Friday, February 19, 2010

We're Still On Our Way Home

Oh bloody hell:

Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, and more than half disagree with the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Hey Texans! Wanna buy half a bridge in Brooklyn?
About the same numbers of Democrats and Republicans — 43 percent — disagree with the idea that dinosaurs and humans lived on the planet at the same time. Republicans were slightly more likely to agree with the idea (31 percent to 27 percent). Perry had more voters in each group on the GOP side, but Kay Bailey Hutchison had the largest share of voters who believe in that coexistence.

Prindle says the results recall a line from comedian Lewis Black. "He did a standup routine a few years back in which he said that a significant proportion of the American people think that the 'The Flintstones' is a documentary," Prindle says. "Turns out he was right. Thirty percent of Texans agree that humans and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time."

Putting aside for the moment that the poll presents a dispute about an objective reality, let's take this fundy talking point to its extreme conclusion. Suppose for just a moment dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth at the same time: what would oil be made of? If you believed, as some of these death cults do, that human remains must be buried and left whole or the soul has no body to inhabit on Judgment Day, what are you doing to your ancestors as you tool around Texas in your SUV?

If my brain was stewing in this sulphurous marinade I'd be nailing solar panels to every outdoor surface I owned.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Running Numbers From the Bar

Photo: National Post.

That's the Sydney Opera House, seen through the dust storm currently blanketing Sydney. I've never seen a dust storm. This picture doesn't make sense to my eye, but so few things do. In my misspent youth, there was a sense that reporters were supposed to report and the story was the story. Last night, Katie Couric interviewed Glenn Beck, which is like the ouroboros biting the back of its head, and, no, that doesn't make sense either.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The City Tonight We're Finding

Know what's weird about Facebook, a platform for one liners so high anyone can swan dive? No one's funny.
Old Man: [uncomfortable silence at kitchen table] Someone, tell a joke...

I can't figure it out. The joint needs a piano, a player and a diva in a tutu. But not me. I'm all discombobulated. One of my relatives kept her children home from school so their delicate ears wouldn't be assaulted by the President's common sense message: work hard in school. I understand. She was raised by immigrants and she hates immigrants. She rails against Mexicans and goes to Mexico on vacation. She works in the healthcare field, has cancer and a $5000 annual deductible herself. It's simple: she's forgotten who she is and has lost her mind.

There's a joke in there someplace.


Monday, September 07, 2009

You Can't Stay Here With Every Single Hope

It's Sunday dinnertime. Pete's made yet another dinner for the record books. I spent all afternoon in the driveway, stripping ninety years' worth of paint off our tenant's bedroom door, so I've had a lot of time to think about this.
The resignation of Obama administration figure Van Jones, following controversies over a petition he had signed and his comments about Republicans, did not come at the request of the president, the White House senior adviser said Sunday.

"Absolutely not - this was Van Jones' own decision," David Axelrod told NBC's "Meet the Press" when asked if the president had ordered the resignation. The chairman of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, had called for Jones to resign or be fired.

"I think Van Jones did the right thing," Pence said Sunday about the resignation. "His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration."

Jones has frequently been dubbed a "green-jobs czar" for the administration.

There are a number of ways to understand this story. CNN offers one in the next paragraph. It sounds innocuous, if one is only half-listening:
"The president should suspend any future appointment of so called czars while the administration and the Congress carefully examines the background and qualifications of the more than 30 individuals who've been appointed to these czar positions," said Pence, speaking to reporters. "And the Congress ought to initiate a thorough inquiry into the constitutionality of this practice which has spanned Republican and Democrat administrations."

Well, that might make sense if the president's nominees weren't already being blocked by Republicans on the confirmation committees. To be clear: Pence is calling for the president to stop staffing his administration and CNN skips blithely past that point but lands here, so close to the truth:
One of the most prominent conservative voices condemning Jones in recent days has been FOX TV host Glenn Beck.

Jones is a co-founder of, a group that recently has been pressing advertisers to boycott Beck's program after Beck called Obama a racist.

Color of Change sends me email. I participate in CoC's campaigns because I agree with CoC's positions on media racism generally and Beck's racism in particular. So far: about 50 sponsors have removed their sponsorship from Beck's program but not FOX itself. This has pissed off Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck, because - and we should be clear about this - in their view, Black people should be quiet, subservient and politically invisible. CoC's campaign is the racist's fear come true: Black people in numbers and fellow travelers like me wielding economic power. Murdoch, Ailes and Beck are not taking this lying down. They don't care about Jones. It could have been almost any person of color. They picked a target, hounded him and forced him to submit. Still, there are different ways to measure what happened. FOX offers this coy tea leaf reading:
Jones' Resignation May Embolden Administration Critics

I'm not linking to that crap. You can Google it, if you feel so inspired. Jill sums up her take thusly:
The only question is whether Beck is really as utterly batshit crazy as he seems, or if Beck is the second coming of Andy Kaufman and this is all a kind of gonzo performance art that's gone completely out of control. But does it matter at this point, when the Obama White House has shown its complete willingness to dance to the tune of a party that has become now the exclusive province of racists, thugs, religious nutjobs, and other people you wouldn't want to run into on a dark country road?

Why on earth does Barack Obama care about what these people say? Is there something in the water at the White House that makes Democrats shut off their ability for independent thought and turns them into hapless slaves of Republican Mojo Mind Control? What the hell is going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Whatever it is, it's infecting the outside world as well. I was just listening to "Morning Edition" on WNYC and heard Leann Hansen say in regard to health care reform that "There doesn't seem to be a lot of support for a public option". And this is National Public Radio, that old supposedly liberal bastion. Either Leann Hansen has joined the ranks of Laziest So-Called Journalists in America, or the corporations that help subsidize NPR have given their marching orders. Or both.

Jane wants to know why the big-name liberal groups didn't come out in support of Jones, but left him to twist in the wind.
If these groups, if these liberal leaders, let Jones just hang there while Glenn Beck pounds his chest and celebrates the scalp, we have no liberal institutions. What we have are a bunch of neoliberal enablers who have found a nice comfortable place in the DC establishment that they don't want to jeopardize, a place on the new K-Street gravy train that they don't want to lose. Dropping Van Jones from their rolodex is a small price to pay.

If there is going to be a serious progressive movement in this country capable of standing up for health care against an industry that spends $1.4 million a day on lobbying, we can't just look to the members of the Progressive Caucus and say "hey, you, get something done." They need cover. They need to know that they will be supported. And people like Van Jones who have given their lives to causes we say we value like prison reform and environmental advocacy need to know that they will be defended, and not handed over to Glenn Beck as an acceptable casualty in the battle for K-Street dollars.

So to all you liberal organizations in the "veal pen" - this is your moment of truth. I get all your emails. And the next Common Purpose meeting is probably on Tuesday. If you can't get it together to at least put out a statement of support for Van Jones and condemn the White House for using him as a sacrificial lamb to right wing extremists that will devour us all if left unchecked, it's time to add "proudly liberal only when it doesn't matter" to your logo and be done with it.

At Jack & Jiill Politics, Jack laments:
Van Jones was one of the good guys. A really, really good guy. He used his education and his passion to combat police brutality and the massive, wasteful incarceration of so many of this nation’s young, brown people. Having fought in the trenches for so long, he saw an opportunity to build hope and jobs and tangible communities as the world responds to the climate crisis. He connected the dots and inspired action and had a vision. He was the rare outsider who got a chance to move inside, and move he did.

Van was the kind of guy that gave me real confidence in this administration’s seriousness. President Obama meets with generals every day and sees scary reports and wants to get re-elected. I can always make some politics-based allowances for his underwhelming actions. Van, however, was truly one of us. He got it. And to give someone like him power gave me more faith in the president. So when the lynch mob came after Van, it was a test. The same test so many Democratic administrations have failed time and time again. When the going gets tough, do you back your people, or do you fall back on excuses.

