Tuesday, June 30, 2009

At Long Last, Franken!


Image by Getty Images via Daylife

What a nice surprise. I was off in the other office today. That means using a computer that struggles to handle the software I need to do my job. To try browsing the web at the same time is to invite it to freeze up and refuse to do a thing. So I didn’t know that the Al Franken decade had begun until I got home.

Of course, I was watching MSNBC which meant there was no sparing a minute to be happy about it. We had to start worrying about the added pressure of nominally having 60 senators in the caucus. Why enjoy the moment when you can wring your hands instead? If I wasn’t a bit of a political junkie I’d stop watching it and try having a normal life. But I am and it’s the only game in town. I plan to bitch about it quite a bit, though. Some of the shows there are getting on my last nerve.

In other intriguing news, Governor Mark Sanford has seen his Argentinean soul mate more than he’d initially admitted. He also seems to have grabbed some non-soul mate ass – or something – from time to time. Color me surprised – not. How can Jenny Sanford let this horndog prize go? I don’t know, but somehow I think she will. Even though he’s trying hard to fall back in love with her. Without much success, apparently.


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Thursday, June 25, 2009


Michael Jackson, cropped from :Image:Michael J...Image via Wikipedia

Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. That's a lot for one day. I walked in from work just a few minutes before TMZ announced that Michael Jackson had died. That was several hours ago. They're still covering the story on all the cable news channels. I know this is big, but once the LA coroner confirmed that he'd died there wasn't really anything more to cover, other than his brother's brief statement.

There have been numerous phone interviews with people in Jacko's life from which you could get the definite impression that Michael's world was full of people pretty much as whacked as he was. Al Sharpton managed to make the death of Jackson into an opportunity to get some camera time even though he's in New York and doesn't seem to have anything particularly to do with the current situation.

Good Lord, now they're showing the helicopter carring his body landing on a heliport on the way to the coroner's office. Isn't this just a little creepy? Now they're following the van that's taking the body to the coroner, ala OJ's SUV. Papparazzi to the bitter end.

It's getting harder to think of things to talk about and even Keith Olbermann is beginning to lapse into babble occasionally. One thing no one's talking about is Farrah Fawcett. That was so earlier today. We've forgotten about poor Farrah now. There is talk about whether or not Michael Jackson found the life he wanted. The consensus was, "No". Probably a fair bet.

Now they're talking about how we're all going to die and that gives us something in common with Michael Jackson. Presumably we have that in common with such folks as Aristotle and Attila the Hun as well.

Now there's that lunatic lawyer who Keith spoke to over the phone. He's out there talking on camera now. He looks just like he sounded on the phone. Oh, I looked away for a moment and now Reverend Al has thrown on a suit and tie and gotten his ass to the MSNBC New York studios. The man is alert. You have to give him that.

I'm sorry. All due respect to the berieved and the news guys who are just doing their best to do their jobs, but it's time to let this rest in peace at least until the autopsy or toxicology reports come out because it's turning into a parody of a celebrity death. Michael Jackson is still dead.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hardball WTF Moment of the Day

May_30_Health_Care_Rally_NP (478)

Image by seiuhealthcare775nw via Flickr

There were a lot of them today. It would have been hard to choose which was the most bewildering bit of conversation but then there was THE moment. It was about the presidential press conference, health care reform and the public option. They played a quick clip of Jake Tapper asking Obama what would become of his promise that the insured portion of the American people wouldn’t have to change their plan to a public option if they didn’t want to in the event that the public plan was a good deal and employers decided to switch to it. Yeah, what then? Then they played a small portion of the president’s reply.

"When I say if you have your plan and you like it, ... or you have a doctor and you like your doctor, that you don't have to change plans, what I'm saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform," the president said.

At that point, Tweety, Chuck Todd and another head on the screen whose name I don’t recall right now generally agreed that Obama got caught a little on that answer. Actually, the only way Obama got caught short is in that he probably still can’t believe people who get paid huge sums of money to report are asking such stupid, stupid questions. Sure, he should know by now, but it’s still hard to wrap your head around it.

I’d just like to know who these people have been working for for the last couple of decades. When both Mr. Yenta and I had jobs with private, for profit companies we had our health insurance changed almost every year – and rarely for the better from where we sat. The same thing has happened to almost everyone we know, too. When I started working at my present place of employment it was a little different. There were about five plans to choose from. Now there are two. In these instances the insurance companies dropped us. Not enough people on some of the plans to make it worthwhile to insure our aging workforce. Of the two that remain, one of them has been taken over by another company and it’s hard to find specialists that take it. That’s the one I have and I’m not complaining. I’m not even complaining that they declined to cover a medication that was prescribed to me this week. Hasn’t been out long enough to be on their list. The co-pays are low, though, and at least we have insurance. With Mr. Yenta’s medical expenses that’s the most important thing to us. We’ll cope with the rest.

