Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tea Party Hypocrites, Tennessee Edition

Thanks to Mack at Coyote Chronicles for calling my attention to this.

It seems Tennessee's freshman Teanut Rep. Stephen Fincher is living large off the government dole, while crying about how government spending is out of control. And he's not the only Tea Party hypocrite, either:
ABC's senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl reported "the Tea Party movement is all about slashing federal spending, but at least five House members with Tea Party connections have themselves collected more than $100,000 each in federal farm subsidies, totalling more than $8 million since 1995."

The subsidies are included in a report out Thursday by the Environmental Working Group. "We need a better system," said Rep. Stephen Fincher, a Tennessee Republican whose family farm has received more than $3 million in subsidies, with more than $100,000 going directly to the Congressman himself. Asked directly if he'd refuse to take any further subsidies, he dodged the question.

This isn’t anything new, of course; we DFHers have been talking for years about Michelle Bachmann’s hypocrisy in this regard. But I’m glad the media is finally paying attention.

Watch the segment here:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Life Of Riley 2.0

We had a potential adoptive family for Riley and were all lined up to meet them, at which point the reality of life without Riley set in.

We think we'll keep him. I think he's happy. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Cheap Labor Update

We have an update on Vanderbilt Landscaping (not affiliated with Vanderbilt University), which I wrote about last August, after it treated its Mexican guest workers like modern-day slaves. One had to actually escape with the help of an Atlanta human rights group.

The Dept. of Labor has fined the company for violating H-2B visa rules, and ordered back pay to 42 guest workers.
Horwitz called the nearly $40,000 in backpay and fines a big victory, but he also said the fight isn't over. In fact, just last week, Jimenez and 14 other former employees of Vanderbilt Landscaping filed a federal lawsuit in Nashville, alleging human trafficking, forced labor, and civil rights violations.

"Some of the elements of that lawsuit included workers' passports being held, workers being told they weren't allowed to leave the premises, and if they did leave, they were told their passports would be burned," said Horwitz.

According to the Department of Labor, the company has agreed to pay the $18,496 in backpage, but has filed an appeal in regards to the $18,000 penalty being imposed by the government.

Something not mentioned in this update is that the company had $2.4 million in state Transportation Department contracts, plus a $900,000 a stimulus loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

I would expect a company in violation of the law would lose its government contracts and be ineligible for benefits like Dept. of Agriculture loan guarantees. But the follow up story didn’t address that. For that matter, I don’t know why companies getting state and federal contracts are hiring cheap foreign labor, but I’ve already harangued about that enough.

America is truly a fucked up country right now.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Religious Leaders Fast In Protest Of Congress' Immoral Budget

The irony of American religious leaders protesting a Republican budget with a hunger strike is tremendous. I mean gosh, our national news media keeps telling us that all Christians are conservative, small-government, free-market Republicans! This certainly puts a kink in that CW, does it not?
Earlier this morning, religious leaders and anti-poverty advocates announced that they will begin fasting to protest budget cuts that they argue "balance the budget on the backs of poor people." Progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis and David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, joined former Democratic congressman Tony Hall in calling on others to join them in the fast and on Congress to restore funding for hunger programs and other anti-poverty initiatives.


Religious organizations from the National Association of Evangelicals to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have criticized proposed federal budgets to means-tested programs as immoral and unjust. And Wallis, Beckmann, and Hall are attracting support for their fast from an array of partners, including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Islamic Relief USA, and Meals on Wheels. They haven't yet decided how long they'll continue the fast, but Wallis issued an additional challenge to members of Congress who support cuts in anti-poverty programs: be honest. "I want to hear just one of them say out loud that every line item of military spending is more important to the well-being of the country than child nutrition, than child health and vaccinations. They've crossed a line, but they want to keep pretending this is all about fiscal responsibility."

Good for them. You can read Tony Hall's powerful message "Why I Am Fasting (Again)" here.

I hate to be so cynical but I don’t look for the national news media to carry this story any further than a blog post. Jim Wallis and other social justice Christians have protested, been arrested over the Iraq War, and arrested over the 2006 budget, which raised nary an eyebrow from the national media. Who remembers this:

115 religious leaders were arrested in front of the Cannon House Office Building while kneeling in prayer to protest the immoral budget and tax agenda which slashes spending on the poor to finance tax breaks for the rich. Led by Jim Wallis of Call to Renewal, national faith leaders, clergy and faith-based providers of services to the poor held a press conference.

We never hear about this stuff, but some redneck with 10 followers in Bumfug, Tennessee wants to burn a Koran and it’s all the media can talk about.

Anyway, I’m posting this information for a couple of reasons. 1) Not all Christians are right-wing, intolerant assholes and 2) Budgets are moral documents which tell the world your priorities. Where your treasure is, so is your heart. And if your treasure is devoted to war, and torture, and bombs, instead of feeding poor children and funding schools and the rest, then you’re in deep trouble as a nation. You're failing your people. And when no one in power stands up and says "enough, this will not stand," then you no longer have the moral authority to tell anyone else in the world how to behave.

Bob Herbert penned his final column for the New York Times on Saturday, and it brought tears to my eyes. He wrote:

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Yes that was the “Bush boom,” which was a big, fat bust for most people. This is Republican America, where the haves feel they’re entitled to their looted wealth, and the rest of us are told to stop whining.

It’s enough to make some folks lose their appetite.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Do You Believe In Hell?

I don’t. Never have. Don’t know why.

Okay, I do know why. Hell never made sense to me: if God is so loving and wonderful then why subject people to some kind of eternal torture? Especially when we’re so good at doing that to ourselves, amiright?

That doesn’t mean I don’t believe evil doesn’t exist, or don’t believe in the concept of “sin” (a loaded word, I know ... more on that another time). But the concept of a Hieronymous Bosch-style afterlife of damnation and grotesque punishment just seems stupid.

Hell does not exist in the Old Testament, it seems to be a relatively recent concoction; the Hebrew world “shaol” referred to the Jersualem garbage dump, while “satan” is more accurately translated as “opposer” or “accuser.” That seems to fit my idea of the world. We have ying and yang, darkness and light, morning and evening ... everything has its opposite. This is not the same as Western Christianity’s ideas of “heaven” and “hell,” which seem to have their origin in Medieval art and literature (and that I believe was informed by the Black Plague). So, thank you Dante Alighieri for saddling us with these crackpot ideas.

It’s interesting that in modern America people have become so attached to these cultural notions of “heaven” and “hell” -- ideas which do not exist anywhere in the Bible -- that something like this can happen:
Pastor loses job after questioning hell

DURHAM, N.C. - When Chad Holtz lost his old belief in hell, he also lost his job.

The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.

Two days later, Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow's Chapel in Henderson.

That’s almost funny except it’s not, it’s very sad. Congregations are supposed to listen to what their pastors have to say on theologoical matters, aren’t they? Isn’t that the point? If you've already made up your mind then why even bother with a pastor? Just go on in your comfortable little universe where you're never challenged to look at the world in a different way.

But of course we all know that has its limits: every pastor with a passion for social justice knows you can only challenge your congregation so much. Preaching “love the sinner, hate the sin” is fine; preaching homosexuality isn’t a sin at all but just how some people are born is asking for trouble. People don’t want to be pushed out of their comfort zones, which is why it’s the rare preacher who has the stomach to challenge the status quo. I mean c’mon, Jesus was that kind of preacher and look what happened to him.

Anyway, I’m getting off on a rabbit trail here but I thought I’d ask people their thoughts on this. What's your concept of hell? Is it like that old Twilight Zone episode, where the Hell's Angel is stuck for eternity with a group of senior citizens looking at pictures of their trip to the Grand Canyon? Is it the hell on earth we create for ourselves?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Incredible, InEVitable Leaf

Today Mr. Beale and I went down to Nissan headquarters in Cool Springs to test out the new Leaf as part of their “drive electric tour.” It was quite an amazing experience. If you get a chance to check one of these out, I recommend it.

