Saturday, April 30, 2011

Political Theater

Tweeting from tonight’s White House Correspondent’s Assn. dinner is Newsweek’s Karen Tumulty:

And this is what’s wrong with America. The Villagers are so infatuated with the political creature they created, so insulated by their own self-importance, that they don’t even recognize the revulsion America feels toward Donald Trump.

The White House Correspondents Assn. dinner has made more than one political observer uncomfortable, but it doesn’t matter. Politics today feels like nothing more than a made for TV movie: scripted, cast and paid for by our corporate sponsor.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Pains

I’m watching the royal wedding while drinking my morning coffee, enjoying all of the pomp and ceremony and ooohing over Kate’s gorgeous gown and tittering over the Beefeaters (who always make me think of a bottle of gin) and thinking what beautiful children these two are going to have, and I just know I’m going to catch shit from people who think the royal wedding is a silly waste of time. Those people have been all over Twitter and the blogs the past couple weeks, telling everyone the country has more important things to worry about than some superfluous monarch's wedding, and while that may be true I just want to say to you folks: STFU.

I don’t know why we Americans love the British royals but we do. Maybe it’s a chance to live vicariously through our cousins across the pond, maybe it’s the fact that so many British ex-pats live here, maybe it's just our American love of celebrity. But I have no problem setting aside all of the angst and agita and sniping and griping which has consumed us 24/7 and enjoy a real-life fairy tale for a few moments. In fact, I think we need it. We need to turn off the noise and think happy thoughts for a little while.

You know what strikes me watching this spectacle? Seeing hundreds of thousands of people crowd the London streets cheering, waving their Union Jacks, just proud to be British citizens. They’ve got their problems in that country too, but it’s nice to see them turn it all off and enjoy a moment of solidarity. They're jumping in fountains, wearing funny hats, and expressing the pure joy of this historic moment.

Americans had a moment like that not too long ago. It was the inauguration of Barack Obama. Remember that? Remember the millions who descended on Washington D.C. to experience history in person? The millions more who sat glued to their television sets as the nation’s first African American president took the oath of office? Remember how proud we all felt that America had taken this extraordinary step, moved past its painful history and vowed to start fresh?

You know, it’s always been interesting to me that the Glenn Beck types want to bring America back to 9/12 -- the day after we were attacked, when the nation was unified, yes that's true, but it was in fear and sorrow. What does that say about them? If I had to pick a day it would be 1/21 when we were unified by hope and a desire for change.

Since then we’ve been dragged back into the same cesspool of sleazy politics and message manipulation and absurd attacks on the president’s legitimacy not to mention his policies. We've returned to business as usual.

Let’s hope the new royal couple fares better.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Magical Employee Handbook

It’s no surprise that Tennessee joined other Republican-controlled states in attacking teachers’ unions, sparking thousands of teachers to rally at the state capitol in early March. It’s no surprise that those protests fell on deaf ears.

What is a surprise is that the legislature responded with an even more radical plan, which would end the right of teachers to form unions at all:
House Speaker Beth Harwell and key lawmakers have agreed to completely repeal the 1978 law that gave teachers the ability to unionize, casting aside an earlier compromise that would have let them continue to negotiate with school boards over a few issues.

But fear not: replacing the teachers unions will be, I shit you not, “employee handbooks.” Oh goody!

The agreement would replace negotiated teachers’ contracts with an employee handbook updated every three years that spells out the district’s policies on salary, benefits, leave, student discipline and working conditions — matters that currently are set through union negotiations.

Additional language would give districts broader authority to set policies for merit pay and classroom assignments.

School boards would be barred from negotiating contracts with the teachers union. Instead, teachers would be allowed to submit written comments and speak at an open hearing on the handbook.

Oh, right, an open hearing, gosh we’ve all seen how effective those are! I mean gosh, if thousands of people descending on the state capitol in angry protest won’t sway the Tennessee State Legislature, what makes anyone think submitting written comments and speaking at an open hearing will sway a school board?

I’m trying to think how speaking at an open hearing on an employee handbook is truly “the best of both worlds,” in the words of Rep. Debra Maggart, House Republican Caucus chair. Exactly how is an employee handbook written by your employer a substitute for bargaining rights? I guess you have to live in that Republican alternate universe where free market ponies shit fairy dust for any of this to make sense.

Well, why don’t we replace all contracts with a “handbook,” then? I mean really, if it’s such a brilliant idea for our kids, why not? Let’s have a handbook instead of state contracts, and then when someone doesn’t finish repaving that highway on time, we can say, “oooh you’re in violation of our handbook and we’re gonna ... um ... hmm ... never mind!” I mean really, that’s just the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Is an employee handbook even legally binding?

Here’s the thing. Teachers’ working conditions are our kids’ learning conditions. Shouldn’t the people who are in that classroom every day be the best judge of what those learning conditions need to be?

And here’s another thing: why in the world would anyone want to be a teacher in Tennessee under conditions like this? Wouldn’t you want to teach somewhere else, where you’re not treated like school board chattle?

Perhaps the best solution to all of our problems is to get more progressives to run for local office, including school board. It’s something the Teanutties are already doing; progressives need to get on board or we’ll have more rights taken away and replaced by boneheaded ideas like “employee handbooks.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Check The Kerning!


Ha ha ha ha ha! Hilarious! "Check the kerning" is a Bush-era internet meme, which apparently Birthers are too dumb to know. Hey, who says right-wingers don't believe in recycling?

Okay, y’all happy now?

Of course not. This settles nothing. Why, there are still so many unanswered questions! There’s the whole mystery surrounding Obama’s supposed Connecticut Social Security number, or the vagaries of 1961 immigration law which disqualify Obama because of his mother’s age, or any one of a number of crazy half-assed theories one finds when they go down the birther rabbit hole.

But of course Serious People (like Anderson Cooper, for instance) simply must talk about it because, well, it would be irresponsible not to! And as we all know, Jerome Corsi, Orly Taitz and the rest of the birther brigade are very, very serious people with nothing in their past to indicate they aren’t credible individuals.


Seriously, how long before a story surfaces on WingNut Daily claiming the long-form birth certificate is a forgery? I give it, oh, about four hours. And hey, there's all that other stuff I mentioned that they can chew over, too. So no, of course we will still be hearing that the president is illegitimate, and frankly, bring it on. Because now we have even more ammunition to throw back at those folks.

And here's a question: when did the discourse in this country get so crazy? When did it become okay for respected news organizations to treat the craziest conspiracy theories the right can dream up as legitimate stories worth devoting air time to? For crying out loud, CNN sent a fucking reporter to Hawaii! Why is it when the left was questioning the rationale for the Iraq War invasion we were just a bunch of pot-smoking hippies with nothing credible to back up our claims of cooked-up intelligence?

Is this how empires fall?

[UPDATE]: And of course, it's all about Donald Trump. The man's ego knows no bounds.

[UPDATE] 2: Well, here's another conspiracy theory to chew over: it's the Mitt Romney death certificate coverup!
And while Romney has a valid Michigan birth certificate, there is also the question of a death certificate, officially stamped on his passport ("He is dead") by the French police after a lethal auto accident while he was a missionary there in 1968.

Oh, my! Something to look forward to in 2012. Somehow I have the sneaking suspicion that if Romney gets the GOP nomination, no one will make a fuss about him being dead. Because, IOKIYAR.

[UPDATE] 3: Wow, WingNut Daily surprised me. I gave them four hours to denounce the Obama long form birth certificate, but it appears they had already called it into question before I’d even finished writing my post:

If the document proves valid, it could answer the questions raised by those who have alleged he was not actually born in Hawaii. But it also could prove his ineligibility because of its references to his father. Some of the cases challenging Obama have explained that he was a dual citizen through his father at his birth, and they contend the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born citizens.

Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND, the only news agency that has waged a relentless investigative campaign on questions swirling around the Obama’s eligibility for nearly three years, was elated at the turn of events.

