Sunday, April 29, 2007

They think so small, they use small words

Small government has been a mantra of the Right forever. The extremely tarnished Grover Norquist (R-Abramoff) famously said:
"I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

Of course it's a complete lie, a convenient hypocrisy. The Right loves big government that hires and enriches friends, especially if your and my taxes pay for it.

Here's a graphic from LA Free Net showing National Debt:

The only time they truly like small government is when they cannot profit from it. Thus the shrinkage of regulatory agencies. Like the FDA:
The ease with which an imported ingredient laced with industrial chemicals penetrated the pet food supply paints a "frighteningly easy" road map for would-be terrorists to strike America's food supply, said US Representative Janice D. Schakowsky , Democrat of Illinois . Schakowsky's comments came during sweeping and emotional testimony that linked faulty federal oversight to nationwide recalls of tainted peanut butter , suspect spinach, and lethal pet food .

While FDA inspections have steadily dropped in recent years, the proportion of imported food used in domestic manufacturing has skyrocketed. There is no requirement that the FDA conduct an in-person inspection before a foreign producer begins to ship ingredients to US suppliers seeking bargain-basement prices.

China has its own regulatory nightmares, however:
In China, hundreds of millions of farmers toil on small plots that are difficult to regulate. Poorly educated in agricultural science, Chinese farmers use more fertilizer and pesticides than American farmers do to coax growth from over-cultivated soil.

The result is that "China has one of the world's highest rates of chemical fertilizer use per hectare, and Chinese farmers use many highly toxic pesticides, including some that are banned in the United States," a U.S. Department of Agriculture report published last November stated.

While many of the whole foods exported from China to the United States come from farms under contract with foreign companies that are likely to maintain higher standards than small Chinese farms, "there's always risk that some products in the domestic market end up in the export stream," said Isabelle Meister, a Beijing-based pesticides expert for the environmental group Greenpeace.

Chinese exports to the United States have surged. China's agricultural exports to the United States reached $2.26 billion in 2006, up from $453 million in 1993, according to the USDA.

Globally, Chinese exports of wheat gluten, which is used in many products including cereals and pasta, have more than quadrupled since 2001 and demand currently exceeds supply, said Ren Yongzhen, a sales manager at Henan Lianhua Monosodium Glutamate Co., Ltd., an international trading company in Henan province.

Here's more detail about FDA inspections:
In the past five years, total food imports to the United States have risen by about 50 percent while the number of FDA food import inspectors has fallen by roughly 20 percent, said Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University.

The FDA is able to inspect less than 1 percent of imported foods they are tasked with monitoring, "and even then they're mostly just looking at paperwork," she said in a telephone interview.

At the same time, the agency has to cope with more varied contaminants, including many pesticides banned in the United States, unusual bacteria and falsely labeled products, Doyle said in a telephone interview.

More than 80 percent of the nation's seafood, 45 percent of fresh fruit and 17 percent of fresh vegetables are now imported, Doyle said.

So that's just some of what the 'Small Government' has brought to America. Here's a little more about Norquist, from Wikipedia:
Norquist has struck many people as a combative figure. Even within conservative circles, he has made some enemies, possibly due to what some describe as a combative personality. Writer and TV show host Tucker Carlson, in retaliation for Norquist's criticism of Carlson's father (Tucker's father served as Director of Voice of America in Europe, and then as President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting), referred to him as a "mean-spirited, humorless, dishonest little creep ... an embarrassing anomaly, the leering, drunken uncle everyone else wishes would stay home...[he] is repulsive, granted, but there aren't nearly enough of him to start a purge trial".[14] In his book Blinded by the Right, former conservative David Brock revealed that even fellow right-wingers privately refer to him as "Grosser Nosetwist" and try to avoid being trapped in conversation with him at social gatherings because he never talks about anything other than politics.

Nice. Even a Right-wing poodle like Carlson finds him offensive. Too bad the White House doesn't:
Anti-tax advocate and lobbyist Grover Norquist visited the White House at least 74 times over the last five years, according to Secret Service logs released yesterday that illustrate the access that he and other Bush administration allies enjoyed.

Norquist was one of nine people with links to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff who were listed in the 1,646 pages of documents showing dates and times of appointments registered with the Secret Service.

But later in the same article we find:
Many of Norquist's visits may have been for large events. One visit on June 7, 2001, coincided with Bush's signing a $1.35 trillion tax cut. He was cleared to enter the White House grounds a total of 97 times, according to the administration official. His visits are noted in summary sheets included with the documents at least 74 times.

Popular dude.

So the Right-wing view of 'Small Government" brings us corrupt lobbyists, and tainted food.

Sounds about right.

Here's a place for more Norquist info:

Hail to Power and to Glory's way.

While langiushing in an Amsterdam campground in '72, I was discussing progressive rock with some English lads. Having just recently discovered Yes, I was pretty taken with their music.

One of the English boys said "Ah! then you must, when you get back to the States, get some Hawkwind, Genesis, and, the best of them all: Gentle Giant.

Well, I did. Hawkwind, early home to Lemmy Kilmister, later of Motörhead, eh, not so much.

But Genesis, was pretty freakin' impressive. That is, until original leader Peter Gabriel left and drummer Phil Collins (no link, he's a wanker) ran to the front of the stage and turned them into a Vegas lounge act: "When the Lamb, hey hey, lies down, hey! on Broadway!!" Jeebus!

Gentle Giant was a wonder. With music so quirky and complex they made Yes seem as tame as The Osmonds, they offered a breathtaking ride with chord changes, tempo changes, instrument changes, and serious skills. I only saw them live once, at the Santa Monica Civic, in I think 1973, but they blew me back in my seat and didn't let up. Clearly not everyone's cup of tea, but undeniably a great band.

Here they are doing Proclamation:

And here is a medley from the album "Octopus":

Saturday, April 28, 2007

'Cause I can play this here guitar, Pt. 9

Many musicians make successful livings while not becoming famous rock stars. There are the journeyman (and women) club musicians doing popular covers, and there are the pro's doing original music while playing at smaller venues and putting out albums on small labels.

