Thursday, August 27, 2009

The loss.

A short list of the more than 850 bills made into law that were authored (300+) or endorsed (550+) by Senator Edward Kennedy:

  • Women, Infants and Children program (WIC); food assistance and access to health care for low-income women and children.

  • State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP)

  • Family Opportunity Act; expanded Medicaid to cover special-needs kids.

  • COBRA

  • HIPAA; limited the pre-existing conditions excuse for denial of coverage.

  • Mental Health Parity law; helps ensure lifetime coverage for mental health issues.

  • Ryan White Care Act; funds treatment of AIDS for hundreds of thousands of people.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

  • Head Start

  • Direct Lending; a program for college aid lending

  • Up-armoring HUMVEE legislation, (2003 and 2005)

  • Voting Rights Act; amendments, 1982

  • Family and Medical Leave Act

  • Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act; keeps health insurers from nixing you based on your DNA.

  • Civil Rights Act of 1991

  • National Guard and Reserve Mental Health Access Act (2008)

  • Higher Education Opportunity Act

  • College Cost Reduction and Access Act

  • Strengthen FDA oversight of approved medication (2007)

  • Minimum Wage act (1996, 2007)

  • Pension Protection Act

  • Bioterrorism Preparedness Act

  • Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act

  • LIHEAP; low income heating energy assistance program

  • National and Community Service Trust Act (Americorps)

  • National Military Child Care Act

  • WARN Act; requires companies to give 2 months notice if a plant closing will put more than 50 people out of work.

  • Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act (includes mentally ill, disabled, elderly)

  • Meals on Wheels Act

  • National Cancer Act

  • Fair Housing Act

  • Immigration Act (1965); ended race-based quotas in immigration
“Don’t you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the last century serving in the Senate had so many of his foes embrace him? Because they know he made them bigger, he made them more graceful by the way in which he conducted himself.”
Vice President Biden, 8-26-09

Monday, August 24, 2009

I took a vacation...


...but apparently, I'm not the only thing that's been getting some sun.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I must confess

Time to come clean, before my past catches up with me.

I was not born in these United States. The fact of the matter is that I was born in Coast General Hospital, Mombasa, Kenya.

And there's proof.

My mother was a child, a confused and frightened 14-year-old from Jersey City. She was offered as a token of fealty to Abdul Rahman Yasin OBAMA, who took her to Saudi Arabia where he was in training with a young Osama. It's a sad sordid tale.

Anyway, I feel compelled to disclose the truth, and the proof. My official Kenyan Birth Certificate:

Now you know.


Get yours today!

Today's GOP

Allow me to introduce you to the "loyal opposition." This is the Republican party today: an anti-democratic, un-American wasteland of madness and spittle.

I know there are "Republicans" out there who do not fit that description -- I even know some of them. But this is the party. These are the methods they have selected to gain control.

I'm sure there will be bruises and broken bones, and there have already been deaths.

But the worse harm is the disintegration of the democratic fabric. In a nation that was once ruled by the law and by ideas, I call it treason.

Why treason? Because this isn't dissent. It isn't argument or debate. It's negation.

A pluralistic society can withstand any ideology but one: that which insists on no ideology but itself. The only political stance that is absolutely unacceptable in an open democracy (to which we still cling), is one that will brook no compromise, no difference, no alternative.

What you are seeing today is a transition. The Republican Party has been plugging its ears and shouting "I won't hear you." Now, they are taking their fists out of their ears and putting them in your face and saying, "I won't let you speak."

If you still identify with this party, when these are its methods, that means you. Sorry.







Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The South Will Rise Again...


...just not on this graph.

source

Monday, August 3, 2009

Drinks! Drinks for my friends!

That classic line is from Micky Rourke's first incarnation, in his role as Bukowski, the great street poet (who always reminds me of Tom Waites -- or maybe it's the other way around) in the movie Barfly. If you haven't seen the movie, you should.

First of all, it features the absurd and pathetic life of the talented Charles Bukowski. Bukowski wrote searing poetry, and steadfastly refused to clean up his act. Like many drunks and addicts, he believed his own hype and it made him an unbearably self-righteous person to be around. But his words were worth it (if you didn't have to live with him).

Second, it's probably Rourke's best role. It prefigures his turn as "The Wrestler," before his face was battered by his earnest courtship of boxing and equally earnest pursuit of chemical living. I guess that as a man he was already tiptoeing along the edge and that gives his portrait of Bukowski/Henry Chinaski a reckless core, convincing, probably because he was barely acting.

Finally, you'll get a dose of 1987 Faye Dunaway. If you're my age or younger, you're probably not quite old enough to remember the power of Faye's sexuality (or, she may have tormented your early adolescence). In "Barfly," she plays, like Rourke, an unrepentant booze-hound. But no matter how slovenly or sick she gets, her allure burns a hole in the film. Part of the tragedy of the movie is watching that light boxed off and traded away.

Anyway, drinks.

In what will surely go down as one of his many strokes of genius, my friend Rich married my friend Kristin. Together they came up with another nice idea: revive the cocktail hour.

There are many institutions from the first half of the 20th century that have thankfully fallen to the dustbin of history: segregation, smoking in restaraunts, sock suspenders. Yet in our headlong rush into the new, we've thrown the baby out with the bathwater: Vive l'Heure de Cocktail!