"We're gratified that our work has begun to pay off," he said. "The certificate of live birth is an absolutely vital foundation for determining constitutional eligibility of any president. We look forward to reviewing it like so many other Americans do at this late date. But it is important to remember there are still dozens of other questions concerning this question of eligibility that need to be resolved to assure what has become a very skeptical public concerning Barack Obama’s parentage, his adoption, his citizenship status throughout his life and why he continues to cultivate a culture of secrecy around his life."

Sure, there's so much secrecy when you keep pulling paranoid ideas out of the clear blue sky and people look at you strangely when you talk about them.

Jeeeeesuz. Your "relentless investigative campaign" has just been destroyed in the matter of 10 minutes, but of course with this much invested in it, don't expect it to go away -- ever. These people will never, ever give up. After all, the president is still black. Nothing will change that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Difference Between A Gun & A Sword

Only one of them can hurt someone a quarter mile away:
COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) - An intoxicated man agitated over a text conversation Sunday evening grabbed a sword and a pistol, then fired the gun at the ceiling, police said. That bullet went through a kitchen window a quarter of a mile away, police said.

A woman said she had left the kitchen just moments before the bullet shot through the window of the home in the 1300 block of Cottage Avenue, according to 24-Hour News 8's news partner the Columbus Republic.

At about 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Columbus police were called to the 2100 block of 12th Street on a report of shots fired and to the 1300 block of Cottage Avenue on a report that a bullet had broken a window. Children were in both homes at the time of the shooting.

"I think we are very fortunate here that no one was injured," said Lt. Joe Richardson, spokesman for Columbus Police Department. 

On 12th Street, police said witness reports led them to Freddie Perez, 39. He was arrested on preliminary charges of criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon, public intoxication and violating a city ordinance against firing a firearm within city limits. He was released on $13,500 bond.

Curious about the public intoxication charge, since it sounds like the guy was in his house, but regardless: we’re very, very lucky that someone wasn’t injured or killed. As long as people are going to continue to be idiots I'm going to continue to advocate for gun control laws.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Growing Pains

There’s a world of hurt and confusion in this story, as well as the de rigeur Tennessee connection:
Federal authorities last week arrested and charged a Tennessee pastor with aiding in the “international parental kidnapping” of a girl who has been missing since late 2009 and is at the center of a lengthy custody battle between her two mothers — a onetime lesbian couple who were in a civil union.

The two had a bitter falling-out after one became an evangelical Christian and denounced the other’s continued “homosexual lifestyle.”


Lisa Miller, the girl’s biological mother and a newly fervent Baptist, was championed by conservatives for her efforts to shield her daughter from homosexuality. A Vermont court had granted her primary custody of the daughter, Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins, after Ms. Miller split with her partner, Janet Jenkins, in 2003. But the court also declared Ms. Jenkins to be a legal parent with liberal visiting rights, and Ms. Miller, who had moved with the girl to Virginia, defied repeated orders to permit the visits.

The case took a turn in late 2009, as the Vermont family court, citing Ms. Miller’s noncompliance, shifted primary custody to Ms. Jenkins. Ms. Miller and Isabella, who is now 9, disappeared. A warrant was issued for Ms. Miller’s arrest, and they have not been heard from since.

I’ve always said that the reason we need to have legal gay marriage is so we can have legal gay divorce. Even under the best of circumstances, divorce is an ugly business but if you’re gay, breaking up really is hard to do. Gay divorce is truly a legal nightmare for lots of reasons related to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, differing state laws, and all sorts of complications.

The Miller-Jenkins case is a perfect example of this. As I read the story in Sunday’s paper, I thought about how this whole situation reflected the cultural shifts of the past few decades -- changes we’re still coming to terms with in society at large. The issues at play are those same cultural issues which surface every election and are a major factor in our politics.

Once upon a time in America a situation like this would never exist: there would be no doubt as to whether a court would award custody or visitation rights to an avowed lesbian, there would be no question as to who was right or wrong in this scenario. For that matter, it would be pretty much a given that a same-sex couple would be infertile. But the past 30-40 years have seen major cultural changes, not to mention medical advances. Not all of these changes have been embraced by the totality of our religious and legal institutions. We're still sifting through it all, and I'd say it will take about a generation for all of this stuff to finally settle out.

And I have no doubt which way it will go. The culture wars are over and the right has lost; they just don't know it yet. Throughout its history America has always expanded its table to invite ever more groups of people to democracy's banquet; we've never taken seats away. That doesn't mean it's been an easy or effortless thing, far from it. And I think a lot of the knee-jerk legislation we see in places like Arizona and Tennessee attacking GLBT citizens and immigrants and the poor are all just a response to this societal shift we're going through right now.

We live in a post-Christian, post-racial, post-Roe-v-Wade, post-internet, post-biomedical engineering, post climate change, post-you-name-it age, and that's a lot of change for one society to handle. It's inevitable that we've splintered as we have, it's a predictable response by a large group of people to a lot of change. But I have great expectations for the next 20 years.

We're just going through some growing pains, that's all.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

We’re Sorry, So Sorry

April has been a busy month for apologies -- the court-ordered kind, the notorious kind, the begrudging kind and a few other flavors. A brief roundup:

• Charlie Crist had to apologize to David Byrne for the unauthorized use of his song “Road To Nowhere” in his failed Senate campaign. As part of the settlement Crist had to record an apology and post it on YouTube. Watch it here; you can practically see the gun at his head:

• Waaaay back in 2007 when he was a journalist for ABC’s “20/20,” John Stossel (who's now at Fox News) pulled a Breitbart on L.A. pastor Frederick K.C. Price. The story was about wealthy pastors, and Stossel aired a quote of the preacher’s completely out of context, making it appear he was gloating about owning a yacht and living in a mansion when in fact Price was making a point about how such earthly treasures do not lead to spiritual wealth. Price sued and now, four years later, ABC and Price have reached a legal settlement which includes this apology:
"ABC News apologizes for any harm caused to you as a result of its broadcast of a video clip that ABC News stated was of you speaking about yourself when in fact you were talking about a hypothetical person," Kerry Smith of ABC News said in her statement to Price. "ABC News regrets that it did not conduct sufficient investigation of the clip after receiving it to establish its correct context.  By presenting the footage out of context, ABC News misled its audience and failed to meet its own standards, which ABC deeply regrets."

Four years may seem like a long time to wait but sadly, no:

• The state of Alabama has finally apologized to an African American woman who was kidnapped and gang-raped by seven gun and knife wielding white men on her way home from church 67 years ago. The men were never prosecuted, but the now 91-year-old Recy Taylor finally has her apology for the state's failure to act. That’s about all she’s going to get, though. Read this and weep for “the good ol’ days” some folks seem intent on dragging this country back to:

Although Taylor was able to identify her attackers, two all white, all-male grand juries refused to issue indictments, as was the case in the South when whites committed crimes against blacks in the days before the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act.

In addition, Taylor, her husband and their 3-year-old daughter had to leave their home after white men attacked it to intimidate the Taylors. The home was firebombed during one attack.

The family moved in with Mrs. Taylor's parents and younger siblings and her father would sit in a tree with a shotgun at night guarding the home.

Six of the seven attackers have died. Although there is no statute of limitations on rape in Alabama, charges must be brought in the county where the crime occurred and law enforcement officials have not been willing to do so in the close-knit community.

Well what do you expect. We may have a black president but we certainly aren’t past our racial biases.

• There are do-overs in apologies! Orange County, California, Tea Party activist and Republican Party official Marilyn Davenport at first defended her racist e-mail of President Obama, but now she really means it. Honest.

• Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs accidentally made 3.5 million Texans’ names and social security numbers publicly available on the web for an entire year, so she’s sent an apology to each and every one of them. Sorta:

The letter ends with the only thing approaching an apology: “We sincerely regret that this incident occurred. Thank you for your shared vigilance at a time when the potential for cyber crime remains a great threat.”

Her signature isn’t on the 3.5 million form letters that went out. Holy identity theft, Batman, that’s a lot of voters — equivalent to about one of every five adults in Texas. The letters are signed instead by Victor Gonzalez, chief technology officer for the comptroller’s office.

He resigned last Friday, before all of the letters had even been delivered.