Tuck Andress has likely not crossed most people's radar, but he's a wonderful guitarist who has worked with his wife Patti, for many years as Tuck & Patti. He started as a conventional rocker, like most of us, but on the way developed a truly unique style that owes as much to Wes Montgomery as Jimi Hendrix.

Proof? Castles Made Of Sand/Little Wing:

Friday, April 27, 2007

I hate you and everything you do

That perennial wanker from down in the OC, Dana Rohrabacher (R-Taliban) is off his meds again. Think Progress has the video, and the transcript:
Throughout the hearing, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) aggressively defended the U.S. rendition program and attacked the witnesses, three members of the European parliament, who testified that rendition actually hinders prosecutions of terrorists.

Rohrabacher told the witnesses that Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann would still be alive if they were in charge. He said the witnesses were free to doubt the motives of U.S. rendition since “I know there’s a lot of people who hate America.”

At one point, Rohrabacher argued that imprisoning and torturing one innocent person was a fair price to pay for locking up 50 terrorists who would “go out and plant a bomb…and kill 20,000 people.” When members of the audience groaned, Rohrabacher said, “Well, I hope it’s your families, I hope it’s your families that suffer the consequences.” Watch it:

And remember when Dana was all cozy with the enemy? That's him proudly posing on the right, while we were arming the Taliban to fight against the dreaded Russians. How's that working out for you now, Dana?


Thursday, April 26, 2007

No more words, and no more promises

(image by the wonderful darkblack)

And then, contra Andrew, we have this douchebag:

If I were George Bush right about now, I’d wrap my arms around Harry Reid and give him a great big kiss on the cheek. And I might even consider sending Speaker Pelosi a dozen roses, thanking her for playing her part to perfection in this Democratic Party defeatist extravaganza. For in truth, the Democrats are handing the President the one thing he desperately needed in order to maintain the surge, veto the Iraq supplemental with its timetables and withdrawal stipulations, and unite the Republicans as they haven’t been since the election last November; a political club with which to beat his opponents and re-energize support for the war among his base.

It’s been a while since Bush was presented with such a gift. In previous months, the Democrats played the Iraq card with great care and skill, not getting too much out in front of the American people while maintaining support for their position by framing the debate as one of “altering course” rather than cut and run. They successfully portrayed the President as intransigent on changing strategy. And, of course, the Democrats were helped enormously by the constant drumbeat of negativity regarding the surge as a result of several high profile, horrific bombings with large civilian death tolls.

As an aside, in one of the great historical ironies of all time, the very same elements in the media and on the left that took the Pentagon to task 40 years ago for harping on enemy body counts to show progress in the Viet Nam War now confidently use body counts to show that the surge supposedly isn’t working.

C’est la vie! C’est la guerre!

. . .In truth, the Democrats and the left have already left the surge for dead. No matter what news comes out of Iraq, the Democrats will spin it to prove that the strategy is not working. Unfortunately, this will be relatively easy to do since the insurgents and terrorists are very obliging in working hand in hand with the defeatists in Congress to undermine the President’s strategy by getting as big a bang for their buck with each brutal attack on innocent civilians as they can.

Yeah, right. The President's strategy. Of ensuring defeat even before the whole thing started:
Before the invasion of Iraq, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki and Army Secretary Thomas White advised Rumsfeld that many more troops would be needed to secure Iraq (something on the order of 250,000 to 300,000). Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose State Department was shut out of the post-war planning process, also privately argued for a bigger force. A RAND Corporation analysis, published in summer 2003, offered a range of estimates for what size force would be necessary in Iraq. Using troops-to-population ratios from previous occupations, RAND projected that, two years after the invasion, it would take anywhere from 258,000 troops (the Bosnia model), to 321,000 (post-World War II Germany), to 526,000 (Kosovo) to secure the peace.


Go now, go now

Andrew Sullivan continues to demonstrate why he is the only conservative pundit with both balls and intellectual honesty:
I see no reason to believe that this can achieve anything close to our original objectives within the next six months, and no reason to believe that an indefinite occupation won't create as many problems as it solves. We are occupying a sovereign Muslim country indefinitely, against the wishes of a clear majority of Iraqis and Americans. That's the simple fact we have to remember. From everything we have discovered so far, that can't and won't work.

So we should leave. Soon. Let the Shia and tribal leaders and the Kurds confront al Qaeda. It's about time they did. And they have as good a reason as we do and far better knowledge of the enemy and the terrain. Until they own this war against Islamist terror, it won't be won. And by continuing to stay, we postpone the day when they have to fight for their own country and their own religion - and win the war we cannot win for them.


You've lost that lovin' feeling

Phil Spector was pretty important in the development of pop music in America. Note: I say 'was' because he's seriously past his 'sell-by' date. His descent into oblivion has been capped by his murder trial here in L.A.

But here are some of the things he contributed to pop music:

And here's where it all started for Phil:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

No time for dancing, or lovey dovey, I ain’t got time for that now

John McCain's delusional appearance on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart really tries to get the guy to engage in some reality based discussion:

Monday, April 23, 2007

Them thats got shall get, them thats not shall lose

(Poverty graphic stolen from the WSJ)

My friend Mark Kleiman caused a little contretemps over at his blog, starting with this piece criticizing the execrable Haley Barbour of Mississippi of murder:
So we have an extra sixty-five babies per year dying as the direct result of a policy instituted by Haley Barbour. Perhaps he could have claimed that he didn't anticipate the result. But if he doesn't change that policy now — and there's no indication in the story that he has any such intention — then it seems to me a Bantry verdict is entirely justified.

It's complicated, read mark's entire piece. If I might distill it, the basic thesis is that Barbour, in order to cut Medicaid funding (a really bad Republican idea), instituted overly complex renewal procedures that resulted in many people not renewing, which is easily predictable.

