April 30, 2006

Cobert at the Correspondent's Dinner

Loves it!

There's more for later tonight... be patient!

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Russia, all about an Israeli-Iranian war

So Russia inks a deal to sell an advanced air defense missile system to Iran then lifts an Israeli spy satellite into orbit. Refer Iran to the UN Security Council because uranium enrichment? Not so much.

Connect the dots and it leads you to one inevitable conclusion... Iran and Israel are on a collision path.

When the war begins, it will be between Iran and Israel. Before it ends, though, it may set the whole of the Middle East on fire, pulling in the United States, leaving a legacy of instability that will last for generations and permanently ending a century of American supremacy.

Rosa Brooks at the LATimes has a great piece up after the fold.

War clouds
Russia's dangerous double game with Israel and Iran could easily spark a Middle East conflict, with dire consequences for the U.S.
April 28, 2006

LET ME TELL YOU about the next war.

It will start sooner than you think — sometime between now and September. And it will be precipitated by the $700-million Russian deal this week to sell Tor air defense missile systems to Iran.

When the war begins, it will be between Iran and Israel. Before it ends, though, it may set the whole of the Middle East on fire, pulling in the United States, leaving a legacy of instability that will last for generations and permanently ending a century of American supremacy.

Despite the high stakes, the Bush administration seems barely to have noticed the danger posed by the Russian missile sale. But the signs are there, for those inclined to read them.

As international pressure over their nuclear program mounts, the Iranians have become increasingly bellicose toward the U.S. and Israel. On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel was a "fake regime" that "cannot logically continue to live." On Wednesday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, warned that "if the U.S. ventured into any aggression on Iran, Iran will retaliate by damaging the U.S. interests worldwide."

Israel has upped the rhetorical heat as well. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated Israel's determination to "make sure no one has the capability or the power to commit destruction against us."

This alone should make any observer jittery. In June 1981, Israel unilaterally launched an airstrike against a nuclear reactor near Baghdad. Iran's nuclear facilities are dispersed and well-concealed, making a preemptive Israeli strike far more difficult this time around. But there's no reason to doubt Israel's willingness to try.

Of course, there's no firm evidence that Iran has offensive nuclear capabilities. And even a successful military strike against Iran would be a risky move for Israel, potentially igniting regionwide instability. Absent external meddling, Israel has a substantial incentive to wait to see if a diplomatic solution can be found.

But Russian brinksmanship is about to remove Israel's incentive to pursue a peaceful diplomatic path.

Russian leaders continue to mouth the usual diplomatic platitudes about democracy and global cooperation, but Russia is actually playing a complex double game. On Tuesday, Russia launched a spy satellite for Israel, which the Israelis can use to monitor Iran's nuclear facilities. On the same day, Russian leaders confirmed their opposition to any U.N. Security Council effort to impose sanctions against Iran, and their intention to go through with the lucrative sale of 29 Tor M1 air defense missile systems to Iran.

"There are no circumstances which would get in the way of us carrying out our commitments in the field of military cooperation with Iran," declared Nikolai Spassky, deputy head of Russia's National Security Council.

The upcoming deployment of Tor missiles around Iranian nuclear sites dramatically changes the calculus in the Middle East, and it significantly increases the risk of a regional war. Once the missile systems are deployed, Iran's air defenses will become far more sophisticated, and Israel will likely lose whatever ability it now has to unilaterally destroy Iran's nuclear facilities.

The clock is ticking for Israel. To have a hope of succeeding, any unilateral Israeli strike against Iran must take place before September, when the Tor missile deployment is set to be completed.

At best, a conflict between Israel and Iran (with resulting civilian casualties) would further inflame anti-Israel sentiment in the Islamic world, with a consequent increase in terrorism, both against Israel and against the U.S., Israel's main foreign backer. At worst — if the U.S. gets drawn into the conflict directly — the entire Middle East could implode, terrorist attacks worldwide would increase, the already overstretched U.S. military would be badly damaged and U.S. global influence would wane — perhaps forever.

So what is Russia up to? Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political analyst, suggests that Russia's oil and gas oligarchs wouldn't shed any tears over a war in the Middle East, especially if it's a war that ensnares the U.S. and keeps oil prices high.

Even so, it may not be too late to avert a new war in the Middle East. A quiet but firm U.S. threat to boycott the G-8 summit in July in St. Petersburg might inspire Russian President Vladimir V. Putin to freeze the missile transfer. And a promise to facilitate Russian entry into the World Trade Organization might even get Russia's oil and gas oligarchs on board. Freezing the missile sale would buy crucial time to find a diplomatic solution to the stalemate over Iran's nuclear program.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration appears to be asleep at the wheel, too distracted by Iraq, skyrocketing gas prices and plummeting approval ratings to devote any attention to Russia's potentially catastrophic mischief.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

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If you want it up, you gotta point it out

We've received some interesting letters from y'all with the messages running the gamut from 'I love your site' to 'I hope you rot in hell you liveral(sic) scumbag'. There was one in particular I'd like to point out

"I wish you guys would run stories about other parts of the country. It get's a little old hearing about Texas and National stuff all the time"

OK, in our defense, we OFTEN point out funny, odd or interesting things from other parts of the country. The reason Texas gets so much coverage is that all the writers on this site are in Texas. Most of us have a front row seat to the best show in Texas politics, The Lege in Session. Rest assured, it won't last longer than a few more weeks. Until then, if there is something going on in your area, write it up with links and send it to me. I'll use whatever name you tell me to use (I don't give out your real ID) and post it. Seriously, we all have full time jobs so we'll literally cut, paste and post.

If you want to hear something about CA, you gotta step up and let us know about it. And it's LIBERAL, not LIVERAL.

Posted by mcblogger at 03:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 29, 2006

Rummy : Has to go, but no one wants to replace him

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI mean seriously, what the hell is ANYONE going to do with the miasma that DoD has become? Rummy and Bush have made such mess of things there that it's hard to find anyone who wants the job. The AP (via the SacBee) has a great article up on exactly this problem, chock full of people that have been 'mentioned' but without any acknowldgement that any of them would take the job if el Presidente were to call manana and ask them to step up to the plate. To wit

Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, said he has little doubt that Rumsfeld will remain at the Pentagon for some time, despite the unpopularity of the Iraq war and criticism of his management style. He called Lieberman one of the few Democrats who would accept the job and who could get along with Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

ROCK! Lieberman couldn't do any worse than Rummy AND it would create a nice, easy entry into the Senate for a real Democrat that even TNR likes, Ned Lamont.

O'Hanlon also mentioned Nunn, a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as another possibility. "But I'm not sure even he would take it under these circumstances," O'Hanlon said.

Well, then let's leave him off the list until we've had a chance to feel him out, OK Mikey?

"America deserves a secretary of defense who has the vision to implement a policy in Iraq that is worthy of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., one of Rumsfeld's harshest critics.

When asked for ideas about who he would like to see in job, Kennedy sputtered something about a previously scheduled event and scurried off.

Personally, I think Rummy's going to be gone soon. When even your most ardent supporters, like Senator John 'WalkingDead' Cornyn are saying things like, ""not overly communicative" and "smelly, like gorgonzola", you pretty much have to know it's time to move on.

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Tomasky : Democrats should 'seize the moment to reshape the debate'

The American Prospect has a good piece up by Michael Tomasky about what the Democrats should do to seize the debate, not just focus on winning in 2006. I'm posting the whole thing after the fold and I hope you'll take a moment to read it.

I think it should be part of a larger message... individual rights (like a woman's right to choose, or the right of homosexuals to marry) are part of the common good and help create a unified framework for a Democratic message. In short, WE ARE AMERICA... controlled by no one, working together to better ourselves and boldly creating an amazing future for our children.

Party in Search of a Notion
The opportunity before the Democrats is far bigger than a few House and Senate seats if they can recognize -- and seize -- this unique historical moment.

By Michael Tomasky
Issue Date: 05.04.06

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The Democrats are feeling upbeat these days, and why not? The Republican president and vice president have lost the country’s confidence. The Republican-controlled Congress is a sump of corruption, sycophancy, and broken principle. Races in the midterm election that Democratic leaders wouldn’t have dreamed of a few months ago are in play (the Senate seat in Tennessee!). A recent poll showed Democrats with a gaping 16-point lead over Republicans this fall. Seizing on the issues of corruption and incompetence, the party might even take back the House or the Senate -- or both.

The prevailing conventional wisdom in Washington -- that the Democrats have no idea what they stand for -- has recently been put to the test in persuasive ways. In an important piece in the May issue of The Washington Monthly, Amy Sullivan demonstrates that the Democrats have in fact become a disciplined and effective opposition party. From their Social Security victory to George W. Bush’s backing down on his post-Katrina changes to the Davis-Bacon law to the Dubai ports deal, the Democrats have dealt the administration a series of defeats -- each of which took a reflexive media, still accustomed to hitting F9 to spit out the words “Democrats in disarray,” by complete surprise. More than that, the Democrats do have ideas; it’s just that no one bothers to cover them.

The party has discipline, a tactical strategy as the opposition, and a more than respectable roster of policy proposals waiting to be considered should Democrats become the majority again. It’s quite different from, say, three years ago. But let’s not get carried away. There remains a missing ingredient -- the crucial ingredient of politics, the factor that helps unite a party (always a coalition of warring interests), create majorities, and force the sort of paradigm shifts that happened in 1932 and 1980. It’s the factor they need to think about if their goal is not merely to win elections but to govern decisively after winning them.

What the Democrats still don’t have is a philosophy, a big idea that unites their proposals and converts them from a hodgepodge of narrow and specific fixes into a vision for society. Indeed, the party and the constellation of interests around it don’t even think in philosophical terms and haven’t for quite some time. There’s a reason for this: They’ve all been trained to believe -- by the media, by their pollsters -- that their philosophy is an electoral loser. Like the dogs in the famous “learned helplessness” psychological experiments of the 1960s -- the dogs were administered electrical shocks from which they could escape, but from which, after a while, they didn’t even try to, instead crouching in the corner in resignation and fear -- the Democrats have given up attempting big ideas. Any effort at doing so, they’re convinced, will result in electrical (and electoral) shock.

But is that as true as it appears? Certainly, today’s Democrats can’t simply return to the philosophy that was defeated in the late 1970s. But at the same time, let’s recognize a new historical moment when we see one: Today, for the first time since 1980, it is conservative philosophy that is being discredited (or rather, is discrediting itself) on a scale liberals wouldn’t have dared imagine a few years ago. An opening now exists, as it hasn’t in a very long time, for the Democrats to be the visionaries. To seize this moment, the Democrats need to think differently -- to stop focusing on their grab bag of small-bore proposals that so often seek not to offend and that accept conservative terms of debate. And to do that, they need to begin by looking to their history, for in that history there is an idea about liberal governance that amounts to more than the million-little-pieces, interest-group approach to politics that has recently come under deserved scrutiny and that can clearly offer the most compelling progressive response to the radical individualism of the Bush era.

* * *

For many years -- during their years of dominance and success, the period of the New Deal up through the first part of the Great Society -- the Democrats practiced a brand of liberalism quite different from today’s. Yes, it certainly sought to expand both rights and prosperity. But it did something more: That liberalism was built around the idea -- the philosophical principle -- that citizens should be called upon to look beyond their own self-interest and work for a greater common interest.

This, historically, is the moral basis of liberal governance -- not justice, not equality, not rights, not diversity, not government, and not even prosperity or opportunity. Liberal governance is about demanding of citizens that they balance self-interest with common interest. Any rank-and-file liberal is a liberal because she or he somehow or another, through reading or experience or both, came to believe in this principle. And every leading Democrat became a Democrat because on some level, she or he believes this, too.

I remember my moment of epiphany clearly. It was early 1981; Ronald Reagan had taken office. I was toying, at the time, with some conservative notions -- not because I believed them, but mostly to engage in that time-honored sport of 20-year-old men everywhere: to traduce the old man. Reagan had just fired the air-traffic controllers. Dad and I were in the car, our Ford Granada, driving somewhere; I said (I cringe to confess this in print) something about the strike being illegal -- Reagan’s line, then being aped on television by such TV loudmouths as existed in that distant age. “Michael,” he thundered (and he could thunder, all right!), “all strikes are illegal! That’s part of the point!” Hmmm. It hadn’t quite occurred to me that maybe there was more to the story than the television savants were letting on. He’d overstated the case a bit (all strikes aren’t illegal), but in doing so, my father had asked me to think, and his request led me to consider things in a light I hadn’t before -- about the PATCO workers, yes; but about history and money and power, about the mine workers so central to the place where I grew up (Morgantown, West Virginia) and to my father’s life (he was a United Mine Workers shop steward as a young man, before he got his law degree); about the precept that real thought and engagement on my part required looking beyond first assumptions, examining a problem from points of view other than my own, and considering any action’s impact on the whole society.

This is the only justification leaders can make to citizens for liberal governance, really: That all are being asked to contribute to a project larger than themselves.

In terms of political philosophy, this idea of citizens sacrificing for and participating in the creation of a common good has a name: civic republicanism. It’s the idea, which comes to us from sources such as Rousseau’s social contract and some of James Madison’s contributions to the Federalist Papers, that for a republic to thrive, leaders must create and nourish a civic sphere in which citizens are encouraged to think broadly about what will sustain that republic and to work together to achieve common goals. This is what Dad asked me to understand that day in our Granada.

* * *

This is what Democrats used to ask of people. Political philosophers argue about when they stopped; Michael Sandel believes that republicanism died with the New Deal. But for me, it’s clear that the great period of liberal hegemony in this country was, in fact, a period when citizens were asked to contribute to a project larger than their own well-being. And, crucially, it was a period when citizens (a majority of them, at least) reciprocally understood themselves to have a stake in this larger project. The New Deal, despite what conservative critics have maintained since the 1930s, did not consist of the state (the government) merely handing out benefices to the nation (the people), turning citizens into dependent wards; it engaged and ennobled people: Social Security and all the jobs programs and rural electrification plans and federal mortgage-insurance programs were examples of the state giving people the tools to improve their own lives while improving the collective life of the country (to say nothing of the way Franklin Roosevelt rallied Americans to common purpose in fighting through the Depression and the war). Harry Truman turned the idea of common purpose outward to the rest of the world, enacting the Marshall Plan, creating NATO and other regional alliances, exhorting Americans to understand that they belonged to a community larger than even their country. John Kennedy engaged Americans precisely at the level of asking them to sacrifice for a common good, through the things that are obvious to us -- the Peace Corps, and of course “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” -- and through things that history’s fog has made less obvious (his relentless insistence that victory in the Cold War could be truly achieved only through improvement at home, which would require sacrifice and civic engagement).

Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, until it washed up on the bone-strewn beaches of Vietnam and New Left–driven atomization, fit the paradigm, too. Consider just the first two sentences of Johnson’s remarks upon signing the Civil Rights Act: “I am about to sign into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I want to take this occasion to talk to you about what that law means to every American.” Not black people. Not Southerners. Not even “our nation.” Every American -- the words gave citizens agency and a stake in seeing that this unprecedented social experiment would succeed. In March 1965, Johnson again emphasized every American’s stake in the fight for equal rights: “should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. ... Their cause must be our cause, too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it’s all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.”

What Johnson and his advisers knew, just as Hubert Humphrey down Pennsylvania Avenue in the Senate knew, was that desegregation would fail if the matter were put to the American people only in terms of the rights of those directly affected; it had to be presented as advancing the common good. This was a core belief for these Democrats (besides which, they knew -- and their testimony on this point is amply demonstrated in books and memoirs and the like -- that their programs would never get through Congress if they lacked this element).

Today’s Democratic Party has completely lost connection with this principle. How and when did this happen? Against this small-r republican tradition that posits sacrifice for larger, universalist purposes is another tradition that has propelled American liberalism, that indeed is what the philosophers call liberalism proper: from Locke and Mill up to John Rawls in our time, a greater emphasis on the individual (and, later, the group), on tolerance, on rights, and on social justice. In theory, it is not inevitable that these two traditions must clash. But in the 1960s, it was inevitable that they did. And it is clear which side has won the argument within the Democratic Party.

* * *

The old liberalism got America out of depression, won the war against fascism, built the middle class, created global alliances, and made education and health care far closer to universal than they had ever been. But there were things it did not do; its conception of the common good was narrow -- completely unacceptable, in fact, to us today. Japanese Americans during World War II and African Americans pretty much ever were not part of that common good; women were only partially included. Because of lack of leadership and political expediency (Roosevelt needing the South, for example), this liberalism had betrayed liberal principle and failed millions of Americans. Something had to give.

At first, some Democrats -- Johnson and Humphrey, for example, and even some Republicans back then -- tried to expand the American community to include those who had been left behind. But the political process takes time, and compromise; young people and black people and poor people were impatient, and who could blame them? By 1965, ’66, ’67, the old liberalism’s failures, both domestically and in Vietnam, were so apparent as to be crushing. A new generation exposed this “common good” as nothing more than a lie to keep power functioning, so as not to disturb the “comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom” that Herbert Marcuse described in 1964 in one of the more memorable phrases of the day. Activists at the time were convinced -- and they were not particularly wrong -- that the old liberalism, far from nurturing a civic sphere in which all could deliberate and whose bounty all could enjoy, had created this unfreedom. The only response was to shatter it.

That was the work, of course, of New Left groups like Students for a Democratic Society, the (post-1965) Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and a host of others. Other activists opposed the shattering -- to the contrary, their goal was to make the Democratic Party more inclusive. But even this more salutary impulse could be excessive, as with the famous example of the Cook County delegation to the 1972 Democratic Convention, in which, of the 59 delegates, only three were Poles. Many in the Democratic Party of that era opposed these attempts at inclusion and new social-justice efforts vehemently. But in time, the party rid itself of those elements, and some of the ’60s activists became Democratic operatives and even politicians. The stance of radical oppositionism dissipated as the ’60s flamed out; but the belief system, which devalued the idea of the commons, held fast and became institutionalized within the Democratic Party. The impact on the party was that the liberal impulse that privileged social justice and expansion of rights was now, for the first time, separated entirely from the civic-republican impulse of the common good. By the 1970s, some social programs -- busing being the most obvious example -- were pursued not because they would be good for every American, but because they would expand the rights of some Americans. The old Johnsonian formulation was gone. Liberalism, and the Democratic Party, lost the language of advancing the notion that a citizen’s own interest, even if that citizen did not directly benefit from such-and-such a program, was bound up in the common interest. Democrats were now asking many people to sacrifice for a greater good of which they were not always a part.

Toss in inflation, galloping under a new Democratic president; a public, especially a white urban public, tiring of liberal failures on the matters of crime and decline; the emergence of these new things, social issues, which hadn’t been very central to politics before but became a permanent fixture of the landscape now; the Iranian hostage crisis; and the funding on a huge scale, unprecedented in our history, of a conservative intellectual class and polemical apparatus. Toss in also the rise of interest-group pluralism: the proliferation of single-issue advocacy organizations. All supported good causes, but their dominance intensified the stratification. They presented Democrats with questionnaires to fill out, endorsements to battle for, sentences to be inserted into speeches, and favors to be promised -- and not just at election time; but even more importantly, when it came time to govern.

* * *

By 1980, Reagan had seized the idea of the common good. To be sure, it was a harshly conservative variant that quite actively depended on white middle-class resentment. But to its intended audience, his narrative was powerful, a clean punch landed squarely on the Democratic glass jaw. The liberals had come to ask too much of regular people: You, he said to the middle-class (and probably white) American, have to work hard and pay high taxes while welfare cheats lie around the house all day, getting the checks liberal politicians make sure they get; you follow the rules while the criminals go on their sprees and then get sprung by shifty liberal lawyers. For a lot of (white) people, it was powerful. And, let’s face it, manipulative as it was, it wasn’t entirely untrue, either!