• Not exactly an apology but this correction in a pro-nuke L.A. Times op-ed by Mark Lynas cracked me up:

For The Record

Los Angeles Times Friday, April 15, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 27 Editorial Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of
Material: Correction

Nuclear: An April 10 Op-Ed advocating for nuclear power indicated that to replace Japan's current nuclear generation capacity would require wind farms occupying 1.3 billion acres and more than 50% of the country's total land mass. The correct figures are 1.3 million acres and less than 3% of Japan's land mass.

Dude forgot to carry the one.

Honorable mentions:

• Still waiting for their apology: Taco Bell, which wants an apology from the law firm which just withdrew its “where’s the beef” lawsuit. Curious that they don’t want one from the plaintiff.

• Some people are too big to apologize. They just need to have the official record scrubbed.

• Pending apology: Michigan Republican State Senator Bruce Casswell, who wants to make the kids in Michigan’s foster care system buy all of their clothes from second-hand stores. Why? Because when he was a kid, “I never had anything new.” You just know he’s going to have to walk that one back any day now.

You Know Who ELSE Scrubbed The Memory Hole?

Any similarities to fascist dictators living or dead is entirely coincidental:
Kyl statement stricken from the record

Jon Kyl's statement that 90 percent of Planned Parenthood's activities are related to abortion -- which drew mockery when he explained it was "not intended to be a factual statement" -- has been stricken from the Congressional Record. From POLITICO Pulse:
Sen. Jon Kyl has quietly removed his infamous comment that 90 percent of Planned Parenthood's business is abortion from the Congressional Record. Senators are allowed to revise and extend their comments in record and his statement now simply says: "If you want an abortion you go to Planned Parenthood and that is what Planned Parenthood does." Kyl's office could not be reached for comment.

As more than one person has already pointed out, trying to scrub the memory hole in the age of the internet is beyond foolish. It’s pathetically out of touch. Just like Jon Kyl’s policies.

Friday, April 22, 2011

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out


Don't know if this was before or after he was briefly jailed for refusing to pay a $1 bond. What a dufus.


File this one under shit you can't make up:
Quran-burning Florida pastor's gun accidentally fires in Michigan

DEARBORN, Mich. -- A controversial anti-Muslim pastor from Florida accidentally fired his .40-caliber handgun while he was at a FOX television studio Thursday night, according to police.

Terry Jones, 59, of Gainesville, was getting in the passenger side of his car at 11:10 p.m. after an interview when the Taurus handgun went off, sending a bullet into the floorboard, Southfield Police Lt. Nick Loussia said Friday.

I may be rethinking my position on gun control. [/sarcasm]

Cheap Labor Update

Well this is interesting:
According to UC Berkeley's report, Walmart employees earn 14.5 percent less than other workers in large retail companies. Depressing stuff, but there is any easy enough fix: If Walmart implemented a $12 per hour minimum wage for all employees, it would cost the company $3.2 billion. That is a lot of money, unless you're Walmart, in which case it's just 1% of your overall annual $305 billion in sales. Even if Walmart passed on the entire burden of the wage increase to customers, it would only average out to a cost increase of 46 cents per shopping trip. That's surely something that most Walmart shoppers can afford.

But they wouldn't even have to. Remember Walmart's exceptional energy-saving plans? Perhaps it could take some of the money it will inevitably save from energy and materials efficiency and pass it on to workers.

Heh. Yeah don’t hold your breath.

Last month the New York Times looked at WalMart’s accelerated campaign to enter the New York market. They’ve been foiled for years and now that WalMart is all green and socially responsible they’re asking New Yorkers for another chance. But with WalMart depressing wages everywhere it sets up shop, can you blame people for being wary?

Here’s a thought for WalMart: Instead of spending so much money on elaborate TV and print ads, glossy brochures, polls, and hiring Michael Bloomberg’s ex-campaign manager, why not just pay people a living wage and be done with it?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trump’d Is The New Punk’d

So, earlier this week I’m talking to a conservative acquaintance and he gives me his usual “they’re all crooked sleazebags” line (more on that later) and then he says, I shit you not,
“You know who I’m interested in? Donald Trump. I’d really be interested in hearing more of what he has to say.”

At which point I practically exploded in laughter. In fact, I even said, “How can you support someone whose own casino went bankrupt -- three times!” He replied, I shit you not,

”It wasn’t really a bankruptcy. It was reorganization.”

I mean, just ...oh my God. That’s just... so ... priceless.

Anyway, so I finally met one. You know, one of those Republican voters who have supposedly “embraced a Trump bid.”

Here’s the thing. As I’ve been saying all along, Trump is not running for president. This is absolutely, without a doubt, a hoax to boost ratings for his Apprentice franchise. That’s what I said when Trump first started talking about running. And the only ones to take him seriously have been our stupid mainstream media and political punditry, which never saw a shiny-sparkly piece of political theater it didn’t like. And when Trump announces on the Celebrity Apprentice finale that he’s not running, the media will look like idiots yet again. It’s Balloon Boy all over again. I will be absolutely gobsmacked if I’m wrong about this.

Seriously, look at this:

See, Trump has been "seriously" considering a run for the Oval Office since last October—or, just weeks after season 10 of The Apprentice got off to a franchise-low start.

Of course, the timing could be a coincidence. Or not.

Yeah call me a cynic but I’m going to guess ... not. Seeing viewers lose interest in his reality TV show last fall, the master of gimmickry came up with the best promotion ever for the spring season of Celebrity Apprentice. I mean, when your idea of "celebrity" is Gary Busey, Meat Loaf, LaToya Jackson and NeNe Leakes, no wonder your ratings have tanked. But it’s worked:

The story begins in February, when Trump is a distant, but surprising fourth-place finisher in a survey of Republican voters. He polls at 8 percent.

On March 6, the new season of Celebrity Apprentice premieres, and averages 7.9 million viewers, down 5 percent from the previous spring. 

So, it's bad for Busey and the men of Backbone that Trump is searching for President Barack Obama's birth certificate, right?

On the same day, March 13, that Trump kicks up to 10 percent in a CNN poll, Celebrity Apprentice moves up to 8.1 million viewers.

A few weeks later, on April 3, the show hits a new season high, with 8.6 million viewers. Trump's support among GOP voters, meanwhile, increases to 17 percent in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

Okay, there’s more ... Trump’s vocal birtherism has come with a marked decline in the show’s ratings. Who knows if they’re connected? All I know is that this is undoubtedly a ploy to boost ratings. And anyone who buys this nonsense (and near as I can tell that’s pretty much just our news media) has been punk’d.

So back to my conservative acquaintance. We actually agree on a lot of things. He believes money and greed have corrupted our politics, he believes corporate influence is out of control, he thinks corporations and rich people should pay more taxes. He thinks the Tea Party is nuts. But his answers to these problems are not necessarily the same as mine.

But where we most differ is in his steadfast belief that government is inherently corrupt and evil, that every politician is a lying, money-sucking scumbag, that the nation is in a steep decline that will inevitably result in civil unrest of apocalyptic proportions, and that the entire world is headed toward a one-currency/One World Order scenario.

I won’t get into that crackpot One World Order stuff (like, for instance, who exactly is going to take over? Every empire which has tried has failed, including ours). I think the whole disillusionment thing is a feature, not a bug. See, the more people believe that they’re all corrupt and what’s the point of even being engaged, the more the plutocracy wins. Sure, David Vitter was a sleazebag and so was John Ensign but Clinton got a blowjob and John Edwards is Rielle's baby daddy. So let's just wash our hands of them all, right?

Really, what is the point of that kind of thinking? Does anyone believe that the only person worth leading this country is a saint or Jesus Christ himself and until those people come along we’re better off just tuning it all out? Yes, our politics and political process has been corrupted, yes we need clean and fair elections and we need to get the big money out of politics. Do those two things and you will have done a lot to root out the sleazeballs and scumbags.

But no, we now we have a bunch of people who believe the entire process has been corrupted and taken over by sleazebags and slimeballs, getting punk'd by the biggest slimeball of them all. As if getting taken by the Grifter From Wasilla wasn't been bad enough, you folks now think the Grifter From Manhattan is going to be any better? Really, people? Hey I think I know how this movie ends. And hey, with any luck maybe we can get our voter turnout even smaller next election. It’s not like people aren’t disillusioned enough as it is, right?

