obama went golfing over the weekend because unlike some previous presidential persons I could name, he’s actually working when he’s not on the links and getting shit done, like wresting $20 billion from a corporate polluter to help people affected by an ecological disaster. So zip it.

• I don’t care that Tony Hayward went yachting over the weekend because, for crying out loud, he’s a rich asshole and that’s what rich assholes do: they go yachting. Though, just as an aside, I am amused that his boat is named “Bob.”

• I don’t care that some Swede said he cared about “the little people” when he obviously meant to say he cared about “the little guy.” He’s not a native English speaker and it’s not the first time a foreigner mangled an American euphemism. The whining and moaning about that one made us all look like assholes, and the last thing we needed was for the establishment media to join in the fray, pointing their fingers and laughing. People can snicker about this stuff all they want but that doesn’t mean the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, CBS News, etc. need to blast it all over the place.

• I don’t care that Sarah Palin told people to pray for God to stop the oil spill. President Obama basically said the same thing in his Oval Office speech last week. Frankly, if someone wants to pray for some Divine Intervention over this disaster, where’s the harm? While you’re at it, light some incense, say a chant, visualize a pink bubble, sacrifice a goat, howl at the moon, or do whatever it is your particular belief system dictates. I think it’s pretty obvious that we need all the help we can get at this point.

Now that we have that cleared up, here’s what I do care about. I care that our discourse is so unbelievably stupid in this country. I care that we keep focusing on the trivial shit instead of trying to figure out how to solve our problems. I don’t happen to think there’s a national obsession with politics but our pundits apparently do. Yes that's their job but lately they seem to have gone off the deep end and anyway, as Adam Nagourney pointed out over the weekend, we're all pundits now. Maybe instead of spending so much time worrying about the political process we should be worrying a little more about what policies are needed.

Today John Cole writes:
Can you imagine going through life with all this artificial nonsense dictating your decision making process? I like those shoes, but do they make me look “weak?” I really would like some spicy mustard on my sandwich, but is it too “elitist?” My employee is a mouthy little shit who gets the job done, but do I have to fire him to show I am “tough” even if doing so hurts my business? Sure, I’d like to go to the opera, but will that make me look like a pussy?

He’s writing about all of the McChrystal nonsense, and the growing meme that Obama has to fire McChrystal not because of anything related to the mission in Afghanistan but for political reasons: that not firing him “says something” -- to whom, I’m not sure. I guess to the pundits who increasingly feel like they were the ones elected. Hey guess what, Chris Matthews: I know there are some Republicans who send a shiver down your leg at the mere thought of them running for president in 2012 but for crying out loud that's two years away and in the meantime there's some actual governing that people are trying to do.

We have some serious stuff to work on, people. We need to figure out how we’re going to get off the oil tit, how we’re going to put people back to work, how we’re going to extract ourselves from the stupid, expensive wars the last Administration committed us to.

The endless yammering over superficialities is not helpful or productive.

Tennessee Puts The Hate On-AGAIN

The anti-Muslim haters crawled out from under their rocks to oppose the Rutherford County mosque at a county commission meeting last week. Some of the statements that were made are shocking in their ignorance and intolerance. For example:
"Everybody knows they are trying to kill us," Karen Harrell said. "People are really concerned about this. Somebody has to stand up and take this country back."

”Take this country back” being code for “I’m a tea bagging idiot who just parrots whatever words Glenn Beck spews.” Isn't it funny how people who don’t like government interference in anyone’s business are suddenly demanding the Rutherford County Commission stop a private group from building a house of worship on land they own?

Just as we saw when Lee Beaman donated his Antioch property to the homeless, these folks seem to live in a world of double standards. If a megachurch wanted to build on that land and people objected it would be “oh my God Christianity is under attack” all over again.

Even worse were the statements expressed by supposed people of faith. Here’s one:

"We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Islam," Allen Jackson, pastor of World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, said during Thursday's meeting.

This from someone professing to lead a group with the words “world outreach” in its title? Cognitive dissonance much?

Here’s another one:

But Michael O'Bannon, senior minister at First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, said questioning the new mosque is not religious intolerance.

"It is a genuine concern based on the fact that, while we believe and practice freedom of religion, experience has taught us that a segment of Muslims are very hostile toward anyone who is not a Muslim.

"Their Quran is very explicit about how they should treat infidels," he said.

I’m guessing this fellow hasn’t spent too much time reading his Bible, especially the Old Testament. And he certainly hasn’t spent much time reading his own United Methodist literature, since the United Methodists are one of the more tolerant denominations out there. I guess he missed the 2005 meeting between Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and a group of UMC bishops. So to Michael O'Bannon who says “a segment of Muslims are very hostile toward anyone who is not a Muslim,” I suggest you remove the log from your own eye.