And this caused rising infant mortality among poor and especially black babies, also easily predictable.

Voila: Murder. And I agree with Mark.

Subsequently, his co-blogger Michael Ware disagreed:

Mark is right to deplore Haley Barbour's savage idea that Mississippi (of all states) would benefit from cutting social services to its poorest people, and the deaths of innocents traceable to the policy are fairly charged to it. But it isn't murder, and I differ from his rhetoric.

Many policy choices entail a gross cost in shortened lives, even shortened right at the start. We make them all the time, and we're right to do so; otherwise we would treat a year of life as having an infinite cost, and live in some sort of padded pods with a TV, never go anywhere, and eat Purina complete nutrient kibbles . Lots of things are worth paying some number of statistical lives for, even lives of identifiable groups like drivers, firefighters, and even poor babies.

Michael is well-spoken, logical, and just wrong about this.

Look, we drive cars, and fly in airplanes, activities fully able to shorten our lives. We allow kids to play sports and to cross the street, we even send folks to war (don't get me started on Iraq in this context).

The first examples above are personal, we make decisions and accept the potential consequences. The last example, in a perfect world, is made with public discussion, Congressional debate, and a sober judgement from the President.

But Barbour's decision was made in a custodial sense, affecting people who had no control over this part of their lives, lives Barbour was sworn to protect. Here's the Oath of Office of Governor of MS:
I, ________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Mississippi, and obey the laws thereof;

I'm no Constitutional lawyer, but it seems to me that the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution the Governor is sworn to support speaks to discrimination against the poor:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Mark responds to Michael:

I agree with Mike (below): not every policy with a death toll, even a net death toll, is a murderous policy. Spending a little bit less on airline safety would be justified, because a reasonable airline passenger wouldn't be willing to pay, from his own funds, the cost of the marginal (in the chances-per-million range) safety increment. There's nothing wrong with taking a calculated risk with your own life, and therefore nothing wrong about implementing that sort of decision on behalf of other people. There are values in the world other than life expectancy.

But public officials are morally (though in most cases not criminally) responsible for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their actions.

Haley Barbour could, with at least some plausibility, claim that his health-care policies wouldn't actually kill significant numbers of infants. Now we know that he would have been wrong to make that claim: the infants are dying, when they could be saved for (not very much) money.

If he doesn't change the policy, he will in effect have decided that their deaths are an acceptable price to pay for whatever cost savings the state is reaping. "Wilful murder?" Not exactly. Legally, it's no crime at all. Morally, it's more like reckless homicide, since Barbour isn't intending to kill anyone in particular, but merely taking actions likely to kill someone. The fact that the victims are all poor and disproportionately black — and thus their parents are unlikely to be Republican campaign contributors, or even voters — makes it that much worse

Don't cave in, Mark, I really think Michael is parsing too finely, almost like a concern troll. Barbour's decision to lower Medicaid funding was a political one, his method was profoundly prejudiced, and the results clearly predictable.

But then, so are the results of virtually everything done by Republicans lately.

Let’s impeach the president for lying

From an
George Bush and Dick Cheney have lied the nation into a war of aggression, are spying in open violation of the law, and have sanctioned the use of torture. These are high crimes and misdemeanors that demand accountability. Since Congress doesn't seem to get it, on April 28 Americans from Miami, Florida to North Pole, Alaska are going to spell it out for them: IMPEACH! It's time to say NO to impunity for lying, spying, and torture.

They are a grass-roots organization, and are organizing events all over the country.
Let's put the word IMPEACH! everywhere on April 28. If you're in Miami you'll be able to voice your opinion directly to George Bush himself. If you're in San Diego you can tell Nancy Pelosi to put impeachment back on the table. And if you're in Cleveland you can give your support to Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who is considering starting the impeachment process. Here are just some of the actions people are planning. Please sign up for one of them...or start one yourself! If you don't see your community listed and want to find people in your area to team up with, post a message in the new ImpeachSpace Forum.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Get you a room at the rhythm ranch

Update: for everyone stopping by from Crooks & Liars and Democratic Underground, thanks! Please check out my other posts as well. Again, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all the comments.

The $400 haircut story, as might be expected, has taken on a life of its own, and the very frustrating Maureen Dowd gets bitchy:
Everyone's already piling on Maureen Dowd's horrible column today, but to me what makes this sort of crap doubly aggravating is her refusal to even take responsibility for what she's doing. Dowd doesn't want to wake up and say, "I'm using my New York Times column to argue that John Edwards would be a bad president because he got some expensive haircuts." She won't come out and write: "John Edwards' expensive haircuts indicate to me that he would be a bad president." If she wrote that, after all, it would be obvious that she was being idiotic. Why, after all, would you think that the price of Edwards' haircuts is an important indicator of what kind of job he'd do as president.

Ezra Klein reports in:
To be clear, for all I care, Edwards can live in Versailles and give Alan Greenspan gold bricks to cut his hair. But every Democratic presidential candidate since Clinton has been tagged for expensive haircuts. Everyone knows appearances matter, and populist credibility is harmed by accusations of opulent personal habits. To blame Maureen Dowd for this controversy is like watching a drunk slam into a divider and blaming the divider. The divider is always there, folks just have to avoid it. And Edwards could have avoided this.

I basically agree, it was a dumb move, John. Go to Supercuts next time. But Ezra adds this:
So why, in all that he is giving up, did he not eschew the big house or the costly cut?

Dude, not the house! That would be seen as political theater in the worst way. Did Bush41 give up Kennebunkport when he ran? And Bush43 bought his fantasy ranch while he was campaigning.

First, is the $400 haircut an egregious vanity? Not compared to GWBush's $10,000 suits:
When brothers Louis and Jacob Weinberg founded the company in 1916, they were determined to make the best suit. They used the finest fabricsand designed only simple, timeless shapes. This guiding principle ensures Oxxford continues to create top-notch garments for a price --$2,000 to $14,000--that loyal customers are willing to pay. Oxxford produced 25,000 handmade garments and had $30 million in sales last year, according to Roger Parfitt, the company's chief operating officer.