Anyway, I thought I had posted this here before but if you haven’t seen Lewis Black take down the idea of a Donald Trump candidacy, you are in a for a treat. Maybe what this country needs is a Third World dictator.

If Only The Poor Would Just Go Away

The good, white Christian folk of Williamson County are miffed that the wages of our unequal society’s sin are out there for all to see. If only the homeless and poor would just go away, am I right? It’s just so icky that the poor have the nerve to try to earn a living and improve their economic circumstances, where everyone has to see them! Can’t they do that somewhere else, somewhere ... not so visible?

Because when you live in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States (and also one of the most conservative) it’s just too unpleasant to be reminded that the free market fantasy in which you indulge yourself doesn’t work for everyone.

I know I love to pick on Williamson County but in all fairness they aren’t the only ones who have a problem with The Contributor. We’re always hearing about businesses complaining about The Contributor vendors, and it’s true they are everywhere. There are several in my neighborhood hitting up students on their way to Lipscomb and Belmont, and commuters on their way to work. Personally I don’t see what the problem is. Aren’t we always telling these folks to get a job? No, not that job! Get a job where we don’t have to see you! Am I right?

Cut the crap, America. This hypocrisy is getting old.

The Contributor is a damn fine newspaper. It’s actually won some national awards. You can read about the paper here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Told Ya So

It’s not like we didn’t already know the Iraq War was all for oil or anything, and it's not like we haven't seen every other rationale go up in smoke (Saddam’s WMDs, al-Qaeda, “let’s fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here, yada yada). So this post won't be a shocker to anyone. But hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we could find out what really happened in Dick Cheney’s energy task force meetings?

Well, thank God the Brits can point us in the right direction:
Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq's enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair's military commitment to US plans for regime change.

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis."

The minister then promised to "report back to the companies before Christmas" on her lobbying efforts.

The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq "post regime change". Its minutes state: "Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity."

After another meeting, this one in October 2002, the Foreign Office's Middle East director at the time, Edward Chaplin, noted: "Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future... We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq."

Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had "no strategic interest" in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was "more important than anything we've seen for a long time".

BP was concerned that if Washington allowed TotalFinaElf's existing contact with Saddam Hussein to stand after the invasion it would make the French conglomerate the world's leading oil company. BP told the Government it was willing to take "big risks" to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.

Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt. They reveal that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.

The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq's reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.

You know, if this shit went on in the UK you can be damned sure it happened here in the United States.

Isn’t it peachy to know that well before the invasion of Iraq on the pretense of finding “weapons of mass destruction” and under the threat of “smoking guns becoming mushroom clouds,” behind the scenes oil companies were already divvying up the booty?

One, two, three, four, what the hell are we fighting for?

Oh yeah, and why do we still have tens of thousands of troops over there? Anyone?

And can you believe that no one has yet gone to jail for this? Thousands of American soldiers dead or maimed or mentally shattered, our budget sent into debt for a war that was never paid for, tens of thousands of Iraqi civillians dead or living as refugees, all for western greed.

And no one is in jail.

Yeah sure, they hate us for our freedoms. Right.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Paranoia The Destroyer

As if we needed further proof that a key requirement to being a prominent conservative is acute paranoia, Roger Ailes gives us a shining example:
In 2008, Roger Ailes purchased the Putnam County News and Recorder in rustic Putnam County, New York to start feathering his retirement nest. The idea was that he and Elizabeth would retire to their 9,000-square-foot redoubt in nearby Garrison, N.Y., and Roger would live out his days as the gentleman publisher of a sleepy small-town newspaper. (He bought another paper, the Putnam County Courier, a year later.)

But it was not to be. Ailes—who installed Elizabeth as the day-to-day manager of the papers while he finishes his tenure at Fox News Channel—has run the papers with the singularly paranoid and abusive management style he brings to all his projects, resulting in the defection of his hand-picked editor and two top reporters earlier this month after Ailes told them he'd had them followed, and their private conversations surveilled, to catch them saying mean things about him. The spying followed years of intense weirdness between the editor and the Aileses, who once asked him to personally stop a break-in at their home and who implied that, after Roger's death, he'd be expected to replace him in their marriage.

Go read the whole piece because, believe it or not, it gets weirder.

Though Ailes’ alleged surveillance is bizarre, it’s worth noting that NewsCorp is in trouble in the U.K. over a phone hacking scandal. Not quite the same as the Ailes story -- these were NewsCorp’s News Of The World editors hacking the voicemail of celebrities so they could gather tabloid dirt. Ailes appears to have been indulging in a private sociopathy. But still, what is with the conservative jones for playing spy?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Politics Of Fad Diets

The GOP’s “tax and spend liberal” label notwithstanding, President Obama is apparently America’s biggest tax cutter in 60 years:
According to the Tax Policy Center, Federal taxes are lower than at any time since 1955. Obama has now reduced taxes by more than any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

According to the Orange County Register, “For the past two years, a family of four earning the median income has paid less in federal income taxes than at any time since at least 1955, according to the Tax Policy Center. All federal, state and local taxes combined are a lower percentage of per-capita income than at any time since the 1960s, according to the Tax Foundation. The highest income-tax bracket is its lowest since 1992. At 35 percent, it’s well below the 50 percent mark of much of the 1980s and the 70 percent bracket of the 1970s.”

So where are all the fucking jobs and economic growth that’s supposed to shower down upon us like manna from heaven? And how come no one ever challenges the righties on their steadfast belief in tax cuts as economic stimulus? Every time a Bob Schaeffer or Tweety or George Stuffinenvelopes interviews a GOPer about this, we get the same old line about tax cuts stimulating the economy and no one ever says, “well, it hasn’t yet!” I just don’t get it. It’s become almost ingrained in the national psyche that right wing voodoo economics works, when in fact it’s a fairy tale.

You want to know why a big swath of America votes against its own self-interest? It’s something every snake oil salesman, self-help guru and fad diet author knows: tell people what they want to hear and they’ll buy it every damn time. It doesn’t even have to work, as long as the people really, really want it to work. People want to think "the secret" to winning the lottery is to repeat some prosperity affirmation over and over. People want to think they can lose weight eating bacon and eggs and eschewing the toast and fruit. And people want to think the key to kickstarting the economy is to not pay taxes or invest in the country at all, but instead take all the goodies and let some invisible, magical force make everything alright, somehow.

This is also why right-wing Christianity is so compelling: people want to believe that Jesus preached self-reliance and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, they want to justify ignoring the human and environmental toll our standard of living exacts. We don't want to change, because we're human beings and we're more afraid of change than anything else.

Doug J has more ....

.... as does Andrew Sullivan:

The much bigger problem with the GOP plan is its view of taxes. Even though we have historically low income tax rates for high-earning individuals, even though revenues have collapsed in the recession, even though we have empirically discovered that big tax cuts have not generated more economic growth, the GOP still insists on reforming taxes not to raise revenue but to reduce it. This is where the whole thing gets surreal. The very Laffer untruth that sank America into debt in the early 1990s s one still being peddled against all the relevant evidence to guide us through the next few decades. In my view, if we maintain that ideological fantasy, the US will become a banana republic in short order.

Yes, dear. Thanks for noticing. This is why we call them “Banana Republicans.” Again: the GOP is no longer the “Daddy Party.” They’re the “tell the chumps whatever they want to hear” Party. Weave some feel-good fantasy to keep the kids happy so they can go off drinking with their buddies and gambling at the Wall Street casino.

It's not surreal, sweetie. It's pathological.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley channels Tim Robbins as Bob Roberts (and perhaps Bob Dylan) with his House floor "speech":

Isn't It Ironic? Don'tcha Think?

I just don’t know what to say to this:
The United States Postal Service has issued a new stamp featuring the Statue of Liberty. Only the statue it features is not the one in the harbor, but the replica at the New York-New York casino in Las Vegas.