There were about 25 or so people in our group, from all walks of life: engineers, car enthusiasts, DFH-types, you name it. I was impressed with the intelligent questions people asked; these were clearly enthusiasts. Well, except for the lone asshole in our group who arrived having decided he didn’t like EVs for some reason. Dude, why’d you sign up for the tour, then? He snorted at the battery's 100,000 mile warranty (“What happens if there’s a problem at 400,000 miles? Huh? HUH?!”) Let me add, I heard that same comment when I bought my hybrid. The batteries were only gonna last a year and cost thousands of dollars to replace! Well, wrong.

Most hilariously though was his issue with the “e" logo on the home charging station, which really seemed to tick this guy off. “Will all chargers have that? Even the public ones?” Answer: No. “Well that’s gonna be confusing!” Dude, how do you ever negotiate the plethora of gas station logos? BP, Shell, MapCo, Exxon -- you must be completely flummoxed, you poor dear.

Give me a break.

Anyway, fortunately he was pretty much the only asshole -- though one person snorted derisively on hearing there were just 250 Nissan Leafs on the road right now, as if that somehow implies nobody wants one. Of course, I’ve already addressed that here. But everyone else just seemed interested in learning what the Leaf is all about. And I learned a lot. For instance, I didn’t know Nissan has been making electric cars since the 1940s. The current disaster in Japan has temporarily shut down all of Nissan’s manufacturing but we were told the plant is expected to reopen in a week (though who knows). But the Leaf will be made in Tennessee’s Smyrna plant in 2012 and I think that’s going to be super exciting for Tennessee.

But you know, the car is pretty ordinary. It drives like any other car. It’s quieter, but if you already have a hyrbid you’re used to that. It’s a lot larger than I expected, the same as any other car. Mr. Beale drives an Altima and I’d say they’re about comparable. It drives pretty much the same as any other car, save some interesting electronic shifting and a push-button start.

The strangest thing about the Leaf is that it’s so quiet, they’ve actually had to add a speaker that emits engine noise at speeds lower than 18 mph to alert pedestrians a car is coming. I find that odd, and hope some day in the future pedestrians will have been conditioned to watch out for automobiles, not just listen for them.

But at the same time, the car is rather extraordinary. No tail pipe. No oil changes. No gas stations. This is quite revolutionary and I can see why Koch-types are scared. But it’s also the wave of the future. In 20 years every car will be an EV, it’s inevitable. Mark my words.

The Belly Of The Beast

Best Reason Yet To Buy A Leaf

The Famous Lithium Ion Battery

The Home Charging Station
(With Totally "Confusing" Logo)

Note: I'm not on Nissan's payroll, do not own stock in Nissan, and in no way do I have any financial or other connection to Nissan. I'm just a big believer in the EV revolution. Thought I should make that clear.

Friday, March 25, 2011

BP Clean-Up Crews Sick & Dying

Here's a story the national news media seems to be ignoring:
This young woman, Jennifer Rexford, BP-hired oil cleanup worker, is documenting her illness from the toxins in the gulf with her video camera. If you think it’s just headaches or something like that, watch this. Severe neurological damage. Doctors and hospitals refuse to acknowledge this with anyone there who’s sick.  And there are apparently tens of thousands now.

Paul Doomm is mentioned twice in this video.  He is a 22 year old who swam in and ate from the Gulf all summer, against his grandmother’s advice.  He has been hospitalized after seeing 94 doctors who don’t know what to do for him.  His  blood had the highest amount of PAH’s ever documented.

Shocking and sad videos at the link. Here’s one:

We all knew this was coming. I did. I told my mother in law not to go to the Gulf of Mexico (she didn’t listen). I won’t eat shrimp from there. We have poisoned the Gulf and the people who live there, because some rich assholes decided oil is more important than people. Think the free hand of the market will save those now sickened by toxic chemicals from oil and the dispersants used?

Let’s also remember that Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republican of course, defeated a bill that would increase BP’s liability from $75 million to $10 billion. So all of those sick people ... well, I guess “the best healthcare system in the world” will absorb all of those costs. Thank God they can’t be denied healthcare because getting poisoned by your corporate overlords is a pre-existing condition -- yet. I'm sure if the Republicans had their way and destroyed ACA, hundreds of people would be facing severe neurological damage and no health insurance.

And let’s also remember that as horrible as the BP oil spill was (and still is), imagine if it were a nuclear accident, like what’s unfolding in Japan.

But God forbid we should learn from our mistakes! Let's just keep chugging along as if nothing happened and continue to tell ourselves that solar and wind energy aren't economical solutions. It always looks that way when you socialize the costs of the dirty alternative.

MORE... Baby dolphins dying, too....

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top Signs Your Healthcare System Is Broken

5- SPAM e-mail for cheap pharmaceuticals from Canada. Don’t suppose people in Canada get those, do ya? Long ago I wrote about buying a $6 prescription in Norway. With drugs that cheap, it kinda makes spamming people for cheap drugs pointless.

4- Tip jars and fundraisers to pay medical bills. Note to Americans: they don’t have to go begging from friends and neighbors in countries with a functioning healthcare delivery system.

3- This. Note that virtually all of the buyers are connected to healthcare in some way, either as doctors or executives. And we wonder why our healthcare costs keep rising!

2- Medical Tourism. The very existence of an “industry” which exploits the low healthcare costs overseas (and which basically outsources our healthcare) tells you the system is broken. If our system functioned we wouldn’t need to go to Indonesia or Thailand, would we?

(Note the irony that Arthur Laffer, inventor of the infamous “Laffer Curve,” is on the board of one such company.)

1- The Revolving Door. Healthcare executives becoming politicians who then enact public policies that benefit their healthcare companies. Nothing to see here, folks, move along .... it’s true that this fish rots from the head down, which is why there’s such push back on even modest reforms.

Here’s the Tennessee version.

Too many people are getting far too rich off of our current system. American healthcare no longer serves the majority of its customers. Which is precisely why nothing will change without a huge fight.

Capitalism is good for some things, it's good for a lot of things, but it's not good for healthcare and it's not good for prisons. The result is more sick people and more people locked away for no reason. That's just not right.

Awesome Defense Of Teachers

My mother was a teacher. My mother-in-law was a teacher. My sister-in-law is a teacher. I have friends who are teachers. I tried to teach once and was smart enough to know that I am supremely bad at it. It's hard work, it takes dedication, heart and patience, and you have to really care about the profession because you will never get the respect you deserve or the compensation you've earned. It sickens me that we have these Republican assholes who now seem to think that picking on teachers is a winning message. It's despicable.

When the hell did that happen? Seems like just a few years ago the national debate centered on how teachers didn't make enough. Now suddenly they're fat cats? How come whenever I read the Headline Homes feature it's not teachers buying those million-dollar-plus estates, but healthcare executives, doctors and people "wealthy by way of motorized wheelchairs"?

Here's an awesome defense of teachers making the rounds:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Blame The Liberal Media

I’m not a big fan of polls, but I thought this new one from Pew Research was interesting:
• About half of Americans think the debate over spending and deficits has been "generally rude and disrespectful," including 48% of Republicans and Democrats as well as 57% of independents.
• The percentage of Americans who feel that the Republicans are better at handing the deficit dropped from 35% after the election to 21% currently.
• The percentage of Americans who feel President Barack Obama is better at handing the deficit has also dropped from 24% to 20%.

• About 75% of Tea Party supporters back the GOP budget plans after the election, that figure has dropped to 52%.

