Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meet the Fockers

Which part did you like best, that the five Senate DINOs below voted with their puppet-masters, the insurance corps, yesterday on the Rockefeller amendment, or that Sen. Baucus said he actually supported a public option but wasn't voting for it because it couldn't pass the Senate because he would vote against it?

The Corporate Kleptocracy is alive and well in the U.S. Senate and doesn't even bother any more trying to cover its own hilarious twisted logic. Thank you so much for playing, and don't forget your parting gifts:
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Max Baucus (D-MT)

Never Go in a Room Alone With Rahm Emanuel

Jane Hamsher sez that Richard Trumka, the new president of the AFL-CIO and heretofore a strong advocate for the public option, has been summoned to the White House today for a conference with that prick Rahm Emanuel, which means, according to Hamsher, that Trumka will cave to the Profane Blowtorch.

For the long-term health of a recently reborn Democratic Party, here's the crux for Hamsher, and for us:
"...I defy anyone to find me one single example of the White House twisting one arm for a public option. Just one. But when Rahm and Trumka meet today, it will be after a month of very serious threats to the AFL-CIO carried out at the highest levels. It's the kind of 'arm twisting' that only the executive branch is capable of, and it has been done to crush support for a public option, not opposition."

We didn't vote for Rahm Emanuel to be the head of government.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Abstinence-only "sex education" did not work in Texas schools when we went through them (in the 1880s). And abstinence-only sex education isn't working now. It's a joke almost as big as a certain former guv of Alaska, but at least some Texas school districts are beginning to recognize that.

There are few states where the Southern Baptists are more powerful than in Texas, and the Southern Baptists have been resolutely opposed to giving teenagers actual facts about their raging sexuality, including actual information about how to prevent pregnancy. On the other hand, the Southern Baptists have been extremely effective in forcing abstinence-only on public schools. Not to mention the federal government. Under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the feds spent $1.3 billion (billion) on the abstinence-only fairy tale. The result? A soring teen pregnancy rate, especially in God-blessed Texas, which
has the third-highest teen birth rate in the country and the highest percentage of teen mothers giving birth more than once.

The rate of student pregnancies in Austin high schools has increased 57 percent since the 2005-06 school year, and rates of sexually transmitted diseases are rising among Travis County teens.

At least some Texas school districts (urban ones to be sure) are changing direction to combat such dismal statistics. For country school districts, where going to the football game and screwing under the bleachers constitute the standard teenager Friday night, well, they're not going to feel so free.

American Corporate Power & the U.S. Supreme Court

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in an 1819 Supreme Court decision, “A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible. It possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it.”

But something happened in the U.S. Supreme court in 1886 that changed that “artificial being” into something equivalent to a human person. It took further decades, but gradually American corporations got the same protection of equal laws that natural persons have, which was (O my brethren) a fatal step we took away from democracy.

Our current John Roberts Supreme Court looks poised to take another leap down that rotten path. The special re-hearing on September 9 of Citizens United v. FEC (08-205) scratched an itch the majority conservative justices on the Roberts Court have to unleash American corporations altogether. The narrow case involves just the overturning of McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform laws, as they apply to corporations. But the larger question is whether government has any right to regulate corporations at all. Every commentator we’ve seen expects the Court to throw out McCain-Feingold as regards the involvement of corporations in the buying of elections, because (hey!) corporate money is just a form of speech, no? In other words, free and fair elections, not to mention what’s left of our democracy, is about to be royally screwed.

The Worst Supreme Court Case Evah
In 1886 the most powerful corporations in the country were a part of the industrializing juggernaut – steel and railroads, above all others. While there was a strong progressive movement to curb monopolies and rein in huge financial “trusts,” there was an equally strong impulse to shield business activity from government regulation. Unfortunately, the latter impulse had the American legal community behind it.

In an otherwise obscure tax case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (118 U.S. 394), the Supreme Court ruled that California government could not tax the all-powerful railroad for the fences running beside their tracks. That was nothing. But later a court reporter, who was (just incidentally) a former railroad company president, wrote a headnote to the case summarizing the main facts and arguments, as was his job. In the headnote, which got distributed to all the legal community in the nation, the court reporter noted that the Supremes had decided, by the way, that a corporation was, legally, a human person enjoying the protections of the 14th Amendment. While the Court had not, in fact, addressed the question of corporate “personhood” nor its relation to the 14th Amendment, the court reporter’s summary nevertheless established it.

