Friday, April 30, 2010

Black Death

The Gulf of Mexico:

Another rig just overturned as well.

Plenty of blame to go around, but it turns out that secret meeting Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney had with oil companies back in 2001, the meeting he would not allow anyone to get answers about, has a big part to play:
An 'acoustic switch' would have prevented this catastrophe - it's a failsafe that shuts the flow of oil off at the source - they cost only about half a million dollars each, and are required in off-shore drilling platforms in most of the world...except for the United States. This was one of the new deregulations devised by Dick Cheney during his secret meetings with the oil industry at the beginning of Bush's first term.

The GOP appears eager to call this "Obama's Katrina," as if that might efface the culpability of their most recent two-term President. It turns out this on that Administration as well -- this one is Dick Cheney's Katrina.

Thanks for leaving all those burning bags of dogshit on President Obama's doorstep, guys.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The First Punk

Siobhan Magnus was the first authentic punk rocker on American Idol. She's a 20 year-old glass blower apprentice from Cape Cod with the soul pipes and glory notes. And she got cut this week.

While Siobhan is acknowledged to be peculiar even by her family. She didn't want to be put in a box on Idol, nor did she construct her own box. Like Crystal Bowersox, the only woman left competing in the top five, her appearances had the power to transform the show into something distinct, their own show, their own time.

Coming from a large and musical family, her mother's favorite band is The Ramones and she grew up singing "House of the Rising Sun" with her dad. Her wild mix of influence yielded the show-stopping rendition of "Think" where she revealed her ability to hit and hold psychotically high notes, an entremely un-Idol "Wicked Game," a gorgeous "Across the Universe" and the one she wanted the be the one everyone remembered, "Paint it Black":

The judges dissed her for having too many contradictions, no knowing where to put her in their heads. She replied that it was point of pride for her that she wouldn't even put herself in a box, let alone expect other people to. That's the Joe Strummer-style punk attitude, which makes sense as she's the first Top 12 contestant to have sung in a punk rock band.

And, best of all, her demeanor when she isn't a song goddess walking the stage or owning a room and the airwaves with a note, is so much slower, with the big wacky eyeglasses, but also more considered, per this exit interview at USA Today:

You've had one of the most eclectic musical backgrounds of anyone on the show.

What do you look for in music that gets you from Hanson to Rob Zombie to musical theater?

I guess anything that moves me, anything that comes across as sincere and emotional and an honest expression. Music, to me, is an outlet. It's what you turn to when you don't know how else to get your feelings out. I can detect that in an artist. When somebody writes a song and you hear it and you can tell that they needed to write that song to explain how they felt, then it moves me, and I like it.

There are so many different kinds of music, and there's a difference between good polka and bad polka. Even if it's not your favorite genre, you have to appreciate that it's good for what it is. I'm just blessed that I had parents who raised me with such varied tastes in music, so that I was never closed-minded to anything.

When you like so many different kinds of music, does it get hard to figure out what you sound best singing? Because the music you love and the music you're good at aren't always the same thing.

A little bit, but I try not to take it as a bad thing. I try to see it as gaining versatility. I learn from everything that I love. I learned how to sing the way I do through imitating singers that I love. I try and encapsulate all of that and create my own unique sound from that. I try and use it as a positive thing, that I like so many different kinds of music.

I'm guessing, while there will always be some Siobhan haters out there, this girl will sell music and appearances.

It's about talent, but it's also about taste.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tally Oh!

Interesting developments over in England where the governing Labour Party, damaged by former Prime Minister Tony Blair's acquiescence to George W. Bush's duplicitiously conceived and clumsily executed Iraq War, now finds itself potentially dropping to third place in the upcoming election behind the anti-charismatic PM Gordon Brown.

While Tory leader David Cameron has been preparing for Downing Street by rebuilding his party's image in a kinder, gentler fashion (he's maybe slightly to the right of Obama) and poised to win, both Cameron and Brown have been upstaged in Britain's first televised Prime Minister election debates by Nick Clegg, telegenic leader of the smaller Liberal-Democratic Party. Clegg has been compared to Obama in that he's both something of a breathe of fresh air as well as offering a third way between or besides the other two parties.

The polls currently have the Conservatives in the lead, followed by the Liberal Dems and Labour trailing. But what just happened today could be the deathblow to Labour hopes of retaining control of even a coalition government, as Gordon Brown committed one the all-time worst campaign gaffes in that country. Brown was doing some rare campaigning amongst the electorate, had a conversation with an older woman last name Duffy, and was caught on mic disparaging her as a bigot as he got into his car (transcript via Andrew Sullivan's blog):

Duffy: We had it drummed in when I was a child with mine … it was education, health service and looking after the people who are vulnerable. But there's too many people now who are vulnerable but they can claim and people who are vulnerable can't get claim, can't get it.

Brown: But they shouldn't be doing that, there is no life on the dole for people any more. If you are unemployed you've got to go back to work. It's six months.

Duffy: You can't say anything about the immigrants because you're saying that you're … but all these eastern European what are coming in, where are they flocking from?

Later, as he was leaving

Brown: Very good to meet you, and you're wearing the right colour today. Ha, ha, ha: How many grandchildren do you have?

Duffy: Two. They've just got back from Australia where they got stuck for 10 days. They couldn't get back with this ash crisis.

Brown: We've been trying to get people back quickly. Are they going to university. Is that the plan?

Duffy: I hope so. They're only 12 and 10.