Oxxford's signature details include pockets lined with Belgian linen to prevent sagging and silk thread for enhanced durability. And, of course, only the best gabardine, flannel, silk, tweed and cashmere from European mills are used.

Looking at the Bush ranch, here's an article that tries to show the down-hominess of the place, but becomes ironic instead:

When the Bushes came across a 1,550-acre tract 20 miles west of Waco just outside the town of Crawford (population 701), they took a second look.

...The resulting single-story ranch house, which was built by members of a religious community from the nearby community of Elm Mott, is a paragon of environmental planning.

...The passive-solar house is built of honey-colored native limestone and positioned to absorb winter sunlight, warming the interior walkways and walls of the 4,000-square-foot residence. Geothermal heat pumps circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet deep in the ground. These waters pass through a heat exchange system that keeps the home warm in winter and cool in summer.

A 25,000-gallon underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof urns; wastewater from sinks, toilets, and showers cascades into underground purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the cistern is then used to irrigate the landscaping around the four-bedroom home. Laura Bush insisted on the use of indigenous grasses, shrubs, and flowers to complete the exterior treatment of the home.

...Although the rigors of running the United States follow him to Crawford, the President routinely works in a round of golf on nearby links or wets a hook in one of the ranch's man-made lakes.

(photo from GoogleEarth)

25,000 gallon water storage and pipes buried 300' deep do not make an average property, but arguable are features of a survivalist compound. And even here in L.A., 4000-sq.-ft. homes are considered large.

Time's fawning 2000 Person-of-the-Year coverage reveals these humble details:
A 10-acre man-made pond built and stocked with 5,000 bass has also been designed around the oak trees

. . . Made of limestone from Lampasas, Texas, less than a two-hour drive from here, it has long rectangular bricks of a dusty putty color with the texture of little mountain ranges. Designed to wind around a series of old live oaks, the compound has an old oak spread out over the front as its focal point. The single-level home's 10,000 sq. ft. are nearly finished, but the high-ceiling rooms take up only a third of that space. The limestone porch takes up the rest, circling the house like a moat.

And this truly disturbing item:
Other walls have a few touches of humor: a framed likeness of President Bush dressed as an oil sheik greets you as you walk out of the bathroom...

In every article about GWBush's faux-cowboy hideout, there is one interesting tidbit, quoted here from the Time piece:
The builders are all from a religious community in Elm Mott, Texas. The women applying the last touches to the cabinetry are dressed in full-length cotton dresses with simple patterns. "They have the most lovely countenances," says Bush, stepping from the driver's seat.

Further digging into the "religious community" finds Homestead Heritage, from nearby Elm Mott, TX:
Inside you’ll find our handcrafted furniture and accessories plus hundreds of one-of-a-kind heirloom gift items—pottery, wrought iron, quilts, handmade brooms and baskets, mesquite shepherd’s lamps, wooden cutting boards and spoons, oil lamps, beeswax candles, natural soaps, needlework, original watercolors, cards, children’s storybooks and homesteading how-to’s as well as Homestead Farms specialty foods and Homestead Gristmill Baking Mixes.
Sounds charming?

Not so fast, it's a cult, according to Watchman Fellowship:
Homestead Heritage: Elm Mott, TX, formerly Koinonia Communities or Emmaus Fellowship, is an abusive shepherding goup that teaches modalism and multilevel works salvation. Their leaders claim their authority is that of “Jesus coming in the flesh.” The group operates a large farm with a crafts center and yearly public fairs. They also publish homeschool materials under the name, Essential Christian Education and Truth Forum. They were featured in the February 2005 issue of Christianity Today, and President George W. Bush chose them to construct his house in Crawford.

What do they mean by "shepherding"?
Shepherding: Christian growth is allegedly facilitated by yielding personal freedoms to a discipler or "shepherd" who controls virtually every aspect of an individual's life. This is a form of spiritual abuse, a manipulative distortion of true biblical discipleship that can ultimately rob individuals of their liberty and autonomy that is to be found in Christ. Used by many traditional cults, as well as by some religious organizations that are not cultic in their basic doctrine.

Here's a forum for former members. This is really creepy:
To begin, Homestead Heritage may have within its fellowship many Christians who attend, but, the beliefs of Homestead Heritage are squarely outside of orthodox Christianity. They disguise their true teachings from outsiders and inquirers. Del Barcus, a former member of the group, recounted the difficulty he had trying to learn of the group’s beliefs when he and his family first encountered them, “We would ask questions that we knew to ask and we would get an answer that was just a big answer. We just didn’t know exactly what the answer was when we got finished.” Another former member recently remarked, “They know you have to be at a deep level of trust and submission before you would accept the doctrines. We were told it would be a stumbling block to read them (referring to the deeper teachings) before we were ready.”

. . .Another issue raised by former members is that of spiritual abuse. One family had been invited to attend their first Sunday service (you may have to attend the public Friday night meetings for years before you are deemed worthy to attend the Sunday services). According to this family, the service had gone on for hours and the man, a diabetic, was lapsing into insulin shock. After the meeting he was given some juice by a group leader and asked how he felt about the sermon by Blair Adam, the group’s founding apostle. He recounted that through the haze of his illness he could only remember feeling afraid. That was equated as a lack of submission to authority because he did not trust his elders. His family was forbidden to return to Sunday meetings.

The secret Constitution on Membership makes submission to the authority of Homestead leaders the mark of one within the family of faith and virtually a requirement of salvation: “Of course, as a child, God admonishes you to `honor your father and mother,’ that is, honor those in discipling authority over you… So the central issue lies not so much in our immaturity… but in our attitude toward authority: if we resent it, we shall remain slaves, remain on the first level of discipleship needing guardians everywhere we go…and if you do not honor authority in your heart, then you are not of the family of faith despite all outward appearances. (p.13).

Here's from another poster at that site:
HH is a cult. They will deny it. You have to accomplish certain steps before you can become a member. You have to read there literature before you can even be baptized. You have to make an oath when you are baptized that you wont leave the fellowship. Sometimes when poeple do something wrong, they get punished by not being allowed to come to church for a few weeks. Some just flat out get disfellowshipped. You have to ask permission before doing anything, even getting married.

Here's why the Englebrecht's decided to sell the property, by the way:
Although many in town are happy about the idea of Bush moving in, the sale will be bittersweet for Ken Engelbrecht, who has lived on the family homestead his entire life, farming the property and raising cattle.

Engelbrecht said one reason the family is selling its holdings is to move his mother closer to her dialysis treatments, which she undergoes three times a week in Temple, 30 miles away.

The trip home is tiring after a long day of treatment, Engelbrecht said.

Here's a fantastic compilation of aerial photos of the ranch, before airspace was restricted.

To conclude, Edwards' haircut was a bad idea. The end.

But GWBush buys a ranch from a financially troubled family, turns it into his own Neverland for urban cowboys, buys $$$$ suits, has a home built by cultish workers, and installs a water tank big enough to turn the place into a Branch Davidian or Ruby Ridge compound, and he's plain ol' folks.

Not in this lifetime.

Friday, April 20, 2007

But it won't stop the bleeding, or ease the hate.

From a comment thread over at FireDogLake tonight:
God, I hate this war.
I hate this war.
I hate this war.

War is nothing noble. It’s some greedy old men
getting young men to shoot one another.


Here's what happens:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More than words to show you feel

Ross Douthat, writing at Andrew Sullivan's blog, takes on Glenn Greenwald's post about Edwards' and Obama's recent issues:
This post, in which Glenn Greenwald explains how Beltway conventional wisdom gets created, illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of the left-wing blogs' critique of how the D.C. media covers politics. Greenwald takes two stories - John Edwards' $400 haircut and Barack Obama's post-Virginia Tech speech, both of which were originally written up by Ben Smith at Politico - and traces their migration through the media ecosystem. He then explains how the whole thing works:

Well and good, honest, if slightly off target critique. I think Glenn's pretty spot on.

But in the piece, Ross says this about Obama's off-kilter speech:
And while there are a lot of things you can't learn about a candidate from listening to his speeches, there are a lot of things that you can learn - particularly since Barack Obama is auditioning for a job where one of his key duties (not the most important one, but not the least important either) will be giving speeches to a national audience.

Um, yeah?

Here are some things you can learn about your guy GWBush from some of his speaking:

"You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." --George W. Bush, interview with CBS News' Katie Couric, Sept. 6, 2006

"The solution to Iraq -- an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself -- is more than a military mission. Precisely the reason why I sent more troops into Baghdad." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., April 3, 2007

Or just watch this:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bang bang, that awful sound

The Right is quick to try to legislate morality-sometimes.

Today's SCOTUS vote has the Right wetting their collective pants for joy. From The Corner:
John McCain said:
Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for those who cherish the sanctity of life and integrity of the judiciary. The ruling ensures that an unacceptable and unjustifiable practice will not be carried out on our innocent children. It also clearly speaks to the importance of nominating and confirming strict constructionist judges who interpret the law as it is written, and do not usurp the authority of Congress and state legislatures. As we move forward, it is critically important that our party continues to stand on the side of life.
Here's what Mitt Romney said:
Today, our nation’s highest court reaffirmed the value of life in America by upholding a ban on a practice that offends basic human decency. This decision represents a step forward in protecting the weakest and most innocent among us.
And here's what Rudy Giuliani said:
The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion. I agree with it.

And the Right, as portrayed by the Bush Administration, is still pushing abstinence, with pretty sorry results:

WASHINGTON — Students who took part in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not, according to a study ordered by Congress.

Also, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes that were reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes. And they first had sex at about the same age as other students _ 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

The federal government now spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education. Critics have repeatedly said they don't believe the programs are working, and the study will give them reinforcement.

However, Bush administration officials cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions from the study. They said the four programs reviewed _ among several hundred across the nation _ were some of the very first established after Congress overhauled the nation's welfare laws in 1996.

So clearly the Right wants to legislate morality.

So my question is, why is the Right so dead set against legislating morality when it involves gun ownership? From The National Review after the '04 election:
President of the United States: The people of the United States defied the United Nations, and reelected their pro-rights president. President Bush's reelection helps ensure that the 2006 United Nations conference on small arms will not become a back-door path to destroying the Second Amendment. President Bush will almost certainly sign any pro-rights legislation that passes Congress. After lawsuit reform, the most important bill would be the restoration of Second Amendment rights to citizens of the District of Columbia.

Setting aside the chronic mis-read of the 2nd Amendment, the mass delusion of the Right-wing pundits historically, and especially after Virginia Tech, is somehow less than Christian:

Michelle Malkin:
Is it too early to ask: “What if?” What if that bill had passed? What if just one student in one of those classrooms had been in lawful possession of a concealed weapon for the purpose of self-defense?

John Derbyshire:
As NRO's designated chickenhawk, let me be the one to ask: Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.

Hot Air:
I still don’t understand how he managed to be so lethal while shooting randomly. 32 killed, 20+ wounded; how often does any sort of attack result in more dead than hurt? The cops did say that he lined some students up and executed them sequentially, but that’s strange too. He’s one guy, with (let’s assume) 10 guys in a line in front of him. After he shot the first two or three and the rest realized what was about to happen, wouldn’t they have rushed him?

Note the common thread: Blame the victims, because if they only had the good sense to pack heat, they might be alive.

So let's re-cap: Legislate for abortion bans, for abstinence, against gun control.

Here's what the Bible says:

5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Now, don't get me wrong. No one except a saint truly lives that way, turning the other cheek. But for the Bible-thumping Right-wingers to put such faith in legislating for violence boggles the mind.

But then, I remember, the Iraq war is wholly owned by these guys. I guess the operative phrase is still:
it became necessary to destroy the town to save it


you can live by the gun or die by the bullet

For the Right, it's great to be a hard-ass, except when it isn't.

From PhoenixWoman at FireDogLake:

It's interesting to watch the obsession in the GOP/Media Complex with the Virginia Tech shooter's ethnicity. We go through this every time something like this happens.

Remember when the Murrah Building was blown up in Oklahoma City in 1995?

I do.

In the early hours and days after the blast, people like Rush Limbaugh and right-wing blowhards were a) convinced that evil Islamofascists did the deed, and b) were calling for them to be strung up.

But when it became apparent that the perps were white archconservative militia members, suddenly Rush and his buddies went all touchy-feely on us.

Suddenly — just as with Eric Rudolph, Vernon "David Koresh" Howell, the idiot who slammed his plane into the White House when Clinton was president, and a host of other right-wing and nutball terrorists such as the anthrax mailers who targeted Democratic Senators and the media, and the Noonday, Texas suitcase bombers — it became important to understand their motives. You know, the reasons they gave for doing what they did? So we could be compassionate towards them?


The Right picks strange issues to cozy up to. Cherry picking which terrorists to hate and which to revere (David Koresh, Randy Weaver), and which moralities to legislate, seem somehow similar.

More on that later.

For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder of my hair

From Ezra today:

For some reason, Republicans routinely levy attacks on the costly haircuts occasionally purchased by major Democratic politicians. I've heard it thrown at Clinton, Kerry, Edwards, and occasionally see it tossed at Gore. Here's a useful counterpoint:

Meanwhile, our favorite TV nugget of the day so far came courtesy of Barbara Walters, who matter-of-factly informed viewers that Laura Bush recently had her hair done by famed New York City stylist Sally Hershberger, who charges $700 for a haircut. Just take a moment to think back to the go-go '90s, and try to imagine what the press' hysterical reaction would have been if word ever leaked out that Hillary Clinton had sat down for a $700 trim.

Oh, and Laura? Dorothy Hamill called, she wants her hair style back. No, wait-the '70s are over, she doesn't need it anymore.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

And I feel my finger on your trigger

From a commenter on Jane Smiley's post at HuffPo tonight:
It has always seemed to me that the NRA and people who insist on their right to own guns, while trying to make a big macho show of it, are really a bunch of frightened little bed-wetters who can't imagine facing everyday life without superior firepower. Whether they find themselves up against a burgular, a cow, or a duck, they are not man enough to face that life-or-death challenge without the coward's favorite tool...a gun. Geeze, my home defense kit consists of a dented aluminum baseball bat and I sleep just fine at night. I grew up in a hunting community surrounded by family and friends who owned guns, and with all due respect, what I learned is the more guns in a person's gun cabinet, the bigger the wimp (or sometimes psycho)they are. That's the problem with folks today, they mistake weakness for strength, fear for bravery. It's enough to make you puke sometimes, especially on days like today, when the worms come out to defend the rights of a slug who just murdered dozens of innocent people.


Leaving all the changes far from far behind

Atrios is such a wanker. Everyone knows this is the best song evah:

Monday, April 16, 2007

You pull the trigger of my love gun

(AP photo)

Thirty-three people, including the gunman, were killed at a Virginia university Monday in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

U.S. Constitution:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

An idiot:
In a perfect world, gun control laws would have kept the weapons out of the shooter’s hands. Also in a perfect world, one of his potential victims would have been armed and cut short his quest for glory.

. . .What this shooting proves is that there are many who will use horrible tragedy to make political hay.

Ya think?


'Cause I can play this here guitar, Pt. 8

One of the most played songs of the early '70s, "All Right Now" by Free stands up today because of the passionate riff of Paul Kossoff and the singing of the best underrated vocalist in rock'n'roll, Paul Rodgers, who later starred in Bad Company.

Sadly, Paul Kossoff is no longer with us. But here they are at The Isle of Wight, 1970:

Saturday, April 14, 2007

White bird in a golden cage, alone

From LATimes via Kevin Drum:

BEND OVER....From the annals of American labor relations, circa 2007:

When the airline industry went into a deep slump after the 2001 terrorist attacks, American Airlines' pilots, flight attendants and mechanics agreed to billions of dollars in cuts in wages and benefits to keep the carrier afloat.

Now AMR Corp., American's parent, is back in the black, so much so that 874 top executives will receive more than $150 million in stock bonuses next week.

Kevin goes on:

Of course, if American's workers dare to go on strike later this year, we'll be besieged by comments from tough-minded free-market conservatives about how unions are ruining the competitiveness of a once-great American industry by making plainly irresponsible wage demands. Don't these people understand creative destruction?

And for those who like to pretend that this is all just posturing because executive compensation isn't big enough to make a serious difference when it's spread among all a company's workers, I'll do the arithmetic right here. $150 million split among 57,000 workers is....

$2,600 each. Chump change for the rock jawed captains of industry running American Airlines, I'm sure, but probably not to the flight attendants.



You choose your leaders and place your trust

(picture from Gerry Broome/Associated Press; Polaris)

Think justice has been served now that the Duke lacrosse guys have been exonerated? Think again.

Charles Pierce writing at Eric Alterman's place:
One of the accused, Reade Seligmann, pronounced himself astonished at how easily the presumption of innocence could be cast aside by the media and, worse, by law-enforcement. Instead of asking him to call Gary Condit on that score, or asking him whether he's on his way to law school and thence onto the ACLU's legal team, I would ask him to look around in the light of what happened to him.