If Jake Tapper, Chris Matthews, Chuck Todd or the other head on the screen think for a moment that most Americans really have choice when it comes to health insurers they need to get in touch with reality. When they’re at a presidential press conference they’re asking questions for all of us. They should ask smarter ones.


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Monday, June 22, 2009

Profiles In Courage - Cynthia Davis

USDA Food PyramidImage via Wikipedia

You have to hand it to Rep. Cynthia Davis. Most politicians would feel like they had to pander to constituents who might be soft on hungry children - at least a little. It takes a special kind of person to come out against providing nutritious meals for kids, but Rep. Davis goes there.

Her suggestion that the older kids could get jobs at McDonald's and get fed on their break makes a lot of sense. Maybe they could grab some extra ketchup packets and take them home so their younger siblings could have vegetables. And why did she not suggest that the kids stand on busy thoroughfares holding up, "Will Work for Food" signs? She probably wishes she did.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Whole Wide World Is Tweeting

Stand With Free Iran #IranelectionImage by harrystaab via Flickr

BoingBoing.net has posted the Cyberwar guide for Iran elections. Me, I'm just reading on Twitter right now. I don't think adding, "Go protestors", "I'm with you, from here in the comfort my living room." would be much of a help. I could be wrong, though. Who knows what effect having so much of the world engaged in a people's struggle will have?

Along with news, Twitter's full of handy tips, first aid advice and other helpful info. Of course it's also full of rumor and misinformation. There's help to sort out what you should be suspicious of and what's reasonably reliable in the form of Twitspam's Iranian Election page to help you identify sources of BS. You gotta hand it to them - Twitter's on top of things. Can you imagine trying to run a revolution on early IRC chatrooms or even early instant messging?

Between Twitter and Nico Pitney's excellent liveblogging at Huffington Post, I'm once again having a hard time focusing on the things I can more directly affect - such as the state of my kitchen floor, laundry, etc.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Revolution Will Be Tweeted

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

I don’t know what’s going to happen in Iran, of course. I hope something good comes out of all this for the Iranian people, but one huge winner has already emerged. Twitter has grown up so fast. Biz Stone and all the Twitter folks have to be walking on air even as they take their new responsibility to the world seriously. The were even asked to stay online and delay planned maintenance – asked by the State Department, no less.

Seldom, if ever, has a web service become so consequential so quickly. YouTube is a vital part of it all, too, of course, but it’s been around long enough to have established that it’s not just about stupid pet tricks. Not that there’s anything wrong with stupid pet tricks. Can’t get enough of them really. But nowadays you can’t run a political campaign without it, and the stupid candidate tricks can change the fate of nations. When all this is said and done citizen journalism will have come of age and proved its worth to any remaining doubters.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Evening Pleasures

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 09:  (L-R) Actors Ryan ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

First, Indulgence
This was a pretty good Sunday night as those things go. First we got taken out for a Mothers' Day/Fathers' Day/Anniversary dinner. Our son and his girlfriend (who I think of as my future daughter-in-law) took us to a lovely café where we had a fantastic meal. Everything was good, but the most sinful part was the dessert I shared with my son. A "chocolate bag". We had to see what that was and OMG that was good. Pure chocolate shaped like a bag and filled with white chocolate mousse, whipped cream and berries.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Then home and the season premier of True Blood. The living room was packed for it. It really hit the ground running and the second season is looking even better than the first. I'd watch anyway. It's worth watching just for the theme song and opening credits. I think the song for the closing credits is new this season.

On A More Serious Note - Iran
I'm in total awe of the reform movement in Iran. It was heartbreaking to see what had happened in the election, but those people are so amazingly courageous. And they've had it. I guess there's no way for them to win this battle, but down the road I hope there's some way that they can win their war.
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DIY – Diagnose It Yourself

The story of Jessica Terry diagnosing her own ailment in AP science class says a lot about how smart Jessica is, but I have to wonder how smart her doctors are. Or are we just a little too reliant on tests that aren’t 100% reliable?

For eight years, Jessica Terry suffered from stomach pain so horrible, it brought her to her knees. The pain, along with diarrhea, vomiting and fever, made her so sick, she lost weight and often had to miss school.

During a science class, Jessica Terry, 18, discovered a tell-tale granuloma in her own pathology slide.

During a science class, Jessica Terry, 18, discovered a tell-tale granuloma in her own pathology slide.

Her doctors, no matter how hard they tried, couldn't figure out the cause of Jessica's abdominal distress.

