Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Amuse-Bouche for the Nativists

We've heard so much over the last few months about the great criminal invasion from South of the Border, haven't we? And from such fonts of knowledge as Steve King, Russell Pearce, J.D. Hayworth, Sarah Palin, who pass on their "facts" to the xenophobic hoi polloi of the Right, where it goes viral and infects the whole body politic. Even breathless tinfoil hat conspiracies are carried by "respectable media outlets", and by the time they are discredited, the damage has already been done.

So imagine the hilarity that ensued this morning as NPR reported on the life of the biggest Mexican drug cartel arrest ever:
A Texas-born fugitive known as "the Barbie" who allegedly led a violent smuggling network grinned as he was paraded in handcuffs before reporters on Tuesday — the third suspected drug lord to fall in Mexico in the past 10 months in a coup for President Felipe Calderon's war on cartels.

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, who got his improbable nickname from his fair complexion, is wanted in the United States for allegedly smuggling tons of cocaine. In Mexico, he is blamed for a brutal turf war that has included bodies hung from bridges, decapitations and shootouts as he and a rival fought for control of the divided Beltran Leyva cartel.
Ah, Texas. Mexicans everywhere can thank Texas for unleashing upon them the source of one of the worst criminal killing sprees of recent memory. I wonder what they must think of the nice boy from Laredo who was a football star while growing up in the U.S A.?
Valdez has a unique biography for a reputed Mexican drug lord. He was born in Laredo, Texas, and worked his way up through the ranks of the Sinaloan cartel before becoming the chief enforcer in the Beltran Leyva cartel, prosecutors say.

Valdez was "one of the rare U.S.-born-and-bred members" of the drug cartels who "had a foot in both worlds," Beaubien said.

"He was a football star [at high school] in Laredo," the reporter said, adding that it ended up "being one of his strengths for the cartels [because] he knew both sides of the border, he was fluent both in Spanish and English at a time when the cartels were expanding even more into the United States."
Nobody beats the U.S.A. when it comes to serial killers, do you hear us? We're Number ONE!! (Insert Gadsden flag wave here.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nutso Facto Secui Duo

Seems like only yesterday I was moaning about the President's judgment in allowing Paul Ryan a seat at the table of the Deficit Commission. Let's not speculate why he would have set up a situation where two of the apeshit-craziest assholes on the Republican side got to plant their even crazier subalterns into the mix as human IEDs. (Let's not even open the door to the question of why the fuck he felt he had to create the stupid thing in the first place.) Let's just stop for a moment and consider this: he hand-picked 6 people himself. He could have had almost anyone he wanted. He could have had Jamie Galbraith, or Paul Krugman, or maybe even an ordinary working-class schmoe to represent the great unwashed. But no, he had to pretend as though he hadn't been foiled at every turn by Republican meanness and know-nothingism for over 15 months already, as though the policies of these people going back over 30 years had not put us into, not one but at least 4 huge recessions during that time and nearly destroyed our ability to govern ourselves sanely. No, he had to hold up that fucking golden idol of bipartisanship that he worships so goddamned much and allow it to lead us right into this: the pending murder of the most successful and beloved social safety net in our history by a hateful old man who is sitting pretty until he dies thanks to the government largesse he loathes so much; a man Obama himself chose to do the deed. And now he gets this for his trouble:
If you have some better suggestions about how to stabilize Social Security instead of just babbling into the vapors, let me know. And yes, I’ve made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know ‘em too. It’s the same with any system in America. We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits! Call when you get honest work!
This is really the kind of crap I could read on any blog, or blog comments thread. But I guess we don't expect much better from our public figures, who follow the examples set by the lowest common denominators instead of vice versa, leadership having had its day and passed away with all the rest of the outdated ideals we tossed on the trash heap. Social Security, thanks to Obama and his bipartisan fetish, will join them soon enough.

UPDATE: Over at Altercation, Reed Richardson puts the options into a tidy bombshell and lobs it at the snooze media:
Unfortunately, the press coverage over the next few months will likely serve up more of the same thin gruel, when it should facilitating a larger debate about our nation’s priorities. But for a news media that admittedly suffers from an inability to process and publish complex stories, there’s actually a fairly clear way to present this contrast: the Social Security shortfall over the next 75 years roughly equals the revenue to be gained from repealing the Bush tax cuts for the top two percent of Americans.
Even baggers can get it when it's put like that, but will the New York Times?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Barbarians Inside the Gate

Here's your post-racial America:
Voters in most school districts in New York State passed proposed budgets this year, but in some of the places where the budgets failed or where they were narrowly approved, a revealing correlation emerged.