So what? you ask. The 14th Amendment, the “equal protection” amendment, was meant to shield weak individuals, who had lately been slaves, from unjust power. But forevermore, the 14th Amendment would be used to remove corporations from the control of governments. In the eyes of the law since 1886, you and the Exxon Mobile Corporation are equals.

Justice William O. Douglas wrote in 1949, “the Santa Clara case becomes one of the most momentous of all our decisions. Corporations were now armed with constitutional prerogatives.”

What Justice Sotomayor Said
Corporations do bear several resemblances to (certain) human individuals: They possess no conscience, they recognize no Higher Power, they’ll eat until they burst. They are motivated by one thing: more money. They will do what’s necessary to get it.

They have put us in unsafe vehicles and sent us hurtling to our deaths. They have stuffed cancer sticks in our mouths and made us die for more. They have polluted our water, our air, and our land with their garbage. And they have made government the handmaiden of their habits. They mainly own the government because they mainly buy our supposed representatives. Their lobbyists write the laws that will regulate their behavior. We bail them out when they get into trouble. And with Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court is about to let them loose to manipulate us ever more openly with what millions of $$ in advertising can buy before an election.

However, in the oral arguments on September 9, our newest Justice on the Court, Sonia Sotomayor, became the small voice crying in this blithering wilderness of corporatism. While the conservative justices were being embarrassing lickspittles (Anthony Kennedy: “Corporations have lots of knowledge about environment, transportation issues, and you are silencing them during the election”), Justice Sotomayor made a provocative observation that might have elicited gasps in the courtroom. She suggested that the majority has it all wrong and that the court should be reconsidering those 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights of flesh-and-blood people. Judges “created corporations as persons,” said Sotormayor, “gave birth to corporations as persons. There could be an argument made that that was the court’s error to start with ... [imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics.”

Sotomayor will not prevail on this present Court, of course, but at least one justice is thinking about the implications and the wrong-headedness of what a court reporter inserted as a headnote to an 1886 tax decision.

Monday, September 28, 2009

History of Blue-Dog Barking on Health Insurance Reform

By the only writer we trust on the awful sausage-making in Congress.

HoneyBaked Ain't So Sweet

The HoneyBaked Ham Co. is a large national corporation and, as such, exemplifies corporate values to a tee. Case in point:

Richard Huether, an employee at the HoneyBaked Ham Co. store in Cary, N.C., was closing the store in Crossroads Plaza last April when a gunman approached him, attempted to rob him, and then shot him in the stomach.

Huether has been on worker's compensation since April. When those benefits expired, HoneyBaked Ham terminated his employment, canceled health benefits for him and his family, and helpfully suggested he would be better off on the government dole. Or as Laura Leslie put it, "why should the company cover the medical bills [Huether] incurred defending its store when it can stick taxpayers with the bill instead?"

That's just one reality of health insurance in America today.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Company She Keeps

Some have asked about Madam Virginia Foxx's prominent spot on Stephen Colbert's show Thursday night, in "The Word" section. It's brutal. And so richly deserved.

Congrats, Madam. You're now a nationally recognized racist.

Republicans Blew Their Wad

All that August noise from Republicans about socialist Democrats seems now in the cooler shade of September to have done nothing particularly harmful to health care reform and several things very harmful to the Republican "brand." From this a.m.'s NYTimes:
...recent polling ... done for The New York Times and CBS News in the last week ... gives Democrats a clear edge over Republicans as the party favored to deal with health care issues. The same polls show significant support for a public option despite months of criticism from Republicans, who describe it as a government takeover of health insurance.

On the issue of reforming corporate, for-profit insurance, the Republicans are truly irrelevant, except as background noise and the occasional clown eruption. Democrats from red states or red districts are the entire story for what's to come.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Money Buys More Democrats

The NYTimes reports this a.m. that four New Jersey Democrats (both U.S. senators and two House members) pressured the Food & Drug Administration to approve for sale a medical device that the agency's own scientists had unanimously and repeatedly judged "unsafe" after the corporation that developed the device paid off the senators and the house members with hefty contributions.

Screw 'em.

It's exactly this kind of thing that makes us grind our teeth down to nubbins and sends us looking for the neighbor's cat so we can have something warm-blooded to kick.