Bill Clinton took several important steps to address this, and to recapture the notion of the common good. He was quite attuned to the sometimes heated academic debates of the 1980s that pitted liberalism against republicanism and the then-new school of thought called communitarianism. With some programs, Clinton strove toward a kind of civic-republican liberalism: notably AmeriCorps, his program of national and community service that has been a noble attempt to create a sense of civic obligation among young people, even if it has never quite penetrated the national consciousness.

But, after the health-care fiasco, he didn’t really use political capital (he would argue that he didn’t have any, and he’d have a point) to try to build a liberalism of the common good. Here, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) enters the story. The DLC did have its own conception of the common good; indeed, the DLC, along with the communitarians, introduced the vocabulary of “rights and responsibilities” as a way to restore a civic-republican impulse to Democratic politics. Adding that word “responsibilities” was seen by many liberals as racial code, but, to be fair, the DLC also proposed, for example, an aggressive corporate-welfare program in the 1990s (that is, responsibility for the corporate body, too).

On balance, adding “responsibilities” was a useful rhetorical corrective. But in the real world, it ended up applying chiefly to poor black women (i.e., welfare reform); the corporate-welfare plans went nowhere. Why? Because what the DLC gave up on, by and large, was government -- a belief in public-sector answers to large and pressing problems. If the rights-based activists of the 1960s were guilty of defenestrating the idea of the common good, then the centrists of the 1980s and early 1990s were guilty of pushing too far in the other direction -- the direction of a too-extreme reticence about state interventionism, and of trying to make the rights crowd just shut up. Also -- of dressing up small and innocuous proposals in the garb of world-historical significance. The common good was said to be waiting to be rekindled not in the idea that capital should be taxed just as highly as wages, or in large-scale investments in public infrastructure, but in the form of the V-chip.

For all his important successes, Clinton’s broadest appeal was to people’s self-interest; “I feel your pain.” (Let’s stop and appreciate that this was quite an achievement at the time, to make voters identify their self-interest with a Democrat!) Meanwhile, even though the party controlled the presidency, it lost the Senate, the House, many statehouses, and several state legislatures. In philosophical terms, the 1990s was really a decade of conservative advancement -- checked and meliorated by the presence of a reasonably progressive president, but an age when the attacks on liberal governance that started in the late 1970s really took root, well below the level of the presidency, creating this thing “Red America,” making the Gingrich revolution possible, and laying the groundwork for the second Bush era. Then came September 11, and Iraq, and a bulldozing Congress. Democrats were lost in the woods, completely disconnected from their mission and history.

* * *

So where does this leave today’s Democrats? A more precise way to ask the question is this: What principle or principles unites them all, from Max Baucus to Maxine Waters and everyone in between, and what do they demand that citizens believe?

As I’ve said, they no longer ask them to believe in the moral basis of liberal governance, in demanding that citizens look beyond their own self-interest. They, or many of them, don’t really ask citizens to believe in government anymore. Or taxes, or regulation -- oh, sort of on regulation, but only some of them, and only occasionally, when something happens like the mining disasters in my home state earlier this year. They do ask Americans to believe that middle-income people should get a fair shake, but they lack the courage to take that demand to the places it should logically go, like universal health coverage. And, of course, on many issues the party is ideologically all over the place; if you were asked to paint the party’s belief system, the result would resemble a Pollock.

At bottom, today’s Democrats from Baucus to Waters are united in only two beliefs, and they demand that American citizens believe in only two things: diversity and rights.

Sometime last fall, after John Roberts’ Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearings but before the full vote, I was on a conference call set up by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid with a few reporters and bloggers. The Nation’s Eric Alterman wanted to know whether Reid would make the Roberts nomination a party-line vote. No, he said; but he himself would be opposing Roberts. His stated reason: Roberts’ refusal to apologize to Chuck Schumer during the hearings for his use of the phrase “illegal amigos” in a 1983 White House memo. Let’s agree that Roberts should have apologized, said it was a poor attempt at humor. Let’s even say that it does demonstrate a certain attitude that is inappropriate to this day and age. But honestly -- of all the many reasons to oppose Roberts’ elevation to the Chief Justice’s chair, this is the main one cited by the top-ranking Democrat in the country? Like a bungling politician in a Milan Kundera novel, here is brave Reid, ready to defend the polity, not against reactionary interpretations of the establishment clause or executive power, but against a 20-year-old politically incorrect joke!

Don’t misunderstand me. It’s one of the transcendent victories of contemporary liberalism, in an era when victories have been few, to consecrate diversity as a societal end, a legitimate measure of a good and complete society. Far from having been an invention of ’60s radicals, it is in fact rooted deep in the liberal tradition, in that Lockean tradition of tolerance. It’s a marvelous thing that this is one historical battle we seem (for now at least, as we brace for the Roberts-Alito era) to have won. Here I think back to 1995, when the Gingrich revolutionaries, and Bob Dole, wanted to pass legislation banning or curtailing affirmative action. Sharpening their knives, they went to their friends in corporate America: The time is right, they said; let’s scuttle these racial preferences. To their consternation, they didn’t have many takers. Corporate leaders said, well, we’ve spent a lot of time (and money) developing diversity policies, and they’re working rather nicely. Imagine! The principle of diversity supported by a mostly Republican group to such an extent that Congress was taken aback. The revolutionaries dropped it, left it to the courts. These corporations were in fact making a common-good argument to the revolutionaries: Diversity has served us well as a whole, enriched us. And it’s not just corporate America: All over the country, white attitudes on race, straight peoples’ attitudes toward gay people, have changed dramatically for the better. These attitudes have changed because liberals and (most) Democrats decided that diversity was a principle worth defending on its own terms. Put another way, they decided to demand of citizens that they come to terms with diversity. So it can work, this demanding.

On the question of rights, the story is more mixed. Liberals were chagrined, after 9-11, to see the percentages of Americans who told pollsters they were willing to sacrifice some liberties for security, and more recently that only a very slim majority thought warrantless spying was a bad idea. But even this narrative isn’t all bad. Majorities support all manner of rights, if with asterisks -- to an abortion under many conditions, to privacy unless you’re a terrorist, to a fair trial even if you are a terrorist, to free speech unless you’re inciting to riot. Americans are actually better about this than the French or the British, or just about anyone, really. Again, liberals (with an assist from the Founders) placed this demand on citizens, and a majority of citizens responded.

But diversity and rights cannot be the only goods that Democrats demand citizens accept. For liberalism to succeed, they have to exist alongside an idea of a common good. When they don’t, things are out of balance, corrupted; and liberalism is open to the sort of attack made by Stanley Fish on The New York Times op-ed page back in February. Liberalism, he wrote, is “the religion of letting it all hang out”; its “first tenet” is that “everything (at least in the realm of expression and ideas) is to be permitted, but nothing is to be taken seriously.”

This is preposterous, and the column drew many angry (and intelligent) letters. But unfortunately, I suspect that many Americans -- not just people on the right, many not-terribly-political people -- believe that Fish described liberalism precisely. Anything goes, man, because we don’t really think about how a given action affects the community; we just care about whether, in questioning that action, the community is trampling on the actor’s rights. We’re in an age today -- the age of Guantanamo, of withdrawal from the Geneva Conventions, and of illegal spying justified as executive necessity -- when rights must be guarded with special care. But to think of every mode of action in terms of whether it can be enshrined as a right is a habit of mind that can lead our fellow citizens not to take us as seriously as we want them to when we talk about these other very real infringements on rights.

Liberals and Democrats of the 1960s had to abandon common-good conceptions in favor of rights and social-justice ideas when they decided that the older liberalism had failed on too many fronts and they could no longer delay the work of securing the full rights of those Americans who hadn’t had them. Their decision was necessary and courageous, even if some of them and their followers did spin off into radical and profoundly anti-majoritarian directions.

But that decision is now 40 years old. And, yet, that mode of thought still governs much about the way the Democratic Party, its interest groups, and liberal activists think and act today. And many of those who don’t think and act this way, those Democrats who fight this brand of liberalism, have gone too far down the other road -- so chary of anything that smacks of the old-time liberal religion that they too readily embrace a new one so promiscuously ecumenical, so intent on proving that it carries none of that old baggage, that it makes room for things like voting for last year’s bankruptcy bill and supporting, still, the war in Iraq. Both roads are philosophical dead ends. They’re also political dead ends, the former potentially alienating moderates, the latter giving rise to indifference and disgust in the party’s base. It’s time for something new that stands a chance of reaching both of those groups.

* * *

The Democrats need to become the party of the common good. They need a simple organizing principle that is distinct from Republicans and that isn’t a reaction to the Republicans. They need to remember what made liberalism so successful from 1933 to 1966, that reciprocal arrangement of trust between state and nation. And they need to take the best parts of the rights tradition of liberalism and the best parts of the more recent responsibilities tradition and fuse them into a new philosophy that is both civic-republican and liberal -- that goes back to the kind of rhetoric Johnson used in 1964 and 1965, that attempts to enlist citizens in large projects to which everyone contributes and from which everyone benefits.

Arguing for it is the only way that Democrats can come to stand for something clear and authoritative again. It’s not enough in our age, after the modern conservative ascendancy, to stand for activist government, or necessary taxes and regulation, or gay marriage, or abortion rights, or evolution, or the primacy of science, or universal health care, or affirmative action, or paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants, or college education for all, or environmental protection, or more foreign aid, or a comprehensive plan to foster democracy in the Arab world, or any of the other particular and necessary things that Democrats do or should support; it isn’t enough to stand for any of those things per se. Some of them have been discredited to the broad public, while others are highly contentious and leave the Democrats open to the same old charges. And those that aren’t contentious or discredited suffer the far worse problem of being uninteresting: They’re just policies, and voters don’t, and should not be expected to, respond to policies. Voters respond to ideas, and Democrats can stand for an idea: the idea that we’re all in this -- post-industrial America, the globalized world, and especially the post–9-11 world in which free peoples have to unite to fight new threats -- together, and that we have to pull together, make some sacrifices, and, just sometimes, look beyond our own interests to solve our problems and create the future.

The common good is common sense, and the historical time is right for it, for two reasons. First, what I’m trying to describe here is post-ideological in the best sense, a sense that could have broader appeal than what we normally think of as liberal ideology, because what’s at the core of this worldview isn’t ideology. It’s something more innately human: faith. Not religious faith. Faith in America and its potential to do good; faith that we can build a civic sphere in which engagement and deliberation lead to good and rational outcomes; and faith that citizens might once again reciprocally recognize, as they did in the era of Democratic dominance, that they will gain from these outcomes. Maintaining such a faith is extraordinarily difficult in the face of the right-wing noise machine and a conservative movement that, to put it mildly, do not engage in good-faith civic debate. Conservatism can succeed on such a cynical basis; its darker view of human nature accepts discord as a fact of life and exploits it. But for liberalism, which is grounded in a more benign view of human nature, to succeed, the most persuasive answer to bad faith, as Martin Luther King showed, is more good faith. All Americans are not Bill O’Reilly fans or Wall Street Journal editorialists. While they may not call themselves liberals, many of them -- enough of them -- are intelligent people who want to be inspired by someone to help their country.

The second reason this could succeed is simple: the Bush years. By 2008, we will have lived through seven-plus years of an administration that has done almost nothing for the common good, that has unleashed the most rapacious social Darwinism we’ve seen in this country for at least 80 years, and that has catered to its interest groups far more, at once more obsequiously and more arrogantly, than even the Mondale-era Democrats did. Americans are, and will be, ready for something very different.

Here, I can even offer some proof. A March 2006 research project by the Center for American Progress (CAP) asked 900 Americans of all political stripes a series of questions about the role of faith and values in public life. The numbers, shared with me and about to be released publicly, support the contention that Americans recognize the absence of a common good in civic life and yearn for some leadership that will do something about it. The survey asked respondents whether they agreed with a series of 12 assertions about American life today; 68 percent strongly agreed with the assertion that “our government should be committed to the common good.” This placed second only to “Americans are becoming too materialistic” (71 percent); it tied with “our government should uphold basic decency and dignity,” which is a similar sentiment, and it came in well ahead of such conservative chestnuts as “religion is on the decline in America” (41 percent) and “not enough Americans know right from wrong anymore” (46 percent). Respondents were then given an opportunity to offer open-ended descriptions of what the phrase “‘the common good’ means to you personally.” As with any open-ended poll question, answers were all over the lot, but the two most frequently volunteered answers used language that could have been plucked from this essay: “Good for all concerned/involved/more than individual” (20 percent), and “Good for the majority/not just for the few” (15 percent). One poll isn’t conclusive, of course; but this one strongly suggests a nascent sentiment that Democrats can tap into.

* * *

Two things have to happen before the Democrats will be able to do this. First, the way interest-group politics are done in today’s Democratic Party just has to change. I’m not the first to observe this recently -- indeed, momentum is gathering behind this view, although it’s still a long way from being a consensus one. In their controversial 2004 paper, “The Death of Environmentalism,” Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger blasted the environmental movement’s tactical narrowness and outdated intellectual frameworks. In their perceptive and passionate new book Crashing the Gate, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and Jerome Armstrong rebuke liberal interest groups for a variety of sins, notably of feeling the need to endorse a few moderate Republicans for Congress even though those Republicans, while they might have acceptable records on issue X, Y, or Z, will go on to make Bill Frist the majority leader and Dennis Hastert the speaker -- and with that single vote, more than cancel out whatever nice things they do when nothing’s on the line.

This kind of politics is shallow, it’s shortsighted, it’s anti-progressive, and it nullifies the idea that there might even be a common good. Interest groups need to start thinking in common-good terms. Much of the work done by these groups, and many of their goals, are laudable. But if they can’t justify that work and those goals in more universalist terms rather than particularist ones, then they just shouldn’t be taken seriously. Immigration policy can’t be chiefly about the rights of undocumented immigrants; it needs to be about what’s good for the country. Similarly with civil-rights policy -- affirmative action, say, which will surely be up for review one day again when a case reaches the Roberts court. As I noted above, when talking about Gingrich’s failure in 1995, there exist powerful common-good arguments for affirmative action. In addition to the idea that diversity enriches private-sector environments, affirmative action has been the most important single factor in the last 40 years in the broad expansion of the black middle class, which in turn (as more blacks and whites work and live together) has dramatically improved race relations in this county, which has been good, as LBJ would put it, for every American.

The second thing that has to happen is that Democrats must lead -- the interest groups and the rest of us -- toward this new paradigm. Someone in the party has to decide to bust the mold. I dream of the Democratic presidential candidate who, in his -- or her -- announcement speech in August 2007 says something like the following: “To the single-issue groups arrayed around my party, I say this. I respect the work you do and support your causes. But I won’t seek and don’t want your endorsement. My staff and I won’t be filling out any questionnaires. You know my track record; decide from it whether I’ll be a good president. But I am running to communicate to Americans that I put the common interest over particular interests.” Okay, I said it was a dream. But there it is -- in one bold stroke, a candidate occupies the highest moral ground available to politicians: to be unbought and unbossed.

It’s hard for groups to change, and they must be given a reason to do so -- a stake in a new paradigm and an assurance that their interests will not be tossed to the side. The answer is that, if Democrats are permitted to adopt a new philosophy and practice their politics differently -- and, if Democratic leaders rise to the occasion -- the prevailing situation in this country could change dramatically for the better, and that would benefit all their causes in the long run. I can’t sketch out the implications of the framework I propose for every policy issue -- those implications will be a matter of civic negotiation. But I can say that a new civic-republican liberalism can justify collective action far more powerfully and persuasively than anything the Democrats have done or said in a long time. Such arguments can be constructed on behalf of almost every single thing the party purports to stand for: health-care coverage for those without it, the need to protect the planet and take global warming seriously, energy independence, asset-building for African Americans and other disproportionately poor groups, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and more. Such rhetoric can surely be wedded effectively to core economic matters. Last month in these pages, my colleague Harold Meyerson wrote brilliantly about the crisis of the American economy [see “Not Your Father’s Detroit,” The American Prospect, April 2006] -- about the need for an industrial policy that addresses the flight of jobs, the health-care and pension crises, and the rest. If the Democrats, when addressing these concerns, sound like they’re offering one more sop to big labor, they will inaugurate the same old round of embittered cat-calling; if their proposals are rooted in notions of communal sacrifice toward a greater good in which all citizens will have a stake and a share, the terms of the debate are changed.

There are potential dangers here and they should be noted. A too-aggressive common-good framework can discard liberty and rights; after all, Bush uses a conservative kind of common-good rhetoric to defend his spying program (he’s protecting us from attack). Democrats have to guard against this; a common good that isn’t balanced by concern for liberty can be quasi-authoritarian (“coercive,” as the political philosophers call it). Common-good rhetoric and action must be tethered to progressive ends and must operate within the constitutional framework of individual liberty against state encroachment.

But there’s an awful lot of maneuvering room between where the Democratic Party is today and coercion; it’s the territory of civic deliberation toward a larger common interest, and there are positive signs that some are exploring it. In South Dakota, where legislators recently passed the country’s most draconian abortion ban, pro-choice advocates have done something very interesting. They decided not to sue. Instead they’re circulating petitions to hold a referendum on the law. The Los Angeles Times reports that “even in the most conservative corners of this conservative state, both Republicans and Democrats -- including a few who say they oppose abortion -- are eagerly signing the petition.” We don’t know that their effort will prevail. But we already know that using the political process in this way is a huge improvement over running yet again to the courts. In the long run, showing faith in this kind of democratically negotiated outcome is far better for liberalism.

Some will say that asking Americans to look beyond their own self-interest and participate in a common good will fail, either because it failed before (the 1960s) or because such a request can succeed only in rare moments -- a time of war or of deep domestic crisis. But that isn’t what failed in the ’60s. The first half of the ’60s, the civic-republican liberal half, succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The second half, the half that ditched the common good, is what failed, and it failed for precisely the reason that it did so. And yes, it may be that the times when such appeals can work are comparatively rare in American history.

But what if, as the CAP poll suggests, this is one of those moments? We are not in a Depression-like crisis, perhaps; but thanks to the efforts of the Bush administration we are on the precipice of several crises, and it’s not just liberals who recognize this. Many of our fellow citizens, bitterly disappointed by a leadership in which they had placed an extraordinary amount of trust back in September 2001, recognize it, too.

The Democrats must grasp this, kick some old habits, and realize that we are on the verge of a turning point. The Democratic left wants it to be 1968 in perpetuity; the Democratic center wishes for 1992 to repeat itself over and over again. History, however, doesn’t oblige such wishes -- it rewards those who recognize new moments as they arise. It might just be that the Bush years, these years of civic destruction and counterfeit morality, have provided the Democrats the opening to argue on behalf of civic reconstruction and genuine public morality. If they do it the right way, they can build a politics that will do a lot more than squeak by in this fall’s (or any) elections based on the usual unsatisfying admixture of compromises. It can smash today’s paradigm to pieces. The country needs nothing less. The task before today’s Democratic Party isn’t just to eke out electoral victories; it’s to govern, and to change our course in profound ways. I’d like to think they can do it. But the Democrats must become republicans first.
© 2006 by The American Prospect, Inc.

Posted by mcblogger at 01:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2006

Republican Scandals - So much better with Hookers!

Harper's has a great piece up by Ken Silverstein (apparently channeling the Wall Street Journal) about Duke Cunningham who apparently liked to spice up his life with bribes AND hookers. Of course it doesn't end there

It turns out the FBI is currently investigating two defense contractors who allegedly provided Cunningham with free limousine service, free stays at hotel suites at the Watergate and the Westin Grand, and free prostitutes.

This is my favorite part...

I've learned from a well-connected source that those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence comittees—including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post. I've also been able to learn the name of the limousine service that was used to ferry the guests and other attendees to the parties: Shirlington Limousine and Transportation of Arlington, Virginia.

What's that? Who's the CEO of Shirlington?

