Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Legend(s) Return, Tonight Only

Tonight on For the People, Tyler and I will be joined by none other than FTP founders/gurus extraordinaire Tom Grover and Ryan Yonk.

2008 would not be complete for any political junkie who missed this.

Listen live via AM610, or via live stream/web chat at KVNU's For the People.

I'll be playing the token liberal for this special 3 hour (4pm to 7pm) event.

Crash and Burn

The weekend before Christmas, computer trouble of Christmas's past came knocking in the midst of the holiday/family craziness. Delays followed by distractions lead to what I believe was postponed burnout from the election and long primary.

This year I was lucky enough to have time to become involved on many levels, both nationally with several progressive campaigns, and locally with the party and more specifically Morgan Bowen (who you haven't seen the last of!). We took The SideTrack to Denver for the DNC, and even assumed some responsibilities with several national blogs. The SideTrack received a boost in readership and attention we had never seen before, and with that came added responsibility. I signed on with KVNU and a daily radio show, and we launched a (successful?) campaign media production effort. In hindsight, considering the personalities of those who make up the "staff" here, it's amazing we pulled it all off. And it was the most fun I have had in years. 2008 will no doubt be a year none of us will ever forget, and full of experiences more engaging than any of us could have hoped for.

But I'm glad it's nearly over. It's good to be back into the routine of RSS and radio and email and more email, but I'm going to lay low until 2009.

I can't wait to see what 2009 brings, and thanks to all of you who've followed us on (in the words of Hunter Thompson himself) this long, weird trip.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Big Pile of Coke on My Desk

And I just can't keep my face out of it.

Lesson: not learned.

Bad Form

For the most part, criticism of Obama post election has been irritatingly nit-picking, and easy enough to chalk up to the eagerness of Republicans to discredit the President-Elect before the fact. Even the uproar over Warren at the inauguration seems contrived. But this news warrants some finger wagging.

The release is expected later today at 4:30 p.m. EST. Taking at face value the transition team’s assertion that the U.S. attorney’s office requested the release be delayed so as not to interfere with the ongoing investigation, we can forgive the transition for waiting until today to unveil the report, which it says has been ready for a week.

However, the report will come out late in the afternoon before Christmas eve — which essentially amounts to a two-day holiday, when news consumption tends to drop dramatically. Despite all accounts suggesting there is nothing juicy in the report, the timing gives the appearance that there is something to hide.

It would have been nice to see the report first thing this morning, so it could be examined and digested today, before the holiday. Following eight years of the Bush administration, in which secrecy and late-Friday/holiday information dumps were the M.O., one very easy way for President-elect Barack Obama to signal the end of those bad old days would be to release information, good or bad, without regard to the ebb and flow of the news cycle.
I can't count the times I've heard "Well so much for change..." since November 4th, and never once for justified reason. Until today. I'm hoping there is as much backlash for this type of behavior as there was appointing Hillary to the state dept. There is no point in engaging the public through an interactive website, or promoting "real time" video communications direct from the oval office (all things to be excited about in and of themselves) if the attitude toward information consumption and depleted news cycles remains the same as that of the Bush White House. Open the floodgates, and let the public decide. We're smarter than they think (most of the time).

UPDATE: For clarification, after reader feedback. I mean to no way imply that Rick Warren isn't an enormous douche-bag. He of course is. I just couldn't get that mad about him giving a prayer.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Charitable Giving

Or membership fee?

Arthur Brooks is a conservative researcher and the incoming president of the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. He's also the author of a book on charitable giving, called Who Really Cares, that cites data showing that "households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals." Every so often, his findings are trumpeted as proof that conservatives are more genuinely compassionate than liberals. And that's exactly what Nick Kristof did over the weekend.

But the difference can be explained in one word, and it's not "compassion." It's "religion." A recent survey from Google similarly found that self-identified conservatives gave more to charity than did self-identified liberals. But they also found that "if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do." Indeed, religious congregations are far and away the largest recipients of charitable gifts: In 2006, they made up 32.8 percent of all giving. But is that charity, at least charity as Kristof and Brooks are defining it? For instance: Utah is among the most Republican states in the nation, largely because of its heavily conservative Mormon population. Mormons tithe 10 percent a week to their church. But is that charitable giving? Or is it a membership fee? How much of it goes to anti-poverty programming? How much to church administration?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bush's Anti-Choice Parting Gift

From the inbox:

We knew this was coming, of course. With your help, we've been fighting it for months. The rule is clearly a parting gift from Bush to the anti-choice fringe that supported him all these years.

Now, anti-choice medical staff can withhold information about abortion, birth control, and sex education from their patients. Facilities that receive family planning funding, like Planned Parenthood, will have to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and even certain types of birth control. For example, a doctor who opposes pre-marital sex could refuse to provide a prescription or even information about emergency contraception to an unmarried woman.

Frankly, I'm livid. I believe that tricking women when they are most vulnerable is wrong — and the federal government shouldn't pay people to do it. Especially now, when so many people are already in crisis as a result of the economy, I can't help but feel that this rule is a particularly low blow to the people who need our help, our support, and our most accurate and effective care the most.

Even with a new president and administration coming in soon, this won't be easy to fix. It's going to take more than a simple signature to reverse it. We're starting our work today and we need your help. Please ask the Obama administration to reverse the new rule.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Give Me Everything

Not sure what to say.

At the behest of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, state lawmakers are considering changes to Utah's government records act to discourage people from filing huge requests aimed at harassing city officials.

The tiny mountain town of Alta -- population 365 -- continues to be the poster child behind the proposed legislation. A few years back, an Alta property owner asked for every document generated since the ski haven incorporated in 1970.

"If someone is trying to find out some information, they should be able to get it in a timely and affordable manner," said Alta Mayor Tom Pollard. "But at some point there has to be some kind of trigger when it's beyond a simple request -- when it has an agenda."

To comply with the give-me-everything request, Alta hired an attorney to comb through documents to make sure no protected information got out the door.
On one hand, I would object to the tax dollars spent on such a ludicrous request, on the other hand, I am suspicious of any adjustments made to the existing request laws making it "less of a nuisance" for agencies (thus defeating the purpose of the law). In genreal, our government bodies are more than willing to provide the easy and quickly available information. It's the important, easy to bury tidbits that really matter.

Paddle No. 70

Has my respect.

About 100 people were in the auction room, bidding on the 144 parcels on the block.