Brown: Are they're doing well at school? [pats Duffy on the back] A good family, good to see you. It's very nice to see you.

In the car

Brown: That was a disaster. Well I just ... should never have put me in that woman. Whose idea was that?

And since they're doing American-style debates, why not American-style YouTube gaffe documentation:

Welcome to our world, Gordon Brown.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Have I Got a Deal for You

Yet another language taboo falls, courtesy Goldman Sachs and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI):

What will be the last taboo word?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Color Me Stunned

Mark Halperin can usually be counted on to act like a typical Washington, DC villager and go with the conventional wisdom, if not bolster it. So it surprised me to read his completely against-the-grain piece on how President Obama's administration is shaping up:
It is too early to assess the ultimate measure of victory: whether the President's actions have been prudent and beneficial, domestically and internationally. But by Election Day 2010, Obama will have soundly achieved many of his chief campaign promises while running a highly competent, scandal-free government. Not bad for a guy whose opponents (in both parties) for the White House suggested that he was too green in national life to know how to do the job — and whose presidency began in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis that demanded urgent attention and commanded much of his focus.
He goes on to praise his hiring acumen with lead personnel decisions Vice President Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. (Compare to his opponent, Sen. John McCain, who's key personnel decision unleashed money-grubbing Sarah Palin on the world.) He goes further, enumerating goals being met:

In the months ahead, the President will likely pass a financial-regulation overhaul (despite this past weekend's snags), manage the confirmation of a second Supreme Court nominee with relatively little commotion, announce the reduction of the U.S. troop level in Iraq to about 50,000, showcase the undercovered gains on education reform, take advantage of the improving economy to tout his stimulus efforts and sharpen his "Obama-Biden future vs. Bush-Cheney past" argument to help stave off massive Democratic losses in November. He also has a decent chance to pass a small-to-medium-size energy bill. True, some promises, like comprehensive immigration reform, will remain on the sidelines, but most of his major goals will be completed or well under way.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


This Rolling Stone article by the incomparable Matt Taibbi, Looting Main Street, tells of how big banks like JP Morgan are acting like Tony Soprano in driving places like Jefferson Country, Alabama (the case Taibbi chronicles) to massive debt on top of debt, well beyond the actual cost of any infrastructure improvements needed:
...In 1996, the average monthly sewer bill for a family of four in Birmingham was only $14.71 — but that was before the county decided to build an elaborate new sewer system with the help of out-of-state financial wizards with names like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. The result was a monstrous pile of borrowed money that the county used to build, in essence, the world's grandest toilet — "the Taj Mahal of sewer-treatment plants" is how one county worker put it. What happened here in Jefferson County would turn out to be the perfect metaphor for the peculiar alchemy of modern oligarchical capitalism: A mob of corrupt local officials and morally absent financiers got together to build a giant device that converted human shit into billions of dollars of profit for Wall Street — and misery for people like Lisa Pack.

And once the giant shit machine was built and the note on all that fancy construction started to come due, Wall Street came back to the local politicians and doubled down on the scam. They showed up in droves to help the poor, broke citizens of Jefferson County cut their toilet finance charges using a blizzard of incomprehensible swaps and refinance schemes — schemes that only served to postpone the repayment date a year or two while sinking the county deeper into debt. In the end, every time Jefferson County so much as breathed near one of the banks, it got charged millions in fees. There was so much money to be made bilking these dizzy Southerners that banks like JP Morgan spent millions paying middlemen who bribed — yes, that's right, bribed, criminally bribed — the county commissioners and their buddies just to keep their business. Hell, the money was so good, JP Morgan at one point even paid Goldman Sachs $3 million just to back the fuck off, so they could have the rubes of Jefferson County to fleece all for themselves.

It's an amazing article, which also shows you what happened to Greece -- now causing massive bankruptcy/bailout pain for the EU, threatening the Euro itself:
Now if the euro was a company, the Greek division would be closed or sold off. The product line had not lived up to expectations. It was important therefore to protect the core business. Other weaker divisions might have to go too. Now some economists like Paul Krugman, who is an admirer of Europe, opined recently that the problem was that Greece had joined the Euro before it was ready. We are now living out the consequences of a fudge ten years ago.

One big question: will Goldman Sachs be indicted in Europe?:
Greece's debt managers agreed a huge deal with the savvy bankers of US investment bank Goldman Sachs at the start of 2002. The deal involved so-called cross-currency swaps in which government debt issued in dollars and yen was swapped for euro debt for a certain period -- to be exchanged back into the original currencies at a later date.
But in the Greek case the US bankers devised a special kind of swap with fictional exchange rates. That enabled Greece to receive a far higher sum than the actual euro market value of 10 billion dollars or yen. In that way Goldman Sachs secretly arranged additional credit of up to $1 billion for the Greeks.
At some point Greece will have to pay up for its swap transactions, and that will impact its deficit. The bond maturities range between 10 and 15 years. Goldman Sachs charged a hefty commission for the deal and sold the swaps on to a Greek bank in 2005.
At what point do we start using the f-word to describe what these huge "masters of the universe" banks have done? As in, F is for Fraud?

Friday, April 23, 2010

What the Cluck?

Nutjob Sue Lowden, the GOoPer in Nevada who thinks -- or maybe thought, until this week -- that she's going to replace Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, made the notorious chicken barter for medical services comment that has now morphed into meme.

And website -- convert your chickens to appendectomies here.

