News Roundup for 5/28/10

Richard Nixon
Barack Obama?

-Headline of the day-
"Bush ethics chief to GOP: 'Move on' from Sestak story."

Barack HUSSEIN Obama must be impeached! Do it! Do it now! Gogogogogogo!

See, Joe Sestak was running against Arlen Specter and Arlen Specter had turned himself into a Democrat. As far as the White House was concerned, Democrat vs. incumbent Democrat = bad. Turns out it wasn't, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, the White House tried to get him to do something else, by offering him a position on an advisory board through Bill Clinton. This is a terrible crime -- like beating wounded lambs with blind puppies or something -- and Barack HUSSEIN Obama must be impeached!

So super-patriot Rep. Darrell Issa wrote a thing in Politico, which is where the Constitution says you have to do that sort of thing, accusing Obama of the worst crime ever. It needs to be investigated by the FBI and a Special Prosecutor and probably the Ghost Hunters. The problem? It's not a crime. And Ronald Reagan did pretty much the same thing. And Darrell Issa's a putz.

But we've got an election coming up and you know what Republicans like more than impeachment during an election? Kind of wrote myself into a corner there... I'm stuck. There's nothing Republicans like more than impeachment during an election. It gives them a bigger woody than an unjustified invasion.

Some Republicans, anyway. Other, more pesky, GOPers insist on living in the real world. One is the former chief White House ethics officer under Bush (Yeah, I was surprised too! Apparently, there was such a guy). So Greg Sargent gave this ethics guy, Richard Painter, a jingle to see what's what.

"Where is the quid pro quo?" Painter asked. "Nobody who has a halfway decent chance of winning a Senate race is going to give it up to sit on an advisory board. That would be a laughable tradeoff... Based on the information disclosed from the White House, it's even more apparent that this is a non-issue. No scandal. Time to move on."

Yeah, I'm guessing "move on" isn't part of Issa's plan here. He's up for reelection and the best way to reveal that a worthless stunt is a worthless stunt is to drop the whole thing in the face of reality. So full-speed ahead!

Barack HUSSEIN Obama must be impeached! (Plum Line)

-Ron Burgundy lives!-
Check this out, then I'll give you the funny (it'll open in a new window):

FOX News clip

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," you're saying, "Typical morning news cotton candy. So what?"

That guy who says he's Steve Doocy -- twice? Yeah, that's not Steve Doocy. That's Clayton Morris, who apparently will read any damned thing on his teleprompter without thinking about it. Morris says it was just a joke, but I say, "Likely story." (Mediaite)

-Bonus HotD-
"Right-Wing Radio Host On NY Mosque: 'I Hope Somebody Blows It Up.'"

That headline's not quite right. Let me take a whack at fixing it.

"Terrorist Issues Fatwa Against American House of Worship."

Better. (Think Progress, with audio)

The Grand Old Panderers

Last night, Republican warnings of voting as a block turned out to be bluster. They'd promised a "vigorous defense" of the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but five Republicans wound up voting for repeal. Rising GOP star Paul Ryan actually sat out the vote, perhaps a signal that Republican house leadership had given up on the idea. And shame on the twenty-six Democrats who voted against it. Still, the repeal -- conditional though it is -- passed the house 229-168. Sanity prevailed.

That's not to say that insanity didn't give it one helluva good shot. Republicans still being Republicans, there was plenty of stupidity, hatred, and outright lies on the floor of the house.

You wonder what Gohmert thinks "overt" means. Of course, that's just Louie Gohmert being Louie Gohmert, who Steve Benen once called "one of Congress' most embarrassing buffoons." If it's stupid and crazy and Sarah Palin's not around, Gohmert probably said it.

But what about the plain lie Mike Pence, who serves as Chairman of the House Republican Conference, told about what "Americans want?" He has to know that's not true. I know that Republicans operate in a completely fact-free zone when they need to, but you don't walk into a debate like that without at least taking a glance at some data. He absolutely has to know he's lying. Americans want DADT gone. If Pence doubts that, he can literally choose any poll he likes. They all have the same findings: the public, by an extremely wide margin, doesn't like the policy very much. Pence, in pretending to rise to the defense of the American people, actually rises to oppose us.

I've come to think of that video as a sort of walk of shame. It won't be long before those arguments will be almost universally seen as stupid and embarrassing. And that's because they'll be proven wrong. There's no credible data anywhere backing these arguments up, they're pure supposition -- and that supposition is based in bias. Think about the "slippery slope" arguments against gay marriage; five states and DC now recognize same sex marriage, but there's still no one demanding to marry their dog. Turns out all the Chicken Little freaking out was as baseless and idiotic and hyperbolic as it seemed.

Are US military personnel the finest fighting force in the world or are they emotionally fragile homophobes who'll turn into a quivering, non-functioning mass in the mere presence of someone they know is gay? That depends on what Republicans need them to be at the moment. And since when do we measure good policy by how bigots would react to it? We know for a fact that there are white supremacists in the military. Should we ban anyone who isn't white, just to keep those morons happy? I think the saner thing would be to reverse Don't Ask, Don't Tell and apply it to homophobes. If you've got a problem serving with gays, you get to shut up about it or you're out. It's not gays who would harm "unit cohesion," it's bigots.

But these are Republicans we're talking about here. Their party is home to bigots and bigots never recognize that they're the problem. So the GOP welcomes them with open arms and encourages them to be bigoted. If it's a wedge-issue, they'll dive right in. Want to hate Muslims or Atheists or gays or the poor or Hispanics? These are your guys.

Welcome home.


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News Roundup for 5/27/10

Joe Wilson's infamous 'you lie' photo
Rep. Ron Swanson

-Headline of the day-
"Spending, Ron Swanson-style."

You might remember Rep. Slow Joe Wilson as the fella who yelled "YOU LIE!" at President Obama while he wasn't lying. In an op-ed at Politico, Joe argues that the new GOP comedy-generating machine -- AmericaSpeakingOut.com -- is an awesome idea, that we need a balanced-budget amendment, and that Washington needs more people like Ron Swanson.

Who the fuck is Ron Swanson? He's a character from NBC's Parks and Recreation, created as a parody of "I hate government" types who choose careers in government. You know, people like Slow Joe Wilson. Here's Ron in action:

Yeah, about that whole "more Ron Swansons" thing... I think there are already enough lunatics in Washington, Joe.

You're not helping. (Politico)

-GOP comedy-generation update-
The aforementioned AmericaSpeakingOut.com website just keeps getting better and better. Apparently, the servers are up to the task now and, as a result, Republicans are getting flooded with really good ideas. Which wasn't the point at all. The idea was for people to log on and say, "Yay for Republicans' really bad ideas!"

Top vote-getters are the site include a blanket ban on handguns, repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and cutting the military budget by 50% so we can "invest in humanity, here and abroad." Of course, the report reminds us that "the GOP will still stick to its 'principles' -- meaning they won't incorporate any idea they don't already agree with." So none of this stuff is going to find its way onto the Republican agenda.

I guess that's why they called it AmericaSpeakingOut.com, not RepublicansListening.com. (Think Progress)

-Bonus GOP comedy-generation fun-
Try pointing your browser to AmericaSpokeOut.com. It's totally worth the click.

In your face, GOP! (Daily Kos)

-Bonus HotD-
"Family Research Council: End Of DADT Means More Gay Rape In The Military."

Actually, it's the first paragraph that's funny here, but I've gotten in the habit of ending with a second "headline of the day" and what are ya gonna do? It's tradition now. Anyway, here's the crazy:

Here's how the Family Research Council envisions things going if Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed: first, more straight soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will be fellated in their sleep against their will. Then, commanders afraid of being labeled homophobes will refuse to do anything about it. Eventually, the straight service members will quit out of fear.