In support of that effort, Kristin and Rich bring you "52 Drink-up," now added to the "Stuff and Fun" blogroll to the right of this column. Drink along, and bring the "happy" back to "happy hour!"

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Socialism will grind our country down.

I mean, just look at Sweden -- card-carrying socialist nazi communist totalitarian pinkos, each and every one of 'em, just like Barry Hussein Obama (except the bikini team). Didja know he's black? And not from here? It's true -- I've seen the fake birth certifikat. It's on the interweb -- it's a fake! This guy? He went to Ghana or sumwhere in Africa, or, no, wait, he called there, right? And spoke to the Darkie's grandmama, who said she was there -- in Africa -- when Barry was born. She was there! RIGHT THERE! It's on tape and everything. How could she be there when the crossbreed came out if he came out in Hawaii? I mean, I'm here, right now and you're there -- where you are -- so there's no way I could be here if I'm gonna be there when you pop out a chillun? I can't! I'd be HERE when it was born! So if someone asked me, "Were you there when this lady had her baby" an I said, yes I was right here, then you couldn't have had your baby there, you should have had it here! GET it?

Where was I? Oh yeah, Sweden. Fuckers.

The US ranks #5 worldwide in per capita income, with a $33,070 average. You have to tumble all the way to #8 before you get to the Swedes, who average out at $25,105. Stupid Swedes! I've got $8,000 here that says you're weak!

(Of course, skewing that statistic is probably the US's dominance of the "richest people in the world" list, Where the top two (both American) each have twice as much money as 3, 4, 5 or 6. Even among the stratospherically rich, the richest are much richer than their own "middle" class. Number 1 (Bill Gates) has $40B. Numbers 98 (a tie among 6) each have a paltry $5B. And yes, that's "B" as in "billion." To put that in perspective, if you cashed out America's four richest men (Billy Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison and Jim Walton), you'd be able to balance every single state budget deficit in the United States. And they'd still have about $5,000,000,000 to split among themselves.)

Anyway, what do those stupide Swedes (I say "stupide" 'cause it's French, just like the Swedes -- stupid froggy swishy Swedes) get in exchange for being only the 8th richest country in the world (losers)?



Gah. Could you imagine? That would be horrible, just horrible. That's why we must all band together to stop our rapid slide! I want to keep living in a world where the Eagle soars ("like She's never soared before!"), we dominate the billionaires list (USA! USA! USA!) and you have to beg for unpaid time off to have a baby and hope to Sonny Jeezus that it doesn't torpedo your career. Wimins belong in the kitchen anyways. I'm Amurkin, dammit! Profit is God's holy water, blessings for the blessed! What? Huh? What? Fuck you!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What it means

Some things were meant to be sung.

Some of those things make absolutely no sense otherwise.

One of my favorite songs in college was "Plush" by Stone Temple Pilots. To this day, I can not tell you what the hell he's singing about:
Where ya going for tomorrow?
Where ya going with that mask I found?
And I feel, and I feel
When the dogs begin to smell her
Will she smell alone?
WTF? Yet it works as a song (particularly as a pop song, for which the bar of coherence is quite low).

With that said, perhaps the biggest mistake Sarah Palin made (aside from, oh, everything else) was delivering an "I Quit" speech instead of an "I Quit" song. Or, if you long for days of berets and smoky cafes, a poem:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Healthcare in Canadia

This is a complete repost from someone on Democratic Underground calling themselves "Canuckistanian" regarding socialized medicine.

I'll only add that when I heard Rep. Louie Gohmert (R - Texas) say, "I know enough about Canadian care, and I know this bureaucratic, socialized, piece of crap they have up there, it gives them a generalized standard of care ... 1 in 5 people have to die because they went to socialized medicine," all I can say is, Louie, just to remind you, they have this thing called "democracy" up there, and if they really hated it so much, I'm sure they'd change it.

Canuckistanian:

As a Canadian I marvel at all of these terms that are so common to Americans, but are virtually unknown to us.

Here's a partial list off the top of my head:

1. "Out of network"
There are no "networks" in Canada. Doctors and hospitals are not affiliated with private insurance companies. Doctors are private business entities and hospitals are usually run by non-profit boards or regional health associations.

2. "COBRA"
Health coverage is NOT tied to your place of employment in any way. So any COBRA-like scheme is unnecessary.

3. "Co-Pay"
The government pays 100% of basic care, 100% of the time. Drugs are not covered, but are subsidized by government to a point. And because of mass buys, discounts are obtained from the drug companies. That's why our prices are so much lower. Most employers offer a drug plan that pays for 100% of drug cost coverage.

4. "monthly premium\deductible"
Wazzat? We don't consider our health to be the same as our possessions.

5. "waiting for approval"
Doctors are the sole decision makers for health care. NOBODY influences or delays their decisions, warns them of costs or prevents them from giving treatment for any reason.

6. "Government interference"
The provincial government in each province PAYS for whatever services doctors provide. No questions asked. Unless the procedure is experimental, not medically necessary or unwarranted, doctors cannot deny basic care - by law.

7. "Health insurance lobby"
There are NO insurance companies for basic care, only companies for providing insurance for travelers. No money to be made here.

