Monday, February 28, 2011

Stupid? Corrupt? Or Immoral?

That’s really the only thing I have to say in regards to this story. Yes, John Boehner took time away from perfecting his golf game this weekend to come to Nashville and lecture the National Religious Broadcasters on the morality of the national debt.

I really don’t think I need to be lectured on financial management by someone who put this nation into debt in the first place. And I really don’t want to be lectured on morality by someone who has voted for poverty, war, death, torture, fear, and destruction of the earth, air and seas at every opportunity.

Nor do I need to be lectured on morality by someone who seems to think the national budget should be balanced on the backs of middle class and low-income working people, while maintaining the wealthiest people in this country should be allowed to feast at the nation’s banquet table without paying a dime. Just three months ago he was shedding tears about the need to extend Bush-era tax cuts for America's millionaires; now he's telling us the nation is broke? Gee, I wonder how that happened.

No, my question is why the National Religious Broadcasters wants to be lectured on morality by someone like John Boehner? What does this say about you folks? It says quite a lot, really. These are folks who sorely need to have their false gospel challenged by someone like Jim Wallis, the evangelical leader and social justice crusader who had this to say about the GOPs budget priorities:
U.S. military spending is now 56 percent of the world's military expenditures and is more than the military budgets of the next 20 countries in the world combined. To believe all that money is necessary for genuine American security is simply no longer credible. To say it is more important than bed nets that prevent malaria, vaccines that prevent deadly diseases, or child health and family nutrition for low-income families is simply immoral. Again, these are ideological choices, not smart fiscal ones. To prioritize endless military spending over critical, life-saving programs for the poor is to reverse the biblical instruction to beat our swords into plowshares. The proposed budget cuts would beat plowshares into more swords. These priorities are not only immoral, they are unbiblical.

This is a message that the membership of the National Religious Broadcasters needs to hear -- these people who operate Christian radio and television stations all around the country, the people pretending to serve families across the public airwaves (here’s a fun exercise: Google “safe for the whole family” and see what you get.)

But they don't want to hear that message. Why should they? It's so much easier to stay in their happy place. Theirs is a smug, self-satisfied faith which sees worldly prosperity not as evil but as a reward from heaven. This allows them to give a "Faith And Freedom Award" to Rep. Mike Pence, who just denied poor women access to pap smears, breast exams, STD testing, cancer treatment and the like. How’s that for today’s Christians, eh? No, National Religious Broadcasters, you need to stay in your comfort zone, where Jesus showers his love upon the righteous -- you know, the wealthy white people driving around in fancy cars. Let’s not worry our pretty little heads about the folks who have been struggling thanks to the policies of political leaders you support. That might be icky.

Carry on, NRB.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Life Of Riley

Domestic Goddess Ina Garten Watches Over You

I haven’t posted on the new pup in a while, mostly because I’ve been too busy trying to keep track of a playful, active five-month-old puppy. Christ but it’s exhausting.

Riley has every bad habit known to dogs. He eats poop, has dug pits in our front yard, chewed the shit out of the shrubbery, and has gnawed the leg of our antique dining room table, a fucking family heirloom!, to the size of a toothpick. He humps the dog beds and pulls like a John Deere tractor on the leash. He’s an escape artist who has figured out how to get out of our fenced yard not once but twice.

This is all part and parcel with being a puppy, which is precisely why I’ve avoided puppydom all these years. I mean cripes, if I’m going to devote my entire day to a young animal I would have had kids.

Le Sigh.

Anyway, he’s also cute as a button. Just when I’m at the end of my rope he does something that makes you laugh or reminds you that yes he will grow up, some day. He and Chaka are major playmates -- they play so hard sometimes, I wonder if they’re really playing. Even Cleo, my elderly, arthritic Ridgeback/Lab mix, got into the action a few times.

And he’s smart as the dickens. Training is going well; he’s learned to “drop it” when he grabs my gardening glove and prances around the front yard showing off for the other dogs. He’s sweet and gentle and gets along well with everyone at doggie daycare.

And I’ve realized that Riley is a lot like my dearly departed Zelda. So much alike, actually, that it’s scary. I had always thought Zelda was some mutt mash-up of Lab, beagle, and who knows what else. But I realize now she probably had a lot of Pibble in her. Zelda and Riley are so alike in so many ways, and Zelda was so devoted to me, that I’m starting to wonder if reincarnation isn’t for real and Zelda hasn’t found her way back to me.

Do you think that’s possible? For an animal to come back from the other side? It’s an interesting thought.

Chase! And Chaka is the rabbit!

It's Play Time! (Honest)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

They Forgot Poland

You know, despite conservatives' claim that Ronald Reagan singlehandedly destroyed the Berlin wall with the tweak of his mighty pinkie, those of us who actually remember the 1980s remember the Polish trade union which got the democracy ball rolling. You kids who were still in your nappies back in 1981 might want to read up on Solidarity and how it took down Soviet domination in Poland, the first chink in a movement which steamrolled across the Baltic region and ultimately destroyed the iron curtain. I was a sophomore in college then and well remember the Polish uprisings. By 1982 I was living in Copenhagen and several friends traveled "behind the iron curtain" to Poland to see what was happening for themselves.

I went on an organized student trip to the Soviet Union instead -- all trips by Westerners to the USSR were closely monitored, rigidly organized affairs back then (though that didn't stop us from having some adventures). We had a Q&A session with some low-level Party official, can't remember his function now, where we asked tough questions about oppression of gays in the USSR ("We have no homosexuals in the Soviet Union," the guy actually told us. "This is a Western issue.") And we asked about Solidarity. He told us it was an example of how much freedom the people of Poland have, that they can protest and strike (never mentioning martial law and other attempts to oppress the movement). It was all a ruse, not too different from what we see from conservatives today, where they talk publicly about the freedom to assemble and all that and then privately talk about sneaking in troublemakers to discredit those protesting.

Today Poland's Solidarity leaders have sent Wisconsin workers their support:
On behalf of the 700,000 members of the Polish Trade Union NSZZ
“Solidarnosc” (Solidarity) I wish to express our solidarity and support for your struggle against the recent assault on trade unions and trade union rights unleashed by Governor Scott Walker.

We are witnessing yet another attempt of transferring the costs of the economic crisis and of the failed financial policies to working people and their families. As much as some adjustments are necessary, we can not and must not agree that the austerity measures are synonymous with union-busting practices, the elimination of bargaining rights and the reduction of social benefits and wages.

Dear friends, please rest assured that our thoughts are with you during your protest, as we truly do hope that your just fight for decent working and living conditions, for the workers’ rights will be successful.

Your victory is our victory as well.

In Solidarity,

Piotr Duda

You know, conservatives have long tried to connect labor unions with communism. Yet it was a labor union which destroyed communism in a key Soviet Bloc country.

I guess they forgot Poland.

Media FAIL Hilarity

I'm sure someone regrets the error:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Viva La Difference

You know what this whole Fake Koch prank tells us? When the right wants to embarrass the left they must resort to severely edited videos doctored with the intention of misleading viewers, and which completely misrepresent actual events. When the left wants to embarrass the right they just need to capture the right speaking honestly.

Funny, that.

Adlai Stevenson was right all along.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Grand Plan

Well I found this to be extremely interesting:
One old trick is to suggest a thought experiment that asks readers to consider the mirror image of what is going on. In this case, you'd be asked what the reaction would be from Republicans and business interests if a newly elected Democratic governor and legislature proposed to deal with a budget deficit by first raising unemployment benefits and then pushing through a big corporate tax increase for all but the Democratic-leaning tech sector. For good measure, the package would also contain a ban on corporations making political donations without getting the permission of each shareholder, lest they use their power to repeal the tax increase and push the budget out of balance.