But the best comments came from a self-described “tea party Democrat” named George Erdel running for Bart Gordon’s seat. First of all, let me say there is no such thing as a “tea party Democrat.” There is not one thing about the tea party that represents the Democratic Party. This person is clearly delusional. He said:

"Islam is a system of government. Islam is a system of justice. We've got people here who remember Sept. 11, 2001. These people are scared.

"I'm afraid we'll have a training facility in Rutherford County."

Yes, please roll that tape of the guys in their pajamas on the monkey bars, we haven’t seen that one enough. What an idiot.

Fortunately, a real Democrat has spoken up. U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran Ben Leming, also running for Bart Gordon’s seat, writes on his website:

 “I see a lot of people quoting our Constitution these days, but only when it suits their agenda. You can’t have it both ways. I believe in the United States Constitution.  I have fought and will continue to fight to uphold every single right guaranteed by it. This includes the right to worship freely. Just because we may not agree with someone’s religious views does not mean we get to decide whether they can have a place of worship in the community. This is simply un-American,” said Leming.

The Rutherford County Commission approved a proposed site for a new Islamic mosque planned for Murfreesboro in May. One local leader in the community, Pastor Allen Jackson, said “We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Islam.” He went on to mention American troops in his remarks.

“I completely repudiate those statements.  He does not get to speak for me or most other members of the military. I expect more from a man who should be teaching the message of tolerance, forgiveness, and love.” said Leming. "I support those leaders who voted to uphold our American values and rights. Doing the right thing, even if it is unpopular, takes courage."

I can’t tell you how embarassed I am by my fellow Tennesseans sometimes. I understand people are afraid and I get that scared people do stupid things, but haven’t we seen this movie like a thousand times before? Have we learned nothing from the way we treated Japanese and German Americans and immigrants during WWI and WWII? Come on people, cut the crap already.

I’m tired of living in Amygdala America. It’s time that we started drowning out the voices of hate once and for all. We need more Ben Lemings speaking out.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Plagiarism Is Not Flattering

Thanks to some strange links I’ve followed from Sitemeter, I've come to learn that I’ve been plagiarized. And no, it's not flattering.

In fact, it appears that this is directly taken from this. I might not mind so much except what was plagiarized was my post about my mother’s death, which is just about as low as a human being can go.

So here’s a little tip for you kiddies, you new to the world of the blogging thing, new even to the world of the journalism thing. When you take someone else’s words and pass them off as if they are your own, you are stealing. That’s what plagiarism is: stealing.

In the world of the internet, there are a couple ways to give proper attribution. There’s the old-school quotation marks and “said Southern Beale” way. There’s the hyperlink and blockquote way. The best way is the hyperlink, blockquote and “Southern Beale” attribution way.

But taking my words and pasting them into your own blog post as if they are your own? That’s simply not done. Ever.

Skylerwolf, whoever you are, you should either delete your post or give me proper attribution. There are rules of conduct on the internet and you’ve broken a big one.

That is all.

A Picture Worth $20 Billion+

Posted by Irish-Canadian journalist Alex Kearns, who now lives in St. Mary’s Georgia, and reposted on Naked Capitalism blog

Killing crabs and the American dream:
A researcher captured this image. A discarded flag (or one that has fallen from one of the many vessels in the area) rests on the ocean floor amid the oil and the bodies of dead crabs.

A two-inch layer of submerged oil is coating portions of the Gulf seafloor off the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge: a week after a smothering layer of floating crude washed ashore there. This scenario is being played out all along the Gulf shoreline.

Says it all.

Why Are Gas Prices Dropping?

Yet more evidence that Newt Gingrich’s “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign is bullshit: we’re two months into a six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling and gas prices are tumbling:
CAMARILLO, Calif. -- The average price of regular gasoline in the United States has dropped more than 11 cents over a three-week period to $2.72.

Not possible! We were told that unless we drill for oil offshore, we’d be paying $4 and $5 a gallon! Instead, gas prices have been dropping since the oil spill started:

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. consumer prices decreased in May for the second straight month as gasoline prices fell, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

And no, I'm not suggesting that the oil spill is responsible for lower gas prices. That's just stupid.

So why are gas prices dropping like a rock, despite a ban on offshore deep water drilling? Here’s an idea:

Analysts say a sluggish start to the summer vacation season has increased gas inventories, and serious economic problems in Spain, Portugal and Greece have helped lower prices as the dollar rose in value against other currencies.

The price drops, which began May 7 when the financial crisis in Europe worsened, have reversed a trend in early 2010 that had seen gasoline prices rising considerably higher than the previous year.

