Friday, April 30, 2010

Another Reason Why We're Fat -- Loud Music

CNN has the scoop. My favorite part of the article:

On hectic nights, the reservationist at Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto in New York City will inform diners that they need the table back in 90 minutes for the next party.

If you lurk over your digestif too long, chef Cesare Casella will place your name on Salumeria's "no salami" list.

So even fine dining is now "fast" food?

Chickens for Checkups

This is Harry Reid's main competition for his Senate seat in November? The woman who steadfastly maintained (until she mumbled something later about being "taken out of context") that patients ought now to try bartering for their health care services ("bring a chicken" or "paint your house") stands a good chance of actually unseating Reid. This speaks volumes about how little Republicans care about what their candidates actually stand for, so long as they stand against the Democrats. Just vote those bastards out of office; we'll sort out the business of governing later. Just don't make it worse.

When I go for my next checkup, I'll offer to wash my doctor's car instead of paying the co-pay. Let's see how he goes for it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The "Better Marriage Blanket"

I want one of these, please!

Link here.

Greenwald with a lot on his mind

Well, isn't that always the case with the former civil liberties litigator and liberal standard-bearer? I love reading Glenn's columns, verbose though he is, because he so clearly calls out inconsistencies and outright falsehoods in the statements of government, the press, and even what passes for the press these days (i.e., Fox News, Rush, WaPo, CNN).

Today's column finds Glenn wondering aloud what President Obama meant when he made this statement during an interview Wednesday evening aboard Air Force One:

It used to be that the notion of an activist judge was somebody who ignored the will of Congress, ignored democratic processes, and tried to impose judicial solutions on problems instead of letting the process work itself through politically. And in the '60s and '70s, the feeling was, is that liberals were guilty of that kind of approach.

What you're now seeing, I think, is a conservative jurisprudence that oftentimes makes the same error.

Glenn's emphasis. Glenn wondered if Obama actually believed that what the Warren and Burger courts of the '60s and '70s, which gave us so many landmark decisions (nicely detailed by Glenn), were activist courts going against the will of the people, Congress and the framers of the Constitution, or if Obama was simply calling out movement conservatives who on the Rehnquist and Roberts courts are doing what liberals would call activism (e.g., the Citizens United decision about allowing unlimited political contributions by corporations, giving them equal status as persons under the law).

I think judicial activism is to be expected when justices are appointed by the executive branch. No president wants to put a judge on the SCOTUS who does not reflect his/her particular ideological bent. John Paul Stevens, retiring this year, was appointed by a Republican president, but he is seen as the patriarch of liberalism on the court. That didn't go well for the GOP now, did it? So getting all worked up when the court, now comprised of a majority appointed by movement conservative presidents, exercises movement conservative jurisprudence seems a waste of time. Supreme Court decisions can be invalidated by legislation. Electing presidents who do not reflect the court's bias is also a good idea, particularly when justices get old (Reagan appointee Scalia is probably going to be the first of the wingnuts to go, but he wouldn't dare leave during a Democratic administration. One can only hope that God's wonderful timing and sense of irony show up).

Glenn continues at the bottom of his piece with an update (with no relevant link) about an article which contains an unattributed quote saying reporters privately accuse the Obama team of being less transparent than they promised when campaigning for office. Glenn complains that journalists ought not to make such comments in private, but in public, if they want to call themselves journalists. True dat. Isn't that their job, to call out those in authority? But not in this real world, when access to power trumps getting at the truth.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Post-Cocoon Sanity

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) appears to have had enough time outside the Beltway to regain his sanity and his ability to recognize not only good policy but good politics.

A Republican actually having something nice to say about the president that doesn't sound like he's convinced he's a socialist Muslim Kenyan? Hmmmm.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Brilliant essay from renowned anti-racist lecturer and author Tim Wise. (h/t Sara and Brian Brandsmeier)

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.

Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care. His latest book is called Between Barack and a Hard Place.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Show Me Your Papers"

As you already know, our 48th state has become ground zero in the illegal immigration debate, having passed the most restrictive law in the country allowing police to request proof of residency/citizenship to anyone in the state who appears to be in the country illegally. How one determines this without racial profiling is beyond me, but we'll let the courts figure this one out.