The BLM alleged that a "nuisance bidder," who acquired leases near Moab, had no intention of actually buying the parcels. Salt Lake City police detained the bidder, carrying paddle No. 70, and questioned him.

Kathleen Sgamma, director of government affairs for the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, said the bidder was communicating with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance during the auction.

SUWA attorney Steve Bloch denied that was the case.

BLM spokeswoman Terry Catlin said the detained bidder admitted "buying" more than 10 parcels worth up to $5 million.

At midday Friday, the agency was trying to decide whether to re-offer those parcels, but noted some of the losing bidders already had left.

Gates Prepares for Gitmo Close


In an interview that aired late Wednesday on PBS television, Gates said, "I think we can provide alternatives to it."

"I would like to see it closed. And I think it will be a high priority for the new administration," he said on the Charlie Rose show.

But he said closing the prison will require passage of laws that would prevent dangerous detainees from being released in the United States.

"As an example, you probably want something in legislation that says if somebody is freed from Guantanamo, they don't have an automatic right to asylum in the United States," he said.

Gonzo Lied

To help start a war.

Waxman said his investigation showed the CIA had warned at least four National Security Council officials not to allow Bush, in three speeches in 2002, to cite questionable intelligence that Iraq had attempted to obtain uranium. The sentences were stripped out of those speeches but made it into the State of the Union address.

In a 2004 letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Gonzales said the CIA had orally approved the inclusion of the claim in two 2002 speeches, although it did not appear in the final drafts. Gonzales later become attorney general.

Former CIA Director George Tenet wrote at length in his memoir about three memos the CIA had sent to the White House explaining why it doubted the claim and believed it should not be included in the speeches.

Friday, December 19, 2008

$44B in Broadband Spending

Hardwired into the President-Elect's stimulus plan.

Encouraging to know we'll at least be catching up to China on that front.

Hack vs. Redford

I can't wait for the day no one listens to either of them.

Until such a time, Redford wins. Hollywood isn't paying him to defend his position, which is much more than I can say for Sutherland Institute golden boy Roy Innis.

If The Vice-President Does It...

...it's not illegal.

I am the law.

That's the message Vice President Dick Cheney appeared to send in a little-noticed court filing last week, in which his lawyers asserted that the vice president alone has the authority to determine which records are turned over to the National Archives after he leaves office. But the law exempts "personal and partisan" records, which Cheney's lawyers said he will be the sole decider upon.

"The vice president alone may determine what constitutes vice presidential records or personal records, how his records will be created, maintained, managed and disposed, and are all actions that are committed to his discretion by law," according to a filing by Cheney's office with the court hearing the case Dec. 8, noted by the AP's Pamela Hess.

The Onion: Prop 8 Typo

The Onion is still one of the funniest sites I go to.

"The people of California made their voices heard today, and reaffirmed our age-old belief that the only union sanctioned in God's eyes is the union between a man and another man possessed by an ungodly lupine curse," state Sen. Tim McClintock said at a hastily organized rally celebrating passage of the new law. But opponents, including Bakersfield resident Patricia Millard—who is now legally banned from marrying her boyfriend, a human, non-wolfman male—claim it infringes on their civil liberties. "I love James just as much as a wolfman loves his husband," Millard said. "We deserve the same rights as any horrifying mythical abomination."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Geologists Back Off Utah Oil Shale Estimates

Salt Lake Tribune:

Geologists have determined Utah has far less oil shale than previously estimated, but extracting usable energy from those still-vast deposits remains more of a possibility than a probability.

For the first time, the Utah Geological Survey has investigated the Uinta Basin independently of oil-shale regions in Colorado and Wyoming and found that a 44-year-old federal estimate of more than 80 billion barrels of Utah shale oil potential is closer to 77 billion barrels of crude-oil equivalent, the agency announced Wednesday.

But that calculation doesn't take into account how much energy it would take to convert the shale -- a rock called organic marlstone -- into something useful, economical and environmentally acceptable.
Matheson must feel sooooo stupid right now.

The Legacy Tour '08

The irony train chugs on.

I almost feel bad for him. Almost.

Conservatives: Then and Now

From 1970 to 2008, what's changed in American Conservative circles? Lemos says not much:

It is perhaps premature to pronounce American conservatism dead though well it should be. The conservative movement is, however, rather moribund, bereft of any new ideas on anything of consequence from health care to energy to climate change to the economy. What does conservatism stand for in 2008 that they didn't stand for it in 1980? Maybe I am missing something for all I hear is a tired catechism of "lower taxes," "limited government," "free markets," "balance budgets," "family values," and a "strong military" which really means "empire" in their parlance.

But this conservative agenda has run its course even if a large swath of the American public still recite its ethos for by any objective measure, American conservatism has failed.
This isn't to say a political ideology must change for the sake of change or be destined to fail, but it seems impossible that in 38 years, no cultural change or social influence has attempted alter conservative ideology alone (while all other ideologies have evolved drastically). I would argue that such influences have appealed to conservatives, and been stubbornly rejected by the accepted spokespeople of the movement.

If American Conservativism is in it's last throws, it is from self inflicted wounds, not an innate failure of the ideology's potential.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No New Ideas in Foreign Policy Pages

FAIR on WaPo's foreign policy page:

The lineup included Henry A. Kissinger--inevitably--and a bunch of hawks from right-wing think tanks and/or the Bush administration: Danielle Pletka of AEI, Michael Rubin of AEI and Rumsfeld's Pentagon, Patrick Clawson of WINEP (who co-wrote a book with Rubin) and David Makovsky of WINEP. Michael O'Hanlon works at the centrist Brookings but is a famous Iraq hawk. Those who aren't obvious hawks mostly have Republican connections: Michael J. Green of CSIS worked for G.W. Bush's NSC, Karen Donfried of the German Marshall Fund was an aide to Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Soderberg used to work for Bill Clinton and now advises Michael Bloomberg. Ronald D. Asmus was a former Clinton aide but is best known for his advocacy of NATO expansion. For a change of pace, they've got David M. Walker of the Peter G. Petersen Foundation, who's a deficit hawk. The only bona fide dove on the list would seem to be Russia specialist Stephen P. Cohen of Princeton. You'd think the disasters of the Bush years would create interest in new ideas on international policy--but at the Washington Post, a debate between alumni of Bush's Pentagon and State Department really is considered balanced.
A lot of talk lately about struggling newspapers and the decline of American journalism. Perhaps it's as simple as this. No new ideas, no engaging debate. The WaPo hasn't been hit as hard (yet) as other's in the newpaper revenue slump, but they've gotten lazy, and that no good for us or them. Constantly reminding readers that Bob Woodward is still a managing editor isn't going to hold up for much longer as a business plan.

