C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Does a moose have wings?

From the New York Times, emphasis mine:

"Thanks to the mainstream media, quite a low expectation has been created for her performance," said Ron Carey, chairman of Minnesota’s Republican Party. "The style of Sarah Palin is going to amaze people. She is going to be able to amaze people with the substance she is going to deliver."

Oh yeah. I just can't wait to be amazed with that. When moose fly.

Banned Books Week

From the American Library Association:

In anticipation of the 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week (September 23-30), the American Library Association (ALA) today announced the top 10 most challenged books from 2000-2005, with the Harry Potter series of books leading the pack. The 10 most challenged books of the 21st Century (2000-2005) are:

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier
3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
4. "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck
5. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
6. "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers
7. "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie Harris
8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
10. "Forever" by Judy Blume

The ALA reports there were more than 3,000 attempts to remove books from schools and public libraries between 2000 and 2005. Challenges are defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.

Now readers can vote online for THEIR favorite challenged book by logging on at www.ala.org/bbooks. The ALA will announce the "winners" Monday, October 2.

It's ALL the fault of teh gayz!

Of course. Haven't you been warned already? Gay rights = end of the world. Queer love = destruction of the planet. It's so simple, really.

Of course, WE have been destroying the family for years and it must be nearly beat down to nothing at this point, because now WE are working night and day to destroy the economy, too. Seriously. As witness this statement from anti-gay Liberty Counsel:

Washington Mutual became an active supporter of the homosexual agenda. But today, it is no more. Corporate America has learned the hard way that anti-family policies are bankrupt in more ways than one. . . .

Google executives should be searching for ways to make the internet more usable rather than promoting a radical redefinition of marriage. Companies that promoted anti-family policies have learned the hard way that such policies are bankrupt. K-Mart learned its lesson several years ago. Washington Mutual and Wachovia, both of which actively promoted the homosexual agenda, have come to realize that anti-family policies will bankrupt the bottom line.

Um, or maybe WE aren't destroying the economy: God's doing it to punish all our queer-loving friends and kin. The head of the anti-gay Christian Civic League of Maine, campaigning to abolish domestic partnerships and forbid equal marriage in that state, has this flash straight off the wire from his hotline to heaven:

We are all rightly concerned about the nation's financial situation today. Our crisis is a symptom, not the cause.

Ruth Graham told her husband Billy years ago that God would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah if He doesn't judge America. They were reflecting on a list of sinful conditions existing in our nation in the 1960s. Things have only deteriorated since then.

I am not saying I know whether this financial crisis is God's judgment or not. It is not for me to know that definitively. Graham's observations are instructive, however.

So now you know. Queers are behind every bleeping disaster known to man, physical, financial, and otherwise. Which is exactly why your ancestors in the Middle Ages burned them at the stake every chance they could; gee, don't you wish those happy days were here again? Oh, when will the poor misguided masses wake up and see what's happening?!

As Joe.My.God. puts it so adroitly:

Katrina, earthquakes, forest fires, Wall Street. Tremble before our mighty power!

P.S.--As a kid growing up in the segregated South, I remember vividly how the grown-ups (including my own dear family, I'm sorry to say) laid the blame for all kinds of ills on the "n*ggers" and vehemently predicted every sort of calamity to follow if they got civil rights. How'd they get off the hook, hmmm? Answer: Straight white ignoramuses are even more scared of sex than they are of race. Funny how that works, isn't it?

P.P.S.--Come to think of it, the Jews got blamed for everything bad that ever happened too. Next in line after the gayz is all them illegal aliens (read: non-Anglos), ya know. Hmmm. Notice a bit of a pattern going on here?

Republicans admit: no Pelosi effect

Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) fesses up about his party's vote yesterday:

Socrates was right

The New York Times provides quotes from leading members of the House of Representatives before yesterday's failed bailout vote; nearly all of them, from both parties, urged their colleagues to pass the measure. Even the President tried to prevail upon the members of his party to support the bill, but without success. But Bush is shooting blanks now.

As things fell out, 67 percent of House Republicans voted it down; and even more startlingly, to my mind, 40 percent of Democrats followed suit. Nobody seems to be talking about that figure much in the MSM; but what the hell goes on here? How can the Dems not support this crucial emergency legislation, which I heard one solon yesterday compare to a tourniquet applied to stop the patient from bleeding to death?

It would seem that on the right and on the left, representatives and their constituents are deeply opposed to "bailing out" Wall Street fat cats, and they should be; however, that's not the point here. The point is to keep the entire economy from tanking right here and now; and those who fail to do so will suffer condign ignomy in days to come, if people's jobs, savings, and retirement funds are wiped out.

I found this statement, by Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), from the article linked above to be highly revealing (emphasis mine):

This will be the most difficult decision I make in my 16 years in this body. And I have decided that the cost of not acting outweighs the cost of acting. ... None of us in this body have any really good judgment or insight into what happens if we fail to pass this bill. It could mean companies going out of business. We've been told it would. It could mean more bank failures. Probably will. It will mean impairment of our parents and grandparents' pensions. I'm not willing to put that bullet in the revolver and spin it. I'm not willing to take that gamble. I'm not willing to pull that trigger. Because I am not willing to subject the American people to the worst-case scenario. I don't have a crystal ball. And that is one reason that I'll be voting yes. Because I am unwilling, I will take the political risk, but I will not take a risk on the American people and their future.

I applaud Rep. Bachus for doing the right thing based on what he knows at this time. But how appaling to realize--and I've read and heard similar statements from other legislators in the last few days--that our elected representatives in Congress, the vast majority, really have no better understanding of the whole big economic picture than I do. Which is not saying much.

Now the circumstances of my life have never required a knowledge of macroeconomics; but how shameful is the ignorance of those who are elected (and who frequently campaign on such talk) to ensure that the national economy is well-run and well-regulated for the common good.

Well, here we can see clearly that politics is an empty show, smoke and mirrors, full of sound and fury--but much of the time merely a show, not substance. But hasn't it always been so?

As Socrates said in the Apology:

I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed him, his name I need not mention; he was a politician . . . , and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and still wiser by himself; . . . . So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: . . . although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is, for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him.
Listening to the pols blather on during this crisis, I know just how ol' Soc felt.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Republican Betrayal

The news that the House of Representatives failed to pass the so-called bailout bill today came as a real shock to me and, I don't doubt, to many other Americans. It just took my breath away.

It was sunk by those Republicans to whom "the free market" is for all practical purposes synonomous with "the will of God." No socialism in America, oh no! We'll watch the whole country crash and burn first, before we betray our oh-so-sacred principles!

In fact, they have betrayed the country, exactly as their Republican grandfathers did in 1929 and the years following: standing firm on their free-market faith while all around them the country sank deeper and deeper into economic misery. And when Roosevelt finally got into office in 1933, they fought his every move tooth and nail, crying socialism all the way.

But as my little grandmother used to say, a sweet, humble soul to whom economics would have been as mysterious as astrophysics, "If it hadn't been for Roosevelt, we'd have all perished to death."

Which gets right to the heart of the matter: pure, unrestrained greed is lethal to the economy and the nation; Roosevelt saved the people from the excesses of the free market, and for that he was beloved by many millions who suffered economic cruelty at the hands of the self-righteous, and highly self-interested, Republican capitalists.

I'm no economist, but I know enough to say that you can't have a completely free or a completely regulated market; a happy medium must be found for the greatest good of the greatest number. The New Deal, it seems to me, was by and large that happy medium until the jackbooted Republicans of the Reagan-Bush-Bush era trampled it underfoot and made the world safe for avarice.

