"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
-Oscar Wilde
Brilliant at Breakfast title banner "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
"...you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly. I know what I am, what are you?" -- Steve Gilliard, 1964 - 2007

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"I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." -- "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (1954-2015), They Live
Saturday, October 30, 2010

Exactly what Jon Stewart was talking about
Posted by Jill | 9:26 PM
As if it weren't bad enough that C-SPAN, without missing a beat, went right from Jon Stewart's impassioned speech to their subtitled phone numbers for Republicans, Democrats and Independents, it seems that Politico can't tell the difference between Beck's rally and today's rally.


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The Pied Piper of the Future
Posted by Jill | 3:46 PM

Competing by relative headcounts at rallies seems to me to be a bit like the people who used to fight with each other over the relative box office of Star Wars vs. Titanic. What the hell difference does it make? You're not getting the money anyway.

From where I was watching comfortably at home, a rally that spills over off the National Mall and into the streets, where a wave takes almost a full minute to make its way through the crowd (courtesy of the Mythbusters), is one hell of a lot of people -- not that you'll get any crowd estimates from the media pundits that Jon Stewart ended the rally today by blasting in a speech that is sure to revive the Stewart/Colbert 2012 bumper stickers once again. The Murdoch St. Journal has pretty much refused to do so at all:
How many people are on the National Mall for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert? The final answer? We don’t know.

CBC News, being outside the US, doesn't have the same qualms as the US press, and estimates the crowd at over 200,000.

I'm sure in days to come we'll see dueling aerial shots as the Who Got More Glenn Beck Or Jon Stewart debate plays out amidst the same cable news blather that was the subject of more than one photo montage today. Relative crowd counts for the two rallies are important to the extent that the Tea Party has been treated as a huge majority of Americans by the press, receiving attention far in excess of its actual numbers. Christine O'Donnell is likely to lose, but you'd never know it from the press attention she's received.

Here's what DOES matter about the comparative crowds, however.


While attendees at both rallies skewed predominantly white, many of the Beck rally's attendees were older, a good number of them on Hoveround-type scooters. Today's rallygoers skewed far younger, for all that our very own jurassicpork, who is no spring chicken, attended (and hopefully can be talked into writing a report, including photos), today's rally represented the future, while Beck's rally represents the past -- some of which never even existed the way it was remembered.

I said to Mr. Brilliant this morning that Jon Stewart would walk away today either having jumped the shark, or as the most important man in the country.

Was there ever any doubt that it would be the latter?


Whatever happens next Tuesday, think about the young faces you saw in the crowd shots from Washington DC today. The people on the Hoverounds who watch Glenn Beck and believe that Barack Obama must be a secret Muslim terrorist because he has a name that isn't English...or Irish...or Italian...or Polish; who still don't want black people moving into their neighborhoods, who are grossed out by two guys kissing because they're not used to seeing it, and who think that this is Jesus' America and long for the 1950's? Their day is over and a new one is ahead of us. They know it, and that's why they're so afraid. What we know, and what they don't yet, is that there's nothing about that new one that they should fear.

I know that there are young teabaggers, like the young Joe Miller supporter Rachel Maddow talked to in Alaska the other night who hates Obama for nominating Eric Holder, who will to take people's guns away -- but can't identify one thing Holder has done or said about guns. But the National Mall and surrounding streets were teeming with fresh young faces; yes, mostly Causasian ones, but sprinkled with black and Latino and Asian ones too. They get it. That they are this nation's future gives me at least some hope that we just might be able to survive the dying embers of hatred, greed, and bigotry.

And whether he likes it or not, whether he realizes it yet or not, a short Jewish comedian from Jersey is going to lead them.

(UPDATE: Chris Good of The Atlantic says "The immediate takeaway: The crowd was massive. Way bigger than the Glenn Beck rally in July." Of course in the alternative universe of the Teabaggers, Chris Good is a subversive liberal commie anti-American traitor for even suggesting such a thing.)

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Blogrolling In Our Time
Posted by Jill | 11:42 AM
Give a big stack o'pancakes to Southern Beale.


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Unsafe at any size
Posted by Jill | 11:16 AM
Last week I flew a US Airways 737 to Charlotte, NC even though I was headed to Chapel Hill. I didn't want to fly direct because the only airline flying direct to Raleigh-Durham from Newark was Continental Express through its regional affiliate, ExpressJet. After the January 2009 Buffalo crash of a Continental Express plane, after which we learned that pilots for regional airlines have less experience, work crushing schedules, and are paid peanuts, I didn't want to trust my life to one of these regionals.

Instead, I dealt with a too-fast approach and landing, a ridiculous line at the Avis/Budget rental car counter, and a cancelled return flight.

But at least the planes I were on did not spring holes at 31,000 feet:
It's harrowing enough when a commercial airliner mistakenly announces an emergency landing over water -- or, for that matter, when air passengers capture footage of an actual emergency landing on their cell phones. But passengers on a recent American Airlines flight from Miami to Boston experienced a much more vivid sense of airborne peril when a 2-foot hole opened up in the plane's fuselage about 30 minutes after takeoff.

The Boeing 757 was cruising at 31,000 feet Tuesday when the cabin began to decompress rapidly -- a "super-terrifying" experience, a passenger told WSVN-TV in Miami. The flight was carrying 154 passengers and six crew members.

But soon enough, the crew established emergency procedures: The passengers donned the oxygen masks that drop down when cabin pressure decreases, and the pilots were able to reverse the flight and land the damaged plane safely at Miami International Airport.

"The crew declared an emergency and made a normal landing. There were no injuries," American Airlines said in a rather terse statement. "The aircraft has been taken out of service."

Once the plane was on the ground, inspectors discovered the problem -- not that it was exactly easy to miss. A 2-foot-by-1-foot hole had opened just above the "A" of the logo near the plane's front left cabin door. Initial reports indicate that the plane probably took off with a smaller crack in the fuselage -- and that wind pressure caused it to expand after the jet's takeoff. However, investigators say that they have yet to isolate the precise cause of the hole. Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

As mistermix notes, we're told that being bombarded with radiation by semi-skilled TSA workers every time we get on a plane is necessary for our safety in the air, but we're also being told that businesses, including the airline industry, are so burdened with regulation we can't even institute the kind of regulations that would make airlines take unsafe planes out of service. After all, it's easier to just deal with the lawsuits if hundreds of people die because too-old planes or planes serviced by outsourced, non-FAA-certified mechanics, are not taken out of service when they are no longer safe. The airlines are allowed to do financial cost/benefit analysis with YOUR LIFE.

Tomorrow I'm getting on a plane. It's a 737. Hopefully it won't fall apart in midair. But show the above-lined article to your friends who are tempted to vote Teabag on Tuesday and tell them that this is what Teabag America is going to look like.

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I remember.
Posted by Jill | 9:31 AM

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Happy Rally Day!
Posted by Jill | 6:13 AM
Whether you're going to the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear today or, like we in the Brilliant household, watching it on TV because a) I am headed out of town tomorrow and need some time to decompress before leaving; b) the thought of five hours in DC with no place to pee is terrifying; and c) I've been working like a dog and I'm just plain tired; there's something that feels, well, ALMOST hopey-changey today. I say almost because I am tired of hoping things will ever get better when we live in a nation of willfully ignorant people ruled by their prejudices. But it's expected to be a really nice day in DC today, and whether there's just a comedy show with some nice music or something that feels like a groundswell of something yet to be determined, something feels significant about this rally.

I don't know if it's because of the fits that mainstream journalists are having about it (Tobin Harshaw in the New York Times is the latest, citing the Still Angry About Hillary Taylor Marsh as an unimpeachable source), though I suspect that has something to do with it. These are people trapped in a dying industry; an industry dying of largely self-inflicted wounds. It was one thing when journalists could legitimately pat themselves on the back for breaking actual stories. Bob Woodward may be a shameless hack now, but at one time, he and Carl Bernstein broke the kind of story that journalists today would be afraid to touch and made a generation of young people want to be journalists. The problem is that journalism, particularly Washington journalism, forgot what its job was -- to report the news and to keep the feet of politicians to the fire and keep them honest. We'll report what you do, said journalists, but if you fuck up or you betray the public trust, we will pillory you just as you deserve.