Not so incidentally, it turns out that Lowden is an anti-union employer with a history of cutting health insurance benefits:

When Sue Lowden headed the Santa Fe hotel-casino, management forced a group of workers to shift to part-time status and sign away their health care coverage, said a judge who ruled the company violated fair labor practices. He ordered the Santa Fe to pay two dozen employees almost $188,000 in back wages and benefits and to reinstate three workers who lost their jobs, records show.

The 1990s case, which involved a bitter war between the unions that tried to organize Santa Fe workers and casino executives Sue and Paul Lowden who fought the effort, is at the heart of the latest attack on the Republican U.S. Senate candidate by incumbent Sen. Harry Reid's campaign.

The Lowdens lost the case in court but sold the joint so workers all had to reapply for their jobs anyway. Then they continued their anti-worker ways:

The Reid campaign has dug into financial reports of the Lowden family gaming company, Archon Corp., to undercut her business experience. Annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Paul Lowden, as Archon chief executive officer, was paid $200,000 in bonuses in 2004 and again last year when the Archon-run Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall in Laughlin dropped 106 employees and stopped matching employee contributions to their 401k accounts.

Sue Lowden, who is executive vice president, secretary and treasurer of Archon, responded by saying she did not sit on the compensation committee that made those decisions.

Yep, another Republican politico masquerading as for the people, when all they're really for is themselves and their cronies.

Has she met Meg yet?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

News Alert

Cable newsman does his job!

COOPER: You told our producer you voted for this because you get a lot of calls from constituents with questions based on things they have read on the Internet.

I mean, isn't it your job as a leader to actually lead, not to throw up your hands and say, well, who knows what's real or not on the Internet, to actually say, well, actually, you know, Hawaii has released this information, and it's factually correct?

ASH: Well, as I said, I haven't personally investigated that. But I -- I think that, if -- if...

COOPER: But, I mean, there's plenty of things you believe that you have not personally investigated.

ASH: That's true.

COOPER: Why, this, are you holding onto?

ASH: Well, what we're requiring here is for a -- a presidential candidate to demonstrate he is qualified.

And I don't think having any presidential candidate -- candidate show that he's qualified by demonstrating the requirements of the requirements, that there's any problem with that.

COOPER: You told my producer you thought the president spent a million dollars fighting the release of his birth certificate, and then that raised concerns for you.


ASH: That's what I have heard. As I said, it...

COOPER: Right. But that's not -- you know that's actually not true?

ASH: I -- I don't know that that's not true. As I said, I haven't studied it. You get a lot of information on the Internet. As you know, much of it is inaccurate.

It goes on -- brilliant stuff. Stupid Cecil Ash of Arizona. There's no talking to Ash or people like him -- Cooper tries, but facts don't count, just manufactured radical rightwing controversies designed to dehumanize and de-legitimize a winner they don't like, and the perverted political pandering that follows.

Shame on the stupid/racist/reactionary birthers, but greater shame on any morally corrupt enablers in the Republican Party -- like those making up the majority in the Arizona state legislature.

From either angle: pure evil.

Reform Really Coming?

So financial industry tough will it be? (Break 'em up!!)

Senate progressives offer hope, if their amendment passes:

Stressing the need for more competition among smaller banks and increased business lending, the senators believe that the largest financial institutions present too much risk to our economy to keep them around. They have the support of the Main Street Alliance, a group of progressive-leaning small business owners who have advocated for strong financial reform and set themselves up in opposition to the Chamber of Commerce.

The bill's central points:

  • Imposing a strict 10 percent cap on any bank-holding-company’s share of the United States’ total insured deposits
  • Reducing the maximum amount of non-deposit liabilities at financial institutions (to 2 percent of United States GDP for banks, and 3 percent of GDP for non-bank institutions)
  • Setting into law a 6 percent leverage limit for bank-holding companies and selected non-bank financial institutions

These steps would require several of the largest banks to, in effect, break themselves up to come in under the limits that this law would create. While most of the existing legislation in the House and Senate contains gestures toward these ideas, this is the first time they've been proposed as statutory limits, something called for by a number of public figures, including several Midwestern regional Federal Reserve presidents and former Fed Chair Paul Volcker.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chickens for Cancer

Not to be too facetious but Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sue Lowden is suggesting that we repeal health care reform and go back to barter for medical treatment:

"And I would have suggested, and I think that bartering is really good. Those doctors who you pay cash, you can barter, and that would get prices down in a hurry. And I would say go out, go ahead out and pay cash for whatever your medical needs are, and go ahead and barter with your doctor."

Is this a woman who's lived without health insurance and had any kind of serious medical issues in her adult life? Does she really think that there's enough barter out there to pay for, say, breast cancer treatment?

She also suggests socking away $20,000 in a health savings account. Again, does she have any sense of what catastrophic medical treatment costs?

What's crazy is that she doubles down today on a local news show:

My favorite line: "I'm telling you this works." Sure, back in the 1860's.

Look, my father was an OB-GYN, and we had some pretty incredible artwork and craft items around the house from some barter deals he did with patients who were cash-strapped artists back in the 1960's and 1970's, maybe even into the 1980's. It was a very small percentage of his business, and he was actually instrumental in forming a regional doctors-owned HMO that went in direct competition with the big corporate outsider HMO. So I get that there's always room for other types of transactions between individuals.

A chicken, we'd have no need for. Well, maybe if it came plucked.