Hmm... maybe, just maybe, anti-Muslim hysteria and a focus on abortion might not have been the deficit reduction plan folks had in mind. Just maybe people are thinking that tax cuts to millionaires and corporations while cutting funds to schools and fire departments isn’t the solution they wanted.

What’s interesting to me is that Republicans and Tea Party leaders blame voter impatience. I’m thinking ... no, at least, not as far as budget deficits are concerned. I think people understand that you don’t vote in November, have your representatives sworn into office in January, and see results by March.

I’m thinking that people are pissed off that jobs and the economy still suck after so many years. It's really that simple.

It’s the same thing that pissed people off in 2004, 2006, 2008 and November 2010. And it will continue to piss people off in 2012 and 2014 and 2016 unless somebody, somewhere, goes after the real problem, which is outsourcing of jobs and wage stagnation and widening inequality between the haves and have nots. These are systemic problems that have no easy answers and they won't be fixed in three months, let alone two years. Tackling healthcare reform was a huge step in that direction but the institutional powers that be pushed back so hard against it, we ended up with very modest changes that really didn't reform much at all. This is a sign of what's to come, people: I'm afraid we're in a situation where we have to fight tooth and nail for tiny, incremental changes like this in everything, which means we're going to be in this situation for a long, long time.

It's kind of sad that the media doesn’t get it. We’ve been in a recession for a really, really long time -- since long before the market crash of 2007. I remember blogging about all the people left behind from the supposed “Bush boom,” and Republicans calling me “angry” and “negative” and a “blame American first” kind of person who suffered from “Bush derangement syndrome.” I mean seriously, am I the only one who remembers these conversations from 2004? Am I the only one who remembers arguing with Bill Hobbs every time he blogged about how terrific the economy was? Am I the only one who remembers George W. Bush telling a divorced mother that it's "fantastic" and "uniquely American" that she works three jobs? As if she wanted to?

America has been in a downward spiral for a long time, folks. This isn’t some new phenomenon that just popped up when the real estate bubble burst. And I think what surveys like this one from Pew show us is that Americans understand this yet don’t know what to do about it, because we have so little control over anything. We’re basically offered a choice between dumb and dumber every two years and people are getting frustrated and maybe a little frightened.

I know I am.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hypocritical Yes, But Is It Legal?

Well we knew this was coming:
High-dollar GOP fundraiser to be held at facility that top Republicans sought to scuttle

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Republicans are holding a high-dollar fundraiser at the new underground entertainment hall at the governor's mansion that prominent members of the GOP unsuccessfully tried to scuttle.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported Tuesday that it will cost between $3,000 and $25,000 per couple to attend the March 31 event hosted by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The Conservation Hall entertainment facility was built during former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration, and was derided by mostly Republican critics as the "Bredesen Bunker."

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville voted against construction of the hall in 2008, and fellow Republican Rep. Beth Harwell of Nashville unsuccessfully sought to cancel bonds for the project the same year.

Harwell was elected House speaker this year.

Of course the TNGOP will argue "since we couldn't stop it from being built we might as well use it." But as some folks on The Twittaz have noted, is this even legal? Since the Governor's Mansion is public property, can they hold a partisan event like a high-dollar Republican Party fundraiser there?

I'm thinking ... no. Someone please check into this for me, 'mm'kay? Of course, it won't be the first time the TNGOP made money off of Bredesen's bunker.

MORE ... from the memory hole:

Conservation Hall, referred to widely as "Bredesen's Bunker" for its underground design and hidden entrances, has already been criticized as a possible place for governors to shake down donors. It appears that Gov. Bredesen may have gotten a head start by using the bunker to engage in potential quid pro quo before ground was ever broken.

Yes, that was the right-wing Tennessee Center For Policy Research. Isn't it ironic? IOKIYAR.


A few folks have weighed in and said it's legal, though no one is sure how. And it appears I'm not the only one put off by this:

State law bans fundraising by legislators while the General Assembly is in session. It was passed years ago to address public perceptions that lawmakers were “shaking down” special interests with business directly before them.

But according to state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Executive Director Drew Rawlins, there is a difference between individuals’ campaigns and the state party.

“The party can raise money for the party as long as it’s not going to candidates, to support or oppose candidates,” he said. “They can raise it for getting out the vote ... and for just normal party activities.”

Former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, said, “I would still think in the spirit of the law that they shouldn’t be doing this during the session — at our residence, being the Tennessee residence.”

And since the Lee Beaman-funded Tennesseans For Accountability in Government doesn't appear to be in existence any longer, who's to complain? Hell, they're probably on the guest list.

I'm sure all of that money will go toward paying for the TNGOP's toner cartridges and phone bills. Riiight. Aren't these the folks who told us that Planned Parenthood had to be defunded because every dollar spent on cancer screening and STD testing is a dollar they can spend on abortion? Wasn't that the argument?

Oh well, nothing to see here. It's always okay when Republicans do it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nice Little Police State You Have Here, Gov. Haslam

Nobody could have anticipated this!
Gov. Finds Money For Private Prison Amid Cuts

TennCare, Higher Education To See Deep Cuts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has found about $31 million in recurring money to keep open a privately run prison in West Tennessee while making deep cuts to other areas such as TennCare and higher education.

Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen had sought to close the Hardeman County Correctional Facility at Whiteville by December, but lawmakers added funding to run the prison through July 31.

Haslam in his budget address last week announced plans to restore permanent funding for the facility operated by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.

The governor last week told reporters that he determined that closing the prison wasn't "the right thing to do for the corrections system."

According to the governor's schedule, Haslam met with CCA officials at the Capitol the week before his budget address.

Isn't it amazing how we're able to "find" $31 million for the things we feel are important? Especially after a nice little meeting with the Nashville-based CCA, a big campaign donor? Truly the coincidences are astounding.

And remember this?

Tony Grande, chief development officer of CCA, said the private corrections company supports candidates that are likely to pursue the sort of public-private partnerships that match its philosophy and business interests. He said donations aren’t to assure specific business — CCA argues its value to the state does that — and that the support for Haslam reflected his positions and viability. The institute reports CCA giving Haslam $23,750 and McWherter $5,570.

Yes where is the "public" part of this "public-private partnership," I'm just curious? Would that be in the form of our tax dollars going straight to CCA's pockets? Is that what makes this a "partnership"?

A nice little detail is that the Hardeman County prison employs 350 people. Prisons are jobs! As is war. I love Christian America! Government jobs are bad, but privatization of public services paid for by tax dollars is good. Even when you don't have the money.

When Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen tried to close the prison last year and was overruled by the Republican legislature, he quipped:

Bredesen called the Legislature's decision to overrule him on closing the two facilities "a case of everybody wants to run government like a business until you actually run government like a business."

Oh, snap! I seem to recall a foul-mouthed blogger pointing out a few problems with our privatized prison industry last year. Now we have CCA meeting with the governor to make sure it gets a nice return on its nearly $24,000 investment. I mean, check out these programs on the chopping block:

All the commissioners brought their own lists of vanishing programs. Community treatment centers for the mentally ill and alcohol- and drug-addicted would lose funding. The Department of Children’s Services would lose 162 jobs. Six state park swimming pools would close. So would two state golf courses. A prison sex offender treatment program would end, along with convict “community service” work crews. Inspectors who ensure the state’s groundwater is safe would lose their jobs.

If cuts in mental health services go through as scheduled, “We’re off the cliff, sir. We’ve got major problems,” said Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney, who also likened it to an amputation. “With this safety net, we can’t just keep cutting little pieces of the fingers off,” Varney told the governor. “Pretty soon the hands won’t work. I think we may have to decide to cut a finger off here or there, and that’s what we do. At least the hands will still work.”