Something happened along the way. Journalists were invited into the corridors of power and decided they liked it there. Sally Quinn, who married Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, held parties that were the toast of Washington, and she decided early on that the Clintons weren't her kind of people, so the press did her bidding. David Gregory danced with Karl Rove at a Washington dinner and later on became the moderator of the once-venerable Meet the Press. But it wasn't just WaPo or television networks owned by defense contractors, or even Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The New York Times ran a story about how the Clintons lost money in a land deal, and next thing you know, the paper is at the forefront of what will go down in history as the biggest partisan witch hunt ever perpetrated on a president. Judith Miller schmoozed with Scooter Libby, and soon the front page of the New York Times was carrying the Bush Administration's water on the false claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Howard Dean dares to run for president, and Times reporter Jodi Wilgoren makes it her business to bring him down.

If journalism hadn't completely blown its credibility on stories like Whitewater and Gary Condit and shark attacks, while carrying the Bush Junta's water on Iraq, a bunch of people in bathrobes making use of this new technology called the Internet couldn't have replaced the increasing triviality and utter horseshit dished up by so-called news outlets.

Jason Linkins over at That Thing Arianna Huffington Publishes That No One Reads has been documenting the roots of this rally. He cites Jon Stewart's first broadcast after the 9/11 attacks:

...noting, quite accurately in my opinion:
...when I watched this again, after so many years, I couldn't help but think that maybe someone has recently stolen this segment, stripped it of its sincerity, and turned it into self-serving schtick. Maybe someone should go and steal it back.

I kind of disagree, though. This rally isn't about gaining political power, it's about a five-foot-six-inch Jewish comedian and a Catholic sunday school teacher from Montclair, New Jersey, who have been having to do the job that people they once believed, and want to believe again, are their betters. Those people aren't the politicians, however. The people who are going to be made fun of today aren't easy targets like Louie Gohmert and Christine O'Donnell and Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle. That's like shooting fish in a barrel. I think what you're going to see is more along the lines of the TRUE roots of this rally:

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Cat Blogging: I love my calendar girl!
Posted by Jill | 9:51 PM

It's here -- the Pets of Balloon Juice Calendar, assembled and marketed by our good friends (who have never once linked here, hmph) at Balloon Juice. All profits go to the Charlie's Angels Animal Rescue in Brevard, NC. Since the Christmas shopping season starts on Monday, order yours today!

(Miss Maggie is on the cover and is also one of the Misses March. That's her, the white cat in the photo on the middle-left of the cover, taking a break from blogging. She likes to blog about Marc Maron and baseball.)

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Here we go...
Posted by Jill | 7:13 PM
Just to show that my cynicism knows no party, I find it fascinating that all of a sudden we have bomb materials allegedly coming into this country just as the TSA is rolling out full-body scanners at Newark Airport -- a place I'm going on Sunday. (For the record? I'll take the pat-down, thank you very much. When you have hospitals who have trained staff who can't get the radiation dosage right in CT scans, do you really want to trust your health a bunch of semi-skilled TSA agents with a radiation-emitting machine? I don't.)

But assuming all this is NOT utter horseshit (and that may be a big assumption), after reading some of the breathless coverage of "The Thwarted Terrorist Attack™", I figured I'd take a gander around among the denizens of wingnuttia and find out how they were going to invert the situation such that a warning of an attack paid heed by a black Democratic president and thwarted puts us at peril, while a warning ignored by a white Republica president who doesn't want to be bothered while on vacation and which results in the deaths of 3000 people is somehow keeping us safe.

Of course the first place one goes when embarking on such an adventure of wading into this fetid cesspool is the endorser of the murderous Ilario Pantaro, Little Pammy Geller, who does not disappoint, claiming that "Obama is very much part of the problem." (I guess because he actually worked to stop the thing, unlike her Texas dimwit hero.)

Over at Lucianne.com, commenters who would call anyone crazy who believed in the Reagan "October Surprise" are already insisting this is one.

Liz Cheney is already out there blaming Obama. At the same link, Donald Douglas is confused because Obama is calmly informing the public instead of sitting like a deer in the headlights in a third-grade classroom and then flying all over the country all day. For this bunch, thwarting a terrorist attack makes you weak, but allowing one to happen and then talking tough makes you a tough guy. Calmly assessing a situation makes you weak, running around like a chicken without a head is toughness. That is Republican Reality -- the kind of reality that used to be limited to crazy street people and that guy who used to post ads in the Village Voice who claimed that he was killed by alien death rays and replaced by a CIA double.

Oddly, the Freepers aren't even on this yet. I guess they aren't as ingenious as Pammy in coming up with ways to argue that stopping an attack makes you a traitor while sitting by while one plays out makes you a hero of Outer Wingnuttia.

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This is why the so-called journalists are having fits about tomorrow's rally
Posted by Jill | 7:20 AM
Funny, clever, snarky -- and touching:

John Stewart may very well find himself at the end of the day tomorrow in the position of being the most powerful messenger in the country. And THAT'S what's giving the press fits. Because their bread and butter is inanity, preposterousness, and famewhoring. Imagine if this rally actually gets people to, well, dial it back a notch and start using some part of their brain other than the basal ganglia.


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Friday Big Blue Smurf Blogging: What They Said
Posted by Jill | 7:07 AM
today's honoree: Rick Moran over at, of all places, The Moderate Voice, on Why the GOP Will Probably Fail.

Money quote:
Note that there has been very little talk about the GOP “Pledge to America” since it was rolled out a month ago. In fact, the party leadership has avoided specifics about what they plan to do with this great victory. No grandiose plan to get the jobs machine pumping up employment. No details about a legislative strategy to repeal Obamacare or any other agenda item. There is nothing but empty platitudes and harsh criticism – well deserved – of the Democrats.

It begs the question of just what Republicans plan to do with their victory?

What appears they will do is investigate the Obama administration for a host of transgressions – real and imagined. There will be endless posturing about the debt. The president’s commission on the deficit will receive short shrift from both sides, so their recommendations will have as much impact as those of the Baker Commission on the Iraq War. Obama will blame the “do-nothing” GOP congress while the Republicans will blame “obstructionist” Democrats.

And in the end, we’ll all come back to square one and be stuck with the same high unemployment and sluggish economy, with no prospects for improvement.

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Merry Christmas to all the Lucky Duckies From Your Republican Party
Posted by Jill | 5:56 AM
Remember when the Wall Street Journal printed an editorial referring to all the "lucky duckies" who don't pay any income taxes because after their personal exemptions and standard deductions, they have no taxable income? We were supposed to think that people who don't make enough to pay taxes were somehow luckier than a billionaire who has $112 million in disposable income to spend on a political campaign after nearly running three separate companies into the ground.

I'm waiting for that editorial to appear again this December, after two million workers who have been outsourced and corporate-greeded out of the workforce lose their unemployment compensation just in time for Christmas (PDF):

  • An estimated two million workers in December will be cut off of federal unemployment benefits, beginning in the holiday season, if Congress does not renew the program before it expires on November 30th.
  • Nearly 400,000 workers were laid off just in the past six months and now face the end of their state benefits without qualifying for any federal extended benefits.
  • 800,000 workers face an immediate “hard” cut-off of their benefits (starting December 4th in nearly half the states) after struggling to find work and pay their bills for over a year in most cases.
  • Since the unemployment insurance program was created in response to the Great Depression, Congress has never cut federally-funded jobless benefits when unemployment was this high for this long (at over nine percent for 17 consecutive months). The earliest Congress ever started pulling back on benefits was when unemployment reached the level of 7.2 percent nationwide.
  • Businesses and the struggling economy—especially the critical retail sector—will take a major blow if Congress fails to continue the federal jobless benefits during the holiday shopping season.
  • In 2009 alone, the increase in the number of people in poverty would have doubled were it not for unemployment insurance benefits.
  • With the average unemployment extension check of $290 a week replacing only half of the average family’s expenditures on transportation, food, and housing, jobless workers have a major incentive to look for work, notwithstanding the modest assistance their benefits checks provide.
  • The 51-day lapse of the federal extension program this summer caused substantial hardship for 2.5 million unemployed workers, underscoring the urgency of renewing the current program for another year until there is strong job growth.


The sheer magnitude of the number of workers affected by the dearth of jobs shows how inadequate recent economic recovery really is: currently, more than one in six working-age adults—or 26.8 million people—are either unemployed or underemployed. Of these, nearly 15 million are jobless through no fault of their own, and an additional 9.5 million are forced to work part time even though they want full-time work.