Scary thought: this removed-from-reality woman could end up replacing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

And that would be a bum deal.

Monday, April 19, 2010

420 It Is

The myths dispelled legend explained, why 420 has become a universally accepted connotation:

The Waldos do have proof, however, that they used the term in the early '70s in the form of an old 420 flag and numerous letters with 420 references and early '70s post marks. They also have a story.

It goes like this: One day in the Fall of 1971 - harvest time - the Waldos got word of a Coast Guard service member who could no longer tend his plot of marijuana plants near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station. A treasure map in hand, the Waldos decided to pluck some of this free bud.

The Waldos were all athletes and agreed to meet at the statue of Loius Pasteur outside the school at 4:20, after practice, to begin the hunt.

"We would remind each other in the hallways we were supposed to meet up at 4:20. It originally started out 4:20-Louis and we eventually dropped the Louis," Waldo Steve tells the Huffington Post.

The first forays out were unsuccessful, but the group kept looking for the hidden crop. "We'd meet at 4:20 and get in my old '66 Chevy Impala and, of course, we'd smoke instantly and smoke all the way out to Pt. Reyes and smoke the entire time we were out there. We did it week after week," says Steve. "We never actually found the patch."

But they did find a useful codeword. "I could say to one of my friends, I'd go, 420, and it was telepathic. He would know if I was saying, 'Hey, do you wanna go smoke some?' Or, 'Do you have any?' Or, 'Are you stoned right now?' It was kind of telepathic just from the way you said it," Steve says. "Our teachers didn't know what we were talking about. Our parents didn't know what we were talking about."

It's one thing to identify the origin of the term. Indeed, Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary already include references to the Waldos. The bigger question: How did 420 spread from a circle of California stoners across the globe?

See also the Do You Party? books by Mike Durgan.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Go, Jerry, Go

Does Meg Whitman really know what she's getting herself into?
Taking the offensive for the first time in his campaign for governor, Jerry Brown tried to counter Republican momentum by issuing a challenge from the state Democratic convention podium Saturday for his GOP opponents to debate him before the primary election in June.
He jabbed repeatedly at Republican Meg Whitman, the billionaire former head of EBay who has put $59 million of her own money into her gubernatorial campaign.

"Campaigning and democracy is not about buying hundreds of millions of dollars of 30-second TV ads," Brown told the delegates, vastly exaggerating her spending. "When we live in a democracy, we're not consumers of advertising. We're agents of democratic choice. We're actors in a historical drama."

Alluding to commercials aired by Whitman and her fellow Republican Steve Poizner, who trails her in polls for the June 8 primary, Brown said: "Come out from behind those glittering poppy fields, those beautiful car crashes over the mountain. Let's set up some honest debates."

Poizner's campaign immediately accepted Brown's three-debate proposal; Whitman's campaign at first said she was open to the idea but later declined.

Good for Poizner, and Brown's offer gives him increased legitimacy while Whitman again looks like a neophyte. Brown has clearly identified her weakness, which is that she is not yet fully formed or fully confident as a candidate, just as a rich citizen wanting to buy the Governorship.

Hence his calling her out makes her look weak in every possible way. If she's not ready to debate, how can she be ready to lead? Especially a state in as much trouble as my beloved California -- there's no time for learning on the job when we're cutting teachers and state parks while tuitions and other fees are shooting up.

As I've said earlier, Brown will win because the state will need a practiced hand. He was a successful Governor in the past, even cutting state budgets when the root-of-all-evil Proposition 13 passed during his administration. Why would the state take a chance on another novice?

Sure, she made a fortune as CEO of Ebay. But she can't even hold an open press conference yet?

Or debate her rivals?

Friday, April 16, 2010

While It Lasts

It seems clear to me that the Massachusetts Dems won't make a mistake next time with some weak-tea machine candidate without the common touch, so that means the supposed comer Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has to be pretty damned good to keep the job.

Something tells me he'll be a one-partial-term Senator:

Asked by the Boston Globe how he'd like to see the bill improved, Brown fumbled -- appearing not even to know what it was he wanted changed in order to garner his support.

Brown left open the possibility that he could support a compromise.

"I want to see when it's going to come up, how it's going to come up,'' he said. "I'm always open to trying to work something through so it is truly bipartisan.''

Brown, whose vote could be critical as Democrats seek to find a GOP member to avoid a filibuster, assiduously avoided talking about specifics.

When asked what areas he thought should be fixed, he replied: "Well, what areas do you think should be fixed? I mean, you know, tell me. And then I'll get a team and go fix it.''

Even the Globe struggled to explain Brown's position: "He appeared to oppose the creation of a consumer protection agency within the Federal Reserve. 'It’s more government, it’s more government regulation at a time when businesses are trying just to pay their bills,' he said. 'Is that good? . . . If it’s an area we need to fix, then I’m certainly open to it. But I haven’t heard that that’s the biggest thing that’s problematic with it.'"Link

It sure won't help him -- and possibly hurt him further with the 'baggers -- if he continues to take the solid party-line position with his GOP against even debating banking reform. Especially when those banks are getting indicted.

Scott was in the right place at the right time and has obvious retail skills. He'll be out in 2012, when more Dems are swept in on the coattails of President Barack Obama, whose landslide victory could not have been predicted back in the early health care reform passage days of 2010.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea for the Taxman

Here's my prediction: The teabagger movement has peaked. Or Tea Party, if that's what you prefer.