I love a good analogy. Remember: the plutocrats went nuts when the Democrats passed very modest healthcare reform -- something President Obama campaigned on, I might add (whereas Walker did not campaign on destroying unions’ bargaining power). It was nothing close to the extremism on display in our state legislatures around the country but good lord they squealed like stuck pigs. Let's remember the town brawls and Teanuts with guns and the member of Congress hung in effigy and another member of Congress nearly killed by a gunman at a public event.


This is analogous, of course, to what Gov. Scott Walker has proposed for dealing with Wisconsin's budget gap: the tax breaks for businesses, the benefit cuts for all state employees except Republican-leaning police and firefighters, the automatic decertification of all public-sector unions and the stripping of their right to bargain anything but wages. Looking at Walker's reflection in the political fun-house mirror makes it abundantly clear that the governor has a more ambitious agenda than merely closing a modest budget gap.

Well duh. That’s what we’ve all been saying, for days now. That was why I transcribed that part of Walker’s phone call with Fake David Koch where he talks about the other governors he says were elected “to do something big.”

[Elected by whom? You really think the voters elected you to destroy unions? Was that what the November elections were about? I don’t think so. Elected by Koch Industries to do so? Yeah. That's more probable.]

Anyway, for more on that ambitious agenda, today’s must read is Mike Konczal‘s “Conservative Road Map for State Governance”. Konczal lays it all out for you (here is where I give a hat-tip to E.D. Kain at Balloon Juice) and if anyone harbors any delusions that this has squat to do with state finances or budgets or anything other than a blatant power grab and transfer of wealth from the public to corporate interests, well, this should disabuse you of such notions post-haste:

There’s a three-prong approach in Governor Walker’s plan that highlights a blueprint for conservative governorship after the 2010 election. The first is breaking public sector unions and public sector workers generally. The second is streamlining benefits away from legislative authority, especially for health care and in fighting the Health Care Reform Act. The third is the selling of public assets to private interests under firesale and crony capitalist situations.

This is, as has been noted elsewhere, the industrialist’s wet dream. It took them a while, but finally they have a chance to turn the clock back ... not to the 1950s, when the top marginal tax rate was over 90% GOD NO we can’t have that, but back to 1900. The era of the Robber Barons and industrialists. The “gilded age” when folks like Andrew Carnegie and John Pierpont Morgan ruled. And also the era of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and no minimum wage and child labor. You know, the good ol’ days.

This is what this fight is about.

This is what we DFH’s have been saying ... for years. I’m not joking, we’ve been talking about this on blogs and in lefty magazines like The Nation and Mother Jones and other places where the mushy-middle pragmatic centrist “Third Way” approach is generally regarded to be bullshit because the modern right’s agenda is extreme! And they don’t give a crap about bipartisanship.

Wake up, people! Once upon a time we could disagree without being disagreeable and there could be some issues where everyone could find common ground. Those days passed a long, long time ago. Hell, none other than Republican Christie Todd Whitman noticed the shift toward extremism in the Republican Party when she penned ”It’s My Party, Too!” And we lefties have been warning for years that as the Republicans get more extreme, and the Democrats bend over backwards to make concessions in the interest of “bi-partisanship” they are moving the country futher to the right and basically enabling an extreme agenda.

And here is where we are.

This Tennessee Thing Just Isn’t Working Out

Well, thanks to some of Tennessee’s more ludicrous legislators, the state is once again a national laughingstock. State Senator Bill Ketron and House Rep. Judd Matheny have a bill that would send anyone practicing Sharia Law to jail for up to 15 years:
It exempts peaceful practice of Islam but labels any adherence to Shariah law — which includes religious practices such as feet washing and prayers — as treasonous. It claims Shariah adherents want to replace the Constitution with their religious law.

Yes, the scourge that is the halal meat market is surely a threat to our way of life. House of Kabob, you are put on notice.

Dagnabbit but I am sick of you people making me ashamed of where I live. This nonsense is just the cherry on top a sundae of legislative foolishness: a bill forcing teachers to frame subjects like evolution and global warming as “controversial”, a bill that would ban discussion of homosexuality in schools, a bill that would exempt CCW holders from background checks. I mean Jesus Christ, people. Have you not noticed that our unemployment rate is still 9.4%? As of December 2010, Coffee and Warren Counties, Metheny’s district, have unemployment well over 10%. Ketron’s district fares even worse: Maury County unemployment was 13.5%, Marshall County was 15.6%.

Do you idiots really think banning Sharia law is going to help out the people in your districts? People need jobs, not fearmongering about religion! Are you really that out of touch? Are you really that stupid?

And to the people in your districts who keep voting these assclowns into office: don’t you think you deserve better? Is there no one in Marshall, Maury, Lincoln, or Rutherford counties who can do a better job at the legislature? Is there no one able to focus on real problems in these counties? Stuff that people really care about? Is this the best your districts have to offer?

I mean really, I’m almost at a place where I feel like it serves you right. You vote these jokers into office year after year after year -- Ketron and Metheny have been in office since, what, 2004? -- and what you get is 15% unemployment and stupid bills banning Sharia law instead of positive initiatives to bring economic development to rural counties. Maybe they're not the best folks the job, ya think?

You know what really pisses me off about this idiocy? We’re a national punchline -- again. This story got picked up at Gawker, for crying out loud. Once again Tennessee is the poster child for backasswards ignorance. Thanks a lot.

What major employer would want to move to Tennessee when everywhere you look we’re evidently a bunch of uneducated, unsophisticated rubes led by intolerant knuckle-dragging Neanderthals? What educated workforce would want to live here? Every year they ratchet up the idiocy and it’s very, very bad for the state of Tennessee.

Listen: Sen. Ketron and Rep. Metheny. We need jobs and economic development in this state. And ... well, you’re not helping! Just ... shhhh.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How You Call A Governor

I mean, I’d love to know how you get through. Back in my reporter’s days I’d always get stuck leaving a message with the assistant. Over and over again. So what’s the secret to getting powerful people on the phone?

Apparently it’s pretending to be an asshole:
First, it's remarkable Ian Murphy, pretending to be Koch, even got through. He talked to Walker's chief of staff, Keith Gilkes, and said he couldn't leave a return number because, "My goddamn maid, Maria, put my phone in the washer. I'd have her deported, but she works for next to nothing." This, oddly enough, led Gilkes to invite "Koch" to call back and speak directly to the governor.

Oh my God. I’ve totally been doing it wrong all these years.

More ..... here. Un freaking believable.

Crank, Prank or Pwn? It's Real! Walker Punk'd


After threatening to file ethics charges against Wisconsin Democrats, it appears Gov. Walker may be in some ethics trouble himself. Taking a phone call from a big campaign donor? That's a no-no:
“If you didn’t believe it before, you have to now—this fight isn’t about the budget, it’s about favors for corporate special interests,” continued Donnelly. “If Wisconsin law forbids coordination with political donors similar to federal law, Gov. Scott Walker is not just in political trouble, but in legal hot water.”

Public Campaign Action Fund is currently in discussions with election experts on whether Gov. Walker may have broken state election law and whether a complaint should be filed.



Walker's office confirms the call is for real. Oy vey. Scott Walker just made a colossally stupid mistake, bragging in true fan boy fashion to a man he thought was oil billionaire David Koch. Wisconsin, this just tells you so much about the guy you elected governor, where his allegiance lies and how he thinks. He won’t talk to Senate Democrats (unless it’s a trick to get them back into the state capitol so Republicans can declare a quorum), but he eagerly takes “David Koch’s” phone call and dishes all his secrets.

Schadenfreude. It's what's for breakfast.


Did a crank caller really convince Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that he was talking to David Koch? And did Walker really spill the beans on his strategy to hold Wisconsin Senate Democrats’ pay and file ethics charges if any took help from union supporters? And did the prankster really tape the whole thing and post it on the internet?

We still don’t know if This is for real but the tapes sound pretty convincing. and it's not the first time a prominent conservative got punk'd, either.