It was chilling to watch the televised press conferences today in the aftermath of the House debacle, with an inset displaying the Dow sinking lower and lower by the minute: down 777 points by close of business. I watched it sink a hundred points with my own eyes, in only 15 minutes of viewing.

Of course, the renegade Republicans who 86'd today's bill are the same who have gone along so blithely with Bush's imperial decrees and power grabs in the past; today they suddenly found the testicular fortitude to defy the President, not to mention the leaders of their own party. But stupidly, they have taken the wrong stand at the wrong time.

Of course, they tried to blame it on the Democrats, and Nancy Pelosi's "partisan" speech before the vote; but good ol' Barney Frank had a brilliant riposte to that.

McCain is also claiming that he charged up to Washington last week and rewrote the first version of the bill and protected the taxpayers, yada yada yada; or at least that's the slick impression his statements and those of his supporters make: rewriting history so soon. The fact is, House Dems and Repubs had a compromise bill already agreed on, and the votes lined up, before he got to Washington; his presence at the White House conference last Thursday emboldened the renegades to drop a bomb on the compromise.

So here we are. I realize that all may yet be well, though with the Jewish holidays, no bill will be passed before next weekend in the best case. But if this country really has slipped off a precipice today, I do hope history records that McCain and the pure-T-free-market Republicans are the ones who gave it the last shove into the darkness.

Bush is the new Hoover. The New York Times editorializes on today's events:

After nearly eight years of voting in virtual lock step with President Bush on everything from tax cuts to torture, House Republicans decided on Monday to break ranks on the survival of the nation’s financial system.

The rejected bailout bill that was on the floor after a weekend of hard negotiating was objectionable in many ways, but it was a Republican-generated bill and was improved from the administration’s original version. Sixty percent of House Democrats voted for the bill, enough to easily pass the measure if the Republicans had not decided to put on their display of pique and disarray.

The question now is whether the stock-market plunge that followed the House’s failure to lead — and a renewed credit freeze — will be enough to get the 133 Republicans who voted against the measure to change their minds. And, more important, whether the damage that the no vote has inflicted is readily reversible.

Republican no votes were rooted less in analysis or principle than in political posturing and ideological rigidity. The House minority leader, John Boehner, conceded as much: “While we were able to move the bill drastically to the right, it wasn’t good enough for our members.”

It’s not clear what would be good enough for the Republicans since there was very little talk of substance on Monday after the bill died on the floor of the House. Instead, the Republicans tried to blame a speech before the vote by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who connected the current crisis to the fiscal and economic mismanagement of the Bush years. It may not have been the perfect moment to say that, but it was true.

Republicans were also upset that serial bailouts represent a rejection of free-market principles. They do. That’s because the free market in finance, unregulated and unsupervised, has failed. And, in its failure, it is inflicting greater damage on an already weak economy.

No amount of amendments to the bailout package will change the administration’s disastrous economic record or erase the manifest failure of the Republicans’ free-markets-above-all ideology.

Fasten your seat belt. I've a feeling it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Drive: Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church—
I keep it, staying at Home—
With a Bobolink for a Chorister—
And an Orchard, for a Dome—

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice—
I just wear my Wings—
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton—sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman—
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last—
I'm going, all along.

Emily Dickinson

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The United States of France

Les Deux Magots, Paris
A Time magazine article this week makes the case, satirically, that we are all now French, whether we like it or not, as a result of the "nationalization" of the American economy.

Mmmm . . . okay. The United States of France. Sounds good to me. A 35-hour workweek. Six weeks of paid vacation time a year. Free healthcare for everyone. Magnificent art, great museums, son et lumiere shows. Clean subways. High-speed trains in all directions. Green energy. Outdoor cafes. Wonderful food, fresh-baked baguettes, 246 cheeses, and all that lovely wine. Even at lunch. Hell, maybe even breakfast. Oh and don't forget the croissants . . .

Ooh la la, baby, bring it on. C'est la vie for me!

Of course, I'm speaking with tongue in cheek. France is French, and we are us; even if Congress enacted the French Constitution tomorrow and imported Nicolas Sarkozy on the next jet to Washington, this country could never be just like that one.

And I hear tell you just cain't get no good barbecue over there no how.

But while the Time article's underlying point is a serious one, and unfavorable to the idea of becoming more like France in economic and political matters--well I say, there are worse things.

Like another Great Depression. Or a fascist, theocratic dictatorship.

I just might be humming the Marseillaise on the way to the voting booth, come November.

Aux armes enfants de la patrie, le jour de gloire est arrive . . .

Rest in Peace: Paul Newman

Legendary movie star hunk Paul Newman has died, leaving behind many wonderful memories of a life well lived, on screen and off.

In addition to supporting many charities and philanthropic organizations in the course of his film career that spanned more than half a century, Newman and wife Joanne Woodward were early supporters of gay rights. In 1971, the couple sent a donation to the fledgling Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance in Washington, D.C.

Some years later, Newman was quoted as saying, "I'm a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant."

In the video clip above of an early screen test, Newman and another legendary actor, James Dean, share a bit of campy humor: "Kiss me." "Can't here."

My condolences to Ms. Woodward and all who loved him.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The First Debate

Well, damned if the Old Man didn't pull it off, after all. In my view, it was McCain, 21-6.

Of course, I'm very disappointed; and somehow in the course of the debate I developed a raging headache.

It's not the words that were spoken. Both candidates were full of names, dates, facts, and figures. Both made cogent arguments and persuasive appeals.

It's not the words. It's the very different feelings the two men brought out in the viewer.

Obama was your very smart brother-in-law who went to college, has a good job, a new car, and a great jazz collection. You enjoy his company, and he can answer just about any question you ever ask. A really good guy, and his heart's in the right place.

But McCain was Dad. Yeah, he's getting up there now, and maybe he's a little behind the times in some ways. You don't always see eye to eye, and you don't visit as often as you should.

But. When trouble happens, when a crisis arises, when the chips are down--it's Dad you turn to. It's Dad who can always make things turn out all right, somehow. It's Dad you trust. It's Dad you love--who loves you. He doesn't have to say the words; you both just know.

That is how I think this debate was felt--not merely heard--by most of Middle America.

Steady at the helm. Experience counts for a hell of a lot, and it showed.

(Damn, I sure wish Hillary had been the nominee now.)

The difference between the candidates, as I've just described it, could be very significant, if the country is endangered in any way between now and Election Day.

And Palin? Oh, if McCain were elected, I've no doubt she would soon discover that her newborn with the special needs really demands all her care and attention; so (in a very slick piece of political choreography), she would do the right, the very, very noble thing, and resign the vice-presidency. Exit, stage right; lots of applause, lots of fond farewell wishes from the press and the public. Enter someone more capable. Done.

That's my impression of tonight's debate. Will be interesting to see what the pundits make of it tomorrow. Right now I feel ill, so good night from Texas.

Orwell was so right

Go read blogger Michael Leddy's very timely application of George Orwell's famous essay, "Politics and the English Language" to the Palin spectacle at Orange Crate Art: "Couric and Palin and Orwell."

I also love the comment that Anonymous posted over there:

My theory is that they've implanted a microchip into Palin's brain intended to prompt her answers from all the crammed together talking points. The chip, developed for Bush and now inserted into McCain, works OK but is misfiring in her female brain thus accounting for all the utterly nonsensical utterances.

Don't laugh. It just might be true.

McCain's Big Lie

People will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough, people will sooner or later believe it.