You might think that the post office would have just gone with the original, the one off the tip of Lower Manhattan that for 125 years has welcomed millions of New York’s huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Instead, they accidentally used the 14-year-old statue that presides over thousands of weary gamblers a week.

Oh, woopsies! Is this the perfect metaphor for our times our what? Las Vegas’ ersatz Lady Liberty is just what embodies this country these days. We have fake presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin dominating our news, and fake leaders in Congress like Paul Ryan who have no interest in governing, just in destroying the very things which have made this country strong. We have a news media which goes into overdrive over non-stories while failing to report important news: like the fact that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs, and the Tea Party is an astroturf movement developed and organized by corporate interests. Our entire public debate is manipulated by special interests. Oh, and our entire economy is based on the casino-mentality of the Wall Street fraudsters.

There’s so much phony baloney going on that we can’t even tell the difference between a real beacon of Liberty presiding over New York Harbor and the faker from the Las Vegas Strip.

That just kinda says it all.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dog Blogging

I'm going to be super busy the next couple of days so in lieu of blogging, here's a video of Riley trying to take Chaka for a walk. Now if I could only teach him how to run the vacuum ...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No, GE Won’t Repay Its Tax Break

The Associated Press got punk’d by the Yes Men and U.S. Uncut:
The Associated Press published a story based on a fake email press release that said General Electric would respond to criticism over the amount of taxes it avoids by repaying its entire $3.2 billion tax refund for 2010 to the U.S. Treasury Department. Both the press release and AP's story said GE would repay its tax refund on April 18, that the company would phase out its tax havens over five years and start providing one job in the U.S. for every new job it creates overseas. The hoax release quoted GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt as saying, “All seven of our foreign tax havens are entirely legal ... but Americans have made it clear that they deplore laws that enable tax avoidance. While we owe it to our shareholders to use every legal loophole to maximize returns -- we also owe something to the American people. We didn't write the laws that let us legally avoid paying taxes. Congress did. But we benefit from those laws, and now we'd like to share those benefits. We are proud to be giving something back to America, and we are proud to set an example for all industry to follow.” President Obama appointed Immelt as chairman of his outside panel of economic advisers on January 21, 2011. AP failed to verify the information in the release and withdrew its story 35 minutes after its publication. Two groups took responsibility for the hoax: the Yes Men and U.S. Uncut, saying they did it to raise awareness of U.S. corporate tax policy.

In its rush to be first, AP didn’t even bother to verify what was so obviously a bogus story. That’s a major media fail, but of course the biggest fail of all is the corporate tax policy which allows companies like GE to dodge its obligation to America to begin with. I guess after they got busted for defrauding American taxpayers back in 1985 they just found a legal way to do it.

Meanwhile, the business press is not amused:

GE shares fell 1.6% from their preopen high. Not a huge move, but enough to briefly trim GE’s market capitalization by nearly $3.5 billion.

How much of that was caused by the Yes Men? On a morning when most other companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average were pretty flat, it’s tempting to think that at least some of GE’s pullback was the result of the hoax. We may never know, but there probably are several lawyers already looking into it, either on behalf of the company or its shareholders.

The episode is also cause for concern over at the Securities and Exchange Commission. One of that agency’s many tasks is to make sure people don’t manipulate share prices, and that includes issuing false statements about publicly traded companies.

It’s far from clear whether the SEC has the bandwidth to mount an investigation. But if you were hoodwinked into selling GE stock this morning, you’d appreciate it if the regulators at least gave the Yes Men a severe tongue lashing.

Really? There are people who would sell their shares of a stock when they learned a company was going to pay its fair share of taxes, phase out overseas tax havens, and provide as many jobs in the U.S. as it does overseas?

Seriously? That would cause investors to flee a stock? I’m thinking ... no. I'm thinking MarketWatch writer Jim Jelter has fabricated a scenario he imagines existed. We'll never know because he never quotes any actual angry, duped investors. But it’s a nice little bit of hippie punching, is it not? Can’t let those young kids muck around in the marketplace, got to keep ‘em in their place. The free hand of the market demands it.

This 50 Year Old Thinks Paul Ryan's Plan Stinks

Okay, I'm not 50 yet but I will be, sooner than I'd like to admit: this year in fact. And it just so happens people like me are the ones who will feel the brunt of Paul Ryan's sucky plan. Thanks for the generational warfare, asshole.

I thought Jon Stewart had the perfect takedown of Paul Ryan:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Because You Can Never Be Too Prepared For These Things

Who Will Look After Me
When You've Gone To Be With Jesus?

Hey folks, with the Rapture just a few weeks away, have you thought about what you’d do if all this Dominionist Christian theology actually turned out to be true?

I’m not talking about your immortal soul and accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior. I’m talking about those loved ones left behind -- namely, your pets.

Thankfully, while you’ve been off selfishly at Bible study or proselytizing to your friends and neighbors before the big day, someone has been thinking about these loyal companions. According to some folks’ theology, Fluffy and Fido won’t make it to heaven because they don’t have souls. Hard to believe, I know: you’d think a lifetime of selfless and undying devotion no matter what you look like or what an asshole you are would grant them entry into the Afterlife. Sadly, no.

Fortunately, a wonderful new service has been created: After The Rapture Pet Care. Now this is what I call entrepreneurship!

Here’s how it works: for a one-time fee of $10, Christians can register their pets with After The Rapture Pet Care (the fee is supposed to deter fake accounts). Then when the Rapture happens, the After The Rapture network of non-Christian/atheist pet caretakers is activated. And you can rise up, secure in the knowledge that some heathen, animal-sacrificing Satanist lovely non-believer will care for your pet after you’re gone.

Of course, if they don’t, you’ll have no way of knowing since you’ll be spending the rest of eternity worshipping Jesus. And you’re not allowed to meet your pet caretaker pre-Rapture because of confidentiality concerns. But at least you tried to do the right thing and who knows: that could be the final good deed to push you over into the “saved” column!

And for those non-believers who want to sign up to be volunteer pet caretakers: have at it! You might be able to get a really cool car or big screen TV into the bargain. Why not? It’s not like the newly-Raptured Christians are going to use them.


Seriously, I’m pretty sure this has to be a hoax or a scam, although they claim it’s not .

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Walgreen’s Is The Answer To All Of Your Healthcare Needs

Seriously, this shit pisses me off.

Two people who have never, ever used Planned Parenthood’s services telling people who need Planned Parenthood’s services that they don’t really need Planned Parenthood’s services.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post titled “Top Signs Your Healthcare System Is Broken.” Looks like I missed a couple. This Fox News BS is one.

The other was in today’s newspaper, tragically in the obituary section. A 48-year-old chess champion, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for 20 years, and now another sad case study of a failed healthcare system that won't change because some people are just making too damned much money keeping it broken. His family writes of his suicide:
Our family's sadness is compounded by the lack of effective, vital mental health treatment. The state's TennCare cuts caused Scotty's ineligibility for the Helen Ross McNabb PACT (Program of Assertive Community Treatment) program which successfully kept Scotty, and others, out of the mental hospital for years. Without accessible and affordable Case Management treatment and prevention services, families like ours will continue to suffer tragic outcomes.

These are the death panels that already exist in our broken healthcare system. Everyone keeps telling us American healthcare is the best in all the world, except if you can't access it, it might as well not even exist. I mean how can these idiots not get that? It doesn't matter if our healthcare is the best or second best or even 37th, if your system excludes millions of people it's a failure. End of discussion. And if your politics refuses to recognize that then it, too, is a failure.

I know we just went through hell and back to pass the Affordable Care Act, but could we please stop cutting things like Medicare and Medicaid (and now Planned Parenthood) at every single budget impasse? Please? Because there are real consequences to these cuts. Just ask the family of Scotty Zingheim.

And while we’re cutting funding to women’s health clinics and tossing people off of the public Medicaid system, WellPoint CEO Angela Braly took home $13.4 million last year. Why? What did she do to deserve her bloated salary -- and her Bush tax cut -- while we're balancing our state and federal budgets on the backs of the sick and poor? This is the most immoral, shameful thing I've ever seen. I just can't imagine that it's come to this. Our country would rather give Angela Braly a tax cut than give poor women access to pap smears or get a case manager for a suicidal paranoid schizophrenic.