Hmm. So apparently the price of gasoline is more affected by world events and the global financial market than how many rigs are drilling off the coast of Mississippi.

Interestingly, the story goes on to say that hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico could disrupt drilling operations and cause prices to go back up. That is an excellent reminder to us all that there is, in fact, offshore oil drilling going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now, as I type this. Republicans and even a few Democrats keep telling us that unless the deepwater moratorium is lifted, it will be an economic disaster for states already crippled by the oil spill, like Louisiana. Which ignores the fact that the oil industry is still chugging along down there.

So talk about platforms, specialized equipment and even the workforce leaving the Gulf of Mexico strikes me as unnecessary fearmongering. There’s still drilling going on, just not in water deeper than 500 feet. In fact, only 33 deep water rigs have stopped operations: so little that we haven’t even felt it at the pump. Gas prices are actually going down.

So quit yer whining. If there’s some deep-well engineering firm that’s going to have to leave the Gulf of Mexico because they are out of work for six months, see ya. Go pollute the waters off of Norway or Brazil (if you can). Take your trashy, polluting, risky, unsafe industry somewhere else. I’m not going to have a sad. I’d rather have some shrimp to throw on the barbecue and you guys screwed that up for us for good.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Goodbye, Rahm?

Rahm Emanuel is rumored to be leaving the White House. Apparently there's too much idealism or something.

Sounds like a weird reason to me but who knows.

See ya.

How To Run A Country Without Oil

If you have a spare 20 minutes, give Shai Agassi's TED talk on electric vehicles a watch. It is amazing, especially at the end when he talks about moral choices:

Coming To A Bar Near You

** Comments for this thread have ended. Gun nuts are basically talking to themselves, which near as I can tell y'all can do on the blogs which directed you here to begin with. **

Thank you, Tennessese legislature, for making sure irresponsible crazies like this guy can now be armed in more places than ever:
John Stephenson was walking home from work during a recent sunny afternoon in Hillsboro Village when a man almost ran over him in a crosswalk, argued with him over who had the right of way and then pulled a gun.

“It wasn’t the first time I’ve almost been hit in a crosswalk here, but it w as the scariest,” said Stephenson, who works as head chef at Fido. “I don’t understand. He stopped to argue with me but wouldn’t stop for five seconds to let me cross.”

Hey, if you don’t know enough to not pull a gun on a guy you nearly ran over in a crosswalk then maybe you shouldn’t have one.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is There Intelligent Life In Outer Space?

Last week's question about what happens when we die sparked some interesting dialogue so I thought I'd ask this question: is there intelligent life in outer space?

In the after death conversation I mentioned a near-death experience someone had in which they were shown a future life as an alien on a space colony, which blew my mind.

When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I was a huge Erich von Däniken fan. I read all of the "Chariots of the Gods" books, and while I'm not sure I believed all of what was in them, it certainly piqued my imagination. By high school I had graduated on to Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan--in fact, after college I applied for a job at Sagan's The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California. Got an interview, too! Kinda makes you wonder the turns one’s life takes, doesn't it?

Anyway, if that hasn't proved my SETI bonafides, I once dated a guy who said he had an alien encounter when he was a kid. He didn't like to talk about it, in fact seemed somewhat traumatized by it. I have a feeling anal probes were involved.

So I am certainly open to the idea of intelligent life in outer space. I’m aware that earth’s solar system is in a rather remote corner of a rather remote galaxy. We’re sort of in the boondocks in galactic terms, and when you think of how vast the universe is -- “BILL-yons and BILL-yons” of suns and planets orbiting those suns -- it seems rather arrogant to think that Earth would be the only place where “intelligent” life exists (I don’t happen to think we’re all that intelligent, seeing as how we’re poisoning ourselves, willingly and knowingly.)

Then again, the fact that life exists on Earth at all is such a fluke, such a bizarre set of circumstances that created just the right conditions that allowed just the right carbon-based life-form to evolve. Of course, there can be other kinds of life forms -- my favorite New Yorker cartoon shows a crashed space ship and an alien creature crawling through the desert gasping, “ammonia .... ammonia ...” Hah.

Anyway, if there is an intelligent life form out there, one which we assume has developed advanced technology and is able to slip the surly bonds of whatever planet they call home, why haven’t they made themselves known to us in a big way? Are we really that remote? Or maybe they’re just too wrapped up in their own stuff to worry about looking beyond their world. Maybe curiosity is an Earth thing, a human thing.

We do always assume there is an “intelligent” life form with an advanced culture and technology out there. But what if there’s not? What if there are just bacteria and amoeba and maybe insect-like creatures?

What if we’re the smartest kids in class? There’s a scary thought.

Suck It, Vuvuzelas!