In a rare display of seriocomic political commentary, SNL's Seth Meyers comes through with this gem. Money quote courtesy of Bob Cesca:
"This week, Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country which will allow police to demand identification papers from anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. I know there’s some people in Arizona worried that Obama is acting like Hitler, but could we all agree that there’s nothing more Nazi than saying 'Show me your papers?' There’s never been a World War II movie that didn’t include the line 'show me your papers.' It’s their catchphrase. Every time someone says 'show me your papers,' Hitler’s family gets a residual check. So heads up, Arizona; that’s fascism. I know, I know, it’s a dry fascism, but it’s still fascism."

"Dry fascism," love that!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Amazing video of the greatest play at the plate in baseball history. It's gone viral. Link here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Barter for Health Care?

Uh, YEAH RIGHT! I'm sure my brother and father would love this story, about the Republican challenger to Harry Reid who thinks that bringing back bartering for health care as a serious alternative to Obama's health care reform package. (Apparently she's trouncing Reid in current polling in Nevada, which shows you just how fucking backward that state truly is.)

To be fair, she did say that the barter system was not part of her plan and was just talking about it as an alternative at a town hall meeting. But what makes her a fucking loony is that she thinks it's a serious alternative.

I remember when I was a child, definitely under 10 years old, that my parents took my brothers and me out to dinner at the home of this woman who was one of dad's patients. It was a multi-course, huge Italian feast (yum!). I remember asking why we were being treated to such a nice dinner. I don't remember the answer, but if it was a barter or partial barter for service, and this is what Sue Lowden thinks would be a great way to reform health care, then HELLS YEAH! I'm all for this! If I can pay for my annual check ups for me and my family with dinners out, or doing their refinances for free, or a month's worth of laundry, wouldn't that be better than dealing with insurance companies all the time? Let's put those fucking behemoths out of business!

I have a great idea! Let's turn the whole economy into a barter economy. No more money, no need for savings! I'll go to the grocery store and sweep their floor at 3 am for a free cart of groceries. How many hours would I need to work behind the counter at my local gas station/convenience store to get a free tank of gas? What about day care costs? Do I volunteer at the school for 20 hours a month and get free day care? I could also trade back rubs for lap dances at my local strip club! I really think she's onto something.

Kidding aside, bartering is actually a legitimate way to conduct business and save money along the way. B ut if this is what Republicans, who are backing Lowden at the national level, call serious arguments for health-care reform, then they have truly closed their minds for good to the idea of earnest debate.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Somewhere, in Alaska, a Village Has Lost Its Idiot

Sorry, had to resurrect that old Bush-era slam for this post from Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. Apparently the former half-term governor of Alaska and her team of speechwriters has pulled an Obama quote completely out of context and put out a version of what he said that will fire up her base of supporters.

Well, duh! Benen correctly labels Palin as "painfully, conspicuously unintelligent," but her team is not. See, on the red side of the aisle, it's important to note that the base does not read anything about Obama unless it comes from Fox News or some other right-wing propaganda machine. Their entire view of the President, therefore, is tainted by what the managers of this machine want them to hear. Since they already have the preconception that Obama is not an American citizen, a socialist, a Nazi, and hates America, then all the right has to do is take what he says (precisely, that he loves the United States, the country of his birth, the country that provided him with all the opportunities he has had which have brought him unbelievable success) and pronounce that it means precisely the opposite of what it really means.

Here's John Boehner the other day, after the Obama administration announced that it was suing Goldman Sachs in civil court on fraud charges:
Despite President Obama’s rhetoric, his permanent bailout bill gives Goldman Sachs and other big Wall Street banks a permanent, taxpayer-funded safety net by designating them "too big to fail." Just whose side is President Obama on?

So, as the president announces he's taking a hard stance against Goldman Sachs and holding them accountable for selling their investors financial instruments that they were secretly betting against, he's actually creating a permanent bail-out fund (another RNC/FNC talking point being bled dry).

And the GOP base will believe him because they refuse to listen to anything else.

I can't help thinking that older Americans, who make up the vast majority of the Tea Party movement which now represents the dominant Republican world view, were saying similar things about the last two young Democratic presidents, and that this whole mess since last spring/summer has been nothing more than a generational conflict. Those who used to hold power can't stand losing it to those they raised because those they raised now disagree with them. And young Republicans like Sarah Palin have capitalized on this collective tunnel vision by feeding it a constant diet of Obama hating, non-Republican-hating, non-Christian-hating rhetoric. It's as predictable as a sunrise these days. And it's pathetic.