(Note: I accidentally left off the second recording in my original post. I've corrected that mistake now ...)

Here are some juicy bits. For one thing, if this IS for real, it seems Walker is trying to set a trap:

GOV. WALKER: An interesting idea brought up to me this morning by my chief of staff, we won’t do it until tomorrow, is putting out an appeal to the Democrat leader that I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the Assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders. Talk, not negotiate, and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn -- I’ll only do it if all 14 of ‘em come back and sit down in the state Assembly. They can recess it to come back over and talk to me but they’ll have to come back there.

The reason for that is, we’re verifying it this afternoon but legally we believe once they’ve gone into session they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day and they take a recess, this 19 senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have a quorum because they started out that way. Um ... so we’re double checking that.

If you heard that we’re gonna talk to ‘em that would be the only reason why, is we would only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of ‘em. My sense is hell, I’ll talk, If they want to yell at me for an hour, I’m used to that! I can deal with that! But I’m not negotiating.

What. An. Asshole.


More ....

I just finished listening to the second part of the recording. I'm struck by three things: Walker has a tremendous ego and is incredibly arrogant. This is not a humble man.

Two: he realizes this is not about Wisconsin, this is about crushing organized labor nationally. He knows what killing collective bargaining in Wisconsin means. This was the plan. This was never about Wisconsin.

And three: Walker's obviously seeking David Koch's approval, which speaks volumes about Koch's role in all of this. Walker might as well be saying, "I did good, didn't I, huh huh, didn't I?" He reminds me of my dog when we're playing fetch, the way she's just so eager for approval when she drops the ball at my feet. Walker is practically doing somersaults and handstands to show Fake Koch what a star politician he is, what a big player he is, how in control and manly. If he were a peacock he'd be spreading his tail feathers. He is, in short, showing off. Which, knowing this was Fake Koch not a real Koch, is sorta pathetic.

Anyway, it's clear David Koch is the Republican Party's new king maker. That's just obvious from the conversation, from Walker's conversation. Fake Koch barely says two words and Walker is tripping over himself doing the "how do you like me now!" song and dance.

And here's my question: Who the hell is David Koch's "guy on the ground" in Madison? Hello? Hello news media, the fact that Koch Industries has "a guy on the ground" should sorta tell you everything you need to know about the Tea Party!

Anyway, here's some more transcript:

FAKE KOCH: Goddamn right! We sent Andrew Breitbart down there.



WALKER: Good stuff!

FAKE KOCH: He’s our man, y’know.

WALKER: Well it has been amazing to me the massive amount of attention .. I’ve done all, you know -- every day I do a 5 o’clock press conference, tonight I’m actually doing a fireside chat which the state TV stations are gonna tape but I guess a bunch of the national ones are too, and um in the last couple of days when I do the TV shows I’ve been going after Obama, ‘cuz he stuck his -- although he’s backed off now -- but he stuck his nose in here and I said -- they asked me what I thought and I said, “Y’know, last time I checked, this guy’s got a much bigger budget deficit than we do, maybe he should worry about that!

FAKE KOCH: (laughs)

WALKER: ... and not stick his nose in Wisconsin business, right?. We’ve had all the national shows, we were on Hannity last night, I did Good Morning America, The Today Show and all that sort of stuff, was on Morning Joe this morning, we’ve done Greta, we’re going to keep getting our message out, Mark Levine last night. And I gotta tell ya, the response from around the country has been phenomenal. I had Brian the new governor over in Nevada call me last night, said he was out on the Lincoln Day circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me -- he’s new as well as me -- he said, “Scott don’t come to Nevada, cuz I’d be afraid you’d beat me running for the governor.”

FAKE KOCH: (Laughs)

WALKER: That’s all they want to talk about is, what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin? The next question is, I talk to Kasich every day, and John’s gonna stand firm in Ohio, I think we do the same thing with Rick Scott in Florida. I think Snyder if he got a little more support probably could do that in Michigan, when you start going down the list, there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.

FAKE KOCH: You’re the first domino!

WALKER: Yup! This is our moment.

FAKE KOCH: Now what else can we do for you down there?

Walker: Well the biggest thing would be, and your guy on the ground is probably seeing this, is the, well two things: one, our members, originally kinda got freaked out by all the bodies down here, although I told them an interesting story about when I was first elected county executive in Milwaukee of all places....

Actually, the story was really boring about how when he was a county executive and pissed off the unions, everyone totally loved him at a Veteran's Day parade except one guy who gave him the finger. It was another piece of arrogance and ego on display, showing off to the guy who is clearly Very Important. Later in the conversation Walker compares what he's doing to Ronald Reagan firing the air traffic controllers, and how he sees that as the first chink in the Berlin Wall because the Communists were put on notice that Reagan "wouldn't be pushed around."

So this is all very interesting ... very interesting indeed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Next Stop Indiana!


Gov. Mitch Daniels now tells legislature to drop "right to work" legislation that forced Indiana Democrats to flee.

I'll bet someone is thinking of his 2012 presidential aspirations.


Indiana statehouse fills with protestors as Indiana's Democrats leave the state to avoid vote against unions:

Here's a question I've asked: how come no one is mentioning ALEC in all of this? The industry-funded, free-market, limited-government, conservative anti-worker American Legislative Exchange Council? Through their "model legislation" they push industry's agenda at the state legislative level. I mean, it's no coincidence that so many states have similar anti-union legislation on the floor right now. This is all coordinated. And ALEC is funded by big corporations.

And here's another question: if industry can unite and push their agenda under the aegis of groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ALEC, the American Enterprise Institute, etc., then why can't workers unite and push their interests in the form of unions? I mean, if you're going to say unions are bad for democracy (though no one has ever adequately explained that one to me) then isn't the U.S. Chamber bad for democracy, too? If you want to get rid of one, shouldn't you get rid of the other?

It doesn't make sense unless your entire worldview is based on the idea that everything is peachy when workers are slaves to their employers, that all of the power should be handed up to big business and workers should be silent and take what lumps of coal they are given. You know, I get why billionaire corporate elites think this way, but I don't get why anyone else does.

It makes no sense.

There Are Two Sides To Every Budget

I dunno, but our discourse in this country is really just too stupid. I just never understood why when we’re discussing things like budgets, government spending and tax cuts we always address these as separate things. I’m no math whiz but last time I checked, budgets are made of two things: spending AND revenue. Yet our national debate has somehow separated these things as if they are completely unrelated issues.

I just finished hearing an interview on Good Morning America with Mike Huckabee where he goes on and on about how the government is broke, state governments are broke, and we have to live within our means. We all have to tighten our belts. Right. Raising revenue wasn't even mentioned.

And then I read this rundown of Wisconsin lawmakers’ views on Gov. Walker’s controversial budget bill. Most Republicans seem to be supporting Walker despite the thousands of protestors because, hey, the state is broke:
"We have a financial crisis facing the state of $137 million in cuts that's needed to balance the budget by June 30 as we are required to do by the state's constitution and an expected deficit in the 2011-13 budget of upward of $3.5 billion in a budget that hasn't even begun," Lazich said.


"I think the bill was done to cause the least amount of pain," Wynn said. "The state is broke. It's the best way to prevent a lot more tragedy."

And finally, we have Gov. Scott Walker himself, refusing to budge on the collective bargaining issue, despite wage and benefits concessions the unions have agreed to, because, he says

I want to give those local governments the tools they need to balance the budget now and in the future. They can't do that with the current collective bargaining laws in the state.

Walker has failed to adequately explain how collective bargaining prevents local governments from negotiating, or why collective bargaining is fine for some groups (police, firemen) but it’s a budget-buster for others (teachers). Oh well, we’ll just have to take that one on faith since no one in the media seems interested in asking that question either.