No, no, Varney was looking at it all wrong. Look at it from the perspective of CCA's philosophy and business interests! Not the peoples'! Sillies! We'll just round up all the addicts and mentally ill and throw them in a private, taxpayer-funded facility (and make sure we don't have community service programs which might eat into our incarceration rate). Problem solved! Why bother and try to get people off of drugs or clean up the meth labs or have social workers who can make sure people stay on their antipsychotics? Community service is so last century! Who needs social workers watching out for kids, or facilities that keep children occupied in the summer? What happens when we don't have those things? Thinking ... thinking ...

Yeah you know, it's so much more profitable for CCA if we just wait for such people to commit a crime: the mentally ill, the drug addicts, the youth with no place to go and nothing to do in the summertime. Let's wait for them to get in trouble and then we can throw them in jail. Amiright? It's not about people it's about CCA!

If we can miraculously "find" $31 million for CCA but we can never find any money for mental health clinics or drug treatment programs, what else could it be?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Because Our Other Wars Are Going So Well

I can’t pretend to speak knowledgeably about what’s happening in Libya right now. I just know when I hear we’re dropping milion-dollar bombs on a poor country while our infrastructure crumbles and we tell teachers and kids they must sacrifice so we can give millionaires tax cuts... well, something has gone horribly wrong.

I know lots of liberals on The Twittah say this is the right thing to do. I heard Howard Dean on Thom Hartmann’s show last week say we couldn’t sit by and let those fighting for democracy get slaughtered by Qaddafi. But of course we are standing by while those fighting for democracy in Yemen and Bahrain are slaughtered by their regimes, so there goes that claim.

All of this just seems so media-created. It’s hard not to watch the breathless coverage of bombs bursting in air and the ghastly-green night-vision images and not remember the media’s wicked stiffy for carnage in Iraq. It’s a sickness, and I don’t have the cure.

One of the best things I’ve read on Libya is at Pastor Shuck’s place. This is yet another oil war, he says, another burp after our global petroleum feast. The pantry is about empty but instead of using what time and resources we have left to grow new food, we decide to bully anyone else who comes near the pantry door.

This, in the same week that Japan suffers a nuclear meltdown, while a 100-mile long oil slick has been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the Deepwater Horizon rig. Oh great diviner Pat Robertson, what could the Almighty be trying to tell us? Pray tell, what?

I’m just tired of it, I really am. Is our default solution for every problem to drop bombs? (And by “our” I mean the West, not just America.) Call me a tree-hugging DFH spouting crazy liberal stuff like “war is not the answer,” I’m just feeling like we’re in a tailspin and I’d rather we devote our energy to getting off the oil tit. Three trillion dollars wasted in Iraq would have been more than enough money to put a solar panel on every roof in America, upgrade the electrical grid, and put an electric car and charger in every garage.

I mean, I know that's not the final answer but it would have been a start, and for crying out loud we have to start somewhere. Maybe someday we'll have the hydrogen fuel cell thing figured out, or we'll be masters of efficiency, hell maybe we'll have figured out a way around the Laws of Thermodynamics. The point is, we don't need to have the entire puzzle figured out to start putting the first pieces together.

We have to start somewhere. We have to make those first steps. Fighting wars to preserve a dying industry and a doomed way of life just strikes me as the kind of thing kids will read about 100 years from now and wonder, "Gee how could they have been so stupid?"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gone, Never Forgotten

This week I had to put my 19 year old cat Frasier down after a long battle with kidney disease. I’d brought him back from the edge several times in the past with doses of subcutaneous fluids and a special diet. But last Friday he started to decline and all of my old tricks weren’t working. By Monday he was obviously feeling bad and all the vet could recommend was more subcutaneous fluids, a heating pad, and an appetite stimulant.

By Monday night he had lost control of his bladder and was unable to walk. He spent the night caterwauling, letting me know he was in pain. Tuesday morning the decision was obvious. He was gone almost before the needle left his skin.

Regulars will recognize Frasier from his frequent blog appearances (notably here.) He had a lot of personality and after nearly 20 years together we had developed quite a friendship. We’d been through a lot together.

I got Frasier from a coworker back when I had a “real” job. He found Frasier at Shelby Park, hiding behind the tires of a parked car. When my coworker saw the car’s owner get behind the wheel and start the engine he ran screaming after her: “Wait! There’s a kitten under your car!” He saved Frasier’s life.

My coworker couldn’t keep him, so I bit. I’ll never forget the day Frasier came home. It was one of those unseasonably warm days in December; I watched through the window as my coworker carried him up the walk to my front door, just a tiny little ball of beige fluff. It’s no exaggeration to say I fell in love with Frasier instantly, through the window, before I’d even met him. My first words to him were, “Hi honey, you’re home!” I named him Frasier Fur after my Christmas tree. We were best friends ever since, despite his penchant for letting me know he was unhappy by peeing on things, like my bed.

Frasier and I went through a lot. Bad boyfriends. A move out of state to a lake in Kentucky ... and a move back to Nashville. Marriage. New cats, new dogs.

My favorite Frasier story involves his soul mate, Sylvie. Sylvie was a little fluffball who came into my life in a very long, convoluted way. The short version is that I got her from Metro Animal Control: she was maybe three weeks old and fit in the palm of my hand. She probably weighed under a pound, and that was mostly fleas and fur. I had to feed her kitten formula by hand her first few weeks with us. She was in bad shape: terrified, traumatized, and desperately needing a friend. Frasier was that friend.

One night I was awakened by a ... sucking sound. That’s the only way I can describe it. I turned on the light and saw Sylvie nursing on Frasier’s boy nipples. It cracked me up. Sylvie “nursed” on Frasier’s belly for months, and if it hurt, he never let on. In fact, she nursed on him so much that his boy nipples swelled and the fur fell off of his stomach. One weekend a neighbor saw Frasier’s belly and asked “oh, is she nursing kittens?” To which I replied, “HE’S nursing ONE kitten!”

Frasier and Sylvie were buddies for the rest of his life. You rarely saw one without the other, even right up to the end. Sylvie misses her friend, I can tell, and I suspect like any long-bonded couple she will be meeting him on the rainbow bridge soon.

I don't have too many Frasier pictures in a digital format, but here are a few:

Frasier On The Porch

Frasier & Sylvie

He Thinks He'll Keep Her

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Prediction

Judging by our recent history -- think the BP oil spill -- the Japanese nuclear disaster will see Republicans and Democrats double-down on their calls for more nuclear plants, and those folks calling for a moratorium on new plants (Joe Lieberman, Ed Markey) will fold like lawn chairs. Anything reasonable Obama and the Democrats suggest that would enable us to learn from Japan, like some of the things Ed Markey recommended, will be portrayed as the worst sort of hysterical government overreach. Utilities will have a sad and claim all sorts of hardship, the media will misreport the facts, and when the dust settles (so to speak) we’ll carry on as before.

Then when the unthinkable happens, well, nobody could have predicted that! But it will be Obama and the Democrats’ fault!

So yeah, seen this movie before.

So I really do need to stay away from the blog this week, which I promised to do last week. You can’t miss me if I won’t go away, plus I have deadlines piling up and a ton of stuff that needs to be done. So feel free to kick me in the ass if I post again this week and don’t get mad if I’m not approving comments as quickly as you’d like.

Nobody Could Have Anticipated That James O’Keefe Is A Lying Sack Of Shit With A Partisan Political Agenda

Yeah maybe you should have had your independent experts analyze the “largely unedited” tape (“largely” means exactly what, I wonder?) before issuing pink slips:
One "big warning flag" Tompkins saw in the shorter tape was the way it made it appear that Schiller had laughed and commented "really, that's what they said?" after being told that the fake Muslim group advocates for sharia law. In fact, the longer tape shows that Schiller made that comment during an "innocuous exchange" that had nothing to do with the supposed group's position on sharia law, David reports.