Remarkable that It's Not Remarkable Anymore

Andrew Sullivan posts this photograph of a circus freak from the late 19th Century Barnum & Bailey Circus. Amazing that today I see people like this guy all around me, the highest concentration of them showing up at Disneyland.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reality Check

Some of you might know that I am one of six co-writers of a rock opera that is currently in the final phases of production. The album (it is not a stage production) is slated for release sometime later this year, and will be released only in Europe and Australia, where the artist has a following.

Today comes this post from Andrew Sullivan that illustrates just how much in sales an artist needs to generate in order to earn the minimum wage of $1,160 per month ($6.70/hour). It shows that, if the entire source of revenue from the album were individual song downloads on iTunes, the artist would need to have 2,044 downloads each month. To make $100,000 a year ($8,333.33/month), that number goes up to 14,683 downloads.

Now, there are six of us working on this project, and if we agreed to split the revenue in six equal ways, that number goes up to 88,103 downloads per month to make that same $100,000 a year per person.

Now, some of the sales will probably also come from sales of physical CDs and album downloads, (not to mention performance and mechanical royalties through various rights societies like ASCAP and BMI, which are not included on the chart), but the income stream for a new artist is just not there (let's not forget that production and marketing costs for the CD must be recaptured by the record label before the artist sees a dime).

In the digital age, piracy is a big issue, so there's a huge portion of playing for free that artists have to contend with as well. So the question becomes, how do we keep seeing all these millionaire rock stars? The answer: touring and merchandising. A top-selling artist like Radiohead released their last album online months ahead of the physical CD release, and basically told customers that they could pay whatever they wanted (including nothing) to download the album. They did this without a record label to maximize the revenue stream. Finally, they hit the road and sold all manner of merch. With ticket prices hitting $100+ in some markets and big cuts of the t-shirt and other merch concessions, there are tens of millions to be made. The veteran trio Rush was one of the top draws last year (well deserved too if you ask my son Max).

So how does a new artist make it these days? Honestly, I don't think he does unless his music is being played on TV shows and in movies. After he becomes a name, then he can tour and sell merch.

I'll be happy to see any money for this work I've done, but it sure does make doing the work a lot less attractive.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Feeling the Chill Yet?

Whereat I turned me round, and saw before me
And underfoot a lake, that from the frost
The semblance had of glass, and not of water.
Each one his countenance held downward bent;
From mouth the cold, from eyes the doleful heart
Among them witness of itself procures.
Then I beheld a thousand faces, made
Purple with cold; whence o'er me comes a shudder,
And evermore will come, at frozen ponds.

-- From Dante's
Inferno, Canto XXXII, describing the Ninth Circle of Hell

Traitors, to their Kindred and to their Country, have a special place in Hell, according to Dante. When I read this post from Andrew Sullivan this morning, detailing a statement made by the Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell which was a first-hand account of what Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush knew regarding Gitmo detainees, I immediately flashed upon Dante had written to describe how cold and desolate things were for the worst sinners. And yet, the inhabitants of the darkest, coldest place in imagination were unrepentant and defended their actions even while encased in ice up to their necks, gnawing the heads of those next to them.

The Chief of Staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, had this to say while under oath:

I discussed the issue of the Guantánamo detainees with Secretary Powell. From these discussions, I learned that it was his view that it was not just Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld, but also President Bush who was involved in all of the Guantánamo decision making. My own view is that it was easy for Vice President Cheney to run circles around President Bush bureaucratically because Cheney had the network within the government to do so. Moreover, by exploiting what Secretary Powell called the President’s “cowboy instincts,” Vice President Cheney could more often than not gain the President’s acquiescence.

And with the refusal to release photos of detainees, and to reserve the power to direct the CIA to assassinate American citizens in the name of national security, the current president is doing his best to avoid responsibility. These horrible incidents in American history need to be brought to light. My hope is that, after Obama is reelected and doesn't have to worry so much about preserving Democratic power in Washington, he'll direct more of this stuff to come out.

Friday, April 9, 2010

They Make No Sense

Pivoting off my previous post, witness Sarah Palin's recent characterization of Obama's announcement regarding the curtailment of nuclear weapons as "kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, 'Go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.'" Jeez, she's SUCH an idiot! We're supposed to take that seriously? Forget that Reagan himself envisioned a world free of nuclear weapons.