There will be some noise in November, but it's going to fade as the Obama tax cuts for the Middle Class -- the lowest rates in 60 years -- kick in as refunds, the notion of repealing healthcare reform comes to seem more and more self-destructive, their more moronic "stars" like the hideously untalented and now just plain hideous Victoria Jackson deglamorize the movement, as Fox News becomes more obvious in how they are using and abusing them -- like pulling Hannity from a Cincinnati rally today because the execs in NYC realized the local baggers were going to be charging admission for his appearance!

Most importantly, the teafolk are actually getting confronted by counter-protesters and having to justify their beliefs, which tend to disintegrate upon forced self-examination.
After all, 2/3 of these supposed anti-socialists want to hold onto their Social Security and Medicare:
“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”
...and they'll come to feel that way about their healthcare rights as well, albeit cherry-picking at first. And maybe some will even break away from Fox News enough to learn that much of what they say they support, like buying health insurance across state lines, is represented in reform (in this case by exchanges).

The politicization of whatever are the core grassroots sentiments amongst this 18% of the population will become an increasing problem for both the Tea Partiers (overwhelmingly disgruntled Republicans, just 8 years too late to their tea party) and GOP. If Chief Justice Roberts is so incensed about Obama "politicizing" the Supreme Court when he called them out for their highly political (i.e. classic GOP corporatist) Citizens United decision during the State of the Union, what leg does he have to stand on when a member of his own wing, Justice Clarence Thomas, is used to promote the baggers and their political agenda -- thanks to his wife's involvement with the Washington astroturfing efforts to earn off the movement?

In speaking with a conservative colleague in DC recently I learned that there's a growing division between the grassroots purists and those who are earning bank off the movement, i.e. Dick Armey's FreedomWorks. To the credit of the purist faction, they don't want to be co-opted, which may be tough considering that was the central force behind their p.r. breakthroughs.

The fact is that there are only two political parties of any heft in American right now, the Democratic Party and Fox News. The Republicans are now a satellite of the earners at Fox -- as best evidenced by psychostar Sarah Palin, former half-term Governor of Alaska turned $12 million woman. The Republican Party was simply her stepping stone to the conservative media money machine, perhaps the first or at least the most clear-cut example of this new phenomenon.

There may develop a Tea Party as some sort of rump down-ballot presence, although my guess is that it will end up being too scattered for the consistency a true national party needs to grow. It smacks of the Ross Perot party or John Anderson, simply not enough. Back in my childhood these would have been the Right-to-Life Party, maybe crossing over to the Conservative Party, although more often than not the Republican and Conservative candidates were the same, ipso the Democratic and Liberal, although there were interesting exceptions in New York State, i.e. Sen. Jacob Javits and other line-blurrers.

As long as the main opposition party to President Obama is Fox News, the system will be out of whack. If they manage to succeed in unseating him at re-election time, that's pretty much the end of democracy in America -- and since the Roberts Court has legalized unlimited corporate spending on campaigns, there's all new ways for them to spend their profits tearing down the nation's leadership and cycling back to greater profits as a result -- including getting their candidate in the White House and opening the floodgates to Berlusconi-style media/political cross domination.

Should that happen, we'll see if any Tea Partiers start to wake up...and become real patriots.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

That Stiletto Crowd

Could the opening video of this piece be any squarer for 2010? Stoner movie clip, duh-uh? Hidden identity and having to explain common grown-up discretion?

At least the two professional women in the interview, particularly the psychiatrist, appear smart, calm and experienced.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


So now do I have to take my kids to every movie in the 3D version so we can pay another 25% and watch the dimmer version?

And now TV's? You mean I have to sit on my couch with the funny glasses watching the dimmer image from across the room?

How about a trip to the museum:

(The Seurat is the best.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

World Class President

He gets Ukraine to divest itself of highly enriched uranium, making the world a little safer from terrorists who might get hold of it.

His new START treaty is widely approved by the U.S. public -- 70%, to be exact.

He gets China to agree to push sanctions on Iran. He pisses off the Iranian leadership with his new policy.

Per Russian Premier Medvedev, who has his own worries about terrorists getting powerful bombs, he's great to work with:

MEDVEDEV: He's very comfortable partner, it's very interesting to be with him. The most important thing that distinguishes him from many other people – I won't name anyone by name – he's a thinker, he thinks when he speaks. Which is already pretty good.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You had somebody in your mind, I think. (LAUGHS)

MEDVEDEV: Obviously I do have someone on my mind. I don't want to offend anyone. He's eager to listen to his partner, which is a pretty good quality for a politician. Because any politician is to a certain degree a mentor. They preach something. And the ability to listen to their partner is very important for the politician. And he is pretty deeply emerged in the subject, so he has a good knowledge of what he's talking about. There was no instance in our meetings with Mr. Obama where he wasn't well prepared for the questions. This is very good. And after all, he's simply a very pleasant man with whom it's a pleasure to deal with.

President Barack Obama: Making America healthier and the world safer.

Do you really think there's going to be somebody more qualified and suited to the job than him in two years?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

More on the Slavery Minimalization

Haley Barbour, Republican Governor of Georgia, chimes in to defend the indefensible:

On Sunday, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss) defended Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's omission of slavery from his "Confederate History Month" proclamation.

Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," Barber said that the firestorm of controversy raised by McDonnell's proclamation is "just a nit". "It's trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn't matter for diddly," Barbour claimed.