And then, of course, only gays will be in the military and they'll turn on us and take over America and force kids in schools to learn about evolution or some crazy liberal crap like that!

Is that what you want? Well, is it? (Talking Points Memo)

BP, Fried Brains, and the Three Little Pigs

We've got half a dam out there in the Gulf of Mexico right now. And, as anyone with any familiarity with logic will be able to tell you, a half a dam is not actually a dam. While BP's "top kill" effort is showing some signs of success, it's way too soon to break out the champagne.

[Associated Press:]

The Coast Guard says BP is having some success slowing the Gulf of Mexico oil leak by injecting mud but the fix isn't done yet.

Coast Guard Lt. Commander Tony Russell said reports today that Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing the operation, had called the procedure a success were incorrect. He said Allen said that the flow of mud was stopping some of the oil and gas but had a ways to go before it proved successful.

BP spokesman Tom Mueller said the effort that started Wednesday to plug the blown-out with mud, called a top kill, was continuing.

Overlooked by most of the media is an internal BP memo comparing workers to the three little pigs and setting the value of their lives at $1,000. In determining the cost/benefit of protecting workers from explosions, BP decided that blast-resistant housing was way too expensive to protect piggies who were only worth a grand a pop. So they went with regular old trailers. Sure, it's evil. But golly, it's cute.

BP 'three piggies' graphic
Click for fullsized image

Blast-resistant housing is just ten bucks per worker over the cost-to-benefit equation. Sorry piggies. For their part, the oil behemoth says they've "fundamentally changed the culture of BP" since the last disaster they've been involved with -- a Texas oil refinery explosion five years ago. Apparently, not enough to save 11 workers on Deepwater Horizon.

And not enough to have avoided this:

Get what that marine toxicologist said? The chemical dispersants literally fry the brain. And BP's hiring people they've put out of work, people who feel they have no choice, to go out -- without protection -- and work with these chemicals. Makes you wonder what those piggies are worth to BP. Less than the cost of a respirator, maybe. The Coast Guard finally had to step in and make BP stop sending these people out.

The next time some grinning idiot tells you that corporations are your friends, remember all this. Among international corporations -- and even most large nationals -- BP is not an exception. What's happening here amounts to a random corporation getting the sort of scrutiny they should've gotten all along and that scrutiny is telling us who they really are. Let me emphasize the word "random" there -- nearly any corporation, exposed to this level of attention, would fare as badly. BP's just in the spotlight right now.

And allow me to repeat what I think is very good advice in dealing with regulatory oversight and big corporations; assume they're trying to get away with something, because they are. Always. You may believe that they're a necessary evil, but don't ever forget that they're an evil. We should trust BP, Transocean, Halliburton, or Consolidated Weiner-on-a-Stick no more than they can absolutely prove they can be trusted.

To do anything else is to enter into a one-sided suicide pact, where you agree to take the bullet and the corporations agree to sell it to you.


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News Roundup for 5/26/10

Melted PCs
GOP's servers

-Headline of the day-
"Republicans' new Web site not exactly what they hoped it would be."

Yesterday, we had a little chat about how dumb the GOP's new AmericaSpeakingOut.com website was. Just to refresh, the GOP wants you to come up with ideas -- preferably ones the GOP has already come up with -- and they'll use those ideas to save the world... If they like them, mind you. No raising taxes or having abortions or listening to the president. Those ideas are most definitely not politically correct. Oh, and you get to pay for the whole thing with your tax dollars. So there's that.

"Republicans want to take over the House in the fall, but there's a problem," writes WaPo columnist Dana Milbank, "They don't have an agenda." Ok, so that's the short version.

Anyhoo, Republicans got the whole thing up, using what Rep. Kevin McCarthy says is "a Microsoft program that helped NASA map the moon." They should've used an actual webserver app, because this moon map thing sucks. Last night, people were getting errors written in Robotese. But they fixed that and now you get your error messages in plain old Republicant.

I guess some people managed to get the thing to actually work though. The result is a mix of typical Republican wingnuttery and typical internetic trollery. Consider these helpful suggestions to save America:

-End Child Labor Laws. We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories.

-How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way. That fake so called birth certificate is useless.

-A 'teacher' told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish! And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story.

-Legalize Marijuana, cause, like, alcohol is legal. Man. Also.

-Don't let the illegals run out of Arizona and hide. . . . I think that we should do something to identify them in case they try to come back over. Like maybe tattoo a big scarlet 'I' on their chests -- for 'illegal'!!!

Not surprisingly, Hitler makes an appearance -- as an adjective.

I finally got it to work, then suggested that teachers who teach anything other than abstinence-only should be put to death. It was fairly popular. When I checked back, it had like 18 or 20 votes (I can't find it now, because they seem to have cleared everything and started over).

But I can't compete with one Milbank found.

"Republicans might want to take a hard look at the suggestion that 'we need to reframe the discussion' about the BP oil spill to counteract the 'environmental whackos' worried about wildlife," he reports. "Republicans, this person proposed, should argue that 'BP is creating a new race of faster dolphins. These fish are unable to compete against the fish of other countries, but now their increased lubrication will allow them to fly through the water. Faster fish = good.'"

America, we are saved. (Washington Post)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, here's a special message from the good folks at BP! Yay!

Click for animation

Remember kids, all that oil pumping out into the gulf? That's your fault. Now you just march up to your room and think about what you've done. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"FoxNews.com edits out applause during Obama's West Point speech."

A spokesperson for FOX says that the video was posted before they were done editing it -- they hadn't dubbed in all the booing yet. (Think Progress)

DADT Disrespects All Soldiers -- As Does the GOP

One of the things that always strikes me when talking about Republicans is their tremendous disrespect for Americans' intelligence. The lies are transparent -- at times, idiotic. The spin never quite fits the situation very well. The solutions, such as they are, are always either a call to do something that's already failed or merely a gimmick to get reelected. But what really gets me is when their arguments hinge on that belief in your stupidity; i.e., the Democrats' idea will never work because you're too dumb to understand it/too lazy to do it/too committed to being a jerk. Not only does the GOP believe you're stupid, they really don't think you're a very good person. That is, assuming their arguments are presented honestly.

We see this in the now fast-moving repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Removing DADT won't work, the argument goes, because people in the military are terrible bigots and pigheaded jerks.

[Right Wing Watch:]

[Sen. James Inhofe and American Family Association's Bryan Fischer] discussed Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court, with Fischer praising Inhofe's immediate opposition on the grounds that Kagan is hostile to our military while Inhofe explained that it was vital to try and keep Kagan off the court because she would most likely vote to strike down Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The military is organized into men and women and doesn't need this "third group to deal with," Inhofe said, explaining that, as a military man, he knows that soldiers fight not for nation or flag, but for the guy in the next foxhole... but if the guy in the next foxhole is gay, well, that would dramatically change everything:

Got that? Repealing DADT won't work, because people in the military are all bigoted A-holes who'd rather let a gay die than fight for their country. Granted, there's probably a bit of projection going on here. After all, Sen. Inhofe is a bigoted A-hole, so he's seeing the world through his own distorted lens. But even so, what a poor, poor opinion Inhofe has of our armed forces. I'm often struck by the lack of shame among Republicans and this doesn't do much to dispel that impression.

How rampant is this belief that military personnel are all crazy homophobes, incapable of even tolerance, let alone acceptance? Pretty rampant. In fact, in one chamber of Congress, universal among Republicans. I came across this yesterday in The Hill:

House Republicans are preparing to mount a vigorous defense of the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy President Bill Clinton implemented in 1993.

GOP lawmakers in the lower chamber are poised to vote en masse against the defense authorization bill if it includes an amendment to repeal the law barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military.

Over the objections of some Republicans, Clinton issued his "Don't ask, don't tell" directive nearly 17 years ago. Since then, many Republicans have warmed to it -- especially now that liberals want to eradicate it.