This is something that Rudy Giuliani has conveniently forgotten when he says, "A nuclear-free world has been a 60-year dream of the Left, just like socialized health-care. This new policy, like Obama's government-run health program, is a big step in that direction. President Obama thinks we can all hold hands, sing songs, and have peace symbols."

First of all, Roosevelt authorized the development of nuclear technology for weapons, Truman authorized the use of nukes against Japan, and Kennedy considered using them to defend against the Soviets in Cuba. Does that sound like the left dreaming of nuclear disarmament? Secondly, what makes Rudy an expert on foreign policy? The only thing he ever did was be the Mayor of New York, which hardly qualifies him to spout off on anything except where to get the best pizza and ticket prices for Broadway shows.

So long as the Republicans fail to make any sense -- and with their leaders like Palin, Giuliani, Boehner, and McCain sounding like complete buffoons, and with their media accomplices like Drudge, Beck and Limbaugh stoking the fires of ignorance and fear among their rabid faithful -- there's no way that they'll ever accomplish anything good for this country.

Something interesting that Andrew Sullivan wrote about conservatism this morning:
Conservatism is about applying a skepticism toward government with a desire to make government work. It's skeptical but not nihilist; it's concrete and practical and, above all, attuned to the tragic idea that the world changes, that all reforms eventually end in failure and the task of politics is not to create a utopia or even some concept of justice, but to craft new solutions to new problems in a new environment.
I see where Andrew is going here, but what he basically described was today's progressivism, not conservatism. There isn't a progressive out there (and I'm not talking about old-school liberalism here) who believes that government is the end-all-be-all. We would agree that government is a problem when it comes to neeting society's needs. Reforms generally go too far and eventually fail, and then they have to be fixed. But Reagan changed conservatism forever when he uttered those fatefully derisive nine words in 1980: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." At that point, conservatives were supposed to hate the government and do everything in their power to subvert the role of government in people's everyday lives. Reagan started the nihilism. That Andrew forgets this point troubles me because he's been such a champion of Reagan over the years.

Bruce Bartlett and the VAT

Bruce has compiled his history of writings on the VAT, starting with his opposition to it in the mid 1980s. Here's an excerpt from a Heritage Foundation piece he wrote in 1985:

Without some overall constraint on the government's ability to tax and spend, it would seem inferior even to today's hodge-podge of taxes. And there is absolutely no just ification for a VAT as a new revenue-raiser. ... An economically neutral tax system, one that removes impediments to work, savings, and investment, while not distorting investment decisions, is clearly desirable. The VAT potentially could play an important role in the design of such a tax system.

Its virtues are many. Unfortunately, those very virtues make it politically unacceptable. As a hidden tax whose burden is incorporated into the prices of goods and services, it is too tempting a source of revenue for a government unrestrained by constitutional limits on taxing and spending. Therefore, a VAT should not be part of the U.S. tax system in any form -- regardless of its apparent short-term benefits, or its attractiveness to academics.

But, Bartlett writes:
I started to change my mind in 2003 when a Republican Congress and George W. Bush rammed the Medicare drug benefit into law. At this point, I realized that it was no longer possible to restrain the growth of entitlement programs before it was too late. This led me to conclude that a massive tax increase was inevitable. ... In August of 2004, I concluded that the magnitude of the tax increase that ultimately would be necessary to stabilize our national finances was too great to be achieved through higher income taxes. Tax rates would have to rise to levels that would have seriously negative effects on the economy. Therefore, we had to seriously consider the VAT because it has a long record of being able to raise substantial revenues at relatively low deadweight cost (the lost output over and above the tax take). In other words, we now needed a "money machine."

The comments that follow his piece counter his assertion. In response, one in particular stands out. The commenter identifies himself as Bruce Bartlett, but the tone of the comment suggests that the poster is hiding behind the economist's name:
The problem for conservatives is that they don't actually want to do anything to cut spending because that's politically unpopular. So they have talked themselves into believing that if they just keep taxes down and refuse to support new ones that spending will magically fall on its own. Until they leave this dream world and are willing to not only support really big spending cuts but work hard to get them enacted, I don't intend to pay much attention to them when they tell me how terrible the VAT is. Given the actions of Republicans over the last 10 years, they have zero--ZERO, ZERO, ZERO--credibility on the budget. Their record in power was to cut taxes willy nilly, enact every Republican sponsored pork barrel project no matter how worthless, create a massive new entitlement program to buy the votes of the elderly, start new wars without paying for a penny of the cost and then pull off a Big Lie worthy of Goebbels by claiming that they are the party of fiscal responsibility. Anyone who believes this is either stupid bordering on retardation, mind-numbingly ignorant of the facts, or a partisan whore who doesn't care anything about the truth as long as his side is winning.