This is a disgrace.

UPDATE: More on Scotty Zingheim here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Funny Definition Of Victory, Part 2

The last time the government shut down, the time Newt Gingrich did it, I actually worked for the federal government at a national recreation area. That was interesting, to say the least.

Government shutdowns suck on a lot of levels, though one thing they do accomplish is make people aware of all the things our government does, things which should be obvious but which people are ridiculously oblivious to nonetheless. I’m thinking of the lady I saw on the news who was shocked to discover that the national Civil War battlefield she planned to visit today would be closed if a deal couldn’t be reached.

I mean, duh. But that attitude is extremely common. I remember way back when telling my dad I was off work and he's like "Why?" And I'm like, "The government shut down, you know ..." and he kept saying, "you're affected by that? Really? YOU? I had no idea!"

Le sigh. So, government shutdowns can be a teachable moment for a lot of mainstream Americans who take government for granted.

That said, I was not like Mike Pence leading the Teanutties in a chant of “Shut it down!” No, as I said, government shutdowns suck on a lot of levels, trust me, I know. They are a failure of our politics and a failure of democracy. If our government is forced to shut down over something like a budget impasse, it does not speak very highly of our system or our leaders.

So I’m glad we have a reprieve. But for crying out loud, please let’s not call this last-minute deal a victory. This is a tragedy, and it should be stated as such. Because I’m sorry, I just don’t see these things as wins:
1) $17 BILLION IN CHIMPS -- WE SPREAD OUT THE CUTS ACROSS OTHER PARTS OF THE BUDGET. We insisted that meeting in the middle on cuts would require looking beyond domestic discretionary spending—and we prevailed. More than half—or $17 billion—of the final round of spending cuts came from changes in mandatory programs, or CHIMPs. The emphasis on this part of the budget staved off severe cuts to key domestic programs like education, clean energy, and medical research.

2.) $3B IN PENTAGON SAVINGS -- WE PROVED DoD WASTE SHOULD NOT BE SPARED. We won the argument that waste at the Pentagon should not be immune from spending cuts. The final agreement eliminates nearly $3 billion in unnecessary Pentagon spending that was contained in H.R. 1. These reductions are supported by Secretary Gates.

3) TITLE X PRESERVED -- WE FOUGHT OFF ATTACKS ON WOMEN’S HEALTH. We fended off their highest priority among the riders by nixing their proposal to gut Title X funds that provide cancer screenings and other preventative health services for women. The Republicans’ overreach on this rider in the final days dramatically weakened their hand.

Yes, well, my uterus thanks you. But I’m sorry ... $3 billion in Pentagon waste while cutting $17 billion in Social Security and Medicare spending? That’s, what, basically that one redundant fighter jet engine that was already axed? I mean, really? That’s all the waste you can find at the Pentagon? Are they still giving $50 million to NASCAR? Just wondering.

I bring this up because last week David Sirota noted that the one-week continuing resolution would set our bloated Pentagon budget for the year, while leaving the rest of the budget open to negotiation. This means the burden of all that deficit-reducing everyone is yammering about will be borne by social programs. Or, as Sirota wrote: even larger and more disproportionate amount of budget cuts will be focused almost exclusively on the relatively small portion of the discretionary budget that funds social programs.

Because there’s always money for war.

This is how Democrats cut deals with Republicans, and even worse they are trying to sell this to us as a win. And don’t give me that crap about fighting for women’s health when the deal that was struck banned locally-funded abortions in D.C. I guess some uteruses are more equal than others.

No, nothing pisses me off more than when Democrats try to sell me a shit sandwich. This happened last summer when the FMAP extension was passed by cutting food stamp benefits.

This shit happens all the time. The Claims Resolution Act of 2010 -- the settlement to 75,000 black farmers discriminated again in the case known as Pigford II -- was paid for in part with cuts to WIC funding.

Democrats need to realize that robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a “win” for liberals. And some of us actually are paying attention to this stuff.

So am I glad the government has not shut down (yet)? Hell yeah. But am I pissed the Pentagon budget got trimmed by a measley $3 billion and is now off-limits? You betcha.

When polls show Americans a) vastly underestimate how much we spend on defense, and b) support cutting the defense budget anyway, one has to wonder what the hell the Democrats in Washington are thinking. Maybe they’re too scared of looking “weak on defense” and like “cheese eating surrender monkeys” and like they “don’t support the troops” and all the other mean stuff the right will say about them. But guess what: they say that shit anyway!

So I guess we’ll just keep on being asked to accept winning these small battles while losing war after war, over and over again, until the end of time. I guess we’re supposed to be happy with that.

I dunno, doesn’t sound like a win to me.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Who’s The Asshole Who Destroyed Nashville’s Community Garden?

The Greenhouse Of Death

The Tennessee Dept. of Transportation, aka the “Department of Concrete,” is living up to its nickname by punching local hippies kicking the African American community bulldozing Nashville’s best known community garden:
B.J. Doughty, TDOT spokeswoman, said the group, called EarthMatters Tennessee and led by Sizwe Herring, had basically allowed the site to deteriorate, moving from its originally stated “green” goal of sustainable crop production and composting to a hodge-podge of uses.

“I don’t know of a single vegetable growing there,” Doughty said. “There were a couple of abandoned vehicles on the site.”

What the hell? Have you looked at the calendar, lady? Global warming notwithstanding, Nashville’s last frost date is April 5 -- three days ago. There ain’t gonna be any vegetables growing there for a while. Are you a total moron, or just pretending to be one?

And I’m calling major bullshit on that “allowed the site to deteriorate” stuff. This is my neighborhood. I drive past here every day; I jog past here, I walk my dogs by here. It has not deteriorated. It’s a working garden. I’m sorry it doesn’t look enough like Cheekwood for you. This isn’t for the perfumed set to ooh and aaah over as they drink their sweet tea. This is for people to grow food. It’s an all-volunteer operation and yes, there are people working out here most Saturdays! In season, this is a vibrant community garden with, yes, vegetables and a rose garden honoring Deford Bailey.

Smelling a tremendous waft of bullshit over this story, I headed down to the site this afternoon and witnessed the carnage for myself. There I met and spoke with Sizwe Herring, heard an EarthMatters board member wonder how she could possibly raise the $10,000 TDOT threatened to charge for its “cleanup,” and listened as an elderly African American lady with her hair in curlers laid into the TDOT crew about how humanity was destroying God’s creation and nobody seemed to care. It just about broke my heart to see this rag-tag group of people who had been called to the site on a workday while TDOT supervisors in their starched white shirts put the riff raff in their place.

Near as I could gather, the EarthMatters folks had been given a month to clean up the site, but then for some reason TDOT bulldozers arrived early. I honestly don’t know what happened on that end. What I did hear is that two -- two -- residents across the street from the garden complained about noise and called the garden an eyesore.


One of the TDOT supervisors told me the garden was not the problem, the greenhouse was. It was filthy. Oh my. A dirty greenhouse, can you imagine? /sarcasm. You can see the picture of it above.

If you’ve been to the site, you know that the greenhouse sits far back from the street, behind a chain-link fence covered with honeysuckle. I can’t imagine how that could possibly be an eyesore to any residents. You have to be inside the garden to even see it!

Someone else said the problem was the composting operation, which according to BJ Doughty in the article above was part of the original deal the state made with EarthMatters. So if the state decided it no longer wanted composting, they surely didn't have to bring bulldozers out to stop it.

The other complaint from these two neighbors was noise, which is the most hilarious complaint of all. Apparently the gardeners had drumming and flutes and other live music on work days -- something I never saw, but of course I’m not out there every weekend. Regardless, the irony of someone complaining about noise when they live in the shade of the Interstate is pretty rich. Plus, Sevier Park backs up to those houses and the city actually hosts live music concerts there every summer. So, I'm calling bullshit on that complaint too.