8. "bureaucracy"
When we visit a hospital or doctor's office, we walk in, get treated, walk out. No "applications", "registrations" or any other kind of paperwork is required. We NEVER have to talk to a single "government official" or wait for a "judgment".

9. "PRE-EXISTING CONDITION"
This is such a foreign concept to us. A Canadian's usual reaction to the explanation of this term is astonishment.

I'm glad to see that a sane health care system is within reach in America. Fight for it. It's WORTH it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Music, Music, Music

File this under "Meet the Blogroll," but don't file it away. I knew "Pop Argot," the author of "Baby I've Been Thinking," back in college, and stumbled across his 'blog a few years ago. I don't remember exactly how.

Anyway. If you're a lover of pop music, or just music, you've got to check out his site. Nearly every day brings a new hit, or an obscure pop tune that deserves more exposure, or a list of great tunes from a certain era or on a theme -- all conveniently linked to recordings or videos so you can enjoy it all over again (or for the first time).

I'm consistently impressed by the breadth of his knowledge, and I love the trivia he brings to the site -- like an actually good FM DJ from the days (not so long ago) when a DJ had some leeway to put his or her stamp on a show. Check him out.

What can science do?

I highly recommend this post, "What Questions Can Science Answer?" on the Discover Magazine website. It's a great beginning at a more cogent popular understanding of the nature of science, and how, therefore, we might employ what it tells us in structuring our civic lives (the big kerfuffle these days). Here's a sample:
Alpha Centauri A is a G-type star a little over four light years away. Now pick some very particular moment one billion years ago, and zoom in to the precise center of the star. Protons and electrons are colliding with each other all the time. Consider the collision of two electrons nearest to that exact time and that precise point in space. Now let’s ask: was momentum conserved in that collision? ...

...The scientific answer to this question is: of course, the momentum was conserved. Conservation of momentum is a principle of science that has been tested to very high accuracy by all sorts of experiments, we have every reason to believe it held true in that particular collision, and absolutely no reason to doubt it; therefore, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that momentum was conserved.

A stickler might argue, well, you shouldn’t be so sure. You didn’t observe that particular event, after all, and more importantly there’s no conceivable way that you could collect data at the present time that would answer the question one way or the other. Science is an empirical endeavor, and should remain silent about things for which no empirical adjudication is possible.

But that’s completely crazy. That’s not how science works. Of course we can say that momentum was conserved. Indeed, if anyone were to take the logic of the previous paragraph seriously, science would be a completely worthless endeavor, because we could never make any statements about the future. Predictions would be impossible, because they haven’t happened yet, so we don’t have any data about them, so science would have to be silent.
The bloggist (this is a good post -- I think he rises above "blogger" status) has put his finger on the fulcrum around which all of our public debates about science (abortion, stem cells, environmental degradation, climate change, class action lawsuits based on pollution) turn. At every junction, conservatives demand absolute certainty as to each and every instance with empirical evidence from that instance to back it up. They demand not just a consistent history of "smoking guns," but the very gun used for the crime in question (and usually a few eyewitnesses as well -- preferable themselves).

If that is the standard -- as it has increasingly been -- then science always loses. This level of absolute determinism can only be found through religious certainty. Ironic, then, that so many who demand specific certainty from science -- which offers libraries of evidence -- adopt that absolute certainty regarding religion, which offers practically none.

Anyway, the article and the comments that follow are engagingly well-written (and by no means taken from the same sheet of music). Recommend.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's that time of year again!

Today, we went out to Windham for SummerFest, then drove off to Brunswick for "Taste of Brunswick" (all in all, entirely superior to SummerFest). Somewhere in Durham or Pownal, we saw a man setting up an awning on the side of the road, with a card table and a chair and a sign that said "Marriage = 1 Man 1 Woman SIGN HERE." Looks like the Prop 8 Army has begun to seek a toehold here in the great state of Maine. It's signature season. I wonder if they'll pull 'em in like Beal's does...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A PS on what's happening in Tehran

One of the current right-wing talking points on this seems to be that "if the saviour (their word for Obama) doesn't declare his support for these freedom fighters now, then he will be complicit in their downfall."

Like most right-wing screed these days, this is specious and stupid. Of course, some of the reasons for that have to do with the extensive and draining elected war in Iraq from which we are slowly withdrawing our troops.

First, you may have noticed a distinct lack of American flags or pictures of Obama or signs bearing his name in that vast crowd. Iranians do not want our interference. Even among the more progressive sectors in their politics, feelings about the west and its presence in the middle east are ambiguous at best. If Obama were to come down on any side in this moment, it would have very unpredictable consequences as the side he chooses will scramble to distance itself from the west and the opposition will draw support from the center. If he picks the Greens, he would lessen their domestic support and any support that they're receiving (or might receive) from their neighbors.

Second, let's imagine that Obama comes out in support of the the Greens. Now let's imagine that the ruling factions determine that the vote count stands (after whatever sham investigation they conduct). That leaves Obama with two options, neither attractive, and both worse for the United States.

A) He does nothing, and has created a remarkably weaker hand for himself with Ahmadinejad and his government, who can credibly claim that the US intruded into domestic Iranian politics. He can pretty much do what he wants after that, and the US will have to scramble to regain any credibility in the area.