California's Death Valley has booming sand dunes. This just fascinated the heck out of me:

The Future Is Now

I read stories like this and I just have to shake my head at how short-sighted we all are:
TVA program that spurs solar installations put on hold

Generation Partners not taking new participants

TVA’s popular program that pays homeowners and businesses to generate electricity from solar energy has hit a wall.

Much of the $50 million set aside for the Generation Partners program has been committed as applications from even more would-be participants stack up.

Costly, mega projects by opportunistic investors may be eating up the money — versus smaller solar installations by homeowners or businesses that need the power themselves and for whom the program has been largely pitched.

Tennessee Valley Authority officials told a group of distributors that administer the program through formal agreements on Wednesday that a moratorium was being imposed.

Got that? Those “opportunistic investors” (I’m sorry, is there another kind? Altruistic ones, perhaps?) are sucking TVA dry of solar funds. So they will have to put a moratorium on the solar program because it’s just too darned successful.

Which just makes me wonder: when, yea Gods, will renewable energy finallly be able to prove it’s competitive in the marketplace? [/Snark]

Yes, I am being sarcastic. Yes, I know solar is subsidized. Guess what, so are fossil fuels. So is coal. It's all subsidies. What the hell was the Interstate Highway System but one big subsidy to oil companies, refineries and the automobile industry? What is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve but a giant taxpayer-funded subsidy to Big Oil?

When you privatize the gains of offshore oil drilling and mountaintop removal mining but socialize the losses in the form of a destroyed Gulf Coast, ruined mountains, acid rain, poisoned streams, lung disease, lost fishing and tourism industry etcetera etcetera, that is a freaking subsidy. Just sayin’.

And that’s not including actual, you know, subsidies that Senators throw hissy fits over when you take them away. Why are taxpayers putting $2.3 billion in coal subsidies?

But back to our story:

Steve Johnson, with LightWave Solar Electric, is worried about the program ending.

It has helped his company grow over the last few years from one person to 18, with a new hire coming in next week.

Without the various solar incentives — Tennessee state government doesn’t offer any for residences — jobs will likely be lost and the fledgling industry could start to slide, he said.

“They’re spending $3 billion cleaning up from coal,” Johnson said, referring to money spent on TVA’s Kingston coal ash spill and re-tooling its other ash sites.

“This $50 million is a drop in the bucket. It would be nice if we had a $3 billion budget because we would actually be producing electricity with it — cleanly.”

In the interest of full disclosure, as many of you know I am a Generation Partner and Lightwave installed my array. They are good people, and this is a good program. I hope TVA is true to its word and the moratorium is, indeed, temporary.

I just don’t understand why we are spending so much money propping up a dead, polluting, environmentally destructive energy system. Especially when it’s obvious that people want solar power. They want to get in on the new thing that is the wave of the future. Why are utilities putting up obstacles?

With every passing day it is more obvious that fossil fuels are an outmoded, old fashioned, inefficient, dying energy source. The future is in renewables and it’s happening whether TVA or politicians or anyone else likes it or not.

Here’s yet another example of how I know I’m right. Read this article about BP’s former refining chief Cynthia Warner--a Vanderbilt grad, I may add--who left BP in 2009 and is now president of Sapphire Energy, a company which makes liquid hydrocarbons from algae. Why?

"I had a slow but growing realization that the industry was maturing, the current fields were falling off in volume more quickly than anticipated, and the feats required to find new oil were becoming more and more heroic."


"I had an epiphany that if I was going to put so much personal energy into making something happen, it was a lot better to create the key to the future than to nurse along the dying past." What motivated her above all was her two kids, a feeling she describes in a typically homey metaphor: "What I want to do is leave a legacy for my kids where energy is secure. I don't want them to have to go out and fight for it -- I don't want to leave them a world where we're fighting for the last slice of the pie, but one where we're baking new pies."

I’m not advocating renewable liquid hydrocarbons--frankly I don’t know enough about it, though I am intrigued at the idea of finding a renewable source of hydrocarbons for all of those plastics we use--I’m just saying: when people who work for the oil companies are leaving because they see it's a dead-end industry, folks it’s a dead end industry.

Change is happening people, because it just makes economic sense. Climb aboard or be left behind.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Creating A Bike Friendly City

Copenhagen figured out how to do it. Watch, from Current TV:

Copenhagen is renowned for being a bike-friendly city. This is a new thing; when I lived in Copenhagen back in the 1980s, bicycles were rarely used for commuting. People might ride their bikes to the train station, but you didn't see bicycles in the city center like you do now and you most certainly would not have biked from the suburbs into the city. It just wasn't done. Copenhagen created this bike culture in the past 25 years. It did so by creating a bicycle infrastructure: dedicated bike lanes and bike bridges, timed traffic lights, etc.

Here in Nashville traffic is one of our most serious issues. The interstates are jammed at rush hour and inside the city our neighborhoods are darned near impossible to navigate. Just try getting through Green Hills at lunchtime, I dare you. The solution our brilliant nincompoops at TDOT have come up with? Widening roads, adding a center turn lane on Hillsboro Pike, and making it completely impossible for a bike lane ever to be added to what is a major thoroughfare. Thanks a lot, idiots.

I own a bicycle but it gets precious little use, despite the fact that we live easy biking distance to grocery stores and other services. The reason is that you are literally putting your life in your hands to ride a bike in this city. I've been run off the road more than once, and I know people who have been seriously injured by careless drivers. Two months ago driving down Blakemore I saw an SUV crush a bicycle on purpose, then speed away as the rider (who had been knocked down but was OK) was left screaming blooding murder at the top of his lungs.

It's a damn shame that we have this backwards attitude because honestly, you cannot pave enough roadway to hold all the cars. That's like bailing the Queen Mary with a thimble. The only solution is to reduce the number of cars on the road. One way to do that is to encourage pedestrian and bike traffic, and the only way that will work is by making it safer for people to get around town in ways that don't involve a car.

Con-Con Artists

Just Another Constitutional Conservative

How do you know when both the Tea Party brand and the Republican Party have been tarnished? When they start calling themselves “Constitutional Conservatives running on the Republican ticket.”

Kinda like Tennessee’s Lou Ann Zelenik who yesterday chirped:
”I’m so fed up. I’ve worked hard to get Republicans elected and they’ve failed me. I’m worked hard to stand up for our freedoms. I’m running on the Republican Party ticket, but I’m running as a constitutional conservative who believes in our constitution and our free market. We’ve got to stand up."

Zelenik is just the latest right winger to adopt the “Constitutional Conservative running on the Republican ticket” meme. Jeff Hartline is running for Jim Cooper’s seat on that label (of course, he needs to win his Republican primary first). Rand Paul, of course, told Sean Hannity: “I call myself a constitutional conservative.” Sharron Angle is a “Constitutional Conservative Patriot.” Others include Utah’s Mike Lee, Florida’s Robert Lowry, Alaska’s Joe Miller ... they are everywhere, in every state, these Con-Con artists.

It’s so pervasive, I started to suspect that someone at the Tea Party Express advised these candidates to dump their “Tea Party” label, now that it’s been tarnished by the unhinged racists, homophobes and conspiracy theory wackadoos who have become the face of the Tea Party. It’s a neat con, these Con-Cons: a dog whistle to appeal to Tea Party sympathizers without frightening off your more mainstream Republican voter.

Turns out I’m right:

Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, one of the drivers of the Tea Party movement, is suggesting that Republican political candidates should shy away from the "Tea Party" label to avoid harsher scrutiny.

No surprise there. Dick Armey is one of those Texas Republicans who took over the party in the 90s by exploiting identity politics -- these are the folks who (briefly) turned “liberal” into a bad word. These folks tend to focus more on superficialities: image over substance, labels over doctrine. It’s more a marketing campaign than a political ideology. But in this age of the internet, I have to wonder how effective such politics is anymore.

I think it’s interesting to watch the Tea Party suddenly rebrand itself as “Constitutional Conservatives” now that the shine is off the tea pot. I wonder if by next year they will feign outrage at being identified by the “Tea Party” label, much as how today they are outraged at being called Tea Baggers, despite that being the name they originally called themselves.

Feel Good Friday: Ode To Big Butter Jesus

This ode to Touchdown Jesus, aka Big Butter Jesus, shows some of the hilarity I referenced here. Rumor has it BBJ will be rebuilt but you know, it will never be the same.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Hilarious. There's already a website:

Grand Old Petroleum


Nobody could have anticipated this! Oh, wait ...


Rep. Joe Barton of Texas just apologized to BP for being forced to set up a $20 billion fund to compensate the Gulf Coast. He called it a “shake down.”

I see.

This is why we don’t want any more Texas oil men in Washington. This is precisely the attitude we saw from Bush, Cheney, Condi (she had an oil tanker named after her!) and all the other Big Oil cronies handed the reins of power for eight years.

Meanwhile, you wacky kids on the internet are already having your fun:

Honestly, after months of hissy fits from the right wing about President Obama "apologizing for America" you'd think apologizing to BP over the oil spill might raise a few eyebrows in the Texas Teanut Party. But word has it Limbaugh opened his radio show today criticizing the "BP shakedown." Guess they got the memo.


Video courtesy of JR Lind at Post Politics:

Memory Hole, Obama Edition

Remember when right-wingers like Glenn Beck were in a tizzy over all of those Obama “Czars”?

