News Roundup for 7/30/10

Whitehaired British kids from Village of the Damned
Brian Sandoval's kids

-Headline of the day-
"Sandoval: 'My Children Don't Look Hispanic.'"

Did you know that crazy people other than Sharron Angle are running for office in Nevada? It's true! One such crazy person is the Hispanic Republican nominee for governor, Brian Sandoval. In an interview on Univision, Sandoval was asked about Arizona's "we hate Mexicans!" law, Sandoval said he was all for it. When the interviewer went further and asked if he'd be worried about his kids being targeted if they went to Arizona, Sandoval said it wouldn't be a problem, since his "children don't look Hispanic."

This struck a lot of people as, A) a weird, brand new kind of racism and, B) missing the whole fucking point on several levels. So Sandoval did what Republicans always do -- he lied about it, denying he ever said. Twice. That part of the interview never aired, so Brian probably thought it was a pretty safe to set his pants on fire over the whole thing. It wasn't. People at Univision were more than happy to confirm the quote and Sandoval was left standing there with huevos on his face [insert teabagger joke here].

According to the report, Sandoval "seemed to be making some inroads with Hispanic voters on the campaign trail, despite his inability to speak Spanish and hardline views on views on immigration." Why were they willing to cut him some slack on what is becoming the issue for Hispanic voters?

"Hispanic voters just assume he's lying to get elected," a Democratic consultant recently told Slate.

Bet they're not making that assumption anymore. (MoJo Blog)

-Asking the questions no one else will-
On his radio show, which he runs as a hobby now, glitzy TV celebrity Glenn Beck asked, "What kind of monster would say the kinds of things that I do if they were just doing it for money?"

No, really. He did. I can prove it:

It may be a rhetorical question, but it has a factual answer; you'd be this kind of monster, Glenn. (Media Matters)

-Bonus HotD-
"Iowa GOP Supports Amendment To Strip Obama's Citizenship Because He Won The Nobel Peace Prize."

Yes, they really are that insane. (Think Progress)

Republicans Filibustering Our Future

Melting sea iceGlobal warming is a hoax. Before you buy that line, it pays to consider which side of the aisle is making that claim. If the fact that these people come from the same side as those who believe that Barack Obama is an illegal alien, that creationism makes more sense than evolution, and that George W. Bush was a perfectly competent president doesn't convince you that they're either crazy or dishonest, then consider that many of the "climate skeptics" are formerly out-of-work tobacco lobbyists. These are not the most level-headed or trustworthy people.

But these people were the winners last week, when the Senate killed cap-and-trade legislation. Opposing the legislation was the minority position in Washington, but in the Senate, the minority rules. "We've always known from Day One that to pass comprehensive energy reform you've got to have 60 votes," said Sen. John Kerry. "As we stand here today we don't have one Republican vote."

Which makes the timing of a report by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration pretty bad. A week too late to influence the debate, the new report calls global warming "undeniable."


Melting glaciers, more humid air and eight other key indicators show that global warming is undeniable, scientists said on Wednesday, citing a new comprehensive review of the last decade of climate data.

Without addressing why this is happening, the researchers said there was no doubt that every decade on Earth since the 1980s has been hotter than the previous one, and that the planet has been warming for the last half-century.

This confirms the findings of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which reported in 2007 with 90 percent certainty that climate change is occurring. The IPCC also said that human activities contribute to this phenomenon.

"The new report was released after US Senate Democrats delayed any possible legislation to curb climate change until September at the earliest," the article goes on. "Prospects for U.S. climate change legislation this year are considered slim."

Just great...

The report cites 10 key indicators that show that the planet is warming:

-- Higher temperatures over land

-- Higher temperatures over oceans

-- Higher ocean heat content

-- Higher near-surface air temperatures (temperatures in the troposphere, where Earth's weather occurs)

-- Higher humidity

-- Higher sea surface temperatures

-- Higher sea levels

-- Less sea ice

-- Less snow cover

-- Shrinking glaciers

This was all predicted by the "junk science" of climate researchers. "The seven indicators expected to rise in a warming world rose over the last decade, the report said," Reuters reported, "the three indicators expected to decline did so over that same period." If climate change is a bunch of hooey, how is it that climate scientists always seem to get it right in the end? Weird... It's almost like they're correct or something.

There's a move to reform the filibuster in the Senate right now. It's long passed time for a fix. There is no way that the founders of the nation intended for the Senate minority to be given a de facto veto. The prospects for reform are reportedly mixed, but I don't think there's any doubt that something needs to change. For those who'd make the "what comes around, goes around" argument, I'd point out that the filibuster is currently causing more problems than it solves.

This has got to stop.


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News Roundup for 7/29/10

Soon to be a penniless hobo?

-Headline of the day-
"Sherrod Announces She ll Sue Breitbart."

Go Shirley!

After professional jackass Andy Breitbart put up a heavily edited clip of a speech she made one time, things went very badly for Shirley Sherrod very quickly. Luckily, she's come up with a remedy. Speaking to the National Association of Black Journalists convention in San Diego, she told the crowd she would "definitely" sue Andy stupid.

Or "stupider," rather -- I regret the error.

"He had to know that he was targeting me," she said. With a headline like "Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism 2010," I'd say that was a pretty sure bet.

"How can I get involved," you ask? Well, you can go over to Andy's Big Government story about the suit and type "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" all over the comment thread. It won't actually accomplish anything constructive, but it's a fun way to kill a little time. (New York Times)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Everyone knows that the war in Afghanistan is super-duper complicated, but with the leak of classified information about the whole thing, we're learning that it's even more super-duper complicateder than we thought! And this is bad, because it undermines our secret weapon, which is...

Click for animation

So ignore the leaked documents and say to yourself over and over, "I don't care, I don't care, I don't care..." You'll see, it works! (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"GOP Filibusters Small Business Bill After Criticizing Dems For Delay."

In the military, they call this "hurry up and wait"... Or bullshit... Really depends on who you're talking to. (Huffington Post)

For Republicans, Anything Less Than Instant, Complete Success is Total Failure

Test dummy and airbagTwo weeks ago, Ana Campoverde was driving through St. Louis with her mother when a text-messaging driver blew through a stop sign and hit her. "We spun. The car spun," she told local TV station KSDK. "All of a sudden I can see all these airbags around me. I think I lost consciousness... Then I couldn't move. I go, 'My gosh this wasn't in our plans.'"

Campoverde credits the airbags with saving her life. But she did suffer a broken arm, so by Republican standards, the airbag was a failure. If it didn't protect her from any injury, then it didn't protect her at all. Period. End of story.

At least, that's what we're forced to assume from their talk about the stimulus. Searching for the exact term "failed stimulus" returns 122,000 results, with 177 on GOP.com alone. When Republicans aren't taking credit for the economic stimulus, they're attacking it.

[RNC Chair Michael Steele, Daily Caller:]

Over a year ago, the American people placed an enormous amount of trust in President Obama to make good on his promises of renewed responsibility and a new era of political bipartisanship. However, when faced with an extreme economic downturn he used the crisis as a means to his liberal ends and with the help of his Congressional allies forced his failed $862 billion stimulus package on America.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this failed stimulus package, something the president still claims as one of his signature achievements and which he proclaimed would "create or save" 3.5 million jobs and keep unemployment below 8 percent. Since those early heady days of the Obama administration the American people have seen behind the curtain of rhetoric and watched as millions of jobs were lost and unemployment rose into the double digits.