Here’s the thing. Without any particular expertise or even aptitude for things medical I read that first sentence and thought it sounded like Crohn’s, which was that granuloma proved it to be. I’d never heard of a granuloma. I just have one friend – count ‘em – one – who has Crohn’s and those are her symptoms. By now I know people with all kinds of other gastrointestinal disorders too, but none of the symptoms seem to be exactly the same as Crohn’s, especially over such a long period of time. Seems to me that since Crohn’s is very serious  condition and, if left untreated, it can be fatal they might have wanted to make that leap and see if she responded to treatment. Of course, treatment for that particular disease is nothing to take lightly, so it’s understandable that they wouldn’t have jumped right in. But eight years? Have we gotten to the point in the CYA department where doctors don’t so much diagnose as just test?

I don’t mean to be all cranky about what’s supposed to be a good news kind of story and I have nothing against doctors or the medical profession in general. I’m very grateful for what ours have done for us over the years. It’s just that it seems that if you’re having a side effect that isn’t written about or a symptom that doesn’t produce a test result, sometimes they kind of stop paying attention. I see this happening a lot and I saw it with my mother as she aged. So this is more of a reflection and wondering if things are more this way now that so much testing is available or if it’s nothing new at all.

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Frank Rich on Hate and the People Who Enable It

Frank Rich has a must read, must spread column on the kind of rhetoric that is ramping up the hate in those who feel most threatened by Obama's presidency. It includes a call to conservative leaders to show some responsibility in light of recent events.
The question, Shepard Smith said on Fox last week, is “if there is really a way to put a hold on” those who might run amok. We’re not about to repeal the First or Second Amendments. Hard-core haters resolutely dismiss any “mainstream media” debunking of their conspiracy theories. The only voices that might penetrate their alternative reality — I emphasize might — belong to conservative leaders with the guts and clout to step up as McCain did last fall. Where are they? The genteel public debate in right-leaning intellectual circles about the conservative movement’s future will be buried by history if these insistent alarms are met with silence.
It’s typical of this dereliction of responsibility that when the Department of Homeland Security released a plausible (and, tragically, prescient) report about far-right domestic terrorism two months ago, the conservative response was to trash it as “the height of insult,” in the words of the G.O.P. chairman Michael Steele. But as Smith also said last week, Homeland Security was “warning us for a reason.”
Ironically, some conservative leaders did demonstrate some guts and common sense that bit of bravery might also serve to begin digging them out of the deep, dark hole they're in -especially if said conservative leaders are also closely identified with the GOP. At the moment, serious people can't take most Republicans or conservatives seriously. Their fortunes might start to change if they began acting like adults.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Old Bigot Prefers Old Bigotry

Pat Buchanan

Image via Wikipedia

In yet another blatantly racist attack on Sonia Sotomayer, Pat Buchanan attributes every her every accomplishment to affirmative action and opines,

One prefers the old bigotry. At least it was honest, and not, as Abraham Lincoln observed, adulterated "with the base alloy of hypocrisy."

In other news salmon swim upstream to spawn and the sun rises in the east. So, let’s review. Pat thinks Sonia Sotomayor is not smart enough for a SCOTUS appointment but Sarah Palin is fit to be president.

He, of course, also prone to hanging around with a very bad crowd, as his speaking invitation to a white nationalist demonstrates.

It’s time to retire him from MSNBC and mainstream media.  His xenophobic, racist ideology is showing bigtime and should not be legitimized as part of the national discourse . Please let’s leave the unabashed racists to themselves.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sorry Wingnuts - He's All Yours

The dedication plaque outside the museum.

Image via Wikipedia

Of course the people who make their livings off of the worst instincts of the right wing base are anxious to deflect any blame for the most recent murder by a far right extremist. And given their propensity for opposite logic it’s not a big surprise that they’ve decided that Von Brunn is a leftist.

Ironically, the voices of vitriol – Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, right wing bloggers and the rest might be less responsible for this individual’s actions than the other murders that have taken place in recent months. It’s complicated. Von Brunn’s world view intersects with the birthers and tea baggers who are encouraged by the right wing punditizers. He would meet kindred spirits at any Palin rally. But still and all,he’s 88 years old. He’s been who he is for a long, long time. He’s done reckless things before, even serving time in jail. It’s just possible that something as simple as having a black president could have sent him out to do this murder. That doesn’t mean they don’t have real responsibility for the violent climate that’s been emerging since the election. Their rhetoric is dangerous. And they should be very afraid that  a critical mass of people will finally call them on it. Much more of this and that could happen.