Taken together, these groups of unemployed and underemployed workers, as well as those
marginally attached to the labor force—people who are available for work, have looked for work in the past year, and still can’t find jobs—result in a “real” unemployment rate of at least 17.1 percent, a much more stark and worrisome measure than the already-staggering 9.6 percent unemployment rate that has persisted for the past two months. At the same time, the unemployed are experiencing record periods of joblessness: nearly 42 percent of the 15 million jobless workers are “long-term unemployed”—that is, out of work for six months or longer. Since the Labor Department began tracking this data, typical spells of unemployment have never lasted for so long, nor has long-term
unemployment affected so many millions of people.

Recent private-sector job growth has been grossly inadequate to bring down these dire rates of joblessness. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that job loss over 2009 and 2010 may have been even worse than initially reported, with 366,000 more jobs lost as of March 2010,3 resulting in 8.1 million total jobs lost over the course of the downturn. Given this, as well as weak jobs growth in 2010, the U.S. needs 11.5 million jobs to reach pre-recession levels of employment, a shocking number when considering that layoffs temporarily increased over the summer and are now
overwhelming the public sector as state and local government budgets are being slashed and federal hiring for the 2010 Census has come to an end.

Never in the history of the program have unemployment benefits been eliminated, or even reduced, when unemployment rates were so high. The only other time in the past 60 years that the unemployment rate has remained so high for so long was during the early 1980s. At that time, Congress did not cut federal unemployment benefits until the national unemployment rate had fallen to 7.2 percent—a far cry from our current rate of 9.6 percent.

Meanwhile, out in Nevada, where the official unemployment rate is 14% and the actual rate is probably far higher, a majority of American Idiots™ who live there are poised to elect to the United States Senate who thinks that the unemployed are "spoiled" people who should not collect benefits because they "won't accept the jobs that are available":

And out in Wisconsin, true maverick Russ Feingold, around whom if the Teabaggers were really serious about the Constitution, would be rallying, may very well be defeated by Ron Johnson, a millionaire businessman who also thinks that a few hundred dollars a week is disincentivizing out-of-work professionals from finding the jobs he believes are out there because he's never had to look for one:

And here in NJ-5, where Scott Garrett was a teabagger before there even was a Tea Party, Garrett, who voted against extending unemployment compensation in the face of this state's 9.4% official unemployment rate and its governor's jihad against teachers and other employee unions, is about to coast to yet another election victory, propelled by an inattentive electorate who vote like sheep along party lines because they can't be bothered paying attention. And the Republican line is first on the ballot anyway so why should they put out any effort to move their fingers three inches to the right to vote otherwise?

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What's a little Nazi sympathizing among friends?
Posted by Jill | 5:50 AM
I'd love to hear how the teabaggers, who march in -- dare I say it? -- goosestepping unison with their ideology even when actual reality shows them something different, differentiate between the Hitler mustaches they draw on posters of Barack Obama and their possible future House Majority Leader stumping on the campaign trail for a guy who thinks the Waffen SS was fighting for its freedom against evil Bolsheviks:
Why is anyone surprised that John Boehner decided to campaign for Ohio congressional candidate Rich Iott, one of the GOP's assortment of extremist 2010 candidates, which includes a Marine who killed two unarmed Iraqi prisoners, a guy whose security detained reporters at a public school event and one whose volunteers stomped a MoveOn volunteer?

Iott's in a category by himself, as someone who admits he's enjoyed attending Nazi history re-enactments dressed up in an SS Waffen uniform. But he's not a Nazi sympathizer! "It's purely historical interest in World War II," Iott told the Atlantic's Josh Green. "I've always been fascinated by the fact that here was a relatively small country that from a strictly military point of view accomplished incredible things. I mean, they took over most of Europe and Russia, and it really took the combined effort of the free world to defeat them. From a purely historical military point of view, that's incredible."

Remember the outrage that ensued when Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan declared Adolf Hitler "wickedly great?" Imagine if Obama was stumping for an NOI member who'd praised Nazi Germany. You can't, right? That's where we are, folks, less than a week before this crucial and possibly crushing (for Democrats) midterm election.

Still, it makes a kind of political sense in 2010. With only a few days left, there's a real chance Republicans can take back the House. Boehner wants to be speaker, he can taste it, Marcy Kaptur's seat is a possible pickup for his party – so he's not going to let a little Nazi re-enactment stand in the way. That's John Boehner.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

NOW can we stop giving these criminals contracts?
Posted by Jill | 7:35 PM
Of all the government spending that teabaggers complain about, strangely missing is the billions of dollars of taxpayer money that goes into the coffers of Halliburton (and by extension, of Dick Cheney, who still receives about $150,000 a year in deferred compensation from his tenure there). Even when Halliburton receives industry contracts, it's because of taxpayer money squandered, as with its recently-announced contract to refurbish oil wells in Iraq for ExxonMobil-- wells that would not be available to them had George W. Bush and Dick Cneney not decided to invade Iraq. But Halliburton made plenty of money off of the BushCheney war adventure:

March 2003: Halliburton is awarded a contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to put out oil fires and make emergency repairs to Iraq's oil infrastructure.

May 2003: Halliburton's Iraq and Afghanistan contracts are valued at $600 million.

December 2003: An audit shows that Halliburton overcharged the U.S. government by as much as $64 million.

May 2004: Then still a subsidiary of Halliburton, Kellogg Brown & Root already has received $5 billion in LOGCAP (Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program) contract money. KBR has electrocuted American soldiers, given them tainted water to drink and spoiled food to eat.

February 2006: Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root is awarded a $385 million contract to build temporary immigration centers. You know, the ones that the teabaggers think Obama built to hold THEM.

June 2010: Halliburton is awarded a rebuilding contract for Haiti following the devastating earthquake. There is currently a cholera epidemic in Haiti -- six months after Halliburton's contract is awarded.

And it isn't just the U.S. government for whom Halliburton does shoddy work, for it was the company behind the cement used to attempt to seal the bottom of the Macondo Deepwater Horizon well. And the company knew damn well that the cement was unstable -- and used it anyway:
In the first official finding of responsibility for the blowout, which killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in American history, the commission staff determined that Halliburton had conducted three laboratory tests that indicated that the cement mixture did not meet industry standards.

The result of at least one of those tests was given on March 8 to BP, which failed to act upon it, the panel’s lead investigator, Fred H. Bartlit Jr., said in a letter delivered to the commissioners on Thursday.

Another Halliburton cement test, carried out about a week before the blowout of the well on April 20, also found the mixture to be unstable, yet those findings were never sent to BP, Mr. Bartlit found.

Although Mr. Bartlit does not specifically identify the cement failure as the sole or even primary cause of the blowout, he makes clear in his letter that if the cement had done its job and kept the highly pressured oil and gas out of the well bore, there would not have been an accident.

“We have known for some time that the cement used to secure the production casing and isolate the hydrocarbon zone at the bottom of the Macondo well must have failed in some manner,” he said in his letter to the seven members of the presidential commission. “The cement should have prevented hydrocarbons from entering the well.”

And we all know how THAT turned out.

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Memo to Teabaggers: You Can't Tread on Us, Either

The two questions that first spring to mind are, why isn't Rand Paul campaign coordinator/professional thug Tim Profitt in jail for curb-stomping a defenseless woman and why does he think she owes him an apology? An apology for what, putting her head and shoulder under his jackboot?

Another question I'd like to add is, considering that Profitt is not only still a free man and that there are no pending assault charges and nothing worse than a criminal summons against him, how come Democrat Jon Taylor was arrested, wrestled to the ground and charged with three crimes just for peacefully appearing at an Eric Cantor event with an invitation?

And, while I hate to side with Tim Profitt on this issue, how come Kentucky police let things get so out of hand that a woman was openly assaulted when they were certainly within range to do something about it if not prevent it?

It would be easy to dismiss these random acts of violence visited on Democrats and liberal activists on campaign staffers and supporters but the one fact that no one had addressed is why the police are letting them get away with it? Anyone keeping track of the rise in right wing violence as the midterms approach will see an unmistakable pattern of the police aiding and abetting such violence if not not actually taking part in it. After all, why would Jon Taylor get tossed from a coffee shop when he had an invitation to the Cantor event? It seems to more than suggest that if you're a Republican, you have the right to create your own little (Sorry, Ms. O'Donnell) witch hunt. Just point your finger at a Democrat, tell lies such as him disturbing the peace and the local constabulary will be only too glad to do your bidding. It seems for every Victor Phillips, there are 100 Tim Profitts and Alan Wests.