No! Really?!

Tompkins also says that O'Keefe's edited tape ignores the fact that Schiller said "six times ... over and over and over again" that donors cannot buy the kind of coverage they want on NPR.

Yes but we said that Ron Schiller was not involved in NPR’s news division in any way. So we already knew the entire pretext of the tape (“NPR people have opinions! Those opinions mean their news coverage is biased!”) was bullshit.

More from Morning Edition’s report:

Take the political remarks. Ron Schiller speaks of growing up as a Republican and admiring the party's fiscal conservatism. He says Republican politicians and evangelicals are becoming "fanatically" involved in people's lives.

But in the shorter tape, Schiller is also presented as saying the GOP has been "hijacked" by Tea Partiers and xenophobes.

In the longer tape, it's evident Schiller is not giving his own views but instead quoting two influential Republicans — one an ambassador, another a senior Republican donor. Schiller notably does not take issue with their conclusions — but they are not his own.

You don’t say! And finally:

In recent days, several influential journalists have written that they regret giving O'Keefe's NPR videos wider circulation without scrutinizing them for themselves, given his past record and some of the objections that the Blaze first raised. They include Ben Smith of Politico, James Poniewozik of Time magazine and Dave Weigel of Slate.

"The speed at which the media operates when a video comes out is a problem," Weigel said Sunday. "I mean, the rush to be the first to report on a video — and, let's be brutally honest, the rush is to get traffic and to get people booked on [cable TV] shows to talk about it — and that nature leads you to not do the rigor and fact-checking that you would do in other situations."

Ah well, mistakes were made! Just like with the war in Iraq, the media blames its “rush to be first” for its shoddy work and failure to be accurate. Deadlines, dammit they are such pesky little things! Bygones!

And they wonder why people don’t trust the media. Amazing! Nobody, certainly not Dave Weigel or Ben Smith or James Poniewozik, could have had any idea that James O’Keefe is a lying sack of shit with a partisan political agenda and a well-documented history of lies and distortions. Hoocoodanode?!

Furthermore, this incident proves what I said last month is still correct:

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.

Still holds true.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bill Frist Memory Hole: Nuclear Power Edition

Maybe he watched a video or something:
I went to a dinner party Friday night, and one of the guests, a gifted raconteur, related a recent experience he had while waiting for a table at Park Café in Sylvan Park. Bill Frist and a group of his cronies were also waiting for a table. Apparently, Tennessee's favorite cat-killing former senator (and future governor?) was regaling his attentive hangers-on with musings on the merits of nuclear power, and he expressed his frustration with those who are less than enthralled by the practice of splitting atoms for energy. The exact quote escapes me, but the dinner guest's recollection of Frist's comment went something like this: More people are killed by wind turbines each year than by nuclear accidents. Without missing a beat, another guest at my dinner party chimed in, "I suppose Don Quixote would be one." Hearty laughter all around.

What a maroon Frist is.

Ha ha. Okay, ex parte communications are out of order, your honor! I got it. Hearsay, yada yada. But Frist did support nuclear power in the budget-busting energy bill (which I believe finally passed in 2005), which gave tax credits to nuclear power facilities:

Even the lowest potential cost of the tax credit is an unnecessary hand-out to what is an established and mature sector of the energy industry. That nuclear power has failed the economic test despite having received the lion’s share of federal energy research and development funds over the past several decades should indicate that it is less deserving of federal assistance—not that taxpayers should continue to provide bail-outs.

The nuclear tax breaks contribute further to breaking the federal bank, which makes this energy bill potentially subject to several budget points of order—one of the obstacles Sen. Domenici is trying to overcome. HR 6 would make both the Finance Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee overrun their FY 2004 budgets. Additionally, since the Federal budget is already in deficit, the costs in this bill must be offset but currently are not.

Ah, 2004 and 2005. Remember way back then? That was the good ol’ days, when Republicans didn’t give a shit about Federal spending and the only people raising a stink about the budget deficit were dirty fucking hippies like me. Of course, no one ever listens to us. Certainly not the “liberal” media, which continues to ignore the left on issues like the war in Iraq, the healthcare bill, the PATRIOT Act, Gitmo, the budget deficit, the wage gap, you name it. These things only get discussed ad nauseum in the media when a rightwinger brings them up. I don’t know why that is but I’ve pretty much accepted that to be true and decided to move on because clearly there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. Maybe we need more ** SIRENS ** on our blogs and tricorn hats at our rallies.

Anyway, in typical Republican fashion, Frist decided to give tax giveaways to the nuclear power industry while ignoring the impact such things have on the budget. Of course they did. That’s what they always do. We’re giving tax breaks to oil companies too, when they’re already insanely, disgustingly wealthy. But that’s another discussion.

Meanwhile, Lamar Alexander is also on record touting “cheap and reliable” nuclear power, which is just patently false. Let’s just ask the people of Japan how cheap and reliable their nuke plants are, shall we?

I don’t know why so many politicians in Tennessee are big pro-nukes guys. Is this a TVA thing? It may be: Other politicians in the Tennessee Valley have taken a similar stance. Then again, maybe it’s just more fuzzy-math short-sighted Republican stupidity. Anything if it punches a hippie.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Japan Syndrome


Amazing Video:



Worse still:
(Reuters) - Japanese officials may only have hours to cool reactors that have been disabled by Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami or face a nuclear meltdown.

Yeah maybe not so cheap and reliable after all, eh Lamar?


And it gets worse:

Japanese officials on Saturday issued broad evacuation orders for people living in the vicinity of two separate nuclear power plants that had experienced breakdowns in their cooling systems as a result of the earthquake, and warned that small amounts of radiation were likely to leak from the plants.


A Japanese nuclear safety panel said radiation levels were 1,000 times above normal in a reactor control room at Daiichi facility. Some radiation had also seeped outside that plant, with levels just outside the plant’s main gate measured at eight times normal, Public Broadcaster NHK quoted nuclear safety officials as saying.

Yeah, there are better options.
Just a real-world reminder of why nuclear power will always remain unsafe, unwise and unacceptable, especially when safe alternatives already exist and are indeed in use. If Fukushima No. 1 were a solar plant or wind farm it would be one less thing for the people of Japan to be worried about right now.

And let's also remember that if a catastrophic accident occurs at a nuke plant in America, we all will pay for it, whether you used one watt of that plant's energy or not. All part of the grand plan to privatize gains and socialize losses.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Republican Math, 2.0

Here’s some Tennessee hippie-punching:
GOP Looks To Drop 'Labor' From Committee Name

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republicans in the Tennessee Senate want to drop "labor" from the name of the committee that handles commerce and employment issues.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville said Thursday that it's in the interest of brevity that he has proposed excising the term from the Senate Commerce, Labor and Agriculture Committee.

Removing the five-letter word instead of the eight or 11 letter word for the sake of brevity? Hilarious.

Okay, to be fair, Tennessee Republicans also want to ditch "Conservation" and "Tourism" from the panel on Environment, Conservation and Tourism and add "Energy" and "Committee." So they'd be changing a 37 character committee name to a 32 character committee name. Or something.

Yes this is truly a pressing issue for the people of Tennessee right now. The length of our committee names. Praise Jesus Tennessee Republicans are in office to right these grievous wrongs that have gone unchecked for so many administrations.

Or something.

Hey guys, we get it. You really, really hate us. You want to wipe us off the map. You want to erase our very existence. Guess what. We aren’t going anywhere. Suck on that, asshole.