Misinformer of the Year

2008's Media Matters "Misinformer of the Year" Award goes to:

Sean Hannity

As Media Matters for America has demonstrated time and again, Fox News' Sean Hannity has been a prolific and influential purveyor of conservative misinformation. But never has he so enthusiastically applied his talents for spreading misinformation as he did to the 2008 presidential race, focusing his energies primarily on President-elect Barack Obama. Day after day, Hannity devoted his two Fox News shows and his three-hour ABC Radio Networks program to "demonizing" the Democratic presidential candidates, starkly explaining in August: "That's my job. ... I led the 'Stop Hillary Express.' By the way, now it's the 'Stop Obama Express.' " Hannity's "Stop Obama Express" promoted and embellished a vast array of misleading attacks and false claims about Obama. Along the way, he uncritically adopted and promoted countless Republican talking points and played host to numerous credibility-challenged smear artists who painted Obama as a dangerous radical.
As the GOP's megaphone, Hannity, with the help of an apparently brain-dead media, dumped stories into national narrative such as: Obama will invade Pakistan, air-raid villages, and the evils of Michelle Obama's college thesis. I think the single act that makes him deserving of the award was repeatedly giving a microphone to reality challenged 9/11 Truther, Jerome Corsi.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Greenland Melt

Snorkels, everyone?

More than 2 trillion tons of land ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted since 2003, according to new NASA satellite data that show the latest signs of what scientists say is global warming. More than half of the loss of landlocked ice in the past five years has occurred in Greenland, based on measurements of ice weight by NASA's GRACE satellite, said NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke. The water melting from Greenland in the past five years would fill up about 11 Chesapeake Bays, he said, and the Greenland melt seems to be accelerating.
One of the most under-rated pluses of the incoming administration, contrasted with the outgoing, is (hopefully) a return to a science based rationale on dealing with climate change, and ecology in general. "God will save us" sounds great when pondering the human condition, but it makes for horribly obtuse national policy.

I'm skeptical of global warming science by nature - both from those who say it's man made, and those certain it is not - but to deny the earth is warming and some sort of reaction from the human race may be necessary is pure idiocy.

Patriot Act Gag Provisions Invalidated

Score one for the ACLU.

"The appeals court invalidated parts of the statute that wrongly placed the burden on NSL recipients to initiate judicial review of gag orders, holding that the government has the burden to go to court and justify silencing NSL recipients," said the ACLU in a release. "The appeals court also invalidated parts of the statute that narrowly limited judicial review of the gag orders – provisions that required the courts to treat the government's claims about the need for secrecy as conclusive and required the courts to defer entirely to the executive branch."

Because of the ruling, the government will now be forced to justify individual gag orders before a court, instead of casually wielding the power of a blanket gag as the Bush administration has done since the blindingly fast passage of the Patriot Act in Oct. 2001.
Scrubbing Bush's grubby fingerprints off the Constitution, one court battle at a time.

Liberal Hippie Takeover

Embrace it.

The 110th House was not only the most liberal since the New Deal, but the percentage of liberals has been increasing for some time. The patterns do not vary much with the threshold used.

At first blush, this may seem surprising. But it is worth remembering that the proportion of liberals is directly related to both the percentage of Democrats in the House and how liberal the Democrats are. Before 2006, the percentage of Democrats had been on the historically low side. But because the party has been losing its more moderate and conservative members from the South, it has become a considerably more homogeneous and liberal party in the House.

So what can be said about the incoming 111th House. Unless the Democratic party's 20 seat gain in the House is composed of almost exclusively moderates and conservatives (highly doubtful), the next House will be the most liberal in history.
So who volunteers to break the news to Nancy and Harry? Step up, house "leaders." You're out of excuses.

Monday, December 15, 2008

California GOP Takes a Stand

Reality be damned! Ideology, not reason, rules their world.

California is hurtling toward a financial abyss, projecting a $40 billion shortfall by July 2010, and no deal can be struck without at least three Republican votes in both the Assembly and Senate.

GOP officials clutch that trump card with relish as the state braces to pull the plug on $5 billion in public works projects and warns it won't be able to pay all its bills by February or March.

Democrats and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger want to shrink the gap through a combination of program cuts and tax increases – but Republican lawmakers adamantly oppose raising taxes and nearly all have signed national pledges to hold firm.

Democrats say the GOP is holding California coffers hostage.

But Jon Fleischman of the state GOP's board of directors said time is on their side.

He's right about that, as eventually the Democrats will have to find a work around to save millions of Americans from even more severe hardship. But I don't think time is going to be as favorable to them as they think. Spending may be the key stimulus for many states to rebounding from the crunch that has drained their resources. Republicans seem bent on launching full scale Hoover 2.0 for the sake of ideological protection, and in the face of economic reasoning strikes a cord better described as petulant than noble. They're rearranging the deckchairs on the SS Republican Party.

Bizarre Historical Accident

Defense of Net Neutrality, in response to Google's recent strange behavior, receives a jump start. With his patented and unique talent, blogger Atrios makes the complex simple:

The open internets was a bizarre historical accident, necessary to defend and unlikely to be repeated. People always object when I say this, but they're wrong.
Agreed. The internet has achieved the usefulness (necessity?) it currently offers because of an unnoticed neutrality. Now that the "big guys" have noticed, that neutrality is threatened. I'm unwilling to say Google has joined the dark side (mostly because such rumors have circulated before), but as one of the leaders of the Net Neutrality fight, their "talks" with the "big guys" are indeed troubling. If net neutrality advocates lose Google to the ranks of Comcast, AT&T, and Qwest, the battle for a neutral net becomes all the more difficult.

Another reason to be glad you voted for Obama.

UPDATE: The "report" on Google's net neutrality betrayal may be no more than more bad journalism from the WSJ.

Parowan Prophet, Live

Tyler has booked "the prophet" for tonight's show:

Leland Freeborn, the “Parowan Prophet” referred to in the L.A. Times article below, will join us on KVNU’s For the People at 4:10 tonight to discuss his prophecy that Barack Obama would never take office due to a nuclear attack on the U.S.