. . .Where's the presumption of innocence at Gitmo or in the black prisons in Europe? Where was it when people debated the Patriot Act, or wrote books -- Hello, Michelle. Nice to have your reasoned input on the Imus case. Now go back under your rock -- about how internment isn't necessarily a bad idea? Where was it when Rudy Giuliani encouraged the worst impulses of the New York Police Department? Where was it for Patrick Dorismond or Amadou Diallo? Where was it when Antonin Scalia said actual innocence was no bar to upholding a criminal conviction? Where was it during the increasingly ridiculous "war on drugs"? Where is it when my kids lose their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights as soon as they walk through the schoolhouse door? We are a country that begs -- in reality and in its popular entertainment, like 24 or the Law and Orders -- for prosecutors to shred the Bill of Rights to keep us safe from scary powders and scary brown people. Not long before Seligmann and his teammates were cleared, a man named James Giles walked out of a prison in Texas after serving 10 years for a rape he didn't commit because a DNA test proved he hadn't committed it. Nobody knew his name when he went off to prison. People probably cheered. I hope Reade Seligmann realizes, once his justifiable anger clears, that every time we hand over our civil liberties to some charlatan who trafficks in empty promises to protect us, we make a Mike Nifong not merely possible, but inevitable.


Friday, April 13, 2007

And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools

Rick "RightWingNuthouse"Moran needs an intervention.

Unlike Andrew Sullivan, who recently makes a great deal of sense (Welcome out into the light, Andrew), Rick still is a Right-winger, except when he isn't.

Witness this:

There is little doubt that Don Imus deserves to be fired. The problem is he has deserved it for going on 25 years. A major contributor to the toxicity of our culture, Imus has frolicked in the sewer of American entertainment, making a living being pointlessly hurtful and hateful to every ethnic and racial group in America. His targets in the past have included the Jews, Hispanics, Italians, Arabs, Catholics, evangelical Christians, and Muslims, to name a few. And he has gotten away with it because people recognize that he is doing it for purposes of “entertainment.”

Playing to stereotypes is a dangerous game and Imus (and his chief enabler and cheerleader, producer Bernard McGuirk), skirt the edge of outright hate speech constantly, settling for drawing broad analogies and using code words that allow their slack jawed fans to create their own punchlines. This gimmicky approach to practicing bigotry without actually crossing the line earned the radio host a huge following during the crucial morning drive time in most major markets and a sizable audience on television via MSNBC.

Indeed. Glad to see you're so tolerant of all those religio-cultural groups.

Problem is, as I see it, the Free Market works sometimes. It kept Imus on for years past his sell-by date, because he generated $$. But once advertisers started falling away in droves, and he was in danger of becoming a liability, he gets canned. thus, a Right-winger's wet dream: The Market Forces have spoken.

Or something.

And where does that leave all the hate spouting radio/TV folks Rick adores?

Media Matters has this:
On April 11, NBC News announced that it was dropping MSNBC's simulcast of Imus in the Morning in the wake of the controversy that erupted over host Don Imus' reference to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." The following day, CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves announced that CBS -- which owns both the radio station that broadcast Imus' program and Westwood One, which syndicated the program -- has fired Imus and would cease broadcasting his radio show. But as Media Matters for America has extensively documented, bigotry and hate speech targeting, among other characteristics, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity continue to permeate the airwaves through personalities such as Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Michael Smerconish, and John Gibson.

Maybe they're still OK, according to the Free Market.

Meanwhile, Rick can keep posting his fanporn of 24.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Then along comes a woman...

Has the bloggersphere affected the mainstream news machine? I'm pretty sure it has, but if you're not, just ask Dan Rather. Or Brian Williams.

Andrew Sullivan asks:
How Self-Important Is Brian Williams?

Gob-smackingly so, of late. Pious doesn't quite capture the guy's preening vacuousness. Dean Barnett has just dug up the latest gem by Williams about the blogosphere:

"You're going to be up against people who have an opinion, a modem, and a bathrobe. All of my life, developing credentials to cover my field of work, and now I'm up against a guy named Vinny in an efficiency apartment in the Bronx who hasn't left the efficiency apartment in two years."

Brian, respectfully, I suggest you learn to deal. Just as the RIAA and the record industry have been challenged by downloading and bands selling songs on MySpace, the mainstream media, Op-Ed pages, and pundits have been challenged by bloggers. And just as newspapers and TV news departments have teams, so do blogs.

CD is the nom de blog of a contributer to one of the first major group blogs, CorrenteWire , and one of the smartest people I know. (Full disclosure: I also blog there).

She moved to DC last fall, and just like the competent journalist she is, has arranged an interview with Helen Thomas, the grand dame of the White House Press Corps. Read it at CorrenteWire :

Sometimes it’s hard not to quail before your betters, and I just had that experience, in the best of ways. Helen Thomas agreed to speak with me about the war, the Bush administration, and life in the Beltway, and I am honored and flattered as a Little Blogger to have had this opportunity.

Helen’s impressive bio can be found here. She’s got long experience with Republican administrations, and earned her credentials as a feminist icon as the only woman member of the press corps to travel with Nixon to China. She written several books, which you can learn more about here.

Ms. Thomas had two words to answer my question, ‘what is the biggest problem facing good government today?’ “Lousy leadership.” The follow up question about what is different today compared to when she first entered the business was hardly more reassuring. Back then, and unlike today, people understood the true meaning of public service, and followed in the tradition of Lincoln. People in previous governments have wanted to “make a contribution” and help “the sick, the poor, those without shelter” and had concern for issues like fairness and health care. She stressed that this isn’t found in the Beltway today, and she blames much of our current situation on Reagan, “when all this began.”

Cub that I am, I couldn’t help ask this giant for a little advice. I wanted to know how citizen journalists and bloggers could gain more access to the politicians and newsmakers we write about on the blogosphere. She said, “Keep plugging away. You have more access than you think,” and implied we’re more powerful than is generally admitted. She also encouraged us to “spread the word” about the blogosphere, which I take to mean to our friends and neighbors who still rely on the mainstream press.

So, the bloggers are starting to matter, for good and for bad. In response to the Powerlines and LittleGreenFootballs (no links, they get enough traffic), right-wing GWBush sycophants each, we have people like CD at CorrenteWire doing actual, you know, journalism. With interviews and quotes and everything.