So, what's going on? Is police protection only for Republicans in spite of the fact that they and they alone are calling for "2nd amendment remedies" and hiring bikers and other camera-blocking, unlicensed thugs to do security at a middle school?

Well, I have had enough. Mrs. JP and I are going to be at the rallies from start to finish. And to anyone out there planning on organizing a counter rally to the Stewart/Colbert counter rallies, I have one thing to say to you:

Try and start trouble, I'll step on you like I would an over ripe grape. Just try to disrupt this rally with your right wing thuggery and you'll be outnumbered probably by at least 1000 to 1 and I'll be right at the vanguard taping the whole thing. It's a public event and anyone can come but that doesn't give you the right to start violence. You start it, I'll finish it if I have anything to say about it.

Because I've had it with us being the nice guys and I think we all know what Leo Durocher said about nice guys. You don't want to be treaded on by our big, bad Socialist government? Fine.

But you can't tread on us, either, starting with me.
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Why he's the best
Posted by Jill | 5:35 AM
When Brian Williams or David Gregory interviews the President, it's all about finding the "Gotcha!" moment that can be played in an endless loop on Morning Joe and the Today show and the following night's evening news. It's not about discussing policy, it's about rumor and setting traps and about "Some people say...".

Not one major network talking head with a reputation as a journalist has conducted an interview with Barack Obama that is as substantive as this one:

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The most unintentionally hilarious sentence in the history of sentences
Posted by Jill | 7:13 PM
David Brooks, talking about the Rally for Sanity with Gail Collins:
I grew up wanting to be a humorist.

(This post is dedicated to the tireless Bobo-blasting of Drifty and John Cole)

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Can we please stop talking about running government like a business?
Posted by Jill | 6:04 AM
I live in a town that has had one-party government for the last 30 years. Last year we finally had a contested election, and the Democratic candidate, who was related to one of the biggest hacks in New Jersey politics, said in a debate that he would run the town like a business. Given that this guy already had no chance in a town full of incurious, ignorant people who don't keep any tabs on what local government does with their money, I knew right then that he wasn't going to get my vote, that I'd vote for our local gadfly, who at least had a document record of caring how our money was spent.

George W. Bush ran for president in 2000 on a platform of running government like a business; this despite his own management record of squandering his father's friends' money digging dry holes, trading Sammy Sosa as co-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and other similarly undistinguished "accomplishments". Carly Fiorina is running for Senate on her "record" running a business, despite the fact that her "record" includes offshoring tens of thousands of jobs, a Compaq merger that caused the company's stock price to plummet for years afterwards, offshore sheltering of HP profits, a series of embarrassing leaks, and seeking to do business with Iran.

Meg Whitman's tenure at eBay is less well-known, but no more distinguished:
Whitman's fabled $1 billion in wealth was acquired in the first few months of her tenure, well before she could muck the company's bottom line up. That billion-plus that eBay's directors handed Whitman was perhaps the easiest billion anyone has ever been handed in corporate history: eBay hired Whitman in March 1998, when the company was already the tech world's darling. Just six months after she joined, eBay went public, making Meg Whitman an overnight billionaire thanks to stock options that allowed her to buy eBay stock at just 7 cents a share, and sell them on the market for as high as $170 per share.

That was in 1998-'99, long before Whitman could screw the company up -- when the worst she could do was work out a scheme with Goldman Sachs to kick back to her personal account a couple million more in exchange for making Goldman Sachs the lead investment bank for eBay's stock offering.

So Whitman made her eBay billion not by building the firm up, but rather by lucking into the right place at the right time. Over the next few years, as she started to put her own stamp on the firm, eBay's fortunes went into decline and finally into full-scale tailspin.

Now cut to 2005, when Whitman is fully in control of eBay. By now, in the middle of the last bull market, eBay's stock is floundering thanks to a series of poorly executed decisions, bad investments and frustrated eBay users. This was the moment when Whitman went from incompetent to reckless: she bet the eBay house on a grossly overpriced $4.1 billion takeover of Skype, a startup internet phone company with almost no revenues to speak of. Even normally friendly analysts were confused, not just by the price but also the business logic.

Two years later, as the grim results trickled in, analysts were still scratching their heads. CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau chief wrote in October 2007, at the peak of the bull market, "I remember when eBay bought Skype for that staggering $3.1 billion and scratching my head, wondering what the connection was. I remember talking to CEO Meg Whitman soon after the deal was announced, listening to her tell me that Skype would make as much sense and be as important to eBay as PayPal was. I remember nodding, listening. And I remember still scratching my head." Today, investors are scratching their collective heads: eBay de-valuing the Skype asset by 46 percent or about $1.6 billion.

So already by October 7, the grossly inflated price resulted in a $1.6 billion writedown of losses to tack onto the buy price. And this was before things got really bad. See, as it turned out, Whitman didn't just overpay for Skype--she overpaid, and didn't even own Skype.

That's right, when Whitman signed on the dotted line and plunked down $4.1 billions, she did not buy the technology that made Skype work, but instead leased it from Skype's original creators--who were under no obligation to continue the lease.

But by October 7, 2007, investors were already getting fed up with Whitman's helmsmanship. This was the high-point of the last bull market bubble, and yet eBay's stock on this day was slightly lower than where it was in September 2005, when the Skype deal was first announced. Meanwhile, eBay's biggest competitor, Amazon.com, saw its stock price soar 122 percent over the same two-year period as Amazon made smart investments and wooed clients and customers away from eBay in droves.


It's no wonder then that Whitman "retired" from eBay when she did in early 2008: She had failed the company miserably, leaving eBay in ruins. A year after Whitman bailed on eBay, the stock had sunk so low that employees were left holding onto stock options that would actually cost more than than eBay's market stock price, making them worse than worthless. That's a far cry from the 7 cents per share that Whitman was handed after just a few months on the job -- but as any economics student knows, the laws of scarcity dictate that there's a limited number of 7-cent stock options to be had, and to make up for that, others -- every other, in fact -- have to take stock options that are worthless. And it's a far cry from the tens or hundreds of millions more in stock options profits Whitman cashed in between February 2007 and February 2008,when she unloaded another 6.4 million shares of eBay between February 2007 and February 2008, in a move some criticized as legally questionable and in possible violation of insider trading rules.

The question we should ask ourselves is, was this failure at eBay a one-off thing, or was it part of a pattern in Whitman's executive resume? The answer isn't pretty, assuming she wins the governor's race.

In the years before Meg Whitman settled into her eBay gig, she bounced around from one corporate disaster to the next, showing neither loyalty nor follow-through and commitment: Think Sarah Palin of the corporate world. In 1992, Whitman headed up a children's shoe division at Stride Rite, including Keds brands -- and just about exactly one year later, several states filed lawsuits against Stride Rite accusing the firm of price-fixing its products, in particular, Keds. The company was forced to pay millions in fines and cover retailers' losses as part of the settlements.

With that disaster out of the way, Whitman failed her way into the CEO spot at FTD.com, the online florist shop. It should have been a cinch: Whitman was handed a 75-year-old non-profit florist association that had been a virtual monopoly business with an international presence, but was convinced by an ex-Goldman Sachs executive to convert into a private for-profit company, with the Goldman Sachs exec's hedge fund as the investor. It might have worked out well, but for Meg Whitman's leadership. In 1997, just two years into her tenure, Whitman bailed on FTD. The florist company's business had fallen almost by half, posting a new low of 12 million orders in 1997, down from 22 million orders a decade earlier.

And there's much, much more, for anyone who cares to look.

The problem with these "businesspeople" running for office is that most people don't pay enough attention to scrutinize the actual record these people leave. "Running a business" seems to be synonymous with "running it competently", which are two radically different concepts. People know HP and they know eBay, so they think that whoever is behind the scenes knows what they're doing. But we've seen during eight years of George Bush what happens when business executives "run the country like a business." And if voters would only look at the record of these executives' tenure, they'd know to run in the opposite direction as fast as they can.

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A team you can feel OK rooting for
Posted by Jill | 5:18 AM
The department in which I work is largely populated with Yankee fans. This of course makes even our management look askance on those who dare to support other teams, particularly that dysfunctional mess in Flushing. People who support the finely-honed machine that operates out of the Bronx can't understand why anyone would stick with the Mets when one had such a stellar in-town alternative.