...the man who has been identified as the CEO of Shirlington has a 62-page rap sheet (I recently obtained a copy) that runs from at least 1979 through 1989 and lists charges of petit larceny, robbery, receiving stolen goods, assault, and more. Curiously—or perhaps not so curiously given the company's connections—Shirlington Limousine is also a Department of Homeland Security contractor; according to the Washington Post, last fall it won a $21.2 million contract for shuttle services and transportation support.

You just KNOW this is going to get even better. Cunningham is seriously like a gift that keeps on giving! Thanks, Duke!

Posted by mcblogger at 10:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Gonna have to face it your addicted to Hillbilly Heroin

Oh, Rush. Of all the fucking things to get hooked on and commit 'scrip fraud over, you picked OxyContin. Hillbilly Heroin. You're no longer a douche... you've officially become trash.

"Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country," Mr. Limbaugh said on his short-lived television program on Oct. 5, 1995. "And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs." He added, "And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."

Seriously, I'd probably be less harsh if it was ANYTHING other than OxyContin, barely one step up from Meth. Of course, as a former celebrity, Rush will not be serving a day in jail. But he will have to see is probation officer which totally rocks!

Posted by mcblogger at 09:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Did he learn nothing from the ports fiasco?

Anger over President Bush's plan to allow Dubai Ports World to take over management of six US ports has barely subsided and now he's saying OK to a sale of Defense contractors to ANOTHER Dubai company?!?!

Because the plants make turbine blades for tanks and aircraft, the deal was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which sent it on to Mr. Bush himself for a decision, a step used only when the potential security risks or political considerations are particularly acute....

...Representative John Barrow, Democrat of Georgia, likened the Doncasters deal to "outsourcing" part of the nation's industrial-military complex.

Oh sure... I think this is a great idea. One has to wonder when and if el Presidente will ever tire of shooting himself in the foot.

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Bush: I WANT control of CAFE (and a puppy)

President Bush today asked Congress for control of the CAFE standards... and a puppy like the one he was photographed with yesterday. So what IS CAFE? It's the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard. Created in 1975, it establishes ridiculously easy targets for manufacturers to meet in determining fuel efficiency in automobiles produced in the US. It allows a manufacturer (let's say Ford) to make GIANT ASS TRUCKS (like the Expedition Sport Utility House) and smaller trucks (like the Escape Hybrid Sport Utility Box) and average the fuel economy to stay within the guides.

Bush is asking for this because "we need to have more fuel efficiencies and I'd really like to play with that dog somemore".

In Biloxi, Miss., Bush noted Congress was debating several energy-related concepts, "and one idea is to give me a capacity to raise CAFE standards on automobiles. "I encourage them to give me that authority. It's authority that I use for light trucks. And I intend to use it wisely if Congress would give me that authority," Bush said.

Congress, asked to comment, picked it's head up from the bar and mumbled something about 'gin collins' and that they'd 'never heard such a stupid idea'.

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Ask A ... Newly Retired CEO Lee Raymond late of ExxonMobil

This week we're oiling the skids for the inevitable descent straight to hell! Our exceutive committee (ExComm) has made the decision to go with someone from the world of business for this week's Ask A... . We're terribly excited to have former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond answering your questions!

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Lee's career has in many ways mirrored my own except for the 'working for an oil company and making millions of dollars per year' stuff. We did both live in Dallas metro at around the same time, though this is more coincidence, I would guess, since so did more than 3 million other people. Lee was born in 1938 and looks every one of his 67 years. You probably would to if YOU'D BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR GASSING UP AMERICA FOR OVER A DECADE. He joined Exxon in 1963 and here are some astounding highlights from an amazing career:

  • President of Exxon Nuclear Company, Inc. in 1979

  • Executive vice president of Exxon Enterprises, 1981

  • Elected to the Board of Directors, 1984

  • President, Exxon Corp in 1987

  • Was President during the ExxonValdez 'minor oil transport accident' in Alaska

  • CEO and Chairman, Exxon Corp, 1993 where he remained through the Mobil merger and until his retirement
  • I know you'll all have a ton of questions for Lee so don't be bashful, email them to mcblogger@mcblogger.com so we can get those questions answered!

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:11 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

    Oh, no... Troy Aikman has fallen into a black hole of LAME

    I opened up my home email today to find Troy Aikman whoring himself, this time for a company called InterBay Funding. Who are they? A minor commerical lending company that accepts brokered commercial loans from Mortgage Brokers (commercial and residential). Exciting, right?
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    I remember the days when Troy shilled for auto dealers in the Dallas area and Acme Brick. To see him reduced to this... is just sad.

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:20 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

    Breakfast: Breaking the oil monopoly, Lobbying Reform, Soldiers Screwed and more

  • The Sacremento Bee has a great piece up by Clifford May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that pretty clearly states it's time to move away from petroleum. It's some common sense on energy that's really what we should be hearing from the politicos.

    News bulletin: The technology to run cars on alternative fuels already exists. The cost: less than $150 per vehicle. If the government would provide tax incentives - for manufacturers, motorists, maybe both - millions of Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV) could be on the roads in short order.
  • House Republican's managed to pass their weakened, watered down lobbying reform bill according to the AP via the Boston Globe. It did, at least, give D's a chance for a good quote

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    As Republican leaders huddled to try to salvage the bill, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., criticized their efforts. "This is a bill they thought they could get away with," Pelosi told a press conference. "It's a ruse, and I think they thought it was worth a try. But people are seeing through it, and their members are hearing from the public."

  • Soldiers, according to the Washington Post, are being hounded by the DoD and it's antiquated accounting systems for "everything from errors in paychecks to equipment left behind on the battlefield". The equipment was normally what was removed from them WHEN THEY WERE WOUNDED. That's right... these men and women have been wounded in battle and go on to recieve COLLECTION NOTICES.

    "We found that hundreds of separated battle-injured soldiers were pursued for collection of military debts incurred through no fault of their own," the report said.

    Granted they've known about this for a while... but it's only NOW coming to light. Can we PLEASE get this fixed?

  • Phillip Martin over at BOR has a good breakdown of the pros and cons of HB5, better known as 'Let's Fuck Smokers'. As a smoker (part time only now... usually there's alcohol involved, just as it is in most of my bad decisions) I really don't care if they jack up the tax $2.00. Still, it's a cheesy way for the state to raise money for an unspecified purpose. Wait... it's going to 'property tax relief'! Right! Just like money from the Lotto goes to the schools exclusively.

  • Posted by mcblogger at 09:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Another poll - also has Bell sucking wind

    Harvey Kronberg in Quorum Report has the results of another governor matchup poll:

    Reliance on base voters may be overly optimistic

    QR recently had an opportunity to eyeball a poll by Jeff Smith of Opinion Analysts testing 600 registered voters in the gubernatorial race. The respondents were screened for race, gender, age, and party affiliation. The poll was paid for by Texans for Insurance Reform PAC.

    On a simple very favorable-favorable/very unfavorable-unfavorable match up, the Governor hits 48.7%/31.6%. Congressman Chris Bell is 16.4%/8.7%. Bell's biggest problem is that 54.5% have not yet heard of him.

    The poll's jucier stuff is subscribers-only, but the essence is that...

    the only governor candidate Bell might beat is Friedman, in a four-way. The poll didn't test a three-way in which Strayhorn doesn't make the ballot at all, and I haven't heard anybody suggesting that she won't be on it, so I guess they figgered it's a waste of time to poll such a scenario.

    I suppose Kronberg draws his subhead from the poll's indication that Bell's true "hard" vote - at least now - is only about a third of what most pundits say the Democratic base ought to be in Texas...and Strayhorn and Friedman both peel votes away from Brer Bell if they are on the ballot.

    One potential flaw in testing registered voters is the prospect - I think it's pretty damn thin - that Friedman will bring people to the polls who haven't registered before. Oh yeah. Power to the slackers, dewd.

    Posted by Aerialist at 12:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Something like this makes you glad for the death penalty

    I really, really want to think about this as little possible. The Chronicle is reporting more detail on the case of a 16-year-old Hispanic kid who was brutally beaten and then sodomized by two White teenagers. Supposedly, the victim tried to kiss a 12-year-old White girl. At that point, what happens next is unclear except for a few details that the Chron has up. I'm putting them below the fold because they're too fucking graphic. The Chron does have pictures up of the assailants....
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    Little fuckers even look mean.

    UPDATE : Pink Dome has this up as well. The story has now made it to CNN virtually reinforcing the wider perception that Texas is chock full of bigots.

    Photos: Harris County SO

    Prosecutor: Teen attacked with pipe near death

    Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

    A judge this morning ordered that one of two Spring men accused in the vicious beating and sexual assault of a teenager be held without bail as the victim continues fighting for his life.

    The 16-year-old victim, who was sodomized with a piece of rigid plastic pipe and was cut on the chest with a knife during a party at a Spring home last weekend, remains in extremely critical condition at Memorial Hermann Hospital.

    He suffered major damage to his internal organs and more than likely will not survive, prosecutors said.

    More details about the gruesome assault surfaced today as one of the suspects, David Henry Tuck, 18, appeared in court to answer a charge of aggravated sexual assault.

    Although Tuck's bail originally was set at $20,000, state District Judge Michael McSpadden ordered him held without bond.

    The other suspect, Keith Robert Turner, 17, also charged with aggravated sexual assault, is being held on $100,000 bond. His probable-cause hearing will be held in McSpadden's court once his case is transferred from another court.

    Prosecutors revealed in court today that a third person, a juvenile, may have participated in the assault. That boy, who is believed to have had minimal involvement, is being treated only as a witness and will not be charged, prosecutors said.

    The incident, which occurred in the 21300 block of Glenbranch, has drawn national media attention.

    Detectives believe the victim was attacked during the party about 11:30 p.m. Saturday after he tried to kiss a 12-year-old girl who lives at the residence. It is unclear whether any adults were present.

    The injured boy was left in the backyard, near death, for more than 10 hours before anyone called for medical help, said Lt. John Denholm of the Harris County sheriff's homicide division.

    During this morning's hearing, prosecutor Mike Trent told the judge that Tuck, of the 3400 block of Nutwood, was wearing steel-toed boots when he attacked the victim and kicked him in the head.

    Tuck and others are accused of dragging the victim into the back yard and shoving a PVC pipe into his rectum, Trent said. Tuck is accused of then kicking the pipe with his boots, the prosecutor said.

    "I don't mean just a little bit," Trent told McSpadden. "He kicked it in and shoved it so far in that he has caused major internal injuries and organ damage."

    As Trent spoke, Tuck stood before the judge's bench, dressed in the standard orange jail inmate's uniform.

    The suspects also are accused of pouring bleach on the boy, although Trent could not say specifically which one is believed to have done that. Sheriff's detectives said the bleach was used in an attempt to destroy evidence.

    The victim, who is Hispanic, also was subjected to slurs during the attack, investigators said. The two suspects are anglo.

    State prosecutors will not pursue the incident as a hate crime since that would not enhance the first-degree felony charges already filed or the penalty possibilities - but said any evidence of such a motive will be presented to jurors to consider if and when they weigh punishment, Trent said.

    The suspects have admitted their involvement in Saturday's attack, although "they're pointing fingers at each other as to who did what," Trent told the judge.

    Defense attorney Chuck Hinton, who was appointed today to represent Tuck, declined to comment. Hinton invoked the teen's Fifth and Sixth amendment rights during the hearing, asking that the District Attorney's Office not try to interview his client without contacting him first.

    After the hearing, Trent told reporters the charges against Tuck and Turner will be upgraded to capital murder if the victim dies.

    "It's pretty bad," he said. "...I've been told, more likely than not, that he probably won't survive."

    Trent said he isn't sure how many people saw the attack, but he confirmed that at least one person did.

    No more arrests are expected, Trent said.

    Turner, of the 21000 block of Star Grass, may not be ordered held without bond because prosecutors said they are ``pretty comfortable'' with his current $100,000 bail amount.

    If convicted of the aggravated sexual assault charge, the suspects could face anything from five years to life in prison.


    Posted by mcblogger at 12:04 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    April 27, 2006

    Yes, Bitches, I DO OWN A GUN!

    Though several of you have doubted it, I'm indeed real. Here I am at my family's ranch... you know, existing and shooting at things. You know what? I was DRINKING, too. I wasn't driving, though. Not in this picture at any rate.
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    No, I didn't shoot any of the cows. There are people that come to take them to the auction, then on to slaughter. I thought about it though as I LOVE a nice, juicy steak.

    Posted by barfly at 09:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Quit Freaking out over Survey USA and Bell's 4th place in the poll

    I'm posting the breakout from the poll after the jump. Seriously, it's not worth it on the front page and to be honest, this thing has rec'd way too much attention for a few reasons:

    1) This is going to represent a high point for Perry. He CALLED a special session. He got some press over it. No matter how it goes, it'll end up kicking him in the balls even if he gets his way. It's all downhill from here for PlasticHair (I just can't refer to anything about him as good).
    2) This poll is showing Strayhorn pulling more D's than Kinky. Honestly, I don't see that happening. Granted, I have NOTHING to back up my assertion other than Kinky appealing to some of the more granola D's who aren't jazzed about Bell.
    3) Kinky and Strayhorn are both still receiving some free press and a lot of action on the streets because of the petitions. They'll get a further bump when they get on the ballot. However, once that's done it's going to be hard for them and Kinky is low on funds.

    That being said, Team Bell has some work to do. They need to cut Kinky off at the knees. Brutally and publicly. For one, it'll raise Bell's name ID and pull in some press coverage. It'll also make Chris look like he's got a pair which counts for a lot with the Texas electorate. Another item for Bell to focus on is outreach to grassroots Dems (many of whom are pissed about the Richie endorsement) and to the downballot candidates. Showing up at some events may not garner a lot of coverage, but it'll get around and it's worth it's weight in gold.

    We're still a long way from November and this poll does show that more work is needed. However, it's hardly the end of the world.

    Hey! the formatting sucks almost as much as the poll:)

    Results of SurveyUSA Election Poll #9043
    Analysis: In an election for Texas Governor held today, 4/26/06, Republican incumbent Rick Perry defeats 3 challengers, according to a SurveyUSA election poll conducted for KEYE-TV Austin and WOAI-TV San Antonio. Perry leads Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who is running as an Independent, 39% to 25%. Independent "Kinky" Friedman gets 16% and Democrat Chris Bell gets 15%. 3% prefer some other candidate. 3% are undecided. Perry leads among Whites, Hispanics, Republicans and conservatives. Strayhorn leads among moderates. Friedman leads among independents. Bell leads among Blacks, Democrats and liberals. With 6 1/2 months to go until the 11/7/06 election, and no candidate polling over 40%, the race must be regarded as wide open. If one of the Independents, Strayhorn or Friedman, cannot maintain support through a long campaign, then Bell or the other Independent may pick up enough votes to threaten Perry.

    Filtering: 1,200 Texas adults were interviewed 4/23/06 - 4/25/06. Of them, 985 were Registered Voters. Of them, 579 were judged to be "likely" voters. Crosstabs reflect Likely Voters.

    1 If the election for Governor of Texas were today, and you were standing in the voting booth right now, who would you vote for? Democrat Chris Bell? Independent "Kinky" Friedman? Republican Rick Perry? Independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn? Or some other candidate?
    579 Likely Voters All Gender Age Race Party Ideology Education Income Region Geocoding
    Margin of Sampling Error: ± 4.2% Male Female 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ White Black Hispanic Other Republic Democrat Independ Conserva Moderate Liberal No Colle Some Col College Grad Sch <$40k $40k - $ >$80k North West Harris C East Urban Suburban Rural
    Bell (D) 15% 13% 16% 12% 13% 16% 17% 11% 40% 14% 11% 2% 32% 10% 6% 18% 28% 13% 14% 15% 16% 15% 15% 13% 14% 13% 21% 13% 16% 14% 12%
    Friedman (I) 16% 22% 10% 19% 14% 21% 9% 20% 4% 7% 34% 10% 15% 32% 10% 20% 25% 11% 15% 16% 21% 13% 17% 20% 19% 7% 10% 18% 15% 17% 12%
    Perry (R) 39% 41% 36% 48% 36% 32% 42% 40% 18% 45% 30% 65% 16% 25% 60% 27% 17% 47% 39% 38% 33% 41% 38% 39% 33% 47% 41% 40% 33% 46% 39%
    Strayhorn (I) 25% 20% 29% 15% 29% 26% 25% 25% 24% 26% 11% 20% 30% 26% 22% 30% 20% 24% 26% 24% 24% 25% 25% 24% 28% 27% 18% 24% 27% 18% 32%
    Other 3% 2% 3% 2% 3% 3% 4% 2% 5% 4% 10% 1% 4% 3% 1% 3% 5% 1% 3% 2% 4% 3% 3% 3% 3% 2% 4% 2% 3% 3% 1%
    Undecided 3% 1% 6% 4% 4% 2% 3% 3% 9% 3% 4% 2% 4% 4% 2% 3% 5% 3% 3% 5% 2% 3% 2% 2% 2% 5% 5% 3% 5% 2% 3%
    Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
    Composition of Likely Voters

    Posted by mcblogger at 05:55 PM | Comments (464) | TrackBack

    Everything is wonderful

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    Bush is holding a puppy.

    No need to worry your beautiful mind about that nasty impeachment business, is there? Or gas prices. Or the indictment of Karl Rove just around the corner. Or that whole Iraq business. Or dropping the bomb on Iran. Or outsourcing, skyrocketing foreclosure rates, stagnation in real wages, homelessness, the healthcare crisis, border security, port security, Social Security, trade imbalances, a shaky dollar, unprecedented budget deficits, regressive taxation, corporate welfare, government by cronies, AIDS, bird flu, tuberculosus, bubonic plague or the fact that with another hurricane season approaching much of New Orleans is still in ruins and all the Republicans have actually done to address the problem is abolish FEMA.

    No, nothing to worry about at all.

    Posted by mayor mcsleaze at 04:41 PM

    Tony Snow : All about Democracy as long as the people agree with him

    The worst thing about Roe v. Wade? According to Tony Snow, the new White House Spokespuppy, it's the denial of democracy by the courts

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    Most importantly, Americans understand that the Supreme Court denied this country the benefit of democratic resolution of the issue. This explains why South Dakota is not alone. A similar measure has cropped up in the Mississippi Legislature, and a host of other states are contemplating doing the same.

    Why bring this up now? Tonight I read a great piece up on The Rude Pundit (courtesy of a link sent by Mayor McSleaze) that pretty nicely summed up all of Snow's thoughts and ideas over a significant period of time. In it was a section specifically about an article Snow wrote after South Dakota (coming soon to Texas, no doubt) criminalized abortion.

    And, Tony, you know that if those girls aren't virgins just what to do should they get pregnant. Writing about how cool it was that South Dakota completely outlawed abortion, you said it was awesome that the state had rejected "the popular rape-and-incest exception." Explaining this seemingly cruel, vicious, and punitive action, you justified, "If one argues that a woman would suffer trauma by bringing such babies to term, what would prevent other women from citing trauma as an equally cogent reason for their abortions? Trauma introduces an obligation to pay special heed to the victims of rape or incest." And we wouldn't wanna do that. Bitch gets raped by Daddy, bitch is becomin' mom and grandma at once, right, Tony? (Yes, you do offer the humane hand-out of "counseling," which is not unlike offering a mint to someone who got run over by a car.)

    The majority of this country supports a woman's right to choose. As we saw with the Terri Schiavo fiasco , they also support a right to die (even if the SC hasn't backed them up). Of course, Tony Snow won't acknowledge this... he'd rather deny reality and blame abortion on those 'horrible courts' and talk about how they have denied the voice of people. It's clear to everyone that the only people who'd like to deny the voice of the people are Tony Snow and his ilk.