This White House, this administration and this president failed Van, failed its supporters and failed to honor the efforts of millions that got them into office in the first place. What’s the point of having power if you don’t use it? When will this White House realize that nothing it does will ever be acceptable to the loud-mouthed, ignorant minority? When will it learn that you cannot negotiate with terrorists??

I’m heartbroken over Van’s departure because it’s these little meaningless concessions that undermine people’s faith in the system. You get folks all riled up about change. You empower a man who embodies that change. And they you let him be run out of office by fucking Glenn Beck? So Glenn Beck is running the White House now? Is that how it’s gonna be? Just tell me that I knocked on all those doors for nothing, and I can start the grieving process, but don’t pretend this will solve anything.

I can’t help but look at this spineless response and see it in contrast to the previous administration. You know how gansta they are? DICK CHENEY IS STILL TALKING SMACK!

Somewhere in the course of my reading today, which I should have been able to backtrack and find but couldn't, a Black female writer had written that Jones was punished by Beck for being a Black man breathing too loudly. (If you know who wrote that, please remind me.) I have been wondering since the Obama Campaign distanced itself from Jeremiah Wright if FOX News would be able to push President Obama apart from his supporters, and now the answer is clear.

I had a lot of time to think about this while I used the heat gun and the scraper, the orbital sander, the two coats of primer, two more coats of paint. The administration has made many false steps and mistakes along the way, but this is the one we will regret for decades. Bad laws can be repealed, bad policy will find its way through the courts and suffer reversal, but this is different. From the very beginning, Candidate Obama demonstrated a peculiar refusal to recognize the Republicans were not just trying to beat him. They're planning to kill him. Beck's taking Jones's job and reputation is just the beginning of a political nightmare that will make Clinton's impeachment look like a church picnic, and the worst part of it is that Mr. Obama is going to let Murdoch, Ailes and Beck do it. This weekend, the president could have called out Beck and stood with Jones, but he didn't. No loyal supporter could be without blemish, and no past is pure. No one close to the president is safe, and we will see them destroyed one by one when Democrats do not stand together. For all intents and purposes, the skinny kid with ten bucks in his pocket has stood up in the cafeteria and announced he'll be available for beatings every afternoon on the playground at 3:45.

What bully wouldn't take him up on it?


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lock It Fill It Call It Find It

Christ on a water cracker, what the fuck is this?

One month after successfully tucking an amendment into the credit card reform bill that expanded gun rights, a small number of Senate Republicans are looking at the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as another chance to score a victory for the Second Amendment. The possible plan — to add an amendment that would allow gun owners to carry their weapons from one state to another in accordance with concealed carry laws. The possible rationale — to defend gay rights.

This is such bullshit that actual bullshit would turn up its metaphorical nose.
“It makes sense for a group of people who would be protected by hate crime legislation to support something that would let them defend themselves before or after the crime,” said one Republican Senate aid familiar with the discussions. “It’s relevant, and we want to work together with gay groups to get the message out.”

While the aide described the discussions over a gun rights amendment to the hate crimes bill as “very fluid,” conservative and pro-gun rights gay groups outside of the Senate are ready to make a real push for it. GOProud, a new gay rights group that broke away from the Log Cabin Republicans in April, has talked with top staffers for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) about how to make the civil rights case for conceal and carry reciprocity.

Yes, that's right. Gay Republicans decided to overlook their ostracism within the party so they can ostracize each other!
Supporters of concealed carry reciprocity argue that the case for attaching it to a hate crimes bill — if that is the way that it can be passed — makes even more sense than the case for Coburn’s amendment. “Plenty of people have used guns to defend innocent people,” argued Second Amendment scholar and attorney David Kopel, “including crimes motivated by bias. This is a legitimate thing to attach to any bill that’s concerned with violent crime.”

That’s the case being made by Pink Pistols, a gay gun rights organization whose slogan is “Armed Gays Don’t Get Bashed,” and whose members can recount stories of fending off potential attackers by brandishing their weapons.

“Self-defense with a firearm is a valid and viable method of self-defense and protection,” said Gwen Patton, a spokesperson for Pink Pistols. “Imagine that individuals follow you from a place known in the neighborhood as a GLBT gathering place. They follow you to your car, and when you try to open the door, they hold out pipes and yell — ‘Hey, faggot!’ You pull out a concealed weapon that you have a license to carry. They say, ‘He’s got a gun!’ They drop their pipes and run away. No shots were fired, but a beating was just averted.”

Well, that'd be hunky-dory, wouldn't it? But that's a fucking fantasy because - hypotheticals get messy, here - suppose that GLBT gathering place is a bar. Now you're tanked and carrying, nervous and trigger-happy. You have just become a real danger to yourself and others. Okay, suppose that GLBT gathering place is a community center and armed thugs approach and menace. Does anyone really - really - believe for a microsecond that the resultant shooting will not result in a scandalous trial and a lengthy sentence for your armed gay self, especially if the assailants are young, white men? Now let's recalculate: how many beatings have been prevented?

This reminds me of a talk I had with a friend right after 9/11, when a great many people lost their minds.

Tata: the Assistant Principal had the six-year-old arrested for carrying safety scissors in her backpack, when he could have called her mommy and suggested other arrangements for art supplies.
Friend: At least, he did something!
Tata: That he's sack-of-hammers-stupid, a coward and dangerous to children has left the conversation?

Yep. See, the difference between doing something and doing something constructive is pretty fucking obvious unless you're not really trying to do something constructive, which these fuckers are not. They are not. No. They do not even have good intentions. They are attempting to exploit a situation they themselves as members of a homophobic, xenophobic, anti-woman political party help to foster, which is diabolical. It'd be funny if it weren't for all the fear, the injury, the deaths, the terrible losses and the lengths to which GLBT people have to go just to live. Of all people, these self-loathing fuckers ought to know this campaign is in truly terrible taste.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Red Rain Is Coming Down

It is better to see the truth than to live with lies.

Fifteen of the sixty photographs the administration seeks to conceal may be seen here. Some closely resemble images you may have seen before from Abu Ghrahib. Many reality-based bloggers are posting these images this morning, each with her or his own reason for doing so. I will tell you plainly these pictures did not shock me on sight. I had to think about what I was seeing, about the people in the pictures. This image in particular rang a distant bell for me. I was reminded of Phoolan Devi.

In the 1994 movie The Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi's gang rape is horrible enough to sit through, but worse immediately follows as Phoolan is forced to walk naked and filthy through a town and her rapists. This degree of suffering drives people to madness. You see it in the film. You know it in your heart. What you must also know is that while Americans pretend nothing unusual is happening in these pictures, rage has already taken hold among the victims of Bush and Cheney's imperial adventure. You see: the people know what we have done to them. The rest of the world knows what we have done. The only people still blissfully unaware may be Americans.

I am having trouble forming a sentence about this picture. I've erased several because they weren't quite right, and that's really the problem. The picture as we see it is a problem. What interrogators are doing is a problem. What the interrogators mean for the prisoners to feel is a problem. The intended sexualized domination is a problem. That there are now people walking around among us who did this is a problem. Nearly 100 people died in custody, many were probably tortured to death. That the serial killers who ordered this are not in chains is a problems. It's hard to form a sentence with so many problems.

So these pictures reminded me of three women: Phoolan Devi, Valerie Plame and Liz Cheney. Perhaps you've never heard of Phoolan Devi. Her story is relevant here, and worth knowing for what it predicts. Violence begets violence, and the people we tried to subjugate will rise against us. That is the real lesson. History books tell it over and over again. Then there are the headlines. Greg Sargent:

Liz Cheney Claims Victory In Obama Detainee Photo Reversal
On Tuesday, Liz Cheney was widely quoted bashing Obama for being prepared to release the detainee photos, a move she said would be anti-troops. “When did it become so fashionable for us to side, really, with the terrorists?” Cheney asked.