Never mind the hypocrisy of defending something that they once argued was the worst thing ever. I can find an example of GOP hypocrisy any day of the week. It's hardly worth commenting on anymore. The issue here is that, by Republican argument, American soldiers are uniquely narrowminded and stupid -- and that we should cater to that narrowmindedness and stupidity.

The pentagon will release a study later this year on the effects of a repeal of DADT and the actual repeal won't go into effect until that report is filed. The findings of the report shouldn't be hard to guess. Other countries have allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly in their militaries, without negative consequences.

But Republicans argue that America is unique. We're different. And, apparently, they believe that difference lies in our intolerance and our idiocy. No other military has had any problems with gays in the military, but the United States will, because we're all a bunch of backwards dicks. In Republican arguments -- and in some Republican minds -- the American soldier is an idiotic homophobe with no chance of ever becoming more tolerant. We have the only soldier in the developed world so backwards and bigoted that the mere presence of a gay in their unit will render them incapable of fighting.

Republicans like to pretend they love the military more than anyone else, but the facts, their actions, and their arguments show that Republicans have a very low opinion of the American soldier. Keep that in mind the next time one of them wraps themselves up in the flag.


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News Roundup for 5/25/10

Rioter stands before bonfire
Obama revels in the destruction he has wrought

-Headline of the day-
"President Obama clashes with McCain in Republican luncheon."

According to reports, President Obama went fullblown apeshit at a GOP lunch, maybe throwing chairs and beating up a couple people. "The more he talked, the more he got upset," Sen. Pat Roberts told Politico. "He needs to take a valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans and just calm down, and don't take anything so seriously. If you disagree with someone, it doesn't mean you're attacking their motives -- and he takes it that way and tends then to lecture and then gets upset."

Yeah, we all know how upset President Obama gets. He's famous for his out-of-control temper. Apparently, Obama even got in kindly old Mr. McCain's face and threatened to walk all over his lawn. It was the worst thing ever.

Except, here's the thing; according to the report, it was an "tense closed-door meeting" -- meaning no one can verify any of this presidential roguery. You have to take the GOP's word for it. Let me repeat that; you have to take the GOP's word for it. You can't trust these guys any farther than you can throw a dead, oil-soaked pelican.

You know, I'm thinking back to the last time Obama and Republicans sat down to a televised luncheon. It didn't go so well for the GOP. Remember this?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Q & O
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Now, this time around, Republicans totally ate Obama's lunch and -- darn it -- there were no TV cameras! So we're just going to have to take the GOP's word for that.

Guess what? I'm not gonna. (Politico, The Daily Show)

-Big gummint to the rescue!-
Americans want to speak out, but Washington politicians won't listen. So a bunch of politicians in Washington are setting up a website -- America Speaking Out -- where you can go and do some of that. You come up with some idea, everyone gets to vote on it, and then zoom!, America is saved.

Of course, there's always a hitch. "This isn't American Idol," says Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Republicans already have a platform, so any crazy commie ideas are out -- no matter how many votes they get. "We are in the process of creating [our platform], so it's based upon our principles," McCarthy says. So you get to submit your great ideas for what the GOP ought to do -- after choosing that idea from within the confines GOP politically-correctitude. That's what ya call yer "citizen input."

Bonus fun; the party's trying to get you to foot the bill for this gimmicky pile of nuthin'. "Republicans are claiming that the project will be kept separate from their campaign committees, and can therefore be financed by taxpayers," reports Steve Benen.

I'd urge you to go over there and suggest, "pay for this fucking thing yourself," but you know that's not part of the Republican Party platform. No matter how many votes that suggestion gets (assuming you can even post it at all), they ain't gonna do it. (Think Progress, with video)

-Bonus HotD-
"Souder: I'm Happy That Abstinence Vid With Mistress Now Defines Me."

See, because everything he said in that video about abstinence was true and now a whole bunch of people have seen it and he's sure they're totally ignoring the fact that he was porking that nice lady interviewing him.

Anyway, that's what you like about abstinence-only advocates; their masterful grasp of reality. (Talking Points Memo, with video)

The Ultimate Failure of Wedge Issue Politics

Wedge splits logThe problem with wedge-issue politics is that even when the wedge manages to divide Americans, it doesn't always manage to divide the electorate. This would seem contradictory, but only if you don't think too deeply about it. See, when you create a wedge issue, what you're really trying to do is create a sort of anti-voter -- someone who'll vote against something and for you by default. It's worked with abortion, where the right has convinced people to vote against their own economic interests, because the "pro-business" (read "pro-corporate") candidates they put up are also abortion rights foes. But when the split takes on identity politics -- especially in a negative way -- this strategy may not work out in the wedgers favor.

Take the anti-gay stance of most of the right; there are still gays who vote Republican, but not enough to make the statement "the party has lost the gay vote" untrue. No mainstream Republican anywhere is ever going to be put over the top by a strong showing from the LGBT community.

But they've got the math on their side. Despite the right's rhetoric, gays aren't an ever growing segment of the population. Gay's aren't everywhere, waiting to take over America and destroy families. They're pretty much a fixed percentage. In this wedge issue, Republicans believe they can afford to lose that population, because the single-issue voters they're creating on the other side are so few that they don't really matter. As society changes -- and it will -- we'll hear less and less of Republicans scapegoating gays. But until then, they'll keep fearmongering. People vote against things, not for things. So you're always on the lookout for a group you can portray as the devil. Don't vote for me, vote against them.

But occasionally, some idiot governor and legislature in -- oh, let's say Arizona -- will cook up a wedge that they think works in their state. The stand these fools take may be popular, but nationally, the only single-issue voters it creates are those who'd vote against Republicans. Public Policy Polling explains how Arizona's illegal immigrant crackdown law is playing both nationally and in the state.

There's no doubt that the new Arizona immigration law is popular nationally, but that still doesn't mean the issue's going to work to the GOP's advantage this fall.

When we polled Colorado in early March [US Senate candidates] Michael Bennet and Jane Norton were tied. Last week we found Bennet with a 3 point lead. One of the biggest reasons for that shift? Bennet went from leading Norton by 12 points with Hispanic voters to a 21 point advantage. That large shift in a Democratic direction among Hispanics mirrors what we saw in our Arizona Senate polling last month- Rodney Glassman went from trailing John McCain by 17 points with them in September to now holding a 17 point lead.

See, while Arizona's law may be popular nationwide, that doesn't automatically mean that people will vote for any candidate who takes the state's position. In fact, it's not even working so hot in that state. On the other hand, Hispanics are very worried about the law, so they are willing to become single-issue voters. Like the right's anti-gay stance, the issue is probably creating more anti-Republican single-issue voters than pro-. But unlike gays, the Hispanic population is large and growing. In other words, in looking for a brand new devil for people to vote against, the GOP picked a fight with the wrong bunch.

"This has always been Democrats' belief about immigration politics," writes Ben Smith for Politico, "That among the voters for whom this is a single, motivating issue, whites may get more attention, but Hispanics are more numerous." This seems to have been the case.

But the better lesson here is that being right -- being moral, ethical, tolerant, and wise -- pays off in the long run. Take a look at the olympic-sized pool of hot water Kentucky candidate Rand Paul finds himself in right now. Turns out that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is extremely popular, to the point of being nearly universally supported. When it comes to issues of equality, the good guys always seem to win in the end. If you doubt that, wait for the huge public outcry about gays in the military. It could start any minute now -- but you probably shouldn't hold your breath.