But no one asks about raising revenue, either. Gov. Walker signed a bill eliminating corporate taxes back in January; well, if he’s so worried about future budgets (since the unions have made concessions addressing the current one), then why did he cut revenue? Why, when we’re trying to balance budgets, is it always done on one side of the ledger sheet? You can’t cut revenue and then all of a sudden go “oh my GOD we have no money how did THAT happen?!”

I mean, I thought the whole conservative ideology was that tax cuts were stimulative. Apparently they aren’t, since we’ve been cutting taxes on people and corporations for years now and the result appears to be a fiscal crisis from the federal level on down to local governments. Guess this just proves you guys have been wrong all these years, then.

And if Walker's tax cuts are supposed to be so wonderful for the economy, then I'm sure local governments won't need to worry about ditching collective bargaining for certain groups of workers because the money will just be flooding in to government coffers.

No? Well why the hell not? Why did you cut all those taxes, then? And maybe y'all ought not have done that? Ya think?

Of course, we never draw these conclusions because we always address spending and revenue as completely separate issues when they are quite obviously part of the same conversation. I just have to wonder how the hell that happened.

We just went through a few weeks of yammering about extending the Bush tax cuts which affect the wealthiest individuals in America; now suddenly we are yammering about a national budget crisis. We have people like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin and other conservatives talking about the need for Americans to sacrifice. Clearly, since they just supported tax cuts to the wealthy, they mean other people need to sacrifice -- not the millionaires and billionaires, the ones who can most afford it. They mean the people already living with tight belts. That's just immoral.

I mean, I’m just waiting for Diane Sawyer or Katie Couric or someone to ask Walker (or any legislator) this question: “You cut taxes and now you complain the government is broke. Did you flunk math in school?” Forget raising taxes, how about just leaving them where they are for a while?

But no one asks these questions because we always treat these two issues as if they weren’t connected. And it’s such an obvious failure on the part of the national narrative that I have to think it’s intentional. With that in mind, I direct readers to Amy Dean’s Huffington Post column today. She writes:

While the particulars of each individual battle are important, in the end this is not about one state. It is about confronting the disturbing tendency among our lawmakers to seek scapegoats rather than real solutions to our nation's most central problems.

Yes, I think that’s the nib of the nub. As long as no one slaps their forehead and says, “wow maybe we shouldn’t have tax cuts at a time when our budgets are already strapped and we’re killing sacred cows like education,” it’s so much easier to scapegoat middle class public employees and sell the idea that eliminating their rights will solve everything.

I mean, seriously. There are two issues at work here. Why are we only talking about one of them?

Monday, February 21, 2011


In 1979, a movie about a union organizer in a North Carolina textile mill won nine Academy Awards and was a huge box office hit. Some 30 years later, unions have been so demonized I wonder if "Norma Rae" would even sell 10 tickets if it were released today?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot in the past few years: when did unions become the bad guys? We’ve all heard the stereotypes about “union thugs” and corruption, a narrative so firmly embedded in the American consciousness that conservative activists like Phil Parlock have capitalized on the shifting attitudes for political gain. I’ve always wondered how unions went from American hero to zero in one generation.

Andrew Leonard’s interview with author/labor historian/Georgetown University professor Joseph McCartin touches on this very topic. Leonard asks the “what changed” question. McCartin responds:
A lot of this was really produced by the events of the last few years. There was a tremendous loss in the stock market that left a lot of pension funds looking underfunded, and that set off a lot of alarms in people. Now I'm not going to say that there aren't some workers in some places that have gotten some pensions that aren't really fully justifiable but that is different than saying that the whole principle of collective bargaining is wrong.

But an even more important factor is basically a 20- or 30-year period of failure in the private sector. What we are really looking at here is a private sector that for quite a long time now has not generated a lot of rising income for the great majority. It has not generated stable benefits for its workers, it has not generated increasing retirement security -- in fact we've had income stagnation or decline, we've had rising indebtedness, we've had growing insecurity for retirement. The private sector has failed on a massive level. And the tenuous position that so many American workers find themselves in as a result of that now makes it suddenly appear that public sector workers are just living off the fatted calf. I think some of it has to do quite simply with the way in which so many nongovernment workers have been suffering, and legitimately so. You can go to those folks and say: Why are you paying for the pension of the guy down the street? You don't have one!

That seems to be a real political liability for public sector unions.

It is a real liability, but it is liability that is not the result of union munificence, or that came from squeezing the taxpayers; it is a liability that basically flows from the fact that the private sector has done so poorly at creating a really broad growing thriving middle class in the past 20 years. And without a broad growing, thriving middle class, government workers are increasingly isolated and increasingly under threat and it is easy to play the dynamic this way, unfortunately for them.

In short, capitalism has failed a large segment of the American population, and conservatives have successfully laid the blame on unions. How they did that is a neat trick, but I think corporate interests in the guise of the GOP have been selling anti-union Kool Aid for decades, so it's no surprise some of it started to stick. These days we've got “right to work” states and anti-minimum wage movements and the current spate of anti-collective bargaining initiatives in places like Wisconsin and Tennessee, and yet the glorious free hand of the market still hasn't righted things. Indeed, it's made things worse.

The result is resentment and jealousy directed at those people who have what I don’t have. Instead of directing their anger where it belongs -- the wealthy and powerful who enjoy the lowest taxes in the Western world who have pulled the ladders up to keep out the riff-raff -- conservatives are resentful of the people with the crappy jobs who were able to secure some very modest concessions over years of negotiating -- and renegotiating, and renegotiating. The history of unions is nothing if not a history of reneged deals.

Somehow folks think if they work hard enough they’ll be bazillionaires like the Koch Brothers, not realizing the Koch Brothers have stacked the deck against them. I mean Jesus, it's not like people aren't working hard now. I know people with four jobs. They're barely treading water. There's no getting ahead when you are saddled with healthcare debt, or can't get a job because your credit score isn't high enough or because you're unemployed, which takes the cake for stupid reasons not to hire someone. We are fast headed to a country with a permanent underclass and a permanent ruling class, and no movement betwixt the two.

Yes, somehow jealousy and resentment has convinced some people that their solution is to hand their power over to those who will never give them a place at the table. It's quite baffling, really, how the wealthiest and most powerful interests managed to convince those lower down on the ladder that they should accept a less equitable arrangement. I really don't get it, but then women tend to understand these things more easily anyway. We're always being asked by society to give up our power to someone else. We're always being told our priorities and issues are less important and we're somehow deserving of less. So naturally we're suspicious when some rich asshole drives up in his limousine and tells us that we should accept lower wages and pay higher taxes than he does, just 'cuz. Being asked to accept inequality is something most of us women find a little reprehensible. And we know when we're being sold a shit sandwich.

I've linked to this Financial Times article from last summer before, but I'm going to do it again. Here we go:

Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French chronicler of early America, was once misquoted as having said: “America is the best country in the world to be poor.” That is no longer the case. Nowadays in America, you have a smaller chance of swapping your lower income bracket for a higher one than in almost any other developed economy – even Britain on some measures. To invert the classic Horatio Alger stories, in today’s America if you are born in rags, you are likelier to stay in rags than in almost any corner of old Europe.

Combine those two deep-seated trends with a third – steeply rising inequality – and you get the slow-burning ­crisis of American capitalism. It is one thing to suffer grinding income stagnation. It is another to realise that you have a diminishing likelihood of escaping it – particularly when the fortunate few living across the proverbial tracks seem more pampered each time you catch a glimpse. “Who killed the American Dream?” say the banners at leftwing protest marches. “Take America back,” shout the rightwing Tea Party demonstrators.

Statistics only capture one slice of the problem. But it is the renowned Harvard economist, Larry Katz, who offers the most compelling analogy. “Think of the American economy as a large apartment block,” says the softly spoken professor. “A century ago – even 30 years ago – it was the object of envy. But in the last generation its character has changed. The penthouses at the top keep getting larger and larger. The apartments in the middle are feeling more and more squeezed and the basement has flooded. To round it off, the elevator is no longer working. That broken elevator is what gets people down the most.”