Shades of the Third Reich: McCain has won tonight's debate! Even though, as I write, the debate won't begin for another two hours yet.

But not to worry. The Washington Post reports that this morning, at least two ads proclaiming the fact of McCain's victory appeared on the website of the online Wall Street Journal: click here to see the screenshot.

And of special interest, as Reuters reports, this was before McCain announced that he had changed his mind and would indeed go to the debate! "McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the ad posting was a mistake by the Wall Street Journal. Oops."

And you thought McCain really meant it on Wednesday when he said he wasn't going to show at the debate. Ha-ha, fooled you. And me. And the whole country. Oops, hell.

As a commenter on another blog asked, Will he announce next week that he has won the election, too?

Well, let's remember the old saw: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Does anyone need more proof that this utterly reckless man has no business being President?

I've said it before and I will say it again: the rotten-to-the-core Republican party is patently unfit to govern this nation ever again. It's got to go. And the sooner, the better.

Afternoon Drive: When God-fearing Women Get the Blues

You'd be feeling blue, too, if the little iceberg you were standing on was melting fast, way out on the deep blue sea, like the poor old polar bear I saw on the news a few weeks ago. Endangered? Oh hell yeah.

I just know the Governor of Alaska can so totally relate to that right now.

So here's a little musical offering that is sure to raise a grin on your face . . . if not hers.

Call all the pentecostals, and bring that anointing oil too,
Call the preacher, he's the only one can reach her,
And there ain't no time to lose!

What a crazy week it's been, one that will be long remembered in the history of the Republic. I expect the fun will continue all weekend. Can't wait to see tonight's debate. Have a good one, y'all.

Fun while it lasted . . .

. . . so say the crowds of conservative columnists and bloggers as they jump for the lifeboats from the foundering Palin shipwreck. One of today's most prominent is Kathleen Parker, columnist for the National Review, emphasis mine:

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted. . . .

If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.

If Palin were a man, we’d all be guffawing, just as we do every time Joe Biden tickles the back of his throat with his toes. But because she’s a woman — and the first ever on a Republican presidential ticket — we are reluctant to say what is painfully true.

What to do?

McCain can’t repudiate his choice for running mate. He not only risks the wrath of the GOP’s unforgiving base, but he invites others to second-guess his executive decision-making ability. Barack Obama faces the same problem with Biden.

Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

Do it for your country.

Of interest here, taking a sharp-eyed view of all four candidates, is conservative columnist George F. Will's observations in his Sept. 3rd column on the necessary qualifications for the presidency: experience and character and good sense, both political and constitutional.

Will calls Obama "the least experienced person to receive a presidential nomination in the 75 years since the federal government became a comprehensively intrusive regulatory state and modern weaponry annihilated the protection the nation derived from time and distance."

Well, that may be so; and that's partly why I voted for Hillary in the primary last spring.

But having read Obama's Audacity of Hope and watching his performance in the campaign, I have faith that he will indeed rise to the occasion, as have other lightly-experienced Presidents in our history.

Lincoln's executive experience was rather short too, as I recall, when he got the job; but he earned a marble monument and a hallowed name in the annals of democracy.

Palin's name, I'm afraid, will go down in history as nothing more than the butt of wry jokes. And deservedly so.

But perhaps this manifest farce will spell the end of the "image politics" that began with Reagan's election: the triumph of style over substance.

Let us pray.

Financial do's and don'ts right now

Good advice for us little people from CBS financial consultant Ray Martin on savings, investments, and retirement in these scary times:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Lesbian rumors sank Condi's chances?

Seems that fact is that unmarried Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice for a long time owned a California house with a close friend, Randy Bean--a woman whom Condi says she bonded with over "a love of football." Originally a gay man who worked in the Clinton administration was a co-owner of the house too, but he sold his interest to the two women.

Along with these demonstrable facts, various queer bloggers are repeating the rumor that McCain really wanted Condi as his veep choice; but staffers convinced him that her sexuality was a no-go for the campaign.

As Mike Signorile puts it, quoting an unnamed Republican source interviewed by another blogger, "“In Washington circles, it’s just assumed Rice is gay and nobody really cares. But in the glare of the media spotlight, those rumors were bound to get magnified a thousandfold and the mainstream media would have had an excuse to reveal the facts that would have caused conniption fits among the Republican base.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On bended knee

Historic scenes are being played out in Washington as things go from the ridiculous to the incredible, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, "Atmosphere borders on panic as bailout falters," emphasis mine:

In a panicked atmosphere and amid flaring tempers, Democrats and some Republicans announced before the White House meeting that they had the outline of an agreement, but GOP leaders refused to sign off on it. Liberal and conservative interest groups railed against the bailout, while business groups insisted that Congress pass the plan with all speed, warning that tight credit already is sharply slowing business activity.

At the White House, Republican leader John Boehner expressed misgivings about the plan, and McCain would not commit to supporting it, people from both parties who were briefed on the exchange told the Associated Press. In the Roosevelt Room after the session, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to withdraw her party's support for the package over what Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal, according to the New York Times.

The NYT itself, reporting on the same scene, adds this tidbit of very revealing dialogue:

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”

Paulson is scared shitless. But scared for the country? Or for himself? Or for his political masters? Stay tuned. Tomorrow's episode should be ripe.

Miss South Carolina channels Palin

From the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant:

Jane, Jane, stop this crazy thing!

I've thought since day one that there's really no need to attack Palin; just let her talk, and she will hang herself with her own rope. I was right.

From the Couric interview, on McCain and the bailout, which is all about healthcare reform:

Watch CBS Videos Online

On her foreign affairs expertise, which apparently comes from watching Putin fly over Alaska:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Will somebody p-l-e-a-s-e stop the madness? I can hardly believe my eyes and ears. This woman is a candidate for Vice President of the United States in the 21st century. It's just beyond absurd, like some weird Fellini movie.

Hell, Jane Jetson would make a better candidate than this!

A Bush Plan to "Rule from the Grave"?

The Votemaster at electoral-vote.com makes a disturbing speculation on McCain's bolt to Washington, and the whole snatch-and-grab bailout tactic:

If nothing else, McCain's sudden move got his falling polls and the lobbying of his campaign manager off the front pages. Score a win for McCain today. But he's betting the farm that the American people won't see this as a campaign stunt.

The NY Times also has an analytic article on the politics of this. The view there is that Republican members of Congress know very well that throwing $700 billion at Wall St. in a big hurry with no oversight is not popular with the voters. On the other hand, they don't want to buck their own President who still has a modicum of popularity with the the Republican rank and file. They are hoping McCain can bail them out. Democrats don't want to be seen as obstructionists, but they also see the bailout for what it really is: a ploy to spend so much money that a future President Obama's hands would be tied for lack of money. In effect this move is Bush's attempt to "rule from the grave" by severely constraining what the next President can do. Oddly, it might constrain McCain more than Bush since he (McCain) has spending plans, too. Obama could propose a massive tax increase for the rich claiming Bush's folly forced him to do it. When you read that this "crisis" is about economics, don't believe a word of it. It is 100% politics, pure and simple. Yes, something needs to be done, but if the markets know that Congress is working on it, they will wait a few weeks before dissolving in a puddle.

Bush and his puppetmaster CheneyRove know Obama is going to win, even if McLame and Miss Wasilla don't. So--we contrive to neatly tie Obama's hands for the next 4 years economically, and any other way we can, right?