It is guaranteed to be interesting.

Hear it live on AM610 or via webstream/chat at kvnuforthepeople.com.

I think "interesting" is an understatement.

Matheson Bails on Bailout Leadership

Every day you have opportunities to lead, standing up for our principles and changing hearts and minds with our example.

Unless you're Jim Matheson, who prefers a consistent "duck and cover" approach to leadership. (with Audio)

Yeah, that's right. So What?

Makes me want to throw a shoe.

In an interview in Iraq yesterday, President Bush defended the war in Iraq, saying it was "where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand." Raddatz interrupted to point out that al Qaeda was not present in Iraq until after the United States invaded, to which Bush replied dismissively, "Yeah, that's right. So what?"
And speaking of shoe throwing, thousands of protesting Iraqi's are demanding the release of the zapato armed journalist, who many now see as a local hero.

Bad Investment

NYT and ProPublica got their hands on a copy of the Iraq reconstruction history.

Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.

The bitterest message of all for the reconstruction program may be the way the history ends. The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed.
From "Yellow cake" to "The Surge Worked," the Bush administration and the Republican Party have attempted to oversimplify and oversell what was from the start a horrible idea and is in the end a failed foreign policy nightmare. Many will gloat at the political points scored, but for the rest of us, it stands a sad reminder of why we have to yell louder next time we get the sense a cluster-fuck is brewing in the White House. Even if it comes from a Democrat. Hubris is bipartisan.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

DoJ Dodging Obama

Sorry we missed your call...

The team asked to "review classified legal opinions related to secret CIA and National Security Agency programs," but the inquiry has been denied.

Among the information requested are official documents about the "legal rationale" for the secret wiretapping and torture programs conducted by the two agencies.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey addressed the issue with reporters, saying that his department was reluctant to give up the documents without permission from the two agencies involved.
This reminds me, it's simply impossible to find a quality document shredder these days. I've been through two in less than a year.

Marshall Thompson on Shoe Flinging and the Bush Legacy

No one will say it better than this:

In the past, the Bush administration has been able to “brass it out” when it comes to logical contradictions. They act and speak as if they have done something good, and then people assume that they’ve done it. There was a slight danger of this occurring yet again with Bush’s photo ops in Iraq. However, thanks to one gutsy, shoeless journalist, Bush’s final tour of Iraq will go down as a major embarrassment. His shoes may have missed the physical target, but they shattered the false image of President Bush as a noble liberator and revealed instead, a small, sad man who is only just coming to grips with the carnage and devastation for which he is responsible.

I can’t watch this without feeling terrible for President Bush. The shock of the flying shoes must have been a stinging rebuke and a lasting insult. On a personal level, I hope George doesn’t feel too bad about the whole incident. Considering the broader issues of illegal war, loss of life and American treasure, however, I can understand the appropriateness of the action. Nonviolence is the only form of protest that I can practice or endorse. Throwing shoes isn’t a nonviolent act, but when people feel oppressed and desperate enough, they will make their voices heard any way they can. While I don’t condone it, I respect the reasons behind it.

Battlefield of the Supernatural

It stands to reason that fear of terror has made some Americans as bat-shit crazy as terrorists themselves.

We should consider that Islamic terrorism may not be defeatable, except on its own terms, on the battlefield of the supernatural.

To secularists and avowed agnostics who work to expunge all religious language from governments, that idea is anathema. I doubt it makes many Christians or Jews happy, either. But the war on terror is as much about ideas and ideals as about security and strategy. If one side’s ideas are mayhem in service to transcendence and the other side is thinking about meetings and signed papers, then secular Western diplomacy is boxing with one glove.
The never see the irony. Probably because they're talking too much.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

One Last Thing on Prop 8

Age/Education, not race.

In the wake of the narrow passage of the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 in California, there was a lot of unhappy talk about African-American Obama voters making the difference. But a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California looks at the results from various optics, and concludes that educational and income levels, and age, were the most important variables in determining the vote.

Indeed, there's an extraordinarily strong correlation on these factors. Those with a high school education or less favored Prop 8 by a 69-31 margin; those with a college degree opposed it 57-43; and those with some college but no degree supported it 57-43. It's the same story on income: those earning under $40,000 supported Prop 8 by a 63-37 margin; those earning over $80,000 opposed it 55-45; and those in the middle supported it by the same 52-48 margin as the electorate as a whole. Least surprisingly, voters under the age of 35 opposed Prop 8 by a 57-43 margin; those 55 and older backed it 56-44; and those in-between split evenly.

Hunting a President

Looks like Michael Moore has some competition.

EVERY STORY needs a villain, and the story spun in "The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill Clinton" is no exception. In Harry Thomason and Nickolas Perry's fascinating documentary on what Hillary Rodham Clinton once called the "vast right-wing conspiracy" to discredit her husband, the bad guy is one Ken Starr, the former chief independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation. Here's a man whose every appearance on camera ought, by rights, to be accompanied by booing, hissing and the throwing of rancid tomatoes -- at least if the filmmakers have their way.

Make no mistake. This is partisan filmmaking at its most gleefully unapologetic. Unless they're also masochists, Bill Clinton haters and Ken Starr fans will know better than to buy a ticket.
I love this stuff. It's like b-grade horror movies, but for politics. And anyone who tells you b-grade horror flicks have no social value is not to be trusted.

Baby Steps on Gitmo

Hey look, diplomacy works!

Some 60 prisoners among the 250 currently occupying the prison cannot be returned home, for fear they would be subject to punishment or torture in countries like Lybia, China and Algeria. It has been a point of pressing concern to human rights groups.

"The time has come for the European Union to step forward," said Portugal's Foreign Minister Luis Amado. The EU "should send a clear signal of our willingness to help the U.S. government resolve this problem, namely by taking in the detainees."

"Diplomats said the announcement by Portugal was partly a product of personal diplomacy by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a trip in September," reported the Seattle Times. "But they said it also appeared that the logjam was breaking because other countries were eager to show the incoming Obama administration that they were willing to assist in the complex challenges of closing the camp."
Closing the facility is (like most things) being over simplified by the media and representatives both in support and opposition, but this is a good sign that what it will take is something everyone (even Condi!) can agree on.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Will Afghanistan Be Obama's Vietnam?

From Real News (w/ video).