B) His declared support for the Greens may bind him to act if it is determined that they will be shut down by the Mullahs. But act with what? Our forces are already over-deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, the American right wing has never shied from an opportunity to kill massive amounts of brown people through "smart" bombing, so maybe this is just what they want. In any case, he becomes practically bound to some course that will lead to violence.

Finally, judging the majority will of Iran by what happens in the city of Tehran is a little like judging what people are thinking in Oklahoma City by what they're saying in San Francisco. Thanks to our near-complete lack of presence in Iran, we have nearly no idea what the "man in the street" in that country is thinking. Our government is relying on the same "free" intelligence that we all are -- largely, the British press.

But the American right-wing wants Obama to back the Greens now and without reservation. I wonder where they were when Saddam was gassing the Kurds? Or when Clinton wanted troops on the ground to protect Muslims in Kosovo? This fake litmus test betrays both a simplistic analysis of the situation and a hypocritical approach to international policy.

In other words, utterly predictable.

That said, this is already turning violent. If the general stability of Iran is at stake, the smart move for Obama, in my mind, is to pull a Poppy Bush. That is, begin working through Syria to build a regional coalition to moderate the situation with US support from over-the-horizon. It won't be the show the Right so deeply desires, but it would have the potential to do two things: it would enlist the regional neighborhood of nations in maintaining stability in the one place they need to maintain it if they hope to avoid a Balkan catastrophe, and it would establish the US as an honest broker with governments that should be partners (if not allies) with us in the region. It might even provide an opportunity to engage Turkey in a more influential role in the Persian states, something that could be very useful down the road.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Marching in Tehran

No violence. No burning flags. Just Iranians, demanding a voice.



We took the gun away from their heads. We unclenched the first fist. Will we see an open hand by the end of the year? It is to be hoped for and encouraged.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Building the more perfect union

And New Hampshire makes six.
Traditionally conservative New Hampshire today became the sixth state in the nation to legalize gay marriage, after a bill was was enacted by both the state House and Senate and then signed by Governor John Lynch.
PhotobucketWhere you at, Rhode Island?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Killing in the Name of...

Andrew Sullivan gets it right:
Imagine an Islamist fanatic had assassinated a pro-Israel rabbi in a synagogue, and had harassed synagogues for years, including one arrest for bomb materials in his car. Imagine if one of his associates had tried to kill the rabbi before. Would there be any question that this was Islamist terror? So why is this not Christianist terror?
By "this," Sullivan is referencing this (if you hadn't heard).

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Name That Nominee

In today's installment on knee-jerk hypocrisy, you will be presented with a quote from a recent nominee to the Supreme Court that displays a nakedly empathetic approach to decision-making based on the ethnicity, religion or gender of the plaintiff rather than a dispassionate review of the law and facts of the case.

Then you get to guess which of the most recent activist-judge nominees made the statement in question.

The correct answer will be revealed in the comments. Good luck.

I don't come from an affluent background or a privileged background. My parents were both quite poor when they were growing up.

And I know about their experiences and I didn't experience those things. I don't take credit for anything that they did or anything that they overcame.

But I think that children learn a lot from their parents and they learn from what the parents say. But I think they learn a lot more from what the parents do and from what they take from the stories of their parents lives.

And that's why I went into that in my opening statement. Because when a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant -- and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases -- I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position.

And so it's my job to apply the law. It's not my job to change the law or to bend the law to achieve any result.

But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country."

When I have cases involving children, I can't help but think of my own children and think about my children being treated in the way that children may be treated in the case that's before me.

And that goes down the line. When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account. When I have a case involving someone who's been subjected to discrimination because of disability, I have to think of people who I've known and admire very greatly who've had disabilities, and I've watched them struggle to overcome the barriers that society puts up often just because it doesn't think of what it's doing -- the barriers that it puts up to them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Signing, a sign, a fall, a rising.

Today, Governor Baldacci signed a bill to legalize the fact of Gay Marriage in the state of Maine: LD 1020 "An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom."

Nearly 25 years ago, Charlie Howard was pitched from a bridge above Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor by three teenagers. Charlie, who could not swim, drowned in the middle of down town Bangor.

Within days of his murder, the bridge had been tagged, "Faggots Jump Here."

The boys who killed him were eventually convicted, as juveniles, of manslaughter.

With the signing of LD 1020, there has been some talk about how far we've come. And we have come a ways, I suppose.

But just in February, 25 year old Scott Libby was strangled with a belt and beaten to death with a frying pan, thrown in a car and left parked on railroad tracks. Basically, because he was gay. Agostino Samson, the man alleged to have killed him, had known Libby for seven years and had been employed by him for a short time.
Samson told police he punched Libby in the nose twice after Libby made sexual advances toward him.
And yet,
According to the affidavit, Samson called Libby's mother, Nancy, of Raymond on Feb. 20 to say he had heard about Libby's death from his sister. Nancy Libby told police Samson "appeared to be crying quite hard on the telephone."
Few of the facts in that case have come out. Yet in spite of the limited story, you'd think the media would be all over it. For all the drama involved (beating, debts owed, a fairly complex attempt to mask a murder by creating a train accident), the local press just doesn't seem all that interested. All the salacious details would ordinarily indicate prime local newsfodder.