CNN recently covered this issue in its "Rise Of The Super Rich" piece, and included a neat little chart:

Admit it, folks. This is why you are angry. Not at some public school teacher who earns $50,000 a year but if you include their union-negotiated benefits and pension it sounds like a whole lot more, while the guy selling this resentment tea has a personal net worth of $27 $21.5 billion.

You're pissed because capitalism has failed. For the past 25 years 90 percent of us have been working harder to stay in the same place, while a very small group of people have surged ahead thanks to policies which keep everyone else down. Everyone else has seen the American Dream slip away.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Budgets Are Moral Documents

Yes we hear that all the time. But what does it mean? It means, it’s the true reflection of your priorities. You can talk a good game all you want, but the proof is in the budget. How you spend your money speaks volumes about your character. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So I wonder what it says about the Republicans and their new-found austerity that they are refusing to cut taxpayer funds to NASCAR? Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum proposed axing the $7 million the Defense Department spends on sponsoring a car, as well as the $45 million tax earmark that was part of the newly-extended Bush tax cuts. Her bill did not pass.

For the record, most reports I’ve read omitted the tax earmark info, and only mentioned the $7 million in actual car sponsorship. Turns out it’s actually more like $52 million that taxpayers spend on NASCAR. That’s still insignificant when compared to our budget and the budget deficit, but the GOP’s default position has been “we all have to make sacrifices” and, “you have to start somewhere,” yada yada. So rather than quibble over an approach which Gail Collins rightly likened to “planning to lose 50 pounds by reducing your intake of kale,” let’s concede that point, just for the sake of argument.

Let’s just look at some programs the Republicans have cut from the budget so we can give taxpayer money to NASCAR:
• Maternal & Child Health Block Grant -- $50 million
• High School Graduation Initiative -- $50 million
• Child Care Development Block Grant – $39 million
• Green Jobs Innovation Fund -- $40 million

None of this even compares to the billions of dollars in worthy programs the GOP has on the chopping block -- Pell Grants, home heating assistance, Head Start, help for the elderly, environmental protection, food safety, etc. Or, for that matter, the money for war and tax breaks for insanely profitable oil companies the Republicans have kept. We all know the Republicans are being penny wise and pound foolish with these budget proposals. That’s not what this post is about.

This post is about looking at one thing, and seeing it as a window on the Republican soul. Money for NASCAR, but not to retrain workers for green jobs. Money for NASCAR but not prenatal care for poor pregnant women. $50 million for NASCAR but not to improve graduation rates at our schools.

Republicans are the ones who said this about cutting funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting:

“We've got to keep our priorities straight," said Representative Ralph Regula, an Ohio Republican who is chairman of the appropriations panel that approved the cut. “You're going to choose between giving a little more money to handicapped children versus providing appropriations for public broadcasting."

And this about the cuts in general:

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement:
Lawmakers "have weeded out excessive, unnecessary, and wasteful spending, making tough choices to prioritize programs based on their effectiveness and benefit to the American people. My committee has taken a thoughtful look at each and every one of the programs we intend to cut, and have made determinations based on this careful analysis."

I’m going to call bullshit on your sanctimonious ass and tell you that quite a few of the programs you're cutting are waaaay more beneficial to the American people than NASCAR. So no I don't need a lecture on priorities from a group of people whose only priority is rewarding their political friends.

Oh, and as to the argument that NASCAR sponsorship is a military recruiting tool, the New York Times had this to say today

the Navy and the Marines Corps have pulled out of the Nascar sponsorship business — precisely because they could not gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns on recruiting.

It’s almost funny to me that Republicans want to spend money on NASCAR, which is a dying sport. But it’s their dying sport, and by God they’re going to hang onto it with all they’ve got. Democrats want to spend money on prenatal care for poor pregnant women, job training, education, and the like. Republicans want to throw money at a dying sport which is the last refuge of their aging, dying base. That's worse than sad, it's pathetic.

So, these are the fiscal phonies you voted for, America (or rather, didn't vote for when you were too busy or disillusioned or not-paying-enough-attention or whatever the fuck reason you gave for not showing up to vote last November, which is how these idiots took charge of the House to begin with. Republicans didn't win, Democrats gave it away. But I digress.)

And here we have a perfect example of what is meant when people say budgets are moral documents. This is, indeed, a clear window onto the Republican soul. These are their priorities. This money isn't coming back when we're flush again: it's gone for good. This is the Republican Agenda, in black and white: cut aid to poor women and children, cut education and healthcare, cut consumer protections. Keep our fanboy projects and our wars and giveaways to outrageously wealthy corporations.

Budgets are moral documents. This one says it all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gawd Bless America

Now this is a movie I need to see:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why We Scare Them

It's Always Okay If You're A White Conservatiave

I have wondered: what if the workers rallying in Wisconsin were armed? What if the Tea Party were black? Would the nation tolerate protestors wearing guns and waving threatening signs if those doing the protesting weren’t predominantly white conservatives?

The answer is simple: no. If even a small fraction of the tens of thousands descending on Madison, Wisconsin had brandished guns and signs about using violence to stop legislation, the National Guard would have been called out on day one. If the Tea Party were black we’d have seen water cannons and dogs, like in the '60s.

When the Tea Party was allowed to brandish guns and wave threatening signs at their rallies, it only proved how toothless and anemic their movement is. They are no threat to the status quo, no threat to the powerful interests that rule the country. They can wave all the guns they want, they are supporting the wealthy and powerful, those “fighter pilots of capitalism.” The powers that be will let them display their guns because it's no threat to them.

Workers rallying for their rights, however, upsets the status quo. Union members protesting in Wisconsin don’t need to wear guns -- their mere presence is threatening enough. Witness the fearful rhetoric out of Fox News and supporters of the status quo, folks like Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck. These folks have called workers rallying for their rights “thugs” and “borderline violent” and “evil.”

I find this realization very profound. It’s not just the hypocrisy here, the IOKIYAR view that when Tea Partiers rally it’s all about “freedom loving Americans enjoying their constitutional rights” but when union workers do it it’s “thuggery” and “borderline violent.”

Conservatives are the party of the rich and powerful, and those people are scared. Let that one sink in for a moment, union activists: your mere presence frightens the wealthy and powerful.

This tells me that people like Gov. Scott Walker are on shakier ground than even they know.

Just a thought.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Glenn Beck, Union Man

[UPDATE 2/25/11]:

Chris Balfe, president of Beck’s production company, says Beck is not an AFTRA member. Woopsies.


I’ll give Glenn Beck props for one thing: he’s been one of the few people in the media talking about the massive rallies of union workers and union supporters happening this week in Wisconsin.

People are protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s extremist anti-union legislation which would eliminate collective bargaining for public employees. There are reports of 30,000 protestors descending on the state capitol yesterday, and today’s rally looks to be as big.

Glenn Beck and the rest of the Fox fools have been whipping up the fear, because liberal rallies are always bad things and full of terrorists and terrorist appeasers and verging on violence (as opposed to conservative rallies which are Patriotic and Free Speech and Constitutional and Freedom and Liberty and yada yada.)

Anyhoo, yesterday Beck told the protestors their unions “are anti-western way of life,” which is the kind of thing people like Beck say: it’s just an insult attached to a group they don’t like (Nazi, communist, terrorist, leech, etc. + liberals, Democrats, Muslims, the poor, etc.), then regurgitated without any thought whatsoever. It's intellectually lazy, but it gets the job done, and frankly with their audience, no more is required. “This group = bad thing.” Whatever. It’s boring.