    Of course, all of this is largely moot since the courts and (ideally) the legislature have an obligation to protect the rights of the minority (women) against the tyranny of the majority (men). I read that somewhere... I bet you did as well. Of course, you could use that as argument to ban abortion (you're protecting the minority, the unborn, against the majority, the moms). The problem with that is, until that fetus can survive on it's own outside of the mother, the mom is in the drivers seat and it's a medical decision exclusively decided by the mother. While Tony may not like that, again... it's REALITY.

    Posted by mcblogger at 06:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    John B. Judis : MOTO of the week!

    After ready his article in TNR, Determining Factor, John B. Judis must have patted himself on the back for 'getting it'. What is impressive is not that he finally did but that it took him so long.

    Oil is a scarce resource that is vital to the American economy. Domestic production peaked in the early 1970s. The United States currently imports about 60 percent of its oil. World supplies are expected to peak in a decade or so. Yet American oil consumption is rising steadily--it went up by 3.9 million barrels a day between 1995 and 2004--and is almost matched by the rise in consumption from China--2.8 million barrels a day during the same period. With demand continuing to rise, and supply failing to keep pace, prices can be expected to rise, and at a certain point to skyrocket. That could spell doom for the American economy.

    Blown away by the laser-like focus? No? OK, try THIS out...

    A whole range of enterprises--from agriculture to transportation--depend on oil. ... America's tensions with Iran are also basically about oil. ... Why did the United States invade Iraq? Well, there were lots of reasons, but one reason was to create a petroleum counterweight to OPEC. ... The Bush administration's program for conservation is nugatory.

    Impressive, no? Not the ideas and writing... the use of the word 'nugatory'.

    This passes for brilliance in a senior editor at The New Republic and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace? Maybe I should send a resume with my theory on Why the GOP Is All Up Jerry Falwell's Ass.

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 26, 2006

    Special Session Update : The R's fucked us again

    If you live in Texas then you should know by now that the Lege is meeting to determine what to do with the mess that is school finance. We've heard a ton of stuff, much of it bad and then today comes this from Matt at JustAnotherBlog

    The tax bills passed by the House of Representatives on Monday are the Texas version of California’s notorious Proposition 13: the door is slammed forever on additional state funding for education.

    1. HB 1 lowered property taxes for big business and wealthy homeowners.
    2. HB 2 dedicates ALL future revenue growth from “new” business taxes to property taxes.
    3. HB 3 is the new business income tax. None of that money will ever be spent on educating our school children, as directed by HB 2.

    It is likely the state Senate will give public education some crumbs from the current budget surplus. However that will be a one-time, small appropriation. It’s not even a band-aid. It’s a bribe; it’s empty, election-year rhetoric. What these bill guarantee:

    1. No future money for education;
    2. The likelihood that vouchers will be heralded as the answer to a public school crisis CAUSED by the people backing school vouchers;
    3. Continued deterioration of public schools;
    4. Happy Big Business (taxes for companies like Exxon are cut dramatically);
    5. Shock among small business owners, who had no idea Gov. Rick Perry and the legislature were cutting Exxon’s taxes while punishing the corner store and the neighborhood plumber.

    So there it is, boys and girls, an indepth of analysis of the Republican plan to fuck over 90% of Texans and put NOTHING NEW INTO EDUCATION.

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Even rank and file GI's want Rumsfeld gone

    The ArmyTimes has a poll up that shows 64% of it's readers want Rummy gone.

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    No, really... I'm SOOOOOOO not into other guys. Ewe, G-R-O-S-S!

    Photobucket - Video and Image HostingBoth Daily KOS and Towleroad have pieces up about this nebbish, Florida's AG Charlie Crist. It seems that much like our own Republican Governor, Rick Perry, there are rumors floating about that Charlie is gay. Unlike Democrats, being a Gay is the kiss of the death for Republicans aspiring to higher office. So, in an effort to cut the rumors before they began (will Republicans ever learn that pre-emptive strikes NEVER work), he called a radio show in FL.

    When the single 48-year-old was asked, "Are you a homo?" by the announcer, Crist responded, "No, man. No. I love women. I mean, they're wonderful,'' before going on to suggest that he's very blessed for having, uh, something special that helps him to attract the opposite sex.

    Girl, it's the tan and the natty attire. Seriously, it's a dead giveaway. So, in effort to butch you up, we're suggesting the following...

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    THIS is how your hair needs to be cut. In fact, you could dupe the whole ensemble. NO ONE would think you were gay then, even if you affected a lisp and limp wrist. Think about it, Charlie... it could be the difference between the AG's office and life as a cautionary tale.

    Posted by mcblogger at 11:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Welcome new writers and George and Tony go clubbing...

    Welcome to new writers Harry Balczak and Barfly (formerly known as my sister). Thank God... now take up some of the fucking slack bitches because Mayor McSleaze and I are exhausted. As always, if you have a tip or a comment, send it on to mcblogger@mcblogger.com!

    A friend (let's call him Kyle) sent this to me last week and I noticed it again today when combing through emails...

    Just click the pretty picture!

    Posted by mcblogger at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    el Presidente : Learning to ride a big boy bike

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    Ahhh... yes it's a photoshop. The funny thing is, you seriously had to look to make sure because it's pretty damn believable.

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    EarthDay, 2006 : The 'Environmentalists' are to blame!

    There are some smart people in the Congress. OK, so I've never seen or met one personally except Lloyd Doggett (while annoying as hell, he's a good Congressman and very smart), but I'm sure there have to be others.

    Unfortunately, none of them are in the House Republican caucus which is so filled with mind-numbing dumb it reminds me of a short bus. Full of retards. That have been fed a diet of nothing but lead-based paint and dropped on the head repeatedly. To wit...

    On a little-noticed inside page of the House Resources Committee website, the Republican majority staff have prepared a folio celebrating Earth Day. The focus of the site, RAW STORY has found, is aimed at dispelling the "'sky is falling' sensationalism of environmental activists [that] lead people to falsely believe that our environment is getting worse when it's actually getting better."

    Check out Raw Story for the full details and screen caps like this

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 25, 2006

    OK, this is the last thing I'll post about Shelly for the week

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting But seriously, I had to show y'all this picture (courtesy Jesus'General)!

    Posted by mcblogger at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    RealtyTrac : Foreclosures up 38%

    Giving still more proof of just how robust the economy created by the Republicans really is, RealtyTrac the nation's largest online database of foreclosures reports that Q1, 2006 foreclosures are up 38% over Q4, 2005. Of course this is dwarfed by the realization that 72% more people lost their homes in Q1, 2006 than did in Q1, 2005.

    "The sharp increase in foreclosures in Q1 continues a steady upward trend that we've observed since the beginning of last year," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "Foreclosures have now increased in four consecutive quarters and are on track to go above 1.2 million in 2006, which would push the nation's annual foreclosure rate to more than 1 percent of U.S. households."

    Cheerful, no?

    Posted by mcblogger at 09:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Vice-President Dole...

    Finally, something kinda funny on TNR...


    I'm all for dumping Cheney, as this Los Angeles Times editorial urges President Bush to do, but is the Times serious when it suggests replacing Cheney with Bob Dole? I understand the argument that Bush would need to replace Cheney with someone who shares Cheney's lack of interest in 2008, but if that's the case, why not just drag Gerald Ford out of retirement? Wait a minute--is that what Bush was up to this past weekend?

    --Jason Zengerle

    Posted by mcblogger at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    The Nutters Phelps

    Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes normally make me puke. However, I think I've found something about which we can completely agree, our mutual dislike for the Phelps family. You may remember them from this post or possibly from this one.

    This video is of the daughter (the lawyer in the family, natch) on Hannity&Colmes and it is HYSTERICAL. She's almost Jennifer Gale-like in her speech. Watch it now and enjoy!

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Moyers and The Baptists

    After the fold is the text of a speech given recently by Bill Moyers upon the establishment by Marilyn and James Dunn, of the Wake Forest Divinity School, of a scholarship in religious freedom in the name of Judith and Bill Moyers.

    It's a great speech about the foundations of this country and the reality of a codified Separation of Church and State. As for Mr. Dunn:

    It was all about a free conscience in a free state, and James Dunn has spent his life as a champion of both. No one in my time has been a greater defender of "soul freedom" - the competence of each man and woman to interpret their own experience of God in the light of faith and reason. When James stood up against fundamentalists who would have the state recognize their literal reading of the Bible as the foundation for public policy, they smeared him. They demonized him. They tried to fire him from his denominational position. But they couldn't silence him. He stood against them when they set out to turn the Southern Baptist Convention into a monolith of dogma run from the top down by a cabal of credalists demanding doctrinal conformity. He riled them when they sought to turn the pews of their churches into precincts of partisan politics. He infuriated them when he opposed their plotting with the White House to draft a Constitutional amendment that would trivialize prayer by reducing it to a perfunctory ritual approved by the state. Said James Dunn: "The Supreme Court can't ban prayer in school. Real prayer is always free." When the fundamentalists and their obliging politicians claimed that God had been expelled from the classroom, Dunn answered: "The god whom I worship and serve has a perfect attendance record and has never been tardy."

    Bill Moyers | A Time for Heresy
    By Bill Moyers

    Wednesday 22 March 2006

    Bill Moyers is President of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. This is the prepared text of his remarks delivered on March 14 upon the establishment by Marilyn and James Dunn, of the Wake Forest Divinity School, of a scholarship in religious freedom in the name of Judith and Bill Moyers.

    When Dean Bill Leonard asked James Dunn to join him here at Wake Forest's new Divinity School, my soul shouted "Yes!" These two men personify the honesty and courage we need to meet the challenge of faith in the fundamentalist dispensation of the 21st century as radical interpretations of both Islam and Christianity seek, in the words of C.Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, "to take over the government and use cause structures to advance the ideology, hierarchy, and laws" of their movement.

    James Dunn and Bill Leonard are Baptists. What kind of Baptist matters. At last count there were more than two dozen varieties of Baptists in America. Bill Clinton is a Baptist. So is Pat Robertson. Jesse Jackson is a Baptist. So is Jesse Helms. Al Gore is a Baptist. So is Jerry Falwell. No wonder Baptists have been compared to jalapeno peppers: one or two make for a tasty dish, but a whole bunch together will bring tears to your eyes.

    Many Baptists are fundamentalists; they believe in the absolute inerrancy of the Bible and the divine right of preachers to tell you what it means. They also believe in the separation of church and state only if they cannot control both. The only way to cooperate with fundamentalists, it has been said, is to obey them. James Dunn and Bill Leonard are not that kind of Baptist. They trace their spiritual heritage to forbearers who were considered heretics for standing up to ecclesiastical and state power on matters of conscience. One of them was Thomas Helwys, who, when Roman Catholics were being persecuted by the British crown, dared to defend the Catholics. Helwys went to jail, and died there, for telling the king of England, King James - yes, of the King James Bible - that "Our Lord the King has no more power over their [Catholic] conscience than ours, and that is none at all."

    Baptists helped to turn that conviction into America's great contribution to political science and practical politics - the independence of church and state. Baptists in colonial America flocked to Washington's army to fight in the Revolutionary War because they wanted to be free from sanctioned religion. When the war was won they refused to support a new Constitution unless it contained a Bill of Rights that guaranteed freedom of religion and freedom from religion. No religion was to become the official religion; you couldn't be taxed to pay for my exercise of faith. This was heresy because, while many of the first settlers in America had fled Europe to escape religious persecution at the hands of the majority, once here they made their faith the established religion that denied freedom to others. Early Baptists considered this to be tyranny. Said John Leland: "All people ought to be at liberty to serve God in a way that each can best reconcile to their own consciences."

    It was all about a free conscience in a free state, and James Dunn has spent his life as a champion of both. No one in my time has been a greater defender of "soul freedom" - the competence of each man and woman to interpret their own experience of God in the light of faith and reason. When James stood up against fundamentalists who would have the state recognize their literal reading of the Bible as the foundation for public policy, they smeared him. They demonized him. They tried to fire him from his denominational position. But they couldn't silence him. He stood against them when they set out to turn the Southern Baptist Convention into a monolith of dogma run from the top down by a cabal of credalists demanding doctrinal conformity. He riled them when they sought to turn the pews of their churches into precincts of partisan politics. He infuriated them when he opposed their plotting with the White House to draft a Constitutional amendment that would trivialize prayer by reducing it to a perfunctory ritual approved by the state. Said James Dunn: "The Supreme Court can't ban prayer in school. Real prayer is always free." When the fundamentalists and their obliging politicians claimed that God had been expelled from the classroom, Dunn answered: "The god whom I worship and serve has a perfect attendance record and has never been tardy."

    I think of people like Dunn as primal Baptists. Traces of their mindset go all the way back to the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in the book of Genesis. I relish the interpretation of this ancient story of Davidson Loehr, a former carpenter, combat photographer, and scholar who is now a minister in Austin, Texas. He reminds us that technically Jacob's adversary was not an angel; it was the local deity who stood guard at the boundary beyond which Jacob was not supposed to venture. Local gods were everywhere in those days, protecting parochial fiefdoms. This one told Jacob he couldn't leave, to turn around and go back. But Jacob wouldn't turn back; he had miles to go and promises to keep. He was called to discover his destiny, move out to the great world awaiting him. If he turned back he would spend the rest of his life in a place too narrow, with a god too small. So Jacob had to go to the mat with this presumptuous authority figure and they wrestled all night. It must have been a terrible struggle because when morning came and Jacob had pinned the god for the last time, his leg was on fire with pain. He crossed the river and on the other side he got a new name - now he would be known as Israel - but for the rest of his life Jacob walked with a limp. Pain comes with freedom - it's just the deal. The little gods don't want you to grow, learn, think for yourself. But you have to test their truth claims against your own life's experience - against your own faith and reason. To cross over to freedom you have to show the bogus gods at the border that you have a mind of your own.

    It's fascinating what is revealed to you. Joseph Campbell told me a story (also recently recounted by Davidson Loehr) about the Australian tribe that used the bullroarer to keep people in awe of the gods. The bullroarer is a long flat board with notches, or slits, at one end, and a rope at the other. When you swing it around your head, the action produces a musical humming. The sound struck the primitive tribes as other-worldly, causing them to tremble in fear that the gods were angry. So the elders would go into the forest and come back with word of what it would take to placate the gods. And the people would oblige.

    Now when a young boy in the tribe was ready to become a man, a ritual took place. Wearing masks, the elders would kidnap him and take him into the woods, tie him down, and with a flint knife slice the underside of his penis. It was painful, but the medicine man said this is how you became a man.

    It meant shedding one's innocence. At the end of the ritual one of the masked men dipped the bullroarer in the boy's blood and thrust it in his face, simultaneously removing his mask so the boy could see it's not a god at all - it's just one of the old guys. And the medicine man would whisper, "We make the noises."

    Ah, yes - it's not the gods after all. It's just the old guys - Uncle George, Uncle Dick, Uncle Don. The "noise" in the woods is the work of the old guys playing gods, wanting you to live in fear and trembling so that you will look to them to protect you against the wrath to come. It takes courage to put their truth-claims to the test of reality, to call their bluff.

    We need such courage today. This is a time for heresy. American democracy is threatened by perversions of money, power, and religion. Money has bought our elections right out from under us. Power has turned government "of, by, and for the people" into the patron of privilege. And Christianity and Islam have been hijacked by fundamentalists who have made religion the language of power, the excuse for violence, and the alibi for empire. We must answer the principalities and powers that would force on America a stifling conformity. Either we make the heretical choices that will inspire us to renew our commitment to America's deepest values and ideals, or the day will come when we will no longer recognize the country we love.

    Here's what I mean.

    Two years ago, the American Political Science Association produced a study entitled Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality . The report said people with wealth - privileged Americans - are "roaring with a clarity and consistency that public officials readily hear and routinely follow" while citizens "with lower or moderate incomes are speaking with a whisper." The study concluded that "progress toward realizing American ideals of democracy may have stalled, and even, in some places, reversed."

    The following year - 2005 - the editors of The Economist, one of the world's most pro-capitalist publications, produced their own sobering analysis of what is happening in America. They found great and growing income disparities. Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives was 30 times the pay of the average worker; today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker.

    They found an education system "increasingly stratified by social class" in which poor children "attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries." They found our celebrated universities increasingly "reinforcing rather that reducing" these educational inequalities.

    They found American corporations no longer successful agents of upward mobility. It is now harder for people to start at the bottom and rise up the company hierarchy by dint of hard work and self-improvement.

    The editors of The Economist studied all this evidence and concluded - and I am quoting a pro-business magazine, remember - that the United States "risks calcifying into a European-style, class-based society."

    Let that sink in: The United States "risks calcifying into a European-style, class-based society."

    In 1960 I heard John F. Kennedy promise that "a rising tide lifts all boats." He was right then. He would be wrong today. Just this past weekend The Washington Post, in a lead editorial, called for a second look at the old belief "that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can attain the American dream by sharing in the fruits of economic progress." As great wealth accumulated at the top, the rest of the country is not benefiting proportionally. Across the country working men and women are strained to cope with the rising cost of health care, pharmaceutical drugs, housing, higher education, and public transportation - all of which have risen faster than typical family income. The economist Robert J. Gordon, quoted in The Financial Times (another pro-business publication), says there has been "little long-term change in workers share of U.S. income over the past half century." The top ten percent of earners have captured almost half the total income gains and the top one percent has gained the most of all - more in fact, than all the bottom 50 percent.

    We are witnessing a marked turn of events for a nation whose DNA contains the inherent promise of an equal opportunity at "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." We were not supposed to be a country where the winners take all. The great progressive struggles in our history were waged to make sure ordinary citizens, and not just the rich, share in the benefits of a free society. Today, however, the majority of Americans may support such broad social goals as affordable medical coverage for all, decent wages for working people, safe working conditions, a good education for every child, and clean air and water, but there's no government "of, by, and for the people" to deliver on those aspirations. America is no longer working for all Americans.

    How did this happen? By design. For a quarter of a century now a ferocious campaign has been conducted to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual, cultural, and religious frameworks that sustained America's social contract. The corporate, political, and religious right converged in a movement that for a long time only they understood because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries.

    Their economic strategy was to cut workforces and wages, scour the globe for even cheaper labor, and relieve investors of any responsibility for the cost of society. On the weekend before President Bush's second inauguration, The New York Times described how his first round of tax cuts had already brought our tax code closer to a system under which income on wealth would not be taxed at all and public expenditures would be raised exclusively from salaries and wages.

    Their political strategy was to neutralize the independent media, create their own propaganda machine with a partisan press, and flood their coffers with rivers of money from those who stand to benefit from the transfer of public resources to elite control. Along the way they would burden the nation with structural deficits that will last until our children's children are ready to retire, systematically stripping government of its capacity, over time, to do little more than wage war and reward privilege.

    Their religious strategy was to fuse ideology and theology into a worldview freed of the impurities of compromise, claim for America the status of God's favored among nations (and therefore beyond political critique or challenge), and demonize their opponents as ungodly and immoral.

    At the intersection of these three strategies was money: Big Money.

    They found a deep flaw in our political system and zeroed in on it.

    Our elected officials need huge sums of money to finance their campaigns, especially to buy television. The average cost of running and winning a seat in the House of Representatives - the so-called "People's House" - now tops one million dollars. The chairman of the Federal Election Commission said just this weekend that anyone who expects to run for the nomination for president - the nomination - in 2008 will need to have raised one hundred million dollars by the end of 2007. That money isn't going to come from regular folks - less than one half of one percent of all Americans made a contribution of $200 or more to a federal candidate in 2004. No, the men and women who have mastered the money game have taken advantage of this fundamental weakness in our system - the high cost of campaigns - to sell democracy to the highest bidder.

    Some simple facts:

    The number of lobbyists registered to do business in Washington has more than doubled in the last five years. That's 16,342 lobbyists in 2000 to 34,785 last year. Sixty-five lobbyists for every member of Congress.