Yesterday, of course, Obama reversed his decision, citing national security. Now check out this nugget in today’s Washington Post piece on Dick Cheney’s ongoing torture tour:

“This isn’t about partisan politics, it’s about what’s right for the country,” said Liz Cheney, the former vice president’s daughter and a former State Department official. “Every American, whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or independent, would agree that before critical decisions are made about national security of the nation, we ought to have a full and fair debate.”

Cheney’s daughter was among those who pointed to yesterday’s White House reversal on the detainee photos as evidence that a vocal, public debate over the new administration’s policies can make a difference.

So Liz Cheney is claiming victory, and clearly, this will only embolden the Cheneys to keep up the assaults.

By saying that he has now concluded that releasing the photos would endanger the troops, Obama is reinforcing the idea that he was originally prepared to do something that would endanger the troops, and only reversed himself after conservatives called him out on it. Whatever the merits of Obama’s decision, its political impact is that it lets the Cheneys continue to frame the ongoing debate, and to continue casting a full torture accounting as a threat to our national security.

Liz Cheney should go fuck herself. We can't shout FIRE! in a crowded theater when the theater already burned down. Sargent is also right to say our president has made a very dangerous statement when he said his earlier position endangered the troops. The Cheneys control the conversation, so it will never end.

But what of Valerie Plame? This is still a puzzlement. I started reading newspapers when I was eight or nine, during the Vietnam War, then through Watergate. The CIA became the shadowy, brutal, power-mad villains of my childhood. The outing of Valerie Plame by Dick Cheney has always perplexed me. Yes, I've read the reports and followed the trial but still it's never made sense. I'm still angry that for a brief moment I had some sympathy for the CIA - not that that's important. I am not sure why I thought of her when I saw these pictures, but perhaps because she made CIA agents look so civilized. So pretty. So urbane. So civilized.

It is better to see the truth than to live with lies. Back to the pictures: it would be better for us to see what everyone else already knows.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You Know You're Full Of Wish

Photo: Yale Joel. Life Magazine. 1962.

I'm at a bit of a loss for words today. Fortunately, Minstrel Boy said everything yesterday. These words should haunt you:
It's easy to tell yourself that "it's not my job or my business," or, "It's more important to move forward, this isn't the time for looking back."

I always have to look back. Too much of what I see I don't like. We cannot afford to make our national memory like mine.

Investigate the crimes. Bring the criminals to account. Give them the fair treatment and trial that they denied to so many. If convicted give them a just punishment under the law. Then give them a decent incarceration. Fuck dude, go fucking nuts and pardon some of the bastards. I won't care. Pardon means that they have been made to accept that they broke the law and did wrong.

The price of doing nothing is too fucking high.

In light so bright, it's easy to feel the sun in one's eyes.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Take Some Of These Knives Out My Back

Most days, I sit down to blog with an idea of what I want to say or a thought that's bugging me. I don't know what the weather's like where you are but in Central New Jersey today the sunlight has turned that summer yellow, the breeze smelled fresh and the temperature hovered around 85 at midday. I can't think when the weather turns, I am too busy feeling the wonder of being alive on a glorious day. So yeah, when spring turns summery I can be pretty stupid.

Under these circumstances, I thought I might watch a bit of public television.
This is the second time I've tried to watch an episode of The Secret Files of the Inquisition, and I won't try it again. This is disappointing, because I studied Medieval and Renaissance history with an autodidact's focus on the Catholic Church, and I love this. I guess I learned the hard way that it's one thing to read about it but quite another to put a face to the affliction. Tonight, I had to change the channel in a big freaking hurry when a Jewish ceremony was observed by a Catholic neighbor in 1478 Spain, because I had a very good idea of what would come next, and I didn't have the courage to bear witness to it. Also: how could anyone? How could anyone do that to another human being? Any living thing?

I don't know, but a lot of people on TV are talking about how torture is useful, and it is freaking me out. Via Crooks & Liars, a transcript I'm having trouble believing I've just read.
[Joan] WALSH: You know, I couldn't disagree more with my friend Chris [Cilizza]. This is not a "he said/she said" situation. This is torture. Torture is illegal. We don't sit here, Howie, and say he said murder is illegal, but she said, well, sometimes murder's not so bad. These are clear matters of law.

Ronald Reagan signed the 1988 U.N. Convention Against Torture where we committed ourselves to prosecuting people who torture. It's the law. It's super clear. It's not a partisan witch hunt or a "she said/he said" situation.

[Howard] KURTZ: David Frum.

FRUM: It's not super clear, because the key piece of information people need, most people need to make a decision, is missing. Look, there's a hard core of civil libertarians who will say, I don't care whether this contributed to the defense of the country. Forget it, we won't do it, even if it means Americans die. And then there are some people who say, I support the president no matter what.

But most people want to know, did this contribute to the nation's safety? If so, we'll come to one judgment. If it was wasteful, as it's sometimes alleged, and achieved nothing, then we all condemn it. That's the thing we need to know, and that's the thing we don't know. That's the missing piece in all the reportage.


WALSH: No, it's illegal, whether it works or not. It's illegal whether it works or not, David.

FRUM: Well, as I said, there's a small minority who would feel like Joan does.

WALSH: Oh, really?

FRUM: Most people want to know, did it -- and that is the missing or the contradicted piece. We don't have a clear answer to that question.

WALSH: It doesn't matter.

CILLIZZA: Howie, I just want to...

KURTZ: Chris.

CILLIZZA: Joan, just real quickly, I just want to point out, in our poll that came our this morning, 49 percent of people said no torture under any circumstances; 48 percent, in some special circumstances, depending on the information. That's not my opinion.


WALSH: But Chris, the point is it's illegal. In what instance does it matter that 80 percent of Americans would like to murder Dick Cheney? Does that -- would that make it legal? It's not a matter of opinion. It's law.

Talking about torture in conversational tones isn't rational, it is monstrous. Nothing can be said in defense of Frum and Cilizza that isn't monstrous. Nothing. They should be seen for what they are and shunned by decent people. This is not even to mention what should happen to the people whose acts they themselves defend.

I'd like to make a joke about a Brothers Grimm ending for media douchebags defending atrocity but it's too soon and this shit isn't funny. The best I can do is say these villains should avoid anyone with a clear idea of justice and a magic wand.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Better Free Your Mind Instead

Last night, Pete and I were sitting on the couch talking over our day when the TV switched to a tease for the CBS 11:00 news featuring a bit about New York's new archbishop.

Tata: I wish they would stop talking about this. I just don't care.
Pete: It matters to a lot of people.
Tata: Is the news just for Catholics?
Pete: This is kind of a big deal.
Tata: It's not general news. I don't care whose religion is having a change of the top oppressor. Maybe mention it and move on, but no. This morning's news was devoted to this bullshit, and I don't care.
Pete: Well, a lot of people would say this matters to them.
Tata: I'd like to hear something detailed about the economy because that matters to EVERYONE.

You might say I'm in something of a mood about the assumptions and distortions of the newscasts on WNBC while I'm bicycling half-asleep first thing in the morning. Today's thoughtlessly repeated beauty was that the tea party protests were a grassroots movement, which is simply a lie. The tea parties were organized and funded by Republican operatives and promoted by Fox News. That's the exact opposite of grassroots which word you will see misused in connection with these events. Putting that aside for the moment, it was delightful to see a report about NY Governor Paterson's proposal for a bill recognizing same-sex marriage.
Gov. David A. Paterson on Thursday will announce plans to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, according to people with knowledge of the governor’s plans.

Mr. Paterson’s move, which he first signaled last week after Vermont became the fourth state to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed, reflects the governor’s desire to press the issue with lawmakers in Albany as other states move ahead with efforts to grant more civil rights to homosexuals.