Budgets tended to fare worse in districts with a large number of white voters and a large number of nonwhite students. And in the four districts in the state where the majority of registered voters are white and nonwhite students make up the majority of the school population, the budgets were defeated.
Post-racial in America really means Hyper-racial, a nation that has gladly self-segregated in every way that really matters. So when do we get the Secret Handshake?

And for those obsessing over whether Obama is a Muslim, here's a reminder from the Founding Fathers, who must be spinning in their graves--Article Six of the United States Constitution:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
I just sincerely wish to hell he would get on his hind legs and read the damned thing to them some time.

And finally, since cruelty is really what we're talking about whenever people get together to mob, harass, target, and victimize others, we have this:

She is foaming at the mouth and popping her jaws, behavior that means she is terrified. Her captors have cut or removed her claws and many of her teeth, leaving her defenseless.

Three hounds run at the bear from one end of the arena, barking furiously. Some of them bite her face and legs. Others jump on her. She backs up on her hind legs, trying vainly to shield her face. The assault continues for four hours, as nearly 300 dogs attack her in quick succession.

This spectacle is a bear baiting competition, called a "bear bay" by participants, and is practiced only in South Carolina. It is similar to the archaic blood sport of bear baiting...

The supposed objective of South Carolina bear baiting contests is for the dogs to corner the bear, make eye contact, and keep her "at bay." These events are billed as training events for hunting dogs, but for some, bear baiting is a spectator event for those who enjoy watching dogs attack a bear.

There are currently 26 captive black bears in South Carolina, many likely used for bear baiting. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources issued permits for their possession, but has turned a blind eye to the cruelty they endure. The South Carolina DNR does not inspect bear baiting competitions.

Not only do bears endure abuse in these public events, but many are subjected to the same treatment in frequent backyard events.
We may not be able to do anything about the hate and ignorance running rampant right now, but we sure as hell can complain about it. Let South Carolina know what the civilized among us think about their idea of fun. Call the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources at 803-734-3886 or email DNR Director John Frampton at FramptonJ@dnr.sc.gov.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Smell of the Kill

On the subject of the Park51 center: I was listening last week to a lot of the screeching and piling-on that passes for discussion in this country these days, and I want to say that the very first time I learned about the center was early in the year when the story was that it was going to be a mosque built on the site of the WTC. Before I began to find out more about it, I admit that my first reaction was "Hmmm. This is of doubtful wisdom." I envisioned just such a mad swarm of ignorami as has developed, and believed it probably should have been thought over with more circumspection. I also figured they knew what to expect, and would handle it to the satisfaction of all in due time.

But I certainly didn't jump to the conclusion that because all Muslims are Christian-hating terrorists, we were all going to die at the hands of suicide bombers or of shame at the desecration of this hallowed ground by the new Al-Qaeda headquarters moo mooo mooooo. Because, you know, ignorance is not a genetic defect, and it can be overcome by logic and the willingness to learn something new.

But ignorance is a given in the current atmosphere, and it's a daily struggle to wend one's way through it to some small pockets of truth. The intervening months helped me understand what exactly is being planned, and where it will stand, and what a claim the builders of the center already had to the area. And they inspired the chronic hatefiends of the country to really get their motors running. So thanks to these yahoos and their histrionics, I have jumped off the fence and into Constitutionland--a country that I grant you has been lately inhabited mostly by people with teabags hanging from their noggins, howling their misinterpretations to the Republican Moon for the Misbegotten. Maybe it's time we took them school.

Oh, who am I kidding? There's really no learnin' for these people. All they needed to know they found out from Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck's dryboard, and it just feels so damned good to think like a victim while you're victimizing others (Ask Israel!) And while I greatly respect Howard Dean, and wince at some of the hyperbole otherwise decent liberals are using to erase his place at the discussion table, I think he is wrong, and Glenn Greenwald expresses best what I'm thinking now:
If Park51 ends up moving or if opponents otherwise succeed in defeating it, it will seriously bolster and validate the ugly premises at the heart of this campaign: that Muslims generally are responsible for 9/11, Terrorism justifies and even compels our restricting the equals rights and access of Americans Muslims, and more broadly, the animosity and suspicions towards Muslims generally are justified, or at least deserving of respect. As Aziz Poonawalla put it: "if the project does fail, then I think that the message that will be sent is that bigotry and fear of Muslims is not just permitted, it is effective."
Give them an inch and they'll think they're rulers. At this point, the mob has taken all possibility of giving ground away from the Park51 builders, because "compromising" now is like giving off the smell of blood or cry of pain to a predator--it will give the signal that the kill is near, and every Muslim fighting for the right to worship in this country will be fair game.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Handling That Pot of Crabs