My emphasis. Of course, the commenter is spot on. Republicans today don't have positions except that position which opposes the president and the Democratic Party.

Still Think Race Is Not the Issue?

A recent University of Washington poll about race in America reveals the following beliefs among Tea Party supporters:
Approximately 45% whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that blacks are trustworthy.

Less than half of the Tea Party has a positive view of black people. I would not be surprised to learn that the results would have been far worse for blacks had the survey responders answered the questions honestly.

The results are far worse for gays and lesbians: only 36% thinks gays should be allowed to adopt children, and only 17% support same-sex marriage.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Political Cartoon of the Week

Accurate Marketing

Looking to pick up a copy of Hannity's book Conservative Victory? Well if you go to one particular pharmacy, you'll find it right where it belongs.

Funniest complaint letter ever.

Hat Tip to Sullivan for this hilarious complaint letter written to Virgin CEO Richard Branson by passenger who'd flown from Mumbai to Heathrow.

Funniest bit about the food:

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it’s more of that Baaji (ed.: Indian food) custard. I admit I thought the same too, but no. It’s mustard Richard. MUSTARD. More mustard than any man could consume in a month. On the left we have a piece of broccoli and some peppers in a brown glue-like oil and on the right the chef had prepared some mashed potato. The potato masher had obviously broken and so it was decided the next best thing would be to pass the potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird.

Once it was regurgitated it was clearly then blended and mixed with a bit of mustard. Everybody likes a bit of mustard Richard.

Screw the Details! Screw the Foreigners!

A recent poll by The Economist/YouGov revealed some pretty interesting results, as posted by Stan Collender. Over 62 percent of those polled thought we should cut spending rather than raise taxes to balance the budget. However, when asked which programs they'd most likely want cut, a vast majority -- 71 percent -- said that foreign aid should be cut. Additionally, 93 percent opposed cuts to Medicare or Social Security, the two biggest items in our budget.

As I've noted earlier, the U.S. spent just $40 billion on foreign aid last year. A mote of dust in the overall scheme of the U.S. budget. But nearly three-quarters of the people in the survey felt that was the most cut-worthy item in the budget. Cut it to zero, however, and it won't make a dent, so what's their point? It's this: fuck foreign aid and fuck foreigners. We're tired of our good tax money going over there to support communists, socialists, black people, and Muslim terrorists!

In answer to Stan's question: What would you do if you were a member of Congress facing this situation? I'd be holding town hall meetings every month in my district to anyone who would want to hear how the budget is structured, and then I'd go to my local TV news station and newpaper and answer questions about the budget. And I wouldn't stop talking about the budget until people understood that a cut in foreign aid doesn't mean squat. I'd also be very clear that if budget cuts are what they want, look at the biggest items and start there. Then I'd make them understand that budget cuts in any area mean cuts in jobs, which mean cuts in jobs for those in ancillary areas that serve the government, which might mean lost jobs in their town, county, or state. People think a tax increase is an immediate job loser? Both are an immediate loss of money to a business or consumer, which has far-reaching effects across the economy. If people want a balanced budget, demand less from government, or pay for what they ask for, or don't gripe when the government has to go into debt to pay for it.

People think being in Congress is such an easy job? I certainly wouldn't want it!

Palin/Bachmann 2012? You betcha!

Chris Bowers predicts Palin will be the nominee, and with a rally in Minnesota headed by the two GOP bat-shit crazy ladies that attracted 10,000 people, it doesn't take much to agree with that prediction.

Democrats, without getting too cocky about it, should welcome this development. Palin sure can fire up the base, but the more Republican thinkers and independent thinkers know about Palin, the less they like her. Sure, she can spit out platitudes about lowering taxes and decreasing regulation, but she'll have no idea how to sell it to a populace that for the most part wants Wall Street to pay for what they did to the American economy. Obama's largest contributors in 2008 were from Wall Street, and there's no reason to think that, if Palin is the nominee, they would abandon that ship in favor of true incompetence.