Remember when our glorious Liberal Media was so worried about how Obama was doing “too much, too soon”?

We heard the “doing too much” line a lot. I mean really, really a lot.

So just curious how you folks now Monday morning quarterbacking the President on his failure to clean house at MMS and anticipate the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history would have reacted if he had come in and done exactly what you are now saying he should have done 18 months ago.

And that’s not even getting into the issue of secret holds on Obama nominees (and some not-so-secret ones.) Or the fact that President Bush “burrowed” industry-friendly appointees at the Interior Dept. into career civil-service positions.

So you folks whining about how Obama should have magically come in and swept out all the corrupt industry cronies at Interior need to shut your gobs. And yes, Rudy Giuliani, I’m looking at you.

There are plenty of things to criticize Obama for on this oil spill but let's remember the narrative of the past 18 months, shall we? The same people yammering about death panels and FEMA concentration camps and birth certificates and "Czars"--and some of you idiots are still whining about the Czar thing--would have turned any housecleaning at Interior into some kind of Socialist-Sierra Club conspiracy bent on turning our resources over to the United Nations or some such.

Our narrative in this country is so stupid. For months we heard nothing but how Obama was doing too much, oh my word, it was all just too much. Now you assholes want to say he didn't do enough? Just zip it.

Time to move on.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vision Problems

There was good and bad in President Obama’s Oval Office speech tonight.

The good: the President made clear he understands the magnitude of the problem we face capping that gusher in the Gulf. I’m convinced, finally, that he understands the long term effects of the oil spill. He “gets it.”

He also made clear he understands the urgency of our need to leave behind our carbon-fueled ways and transition to a clean energy economy. He made clear he understands the magnitude of that challenge, he recognizes that we have failed in this task too many times in the past, and that we are running out of chances. He “gets” that, too.

But what I didn’t hear, what I truly wanted to hear, was some kind of stated vision for how we will manifest this desperately needed change. I didn’t hear the words “Apollo Project for energy,” I didn’t hear the words “national priority,” I didn’t even hear a call for us all as Americans to actually do anything. While he said we all have a role to play, he didn't articulate what that is.

I wanted a call to action and I didn’t get it. I want to know that we as a nation are harnessing the best and brightest minds to come together and figure this energy thing out. I want to know that we are doing something, that the government is leading the way, that the doors of industry, technology, policy-making and the halls of higher education have been thrown open and every sector of our public life will be focused, laser-like, on making this transition finally happen.

I wanted a battle plan--not for cleaning up the oil spill, but for getting over our fossil fuel addiction. I didn’t get one.

You know, we spent $22 billion in today’s money to develop the atomic bomb. That was considered a national priority. More than 30 laboratories in three countries were involved, all to develop a massive killing mechanism.

In 1961 a president told Congress he had a vision of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. From that vision was launched the Apollo Program, perhaps the greatest achievement of the modern era.

We can do big things, but we need a big vision and we need a leader to give us this challenge. The fact that President Obama did not do any of these things worries me. It’s as if he’s taking a backseat, hoping Congress will do the dirty work -- it’s the healthcare bill all over again. He wants something done, but he hasn’t said exactly what, he hasn’t given specifics or deadlines. He hasn’t presented his vision.

I know President Obama has that vision. I have seen hints of it in the past, in previous speeches, and during the presidential campaign. Why oh why is he not sharing his vision with us?

Our clean energy future presents some unique challenges. Unlike the Apollo Program or the Manhattan Project, there are very powerful, wealthy and firmly established forces fighting every modest step made in that direction. This means our clean energy messaging needs to be very clear, very profound, and very powerful. It’s not enough to say “The time to embrace a clean energy future is now.” We need to know what that means, what it will look like, and what it will take to get there. We need to know what those first steps will be and what are the benchmarks. We need to be sold on a vision so we can share it.

Mr. President, we need leadership. The battle isn't just in the Gulf of Mexico. It's in the Houston offices of ExxonMobil and the Wichita, Kansas offices of Koch Industries. You will need us to carry your vision forward. Please share it with us.

Goodbye, Touchdown Jesus

Something for Pat Robertson to chew on: apparently lightning struck Ohio’s infamous “Touchdown Jesus” statue last night, burning it the ground.

Here it was, in its glory days:

Apparently it was visible from the Interstate. Now all that remains is the wire mesh frame. And I have a big sad. People had a lot of fun with “Touchdown Jesus,” turning him into “High-Five Jesus” and other shenanigans. Thanks for the memories, Touchdown Jesus!

High-Five Jesus

Touchdown Jesus With Football

Ah well, the fun is over, for now. But hey, if God is striking down ugly art, may I suggest Nashville's ode to the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest?