In post-Bush Coolie America, where the Race to the Bottom has become the means by which the rich maintain their hegemony, one of the most common whinges we hear from the self-cannibalizing middle-class is:
"Why do (teachers, auto workers, federal employees or other current scapegoat group here) get a (pension, health insurance, raises, or other current bete noire here)?

I don't get a (pension, health insurance, raises, blah blah blah)."
Aren't you sick to death of a country full of people who think ruining others' lives will make their own better? Now, I know the ideal way of handling this is to think of it as a chance to educate the delusional worker and we are all brothers and sisters under the Boss and all that. But these people are trying to threaten our hard-won, hard-worked-for benefits. They don't give a flying fuck about us. They'd be happy as pigs in shit to see us down in the mucks of their own misery, while the real villains keep raking in profits at their expense, and they are ready to vote in any madman or woman who will do it for them. There isn't time to hold their little hannies and pat their little behinds. So don't get mad, union thugs! Get metaphoric. Try this comeback:
"Do you live in a home? Why do you get to have a home? There are thousands of people who don't have a home."
Or how about:
"Did you get here in a car? Why do you get to have a car? There are millions of people who can't afford a car."
Response is likely to take a tiresome, predictably pecuniary flavor, something like:
Because I work for a living."
So you come back with:
"Well, so do I". Maybe you should join a union."
You really can't talk sense to a crab that's desperately trying to climb out of a boiling pot over the backs of its fellow victims. But you can try to keep them from reaching out and pulling you in with them.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Show That Never Ends

From Sky Truth:


OK, let's take a look at the actual report. According to the "Oil Budget Chart" above (Figure 1 in their report), NOAA estimates only 25% of the oil has been diverted, collected or otherwise definitively destroyed. The remaining 75% is still on or below the water's surface or buried in marsh and beach sediments (26%); or it evaporated or dissolved (25%), was naturally dispersed (16%), or was chemically dispersed (8%).

Evaporation probably has moved a lot of the hydrocarbon out of the water and into the air. But "dissolved" and "dispersed" are not the same thing as "gone." (Try drinking a nice tall glass of tea with a few spoonfuls of salt dissolved in it, and you'll get what I mean.) NOAA is assuming rapid biodegradation of the dispersed and dissolved oil, which may be reasonable in relative terms -- i.e., biodegradation in the hot Gulf is quicker than biodegradation in the frigid Arctic. But with no data provided on the actual rates of biodegradation, we don't have any way of knowing just how much of the oil has naturally biodegraded at this point. We also don't know what the intermediate breakdown products are, and what they do in the environment, and how long they last. Pesky but very important questions that can't be answered quickly, or without a dedicated research effort that hopefully (??) is underway.

And while we're chewing on this, there's this, too:
The numbers of birds, fish, turtles, and mammals killed by the use of Corexit will never be known as the evidence strongly suggests that BP worked with the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, the FAA, private security contractors, and local law enforcement, all of which cooperated to conceal the operations disposing of the animals from the media and the public.

The majority of the disposal operations were carried out under cover of darkness. The areas along the beaches and coastal Islands where the dead animals were collected were closed off by the U.S. Coast Guard. On shore, private contractors and local law enforcement officials kept off limits the areas where the remains of the dead animals were dumped, mainly at the Magnolia Springs landfill by Waste Management where armed guards controlled access. The nearby weigh station where the Waste Management trucks passed through with their cargoes was also restricted by at least one sheriff's deputies in a patrol car, 24/7.