    The total spent per month by special interests wining, dining, and seducing federal officials is now nearly $200 million. Per month.

    But it's a small investment on the return. Just look at the most important legislation passed by Congress in the last decade.

    There was the energy bill that gave oil companies huge tax breaks at the same time that Exxon Mobil just posted $36 billion in profits in 2005, while our gasoline and home heating bills are at an all-time high.

    There was the bankruptcy "reform" bill written by credit card companies to make it harder for poor debtors to escape the burdens of divorce or medical catastrophe.

    There was the deregulation of the banking, securities, and insurance sectors, which led to rampant corporate malfeasance and greed and the destruction of the retirement plans of millions of small investors.

    There was the deregulation of the telecommunications sector which led to cable industry price-gouging and the abandonment of news coverage by the big media companies.

    There was the blocking of even the mildest attempt to prevent American corporations from dodging an estimated $50 billion in annual taxes by opening a P.O. box in an off-shore tax haven like Bermuda or the Cayman Islands.

    In every case these results were driven by the demands of Big Money in the form of campaign contributions and the cost of lobbying.

    And in every case, the religious right was cheering for the winners.

    You've heard about Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff, I'm sure. Let me tell you a little more than what you might have heard.

    Tom DeLay was a small businessman from Sugar Land, Texas, who ran a pest extermination business before he entered politics. He hated the government regulators who dared to tell him that some of the pesticides he used were dangerous - as, unfortunately, they were. DeLay got himself elected to the Texas legislature at a time the Republicans were becoming the majority in the once-solid Democratic south, and his reputation for joining in the wild parties around the state capital earned him the nickname "Hot Tub Tom." But early in his political career, with exquisite timing (and the help of some videos from the right-wing political evangelist, James Dobson) Tom DeLay found Jesus and became a full-fledged born-again Christian. He would, in time, humbly acknowledge that God had chosen him to restore America to its biblical worldview. "God," said Tom DeLay, "has been walking me through an incredible journey Š God is using me, all the time, everywhere Š God is training me. God is working with me Š."

    Yes, indeed: God does work in mysterious ways.

    In addition to finding Jesus, Tom DeLay also discovered the power of money to power his career. By raising more than two million dollars from lobbyists and business groups and distributing the money to dozens of Republican candidates in 1994, the year of the Republican breakthrough in the House, DeLay bought the loyalty of many freshmen legislators and got himself elected majority whip, the number three man in Newt Gingrich's "Gang of Seven," who ran the House.

    Here's how they ran it: On the day before the Republicans formally took control of Congress on January 3, 1995, DeLay met in his office with a coterie of lobbyists from some of the biggest companies in America. He virtually invited them to write their own wish list. What they wanted first was "Project Relief" - a wide-ranging moratorium on regulations that had originally been put into place for the health and safety of the public. Soon scores of companies were gorging on his generosity, adding one juicy and expensive tidbit after another to the bill. On the eve of the debate 20 major corporate groups advised lawmakers that "this was a key vote, one that would be considered in future campaign contributions." On the day of the vote lobbyists on Capitol Hill were still writing amendments on their laptops and forwarding them to House leaders.

    Watching Tom DeLay become the virtual dictator of the House, with the approval of party leaders and the blessing of the Christian right, I was reminded of the card shark in Texas who said to his prey, "Now play the cards fair, Reuben; I know what I dealt you." They were stacking the deck against the people.

    Consider what they did to the bill for Medicare prescription drug coverage. As the measure was coming to a vote, a majority of the full House was sympathetic to allowing cheaper imports from Canada and to giving the government the power to negotiate wholesale drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries. But DeLay and his cronies were working in behalf of the big pharmaceutical companies and would have none of it. So they made sure there would be no amendments on the floor and they held off the final roll call a full three hours - well after midnight - in order to strong-arm members who wanted to vote against the bill.

    There are no victimless crimes in politics. The price of corruption is passed on to you. What came of all these shenanigans was a bill that gave industry what it wanted and gave taxpayers the shaft. But when the deeply flawed bill passed in the wee hours of the morning, the champagne corks popped in the offices crowded with lobbyists for the big drug and insurance companies. They were about to be richer on the backs of America's senior citizens.

    When Tom DeLay worked the system to reward the rich and powerful, he had come a long way from Sugar Land, Texas. The people who had voted for him had the right to expect him to represent them, not the big lobbyists in Washington. This expectation is the very soul of democracy. We can't all govern - not even tiny, homogenous Switzerland practices pure democracy. So we Americans came to believe our best chance of responsible government lies in obtaining the considered judgments of those we elect to represent us. Having cast our ballots in the sanctity of the voting booth with its assurance of political equality, we go about our daily lives expecting the people we put in office to weigh the competing interests and decide to the best of their ability what is right. What do they do instead?

    Well, as Tom DeLay became the king of campaign fundraising, The Associated Press writes "He began to live a lifestyle his constituents back in Sugar Land would have a hard time ever imagining." Big corporations provided private jets to take him to places of luxury most Americans have never seen - places with "dazzling views, warm golden sunsets, golf, goose-down comforters, marble bathrooms, and balconies overlooking the ocean." The AP reports that various organizations - campaign committees, political action committees, even a children's charity established by DeLay - paid over $1 million for hotels, restaurants, golf resorts and corporate jets used by DeLay. There were at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts; 100 flights aboard corporate jets arranged by lobbyists; and 500 meals at fancy restaurants, some averaging $200 for a dinner for two.

    Spreading a biblical worldview kept DeLay on the move and on the take. But he needed help to sustain the cash flow. He found it in a lobbyist and fellow ideologue named Jack Abramoff, who personifies the money machine of which DeLay, with the blessing of the political and religious right, was the mastermind. It was Abramoff who helped DeLay raise those millions of dollars from campaign donors that bought the support of other politicians and became the base for an empire of corruption.

    Just last month Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials. It's a spectacular fall for a man whose rise to power began 25 years ago with his election as chairman of the College Republicans. Despite its innocuous name, the organization became a political attack machine for the far right and a launching pad for younger conservatives on the make. Karl Rove had once held the same job as chairman. So did Grover Norquist, who ran Abramoff's campaign and would become the most powerful operative in Washington for advancing the movement's strategies. At their side was a youthful $200-a-month intern named Ralph Reed. Over the next several years they would yoke politics and religion to turn the conservative revolution into a rapacious racket.

    Ralph Reed found Jesus and wound up running Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. Time magazine put him on their cover as "the Right Hand of God." Reportedly after seeing "Fiddler on the Roof" Abramoff became an Orthodox religious Jew who finagled fake awards to provide himself with credentials in the new piety-soaked world of conservative Washington politics. One of those bogus awards named him "a distinguished Bible scholar." He received the "Biblical Mercantile Award" from an organization which laundered money for Tom DeLay's junkets to plush golf clubs.

    It's impossible to treat all the schemes and scams this crowd concocted to subvert democracy in the name of God and greed. But here are two examples.

    Abramoff made his name, so to speak, representing Indian tribes with gambling interests. As his partner he hired a DeLay crony named Michael Scanlon. What they had to offer, of course, were their well-known connections to the political and religious power structure, including friends at the White House (Abramoff's personal assistant usefully became Karl Rove's personal assistant), members of Congress, Christian right activists like Reed, and right-wing ideologues like Norquist (according to one report, two lobbying clients of Abramoff paid $25,000 to Norquist's organization - Americans for Tax Reform - for a lunch date and meeting with President Bush in May 2001.)

    Before it was over the Indian tribes had paid them $82 million dollars, much of it going directly into Abramoff's and Scanlon's pockets. But some of the money found its way to the righteous. Ralph Reed, for one, had his hand out. Reed was the religious right's poster boy against gambling. "We believe gambling is a cancer on the American body politic," Reed had said. "It is stealing food from the mouths of childrenŠ [and] turning wives into widows." Reed was right about that, of course, but his distaste for gambling was no match for his desire to make himself some moolah by helping to protect Abramoff's gambling interests. When Reed resigned from the Christian Coalition - just as it was coming under federal investigation and slipping into financial arrears - he sent Abramoff an email: "Now that I am leaving electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accountsŠ I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts."

    Abramoff came through. According to published reports, he and his partner Michael Scanlon paid Reed some $4 million to whip up Christian opposition to gambling initiatives that could cut into the profits of Abramoff's clients. Reed called in some of the brightest stars in the Christian firmament - Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Phyllis Schlafly - to participate in what became a ruse in Abramoff's behalf. They would oppose gambling on religious and moral grounds in strategic places (Texas, Louisiana, Alabama) at decisive moments when competitive challenges threatened Abramoff's clients. Bogus Christian fronts were part of the strategy. Preachers in Texas rallied to Reed's appeals. Unsuspecting folks in Louisiana turned on their radios one day to hear the voice of God - with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson doing the honors - thundering against a riverboat gambling scheme which Abramoff wanted defeated because it threatened one of his own gambling clients. Reed even got James Dobson, whose nationwide radio "ministry" reaches millions of people, to deluge phone lines at the Interior Department and White House with calls from indignant Christians. In 1999 Abramoff arranged for the Mississippi Choctaws, who were trying to stave off competition from other tribes, to contribute over $1 million to Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, which then passed the money along to the Alabama Christian Coalition and to another anti-gambling group Reed had duped into aiding the cause. It is unclear how much these Christian soldiers, "marching as to war," knew about the true purpose of their crusade, but Ralph Reed knew all along that his money was coming from Abramoff. When he fiddled, his brethren on the Christian right danced.

    It gets worse.

    And here we get to the heart of darkness.

    One of Abramoff's first big lobbying clients was the Northern Marianas Islands in the Pacific. After World War II the Marianas became a trusteeship of the United Nations, administered by the U.S. government under the stewardship of the Interior Department. During World War II thousands of Marines died on the Marianas, fighting for our way of life and our freedoms. Today, these islands are a haven for tourists - first-class hotels, beautiful beaches, championship golf courses. But that's not the whole story. The islands were exempted from U.S. labor and immigration laws, and over the years tens of thousands of people, primarily Chinese, mostly women, were brought there as garment workers to live in crowded barracks in miserable conditions. The main island, Saipan, became known as America's biggest sweatshop.

    In 1998 a government report found workers there suffering severe malnutrition and health problems and subjected to unprovoked acts of violence. Many had signed "shadow contracts" which required them to pay up to $7000 just to get the job. They also had to renounce their claim to basic human rights. They were forbidden to engage in political and religious activities, to socialize or to marry. Some of the biggest names in the retail clothing industry were enabled to slap "made in the USA" labels on the clothes and import them to America while paying the workers practically nothing.

    When these scandalous conditions began to attract attention, the sweatshop moguls fought all efforts at reform. Knowing that Jack Abramoff was close to Tom DeLay, they hired him to lobby for the islands. Conservative members of Congress lined up as Abramoff's team arranged for them to visit the islands on carefully guided junkets. Conservative intellectuals and journalists, for hire at rates considerably above what the women on the islands were making, also signed on for expense-free trips to the Marianas. They flew first-class, dined at posh restaurants, slept in comfort at the beachfront hotel, and returned to write and speak of the islands as "a true free market success story" and "a laboratory of liberty."

    Abramoff took Tom DeLay and his wife there, too. DeLay practically swooned. He said the Marianas "represented what is best about America." He called them "my Galapagos" - "a perfect petri dish of capitalism."

    These fellow travelers - rightwing members of Congress, their staffs and their lapdogs in the rightwing press and think tanks - became a solid phalanx aimed at any and all attempts to provide workers on the islands with a living wage and decent living conditions. When a liberal California Democrat, George Miller, and a conservative Alaskan senator, Frank Murkowski, both indignant at the "appalling conditions," tried to raise minimum wages on the islands and at least prevent arbitrary deportation of the workers, they were stopped cold.

    After the 2000 election, when the spoils of victory were being divided up, Abramoff got himself named to the Bush transition team for the Interior Department. He wanted to make sure the right people wound up overseeing his clients in the Marianas. He enlisted Ralph Reed, who said he would raise the matter with Rove, to stop at least one appointment to Interior that might prove troublesome. It was about this time that Reed wrote an email to Enron's top lobbyist touting his pal Abramoff as "arguably the most influential and effective GOP lobbyist in Congress. I share several clients with him and have yet to see him lose a battle. He also is very close to DeLay and could help enormously on that front. raised $ for bushŠ[sic]"

    For his services to the Marianas Jack Abramoff was paid nearly $10 million dollars, including the fees he charged for booking his guests on the golf courses and providing them copies of Newt Gingrich's book

    To this day, workers on the Marianas are still denied the federal minimum wage while working long hours for subsistence income in their little "petri dish of capitalism" - "America at its best."

    There are no victimless crimes in politics. The cost of corruption is passed on to the people. When the government of the United States falls under the thumb of the powerful and privileged, regular folks get squashed.

    We are dealing here with a vision sharply at odds with the majority of Americans. These are people who want to arrange the world for the convenience of themselves and the multinational corporations that pay for their elections. With their fundamentalist medicine men twirling the bullroarers in the woods, they would turn America into their petri dish - a replica of the Marianas, many times magnified: A society "run by the powerful, oblivious to the weak, free of accountability, enjoying a cozy relationship with government, thriving on crony capitalism," in the words of Al Meyeroff, who led a class-action suit in behalf of the worker on the Marianas and learned what they were up against. Let this, too, sink in: If the corporate, political, and religious right have their way, we will go back to the first Gilded Age, when privilege controlled politics, votes were purchased, legislatures were bribed, bills were bought, and laws flagrantly disregarded - all as God's will.

    So, my friends at Wake Forest, there is work to do. These charlatans and demagogues know that by controlling a society's most emotionally-laden symbols, they can control America, too. They must be challenged. Davidson Loehr reminds us that holding preachers and politicians to a higher standard than they want to serve has marked the entire history of both religion and politics. It is the conflict between the religion of the priests - ancient and modern - and the religion of the prophets.

    It is the vast difference between the religion about Jesus and the religion of Jesus.

    Yes, the religion of Jesus. It was in the name of Jesus that a Methodist ship caulker named Edward Rogers crusaded across New England for an eight-hour work day. It was in the name of Jesus that Francis William rose up against the sweatshop. It was in the name of Jesus that Dorothy Day marched alongside auto workers in Michigan, brewery workers in New York, and marble cutters in Vermont. It was in the name of Jesus that E.B. McKinney and Owen Whitfield stood against a Mississippi oligarchy that held sharecroppers in servitude. It was in the name of Jesus that the young priest John Ryan - ten years before the New Deal - crusaded for child labor laws, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and decent housing for the poor. And it was in the name of Jesus that Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis to march with sanitation workers who were asking only for a living wage.

    This is the heresy of our time - to wrestle with the gods who guard the boundaries of this great nation's promise, and to confront the medicine men in the woods, twirling their bullroarers to keep us in fear and trembling. For the greatest heretic of all is Jesus of Nazareth, who drove the money changers from the temple in Jerusalem as we must now drive the money changers from the temples of democracy.


    Posted by mcblogger at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 24, 2006

    Lou Dobbs : It's all about Hu you meet

    I must admist I never watch Lou Dobbs Tonight, but I think I'll have to state. His commentary on the Wednesday, April 19th had a clarity that is lacking from the political discourse floating about today. Of course, that's to be expected since he's on CNN instead of Fox. And he's sane.

    Discussing Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the US, he makes a very good point that Hu made it obvious that he knew who really ran the show in Estados Unidos, the business leaders like Bill Gates he met with BEFORE traveling to Washington to meet el Presidente Retard.

    The fact that Hu's summit at the White House comes only after touring two of our most profitable businesses means "checkbook diplomacy" is no longer purely an American strategy.

    Being partisan as hell (no... does it show?), I especially enjoyed this part:

    The fault lies entirely with the U.S. government, our lack of strategy and our failed policies. This administration and U.S. multinational corporations have lost sight of the national interest. This administration and the Republican-led Congress have permitted the dismantling of America's manufacturing base and created a dependency on China for our clothing, computers, consumer electronics and a host of other products that is greater than our dependency on foreign oil.

    The point? Don't blame China for their ability to maipulate and take advantage of us when WE ALLOW THEM TO DO SO.

    The full text is after the jump and it's worth the read.

    Dobbs: Hu's visit shows who's in charge

    By Lou Dobbs

    Wednesday, April 19, 2006; Posted: 6:57 p.m. EDT (22:57 GMT)

    Hu Jintao
    Chinese President Hu Jintao has made meeting American business leaders a priority on this trip.

    NEW YORK CITY (CNN) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao meets with President Bush in the nation's capital Thursday after a cross-country trip for Hu that follows his state dinner with billionaire Bill Gates.

    The Chinese president's first two days in this country included stops at Boeing and Microsoft, raising questions about the purpose of President Hu's visit. The fact that Hu's summit at the White House comes only after touring two of our most profitable businesses means "checkbook diplomacy" is no longer purely an American strategy.

    China's economy has grown by an average of about 10 percent a year over the past two decades. This year, China moved ahead of Britain and France to become the world's fourth-largest economy. It's also changing the global supply chain, becoming the world's leading buyer of basic commodities, whether grain, meat, coal and steel, and is second to only the United States in consumption of oil. China is buying up American companies and other multinational corporations with almost $900 billion of hard currency reserves.

    China has now arrived, and we no longer refer to our series on China's rapid economic and military build-up as "Red Star Rising." The title of that reporting is now "Red Storm."

    But the Red Storm cannot be blamed for its continued manipulation of its currency, for its record $202 billion trade surplus with the United States or for buying up American businesses and hard assets around the globe while restricting access to its market and economy.

    The fault lies entirely with the U.S. government, our lack of strategy and our failed policies. This administration and U.S. multinational corporations have lost sight of the national interest. This administration and the Republican-led Congress have permitted the dismantling of America's manufacturing base and created a dependency on China for our clothing, computers, consumer electronics and a host of other products that is greater than our dependency on foreign oil.

    Make no mistake: Our leaders are the fools, and China's leaders are not to be blamed for taking advantage of this administration's commitment to faith-based economic theories and so-called free trade that permits the Chinese access to the world's richest consumer market while China denies our businesses access to its emerging market.

    We can only blame ourselves and our business leaders for offshoring production to China. We can only blame ourselves and our business leaders for permitting the transfer of our knowledge base in technology to China. And we can only blame ourselves and our business leaders for shipping middle-class jobs to China in search of lower labor costs.

    When you watch President Hu and President Bush shake hands at the White House, it would be wise for all of us to remember what that handshake costs America. And remember, there's a reason President Hu met with business leaders in Seattle first. He obviously knows who's really in charge of this country.

    Posted by mcblogger at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Shelly, in trouble and her lame announcement

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    It would seem Shelly, in her continuing efforts to shoot herself in the foot, has really fucked up. You might remember student activists at UC Santa Cruz forcing military recruiters to leave campus. Shelly didn't like that, so she took the Student's press release and put THEIR PERSONAL CONTACT INFORMATION UP ON HER RIDICULOUS WEBSITE. Of course, every nutter who reads her shit went right ahead and called or emailed these kids. Here's a sample:

    'My sincere hope is that a couple hundred of the local patriots take a day off work for your next anarchist event, and come down with some axe handles and bust your (expletive) heads.'

    Nice, huh? Of course, the story doesn't stop there... a progressive site (don't know which one) put up Shelly's personal mobile number and her home address. Over the line? Yeah, but turnabout is fair play. And no, I won't be posting the deets because while I think Shelly's a nebbish, it's just tacky to do that... and I really don't hate her. Hate implies I once respected/liked her. I never did.

    So that's the end (for now) of that story. Next on the agenda, as I revealed yesterday, Shelly has a new project and today, she revealed it. I can't say anything other than that it's lame. Oh, so very very lame. In her own words:

    I'm excited to introduce you today to Hot Air--a conservative Internet broadcast network I founded with a team of multi-talented bloggers.