The action in Vermont, where state legislators overrode Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, came less than a week after the Iowa Supreme Court granted same-sex couples the right to marry.

HOORAY! We are on the road to equal protection under the law. Yippee! Enlightenment makes a comeback! But as if on cue, the new archbishop closes the segment with a promise to send us all back to the Dark Ages.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan today promised to oppose Gov. Paterson's same-sex marriage, just one day before it will hit the floor of the Legislature.

"You can bet I would be active and present and, I hope, articulate in this particular position," Dolan told reporters.

The question - one of many the new archbishop took from reporters at his first news conference in Midtown - came as state lawmakers prepared to begin debating the controversial issue.

"The topic you raise - other topics that are controversial that the church has a message to give - you'll find that I don't shy away from those things and I wouldn't sidestep them," said Dolan.

If he's got a political opinion he's invited to speak it as a private citizen, but if he's marshalling his flock his church should lose its tax exempt status. I'd love to see that, actually. I don't believe anyone will move to strip the Catholic Church of its tax exemption, which is sad. It would provide a great example for those fucking megachurches which have royally screwed with our separation of church and state. If this is now a fight between Paterson and the Archbishop, and not a civil rights issue for the people of the State of New York, I'd like to see it called for what it is.

This is why the archbishop's arrival shouldn't take up a half an hour on the morning news: the Catholic Church shouldn't get this kind of influence over the lives of people who do not choose to follow its teachings.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Who Doesn't Notice All the Others

New York Times:
Oil Companies Loath to Follow Obama’s Green Lead

In other news: Duh.
The Obama administration wants to reduce oil consumption, increase renewable energy supplies and cut carbon dioxide emissions in the most ambitious transformation of energy policy in a generation.

But the world’s oil giants are not convinced that it will work. Even as Washington goes into a frenzy over energy, many of the oil companies are staying on the sidelines, balking at investing in new technologies favored by the president, or even straying from commitments they had already made.

Our top story tonight: Duh.
BP, a company that has spent nine years saying it was moving “beyond petroleum,” has been getting back to petroleum since 2007, paring back its renewable program. And American oil companies, which all along have been more skeptical of alternative energy than their European counterparts, are studiously ignoring the new messages coming from Washington.

Duh: film at 11.
The administration wants to spend $150 billion over the next decade to create what it calls “a clean energy future.” Its plan would aim to diversify the nation’s energy sources by encouraging more renewables, and it would reduce oil consumption and cut carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

The oil companies have frequently run advertisements expressing their interest in new forms of energy, but their actual investments have belied the marketing claims. The great bulk of their investments goes to traditional petroleum resources, including carbon-intensive energy sources like tar sands and natural gas from shale, while alternative investments account for a tiny fraction of their spending. So far, that has changed little under the Obama administration.

When we return from commercial: traffic, weather and Duh.
Perhaps not surprisingly, most investments in alternative sources of energy are coming from pockets other than those of the oil companies.

A gum-popping tween could spot the stupidity of this discussion. Oil companies have no obligation to develop anything. Nothing at all. In seventy years, they'll be out of business if they don't, but that's their problem. Our problem is what we are doing and not doing to develop clean energy sources, and by 'we' I mean you and me. We. Why doesn't the New York Times know that?


Thursday, March 19, 2009

She Can Pull the Wool Over Little Old Me

Six years ago today, we invaded Iraq.

Iron's the traditional gift for a sixth anniversary.

Wouldn't it be great if we clapped Cheney in them?


Friday, March 13, 2009

Across the Clouds I See My Shadow Fly

Discovered this day in 1781: Uranus.

Herschel's music led him to an interest in mathematics, and thence to astronomy. This interest grew stronger after 1773, and he built some telescopes and made the acquaintance of Nevil Maskelyne. In the spring of 1781, William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, using a homemade telescope in the back garden of his house in New King Street, in Bath. He called the new planet the 'Georgian star' after King George III, which also brought him favour; the name didn't stick, however: in France, where reference to the British king was to be avoided if possible, the planet was known as 'Herschel' until the name 'Uranus' was universally adopted.

Color me impressed. I've discovered many things in my various backyards: lightning bugs, a high school ring, unexpected pet poop - but never a planet. Perhaps if we spent more time on our patios, additional planets would reveal themselves. You see, whatever's spinning out in space has done so for essentially all eternity. We just don't see it until we're ready.

Tata: Just so you know, I'm likely to drink a bottle of wine tonight and turn up tomorrow looking like dog chow.
Lupe: You were exceptionally lovely on Monday so we'll average it out.

Pete and I are planting meaty beefsteak tomatoes. I plan to name them all Herschel in hopes of noticing tomatillos I don't remember planting but must have been there all along. Today is also the anniversary of the murder of Kitty Genovese, who was a person and not just a famous tragic figure. Less and less will be known about her as time passes, the people who knew her take to the ether and she is swallowed by lore. Rosemary, as Ophelia said, "rosemary for remembrance." Ophelia wasn't talking about memories, but that gets lost, too. And basil. I like basil. Last night, Jon Stewart tore up one side of Jim Cramer and down the other after a protracted series of tearings up and down. I had waited so long to see just such a thing, just such a series of things, that at first I didn't realize what I was seeing. After a moment, I remember thinking Jon would let him get away, as Jon has let so many before. Then I saw I was wrong, as I often am. Jon was out for blood. Jim was defenseless and mewling: a bully challenged often cries. It was always going to be thus, but now we are ready. We are ready to see the Masters of the Universe reduced to bitter tears.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

And the Music's Breaking

Scott Horton:
The idea that the 9/11 attacks raised the prospect of domestic military operations “for the first time since the Civil War” is infantile nonsense.

Suddenly, all that duck and cover bullshit I remember makes more sense. I didn't imagine that! After the towers came down, I never bought for a moment that we faced an unprecedented threat. Dude, my fucking WOODEN DESK was supposed to protect me from nuclear holocaust, and I should be shaking in my shoes because four airliners killed a few thousand people? I'm no math genius but even I know my odds of being in the path of that disaster or another like it were truly close to fucking ZERO. But you know what I am afraid of? Avaricious, bed-wetting bureaucrats with dreams of goddamn empire and bloody-minded sychophantic lawyers to back 'em up.
Suppose al Qaeda branched out from crashing airliners into American cities. Using small arms, explosives, or biological, chemical or nuclear weapons they could seize control of apartment buildings, stadiums, ships, trains or buses. As in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, texting and mobile email would make it easy to coordinate simultaneous assaults in a single city.

In the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes on New York City and Washington, D.C., these were hypotheticals no more. They became real scenarios for which responsible civilian and military leaders had to plan. The possibility of such attacks raised difficult, fundamental questions of constitutional law, because they might require domestic military operations against an enemy for the first time since the Civil War. Could our armed forces monitor traffic in a city where terrorists were preparing to strike, search for cells using surveillance technology, or use force against a hijacked vessel or building? In these extraordinary circumstances, while our military put al Qaeda on the run, it was the duty of the government to plan for worst-case scenarios–even if, thankfully, those circumstances never materialized.

I'm sure I'm not the first to say this but fuck Yoo and the horse he rode in on. We kids imagined ourselves en flambe every single day of primary school; we were always conscious of where the air raid shelters were. I handled the idea that thousands of people were in the path of a terrorist attack thirty-five miles from my address without making myself the Center of the Universe and there was no need to eviscerate my civil liberties, thank you. There was never any need to arm airports and subway stations. There was no need to put cameras at every intersection, nor is there any need now for an Orwellian Department of Homeland Security. There was no need to torture anyone. So fuck him, now and forever. Fuck him. Yoo doesn't deserve the company of civilized human beings. He deserves the Rudolf Hess Spandau treatment, and he may get it, as Horton notes:
...I’m delighted that Yoo has published a piece discussing the circumstances in which he prepared the memo. Now I expect to hear no invocations of privilege when he is called to testify about it under oath.