Robyn Hill, who was Beach Ambassador for the City of Gulf Shores until she became so ill she collapsed on the job one morning, was at a residential condominium property adjacent to the Gulf Shores beach when she smelled an overwhelming stench. She went to see where the odor was coming from and witnessed two contract workers dumping plastic bags full of dead birds and fish in a residential Waste Management dumpster, which was then protected by a security guard. Within five minutes, a Waste Management collection truck emptied the contents and the guard departed.
Welcome back, my friends. But then, you never really left, did you?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This Is Why

Thanks, Yves. As a state worker myself, I have been trying to fight off the right-wing demonization of my family, co-workers and me as lazy, money-sucking leeches on the hard-working limbs of the body politic for some years now. The truth is that we work hard, spend our money in our neighborhoods and help keep local businesses alive, and pay taxes (yes, taxes!) that allow our non-government-worker neighbors to drive cars with subsidized gas on government maintained roads and bridges, educate their children, maintain fire and safety service, and haul their garbage away, to name just a few benefits we help make possible. I have watched us being painted as "union thugs"--we who are grandmothers and church deacons and suburban gardeners--have watched our hard-won pensions portrayed as undeserved pork, have gotten sick to my stomach as overpaid Neanderthals on TV point fingers at us, accusing us of being the soul of corruption, taking food out of the mouths of the babies of "real America", and basically being everything that is wrong with the country.

It's not our fault that for the last 35 years Americans have allowed their love affair with the rich to dictate the domestic policies that destroyed unions and transferred their wealth to those at the top. If they finally woke up one day and realized that everything turned to shit some time ago, and they haven't had a real raise for most of their working lives, they need to look in the mirror and ask themselves where they were when Reagan destroyed the air traffic controllers' union, when tax policy was changed to favor the FIRE sector over manufacturing, when the 401 (k) clause and the vagueries of the stock market were transformed into the only retirement option available for most, when the anti-trust laws were put into mothballs, when limited partnerships for corporations were given the green light, when TARP was engineered by Wall Street for Wall Street. While they were off railing against the taxes that paid for their decent standard of living, their feudal lords were cutting their economic legs out from under them. And now they wake up and want to blame me.

UPDATE: In response to a fellow commenter--
“…it’s too facile to say local taxpayers should just shut up and pay the defined benefit pensions and no-cost health benefits of their municipal employees — benefits that the private sector surrendered years ago.”
Nowhere did I say the taxpayers (of whom I’m one) should just shut up. I did say that all this happened right under their noses with their complicity (either passive or active). Every time some ignorant yahoo went barnstorming across town or across the nation with a prescription of cutting taxes and privatizing the world, many of them jumped right on the bandwagon, consequences be damned. Not only did people feel un-inclined to pay for the services they still expected to get, but many times they raided those pension funds for more pressing matters, deliberately leaving them underfunded with some pie-in-the-sky self-delusion that they’d pay it back later. Well, guess what? Maybe the “private sector”–i.e., the CEOs with merger-mania on the brain and their own damned agendas–decided to dump the defined benefit pension, but I still haven’t met a single worker who wanted to do it. I sure didn’t sign on to it. If I had my way everyone in the country would have a decent pension to last them through their infirmity. And if you want to hold someone responsible and recoup some of the money pensions are going to need after decades of managerial abuse, get it from the managers. The working people who paid into it never ran a scam on the public, so why should we have to pay for the misconduct of those who did?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Freedom For Me, But Not Thee

People, I know you're laboring under a handicap, that being the inability to put a noun and a verb next to each other and come up with anything other than some hallucinogenic conspiracy theory, but seriously...even you and your demented sideshow of witless, staggering crackpots ought to be able to detect the gigantic hypocrisy in this:
At one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise — the same reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the gloves are off.

In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself. They quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law.

These local skirmishes make clear that there is now widespread debate about whether the best way to uphold America’s democratic values is to allow Muslims the same religious freedom enjoyed by other Americans, or to pull away the welcome mat from a faith seen as a singular threat.
Let me make it easy for you:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
...or abridging the freedom of speech...
...or the right of the people peaceably to assemble...
Remember that? No, I guess not, judging by this effluvia:
Recently, a small group of activists became alarmed about the mosque. Diana Serafin, a grandmother who lost her job in tech support this year, said she reached out to others she knew from attending Tea Party events and anti-immigration rallies. She said they read books by critics of Islam, including former Muslims like Walid Shoebat, Wafa Sultan and Manoucher Bakh. She also attended a meeting of the local chapter of ACT! for America, a Florida-based group that says its purpose is to defend Western civilization against Islam.

“As a mother and a grandmother, I worry,” Ms. Serafin said. “I learned that in 20 years with the rate of the birth population, we will be overtaken by Islam, and their goal is to get people in Congress and the Supreme Court to see that Shariah is implemented. My children and grandchildren will have to live under that.”