    Apparently, she's a little jealous of Al Gore and Arianna Huffington's video efforts. Just another example of conservative's copying progressives and producing something that is, well... LAME. HOTAIR??!?! That's the best you guys could do? I would have LOVED to sit in on that brainstorming session.

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Ask A... Kitten named Pickles, the sole survivor of Herr Doktor Bill 'Mengele' Frist's early education Finale

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    We introduced you to Pickles on the 18th and she's been busy reviewing and answering your extremely good questions. Well, some of them... the really insanely dumb ones we weeded out because really, there's enough dumb in the world. So, without further delay...

    If you were to run as a candidate for Florida as a Republcan do you feel that you could work with a Democratic candidate in Texas, Treaty Oak, to overcome the great problems we face in American with a fresh, cute perspective? KT; Austin

    Well, KT, I'm familiar with Treaty Oak's potential candidacy and can say that I think it would be great to work with someone of it's stature in the Congress. Granted, should it prove victorious against Cornyn, we'll be in different parties and chambers but I think we'll be able to work out any differences most amicably and really get to work on what's best for America, politics be damned. I also hope it'll rain acorns down on Frist.

    What advice would you give an up and coming med student who's aiming for a career in politics? JB; San Diego, CA
    JB: I think it's a great idea for medical professionals to move down a political path. My best advice would be to run when you see a crazed whacko with a scalpel moving toward you. My second best advice would be to not do illegal things. Like adopting animals from a shelter ostensibly for pets but really for medical experiments.
    Is pork REALLY the other white meat? TD; Austin, TX
    TD: Honestly, I don't know. I suppose it could be the 'other white meat' but pigs aren't the only animals whose flesh turns white after cooking. Many species of fish also have white meat. I wasn't really educated on this while I was being held captive under false pretenses by Senator Frist.

    We hope you'll join us again for another edition of Ask A...

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 23, 2006

    Sunday Links Fun

  • Something Awful has a great Photoshop Phriday up and the topic was Yankee Candles like this one
    Image hosting by Photobucket check them all out here.
  • Washington Monthly has a couple of good reviews up of books you and I will NOT be reading. The first one covers the American Conservative 'Movement' (I know, I know... there should be a law) and The National Review's effect on it's shaping. The review is interesting because it details rather nicely the 'crackup' of said movement. THEN, they launch into what an HRC presidency would look like. The word 'nightmare' is one of the words used.
  • The Houston Chronicle (God help me! I'm starting to kinda respect them!) has an article up about younger military leaders coming out about Rumsfeld's leadership at Defense.

    An Army major who is an intelligence specialist said: "The history I will take away from this is that the current crop of generals failed to stand up and say, 'We cannot do this mission.' They confused the cultural can-do attitude with their responsibilities as leaders to delay the start of the war until we had an adequate force."
  • Bush's focus? Not on anything right now, other than Keeping Congress Republican, at least according to the Baltimore Sun.
  • Lastly, from Knight-Ridder courtesy of the Miami Herald, is a nice piece of commentary regarding the the Generals speaking out against Bush and the simple fact that What They Have To Say Matters

    They are, of course, entitled to the same right of freedom of speech as any ordinary American once they have taken off the stars and the uniform. Given their experience in military matters, their opinions carry a heavier weight.
  • Enjoy your Sunday! I'm off to drinks!

    Posted by mcblogger at 04:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Fred Phelps... still beating up Veterans who aren't gay, now even in hospitals!

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    YouthAgainstBush over at EmpiresFall has a great video up about Fred Phelps of the Westboro 'God Hates Fags' Baptist Church... Click the link and enjoy!

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Shelly's got some 'EXCITING, NEW PROJECT' coming up

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    I'm not going to be blogging much today--have been extra busy preparing to launch an exciting new project that I'll let you know more about tomorrow.

    YAY! I can't wait!

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    This is the Governor of Texas?!?!?

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    I can seriously hear Prince singing YOU SEXY MOTHERFUCKER!

    Photo credit Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    The ever shrinking middle class and Deficit's matter because it makes oil more expensive

    bondad over at BOR has an extremely good post up about class warfare. It's really no longer the rich vs. the poor, it's the rich vs. everyone. Of course, it's more subtle than that since the middle class are constantly prepping for the day they'll be rich and the poor are just trying to survive. The rich, meanwhile, fund think tanks that (much like the Social Darwinism of Spencer and Graham) reinforce their view that they are at the top because 'they are better/deserve to be'.

    This article is good because it provides real world evidence that things aren't great in el Presidente's economy. What it doesn't do is explain why the middle class so blythely accepts things as they are. IMHO, it's the belief that they will get something better and that once they do 'fuck everyone else'. Think of it as the American Dream with a lottery win replacing the house in the 'burbs.

    The next one that caught my attention was an article up about how deficits affect the value of the dollar and the actual cost of (and our ability to) buy oil.

    What are the consequences of the past five years of fiscal irresponsibility? The value of the dollar has fallen by over 30% since May of 2001. When our money is worth less, we pay more for everything from real estate to oil. For example, in May of 2001, a barrel of oil sold for about 28 dollars, or about 33 euros. Today, that same barrel of oil sells for over 70 dollars, and just over 56 euros. This means that while Americans are paying 150% more for a barrel of oil today than they were five years ago, Europeans are only paying 70% more for that same barrel.

    That’s right; the price of oil has risen over twice as fast for us as it has for Europeans. This difference is the result of the falling value of the dollar – if the dollar had retained its value vs. the Euro, the price of oil, currently about $72 per barrel, would be about $50 per barrel.

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 22, 2006

    Ms. Harris, you're trying to seduce me.

    We only thought we knew Florida CongressSkank Katherine Harris. Apparently, while being interviewed by a student at the University of Florida, Katherine decided to make a move and see if she could get a little action on the lonely (oh, so very, very lonely) road.

    From the Majority Report Blog

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    "[Harris] took him by the hand and led him over to the bar and said she wanted to have a 'nuclear' conversation with him...and wanted to 'talk about nuclear technology.' Then she led him back to the table and sat him down, sat next to him, and her foot was brushing against his foot, her knee was half-an-inch away, she leaned in real close and started calling him 'honey.'" The poor young reporter told Elliot: "I had my face in my notepad a lot, because everytime I looked up she was so close to me."

    Eww. Creepy old lady seduction. I'm all about slutty sex but this crosses the line and makes me vomit a little in my mouth.

    (MCB: Mayor McSleaze WAS going to post this but was detained by member of the Progressive Populist Caucus for not adhering strictly to PPC doctine. We're working feverishly on his escape, mostly by planning to beat the shit of the PPC. Or by luring them away with a free vegetarian buffet and AWESOME microbrew beer)

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Radnofsky already having an impact

    Barbara Ann Radnofsky, the Texas Democratic Party's candidate for US Senate, has been waging a well fought PR campaign against Kay Bailey Hutchison, the current Republican Senator from Texas (best known for voting for a bankruptcy bill that made it easier for creditors to force a borrower to give up their homes and for supporting cuts to Veterans benefits), based on Hutchison's lack of support for Texas Veterans. Apparently it's having an impact as Hutchison has recently began supporting two measures that Radnofsky was already strongly supporting.

    The first is $75 Mn in funding for UT Southwestern in Dallas to study 'Gulf War Syndrome'. Granted it's not much but it's a start and desperately needed by the 100,000 Texas Gulf War vets. The second item has been a MAJOR Democratic cause, keeping VA hospitals open, this one is in Big Spring. Still no word on South Texas but with BAR continuing to make it an issue, we can expect that sometime soon Hutchison will do the right thing.

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Tina's school finance nutty

    Texas GOP Chair Tina Benkiser has discovered that the real problem with our schools isn't the funding. According to Tina, we pay enough which is (to me, at least) a tremendous relief. A relief because I've long thought we were overfunding schools; Just look at the palacial facilities like the one below that Texas students get to enjoy.

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    It's not just the facilities, though... Tina has the real culprit pegged and it may suprise you. It's school boards and evil, demonic, puppy-eating administrators who don't care about children. They're only concern is money, at least according to Tina. This marks a big change for Tina who was used to hating the lazy, shiftless teachers in Texas. It's easier than blaming skinflints who don't want to pay their taxes.

    Caring deeply about our children, parents and teachers want to help them grow, learn, and reach their full potential. Today, rather than building blocks, the classroom is filled with road blocks. School boards and bureaucrats have essentially ripped funding and control from the classroom and put them in the boardroom. It’s time to give them back.

    So, I guess the new GOP line is 'We LOVE teachers but you superindentents are a bunch of bastards. And school board members, nothing but hate for y'all!'. Just to save you the trouble of having to visit the TX GOP's horrendous website, I've graciously posted Tina's entire diatribe after the jump. Her anecdotal evidence, questionable stats and half-truths are well worth the read.

    It helps if you're also drunk.

    Why Johnny Can’t Read

    By Tina J. Benkiser, Chairman Republican Party of Texas

    See Spot. See Spot run. Run Spot run. Simple words that many of us learned to read as children. Yet, today we wonder why Johnny, or Susie, or . . . can’t read them. The answer: increasingly bloated school bureaucracies more interested in self-perpetuation than teaching children and giving them the building blocks they need to succeed in life. America’s future depends on whether we can reverse this trend.

    Caring deeply about our children, parents and teachers want to help them grow, learn, and reach their full potential. Today, rather than building blocks, the classroom is filled with road blocks. School boards and bureaucrats have essentially ripped funding and control from the classroom and put them in the boardroom. It’s time to give them back.

    Consider the following: State revenue for “education” has increased nearly 300% in the last three decades while local tax receipts have increased over 78%. Yet, Johnny’s reading and math skills are not any better than they were 30 years ago. In fact, it’s not unusual today for half of our high school graduates to need remedial English and math classes if they go to college.

    So, where did our money go? If you are in Aldine ISD, the district projected a $10 million shortfall of which $9.5 million was mostly for awards to the superintendent and a non-classroom administrator. If you are in Keller ISD, $2400 went for club memberships for several employees using an account that many thought earmarked for student activities. If you are in Connally ISD, a federally funded TEA grant sent 40 teachers, staff, and several Apple trainers on a 5-day Caribbean “technology training cruise” although Waco has three institutions of higher learning with great computer labs and advanced training courses. Tales of budget irregularities, kickbacks, and bid rigging abound. And, don’t forget that school districts used our money to pay lobbyists a reported $6.1-13.1 million in the last several years.

    That may explain why in the last decade, school district operating and general administrative expenditures have risen four times faster than student enrollment. It may also explain the whopping 61% growth in general administrative expenditures. During the same time, student enrollment grew only about 14% with a generally proportionate increase in the number of elementary teachers. However, the number of “other support staff” excluding teachers, counselors, nurses, therapists, diagnosticians, librarians, or administrators grew over 104%. That may further explain why last year so many school districts vehemently opposed spending at least 65% of education dollars in the classroom.

    But, would cutting administrative costs really save money that could be better spent in the classroom? Absolutely. A few years ago, Laredo ISD reduced its central office administrators by eight and reassigned secretarial and clerical staff to vacant positions saving $795,000. Imagine what that money could do in the classroom each year.

    To protect our children’s future, we need reform now. The Supreme Court made it clear that the Texas Legislature must develop a fair and equitable tax system to properly fund education and that more money is not the solution. Out of control unelected bureaucrats, unions, and their lobbyists would love to see this fail and will likely try to make this session into an Ardmore in Austin they and their lackeys will try by obstruction, distortion, and misdirection to ensure that nothing happens. Let’s hope the Legislature is able to forge a solution that protects both children and taxpayers from shameful bureaucratic efforts to erect more roadblocks than building blocks.

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    April 21, 2006

    Up all night, Sleep all day

    Image hosting by PhotobucketVice-President Cheney took a nap during a press conference/briefing by el Presidente and PRoC President Hu Jintao. Cheney, 92, blamed his sleepiness today on a late night binge and bender consisting of manatee and baby seal (washed down with Everclear, natch) with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. After their late repast, the couple adjourned to the screening room in the White House for a viewing of Platoon followed by Patton.

    Photo:NY Post

    Posted by mcblogger at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Please excuse the paucity of posts...

    ... I'm still a little hungover from the In the Pink Texas/Pink Dome special session party last night (click on them to see the partypix... like in college). I planned on being home last night by 10:00 until around the time I ordered by 8th scotch. After that and a great conversation with Karl-Thomas and Phillip from BOR, I didn't roll back to the house until closer to 1:30 (I didn't shut down the bar, which is VERY unusual for me).

    And no, I did not get 'molested' by PD. It's only molestation if you don't like it.

    The Mayor wasn't able to make it which sucks because I wanted him to come and is OK because he's probably better off without the hangover from hell which I'm, even now, enjoying.

    Posted by mcblogger at 03:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    It's like trusting a drunk to operate a liquor store...

    Seriously, the Congress is about the pass lobbying reform. Well, it's not so much 'lobbying' as 'bribing'. As for 'reform', it's that if you classify putting a fresh spin on the same old way of doing business as 'reform'. And hold your nose.

    The Sacramento Bee has a great editorial up about this POS and a suggestion... turn over enforcement to the FEC.

    The one reform that would matter is missing: Handing oversight and enforcement to an independent agency. Both the House and Senate continue to rely on a failed self-regulation model in which members of Congress are supposed to police their colleagues. This "fox-guarding-the-henhouse" approach is what needs fixing most.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Posted by mcblogger at 11:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 20, 2006

    Virgin Bride Wanted; Pig Worshippers need not apply

    Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain ...

    BRAY, Okla. - A man has caused an uproar in this southwestern Oklahoma town by advertising in an unusual manner that he'd like to pay for a virgin to be his bride.

    A sign that 45-year-old Michael Thelemann posted in his yard Sunday said that he'll pay $1,000 for a virgin bride between the ages of 12 and 24.

    Neighbors asked the Stephens County sheriff's department to stop Thelemann from displaying the sign, but Undersherriff Bob Hill said the sign was gone by the time deputies visited Thelemann's home.

    That's because it was stolen, Thelemann said. He put up another sign Wednesday that didn't include the minor ages. The new sign also noted he's not interested in a "pig-worshipping, heathen, white-supremacist wife."

    Posted by mayor mcsleaze at 01:16 PM | TrackBack

    Dregs: I'm The Decider the song, Clothes for the Dallasite in you and more

  • Pink Dome (who has ventured into the dreadful world of MySpace) found Bush's grammatical misstep set to music. Listen to it here
  • So you live in Dallas. You have the leased C-class Benz, a Rolex or Patek-Phillipe purchased with Amex and a bar tab that would rival my own. The only thing left is to visit the 30,000 Dollar Millionaire. It's a site so uniquely Dallas... well, I'm just going to get myself in trouble if I go much futher. Here's a sample ...

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    Karate Kid Ringer
    Karate Kid Ringer
    Everyone's got a nice t-shirt. Everyone loves movie stars. Not everyone loves nice t-shirts and movie stars.

  • The Washington Monthly has a new piece up about the 'emerging environmental majority'. Think about that for a second then go read the article. Who'd have ever thought tofu-eating Greenpeace nutters would have so much in common with pick-up driving redneck GOBs? NO ONE... except a few smart folks at Earthworks.
  • $300 Million/day... THAT IS WHAT WE'RE NOW SPENDING IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ. While we have deteriorating infrastructure here at home (if you live in Austin NW just TRY to get the airport in less than 45 minutes), underfunded public schools and a huge shortfall in SS, Bush is spending like the drunk he so obviously is.

    Uhm, it's almost double what we spent on Vietnam annually in 2006 dollars. Yeah. So much for the R's and fiscal responsibility... at LBJ wasn't cutting taxes while spending an assload of money.

  • Posted by mcblogger at 12:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Oh, well... Good! I was worried about that!

    The SF Chron has a great piece up about how the staff shakeup at the White House will not change Bush's policies. I'm extremely relieved because I was worried the new people would persuade Bush to 'come back to reality' and adopt policies that might actually benefit the US.

    Knowing that they'll keep doing the same stupid stuff is very encouraging as it makes it that much easier for us to elect a Democratic majority in 2006.

    Posted by mcblogger at 10:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    NEVER joke when you're dictating, you stupid shit!

    A constituent who lives in Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's MO district sent her a letter. The response was (as usual) LAME except for the end...

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    "I think you're an asshole"

    OF COURSE SHE APOLOGIZED and of course, the 'culprit' has not been found. He/She/It never will be because they don't exist.

    "We cannot determine whether the addition to the letter was made by someone within the office or by someone with access to the office, but it is on my letterhead and the responsibility for it lies with me. A valuable lesson has been learned and new procedures will be adopted as a result."

    New procedures? Like what? Reading the dictated letters before they're sent out?

    I'm all the time dissing clients after I hang up the phone. The key here is AFTER. I do the same thing WHILE I'm on conference calls... WITH THE MUTE ON. I'm smart like that.

    Rep. Emerson, you're a dumbass. Seriously, you're fucking stupid.



    PS - I really mean what I wrote above about your intelligence... and I won't be blaming it on ANYONE. Oh, and I think you're gross.

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 19, 2006

    "Whatever you do, don't tax us... Tax the other guy!"

    As predicted every lobbying group, special interest and Republican politico who still has a pulse (note, that's my endearing way of seperating the living from Tom DeLay... and that zombie, Cornyn) is getting in gear to either support or tear down whatever comes out of the Lege on tax reform.

    Dewhearse and Perry are both setting aside funds to run ads selling whatever frankenstein bill ends up being produced by the Republicans.

    In addition, the Goobernator is courting the Texas Medical Association to accept HIS tax plan with all kinds of lulu's in it for doctors, natch.

    Gov. Rick Perry worked today to secure doctors' endorsement of his proposed tax overhaul and said lawmakers should try to squeeze more property tax cuts from the new, bigger surplus. The Texas Medical Association has been a major opponent of the expanded business tax that Perry is promoting to help pay for school tax reductions because the measure would tax doctors for the first time.

    The doctors originally didn't like the plan so Perry is giving them deductions and loopholes so they won't really have to pay it. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE MD's and PhD's. Problem is they both make a shitload of money, a lot of which is provided by Medicare/Medicaid in one way or another and don't pay a damn thing in taxes over sales and property. Just like the President and Vice - President, it's time for them to pay their fair share.

    Of course, we also have to hear from the trial lawyers who oddly appear to be in favor of this miasma...

    However, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, which represents plaintiffs lawyers, reaffirmed its support for the plan in a letter to legislators on Tuesday. The group's leaders said most of its members would be subject to the tax, although lawyers and other businesspeople who are sole proprietors would be excluded.

    Then the Realtors...

    The Texas Association of REALTORS® supports the commission’s approach because it reduces property taxes and spreads the tax burden across many businesses in different industries—and does not further raise the barriers to homeownership in a state that currently ranks only 44th out of 50.

    Apparently, there are proposals being put forward for a transfer tax on real estate transaction which naturally sent the Realtor lobby into apoplexia even though it won't affect them for shit. They have 'research', though, that says I'm wrong, to wit:

    The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University published a new study in November, 2004, titled: Analysis of a potential transactions tax for financing education in Texas. This study concluded that the creation of a transfer tax on real estate would result in $955.5 million in foregone economic activity and 11,575 Texas jobs eliminated. Right now, Texas is one of the most desirable states for businesses to invest in and relocate to. A real estate tax would change that. Surely this isn’t what our leadership at the Capitol wants.

    Who the hell are you going to trust more, me or some nebbish at Gay&M where Perry was a cheerleader? Seriously, there is more after the jump on this particular issue since these people are RETARDS.

    Now do you see why I hate the Lege?!?! Basically, they're all afraid of the lobby, the lobby is scared of it's constiuency and everyone else gets screwed. Nicely done, fellas! Way to put Texas on the first track to competing with Nicaragua!