One thing about being a Mets fan is that you often have two choices after the regular season -- either forget baseball exists until next year (and this year, until you find out whether they're going to give Sandy Alderson the job or another lackey who's just going to be cover for Jeff Wilpon's ineptitude, Mr. Wilpon not having learned from George W. Bush that ownership of a team should not make the player decisions, see also: Sammy Sosa), or pick another team as short-term good guy. Office politics prevent me from doing this with anyone other than the Yankees, but now that the Yankees' aging on-field presence proved not enough for the younger, hungrier Texas Rangers, the choice is now clear. And as happy as I am that Jeff Francoeur, who was treated pretty shabbily by the Mets, is in the World Series, that's where it ends. Because what we now have is the delicious allegory of a San Francisco vs. Texas World Series, which in this election year, is further proof that baseball really IS a metaphor for life. New York may have not one but TWO pretty damn good football teams this year, one of them boasting a smokin' hot quarterback whose love of musical theatre makes me wonder if he'll show up in the doldrums of February on Glee. But if it's going to be seventy-five degrees on October 27, I want baseball.

None other than Joan Walsh takes a break from MSNBC appearances to wax rhapsodic about the Little Team That Could, led by its flaxen-haired pitching phenom:
So real Giants fans know the truth: It's possible to love the Giants of 2002 and 2010, to see the differences -- and some similarities, too. Leaving aside Bonds and the great Jeff Kent, that earlier team had guys who were (almost literally) left for dead; catcher Benito Santiago hadn't been expected to play baseball again after a devastating car accident in 1998; he was NLCS MVP. Career .257 hitter David Bell, who played for six teams, scored the series-winning run against the Cardinals; washed-up ex-Cub Shawon Dunston (now a Giants coach) hit a two-out single to set up that win. The postseason wasn't all about Barry.

Still, it's not giving into the cheesy media narrative to admit this is an extraordinary team that wasn't supposed to be here (don't believe anyone who said they picked these Giants to win back in the spring). First baseman Aubrey Huff had no offers when the Giants signed him; Pat Burrell had been flat-out released by Tampa Bay; NLCS MVP Cody Ross was claimed in August when the Florida Marlins put him on waivers. Center fielder Andres Torres, clutch in that wild AT&T outfield as well as at the plate, is 32 and never before played a full season in the majors.

It is possible that no Giants team in my years here has been embraced so thoroughly. I just know we've got swag that celebrates this funky team accordingly. You can buy hats with long Lincecum-like locks attached, as well as T-shirts saying, "Let Timmy smoke" (the Cy Young winner was arrested in the offseason for marijuana possession) and most recently, "Fuck Yeah!" commemorating the star pitcher's recent NSFW comments on national television.

You can buy panda hats to honor Pablo Sandoval. There are fake black beards everywhere, thanks to the increasingly strange (and dominating) Wilson. I've even seen a few rally thongs, made famous by Huff, who put on a red, rhinestone studded thong to bust a slump in August and claims to have worn it ever since. You can listen to fan-made musical tributes to Huff's rally thong (to the tune of Elton John's "Your Song" -- that's right, it's "Your Thong"), to clutch pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa ("Ishikawa da vida, baby") and the entire team: A video using Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" has had more than a million views on YouTube. The outpouring of creative fan-made Giants tributes makes it seem as though these overachieving everymen have brought out the dreamer in everyone.

Tim Lincecum is easy to hate when he's shutting out your team, but in the abstract, when there's no loyalty-since-childhood to deal with (although my father WAS a Giants fan before they packed up and went to San Francisco, leaving him pining for a National League team until the Mets came along), his retro-hippie sensibility makes him exactly the kind of player that gives wingnuts (and Philadelphia fans) fits. Because if there's one thing they hate, it's a pot-smoking, long-haired pitcher who bears a striking facial resemblance to figure skater Johnny Weir, has the kind of weird delivery that makes him injury-prone but has this year developed a truly nasty slider to replace the lost velocity on his fastball, and isn't at all fazed by things like Philadelphia fans' boorish speculation on his sexual orientation simply because he has long hair.

Next year I hope to see a third-place Mets team dominated by a young group of hardworking players, with a front-office determined to take the time necessary to build a system, not patch together a bunch of has-beens. Next year, when Tim Lincecum comes to town, I will hate him again. But for now, as he goes against Cliff Lee the Terminator and Inevitable Future Yankee, it's all Timmeh! in this house.


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Somehow I missed this
Posted by Jill | 5:14 AM
R.I.P. Gregory Isaacs:

Aaahhh.....that was before dancehall, when reggae sounded like the tree frogs of the Jamaican night.


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If the teabaggers don't want us drawing parallels with the Third Reich, why do they keep acting like brownshirts?
Posted by Jill | 5:03 AM
NPR receives a bomb threat right after firing Juan Williams:
NPR received a bomb threat Monday, five days after its decision to fire news analyst Juan Williams sparked a hugely negative reaction.

Sources at the news organization said the threat was received via U.S. mail and was immediately turned over to local police and the FBI. The organization did not publicly disclose the threat or release details, on the advice of law enforcement officials.

The letter didn't reference the Williams firing specifically, but people at NPR, who spoke about it on the condition of anonymity, said the timing and tone suggested it was sent after Williams's widely publicized termination.

Bomb threats. Death threats. Stomping the heads of those who disagree with you. And they wonder why we call them thugs? Imagine what they'll do with even a little actual power. You know that Constitution they profess to revere? Outside of the Second Amendment, it'll all be gone.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

There's a lesson in here for all of us
Posted by Jill | 8:55 PM
I'm not sure what it is yet, but there's a lesson there.

Long-time readers of this blog know that our fandom of comedian Marc Maron goes back years -- back to April 1, 2004, exactly, when Morning Sedition hit the airwaves on the now-defunct Air America Radio. Maron has the singular distinction of having been fired from AAR three times -- and he's come out on the other side not just intact, but an increasingly major star.

Maron is a very funny, if exhausting, stand-up comic...but one thing that emerged from his experience on terrestrial radio is that he's a GREAT interviewer. I I don't know if he thought of WTF himself (I suspect that producer and all-around sane person Brendan McDonald had more than a little to do with it), but after over one hundred episodes, Marc Maron is making his -- wait for it -- mark -- in the world of podcasting.

One would think that Maron, who's sort of a bluesman of comedy in that without anger and suffering one wonders if he'd be as good at what he does as he is, would have lost his edge, now that he's successful, happy, and presumably making a living from the increasing number of stand-up gigs he has and the podcast donations he receives from the fans he used to hate simply because they thought he was brilliant. The great comedy bits from Morning Sedition may now only be available thanks to the generosity and server maintenance of P.J. Sauter, whose 24/7 feed can be played in the right-hand sidebar of this very blog, but there seems to be no limit to where he can take this thing.

A recent article in Austin 360 reveals that WTF gets about 200,000 listeners a week, perhaps rivaling that first-day audience for Morning Sedition. Maron has also provided a taste of what could be a very interesting book for those with complicated relationships with food in this article at Saveur (hopefully the first of many) about cooking Thanksgiving dinner at his skinny mother's Florida condo. And now, no less a Jewish Commie Heathen Intellectual Elitist NPR-er than Ira Glass calls WTF the New York Times of podcasting:
Right now, pretty much every comedian without a network TV show has his own podcast, but Marc Maron's WTF Podcast, here on the web or here on iTunes has distinguished itself as the New York Times of comedy podcasts, and by that I mean the definitive comedy podcast of record.


Being interviewed by Maron reminded me of an old axiom about interviewing: that an interview is a party you're throwing and your guest will mirror your behavior. Marc is an insanely intense guy, and stares into you as you talk—it really feels like his eyes are piercing inside you—and then when he speaks he reaches inside himself and talks in the most heartfelt way possible. In a room with that, you'd have to be made of stone not to respond in the most soulful way you can summon up. He's emotionally present and he makes you emotionally present. I don't think that's any kind of calculated move, it's who he is when he's performing. And of course it gets amazing results.

Another fun fact: he records the thing on a little digital recorder, with two handheld mics attached by long mic cords. The mics he uses are the kind a comedian uses onstage. So as the interviewee, you hold a mic like a standup comedian would the whole time. Very comfortable I'm sure, for all the standups he talks to.

Marc Maron struggled around the edges of the standup scene for years, watching his peers do things like get the gig hosting The Daily Show and such. Air America may have been a horrible experience personally, but it led to a situation in which he can do something he really loves, at which he's also really, really excels.