Dropping Pretenses

Well, at least they are now admitting that this is not about budgets or fiscal responsibility. It’s about breaking unions, breaking Obama and winning the 2012 election:
This was just the final step in removing any doubt about the true nature of this fight. There was the announcement that Crossroads GPS, an independent campaign group founded by former George W. Bush political guru Karl Rove, among others, launched a $750,000 cable television ad buy blistering President Obama and public sector unions, with the Wisconsin battle as the hook and clearly painting it as being about breaking the unions. (As a side note, the ad contained assertions about union pay that even their ostensible source—a libertarian Cato Institute—said were misleading.)

Then there was Scott Fitzgerald, the state senate GOP leader, admitting to Fox News that the battle was about crippling the unions. He said:
“If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.

Presumably that relates to fixing the state budget somehow. (And as an aside: Really? A great American drama is being played out before us and one of the characters is named Scott Fitzgerald? Awesome.)

It’s been fascinating to watch this political striptease, as prevarication after prevarication is stripped away, laying bare a naked political power grab. Poll after poll after poll showed Americans in general and Wisconsites in particular opposed Walker’s plan—and most especially his union-busting proposal. It was almost as it these polls focused and distilled the issue to its core.

Yes, this is what we Lefties have been saying all along. When we tried to tell the Teanutties that they were being played by corporate interests bent on a power grab, they said oh no! Not us! We really care about government spending!

Yeah, right.

So while Wisconsin is center stage for this class struggle, make no mistake: the battle is being waged everywhere. Here in Tennessee, and in Ohio, and in Michigan and Virginia and everywhere else. It’s not about budgets or the size of government. It’s about political power, specifically taking it away from the people and giving it to the wealthy corporate elite. It’s about making sure workers no longer have a voice and the Democratic Party no longer has a major fundraiser. That’s what this has always been about. Pure, unadulterated political power.

I mean hello, people. What does it say that the Wisconsin Republicans are running to Washington D.C. to collect their money from a big-time D.C. lobbyist, BGR Group? Doesn't that just say it all right there?

And it’s about President Obama. POTUS has been taking a lot of heat for backing away from a campaign vow to walk the picket line to support unions. It’s funny because the right is hilariously trying to claim the Wisconsin recall effort has been organized by the White House, when Obama can’t distance himself fast enough from the biggest event to affect American workers of his presidency.

Oh, I know, he needs to worry about Libya and the budget debate and there’s a trip to the UK coming up and blah blah. He doesn’t want to make it look like he’s involved in a state issue like worker’s collective bargaining rights. Well, sorry dude, but you are involved because this is all about defeating you in November 2012. The White House needs to wake up and smell the coffee. This is about Obama, the Wisconsin Republicans have said so. It’s about the 2012 election. It’s about breaking the president and breaking the Democratic Party. It’s about politics, it always has been. So wake the fuck up and put some skin in the game. You can’t pretend you’re not involved when you’re one of the main reasons this is happening in the first place. This is about you. This is about the Democratic Party.

Get your shit together, Democrats. They’ve come for you. What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Freedom Is Not Our Healthcare Problem, Access Is

Yesterday Tennessee’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill allowing Tennesseans to opt out of the federal Affordable Care Act. Amendments Democrats put forth such as allowing children to receive health insurance despite pre-existing conditions were voted down by the Republicans. How very pro-life of them.

Bill sponsor Terri Lynn Weaver explained:
"This bill is simply about liberty and freedom of choice," she said. "Tennesseans do not want the government telling them their business about health care."

In this NewsChannel 5 video Weaver says of the federal government’s Affordable Care Act:

"It sets a precedent," she said. "Getting involved in health care and making decisions for me and my family is just a no-no.  And we sent that message to Washington.  Tennesseans do not want that mandate or that iron hand, so to speak."

Of course, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t do any of those things. It doesn’t make any decisions for you or your family, it doesn’t mandate any decision at all -- not even the decision to have health insurance. If you don't want health insurance you pay a fee (or call it a tax if you prefer.) No one can predict their future healthcare needs and the uninsured are some of the most expensive to care for because they usually enter the healthcare system when it's an emergency. And they inevitably pass their healthcare costs on to everyone else, so if that is your choice, then the fee/tax covers that cost. That strikes me as a very conservative, Republican approach. Personal responsibility and all that. Oh well. We all know most uninsured are not that way by choice.

The Affordable Care Act doesn’t say you must have insurance or that you can or cannot have this or that procedure (though where abortion is concerned that is debatable). That, as we all know, is what insurance companies do under our current system by denying people coverage because of pre-existing conditions or cutting people out of the system because premiums are not affordable. So Tennessee’s Republicans, as usual, are not making any sense.

The reason the so-called "mandate" is in there, the reason Republicans like Bob Dole and Mitt Romney first embraced the idea of an insurance mandate, is because the insurance companies said they needed that if they were going to stop denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Otherwise nobody would buy health insurance until they got sick. So the deal was, everyone had to buy it, or pay a fee. So that’s what Republicans and Democrats did. And now the Republicans are suddenly shocked -- shocked -- that anyone would do such a thing.

Okay so I just have one question for Terri Lynn Weaver and the rest of the Tennessee Republicans in our legislature and Republicans everywhere around the country: what is your solution? I get that you no longer like the idea of a health insurance mandate, but the fact is, the mandate is not the problem. The problem is that there are millions of people denied insurance around the country. There are 800,000 uninsured people in Tennessee. Millions of people depend upon a government-funded insurance program like Medicaid, TennCare, CoverKids, BadgerCare in Wisconsin, etc. The very same programs you're now defunding because you say the state/nation is broke and we can't afford it.

So what is your suggestion for all of those people who cannot access the health insurance system you use?

As Republicans in state legislatures and on the federal level start cutting away at these programs under fiscal austerity schemes, I’d like to point out one very simple fact: the mere existence of this problem is proof that our private, for-profit, capitalistic healthcare system has failed. The mere existence of millions of people denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions or because their high-risk status makes premiums unaffordable indicates our system does not work. The fact that 60% of all U.S. bankruptcies are due to medical debt proves that capitalism has failed healthcare.

Every time you see that jar by the chekout stand bearing a cute kid’s picture asking for donations to cover an operation, or every time you hear of a fundraiser to help pay for someone’s medical bills, the real message is that our private, for-profit health insurance has failed these people. These are healthcare consumers, people who have been forced to go begging because their need has overwhelmed the capacity of the system to provide it. If capitalism worked in this scenario, wouldn't some company have started up to provide these people with affordable insurance? Wouldn't some charity be in existence to fill the need?

So why hasn't it? Doesn't this tell you that government needs to be in the healthcare business? Certainly no one else is doing it. I mean, the only other solution is for people to do without. Is that what Terri Lynn Weaver and the rest of the Republicans are suggesting? That people just do without healthcare? Is that it?

There are millions of potential healthcare consumers in this country who cannot access the system because they cannot afford it, or the nature of their illness makes them too risky for the private system to cover them and still make a profit. Clearly capitalism cannot function in a scenario where there is no profit. That leaves charity. Why are rich assholes like the Koch brothers funding cancer research at MIT, not some non-profit that provides healthcare for the poor? Why is it that those charitable organizations which do exist are completely overwhelmed by the demand?

Why is that?

In short: if capitalism worked in healthcare, then why isn't it working? Why so many in need?

It seems to me that where healthcare is concerned the mere existence of millions of people left uninsured is proof that the system doesn’t work and needs to be changed. And frankly, Republicans, I’m not hearing any ideas from you. Or wait, scratch that: we did hear an idea from you, we implemented it, and now you’re saying you don’t like it.

So ... your move. Unless of course your big idea is to have people suffer. Is that it? Just ... no healthcare for you? That’s the plan?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Young Vs. Old


More from E.J. Dionne...
The federal government could also help the states by picking up more of their Medicaid costs. In the long run, health care spending should be a responsibility of the national government — as it is in almost every other wealthy democracy. A national commitment would end the specter of states forcing already financially beleaguered citizens off the health insurance rolls.