By people, I mean the Republicans that line up to genuflect to them. I mean mainstream media which treats them as voices on one side of the political spectrum instead of the irresponsible shock jocks that they are. That includes the media that we mostly like. Why does Frank Gaffney get a platform on Hardball, for instance? The things he’s said recently should completely marginalize him, and yewe pretend he has something to say? When it comes to Limbaugh and Beck, maybe we’re all guilty. They’re such trainwrecks that it’s hard to look away, but perhaps we should all try.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fire In A Crowded Theater

How many people have been killed in the last few months by domestic extremists? Well, I was about to write a post about that very thing but turns out TPM poster known as The Commenter Formerly Known As NCSteve pretty much covered all the ground I had in mind.

So my question is this. How many more murderous rampages by enraged rightists--whether executed or merely in the planning stage--are we going to have to endure before the traditional media is willing to acknowledge and address the obvious? How many people are going to die, and how highly placed will the victims have to be, before someone connects the dots and starts calling out the ever more violent, hateful and apocalyptic rhetoric of the likes of Coulter, Malkin, O'Reilly, Hannity and Savage as bearing some responsibility for creating this climate of insanity?

Raving mad rhetoric has been mainstreamed by right wing radio, cable news and, of course, the intertubes and to some extent even by elected officials. This rash of killings is not, as was posited on Hardball tonight, completely separate from any political party. It is lunacy that is absolutely predictably inflamed by talking points that are treated as just another point of view.

It’s clear that having our first African-American president, the economic climate and the repudiation of conservatism has combined to send some lunatics right over the edge. There’s no question of shutting down freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean that the kind of hate speech that’s become so commonplace shouldn’t be much more seriously marginalized by mainstream media and strenuously criticized by mainstream political figures – Republicans and Democrats alike.

Also, I’m just wondering if Shep Smith (and others who receive them) are turning over those untold number of hate filled e-mails to the appropriate authorities? I assume that the Secret Service is already spending a fair amount of time at Free Republic where the legitimacy our our duly elected president is questioned with regularity. I just hope they’re taking every thread like that very seriously.

*Updated to add quotes and clarity

Greetings from the Banana Republic State

New York State Capitol Building, completed in ...

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know how long we’ll be able to communicate. I’m sure you’ve heard there’s been a coup in NY State. Even now we don’t know who will be disappeared. You can’t tell for sure who’s a loyalist and who’s working with the Republicanistas.  Governor Paterson is a prisoner of the state at the moment. A resistance movement has been mounted.

More later if they don’t seize our means of communication. Keep good thoughts for us.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Barack Obama, International Man of History

Ancient history, that is. I’ve been catching up on Obama’s Cairo speech. Of course, that was a couple of countries ago, already. I don’t know if even President Obama can bring world peace, but at the very least, Americans with the inclination and the funds to travel should be able to stop pretending to be Canadian.

The absolute kicker of it all to me, though, was Obama finding a look-alike on the wall of an ancient Egyptian tomb.


This guy looks enough like Obama to be a caricature at the very least. His name was Kar. Which of course could be short for Barack, backwards. Anderson Cooper and his commenters are impressed, too. I don’t think we should let this go until it’s available as a t-shirt.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TV Night

Pennsylvania Avenue is now closed to all traff...

Image via Wikipedia

Tonight the family will be in front of the teevee machine watching the Inside the White House special on NBC. It’s such a luxury to have a president that doesn’t make us want to puke upon seeing him. We’re just going to revel in that tonight.

Before I settle in, though, I’d just like to say to Rick Santorum – Corner bar. A shot and a beer? Are you out of your freaking little mind? Thought so. If the Obamas couldn’t afford a night out on the town then I’m sure there are about a thousand more appealing things they could do for a cheaper date night. But they can. And it’s a much shorter flight to NYC than to Crawford, TX.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Can We Learn Anything From George Tiller’s Murder?

When I read about the murder a few hours ago, I was going to post something to the effect that the apologists should be making statements shortly. There was always a script for it. Pro-life groups would condemn the act and after about 24 hours or so there’d be  a“but” attached to the condemnation. It’s always something to the effect that the victim of the murder was, after all, someone who took innocent life, but killing is never, ever acceptable. Well, things are moving a lot faster these days and not everyone is quite so delicate about it.Statements have been pouring out from pro-life groups, abortion rights groups and everyone else who will make a statement.  Randall Terry, for one, does not seem to feel constrained to express any condemnation other than to regret that Dr. Tiller was not afforded time to meet his Maker.

Grandpa Eddie reminds us of that report that had some right wing panties in a bunch. The one that referred to home grown terrorists. Sounds like it was right on to me. He also provides a retrospective of violent acts of terrorism targeting abortion providers.

Fitness for the Occasion makes the very simple, but insightful, point that things like this are the problem with calling abortion murder.

So, there are lessons about domestic terrorism, lessons about rhetoric and how not to use it, and I’d hope there is a lesson about thinking hard about how a public message might affect persons who have serious mental health issues.

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