    Ok, so here's the 'study' on the transfer tax

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    We hear that some Texas legislators are contemplating a tax rate three times higher than this scenario. A 1.5% transfer tax would cost homebuyers a lot more than the $600 figure at 0.5%. A transfer tax of 1.5% would cost homebuyers $2,466 in additional money at the closing table when purchasing the average-priced home in Texas – and have a chilling effect on home sales statewide. Real estate transfer taxes cannot be rolled into a mortgage loan and they’re not tax-deductible.

    Oh, and here is a PDF from the NAR that 'explains' everything. I see great charts, but no hard data. For one thing, whether the transfer tax is levied against the seller or the buyer, the seller will be the one paying it. Period. That's the way things go. Wanna debate me on this? I'm IN the finance industry and I know what some of you Realtors like to do... I HELP YOU DO IT. Don't run this bullshit with me since I'm the one that taught you how to engineer a contract to take advantage of seller concessions.

    I have Realtors in my family and none of them would even think of making arguments this dumb. The transfer tax is a good idea for a few reasons

  • Increases stability and decreases speculation (which drivs prices out of reach for most consumers). Neighborhoods are less likely to rapidly transition from one property class to another.
  • Promotes price stability and reduces inflation in home values. Yes, the tax will be figured into the sales price the seller wants (duh). Yes that will moderately increase the value of the home. However, when combined with decreased speculation there will be a minimal effect on sales price increases... and the Realtor's can stop worrying because there will be plent of people looking to buy.
  • Enough, or are you thirsty for more?

    Posted by mcblogger at 10:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Damn... this shit writes itself...

    Yes, I was watching CNBC yesterday when this happened. They broke live to reveal el Presidente once again proving that he, above all others, is the biggest dipshit in Estados Unidos de Norte Americanos...

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    Asked about Mr Rumsfeld at a news conference, Mr Bush said he had "strong confidence" in his defence secretary.

    "I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation," he said.

    "But I'm the decider and I decide what's best."

    Life is good when you finally realize that yes, indeed, you ARE smarter than the people in charge.

    Posted by mcblogger at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 18, 2006

    Now that the muslim world loves us...

    The mommy figure that Busholini never had is moving on to another theater of operations...

    Karen Hughes seeks better U.S. image in Latin America

    The State Department's under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, Hughes returned last month from her second trip to the region, which included stops in Brazil, Panama, El Salvador, Chile and Colombia.

    There, she underscored the central U.S. message to Latin Americans: We are friends, we are neighbors, and we can do more for our people working together.

    ''We recognize that we have problems in our own country and in many countries throughout Latin America that are similar,'' she told The Miami Herald in an interview. ``And we want . . . to deliver on democracy for our citizens.''

    Do you suppose that in the Bushco dictionary, "irony" is defined as synonymous with "metallic"?

    Posted by mayor mcsleaze at 01:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Exhaustive coverage of the Texas Lege special session

    By 'exhaustive' I mean it's going to wear me out. I hate the Lege because they're all a bunch of clowns and calling a session 'special' is extraordinarily appropriate. Pink Dome is actually covering the hell out of the damn thing and the crew over at BOR is working it as well. So, rather than reinvent the wheel...

    Pink Dome was liveblogging the opening day and I have no idea if they're doing it again. Here's a good run down of the R education bills that (OMG! I'm Shocked!) don't really do anything other than get the TX SC off their backs. Seriously, education needs new, permamanent money to stave off the decline and bring Texas back to world class in education.

    Karl - Thomas Musselman at BOR has a good post up about the bills written by Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) that is spot on. Burnam and Scott Hochberg are both tremendous Democratic assets. They both know not only what needs to be done, they can turn around and sell it to Democrats AND moderate R's (the few in the TX Lege).

    "My income tax bill provides substantial tax relief for 90% of Texans—not just for those with the highest incomes," said Rep. Burnam. "The additional revenue, raised entirely from those Texans who can most easily afford it, would reduce property taxes and provide nearly $2 billion in new money for Texas schools. That would allow us to raise teacher salaries to the national average (a $6,000 raise) and still have several hundred million dollars left over."

    Tax relief AND new money for education. ROCK ON REPRESENTATIVE BURNAM! Seriously, click on Burnam or Hochberg and send them a thank you!

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Ask A... Kitten named Pickles, the sole survivor of Herr Doktor Bill 'Mengele' Frist's early education

    Senator Bill Frist is well known for his rather unorthodox (read:psychotic) surgical experiments on cats he adopted from a shelter (by promising he'd care for them, natch) while he was in medical school.

    Image hosting by Photobucket We're lucky not only that he DIDN'T kill them all but that one of them is alive and well to answer YOUR questions. SO, please feel free to hit us up via mcblogger@mcblogger.com so we can forward your questions to Pickles. For those of you in need of a visual aid, here's a recent photo.

    Precious? Yes, but there is so much more to Pickles than good looks! Pickles was recently named Most Admired Cat by the readers of Cat Fancy and is considered by many to be the leading candidate to replace Florida Representative Katherine Harris when she loses her bid to defeat Senator Bill Nelson.

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Commander in Thief

    El Presidente is apparently a music thief! According to Gizmodo, the President made a comment about enjoying The Beatles on his iPod. Two problems with that... Beatles tracks aren't available for purchase online. That means he ripped them off a CD which brings up the second problem which is that the RIAA calls that illegal.

    Yeah, ripping music from your own CD's and putting them on a portable device is illegal.

    As much as I'd LOVE to rip on the President about this, I honestly can't. Mostly because it would be really disingenous of me since the one group I hate more than the Republicans ... is the RIAA.

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 17, 2006

    Glaceau Vitamin Water... like ass in liquid form

    Another entry from my sister who STILL has not picked a name to post under... or even bothered trying to learn how to, you know, login. She calls it busy. I call it lazy. So, in the spirit of love for my sib, I'll post another installment from the crazy bitch.

    Glaceau Vitamin Water is loaded. Not with money or liquor or anything else you might think of as 'good'. It's loaded with other 'good' stuff that the human body supposedly needs like B-complex vitamins and potassium. Unfortunately, the 'scientists' who make this shit left out nicotine. Bitches.

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    THIS is water for the alci on the go, too busy to properly rehydrate, deficient in just about everything that makes a human body work and with too much money on their hands. In short, me.

    I sampled this on a recent Sunday to help me get over a rather vicious hangover caused by my brother and scotch. Lots of scotch. I opened the bottle gingerly, removed the lid and lifted the bottle to my lips. Slowly a trickle of the purplish 'water' ran over my tongue and down into my throat. As I finished the first drink I immediately realized what this shit tastes like... it's like filling a glass with ice and juice, drinking the juice quickly (but not all of it) and then leaving the ice to melt into the juice for a few hours.

    Then coming back to drink the remainder. Yes, it's that gross.

    Try it if you must... THESE morons enjoyed it. I think they're paid by the company that makes this crap. Or they're completely insane.

    Posted by mcblogger at 07:46 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

    Tax cuts SOOO rock for some

    The President and Vice-President paid quite a bit in taxes... of course, they still didn't pay (on a percentage basis) quite as much as we did but you can't expect them to actually contribute their fair share, can you?

    The Demon Cheney paid $529,636 (26.48%) in taxes on income of almost $2mn while Bush paid $187,768 on income of $735k (25.5%) . I paid close to 30% when all was said and done thanks for Medicare, SS, sales taxes, etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to do it... just wish the rich would pay their fair share as well!

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:37 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Saturday Night Live is funny?

    (this is the first of what will likely be many installments from someone known as my sister who shall remain nameless until she decides on one)

    I normally find other, better things to do on a saturday night rather than watch TV at home. Dates... drinking... going on dates WHILE drinking... you see where I'm going? Imagine my suprise when I found myself home one recent saturday night with nothing to do and watched (for the first time in years) Saturday Night Live and saw Natalie Portman doing this fucking awesome video.

    If you're wondering, it was the shit in the shoes that really made me laugh. I've used a variation on it with a friend of a guy I was seeing who was, is and will always be a complete tool.

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 16, 2006

    Richard Myers finds a new way to debase himself...

    ... no longer content to just shill for Republicans and their failed leadership, Richard Myers has issued forth a defense of none other than Donald Rumsfeld himself.

    Richard B. Myers, the Air Force general who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs from 2001 until last fall, dismissed criticism that military leaders failed to stand up to Rumsfeld and President Bush when they disagreed with those civilian officials.

    "We gave him our best military advice and I think that's what we're obligated to do," Myers said on "This Week" on ABC. "If we don't do that, we should be shot."

    Oh yeah, and it gets so much better...check it out at the Houston Chronicle.

    Posted by mcblogger at 08:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 15, 2006

    The face of Republican leadership

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    Posted by mcblogger at 11:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 14, 2006

    Did he ask her next to pass peas to a Republican?

    Oasis Magazine has a great interview up with Bob Smith. My FAVORITE quotes:

    "I was going to tell my parents I was gay. I made my carefully-worded announcement at Thanksgiving. I said, 'Mom, would you please pass the gravy to a homosexual?' She passed it to my father and a terrible scene followed."
    Of course, his actual coming out happened because he was doing gay material in his stand-up act. He returned home to visit his parents and had some of his joke with him, which he keeps on three-by-five cards.

    "My mother, not even being nosy, looked at them and said, 'These jokes are about being gay. Are you gay?' She totally surprised me, and of course, I said yes. And she said, 'how long have you known you were gay?' And I told her, 'since junior high school.' She said, 'that must have been hard. Our family has gone through so much. But look at the Moorlands across the street with those retarded grandchildren, and I started laughing and said, 'Oh Mom, thanks for that comparison. I love that analogy," he said.

    "The Catholic Church says it's OK to be homosexual as long as you don't practice homosexuality. And I think it's OK to be Catholic as long as you don't practice Catholicism."

    Posted by mcblogger at 11:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 13, 2006

    Rush Limbaugh... one crazy douche

    Fat-ass gas bag and former celebrity Rush Limbaugh (seen here in erotic picture taken when he was courting his former wife)Image hosting by Photobucket
    said on his April 11th broadcast (to what... like 30 people? Maybe 40?) that

    "[I]f you're Al Qaeda, come on in over the southern border! The Democrats will take your votes as well!" In recent weeks, Limbaugh has frequently accused Democratic leaders such as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (MA) of pandering to immigrants in the hope of gaining political power and support.

    MMfA has the full story as well as a clip.

    Posted by mcblogger at 03:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    TNR's been busy... with some BULLSHIT!

  • TNR has a pretty good review up of Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq.

    OK, it's not exactly riveting but it's a good read about the military's POV on what went wrong. I still think the original mistake was the invasion itself. However, it's interesting to read about it from the perspective of those who were planning and fighting.

  • Next up, their most recent takedown on Howard Dean, who despite the dire predictions of folks like TNR, has done a good job and been at the top of a party standing poised to make HUGE gains this November.
  • Finally, they come to an article about the new king of the R's, Mitt Romney, and his sudden love affair with universal health care... and small children (but not really)
  • Posted by mcblogger at 02:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Remember those mobile weapons labs in Iraq?

    OK, so it's not exactly news that Bush lied. It IS, however, news that he did it after he had the facts at his disposal. Apparently, when Bush was all about talking up the bioweapons labs in Iraq, our intel people were talking about how they weren't bioweapons labs.

    They made hydrogen for weather balloons.

    Posted by mcblogger at 09:17 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    The world is full of carpets and one day WE will clean them

    The Chago Trib has a great piece up about the Moonies, specifically their control of... the American sushi market. Seriously, did YOU know they controlled it? Yeah, neither did I. I thought they just had money losing media ventures like The Washington Times which consistently runs just behind The Onion as the funniest paper in America. Of course, it's not supposed to be amusing. Neither are the Moonies.

    Reading the article reminded me a great deal of the Seinfeld episode when George's boss is taken over by a carpet cleaning cult.

    The sheer success of the venture has left lingering questions even in the minds of Moon's dedicated followers. Yashiro, the Chicago pioneer who now heads True World Foods, remembers dedicating his career and life 26 years ago to achieving Moon's dream, which included solving world hunger.

    But that part of Moon's grand vision has yet to materialize. "I was wondering if we are really here to solve the world's hunger," Yashiro said. "Every day I ..... pray on it."

    Let me know how that goes, Yashiro!

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 12, 2006

    This morning is BORING

    too many more this sedate and I'll begin to think I can start handling more than my usual pitcher of bloody mary's.

  • Josh at Something Awful has an exhaustive analysis of the 'dragon shirt' up. Here's an except to get you to click the link

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    Fascinating Dragon Shirt Statistics

    In 2000 the United States Census Bureau began asking residents questions about dragon shirt ownership. This is what they learned:

    65% of dragon shirt wearers have ponytails.
    49% have terminal neckbeards.
    67% have been to an anime convention.
    67% reported experiencing true happiness for the first time at an anime convention.
    26% believe that they actually are a dragon on the inside.
    12% own motorcycles and are over 50.
    87% of people that own a dragon shirt own another dragon shirt.
    100% of dragon shirt wearers are lame.

  • BREAKING - ROMNEY SUCKS OFF KENNEDY AT PRESSER. The link is an older article and I'm trying to find footage of the press conference. Ladies and gentleman, I think the R's have a front runner for 2008
  • Posted by mcblogger at 10:30 AM | Comments (463) | TrackBack

    The Bank Of Wal - Mart

    Oh, you had to know it was coming! This has been around for a while (Wal-Mart's been trying to enter banking since 1999) but this time they may actually get it pushed through considering that the argument in favor is quite sound. OK, so I'm not particularly happy about Wal-Mart entering financial services but what they are proposing is setting up a bank to handle merchant services. Currently, they pay a fee to banks for clearing non-cash transactions. What they want to do is set up a bank to clear it themselves and save on the fees charged by the banks. Theoretically, they'll pass the savings on to the consumer.

    Yeah, I called bullshit about the same time as you. What's worse, the major opposition to this move aren't consumer advocate groups, it's the banks who stand to lose the most.

    Wal-Mart says they will not expand to retail banking. I think that's a lie on a level comparable to 'Iraq poses a clear and present danger to the United States'. I'm therefore very opposed to Wal-Mart entering banking. Still, it's funny to see the financial services industry get their collective panties in a twist over this.

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 11, 2006

    Midday is time for lunch

  • Italy 'elects' a new Prime Minister... or maybe not.
  • The Iranians already HAVE enriched uranium which leads one to believe they may have nukes but for the most part EVERYONE'S just thinking that Bush will use this as an excuse to invade before the midterms. Scumbag.
  • Immigration Protests recap, NY Times style...
  • Gas Prices could soar this summer to $3, $4 or even $5/gallon! I should point out that I will simply stop.driving.my.car.
  • A little hypocritical freak gets her panties in a twist over gay folks. Files suit (oh, how fucking original) and says this...

    Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation. Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.

    Let me get this straight... you feel your 'faith' compels you 'speak out' against homosxuality? Little bitch... what about hateful speech about people whose faith is so weak they feel they must prove it with stupid ass lawsuits? Or hateful speech toward folks with stupid last names (you know, like Malhotra)? You can believe what you want, sweets, but you impinge on my rights if you make me listen to you. Why not just keep your shit to yourself like the rest of us? Yeah, because you sure as hell don't want to hear what I have to say about
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    what a bad picture you take, Shiney.

    What IS it with people and an inability to get along with those who have different beliefs?

  • Posted by mcblogger at 12:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Privacy vs. Transparency - an interesting argument

    Interesting article on TNR regarding privacy vs. transparency. I disagree with the premise (that government transparency is killing debate and good, progressive legislation) but it's an interesting read...

    Secret government snooping sounds Orwellian. But Orwell guessed wrong about some things. Today, the danger that American democracy faces is not that rulers will know too much about those they rule, nor that too many decisions will be made without public scrutiny. Another danger looms larger: that effective, active government--government that innovates, that protects people who need protecting, that acts aggressively when action is needed--is dying. Privacy and transparency are the diseases. We need to find a vaccine, and soon.

    Check it out here.

    UPDATE - The more I think about this, the more I dislike the idea of less government transparency. Political discourse has become shrill because polemics on both sides have never been taken to task by the leaders of either party. The other problem is Republican's whipping up anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-everything nutters and they have only themselves to blame if it harshens discourse or leads to violence.

    And yes, the offenders ARE Republicans. When was the last time you a Democratic activist bomb a bank or shoot an anti-Gay activist? Right, it doesn't happen. Only R nutters kill folks who disagree with them.

    Come to think about it, the author of this is an idiot. TNR soooo blows.

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    April 10, 2006

    Gangster Government

    Greg Palast makesa case that the latest wrinkle in Plamegate - Libby's testimony that W himself declassified information so that Cheney could use it to conduct a disinformation campaign - is far from being an excuse for a crime.
    Bush's public coverup of his knowledge of those events is a crime itself - a bigger one. Here's Palast's take:

    OK, let's accept the White House alibi that releasing Plame's identity was no crime. But if that's true, they've committed a BIGGER crime: Bush and Cheney knowingly withheld vital information from a grand jury investigation, a multimillion dollar inquiry the perps themselves authorized. That's akin to calling in a false fire alarm or calling the cops for a burglary that never happened -- but far, far worse. Let's not forget that in the hunt for the perpetrator of this non-crime, reporter Judith Miller went to jail.

    Read more at buzzflash.com

    Posted by Aerialist at 12:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    I SOOOO want to see this...

    This could be the absolute BEST.MOVIE.EVER.

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    I got bored for about five minutes this evening in between Entourage and The Soprano's so I checked out the blog of someone I LOVE... Michelle Collins You Can't Make It Up and found a movie I simply have to see. Here's an except of her post on this brilliant film...

    A premature crack baby abandoned in an inner city dumpster embarks on a surreal journey through a landscape of urban decay in directors James Bickert and Randy Hills' "Dumpster Baby". Left for dead and doomed to die, the helpless child's chances for survival fade with each passing minute. The young infant's will to survive is strong though, and in the following days the struggling child encounters a series of bizarre characters ranging from an adulterous surgeon to a malevolent street pimp and a crack-smoking hooker whose motherly instincts offer a shimmering ray of hope in the child's bleak future.

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    April 09, 2006

    Hello, Donald Trump Mortgage. How can I help you?

    OK, so I got tired of waiting for McSleaze and Aerialist. Point taken, hookers!

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    Mr. Combover Deluxe, Donald J. (the 'J' stands for Jackass) Trump has decided to enter the mortgage business by starting his very own brokerage. Property development is a big thing for Trump, as is filing bankruptcy and defaulting on debt. It will be intensely interesting to see what happens when Mr. Trump's company begins originating loans, especially when the company gets called out for defaulted originations.

    ROCK ON, Mr. Trump! Welcome to the fucked up world of FICO scores, bad debt to income ratios and letters of explanation.

    Posted by mcblogger at 10:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 08, 2006

    A whole bunch of Shit...

    Unless either Mr. Mayor or Aerialist have something they're just dying to post, this is probably going to be it for the weekend as I have a life (though you clearly don't know it from all the jackass 'post more!' email I get from you guys... whining is not attractive, just FYI).

  • SomethingAwful has a thoroughgoing analysis of 'really bad porn'. The pics have been tastefully altered to render them PG and the write-ups are pretty amusing...