Don't think they would never dream of doing such a thing--these are the people who made torture an official policy of the United States Government, for chrissakes. Who as a previous video post proves, want to prolong the war in Iraq for political advantage at home. Who have shown themselves in all kinds of ways to be the most morally corrupt administration ever in the history of America.

Jeezus, what a time to be living in. God help us all.

Bush Activates "Homeland" Army Brigade

Glen Greenwald at Salon.com shares the frightening news and gives some background:

Several bloggers today have pointed to this obviously disturbing article from Army Times, which announces that "beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the [1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division] will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North" -- "the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities." . .

For more than 100 years -- since the end of the Civil War -- deployment of the U.S. military inside the U.S. has been prohibited under The Posse Comitatus Act (the only exceptions being that the National Guard and Coast Guard are exempted, and use of the military on an emergency ad hoc basis is permitted, such as what happened after Hurricane Katrina). Though there have been some erosions of this prohibition over the last several decades (most perniciously to allow the use of the military to work with law enforcement agencies in the "War on Drugs"), the bright line ban on using the U.S. military as a standing law enforcement force inside the U.S. has been more or less honored -- until now. And as the Army Times notes, once this particular brigade completes its one-year assignment, "expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one." . . .

After Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration began openly agitating for what would be, in essence, a complete elimination of the key prohibitions of the Posse Comitatus Act in order to allow the President to deploy U.S. military forces inside the U.S. basically at will -- and, as usual, they were successful as a result of rapid bipartisan compliance with the Leader's demand (the same kind of compliance that is about to foist a bailout package on the nation). . . .

The decision this month to permanently deploy a U.S. Army brigade inside the U.S. for purely domestic law enforcement purposes is the fruit of the Congressional elimination of the long-standing prohibitions in Posse Comitatus (although there are credible signs that even before Congress acted, the Bush administration secretly decided it possessed the inherent power to violate the Act). It shouldn't take any efforts to explain why the permanent deployment of the U.S. military inside American cities, acting as the President's police force, is so disturbing. Bovard:

"Martial law" is a euphemism for military dictatorship. When foreign democracies are overthrown and a junta establishes martial law, Americans usually recognize that a fundamental change has occurred. . . . Section 1076 is Enabling Act-type legislation—something that purports to preserve law-and-order while formally empowering the president to rule by decree.

The historic importance of the Posse Comitatus prohibition was also well-analyzed here.

As the recent militarization of St. Paul during the GOP Convention made abundantly clear, our actual police forces are already quite militarized. Still, what possible rationale is there for permanently deploying the U.S. Army inside the United States -- under the command of the President -- for any purpose, let alone things such as "crowd control," other traditional law enforcement functions, and a seemingly unlimited array of other uses at the President's sole discretion? And where are all of the stalwart right-wing "small government conservatives" who spent the 1990s so vocally opposing every aspect of the growing federal police force? And would it be possible to get some explanation from the Government about what the rationale is for this unprecedented domestic military deployment (at least unprecedented since the Civil War), and why it is being undertaken now?

I've always gotten a very bad taste in my mouth from the use of the word "homeland," evoking as it does so strongly the Nazi use of that word. As this report shows, there's a reason it should make you gag, too.

Maybe it's all just routine stuff. Let's hope so. Guess we will find out soon enough, won't we? Election Day is less than 40 days from now.

Snake Oil Warning

Now that I think about it, "King Henry" Paulson, expert though he be, is an out-and-out liar.

As he began testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, according to ThinkProgress.org,

In his opening statement, Paulson struck a defensive tone, blaming Congress for misunderstanding him in thinking he didn’t want robust oversight. He just didn’t want to be “presumptuous,” he explained:

We gave you a simple, three-page legislative outline and I thought it would have been presumptuous for us on that outline to come up with an oversight mechanism. That’s the role of Congress, that’s something we’re going to work on together. So if any of you felt that I didn’t believe that we needed oversight: I believe we need oversight. We need oversight.

Yeah right. Sure you believe that. But as the blog goes on to note, this is a patent, palpable lie.

Paulson is rewriting history. Far from avoiding “presumption,” Paulson’s plan released last weekend explicitly denied any review at all of his actions:

Section 8. Review: Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

It can hardly be the fault of Congress for taking Paulson’s written plan at its word. In fact, one might say it would have been “presumptuous” to assume Paulson actually meant the opposite of what he had written.

He is, after all, a Bush appointee; just what mindgame is being played here in broad daylight? Beware, beware, beware: he speaks with forked tongue.

Absence of Leadership

Today's editorial in the New York Times has a clear view of the situation in regard to the President and both candidates:

It took President Bush until Wednesday night to address the American people about the nation’s financial crisis, and pretty much all he had to offer was fear itself.

There was no acknowledgement of the shocking failure of government regulation, or that the country cannot afford more tax cuts for the very wealthy and budget-busting wars, or that spending at least $700 billion of taxpayers’ money to bail out Wall Street and the banks should be done carefully, transparently and with oversight by Congress and the courts.

We understand why he may have been reluctant to address the nation, since his contempt for regulation is a significant cause of the current mess. But he could have offered a great deal more than an eerily dispassionate primer on the credit markets in which he took no responsibility at all for the financial debacle. . . .

In the end, Mr. Bush’s appearance was just another reminder of something that has been worrying us throughout this crisis: the absence of any real national leadership, including on the campaign trail.

Given Mr. Bush’s shockingly weak performance, the only ones who could provide that are the two men battling to succeed him. So far, neither John McCain nor Barack Obama is offering that leadership. . . .

We don’t know if Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama will do any good back in Washington. But Mr. McCain’s idea of postponing the Friday night debate was another wild gesture from a candidate entirely too prone to them. The nation needs to hear Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain debate this crisis and demonstrate who is ready to lead.

I admire Obama tremendously: brilliant mind, compassionate heart, perceptiveness and conciliatory spirit. But is he mean enough to do what it will take to right the wrongs that have been done to this country?

Much as I like the man, and there's no question but that I will vote for him--I still think Hillary should have been the nominee, and Obama the veep choice. Obama's an unknown variable; Hillary is a tough fighter. Nice; but I can totally see her being one mean bitch when the chips are down.

Well, we'll see; God help him with this economic meltdown and all the other crap he's going to have to shoulder.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Women journalists aren't fooled

Palin really, really does not deserve any coverage in this blog or any other. But these two clips are priceless, worth preserving for blog posterity.

First, Campbell Brown goes on a tear and says she's had it with this hidden-in-the-seraglio nonsense:

Next, Katie Couric just can't hide the you-poor-stupid-bitch look in her eyes as Palin breaks a nail on yet another simple question; it comes in the last minute of this clip:

But it's okay. Sarah has nothing to fear from Brown or Couric, or any of those high-fallutin media bitches. She's got the annointing to protect her from bitchcraft, um, I mean witchcraft, and is one of those born-again, spirit-filled leaders so desperately needed to make this a righteous nation; it happens about halfway through this clip at her Wasilla church a couple of years ago:

Honk to Joe.My.God. and Pam's House Blend for posting these clips first.

Your hair will catch on fire . . .

. . . when you hear the official U. S. Government translation of the Iraqi president's explanation of his negotiations with the Bush Administration for a withdrawal date: not until 2011 "for domestic political considerations" in the United States, is what he was told. When questioned, the White House blathered on about long-term goals, peace and stability, yada yada yada; but they do not deny the accuracy of the Iraqi remarks.

Jeezus. Keeping the war going to benefit the Republican party here at home; it doesn't get any plainer than this, folks.