Michael Moore has it right, of course: until we get corporations (and everyone else with "special interests") and their big bags of money out of the political system, we'll continue to have this sleazy, sluttish form of democracy.

'Pears this is Black Friday for us, as far as fellow Democrats are concerned.

Some Blue Dogs Back on the Porch

Ryan Grim is reporting that "whip counts" of the Blue Dog Dems in the U.S. House is showing that the overwhelming voter support for a public option in health insurance may be having some impact. Grim writes that there is now a "lack of concerted, ideological opposition to a public option." The Blue Dog caucus is split.

The bluest of the Blue Dogs, and the leader of their opposition to actual health care reform, Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), has a looming scandal on his hands. Ross took a big fat payoff (or ... "bribe") from an "Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate [on health care reform] plays out."

When a dog turns this blue, there's usually corporate money supplying the color. We're looking in your direction, Heath Shuler.

Not that these Democratic outliers in the House will ultimately matter to reform or to history. It's the corporatist Democrats in the Senate that hold all the power on this issue.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jay Rockefeller, New Lion in the Senate

At least on the issue of health insurance reform, he's being a mensch. Just today, in the Senate Finance Committee markup of the awful Baucus bill, about an amendment offered by Sen. Jon Cornyn of Texas, Rockefeller said:
"This is a very, very important amendment and it's a very, very bad amendment. If there's anything which is clear, it's that the insurance industry is not running this markup, but is running certain people in this markup."

That's stating the plainly obvious, of course, but these days too many Democratic members of the U.S. Congress can't face the plainly obvious, let alone call it by its name.

We were sufficiently unimpressed with Sen. Rockefeller during the late, unlamented presidency of George W. Bush, especially his weak service on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And his uncritical support of everything the coal industry in West Virginia wants to accomplish, including the decapitation of scores of formerly green mountains, has given us heartburn for years.

So it's something of a blessed relief to be able to applaud his strong advocacy for real health-care reform and, incidentally, for his unblinking frankness in calling a weasel by its proper name.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Golly, What a Good Movie!

"Nothing But the Truth," 2008, written and directed by Rod Lurie, suggested by (though not based on the details of) the Valerie Plame Affair and the subsequent jailing of NYTimes reporter Judith Miller for refusing to divulge her source to a special prosecutor.

The journalist heroine of this movie (played by Kate Beckinsale, who should have been nominated for multiple awards for this role, and should have won them all) is not based on Judith Miller, which is a relief, though the wringer she is put through in this story makes me reevaluate my attitudes toward Miller during the Plame investigation. I did not look on Judith Miller at the time as a heroine of journalism. Maybe I should have.

Some 49 states of our Union now have laws on the books explicitly protecting journalists from the power of the State to compell them to divulge confidential sources of information. Only the federal government (and poor freakin' Wyoming!) has no such shield laws, and it's precisely the power of the federal government that needs constant exposure (I don't care who's president). The power of our federal government to chill the flow of information, to stifle free speech with intimidation, with the prosecution of good people (journalists, truth-seekers, whistle-blowers) under the guise of "national security" ... that's the great theme of "Nothing But the Truth." (Incidentally, the title of this otherwise near-perfect movie totally bothers me. "Nothing But the Truth" sounds like either a standard gee-aren't-lawyers-sexy courtroom drama or a dumb romantic comedy about Jim Carrey's inability to lie. Oh well, you can't have everything ... like a smashingly good title that's both memorable and captures the gist.)

Great actors in this film, along with Beckinsale (who is seriously just ... too much), including...
Vera Famiga, of the killer blue eyes, who was so radiant as the therapist in "The Departed," as the outed CIA spy

Matt Dillon (of all people!), playing triumphantly against type as the super-smart, sharklike special prosecutor

David Schwimmer (yes, of "Friends" fame), proving he's a subtle and serious actor in a terrifically difficult part as the journalist's not-up-to-the-challenge husband

Alan Alda as the complex defense attorney and First Amendment crusader

Angela Bassett as the editor in chief of the prestigious Washington newspaper whose star reporter gets the biggest story of her career and goes to jail for it

I understand that "Nothing But the Truth" got no theatrical release (or very little) and went straight to DVD, usually a sign that the movie's no good, or deeply flawed. Apparently, distributors thought there would be no appetite among the American movie audience for a serious, taut drama on such topics as freedom of the press and a willingness to go to the wall over principle. Maybe those distributors were right.