If she is the nominee, however, I'd like to see her try to avoid an open press conference the way she did during the 2008 campaign.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Link added

To my previous post.

"We were constantly on the alert"

A Sullivan reader relates her story of her two sons and a Franciscan priest who "befriended" her two sons who were altar boys at their church. She writes that she and her convert husband "were constantly on the alert for any hints of unusual priestly interest" in her boys.

Even though they were devout Catholics and had their sons serving as altar boys, this couple was on alert, basically assuming that priests engaged in pederasty. If that weren't bad enough, so as long as it didn't happen to their sons, they were perfectly willing to let such behavior slide.

Need I say it? The Catholic church is one fucked up institution. I'm beginning to realize that all that sexual imagery in religious artwork hanging in the Vatican museum were not just reflective of the way artists liked to depict the human form. Could it be that these works were the early priests' version of pornography?

Abandon Ship

You know something is up when the rats start diving into the briny. One of Sarah Palin's most vocal supporters, Matt Continetti, delivers this stinging statement over at The Weekly Standard:
When Palin emerged on the scene in August 2008, she spoke as an authentic voice of non-coastal, upper-middle-class cultural conservatism. It was believable when she said, in her speech to the 2008 RNC, that she wasn't much different from your average hockey mom. Not anymore. In the years since, Palin's become something different -- a global celebrity who fuses politics and entertainment in new and startling and occasionally discomfiting ways. She's also become incredibly rich. But, as her personal wealth has increased, the number of people who think she is qualified to be president has decreased. The Palin brand is more and more powerful, but for a smaller group of people.

I believe that until her approval ratings drop below 30% she is a credible challenger for the GOP nomination in 2012 (especially since the talent pool in the GOP is currently so shallow).

Right of Reagan?

I never thought I'd see the day when the Republican Party was so far to the right of their modern-day founder, Ronald Reagan. But, thanks to Andrew Sullivan's intrepid work, I can pass onto you this little snippet of fluff.

That Giuliani commits such a bald-faced gaffe is not surprising to me. He's had his foot in his mouth for so long since 9/11 that he's chewed right through his soles and is now gnawing at his fallen arches.

Funny thing is, Reagan is starting to look pretty damn good (even with all the deficit spending he did and with all the strong-arming of unions and shafting of the middle and working classes). In some ways, Obama himself has started to resemble the old fart in the way he deliberates and commits himself to peace first, before rushing out with guns a-blazin' like the Cheneyites did.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

WikiLeaks Video of US Troops Killing Unarmed Iraqis

If you haven't seen the video on YouTube yet, I've embedded it in this blog post and linked to it here (warning: it is extremely graphic and very disturbing). Glenn Greenwald has a brilliant post today on the video. Money quote:

The WikiLeaks video is not an indictment of the individual soldiers involved -- at least not primarily. Of course those who aren't accustomed to such sentiments are shocked by the callous and sadistic satisfaction those soldiers seem to take in slaughtering those whom they perceive as The Enemy (even when unarmed and crawling on the ground with mortal wounds), but this is what they're taught and trained and told to do. If you take even well-intentioned, young soldiers and stick them in the middle of a dangerous war zone for years and train them to think and act this way, this will inevitably be the result. The video is an indictment of the U.S. government and the war policies it pursues.

Andrew Sullivan compiles some reactions around the internet here and from readers here. Some choice bits:

When people like you (and me) supported a war in the first place, we might have stopped and reflected on the fact that something like this was well-nigh guaranteed to occur - again and again. I would challenge you to find any conflict in the history of war, that occurred on this scale, where an event like what occurs in this video does not happen hundreds of times.


This is what happens when you support a war. War is not and will never be clean and sterile, or even make sense. Upstanding Apache pilots explicitly follow their R.O.E. and yet the story still ends in unspeakable tragedy. ... Instead of getting incensed because we just discovered what war actually looks like, we should continue to channel our rage at the politicians who so were so cavalier with tossing our troops into these situations. Politicians who, conveniently, never had to serve in the combat and be exposed to these things.