Please--send this to the people you love who think the war in Iraq is all about "protecting our freedoms," as I have heard endlessly repeated here in small-town Texas. If this doesn't wake them up, nothing at all will.

Kudos to acclaimed queer journalist Rachel Maddow for this trenchant piece of reporting.

Bush, Buffet, and What Next?

Just a few quick thoughts on this hectic day of news:

1. Bush's speech was a yawn, as expected. I think it's the first entire speech of his I've watched since he addressed Congress after 9/11. That one was full of determination; this was a walk-through, read in a monotone voice off the teleprompter. For the first time to my eyes, he is starting to look like a little old man, something about the way the lines and sags of his face are congealing into old age. Of course, every president looks a lot older by the time he leaves office; but was it just my screen, or were his pupils dilated? And did he ever blink?

2. Bush purported to explain why the Wall Street meltdown occurred, and why it matters so much to ordinary Americans that we fix it right away. But that was the fastest, most hurried explanation I've ever listened to. Since all this started, I'm still trying to find out exactly why "the credit crisis" is so monumentally god-awful this time. All reports and analyses in the MSM seem to just gloss over the actual details; the most specific thing I've read is that "the commercial paper market froze," so banks and businesses can't borrow to meet their payrolls and operating expenses; but I'm not understanding why, if the doors are open and they are doing business every day, why they can't pay their people and their creditors out of gross receipts. I mean, like, isn't that how business works? Obviously, I was not a business major, and my ignorance is probably laughable here. But still, you'd think somebody by this time could have actually explained the mechanics of the crisis in a way any college graduate could understand.

3. I don't feel so dumb, though, when I realize that most Senators and Representatives talking to the media seem not to have much more understanding of all this than I do. Everyone agrees, from both sides of the aisle, that it's a mega-monster-crisis; but despite the calm faces, I'm not hearing that anyone in Congress really knows what the hell is wrong or how the hell to fix it, exactly.

4. McCain is making a grandstand play to the crowds by "suspending" his campaign; and on a private level, I can admire Gramps for wanting to go out in style like that, one last hurrah, I'll-show-these-whippersnappers-I've-still-got-the-moxie. But on a political and presidential level, he's toast. History. And he knows it. And so does the rest of the country. Even Republican leaders, I think, are shocked at his lightning-quick move to duck the debate with Obama; wonder if Obama will show up all by himself at the debate?

5. Palin's barbie-doll charade of speed-dating world leaders is not worthy of any comment whatsoever. But Russ predicts: when the election and her political career are both fast-fading memories, she will no doubt end up with her own talk show, and won't that be just nifty? "And now, live from Pocatello . . . iiiiiiiiit's Sarah!" You heard it here first, remember.

6. The other thing I don't yet understand is, exactly what horror is it that we are straining every nerve to prevent now? If the Big Bailout doesn't happen immediately, will the Dow fall to 8,000? 6,000? 1,000? 100? What? The President and various politicos have mentioned some banks might fail, unemployment might rise, pensions would be endangered, mortgage and car loans would be "hard to get"; well, all that sounds like a recession, and I've lived through several in my lifetime already.

But in a year or two or three, they pass, and things sort themselves out. Are we thinking this would go on for a decade? Would unemployment rise to 20+ percent like in the Depression? Would banks fail all over the country, factories lock their gates? Would we have Weimar Republic runaway inflation and a worthless dollar? Would it take a wheelbarrow full of cash to buy one latte? What? Nobody seems to be saying exactly. Why not? What exactly are we supposed to be so terribly afraid of here?

7. Warren Buffet seems not to be terribly spooked; though if I had $62 billion in my back pocket, I wouldn't worry about a damn thing, either; I'd be catching some rays on a lovely tropic isle right now and letting the world roll on by. Buffet just invested $5 billion in Goldman Sachs, and he is betting, as is only natural, that he will make a cool profit on the deal eventually. Buffet told CNBC, "Last week, we were at the brink of something that would have made anything that's happened in financial history pale." But Warren, what exactly was, or is, that Something?

Again, I'm sure my ignorance is palpable here, and perhaps even ludicrous; but I think many millions of my fellow citizens are in a quandary like me when it comes to specifics. All we can do is trust that our elected leaders take good counsel and do the best thing; and of course, we can vote to end this lousy, arrogant, greedy, completely irresponsible Republican regime that has driven this country and its future straight into the ground. How remarkable it is that even hard-right conservative Republicans in Congress have said, "Oh hell no" to the Bush Administration's attempt to snatch and grab all the power and money they can in a blitzkrieg attack on the Constitution and the taxpayer. Let's hope they have the balls to hold the line there.

"The party's over" for the fat cats on Wall Street with the "nearly immoral" salaries, Speaker Pelosi said on a CNN clip I just saw; it's way over for the Republicans too, if people only have eyes to see what is right in front of their noses.

Save a horse, ride a cowboy

Here's a little cowboy love I'm sending out to all my friends as an antidote to all the bad news and scary shit going down this week. Enjoy.

How McCain spells desperation

"It's the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys."

So spoke queer and highly astute Rep. Barney Frank today (D-Mass.) regarding McCain's dramatic announcement that he is "setting politics aside" and suspending his campaign, to return to Washington and deal with the economic meltdown. A transparent political ploy by a desperate 72-year-old who sees the abyss of electoral defeat looming straight ahead.

Great quip, Barney. That'll be quoted for years and years.

But don't relax yet, kids. If the sudden economic crisis is a good enough reason to suspend the presidential campaign . . . gee, what would it take to justify suspending the election itself?

Russ predicts: some other new, stunning, overwhelming, pee-in-your-pants-scary crisis to transpire between now and Nov. 4th. Remember, you heard it here first.

The Royal Republicans

Clay Risen takes the measure of the Bush Administration in the New Republic, "A Matter of Trust" :

It's tempting to watch today's Senate Banking Committee hearings, with Democrats and Republicans alike tearing into Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke and treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and feel pangs of sorrow for the beleaguered duo. There to defend the administration's $700 billion rescue plan for the nation's debt markets, they faced withering charges of having cobbled together an "ad hoc" (in the words of Alabama Republican Richard Shelby) three-page proposal that was "stunning and unprecedented in its scope and lack of detail" (Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd). Paulson could only play defense: Of course it's short on details--that's what we're here for, he told them. Oversight and other details were "the role of Congress." To think otherwise would be "presumptuous."

That's nice of him. But wait ... let's remember with whom we're dealing here.

It's hard to watch the tragicomedy unfolding on the Hill and not see the chickens coming home to roost for an administration that seems to wake up every morning with new ways to be "presumptuous"--toward Congress, taxpayers, foreign leaders, and the Constitution. To be fair, Hank Paulson probably does believe that time and decisiveness are of the essence, and I'm willing to allow that he means it when he says, "I hate the fact that we have to do it, but it's better than the alternative." But, in a perfect distillation of the mindset of the Bush administration, his original bailout plan read, "The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this act ... without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts."

Such brazenness is the norm for the administration. Remember, to take just two examples, when it forced Democrats to accept both the Iraq War resolution and the anti-labor rovisions in legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, on penalty of seeming weak on national defense? It's the same thing here--that it can use the rhetoric of crisis to force through a plan granting the executive even more powers. If Bush's power-grabbing tendencies were just for his own political sake, it would be hard to see the worth in making a push this late in the game. The Paulson plan shows clearly that for the Bush team, executive power is more than just political; it's ideological. They really do believe that the executive, whoever it is, should have unchecked power over the economy, in the same way they have pushed for unchecked power over homeland security and the war in Iraq.