Oh, and Brian? Keep doing your job well, and you'll continue to earn our respect. But whine about the changing internet paradigm, and you'll be as stale as last night's left-overs.

By the way: Lambert Strether, the Maître d' at CorrenteWire, has this to say about Brian's pout:
Yep. Part time job, no pay, 4 hours a day, 4 years, non-stop, build and administer a site, pay $170 a month for the dedicated server to handle the user spikes, deal with the trolls and the spam. Man, that's efficiency. Those--and my posts and readers--are my credentials, and if with your salary and connections you're worried about competing with me, you're even weaker than I thought. And just think: In all my four years, I didn't even cheerlead the country into the greatest strategic disaster in American history! Not once.


But if somehow you could pack up your sorrows

I came of age musically in the '60s, and watched the transition from label-controlled pop to artist-controlled music, as exemplified by the Beatles and others during that time.

I also was moved by the folk explosion of the time, as home-grown guitar players explored traditional music, and blended it with their own ideas and emotions.

One early folk pioneer is often overlooked, Richard Farina:
Back in New York City, Fariña wrote and mixed with the bohemians at the White Horse Tavern, the legendary Greenwich Village haunt frequented by poets, artists, folksingers, and wayfarers, where he befriended Tommy Makem. It was there that he met Carolyn Hester, a successful folksinger. They had a whirlwind courtship and married eighteen days later. Fariña appointed himself Hester's agent; they toured worldwide while Fariña worked on his novel and Carolyn performed gigs. Fariña was present when Hester recorded her third album at Columbia studios in September 1961, where a then-unknown Bob Dylan played harmonica on several tracks. Fariña became a close friend of Dylan's; their friendship is a central topic of David Hajdu's Pulitzer Prize-winning book Positively 4th Street.

In Europe in the spring of 1962, Fariña met Mimi Baez, the teenage sister of Joan Baez. Hester divorced Fariña shortly thereafter, and Fariña married 17-year-old Mimi in April 1963. They moved to a tiny cabin in Carmel, California, where they composed songs on a guitar and dulcimer. They debuted their act as "Richard & Mimi Fariña" at the Big Sur Folk Festival in 1964 and were signed to Vanguard Records. They recorded their first album, Celebrations For a Grey Day,[1] with the help of Bruce Langhorne, who had previously played for Dylan.

Read the whole Wikipedia piece, it solidly documents Richard's life and contributions to '60s music development.

His marriage to Mimi Baez was critical, not only socio-politically, but artistically, as he became connected to the '60s folk machine that Baez & Dylan became. I never saw Richard, but I saw Mimi & Joan at an all-day peace music festival at the Hollywood Bowl in '71, at this show:

71 May 1 MAYDAY: Benefit for So Cal Council of Free Clinics. With the Association, Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald, Earth, Wind & Fire, Every Bros, Joy of Cooking, Joyous Noise, Charles John Quarto, Redeye, Rockin Foo, Stoneground, Jack Nicholson. Hollywood Bowl LA Free Press May 7 (review); LA Times Apr 25 (ad)

Here are Richard and Mimi doing "House Un-American Activity Blues Dream":

Here are Richard and Mimi doing his greatest hit. Embedding disabled, clicking on the picture will take you to YouTube:

Wishin', and hopin', and thinkin', and prayin',

Over at Mark Kleiman's place:
Despair from the GOP

Wouldn't that make a great ten-second spot? An ordinary citizen looks at the camera and says, "Home prices are going down, gas prices are going up, and the war keeps dragging on. We need new leadership."


Monday, April 09, 2007

Touch me in the morning

Regarding the whole Imus "nappy-headed ho" flap, he's a boob. Here's David Carr in the NYTimes:

Given that Mr. Imus spent part of last week describing the student athletes at Rutgers as “nappy-headed ho’s,” you might think he’d have trouble booking anyone, let alone A-list establishment names. But Mr. Imus, who has been given a pass for this sort of comment in the past, also generously provides airtime to those parts of the news media and political apparatus that would generally be expected to bring him to account.

He is, to borrow one of the show's metaphors, a lawn jockey to the establishment. Few politicians, big or small, pass up a chance to bump knees with Mr. Imus, in part because his show is one of the few places where they can talk seriously and at length about public issues. Senator John Kerry has stopped by. Senator John McCain is on frequently. And Senators Joseph I. Lieberman and Joseph R. Biden are part of a legion eager to sit in the guest chair.

NBC News uses "Imus in the Morning" to promote the brands of Tim Russert, Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory. Tom Brokaw was a frequent guest, and his replacement, Brian Williams, has been sanctified by the I-man, as they call him. Chris Matthews from MSNBC has appeared, as have anchors and journalists from CNN and CBS and, on the print side, by reporters and editors from Newsweek and popular opinion columnists from The New York Times.

Indeed. But consider what other folks have said, and suffered little for it:
Bill Bennett:
"you wanted to reduce crime ... if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett conceded that aborting all African-American babies "would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do," then added again, "but the crime rate would go down."

Ann Coulter:
"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

Michael "Savage" Weiner:
Michael Savage declared that CNN hosts Wolf Blitzer and Larry King "look like the type that would have pushed Jewish children into the oven to stay alive one more day to entertain the Nazis."

Glenn Beck:
If your bill goes through, I hope you can't go to bed any single night without the images of body bags of our American soldiers coming off those planes. I hope they dance in your head every single night, because you will be just as responsible for their deaths as anyone who has ever strapped a bomb to their chest and screamed, "Allah Akbar."

During his long reign over the airwaves, Limbaugh has called abortion rights activists "feminazis", told an African-American caller to "take that bone out of your nose," referred to prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib as "blow[ing] some steam off, " and declared that "what's good for Al Qaeda is good for the Democratic Party."

2 week suspensions, slaps on the wrist, all matters not a bit. These people are the voice of a sadly large part of the U.S., and the media masters that pay their salaries will continue to provide them with airwaves and studios.