See, it's not shocking that U.S. soldiers killed unarmed civilians, particularly unarmed civilians who were trying to rescue a mortally wounded, unarmed civilian. What's shocking is that we don't know about this, or we think this is unusual in any context of war. Soldiers "explicity follow their rules of engagement and yet the story still ends in unspeakable tragedy." This is what war looks like. For my generation and the one before mine, My Lai should have slammed this point home. For those who do not remember or have not studied or read about My Lai, the WikiLeaks video is going to look like a bunch of stupid soldiers who cavalierly dispatch unarmed people with 30-millimeter gunfire, all the while salivating for permission to "engage" the enemy. At one point in the video, while the Apache helicopter's camera is trained on a wounded man who turns out to be a Reuters employee and the van containing civilians and children pulling alongside to rescue him, one of the soldiers whines, "C'mon, let us shoot!" Like this is a fucking video game or something.

Yet, this is what happens all the time, and our government shields us from it in the name of protecting us from the ugliness of war, and the complicit media go along with it because it would generate protest calls, letters, calls for boycotts, if these images were beamed in all their explicit g(l)ory into our living rooms during dinner.

I'm glad to have seen the video, even though it made my stomach turn. I didn't hate the soldiers who killed the Iraqis or the journalists, since I know that their Rules of Engagement result in stuff like this in order to avoid making a mistake that results in unnecessary American casualties. Having spent some time among soldiers in the mid-'90s, I found them to be dedicated men and women doing a tough job. What I hated was that people were going to seize on the release of this video and condemn it for showing us the horrors of war (like when the Bush admin prohibited the showing of flag draped coffins being offloaded military planes at Andrews AFB). We need to see the horrors of war more often, if only to lend some much needed gravity to deciding whether or not to go to war again, especially a war based on false evidence like Iraq.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Yes, it was a shocking thing to say, and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. If they open it and read it, they don't have to like it. If you read it and dislike it, you don't have to remain silent about it. You could write to me and you could complain about it. You could write to the publisher. You could write to the papers. You could write your own book. You could do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or sold, or bought, or read." -- Phillip Pullman, author of The Goodman Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, responding to a question from an audience member at an Oxford University event on March 28 about whether the title of his book was offensive to Christians. Video here (hat tip Andrew).

Refreshingly blunt without being coarse. Do you think that the right- and left-wing PC crowds would agree?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why the Tea Party Will Destroy Itself

In all of its railings against taxes, HCR, immigration reform, etc., it should at least be mindful of the way it communicates, right? Well, this flickr photo gallery shows how well the Tea Partiers communicate via signs, t-shirts, and beauty pageant sashes.

My favorite below:

Immigration Issues Heats Up AZ Senate Primary

John McCain is hopping mad and has sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano (former AZ governor) urging that federal troops be deployed to secure the US border with Mexico. All this over the shooting of a rancher who, neighbors say, was shot by a border-crossing illegal immigrant who was on the rancher's property.

J.D. Hayworth, the Republican Congressman vying for McCain's seat, accuses McCain of being politically opportunistic and is using the shooting to score political points with voters to show how tough he'll be on immigration issues. "I'm glad John McCain has decided to join the effort to secure our borders," Hayworth said in a statement. "I only wish this same passion and fervor had come sooner. One day of anger and outrage does not make up for 28 years of inaction."

Hayworth is right, of course. John McCain has never met an issue yet that he didn't want to politicize. Perhaps he ought to suspend his campaign to deal with it, convene a meeting in Phoenix with the governor and the state attorney general, as well as other state-level political leaders, and then have no plan to offer and nothing to say.


Army Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, a physician, has joined the birther movement and has appeared in a video stating that he will disobey any order, including, it seems, an order to deploy to Afghanistan, from a superior officer until Obama produces a birth certificate showing that he is a US citizen.

Obviously, insubordination of this kind calls for a court martial and incarceration if he's convicted. But let's pause for just a second and remember that he, and the organization which produced the video, also know this. So why would he go public like this? Simple: to keep the story alive, to generate media buzz (Huffington Post has the story, but I haven't seen it anywhere else in the "liberal" media. Not even Faux News is covering it). Hasn't really worked yet, I think.

Like much of what the Right thinks is important in governing this country, it appears that this story, too, will fall flat. There are bigger issues now, and even while nearly 50% of Republicans believe Obama is not a citizen, it's time for advanced citizenship to kick in and deal with what's really important.

The biggest problem now facing the Republicans, as one of the panelists in last week's Real Time with Bill Maher said it, is that they are no longer a national party. They have become a leaderless, amorphous conglomeration of regional and local parties. The agendas are different, although they all share two things in common: they are all infused with some degree of crazy, and they all hate Obama so much they would rather pick up their marbles and go home than cooperate with him.