Friday, December 31, 2010

The Wingnut Welfare Gravy Train Rolls On

Judith Miller, once of the lofty New York Times, is now a correspondent for ... wait for it ... Newsmax. You know, the conservative rag peddling black helicopter conspiracy theories funded by Richard Mellon Scaife. It’s only slightly more credible than WingNut Daily -- but not much.

This news has prompted me to wonder what happened to the rest of the Iraq War boosters.

• Dick Cheney and Halliburton narrowly skirted bribery charges in Nigeria by forking over a cool $250 million the day before Christmas:
Meanwhile, the Nigerians still wanted a pound of flesh, and because it appears to be easy for a multibillion-dollar energy company like Halliburton to throw money at problems, that's what they seem to have done. Halliburton and KBR will pay $32.5 million to the Nigerian government and $2.5 million to the Nigerian lawyers, and release some frozen assets in a Swiss bank account to the Africans. Total payout: about $250 million.

In return, Cheney, Halliburton, and KBR can walk away from the situation, and the Nigerians get even more than the original $180 million from the former vice president's company.

Remember: Halliburton and KBR already pled guilty to those $180 million bribery charges in a U.S. court. I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea that someone is able to avoid jail time for bribing Nigerian officials with $180 million by .... paying Nigerian officials $250 million. Oh well, nothing to see here, move along folks ....

• Donald Rumsfeld is doing the rubber chicken circuit/book tour that is part of the Wingnut Wurlitzer. He (or, more likely, his publicist) has been teasing his pending memoir with coy Tweets which the neocons at the Wall Street Journal have been eating up like ice cream. When the book comes out it will be promoted heavily at conservative media outlets like, well, Newsmax, which frequently offers subscribers tomes such as this one at steep discounts. Neat how that works.

• John Bolton returned to his office at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank, and in that capacity is spouting his nonsense on the Wingnut Wurlitzer. Serving just 16 months as United Nations ambassador -- too crazy even for Republicans like George Voinovich and John McCain, his nomination was filibustered and he was a recess appointment -- it seems the conservative media has found Bolton a useful stick to poke at the Obama Administration. His frequent criticism of things like the START treaty and defense spending cuts are dutifully reported across the Fox landscape. Falling upwards, indeed.

• The disgraced/disbarred Scooter Libby appears to have disappeared into a black hole, though with the new Valerie Plame flick soon to hit theaters, I’m sure someone will drag him out of his undisclosed location. The Wingnut Wurlitzer is always looking for fresh meat.

• Paul Wolfowitz always creeped me out. The whole comb-licking thing just made we want to throw up in my mouth. Forced to resign from the World Bank in 2007 after some serious ethics breaches were discovered, he has also joined his buddy John Bolton at the American Enterprise Institute as a “visiting scholar,” where at least one observer noted his lack of productivity. In his position he pens the occasional op-ed for papers like the London Times and Wall Street Journal, all part of the glorious Bush Administration Whitewash Campaign designed to protect the legacy of the most disastrous Administration in this country’s recent history.

If you’re detecting a pattern here, well, join the club. Conservatives through their “non-partisan (wink wink) think tanks” and established media outfits like Fox News and Newsmax are able to get their message out across the world. This is the Wingnut Welfare Gravy Train, where no fail is too big, no embarrassment too great, no policy too disastrous to keep the conservative family from closing ranks and enveloping their failed leaders in a warm, fuzzy embrace.

You can always go home again, if you’re a neocon wingnut (Scooter Libby being the sole exception). The American Enterprise Institute will give you a home and get your op-eds published in the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, London Times, New York Times, not to mention conservative outfits like the Weekly Standard. Your memoirs will be published and your name will be in the Rolodex of every Fox News booker. Your appearances on Hannity (and even the occasional network bobblehead show) are a given. This is how the legacy is protected, even promoted.

The right-wing has this established, well-funded infrastructure which assures the continued influence of people who by all rights should have been tossed away when they were discredited. I mean, you started a fucking war based on lies, misinformation, faulty intelligence. You were colossally wrong and people died and the national treasury was raided. We have spent and will spend trillions of dollars on your fuck-up. Some folks think you should be in jail; at the very least you should be kicked out of the club. But that’s not how it works in Wingnuttia.

Meanwhile, we’ve kicked Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod off Liberal Mountain for ... well, what, exactly? If these folks were conservatives their calendars would be full of speaking engagements, television appearances, and their op-eds would be in every influential newspaper in the English-speaking world. They’d be working on their memoirs and they’d have regular features in The New Republic and The Atlantic. But Google “Van Jones” and all you get are attacks from conservative blogs like Hot Air.

There simply is nothing comparable on the left to the Wingnut Wurlitzer. I don’t know why that is, except perhaps the perpetual myth about “liberal media” and so forth. I think this more than anything is the biggest challenge the left faces moving forward. And while I'm not the first to observe this, I can't for the life of me understand why no one has done anything about it. You can't win the argument if you can't even get your message out.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pat Buchanan Is A Racist Asshole

As long as Buchanan is penning racist screeds like this current one at Townhall, I just have to ask that eternal, perpetual question: how much longer will NBC and MSNBC continue to shred their credibility as legitimate news organizations by using him as an expert?

What’s particularly galling about Buchanan’s current Townhall column is that he actually quotes Steve Sailer and Dr. Robert Weissberg, both contributors to the anti-immigrant (identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center). Both men promote in their writings the idea that Hispanics and African Americans are by virtue of their very DNA less intelligent than whites and Asians; Weissberg devoted an entire book (Bad Students, Not Bad Schools) to that idea. I don’t know about you, but where I come from that’s pretty blatantly racist.

Yet Buchanan quotes generously from both men, without bothering to mention the controversial and racist nature of their writings. Indeed, he quotes these racist assholes as legitimate scholars. For example:
"America's educational woes reflect our demographic mix of students. Today's schools are filled with millions of youngsters, many of whom are Hispanic immigrants struggling with English plus millions of others of mediocre intellectual ability disdaining academic achievement."

In the public and parochial schools of the 1940s and 1950s, kids were pushed to the limits of their ability, then pushed harder. And when they stopped learning, they were pushed out the door.

Writes Weissberg: "To be grossly politically incorrect, most of America's educational woes vanish if these indifferent, troublesome students left when they had absorbed as much as they were going to learn and were replaced by learning-hungry students from Korea, Japan, India, Russia, Africa and the Caribbean."

”Politically incorrect?” That’s not politically incorrect. It’s racist, bigoted and wrong. It ignores economic disparities, disparities between urban inner city schools and white suburban schools, and institutional roadblocks which oppress the poor and economically disadvantaged. It ignores the achievement of tens of thousands of people of color who have reached the highest levels of American society, despite insurmountable odds -- including, let me point out, the sitting president of the United States and some notable Supreme Court justices.

There’s this thing conservatives have about “political correctness” as if it’s some kind liberal plot designed to trip them up; conservatives just want to hew to some basic facts about the world, which we dirty libs are in deep denial about. The conservatives I know rail against “political correctness” with a missionary zeal. But this isn’t about political correctness, it’s about your facts just being wrong. Blacks and Hispanics are not less intelligent than whites, no matter how you may wish it were so. No, things weren't so much awesomer in the 1940s and 1950s, when "those people" knew their place, no matter how much Pat Buchanan thinks it's so. And no matter how many columns Pat Buchanan pens saying if only we kicked the brown people out of our schools America’s test scores would soar it won’t change the basic fact that test scores are the way they are because of institutional and systemic reasons, not biological or genetic. You know, those same institutional and systemic barriers which were firmly in place in the storied 1940s and 1950s which Buchanan and his ilk look back upon with such nostalgia.

I'm just really sick of this shit. I'm sick of conservatives kicking immigrants in the shins, over and over again. Just fucking stop it already. And I'm sick of powerful news networks like NBC and MSNBC promoting the racist assholes who are doing the kicking. Cut it out. Enough.

We’ve all known Pat Buchanan is a racist asshole. We’ve all wondered why NBC and MSNBC continue to promote him as some kind of “reasonable” conservative. This latest column is just another in a long stream of bigoted screeds from NBC’s go-to conservative voice. I get that. But honestly, how much longer are we going to be saddled with this crap? When are we going to stand up and say, America is better than this?

Buchanan is peddling racism and intolerance and he’s using crackpot junk science from known bigots to support his views. No legitimate news outfit would ever make Lyndon Larouche a regular pundit, yet Pat Buchanan spouts the same hateful views and he’s on both networks regularly. It's just not cute anymore. We're heading into 2011, folks -- you've still got some old crank on your network spouting 18th century ideas? I'm just really fucking tired of it.

Hate is not okay. Bigotry is not okay. Racism is not okay. And as long as MSNBC and NBC pay Pat Buchanan to appear on their news shows, they are promoting this intolerance.

Really, it’s appalling. Time to say: no more.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Another Stupid Year End List

I’ve never done this before but folks everywhere are compiling their year-end lists of favorites, so I thought what the hell. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. First item listed is my favorite, others are honorable mentions.

I have to qualify my list by saying a couple things mentioned here were released at the end of 2009 -- notably the One EskimO album and the Margaret Atwood book. Both came out in September 2009, but they didn’t cross my radar until 2010 so I’m including them here. They’re just that good and fuckit, it’s my list, dammit.

Anyway, tell me what cool music/movies/books/TV crossed your radar this year. I’m always looking for good recommendations.


1- Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs, God Willing & The Creek Don’t Rise. If he doesn’t win a Grammy for this I’m gonna cry.

• Pacifika, Supermagique
• One EskimO, One EskimO

Books, Fiction:

1-The Passage, Justin Cronin. OMG clearly the best vampire novel ever written, bar none. Do not pick up this book if you haven’t cleared your schedule because you literally will be unable to put it down.

• The Year Of The Flood, Margaret Atwood
• Freedom, Jonathan Franzen


It’s purely coincidental that both of my pics are music-related (on my to-read list is the Patti Smith memoir, which won the National Book Award. I’m sure I’ll love that, too). Oh, and if you’re wondering why the number of eff-bombs has escalated on my blog in recent weeks, blame Keith Richards.

1- Composed, Rosanne Cash. Loved this book, despite her infatuation with the word “elegiac.” For anyone wanting gossip about her marriage to Rodney Crowell or other kiss-and-tell subjects, you’re barking up the wrong tree. But if you want to know about how music can move a soul, well, this is the book for you.

Life, Keith Richards


This was a tough call because we haven’t seen a few biggies yet: “Black Swan” and “Winter’s Bone,” for example. And I’m trying to think if a movie really astonished me this year, in the same way that “District 9” and “Up In The Air” really moved me last year. I loved the three “The Girl...” movies, but the first one didn’t really make sense without the second, and the third was a throw-away. I didn’t love “Inception,” I thought it was an FX movie without any real story or character development. We tend to see documentaries but I missed a couple of the biggies as well. So my list is definitely incomplete.

1- The Social Network

• 127 Hours
• Exit Through The Gift Shop


1- Casino Jack & The United States of Money. Damn. To think we went from this to the fucking Tea Party. Amazing.

• Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work


TV really sucked this year. I was disappointed in “Mad Men,” which seemed to kinda run out of steam. “Boardwalk Empire” was promising but I can't really say it was the best thing I saw all year. Probably the most interesting new show I saw was Bravo's "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist," which actually gave the contest reality show concept a little class. But really for this category I've got nuthin'.


1- Time Stands Still. Heartbreaking story about two war correspondents dealing with the horrors of Iraq. Absolutely superbly acted. Will probably get ruined when someone inevitably turns it into a movie.

• American Idiot
• Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson


1- Harper’s, my perennial favorite. If you aren’t reading Harper’s you’re just wasting your time.

• Cook’s Illustrated. I know they’re derided as cooking Nazis but I love the recipes and the information.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Go Ahead. Make Someone's Christmas. I Dare Ya.

It’s that time of year when I get to tell y’all about one of my absolute favorite non-profits, the Modest Needs Foundation. This is such a fantastic organization because it allows you to help people in need right in your own city.

Here's how it works: you make a donation to Modest Needs and your donation is turned into points. You can then browse through a list of hundreds of applications for assistance, and assign points however you wish. Applicants are people who may need help with school tuition, have fallen behind on their rent, can’t pay a utility bill, or have an unexpected car repair or medical bill -- it’s like a clearinghouse of tip jars.

I hate to say it’s fun, because some of these applicants’ stories will break your heart. But it’s like you’re playing Santa Claus, and nothing feels better than that, right?

No dollar amount is too small, either. If you only have $10 but you want to help someone, that could be the final 10 points an applicant needs to buy eyeglasses for their child.

All of the applicants are thoroughly vetted by the Modest Needs staff, so you can be assured you aren’t being scammed. Non-profit groups are also among the applicants, if you’d like to help a group with a particular need -- say, the Rottweiler rescue organization seeking funds to neuter seven animals rescued from a puppy mill.

Modest Needs also has an excellent blog that will tug your heartstrings.

‘Tis the season to give, and so many people are in need this year. It feels good to help a family afford new tires for their car, or help a single mom catch up on her rent. Browsing through the applications is a real window on the struggles ordinary folks are facing these days.

By the same token, if you know someone in need, you might put them in touch with Modest Needs. Asking for help can be hard, but there are plenty of folks out there eager to give it. Applicants are anonymous -- (as are the donors, if they wish).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nashville Airport Flash Mob

Apparently these "spontaneous" sing/dance-a-longs are all the rage with you kids. Here's one which happened at the Nashville International Airport earlier today:

Pundit FAIL

Andrea Mitchell on "Morning Joe" just now:
"President Obama never met one-on-one with Mitch McConnell."

August 4, 2010:

This is the "liberal" MSNBC. Someone make this shit stop. Just ..... shut the fuck up if you don't know what you're talking about.

Jesus Save Me From These Morons

Another wingnut tries to claim Jesus was a conservative, in fact, “The Perfect Conservative.”

How does he know this? Because:
He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed the hungry without food stamps. And everywhere He went, it turned into a rally, attracting large crowds, and giving them hope, encouragement and inspiration.

For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check. Nevertheless, he completed all the work He needed to get done. He didn’t travel by private jet. He walked and sailed, and sometimes traveled on a donkey.

It goes on in this vein. I’ll spare you.

So, the moral of this story? You, too, can succeed in life without the government ... if you are the Messiah! The rest of us who are not the Messiah might need some government services at some point. Now fuck off.

This is almost as great as the news that Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips wishes to disband the Methodist Church (apparently the denomination’s support of the DREAM Act put him over the edge. Not that it wasn’t a short trip). Glenn Beck has been famously at war against social justice pastors for years. And there’s the hilarious Conservative Bible Project.

Hmm .. as I’ve said, oh, only a hundred thousand times already ... but it seems quite a few conservatives have noticed their politics is at odds with their religion ... and concluded that it’s their religion which is wrong.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Dignity For The Trashman

This, from yesterday’s fishwrap, really shows how disconnected people are from how city services are provided:
QUESTION: Becky Becker got a surprise a week ago when she brought up her trash cart. Tucked under the lid was an envelope with a holiday greeting from her trash collector that included his name and address.

Becker wonders if this was a hint to send him a holiday tip. She did not plan to send a check to someone whom she did not know — or even know whether he was really her trash collector.

More important, Becker questions whether to tip someone for doing a tax-supported job.

She wrote to me: "They are paid a salary by me and the other citizens of the city. It's not so much that I am a Grinch as I am just tired of everyone having their hand out for a tip, especially when they are already receiving a salary."

Oh my God. Yeah, you are Grinch. Get over yourself. If you don’t want to send a tip, then don’t. Jeebus. And here I thought I was the biggest Grinch in the county.

It’s the whole “These are MY TAX DOLLARS and how dare you not bow down and kiss my feet for every penny I begrudgingly pull out of my ass despite all the bitching and moaning I do at every opportunity.” Listen, Becky Becker (can you even believe that name is for real? I can’t): the reason you got a little Christmas card is because Metro has privatized its trash collection. It’s that whole “private companies can do everything better/cheaper/shinier/prettier” mindset that people like you espouse at every Tea Party rally and Ayn Rand reading group. So yeah, it’s a private company doing your trash collection, and that means you have to take it up with them. You ceded your right to bitch about this stuff when you decided you no longer liked the idea of public employees doing public services. I’ve got a steaming cup of STFU with Becky Becker’s name on it.

Or, as The Tennessean more politely put it:

ANSWER: Some Davidson County residents get trash collection that is paid for through property taxes. Private companies under contract with Metro handle some of those routes.

That is the case at Becker's residence.

I alerted Metro Public Works to the card that Becker received.

Her trash route is handled by Red River Service Corp. Metro Public Works spokeswoman Gwen Hopkins-Glascock said the manager at Red River would speak to employees about this sort of solicitation.

This is what happens when you contract out city services to private, for-profit companies. They pay their employees like shit, and people who have to do a sucky job like collecting your garbage every week look to other ways to make ends meet. Instead of being grateful that she doesn’t have to haul her stinking garbage to a landfill herself in the August heat (or January ice) she begrudges some guy his Christmas card. If you’re offended by a Christmas card and perceived request for a holiday tip (which you are under zero obligation to acknowledge), then imagine how offended you will be when some private company decides to hire illegal immigrants to save a buck. Hey, could happen.

The Beale household has been getting these Christmas cards every year, by the way. Here it is (Note the guy even said MERRY CHRISTMAS, not the offending “Happy Holidays.” There’s just no pleasing some people):

We also get these from the newspaper delivery guys. If I think of it, and I don’t always do so every year, I pop $10 or $20 in a Christmas card and send it back to them. I figure it’s the least I can do for someone who has a sucky job I would never want to do myself.

I hate to break it you, Becky Becker, but the real reason you got that Christmas card is that it's really, really hard for working people in this state. We've privatized everything to save a buck, we refuse to raise taxes on corporations or rich people here because ZOMFG that would kill our "robust" economy, we deny people the right to organize into unions so they can collectively bargain for fair wages, we scream and bitch and moan about the very idea of raising the minimum wage let alone providing people a living wage, we force people to accept crappy pay for crappy work and so yeah, it's no surprise they’re gonna have their hands out. It's not because they’re greedy grabbers, but because they’re trying to pay their bills and send their kids to school and basically attain the American Dream which is increasingly out of reach for working folks because the people who got there ahead of them are pulling the ladders up.

I can’t link to this Financial Times article from August often enough, especially this part:

Dubbed “median wage stagnation” by economists, the annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973 – having risen by only 10 per cent in real terms over the past 37 years. That means most Americans have been treading water for more than a generation. Over the same period the incomes of the top 1 per cent have tripled. In 1973, chief executives were on average paid 26 times the median income. Now the ­multiple is above 300.

People are working two and three times harder to stay in the same place. A lot of people are falling behind. And I think it’s this inconvenient fact which has the Becky Beckers of the country upset. It’s like they’re offended at being reminded that a lot of people are struggling. They want to stick their head in a hole and sing their happy songs. “America is the greatest country in the world EVAH! Everything is awesome!”

It’s like those folks who get ticked off at the vendors selling copies of The Contributor all over town. You’ve seen them with their yellow placards: it’s the alternative to panhandling. The paper is produced by homeless and formerly homeless folks through the Downtown Presbyterian Church. Vendors sell the papers for $1. The paper is actually quite good, - it’s won several national awards - and Mr. Beale and I always buy one.

Yet people bitch and moan about the vendors selling these papers in front of their businesses and on street corners. I’m like, WTF do you people want? First you put up “Please Help, Don’t Give” signs in your store windows. Then a local church devises a way for people to earn some money -- all of that pulling-up-by-the-bootstraps stuff you’re always harping on about -- and you begrudge folks that. You like to shout “Get a job!" but when someone actually does get a job, you're like "Well, not that job!" Jesus.

What you guys really want is for these folks to just go away, am I right? You want them to be invisible. You don’t like to see the wages of our national sin out there on display for all to see. Well sorry, but it doesn't work that way. You espouse the creed of greed and this is the result.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Crab

I really hate Christmas this year. I just want to fucking get it over with already.

I don’t know why I’m not in the Christmas spirit: we’ve already had a couple days of snow, the weather is crisp, I’ve baked brownies from scratch -- twice. We’ve even been to a Christmas concert. On top of that, we were in New York City for a few days and nobody does Christmas like New York. I’m just not into it this year. Mr. Beale says it’s the economy, people are just down. He doesn’t feel the Christmas spirit either.

Truth is, I haven’t been into it for a couple years. Christmas is messy. It’s just more work, as far as I’m concerned. I’ll be vacuuming up pine needles from the damn tree until June, and every day I’m cleaning up broken ornaments.

The animals are denuding the tree horribly; the Christmas carnage numbers at over a dozen ornaments at this point, even though we were careful to put only non-breakable ones on the bottom branches. But one of the cats has figured out that she can get a bunch of ornaments down by pulling on the lights. After the cats are bored with the ornaments they leave them for the dogs, who turn them into chew toys. Perhaps the most alarming part of this whole scenario is realizing the cats are colluding with the dogs. This won’t end well.

And then the Christmas Nazis don’t help, the folks wearing their “Merry CHRISTmas” buttons (yeah, saw one of those at a recent office holiday party). Last week I heard a woman tell a clerk angrily, “And MERRY CHRISTMAS to you!” after being told “Happy Holidays.” Oh for God’s sake. You really think Jesus wants you using his birthday as a fucking battleground? Get over yourselves.

You know what I don’t get? Those people who decorate their cars. I can handle the reindeer antlers on the window and red nose on the grill, but some people don’t know when to quit. I saw someone who had a little Christmas tree, greenery and lights on the luggage rack of their SUV. Ridiculous.

Nashville people are big on decorating. Maybe it’s a Southern thing, I don’t really know. They’ll hang eggs from trees for Easter, and now those giant inflatable Easter bunnies have started showing up on peoples’ front lawns. I blame Wal-Mart, I figure that’s where people buy this crap.

Anyway, I’m really just over all of it. These people who are so militant about their religion being the ONE AND ONLY TRUE religion are the same folks eager trivialize the sacred with cheap crap made out of Chinese toxic waste. I really have no time for you people.

I’ll be glad when Christmas is over and I can put the ornaments back in their box and haul the tree to the recycling drop off and shove all of the boxes back in the closet where they belong.

For those of you who may have missed it, this is hilarious:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Blitzkrieg on Grinchitude - Gretchen Carlson & Christian Nation CHRIST-mas Tree<a>
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>March to Keep Fear Alive

Friday, December 17, 2010

Health Insurance Is NOT The Same As Auto Insurance

I’m getting really tired of explaining to people why the health insurance mandate is different from state auto insurance mandates. I keep hearing that argument all the time, as if a state’s auto insurance mandate somehow justifies the federal government’s health insurance mandate. It doesn’t.

Look, transportation and healthcare/life are not comparable. I rewind back to 8th grade Driver's Ed class where we had "driving is a privilege not a right" drilled into our heads. You don’t have to drive a car. But you DO have to live. There are other ways of getting where you need to go. You can walk. You can ride a bike. You can hitchhike. Or, you can take advantage of the public option: buses, subways and other forms of public transportation. So it is possible to live and function in America without buying auto insurance. Millions of people do.

But you cannot access healthcare in any affordable way without health insurance.

On top of that, auto and health insurance operate completely differently. The auto insurance market does adhere more closely to the general premise of insurance, which is to pool risk. Health insurance does not pool risk because the riskiest patients (the poor, the elderly, people with pre-existing conditions, etc.) are left out of the pool from the get-go.

So please, liberal friends. Stop using state auto insurance mandates as a justification for the healthcare law’s mandate. The mandate was always, in my mind, Constitutionally suspect. As I wrote in November 2009, government-run healthcare is not fascism, but the Affordable Care Act technically is. I simply don’t see how it passes Constitutional muster for the government to force you to do business with a private, often for-profit, corporation, without providing a public alternative.

Yes, I get why the insurance companies wanted the mandate to begin with. I get why Republicans originally suggested a health insurance mandate waaaay back in the ‘90s (they were for it before they were against it, don’tcha know). The failure to secure the Public Option was the biggest fail of healthcare reform because it left the mandate vulnerable to a court challenge, and without the mandate a major part of the entire bill unravels. The public option made the mandate Constitutionally acceptable, at least that’s how I see it. I’m not an expert in Constitutional law and if there are any out there reading this blog I’d love to hear you explain to me why I’m wrong.

In the meantime, the Democrats screwed themselves on their signature achievement by caving on the one element that may have allowed the healthcare bill to pass muster in the courts.


What Happens When You Cave To Republicans

Hey, Democrats and President Obama: remember when you caved to Republicans on those Louisiana sand berms? Yeah that was so funny. Hilarious!

What did we get for it? Nothing!
(AP) NEW ORLEANS - The big set of sand barriers erected by Louisiana’s governor to protect the coastline at the height of the Gulf oil spill was criticized by a presidential commission Thursday as a colossal, $200 million waste of BP’s money so far.

Precious little oil ever washed up on the berms, according to the commission -- a finding corroborated by a log of oil sightings and other government documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered the berms built over the objections of scientists and federal agencies -- and secured money from BP to do it -- out of frustration over what he saw as inaction by the Obama administration. During the crisis, Jindal boasted that the sand walls were stopping oil from coming ashore, and the idea proved popular in Louisiana.

Actually, we wasted $360 million, destroyed the environment, and diverted funds from other, more effective measures to protect Louisiana’s coastline. But no fear: Jindal’s campaign contributors got taken care of:

The berm project has been a boon to Louisiana industry: although many of the dredging companies working on the project have out-of-state headquarters, all have a major presence in Louisiana. The Shaw Group, the lead contractor on the project, is based in Baton Rouge and has been one of Mr. Jindal’s leading campaign contributors over the years.

All together now, children: Nobody could have anticipated that!

So just to recap: we have the Republican governor and his Greek chorus of equally ambitious GOP partisans using the oil spill to portray the Obama Administration as inept in a crisis. They demand the construction of a massive multimillion-dollar project which scientists and engineers say won’t work, and use the media to complain that the big bad government is "dithering," while never addressing any of the factual concerns experts raise about the project. The Obama Administration predictably caves out of fear of bad PR, and six months later we find the experts were right, and Bobby Jindal's project is a massive, expensive FAIL.

As the final cherry on top of a giant pie of suckitude, we have Jindal whining about "partisan revisionist history at taxpayer expense," government bureaucracies, and how his own failure proves the need for smaller government. WTF?

This is what happens when you cave to Republicans. You end up wasting massive amounts of money, you don’t fix the problem, and the assholes say mean things about you anyway. The only winners are the GOP moneybags who rake in the government contracts.

Lesson learned? Don't listen to this maroon:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Political Theater Alert

Stupid U.S. Senate!

With folks like Sen. Jim DeMint threatening bullshit stunts like this, I have to wonder what the point of having a bicameral government is. Really? You just want everything to grind to a halt? Again? What the hell for?

Republicans loaded the omnibus bill with billions of dollars in pork (as did the Democrats but they aren’t the ones whining about it), then are shocked--shocked!--at the size of the bill! Amazing!

Hmm, starting to look like a bunch of political theater to me, but who is the audience? Who is paying attention to this stuff? What is the point? I don’t get it.

And let me just say, those of us who are paying attention are appalled. We deserve better. We deserve--and want--a government that functions. I never again want to hear the Democrats tell me they need a "filibuster proof majority" -- when they had one, they went on and on about the need for bipartisanship! So screw you all, we're not as dumb as we look. Broken government? No thank you.

Next Democratic majority needs to reform Senate rules FIRST THING:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Courage & Anger

Frank Rich’s column yesterday, “Gay Bashing At The Smithsonian,” brings to mind an issue which has troubled me for some time. And that’s the issue of courage.

Rich discusses the removal of the late artist David Wojnarowicz’s work from an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. He writes:
When his mentor and former lover, the photographer Peter Hujar, fell ill with AIDS in 1987, Wojnarowicz created a video titled “A Fire in My Belly” to express both his grief and his fury. As in Haring’s altarpiece, Christ figures in Wojnarowicz’s response to the plague — albeit in a cryptic, 11-second cameo. A crucifix is besieged by ants that evoke frantic souls scurrying in panic as a seemingly impassive God looked on.

This is the piece that was originally included in the Smithsonian’s exhibition, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," which is advertised as “a serious examination of the role sexual identity has played in the creation of modern American portraiture.” The National Portrait Gallery yanked “Fire in My Belly” from its exhibit in early December after the Smithsonian caved to a manufactured piece of outrage which I daresay few Americans even heard about.

Back to Rich:

Like many of its antecedents, the war over Wojnarowicz is a completely manufactured piece of theater. What triggered the abrupt uproar was an incendiary Nov. 29 post on a conservative Web site. The post was immediately and opportunistically seized upon by William Donohue, of the so-called Catholic League, a right-wing publicity mill with no official or financial connection to the Catholic Church.


It took only hours after Donohue’s initial battle cry for the video to be yanked. “The decision wasn’t caving in,” the museum’s director, Martin E. Sullivan, told reporters. Of course it was. The Smithsonian, in its own official statement, rationalized its censorship by saying that Wojnarowicz’s video “generated a strong response from the public.” That’s nonsense. There wasn’t a strong response from the public — there was no response. As the museum’s own publicist told the press, the National Portrait Gallery hadn’t received a single complaint about “A Fire in the Belly” from the exhibit’s opening day, Oct. 30, until a full month later, when a “public” that hadn’t seen the exhibit was mobilized by Donohue to blast the museum by phone and e-mail.

The museum caved. They caved. Why?

Time and again we see groups (and politicians) cave in the face of such obviously manufactured political theater. Where is the courage? Who thinks capitulation is a winning strategy, that it does nothing more than ensure future fake campaigns?

Why was Shirley Sherrod asked to resign so quickly last summer? Why was Van Jones thrown under the bus? Why do our Democratic leaders and institutions cave to the right wing noise machine, time and time again?

Why do they act so afraid that some pundit somewhere is saying something mean about them?

The fact that Republicans are allowed to do the same (or worse) without any pearl-clutching in the media proves how politically motivated these “fauxtrages” are. It’s all about framing, fear-mongering, indulging in stereotypes and retreading that well-worn path allowing the majority to pretend it is a persecuted minority, thus redirecting anger to a more politically expedient target.

Yes, it pisses me off. And with all of that swirling around in my head I turned the page and read Ishmael Reed’s op-ed piece in the same issue of the New York Times (expanded upon at blogs like my second home, The Swash Zone). Apparently, progressives calling for President Obama (and other Democrats) to show some backbone in the face of unprecedented GOP obstructionism need to STFU because we simply don’t understand what it’s like to be a black person in America:

One progressive commentator played an excerpt from a Harry Truman speech during which Truman screamed about the Republican Party to great applause. He recommended this style to Mr. Obama. If President Obama behaved that way, he’d be dismissed as an angry black militant with a deep hatred of white people. His grade would go from a B- to a D.

What the progressives forget is that black intellectuals have been called “paranoid,” “bitter,” “rowdy,” “angry,” “bullies,” and accused of tirades and diatribes for more than 100 years. Very few of them would have been given a grade above D from most of my teachers.

Um, here’s a news flash for you: President Obama has already been dismissed as an angry black militant with a deep hatred of white people. Or haven’t you been listening to Glenn Beck, the very same right wing commentator who cost Van Jones his job? Were you paying attention when Ben Stein came out and called then-candidate Barack Obama an angry black man on Fox News in 2008? No? Well, we progressives were, and we countered those accusations every time. Where were you?

Look, the “angry” label is nothing new, nor is it unique to black intellectuals. Maybe you weren’t paying attention when Republicans called Hillary Clinton “too angry” to win a presidential election in 2008. Karl Rove called Al Gore “one angry dude.” Howard Dean was too angry to be president in 2004 and here he is screaming after a primary win to prove it! We’re “the angry left,” and voters “don’t elect angry candidates,” as former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman famously told ABC News. (For some reason anger isn’t a negative for the Tea Party, though -- despite their guns and Town Hall shouting matches and hanging representatives in effigy. IOKIYAR.)

I get that there is a strategy among those in power exploiting cultural stereotypes and stoking fear of the “angry black male” to oppress black advancement in this country. That's the same reason we hear women are too emotional and gays are pedophiles and all Muslims are terrorists. We all have our baggage and yes, some people’s baggage might be heavier than others. But that doesn’t mean we capitulate to it. Caving to the whims of the hate machine which makes these erroneous claims does not make them go away. It enables them!

This is standard issue right wing framing. Liberals have been labeled “angry” (even “too angry”) for decades, and guess what, we are angry. We were angry when protestors rioted at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and we were angry when we protested the Vietnam War and we were angry when we burned our bras in the 1970s and we were angry when we protested apartheid in the 1980s and we were angry when we protested the WTO conference in Seattle in 2000. Hell we were so angry over the stolen election in 2000 and subsequent Bush presidential misdeeds that we created a bumper sticker about it, which the Tea Party has conveniently co-opted.

It’s okay to be angry. Angry people get things done. I just never understood why being angry was supposed to be a bad thing, anyway. Just because the RNC says it is?

So no, I’m not going to tell Democrats not to be angry because Tweety might have a sad or Joke Line may wring his hands about frothy-mouthed liberal bloggers. Getting angry is okay, if you are fighting for your principles.

This is where courage comes in. Getting back to Ishmael Reed’s op-ed, I have to say I was mighty offended when I read this:

Unlike white progressives, blacks and Latinos are not used to getting it all. They know how it feels to be unemployed and unable to buy your children Christmas presents. They know when not to shout. The president, the coolest man in the room, who worked among the unemployed in Chicago, knows too.

Well damn, there’s a stereotype for you! Here’s a news flash for Mr. Reed: not all white progressives are used to getting it all, either. And I’ll be damned if I’ll be lectured on stereotypes by someone who can’t even recognize one when it pops out of his own keyboard.

Stand up and show some backbone, Democrats. Don’t cave to the right wing noise machine. Don't agree to a political approach which neuters liberal outrage, and only allows conservatives to get angry. Every time you do so progress takes a step back. Every capitulation emboldens the opposition. It's OK to be angry and it's even better to use that anger to harden your resolve.

And I guarantee you that the Republicans are going to say mean things about you. You can take that to the bank. You know what? They're going to say mean things anyway.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Problem With Pragmatism

Thinking about the scold we Lefties got from President Obama the other day, and the scorn he got from us in return, and the criticism bloggers and journalists are heaping upon each other as they pick a side, it all seems to boil down to one thing: When it comes to policy-making in modern-day Washington, you either think something is better than nothing, or you think nothing is better than something.

If, like President Obama and some of our Democrats, you think something is better than nothing, then compromises on the tax bill and healthcare reform and the stimulus package and Afghanistan and GITMO are acceptable, pragmatic actions. But if you take the long view, then such pragmatism does more harm than good. Sometimes, nothing is better than something.