It's funny (sad, not ha-ha) how all these good red-blooded patriotic Republicans, if pressed, will confess to some vestigial memory from junior-high civics that the American Revolution was fought over "no taxation without representation"; and of course they are very, very proud, even today, that we detached ourselves from a king in order to rule ourselves. (Cue up tear-inducing patriotic theme music in the background here.) If asked, they would all deny with various and sundry oaths that "the king can do no wrong" has any validity whatsoever in fact or philosophy.

And yet all these millions of hard-working, salt-of-the-earth little-d democrats fall down in blind obeisance anytime His Nibs #43 breathes a word: prostrating themselves and begging for more.

Ruthless arrogance gorging itself on unquestioning ignorance and utterly blind faith in the divine right of the Presidency: that is the Republican Party of the 21st century. And for this filthy perversion of all that is truly sacred about America, the trusting masses offer up unstintingly their lives, their fortunes, and their sons and daughters. But for what, exactly?

This must not continue. It shall not stand.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Your Urgent Help Needed

Brilliant satire from spencer at Angry Bear:

Dear American: I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude. I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America.

My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s.

This transactin is 100% safe. This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance.

My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred. Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction.

After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

How to write your Congresspeeps

Quick and easy, you don't even need to hunt for a stamp: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

I've already let my senators and representative know how I feel about this financial mess and the abdication of Congressional powers to the executive branch. Have you?

"Government of the people, by the people, and for the people" : something today's utterly worthless Republican party flatly does not understand and flatly does not believe in.

As witness the worst presidential bad joke in all of American history:

Let's hope he goes quietly and doesn't pull another shock-and-awe stunt on the public before the election. Don't think it couldn't happen. I wouldn't put anything past that piratical crew.

What the hell goes on here?

Both liberals and conservatives are waking up and smelling the bullshit, according to Peter S. Goodman in the New York Times, "Experts See a Need for Punitive Action in Bailout" :

“This administration is asking for a $700 billion blank check to be put in the hands of Henry Paulson, a guy who totally missed this, and has been wrong about almost everything,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “It’s almost amazing they can do this with a straight face. There is clearly skepticism and anger at the idea that we’d give this money to these guys, no questions asked.”

Mr. Paulson has argued that the powers he seeks are necessary to chase away the wolf howling at the door: a potentially swift shredding of the American financial system. That would be catastrophic for everyone, he argues, not only banks, but also ordinary Americans who depend on their finances to buy homes and cars, and to pay for college.

Some are suspicious of Mr. Paulson’s characterizations, finding in his warnings and demands for extraordinary powers a parallel with the way the Bush administration gained authority for the war in Iraq. Then, the White House suggested that mushroom clouds could accompany Congress’s failure to act. This time, it is financial Armageddon supposedly on the doorstep.

“This is scare tactics to try to do something that’s in the private but not the public interest,” said Allan Meltzer, a former economic adviser to President Reagan, and an expert on monetary policy at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. “It’s terrible.” . . .

The financial system got to its dangerous perch by betting extravagantly on real estate. When housing prices began plummeting and borrowers stopped making payments, financial institutions found themselves with huge inventories of bad loans. Not simple loans, but complex investments created by pooling millions of mortgages together and then slicing them into pieces. These were the investments that Wall Street bought, sold and borrowed against in cooking up the money it poured into housing.

The trouble is that these investments are so intertwined and complex that no one seems able to figure out what they are worth. So no one has been willing to buy them. This is why banks have been in lockdown mode: with mystery enshrouding both the value of their assets and their future losses, banks have held tight to their remaining dollars, depriving the economy of capital. Now, the Treasury aims to clear the fog by buying up these investments. But their value is as mysterious as ever.

“There’s a tendency for people to think these are stocks and bonds and you know what the price is,” said Bruce Bartlett, a former White House economist under President Reagan. “The problem is people are operating in a world in which nobody knows what the hell is going on. There’s some naïve assumptions about how this would function.”

If Mr. Paulson pays the market rate — whatever that is — that presumably would not be enough to persuade banks to sell. Otherwise, they would have sold already. For the plan to work, Treasury has to pay a premium.

“It’s a straight subsidy to financial institutions,” said Martin Baily, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton administration, and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “You’re essentially giving them money.”

Mr. Baily favors the basics of the Paulson plan, albeit with some mechanism that would give the government a slice of any resulting profits. And yet he remains troubled by the dearth of information combined with the abundance of zeroes in the bailout request.

“I’d like a clearer statement of what we were afraid was going to happen that requires $700 billion,” Mr. Baily said. “Maybe they don’t want to talk about it because it would scare everybody, but it’s a bit much to ask.”

It's too scary to tell the truth?? Even for 700 billion dollars? Oh hell, what kind of damn con game is that?

Answer: the same scare-the-shit-out-of-you tactic that the Bush Administration has used on the public from day one. Is anybody really going to fall for this putrid, unconstitutional bullshit another time?

Obscene, naked power grab

Andrew Ross Sorkin writes in the New York Times, "A Bailout Above the Law" :

The passage is stunning.

“Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency,” the original draft of the proposed bill says.

And with those words, the Treasury secretary — whoever that may be in a few months — will be with vested with perhaps the most incredible powers ever bestowed on one person over the economic and financial life of the nation. It is the financial equivalent of the Patriot Act.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.’s $700 billion proposal to bail out Wall Street is both the biggest rescue and the most amazing power grab in the history of the American economy.

In many ways, it is classic Wall Street: a big, bold roll of the dice that one trade can save the day. But at the same time, the hypocrisy is thick. The lack of transparency and oversight that got our financial system in trouble in the first place seems written directly into the proposed bill, known as TARP, or the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Just take a look at the original draft: “The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this act,” the proposed bill read when it was first presented to Congress, “without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts.”

It goes on to say, “Any funds expended for actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses, shall be deemed appropriated at the time of such expenditure.”

Slowly but surely, as new versions of the bill are making the rounds in Washington, some legislators are pressing to include new language to give them at least a modicum of oversight. Democrats have complained that the bill gives the Treasury Department “a blank check” — and they’re right.

But given the rush to push the bill through, even if Congress cobbles together some oversight language, it will almost surely be inadequate. Joshua Rosner, a managing director at Graham Fisher & Company, says TARP should stand for “Total Abdication of Responsibility to the Public.” He says it is “a clear abdication of all Congressional oversight and fiscal authorities to a secretary of Treasury that has bungled this crisis from the beginning.”

He argues that the bill grants “greater powers to the secretary of the Treasury than even the president enjoys.”

The bigger issue is that the bill effectively creates protections not just for the Treasury, but for the executives on Wall Street who created this near Armageddon. Mr. Rosner says that the draft bill “prevents judicial review that could allow the protection of decisions that create false marks, hide prior marks, or could be used to prevent civil or criminal prosecution in situations where a management knowingly provided false marks that aided the growth of this crisis of confidence.”

False marks — using mark-to-market accounting to hide the true value of security, rather than disclose it honestly — has a lot to do with why Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron chief executive, is in jail. . . .

In other words, if the government drives a hard bargain — as it should — the banks don’t have to take write-downs based on the price the feds pay to take junk off their balance sheets.

Watching Wall Street double-dip makes even some in the industry’s top tier cringe.

“Maybe I should move to Russia,” one titan of finance said to me. “It’s obscene, the whole thing. I’m embarrassed for myself.”

If even the Wall Street fat cats are ashamed of the deal, what should we the people be feeling at this breathtaking grab by "King Henry"--so very, very typical of the fuck-the-peasants Bush Administration--for unlimited, un-Constitutional power?