Hey God, You Might Want To Stop By I-65 South Of Nashville & Take Out This Monstrosity

Monday, June 14, 2010

Evening Schadenfreude

Word from Hollywood is that the release of the “Red Dawn” remake may be delayed indefinitely:
Contributor Patrick Goldstein says the remake of "Red Dawn," which was filmed in Detroit last summer and fall, will not be released as expected on Nov. 24 of this year and that there is no alternative release date set.

While Goldstein doesn't quote any MGM sources, he says that the struggling film company doesn't have the money to distribute the film.

According to another LA Times story in late May, MGM is $3.7 billion in debt and debt holders are struggling to find ways to salvage the company.

Well, that’s a shame. Freeperati from coast to coast are no doubt conjuring up liberal conspiracy theories as we speak. Then again, seeing as how the film stars Connor Cruise, son of Tom, maybe we can find a way to blame the Scientologists. Or, since the new film paints the Chinese as the invading villains, instead of the Russians, maybe we can blame China.

Have no fear, young Wolverines. The new big-screen version of “Atlas Shrugged” might offer solace.

Oil Spills Rarely Happen & Other Fairy Tales

I can no longer remember the name of the first wingnut Republican to claim oil spills are rare, for some reason I’m thinking David Vitter of Louisiana or perhaps Haley Barbour of Mississippi but regardless we’ve heard it from several folks by now. And I have to say, it’s one of the stupidest right wing talking points to come out of the collective Republican gob since Saddam’s mythic WMD’s. I mean yeah, if oil spills are so rare, then why do oil companies make chemical dispersants by the truckload?

Anyway, today we learn of yet another oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:
A second leak, discovered at the Ocean Saratoga rig, is leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Initial reports claim the the volume of crude oil being released is much less than that of the Deepwater Horizon, but a 10 mile long oil slick has been detected by satellite. The site is visible in satellite images gathered by, which first reported the leak on its website May 15.

The Ocean Saratoga site, owned by Taylor Energy, is located approximately ten miles off the coast of southern Louisiana. Official figures released report only 14 gallons of oil per day being emitted into the Gulf of Mexico to account for the massive oil slick.

Reports admit that small amounts have been leaking daily since Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004 causing an undersea mudslide that destroyed the rig. Taylor Energy says they have been working since that time to stop the leak.

I’m sorry, there’s been a leaking oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico for six years? WTF?

Meanwhile out West in Utah, Chevron’s weekend oil spill looks to be another environmental disaster:

SALT LAKE CITY — Emergency workers believe they have stopped a 21,000-gallon oil leak from reaching the environmentally sensitive Great Salt Lake, one of the West's most important inland water bodies for migratory birds that use it as a place to rest, eat and breed.

But the spill has taken a toll on wildlife at area creeks and ponds, coating about 300 birds with oil and possibly threatening an endangered fish.

Lovely. This reminds me of how after the Kingston coal sludge disaster, we started hearing about all those other leaky coal ash ponds.

Another story which hasn’t received much national attention is the Pennsylvania natural gas well which blew last week, courtesy of the former Enron Corp. That spewed 35,000 gallons of toxic chemicals into the air after a blowout preventer failed. Here’s the best part:

Though the industry says blowouts are rare, another natural gas well, in West Virginia, blew up on Monday, burning seven workers.

Well, if “the industry” says it, it must be true! Just don't pay attention to that other eco-disaster happening in another part of the country. Look, shiny-sparkly Lindsay Lohan thingie over there!

Folks, we’re doing it wrong. We’re fouling our nest. Fossil fuels are a dirty, nasty business. Pipelines and oil rigs leak. Tankers leak. Oil spills happen all the time, and when we aren’t polluting our food supply pulling this stuff out of the ground or transporting it, we’re polluting our air and water when we actually use the stuff.

And speaking of stupidity coming from Republican gobs, the best one yet came from my own Senator Lamar Alexander, writing in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. Lamar has continued to perpetuate the myth that nuclear energy is somehow safe and clean and even affordable. Right after dissing wind energy because “windmills generate electricity—not transportation fuel” he writes:

If we need more green electricity, build nuclear plants. The 100 commercial nuclear plants we already have produce 70% of our pollution-free, carbon-free electricity. Yet the U.S. has just broken ground on our first new reactor in 30 years, while China starts one every three months and France is 80% nuclear. We wouldn't mothball our nuclear Navy if we were going to war. We shouldn't mothball our nuclear plants if we want low-cost, reliable green energy.

Without even getting into how environmentally damaging mining uranium fuel is (I talked about it last year), let me remind Lamar Alexander of one very simple fact: what we are dealing with in Kington, TN, the Gulf of Mexico, Utah, Pennsylvania and hundreds of other places I haven’t even mentioned is a failure of our technology. Accidents happen. Blowout preventers fail. Coal sludge ponds fail. Pipelines break. Anything made by human hands can and most assuredly will fail.