Let the prosecutions begin.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's A Thousand Pages, Give Or Take A Few

I really needed a good laugh.
Limbaugh To Convene A ‘Female Summit’ To Figure Out Why Women Hate Him

That'll do it.


Monday, February 09, 2009

To Bring the Balance Back Bring It Back

I'm no genius but this seems like it might be important.
Wikileaks publishes a billion dollars of semi-secret reports

Oh boy.
Wikileaks has released nearly a billion dollars worth of quasi-secret reports commissioned by the United States Congress.

The 6,780 reports, current as of this month, comprise over 127,000 pages of material on some of the most contentious issues in the nation, from the U.S. relationship with Israel to abortion legislation. Nearly 2,300 of the reports were updated in the last 12 months, while the oldest report goes back to 1990. The release represents the total output of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) electronically available to Congressional offices. The CRS is Congress's analytical agency and has a budget in excess of $100M per year.

A billion dollars? How does one estimate a dollar value for "quasi-secret reports?"
However that hasn't stopped a grey market forming around the documents. Opportunists smuggle out nearly all reports and sell them to cashed up special interests - lobbyists, law firms, multi-nationals, and presumably, foreign governments. Congress has turned a blind eye to special interest access, while continuing to vote down public access.

Oh. There's a market for government reports. I should have known. That building my car drives to five days a week is a government document depository library, which means the public must be allowed access. Sometimes, that means people sleep on the sofas - okay, every day people sleep on the sofas - but it also means that no member of the public can be denied access to the documents. Those regulations may change as documents are increasingly online only. We have observed a sharp decline in the number of printed titles. The implications are sobering. I remember the first time I held in my hand the NTSB report on the downing of the Korean jetliner. I was holding history and my hand felt hot. Later, it turned out I was allergic to MSG and shouldn't have eaten the egg drop soup, but you know what I'm saying. Back to Congress:
Although all CRS reports are legally in the public domain, they are quasi-secret because the CRS, as a matter of policy, makes the reports available only to members of Congress, Congressional committees and select sister agencies such as the GAO.

Members of Congress are free to selectively release CRS reports to the public but are only motivated to do so when they feel the results would assist them politically. Universally embarrassing reports are kept quiet.

Each time the topic of opening up the reports comes up, it runs into walls erected by opposing lawmakers such as Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who "like many members of Congress, views CRS as an extension of his staff,". If the reports were made public, "every time a member requests a particular document, the public may infer that he's staking out a particular policy position." (Aaron Saunders, Stevens' spokesman, Washington Post, 2007)[4].

This article is having a bit of trouble with time travel, but who doesn't, really? After I visit the Middle Ages, I can't control my split ends, and let's not even discuss Ted Stevens' problem with chapped lips. So there are two lists: alphabetical , which is big and all, and chronological, which suddenly tells a whole different story. This stuff has been a secret? Look at the explosion of documentation during 1998 and 1999, leading to an avalanche of papers by 2000. Some of these reports read like freshman comp papers. What the hell?

Obviously, we've got some reading up to do.


Monday, February 02, 2009

Life Before Was Tragic Now I Know

Sometimes, my people can be astonishingly stupid.
The drive to make Italians eat Italian, which was described by the Left and leading chefs as gastronomic racism, began in the town of Lucca this week, where the council banned any new ethnic food outlets from opening within the ancient city walls.

Yesterday it spread to Lombardy and its regional capital, Milan, which is also run by the centre Right. The antiimmigrant Northern League party brought in the restrictions “to protect local specialities from the growing popularity of ethnic cuisines”.

Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, applauded the authorities in Lucca and Milan for cracking down on nonItalian food. “We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture,” he said.

Milan. Really? Recent host of the Olympics?

You can find a motherfucker anywhere. There's one now. Here's a hint: the guy who says he stands for tradition is really interested in dismantling everyone else's.
Mr Zaia said that those ethnic restaurants allowed to operate “whether they serve kebabs, sushi or Chinese food” should “stop importing container loads of meat and fish from who knows where” and use only Italian ingredients.

Asked if he had ever eaten a kebab, Mr Zaia said: “No – and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple.”

Good. More for me. Also: my family's from there so I happen to remember the Veneto's vast empire was based on trade with the entire world, such as it was, including pineapple growers.
Mehmet Karatut, who owns one of four kebab shops in Lucca, said that he used Italian meat only.

Davide Boni, a councillor in Milan for the Northern League, which also opposes the building of mosques in Italian cities, said that kebab shop owners were prepared to work long hours, which was unfair competition.

What? What? What what what? What?
“This is a new Lombard Crusade against the Saracens,” La Stampa, the daily newspaper, said. The centre-left opposition in Lucca said that the campaign was discrimination and amounted to “culinary ethnic cleansing”.

Vittorio Castellani, a celebrity chef, said: “There is no dish on Earth that does not come from mixing techniques, products and tastes from cultures that have met and mingled over time.”

He said that many dishes thought of as Italian were, in fact, imported. The San Marzano tomato, a staple ingredient of Italian pasta sauces, was a gift from Peru to the Kingdom of Naples in the 18th century. Even spaghetti, it is thought, was brought back from China by Marco Polo, and oranges and lemons came from the Arab world.

Unfortunately, stupid seems contagious in Lombardy. Well, except for the chefs, who seem to know something - I can't put my finger on it - about food?
Mr Castellani said that the ban reflected growing intolerance and xenophobia in Italy. It was also a blow to immigrants who make a living by selling ethnic food, which is popular because of its low cost. There are 668 ethnic restaurants in Milan, a rise of nearly 30 per cent in one year.

The centre Right won national elections in April last year partly because of alarm about crime and immigration. This week there was a series of attacks on immigrants in bars and shops after the arrest of six Romanians accused of gang-raping an Italian girl in the Rome suburb of Guidonia.

Filippo Candelise, a Lucca councillor, said: “To accuse us of racism is outrageous. All we are doing is protecting the culinary patrimony of the town.”

Your crusade against kebabs will curtail rape complaints. I'm almost sure of it!
Massimo Di Grazia, the city spokesman, said that the ban was intended to improve the image of the city and to protect Tuscan products. “It targets McDonald’s as much as kebab restaurants,” he added.

There is confusion, however, over what is meant by ethnic. Mr Di Grazia said that French restaurants would be allowed. He was unsure, though, about Sicilian cuisine. It is influenced by Arab cooking.

...And invaded by everyone who every built a rowboat. My family's from there also, which would probably skeeve Mr. Di Grazia just a bit. I happen to know the Sicilians hate him back; that whole occupation thing, you know.

Anyway, this campaign is going to backfire because meat on sticks is undeniably delicious.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Daybreak If You Want To Believe

I hesitate to predict further into the future than tomorrow morning, not because I don't see where we're going but because I see We are lots of Us, and I have been confused. I have little stamina, work in short bursts and require naps about which I am quite serious so don't call me. Tomorrow is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, which we can honor by heeding the call for a national day of service. What's that, then?
Millions of Americans are expected to honor Dr. King and answer President-elect Obama’s call to service by volunteering on the January 19 King Holiday. More than 12,100 service projects are taking place across the country, more than double last year. Americans will make it “a day on, not a day off” by delivering meals, refurbishing schools, reading to children, signing up mentors, and much, much more.

Yeah... never before would I have believed a word the government said about Dr. King, but things are different for everyone now, so back to me. For years, I contented myself with small projects, connecting stuff with people who needed stuff and anonymous donations because I didn't trust myself to be able to finish the job, whatever the job, before I went limp with exhaustion. Yesterday, I saw a poster in the family store for a food pantry collection in the tiny town. It hasn't been publicized well, so I don't expect much, which might be fine for a normal person but Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Still, for me, it's a leap into the unknown. I am going to meet people and see what I can do. I predict tomorrow morning, I will really learn a thing or two, and one or both will be humbling. That's got to be good for everyone, right?