What's the matter with this element of the South that has convinced itself that the Confederacy was about States Rights rather than preserving the abominable institution of slavery? Ask Newsweek editor/historian Jon Meacham:
Advertently or not, Mr. McDonnell is working in a long and dispiriting tradition. Efforts to rehabilitate the Southern rebellion frequently come at moments of racial and social stress, and it is revealing that Virginia’s neo-Confederates are refighting the Civil War in 2010. Whitewashing the war is one way for the right — alienated, anxious and angry about the president, health care reform and all manner of threats, mostly imaginary — to express its unease with the Age of Obama, disguising hate as heritage.

If neo-Confederates are interested in history, let’s talk history. Since Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Confederate symbols have tended to be more about white resistance to black advances than about commemoration. In the 1880s and 1890s, after fighting Reconstruction with terrorism and after the Supreme Court struck down the 1875 Civil Rights Act, states began to legalize segregation. For white supremacists, iconography of the “Lost Cause” was central to their fight; Mississippi even grafted the Confederate battle emblem onto its state flag.

But after the Supreme Court allowed segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, Jim Crow was basically secure. There was less need to rally the troops, and Confederate imagery became associated with the most extreme of the extreme: the Ku Klux Klan.

In the aftermath of World War II, however, the rebel flag and other Confederate symbolism resurfaced as the civil rights movement spread. In 1948, supporters of Strom Thurmond’s pro-segregation Dixiecrat ticket waved the battle flag at campaign stops.

Then came the school-integration rulings of the 1950s. Georgia changed its flag to include the battle emblem in 1956, and South Carolina hoisted the colors over its Capitol in 1962 as part of its centennial celebrations of the war.

As the sesquicentennial of Fort Sumter approaches in 2011, the enduring problem for neo-Confederates endures: anyone who seeks an Edenic Southern past in which the war was principally about states’ rights and not slavery is searching in vain, for the Confederacy and slavery are inextricably and forever linked.

Point sharpened by Matt Yglesias:
Meanwhile, I would note that apart from contemporary racial issues, something that links the mentality of today’s right to the mentality of the slaveowners and segregation proponents is the white southern political tradition’s very partial and selective embrace of majoritarian democracy. As long as national institutions are substantially controlled by white southerners, the white south is a hotbed of patriotism. But as soon as an non-southern political coalition manages to win an election—as we saw in 1860 and in 2008—then suddenly the symbols of national authority become symbols of tyranny and the constitution is construed as granting conservative areas all kinds of alleged abilities to opt out of national political decisions. Even if you think opposition to the Affordable Care Act has nothing whatsoever to do with race, the underlying political philosophy by which a George W Bush or James Buchanan is a national president but an Abraham Lincoln or a Barack Obama merely a sectional one remains incoherent and pernicious.

The hell with Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) calling Obama "un-American" and the likes of Newt Gingrich calling him "radical." That's all about dehumanizing our President for their own base and anyone they may be able to suck into their know-nothing vortex.

Poor Confederacy. They lost the battle to continue to the subjugation of a kidnapped race.

How galling it must be for the recidivists to have someone from that race running the country, let alone doing it so well.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The $32 Million Man

Glenn reveals the truth:
With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: "I could give a flying crap about the political process." Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. "We're an entertainment company," Beck says. He has managed to monetize virtually everything that comes out of his mouth. He gets $13 million a year from print (books plus the ten-issue-a-year magazine Fusion). Radio brings in $10 million. Digital (including a newsletter, the ad-supported and merchandise) pulls in $4 million. Speaking and events are good for $3 million and television for $2 million.

It's like a Star Trek channel that just provides that alternative universe for its adherents to wallow in day-in-day-out and replace actual reality with something that plays to their sensibilities without relief.

And Glennie just reveal what everyone with half a brain should already know. The word "News" in the channel name is meant as satire.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Circle of Bad

Yesterday I wrote about the Confederacy and repercussions in our current day and age. The anti-federal government animosity of the past now manifests itself in the more extremist elements of Tea Party/teabaggers and their fellow travelers, as egged on by Fox News and the contemporary Republican Party that seems to cover before them, as anti-Obama/anti-Democrat/anti-health reform to the point of a wild proliferation of rightwing murder threats.

Is there direct line of culpability anywhere here? Check out the opinion of the mother of the man just arrested for threatening the life of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
"Greg has -- frequently gets in with a group of people that have really radical ideas and that are not consistent with myself or the rest of the family and -- which gets him into problems," said Eleanor Giusti, 83, in an interview with ABC 7. "And apparently I would say this must be another one that somehow he's gotten onto either by -- I'd say Fox News or all of those that are really radical, and he -- that's where he comes from."

I'll be interested to hear more about another gentleman just arrested in East Texas:

"It does appear that there were two motives: one, that he was disenchanted with the federal government, and, two, he was disenchanted with an individual who he perceived that had wronged him," says Featherston of 52-year-old Larry North, who was arrested today.

North was indicted Wednesday on a charge of illegally possessing a pipe bomb. (Read the indictment here.) Authorities had identified North as a person of interest in connection with a string of incidents in which explosive devices were placed in mailboxes in East Texas.

They say that he was witnessed putting a pipe bomb in a collection box in Tyler Wednesday. Prosecutors say North distributed 36 devices in 23 locations, but he has not been charged beyond the possession count.

When I see a Republican saying that there are (at minimum) disproportionate threats against Democrats, that the rhetoric is way too rough on their side of the aisle, and that it is never appropriate to express one's political opposition in terms of violence, let alone spit, curse, threaten or actually plan or carry out attacks, then that's a Republican I'll look at differently than the equivocating rest.

And credit where credit is due, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), not incidentally one of Obama's first friends when he joined the Senate:

But in a recent town hall meeting Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered some kind words for her, saying "she's a nice lady." Coburn added that although he and the Speaker differ on policy issues, she's a "good person."

Perhaps even more stunning than Coburn's conciliatory words for Pelosi was his criticism of Fox News.

"What we have to have is make sure we have a debate in this country so that you can see what's going on and make a determination yourself," he said, adding: "So don't catch yourself being biased by Fox News that somebody is no good. The people in Washington are good. They just don't know what they don't know.

I may not agree with Sen. Coburn on most politics, but he appears to be quite a respectable human being.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Confederacy = Racism

There's no two ways about it. The War Between the States was called The War of Northern Aggression by some Southerners because they didn't want to give up their enslavement of African peoples. The Southern system of plantations and cotton growing was built around the ownership of human beings, making their labor wage-less, essentially free, depending how low you could keep their standards of living. By the time of the Civil War it was illegal even to educate a slave. America was and continues to be an imperfect Union constantly striving to be "more perfect" but with the exception of the genocide against the Native American population that roamed free in this country before the European settlers took over, there is no other abomination so widespread, so much of an infrastructure, as the institution of slavery. And no matter what other issues may have existed, that is the one that could not be brokered.

Cue Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, supposedly some sort of new-style Republican who might even be Presidential timber. Aside from his ridiculous counter to President Obama's State of the Union Address this year, held in the Virginia legislative chambers as if to give him the heft of the Presidency, where he simply recycled previously failed GOP talking points (W. II?), he has made perhaps the gaffe of the year, all the more flagrant for having actually been planned.

McDonnell decided to declare April "Confederate History Month," which is something like proclaiming "National Socialism History Month" in present-day Germany. And just in case we don't know where McDonnell and the Virginia GOP's sympathies lie, he somehow neglected to mention slavery in his proclamation statement.

Cue the hasty late addition of a clause after hue and cry, notably from McDonnell's top African-American supporter, the wealthy Sheila Johnson, Co-Founder of Black Entertainment Television:

"I must condemn Governor McDonnell's Proclamation honoring 'Confederate History Month,' and its insensitive disregard of Virginia's complicated and painful history, the remnants of which many Virginians still wrestle with today,'' Johnson wrote in a statement. "The complete omission of slavery from an official government document, which purports to be a call for Virginians to 'understand' and 'study' their history, is both academically flawed and personally offensive. If Virginians are to celebrate their 'shared history,' as this proclamation suggests, then the whole truth of this history must be recognized and not evaded."

Johnson, a Democrat, was one of McDonnell's biggest supporters last year on the campaign trail. She even came to his defense when some questioned his commitment to women's rights after the publication of his 1989 graduation school thesis in which he wrote that working women were a detriment to a society. She argued as a working woman that she trusted McDonnell to be helpful in boosting the economy.

I'm guessing it will be tough for Bob to get Ms. Johnson's support for any future political office. His statement (that comes with the addendum to the declaration):

"The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed," McDonnell wrote in a statement. "The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War. Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation."

He also added a clause to the proclamation that declares slavery "led to this war."

It turns out that McDonnell's been just as insensitive on this issue in the past. Per Virginia's Not Larry Sabato:

After the 2001 election where Republicans took 66 of 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, then-Delegate Bob McDonnell had a motion on the opening day of the 2002 session. He wanted the House of Delegates to begin reciting a "salute to the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia". The words to the Salute had been passed in 1954 and didn't raise a red flag on their own:

"I salute the flag of Virginia, with reverence and patriotic devotion to the "Mother of States and Statesmen" which it represents - the "Old Dominion," where liberty and independence were born."

A few days into 2002 session the Richmond Times-Dispatch broke a story of where this pledge came from. It was from the United Daughters of the Confederacy- who had been using it at every official gathering since 1946!

Immediately all hell broke loose in the General Assembly. McDonnell played coy- pretending he didn't know where the pledge (that he had asked the House of Delegates to recite each day) came from:

Delegate Robert F. McDonnell (R-Virginia Beach), who suggested that the salute be revived, claimed ignorance of its origins but told the Times-Dispatch last week he hoped they would not detract from the sentiments it expresses. "The words are good," he said. "I don't think we should malign that great salute based on any links to the Confederacy, and I hope people will understand this."

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus then asked that the House stop with this UDC pledge. McDonnell led the fight on the floor to keep it. The motion to do away with the pledge failed on a 50-48 vote. Having ignored the pain he was causing- McDonnell continued to lead the House in the pledge for another two years until after the 2003 elections. For those two years, members of the Black Caucus refused to participate in this "pledge".

So is Bob clueless or a Confederacy sympathizer? Ah, for the good old days, Bob. It again brings to mind this past Presidential electoral map, and it's similarity to the map of the slave/non-slave states, albeit with Virginia and North Carolina in the right in 2008.

And it looks like his apology/addendum is not sitting well with his constituency, again per TPM:
In an interview with TPMmuckraker, Brandon Dorsey, of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, called McDonnell's move "an insult," and charged that the governor had undermined the purpose of the resolution," and damaged himself with his core supporters. But another member of the group disagreed, saying he supported the apology "one hundred percent."