So Obama's airbag left us alive, but with a broken arm. A total failure...

A more realistic view of the effect of the economic stimulus comes from two economists who actually bothered to look at the facts objectively.

[Kansas City Star:]

The Great Recession wasn't a depression, thanks to federal stimulus efforts.

That conclusion flows from the first major, independent analysis of recent fiscal and monetary policies -- such as the bank bailouts, the home-buyers tax credit and Cash for Clunkers stimulus program.

"The stimulus has done what it was supposed to do: end the Great Recession and spur recovery," wrote Alan Blinder, a professor of economics at Princeton University, and Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics.

Blinder and Zandi note that "almost every one of these policy initiatives remains controversial to this day, with critics calling them misguided, ineffective, or both."

Washington Post's Ezra Klein interviewed Zandi and asked if the stimulus was "basically, if not totally, successful."

"Any individual aspect could've been a failure, or not very effective," he answered. "But the totality was successful. It ended the recession much sooner than otherwise would've been the case and it forestalled a much larger decline in our output. And at the end of the day, it saved taxpayers money. it would've cost us a lot more if we had not responded." It left us with a broken arm, instead of a broken neck. And people like Paul Krugman argue that our arm would be OK if we'd put in a bigger airbag. The Nobel Prize-winning economist has argued that the stimulus was too small since day one.

But here's the thing; Republicans aren't arguing that the airbag should've been bigger, they're arguing that -- other than another round of tax cuts -- there shouldn't have been any airbags at all. This ignores both history and common sense. "The link between the demand and supply side runs through prices and wages and other costs," Zandi told Klein. "If demand falls relative to the economy's potential, you have rising unemployment and lower utilization. Fiscal and monetary policy plays a key role in trying to mitigate recessions. I've gone back to every recession and depression and looked at the policy efforts to address the downturn and try to at least capture the different ways in which policymakers have tried to generate a recovery. And what we've done in the Great Recession, some of it is unique, but most of it has been done many times before. Tax cuts, emergency unemployment benefits, aid to state government, these are things we've done every single time."

But Republicans like to live in a world without history. If direct Keynesian stimulus has worked every time in the past, it won't work this time. Why? Who knows? All we know is that they say they have a better idea -- cut taxes and reduce the deficit. Never mind that those two goals are contradictory, reality is no roadblock to the dedicated supply-sider. In fact, we've tried this all before too -- and it didn't work. Bush's tax cuts have increased the deficit. And even if they could hit that imaginary sweet spot they seem to believe exists where tax cuts increase revenues, balancing the budget was one of the first things Herbert Hoover did in response to the Great Depression -- the long story short on that one is that it didn't help any. Turns out the market doesn't give much of a crap about the deficit, it's all about supply and demand and we're really short on demand right now. Government spending doesn't just spur demand; it is demand, by definition. When you get into talk about sending messages and the emotional well-being of investors, you're just making things way more complicated than they need to be. When there isn't enough demand, you increase demand -- the end.

Republicans are trying to sell you a car without any airbags, because airbags still allow you to be injured -- so, by their reasoning, they don't work at all. Personally, I don't think that's a very good deal.


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News Roundup for 7/28/10

Poster of man holding gaspump nozzle to his head like a gun
Johnson for Senate yard sign

-Headline of the day-
"GOPer Ron Johnson: I'll Eventually Sell My BP Stock -- When The Market's Better."

Did you know we had teabaggers in Wisconsin? We do! Which is weird, because everyone around here is all about beer (it made Milwaukee famous!). Maybe tea's a hangover cure... I've never tried it. I prefer Gatorade for that. Or more beer.

Anyway, GOP senate hopeful Ron Johnson is a teabagger and he's running against Russ Feingold. Things have been going OK for Ron so far -- Russ 42%, Ron 40% -- but it's really anybody's game at this point. So the key here is not to screw up!

Which kind of might be what Ron just did. Speaking to the local political news site WisPolitics.com, Johnson was asked about being a gazillionaire and whether he planned on selling any of his BP stock.

"I think that'll eventually happen, but I'm going to do it based on market conditions," Ron said. "I'm going to have to finance this campaign. At some point in time to get my message out, that'll probably happen." See, if he sells that stock now, he'll take a bath -- like an oil-covered pelican. So he's going to wait until this whole oil gusher kerfuffle blows over, then he'll lose the stock and maybe make a pretty penny off it while he's at it. Pretty shrewd, huh?

Analysts say no, it's not pretty shrewd. "Ron Johnson... might not fully grasp the concept of dumping one's stock holdings for political reasons," writes Talking Points Memo's Erik Kleefeld.

But he fully grasps those stocks. Just try prying them away from him. (Talking Points Memo)

-Johnson's problem demonstrated-
Here's a Russ Feingold ad:

Did Russ just cut that ad in response to Johnson's BP stock story? No, it's been running for a couple weeks now.

Way to put out that fire, Ron. (Russ Feingold)

-Bonus HotD-
"Kenyan gets 14 years for sex with donkey; blames devil."

He ought to move to Florida. Totally legal there, because they have family values. (Raw Story)

Arizona's 'Papers Please' Law is Worse Than You Think

I've been on kind of a tear against the media lately, so I think it's worth pointing out when a media outlet does it right. KPHO in Phoenix covers SB-1070 -- otherwise known as Arizona's "papers please" law -- and finds out two very important points: Republican election-year fearmongering is wrecking the state's economy by driving away tourism and top people in Governor Brewer's office stand to benefit from from the law, which goes into effect tomorrow.

Yeah, it turns out that if top politicians tell you you're going to get your head chopped off if you go to Arizona, people don't want to go to Arizona. I imagine you're as surprised by that fact as I was. And it reminded me of how conservatives echoed Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's complaint that Obama's talk about the Gulf oil gusher was driving away tourists. It's typical rightwing upside-down reality twisting; an existing oil slick doesn't drive away tourists, people talking about it drive away tourists -- but politicians talking about a crime wave that doesn't exist is fine, even though it drives off tourists. If this makes no damned sense to you, remember this handy rule of thumb; anything, no matter what it is, is fine when a Republican does it.

But more disturbing is the very real possibility that a law has been passed to benefit a private corporation. And worse, it may result in terrible injustices. We've seen a state go down that road before and the result was corruption. And not just your normal, everyday, money-under-the-table corruption, but a miscarriage of justice that should shock anyone with anything approximating a conscience.

[CNN, February, 2009:]

...As scandals from Wall Street to Washington roil the public trust, the justice system in Luzerne County, in the heart of Pennsylvania's struggling coal country, has also fallen prey to corruption. The county has been rocked by a kickback scandal involving two elected judges who essentially jailed kids for cash. Many of the children had appeared before judges without a lawyer.

The nonprofit Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia said [14-year-old Phillip Swartley] is one of at least 5,000 children over the past five years who appeared before former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella.

Ciavarella pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal criminal charges of fraud and other tax charges, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Former Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael Conahan also pleaded guilty to the same charges. The two secretly received more than $2.6 million, prosecutors said.

Among the bloated sentences Ciavarella and Conahan handed down were sending "15-year-old Hillary Transue to a wilderness camp for mocking an assistant principal on a MySpace page," "13-year-old Shane Bly, who was accused of trespassing in a vacant building [to] a boot camp for two weekends," and "Kurt Kruger, 17, [sentenced] to detention and five months of boot camp for helping a friend steal DVDs from Wal-Mart." Swartley was sentenced to nine months in a detention facility for stealing change.

Now, take that mindset and apply it to undocumented people. As we've already established, Arizona politicians are whipping up hysteria over illegal aliens and, as a result, they are widely hated. If you can make a lot of money selling kids to a private corrections company, imagine what you could make selling pariahs. It could be a gold mine.

Of course the company, Corrections Corporation of America, says it never lobbied Brewer. But why would they have to? She has two lobbyists on staff. You don't have to convert the already pious. And, just as predictably, Brewer's office denies any connection -- but we've already established what her word is worth.

Back to my media-bashing; why was it that it was up to a local TV station to uncover this in the week the law is set to kick in? SB-1070 has been a big story for how long? And no one nationally dug this up, no one wondered why Brewer was so dead-set on this bad idea. I suppose they figured that it was just political grandstanding, but shouldn't someone have dug a little deeper? It seems a little late in the game to have this come out now.

Better late than never, I guess. But "better" is not the same as "best."


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News Roundup for 7/27/10

Cartoon of black man carrying I LOVE JIM CROW sign
FOX's African-American audience

-Headline of the day-
"Only 1.38 percent of Fox News' primetime viewers are African-American."

Howard Dean caused a minor outrage flareup when he accused FOX News of being racist. This wouldn't have been news at all, since it's like saying water's wet, but Howard went and said it on FOX News. This was, of course, the worst thing ever... Or the most obvious thing ever. I guess it depends on whether or not you're FOX News.

Dean got a little backup for his claim from a likely source -- the facts. While researching an article for the New York Times, Brian Stelter twitterpated a tidbit of data he'd found: African-Americans made up just 1.38% of FOX's primetime audience. Which is weird, because Glenn Beck is the next Martin Luther King jr. You'd think blacks would be all over that. But nooooo!!

What could be the explanation? Think Progress' Charlie Eisenhood thinks he might have it pinned down; "Fox's coverage of race hasn't done anything to attract an African-American audience. Their 'long history of aggressive race-baiting and racially charged commentary' has perhaps alienated many of their viewers. As Stelter reported in his article, 'The National Association of Black Journalists has faulted Fox for years for inaccurately portraying blacks.' The group recently condemned the channel for their 'lack of due diligence' on the Shirley Sherrod story. The group's criticism came on the heels of Fox News contributor slamming Fox host Megyn Kelly being slammed on air for 'doing the "scary black man thing"' with her coverage of the New Black Panthers Party faux scandal."

So the reason that black people don't like FOX much is that FOX doesn't like black people much. Which raises the question, what sort of African-American watches the White People's News Network?

I guess it's guys like this. (Think Progress)

-News you can't possibly use-
Public Policy Polling surveyed voters about the California Senate race between incumbent Barbara Boxer and former McCain campaigner and Hewlitt-Packert kamikaze pilot/CEO Carly Fiorina. Among the news you can use: Boxer leads Fiorina, 49%-40%. So yay for that.

And here's the news you can't use: California voters prefer Boxer's hair to Fiorina's by five points. PPP might have thought this was newsworthy because Fiorina was caught on mic being bitchy about Barb's hair, but they were wrong. No one cares. The poll shows that 19% like Boxer's hair, 14% like Fiorina's, and 67% -- the vast majority -- couldn't give a flying fuck.

Score one for you, California voter. (Public Policy Polling [pdf], via Talking Points Memo)

-Bonus HotD-
"Climate Change May Mean More Mexican Immigration."

Is illegal immigration important? Then you better start worrying about global warming. Want to believe global warming's a hoax? Then you'd better stop worrying about illegal immigration.

Imagine thousands of wingnut heads exploding. (Scientific American)

Our Useless News Media

TV in trash canIf Andrew Breitbart's hoax has an upside, it's that it demonstrates publicly what I and many others have been saying for quite some time; a phony "objectivity" is making our news media useless. Breitbart's attempt to smear Shirley Sherrod and the NAACP as racist was merely a way to play the media's "both sides of the story" reporting. Unable to credibly deny the existence of racism in the Tea Party (not that he hadn't bent over backwards trying), he tried stimulating a favorite media reflex -- the idea that both sides are equally guilty of any given failing in politics. Decades of complaining of a "liberal media" has made the media hyper-vigilant for any sign of bias in their ranks and being able to say "the left does it too" must be a tremendous relief. Balance is restored and everyone is just as lousy a human being as the next again. So if there's racism in the Tea Party ranks, then there must be racism in the ranks of those complaining about that racism. Otherwise, there is a great disturbance in the media force. The magnetic poles of guilt must always align perfectly.

But the idea of the "objective journalist" has given us a media without any objectivity at all. It creates monsters. And not just media trolls like Andrew Breitbart, but conceptual monsters that poison our national discourse. Because, if there's one thing that's been true for the last decade at least (actually, I'd take it all te way back to the rise of talk radio during Bill Clinton), it's that the truth has a liberal bias. And the reason for this is that Republicans have used their "liberal media" complaint to destroy any distinction between public truth and public lie. If the evening news were to point out that a Democrat's figures were true and a Republican figures were false, Republicans would shriek "foul!" So we wind up with an idiotic "both sides of the story" mentality, where the media just repeats what everyone's said verbatim and doesn't bother to separate truth from lie -- it's all equally true, because both sides do it.

My favorite example of this comes from television news. If you've read me long enough, you've seen me use it before. You get one partisan "strategist" from one side and another partisan "strategist" from the other, then you let them interrupt each other and talk over each other and throw out charges. If absolutely nothing one of the strategists has to say is true, how do you know? No one but the other strategist sets the record straight and, frankly, there's no good reason to trust them any more than the other. This goes on for a while and a chirpy anchor chimes in with, "Well, that's all the time we have for the day... Thanks for coming, guys!" And you're no more informed after the whole thing than you were before. No one tells you which line was actually true and we wind up living in a world where there are no objective facts, just differences of opinion. This doesn't do much to inform people.

[E.J. Dionne, Washington Post:]

The smearing of Shirley Sherrod ought to be a turning point in American politics. This is not, as the now-trivialized phrase has it, a "teachable moment." It is a time for action...

There were no "death panels" in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-
Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow "the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly." That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates.

The traditional media are so petrified of being called "liberal" that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream journalists regularly criticize themselves for not jumping fast enough or high enough when the Fox crowd demands coverage of one of their attack lines.

Dionne says that the media must "stop being afraid of insisting on the difference between news and propaganda" -- which would be great, if the media had any incentive at all to do it. As Steve Benen commented, "That's exceptionally good advice, which will almost certainly be ignored."

Why? Because there's no money in it. Another thing I say a lot is that the TV talking head's job isn't to inform you, the TV talking head's job is to get you to watch TV. If you come away from their broadcasts an idiot, what do executives at ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, or NBC care? Besides, if the news exec doesn't care if you're ill-informed, the entertainment exec does -- who else but an imbecile would waste their time watching Cougartown? And FOX has a unique incentive to not make the distinction between truth and lie; who but the most ill-informed would ever watch Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly? Anyone with even a superficial familiarity with the facts would watch these shows and conclude that the hosts were either liars, fools, or lunatics -- and none of those things rule out the others. So they'll air the controversy, not the facts. They report and it's up to you to decide which is true. Having trouble making sense of all the contradictions? Here's Perfesser Beck and his magical chalkboard...

How does this change? It doesn't. Until people start demanding that facts and lies be clearly identified, it doesn't change at all. Until then, my advice is to read a newspaper. TV is for entertainment. And if there's a storm coming, it's great for keeping up with the warnings.

But, for the most part, it's useless for getting any information on the issues of the day.


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News Roundup for 7/26/10

Loves the Constitution -- until he doesn't

-Headline of the day-
"Tennessee Lt. Gov: Religious Freedom May Not Count For Muslims."

In addressing the "threat that's invading our country from the Muslims," Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told supporters that he believes in the First Amendment and the Constitution, especially that whole part about "Congress shall make no law" on the subject. But Ramsey is canny and thinks he's found a loophole -- Islam is not a religion.

"Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it," Ramsey said. "Now certainly we do protect our religions, but at the same time this is something we are going to have to face."

Of course, Muslims the second-largest religious group in the world, so that kind of blows a hole in this "cult" theory. But that's really not the issue. The issue is fearmongering and kissing xenphobe ass. According to the report, "The question, Ramsey mused, was related to the simmering topic of a new Muslim community center scheduled to be built in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Ramsey, like many conservatives weighing in on the debate, mistakenly confused the center with a mosque -- which Murfreesboro already has -- and then proceeded to foment fears that Sharia law would be practiced by Muslims there."

"Now, you know, I'm all about freedom of religion. I value the First Amendment as much as I value the Second Amendment as much as I value the Tenth Amendment and on and on and on," he said. "But you cross the line when they try to start bringing Sharia Law here to the state of Tennessee -- to the United States. We live under our Constitution and they live under our Constitution."

Well, not exactly, they live under the Constitution and Ramsey lives in an alternate reality where the First Amendment doesn't apply when you arbitrarily declare something a "cult."

I hereby declare the Tea Party a cult and demand they be stripped of all rights forthwith. Ramsey's "reasoning" requires no less. (Talking Points Memo)

-A fine choice, given the crowd-
Remember how Andrew Breitbart convinced everyone that a very nice lady was a horrible racist? I didn't like that much. But my opinion doesn't matter, especially not to the GOP. You know what lying and smearing and being just a general jackass makes you in the Republican party? Here's a fun quiz, choose the answer you think fits best:

1. A worthless hack unworthy of attention.
2. A shameful stain on the reputation of conservatives.
3. A modern American Hero.

Yeah, you see where this is going, don't you? According to the report, "Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has a party fundraising event coming up in August that is scheduled to feature a very special guest: Conservative media activist Andrew Breitbart..."

That's right, if you make your living telling outlandish lies, the GOP makes you a hero... Just like Sarah Palin! So I'm going to start my career right here and now. Barack Obama is really a goat. I have proof, but it's secret proof, so I can't share it. You gotta trust me on this one. But when have wingnuts ever required proof anyway?

Now schedule me for public appearances and give me a book contract. I'm waiting for the call, Mike. (Talking Points Memo)

-Bonus HotD-
"Tea Party Candidate Ken Buck Concedes There Are Some 'Dumbass' Birthers In The Tea Parties."

No word on whether the Colorado Republican Senate primary candidate thinks there are any genius birthers among the teabaggers. (Think Progress)

Mexican Invaders and the Endless Gullibility of Wingnuts

Barack Obama is an illegal alien, Al Franken stole the 2008 Minnesota election for US Senate from Norm Coleman with the illegal votes of felons, "death panels"... I'm constantly amazed by the endless gullibility of wingnuts. It doesn't seem to be a case of how much truth there is to a story, but of how badly they want it to be true. While "too good to be true" is a red flag for most people, the concept of "too bad to be true" is a foreign concept for far too many. I tend to avoid rightwing blogs for two reasons, the first being the best; I don't see any reason to let someone lie to me. But the second reason is that I find the open-mouthed credulousness in the comment threads as infuriating as I do depressing. I'll check out rightwing blogs if they're referred to by more trustworthy sources or if something's getting a lot of play on Memeorandum. As I'd imagine most political bloggers do, I keep an eye on Memeorandum to see what stories are getting traction in the blogosphere.

And so it was that my faith in the chumpitude of the wingnut universe was reinforced. Memeorandum lit up with a particularly crazy story. A backwater site called Diggers Realm reported that a Mexican drug gang called "Los Zetas" (shouldn't that be "Las?") had invaded Texas and taken over "at least two ranches in the Laredo, Texas area." The first clue that this was BS: it was described as a "bloodbath," despite also reporting that "the owners of the ranches have evacuated without being harmed." This whole border war was totally confirmed -- according to Digger -- by a Minuteman racist and two sources in the Laredo police department. The story quickly went viral, with rightwing blogs and twitter going crazy over the thing, despite the fact that not a single credible news source had verified anything -- or even reported anything.

And, of course, it turned out that the whole thing was BS.

Laredo Morning Times reported [that link is iffy, by the way. Sometimes you get a login page. I think it's a bandwidth problem], "[O]fficials with the Laredo Police Department, Webb County Sheriff's Department and Border Patrol said they knew nothing about such an incident, while Erik Vasys, an FBI spokesman in San Antonio, said the agency does not comment on rumors... Investigator Jose E. Baeza, LPD spokesman, said he had not heard anything about the incident. Also, an LPD sergeant, who was on duty as a watch commander Saturday afternoon, said she had not heard anything about it either." So it was another rightwing hoax.

Having had their story shot down, the wingnuts did not stop believing. Truth is no impediment to faith. The story didn't become, "why did we believe some blogger no one ever heard of?" Instead, the story became, "why is the mainstream media covering it up?"

If you've been paying attention to the right for any length of time, you've seen this happen over and over and over. It's all too familiar -- after a claim or a hoax is shot down, wingnuts go out of their way to defend it. How long can they do this?

How long have there been creationists? So about that long, at least.

In fact, they go to great lengths to defend their belief in hoaxes. Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs breaks down the effort, in the case, in the right's defense of Andrew Breitbart's latest hoax and FOX's coverage of it:

By now, you can predict right wing tactics almost to the letter. Whenever Fox News, a Tea Party group, or a Congressman from Texas is caught saying or doing something stupid, misogynist, racist, or kinky, the tactic is: pick out an irrelevant or minor point in the criticism that can be portrayed as inaccurate or wrong in some way, then relentlessly hammer away at it while ignoring any and all substantive issues. This minor point will often involve a deliberate misrepresentation of the criticism, as well...

The talking point on which Fox settled very early was that they had not even mentioned the Sherrod story on air before she resigned from the USDA. And while this may be true, it's a perfect example of the Minor Point Maneuver. Sherrod was forced to resign very quickly, so the events actually beat Fox News -- but when Fox
did begin covering the story, their reports were identical to Andrew Breitbart's original post at Big Government, enthusiastically branding Sherrod and the NAACP as "obvious" racists as they showed the edited video over and over.

As he points out, it misrepresents the critics; the complaint isn't about when FOX began covering the story, but how they covered it. And they covered it badly. Worse, the tilt FOX put on the story was entirely predictable. But now people are picking up FOX's banner and even insisting that Breitbart was right all along -- Shirley Sherrod is racist.

What can we do about all this? Not much. It's a free country and you can be as stupid as you want to be. But the media should know (hell, they do know) that the rightwing blogosphere is a BS factory and a hothouse for lunatics. And you should know it too. These people live in an alternate universe where all the proof you need is how much you want something to be true. Read it if you must, but don't ever believe a word of it.


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News Roundup for 7/23/10

Sign, Fags are sexy beasts
Counter-argument to Westboro's hate

-Headline of the day-
"Super Heroes vs. the Westboro Baptist Church."

Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church cult hates everyone. No, really. They literally hate everyone. Gays, America, Catholics, Jews, Sweden, Mr. Rogers, etc. The whos and whats that they hate aren't so much random as they are all-encompassing. If they don't hate you specifically, it's just because they haven't gotten around to it.

Anyhoo, Phelp's cult finally got around to hating on Comic-con, because God hates nerds. They set up a protest across the street to let the geeks know they were all going to hell -- and Westboro believes everyone is going to hell and there's nothing you can do about it, so you wonder why the protests. I mean, isn't it just an exercise in futility?

But I digress.

Here's the problem for Phelps and company; nerds are smart. Smarter than they are, anyway, and things did not go well.

First off, Futurama's Bender way outdid them in the hate department:

man in robot costume with KILL ALL HUMANS sign

And this guy reminded us of the really important issue facing America:

Sign, Magnets, how the #$%! do they work?

Jesus showed up to correct the record:

Jesus costume and GOD LOVES EVERYBODY sign

And everyone chanted "What do we want? Gay sex! When do we want it? Now!"

Sure, the nerds didn't actually accomplish anything either -- those cultists were just as crazy the next day -- but they sure had one helluva lot more fun wasting their time than the Phelps crowd did. (Comics Alliance, with video and plenty more photos)

-Patriotism personified-
Healthcare reform is totalitarianism. Plain and simple. Sure, it'd be nice if everyone could afford decent healthcare and then we wouldn't all be sick, but you know who else liked healthy people? Hitler!

Well, Rep. Zach Wamp is having none of this Hitler-loving and he has a plan to do something about it. In a three-way primary against two other nutjobs for the governorship of Tennessee, Wamp really has to amp up the crazy to stand out. And he's more than equal to the task.

According to the report, Wamp "has a dire warning about the new health care reform law: If a new Congress and president aren't elected in order to repeal the bill, states might just have to secede."

Oh no! What would we do without Tennessee! It's a horrible prospect! Why, we have to do without all of their... Ummm... Uhhh...

Anyone have any idea what the fuck we get out of Tennessee? It's not really leaping to my mind. I'm sure we need it. Or like it. Or at least tolerate it. And I'm sure they'd have no problem being a landlocked postage-stamp nation surrounded by the country they just dissed.

But have you ever noticed that the people who wrap themselves up in the flag and declare themselves patriots are also in the front row of the "Let's hate America!" parade? Weird how that works. They love America so much that they're willing to dismantle it.

That's what you call yer "rightwing patriotism," formerly known as "fair-weather patriotism." (Talking Points Memo)

-Bonus HotD-
"Sharron Angle responds to a question."

Big news! After walking out on a presser without answering any questions, crazy Nevada prospector Sharron Angle finally got around to taking a question from the press. She wanted to talk about the estate tax, but reporters didn't because, frankly, that's boring and who even cares. So they asked her if she'd talk about something else and she said no.

That was the question she answered. I'm not kidding. (Politico)

Cap-and-Trade is Dead. Now What?

Cap-and-trade is the purest form of socialism. It would be a tremendous destructive force on our market and a hidden tax that would destroy the economy. This is why Republicans and "centrist" Democrats killed it dead, dead, dead yesterday. Common sense conservatives just can't get behind it. This is why George H.W. Bush instituted a cap-and-trade system to fight acid rain -- because Ronald Reagan's Vice President was a Marxist. It's why it was the solution offered by McCain/Palin in 2008 -- because Sarah Palin is a commie. Never mind that Bush Sr's program worked, the economy didn't collapse, and unbridled socialism didn't run rampant throughout the land. Those are facts and facts are for elitists.

As we all know, conservatives hate history. If tax cuts have never worked as a way to reduce the deficit, that's irrelevant -- this time they will for sure. So by the same token, if cap-and-trade as a market-based solution was a success story in the past, this time it won't be. They have the zen of a cow in the field munching grass; always in the "now," without any past or future. The only real difference is that where cows are incapable of learning from the past, Republicans refuse to. The past is filled with facts and facts are the greatest enemy of the modern conservative, so the past is the enemy. Maybe even a lie.

But are Senate conservatives the only ones to blame here? As is always the case these days, the answer is no. By now, you know how they're going to react to something. They're going to react negatively. Without fail. Never mind that cap-and-trade was their own damned idea, Republicans are 100% guaranteed to hate it if it comes from a Democrat. Because they're children. You don't have to be a psychic to see this coming a mile away. What was missing on this issue is the same thing that's been missing on so many issues; leadership.

[Andrew Revkin, New York Times:]

On a host of issues, Obama campaigned as a voice of reason, willing to listen to all views, amid all the polarized shouting. But on climate and energy, he has not yet, apparently, found the strength to break free of the 20th-century-style left-right fight to forge a positive path that is true to the scope and time scale of the climate and energy challenge and could resonate with Americans, particularly the young generation that will inherit the environment being shaped by decisions, or indecision, now.

Revkin points out that Obama has given no major address on the issue, has not "invited a variegated stream of researchers and analysts of climate science and policy to the White House," and has failed to counter congressional voices of idiocy like Sen. James Inhofe's. In short, the administration has been MIA on this issue -- an issue of the utmost importance to our future.

But that may be the glass-half-empty point of view. As Revkin points out, "Could it be that the White House has concluded what some political analysts have quietly told me -- that only a Republican president could muster the Senate votes to pass a meaningful climate bill?" If that's the case, I wouldn't hold my breath. Given the '12 GOP field so far, they're going to have a hard time offering a serious challenge. And none of the nutjobs lining up for the job seems to be very interested in reality. Even if one were to wake up out of their stupor and admit that global warming was real, they'd probably blame it on illegal immigrants or abortion.

We'll pass it off to Time's Joe Klein now:

[A] Supreme Court ruling, now three years old, [says] carbon dioxide is a poison that needs to be cleaned up. Next year, the Environmental Protection Agency will begin regulating the hell out of CO2. The business community won't like that, nor will many Republicans. "Putting a price on carbon is the only alternative," says Senator Maria Cantwell, who has offered a bill--with Maine Republican Susan Collins as co-sponsor--that would force the 2000 top polluters to participate in an auction to purchase the right to spew; 75% of the income would be returned as a "dividend" to taxpayers, the other 25% would go to alternative energy...

And so, yesterday's death of environmental legislation should be considered a pre-election maneuver. Given a choice between taxes and potentially punitive regulations, the wise--the more elegant; the less expensive--choice is a tax every time.

The administration can use the EPA as a hammer to force a legislative solution and, if that fails, continue to use it as a hammer to force CO2 reduction. Reducing CO2 is not optional, it's not something we can just give up on because Republicans have chosen to be idiots about it. If they need to be forced into a corner, then release the border collies and herd them into a corner.

I just wish that border collies weren't to sweet to bite.


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News Roundup for 7/22/10

Do Not Disturb sign
Sharron Angle's campaign slogan

-Headline of the day-
"Angle holds three-minute press conference, then runs from questions."

Crazy old desert prospector and GOP candidate for the US Senate Sharron Angle just learned that her campaign is circling the drain, which is fancy political-talk for "a huge disaster." So something needed to be done.

So she called a big, super-important press conference. According to the report, "In the warehouse of a family-owned clean diesel manufacturer in Sparks, Angle delivered a three-minute speech on her desire to permanently repeal the estate tax. When invited by the final speaker to stay and answer a few questions, she turned on her heel and rushed out a back door with a small cadre of staff members."

The reporters didn't like this much, since they get paid to do stuff like ask questions at press conferences. Let's face it, the job market's not so good, so if you're not doing your job, well...

"Reporters, including one who is six months pregnant, chased after her," the report goes on, "calling out questions on unemployment benefits and other topics she has largely refused to address."

Now I'm not an expert on campaigning, but I'm pretty sure that kind of press isn't going to help things any, Sharron. (Think Progress, with video)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, does Mom or Dad have one of those yPhones or Frankenberry's or whatever? You ever wonder where the stuff they're made out of comes from? Let's find out!

Click for animation

OK, so that wasn't any fun... I guess we won't take a look at what happens when we throw them away. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Democrats pull plug on climate bill."

Looks like one of John Boehner's big projects for 2011 just bit the dust.

Which actually kind of sucks. A lot. (Politico)

Boehner Promises a Do-Nothing Congress

BoehnerYesterday, a congressional commie hated America by saying that some of the fine patriots in the Tea Party movement were "anarchists who want to kill all of us in public office." Michelle Malkin went insaner. Andrew Breitbart tore out all his hair. Hannity, Limbaugh, and Beck took to the airwaves to expose how this congress critter's great aunt once met Joseph Stalin's valet's second cousin and that this proved said critter was a lifelong Marxist mole out to destroy America from within! All the cable news channels had heated talking head battles over the statement.

That's what would've happened if the person who said it was a Democrat, anyway. But it was House minority leader John Boehner, speaking to reporters with the Christian Science Monitor, so it's OK. See, when a Democrat says that there are some crazy teabaggers out there, it's an attack on fundamental American principles. But when a Republican does it, it's just stating the obvious. No media firestorm, no public displays of forced outrage -- in fact, hardly anyone noticed at all.

Less lost on the media was Boehner's Big Plan to create jobs. It's brilliant in its simplicity -- or it would be anyway, if there were any chance at all of it working. Boehner's Big Plan is to do nothing.

Boehner's Big Plan to create jobs in a nutshell:

[Talking Points Memo:]

In a meeting with several reporters this afternoon, House Minority Leader John Boehner outlined the top three measures he'd pursue if he becomes Speaker of the House next Congress to create new jobs. But, those who thought he'd outline specific programs and how they would create jobs were disappointed with a familiar litany of wish-list items: repeal health care reform, eschew climate legislation, and renew the Bush tax cuts.

In other words, repeal a program that largely hasn't yet taken effect; prevent new legislation that is also not in effect; and keep a current tax structure in place. Step four: profit. Or jobs.

Of course, the little hitch in Boehner's plan is that if it were going to create jobs, it'd be doing it right now. There are no healthcare reform measures up and running, climate legislation is nowhere near passing, and Bush's top-heavy tax cuts are still in place. Boehner's cure for joblessness is the current status quo. One CSM reporter noticed a little problem here.

Saying no to cap-and-trade would not create jobs. It would prevent potential future job loss from a Democratic House bill that is unlikely to be enacted any time soon. But here's the thing: We've had general energy bills such as the one Boehner suggests. They don't solve the carbon emissions problem, which must be addressed. As the Monitor has argued before, the simplest, cleanest way to reduce greenhouse gases is a carbon tax. There's a short-term cost, yes, but the long-term cost of doing nothing is higher.

In fact, none of these things would create jobs. The job losses from climate legislation aren't real anyway -- it's rightwing BS. Forecasts show it creating 200,000 new jobs between 2011 and 2020. In fact, we already have a cap-and-trade progran for sulphur dioxide and it has failed to destroy America.

But to return to the math, Boehner flunks. Limiting job losses is not the same as "creating jobs." It's really starting to look like Republicans have no idea what they'd do with the House of Representatives. The nation's leading Orange-American is just throwing crap out there to counter a growing suspicion that Republicans literally have no real ideas.

And that growing narrative may be hurting them. Gallup recently released a poll showing that Democrats now hold a six-point lead in the generic congressional ballot. Sure, this may be a bump from passing financial reform, but it may also be because of the GOP's unpopular stance on extending unemployment benefits. Without some sort of plan for 2011, Republicans leave people imagining the present as the future -- only with even more GOP votes. Apparently, would-be speaker Boehner thinks saying out loud that the status quo will be the future will compensate for their lack of vision.


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News Roundup for 7/20/10

Oh, that whacky Mike Steele's got himself into another predicament

-Headline of the day-
"RNC failed to report over $7 million in debt."

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele continues to find inventive new ways to screw everything up as reports come in that the party has failed to report $7.1 million in debt to the Federal Elections Commission. This is kind of bad. Kind of really bad. According to the report, "Campaign-finance analysts said that simply misreporting fundraising numbers to the FEC can lead to millions of dollars in fines and that criminal charges can be levied if the actions are suspected to be intentional."

Intentional. Whew! There's a load off everyone's mind. Mike would never do anything like that intentionally, would he? I mean, he's just hopelessly incompetent, not criminal.

Wait, though: "RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen on Tuesday accused Chairman Michael S. Steele and his chief of staff, Michael Leavitt, of trying to conceal the information from him by ordering staff not to communicate with the treasurer," the report also states.

OK, so that sounds kind of intentional. Of course, Mike and Mike deny everything, but the RNC has hired an outside lawyer -- Michael Toner (why are all these guys named "Michael?") -- to deal with any legal unpleasantness, which isn't the best sign.

"The RNC normally uses its own inside counsel to deal with the FEC," says one observer, "but if I had a really serious problem with the FEC, Michael Toner is one of the first guys I would turn to help me out."

Sounds like Mike, Mike, and Mike have their hands full. (Think Progress)

-Democracy is destroying democracy!-
Remember Byron Williams? The anti-government nutjob who got into a shootout with police in Oakland because he'd overdosed on talk radio bullshit?

Yeah, that guy.

Anyway, it turns out he told police "his intention was to start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU." I'm guessing that info probably came after he was waterboarded, since we all know that terr'ists only talk when you waterboard them. It's some kind of rule, like crosses and vampires.

So what are these threats to democracy that Williams had to bring down? Well, the ACLU works to safeguard constitutionally protected liberties and the Tides Foundation partners with nonprofits "dedicated to lasting progressive social change." Sounds awful!

"I'm struck anew by how right-wing extremists view democratic institutions as the biggest threat to democracy," writes David Kurtz.

Yeah, that is weird. You wonder where people get these screwy ideas? (Talking Points Memo)

-Bonus HotD-
"Boehner: I'm ready to lead House."

This statement was made right before he got his foot stuck in a spitoon, lost his balance, wheeled backward onto a buffet table, which acted like a catapult and showered the audience with banana cream pies. Then Mitch McConnell shook his fist at him and said, "Boeh-ner!" All in all, it was zany.

It was something like that anyway. I'm going with Breitbart-level fact-checking on this one. (Politico)

Let's All Agree on One Thing -- Andrew Breitbart is Useless

BreitbartAndrew Breitbart calls himself a journalist. He shouldn't. He's worked as a reporter for E! Entertainment's TV magazine and has served as an editor of the Drudge Report (Yeah, I'm not really sure what being "editor" of a news aggregator actually means either), but that was then, this is now. Let's go way out on a limb and say that those two jobs qualify as "journalism"; Breitbart still is no journalist. I was a cook a long time ago, but you don't see me walking around demanding everyone address me as "Chef." Breitbart quit the journalism business to set up shop as a propagandist.

I just typed out, "My opinion of Andrew Breitbart couldn't get lower," but then I deleted it. It's not exactly true. He could murder a child and I'm pretty sure I'd wind up liking him less, but that's really the only sort of thing that could drag my opinion of him any lower. If you take anything he "reports" seriously, then you're an idiot.

Which makes Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack an idiot. By now, you've probably heard of the story of USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development Shirley Sherrod, fired from that department for about two minutes from a 45 minute speech to the local NAACP. On video, Sherrod tells a story from 24 years ago, when a white farmer came to her for help. She thought he was kind of being a dick about it, talking down to her, so she decided she would not give him "the full force of what I could do."

"Racist!" cried Breitbart.

The weird thing about it is that even edited down as it is, you can still see where this story's going. "That's when it was revealed to me that it's about poor versus those who have," she says at the end of the clip. "It's not so much about [white and black]... because I took him as one of his own." We already see that it's about fighting racism within ourselves, which of course was exactly the moral of the story. When the entire tape came out, it was clear that Sherrod did help this guy, that she wasn't working for the feds at the time, and that Andrew Breitbart was a major source of misinformation pollution in our national discourse. In fact, Sherrod and the man she was accused of harming are actually friends now and as her friend, Roger Spooner and his wife ran to CNN to defend her.

Oh, and Shirley Sherrod was out of a job. AG Secretary Vilsack demanded her resignation and got it -- a move the White House is reviewing.

I propose a new rule; throw Breitbart in the same box with Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. You know, the one labeled "Sources not to be trusted unless independently verified by centuries of empirical research." In fact, Breitbart's reporting here was so shaky that not even serial race-baiter and liar Glenn Beck would run with it. I don't care who you are or what you do, do not ever take action on Breitbart reporting. Ever. He is a one-man BS factory, while his two sites are more of a group effort in the manufacture and distribution of BS. In the world of journalism, he should be the target of mockery and ridicule -- either a blatant liar or a bumbling fool too incompetent to actually verify his sources.

Andrew Breitbart seems to take personal offense at the things said about the tea party -- as if they were being said of him. When accusations of racism within the movement sprung up, Breitbart had to prove the accusers were racist themselves. Not that this would actually prove that there weren't racist teabaggers, but let's not look for evidence of reason in an obsessive's mind. For Andy, one instance of racism apparently cancels out another. It's an idiot's math.

Kate Conway at Media Matters has a helpful hint for media and government in a post titled "Never trust Andrew Breitbart." Can you guess what that hint is? That's right, never trust Andrew Breitbart. The post is too long for me to do justice here, so suffice it to say that Andy has a record of lying, mudslinging, exaggerating, propagandizing, smearing, and general media villainy as long as your arm. So Conway is right; never trust Andrew Breitbart. Am I putting enough emphasis on "never?" Let's try "never!" then.

Media: do not let this man anywhere near your news cycle, he'll just stain it with horsecrap. And government: hire Shirley Sherrod back and don't ever, ever, ever believe a word from Breitbart's websites again.


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News Roundup for 7/20/10

America's greatest enemy

-Headline of the day-
"Sen. Cornyn: 'I Think A Lot Of People Are Looking Back With More Fondness On President Bush's Administration.'"

My first thought when reading that was "define 'a lot.'" I mean, one hundred people in a small tavern could qualify as "a lot" of people, so what are we talking about here? Well, it turns out that for Cornyn "a lot" means "a significant percentage of the American population."

See, former president Bush is coming out with a memoir -- tentatively titled Fighting for Breath: Remembering That One Time a Pretzel Kicked My Ass -- in October. In other words, everyone's going to be reminded what a Republican-controlled government looks like right before the elections. Because Bush is smart like that.

So Cornyn went on C-SPAN, where I guess he figured no one would see it, and said that this wouldn't be a problem since everyone's writhing in the throes of Bush nostalgia. "Look, I think President Bush's stock is going up a lot since he left office..." John said. "I think a lot of people are looking back with a little more -- with more fondness on President Bush's administration, and I think history will treat him well." Bush's book will come out, everyone will recall his courageous pretzel-battle, Republicans will sweep into Washington, and the Democratic Party will be dead forever.

There's a little hitch in this reasoning though -- it's based on bullshit. According to the report, "A recent Time poll found that 61 percent blame Bush for the 'balky economy,' versus 27 percent who blame President Obama. By a whopping 53-to-33 percent margin, Americans favor Obama over Bush." Worse, one the point of history remembering Bush's greatness, we're reminded that "the Siena Research Institute this month released its latest poll of presidential scholars, who ranked Bush as the worst president of the modern era and in the bottom five overall."

So, I suppose you could describe the 33% who think Bush was wonderful as "a lot." But you could also describe the 53% who know better as "a lot more." (Think Progress, with video)

-BP has secretly been fighting gusher since 2001!-
What's wrong with this photo of whizbang geniuses watching the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico on a Star Trek viewscreen? Well, if you look at the fancy notes that photographers attach to their photos in secret metadata code, you see it was created in 2001. Here's the photo (it doesn't get any larger than that, by the way, so don't get all click-happy trying to open it bigger):

Photoshopped BP image

And there's the gusher right there! In 2001! How did they even... What the... Huh?

Turns out there's this thing called "photoshop" and BP used this contraption to make an old photo of guys watching football or something look like they were working on plugging the damn hole! They put this up on their website as evidence of all the hard work they're doing to get the damn hole plugged.

Which kind of makes you wonder; why they couldn't just go get a new photo of all that hard work? Wouldn't that be way easier? Maybe those guys are still watching football. Who knows?

All I can say is quit dicking around with Photoshop and plug the damn hole! (AMERICAblog)

-Bonus HotD-
"Playboy unveils 'safe-for-work' website, TheSmokingJacket."

A boobless Playboy? What would be the point? (Agence France-Presse)

Hillbilly Windpower vs. Gleaming Super-Science

Something that's been kind of distracting me lately is wind power. By now, we've all seen the giant wind generators, but what about smaller ones? What got me started on this line of thinking was an online argument about nuclear energy. We're going to have to look at nuclear, the argument went, because other sources of energy were either way to expensive or not viable yet. Ironically, when I brought up the problem of nuclear waste, it was countered with "generation IV" reactors -- these recycle the waste. I say this was ironic because generation IV reactors aren't viable yet either. But the proponent was a nuke disciple and soldiered on with the argument anyway. I also pointed out that nuclear is stupid-expensive -- something I knew a little about, since I'd written about it before. But the disciple countered that wind power costs between $1,200 to $1,300 per kilowatt, which is comparable to nuclear. This struck me as insane. There's no reason wind power should cost that much. It's way too easy to do.

See, you set up a wind generator and you're done, for the most part. There's some maintenance and storage batteries need to be replaced occasionally, but the fuel itself is free. Meanwhile, everything that's true of wind is true of nuclear -- minus the free fuel. You've got to mine it, refine, and enrich it -- none of which are free. And besides, how difficult can it be to generate power from the wind? Turns out, not very difficult at all.

OK, so this is a small generator, but I want you to get a few points from it. First, you could build one. And I don't mean the hypothetical "you" as in "you can buy a 747 if you've got the money," I mean you personally. You could build one. And the reason for this is also my second point: you can make one out of junk. Mr. SlickVideo here made one out of an old treadmill motor and leftover PVC pipe. You could use a washing machine motor or a pump motor or an old car alternator... You get the idea. When it comes to wind -- or solar, for that matter -- we don't need the centralized generation as much. We'd still need it, but mostly as a back up.

So what would it take to generate enough electricity for a home? Let's take a look. We'll forget about Mr. SlickVideo and observe some geeks in their natural habitat.

Did you catch the cost there? About four hundred bucks for the generator, because it's made from the wheel bearing of a junkyard van.

Now I'm not asking anyone to go out and build a wind generator (although, if you want to, knock yourself out). But what I am asking you to do is think about energy differently. Do you know how a nuclear plant generates power? All electrical generators could be called energy converters -- they take one kind of energy and convert it to electricity. In the case of a nuclear plant, the reactor creates heat, which is turned to kinetic energy, which is then converted to electrical energy. The plant is basically a steam engine, which turns a generator. In other words, it works exactly the same way a coal or natural gas plant does. Put as simply as I can, you build a huge radioactive triumph of modern science and technology and you use it to boil water. This strikes me as overkill.

On the other hand, you can use some old crap you found at the junkyard to turn the generator. Either way, miracle of super-science or Sanford & Son, you're turning that generator. Now I ask you, which makes the most sense?

Yes, we're still going to need that centralized power grid and we probably always will -- multiple residence buildings, office buildings, schools, hospitals, etc. are probably too big for the junkyard solution. And everyone else is going to want that grid in times of what I guess we'll have to call "wind drought." But the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, not to eliminate them. Get enough of these things up and running in backyards and parks and parking lots and you'll have gone quite a way toward that goal of reduction. And when they finally break down, you just tear it down and build another one -- using some of the parts of the dead turbine -- because it's all crap that's lying around anyway. If there isn't enough room for a windmill-style generator, stick a vertical turbine on a roof.

I think part of the problem here is that we have a prejudiced view of the future. We grew up thinking it would be ultra-high-tech and shiny, gleaming white and stately. Nuclear looks a lot like the future we imagined. But it may be that the wiser future is steel rods and axle grease, some PVC pipe and the wheel hub from an old tractor. It may be that going green means the ultimate in recycling -- going hillbilly.

And, if it comes down to which future I'd rather live in, I'll take a roofing tin turbine over the gleaming white mystery. The wind generator is simple. I understand it. I've understood it since I built an electric motor in science class in the sixth grade. Like the guys in the second video, I might have built even the generator myself -- and this runs into a simple circuit I wired, into a couple of old motorcycle batteries, and then into a transformer I got for twenty bucks off eBay. It's not nuclear science and that's the beauty. It's no more complicated than it has to be. Nuclear power or wind power, all we're doing here is turning an axle.


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News Roundup for 7/19/10

Used to be gay -- still is, in fact

-Headline of the day-
"Major 'Ex-Gay' Life Coach Accused of Sexual Misconduct By Former Clients."

The Homosexual Menace scores yet another victory as it turns "ex-gay" snake oil salesman Alan Downing back to the wicked ways of the Homosexual lifestyle. See, for people like Downing, being gay is a choice, but it turns out that it's really, really, really hard for some people to choose not to be gay. So they need a little help. This generally involves a lot of pseudo-psychological hoodoo and big dollop of Jesus. After that, you can go ahead and be "normal" with a wife and kids and all that stuff.

Of course, the problem with this whole "ex-gay" therapy thing is that it doesn't work at all, which is the one drawback. And since the whole thing is run by people who are "ex-gay," this often presents embarrassing problems. And Downing's is one of them.

According to the report, "[Two of Downing's] clients, Ben Unger and Chaim Levin, alleged that during individual therapy sessions, Downing made them undress in front of a mirror and touch their bodies while the significantly older therapist watched. Unger and Levin call the sessions a 'psychological striptease' and believe they were harmed by what they consider unprofessional behavior and sexual misconduct." Further, we're told; "Writer Ted Cox infiltrated this [Downing's] program and was surprised to find what he called, 'homoerotic exercises' and a cabin that he called 'The Cuddle Room' because it was a space where supposedly 'ex-gay' men gave each other inappropriate massages."

I don't care what it is, anything that needs that many quotation marks is automatically a little hinky. And -- this is just me here -- all of this stuff seems awfully... what's the word I'm looking for?... Gay.

I'll leave the punchline to the very first commenter on the story, who goes simply by "William": "If this is a new alternative to homosexuality, then it's very inferior to the old tried and tested homosexuality." (Truth Wins Out)

-Public Service Announcement-
"Yesterday, 45-year-old parolee Byron Williams opened fire on Highway Patrol officers in Oakland, California," Think Progress reports. "After a brief shootout, Williams, who was wearing body armor, was shot and is currently in an emergency room in stable condition at a local hospital."

Turns out that Williams was crazy. How crazy? Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck/teabagger crazy.

His mother says he was angry at "left-wing politicians" who were "railroading through all these left-wing agenda items," telling her "eventually, I think we re going to be caught up in a revolution." So, of course, the thing to do when you're pissed off at Democratic politicians is to start shooting at cops. Everyone knows cops are all Democratic politicians.

Look, I know you think watching FOX News and rightwing talk radio is just harmless fun, but look what it can do to your head. Friends don't let friends be rightwing media consumers. It's all bullshit and it can turn you crazy. (Think Progress)

-Bonus HotD-
"NPR now vying for front row White House seat."

I'm totally for NPR getting Helen Thomas' still-warm seat, since a lot of media outlets are planning to hide behind a paywall and National Public Radio is free, free, free. Who do we bribe with a half-ton of tote bags and coffee mugs to see that this happens? (The Upshot)