Such ideas are off the table because the current rage is not for figuring out how to make government work better — a cause that once united governors of both parties — but for cutting back even its most basic and popular functions.

This country is going down the tubes fast, from the national to the state to the local level. Our problems are too many in number and our institutions have failed us. Where this ride ends I don't know, but it isn't looking good.


Things are about to get really busy for me (indeed they already have) and I’m going to have to step away from the blog for a short while as I take care of some other stuff. So in the meantime I’m posting Bill Gates’ TED Talk on state budgets. It’s short: around 10 minutes. Give it a look.

It’s certainly not the best TED Talk I’ve ever watched, but it was intended to be a conversation starter. And it’s interesting to me that this was taped before the whole uproar in Wisconsin started. But his framing of the state budget “crises” as a “young-vs-old” thing resonated. States are deinvesting from the young by cutting education to pay for the old and meet pension obligations and deal with rising healthcare costs. Well, it's old people who vote so, big shocker there.

Of course in practice, what we’re starting to see in places like Wisconsin is cutting from the young and the old so rich assholes like the Koch Brothers can increase their profits -- which somehow never manage to trickle down on the rest of us. That’s not just immoral, it’s insane. I’d love to hear what Bill Gates has to say about Scott Walker.

The other points he makes are that really we are paying for our inability to deal with our massive healthcare issue. He doesn’t phrase it that way but that is it in a nutshell. Plenty of smarter folks have said this before but let’s just put it bluntly: it’s the healthcare costs, stupid. Failure to address rising healthcare costs have put us in a budget pickle, and industry-friendly Republicans and Democrats showed themselves to be fiscal frauds when they put up roadblocks to every single idea and initiative that would control costs. Way to go, idiots. And our glorious mainstream media, which profits handsomely off the megamillions spent advertising prescription drugs nobody needs, did absolutely nothing to educate the public about this issue. (And by the way, media watchdogs: can the U.S. get one of these? Sure would have come in handy during the healthcare debate.)

So yes, our state and federal budget issues are really healthcare issues, which Gates mentions. And finally, people do need to become more educated about what’s happening with their state budgets. Sadly, we can no longer rely upon the news media to adequately inform us. The mainstream media has, as was pointed out recently, “become journalistically irrelevant when it comes to national issues and coverage." Unfortunately, as my local newspaper’s eagerness to publish corporate propaganda demonstrates, local media isn’t much better. So we need to find a better way of communicating the facts without letting the special interest groups do their spin job.

So without further ado, Bill Gates: How state budgets are breaking US schools.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It’s That Voodoo Republican Math

First Wisconsin state officials claimed marble damaged by the painters tape that protestors used would cost $7.5 million to repair:
Cari Anne Renlund, chief legal counsel for the state Department of Administration, said in Dane County court that estimates of damage to marble includes $6 million to repair damaged marble inside the Capitol, $1 million for damage outside and $500,000 for costs to supervise the damage.

Turns out, not so much:

Madison - Officials charged with overseeing the state Capitol Friday backpedaled sharply from their estimate - delivered in a high-profile court case only the day before - that demonstrators did more than $7 million in damage to the building and grounds during the tumultuous yet peaceful protests that erupted Feb. 15.

Touring the building on Friday morning with state architect Dan Stephans, who oversaw the Capitol's restoration that concluded in 2001, Jeff Plale said he had not immediately observed any damage from demonstrations over Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill. Plale is a former Democratic state senator and now the state facilities administrator.

Hey Cari Anne! What’s your game, girl? Can anybody play? Why yes they can!

Two local news organizations sued Gov. Scott Walker Friday for alleged failure to respond to their requests for e-mails that the governor claimed were overwhelmingly in favor of his controversial budget repair bill.


Isthmus and the AP did not receive a response to their records requests, the lawsuit states.

But Richmond received an e-mail response late Friday, which was dated Feb. 25, from Nate Ristow, associate legal counsel for the governor, in which Ristow detailed the cost of printing out the e-mails of more than $31,250, to be paid in advance. Ristow also invited Richmond to review the records at Walker's office for no charge.

In his records request, Lueders had asked that the e-mails be put on a disk instead of being printed on paper.

Wow: $31,250 to print out e-mails? I’m calling bullshit. It seems the latest conservative tactic in the propaganda war is to pull a wildly inflated number out of someone’s ass and attach it to whatever it is someone wants. Then watch as everyone starts screaming about my money! Seriously, some of the comments on these stories are hilarious. Are liberals the only ones who have developed a healthy skepticism over the years? Are we the only ones with highly developed bullshit meters?

Alternately, this can explain a lot about Republicans’ repeated failure to balance a budget. Perhaps the poor dears simply can’t do math. Remember how the Iraq War was only supposed to cost $50-$60 billion? Remember Paul Wolfowitz saying the war would pay for itself? Yeah that was a good one.

So you know, we're left with the eternal question: stupid or lying? Which is it, Republicans?

(h/t, DailyKos)

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Leaf Will Fail Because The Atlantic Says So! That’s Why!

So yay! I’m getting my Nissan Leaf in May. Don’t know when in May but that is the latest. I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting a whole year for this car, and I’ve had to jump through all sorts of hoops in the process. More on that later.

But anyway, I’m thrilled to be one step closer to being internal-combustion-engine free. No tail pipe! No oil changes! Suck it, Koch Industries! But please don’t tell McMegan and her colleagues at The Atlantic, who yesterday confused “deliveries” with “reservations” to come up with her “ZOMG the Nissan Leaf is an epic fail!” post:
Autoblog reports that the Chevy Volt sold 281 units in February, down from 321 in February.  Meanwhile, sales of the Nissan Leaf dropped from 87 to 67.  The trend seems pretty dismal....

Wow that's pathetic. Except these sales figures are just for the U.S. And while I can't speak for the Volt, I know the Leaf has had a very slow, strategic rollout. And that actually there are thousands of people who have reserved a car and, like me, are anxiously awaiting its delivery -- indeed, Nissan reached its cap of 20,000 reservations three months ahead of schedule last year. Which seems to indicate a high level of interest to me. But hey, what do I know about these things. I'm not a fancy-pants business and economics editor with an elite institution like The Atlantic.

But let's not let facts stand in the way of a good talking point, namely “this whole EV craze is just a waste of time and money because nobody wants them.” Which she says thusly:

It certainly wouldn't be the first time that companies have made this sort of colossal misjudgment.  It wouldn't even be the first time an auto company has done so.  (Remember the Edsel)?  March and April sales volumes should be telling: gas prices are high, and the Leaf is supposed to hit 4,000 production units this month.  If volumes remain low, we may be looking at green elephants.

Actually, no. You cannot walk up to your local neighborhood Nissan dealership and buy a Leaf. That's not how it works. You have to have reserved one a realllly long time ago! There was a long, involved application process! And not everybody who wants one gets one. You have to apply. And meet certain criteria. And on top of that, Nissan stopped taking reservations back in September. So no, March and April sales figures won't tell you jack shit (or virtually jack shit).

Hon, is your gastritis acting up again? Seriously, she acts like she doesn't know any of this, as if the Nissan Leaf has been rolled out like any new automobile. That's not how it works.

In fact, McClueless' talking point notwithstanding, the Leaf has reportedly sold out its first year’s global production of 27,000 units. Six thousand of them were for the Japanese market. The question McBefuddled should be asking is, why aren’t more of these cars coming to the U.S. market? As someone who has waited an entire year for her car, I'd like to know: is lack of EV infrastructure in the U.S. hampering the rollout? Are cars going to Japan and Europe over the U.S.? Is there a production issue? I have heard lots of complaints about the slow pace of fulfillment. This doesn't mean there isn't a market for electric cars or demonstrate a lack of consumer interest, this is a problem on the supply side. I've even heard the rumor that freshly-minted Nissan Leafs are sitting at the Port of Long Beach waiting to be delivered to Tennessee (I have no idea if that's true. That's just the rumor.)