I just want someone to ask Beck one thing: aren’t you a member of a union? AFTRA? American Federation of Television And Radio Artists? The same AFTRA campaigning to save Public Broadcasting? Beck’s name is listed on the Los Angeles chapter’s June 2010 ballot under “newsperson.” Maybe there’s another newsperson named Glenn Beck, to which I have to say: dude, I feel sorry for you.

If Glenn Beck is a card-carrying AFTRA member, then he needs to either tear up his union card or STFU about how unions are anti-Western civilization.

Just sayin’.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Failure To Seize The Moment


Apparently Gov. Walker threatened to call out the National Guard if public employees strike. OMG he wouldn't dare. He's poking a stick at a sleeping bear.


I swear to God I am about to lose my shit.

Near as I can tell the only people covering the thousands of working people marching on the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, are some liberal bloggers and Ed Schultz, who has been talking about this for three days. Well, that and liberal outfits like The Nation, which filed this report:
More than 10,000 Wisconsinites marched on the state Capitol Tuesday, as crowds rallied in cities around the state, students walked out of high schools and public employees lined roadways holding aloft banners declaring their determination to battle an attempt by Republican Governor Scott Walker to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights and pack state government positions with political patronage appointees.

Another huge crowd -- numbering perhaps 8,000 -- surrounded the Capitol for a Tuesday night rally. Protests spread to the Milwaukee area, where hundreds of workers massed outside Walker's suburban home.

The crowds in Madison will swell Wednesday. The city's schools are closing, as teachers take sick days to join the protests and buses packed with public employees roll into the city.

The protests, unprecedented in recent Wisconsin history, are being organized by union—the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the Wisconsin Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin and others—in anticipation of a Thursday vote on whether to give the governor powers that the senior member of the state legislature describes as nothing short of dictatorial.

Hellooooo! News media! Y'all might want to cover this! Think of it like Cairo, but ya know, in English and not so Muslim-y. Now will you cover it?

I mean, yes, there’s a little New York Times piece, but no, I am not seeing the wall-to-wall TV coverage we get every time 500 Teanuts in knee britches and tricorn hats decide to wave a misspelled sign. This is worse than irresponsible. This is a failure of epic proportions. This is why the news media is not trusted by the left. This is why no one reads your shitty newspapers or watches your lame cable news programs where you ruminate over the need for reasonableness.

News is happening. Here. In America! Go cover it! It really shouldn't be that fucking hard.

I mean, shit. Just one year ago the news media descended on Nashville to cover the first Tea Party convention at a level of one reporter for every three participants. We’ve got 10,000 working people descending on a state capitol and where’s Anderson Cooper? Brian Williams? Katie Couric?

You know who’s there? Fox News. I just heard a clip on the Ed Show where some Fox bimbette opines that the protests are surely going to turn violent soon. Yes of course they are, because we liberals always turn violent when a big group of us rally to defend our rights, or try to stop a bogus war, or try to save the planet from nuclear annihilation. Even though your side is the one waltzing around with guns strapped to your legs carrying signs about “watering the tree of liberty” and whatnot. Fuck off, I don’t have time for you idiots.

No, I want to know where the serious coverage of this unprecedented event is? Why aren’t you there on the scene?

And where are the Democrats? Hello?! This is your base, thousands of them, rallying for the right to collectively bargain, a founding principle of the liberal movement, why aren’t you people there? Why isn’t Nancy Pelosi there? Howard Dean? Hell, Dennis Kucinich? Anyone? Why aren’t liberal leaders flocking to the site of a major liberal protest? This is called an opportunity, you idiots.

(A question: Are they not there because the TV cameras aren’t there? Or are the TV cameras not there because the political leaders aren’t there?)

This is why we suck on just so, so many levels.

Via Down With Tyranny, a picture of today's rally:

Memory Hole: Deficit Edition

While some lefty bloggers have noticed similarities between our punditry’s embrace of the Iraq invasion and the media’s current blind belief in right-wing “ZOMG the deficit is gonna kill us allll!” messaging, I’m taking a far less nuanced approach.

As the 2012 budget forces us all to go ‘round the hamster wheel for another insufferable bullshit national debate, I’d like to remind people of one thing: deficits don’t matter.

That wasn’t just Dick Cheney’s wishful thinking when trying to shove tax cuts for the uber-wealthy down our throats in the middle of wartime, that was a Weekly Standard column by none other than the august Irwin Seltzer, of the conservative Hudson Institute (Hudson is one of those places that preaches the glories of the free market and individual responsibility):
Which brings us to the economic level. The deficits that Bush ran up in the years in which the country was teetering on the verge of a serious recession had the beneficial effect of righting the economy. In that sense, deficits not only didn't matter, but were a force for economic good.

Yes, kids, once upon a time conservative thinkers actually believed that deficits not only didn’t matter, but that they were a “force for economic good.” Go on and read his column: his whole argument is that operating a deficit to right an economy in the recessionary doldrums is not just good, but essential (cue maniacal Dr. Strangelove grin).

Call me a cynic, but I have a feeling deficits really only matter based on which political party is having fun with the Chinese credit card. Maybe it's just me. But I can't help but laugh at the Republican hypocrites now calling for the fainting couches because Democrats--gasp!--want to cut the Pentagon's NASCAR sponsorship! This just proves what haters they are!

It is also a clear indication that Democrats think that the NASCAR voting bloc is not voting with them now or anytime in the future.

Yeah, I think when you start going down that road, you've conceded the argument. I mean gosh, it's not like PBS viewers are staunch Republicans, right? Isn't that what you're saying? That Obama's budget cuts are politically motivated? Thanks for playing.

We so easily forget our country’s history of just two months ago, when tax cuts for the wealthy were extended, let alone eight years ago, when the Bush Administration enacted the country’s first-ever tax cuts during wartime. For over 200 years we had paid for our wars, but Bush took the unprecedented approach that war could be paid for by future generations. Let that one sink in.

Conservatives cheered both moves, talking about how these things would stimulate the economy and ignoring all evidence to the contrary. Our media for the most part has acted blithely unaware of the hypocrisy at play beneath their noses. And what this should tell everyone, including our glorious media lapdogs who eat up every nugget of Republican messaging like it's filet mignon, is that these people are dishonest brokers. They really don’t give a shit about the national deficit, they just want their failed policies of tax cuts and deregulation and they will lie to anyone to see that this happens.

So please get a clue, already. Next time some Republican Congresscritter like John Boehner gets all teary-eyed about how the deficit is ruining this country, please ask them why they cheered the deficit six, seven, eight years ago. Please hold them to account. You just can't keep letting one political party hit the reset button as soon as they come into power, while still holding the Democrats to account for shit that happened 40 years ago.

In the meantime, another blogger points out that our budge debate should really be a healthcare debate, because that is where the money goes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Conflicted SCOTUS Alert

Wow. Imagine if this had been one of our more liberal justices! The calls for impeachment would be deafening:
Justice Clarence Thomas Failed To Disclose That Citizens United Foundation Supported His 1991 Nomination To The Supreme Court And Spent More Than $100,000 On Advertisements Attacking Opposing Senators, says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The watchdog group filed a second bar complaint on February 15, 2011 against Justice Clarence Thomas for bias and actual conflict of interest for his failure to disqualify himself from Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010), and hiding the fact that Citizens United Foundation had supported his nomination and spent at least $100,000 on commercials attacking several Senators opposed to his nomination. The second bar complaint, filed with the Washington, D.C. Office of Bar Counsel, is at

The release quotes a 1991 Time Magazine article:

The ad, produced by two independent right-wing groups, was intended to bolster Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas' confirmation chances by pointing the finger at three liberal Democrats who seemed likely to oppose him. Not coincidentally, the ad was produced by the same people who launched the 1988 Willie Horton spot that branded Michael Dukakis soft on crime but left George Bush open to charges of racism. Anxious not to be associated with such negative campaigning this time around, Bush quickly labeled the attacks on the Senators "counterproductive." Thomas pronounced them "vicious." His chief Senate supporter, Missouri Republican John Danforth, called them "sleazy" and "scurrilous."

Although Bush and chief of staff John Sununu demanded that the ads be - pulled, their right-wing sponsors -- L. Brent Bozell III, chairman of the Conservative Victory Committee, and Floyd Brown, chairman of Citizens United -- refused. Calling the campaign a "pre-emptive strike" to counter anticipated anti-Thomas commercials, as well as retaliation for the 1987 spots that helped defeat Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, they vowed to keep running the messages for at least two weeks "until the left agrees to discontinue all its efforts against Judge Thomas." Thus far, that has been a mostly fitful effort at best, but Brown and Bozell appeared to see the flag of revolution rising above it. "Unfortunately," the two men declared in a written statement, "the Administration has no desire to confront the radical left."

The commercials, shown only in Washington at a cost of about $100,000, have reaped millions of dollars' worth of free publicity through network television and print-media reproductions that have accompanied news stories about the flap. That probably was the intent all along.

Damn. It always comes back to decency scold Brent Bozell III, doesn’t it?

Thomas is already on extremely shaky ground, with his wife actively lobbying to overturn healthcare reform. Apparently he should have recused himself from the Citizens United case, seeing as how one of the chief parties had campaigned to put Thomas on the court.

I’m sure the right will circle the wagons and come to Silent Thomas’ defense because IOKIYAR and liberals are the real racists, and Sonia Sotomayor once attended a La Raza luncheon so both sides do it! and on and on.

Your Modern Pro-Life Movement

Okay, lovers of life, liberty, fetuses, etc. You’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do:
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.

I almost hate to write about this because I’m sure our local Tennessee legislators will immediately want one of these bills, too.

This just sums up everything we’ve ever said is wrong with the so-called “pro-life” crowd in one amazing ball of astonishing suckitude: How is murdering abortion providers pro-life? Why do you hate women so much that you’d treat them this way? Why don’t you trust us? Why do you care more about the unborn than the people who are already living? How is this “Christian”?

I bring up the religious point because of the people behind the bill:

The original version of the bill did not include the language regarding the "unborn child"; it was pitched as a simple clarification of South Dakota's justifiable homicide law. Last week, however, the bill was "hoghoused"—a term used in South Dakota for heavily amending legislation in committee—in a little-noticed hearing. A parade of right-wing groups—the Family Heritage Alliance, Concerned Women for America, the South Dakota branch of Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, and a political action committee called Family Matters in South Dakota—all testified in favor of the amended version of the law.

These are all right-wing "Christian" organizations. Shame on you. I wish you people would get Raptured already and leave the rest of us the fuck alone.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yet Another Conservative Hollywood Fail

There’s a lot to poke fun at regarding the new “Atlas Shrugged” movie: the trailer is mind-numbingly dull; the cast lacks any big names (sorry fanboys, Angelina Jolie is not in the picture); it’s in three parts, when clearly one would more than suffice; it maintains the book’s steel-mills-and-railroads setting, two industries basically obliterated from the American manufacturing landscape (indeed, railroads are paragons of socialism these days); or the fact that the movie lacks a distributor and will most likely end up in permanent limbo like the remake of “Red Dawn.”

But to me the best part about “Atlas Shrugged” is that in an act of marketing genius {/sarcasm} the producers slated the film for release on April 15 -- tax day. Perfect except for one thing: tax day is April 18 this year.

They couldn’t even get that right.


Well it’s about damn time:
Andrew Breitbart, the owner of several conservative Web sites, was served at the conference on Saturday with a lawsuit filed by Shirley Sherrod, the former Agriculture Department employee who lost her job last year over a video that Mr. Brietbart posted at his site

The video was selectively edited so that it appeared Ms. Sherrod was confessing she had discriminated against a farmer because he was white. In the suit, which was filed in Washington on Friday, Ms. Sherrod says the video has damaged her reputation and prevented her from continuing her work.

Mr. Breitbart said in a statement that he “categorically rejects the transparent effort to chill his constitutionally protected free speech.”

Yeah, ya know funny thing: slander and libel are not constitutionally protected. So, thanks for playing.

Hacks like Breitbart are no better than thugs and criminals. Worse, actually, because their slanderous attacks are politically motivated. It’s a craven attempt to swing power to their ideological side.

Seriously, who the fuck is Shirley Sherrod? Why pick on her? Who had even heard of her before Breitbart’s little stunt? Except that she’s black, and serves a Democratic president.

I never understood why John Kerry didn’t sue John O’Neill and Jerome Corsi over the Swift Boat smears. The lies cost Kerry the election, but it was also the most egregious smear campaign in political history: to take an actual war hero and somehow turn his military record into a negative, while at the same time pretending to be rah-rah support the troops, was just astounding. Our media and political establishment were truly asleep at the wheel on that one. It was probably as egregious a media fail as the non-existent Iraq WMD claims. And the failure of John Kerry to sue just opened the door for the professional right to turn these smears into a regular part of our political discourse.

So I for one and thrilled that someone is finally pushing back against the professional mudslingers.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

That’s So Old Media

Anyone needing proof that the Tea Party is stuck in the past need look no further than its new media endeavor. Er, make that old media endeavor, launched at CPAC this week:

Reports Columbia Journalism Review:
Here, an excited pre-launch tweet from what appears to be Tea Party Review's Twitter account:
There is nothing quite like putting together a magazine. It truly is ALIVE and it rings with Freedom! Get Ready for a powerful publication

To which, you know, we at CJR can totally relate.

Hah! With print journalism dying a slow death every day, you have to wonder why the Tea Party would think a monthly magazine was necessary in this modern age of Tweets, blogs, websites, etc. CJR wondered the same. I suspect it’s because so many Tea Partiers are senior citizens who aren’t internet savvy. Maybe I’m wrong.

Indeed, one observer even called it “an elaborate hoax.”

The fact is, everything about this "magazine" is just a tad too close to what a liberal wants to read in a Tea Party magazine. The cover lines on the inaugural issue (top photo) promise -- among other gems -- to tell us "What the Left Will Never Understand About the Tea Party." Sounds like a manifesto to us! Just the sort of thing that will make those folks with the rifle peeking out the blinds at the mailbox go "squeeee." And just the sort of thing that will make a liberal poke fun at the Tea Party. Don't believe me? I just did.

I wouldn’t be so quick to write this endeavor off, however. The Tea Party is nothing if not an exercise in self-parody. Remember this lady?

I say it’s not a hoax, nor does it matter whether it can make money or not. Let’s remember that conservatives have a long and storied history of propping up their failed media experiments with generous financial support from their Daddy Warbucks investors. See The Washington Times as an example. This magazine is supposedly edited by Richard Viguerie, the conservative direct-mail guru who is well known in conservative media circles.

Tea Party Review looks to be a standard-issue conservative media operation to me.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Raging Christian Asshole Of The Week

That would be the American Family Assn.’s Bryan Fischer, who directed his intolerance toward Native Americans:
In a post published Monday on the Rightly Concerned blog – a project of the AFA – Fischer railed on native peoples for not being Christian, claiming it’s their own fault that they lost their land and were forced onto reservations to cope with terrible living conditions.

“Superstition, savagery and sexual immorality” morally disqualified Native Americans from “sovereign control of American soil,” Fischer said. That, plus the superior battle skills of Europeans gave the latter “rightful and legal sovereign control” of American land through what he delicately described as “the right of conquest.” Fischer went on to blame poverty and alcoholism on Indian reservations on Native Americans themselves, because they “continue to cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition” and refuse to come into “the light of Christianity” and assimilate “into Christian culture.”

Sure, ‘cause as we all know, there aren’t any Christians who experience poverty or alcoholism.