What we see when we look at American history is a process of acceptance. A bunch of people say, "Hey, let's all hate those guys!" a lot of people try it out for a while, see it isn't helping any, and move on. It's not the best process or the way I'd go about it, but it is what it is. And every single time, the people who say, "You know, we probably shouldn't hate the Irish-blacks-gays-Jews-women-Catholics-Hispanics-Chinese-etc.," win out in the end. Every time. My advice would be to skip the stupid step and just get right to the acceptance, but this is the real world and it's got a lot of fearful people. And fearful people vote Republican. So long as that's the case, the GOP is going to be on the prowl for people to be afraid of and the process toward acceptance will take a detour through stupid.

Democrats should always be the ones getting in on the ground floor with tolerance. It's always the best bet in the end and sometimes -- like now, with the GOP trying to whip up anti-Hispanic panic -- the rewards are almost immediate.


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When I was a boy, I had what was an epiphany for me. I was waiting for my cousin to come over to visit, which was always fun for me, and it came to me that I was always in "now." What I was waiting for was in the future -- not yet real. I'd experience what I'd been waiting for, then it would pass, and all I would have left would be memory. Further, as much as I lived in the "now," the vast, vast majority of my life would exist only as memory. To a certain extent, we're all storage devices for our own experiences. Most of your life is fixed and unchangeable, the decisions made and the surprises spoiled. Your future is hypothetical -- all that's real is what's happening and what has happened. You're an observer of your own life, as much as -- if not more than -- you are a participant. For a kid, it was a pretty important revelation. Not that I put it that way to myself at the time. It was more of a full-blown realization. I suddenly knew my place in time. It's the first philosophical thought I remember ever having.

Jack's closed eyeI know I usually write about politics, but give me a day off here. The only thing rolling through my head at the moment is last night's finale of Lost. An anticipated event has passed and all I'm left with is the memory. It's stored away in the same place I store my other personal experiences. I was prepared for a much more mindbending conclusion than the one we were treated to -- something like the final lines of Yukio Mishima's Sea of Fertility series -- but, to be honest, I thought that would be the worst case scenario.

What I got instead was a lot of what I really would've hoped for. Like it or not, the story resolved itself neatly, although some questions remain. For those who've paid attention to the series, however, these are not the questions being asked by most. For an example of a real unanswered question, when Sawyer found Juliette in the wreck of the Swan station at the beginning of the final season, she told him the bomb "worked" before she died. Everyone assumed she was talking about the flash-sideways storyline, but this is obviously not the case. Did she mean that it brought them back to a point in time that they needed to occupy? How would she know that?

Also, in reading through some of the reviews of the show, I noticed that the consensus seems to be that there the series left little possibility of a movie. While a movie may or may not be in the cards, the island storyline leaves Hugo taking Jacob's role, Ben in Richard's, and Desmond stranded. Hugo wonders how they're going to get Desmond home and Ben tells him, "Maybe there's another way off the island." Hugo and Ben may have been on that island for hundreds or even thousands of years. Seems like plenty of time to fit in some sort of adventure, even without the man in black. Also, Hugo, Ben, and Desmond are all very popular characters. Leaving them with a thread that could be followed probably isn't coincidental.

But the questions that I'm seeing asked most in comment threads and twitter are, for the most part, easily answered.

Q: I don't own a television and/or I've never seen the series. I don't understand how you can waste your time with some stupid TV show.

A: You can translate this as "my ignorance equates to knowledge." It's illogical. You're dumb. Go away now.

Q: We've got global warming/an oil gusher in the Gulf/an economy in shambles. How can you care about TV? Don't you have priorities?

A: "We've got a Civil War/the bubonic plague/a huge World War. How can you care about Mark Twain/John Milton/Ernest Hemingway? Don't you have priorities?" You're dumb. Go away now.

Q: I hate Kate. Why didn't she die?

A: Because you suck.

Q: What was the deal with the numbers?

A: OK, now you're asking a real question. The meaning of the numbers became clearer and clearer as the series went on. They were the people -- the "candidates." When MIB showed Sawyer Jacob's cave, we see names written on the walls -- with accompanying numbers. Then, when Jack and Hugo are in the lighthouse, the coordinates equate to each candidate's home -- point the mirror to the right coordinate and the home is reflected in the mirror. You can point out that these numbers have other significance -- that Hugo wins the lottery with them, that other people use them in similar ways with the same good luck/bad luck that Hugo has, that they're stamped as a serial number on the hatch -- and you'd be right. That's still not extremely clear.

Q: So they were all dead this whole time?

A: What? How did you even get that? At the end, Christian explicitly tells Jack that everything that happened to them was real. They're meeting in a sort of afterlife of their own making -- a sort of family reunion -- in a place where time has no meaning. Christian tells Jack that there is "no 'now'" there and that he's meeting all those people after he died because what happened on the island was the most important part of his life. His death isn't his life. Jack died in that bamboo grove where the series began and -- say it with me -- Vincent is a very good dog. Jack didn't die alone.

Q: So what was the island then?

A: I'm pretty sure it was a freakin' island. In a broader sense, it's a barrier. Jacob sat Richard down and explained this point to him; the island is a stopper keeping evil bottled up. The light was the light of life, the source of all life in the world. Perhaps even all life in the universe. When Desmond pulled the cork -- he literally pulled out a giant cork -- MIB was freed of his curse, but also made mortal. This allowed Jack to kill him. The light only seemed to go out, but when Jack replaced the cork, there it was again. MIB was obviously wrong about how to put out the light (though probably not about how to get off the island).

Q: So what was with the elaborate storylines in the flash-sideways?

A: See? Now that's a good question. The flash-sideways was sort of a narrative head fake, but it still has to make some sort of sense. Wish fulfillment maybe? Sure, Sayid and Kate weren't doing so well in their storylines, but Sayid felt guilty about the things he'd done -- who's to say he didn't think he deserved to be there? And Kate, in her flash-sideways, seemed to be innocent. She was done running and, you'd assume, would eventually be cleared in court. She seems to have wished her crime away.

The wish fulfillment idea also seems to be backed up by Desmond's reaction to pulling the cork on the island. He seems to believe he's going to the flash-sideways, where everyone is safe and happy, and is devastated to find out that he was wrong. He didn't die, so his wishes weren't fulfilled.

Q: If getting off the island would result in the end of the world, why would MIB want to do it? He'd get off the island and have nowhere to go.

A: Another excellent question. My take -- and, like the flash-sideway question, this is my own personal impression -- is that MIB was insane. Everyone who was "turned" by him got a little goofy -- Sayeed, Claire, maybe even Danielle. His obsession with escape may not have been rational. It might even have been a cosmic attempted murder/suicide. It might also be that he didn't believe Jacob and thought that the supposed consequences of leaving were all a lie to keep him on the island as punishment for killing their adoptive mother.

Q: Where were Walt and Michael at the end?

A: Michael is one of the whisperers on the island now. He told Hugo this. Walt's absence -- I'm sad to say -- is probably the result of bad planning on the writers' part. He would've been too old for his appearance to make any sense. They really should've gotten some extra indoor footage of him while he was still a kid. They'll come up with a spinny explanation, but I'm pretty sure mine is the truest.

Other questions aren't so easily answered. What was the Dharma Initiative really? Was it just a science colony on a weird island or was it part of Jacob's -- or even MIB's -- plan? What's the deal with Aaron? What's the deal with Walt? Or, as I've already pointed out, in what way did Jughead work?

You've got me. But if art is to imitate life, there have to be unanswered questions. As much as we may like to believe the contrary, we never fully understand the things that happen to us. Lost actually gave us more explanation of events then we'll ever get in our own lives. We'll all die more ignorant than knowledgeable. It's a sad fact of our existence; we'll all have unanswered questions at the end. Once again, I'm reminded of my first philosophical thought. If my life is made up mostly of things I've experienced, my potential knowledge is limited by the fact that I can't possibly experience everything. I just don't have the time.