Or maybe it was the title.

Foxx Votes Against NC Jobless Workers

The House voted yesterday to extend jobless benefits to laid-off workers in 27 states where unemployment is 8.5% or higher. North Carolina is one of those states. The unemployment benefits bill passed on a vote of 331-83, a whopping majority including every single member of the North Carolina delegation, both Democrats and Republicans ... save one (and, yes, Virginia, you're a shining example of a horse's ass) ... Virginia "Loose Cannon" Foxx.

The few Republicans, including Foxx, who voted against helping workers took the line of blaming Obama for these economic times rather than their own lately unlamented former administration.

Those Republicans, including Madam Foxx, are into increasing the economic pain on ordinary citizens in order to make our current president look bad in the long run.

Classy move.

Thank You, Brad Miller

Congressman Miller, from the NC-13, disciplined Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-5) on the floor of the House last week (Mark Binker's account here) after Foxx proposed an amendment which would have zeroed out additional funding for Community Colleges under President Obama's American Graduation Initiative, "an effort to generate 5 million more community college degrees and certificates by 2020."

The Foxx amendment was defeated, soundly, by a vote of 301 - 126, which means that several dozen members of The Party of No voted against Foxx.

Dunno why. Isn't she an expert on community colleges, having been fired by one?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

And a Dumb Blonde Shall Lead Them

Meet Carrie Prejean, Values Voter Summit headliner and political guru. When the values of American beauty pageant contestants become the values of the iPootValues Voter, we feel like lying in a hammock and taking the next several years off from political activism. These folks seem sufficiently bent on self-destruction that they don't need any nudging from me.

You can't really satirize what is already satirizing itself so thoroughly. The former Moral Majority is packing some serious intellectual heft these days, no? A Barbie doll channeling George W. Bush tells the super righteous at the Values Voters summit:
"As I saw my goals and aspirations flash by me, I knew God had a plan for me .... God chose me for that moment."

All the Christian conventioneers applauded as though an archangel had come down from heaven to hand over The Restored Stone Tablets (or the Satin Sash of Righteousness and Breast Augmentation). Who knew God took such an interest in Vaselined teeth and runway strutting?

Said our good ole boy on the scene, "It wudn't nuttin but wut she said about The Gay that mattered."

The last time the Right Wing used a beauty pageant contestant as their life raft, we believe Anita Bryant took 'em all down with the ship.

The world we live in offers too much brilliant silliness. Dan Brown, the Absolute Worst Writer in the Universe, coins more money with a new thriller. Meanwhile, a serious new film biography about Charles Darwin will likely not be released in the god-blessed United States of America because it might "prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution."

Maybe we're all too dumb to survive as a sub-species. When the end comes, I'll be out back in the hammock.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Our Moonlighting Supreme Court Judge

Associate Justice of the NC Supreme Court Edward Thomas Brady, the man who wrote the recent opinion allowing a convicted felon the right to own firearms, is himself a firearms dealer.


No really. Scharrison on BlueNC has done the digging.

On the face of it Brady violated Canon 3.C. of the NC Code of Judicial Conduct by failing to disqualify himself from the case because he "has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy."

There's an indication (here, scroll to bottom) that Brady is not planning to run for reelection in 2010 when his current term expires, but 2010 hardly seems soon enough to get His Honor off the bench.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Allure of Corporate-Think

Ezra Klein, on just one section of the Baucus health insurance bill unveiled yesterday (a.k.a., "The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act of 2009"), language dealing with "employer mandates," a provision known as the "free rider":
It is not only the worst policy idea in the bill, but one of the worst policy ideas I've ever seen.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kay Hagan finds a lot to love in the Baucus dreck.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not Good

The disciplinary board for North Carolina appraisers has suspended the licenses of three real estate appraisers involved in the county's purchase of property for the new high school.

I believe this might go in the folder labeled "Wheelin' & Dealin'" and does not on the face of it smell all that delectable.

Madam Foxx Proves Once Again She's Not Ready for Prime Time

Safely away from those pesky constituents of hers in the 5th District, those people who scare the be-Jeebus out of her, Virginia "Loose Cannon" Foxx managed to get all racial yesterday on the House floor. Steve Benen at Political Animal has the fullest account.

Says Benen, "It's worth noting that Foxx is positioning herself as one of Congress' nuttiest members."

I know, I know ... Obermann featured the Madam last night as the Worst Person in the World.

An anonymous poster on Glenn Thrush's blog:
It is amazing how people fail to see how race is a factor with conservative strategy and unconscious actions. That is the same as saying, "You're right, honey. I do like the color of the dress. You know Betty from the office? Well, she is fat and is looking forward to the office party." I have a friend in congress, who is old and gray, and he is working hard for the American people. It doesn't matter that Betty is overweight, that a congressman is old and gray, and that President Obama is black. I assume that Rep Foxx attained the office due to some intelligence. I wish she and other representatives would use it for constructive arguments.

Senator Baucus Disposes

After months of stupid delay, while even stupider "negotiations" with Republican Senate obstructionists produced precisely zero, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus expelled a giant legislative fart all over Capitol Hill today, otherwise known as "The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act of 2009."

No Republican on the Finance Committee supports it, and, turns out, that's a useful thing. An even better thing is that progressive Democratic senators on the committee are already lining up against it. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has so far expressed the bluntest disdain, but senators John Kerry and Ron Wyden are also grumbling. Those three Democratic votes would be more than enough to kill the bill, which is what needs to happen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shuler Mad at Democrats in His District

Heath Shuler of the NC-11 reportedly held a meeting with Democratic Party leaders in Haywood County that reportedly turned rather ugly. Seems that those Democratic loyalists were pressing Shuler on why he was such a g.d. Blue Dog and wouldn't support a public option for health insurance. Shuler has shown flashes of irritation before with Democrats who just don't seem to understand that a Blue Dog hears a different whistle.

Shuler's name is now the first signature on a letter that Blue Dogs wrote to Henry Waxman demanding that certain language in H.R.3200 that PhRMA doesn't like be changed to language that PhRMA likes much better because (hey!) PhRMA wrote it after Billy Tauzin and other big drug company wheeler-dealers had a meeting with Rahm Emanuel and the President during which a bribe of $150 million was offered by PhRMA to promote the president's health-care "reform," so long as that "reform" did not include any price controls on the drug industry. Matt Taibbi has the inside scoop.

So guess what? Heath Shuler is about to be the recipient of some pro-Heath Shuler advertising by PhRMA, in appreciation for his service to killing real reform.

And actual Democrats are left wondering just how are we better off with corporate interests buying our guys just as assiduously as they bought the other guys.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Alternative: Rabid White People?

For all Glenn Beck and Fox News could gin up, they got a fraction of the 2 million they had hoped for Saturday in D.C. (60,000 - 70,000 actually showed up, according to official estimates by the Washington Fire Dept.). But they were rabid. And lied, incidentally, about their numbers. Of course. Wouldn't you? (More good pics on Scrutiny Hooligans, along with news that promoters of the 9/12 protest used Obama inauguration photos to bolster their claims of 2 million screaming meanies.)

Conservative writer David Frum summed up the current conservative fringe in the Republican Party as a combo of "wild accusations" and "paranoid delusions" arising from "the fever swamps." And he thinks it ain't helping the Republican Party get back on its electoral feet.

Meanwhile, in Raleigh, the John Locke Foundation/Civitas Institute/John William Pope Conglomerate for Doctoring the News hosted a Conservative Leadership Conference which featured (and we're not making this up) a keynote address by deposed beauty queen Carrie Prejean, whose talents include posing topless and opposing gay marriage. The Civitas Institute has been a bit vague on attendance, claiming "hundreds" who were hungry for the philosophical stylings of Miss Prejean, but our inside snitches say they barely hit 200, and several of those paying customers were some young progressive infiltrators from Durham doing oppo.

I dunno. With numbers like these, the Republican Party could hold a really loud, well attended national convention ... which is maybe all they want. Because, clearly, they don't want to attract actual voters.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sam Walton, With the Skin of Flint

Hat-tip: C.D. Our thanks for this piece of memory about the founder of Wal-Mart, via BoingBoing:
Around the time that the young Sam Walton opened his first stores, John Kennedy redeemed a presidential campaign promise by persuading Congress to extend the minimum wage to retail workers, who had until then not been covered by the law. Congress granted an exclusion, however, to small businesses with annual sales beneath $1 million -- a figure that in 1965 it lowered to $250,000.

Walton was furious. The mechanization of agriculture had finally reached the backwaters of the Ozark Plateau, where he was opening one store after another. The men and women who had formerly worked on small farms suddenly found themselves redundant, and he could scoop them up for a song, as little as 50 cents an hour. Now the goddamn federal government was telling him he had to pay his workers the $1.15 hourly minimum. Walton's response was to divide up his stores into individual companies whose revenues did not exceed the $250,000 threshold. Eventually, though, a federal court ruled that this was simply a scheme to avoid paying the minimum wage, and he was ordered to pay his workers the accumulated sums he owed them, plus a double-time penalty thrown in for good measure.

Wal-Mart cut the checks, but Walton also summoned the employees at a major cluster of his stores to a meeting. "I'll fire anyone who cashes the check," he told them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Company She Keeps

Sen. Kay Hagan was one of 16 Blue Dog Dems in the U.S. Senate summoned to the White House this p.m. for a meeting with President Obama (ABC is reporting).

Quite the list of frail reeds (and a few who ought to be ashamed to be clumped up with any kind of obstruction): Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Mark Warner of Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Tom Carper of Delaware, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Angry White Boys Club

That's yeller-out Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) in the middle of the picture, leaning forward. Rep. Patrick McHenry (NC-10), busily tweeting, is sitting three slots to Wilson's right.

As for Rep. Wilson's open contempt for the president, fellow South Carolinian and House Majority Whip James Clyburn said, "Joe is very confrontational. He held his first town hall meeting three blocks from my house at my kid's high school. Now why would he have this town hall meeting in my congressional district, three blocks from my house in my kid's high school? It's not in his district. That's the kind of guy Joe Wilson is. He loves confronting people. So he was confronting the president, just as he was confronting me."

"Joe Wilson took our state's reputation to a new low. I thought Mark Sanford had taken it as low as it could go, but this is beyond the pale," Clyburn said.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said that in the eight hours after Wilson's outburst, his Democratic opponent, former-Marine Rob Miller, has received nearly 3,000 individual grassroots contributions raising approximately $100,000.

Wilson wasn't the only one openly displaying contempt. A group of Republican back-benchers kept waving sheafs of paper at the President during standing ovations (the 95 Theses perhaps), and other prominent Republicans were seen on camera tweeting away or scanning their Blackberries. It was like 6th period Study Hall, probably including the spitballs and audible farts.

These are the alleged adults who fervently hope their antics will convince the American people to put them back in charge of government.

Dana Milbank reports that Patrick McHenry got up and left the House chamber before the speech was over, apparently late for a meeting of the Tiny Weasel Caucus.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Elaine Marshall Is In

N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has filed paperwork to create a campaign committee for a run for the U.S. Senate seat currently warmed by Dick Burr.

This announcement will probably clear the field of many potential rivals, as Marshall will be formidable in any primary.

She has, for example, been consistently the top Democratic vote-getter in Watauga County whenever she's on the ballot.

Foxx Laughs at the 5th District

Back safely in D.C. yesterday, far away from any constituents who might confront her in a parking lot or otherwise disturb her townhall-free summer vacation, Madam Doctor Virginia Foxx said on the floor of the U.S. House, "Mr. Speaker, it was a long, hot August for many members of Congress who returned home to face the displeasure of constituents fed up with Washington's tin ear syndrome. Over the past month I have heard from more people than I can count who have had enough of the explosion of Washington-style big government."

If your voice wasn't anti health-care reform, she didn't hear you. She didn't even hear you if you agreed with her, because she wasn't listening to anyone but her own inner demons. That line, "I have heard from more people than I can count," is just a bald-faced lie.

The Pleasures of Flapping Laundry

We'd rather see a backyard line full of laundry flapping in the breeze than a row of laundromat driers turning like cement-mixers in the flat glare of florescent lighting.

What happened in the last decades to make our soulless yuppies decide that air-dried laundry was some sort of affront to good taste and property values? Sez a real estate agent in Hendersonville, N.C., which has more than its share, apparently, of upscale developments that have banned by local law the outdoor drying of laundry, "It starts to look like a tenement."

In our eyes, flapping laundry looks like human life on a human scale, a savings, a freshness in the closet. This late 20th-century uppityness about "tenement" life is frankly unamerican, not to mention self-defeating.

A law introduced in the N.C. General Assembly this year would have overturned local bans on hanging laundry, but it died:
An effort in North Carolina spearheaded by Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, and backed by other lawmakers including Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, made progress this year but died before the General Assembly adjourned last month.

Harrison first tried to go after homeowner covenants, but as opposition mounted, she substituted a bill that would have limited only city and county ordinances. Her proposal passed the House but was rejected by a Senate committee.

The Asheville Citizen-Times story linked above offers hope, nevertheless, that a citizens' uprising is happening among homeowner associations and neighborhood groups to overturn stupid local rules and Victorian squeamishness. Let the laundry flap!

Hanging laundry is aesthetically pleasing (never mind the savings in electricity and all the other environmental benefits). We remember an art installation on Sanford Mall, probably back in the early '80s, when the Appalachian State University administration allowed a faculty artist to install several clotheslines and hang a wonderful assortment of clothing and linens, all carefully chosen for color, texture, and form. The installation stayed up a few days and filled our heads with memories of home and childhood and "washing day," before some high-falutin' prude complained and the whole thing was removed.

Bring back the clotheslines!

American poet Richard Wilbur captured for us the beauties of wind and damp laundry. He saw in the moving forms the presence of angels:
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down in so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.

("Love Calls Us To the Things of This World")

Sometimes there's no antidote to stupid law like poetry.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Sez Dad:
"Listen, Junior, I don’t want you listening to That Man, That Muslim, on Tuesday. You’re to get up and leave the room, you got that? If someone locks the door – and they might – you stick your fingers in your ears and say 'Praise Jesus!' over and over until that sumbitch is done. You got that? I ain’t gonna have no kid of mine getting brainwashed by no commie fascist socialist. No siree."

The only thing potentially worse than denying junior the chance to hear the President of the United States address personal responsibility and doing one’s best ... is making the President of the United States forbidden fruit. Because you know teenagers, and if you don’t know teenagers, then you’re possibly an orthodox conservative Republican who actually thinks the taller the wall, the safer the doctrine.

So mark us down as applauding the loony right for making the President such a mysterious, dangerous force to be avoided at all costs. The odds are very good that they’re raising a generation of Democrats.

It's Really Pretty Simple

What Bill Moyers said Friday night:
"...Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company's share price and profits.

"Here's a suggestion, Mr. President: ask Josh Marshall to draft your speech. Josh is the founder of the website He's a journalist and historian, not a politician. He doesn't split things down the middle and call it a victory for the masses. He's offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan — one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you're 65? Check it out, Mr. President.

"This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it's life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter."

Friday, September 04, 2009

Wal-Mart, Dark Over-Lords of the Universe

Hat-tip: Chris Kromm and the Institute for Southern Studies:
Rank of Wal-Mart among the largest private employers in the U.S.: 1

Rank of Wal-Mart among the world's largest retailers: 1 [source: same as above]

Profit made by Wal-Mart last year alone: $13 billion

Amount Wal-Mart earns in profit every minute: $34,880

Accumulated wealth of the Walton family that owns Wal-Mart: $158.4 billion

Rank of the Waltons among the world's richest families: 1 [source: ibid.]

Number of U.S. residents who visit Wal-Mart each week: 150 million [source: ibid.]

Number of workers Wal-Mart employs in the U.S.: 1.4 million [source: ibid.]

Percent of Wal-Mart's U.S. employees who do not have health insurance coverage through the company: 52

Average percentage of employees at large U.S. companies who are covered by company health insurance plans: 65 [source: ibid.]

Percent of Costco's employees who receive health insurance through the company: 85

Percent of their income average full-time Wal-Mart employees pay for the company's least expensive insurance plan: 20 [source: ibid.]

As of 2005, percent of Wal-Mart employees who got assistance from Medicaid, a public insurance program for the poor: 5

National average among employers: 4 percent [source: ibid.]

As of 2005, percent of Wal-Mart workers' children who were on Medicaid: 27 [source: ibid.]

National average among employers: 22 percent [source: ibid.]

Number of petition cards being distributed by a coalition of Wal-Mart workers, community leaders and activists that say, "I think Wal-mart should stop forcing taxpayers to cover its workers' health care": 50,000

Date on which a coalition of labor, environmental and community groups launched an initiative to hold Wal-Mart accountable for how it treats workers: 9/1/2009

35th Richest Lawmaker in D.C.

According to The Hill's "Rich List."