So yes, there are issues, but not the ones McHeadUpHerAss wants to see when she writes

It's going to take a long time at this rate to hit their sales target.  Here's Charles Ghosn, the CEO of Renault, saying that he's going to sell 500,000 electric cars a year by 2013...

I just have to wonder how this woman got her job. Yes Ghosn did say that. I believe those may have been global sales numbers .. at least, that's how I read the Times piece. And let me add, while Renault owns a large chunk of Nissan, the Leaf is by no means the only EV in Renault’s arsenal. In fact, the company has three other electric vehicles in its lineup: the ultra-compact Twizy, the Renault ZOE available next year, and the Kangoo Express Z.E. and Maxi Z.E., light commercial vehicles. These vehicles are now or soon will be available in countries Not America.

The question is, why? Why so many more consumer options in Socialisticky, Communisticky countries where innovation is supposedly crushed by the oppressive hand of the Taxman? How come American consumers have such limited options? McBargle doesn't even think to ask such a question, let alone answer it.

Accompanying this McNonsense was The Atlantic’s Daniel Indiviglio, who appeared compelled to correct the gaping holes in McHeadUpherAss's piece, while sticking valiantly by her "failing Leaf" premise. Either misery really does love company, or Indiviglio was offering McMegan some cover:

Through February, a measly 173 Nissan Leafs -- the new all-electric plug in car -- had hit the streets in the U.S. That sounds pretty weak. After being on the market for three months, isn't there more consumer interest in a zero-tailpipe emission vehicle than that?

Actually, yes there is. As Indiviglio learned from Nissan:

A spokesperson confirmed that the low number of vehicles hitting the road through February was accurate, but that's because this number reflected deliveries. She also said that high number of reservations was also correct. The low number of deliveries is reflective of production ramping up slowly. Through February, the vehicles were only available in six or seven markets. Throughout the rest of the year, however, she said 50,000 Leafs will be produced, available worldwide.

As someone who has been waiting an entire year for her new car, trust me: lack of interest ain't the issue. Oh, but there's more:

That is, if people stick with the reservations. The bar was pretty low to reserve one -- just a refundable $99 deposit. So there might be some question of whether these reservations indicate serious interest. But would that many people really bother paying $99, even if they could get it refunded, if there wasn't a strong chance they would buy the vehicle?

Again, no! No, the bar was NOT low to reserve a car: I had to go through an application, a site visit, I have to live in one of just a handful of markets where these cars are even available, I had to show that my driving habits were compatible with the Leaf's range, and I have to be a homeowner so I can install the charger in my garage. I also had to have the proper wiring and voltage in my garage so I can accommodate the charger.

On top of all that, I had to be willing to buy a car sight unseen and I had to be willing to wait 12 months for the thing! You may call that a low bar but I sure don't.

I know we're talking low bars, but I'm going to resist temptation and not make the obvious snark about Daniel Indiviglio's reporting skills. Instead let me simply suggest that you actually talk to someone who has reserved one of these things before your next story on how the Leaf is the biggest consumer failure since New Coke. Just a thought.

You know what pisses me off about this whole thing? McFail started with the idea that American consumers are not embracing EV vehicles, and then went looking for some numbers to back up that presupposition. So that’s how you kids do journalism these days! And her colleague Indiviglio, while trying to correct her, still stuck by that basic premise for some absurd reason I cannot fathom.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beware of Strangers Bearing Theme Parks


”'Festival Tennessee' Developer's Claims Flunk Truth Test”



"Theme park developers leave trail of broken promises," via NewsChannel5.


While Middle Tennessee certainly needs jobs I am wary of what could quite possibly be the mother of all scams:
The developer of a proposed 1,500-acre theme park in Spring Hill has eight of his previous Nevada business licenses — including one for Big International Group of Entertainment — listed under "revoked" status, according to the Nevada Secretary of State's office.

I figured that out this afternoon when I started trying to find out who was behind the proposed Festival Tennessee theme park breathlessly reported on by our local media. What I found out about Las Vegas-based Big International Group of Entertainment, the project’s supposed developer, was interesting to say the least. Apparently the company “is a subsidiary of Information Architects Corp.,” a company which was last in the news for purchasing a gold mine. Big International also made headlines back in 2006 for an animated Michael Jackson feature which never happened.

I hate to tell you this, Spring Hill, but this project has the stench of merde wafting all over it. Maybe I’m just too cynical. Maybe in my former life I attended far too many press conferences where out of town hot-shot flim-flam artists threw around big numbers (“$750 million in private capital!”), bigger promises (“10,000-15,000 jobs!”) and half-assed cockamamie ideas before a crowd of incredulous media and smarmy local politicos. Why do they do it? What’s the point? Well, who knows.

Yeah, I’m thinking Festival Tennessee ain’t gonna happen. If I’m wrong, Spring Hill, you have my apologies.

Fox News Lies




Palm trees in Madison, Wisconsin?? Green leaves on trees in March?

And they wondered why people shouted “Fox News Lies!” at them. Really, Mike Tobin? Really?

Yes, this would be the very same Mike Tobin whose specious claims of being “punched” by a union thug were neatly debunked with this video. It’s the ol’ “shoulder tap of death.” Ow ow ow!

We know Fox News are not honest brokers, they lie and doctor video footage and switch poll numbers to make them say what they want them to and take quotes out of context and repeat GOP press releases verbatim and commit all manner of sins against journalism because they are not journalists, they are partisans with a political agenda. Yet they continue to be treated as journalists, by the White House Correspondents Assn. and President Obama himself. Enough, already. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you people?

This will get written off as just another minor error committed by an overzealous staffer. Feh. Meanwhile, Judith Regan announces that Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes told her to lie about her affair with Bernie Kerik to protect Rudy Giuliani's presidential ambitions -- a claim she says she can back up with an audio recording. Oh, my.

Yes, this rotten carcass of a news organization stinks from the head down. Not a shocker, of course. But one wonders how much longer this propaganda machine can keep up the charade or, more importantly, how much longer everyone else in the media will keep up the pretense, as well. I mean really: don't you folks take pride in your work? In your industry? It's almost like the rest of the media universe is purposely pretending that Fox is a legitimate media outlet, but why?

Every broadcast minute Fox shits on the Fourth Estate. They delegitimize an entire industry. They tell the world, and American viewers in particular, that the news media is an industry akin to used car salesmen and bail bondsmen. I don't for the life of me understand why people like Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric and Christiane Amanpour and the rest don't kick folks like Mike Tobin out of the club. Don't they understand that claiming to be "punched" when you were tapped on the shoulder and cutting in video footage of some other event at some other time and place to give the erroneous perception that union thugs are running amok in Madison Wisconsin is a serious breach of journalistic ethics? And when Fox News does it, that tarnishes everyone? Don't y'all see that?

I guess not.

I really don't get it.


This nails it:
If the events in Wisconsin prove one thing, it is that the mainstream media has become journalistically irrelevant when it comes to national issues and coverage. Broadcast media is incapable of explaining anything outside a macropatriotic framework and has proven allergic to anything that puts off even the slightest whiff of the class warfare that scares away big-market advertorial. Meanwhile, the other side is cable news' partisan echo chamber of regurgitated self-assurance, where no blow is too low and no fact needs sourcing before being leveraged to make a prearranged point. Cable news reporting on Wisconsin is like going to a whorehouse and then bragging to your buddies about this girl you seduced.

Our corporate media is now irrelevant. And it’s not the fault of foul-mouthed bloggers.