Ray McGovern [ex-CIA] speaks to Paul Jay about Barack Obama's appointment of Robert Gates to his cabinet. Though Obama campaigned on a platform of change in the U.S.'s approach to foreign policy, McGovern says Obama’s appointments don't indicate a change is coming. He says the appointments demonstrate a continuation of the mentality that led the United States into war in Vietnam, Iraq, and now again, in Afghanistan. This mentality has been demonstrated to fail in Iraq by a UCLA researcher who used satellite imagery to show the U.S.'s occupation has favored Shias over Sunis. This mentality, of going to war to liberate a people, according to McGovern, is a result of a lack of diversity in the kind of advisers previous presidents have chosen to surround themselves with, and he sees it repeated with Obama's chosen cabinet.

Senate Chicken

Democrats call GOP bluff on auto bailout.

Britain Out

Democracy Now:

The British military is reportedly set to withdraw all its troops from Iraq. Citing military sources, several British newspapers say the pullout will begin in March. US forces would take over British positions in Basra. Britain currently has more than 4,000 troops in Iraq and plans to leave 400 behind to train the Iraqi military.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Newspaper Bailout

Dear Chicago Tribune,


The SideTrack.

George Bush's Taint

Get your mind out of the gutter. I meant this:

Sources say that Obama’s team is having trouble finding a potential CIA director who lacks politically incriminating links to controversial Bush Administration policies and yet commands the respect of the agency’s rank and file.
Still want to have a beer with the guy?

Have A Question For The President Elect?

Well, ask him. You can submit your own questions, and vote on others' questions you'd like to see answered (or not). From TPM

Here's how it works: Users get three options in voting on a question. They can vote in favor of a question being answered; they can vote against it being answered; or they can flag the question as inappropriate.

The Obama team is clearly exposing itself to a bit of a risk here. It could find itself choosing between answering an uncomfortable question and ducking one that the public is clamoring for an answer to. And if the state of the country fails to improve (or gets even worse) over the next few years, the public could also end up registering more and more negative questions.
And they've got a sense of humor about it, when voting on the question the checkmark button displays "Yes", the x button displays "No", and the skip question button displays "meh...". Who said government transparency couldn't be funny too?

Fan Sites, Marketing and Corporate Media

On the heels of the report that corporate blogging has been a gigantic flop for marketers,

According to a new Forrester Research report, only 16% of people surveyed say they trust corporate blogs. That makes them the lowest-rated source of reliable information among 18 categories Forrester asked about including Web portals, print newspapers, radio and personal blogs.
a MySpace exec has some sage advice.
A MySpace executive suggested Tuesday that using lawyers to shut down unauthorized, consumer-generated fan sites on the social network is a grave mistake. Instead, marketers should look to engage the creators and turn them into brand evangelists.

An example could come with sites for Pillsbury Doughboy or Green Giant set up by individuals who admire the icons. Those people may have a mass number (well into the thousands) of "friends" or fellow fans linked with their MySpace locales.

General Mills, which markets both brands, might be concerned about preservation of band equity. But Jay Stevens, MySpace's vice president of international online marketing, said marketers should embrace the opportunity to turn the site operators into potential influencers.
The hilarity of a Pillsbury Doughboy fansite or blog aside, this is reminiscent of record and movie company battles against social "swapping" and online resources, rather than embracing and incorporating them into the marketing paradigm. Odds are, these avenues of networking are not going to disappear. Corporations have a choice: Fight a losing battle endlessly into the future, or accept the loss of gatekeeper status and embrace the new media as part of a reformed marketing scheme.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Swing Region: The Mountain West?

538.com's Sean Quinn (with graphs!):

To take comfort in the theory that "you can only vote to elect the first black president once," as one of the great hacks would prefer to hope, such wishful thinking doesn't work in the Mountain West, where Obama's success cannot be attributed to high black turnout. John McCain won more voters in Colorado and Nevada than John Kerry, but McCain wasn't even close against Obama in those states.

In Nevada and New Mexico, new voter registration numbers were 5-7 times the losing 2004 presidential margins of 21,500 and 5,988 respectively. Obama won in Nevada by a hair under 120,000 votes and over 12%, and New Mexico by over 125,000 and over 15%. With the new voter registrations, those states can be considered blue until further notice.

Those ten electoral votes are roughly balanced by the twelve from Wyoming, Utah and Idaho that Republicans have on lockdown. Montana is the closest state, which Obama lost by 2.26%. Colorado (Obama +8.95%) and Arizona (McCain +8.52%) are mirrors of each other, though without McCain on the ballot it seems clear that state would have been much, much closer.
To chalk it up to a "perfect storm" oversimplifies what happened. And the simplest example? Newly registered voters will continue to vote. Again, and again, and again.

Rocky Anderson Live, Taking Calls Tonight on FTP

To mark Human Rights Day, Rocky Anderson will be the (4:40 ish) guest on tonight's For the People show with Tyler and I, discussing human rights and restoring the rule of law under the new administration.

He'll be taking calls.

Listen via live stream and chat.

Local Blogger Makes Good on National Scene

Something I feel worth noting is the frequency at which Utah's blogging community continues to garner a national spotlight. This week one of our own - who is far too humble to point it out himself - has made the front page of the national blogging scene not once, but twice!

Okay, I played a part in the second one, but still... Congrats, Mr. Bell.

Getting Utah up to speed, one insightful post at a time.

UPDATE: Make that thrice. JM's on a roll.

Harry Reid and the Magic 60

I know this has been pointed out a few times in several places now, but after reading it again at Politico this morning, I'm saying it again.

The need for 60 in the senate is misdirection.

58 would be enough, as there are surely a few moderate republicans to be swayed on any piece of legislation, and if they can't be swayed, most likely the legislation under consideration has lost the conservative Democrats and Lieberdouche.

The repetition of the fallacy reminds me of the 2007 debate over war funding. Harry Reid hasn't impressed me so far, and if he can't do anything substantial with 58, he need to go.

The Dynamics of Early Voting

Via The Monkey Cage, Political scientist Bob Stein of Rice University has a model of early voting trends. He finds that daily voter support for John McCain was closely tied to the daily DOW performance.

It's a crude model, but it does raise some interesting questions about the dynamics of early voting.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Say It Aint So Joe (The Plumber)!

Turns out, not even JTP was on board with McCain's economic plans

Joe Wurzelbacher lashed out at former GOP presidential nominee John McCain Tuesday, the man who made Wurzelbacher famous as “Joe the Plumber.”