    Big Girls Description: Big Girls is a magazine catering to the tastes of men who prefer American girls over all those crackling fagots from Europe. These ladies are juicy with a capital "F" and, if you look closely enough, you can almost see the blue fibers from their Wal*Mart vest clinging to their moist butt cracks. The photography is amateurish struggling to be taken as professional. Horrible lighting heightens the ominous sensation that you're looking at things best not seen in daylight. Best Article Title: "Buttslamming Freaky Fatties Take Snake" Defining Quote: "The house I grew up in was totally obsessed with sex!" the 5'6", 38D-37-43, 189lbs. jumbo-sized juicy-cooze asserts. Most Depressing Image: Tragedy frozen eternally by the camera's unfeeling shutter. The girl is directionless, between sexualized poses, medically splayed and ugly like a deep sea specimen discolored by formaldehyde. Her vagina is not so much an aperture as it is a meaty tempest swirling betwixt her bloated thighs. The tongue is swollen, asphyxiating, the suggestion of a piercing or perhaps just a fly that has landed to scoop up a forgotten morsel or deposit its clutch of eggs. She gazes at nothing. Unattractive sexual aides await her attention. Perhaps one more pizza before we get to those. She probably smells like fry grease and despair. Bonus Image: A bonus image to offset the anguish. This woman has the happiest body of any human. Her folds of fat mirror the mad smile on her face. She's horrid, but she doesn't care! Try and stop her, world! Verdict: The perfect antidote for feelings of unmerited joy. Remind yourself that the world is a terrible place full of ugly beasts and pick up a copy of Big Girls!
  • Washington Monthly has a piece up about how the Congressional D's have 'found' the art of opposition. I think this is a little too premature, a few good days does not a turnaround make and they still prevaricate far too much. Still as the title implies, they're Not as Lame as You Think.
  • Immigration reform isn't quite dead, but it's definitely on life support. President Bush blames Harry Reid which is stupid because Harry's more popular than he is and everyone is going to naturally think it's HIS fault. I mean, come on, everyone already knows that everything else, all the other disasters, missteps and mistakes were exclusively the fault of President Bush, Sen Frist and Speaker Hastert (seen below plaing a video game in his office at the Capital).
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  • Enjoy your weekend, kids!

    Posted by mcblogger at 03:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 07, 2006

    Bush's poll numbers continue to sink faster than a lead boat

    Poll: Bush, GOP hit new lows with public

    Here's the meat

  • Just 36 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, lowest ever in an AP poll
  • 40 percent of the public approves of Bush's performance on foreign policy and the war on terror, another low-water mark for his presidency.
  • Just 35 percent of the public approves of Bush's handling of Iraq, his lowest in AP-Ipsos polling
  • Here's the part I LOVE...

    Just 30 percent of the public approves of the GOP-led Congress' job performance, and Republicans seem to be shouldering the blame.

    By a 49-33 margin, the public favors Democrats over Republicans when asked which party should control Congress.

    That 16-point Democratic advantage is the largest the party has enjoyed in AP-Ipsos polling.

    On an issue the GOP has dominated for decades, Republicans are now locked in a tie with Democrats — 41 percent each — on the question of which party people trust to protect the country. Democrats made their biggest national security gains among young men, according to the AP-Ipsos poll, which had a 3 percentage point margin of error.

    Nice to see folks finally waking up to the fact that R's hate Americans.

    By the way, you may have noticed the right wing nutter ad on the right. Click as often as you can... siphoning their money ROCKS!

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Trickle Down Economics, 2006 : We fixed leaks!

    As if anyone really needed further proof that the Bush tax giveaway was just that, check this out

    The first data to document the effect of President Bush's tax cuts for investment income show that they have significantly lowered the tax burden on the richest Americans, reducing taxes on incomes of more than $10 million by $500,000 on average.

    Where's the money going, and why hasn't it created more jobs? Skyrocketing commodity prices (gold has doubled between Clinton and Bush), investments in financial instruments, etc. are just a few of the places those who benefitted the most from Bush's handouts are putting the money. They aren't investing in jobs or even production systems that might create jobs.

    We were sold the 'tax cuts' as a benefit for all. That was a lie. We were also told it would spur economic growth. While it did spur growth, it's been extremely anemic. We were told that the 'tax cuts' would spur job creation and lead to wage growth. Neither have lived up to promises and with the increases in the cost of energy and housing, there has actually been a loss in real wages for the vast majority of Americans.

    I'm a died in the wool capitalist. I know that capitalism works best when wealth is spread throughout the economy. I know that when people on the bottom have money to spend AND save the economy will boom. I'm hardly an altruist, I want to make more money and that will only happen when more people have good jobs and higher wages.

    Concentrating wealth only creates an oligarchy... and defeats the purpose of capitalism.

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:38 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    April 06, 2006

    Libby rolls on Bush y Cheney

    The headline straight from the Houston Chronicle's front page...

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    Libby claims Bush authorized intelligence leak

    Is ANYONE suprised? Seriously, anyone? Libby's a bitch and it was only a matter of time. The only question remaining is what other bits of classified information did Bush see fit to 'disseminate' and to whom? When a President breaks the law bad things happen and we have to remove them from office.

    Time to go, Mr. Bush.

    Posted by mcblogger at 03:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Another bad thing for Texas to be first in

    ...REAL Fake News, (not the Jon Stewart variety)
    Center for Media and Democracy tracked a small sample of fake news reports (VNRs) produced with corporate sponsorship to see which TV stations dumped them on their unsuspecting viewers as real reporting. More of the sample was shown on Texas stations than in any other state, and it wasn't limited just to half-ass stations in small media markets - one even showed up on WFAA in Dallas, according to the study:

    The fake news didn't get on TV by accident or because of some fuckup by the night crew - often the stations put their own branded graphics on the stories or introduced the fake reporters as their own, and almost never disclosed the source of the reports or the corporate funding behind it. Lazy, lyin bastards.

    Posted by Aerialist at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    I honestly can't think of anything that would make this funnier...

    Three people were arrested after the brawl, described by police as a "baby shower gone bad."

    It WAS a baby shower. It turned into a nightmare (especially for the guy who was shot) for them, pret-a-porter comedy for us!

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    My REALLY great grandfather... and (likely) yours as well!

    Front page of the NYT this AM...Fossil Called Missing Link From Sea to Land Animals

    The skeletons have the fins, scales and other attributes of a giant fish, four to nine feet long. But on closer examination, the scientists found telling anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still a fish but has changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals — and is thus a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and eventually humans.

    Granted, it's not the fossil that shows the evolutionary chain from apes to modern humans (homo sapiens bloggerentis) but it does provide additional proof that all life evolves and puts another nail in the creationsim/intelligent design coffin.

    Other scientists said that in addition to confirming elements of a major transition in evolution, the fossils were a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who have long argued that the absence of such transitional creatures are a serious weakness in Darwin's theory.

    I'll tell you one thing... we've definitely become much better looking in the last 375MM years. Just take a look at this sexy thing...

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    ... isn't that a face only a mother could love?

    Posted by mcblogger at 07:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Comedy is so not about being funny

    There is cheese on every website (and more than lot of it is written by me on this site). However, in my wildest dreams, I would never think of jokes like this

    Property: How to clean ink spots? and flak? Save time, save money, save the maid…

    Example: if you spill fat on your clothes then dont wash them straight away. Rather, pour fairy liquid on it and leave to soak.

    I'm not sure if that's one joke or two but that's exactly what Rich Kyanka found when he visited the website of a fellow who clearly thought he was funny and that his sense of humor would be a natural fit for readers of SomethingAwful. Rich runs SA and received a message from Amir to post a link to his site touting his H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S SMS jokes. They had an email exchange you can see here (trust me, it's worth the visit to read the bad, racist and misogynistic jokes) wherin Rich takes Amir to school.

    FINALLY! We have proof that comedy can not be outsourced!

    Posted by mcblogger at 02:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 05, 2006

    Proactive vs. Reactive or WAKE THE FUCK UP

    The resignation (or whatever we're calling it) of Tom 'Bugsy' DeLay has pointed out a very real flaw in Democratic strategy. WE helped drive that along and now may be unable to take advantage of it. A huge part of Nick Lampson's (the D runnning in Tom's district) strategy, aside from being a fantastic candidate, was to run AGAINST DeLay. He can, of course, still try but it'll be real obvious real soon that the game has changed. Nick will be OK because whoever the R ends up being on the other side of the ballot, he's got a positive message. Other Democrats (nationally) do not.

    We are a party that has amazing ideas and tremendous energy that our leaders are content to squander while waiting for a perfect storm that will sweep away the opposition and return them to power. That's what a bad opportunist does and it never works out well for them. A good opportunist is waiting for the storm to begin, then they add to it.

    Our leaders are too afraid of their own shadows to put one foot in front of the other and step boldly out in front of the public to offer a different point of view. While they are afraid of their shadows, they are terrified of what Republicans MIGHT do. So, they wait patiently for demographic shifts and talk shallowly about their ideas, scared to go too far lest they bring on the wrath of neo-cons and religious zealots whose policies have led this country down a disasterous path.

    Luckily, we DO have some Democrats at the national level who, for lack of a better phrase, GET IT. Think Feingold and Boxer... not so much with Hillary and Kerry.

    Until Democrats start really being themselves things will continue to be hard for those of us on the front lines. So, when you hear some jackass talk about 'Democrat's have to ideas' don't get pissed at them or the Republicans. It's our own damn fault for electing leaders who'd rather prevaricate than lead.

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 04, 2006

    Let's not lose sight

    ...as the political blogs tumble over one another with speculation about the precise timing and cause of Tom DeLay's departure and its effect on the Democrats' chances of winning his district, that if nothing else a foul bolus of impacted excrement has been excreted from the body politic.

    After straining so long to rid ourselves of him, we can now gasp in relief that the little shit is finally gone. True, he may foul the air for a while longer, but if everyone lit just one little candle that would fade away too.

    William Rivers Pitt and lovable CNN curmudgeon Jack Cafferty put it much more elegantly below the fold:

    Pitt, via Truthout:

    Or maybe, Tom, just maybe, all this happened because you are the living embodiment of absolutely everything wrong in American politics. Forget your ideology, and your hateful divisiveness, and your shameless canoodling with the Taliban wing of fundamentalist Christianity. One cannot swing a cat by the tail in Washington DC these days without smacking someone who thinks the way you do. This doesn't make you unique, sadly.

    No, your criminal misuse of the campaign funding laws, your outright disdain for the rules if they keep you from assuming absolute control, your almost Zen-like ability to operate beyond the confines of conscience and dignity, is why your presence has been a cancer on the body politic since the day you put down your bug extermination gear and tried a power tie on for size, and is why you're finished now. How deeply were you in the pocket of your contributors? You took an R.J. Reynolds corporate jet to get to your arraignment. There has to be some kind of award somewhere for behavior so brazenly craven.

    It is hard to avoid a sense that something like justice, true justice, real justice, has been well served by the manner in which Tom DeLay has been laid low. Politics is a little cleaner today. Not a lot, maybe not even enough for folks to notice, but it is indeed just a little bit cleaner, now that he's gone.

    ...and Cafferty, via Crooks and Liars:

    In the end, all the tough talk was reduced to "I quit." ... He would strut around on capitol hill like a cocky little, banty rooster, but today he slithered away from Congress, to await his fate at the hands of the criminal justice system. Good riddance.

    Posted by Aerialist at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Work the long, thick, black shaft, Mr. President

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    Oh, Mr. President. Thank you!

    Posted by mcblogger at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    I LOVE me some wedding announcements and the PRICE IS RIGHT!

  • Just had to share... there a video up here of someone VERY excited about the Price is Right. If this is the competitors behave normally on this show then I really need to start watching, just to see the gimp dance. Dance gimp, dance!
  • If you, like me, enjoy reading obnoxious wedding announcements/stories like this one...

    THERE are many ways for a man to prove his commitment to his fiancée: diamond rings, love poetry, the occasional tattoo. One of the most sincere, and certainly the most painful, is going through a religious conversion involving circumcision. But when Claude Brodesser, the son of Roman Catholic immigrants from Germany, proposed to Taffy Akner, an Orthodox Jew, he had no doubt about what he had to do.

    Then you'll LOVE WeddingAnnouncementReview, a site where snark reigns supreme mostly at the expense, not of politicos but instead of those unlucky enough to appear in the NYT Fashion&Style section. LOVING IT!

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 03, 2006

    Sayonara, Dickhead...

    Yes, Tom DeLay (recently featured here in a Q&A with readers) has announced that he will not be seeking re-election. Officially, he says the polls are bad (they are... Lampson WAS going to beat the shit out of him). However, one of our McBlogger sources (read, someone who speculates wildly while drinking) thinks the announcement is the result of an imminent indictment. ANOTHER indictment.

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    So, au revoir Tommy. Be seeing you at a bar in Northern VA soon!

    Posted by mcblogger at 10:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    More GOP fun

    Don't you just hate it when bad things happen to bad people? Yeah, me too...

    This weekend the WaPo had a great story up on how the Republican Party has become a religious party. The piece is especially interesting as it was written by a former GOP strategist who helped engineer Nixon's victory in 1968.

    Then, in the same vein, comes an article from Wayne Slater at the DMN about how upset the 'Christian' Conservatives are that more of their agenda (like killing gays and harlots and non-Republicans in America) is not being put into law.

    All in all, it's pretty obvious that the stress on the Republican party is pretty severe.

    Posted by mcblogger at 08:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Runaway spending...

    Good job, you 'fiscal conservatives'! You snowed the electorate and have been on a spending spree that would rival any Orange County Housewife! In fact, the only Adiministration that beats your spending with greater abandon was that drunken sailor who was President back during the Depression... and Roosevelt was trying to pull the country back from the brink, then had to fight a world war.

    Seriously, you have to read the article. I normally think of USA Today as the bran muffin of the media world but this reporter did a half decent job. There's even this rockin' factoidt:

    BUDGET CHANGES Average annual budget change as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product during these administrations: Roosevelt 14.8% Truman -8.6% Eisenhower -1.3% Kennedy 0.2% Johnson 1% Nixon 1.6% Ford -1.4% Carter 1.8% Reagan -0.6% G. Bush 0.2% Clinton -1.8% G.W. Bush 2.4%

    The social spending I'm actually OK with but these guys managed even to mess that up by eliminating the government's ability to negotiate the best prices.

    Oh, Republicans... of all your many, many failures, this is your most troubling. Thanks for making your problems ours you shitheads! I hope you'll all notice that the biggest cutters on this list are Democrats.


    Posted by mcblogger at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    A weekend of press for Chris Bell

    First off was this piece at the SA Express News. It's a decent piece though I think they are a little unnecessarily hard on Congressman Bell about the name ID thing.

    In the meantime, though, his opponents are raising money, getting TV time and grabbing headlines. "Everybody in the race is better known than I am," he concedes.

    Rick Perry has the governor's mansion. Kinky Friedman has the cowboy hat and cigar. Carole Keeton Strayhorn has the One Tough Grandma shtick. Bell, meanwhile, has the door-to-door, ding-dong campaign.


    You're who running for what?

    Name ID is tough to build when you're strapped for cash. Forget TV ads. During the primary, Bell couldn't afford yard signs.

    Gee, fella, ever heard the phrase 'beating a dead horse'?

    One other thing, there's actually crap in there about Bell's rebellious youth that's a reiteration of Kelso's piece from last fall. Ugh. Name ID AND rehashing that stupid food fight. In a Burger King, natch. LAMEORINA NAVRITOLOVA.

    However, there is some good news... Chris Bell is running second in the newest Zogby poll, showing him clearly ahead of Strayhorn which may go a long way to bringing some wayard D's back into the fold. I do have to say I am extremely nervous about Kinky's strength in this poll. My fear is that those numbers WON'T go down.

    UPDATE - 04/03/2006 - I've seen the break out from the poll and while the top line data looks good, the breakout of party support for the candidates is a little scary. Kinky is #2 among D voters after Bell. This doesn't bode well for the Bell strategy of letting Kinky hang himself.

    Posted by mcblogger at 01:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 02, 2006

    It's been a long time coming...

    ... and at last the wait is over! This edition of SSSSS we go off the beaten path to that hotbed of political activism... the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. While recently there, I happened on this bathroom in the UTC...

    As you walk in, to your right, please note the elegant urinals and the messages above them. Note how the messages offer the finest in political discourse. The Republican thinking is truly worthy of Bob Jones University.

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    And the political discourse continues...

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    Oh, and the requisite nasty toilet

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    Still more of the great debates of our day. Granted, it's a little more intelligent than what you'd normally find at a trashy truck stop but still...

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    Please don't forget to washup... and thanks for visiting!

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    Yes, even on a college campus, it's possible to find a disgusting place to pee.

    Posted by mcblogger at 05:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 01, 2006

    Ask A ... Very drunk and extremely belligerent Tom DeLay

    This represents a first for us here at McBlogger, celebrity (former and current) Q&A's where YOU get to ask the questions. Our first celebrity comes to us from Government, specifically the US Congress. Tom DeLay has represented the 22nd Congressional District of Texas since 1980-something and is best known for his work with Jack Abramoff and Mikey Scanlon, as well as his tireless efforts to keep bringing back the pork to his home in the district, Sugar Land, TX.

    Tom Delay - My girlfriend and I have been having some problems recently and just seem to do nothing but argue. Can you offer any advice? Jack; Terre Haute, IN

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    Oh fuck, what a dumb as shit question. Get rid of the bitch you fucking pansy ass queer!

    Dear Tom - My oldest son refuses to do his homework and just laughs at me when I demand he do his chores. Any advice? Single Mom in Louisianna

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    Well, there's your problem... single mothers are usually whores. So, you're a whore. Boy's don't respect whores. The boy needs a father so if you don't want me to have the FBI hunt you down just to bring you back to me in Washington so I can slap you around, you'll be getting married soon.

    Congressman DeLay - My best friend told me the other day that ask too many questions. Can you believe that? Kathy; San Francisco

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    Yes. Next question.

    Hey! So how's life without the expensive trips? Sam; Austin, TX

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    How's life? Fucking prick... what do you want me to say? 'I hate it'? NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Oh, and Sam... when I'm re-elected this year I'm going to pay you a visit.

    At this point Representative DeLay assaulted a waitress so we had to break away from our Q&A. We hope you enjoyed this edition of Ask A...

    Posted by mcblogger at 09:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    SNAKES... In a car!!!

    So it's not SNAKES ON A PLANE but we're limited by the constraints of the Reality Based Community.

    Man Crashes Car After Pet Snake Attacks Him

    NAPLES, Fla. -- A man crashed his car after a pet snake he had wrapped around his neck began attacking him, authorities said.

    Witnesses reported that Courtland Page Johnson, 30, of East Naples, was driving erratically and crashed his PT Cruiser into several barricades about 9 p.m. Tuesday. He got out of his car, wrestled with the snake and then drove off, reports said.

    When authorities caught up with Johnson at his home, he told them he crashed into another car that had stopped short in front of him. After questioning, Johnson admitted he panicked when his snake bit him.

    He had cuts and freshly dried blood on his body, but did not need medical attention, reports said.

    Johnson was charged with leaving the scene of a crash.

    Posted by mayor mcsleaze at 07:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Photoshop Phriday... X 2

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    This week is magazine title literalism and the previous week was truth in movie titles... here's a sample

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    Posted by mcblogger at 04:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    A letter from my mother's dog...

    Explanation: YES, this is a letter written in the voice of my mother's dog by my sister. Lest you think we're complete freaks, understand that a) THE FUCKING DOG IS CUTE AS HELL b) my mother thinks of the dog as one of our siblings (thus, the salutation)... have I ever mentioned that we drink A LOT? Yeah, yeah... I know this is self indulgent as hell but you'll love the pix

    Hey brother! I haven't seen you in a while, so I thought I would write. Check out my lovely spring collar! I am so excited about it! I think it is important to stay in touch with current trends. Even though I can run with my baby, and play a mean game of ball, I am still a puppy princess! Paris Hilton's dog Tinkerbell has nothing on me. I'll kick that bitch's ass! I don't play! Anyway, I hope things are going well for you. I'll see you later! Love, Mattie

    And here is the princess in all her glory... on the bed in my room at my mother's house, which I found out during my last visit, is now hers.

    Schnauzer's SOOOO rock!

    Posted by mcblogger at 12:23 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack