Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pat Buchanan’s “Culture War” Is Alive and Well in Texas and Arizona

When the Texas Board of Education approved its politicized history curriculum on a straight party-line vote, 10-5, the fanatical revisionism of the Board’s right wing faction went beyond the foolishness of one member’s insecurity over the branding of an economic system. One of the absurd changes adopted was to replace the word “capitalism” with “free-enterprise system.” Apparently, a member of the Christian Right faction led by dentist Don McLeroy (who has no wisdom teeth and takes his history from the Tooth Fairy) worried that capitalist has negative connotations as in “capitalist pig.” Perhaps we should embrace “free-enterprise pigs” to describe BP, Transocean, and Halliburton –- it’s got a nice ring to it. (Parenthetically, socialists could raise a similar and more valid grievance, given the Teabaggers’ signs, over the distortion of their ideology.)

The battle lines were drawn even before the debate began when Board member Cynthia Dunbar led the opening prayer by affirming her inaccurate belief that we are “a Christian land governed by Christian principles,” in the name of “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” That’s all well and good, except that we are a secular nation governed by secular laws, with no Christian state religion, but rather a “wall of separation” between church and state, as most famously enunciated by deist Thomas Jefferson.

One of the Board’s most galling changes was to rebrand “Slave Trade” as “Atlantic Triangular Trade.” This goes to the heart of what is most disturbing about ideological right wing historical revisionism –- the introduction of half-truths, distortions, and vexing omissions to textbooks in an effort to “whitewash” 246 years of slavery in America. From its beginnings in 1619 when African slaves were first brought to America, captured like animals in their native lands and chained in the holds of slave ships to be sold as chattel in colonial Jamestown, to slavery’s official end in 1865 coinciding with the end of the Civil War and beyond, slavery has been a dark and tragic narrative in our nation’s history.

What the Texas Board of Education has done is to compel the writing of a parallel history of America, one in which slavery is concealed, and its central role as the cause of America’s bloodiest internecine conflict claiming more than 600,000 lives, discarded. Not only does this fantasy entertained by white Christian fanatics violate the history of our nation –- for to disregard truth and facts is to empower lies and violence -- but it deeply disrespects the history and contributions of African Americans.

The history of racism in this nation, which parallels slavery’s beginnings in 1619, is alive and well in the deliberations of the Texas Board of Education, circa 2010 –- 391 years later, and counting. It is a festering wound that is further infected by the lies of white ideologues on the Board who would dismiss the civil rights movement as creating “unrealistic expectations of equal outcomes” among minorities and remove any reference to race, sex or religion in discussing what different groups have contributed to the national identity. The same thing is happening in Arizona with another law signed by its lily white governor outlawing “ethnic studies” as somehow antithetical or divisive, when in fact it constitutes part of the multicolored fabric that built this nation and its capital, brick by brick.

Anyone who fails to see the ideological connection between the Texas Board vote, long in the making, and the Arizona curriculum slam of nonwhite Americans, has not been paying attention. There is much cause for alarm, not only for parents who wish for their children to receive a well-rounded and truthful education that teaches facts and unbiased, objective history and science, but for all citizens who thought the struggles for civil rights and the ongoing fight to keep Christian religious dogma out of science and history textbooks were settled history. For those who were there at the start of the troubles, there must be in all of this a sickening, familiar odor of déjavu, from Texas to Arizona to Rand Paul revisiting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, like Robert Duvall’s glorification of war in Apocalypse Now: “You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Pat Buchanan framed its current context:
“There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America.

My friends, even in tough times, these people are with us. They don't read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they came from the same schoolyards and playgrounds and towns as we did. They share our beliefs and convictions, our hopes and our dreams. They are the conservatives of the heart. […]

And as they took back the streets … block by block, so we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.”
This speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention was the high point of Pat Buchanan’s political career. Ironically, it is known as the “culture war” speech, and even though Buchanan mellowed, it lives on in the hearts and minds of Christian conservatives such as Don McLeroy, Cynthia Dunbar, and their allies in Texas and Arizona like a secret covenant that informs their radical right ideological agenda. The Christian Right’s culture war isn’t just a bumper sticker –- it’s real and it’s on the march.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Ayn" Rand Paul Opines on BP and Massey Mining: Too Regulated

After his self-inflicted wound, declaring opposition to Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “Ayn” Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican nominee for the Senate, tried to walk back his remarks by saying he would have voted for the Act. This is a new position. Stoking the fire, Dr. Paul confirmed his extremism with more sophistry, characterizing the explosions in the Massey Mine and BP rig as “accidents happen” even though preliminary reports point to negligence, probably willful and criminal in each instance, coupled with the devastating failure of a lax regulatory regime to prevent corporations from placing profits above appropriate worker safety protocols. He would oppose any increase in the minimum wage based on the groundless right wing talking point that it’s a job killer. Keep digging, Dr. Paul:

The common thread among these corporate CEOs and their champion, Dr. Paul, is (1) corporations know best and can self-regulate; and (2) regulators are the enemy to be kept at arm's length, bought off at the source (MMS), and in Congress, with campaign contributions to ease regulatory burdens. Deep pockets transnationals will push back with threats and dilatory tactics, including endless appeals (Massey) and lawsuits to lock in limited liability (Transocean). These operators and their proxies -- Dr. Paul, James Inhofe, Mary Landrieu, and Lisa Murkowski among them -- are so brash they believe any calamity can be overcome with enough money flowing through Congress, high-powered lawyers, and public relations.

They may be right.

Dr. Rand Paul (Opthalmologist), insistently pressed by Rachel Maddow, still refused to say whether he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act. Instead he clung to the life preserver that he never said he would repeal the law. Pure semantics. One can reasonably infer from what Dr. Paul says that, given the opportunity, he would repeal Title II of the Civil Rights Act. Opponents of laws repeal specific provisions, if they have the votes, without actually repealing an entire law. Amendments give and they taketh away.

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So, the correct question is: If Dr. Paul has no problem with 9 out of 10 sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, what does he propose to do with Title II, the section he is on record as firmly opposing? If given the opportunity, would Dr. Paul vote to repeal Title II of the Civil Rights Act -- Yes or No? (See below, with relevant sections emphasized.) It prohibits discrimination in a place of public accomodation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin. Interestingly, Dr. Paul celebrated his primary victory in a private club. That’s his right. It’s also their right to discriminate against persons on the basis of sex, color, religion, national origin, party affiliation, attire, whatever. Section 2000a(e) provides that:
The provisions of this title shall not apply to a private club or other establishment not in fact open to the public
But not for private commercial establishments serving the public. It's pretty clear and unambiguous:

42 U.S.C. §2000a

(a) All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

42 U.S.C. §2000a(b)

(b) Each of the following establishments is a place of public accommodation within this title if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action:

(1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests, other than an establishment located within a building which contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and which is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as his residence.

(2) any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment, or any gasoline station;

(3) any motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium or other place of exhibition or entertainment; and

(4) any establishment (A)(i) which is physically located within the premises of any establishment otherwise covered by this subsection, or (ii) within the premises of which is physically located any such covered establishment and (B) which holds itself out as serving patrons of any such covered establishment.

42 U.S.C. § 2000a(c)

(c) The operations of an establishment affect commerce within the meaning of this title if ... For purposes of this section, “commerce” means travel, trade, traffic, commerce, transportation, or communication among the several States, or between the District of Columbia and any State, or between any foreign country or any territory or possession and any state or the District of Columbia, or between points in the same State but through any other State or the District of Columbia or a foreign country.

42 U.S.C. § 2000a(e)

The provisions of this title shall not apply to a private club or other establishment not in fact open to the public, except to the extent that the facilities of such establishment are made available to the customers or patrons of an establishment within the scope of subsection (b).

42 U.S.C. § 2000a-6(a)

Whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that any person or group of persons is engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of any of the rights granted by this title, and that the pattern or practice is of such a nature and is intended to deny the full exercise of the rights herein described, the Attorney General may bring a civil action in the appropriate district court of the United States by filing with it a complaint (1) signed by him (or in his absence the Acting Attorney General), (2) setting forth facts pertaining to such pattern or practice, and (3) requesting such preventive relief, including an application for a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order or other order against the person or persons responsible for such pattern or practice, as he deems necessary to insure the full enjoyment of the rights herein described.

42 U.S.C. § 2000a-6(b)

* * *
It shall be the duty of the judge designated pursuant to this section to assign the case for hearing at the earliest practicable date and to cause the case to be in every way expedited.
Owners of private establishments that serve the public cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. Title II makes reference to “a place of public accommodation within this title if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action,” meaning that the federal government’s constitutional authority to enforce civil rights against private and state-backed discrimination is grounded in the commerce clause of the Constitution:

Article I, Section 8, Clause 3:
“[The Congress shall have power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;”

This is settled law. It's not an abstraction, as Dr. Paul has tried to insinuate, or a college pow-wow at 2 a.m. in the morning, as dismissed by Senator John Kyl of Arizona. Thousands of racial discrimination lawsuits are filed annually. One of the more notorious involved Denny's restaurant denying or refusing to serve African American patrons. Under Dr. Paul’s worldview, this would be perfectly acceptable. But it’s not. The vast majority of the American people are repulsed by such discrimination and find such parsing views abhorrent. We have moved on, Dr. Paul. And so should you. Either voluntarily, or rejected by the electorate at the polls.

[Update: Citing “exhaustion” “Ayn” Rand Paul has cancelled his appearance with David Gregory on Meet the Press. To quote a fellow libertarian radio host for Dr. Paul, “take a pill and lie down.” Rachel, don't feel bad, no long-winded apologias on your show ... but you might want to stay out of Gregory’s way for a couple of days. Rachel, you’re eeeevil!]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Liberated, D.C. Douglas Bitch-Slaps Freedomworks

From the Huff Post:
D.C. Douglas may have lost his gig as a voice over announcer on Geico commercials, but he's found another use for his time and talent ... making a tongue-in-cheek PSA warning people, "don't drunk dial FreedomWorks."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One Day Later, Where Is the GOP Triumphalism About November? *CRICKETS*

John Boehner must have been working on his tan; he was nowhere to be seen after last night’s election results. Mitch McConnell issued a muted statement which was the equivalent of a full-bore run for the tall grass. Eric Cantor drew the short straw and was trotted out to say: “I do think that we’re going to win the majority. But last night is evidence that we can’t take things for granted and we’ve got our work cut out for us.” This is what’s known in parliamentary parlance as a “vote of confidence” in the party’s success which, by dint of being invoked, actually means a vote of no-confidence.

Things didn’t get any better at the Ministry of Truth, a.k.a. Fox ‘News’, where mini-brother Neil Cavuto informed RNC Chairman Michael Steele that “everybody hates you,” wondering whether there’s “bad blood” between the Teabagger Proles and the GOP. This is the context: Yesterday’s elections in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Arkansas were the idiot punditocracy’s last chance before the November mid-terms to pontificate, prognosticate, and extrapolate on the national implications of local elections. In Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary, Teabagger candidate “Ayn” Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, trounced what’s-his-name handpicked by GOP Caudillo Mitch McConnell, in a clear repudiation of so-called Washington “insiders.”

The fact that Paul lives up to his namesake was a little-known semi-secret (the national media wanted the Teabagger candidate to win, it helps the bottom line, so they’re ecstatic) that when revealed instantly made Dem opponent Jack Conway a tough competitor and put the seat in play in ways a conventional Republican candidate might not. You see, Mr. Paul favors eliminating the Departments of Education and Agriculture, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and repealing the civil rights protections that make it illegal, say, for a private diner not to serve African Americans at the lunch counter, or for that matter, to discriminate against any person on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin. Whoops. Mr. Paul might have Glenn Beck in his corner but has anyone checked Beck’s ratings lately?!

Onto Pennsylvania, where the idiot punditocracy and the RNC were having premature orgasms in anticipation of a Republican pickup of deceased John Murtha’s 12th Congressional District, which went for McCain in 2008 and where the well-financed Republican candidate Tim Burns polled ahead of former Murtha aide Mark Critz. The RNC nationalized the election, running anti-Pelosi, anti-Obama, anti-healthcare ads while Critz focused on jobs and local issues. Critz won going away. Oops.

In the Democratic Senate primary, Joe Sestak running as a genuine liberal Democrat bucked the party machine in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as the entire Democratic Party establishment from the President to the Governor on down to ward leaders. Sestak beat party switcher Arlen Specter, who became a Democrat because he could not beat ultra-conservative Pat Toomey in the Teabagger-packed Republican primary. Despite the President’s arm-twisting to make him drop out, Sestak hung in there and beat Specter going away. Uh-Oh. Sestak polls closer to Toomey than Specter did. In the 12th, the conservative Republican lost badly to a Democratic moderate. Sestak was the liberal alternative preferred by Democratic voters as the “genuine” Democrat, despite Specter’s liberal leanings to appeal to primary voters. In the end, the perceived genuine Democratic brand won resoundingly statewide.

Finally in Arkansas, a progressive grassroots-funded campaign got behind Lt. Governor Bill Halter and dealt corporate shill Blanche Lincoln a near-fatal blow, forcing her into a runoff after neither candidate received 50 percent or more of the vote in a three-way race. Halter finished a point or two behind Lincoln (mid-40s) and figures to finish her off in the runoff, despite her backing by the hated, corporate-identified Chamber of Commerce, Big Oil, and Wall Street. Even Bubba Clinton can’t save her. This was a victory for progressive Democratic politics and a message to President Obama that he’s strayed off-course by turning his back on the people who got him elected. The infuriating spectacle of Senate Democrats, in particular, selling out to corporate interests and watering down healthcare, jobs bills, financial reform, mobilized progressive forces to defeat those who betrayed core Democratic principles. Lincoln was up first. If and when Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, and Joe Lieberman stand for election they will face the ire of the progressive-labor coalition, and will go down to defeat.

The Republican establishment, in the person of Mitch McConnell, was a big loser in these contests. They have been co-opted by the Teabaggers in a schism that is reminiscent of the chaos afflicting the Democratic Party in the 1860 election, pitching a fractured Southern party against an organized Union Northern “Republican” Party united behind Abe Lincoln. In that election, the Democrats fielded three slates of candidates against Lincoln, one being a semi-independent party, the Constitutional Democrats, older, similar to the Tea Party movement. They also advertised themselves as a movement to save the party and the nation by harking back to our founding principles.

Stephen A. Douglas, the “establishment” Democratic candidate was incapable of uniting the party, after their philosophical and policy differences surrounding the issue of the day, slavery, became irreconcilable. The Republicans were the liberal, even radical party of its day -– (sorry “Party of Lincoln” GOP dreamers, that’s not been happening since Teddy Roosevelt bolted and ran for president under the Progressive [third] Party banner). Lincoln’s Republicans were much like today’s Democratic Party, with its north-northeastern base, its Blue Dog-DLC and Progressive-Labor wings in a constant tug-of-war to pull the party in either direction. The radical (liberal) Republicans represented by Lincoln rival William H. Seward, a fiery abolitionist from New York, caused tension within the ranks. But the party united behind Lincoln and ran a national campaign in which Lincoln’s proxies were matched to the local electorate. Seward campaigned among the radicals while others popular with more conservative voters emphasized those Lincoln policies that would best appeal to them. The result was never in doubt. The fractured Democrats were crushed and Lincoln was swept into office by his Republicans.

Today’s Tea Party movements have much in common with the fractured Democrats of 1860, especially the Constitutionalists. Their failure to run fusion tickets spelled ultimate doom for the party. Today we see the same kinds of eruptions and schisms in the ranks: In Florida, Governor Charlie Crist was forced to run as an independent by Tea Party Marco Rubio’s insurgency from the right. Crist is likely to win that contest, especially in light of the Gulf oil spill catastrophe, where as governor he can be much more proactive in dealing with the crisis. Given the cold shoulder rejection of the Republican establishment, Crist will likely caucus with the Democrats as an “independent” along with two other “independents.” The Dems will take these “independents” under their big tent, any time. In Kentucky, Ron Paul is so out of the Republican mainstream, never mind American politics in general, that his presence in the race against a strong Democrat makes that seat a better than 50-50 chance of a Democratic pickup. In Utah the Teabaggers rejected a distinguished conservative senator, Bob Bennett, in favor of no-name backbenchers backed by the Teabaggers who took over a nonrepresentative party convention. Sure, it’s a one-party state, but the defeat of a senator with decades of seniority weakens the party’s effectiveness nationally.

These are but the tip of the iceberg in the Tea Party movement’s Astroturf/corporate-bankrolled/grassroots-funded assault on the traditional Republican Party establishment. Not to speak of the open divisions within the Tea Party movement itself, which is a loose agglomeration of groups with common, general goals, but very different internal dynamics and beliefs. For one thing, the libertarian faction of the Tea Party has little in common with the corporate-backed Astroturf Freedomworks of Dick Cheney, whose principal aim is to be a boots-on-the-ground corporate counterforce to the genuine grassroots that elected Barack Obama. Already, tensions have bubbled to the surface between the disparate Tea Party groups. Finally, these loose Tea Party factions, and their uneasy, often hostile, association with the Republican Party, have not shown the kind of organizational structure that wins elections. The evidence is slim to none. And that does not portend well for Republican Party prospects in November.

It’s likely, given historical trends, that the Democratic Party will lose seats and see their majorities diminished in the House and Senate. It’s unlikely, however, that the Democratic Party will lose control of either chamber, unless outside events intervene. The Republicans are more worried about survival under intense pressure from the Tea Party on their right flank, which threatens an establishment rout.

The Democrats are poised and well-positioned to capitalize from the volcanic divisions in the Republican Party caused by the Tea Party, bubbling just beneath the surface, threatening to erupt in a major way this November. The end result might not augur well for the Republican “brand,” much less for the future of the Republican Party itself.

Arizona's "Show Me Your Papers" Law Claims an Innocent Victim

Heartbreaking consequence of Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, this little girl’s fear that President Obama is going to take her mommy away. Kids have a way of cutting right to the heart of the matter.

Top Environment Foe in Congress Takes the Point Blocking Bill to Raise Liability Cap As Outrages Mount

After the withering criticism faced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (that will not soon go away), as she stepped up to block a bill that would lift the oil industry's liability for spills from $75 million to $10 billion, notorious global warming denier and top industry shill James Inhofe stepped into the breach to replace her. Inhofe took a slightly different tack. Not only did he repeat the absurd argument that limiting Big Oil's liability was to help so-called “independents,” i.e., you can’t afford the bill, don’t worry, the taxpayers will pay the cost for these companies’ reckless behavior.

But then Inhofe blatantly misrepresented what President Obama said by suggesting that the President opposes the bill because the appropriate cap has yet to be determined. Watch Inhofe try to portray his and Murkowski's refusal to allow the legislation to be voted on as sanctioned by President Obama:

Inhofe added:
“I don't very often agree with President Obama. Right now he is unsure what that level should be, I'm unsure what that level should be," Inhofe said. "Maybe it should be the level we're talking about right now, and it may end up there, we don't know that.”
And the President’s response:
“I am disappointed that an effort to ensure that oil companies pay fully for disasters they cause has stalled in the United States Senate on a partisan basis. This maneuver threatens to leave taxpayers, rather than the oil companies, on the hook for future disasters like the BP oil spill. I urge the Senate Republicans to stop playing special interest politics and join in a bipartisan effort to protect taxpayers and demand accountability from the oil companies.”
Meanwhile, as the owner of the rig, Transocean, sought to limit its liability in a Texas court to $27 million, it was making a $1 billion stock dividend distribution to shareholders. The outrages mount. The Gulf oil spill is already a distressing global phenomenon. The only difference is that the industry's criminality was out of sight, out of mind for most Americans. Until now. As was noted in this blog early into the crisis, independent analysts had already determined the oil spill was bigger than the Exxon Valdez, and the dispersant Corexit (used in the Exxon spill) has serious toxicity to humans and wildlife. BP is using it in the Gulf spill on a widespread and unprecedented basis, despite the existence of other, more effective and less toxic dispersants. Corexit is banned in the UK. In hearings today, Democrats noted that BP has a contractual relationship with the manufacturer of Corexit, suggesting that its use was determined by factors other than which dispersant is safer, most effective, and less toxic. The outrages mount.

A CBS News crew was told to turn around threat of arrest by the Coast Guard -- “It’s BP’s rules, not ours” -- as they tried to film the extent of the encroaching spill:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The outrages mount. BP CEO Tony Hayward dismissed the oil spill as “relatively tiny compared to the very big ocean.” Hayward’s glib attitude is reminiscent of a warlord or colonial master of his domain. The BP oil spill contaminating our waters and beaches and wildlife and economy is United States property under lease to a foreign corporation. Those waters are United States sovereign territory, not under the jurisdiction or “rules” of BP or any other corporation. And BP has told local fishermen working on the oil cleanup to forgo safety precautions, despite air quality exceeding safe levels. I’m reminded of an old but ever so relevant Buffalo Springfield song:
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
The outrages mount.

Gimme An H-Y- ... What's It Spell? H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E

This is Republican Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana, one of those “family values” guys, giving an “interview” on abstinence. The young woman interviewing him is staffer Traci Jackson, that he was boinking on the side. Field research? Souder resigned yesterday. His wife was not at his side.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rapid Fire Election Night Impressions

Joe Sestak beat party-jumper Arlen Specter handily in Pennsylvania. This was a setback for the White House, but not entirely unexpected. Matthews described Sestak as "the little engine that could" and Big Ed Schultz, who's given to occasional hyperbole, said he's a "diamond in the rough," predicting he's not done yet.

I'll say. First Sestak needs to beat Toomey. And Eddie, next time you talk to your buddy Joe, please tell him to hire a speech coach STAT, because his speaking style -- the long pauses, the whiny delivery, the rambling -- won't cut it in the general. It's just too annoying. It doesn't even come close to Chris saying CHEE-KNEE -- we just ignore that. Just sayin' Eddie, advise your guy to hire that speaking coach and start talking in front of a mirror -- pacing, pacing, no more long pauses, and work on some more emphatic hand gestures -- or he'll lose on the cosmetics.

Seriously. Man, what an awful podium speaker. Gave me agita. Sestak needs to develop a strong stump speech -- he's got the slogans and the talking points -- and then deliver it in a way that doesn't have people tearing their hair out at all the pregnant pauses.

In Kentucky, "Ayn" Rand (it's gotta be, like father like son like Ayn) Paul, the guy with the ass-backward name in more ways than one has just made Kentucky competitive for the Democrats. His race -- AGAINST REPUBLICAN LEADER MITCH McCONNELL's HANDPICKED CHOICE -- sucked all the punditocracy oxygen away from the Democratic contest, which actually featured two strong and attractive candidates.

Gotta love those Teabaggers. I find it hard to believe that, even in Kentucky, voters will go for someone who wants to repeal the Americans with Disabilities Act, and privatize/destroy Medicare and Social Security. Wrap that one around your pea brains, you old Teabagger farts. It's not the black guy who's going to take your (MINE MINE MINE) benefits away; it's the Ayn Rand candidate you backed.

The Pennsylvania 12th, for the late Rep. John Murtha's seat was a walkover for Murtha's aide, Democrat Mark Critz over Republican Tim Burns. The Republicans nationalized the election, put up a pretty young face, dumped lots of money into the race and got their asses burned. AGAIN. Woot! Losers. So much for the punditocracy's hope this contest would go Red so they could make all sorts of idiotic assertions about national trends.

In Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln went down to an excellent candidate, Lt. Governor Bill Halter. A REAL Democrat. A CENTRIST, but that's OK, it's Arkansas. Listen carefully, Chris, I'll say this only once: Blanche Lincoln is NO "centrist." She's a CONSERVATIVE DEMOCRAT, just like you are. Progressives who watch Hardball have not forgotten or forgiven you for using your platform to actively campaign against the public option and "those netroots people." Poetic Justice.

Lincoln is a nice lady, but a traitor to core Democratic values. Progressives are fed up with the sellout of the Progressive agenda, from the public option to watered down financial reform to protecting Big Oil. Lincoln was on the wrong side of every single one of these good public policy issues, and her deathbed conversion as a financial reform crusader fooled no one. One final point: The "netroots" Matthews was so disdainful of poured tons of money -- $20, $30 contributions -- into Halter's campaign to take CONSERVATIVE Democrat Blanche Lincoln down. So much for our waning strength at the polls, if we listened to the idiot punditocracy.

The pundits (as usual) are all wrong. This was a great night for the Democratic Party, with a nod to the Teabaggers. They're the Republicans' problem. November's looking good for the Dems.

Matthews, you lose. Big win for Big Eddie. And Howard Fineman's mom, too.

Quote of the Day: Chris Matthews on Today's Elections

I know it’s early yet, but nobody beats this zinger from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on the mood of the electorate:
“People are banging on the pipes. They want hot water. They want the Super to deliver.”
This guy says hilarious things, especially when he doesn’t mean to. Give up telling people you’re not trying to be funny, Chris. By the way; you and Smerconish and the rest of the idiot punditocracy are wrong on Blumenthal. Stop being so damned trigger-happy with your snap judgments.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Big Oil’s Call Girls

When Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska rose to the Senate Floor to “object” to a unanimous consent request by Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey that the bill he and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida introduced, raising liability caps for polluters like BP from an absurd $75 million to a still inadequate but more realistic $10 billion, was Murkowski committing a crime? Technically, no. Any more than BP, Deepwater Horizon, and Halliburton are corporate criminals that would be found criminally negligent in any court of law in the land for taking the lives of eleven workers on that rig that exploded into a human and ecological catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

And not unless the Justice Department were to conduct an investigation into influence peddling, perhaps record conversations between senators and congresspersons in which oil industry executives direct them to take to the Senate floor to block legislation that expands the corporations’ criminal liability in cases already before the courts. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Corruption is very hard to prove in such cases. The Justice Department has limited resources, and its criminal investigations division was under the thumb of the most corrupt and politicized administration in modern times: eight years of deregulation and wanton corruption under Big Oil men Bush and Cheney.

Remember those mass firings of U.S. attorneys by Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? Nothing like a sledge hammer from the top to put a freeze on prospective criminal investigations into “sensitive” areas. (Democrats, Rove-sanctioned political probes were OK, though.) By the time the OIG report came out detailing a “culture of ethical failure … a pervasive culture of exclusivity, exempt from the rules that govern all other employees of the Federal Government,” well, it was September 10, 2008. Guess what was happening on November 6 of that year.

To be fair to the Inspector General, the report took so long to complete (it began in 2006) “primarily due to the criminal nature of some of these allegations, protracted discussions with DOJ [emphasis mine] and the ultimate refusal of one major oil company -- Chevron -- to cooperate with our investigation.” If anything, President Obama understated his PG-13 characterization of an X-rated “regulatory” culture existing between the federal government and Big Oil. He called it a “cozy relationship”— free-flowing sex, drugs, and phony permits between the industry and its regulators, the Minerals Management Service (MMS). The place was a real den of iniquity; and it was still issuing drilling permits after the new boss, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, said he was putting a stop to them!

Nope, it doesn’t work that way. Lisa Murkowski and Mary Landrieu –- let’s call them agents prostitutes, Big Oil’s call girls –- made Crew’s list of ‘The Most Corrupt’ members of Congress in recent years, and will most likely be back on it this year. In Congress, House and Senate, (the polls show people instinctively know this) money talks and bullshit walks. Straight to the Senate floor where Senator Murkowski “argued” that the legislation:
is “not where we need to be right now” and would unfairly advantage large oil companies by pricing the small companies out of the market. Murkowski did signal that she would be open to "look at the liability cap and consider raising it.” Just not at this moment.
Interesting. So Murkowski concedes she is willing to consider lifting the caps, just “not right now … [it’s] not where we need to be.” Why not, Senator? Coincidentally, the very same day Murkowski was making her utterly specious and illogical argument, the owner of the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf, Transocean, was filing a petition asking a (presumably friendly, considering the venue) Houston federal court to limit its liability for the spill to $26.8 million, a microscopic fragment of the anticipated damages. With this legal maneuver, Transocean was seeking to consolidate all lawsuits from the spill “before a single, impartial federal judge” [and to] “establish a single fund from which legitimate claims may be paid.”

Right. Plaintiffs’ lawyers saw right though this maneuver, claiming that the company wanted the more than 100 lawsuits adjudicated in Houston, heart of Texas oil country, because juries there would be most sympathetic to the oil industry. Instead, they will try to consolidate the lawsuits in New Orleans (watch Senator Landrieu try to block cases being heard in New Orleans) or Washington, where they could get a fair hearing.

I’ll bet the following imaginary conversation between Big Oil and Senator Murkowski could very well reside in that sinister black building where the NSA eavesdrops on millions of phone conversations. If only we had a progressive version of J. Edgar Hoover, who could dangle these personal secrets over politicians’ heads and compel them to be honest public servants. It’s easy to imagine a phone call from Big Oil to their girl, Lisa. This is how it would go:

Big Oil: “We’re calling in our chips, Senator. We need you to block, delay, obstruct, kill if you can, the Nelson-Menendez bill. We don’t care how you do it, or what arguments you use.”

Murkowski: “You don’t understand the pressure we’re in to do something in Congress. After all, your people are poisoning the Gulf and ruining the coastal and tourism economies of four states. Nelson and his crowd are royally pissed at me. They’re threatening a recorded roll call vote, instead of a voice vote. I just don’t know how long Mary and I can hold them at bay. And now our friends are getting pissed at me because they don’t want to be outed voting against this thing. They, all of us, just love your money, but this is big, really big. You gotta understand!”

Big Oil: “Calm down, Lisa. We’re working on a “friendly” judge (if you know what I mean) to limit liability, as we speak. Perry’s office promises to cooperate, anything we need, the Texas delegation is mostly behind us, Barton’s screaming at that little radical punk in the House, Henry Waxman, that he wants “fair and balanced” hearings. Haha … Fox has their seat at the table. Not much we could do about Ed Markey’s grandstanding with that jar of oily Gulf water and “hole-in-one” shit … Just be thankful we threw so much money at Scott Brown we discouraged Markey from running. Brown’s in our pocket. He’ll play ball. And you’ve got that all-important 41st vote to filibuster …

Murkowski: “No. That’ll look bad … This isn’t healthcare, you know. Even the Teabaggers, I mean Tea Party people … might think critically once that black ooze and dead animals start washing ashore in their backyards … and they won’t like it when their shrimp cocktail, gas pump prices gets more expensive and the seafood restaurants go out of business … They might blame us, not Obama this time! I don’t know how long Dick Armey can control those crazy old coots, and Sarah, well she’s just out for herself. Loose cannon, she’ll say something dumb, I know her well. (Snort)”

Big Oil: “Listen Lisa. You do the talking, we’ll do the thinking. Okay? Play your cards right and we won’t need a filibuster. We just need you to delay for now, until we can get some favorable rulings in court. We’re very close. Just delay, obstruct …”

Murkowski: “But what do I say? They have a point, you know. And the politics of this has gone TOXIC. It’s not simply the Gulf, you know. Everyone here is calculating how this will impact our political futures. We’ve got political and lobbying careers to think about. You didn’t do us any favors with all that finger-pointing at the hearings …”

Big Oil: “Minor setback. Tony’s not happy but he’s got Lamar on a short leash. And we’ve got Tony by the balls, too. He’d better hope it’s us and not the feds. Lamar’s gone after this is all over, but if he fucks up again … No golden parachute. He knows it. They all do. In the meantime, tell them anything, just stall stall stall. Say it hurts small business operators … Haha … Total nonsense, but a standard Republican talking point.”

Murkowski: “Hmm … That might work. But only for so long … I mean, it makes no sense to say this hurts small operators (do they even exist?) if they can’t cover the cost of the clenup … that means the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill and the Teabaggers will be all over me. (Whines)”

Big Oil: “It’ll be all right. They’re too dense to catch on, they still think the rig was blown up by ‘environmentalist wackos’ … Hahaha … Couldn’t ask for better media boosters than Rush and Glenn. (Note to self: make sure they get their stash of drugs.) If all goes as planned we won’t keep you hanging out there too long. We won’t forget this, Lisa. We reward loyalty, you know, and we really appreciate your courage, standing up for the right thing and all.”

Murkowski: “Right …”

Big Oil: “Remember … just as Henry Waxman and Barbara Boxer, and the rest of those tree-hugging alternative energy (snorts) radicals opened their hearings, we held our own little grease-the-wheels confab with your Republican colleagues. Sorry you couldn’t make it, but we understand. Don’t worry, you’ll get yours too. (Joke! Haha.) You’ll be happy to know message guru Frank Luntz was in attendance. We told Luntzie, ‘this is your biggest career challenge! We want you to make us come out the other end smelling like roses and sweet perfume’ … Someone told him taking a dip in the Gulf might help his complexion. He said, ‘no thanks.’ Not much of a joke guy.”

“Speaking of jokes and swimming in these waters, Haley Barbour should really stop telling people it’s OK to go to the beach. Truth is, we really have no idea what effect the tons of dispersants we’re dumping in the Gulf will have on humans, long or short term, and we don’t intend to find out! The last thing we need are more lawsuits from a bunch of Haley’s Mississippi constituents who went swimming because he said it was safe and got a bunch of skin lesions for their trouble.”

Murkowski: “Gotta go. The bill’s coming up shortly. I’ll think of something, for now, but you’d better get me those Luntz talking points STAT! (I know, we said it during the healthcare debate, too.)”

Big Oil: “Go get ‘em, tiger! One more thing, Lisa, before I forget. Make sure you coordinate your message with Mary. We want this thing to look bipartisan. Optics are very important; it’s the only thing keeping the public from the reality of what’s going on in the Gulf.”

Murkowski: “Landrieu? She’s great! You don’t have to worry about her, why, she’s a true believer. Did you catch that interview she had with Ed Schultz over at MSNBC? She rolled that fat man like he was the tarp coverin’ the baseball infield during rain delay! Haha … I think she set the ground rules for the interview, ‘cause he said the ‘floor is yours.’ Talk about how not to conduct an interview … not that I’m complaining, but we need more places to get our message out than just Larry King and Fox News … And when the Ed Show inflated your contributions to her (I should be so lucky!), Mary got them to retract it, not once, but twice! Poor Lawrence, he was just sitting in while Ed’s off playing golf somewhere. Ed got so flustered that he didn’t even mention Mary was the top Senate recipient of campaign contributions from BP in 2008. Didn’t you just love it how she lectured fellow Democrats, her own party, not to ‘retreat’ or ‘react with fear’? She sure showed Eddie, she fears no one. I’m good, but honestly, you couldn’t have a better girl in your corner!”

Big Oil: “We appreciate Mary’s commitment and enthusiasm, and her single-minded pursuit of our money, heh, but she’s got to bring it down a few notches. All those intemperate statements, while they could be good at rallying our rank-and-file troops, we can take care of our own. They know we’re the only game in town, and they need us. But Mary’s sanguine cheerleading, I must say Lisa, is beginning to backfire. I can understand her refusing to return our contributions, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you, but all this talk, what did she say … “I mean, just the gallons are so minuscule compared to the benefits of U.S. strength and security, the benefits of job creation and energy security, so while there are risks associated with everything, I think you understand that they are quite, quite minimal.”

I watched that hearing, and the look Chairman Barbara Boxer gave Mary, hell, that woman’s glare even scared me … but Mary was unmoved. The point is, it’s one thing to roll big Eddie over at MSNBC, and Mary’s one tough lady –- that’s why she’s on the payroll, so to speak, hehe –- but she’s gotten the attention of the President. And he’s furious, Lisa. Fuming. We’ve gotten an earful. It’s bad for business. It’s bad for you, me, Mary, Joe, Blanche, all of us. You know the drill. (No pun intended.) This week what with Massey Mining’s Don Blankenship testifying, before you know it, it could be open season on CEOs!

Did you catch that part where Mary said, let me get this straight, that Transocean person ‘was impressive, and that’s not just from advocates but from critics as well’… I think that rubbed President Obama the wrong way. Next thing you know, he comes out and says: ‘I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter. You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn’t.” Seems like the President was saying to Mary, ‘I’ll call your “impressive” and raise the American people’s,’ ya think? Not good, Lisa. Not good at all …

Murkowski: (frowning) “I’ll set Mary straight, but the President, that’s above my pay and contribution scale.”

Big Oil: “We’re counting on you. (Click.)

Oh, Those Fabian Socialists at MSNBC

I was initially going to write this about Rachel Maddow (I’ll get to her presently). But then Pat Buchanan opened his mouth. And he kept on talking, kind of like the chicken lady in Nevada who wouldn’t shut up, so Keith kept on mocking her. It says right there under Pat’s name, wherever he pops up ‘at another network’ to spout his Teabagger credo of the ‘old angry white male’s last stand’: MSNBC contributor. Or, worse, just plain MSNBC.

Anyway, Pat’s been complaining loudly that with Elena Kagan’s appointment to the Supreme Court and prospective confirmation, there will be too many Jews on the Court. Seriously. I’m not quite sure whether he’s a dark horse water carrier for Jeff Beauregard Sessions, Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose own appointment as a disctrict court judge was denied for making racist and pro-KKK statements. According to Buchanan-chanelling-Sessions (and vice versa):
“If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats. Is this the Democrats’ idea of diversity?”
Buchanan’s bizarre contention is that it’s been nearly half-a-century since the Democrats have nominated a white Protestant or white Catholic man or woman. Well, by my count, once Kagan is seated, the Court will have three Jews and six Catholics, one Yankees fan, one Mets fan, one Puerto Rican, three women, seven white men, one Latina, two Italians, one African American, and at least one bigot. I count, conservatively, 27 Justices.

Brilliant! Buchanan is arguing that Democrats should attempt what they feared Lincoln would do and what FDR tried to do but failed: Pack the Court with liberal Justices! Expanding the roster to 27 will give us loads of 15-12 decisions, with three Justices to spare. No more 5-4 cliffhangers. Plus, with 18 open slots, the Court will more accurately reflect our nation’s liberal, multicultural and religious diversity.

It was a Teabagger who called the folks at MSNBC “Fabian socialists.” Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator from Vermont and proud socialist, might have thought so too until Rachel Maddow phoned his office to apologize profusely for calling him “Bernie” during an interview. Bernie said, “Rachel that’s fine, everybody calls me Bernie.” Still anguished, Rachel made a point of reminding us that she’d called him “Bernie” when it hadn’t even registered. And I’m scratching my head and thinking, “Rachel, Rachel. This is BERNIE you’re talking to. We ALL call him BERNIE. It’s a term of endearment, first and foremost, but second, HE’S A FRIGGIN’ SOCIALIST!”

Hello, anybody home? If you’re having such ridiculous conflicts, girl, you might as well go back to Oxford for some re-education; or is it that you can take the socialist out of Oxford, but you can’t take Oxford out of the socialist? This is America, Rachel. The Constitution says we have the right to call our senators Bernie or rascal, if we like. I’ve never known a socialist to stand on ceremony, but then the Fabian Society and Oxford might be a different thing.

Has Rachel lost some of her mojo? There was that bizarre promo where she talked about being fair to people (I kept waiting for the other shoe –- ‘and balanced’ –- to drop), embracing our “common humanity.” At this point it was really barf bag pukesville. This might be OK for Tamron ‘desperately seeking David Schuster’ Hall, who can’t get her Congressmen straight and never met a racist ‘Son of the Confederacy’ she didn’t roll over for, but Rachel? If this was a plaintive plea for the dregs of humanity you expose on your show to come on and chat with you, it won’t work, Rachel. You don’t do Larry King, and in case you haven’t noticed, politics is a bruising contact sport.

Then, talking to the Nation’s Chris Hayes, Rachel made a serious point about possible schisms in the Republican Party by incredulously elevating Glenn Beck to leader of a libertarian faction. I know, libertarians are peeps too (Dylan Ratigan), but Rachel, Glenn Beck is a lunatic. He is insane. He never graduated college. He studies phantom fascist symbology in public buildings erected by John Rockefeller. He snorted enough coke ($300,000 worth) to permanently scramble his brains and land him a gig on Fox. He is not a well man. And of course, there’s the obligatory ‘Nazi’ thing (‘that’s not me saying it,’ she hastens to add) –- as I picture Rachel doing the two-fisted, two-fingered ‘quote/quote’ John McCain made famous.

But these are minor quibbles; I’m just funnin’ Rachel, whom we all love. Almost all of us, anyway. Maybe that’s the problem. Has anyone at MSNBC noticed a change in Rachel since her People Magazine spread? I mean, it’s the ultimate human interest, celebrity, touchy-feely, embrace our common humanity, puff and pomp pop culture mag. I’m just sayin’ … When she first started out on the ‘TV machine,’ Rachel kept Kent Jones around to give her just enough pop culture to let her out of the house without embarrassment. Now, it seems, Rachel has embraced the pop. I hope that magazine checkout at the supermarket didn’t give Rachel a goody two-shoes, we-are-all-family epiphany. I’m just sayin’.

Now Rachel’s advertising something called ‘Geek week.’ At first I thought Rachel was going on vacation for a week and handing off the show to Chris Hayes. We’ll see. I hope the network’s not going ‘CNN’, what with Rachel’s strange behavior, the CNN clone who replaced Schuster (David is one of the best informed, toughest interviewers in the business, replaced by a ‘side A/side B, we report you decide’ CNN type), and Ratigan, who must be burning a hole in the ratings up against a center-right Cubano. Between two righties, the viewers will opt for the Latino with the fun tweets and the personable manner. Hell, even I tweeted him.

But we’ve still got Keith, and Ed, and Chris too. Or, as Pat Buchanan likes to say, “You used to be Goldwater Youth. What happened?” Here’s a suggestion for the management suits at MSNBC. First, don’t do CNN. Please. Have you checked their ratings lately? Second, bring Schuster back. Your viewers like smart, informed people who ask incisive questions. And we don’t mean just Andrea Mitchell. Third, move Ratigan to 5 am, or some ungodly hour favored by the Atlas Shrugged crowd where he can hang out with his pals Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Marsha Blackburn, et al while trading wet dream fantasies about small government without Social Security or Medicare, but with vouchers and tax credits, and deregulation to unleash free enterprise’s magic sort of like Bush-Cheney did for the Gulf rig operators, only this time it’s John Galt at the helm, not Tony Hayward, so everything turns out just fine.

Why does the same right wing crowd get the economy shows and where is Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman’s perspective? Note to MSNBC suits: Give Ratigan’s slot to Contessa Brewer. Let her have free rein. I’ll betcha Contessa gives Rick Sanchez a tweetin’ run for his money.