The $700 billion pinata

"Lobbyists, bankers and Wall Street types are already hopping up and down like over-excited children, ready to burst into the government’s $700 billion piñata." So says columnist Bob Herbert in the New York Times.

Does anyone think it’s just a little weird to be stampeded into a $700 billion solution to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression by the very people who brought us the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?

How about a second opinion?

Everything needs much closer scrutiny in these troubled times because no one even knows who is in charge, much less what is going on. Have you ever seen a president who was more irrelevant than George W. Bush is right now?

The treasury secretary, Henry Paulson — heralded as King Henry on the cover of Newsweek — has been handed the reins of government, and he’s galloping through the taxpayers’ money like a hard-charging driver in a runaway chariot race.

“We need this legislation in a week,” he said on Sunday, referring to the authorization from Congress to implement his hastily assembled plan to bail out the wildly profligate U.S. financial industry. The plan stands at $700 billion as proposed, but could go to a trillion dollars or more. . . .

The sky was falling, he seemed to be saying, and if the taxpayers didn’t pony up $700 billion in the next few days, all would be lost. No time to look at the fine print. Hurry, hurry, said the treasury secretary.

His eyes, as he hopped from one network camera to another, said, as salesmen have been saying since the dawn of time: “Trust me.”

With all due respect to Mr. Paulson, who is widely regarded as a smart and fine man, we need to slow this process down. We got into this mess by handing out mortgages like lollipops to people who paid too little attention to the fine print, who in many cases didn’t understand it or didn’t care about it. . . .

Time is indeed short, but alternative voices desperately need to be heard because the people who have been running the economy for so long — who have ruined it — cannot be expected to make things right again in 48 or 96 hours.

Mr. Paulson himself was telling us during the summer that the economy was sound, that its long-term fundamentals were “strong,” that growth would rebound by the end of the year, when most of the slump in housing prices would be over.

He has been wrong every step of the way, right up until early last week, about the severity of the economic crisis. As for President Bush, the less said the better.

The free-market madmen who treated the American economy like a giant casino have had their day. It’s time to drag them away from the tables and into the sunlight of reality.

I am still searching for a news article or analysis that explains the crisis in depth but in layman's terms that I can understand. But even though I don't quite understand it all, as a Texan I can sure recognize bullshit when I smell it.

"King Henry" may or may not know what he's doing; but seems like a might big stink drifting across the country from Wall Street right now. Just hand over 700 billion, no questions asked? Aw, hell. You know that money will never been seen again, don't you?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Drive: Belief-O-Matic

It's always interesting to take the 20-question Belief-O-Matic quiz. Some of the questions really stretch your understanding of just what it is you do believe or how strongly you believe it. Try it out, just for a grin; it's hardly foolproof, but it is thought-provoking.

I just took the quiz again this morning; even though I'm sure I don't always give precisely the same answers, depending on my mood and how much morning coffee I've had, I always seem to get the same top three results:

1. Reform Judaism (100%)
2. Liberal Quakers (90%)
3. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (87%)

No connection in my family or my history with the first two; I'm sort of a lapsed Episcopalian, so number 3 fits. "On sabbatical" is more accurate than lapsed at the moment, perhaps. The Episcopal Church in this part of Texas is very anti-gay, so that's turned me off churchgoing big time in recent years. And frankly, I'm not sure anymore how necessary any organized religion is in my life.

But it's okay. God knows where I live. We talk all the time.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Truck Porn: GMC Denali XT hybrid concept truck

In a photo provided by General Motors Corp , a GMC Denali XT Concept is shown GM, betting that pickup drivers have been itching to jump on the hybrid bandwagon, will introduce a new hybrid full size pickup and the concept hybrid truck this week at t~

Introduced at the 2008 Chicago auto show. Reminds me of a baby rhino for some reason.


Whom do you trust to lead the country out of this economic hellhole? Check out Mark Fiore's animated political cartoon on the economic collapse and the Republican ticket's brilliance on this subject.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Four years in 30 seconds

Scott Kleeb, running for a Senate seat from Nebraska, has done a neat montage here showing the misery of the last four Bush years in this country. Scott's a Democrat, natch. And as you can see in the closing frame, a cowboy too.

Hmm, I never knew Nebraska could be so . . . interesting. Woof.

Judge throws the book at the Library of Congress

Former Special Forces colonel Diane Schroer is probably celebrating her latest mission accomplished right now. Today a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Library of Congress was guilty of sex discrimination for refusing to hire the eminently well qualified Schroer as a terrorism analyst in December 2004--because Diane used to be David, and was in the process of transitioning of from one sex to the other.

The ruling establishes an important precedent: according to the ACLU lawyer who represented Schroer, "The court got it exactly right, sending a loud and clear message to employers everywhere: if you fire or refused to hire someone for transitioning, you are guilty of sex discrimination and may well find yourself liable."

Now, frankly, I don't entirely get the whole trans thing; admittedly I need to do some more reading and study on this topic. I've only ever actually known one trans person, and she was a bit of a mess, mentally speaking; but of course I've been reading news stories in recent years of quite a few well-adjusted, highly accomplished guys who've made the switch, and are very, very happy about it. The movie Transamerica is a good one, btw, if you haven't seen it.

Still, why a successful male, very butch and hot-looking to boot, would want to step out of all that and become, well, a library lady is more than I can relate to at this time. Like I said, I know I need to read up on it all.

But ya know what? Might not be a decision I'd ever make for myself - like with these Texas-size 14 feet I'd ever fool anyone, ha - but it ain't hurting me a bit. And if it makes her happy, successful, and fulfilled, well I say you go, girl! More power to ya!

Freedom's not something to be hoarded for the few. The more you spread it around, the more there is for everybody. Hats off to the judge for making the right decision today.

Torture: What Would Jesus Do?

Abu Graib

Prisoner at Abu Graib, Baghdad, tortured by American soldiers in 2003.
Notice the electrodes attached to the fingers of both hands.

Church sign just down the street from here: "We Are Proud to be Christians and Americans." The conflation of religion and politics, church and state is actually nothing new in American history; but like a harmful virus it has mutated into a new and even more virulent strain in recent years.

I don't know personally anyone who attends that little church; but statistically, the overwhelming majority are likely to vote Republican and think W has done just a dandy job in "protecting our freedoms" the last 8 dismal years. None of them are likely to feel that torture, now an official policy of the United States government, is a big deal. So what? "We" only do it to bad people, who probably deserve it. Yawn. Flip the page, sing another hymn to the Prince of Peace.

Oh but God forbid two men and a little dog should live together in peace and dignity out here on the prairie. Why, that would violate every moral principle since time began. Destroy the family. Ruin the nation. Bring the wrath of God down on the whole country, if not the world.

It's so great a threat to all that's sacred, 9 out of 10 of my neighbors in this rural county voted for the state constitutional amendment in 2005 banning every kind of gay union, whatever it might be called. None of that sick, twisted, filthy, perverted, disgusting immorality allowed here in God's country, no sir!

Right. But torture? Deliberate, official, legal torture of, oh, say, anybody the President feels like needs a cattle prod up their butt today--well now that's just fine and dandy. Go for it, W! Protect us. Save us. Amen to all that.

Bullshit. What filthy thinking. Just what God are they really worshipping?