“I do believe everybody has a right to freedom of religion,” she said. “But Islam is not about a religion. It’s a political government, and it’s 100 percent against our Constitution.”
So that's the way you do it? Just redefine what makes a religion and wipe your ass with the First Amendment? Well, why not? There's been a lot of it the last 10 years; we've had plenty of high-level demonstrations from our fearless leaders. In fact, now that I think on it, I don't find Madame Serafin's approach to religion all that convincing. She needs to move her bigoted ass on down the road and take that Christian bullshit with her. I've got a Wiccan Moon Goddess I want to put in the town park, and anyone who gets in my way better be ready for a Constitutional argument with the end of my fist. Fuck that nativity scene in front of the bank, fuck that Christmas pageant at the school, fuck that tax-exempt status for the new megachurch. You're trying to take over and implement Old Testament law, and my children and grandchildren will have to worry about being stoned for having premarital sex or being gay. Your "religion" is 100% against the Constitution, and you need to move your asses to the Marianas Islands.

How was that? Did I do it right?

What a bunch of brain-dead yahoos.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Nutso Facto

From my "Fuck This Shit" outreach campaign mailing:

I don't know if you remember Paul Ryan, the genius who came up with a Republican budget "agenda" that consisted of getting rid of the New Deal and transferring the rest of the national wealth to the rich. Recall here and here. His ideas were immediately debunked by sane people and economists capable of reading the CBO projections. Well, thanks to Digby I find out (how did I miss this?) that Obama put his dumb ass on the deficit commission (or the Catfood Commission as she's taken to calling it).

Seriously, what is wrong with this man? Did he think letting the Republicans choose their own for the commission would give it bi-partisan cred, even if the Republican was bat-shit crazy?

This was Obama's own idea, this commission, and first thing he does is cut the legs off it by sticking that senile old ignoramus Alan Simpson into it, then gives the Turnip Truck Party carte blanche to put any abomination they want on it. Now I have to conclude that either:

a) He simply is too naive to continue serving in the highest office of the land, or

b) His occult plan was to eliminate the social safety net and embrace privatization and oligarchy all along.

Neither gives me much comfort. I'm really having a hard time feeling like this is the man I voted for. I can't ever remember feeling so betrayed by a candidate, and God knows there have been plenty of broken promises over the decades.

I think the worst part is how the Democrats have gone MIA. What a joke. I want a revolution, and not one the Tea Party will like.

One Last Singalong

Yesterday an icon of my childhood died: Mitch Miller.

About a year ago I introduced my daughter (who'd never heard of him) to Mitch, and there were not many videos that I could show her. Now, since his death, I see a lot of closet Mitch-o-philes have come out, dragging their videos behind them.

The Times has all the requisite elegiaic info. For me, he brought back memories of my father whistling and singing along with the radio as he painted my room, and of nights in front of the TV when Dad and I would sing together, watching for the lyrics as they appeared across the bottom of the screen. In my mind he is inextricably linked to my dad, who loved him, and the happiest I ever recall him being was when he was enjoying Mitch.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Shooting Our Own Feet Off To Keep Gun-Makers & Doctors Employed

The one thing that distinguished Obama's Senate voting record from Hilary Clinton's was his vote against cluster bombs, which dissolve into hundreds of small, colorful bits that are picked up by curious children and then explode, killing or maiming them. Given that, I find this completely inexplicable:
The United States won't join its NATO allies and many other countries in formally banning landmines, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said during his midday briefing Tuesday.

"This administration undertook a policy review and we decided our landmine policy remains in effect," Kelly said in response to a question. "We made our policy review and we determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we sign this convention."
But fear not! We have us a plan:
Kelly said the United States continues to work with governments as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to help remove landmines.

"The U.S. is proud to be the world's single largest supporter of humanitarian mine action," Kelly said. "Since 1993 the U.S. has provided more than $1.5 billion worldwide dedicated to building new partnerships with more than 50 post-conflict countries and supporting efforts by dozens of NGOs to promote stability and set the stage for recovery and development through mine clearance and conventional-weapons destruction programs."
Well, when you're the largest supporter of war machinery and international murder in the world, I guess it behooves you to toss out some blood money in your wake. Nonetheless, what economic sense does it make to continue to create the conditions that require one and a half billion in clean up costs? This fails on so many levels from humanitarian to economic, that I fear for my President's mind. Really.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Turnip Truck Party

Jesus. You really can tell these people anything and they will swallow it whole. It's not the Tea Party, it's the goddamn Turnip Truck Party! Maybe we should tell them God wants them to treat others as they would want to be treated? Nah. It doesn't count if it's not something they already want to be believe.