Wurzelbacher told conservative radio host Glenn Beck that he felt “dirty” after “being on the campaign trail and seeing some of the things that take place.”
But, thankfully for real Americans he worked through the difficulty because, of course,
“I asked him some pretty direct questions,” he continued. “Some of the answers you guys are gonna receive — they appalled me, absolutely. I was angry. In fact I wanted to get off the bus after I talked to him.”

Asked why he didn’t leave McCain’s campaign if he was “appalled” by the candidate, Wurzelbacher said, “honestly, because the thought of Barack Obama as president scares me even more.”
And if anyone out there still thinks this is a voice needed in our political discourse lets just make it clear, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher thought McCain was wrong about the economy, while campaigning for McCain, on the economy, because he found Obama to be scary. Was there anyone he liked this election cycle?
“Sarah Palin is absolutely the real deal,” he said.
Frightening as that may be, it gets worse, with the motto of "Plunge the Crap Out of Washington" somebody actually wants this guy representing a potentially very unlucky part of Ohio. Now that's scary.

Update 4:18 You can read/listen to the interview. Well, maybe, I couldn't bring myself to visit Glenn Beck's website, so I didn't test the link, but in theory you can. Do so at your own risk.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Obama: Broadband Key to Economic Recovery

"Breath of fresh air" is an understatement.

Obama, in a radio address Saturday, told listeners that he will push for the largest government-funded infrastructure program since the Interstate highway system in the 1950s as a way to stimulate the struggling U.S. economy. Obama's radio address was short on details, but the program could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

Obama's plan will include funds to make public buildings more energy efficient, repair roads and bridges and modernize schools. His plan for schools is to repair aging buildings, make them energy efficient and install new computers in classrooms, he said. "To help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools," Obama said in the address.

The plan will also include rolling out broadband, both to places where it isn't available and to health-care facilities, Obama said. It is "unacceptable" that the U.S. ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption, according to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), he said.
It's nice to at least see the possibility of a forward thinking broadband policy. Many countries are years ahead of us, thanks to Bush and his party devoid of ideas.

No One Saw Coming

Except those who did.

Outsourcing: Not Just for Blue Collar America Anymore

White Collar America, welcome to where Blue Collar America has been living for years. From the WSJ:

At the Mumbai subsidiary of outsourcer Pangea3 LLC, rows of Indian lawyers at new computers pore over contracts, covenants and other financial documents. They're working for Wall Street banks fighting lawsuits filed in the U.S. by homeowners, investors and shareholders after the subprime-mortgage crunch.

As the ailing U.S. economy prompts companies to cut costs, it also has spawned legal problems. As a result, clients are pressuring the law firms they hire to trim fees.

That means more routine work like legal research, due diligence and document review is being done in India at roughly half the cost as in the U.S., outsourcers say.

But Bush Kept Us Safe!


(RMWarnick beat me to this one... and his is better)

Dear Bank of America

TrueMajority, in my inbox:

Last month, Bank of America accepted $25 billion in taxpayer funds as part of the Wall Street Bailout. Now they're refusing to release lines of credit and causing hundreds to lose their jobs. In Chicago, workers making energy efficient windows and doors at the Republic Windows and Doors plant came to work only to be told their factory was shutting down and they would not be receiving the pay owed to them.1

Hundreds of these laid-off workers have occupied their factory and are refusing to leave without receiving the benefits they rightly deserve -- they're staying in the office day and night in their quest for justice.

Tell Bank of America and Congressional leaders to ensure that the Bailout Program be used to provide workers and companies with lines of credit to save jobs.
For the original bailout or against, these banks got their money from us. Send a message that you would prefer the money be spent protecting workers and bolstering our economy, not as investment in Bank of America's bottom line.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

O'Reilly vs. Hertzberg

Not surprising to anyone not in a coma or otherwise vegetative state (a surprisingly large percentage of Bill O's viewers... I mean Chris Buttars is obviously a fan...), Hertzberg trounces him.

The thuggery O’Reilly mentions was contemptible, but the rest of it was just normal democratic protest. (O’Reilly himself frequently asks his viewers to boycott businesses that offend him, such as department stores whose employees wish customers “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”) None of it comes anywhere near “fascism,” let alone some sort of fascist “movement” that could plausibly threaten to take over the government. I don’t think it was at all unreasonable for me to infer that the targets of Mr. Gingrich’s “fascism” remarks were the mainstream gay-rights movement in general and the opponents of Proposition 8 in particular.

One more thing. O’Reilly said last night that I “refused to come on ‘The Factor,’” as he calls his program. This is simply a lie. Neither he nor any of his staff asked me to appear on his program, either directly or through anyone else at The New Yorker. I’m puzzled that O’Reilly said otherwise, since he has to know that we know he was lying. I guess he just doesn’t care. He’s got his base.

Matheson's Blue Dog Fraternity

Of white southern men.

[...] I do appreciate the fact that the Blue Dogs have conceded that their stated reason for being is completely irrelevant to anything, but here's a suggestion to the caucus. If it's ok to spend a trillion dollars as long as it's an emergency, then take that stupid debt clock off your website. I do appreciate that you have conceded the ideological argument that government has an important role in a progressive society, but as long as you keep that clock on there, people might begin to think you're just a social organization dedicated to furthering the cause of conservative white men and corporate PACs in the Democratic Party.

Blackwater Guards Indicted

For 2007 massacre that killed 17 Iraqi civilians, including children. Rawstory:

A recent report suggests the guards could face up to 30 years in prison.

The State Department, which hires Blackwater guards to protect US diplomats and other military employees, has no comment on the development. Blackwater and the Justice Department have both also refused to comment, CNN reported.

Blackwater's involvement with the shooting became an anti-American rallying cry for insurgents and strained relations between the U.S. and Iraq.

But prosecutors face a hard battle, the Associated Press reported.

The law is unclear on whether contractors can be charged in the U.S., or anywhere, for crimes committed overseas. The indictment sends the message that the Justice Department believes contractors do not operate with legal impunity in war zones.
The report also says the State Dept. just renewed Blackwater's contract in Iraq.

Obama Challenges My Cynicism

In a very tangible and (hopefully) game changing gambit.