The train tracks have yet to be tagged, so I suppose our progress is shown less in the lack of violence than in the lack of glee attending it.

Certainly there are enough people incensed at the idea of Gays Among Us that I believe a petition drive will be mounted. I do not know if it will succeed. In Maine, it will lack the open support of the Republican Party. That's a little progress, I guess.

It will also lack the active support of the Church of Latter Day Saints -- there just aren't that many Mormons in Maine. It will be supported, however, by the Catholic Church. Unlike the Mormons, there are enough Catholics in Maine for the diocese to feel a stake in the story.

The vote in the Maine House (89-57) indicates that there remains significant opposition to the separation of personal conviction from constitutional protection. And the facile conflation and straight misrepresentation of facts persists:
Assistant House Minority Leader Phil Curtis, R-Madison, said he worries how the bill will affect parenting, education and religious liberty.

"L.D. 1020, as printed, proposes a radical redefinition of marriage as we have known it to be for all of history," he said.
Yet the law is signed.
"We see the referendum as an opportunity," said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. "Maine may well be the antidote to California."
Or, as my friend Doug said on the 'phone tonight, "The tide is rising."
And because

he's fallen for twenty-three years,
despite whatever awkwardness
his flailing arms and legs assume
he is beautiful

and like any good diver
has only an edge of fear
he transforms into grace.
Or else he is not afraid,

and in this way climbs back
up the ladder of his fall,
out of the river into the arms
of the three teenage boys

who hurled him from the edge-
really boys now, afraid,
their fathers' cars shivering behind them,
headlights on- and tells them

it's all right, that he knows
they didn't believe him
when he said he couldn't swim,
and blesses his killers

in the way that only the dead
can afford to forgive.

From "Charlie Howard's Descent"
by Mark Doty

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Feeling a little pig-fluey?

After meeting with Mr. Obama, Sen. Collins expressed concern about a number of spending provisions, including $780 million for pandemic-flu preparedness. "I have no doubt that the president is willing to negotiate in good faith, that he wants to have a bipartisan bill," Sen. Collins said.
Thank goodness Maine's own Susan Collins had the foresight to strike that bit of spending from the stimulus bill. Standing strong on this particular 1/1000 of 1 percent of the bill in the name of fiscal discipline in these tough times must have been a hard row to hoe.



Anybody else feeling a bit of sniffle coming on?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind

"They have deeply corrupted themselves...therefore God will remember their iniquity, God will visit their sins." Hosea 9:9

Jane Harmon's come-to-the-Lord moment is here:
"Maybe I'm even wiretapped now."
And what a surprise, right Jane? I mean, who could have imagined that plainly and vastly unconstitutional violations of privacy would ever be used against the Protectors of the Nation?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Suddenly, finally, and perhaps too late, the media. But only because it suits someone else's shadowy motives to bring down Congresswoman Harmon. But she deserves to be laid low. In 2005
Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.
That should have been enough to bring her under investigation. And indeed, it was:
[The Justice Department was] prepared to open a case on her, which would include electronic surveillance approved by the so-called FISA Court, the secret panel established by the 1979 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to hear government wiretap requests.
Representative Harmon was primed to fall into the crosshairs of the Bush Justice Department, headed by Alberto Gonzales. This was a dangerous place to be for a Democrat. Well, for most Democrats (and many ordinary citizens). But, oddly, not for Jane Harmon. In fact, Abu Ghonzales himself was looking out for her. Why?
Gonzales said he "needed Jane" to help support the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, which was about to be exposed by the New York Times.

Harman, he told Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program

He was right.

On Dec. 21, 2005, in the midst of a firestorm of criticism about the wiretaps, Harman issued a statement defending the operation and slamming the Times, saying, "I believe it essential to U.S. national security, and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities."

Pelosi and Hastert never did get the briefing.

And thanks to grateful Bush administration officials, the investigation of Harman was effectively dead.
But now, years later, the tapes of the tapes made of the phone calls with the Israeli agent have come into the light. Somehow. And what do we hear from Ms. Jane Harmon, righteous defender of the integrity of the intelligence community?
"I am outraged that I may have been wiretapped by my government in 2005 or 2006 while I was ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee."
Earlier, on MNSBC, she expressed "disappoint[ment] that my country -- I'm an American citizen just like you are -- could have permitted what I think is a gross abuse of power in recent years." "I leave it to Glen Greenwald to sum this up precisely:
[W]hen the U.S. Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and in violation of the law, that was "both legal and necessary" as well as "essential to U.S. national security," and it was the "despicable" whistle-blowers (such as Thomas Tamm) who disclosed that crime and the newspapers which reported it who should have been criminally investigated, but not the lawbreaking government officials. But when the U.S. Government legally and with warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power.
Right wingers are fond of saying, "A liberal is a conservative who hasn't been mugged yet." Greenwald says, "a 'civil liberties extremist' is a former Bush-enabling, Surveillance State-defending Blue Dog who learns that their own personal conversations were intercepted by the same government that they demanded be vested with unchecked power."

Reap it, Jane.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nice shot.

By now we've all heard of the rather dramatic rescue of Captain Richard Phillips by the Navy and the SEAL team.

The first thing I thought of when I heard the story is the same thing some pundits are making much of: that's one hell of a shot -- times three.

Think about it: your target is between 100 and 300 feet away, and is about the size of lunch tray. You're bobbing up and down and side to side. Your target is also bobbing up and down and side to side, but on a different, faster rhythm. If you miss, the hostage could get shot (maybe even by you). It's dark enough that you need nightvision goggles.

So -- amazing shot, right?

But here's the kicker: all three guys made the same amazing shot at the same time.

I don't know whether to be proud or terrified.

Anyway, welcome home, Captain Phillips.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Gentleman Reads

I know you're all taxed from the seriously heavy shit I've been laying down. Yep! This is a serious web log. Only the best, most informed prose.

Which, of course, makes it deadly dull and one of the least likely to be read pieces of electronic media currently littering the ether. And I do mean "littering."

To address this critical dearth of fun and silly shit, I try to link to some other practitioners of the bloggist's art who are considerably funnier and altogether better for your constitution.

You are instructed to go, at once, to the Foggy Monocle and laugh your ass off.

That is all.

A Portrait of Onanist Delight


That's a year-to-date chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (all charts click to enlarge). The DJIA, and its turgid performance during the last two years of the Bush Presidency, are what allowed MSNBC, CNN, NBC, Powerline, and pretty much every pundit and bloviator tied to the corporate media to proclaim that the economy was doing just fine, thank you very much, in spite of rising jobless claims and mushrooming foreclosures.

Compare these charts of Initial Jobless Claims and New Home Sales


With this chart of the S&P 500:


It's a little hard to see because the scale of the graphs isn't perfectly aligned. ignore the point where the S&P falls off the table in October of 2008, and its fluctuations that spring and summer tend to look more like white noise in a stabilizing pattern at a very high level.

In the meantime, however, during the spring and summer of 2008 when practically every business analyst from Kudlow and Cramer to John Sidney McCain were telling us that the "fundamentals of the economy are sound," jobless claims were creeping steadily up and housing starts were declining.

I bring this up not to point out how wrong they were (which they were), but rather to highlight a huge blindspot in the media's vision: they are slaves to shareholder profits.

They don't analyze the economy. They tell you whether or not rich people are making money, and they mistake that for the same thing. If the stock market is performing well, that's all they're interested in. Cash is flowing in, baby! The fundamentals of the economy must be sound.

No one getting paid to tell the world what's what analyzes the economy. They report (take dictation from) the market. Sure, there were some whispers around the edges. But hey! Are you gonna listen to those nattering nabobs of negativism? Or do you wanna come for a swim in my pool of cash?

Now look at the top graph again. What you see there is an Obama-induced bounce. The markets are up about 20% since the early days of March. Not many people are talking about it, but that's mostly because they want Obama to fail and they've spent the last three months claiming every drop in the DOW was his fault. Suddenly they've got nothing to talk about.

But that's not my main point. My point is, this isn't necessarily good news. The "fundamentals of our economy" are but a whisker more sound now than they were last October, and only because we're starting to put on the brakes.

If the status quo system likes what's going on and the market is going up, I'm not filled with confidence. Here's another chart for ya (click to expand):


Since the '50's (when there were 14 tax brackets and income over $400k was taxed at 91%), the rate of growth was a steady-state economy. In the 1980's we bought into the supply side logic of the infinitely expanding market. We slowly took bankers and investment houses off the leash and shackled the wardens. 1992-2008 was as close as I hope we'll ever come to a financial anarchic utopia (for bankers) / dystopia (for workers).

I guess you can tell where that gets you.

So, finally the point: taking into account the growth of a world-wide market, or at least the introduction of that potential, I figure a good place for the DOW to be is a steady-state economy at about 4,000-6,000. In other words, a bit below where we are this Friday as I sit here typing away.

If this is where we should be, then we can probably expect another crash. Sometime this summer, I expect. Which will be blamed on Obama. Which will be right, in part. But also necessary. There is still a lot of waste in the private sector. Here's what I mean by "waste:"

Capital is created by labor, which adds value to the product being worked on. That value is sold to a market. The employer siphons off most of that value and pays his/her labor with the balance. Much more complicated than that, of course, but that's essentially the deal.

Over the last 40 years, more and more of that value has been lodged at the top. This is "supply-side" or "trickle-down" theory, which depends on two things being true: 1) If you feed the suppliers/oligarchs enough to keep them fat and happy, they'll keep the wheels of commerce turning by seeking infinite wealth, thereby employing you and keeping you fed and out of the rain. (With just enough extra to buy you off.) 2) We will never run out of markets to expand in, so the money will be able to continuously flow up the ladder and, mostly, stay there.

Something happened to this fairy tale. The money wasn't flowing fast enough. So the oligarchs (in this case, investment bankers and the lawyers who work for them) created a variety of investment baskets that allowed them to essentially sell the same "value" (from the "value added" equation, above) over and over again, and to package it with thousands of tiny risks (iffy mortgages) which themselves had been packaged multiple times and resold.

This worked well enough except for one thing: the need for more and more capital at the top of the ladder outstripped both the workers' ability to generate it, and the market's rate of expansion.

The butterfly in Thailand caused a tornado in Brussels. Or, in this case, some dude in Nevada finally failed to pull the ends to meet, tapped out his credit, and his home was foreclosed on. Then his neighbor, and his neighbor on the other side.

That was the pin in the balloon. It started small, but once that vacuum of capital was in the room -- a literal absence of money to fill a hole -- the game was over and the void spread very quickly up the chain and sucked the fancy house of cards into the shitter.

So anyway. The market is up in March. But I don't expect it to stay there, nor do I think it should.

These assholes just can't believe the party's over. And we're all going to take the bullet/pay the piper/sell our vacation homes.

What? You don't have a vacation home?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Barry" Needs a Teleprompter

Dear "President" Obama: I'm very disappointed to see you using a teleprompter. I guess the image you falsely portrayed to the Nation during your campaign of a thoughtful, articulate speaker, was a cheap charade designed to lull the passive left-wing media into a hero-worshiping drool-fest -- one that continues to this day. I hereby withdraw my support, since it's clear that your memory sucks and that you're therefore too addled to be President. Why don't you go back to Indonesia, you America-hating Islamist traitor? Only idiots use teleprompters...

More here.

Credit to John Aravosis

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Twisted from the root

From Kung Fu Monkey:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

False Choices: WSJ's self indulgent crap continues

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page has become as predictably shallow as Rachel Ray, without the useful side effect of dinner.

This week's victim: the energy crisis.

In "Let's Get Real About Renewable Energy" Robert Bryce pulls off two equally disingenuous tricks: 1) He uncritically complements W's energy policy, and 2) pans Obama's efforts to "double, then double again" our output from alternative sources.

Naturally, I have a couple of quick comments that will have to suffice for a more thorough dressing down.

By promising to double our supply of renewables, Mr. Obama is only trying to keep pace with his predecessor. Yes, that's right: From 2005 to 2007, the former Texas oil man oversaw a near-doubling of the electrical output from solar and wind power. And between 2007 and 2008, output from those sources grew by another 30%.
Whatever W did to support this growth a) had little to do with that growth, as industry is more clear-eyed about the future of oil than our Republican colleagues are, and b) was motivated by a transparent desire to "greenwash" his permissive approach to extractive industries including so-called "clean" coal and his liberal expansion of pro-pollution policies both direct (the roll-back of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act) and indirect (appointing pro-pollution directors to the EPA with instructions to collude with industry in its efforts to dodge the true cost of production and foist it on the living things -- like you -- that enjoy breathing and drinking clean water).

Next, Bryce focuses on the output of our current "renewables" industry against the total energy usage of the USA. Of course, it's paltry.
The latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that total solar and wind output for 2008 will likely be about 45,493,000 megawatt-hours. That sounds significant until you consider this number: 4,118,198,000 megawatt-hours. That's the total amount of electricity generated during the rolling 12-month period that ended last November. Solar and wind, in other words, produce about 1.1% of America's total electricity consumption.

Of course, you might respond that renewables need to start somewhere. True enough -- and to be clear, I'm not opposed to renewables. I have solar panels on the roof of my house here in Texas that generate 3,200 watts. And those panels (which were heavily subsidized by Austin Energy, the city-owned utility) provide about one-third of the electricity my family of five consumes.
Here's another way to consider the 76,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day that come from solar and wind: It's approximately equal to the raw energy output of one average-sized coal mine.
Sure, Mr. Obama can double the output from solar and wind. And then double it again. And again. And again. But getting from 76,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day to something close to the 47.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day needed to keep the U.S. economy running is going to take a long, long time. It would be refreshing if the president or perhaps a few of the Democrats on Capitol Hill would admit that fact.
That's enough for the sense of it. Read the (very brief) editorial for all his calculations.

I absolutely include Democrats in my indictment of this editorial, by the way. Our entire government is colluding with the energy industry in preventing us from truly addressing the problem.

And it's a huge fucking problem. The most important thing that Bryce totally ignores is this: Oil -- hydrocarbons -- will, absolutely, incontrovertibly, without doubt, run out. Whether we need them or not, they will be exhausted if we keep using them.

"[H]ydrocarbons just won't go away." Um, Bryce? Yes. Yes, they will.

But there is a part of Bryce's essay with which I actually agree.

The happy fiction we allow ourselves (and our politicians permit us) is that we can invent and innovate our way to a future where we do exactly what we do now, but with different sources of energy. Clearly, that's the future Bryce is imagining: one where his family of 5 is still permitted to use 9,600 watts of energy per day (holy shit, by the way). Energy "independence" may also be a fiction, but there's no reason to assume that we can't eliminate our use of hydrocarbons, or our reliance on and exploitation of barbaric, repressive societies in unstable and impoverished countries.

The fairy tale is that we can do that and still drive our Texas-sized cars Texas-sized distances to our Texas-sized homes, where we sit down to Texas-sized meals of factory-raised food in front of Texas-sized televisions and bask in the cool breeze from our Texas-sized swamp cooler before tucking our Texas-sized family into their Texas-sized beds made in China, and expect that the subsidized solar panels on our roofs will do the trick.

I'm sorry to say that in the future (apocalyptic collapse after we exhaust the supply of hydrocarbons or transition to alternative sources of energy), this popular picture of the American Dream is dead as dinosaurs.

Bryce would do better to help solve that problem.

Instead, he'd rather play "gotcha journalism" with an intentionally shallow and one-sided examination of the new administration's energy policy.

In the words of David St. Hubbins, "It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever." Bryce? You're not being clever.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

No Soup For You

Play along with me here.

Stretch your arms out as wide as you can. Wider. Wider! C'mon, you're hugging a big pile of money! WIDER!

Good.

Now, at the tippity tip of your right middle finger is zero dollars. At the tippity tip of your left middle finger is the total amount of all the bailout money that has been given to the financial industry since the late fall of 2008 -- TARP money, supplemental funding, zero collateral loans (of your money), handouts and golden cushions. All of it.

Keep stretching: that pile keeps growing...

Now, take all the money represented by the first knuckle on the middle finger of your right hand. That's the money the Obama administration proposes to use to help out homeowners who are in danger losing their homes.

I'm not entirely sold on that plan. But I'm definitely not sold on the billions and billions of dollars (with no real end in sight) being doled out to AIG, BofA, etc.

The Right Wing would have you believe that class war is the left's idea. But let's just see what happens when the barest fraction of their precious bailout money might be siphoned off to keep people under a roof. "Ooo, we can't have that! That rewards bad behavior!"

This is the true spirit of "trickle-down" economics, laid bare. The truth is, even the trickle pisses them off.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

On the radar

Borrowed Suits' recounting of my epic half-marathon/motorcycle wreck weekend has been picked up and edited by a new 'blog: The Accidental Extremist, where it has been retitled "Chariot of Fire (Burning Sensations)."

TAE features true-life stories of accidental idiocy, whether death-defying or merely dignity-slaying. I got the point to them from the gentlemen at The Foggy Monocle, another fine internet establishment which I highly recommend.

Here's to living the dream.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hey Big Spender

Tax and spend, tax and spend. Now who would that be?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Secret in "The Secret"

A while ago, I wrote a post bashing "The Secret" as a venal -- nearly insane -- piece of "self help."

Well gentle reader, I stand corrected. Here is a man who knows the true value of that timeless tome.

Don't drop the soap!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

THIS is who I campaigned for

His best speech yet. Unfortunately these links have trailers fore and aft. Skip them, but watch this speech.
Part I

Part II

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When More is Less

From Glenn Greenwald:

It hasn't taken long for the right wing media to hit its stride.

Both Fox News (of course) and the Washington Post (again, of course) are busy trashing the Obama budget for its purported "cuts" on military spending. Oh Noes!! The libruls are running from the fight and weakening Amurika!

When I tell you that your TV is lying to you, this is what I mean.

Obama is not cutting military spending. He is increasing military spending over W's last budget by $14 million dollars. Last year's budget called for $513 billion in defense spending. Obama's FY2010 budget calls for $527 billion.

527 > 513

Some Pentagon officials and congressional conservatives are already trying to portray the OMB number as a cut by comparing it to a $584 billion draft fiscal 2010 budget request compiled last fall by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Congressional Quarterly.

Just like Bush, Obama gave the Joint Chiefs less than they wanted. So, instead of reporting the truth (that Obama raised spending on the military), the right wing media reports that he's made cuts in spending.

That's a lie, for those of you slow on the uptake. A lie.

And it's just one lie out of many. But I'm tired right now.

Read Greenwald's piece. Also check out Matt Yglesias' take on Gallup's poll, which shows that Americans think we spend too much on the military:
Yglesias:
Meanwhile, no matter how much Obama spends on defense, it’s inevitable that the GOP will criticize him for not spending enough. And that alone should guarantee that the “too little” numbers will tick back up in the direction of at least 30 percent.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bad. Getting worse.

I guess these things go on all the time. When you're as close to the bottom as Detroit, I guess the abyss is that much closer. But we're all sliding down the ramp. I expect we'll see more of this before we see less, and not just in Detroit. Not to belabor the point, but this is not a sign of greatness.

Life goes on around body found frozen in vacant Detroit warehouse

After another two calls to 911 on Wednesday afternoon (one of which was disconnected), the Detroit Fire Department called and agreed to meet nearby.

Capt. Emma McDonald was on the scene.

"Every time I think I've seen it all, I see this," she said.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I forgot I even had this!

With a change in administration, it looks like the State Department will be coming out of mothballs and re-engaging in the business of diplomacy. (You remember diplomacy -- it's all that nonsense that used to get in the way of the shooting and bombing we've been enjoying.)

Naturally, the folks down there are a little giddy about the prospect of their jobs actually meaning something again. Apparently, the following email has been making the rounds:

Dear World:

We, the United States of America, your top quality supplier of ideals of democracy, would like to apologize for our 2001-2008 interruption in service. The technical fault that led to this eight- year service outage has been located, and the software responsible was replaced November 4. Early tests of the newly installed program indicate that we are now operating correctly, and we expect it to be fully functional on January 20. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage. We look forward to resuming full service and hope to improve in years to come. We thank you for your patience and understanding,

Sincerely,

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I picked this up at The World From Eagle Hill.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pennsylvania: F

How to break your backs, Keystone State. Really, no need to try so hard.