But, to further wear out a cliche, life is about the journey, not the destination. In the end, Lost was just a way to introduce us to the characters, who were far more fleshed out than we're used to seeing on television. It may not all be tied up with the neatest bow, but it's neat enough and neater than anything we'll get at our ends. I'm glad I got to know these characters and, like I am of Desmond's obvious inspiration Odysseus, I'll be reminded of them often. Odysseus may not have been real, but he was real enough to me. I can say the same of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815.

See you in another life, brother.


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CORRECTION: Double-checked and Juliet doesn't tell Sawyer "it worked." At least, not directly. That information comes from the necromancer Miles, who reads her final thoughts after she's died. How sad is it that, in a post that talks about how much of our lives are merely memory, my own memory proves faulty? I guess a certain part of what we believe is our own lives is actually some fuzzy crap of our own creation.

See? This is why I don't write about this sort of thing often; it all just keeps getting crazier the more you think about it. Better just to take it all for granted, I guess.


News Roundup for 5/21/10

Robertson and his dumbass sign
Master wordsmith

-Headline of the day-
"'N-Word' Sign Maker Now 'Tea Party Columnist' for Washington Times."

Bonus fun; the 'N-word' was spelled wrong.

Ok, now this is going to get a little complicated, so stick with me here.

See, Dale Robertson says he's the "president and founder" of the whole goddam Tea Party movement and to prove it, he bought the domain teaparty.org. So it's all official and everything. Anyway, Robertson was spotted at one of those teabagger rallies with a big sign that read, "CONGRESS=SLAVE OWNER TAXPAYER=NIGGAR." Give yourself ten points if you can spot the misspelled word and another five point bonus if you noticed the absence of a comma.

So that got him a little bad attention, but Robertson blamed liberal commies and their damned PhotoMcShop or whatever the hell it is. Unfortunately, this was after he'd explained to radio host Alan Colmes what the sign -- and the word "NIGGAR" -- was supposed to mean. So, clearly, no Photoshopography was going on there.

And here's where things get confusing. The failing rightwing cult-controlled Washington Times picked Robertson up to write their big "Tea Party Report," which -- you've got to assume -- would be dedicated to explaining how Barack HUSSEIN Obama is a communist, just like Hitler. But the blog Mediaite went and put up this whole thing about how Dale's that one guy who can't spell his racist terms correctly. So the Times went ahead and dropped the whole thing.

But then they were without anyone to do this "Tea Party Report" thing and, let's face it, just about any teabagger they grabbed off the street would be just as dumb, so they went and hired Robertson back again. But don't worry, he's not running the thing. He's just a special guest star, like Lola Falana on The Love Boat.

"The Tea Party Reports is edited by Bill Kelly and Laura Grock and features numerous independent voices in today's Tea Party movement," reads a brand-spankin' disclaimer on the blog. "Tea Party guest submitters are in no way affiliated with The Washington Times and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person other than the contributor."

Hope they got him spellcheck... (Alan Colmes' Liberaland)

-Man of the people-
After winning the Kentucky Republican primary and picking a fight with the Civil Rights Act, Rand Paul continues to demonstrate his keen understanding of the American mainstream by sticking up for the super-popular corporation BP and their big oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama is being totally unfair in his criticism of the oil company.

"This sort of, you know 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,' I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business," Rand told Good Morning America. Getting bent out of shape over a gazillion gallons of poison pouring into the waters off the coast is "part of this sort of blame game society" where "it's always someone's fault."

"Maybe sometimes accidents happen," he said.

No, really. He did. Go check.

You know, with all the screw ups and all the craziness, I'm starting to think that Rand is just Sarah Palin in drag. Has anyone ever seen them together? (Talking Points Memo, with video)

-Bonus HotD-
"Rep. Pence Receives Achievement Award From Conservative Latino Group, But He Doesn't Know Why."

Yeah, join the club, Mike. I can't figure it out either. (Think Progress)

Kicking the Oil Habit

If the Deepwater Horizon oil gusher -- now going into its second month -- isn't enough to get you to start thinking that maybe burning stuff for energy isn't all that high tech or safe, maybe three new reports by the National Academy of Sciences will push you over the edge. Or maybe not.

SmokestacksAs part of its most comprehensive study of climate change to date, the National Research Council today issued three reports emphasizing why the U.S. should act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a national strategy to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change. The reports by the Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, are part of a congressionally requested suite of five studies known as America's Climate Choices.

"These reports show that the state of climate change science is strong," said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences. "But the nation also needs the scientific community to expand upon its understanding of why climate change is happening, and focus also on when and where the most severe impacts will occur and what we can do to respond."

"NAS panels study a problem from many angles, include the highest level of relevant expertise, and have their work carefully assessed by peer reviewers," says Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "They are deservedly a premier source of influential scientific guidance."

Let's face it, we've always known that oil and coal weren't the future. When we think of stories and movies set in the future, we don't think of stuff powered by burning other stuff -- unless its Road Warrior. In our heart of hearts, we've always imagined a future that was clean. No smoke, no toxic sludge, no accompanying emphysema, asthma, and cancer. Yet we now have the ability to literally pull power out of thin air and we can't be bothered with it. We need oil, oil, oil and coal, coal, coal.

Why? Because no one owns that thin air. If you can't have a wind spill, neither can you sell it. You can sell the power generated by this wind -- and solar, for that matter -- but no one sells the fuel, which in the cases of both wind and solar power is the sun. An entire industry, huge and powerful, would simply disappear. And, since fossil fuels are a limited resource, this is going to happen eventually anyway. But until that last drop of oil, that last chunk of coal, is extracted from the earth at great expense, that industry has no intention of shutting down.

Ask yourself this; why is it taking BP so long to close off that gusher? Might it be because it is a gusher? There's an unimaginable fortune out there, pouring out into the Gulf of Mexico. It's a stream a liquid gold so massive you can easily see it from space. And it's all still there, not just under the sea bed, but in the sea itself. If BP is very careful and everyone tiptoes around them, they can get a good chunk of that fortune back, while making sure the well is still viable for future drilling. Some of that oil now killing off sea life in the Gulf of Mexico is still going to find it's way into someone's tank. It may take a little longer to do it this way, but we've got to have priorities here.

And this is the problem. We've gotten to the point where the rewards of oil outweigh our own safety. If we spill our drink, we've become such out of control alcoholics that we'll suck the rag we use to clean it up. And, like alcoholics, we won't listen to reason. Everything is fine. We can handle it. This isn't a problem.

So the oil and coal companies -- the fuel industry -- take the role of enabler. We're right, everything is fine. There is no problem. Just have another drink and forget about it. Those scientists? They don't know what they're talking about. They're just trying to get grant money.

Of course, the fuel industry makes one helluva lot more off selling fossil fuels than anyone would ever make getting us off the stuff. In the monetary rewards game, saying scientists have the most to gain is completely insane. But addiction is completely insane as well, so given a choice between a harsh truth and a comforting lie, we'll take the comforting lie every time.

"This is yet another wake-up call on the threat of global climate change," said Sen. John Kerry in a statement. "These studies clearly demonstrate the urgency for Senate action on the American Power Act."

Yeah, they do. But drunks aren't famous for their attraction to reason or fact. Sure, we woke up with our head in the toilet one morning, but it's not like we do that every morning.

Everything is fine. We can handle it. This isn't a problem.


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News Roundup for 5/20/10

Rand Paul
Wonders why all these racists keep... Ummm... Well... Y'know...

-Headline of the day-
"More on 'Just Libertarianism?'"

OK, so the headline's not very funny, but just you wait.

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall discusses Rand Paul's pining for the days when people had the liberty -- GOD-GIVEN LIBERTY! -- to turn away blacks from businesses. Seems Paul's spokesperson, Chris Hightower, was forced to resign over racist content on his Facebook page (I'd totally forgotten about that). He also notes that Paul's father, Ron Paul, spent a lot of time distancing himself from his own writing which had plenty of racist content itself (hadn't forgotten that, though). He also points out that "Ron Paul became the darling of numerous skinhead and white supremacist groups." And now this whole "yay for segregation!" thing.

"Looked at in broad terms you've got a couple of guys who apparently aren't racist in any way but happen to stumble their way into close associations with racists with an astonishing frequency," Marshall writes. "It's almost like a painful race version of that classic Onion headline: 'Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My ----?'"

See? (Talking Points Memo)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, here's Inky al-Jihadi with an idea for a special career being a reactionary nutjob!

Inky al-Jihadi
Click for animation

Of course, then there's the taliban. They don't believe there should be images of anyone. So if you run out of Mohammad's to freak out over, there's always Col. Sanders.

Have fun kids! (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Paul Now Says He Would Have Voted for Civil Rights Act."

That's what you like to see in a candidate -- the courage to run screaming away from an unpopular position. (Political Wire)

The Tea Party's Record of Failure

One of the better moments from the primary elections earlier this week came in the form of an interview of Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. The whole thing is about twenty minutes long, but Paul repeats himself a lot, so if you want to drag that pointer at the bottom of the video and skim through it, you won't miss too much.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Not surprisingly, Paul now says that sitting down with Maddow to discuss the merits of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a "poor political decision" that "probably won't be happening anytime in the near future." Yeah, candidates for the United States Senate should totally avoid discussing their legislative philosophies. Stating your beliefs is a big mistake.

This was the Tea Party's chosen candidate and he stomped his primary opponent, defeating Kentucky Secretary of State and the GOP establishment's choice Trey Grayson. Kind of demonstrates why the party wanted someone else, doesn't it?

What's sad is that Paul is going to have a lot of defenders here. There's Paul's own Libertarian take that refusing service to a group of people constitutes some sort of speech. And, of course, there are the bona fide racists who wish the Civil Rights Act had never been passed in the first place. But the people you should probably watch most are the religious right who would dearly love to be able to discriminate against gays and lesbians. These people never seem to let anything go and, once an argument occurs to them (or, as in this case, is brought to their attention), they never let it go. It is automatically Gospel. For them, the idea that the 1964 Civil Rights Act set a bad precedent won't be a matter of opinion, it will be a matter of fact. They're already freaking out about Hate Crimes legislation and the idea that treating a group of people as second class citizens is protected speech must be incredibly attractive to them.

The question is whether Paul, having established himself as crazy enough for the teabaggers, has now established himself as too crazy for voters in Kentucky's general election. What the Tea Party seems to believe is that voters reject Republicans who are too liberal, instead voting for Democrats who are even more liberal. Therefore, what they need to do is get the most conservative -- scratch that -- most rightwing and extreme candidate possible.

This hasn't worked out so well. Of the eight special elections that have taken place since 2008, Republicans have won one of them. And the one candidate who won was a moderate-to-liberal Republican -- Scott Brown in Massachusetts -- who the Tea Party had convinced themselves was an arch-conservative. Having fooled themselves about Brown, they now accuse him of betraying them.

It pays to point out that the one success teabaggers have had with electing a candidate involved lying to themselves and being wrong about that candidate. Their idea of winners have a track record of being losers. And, like the religious right, once they get an idea in their heads, they don't let it go. Keep practicing the same failed strategy over and over and it'll start working... Just you wait and see. But so far, no one the teabaggers consider a "real" Tea Party candidate sits in Washington. As a result of all this insurgent wingnut effort, Nancy Pelosi's majority has grown and Republican's share of congress has shrunk. Gonna be a big Republican year!

Except Republicans start it by already being seven points down.

I've been saying it a lot and I'm going to keep saying it until I'm proven right or wrong; the "big GOP year" story is grossly overstated. And, so long as the teabaggers make Republican primaries a wingnut purity test, rather than an exercise in good politics, I think I'm probably on the right track.


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News Roundup for 5/19/10

Book: 'How to shovel manure'
No longer the media handbook?

-Headline of the day-
"Who woulda thunk it: Fact-checking is popular!"

Turns out that given the choice between what the media considers "fair" reporting and some actual facts, people seem to like the facts. Weird, huh? Greg Sargent noticed that Associated Press has been running "strong fact-checking work lately, aggressively debunking all kinds of nonsense, in an authoritative way, without any of the usual he-said-she-said crap that often mars political reporting." So he gave them a call to see what's up with that.

"I asked AP Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier about this, and he told me something fascinating, if not all together unexpected: Their fact-checking efforts are almost uniformly the most clicked and most linked pieces they produce," he reports. "Journalistic fact-checking with authority, it turns out, is popular. Who woulda thunk it?"

Geez. That's a real surprise. The rest of the media works this way: get a quote from one person, get a completely contradictory quote from another, then wrap it all up and leave the reader just as uninformed as they were when they started reading the article. This is called "avoiding liberal media bias," because the truth tends to work in the left's favor. Start reporting on who's telling the truth and who's lying and conservatives have a freakin' cow -- mostly because they're the ones who are always doing the lying.

"What we tend to forget in journalism is that we got in the business to check facts," Fournier told Sargent. "Not just to tell people what Obama said and what Gingrich said. It is groundless to say that Kagan is anti-military. So why not call it groundless? This is badly needed when people are being flooded with information."

You mean people like it when you weed out all the crap? Golly, imagine my shock. (Plum Line)

-Stay out of my garden!-
The Deepwater Horizon oil gusher is challenging the bullshit generating abilities of even the master:

You get that? If you pour gasoline on your yard, it'll just evaporate and everything will be fine. And oil is a good fertilizer because of the "carbon content in it." Of course, there's a very big difference between carbon and nitrogen -- which I think is what Limbaugh's getting mixed up here -- but hey, so what? Close enough.

So, to all you Limbaugh fans out there, go ahead and try Rush's gardening tip; dump gasoline all over your lawn, then pour crude oil over your tomatoes and serve them to your Dittohead friends. Your grass will turn a healthy yellow and the nausea, vomiting, paralysis, and coma related to ingesting oil is just nature's way of telling you it's working.

Go ahead, eat up. (Media Matters)

-Bonus HotD-
"After Saying African-Americans Have No Reason To Vote Republican, Steele Says GOP Is Their 'Political Home.'"

Mike, you almost make this too easy. (Think Progress)

Primaries Don't Tell Us Much

Normally, primary midterm elections would be about as newsworthy as the weather; everyone would report on it one day and then it stops being news. But this year is different. The media has set up a narrative about this election cycle -- gonna be a big year for Republicans -- and anything that happens from here until November will serve that narrative. Part of this line lies in some simple math; it's a bad year for incumbents, Democrats are in the majority, therefore Democrats will bear the brunt of a big anti-incumbent sweep.

And last night we saw incumbents do very poorly, for the most part. In Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln is forced into a runoff for her party's nomination and, in Pennsylvania, long-time Sen. Arlen Specter lost to Rep. Joe Sestak. For their part, the New York Times is sticking with their story:

The results were sobering for both parties, amounting to a rejection of candidates selected and backed by leaders in Washington who found themselves out of step with their electorates.

Republicans and Democrats alike are now left to learn the lessons from the frustration being expressed by voters, and to unify behind nominees who face daunting general election campaigns.

But using Blanche Lincoln as representative of all incumbent Democrats is crazy and doing the same with Specter is even more so. Specter switched parties just last year -- admitting that he stood no chance of winning as a Republican. Democrats were cheered by the math -- Specter helped seal the 60-seat majority at the time -- but weren't so happy with or trusting of the man. Sestak, on the other hand, is a real Democrat and, as a former two-star admiral, the highest-ranking former military officer in congress. Sestak is by no means a lightweight. Yes, the White House backed Specter, but what else could they really do? He'd jumped the Republican ship and, if Obama had left him twisting in the wind, that'd be a real disincentive for other Republicans to do the same. In any case, as Specter's chances became weaker, White House support for his candidacy did the same. That election is a unique case and treating it as representative of anything other than itself is a mistake.

As for Lincoln, her determination to be a speedbump on the road to healthcare reform cost her big. She is not the favorite of national Democrats and certainly not of Democratic voters. Like Specter, Lincoln has establishment support, but only because of the advantage an incumbent holds. And using this election as evidence of an anti-incumbent mood is even farther off-base -- under almost any other state's rules, Lincoln probably would've won. The last count I could find was 45%-43%. In Arkansas, a majority -- 50%+ -- is needed to avoid a runoff. It's a good law and one I wouldn't mind seeing nationalized (imagine a world without Bush v. Gore), but the "Voters Reject Lincoln" headlines are just plain wrong, no matter how you look at it.

Yes, the teabaggers have rejected Utah Sen. Bob Bennett and Rand Paul won over the GOP establishment choice in Kentucky, but the Tea Party isn't everyone -- no matter how hard the media pushes that meme. In all of the cases, looking at party primaries for clues about the general election seems silly. In the Republican primaries, the craziest candidates seem to be winning -- which probably isn't excellent news for the GOP. And the Democratic primaries are a mixed bag -- just like they usually are.

If you want some sort of a glimpse at how the general is going to go, you need to look at the one actual election that was held last night. In Pennsylvania, voters chose Democrat Mark Critz over Republican Tim Burns for the late John Murtha's seat. RNC chairman Micheal Steele had predicted a win in that district and laughed off the idea that a Democrat had any chance at all. "What are you talking about?" Steele told the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza when asked about the possibility of a loss. "Oh, come on. We're going to win."

Now granted, there was no incumbent in that race, so we can't use it to measure any anti-incumbent mood. But that doesn't mean it's meaningless. Pennsylvania's 12th is exactly the sort of swing district that Republicans will need to take in order to win big in November (it went to McCain in 2008). And they didn't. Whizbang statistician Nate Silver explains:

[I]f the Republican Tim Burns were to win by about 5 points, that would give us one indication that the cycle was shaping up to be more like 2004, from which the Republicans emerged with 232 House seats. And if Democrat Mark Critz were to win by, say, 8 points, that would give us one indication that the cycle was shaping up to be more like 2006 or 2008.

Critz won by eight points. While it's clear that Silver was throwing out a rough estimate on the fly, the weather's looking slightly better for Democrats than Republicans here. Silver says we can read something from this race, but "not necessarily very much." Personally, I agree, although I'd argue that even that "not very much" is more than any party primaries will tell us. Kentucky and Pennsylvania both have closed primaries, meaning only people registered with the respective parties vote -- i.e., only Democrats vote in the Democratic primary and only Republicans vote in the Republican primary. Using these to read the minds of the voters in the general election is more than a little crazy. And, if you had to declare a winner in Arkansas -- the open primary of the night -- you'd have to give it to Lincoln, the incumbent.

I guess in the end what I'm saying is that a lot of people are going to be saying a lot about what all the primaries last night meant and that you should probably not put too much faith in that analysis. We can see that Democrats seem to like real Democrats, Republicans like real crazy people, and voters in one swing district went blue. Add it all up and I have to give the night to Democrats. Just not by much.


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News Roundup for 5/18/10

Tracy Jackson
What being a congressman will get you

-Headline of the day-
"Rep. Souder And Mistress Recorded Video Praising Abstinence."

The latest example of Republican family values comes to us from Rep. Mark Souder, who has announced he's resigning from office after revelations that he'd been sleeping with a staffer. This makes what would ordinarily be an infuriatingly wrong video discussion about abstinence-only education a little easier to take. Still, you don't have to watch the whole thing, just enough to get the scent of hypocrisy.

That pasty-looking chunk of cornfed Indiana man-meat is Rep. Souder. And the nice lady who would normally be out of his league if he weren't a congresscritter is the sex toy in question, Tracy Jackson. I know, it's not a pretty image (or, rather, it's half of a pretty image), but funny and pleasant aren't always synonymous -- fart jokes, for example.

What I especially love is Souder ridiculing people who think abstinence is unrealistic while his secret playtoy does the bobblehead. Haha! You think people can't control their sex drives? I, Rep. Mark Souder, laugh at you! Foolish libtards!

Now blow me, bitch. (Talking Points Memo)

-Why, that's not sexy at all!-
Facebook users may be getting a message from people they know telling them to watch the "sexiest video ever." Surprisingly, it's not. It's malware. According to the report, clicking the link "does not play the video but takes users to a page telling them they do not have the correct software installed... It then tricks users into installing adware, a software package that automatically plays, displays or downloads advertisements to their computer." It also sends the same message to all your Facebook contacts.

So no, you're mom isn't sending you links to porn. You can stop worrying about that.

People who have been hoodwinked are advised to "scan their computers with anti-virus software, change their passwords, review their Facebook application settings and remove whatever was installed." If that doesn't work, then you have to throw your 'puter into a volcano, for the good of mankind.

Hey, it could be worse. There really could be a video and it could be Souder's and Jackson's sex tape. Then you'd have to throw your eyes into a volcano. (Agence France-Presse)

-Bonus HotD-
"After Serving More Than 30 Years In The Senate, Hatch Says 'Hell No' He's Not 'Part Of Washington.'"

If you ever need a definition of the term "horse's ass," go ahead and use this. (Think Progress)

Petroleum Metropolis

Workers from 'Metropolis'
When I think of America's relationship with the rest of the world, I often think of Fritz Lang's classic silent movie Metropolis. In that movie, most of humanity works deep underground under terrible conditions, making sure the machinery of the world keeps running. Meanwhile, a wealthy elite live above ground, enjoying a careless life of leisure, made possible by all the work going on beneath their feet.

And the people living above ground have no idea what's going on below. All this ease is just the way things are, because it's always been this way. Self-absorbed and incurious, they live lives of little consequence -- the ultimate consumers -- completely unaware of the suffering that makes their lives possible.

I think of this especially when I look at the news. We aren't as disconnected as the upper class of Metropolis, but we are disconnected. Things go on that make our lives possible that we have no clue about. Worse, we don't seem to have any interest in the subject. Unlike the clueless aristocrats of Lang's movie, we work too. But our way of life is supported by war and exploitation, by environmental destruction and sweat shops, by poverty and the repression of human rights.

But sometimes, the real world -- the wider world -- intrudes and we see the world as it really is. That is, if we're interested. Too often we aren't. The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico gives us a glimpse at how the other half lives, but you wonder how many will actually look.

[McClatchy Newspapers:]

Like many of her neighbors, Celina Harpe is angry about the oil pollution at her doorstep. No longer can she eat the silvery fish that dart along the shore near her home. Even the wind that hurries over the water reeks of oil waste.

"I get so mad," she said. "I feel very sad."

Harpe, 70, isn't a casualty of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She lives in a remote corner of Alberta, Canada, where another oil field that's vital to the United States is damaging one of the world's most important ecosystems: Canada's northern forest.

Across the globe, people such as Harpe in oil-producing regions are watching the catastrophe in the Gulf with a mixture of horror, hope and resignation. To some, the black tide is a global event that finally may awaken the world to the real cost of oil.

18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater are destroying the rainforest in Ecuador and oil slicks float on the Niger delta. "Spills, leaks and deliberate discharges are happening in oil fields all over the world, and very few people seem to care," said Judith Kimerling, a professor of law and policy at the City University of New York, told McClatchy. "No one is accepting responsibility. Our fingerprint is on those disasters because we are such a major consumer of oil."

And the fact that the world's oil reserves are dwindling only makes extraction more dangerous. The Deepwater Horizon gusher would've been capped almost immediately if it had been on land, but deep in the ocean, it poses real challenges. We're not drilling out there, where it's more expensive to get to, because we think that's fun. We're drilling out there because we're running out of oil. It'll be a while before we're comfortable with drilling off our own shores, but I have my doubts whether we'll feel as strongly about drilling off someone else's. The United States alone accounts for roughly a quarter of the world's oil consumption, yet we seem to believe that the damage caused by oil exploration isn't our problem.

"When [oil companies] go into a country like Ecuador or Peru, where there is no meaningful regulation, they take advantage of that," says Kimerling. "They are more careless, and go in with an attitude that they can do whatever they want... The U.S. government has not shown any interest in the environmental disasters that are being caused by our companies in other countries."

Now that it's happening to us, maybe we'll start to worry about what our oil addiction is doing to other people. Some guy from Ecuador could point to the oil slick threatening the Florida beaches and say, "Welcome to my world." This isn't anything new, it's just new to us. Maybe it will be our wake-up call.

Frankly, I have my doubts.


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News Roundup for 5/17/10

Barack Obama

-Headline of the day-
"Glenn Beck's war on the FCC (and Satan worshippers)."

Glenn Beck's discovered a new way that Obama is trying to destroy America -- net neutrality. Turns out that Obama's a "Satan worshiper" -- because I guess "the new Hitler" isn't bad enough -- and he wants to change the way the internet works in order to shut down critics of his Satanic agenda.

"We are dealing with people who think they should rebel until they get their little kingdom like Satan did," Glenn says. "You know what? Thanks, Mr. President, but I think we're going to keep the Internet the way it is right now. You know or at least until people who are worshiping Satan, you know, aren't in office."

You know what? Net neutrality is about keeping the internet the way it is. It's the people who are against NN who are the ones who want to change things. Turns out that Glenn's got this whole thing completely backwards. Glenn told his audience of homebound mental patients that neutrality is a "boot on your throat" to make the internet "a public utility" -- which, as a network set up by the government to share data, it kind of already is.

So there you go. Wanting all info on the internet to be transmitted without restriction is a way to silence critics. And Obama's going to do that by having the government take over the internet -- which the government built. Plus, the White House is filled with Satan worshipers.

Do people really take this squirrelly SOB seriously? (Ars Technica)

-Crazy AZ-
I always thought that Sean Connery cast as a Rooshin shubmarine commandah was pretty funny. But this is even better:

Pretty much says it all. (Youtube, via Huffington Post)

-Bonus HotD-
"Here's my 2012 presidential ticket."

Idle hands are the Devil's workshop, so founder of the rightwing nutjob site WorldNetDaily, noted homosexual Joseph Farah, is wasting no time making his endorsement for the 2012 Republican presidential ticket.

The biggest surprise here is that Sarah Palin is out. Turns out that endorsing John McCain over teaebagger candidate J.D. Hayworth has proved her to be insufficiently crazy. And Mitt Romney's all Mormon, so he's out too. So Farah whittled his list down to two people who haven't even said they were thinking about running -- Sen. Jim Demint and Rep. Michele Bachmann.

If you're looking for a team who are sufficiently crazy, you really couldn't do much better. Pay heed. Republican voters. The Mighty Joseph Farah has spoken! Nominate these two lunatics and do the Democratic Party the biggest favor anyone ever did for them. (WorldNetDaily)

Rightwing Media Insists Elena Kagan is Hugo Chavez

I take it as a given that we live in a society marred by racial and gender inequality, that certain forms of speech perpetuate and promote this inequality, and that the uncoerced disappearance of such speech would be cause for great elation.

Obama and KaganThe meaning of that sentence, written by Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan in 1993, seems pretty clear; if all the haters and racists announced, "We're going to knock it off now," most people would be pretty happy about it. In fact, I don't see how you could read that any other way. That is, unless you tried to.

Which is exactly what many on the right are doing. The rightwing media needs an outrage of the week, especially now. With "Drill baby, drill!" becoming "Spill baby, spill!" and an underregulated Wall Street all but standing trial for fraud, a distraction is called for. Those are not the big problems facing the US -- because they're big fans of offshore drilling and an unregulated Wall Street. The big problem is a Democrat in the White House, which is always a terrible affront to the Founders. Ever since Ronald Reagan, the presidency has been a Republican birthright. But American voters apparently didn't get the memo. We go ahead and vote for Democrats occasionally anyway. Democracy's biggest flaw is that, sometimes, people who aren't Republicans get elected. Then, not understanding their place, these Democrats actually have the temerity to do stuff.

So, a centrist president becomes a frothing communist. It doesn't make any difference how liberal or conservative a Democrat is, it's just automatically the case. You might have noticed that people like Bill O'Reilly spend a lot of time talking about "the far left," but no time talking about the slightly left of center. There's a reason for that. For the right, the center is right where they stand. And if you've got any liberal tendencies at all, you're far to the left of where they stand. As a result, there's no such thing as left-leaning -- if you're on the left at all, you're on "the far left," since those to their left are still conservatives.

But, as we see with the treatment of Elena Kagan, they don't need any actual evidence to back this up. You just grab some random quote, report it completely out of context, and there ya go -- instant commie. And the rightwing media isn't just taking the quote out of the larger context, they're taking words out of context of the quote itself.


President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, argued certain forms of speech that promote "racial or gender inequality" could be "disappeared."

In her few academic papers, Kagan evidences strong beliefs for court intervention in speech, going so far as to posit First Amendment speech should be weighed against "societal costs."

The article goes on to quote the sentence in full, but the opening paragraphs set the tone of the article; Elena Kagan is an enemy of free speech. For a website that's constantly fearmongering hate crimes legislation (saying it would make Christianity all but illegal), this opportunity to tie Kagan to one of their favorite nonexistent crises must have seemed perfect -- or, at least, perfect enough with a tweak or two to reality.

And WingNutDaily is actually one of the more responsible examples. In talking about a similar 1996 paper, Rush Limbaugh had this to say:

The First Amendment is something she doesn't like. The government should have the authority to restrict free speech when they think it's doing harm. Like to who? Obama? Kagan, who is the Solicitor General "expressed that idea in her 1996 article in the University of Chicago Law Review entitled, 'Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine.' " Now this puts her in the camp with one of the czars, Cass Sunstein, who believes the same thing. So, as far as I'm concerned, I don't care what else she's done. I don't care how much she's written on Post-It Notes. I don't care how much she's written anywhere. This puts her in the Hugo Chavez world, folks. This aligns her with Communist dictators throughout history. The government will determine when speech is proper. She thinks that's OK.

No, she doesn't. Here's what she wrote in that very paper:

Consider the following snapshot of impermissible motives for speech restrictions. First, the government may not restrict expressive activities because it disagrees with or disapproves of the ideas espoused by the speaker; it may not act on the basis of a view of what is a true (or false) belief or a right (or wrong) opinion. Or, to say this in a slightly different way, the government cannot count as a harm, which it has a legitimate interest in preventing, that ideas it considers faulty or abhorrent enter the public dialogue and challenge the official understanding of acceptability or correctness. Second, though relatedly, the government may not restrict speech because the ideas espoused threaten officials' own self-interest -- more particularly, their tenure in office.

It should surprise no one that Rush Limbaugh is nothing but a liar. And it shouldn't startle anyone to find out that Glenn Beck tells pretty much the same lie.

The lesson here is clear; if the right can't come up with a reason to oppose Elena Kagan's nomination, it'll make up reasons. Because without that outrage-of-the-week, people will stop tuning in. Rightwing media is constantly trying to convince you that everything is the worse thing ever because turning the money faucet to drip would be the worst thing ever -- at least, for the blowhards who prey on the fearfulness and gullibility of their audience.


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