Andrew Sullivan spells it out nicely; the corruption of fundamental civilized morality here is Osama's greatest victory:
After an admirable 1999 Supreme Court attempt to stop it, the Israeli intelligentsia moves toward the Bush-Cheney model of torture for terror suspects. On this issue, Israel is a saint compared with its neighbors in the region, of course. But when you see more than one democracy jettisoning a core foundation for a free and moral society, you realize how far we've come, and how strong an influence the most powerful torture-nation, America, now has. When the country that led the global campaign against torture is now in the vanguard of legitimizing it, it is unsurprising that global standards of human rights collapse.

What amazing success Osama bin Laden has had in destroying the integrity, freedom and morality of the West. It is his greatest victory - and he could not have done it without Cheney.

Is this really what America is all about? Do we really want to live in a torture society? I'm more than certain that some, at least, of my good down-home neighbors here would see it as just part of God's plan for this great Christian nation, and the Constitution be damned.

I say, to hell with that idea.

Afternoon Drive: Lipstick Promises

Before the lipstick-on-a-pig meme disappears from thought under all the economic bad news, wanted to post this very relevant video of the 1997 George Ducas hit. Have a good one, y'all.

P.S.--Anyone gets to the Pride celebrations in Dallas this weekend, let me know how it went. Send pics if you can.

Big shift in California

Lyon and Martin became the first officially married same sex couple after Californias Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal

After more than 50 years of love, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were the first same-sex couple to legally marry in San Francisco, June 16, 2008. Sky did not fall.

It's an earthquake, but not the kind you might expect. The conservative San Diego Union-Tribune has come out in favor of gay nups now that they are happening all over the Golden State and the Big One hasn't struck in divine retribution:
The right of gay and lesbian couples to wed on an equal legal basis with heterosexual couples has long stirred opposition not only among social conservatives but also among a much broader swath of society. But in the four short months since a landmark California Supreme Court ruling legalized gay marriage, a significant social shift seems to have occurred.

As gay couples have gone to the courthouse and entered into matrimony, usually surrounded by champagne, family and friends, the worst fears of gay marriage opponents suddenly seem greatly inflated. For instance, Christian conservatives have asserted for years that allowing gays to marry would undermine heterosexual unions – hence, such laws as the Defense of Marriage Act. In truth, however, there has been no discernible impact on traditional marriage between a man and a woman now that gay couples in California have the same right.

With gay marriage a fait accompli, society has not crumbled. The long-standing institution of marriage is not in crisis. Californians have taken this change in stride. Indeed, there appears to be a marked shift in public opinion toward acceptance of gay marriage. . . .

In the past, this page has advocated civil unions for gay couples rather than marriage. But our thinking has changed, along with that of many other Californians. Gay and lesbian couples deserve the same dignity and respect in marriage that heterosexual couples have long enjoyed. We urge a No vote on Proposition 8.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Will your vote be counted?

Yee Hah!.texas ballot box

The voting system in this country is a mess, despite the feds having spent 3 billion dollars in recent years to pay for improvements. According to this report in the Washington Post, the possibility of another contested election like that in 2000 is very high.

Holy hanging chad! Is this really the best we can do in the land of the free and home of the brave?

Cowboy art: "Tight Fit"

"Tight Fit" from The American Cowboy Collection

From The American Cowboy Collection.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A man, a plan, Obama

Intelligence. Rational thought. Good sense. How very refreshing.

By comparison, take just one glance at the wacky 3-ring circus the other candidate is leading, and there's simply no question who should be at the helm in January. Unless you truly believe it's God's plan for Geezer & Gidget to inherit the earth.

Read more: barackobama.com/plan

Highway of Holiness

In case you missed it last year, here's Pat Robertson tripping out over the idea that I-35, which runs from Texas to Minnesota, is part of God's plan to recover this sinful nation from the heathen evildoers, especially teh gays. It's in the Bible! You can look it up!

That's funny; I've driven up and down I-35 many a time, and it didn't do a thing for me. Still gay as ever.

The preacher lady who says "We want a holy nation" creeps me out big time. I can just imagine what that would look like: I-35 lined with the skinned carcasses of field-dressed queers all the way.

Oh, and about the young guy in this clip who got suddenly, miraculously "healed" of his gayness right there on the street in Oak Lawn (Dallas's main gayborhood)?

He's bipolar, was off his meds. The church sent him off to ex-gay camp in Kentucky, but he got kicked out. Seems the brainwashing, um, I mean rehabilitation wasn't working too well. He's now telling folks to steer way clear of all that wacked-out bullshit, according to this report in the Dallas Voice.

Standing in the need of prayer?

Sarah Palin's church hosted a "homo no mo' " event last week. Queer New Yorkers, stung to the heart with shame and repentance, ask for Sarah's prayers.

McCain gets what he wanted

A very interesting analysis from the Votemaster at electoral-vote.com:

After several days of saying it would not bail out the nation's largest insurance company, A.I.G., the government bailed out A.I.G. risking $85 billion of the taxpayers' money. In return, the government got 80% of the now near-worthless stock. In other countries, when the government effectively buys (nearly) all of a company's stock, it is called nationalization. Who would have thought that the Bush-Cheney administration would go Marxist-Leninist in its waning hours?

Treasury secretary Henry Paulson was clearly afraid A.I.G.'s demise would take out too many other big players and wreak massive damage on the economy. The move will be very controversial since it risks public money to protect bad investments made by A.I.G. management. The political fallout will be immense.

This nationalization poses an especially large challenge for John McCain, who is now railing against corporate greed and lack of government regulation of the financial industry. What he doesn't talk much about is how deregulation happened. It was the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that repealed the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act and thus eliminated the depression-era walls between between banking, investment, and insurance that made this crisis possible. Glass-Stegall erected walls between banking, investment management, and insurance, so problems in one sector could not spill over into the others, which is precisely what is happening now.

The primary author of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was none other than McCain's economic advisor, former senator Phil Gramm (who thinks the country is in a "mental recession"). McCain fully supported the bill and has a decades-long track record of opposing government regulation of the financial industry. His new-found conversion to being a fan of regulation is going to be a tough sell as Obama is already pointing out that McCain got what he wanted (deregulation) and this is the consequence.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Don't panic

I'm no kind of economist, but one thing I do know: whatever may be happening on Wall Street, don't panic.

The big stock market dip in 1987 was very scary too, but in a couple of years stock prices had risen again to where they had been; and then soared higher than anyone thought possible over the next decade.

So if you're in the 98 percent of the population who doesn't know a convertible debenture from a ragtop Caddy, don't do anything rash right now. Probably our money is pretty damn safe right where it is. Bank accounts are all insured to $100,000 per person by the government, so not to worry. Sit tight and we'll ride this out just fine, is what I think will happen if history is any guide.

A very good list of tips and advice at Yahoo News here.

I can also recommend queer financial expert Andrew Tobias's book, The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need. Lots of plain English and common sense there from a real expert.

Don't panic. Vote! It's so damn funny listening to McSame & Co. castigating "Washington" for getting us into this economic train wreck. Who the hell do they think "Washington" has been for the last 8 years, hmmm???

Interactive electoral map

Holy moose shit. It's not looking good for us Dems at the moment, kids. There really could be a President Palin hunting down large mammals in your neck of the woods one day soon.
Check out the new national polling widget to the right, updated daily. You can also bookmark this interactive electoral map from the Los Angeles Times, where you can test different scenarios from now now till Election Day, November 4th.
And a note to my fellow Texans: you have to be registered to vote in your county no less than 30 days before the election. So if you, your lover, your friends and family aren't already registered--do it now!
I know, Texas is all but certain to go to the Republicans. But you never can tell. This horse race is wide open now. Remember Florida?
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