Thursday, July 31, 2008

My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down

Ben Wattenberg's appearance on The Daily Show scared me. I was afraid he'd get away with saying any old poisonous thing. Jon Stewart softens his style when confronted with an older person or a genteel woman. His interview of Nancy Pelosi earlier this week contains a few Jon, did you hear what she just said? moments, for example. But back to Ben Wattenberg - or more specifically, back to me, on the edge of my seat last night: Jon lets a few very dangerous assertions get past him before he's had enough.

Let me declare, now and forever, that after 9/11 I supported the bombing of NO ONE, the declaration of war on NO ONE, no shredding of the Constitution, no denial of anyone's human rights, no lunkhead rush to vengeance, no. At no time have I ever supported the insensible and grammatically insupportable War on Terror. No. And I know plenty of people who did not lose their minds and wet their beds, plenty of people who opposed rash action and depraved indifference to genocide and torture - you probably number among those people. The media's narrative says EVERYONE supported and supports this pointless, endless, and cowardly fool's errand. It simply isn't so, and insisting doesn't make it so.

Now - with that much straight - now, we can start talking seriously.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Let's Break Out the Booze And Have A Ball

Omigod, I hate sticky, but do I love sticky?
LONDON, England (CNN) -- A protester who wanted his message to stick managed to superglue himself to the British prime minister Tuesday evening.

Dan Glass was at 10 Downing Street to receive a charity's award for his work on transportation issues when he staged the unusual protest. Just before Prime Minister Gordon Brown presented him with the award, Glass squirted superglue in the palm of his left hand. He shook Brown's right hand and then grabbed the prime minister's sleeve.

"I've just superglued myself to your arm," Glass said he told Brown. "Don't panic. This is a non-violent protest."

Glass is affiliated with the group Plane Stupid, which campaigns against airport expansion and climate change. He said he acted to protest Brown's "hypocrisy" on the issues.

"I just wanted a few more minutes of his time to get the message across, because he's not listening to communities affected by airport expansion," Glass told CNN on Wednesday.

The prime minister managed to free himself in about 30 seconds, Glass said.

"He can shake off my arm, but he cannot shake away climate change," he added.

Surprisingly, Mr. Glass was not fed to the Queen's Corgis. But we don't live there. We live here.

Since we can't shake off the hangover caused by two endless wars, the destruction of an American city, the destruction of our military, the emptying of our treasury, the evisceration of the Constitution, the absolutely avoidable corrosion of the middle class, the union busting, the jobs loss, the wholesale incarceration of the poor, the corruption of the Department of Justice, the environmental policies written by oil lobbyists, the installation of unqualified political hacks into significant positions, the xenophobic and homophobic invective and legislation, the unforgivable fleecing of the Department of the Interior, the cruel and stupid border wall bullshit, the poisoning of political discourse, the stacking of the Supreme Court, the outing of Valerie Plame, the loss of American credibility on human rights issues, the hollowing out of Roe vs. Wade, the dismantling of contraceptive and AIDS prevention programs worldwide and the unbelievably cruel abandonment of women in Iraq and Afghanistan, let's watch Beeker sing Ode to Joy. Because why not?

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Monday, July 21, 2008

I'll See You In My Dreams

For a few weeks, I've felt run down, sore and exhausted. I wish I had time to take a day off and lie still while charming young things bring me restorative chicken liver pate and tropical fruit. I don't. No matter. My co-worker got hit by a dump truck that launched his car fifty feet into a telephone pole, totalling the car and cracking his rib. He's sitting at his desk now, telling us about the Have A Heart trap that survived the various impacts that turned his car into crushed metal. It's a fucking miracle! Well, shut my mouth.

I haven't been able to bicycle to work. Yesterday was the sixth successive day topping 90 degrees, and almost every forecast contained some mention of lightning. It's raining lightly now. That's why today is the only day this summer I've worn suede shoes. Because, you know, because.

The Weavers at Carnegie Hall has been on my mind. Daria, Todd and I spent a lot of time alone together, singing these songs. In my lifetime, the way people listen to music has changed fundamentally. Let's call this American History: our parents weren't wild about television anyhow, so they'd put on records. A listener had a respectful, attentive duty to records: motion was limited to what did not disturb the needle for 24-26 minutes, and sometimes all a person did was hold still and really listen. Sometimes, we'd sing along and often dance. Sometimes we'd dance to the radio. Until we started buying our own records - no mean feat since we didn't live anywhere near a record store - we had this intimate relationship with our parents' music. Thus, somewhere in the back of my child mind, I know every note, every catcall, every thunderous cheer of The Weavers at Carnegie Hall.

Because I remember my father coughing on his restaurant breakfast and whispering, "That man over there - he was blacklisted by McCarthy" and because I've been in a foul mood since warmongers started flinging around the word traitor in 2002, and because there was never any reason to invade Iraq, I see this treachery for what it is. Somewhere, there is music and we should be dancing.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Days Are Dull, the Nights Are Long

From the Telegraph Online:
The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

If you've seen a movie in the last fifty years, you know that the gentle voice on the hotel's overhead speaker sounds a bit...testy:

Paging President Bush! Paging President Bush! There's a Mr. Gozilla here to see you at your earliest convenience. He's waiting where the lobby used to be. Paging Housekeeping! Paging Housekeeping! Please summon Mothra for backup...


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Pain And Truth Were Things That Really Mattered

Via Raw Story:
TALLAHASSEE - A black Republican group has put up billboards in Florida and South Carolina saying the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, a claim that black leaders say is ridiculous.

The National Black Republican Association has paid for billboards showing an image of the civil rights leader and the words "Martin Luther King Jr. was REPUBLICAN." Told about the billboards, the Rev. Joseph Lowery let out a soft chuckle that grew stronger as he began to think more about the idea.

"These guys never give up, do they?" said Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King. "Lord have mercy."

Seven billboards have gone up in six Florida counties, and another in Orangeburg, S.C., said Frances Rice, the Republican group's chairwoman. Part of its mission is to highlight what she said is the Democratic Party's racist past.

"I knew the King family well. We were all Republicans," said Rice, 64.

Oh, the hilarity of our racist present! Perhaps Ms. Rice was talking about this King Family. I bet they voted Republican.

Melanin challenged Mormon entertainment juggernaut.

Perhaps with mention of those bland holiday specials my age is showing. In other news: Jesse Helms no longer shows his. Good riddance to bad trash:
[T]he man ABC News now describes as a "conservative icon" (8/22/01) in 1993 sang "Dixie" in an elevator to Carol Moseley-Braun, the first African-American woman elected to the Senate, bragging, "I'm going to make her cry. I'm going to sing Dixie until she cries." (Chicago Sun-Times, 8/5/93)

It's a telling incident in the life of a vicious bigot whose lengthy political career harmed millions of people. There's no excusing or mitigating a moment of it. If there's any justice in the universe, that God Helms goes to meet is black, gay, female and cracking her knuckles. Black Republicans should observe: anyone stupid enough to believe that astonishing sign is probably too stupid to register and vote.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

And Dream Of Sheep

If this is the best our government and the airline business can do to simply function in their jobs, perhaps both deserve to fail.

It was at this precise moment I lost sympathy for the struggling airline industry.

I don't mean workers like flight attendants, mechanics and pilots, for whom I have the utmost respect. No, I mean the policymakers who are so goddamn stupid they won't back down from red alert over baby bottles and shampoo, which could never have exploded in the first place. As a method of detonation it cannot work. And yet, in February, I was hassled about a cup of coffee. It's nostalgic to say this in 2008, but does anyone remember probable cause and the presumption of innocence?

There's so much wrong with this breathlessly stupid, alarmist, invasive scenario I can't begin to speak rationally about it. I leave the nouns and verbs to others using them far better, but I can say this: a big fucking flashing neon sign of precisely how completely and totally wrong this procedure is is that it's (more or less) introduced to the American public by everyone's pal Matt Lauer. Matt wouldn't steer us wrong, would he? And he sounds so reassuring, we won't even miss our rights protecting us against unreasonable search and seizure! Or will we? Via Jill:
The Justice Department is considering letting the FBI investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on a terrorist profile that could single out Muslims, Arabs or other racial and ethnic groups.

Law enforcement officials say the proposed policy would help them do exactly what Congress demanded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: root out terrorists before they strike.

Although President Bush has disavowed targeting suspects based on their race or ethnicity, the new rules would allow the FBI to consider those factors among a number of traits that could trigger a national security investigation.

Currently, FBI agents need specific reasons — like evidence or allegations that a law probably has been violated — to investigate U.S. citizens and legal residents. The new policy, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press, would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious.

Among the factors that could make someone subject of an investigation is travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity, access to weapons or military training, along with the person's race or ethnicity.

Got that? Your RACE makes you suspicious. Your ETHNICITY makes you a suspect. Whatever you do, don't stand in line at the airport being brown and eating baba ghanoush!

If you read that article carefully, the verbs change. Justice isn't considering turning the FBI loose on innocent Americans. Justice will turn the FBI loose on innocent Americans in September, and it's just too bad Matt Lauer didn't introduce the press conference. He's so reassuring, you know.

Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief, reports:
I'm reading about cognitive psychology and gestalt and heuristics and behaviorism and I came across the idea of causation, which posits a necessary relationship between an event and its causative agent. I don't know what any of that means, but causation seems to be the folk wisdom that everything happens for a reason. People only invoke that myth when something bad happens, to talk themselves out of the obvious truth that bad things happen to good people for no reason at all. When I was a younger man, I wanted to talk people out of their religious beliefs. I was young. What do I care what gods people worship? Still, for some reason, this really galls me. According to this dipshit philosophy, I got rear ended all those times and have tortured vertebrae in my neck for a reason. I have epilepsy for a reason. Every misfortune that's ever befallen my family and all my friends was, what, dictated by some cosmic intelligence? For what? To teach us a lesson? To make us appreciate the good times more? I swear to Christ, the next person who tries to comfort me with that foul stinking old chestnut gets a punch in the fucking head.

Don't worry, sweetheart. That misguided, compassionate person is probably being x-rayed into a stupor by Justice as we speak. Just offer him or her some baba ghanoush!


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nothing To Say I Ain't Said Before

I stand with you, General.

In other news: stop talking about "electing a commander-in-chief." We don't elect a commander-in-chief. We elect a president, and when diplomacy fails, the president assumes these powers. This title, as it is now tossed about, should be a badge of shame and failure. Don't use these words, and don't participate in the fetishistic rightwing framing.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Sun Shine In

Via Firedoglake, we see the New York Times couldn't be more ambivalent about the Bureau of Land Management's two-year freeze and study of - get this - the environmental impact of large-scale solar power projects on public land. Look at the distancing language not at all in action here:
DENVER — Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

But the decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating.

Flying Spaghetti Monster, does this make sense?
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Holly Gordon, vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs for Ausra, a solar thermal energy company in Palo Alto, Calif. “The Bureau of Land Management land has some of the best solar resources in the world. This could completely stunt the growth of the industry.”

Hey, did you know our executive branch is full of oil men? You do now!
Much of the 119 million surface acres of federally administered land in the West is ideal for solar energy, particularly in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California, where sunlight drenches vast, flat desert tracts.

The Bureau owns vast swaths of sun-drenched desert it could lease to fledgling solar power companies, which would make money for the taxpayers, but it would prefer to wait. And study. And wait. Study what? you ask. Good question.
The manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s environmental impact study, Linda Resseguie, said that many factors must be considered when deciding whether to allow solar projects on the scale being proposed, among them the impact of construction and transmission lines on native vegetation and wildlife. In California, for example, solar developers often hire environmental experts to assess the effects of construction on the desert tortoise and Mojave ground squirrel.

Water use can be a factor as well, especially in the parched areas where virtually all of the proposed plants would be built. Concentrating solar plants may require water to condense the steam used to power the turbine.

“Reclamation is another big issue,” Ms. Resseguie said. “These plants potentially have a 20- to 30-year life span. How to restore that land is a big question for us.”

Because after the sun burns out, we'll have to go back to coal.
Another benefit of the study will be a single set of environmental criteria to weigh future solar proposals, which will ultimately speed the application process, said the assistant Interior Department secretary for land and minerals management, C. Stephen Allred. The land agency’s manager of energy policy, Ray Brady, said the moratorium on new applications was necessary to “ensure that we are doing an adequate level of analysis of the impacts.”

Studying water in the desert, and studying their ability to study! Studying after those studious do-gooder capitalists pay professional studiers. That, friends, is truly the doublespeak of a public relations master. My gardening hat is off to Misters Allred and Brady. Nothing abashed about those uses of language! FDL:
Cameron Scott, a blogger for the San Francisco Chronicle, writes that he appreciates the government’s caution, noting that such ecological prudence would have been useful before the country jumped into the ethanol business, but that he sees something of a double standard:
[T]he government rarely proceeds with caution when it comes to public lands. In the last couple years, the Bush administration has proposed allowing commerce, roads, off-road vehicles, and concealed weapons on public lands, and has eagerly embraced drilling for oil and natural gas. If fossil fuels warrant endangering these lands, then surely solar power does, too.

Is the Bush administration really so set against decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels that it would fabricate concern for the environment in order to block alternative energy projects? It would appear so.

The Economist notes that the solar industry is now facing a double-whammy, thanks to Congress’s failure to renew a solar tax-credit:
Congress has been dithering over extending a valuable investment tax credit for solar-energy projects, which solar advocates say is critical to the future of their industry but which is due to expire at the end of the year. The latest attempt failed in the Senate earlier this month: prospects for a deal before November’s presidential and congressional elections now look dim. Uncertainty has led some investors to delay or abandon projects in the past few months. Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said if the tax credits are allowed to expire at the end of the year, “it will result in the loss of billions of dollars in new investments in solar.”

At this rate, I'm SO going to be on a "Morning, Sam" "Morning, Ralph"-basis with my Congresspersons. Feel free to contact yours.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not All the Prayers In the World Could Save Us

Oh, Jesus Christ:
The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.

This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.

Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Both documents, as prepared by the E.P.A., “showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases,” one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. “That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”

What the fuck is wrong with these people that they can't even act in the best interest of their own goddamn LUNGS?
The derailment of the original E.P.A. report was first made known in March by Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The refusal to open the e-mail has not been made public.

Funny thing about that: the cat's out of the bag. That ship's sailed. That frown turned upside down. Or whatever - get this:
In early December, the E.P.A.’s draft finding that greenhouse gases endanger the environment used Energy Department data from 2007 to conclude that it would be cost effective to require the nation’s motor vehicle fleet to average 37.7 miles per gallon in 2018, according to government officials familiar with the document.

About 10 days after the finding was left unopened by officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Congress passed and President Bush signed a new energy bill mandating an increase in average fuel-economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The day the law was signed, the E.P.A. administrator rejected the unanimous recommendation of his staff and denied California a waiver needed to regulate vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases in the state, saying the new law’s approach was preferable and climate change required global, not regional, solutions.

California’s regulations would have imposed tougher standards.

The Transportation Department made its own fuel-economy proposals public almost two months ago; they were based on the assumption that gasoline would range from $2.26 per gallon in 2016 to $2.51 per gallon in 2030, and set a maximum average standard of 35 miles per gallon in 2020.