The TDOT folks were doing a lot of talking and we heard one thing from one person and another thing from someone else. One guy told me the gardens would not be destroyed, but for some reason the hand-painted pavillions were demolished when I got there. I just don't know why a pavillion is a problem. I'm totally not getting it.

I don’t know these folks who complained. Maybe they are extraordinarily sensitive -- in which case, why move next to I-440? I just smell something else going on here, something along the lines of people not liking the poor blacks and dirty fucking hippies working together to plant a garden. That just really chaps some folks in the wrong place. I'm sorry but this just smacks of racism to me. If I'm wrong, well, bygones.

Anyway, I called Sen. Henry's office and his assistant offered to send me photos of the garden before TDOT "cleaned it up" -- which I said was unnecessary since I live near there and see it every day. She then said that there's nothing the Senator could do, the state Senate does not tell the departments how to run their business.

She actually said that. Which makes me think the state legislature is basically useless. I mean, it's good to know if TDOT accidentally bulldozes your house while pushing through a highway that your state Senator can't do a damn thing about it. But I digress.

And she then passed the buck to TDOT's Winston Gaffron at (615) 350-4300. So whatever. You know what to do.

ADDING.... The more I think about it, the more this stinks. TDOT folks have been acting so defensive about this whole thing ... from BJ Doughty saying she never saw a vegetable growing there to the starched-shirt crew on site this afternoon telling me the greenhouse was an eyesore.

Someone better dig into this.

Without further ado:

Raised Beds. With Stuff Growing In Them

Pavillion Destroyed By TDOT

I Know Let's Put A Racetrack Here

Here’s a garden tour from two years ago:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Something's Fishy In Wisconsin


Scout at First Draft has this quote from Gov. Walker on Wednesday:
“As long as the rules are clear, as long as there aren’t ballots somehow found out of the blue that weren’t counted before, things of that nature, as long as everything’s above board, I think that’s fair,” said Walker.

Yes, out of the blue. Out of the red is a different story, isn't it? Because always, always, always IOKIYAR.


Nobody could have anticipated! Really!

In a stunning turnaround, the county clerk for Waukesha County, a heavily Republican district in southeast Wisconsin, announced on Thursday evening that she'd failed to count more than 14,000 votes cast in Tuesday's state Supreme Court election. The error, disclosed by a former state GOP lawmaker who's been criticized for her handling of local elections, handed conservative incumbent David Prosser a lead of 7,582 votes, flipping the result of the race after an initial tally put liberal JoAnne Kloppenburg ahead by a mere 204 votes.

The Waukesha clerk, Kathy Nickolaus, a Republican, said in a press conference that the new votes, all of which were cast in the city of Brookfield, were missed because of human error that's "common in this process." Nickolaus apologized for the mistake, saying, "The purpose of the canvas is to catch these kind of mistakes."

This isn't the first time Nickolaus' role in overseeing elections in Waukesha has been engulfed in controversy. In 2010, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that she bucked the traditional election results system in Wisconsin and instead kept the county's election results on "stand-alone personal computers accessible only in her office." Nickolaus cited security reasons for her unorthodox method.

Well isn't that convenient! Nothing to see here, folks ... move along. But I'm sure there were hundreds of people named Mickey Mouse and Snow White voting on election day, right? RIGHT? Because we all know voter fraud is just something those dirty ACORN libs do.

Because We Won't Be Stopped

Remember that labor mural Maine Gov. Paul LePage had removed?


Because what authoritarian types always forget is, the spirit is mightier than the fist.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nice GOP Majority Ya Got, Shame If Anything Happened To It

The blowback against Wisconsin’s extremist Tea Party government has begun.

JoAnne Kloppenburg has won her Wisconsin State Supreme Court seat by a margin so thin it will surely be challenged in court. Even the Wall Street Journal can’t bear to come out and say it, but they note the number of votes cast in the lone precinct still counting would not be enough to overcome Kloppenburg’s lead. (Update: all precincts are now in and she's won.)

This was definitely a referendum on Scott Walker’s government. So watch out, State Senator Dan Kapanke:
Miller made one more point. According to his math, Kloppenburg won by a 60-40 margin in the district of Dan Kapanke, the first Republican that recall petitions were submitted against.

And while all of the attention has been focused on the State Supreme Court race, another Democratic win is to my “honorary Wisconsinite” eyes every bit the Scott Walker referendum the Prosser/Kloppenburg race has been. This was for Scott Walker’s old seat as Milwaukee County Executive, and it was won by Democrat Chris Abele over Republican Jeff Stone, now serving in the Wisconsin state house. Said Stone:

After losing the Milwaukee County executive race to Chris Abele, state Rep. Jeff Stone said the political environment in Madison made it tough for a state legislator to get elected.

“We just have to give the environment a little bit of time,” Stone said. “Chris has some big challenges ahead of him.”

Yes, I’m sure being despised to the point where you’ve actually mobilized tens of thousands of people in the dead of a Wisconsin winter to haul ass off their sofas and out into the cold to protest your crazy legislation would qualify as a "tough political environment." [/sarcasm]

And what are these challenges awaiting new the Milwaukee County Executive?

“It’s going to put in a new, eager, ambitious young man who's going to have to come up with a budget in 60 days,” he said.

Cesarz said the county’s current fiscal problems mean the County Board and Abele must work cooperatively.

“I think it has to, because all of the fixes for the last 20 years aren’t available to us any more,” Cesarz said.

I do not live in this community, but this is the first I've heard that Milwaukee County is having fiscal problems. Wouldn’t that be the fault of the last person to hold the County Executive seat? Isn’t that ... Governor Scott Walker? How did this assclown get elected?

Any Wisconsinites out there who can enlighten me?

Anyway, I have to think Republicans across the country -- especially John Boehner, currently caught between a soggy Tea Bag and a hard place -- are looking at what this extremism has done for the party and will now feel free to distance themselves. Hell, even Glenn Beck is leaving his self-titled show.

It appears schadenfreude is what’s on the lunch menu today.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fuel Follies

First we have this astonishing news:
The world may have no more than half a century of oil left at current rates of consumption, while surging demand from the developing world threatens to create “very significant price rises” before substitutes like biofuels can serve as viable alternatives, the British bank HSBC warns in a new report.

“We’re confident that there are around 50 years of oil left,” Karen Ward, the bank’s senior global economist, said in an interview on CNBC.

The bank, the world’s second largest in assets, further cautioned that growth trends in developing countries like China could put as many as one billion more cars on the road by midcentury. “That’s tremendous pressure on oil to power all those resources,” Ms. Ward said.

This is nothing new, indeed, back in January I wrote about this based on a New York Times Magazine article on offshore oil wildcatters. Basically, every last drop of oil on earth has been mapped. We know where it is -- all of it. There will be no new oil discoveries. What the challenge is, and has been, is getting to it. The easy oil is gone -- long gone -- and what remains is either politically difficult to tap (because it’s in places Not America governed by people hostile to us) or technologically difficult to tap (because it’s miles under the ocean or trapped in sand and shale.)

But none of that matters. Even the stuff left in places Not America and the tiny bit that remains in America is not sufficient to fuel our nation, let alone the globe. So I don’t for the life of me understand why anyone thinks it makes sense to continue on our merry way gobbling gasoline like it grows on trees. I think if people really understood the folly of our ways they’d be ditching their gas guzzlers and demanding alternatives yesterday. We're just delaying the inevitable.

So I’m not entirely encouraged to read this story from last week’s New York Times:

Start-Ups Work to Reinvent the Combustion Engine


As the first mass-produced electric cars hit the streets, Pinnacle is just one of several start-ups backed by prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists aiming to reinvent the century-old internal combustion engine. The big promise: vast improvements in fuel economy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions at a lower cost.

Nothing demonstrates capitalism’s failure as a driver of innovation more than venture capitalists backing start-ups reinventing the internal combustion engine. I mean, dudes: you’re like three decades too late.

It’s like a real-world example of what Doug at Balloon Juice was talking about yesterday:

They kid, but this illustrates (1) that our Galtian overlords aren’t inventing perpetual motion machines, they’re finding new ways to overcharge people for fruit and (2) that this is one market that’s not all that rational...