Friday, December 5, 2008

How American Auto-Makers Can Get Back On Top

An open-letter to Ford Motor Company from Frameshop's Jeff Feldman. The short version:

In summary, these are the five steps that Ford should take to become a national leader in the discussion of America's Future:

  1. Step Up To Lead The National Summit
  2. Invite Real Environmentalists
  3. Host Deliberative Discussions
  4. Reach Out To Bloggers
  5. Debate Lobbying Practices
Keeping in mind that 'Rome was not built in a day,' if these five steps are followed, the June 2009 National Summit would be transformed from a PR stunt by big industry in Detroit into a national forum on the future of America with Ford as its most vocal and forward looking discussion leader. The result of the forum would be structural as well as economic.
If auto-makers are important enough to bail out, it's relevant to discuss their future. From business practice to the product they sell, a lot is going to have to change. This seems like an intelligent first step.

The Takeover You Just Can't Resist

Google inches closer to world domination every day. The problem for me? They're just so damned cool about it!

This past election brought more people than ever into the political dialogue -- as observers, commentators, voters, volunteers and contributors. Now how will that energy be transferred to the realm of governing?

We'll explore that question next Friday, December 12, at the second of three Google D.C. Talks focused on a policy agenda for the Obama Administration and 111th Congress. Open government advocates in two panels will share their ideas about how technology can help government become more accountable, transparent and participatory.

And to make sure we're walking the participatory walk, we invite you to submit and vote on questions for our panelists ahead of time via Google Moderator.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Offline Youth in an Online World

In These Times:

Antonio Reyes and Julian Rosas grew up together in California’s San Fernando Valley. Now 17 and seniors in high school, the two friends are beginning to fill out college applications. Antonio wants to be a pediatrician, while Julian is considering computer engineering.

But Antonio has one distinct advantage: He has high-speed Internet access at home. Julian––whose family can’t afford a connection––can only get online at school, when one of his working parents can drive him to the library, or at a local youth center, the Youth Speak! Collective, where I met the teenagers. The collective is a nonprofit organization that works to empower “at-risk” youth.

The restricted Internet access makes doing homework and applying for colleges especially difficult for Julian.
It's easy to react to such stories indifferently. Many people my age didn't have broadband in their college years, because it simply didn't exist yet outside of T1 lines for businesses.

But as more an more organizations and businesses are taking their wares online only, or catering directly to online users (less overhead, faster/cleaner processes), access to broadband is quickly becoming as important as the public library system was for our parents.

Secretive Congress

This shouldn't be a surprise.

As avenues for open government increase, expect Congress to find more creative ways to control their messaging and keep as many of their activities secret. It's the nature of the beast, here. And as has been said: once a bill hits the floor, it's too late for activists or citizens to play much of a role.

That's why this DailyKos spinnoff, Congress Matters - and other projects like it - are a big deal and worth keep close tabs on.

Michael Moore to GM: We're Going to Own Your Ass


"Any money given to the current management is just going to be money that's being flushed right down the toilet," Moore insisted. "They don't have a clue about how to run these companies."

Moore pointed out that "GM wants $18 billion. The total worth of all the common stock in GM right now is a little less than $3 billion. ... Why would we give them $18 billion?" He believes that if the government bails out the auto firms, it needs to receive a degree of control over their operations in return.

"This new president and this Congress has to say to the Big Three, 'I'm sorry, but this car thing isn't working out," Moore suggested. "We're running out of oil, so you need to build hybrids, electrics, and we need mass transportation. ... If we give you $34 billion, we're going to own your ass."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Blogs of Wrath

X96's Todd Nuke 'Em wrote a book.

A couple of years ago I wrote a novel with an aspiring young novelist by the name of Zack D. Shutt. The story was incredibly personal for both of us, for many reasons. I felt that the story needed to be told. I also added quite a few items to the plot that are incredibly personal and true from my life.

BLOGS OF WRATH by Todd C. Noker and Zack D. Shutt is told as a blog, so we figured that the best way to distribute the novel would be Internet based.

BLOGS OF WRATH is a young adult novel that explores the tribulations of growing up in a world where the teachers are afraid of the students, and what is truly part of one's individuality is often misinterpreted.

And it's available online, for free!

Enid Greene, Disgusted

By the AG pick. Go figure.

President-elect Barack Obama's pick for attorney general, Eric Holder, is being slammed as a "lawbreaking opportunist" by a Utahn who says she knows Holder's tactics firsthand: former U.S. Rep. Enid Greene Mickelsen.

Holder was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in the mid-'90s, when then-Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz's personal life and political career spectacularly imploded, and prosecutors spent nearly a year investigating potential bank fraud and campaign law violations by her and her estranged husband, Joe Waldholtz.

Waldholtz was convicted and sent to prison; the congresswoman was eventually cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

Still, Mickelsen - who quickly divorced Waldholtz and recently remarried - carries a grudge against Holder. She said during her KSL radio show that she was "absolutely appalled, infuriated and disgusted" that Obama would pick Holder to be his attorney general.
Hold on to that resentment, Enid. It's becoming.

Slippery Slope Satire

Tom writes a funny.

I received a viral email the other day from a friend letting me know about the six consequences of allowing gay couples in on the jumbo-tron kissing action. The viral email is true because it comes from the same trusted friend who forwarded an email letting me know that Barack Obama is a Muslim and isn’t even really a citizen of the United States!

First, if gay jumbo-tron kisses are allowed at the Spectrum, children in Utah public schools will have to be taught that gay jumbo-tron kisses are just as good as straight jumbo-tron kisses. This is because Utah State is a public institution and if one public institution promotes the gays, then all of them have to!

Second, if gay jumbo-tron kisses are allowed at the Spectrum, churches may be sued over their tax exempt status if they refuse to allow gay jumbo-tron kisses in their religious buildings open to the public.
The horror!

College Out of Reach for More Americans

New York Times:

Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, adjusted for inflation, while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.

“If we go on this way for another 25 years, we won’t have an affordable system of higher education,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonpartisan organization that promotes access to higher education.

“When we come out of the recession,” Mr. Callan added, “we’re really going to be in jeopardy, because the educational gap between our work force and the rest of the world will make it very hard to be competitive. Already, we’re one of the few countries where 25- to 34-year-olds are less educated than older workers.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Holder's New Gig

Previous AG's can probably tell tales of the pressure to fill the shoes of their predecessors, or to continue, successfully, the achievements of the Dept. of Justice in upholding justice itself.

What'd Janet Reno have to contend with? Taking down a few nude calendars? The next Attorney General of the United States steps into very different circumstances I doubt anyone could be prepared for.