Someone asked me yesterday if I thought we'd see $5 by the end of this year. With every bit of common sense left to me I blurted, "Of course! Does the Pope shit in the woods?" which is not nearly as profane as this gem:
In a speech in April, Mr. Bush called for an end to the growth of greenhouse gases by 2025 — a timetable slower than many scientists say is required. His chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality, James Connaughton, said a “train wreck” would result if regulations to control greenhouse gases were authorized piecemeal under laws like the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.

I pray for the day we can scrape this bullshit off our collective shoe, but in the meantime, we're stuck with this piquant goo:
White House pressure to ignore or edit the E.P.A.’s climate-change findings led to the resignation of one agency official earlier this month: Jason Burnett, the associate deputy administrator. Mr. Burnett, a political appointee with broad authority over climate-change regulations, said in an interview that he had resigned because “no more constructive work could be done” on the agency’s response to the Supreme Court.

He added, “The next administration will have to face what this one did not.”

In that case, let's spend a little quality time with the Colbert Report and John McCain.

Off-shore drilling: it's the new black - for beaches, fish and wildlife.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Real Time Inverted Along A Faultline

Addendum to obituaries of George Carlin: it is still impossible to have an honest conversation about the wars in which our country is engaged. Most people have something to protect, and it isn't always what it might seem. Case in point: in the days following Hurricane Katrina, my co-worker Ellen asked if I thought the rescue missions were taking a bit long to launch. This interested me because her son is an Air Force pilot who has been involved in rescue missions all over the globe; he advised patience. Generally, I don't discuss politics in my office unless someone else raises a topic, but then I'll blurt what's on my mind.

Tata: They're letting people drown in the streets of a major American city because they're poor.

Ellen was a flight attendant in the sixties and has traveled the globe. Her eyes are open to a great many sights you and I will never lay eyes on.

Ellen: That can't be. I don't believe that.
Tata: We'll see.

And we did. Most of us now act as if it never happened because it is simply too monstrous to imagine that the United States did not mobilize Heaven and Earth to save its people, and we watched it on television. Remember how we used to hear that an astounding percentage of the populace believed everything on TV was real? I'm betting Katrina finally laid that problem to rest, along with 1836 real people who got voted off the Bayou. As the days passed, Ellen looked more shaken but said little, and gradually, we've found other, safer things to discuss. So I was surprised when she raised the topic of my cousin Tony, who shipped out to Iraq a couple of weeks ago.

Tata: I don't want to talk about it.
Ellen: You don't? My niece is going in November.
Tata: No, I don't want to talk about it. My family's lost its mind.
Ellen: It's 120 degrees and the wind is terrible. The conditions aren't good but the people want peace there.
Tata: What? There's a civil war going on there we know very little about, and we're eternally one pronouncement by Sadr away from total war on our people who, I'm sorry, don't stand a chance.
Ellen: The Iraqis - the people, they don't want -
Tata: If someone invaded your country, you'd be out in the streets throwing bombs, so why should you expect anything different because we did the invading?
Ellen: No, I wouldn't throw bombs. We wouldn't do that. The people -
Tata: Ellen, if someone invaded where you live, you would do something. You wouldn't just take it, would you?
Ellen: No, no. We aren't -
Tata: You're from Boston. Do the words THE BRITISH ARE COMING! ring a bell?

There you have it. Good people are paralyzed and mumbling; people who ought to know better want to believe we fight on the side of the angels, and that our cause is just. The trouble is that if we focus on the troops we lose sight of the generals, and the instigators behind them, who risk nothing, who will lose nothing, not even a night's sleep. For them, business is good, and, in post-Carlin America, it's still rude to talk about money.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Of Anything At All


William "Jim" Haynes II, the man who blessed the use of dogs, hoods and nudity to pry information out of recalcitrant detainees, proved to be a model of evasion himself as he resisted all attempts at inquiry by the Armed Services Committee.

Did he ask a subordinate to get information about harsh questioning techniques?

"My memory is not perfect."

Did he see a memo about the effects of these techniques?

"I don't specifically remember when I saw this."

Did he remember doing something with the information he got?

"I don't remember doing something with this information."

When did he discuss these methods with other Bush administration officials?

"I don't know precisely when, and I cannot discuss it further without getting into classified information."

"I don't recall seeing this memorandum before and I'm not even sure this is one I've seen before. . . . I don't recall seeing this memorandum and I don't recall specific objections of this nature. . . . Well, I don't recall seeing this document, either. . . . I don't recall specific concerns. . . . I don't recall these and I don't recall seeing these memoranda. . . . I can't even read this document, but I don't remember seeing it. . . . I don't recall that specifically. . . . I don't remember doing that. . . . I don't recall seeing these things."

In two hours of testimony, Haynes managed to get off no fewer than 23 don't recalls, 22 don't remembers, 16 don't knows, and various other protestations of memory loss.

Our Watergate hearing nightmares have become the horror of our waking life.

Labels: ,

In the Dark, You Know Where

Governor Bobby Jindal
State of Louisiana

Dear Governor Jindal,

I was delighted to learn that SB 733, the LA Science Education Act passed votes in both houses of the Louisiana legislature, and that you intend to sign it. Your determination in the face of logic has always impressed me, like that time in college you exorcised demons from a woman. When I was in college, that's not what we called it, but hey, go you!

SB 733 is an attempt to introduce intelligent design into the schools, though it's a very thinly disguised attempt, like if everyone at the hilarious Discovery Institute wore mustaches on False Witness Fridays. But let's not get picky. Sign that bill and you do the residents of every other state a tremendous favor. Even Guam might send you a thank-you note. See: once you've taken the science out of science education in Louisiana, everyone else stands a better chance at getting into college. Once again: go you!

As a resident of New Jersey and the daughter of a science teacher, I had to thank you for doing your very best to elevate real science education by undermining it for your youngest constituents. I thank you, polytechnic institutes around the world taking fewer American students thank you and the job market thanks you. Too bad about those trusting little children you're condemning to a life of frustration, poverty and amusing righteous indignation. Isn't WalMart hiring?

Best wishes in your future endeavors. I look forward to the next thing you do to make American public life sillier and more dangerous for the rest of us.

Princess Tata

Crossposted at Agitprop.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Read My Circuit Diagram

Hat tip: that guy in the next cubicle who also sends me This Modern World.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Are My Hands Clean?

Voice of America News:

The estimates of the number of Chinese people still in prison for their activities in 1989 range from 50 to 200.

John Kamm, whose San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation tracks political prisoners in China, says the list of so-called June 4 prisoners includes people all over the country.

"There's a fellow called Liu Zhihua, in Hunan," said . He's the last of a group of workers that organized one of the largest worker strikes in 1989, at the Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Factory. Leader Chen Gang, everyone else, has been released. He's still in. There's a peasant in Guizhou, by the name of Hu Xinghua, Miao nationality, set up something called the Chinese People's Solidarity Party. He's still in."

Kamm's organization and other human rights groups are calling on the Chinese government to release people put in jail for their 1989 activities, as a goodwill gesture before the Beijing Olympics in August.

"China, if you want to do something to improve your image, how about setting free the remaining June 4 prisoners, putting June 4 behind you?" he said.

The Guardian:

The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

- snip! -

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

- snip! -

The Reprieve study includes the account of a prisoner released from Guantánamo Bay, who described a fellow inmate's story of detention on an amphibious assault ship. "One of my fellow prisoners in Guantánamo was at sea on an American ship with about 50 others before coming to Guantánamo ... he was in the cage next to me. He told me that there were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo."

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve's legal director, said: "They choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their legal rights.

"By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been 'through the system' since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them."

Twenty-six thousand.

Crossposted at Blanton's and Ashton's.