There's a lesson here. Perhaps it's just pure luck that allowed Marc Maron to stumble into something where he could be his own boss doing what he loves -- and now, with the podcast, make a reasonably stable living doing it. Or perhaps it's when we face adversity that we come face to face with what our true calling is.

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More Republican Thuggery

When we hear the phrase "curb-stomping", many of us, I'm sure, think of the practice of gang members placing their enemies' teeth on a curb and violently stomping on the back of their head. Those of us who are movie buffs may think of that indelibly violent scene in the Edward Norton movie, American History X.

But even in today's highly polarized and openly nasty partisanship that often involves Republican thuggery, we certainly don't expect to see or hear about liberal activists getting literally curb-stomped by Republican voters or campaign coordinators such as Rand Paul staffer Tim Profitt.

Yet this is exactly what had happened to liberal activist Lauren Valle, a 23 year-old young lady of slight build who'd merely tried to give Paul a fake employee of the month sign from the fictional organization Republicorp and to get her picture taken with Paul. That's when she was wrestled to the ground and then curb-stomped by Profitt, a guy who easily had 6 inches and about 100 pounds on Valle.

Valle was taken to the hospital and released after being treated for a concussion and a sprained shoulder and arm. To make the Paul campaign look even more out of touch with reality than it already is, the campaign issued a statement expressing relief that she wasn't injured.

Wasn't injured? What the fuck do you call a concussion, and a sprained shoulder and arm?

This is very reminiscent of the 2006 attack at the Omni Hotel on left wing blogger Mike Stark at the hands of two middle aged staffers who nearly put Stark's head through a plate glass window. Stark offered no resistance but he's a former Marine who can take care of himself. Valle isn't.

So what was Profitt's excuse for curb-stomping the diminutive Valle? "I'm sorry that it came to that, and I apologize if it appeared overly forceful, but I was concerned about Rand's safety." (Note: the video plainly shows that Paul had already long since passed her.)

Uh huh. I guess Paul didn't have a paramilitary, wouldbe Blackwater doing his private security like Joe Miller.

I suppose we shouldn't be shocked to hear of Republican thuggery even when we learn that the curb-stomper in question is an official campaign coordinator for Rand Paul out of Bourbon County. Rather than being a random supporter, this ties Profitt, his thug life tactics and brutal misogyny directly to the Paul Camp, a campaign that is so unbelievably out of touch that either they believe or pretend to believe that the girl didn't sustain any injuries.

When the hell are we going to man up and start fighting back? Now they're assaulting our women and what else are we gonna do besides blog about it?
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Conspiracy theories, Paul Wellstone, and the thuggishness of the right
Posted by Jill | 5:29 AM
As I head off to Florida next week to visit family, I'm reminded of another visit there, mere weeks before the 2002 midterm elections. Wellstone was running in a tight race against an empty suit named Norm Coleman for a seat that the Bushista Republicans wanted very, very badly, when the plane in which he, his wife, and daughter were traveling crashed less than two weeks before the election. I remember coming into the house and my father telling me that Paul Wellstone was dead, and without even a second thought, I blurted out, "They killed him. They wanted that seat and they killed him."

As it turns out, the FBI had been tracking Paul Wellstone's every move from the time he was a 25-year-old college professor:
The FBI's files on Paul and Sheila Wellstone, many of which are being made public for the first time, shed new light on the extent of the relationship between the FBI and the political activist who would go on to become a U.S. senator from Minnesota.

Some of the information uncovered in the 219 pages was new to one of his closest confidantes, former Wellstone campaign manager and state director Jeff Blodgett.

The files show that although the FBI initially took interest in Wellstone as part of the broader surveillance of the American left, the agency later served as his protector, investigating death threats the freshman senator received for his views on the first Gulf War, and, in the end, helping sift through the wreckage of the fatal plane crash that killed Wellstone and seven others eight years ago.

Wellstone's surviving sons declined to comment on the documents, which were obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by MPR News.

The U.S. Department of Justice released 88 of the 125 pages in Sen. Wellstone's FBI file, and 131 of the 227 pages in his wife's file. All of the documents included in Sheila Wellstone's file are related to the plane crash that killed the couple and their daughter Marcia.

The FBI did not include 76 pages related to the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that investigated the crash. A request for those records is pending.


Within the first two weeks of his term, Wellstone began receiving death threats for his views on the war. The FBI files provide a detailed description of the angry and sometimes violent calls the Democratic senator received. One man called Wellstone's office and threatened to "throttle" him. A caller from Faribault said, "If I had a gun, I'd come after you, you SOB." Another caller said that if his son dies during his military service in the Persian Gulf, "then Wellstone will die."

"We were shocked and surprised by these kinds of calls," Blodgett said in an interview last week. "We certainly didn't expect that death threats would be part of the job of being a U.S. senator or taking death threats would be part of the job of Senate staff."

"There were threats on my life," Wellstone wrote. "I wished I had never been elected."

The FBI files indicate that the agency took the threats seriously. Investigators tried to track down the threatening callers and kept detailed information about their efforts.

The documents show that an FBI agent traveled to "Marine," (sic) Minn. on January 29 to meet with the man who threatened to "throttle" Wellstone. The man, whose name has been redacted from the documents, admitted that he called the office and said that he wanted to wring Wellstone's neck and throttle him.

The man told the FBI agent that the receptionist was "snotty" and hung up on him. He said he called back and spoke to a "polite receptionist." He told her, "Tell Senator Wellstone that Saddam Hussein appreciates what he's doing."

Federal prosecutors declined to file charges against the caller, and the FBI was unable to locate the other callers. Wellstone continued to receive threats, including a call from a man in February 1995 who said, "I'm watching you senator and I'm going to kill you within the week." Wellstone was assigned a protective detail for the week of the threat.


The FBI took note of the bushy-haired college professor when he was arrested on May 7, 1970 at a protest against the Vietnam War at the Federal Office Building in downtown Minneapolis. Wellstone and 87 others were arrested for disturbing and obstructing access to a federal building.

Most of the names in the 1970 documents have been redacted, making it impossible to separate Wellstone out from the other defendants. One defendant pled guilty, another had the charges dismissed, and another was acquitted. The documents state that the rest of the defendants were found guilty during a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis and received fines of either $35 or five days in jail.

Neither the FBI files nor available court records indicate how Wellstone's case was resolved.

In a document sent to FBI headquarters, the head of the FBI's Minneapolis office said the case warranted "considerable investigation." The document notes that U.S. Attorney Robert Renner "could foresee the potential blockage of federal buildings throughout the country" if the anti-war protesters were acquitted.

The FBI obtained a copy of Wellstone's fingerprint card from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and sent it to FBI headquarters to keep on file. A related FBI document notes that Paul David Wellstone, age 25, weighed 150 pounds, stood 5'6," and had brown hair and brown eyes.

O'Hara, the former head of the FBI's Minneapolis office, said that the FBI used to routinely investigate protests that occurred on federal property.

"There were sit-ins. There were break-ins. There was blood spilled over Selective Service files," he said. "There were a number of minor federal crimes committed. And back then, there maybe wasn't the patience that there might be now."

O'Hara joined the FBI as a special agent in 1963, but did not work in Minnesota until he was transferred to the Minneapolis office in 1991. He said he was not familiar with the arrests.

This report refers to an FBI criminal investigation following Wellstone's plane crash, in light of the many death threats Wellstone received during his career, including one received the day before the crash, and paints the FBI as a "protector" of Wellstone against these death threats in the years after J. Edgar Hoover's Cointelpro operation ended.

I am, and will always be skeptical. Remember, this is the FBI under George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and this was a Senator who voted against the resolution to allow Bush to invade Iraq on his trumped-up premise. There is a fair amount of evidence to contradict the FBI's conclusion of equipment issues as the cause of the crash, and there will always be questions in my mind as to what happened, despite this attempt to paint the FBI as Wellstone's "protector" from the threats against him.

Wellstone's death is old history now, and Al Franken has been an admirable, if belated, replacement. But as we head into an election which will likely see at least some adherents to the inflammatory, murderous rhetoric of the right, elevated to national office, it's important to remember how the right operates, how it seeks to not just defeat its opposition, but silence and murder it if necessary. When talk of "second amendment remedies" "Don't retreat, reload", and "violent overthrow" become acceptable; when Democratic congresspeople who voted for health care reform are threatened with death; when a GOP Congressional candidate tells his supporters to make his opponent "afraid to come out of his house"; when this sort of talk becomes an acceptable campaign tactic, it sends a message that violence is an acceptable way of dealing with election disappointment, that violence is an acceptable way of defeating your opponents, and that violence is in general acceptable if it's committed by people wearing flag pins and worshipping Jesus.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

It's not the sexual harassment, it's the lying
Posted by Jill | 8:05 PM
Remember when Republicans insisted that their vendetta against Bill Clinton wasn't about his affair, it was about him lying about it under oath in a legal proceeding? Earl Ofari Hutchinson makes a compelling case for the impeachment of Justice Clarence Thomas, under the same kind of perjury claim:
The impeachment case against Thomas is not based on personal or political disagreement over his views, decisions, opinions and rulings on the bench, his penchant for pornographic material, or for sexual harassment. It is based on clear legal and constitutional grounds, precedents, and Congressional mandates. Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution explicitly states that a Supreme Court Justice that "lacks good behavior" can be impeached. This is not an ambiguous, subjective term. It has been interpreted by the courts to equate to the same level of seriousness as the 'high crimes and misdemeanors" clause that unequivocally mandates that the House of Representatives initiate impeachment proceedings against any public official, or federal judge in violation of that provision.

The Constitutional precept is the first legal ground for impeachment proceedings against Thomas. The second is Title 18 of the U.S. Code. It states that any official of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the government of the United States who knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact , makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry can be impeached. In other words lying to Congress is not only an impeachable offense. It's also illegal.

It's also clearly established that a public official whether the president, presidential appointees, or judges can be punished for giving false information and that's any false information of any nature to the House or Senate.


Thomas was asked directly by Utah senator Orin Hatch during his confirmation hearings about Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct and whether he used sexually suggestive language. Thomas answered: "I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her. "

Thomas was emphatic, "If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it." This was stated under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Thomas's sworn testimony was clearly contradicted even then in public statements by witnesses. The witnesses were not called to testify. The one witness that contradicted Thomas's sworn testimony, Angela Wright, did testify. She worked with Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and was emphatic that Thomas sexually harassed her and used explicit and graphic sexual language. Her story was corroborated by a former EEOC speechwriter who told investigators about Thomas' penchant for improper sexual talk. Letters to the committee from other women who worked with Thomas confirmed that he was a serial sexual harasser and had a penchant for sexually perverse talk. The Senate panel had other sources to corroborate the Hill-Wright charge that Thomas engaged in sexual harassment and obsessive interest in sexual smut. These sources were ignored too.

Two decades later Thomas's apparent perjured testimony to Congress is now squarely back on the legal table. Lillian McEwen put it there. Her legal credentials are impressive. She is a former assistant U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel. She also dated Thomas. In interviews, she again confirmed that Hill and the other women's allegations that Thomas engaged in sexual harassment, was addicted to pornography, and talked incessantly and graphically about it and women were truthful.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for this to happen. Remember, Democrats don't do this sort of thing. They're just going to wait around and let Darrell Issa start issuing his subpoenas about nothing.

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Nope. Nothing to see here, move along now
Posted by Jill | 7:50 PM
Mustn't get BP upset now. Even when BP's oil is literally killing people:

"One of the husbands -- who was married -- took a one-week job in Grand Isle -- a very toxic place, Grand Isle, unfortunately. And -- one week only -- came home, came home in the middle of August...[snip]...he dropped his mother off at work, he dropped his child off at school, his wife turned around because she heard a strange noise, and he dropped over dead. [snip] I am dealing with about 3 or 4 autopsies right now, and people are wondering, what exactly was the problem? I know of people who are down to 4.7 percent of their lung capacity and have an enlarged heart -- to make up for the reduced lung capacity. I know people whose esophaguses are dissolving -- disintegrating. Now, all of these people have oil in their bodies in the upper 95th percentile. This isn't one or two..."

It just goes to show you how rotten to the core our entire system is. And it doesn't matter who sits in the White House. It's clear that everyone who takes up residence in the White House is read the rules by the people who REALLY run things -- the oilmen, the bankers, and other corporatists.

Read more about Riki Ott's work here.

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Black Gold, Texas Tea

Pastor Stephen Broden is pure black gold and Texas Tea. If only every Congressional district in the country could field someone as spectacularly insane and as shamelessly disingenuous as Pastor Steve, there wouldn't be any more of this nonsense from the MSM about the GOP retaking either chamber of Congress (You have my guarantee that, while the Democrats' majority will erode in both, the GOP is not going to take either.).

And Pastor Stevie isn't even saying anything new. Other GOP candidates in the past had also threatened the establishment with revolution (like these idiots, for instance) if not enough of them come out to vote for some of the most extreme fringers running for office. Democracy, for Republicans, is only viable and a hallowed institution if they win or get to steal every election with impunity.

Oh, sure he was talking about revolution at the ballot boxes... after the 2010 midterms, not now. Broden's comments were obviously a desperate Hail Mary pass thrown in the hopes that the Tea Baggers will come out in force for him and save him from a humiliating 30 point loss to the corrupt incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (who has some ethical issues she doesn't want to talk about).

And when you lose the prior support of the right wing Dallas Morning News and even Glenn Beck, who's also threatened open insurrection that led at least one guy to literally take up arms, you know it's time to shut your pie hole.

What I can't understand is, why hasn't this guy's church lost its tax-exempt status when he's plainly getting involved in politics?

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The politics of hair
Posted by Jill | 5:48 AM
Last week I posted a Sesame Street video featuring a clearly African-American Muppet singing about how she loves her hair. A few days later, I heard a segment on NPR featuring the man who wrote that song for his daughter, and about the highly emotional response that many women of color have had to the video.

Hair seems to be more fraught with emotional resonance with women than it does even for men, who have long tried to be creative about the hair loss that comes with middle age. And it doesn't matter how old you are, hair is perhaps second only to weight in the emotional baggage it often carries.

I never had great hair. Photos of me as a child show your standard-issue blondish child-hair, cut in the obligatory page-boy-with-bangs Scout Finch look that was inevitable in the early 1960s. I came to adolescence just in time for the flaxen-haired folk singers like Joni Mitchell, and spent years trying to tame my hair into being long, straight and fine. We did this by rolling the crown on two giant rollers while wet, then wrapping the hair around our heads and securing it with giant clips, and sleeping on it. And for about five minutes after getting up in the morning, my sister and I had straight Joni Mitchell hair -- until we stepped outside. Any humidity at all, and it clumped right up.

My mother has always had really thick hair. Even at 83, her hair is still quite thick. My sister has thick hair like hers, only hers is coarse and not-quite-curly -- the kind of hair that others have at times when it's fashionable, managed to have with body waves and perms. My head shows archetypal male pattern baldness genes -- thick around the sides and thin on top. I've been through many hair iterations in my life. There are lame and failed attempts at the Farrah Fawcett 'do of the 1970's, sleek pageboys, the long, wavy luxurious look of my high school graduation photo which lasted about as long as it took to take the photo. There's the chin-length perm that I hoped looked like a late 1920's wavy bob but didn't, the short, poodly perm that's cropped close on the sides with curls on top, and finally settled into the short cut I wear today.

Until I cut my hair short, hair care always took at least a half-hour in the morning, what with blow dryers and curling irons. The perms gave me my first taste of hair care freedom -- just wash, pick, and go. But when my hair started to go gray, not in a nice salt-and-pepper way, but rather, changing color from a kind of autumn wheat shade to a dull mouse brown with gray wires coming out of it, I went the dye route via my hairdresser -- the one thing I'm not frugal about, for all that he gives me a good price for my hair care by virtue of having been his client since 1986. The color is darker than my natural shade, but has some bottle-red highlights that border on purple, which makes me feel kind of punk-rockish. In the morning, it's wash, comb, and go -- a virtue when you have the kind of schedule I do.

My first short cut was a botch job, and I remember sitting in my therapist's office crying as if I were Samson and Delilah had just cut my hair off. I hadn't wanted it this short, and I felt as if I'd been de-womanized somehow. The therapist, who had long, wavy, salt-and-pepper hair, talked to me about the joys of Really Big Dangly Earrings, and for the most part, that's the route I've gone since.

With middle-age has come even more thinning on top, but the short cut keeps me from having broad areas of no hair. There's no combover here, but the short hairs cover the top of my head nicely. I'm sure I'll end up as one of those old ladies who has the four remaining hairs on her head teased into voluminousness to try to cover the baldness, but I'll worry about that when I get there.

It took me a long time to get to some peace with my hair. Sometimes I still wish I could wear it long, but I'm OK with it as it is. At 4'10" tall, hair that's too long creates a look reminiscent of Cousin Itt from the Addams Family anyway. My hair is what it is. The hair of other women is what it is. I'm fifty-five years old and I long ago learned that I'm not the center of the universe and most people I pass by in my day-to-day life aren't even looking. And I don't understand why it's necessary to waste perfectly good keystrokes on screeds like this, from last Thursday's New York Times:
MY mother hates it. My sister worries about it. My agent thinks I’m hiding behind it. A concerned friend suggests that it undermines my professional credibility. But in the middle of my life, I’m happy with it. Which is saying a lot about anything happening to my 55-year-old body.

I feel great about my hair.

I have long hair. I’m not talking about long enough to brush gently on my shoulder — when I tilt my head. I’m not talking about being a couple of weeks late to the hairdresser. I’m talking long. Long enough for a ponytail with swing to it. Long enough to sit against when I’m in a chair. Long enough to have to lift it up out of the sweater I’m pulling over my head. Long enough to braid.

What’s worse (to my critics) is that my hair is graying. Of course it is. Everyone’s hair is graying. But some of us aren’t ready to go there. That’s fine with me — I’m not judgmental about dyes. In fact, I find the range and variety of synthetic hair color to be an impressive testament to our unending chemical creativity. I’m particularly fascinated by that streaky kaleidoscopic thing some blondes do that looks kind of like Hair of Fawn. For my own head, I’m a tad paranoid about smelly, itchy potions.

No one seems to have any problems when a woman of a certain age cuts her hair off. It is considered the appropriate thing to do, as if being shorn is a way of releasing oneself from the locks of the past. I can see the appeal, and have, at times in my life, gone that route. Some women want to wash the men (or jobs) right out of their hair. Others of us have to have at them with scissors. Again, I do not judge. Go right ahead, be a 60-year-old pixie.

Uh, what was that about judging?

The author of this drivel, Dominique Browning, goes on to point out a bunch of crap about long hair that no one seriously believes anymore, particularly about how men find long hair sexy. I have no doubt that most men do, though the preponderance of women in the local A&P still in their yoga pants pushing shopping carts full of children tells me that long hair is not necessarily a prerequisite in the allure department, and let's face it -- once you get into your fifties, that horse may still be in the barn, but the kid at the local gas station isn't going to be asking you out anymore.

I really hate to tell Dominique Browning this, but most people really don't give a shit whether she has long hair or not. I suspect that this judgmentalism she writes about is coming from the messages playing in her own head that have been given her by her judgmental mother and sister, not by others. We're too busy worrying about our weight to even notice.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Welcome, TBoggers
Posted by Jill | 8:32 PM
That's "TBoggers", not "Teabaggers". Welcome to all who came over here from the Great and Wondrous Land of TBogg. I'm just back from out of town so I need to catch up, but I'd guess that the country is just as FUBAR as it was last Thursday. But now I have to finish cleaning up the 128-oz bottle of Wisk that spilled all over the basement laundry room floor.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

The French Disconnection

We have been disconnected from France for a long time. Right wingers have been largely responsible for that and the meme of how cowardly the French really are started long, long before they wisely took a pass on Iraq.

And that's a shame, that we've swallowed wholesale these lies about the French as mindlessly and indiscriminately as we do Freedom French fries at McDonald's. It's a shame because the youth and leftist movement of France is carrying on its fourth round of riots (this last one lasting ten days and still going strong) since Sarkozy was elected. The third round was after a rioter was killed by French police last July. The second round was in early October 2006. The first round of riots was in late 2005 or right after Sarkozy was elected.

As is typical with right wing police states such as Sarkozy's, the crackdowns resulted in several protesters losing their lives. But that's a trade-off the French seem willing to make in order to make their voices heard. And the rewards for this latest round of protests is staggering: The nation has ground to a standstill through protesters blocking major roadways, stopping oil shipments and halting production at refineries. (Note worth remembering: When the Grandpuits refinery was virtually shut down by rioters, it also grounded air traffic since they're the major supplier of fuel to De Gaulle International airport.)

When oil companies import oil to our shores through blowouts and leaks, we wind up going to work for them for substandard wages, no health care and allowing them to publish their propaganda ads even on liberal blogs who don't care where their advertising revenue comes from.

Yet, in the five years since the French began the first of what would prove to be four rounds of riots, the United States has not had one major protest that resulted in anything more damaging than the occasional arrest to tarnish one's reputation. As it is, with many reasons to take to the streets with pitchforks and torches, brushes and buckets of hot tar, ropes and shotguns, we Americans, especially we so-called liberals, tremble at the thought of a preemptive Republican charge of "class warfare" at the merest whisper of elitist corporate genocide.

The French government has proposed raising the retirement age from 60 to 62. In our own country, Republicans have somehow managed to propose with a straight face raising Social Security eligibility from 62-65 to 70. France is rioting in the streets over their retirement age getting raised a modest two years. In our country, a Republican majority would all but guarantee a nation of septugenarians working as greeters for Wal-Mart so they can at least have a shot of financing their own funerals after they drop dead in their little blue vests.

The funny thing is, France, according to the CIA Factbook, enjoys the 8th highest life expectancy on the planet at almost 81 years while the United States is a dismal 49th, or barely over 78 years (which neatly sandwiches us between Albania and Wallis/Futuna). That means, according to world actuarial tables, the French would still be able to enjoy almost 20 years of retirement while Americans can look forward, under a Republican plan, to a mere eight years (without factoring in how older workers working until well past age 62 could detrimentally have their health and life expectancy affected).

So why are the French rioting and how come our asses are conforming to the seats of our Laz-E-Boys while watching Jon and Kate and the latest Jackass movie on DVD?

And where did this meme come from that the French are nothing but cowardly, elitist Gauloise-smoking malcontents wearing berets and sipping bitter little cups of coffee in outdoor cafes while spitting even bitterer diatribes against anything smelling of the bourgeois?

The French, while historically being one of the easiest nations to conquer, nonetheless enjoy a reputation of being one of the most perennially difficult to govern. Napoleon found that out after a revolution that beheaded a king. The French obviously have never forgotten their classist roots and are always ready to light up the streets if they see their government is shortchanging them.

And it always seems to be the leftists, the Socialists and the young who are at the vanguard. In this country, with no draft, our own youth would be disconnected from more than just France were it not for the fragile tether to the world provided by Apple iPhones and Dell laptops.

Unlike France, our nation doesn't even have a actual culture as much as a ruthlessly bottom line-driven hyperactive consumerism let alone have a backbone worth straightening. And while Jon Stewart may be putting together a rally on the 30th that preaches bland temperance and civility, such a call would fall on deaf ears in the land that gave us the very symbol of our liberty.

It also ought to be mentioned that raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 in France affects the country's retirement pension plan. In this country, pensions outside the government sector have gone the way of doctors that make house calls and mail delivery twice a day.

We Americans have had so much taken away from us, from pensions to actual interest on interest-bearing accounts, that if we had the sensibilities of the French, Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue on any given day would look like downtown Baghdad in late 2006. But we are not like the French. We have been disconnected from them and the lessons they gave in vain of the value and efficacy of civil disobedience.

Instead, liberals write blog posts railing about the status quo and not progressing beyond the manifesto stage. Right wingers and tea baggers rail about the government for completely different (and invariably erroneous) reasons and congregate in anemic little mobs so they can be ridiculed by the liberals.

Mike Whitney (not to be confused with the Mike Whitney of Firedoglake) in his latest article "Thank God for France" brings up some very good points and rightly excoriates our impotent and complacent cuntry (and yes, that is deliberately misspelled). He also brings up the excellent point that force is the only language tyrannical governments understand. That is a geopolitical truism that crosses all national boundaries. We ought to retest that theory sometime. It worked pretty fucking well against the British in the 18th century (although, to play Devil's advocate, we wouldn't've stood a snowball's chance in Hell were it not for the aid of, you guessed it, the hated French).

I'd say "thank God for France", too, were it not for one painfully obvious truism: We can only thank a good influence if we take those lessons to heart. But when we choose not to heed those lessons in brutal efficacy, we only doom our wouldbe mentors to irrelevancy as well as ourselves to repeat the less palatable lessons of history.
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