According to The Dome, "Most of her estimated $6.7 million worth is related to her interest in a Florida commercial real estate business owned by her father."

But a considerable chunk of her stock holdings are in "drug makers Pfizer and Genentech as well as Richmond, Va., based tobacco maker Altria and its subsidiary Philip Morris."

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Benefits of Worshiping a Particular God

Because, apparently, He justifies the actions of ... certain people.

Mark Sanford, the fornicating Guv of South Carolina, for example, sez God's on his side. And now we understand the whiteness behind the "white lie."

Rachel Maddow has had a segment lately spilling the only beans you need to know in this age of hypocritical self-righteousness: "It's okay if a Republican does it."

Wish Never To See This Face Again

Rahm Emanuel ... there's a swell guy.

Bad advice sometimes indicates a bad advisor.

If President Obama goes with Rahm, it's his trip. We'll not be joining him.

We'll concentrate instead on what we can do locally and turn off the national feeds, recognizing that there's not a damn thing we can do about the president following bad advice and throwing the progressives in his own party under the proverbial bus ... which is where Rahm has always seemed to prefer them.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Some Balls!

Taking a page from the George W. Bush playbook (speak only before friendly, pre-screened audiences), Sen. Dick Burr did some back flips on health-care reform in Charlotte yesterday, assisted by John McCain and Mitch McConnell, to an invitation-only audience. During which Sen. McCain had the unmitigated gall to praise the screaming mobs who've disrupted Democratic townhalls, which have most assuredly NOT been invitation-only.

Shorthand version: These GOP senators LOVE to see Democrats shouted down by people who don't know what they're shouting about, while the senators bask in the warm puppy-love of invited corporate slaves, who are evidently very comfortable with the level of ignorance among the general public.

However, one doctor in that hand-picked audience yesterday in Charlotte wandered a bit off-message. He had the balls to challenge (finally!) the standard Republican line ("We've got the best health-care system in the world") and challenged McCain's assertion that only 12-15 million Americans are uninsured.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Band Uniforms Scare the Christians

Some Missouri Christians are so firm in their faith that a band T-shirt at the Smith-Cotton High School depicting the evolution of brass band instruments got them all bunged up, and consequently the school has banned the T-shirts (which otherwise do not violate the school's dress code).

Depicted evolution. Now do you get it?

"The shirts ... are light gray and feature an image of a monkey progressing through stages and eventually emerging as a man. Each figure holds a brass instrument. Assistant Band Director Brian Kloppenburg said the shirts were designed by him, Band Director Jordan Summers and Main Street Logo. Kloppenburg said the shirts were intended to portray how brass instruments have evolved in music from the 1960s to modern day. Summers said they chose the evolution of man because it was “recognizable.” The playlist of songs the band is slated to perform revolve around the theme “Brass Evolutions.”

The school's assistant superintendent confiscated the T-shirts and just incidentally made explicit how the mullahs are destroying American education, insisting that science is an extension of their narrow religious beliefs: "Pollitt said the district is required by law to remain neutral where religion is concerned."

That's it ... the practice of science, let alone its expression in a humorous way on a band T-shirt, must reflect the religious paranoia of a small group of parents in a Missouri community.

A leader of the skeered Christian parents, one Sherry Melby, who is also (my gawd!) a teacher in that school system, said, "I was disappointed with the image on the shirt. I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school."

No, wouldn't want that. Instead, you've got an ignorant bigotry associated with your school.

Burr on a Leash

Big phony health-care event in Charlotte today on behalf of Sen. Dick Burr, at which fellow senators John McCain and Mitch McConnell will also appear, saying approximately (1) the U.S. has the greatest health-care system in the world and (2) we're all completely and totally in favor of reforming the greatest health-care system in the world, so long as the big corps get to keep all their profits and even increase them.

The event is being paid for by big corp Carolinas HealthCare Systems, which runs 25 hospitals in Charlotte and South Carolina.

No conflict of interest here. None.

Meanwhile, the multi-millionaire CEO of N.C. Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the insurance giant that has grown obscenely rich from maintaining a monopoly over state employees' insurance (among others), says he's against competition (duh) but very much for a public mandate that everyone buy insurance, since that will increase his profits several billionfold.

If these blood-suckers were capable of shame, which clearly they are not, they'd be hiding their fat faces in the sub-basement of the Department of Can We Get Any More Greedy?