And I have to say, this notion that genocide, pillage and plunder are perfectly okay because you believe yourself culturally superior is a unique interpretation of Scripture. Sadly, the history of Western Civilization is filled with examples of genocidal monsters who believed exactly as Fischer does. Fortunately, today we hold up people like this to scorn and public shame, for that is surely what they deserve.

For their part, the Native American Rights Fund responded:

NARF declines to comment because the article is not worth dignifying with a reply.

I can appreciate that stance: when you’re on the receiving end of something so outrageous I can see the necessity of turning the other cheek, which is a piece of Scripture Fischer apparentoy hasn’t read. But the rest of us need to be aware that Bryan Fischer attitudes are still out there and being disseminated across the airwaves.

I do wonder how influential the AFA is these days. One failed boycott after another (Home Depot, Walt Disney Co., 7-Eleven, American Airlines, etc. all seem to be doing just fine, thank you) would seem to indicate, not very much. Then again, last month Newsweek called Bryan Fischer “a media darling.” Fischer, of course, is the same nutwagon who back in December claimed “President Obama wants to give America back to the Indians.”

And of course, you have presidential hopefuls like Tim Pawlenty appearing on Fischer’s radio program last month. I’d like to be fair to T-Paw and point out that this was before Fischer’s inflammatory comments about Native Americans but I can't. Because Fischer has a history of making equally inflammatory, hateful comments about gays, Muslims, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, etc. (a nice little run-down of Fischer’s hate speech can be heard here.)

I really find it astonishing that conservative candidates like Tim Pawlenty turn a blind eye to this hateful rhetoric in a craven effort to reach out to Fischer’s audience. Really? Really? You want the homophobic, intolerant vote? Seriously? You really feel the need to suck up to a guy who repeatedly makes inflammatory, intolerant statements?

What does this say about you? And what does this say about your party? What, have you folks not alienated enough minority groups? You've got to find more ethnic groups to drive away from the Republican Party? Is that it?

I really don't get it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nashville Scene Calls Out Tennessean On Berman Propaganda

Well this should be fun! Our own Nashville Scene has called out The Tennessean for repeatedly running “op-eds” by corporate sockpuppets working for D.C. PR man Rick Berman. The piece includes a nice shout-out to yours truly, too. {blushes}

I’ve written about The Tennessean’s epic fail before, notably here and here. In May 2010 after they ran a column by Berman employee David Martosko, I wrote:
This is now the third time The Tennessean has fallen for Rick Berman’s propaganda game. Back in February they ran an anti-MADD Tennessee Voices column by “Sarah Longwell,” who fronts several of Rick Berman’s phony organizations, including the restaurant industry-funded American Beverage Institute.


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

Sadly, there was a fourth time: this column by “J. Justin Wilson” against a plastic bag ban ran back in January. Wilson is identified as “Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.” For the record, I haven't heard of any serious campaign to ban plastic bags in Nashville. Maybe I missed the story.

Let’s meet young Mr. Wilson, shall we? According to the CREW wesbite Berman Exposed, he’s a busy fellow. In addition to his Center for Consumer Freedom duties Wilson is also:

• Senior Research Analyst, Berman and Company
• Managing Director, Center for Union Facts
• Senior Research Fellow, Employment Policies Institute
• Managing Director, Employee Freedom Action Committee
• Senior Research Analyst, Employment Policies Institute

My, what a lot of hats Mr. Wilson wears! In fact, the only Wilson hat that fits is one: sockpuppet for Rick Berman’s corporate clients.

At this point I have to think The Tennessean is a willing participant in a dirty propaganda game. It’s a game which allows major corporations to present themselves as shiny-sparkly good corporate citizens, while at the same time financing an under the table PR war attacking environmentalists, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Humane Society of the United States, and other “do-good” organizations which embarrass Corporate America.

Thanks for playing along, Tennessean.

The Tim DeChristopher Case

This is a weird story.

Tim DeChristopher is a young environmental activist facing two felony counts which stem from an action he took in December 2008. In short, DeChristopher bid $1.7 million for 22,000 acres of federal land offered for sale at a public auction; a student at the University of Utah at the time, he didn't have the money to pay for his bid, but he took took the action to protect the land from oil and gas drilling and protest the country’s energy policy. He now faces 10 years in prison and a $75,000 fine.

DeChristopher accuses the oil and gas industry of being behind his prosecution. Said DeChristopher in a recent interview:
We were making the case for selective prosecution before the indictment because we had substantial evidence that the oil industry had played a strong role. One of my attorneys got a call from an AP reporter before I was informed what the charges against me were. The journalist told my attorney, these are going to be the charges. The reporter got that information from an oil industry lobbyist. So before I knew or my attorneys knew, the oil industry knew. Why did they know before my attorneys knew?  

And then, there were 25 people in the last 3 years that have won leases without being able to pay for them, who had a profit motive, and none of them have been prosecuted. It seems that they are coming down particularly hard on me.

I really hadn’t heard anything about this case; apparently Robert Redford, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and some other prominent Lefties have come to his defense and are trying to raise awareness.

I’m just a little confused. I’ve never participated in an auction of public land before but don’t you have to show proof of assets or something before signing up? Is there a reason why we don’t require that? DeChristopher said a BLM staffer asked him if he’d like to bid on the auction, which seems strange, and he said it was “easier than signing up on eBay.”

There’s a web page set up to support DeChristopher, called Bidder70. A march and rally to support DeChristopher have been scheduled for the day his trial begins, Feb. 28 in Salt Lake City.

I’m sure our media will ignore this story as they do so much else that’s really important. It always amazes me how we have a 24/7 TV news media and yet I'm continually reading about news which never hits their radar. It seems if it doesn't involve tricorn hats or crazy-eyed Michelle Bachmann, they're just not interested.


Good morning, Nashville!

Please do not try to drive up or down my street. It will seriously fuck you up. Thanks!



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rep. Jim Cooper On How To Fix Congress

Coop, my Congresscritter, recently gave a speech at Harvard on this topic. He pulled few punches in his lecture, to the point where during the post-speech Q&A he said he hoped his appearance “would not be a career limiting move” (and for those wanting parity, a Republican lecture on the same topic is coming in March). I found his speech enormously interesting and urge everyone give it a listen/watch.

Before you let the lecture’s apparent length deter you, Cooper’s talk is only about 30 minutes long (the rest is Q&A) and actually doesn’t begin until 4 minutes in. (Also, you can download it as a podcast and listen to it while walking the dog, should you be so inclined.)

Here’s the video:

What’s interesting to me is his contention that Congress has basically become a parliamentary system; for those of us who have decried our current partisan state and wondered what living under a real parliamentary system might be like, it’s a douse of cold water. And in fairness to Coop, he says we have the worst of both worlds: the parliamentary aspects without the accountability a party-nominated prime minister provides.

Cooper calls the state of our modern Congress “grim,” labels the institution “willfully blind to most of the nation’s problems.” I daresay you'd be hard pressed to find disagreement on that point, regardless of your political affiliation. His focus on the negative outcome of the Citizens United decision struck me as especially interesting, since he’s a Blue Dog and I thought being against Citizens United was unique to us DFH's.

Cooper had some intriguing ideas on how Congress can be reformed, including these two “quick thought experiments”:
1- What if Congress were paid on commission to cut spending or repeal obsolete laws?

2- What if Congressmen could only raise money from real people who lived inside their district, not outside interests?

What, indeed? A lot of Cooper’s talk casts the blame for our current overly partisan woes on the shoulders of Newt Gingrich, who politicized longstanding Congressional practices back in the ‘90s -- and the Democrats who failed to go back to Tip O’Neill-style rules and practices when they came into power in 2007. That lends a bit of an “offa my lawn” quality to Cooper’s talk but the information is still useful. For instance, how many people know that the political parties now require members of Congress to pay exorbitant dues -- or, as Cooper infers, that plum committee assignments are related to one's timely payment of said dues?

Cooper’s talk has received little attention but I think it’s something every political observer should watch.