Or, to put it another way: if you have a blister on your thumb, then amputating your arm is definitely a radical, foolhardy move. Unless you’re a masochist, you will opt for a Band-Aid instead. But say you’re Aron Ralston, and you aren’t dealing with a blister but instead are trapped beneath a boulder. In that case a Band-Aid is useless and foolish; amputating your arm to save your life is the pragmatic, albeit drastic, solution.

The trick in politics is knowing when you have a blister and when you are trapped by a boulder. And some of us progressive-types are saying the Democrats are trapped by a boulder right now. What’s at stake isn’t simply a piece of legislation here and there or even an election or two, it’s the entire legacy of the New Deal. And perhaps the sooner everyone wakes up to that reality, the better.

Three weeks before President Obama threw a bucket of cold water on the liberal base, James K. Galbraith articulated the conundrum that is the Obama presidency in a speech ominously titled, “Whose Side Is The White House On?”

The historian and economist said:
On the topics that I know most about, the administration is beyond being a disappointment. It’s beyond inept, unprepared, weak, and ineffective. Four and again two years ago, the people demanded change. As a candidate, the President promised change. In foreign policy and the core economic policies, he delivered continuity instead. That was true on Afghanistan and it was and is true in economic policy, especially in respect to the banks. What we got was George W. Bush’s policies without Bush’s toughness, without his in-your-face refusal to compromise prematurely. Without what he himself calls his understanding that you do not negotiate with yourself.


The president deprived himself of any chance to develop a narrative from the beginning by surrounding himself with holdover appointments from the Bush and even the Clinton administrations: Secretary Geithner, Chairman Bernanke, and, since we’re here at Harvard, I’ll call him by his highest title, President Summers. These men have no commitment to the base, no commitment to the Democratic Party as a whole, no particular commitment to Barack Obama, and none to the broad objective of national economic recovery that can be detected from their actions.

This is all correct, and there’s more ... lots more. Go read Galbraith’s entire speech. He outlines point-by-point how the Obama Administration failed by advocating weak policies, by campaigning as a man of the people then siding with the banks and Wall Street.

The question is, what do we do now? Where do we go from here? Galbraith and others believe we are now lodged behind a massive, conservative boulder, and Band-Aids -- pragmatic, legislative compromises -- do more harm than good. If the Democratic Party is going to continue to exist as a political force, then they need to start showing they stand for something. That may mean some legislative failures to score some ideological wins.

Stupid? Maybe, if you’re talking about some legislative initiatives. But the country faces huge challenges right now. Big battles require big actions. And with every compromised, pragmatic vote, Democrats saddle themselves with Republican baggage. They lose the argument. George W. Bush launched his disastrous, budget-busting war of choice in Iraq, but Democrats voted for it too, and there we are. Learn that lesson, Democrats.

In two years no one will remember that the Republicans were being really mean on tax cuts. They’ll just remember that when the Democrats had majorities in the House and Senate and the White House, they gave millionaires a tax cut that isn’t offset by spending cuts. So the Republicans will also remind everyone that Dems added 900 bazillion jillion dollars to the deficit, because that’s how our narrative works. Republicans rule the media, and I promise you we’ll suddenly be a nation of fiscal hawks again when it comes time to spend money on things like Social Security and Medicare and social safety nets.

That’s how it works when you have one political party bent on destroying the greatest achievement of another political party.

Here’s Galbraith’s take:

What is at stake in the long run? Two things, mainly, in my view. First, it seems to me that we as progressives need to make an honorable defense of the great legacies of the New Deal and Great Society — programs and institutions that brought America out of the Great Depression and bought us through the Second World War, brought us to our period of greatest prosperity, and the greatest advances in social justice. Social Security, Medicare, housing finance — the front-line right now is the foreclosure crisis, the crisis, I should say, of foreclosure fraud — the progressive tax code, anti-poverty policy, public investment, public safety, and human and civil rights. We are going to lose these battles– get used to it. But we need to make an honorable fight, to state clearly what our principles are and to lay down a record which is trustworthy for the future.

Beyond this, bold proposals are what we should be advancing now; even when they lose, they have their value.
We can talk about job programs; we can talk about an infrastructure bank; we can talk about Juliet Schor’s idea of a four-day work week; we can talk about my idea of expanding Social Security and creating an early retirement option so that people who are older and unemployed or anxious to get out of the labor force can leave on comfortable terms, and so create job openings for younger people who, as we’ve heard today, are facing very long periods of extremely aggravating and frustrating unemployment; we can talk about establishing a systematic program of general revenue sharing to support state and local governments, we can talk about the financial restructuring we so desperately need and that we’ll have to have if we are going to have a country which has a viable private credit system and in which large financial power is not constantly dictating the terms of every political maneuver.

We are not going to get these things, but we should have a clearly defined program so that people know what they are. And then, frankly, as was said earlier today, said most elegantly by Jeff Madrick, in the long run we need to recognize that the fate of the entire country is at stake. Its governance can’t be entrusted indefinitely to incompetents, hacks, and lobbyists. Large countries can and do fail, they have done so in our own time. And the consequences are very grave: drastic declines in services, in living standards, in life expectancies, huge increases in social tension, in repression, and in violence. These are the consequences of following through with crackpot ideas such as those embodied in the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, as Jeff Madrick again outlined, such notions as putting arbitrary limits on the scale of government, or arbitrary limits on the top tax rate affecting the wealthiest Americans.

Yes. Yes, yes and more yes. Dear God, Democrats, but yes.

As the old addage goes, if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything. Dear God, Democrats, quit falling for anything! Stand for something! You may not get it but you will have gained something else: your spine. Your right to Leadership. And you will have defended your legacy.

You will need these things moving forward. Galbraith’s speech is sobering, even depressing. He does not paint a picture of lollipops, puppies and rainbows. He says, indeed, that “we are heading now into a very dark time.” I believe he’s right.

Someone -- I don’t remember who, I think it may have been a commenter over at Balloon Juice -- pointed out that what people are really angry about is the realization that Washington is irreparably broken. Obama came to Washington promising to change the way things are done and he has failed miserably. With both houses of Congress and the White House, people hoped that partisan gridlock and party-over-country politics were history.

That didn’t happen because it was already too late. We can’t fix things the old-fashioned way. We need to wake up and smell the oligarchy, adjust our sails, and move forward accordingly.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You Will Eat Your Shit Sandwich And You Will Enjoy It

Did you watch President Obama’s news conference on the tax cut deal today? The part that really got me was where he showed how truly pissed off he is that The Left isn’t praising him on the healthcare reform bill. It slid out during the Q&A; you could really see that he expected chocolates and rose petals on healthcare reform, and is truly surprised that the Professional Left isn’t singing his Hosannahs. He actually seems to be holding a grudge about it.

I’m talking about this part:
So this notion that somehow we are willing to compromise too much reminds me of the debate during healthcare. This is the public option debate all over again.

So I pass a signature piece of legislation – but because there was a provision in there they didn’t get – that would have affected just a few million and we got insurance for 340 million – that was a sign of weakness and compromise. If that is the standard by which we are measuring success we will never get anything done.
I watched it on TV and here’s how it sounded to me:

So I go to all this trouble to bring The Left everything they ever asked for, and because they didn’t get this one teeny tiny weensy little thing they’re all, like, “loser!” and “asshole!” And so that’s the thanks I get! For sticking my neck out! What a bunch of whiners!

That’s how I heard it and let me say, it pissed me off. Because the “public option” wasn’t this teeny tiny weensy little tchotcke that would have looked nice on the mantle, it was the WHOLE ENCHILADA that would keep the healthcare bill from being a sop to bloated, for-profit corporations. The public option was supposed to be the policy that helped the healthcare bill become real reform, by lowering costs and bringing viable competition to the health insurance market.

And it was also supposed to be the “compromise” position, with the Holy Grail being single payer. So when you start out at the negotiating table with your compromise position as being the bauble you happily ditch, well, that tells us you don’t really understand our position.

And here we are again, with a backroom deal over tax cuts to bazillionaires. Let me interject: I don’t recall Obama going to this effort to negotiate the public option and sell it to Democrats in Congress, in fact, I seem to recall him standing on the sidelines during the entire healthcare debate twiddling his thumbs while Congress did the heavy lifting. Dude, you never even tried.

So now your little fee-fees are hurt because we Lefties haven’t sufficiently sung your praises about healthcare reform all these months later? ? Aww. So sad! Sounds to me like you never really understood our position to begin with, what we wanted or why we wanted it.

Honestly, I’m not sure how many times Obama can diss his base and then wonder why we aren’t sufficiently impressed. It’s like he doesn’t understand why the Democrats keep losing elections. Here, I’ll make it simple for you: give us a win, for Chrissakes, and we will show up on election day, knock on doors, make phone calls, and do all the crap we did to give you the White House in the first place! Give us something to be proud of, to stand for. We will throw all of the chocolates and rose petals at your feet we can. But don’t, in the name of all that is holy, hand Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck giant tax cuts and wonder why The Left isn’t calling you the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I'm pretty sure I know how this whole thing will play out. The Republicans will slam President Obama as fiscally irresponsible, since these tax cats aren't paid for and add $900 billion to the deficit. Sure, we know no one gives a crap about deficits, but I guarantee you that in the next budget debate or election we'll suddenly be a nation of fiscal hawks all concerned about the deficit and Obama will get blamed for spending like a drunken sailor, just like he did in the run-up to the midterms. And when this round of tax cuts are set to sunset, the righties will portray Obama and the Democrats as wanting to pass a tax increase. Seen this movie before.

Then again, Congress could put on their big-boy pants and tell the President to shove it on his backroom deal. But I don't hold out much hope for that.

I'm tired of being told to suck it up.

Holiday Hilarity, TDS-Style

The Daily Show traces the history of the War On Christmas as only they can, starring Roger Ailes as The Grinch. Hilarious!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Gretch Who Saved the War on Christmas
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorThe Daily Show on Facebook

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy

I Didn’t Even Know He Was On Tour

I spied this billboard in Nashville’s upscale Green Hills shopping area. Ironically, it’s half a block from this billboard which caused such an outrage last year.

There is a time-honored tradition of predicting Jesus' return. Since they’ve all been spectacular, embarrassing fails, most of these apocalyptic nutters have stepped away from endorsing a specific date in recent years. So I give the folks at Family Radio Inc. props for putting their butts on the line. That doesn’t mean I don’t also reserve the right to point fingers and laugh when the sun inevitably rises on May 22, however.

Mr. Beale loves to tell the story about the prank some Southern Baptist church staffers played on their church secretary the last time a notable Rapture date was in the news. When the poor woman was due back from lunch, everyone in the church office draped clothing and shoes at their workspace, then hid. I doubt she actually thought everyone in the church office had been raptured when she returned from lunch, but everyone did get a good laugh. See, even church people can have fun with this stuff.

The Rapture is just one of many things that are not in the Bible. It is a 19th century myth peddled by a bunch of hucksters and charlatans. Which is too bad, because sometimes I think the world would be better off if they’d go along their merry way, already.

Anyway, here’s a parting message:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weather Penis

Nashville’s NewsChannel5 weather dude Charlie Neese had an interesting take on the storm which, er, slammed Nashville a few months back.

Don’t know how I missed it. Even better, I learn about it from the Giant Bellevue Beaver Facebook page. Something about a dead body initially believed to be human but, in fact, that of a giant beaver. Good grief but Nashville is a weird town.

Because you can grow up but you can never get out of junior high.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This Play Never Changes

Ronald Reagan, back when he was a card-carrying member of Hollywood's Liberal Elite, railed against corporatist Republicans profiting from the exploitation of working people. Change a few words here and there and you have a campaign speech from the 2010 midterms.

The more things change, the more they don’t. Our political rhetoric has reached stasis. Right and left now cancel each other out.

The cast of characters may change but the play remains the same.