Capitalism has failed but in the age of Peak Oil, what will replace it? Thugocracy? Neo-Feudalism?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

All The World’s A Stage

Every day brings a new reason to feel depressed about the state of the nation. For example, let me share with you yesterday’s misery: I read this story in the Scene and was struck by this item:
Perhaps not surprisingly, one Nashville-based lobbyist says paid "grassroots" movements are becoming a part of every major civic project. Indeed, Copeland himself has worked on at least five such high-profile projects in Middle Tennessee in the past five years. Until the fairgrounds, he had done so the usual way in this line of work — covertly.

Here’s a little tip: if you’re paying people, it’s not “grassroots.”

I’m not at all surprised or shocked, at this point I’m basically just numb to the serial manipulations of public opinion which occur on a daily basis.

Our entire system is just so corrupted. Let me run down a few examples:

• It’s been revealed that many of the “real people” who phone in to talk radio programs are actually paid actors reading from scripts.

• Candidates for office have hired temp workers from staffing agencies to hold campaign signs and look like supporters.

• Corporate sockpuppets working for D.C. lobbyists are given phony titles at made-up front groups, then write op-eds, letters, and even make personal appearances to promote their clients' viewpoint.

• Political campaigns pay thousands of dollars to promote certain candidates and positions via paid professional blog commenters.

• Campaigns routinely hire ghost writers to pen Letters To The Editor as “real citizens.”

And this isn’t even including the usual rat-fucking activities by political activists: those doctored and edited James O’Keefe videos, the “serial victims” like Phil Parlock, the fake assassination plots, even the Sarah Palin sock-puppetry. And none of this is new, either. It’s been going on forever.

Yesterday I heard this item in regards to the Nixon tapes:

Everyone knows, for example, that the Watergate scandal came to light with the burglary of the Democratic Party's headquarters by Republican operatives. But there's a tape, says Naftali, where Nixon then plans a break-in of Republican headquarters.

"They would then blame the Democrats for having broken in to the Republican National Committee," Naftali says. "The president discusses how much money it would cost, and how much damage there should be done, and what they should take."

That scheme, and many others hatched by Nixon, never happened, says Naftali, because people in the government said no, "people who received orders that they would not, could not implement.

Of course, that was the Nixon age. Things have gotten far, far worse these days. And I just have to wonder: what is the point of all this message manipulation? To influence “public opinion”? Really?

If every piece of the discourse is suspect, if every “grassroots” movement is assumed to be astroturf, if every “man on the street” is just as likely to be a paid actor as a “real person,” doesn’t that cheapen the entire idea of public opinion? Doesn’t that make public opinion completely worthless as a concept?

So why are y'all wasting your time? And money? What's the damn point?

And who, really, are these machinations directed at? Certainly not us plebes. I have a sneaking suspicion that we've reached a point where y’all are basically just talking over us and at each other. And if that’s the case, can you just get a room already and leave us out of it?


Here's a Toronto Craigslist ad seeking right-wing commenters to newspaper forums, blogs and Facebook posts. They pay by the hour and "volume of online activity." And then there's this:

Bonuses for controversial postings that heat up a topic or forum thread.


Your writing must be strong, right-wing and use supplied talking points without bogging down in too much detail. You are creating an online persona with a consistent tone. Ideally you can find or make up facts and statistics to stir controversy.

This has me wondering if the ad is for real, or if the ad was placed by a left-winger trying to discredit the right-wing. I'm mean at this point, I can't trust anything.

My commenter who observed that the point is not to move public opinion but make it irrelevant is on to something. But really, when has public opinion ever mattered? It was always a farce. It's not like the powerful class haven't done whatever the hell they wanted anyway.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jay Steele & Nashville Chamber: Keep Your Hands Off Our Kids

Metro Nashville Schools have been swept up in yet another contentious battle, this one over the firing of a beloved teacher (technically she is being fired from a program she started and ran for nearly 30 years, not fired from Metro. She’s to be moved to another school). For my non-Nashville readers, go to the link and brush up on the controversy.

The removal of Mary Catherine Bradshaw is a political not performance-based move. She appears to have stood in the way of our corporate overlords a shiny-sparkly new education philosophy:
Her firing from the program comes at a time when new Metro schools associate superintendent Jay Steele is restructuring the district's high schools into a collection of "career academies," a hand-in-glove enterprise with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce to funnel students into high-demand career tracks like information technology.

If the name Jay Steele sounds familiar it’s because I wrote about another of his “pet projects” last April:

Naming rights to academic programs in Metro Nashville's high schools are for sale, and one school has a buyer.

The Tennessee Credit Union now owns the signage to Antioch High School's academy of business and finance for a price of $150,000. The school board approved the two-year contract Tuesday night.

Administrators hope this is the first of many naming deals. It's the brainchild of Metro's new high school czar, Jay Steele, who had success with the idea as an administrator in Florida.

"It's not marketing to kids," Steele told The Tennessean in December. "It's tight guidelines that would align a targeted industry with a theme."

Tight guidelines that align a targeted industry with a theme! Just what Nashville’s schools need!

WTF does that even mean? It sounds like business school clap-trap to me. It seems Jay Steele is hell bent on turning our city’s youth into fodder for the jaws of commerce, and I guess we’re supposed to cheer along and marvel at what a great start in life our youth are getting, what great business skills they’re learning and how they will be wonderful worker bees for the corporatocracy. Is that it? Forgive me if I’m wrong here, but was there a problem of some kind I’m unaware of? Were businesses not choosing to locate in Nashville because our kids are dumb?

Look, I get that we need to educate our kids so they can go to college and get jobs; I get that we need to start them off in life on the right foot. I even applaud the idea of offering classes that educate kids for high-demand fields. But for crying out loud this Chamber of Commerce crap has got to stop. Y’all can just wait in line before you get your greedy paws on ‘em, okay? Let them be kids for a little while.

This is dehumanization, plain and simple. It’s telling our kids their value is only in their earning power. They aren’t human beings, they’re human doings. The message is: You’re not valuable to our community because you’re alive, because you’re a child of God and a member of the human family, because when we see you and your friends we’re reminded that there’s another generation coming behind us. You’re valuable because you have potential earning power, someday you too can fight and claw your way up to being an independent contractor with no benefits and a crappy credit score. And someday you can look forward to an exciting retirement, maybe when you’re 75, whereafter you can spend your days on your feet as a WalMart greeter.

This is a really hard concept to articulate and so many others have done it so much better. I just think commerce is a corrupting influence that does not belong in our schools. Anywhere. So to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce: wait your fucking turn. You can have our kids when we’re ready to give them to you. Right now, they belong to us.

And to Jay Steele, look: I know this is a radical idea for some of you young whippersnappers raised in a post-Reagan age, but I don’t happen to think that capitalism is the cure for every problem.

There’s an intellectual debate going on right now, and I’m going to refer folks back to my October 2009 post on the business of dehumanization. It's the one where I linked to Mark Slouka’s article in the September issue of Harper’s (“Dehumanized: When Math & Science Rule The School," and a subscription is required).

Slouka wrote:

Like a single species taking over an ecosystem, like an elephant on a see-saw, the problem today is disequilibrium. Why is every Crisis in American Education cast as an economic threat and never a civic one? In part, because we don’t have the language for it. Our focus is on the usual economic indicators. There are no corresponding “civic indicators,” no generally agreed-upon warning signs of political vulnerability, even though the inability of more than two thirds of our college graduates to read a text and draw rational inferences could be seen as the political equivalent of runaway inflation or soaring unemployment.

Of course, as I wrote at the time we do have those civic indicators: low voter turnout being a major one.

Slouka’s point was that an emphasis on math and science education at the expense of the humanities is a great way to create worker bees to feed the machinery of capitalism, and also a great way to starve the nation of critical thinking skills and knowledge which breeds dissent. It also devalues art, music, literature and the entire cultural spectrum of things which make life worth living.

It’s hard not to see capitalism’s creep into our schools, and watch as teachers are being devalued at every step, and then read about efforts to roll back child labor laws around the country and not wonder if there’s a connection.