Contacted this afternoon by TPMmuckraker, Dorsey said he was unaware of McDonnell's apology. After it was read to him, Dorsey said the apology "comes as a shock," and accused the governor of "pandering to people who never would have voted for him nor supported any of his policies."

Making clear that he was speaking only for himself, Dorsey said that the apology "completely undermined the purpose of the resolution." He added: "We would probably have rather not had a proclamation whatsoever, than for him to add a clause that says that everything that we support and everything we hold dear has to do with slavery."

Hey, if you think McDonnell is bad, try his Attorney General.


+2MM March.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Why We Don't

So here's a good reason to get out of Afghanistan:

The Feb. 12 nighttime raid left three women — two of them pregnant — and a local police chief and prosecutor dead. It was one of the latest examples of Special Operations forces’ killing civilians during raids, deaths that have infuriated Afghan officials and generated support for the Taliban despite efforts by American and NATO commanders to reduce civilian casualties.

The joint American and Afghan assault team shot five Afghans — all family members — from the roofs of buildings in a large residential compound near Gardez, in southeastern Afghanistan, where members of an extended family lived in different homes, survivors said. The Americans did the killing, they said.

At first, the American-led military command in Kabul said that the two men who died were “insurgents” who had “engaged” — in other words, shot at — the forces at the scene. The initial account also said that the troops then stumbled onto the bodies of three women “tied up, gagged and killed” and hidden in a room.

Military officials later suggested that the women — who among them had 16 children — had all been stabbed to death or had died by other means before the raid, implying that their own relatives may have killed them.

But the military later said the men were innocent civilians shot after they went outside, armed, to investigate the presence of the forces conducting the raid. Then on Sunday night they admitted that the women were also killed during the raid.


In the interview, Mr. Yarmand said he did not know whether bullets had been dug out of the bodies. He said he would not dispute family members’ claims, but added, “We can not confirm it as we had not been able to autopsy the bodies.”

Here's more:

Select frames here.

Can you say "war crime?"

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Friday, April 02, 2010

Still More Hate

How angry (and dangerous) are the conservatives? Well, you've got a doctor in Florida who has hung a sign on his door saying that if you voted for Obama, don't bother returning as one of his patients. F'real. Then you've got a conservative group threatening thirty governors to leave office within three days or be removed. Ominous.

Best of all, you have Erick Erickson, radical rightwing editor of the litmus-test conservative RedState blog, who was inexplicably hired by CNN to provide "balance" (to who, Mother Theresa?), and threatened shotgun violence against U.S. Census workers on his radio show yesterday:

I’m not filling out this form. I dare them to try and come throw me in jail. I
dare them to. Pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes
being scared at the door. They’re not going on my property. They can’t do that.
They don’t have the legal right, and yet they’re trying.

Nice way to break telegraph breaking the law, Erick. Anyone care to wager now long before CNN puts him on waivers?

Thursday, April 01, 2010


It seems that moronic teabaggers and GOoPers like Rep. Michelle "Clueless" Bachman (R-MN) who have railed against the U.S. Census -- something actually mandated in our U.S. Constitution, hence perfectly "Constitutional," are having the unintended effect of weakening Republican/Conservative representation in our government:

The Houston Chronicle's report looks specifically at Texas, which is counting on the census to gain additional House seats, electoral votes, and federal funding relating to transportation, agriculture, health, education, and housing

But some anti-government types are shooting themselves in the foot.

The national average on the return rate for census forms is 34%. In much of Texas, the more Republican the area, the lower the return rate. In Briscoe County in the Panhandle, McCain/Palin won nearly 75% of the vote -- and 8% of locals are sending in their census materials. In King County, near Lubbock, McCain/Palin won nearly 93% of the vote -- and only 5% of locals are answering the census.

They apparently have no idea that they're acting against their own interests.

Gotta applaud the combination of teabagger stupidity and shameless Republican opportunism to defy the Constitution they claim to be supporting against nefarious Democrats and Progressives who actually want to move this country into the 21st Century. With any luck, it will lessen their political influence and help protect our Republic.

Keep up the fine work.


David Mills, RIP:
David Mills, a veteran television writer who worked on the award-winning series "ER" and "The Wire," died after collapsing on the set of his latest production. He was 48.

Mills died Tuesday night in New Orleans, said HBO spokesman Diego Aldana. Doctors at Tulane Medical Center said he suffered a brain aneurism, according to a statement Wednesday from Mills' latest production, "Treme."

Mills was on the set of the new HBO series as it filmed a scene at Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter when he was stricken and rushed to the hospital where he died without regaining consciousness, the statement said.


Mills began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post, before turning to screenwriting. Besides "ER" and "The Wire," he worked on the HBO drama "The Corner," "Homicide: Life on the Street," "NYPD Blue" and was executive producer and writer of the short-lived NBC miniseries "Kingpin," about a Mexican drug cartel.

Mills started his television writing career with Simon, a longtime friend and "Wire" creator, in 1994. The pair wrote an episode of "Homicide" that year, for which they won a Writers Guild of America award. Mills won Emmys for co-writing and executive producing the miniseries "The Corner" and an Edgar in 2007 for "The Wire."

Not terribly well-known outside the industry, he's one of the unique fraternity of great modern television writers, one of "the family" for his work on Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Wire.

Set your DVR for Treme on HBO to catch his fine last work.