Imagine if any of the accidents I mentioned in this post had been radioactive? Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. You can count on it. You can take that piece of wisdom to the bank. You want to do that with radioactive fuel? Spent nuclear waste? A nuclear reactor? You, sir, are an idiot.

But fine, you want your nukes? Sure, as soon as you repeal the Price Anderson Act which places a liability cap on nuclear power accidents. If there's another Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, then by God let the utility responsible pay for it, not the taxpayers. Just as everyone is crying for BP to clean up the oil spill, let's make sure we don't socialize the losses of a nuclear accident. I'm sure as a fiscal conservative you would support that, right?

Resource Wars Are The BESTEST Wars!

File this under nobody could have anticipated:
WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberries.

History shows us that when a desperately poor country finds itself sitting on top of a treasure trove of natural resources, it ends very, very badly for said country. Just ask most of Africa or South America.

Let the feeding frenzy begin.

(By the way, the timing of this announcement is certainly interesting, what with Congress voting on another $33 billion for our occupations adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What Happens When We Die

Setting aside politics for the moment, I’ve been having some interesting discussions with a few folks about that eternal human question: what happens when we die?

It’s one of those things I’ve always wondered about, even as a kid, which might have made me a weird kid but I suppose everyone has thought about this at some point. When I was a little I used to think you entered into some kind of void, “like when you go to sleep at night but don’t have any dreams,” I remember explaining to a friend when I was around 10. “You just wake up the next day and time has passed. Like that.”

Yes, I was a weird kid.

The thing is, I have never believed in heaven or hell. To be more precise: I’ve never believed in hell. Hell makes no sense to me, because I can’t imagine the world works that way. I can’t imagine a hell any worse than the one we humans create for ourselves right here, right now. I don’t believe the universe punishes you for being bad. Frankly, my dear, I don’t think the universe gives a damn.

I think the whole punitive thing is an entirely human construct, and while I do believe in the concept of Karma, that is an entirely different thing from a system of retribution and reward. I believe what you give out comes back, that nothing is created or destroyed it simply changes form, that the cosmos operates as a universal balancing act. There is no room for punishment for violating some Western society’s rules, which tend to operate in black and white when there are so many different shades of gray.

What this all means is that if I don’t believe in hell, I can’t believe in heaven, either. Because you can’t have one without the other.

This is completely at odds with my chosen theology, but the Presbyterians, God love ‘em, are pretty tolerant of the oddballs in their midst. I’ve had many pastoral conversations where I’ve been assured that my esoteric musings are in keeping with centuries of theological discourse.

Not so my evangelical Christian friends. The thing about the evangelicals and the fundamentalists is they’re always trying to rebrand the absolute worst deal as some kind of awesome new thing. No sex until you’re married! No alcohol! No gays! Um, no thanks! Sex, booze and gays are what make a party, people!

My evangelical friends tell me with absolute assurance that after we die we all Bible-believing Christians (oops) go to some heaven kind of place and worship Jesus for eternity. That’s it. They are dead serious about this, and they will tell you this like it’s the most awesome deal you could ever get.

I ask you: does that not sound like the most gawd-awful, boring way to spend eternity? Don’t you think Jesus would get bored with that deal, too? Once again, you folks have the clunkiest junker on the lot, which you are trying to convince me is a Ferrari. I ain’t buying.

I know quite a lot of people who believe in reincarnation and this makes a lot of sense. Recycling is built into every natural system, so it would be logical that our souls would recycle in addition to our corporal bodies. Ever the joker, Mr. Beale told me he thought he’d probably come back as a slug in a saucer of beer.

But I don’t like this idea at all. I see how we are destroying the planet and quite frankly I do not want to come back to this mess. Who wants to see the Gulf of Mexico in 50 years? Not me.

Talking about this with some folks I heard a story about a very unusual near death experience. This person had nearly drowned and was taken out of his body to a place in outer space. He was shown his next life there, where he’d have some kind of important role in establishing a space colony. However, he was told he needed to return to earth and continue to learn some things in his current lifetime that would help him in that future mission.

Now, that just really blows my mind. That indicates that all this stuff is already planned out, which begs the question: by whom? Also, outer space, people? Really? Could we be reincarnated as aliens? I guess if you think your dog could be reincarnated as a human, and a human could be reincarnated as a beetle, then surely we could be reincarnated as life forms elsewhere. It just never occurred to me to expand my questioning beyond Planet Earth.

Anyway, the more I think about this, the more I like the idea of an Endless Void.

I'm not planning on going anywhere any time soon. But I am curious what other folks think about this.