Holder, who'd be the first black attorney general if confirmed by the Senate, would be taking the helm of a department that's still recovering from charges of cronyism and partisan politicking and debatable opinions about the legality of harsh interrogation techniques, electronic eavesdropping habeas corpus and the laws of war.

Holder also has made it clear that he plans to steer the department away from the Bush administration's most controversial policies on terrorism, such as jailing detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison. Yet, he hasn't signaled how he'd go about making those ambitious changes.

"The challenges are going to be monumental," said Guy Lewis, a former Justice Department lawyer in the Clinton and Bush administrations.
Imagine being handed the keys to the office, with little more to work with than "I think someone pooped on the desk in the Assistant AG's office, and we don't know what that smell coming from the basement is. Good luck!" and knowing your first task is going to be entire legal system back on track in upholding the constitution and the rule of law.

Suddenly the list of things I have to do today feels a little less daunting.

Rule of Law Humor

I have many Republican friends I have who didn't mind when the Patriot Act was rushed through, didn't speak up when the FISA "emergency" revisions stripped court oversight from government surveillance, didn't bat an eye at the revelation that our country was engaging in torture.

All because of what, folks? The end justified the means and Toby Keith wrote a song about it. That's right. America, Fuck Yeah!, etc, etc ad naseum.

Now it's ironic how many of them I hear voicing a new found love for executive oversight, check and balances of power, and that little piece of paper they had misplaced under Ann Coulter's couch cushion: The Constitution.

Oh yeah. That.

Jordan Pazell's Favorite Senator and The Gayle Ruzicka Virus

I've always pictured Eagle Forum's Gayle Ruzicka as one of the witches from Macbeth, slowly stirring her cauldron of toxic goo, waiting for unsuspecting state senators to wander a bit too close, where she can snare them with a clever trap made of rope and her own spit, and plant her seeds of bat-shit crazy in their overly impressionable minds.

So imagine how ecstatic she must have been when Chris Buttars was re-elected (with a Clinton Delegate's help, lest we forget).

Sen. Chris Buttars wants Utah's Legislature to declare its opposition to the "war on Christmas."

The West Jordan Republican is sponsoring a resolution encouraging retailers to embrace Christmas in their promotions rather than the generic "holidays."

"It would encourage the use of 'Merry Christmas,'" Buttars said of the non-binding statement that is still being drafted. "I'm sick of the Christmas wars -- we're a Christian nation and ought to use the word."

Several fellow lawmakers he wouldn't yet name support his effort, added Buttars, who has a long history of championing the socially conservative agenda of the Utah Eagle Forum.

In 2005, right-wing pundit Bill O'Reilly took on the same fight, characterizing the so-called war on Christmas as part of a secular progressive agenda that would open the door to legalized drugs, abortion-on-demand and same-sex marriage.

One advertising executive thinks the Buttars message crosses the line.

"I'm kind of flabbergasted that there is even such a proposal," said Dave Newbold, president of Salt Lake City-based Richter7 Advertising and Public Relations.
Not only does Gayle have a sympathetic ear in Buttars, but she obviously has a kindred spirit, and like "mind," with which she can bring that much needed level of irrational, childish thinking and distance from reality to the Utah State Senate (Which, incidentally, I've begun to picture as a volkswagen stuffed with too many clowns).

Kudos, West Jordan and Mr. Pazell. This is your guy.

Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The GOP's McCarthy Gene

An Op-Ed gets written.

But there is another rendition of the story of modern conservatism, one that doesn't begin with Goldwater and doesn't celebrate his libertarian orientation. It is a less heroic story, and one that may go a much longer way toward really explaining the Republican Party's past electoral fortunes and its future. In this tale, the real father of modern Republicanism is Sen. Joe McCarthy, and the line doesn't run from Goldwater to Reagan to George W. Bush; it runs from McCarthy to Nixon to Bush and possibly now to Sarah Palin.
I think he may be onto something.

And if the history of political parties is any arbiter of future trajectories, a party starved of ideas finds encouragement in division, baseless yet vehement bastardization of opposition, and bear hugging bat-shit crazy. In other words, McCain/Palin's campaign, only louder and more unhinged.

If the GOP leaders belligerently hang onto the current incarnation, Ron Paul will be the most "sane" voice coming from the party four years from now. You heard it here first.

Anonymous GOP Hold on Bailout Oversight Position, Contact Your Senator

A nameless GOP senator has placed a hold on the nomination process of a key bailout oversight position. TPM has the goods:

This is a crucial post for ensuring that the department spends its $700 billion wisely and without favor -- all the more so because Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and the man running the bailout, Neel Kashkari, are both former executives at Goldman Sachs, which has already received $10 billion from Treasury. And no one has seriously questioned Barofsky's personal fitness for the job.

Senators have the right to anonymously put a hold on any nomination to a federal post for any reason whatsoever. But given what's at stake here, it's worth trying to find out who's responsible for the hold, and why. We've put in a call to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell's office. But we could use your help too.

So if you live in a state with at least one Republican senator, we're asking you to call their office, tell them you're a constituent, and politely ask whether they put a hold on Barofsky's nomination, and if so, why. Then email us and let us know what you find out -- even if it's a 'no' or an inconclusive answer. If nothing else, your information can help us narrow down the list.

And in case it helps, here's the statement put out by Sen. Chris Dodd, the chair of the banking committee, that first mentioned the hold.

Take a few minutes today to see what Hatch and Bennett have to say.
Sen. Bennett: Phone: (801) 524-5933
Fax: (801) 524-5730

Sen. Hatch: Tel: (801) 524-4380
Fax: (801) 524-4379

The field of possibilities is narrowing.

Re-Defining the American Family

Kathleen Parker probably gets a lot of hate mail.

Obama's example could have society-altering effects, especially in the African American community. By his example, he telegraphs the following messages: Being smart is good; education is good; being a good father is essential. Being an egghead is cool.

Conservatives insist, correctly, that culture matters. Many liberals think so, too, by the way. Why, some liberals even stay married their entire lives to the same person and raise children to do the same.

You want Ward Cleaver? Meet Barack Obama. Michelle is June Cleaver with a law degree. Family values don't get more traditional than those of the Obamas, who ooze marital bliss and whose adorable daughters make feminist cynics want to bake cookies and learn to smock.

Though we may perish of boredom, the Obamas may do more to elevate the American family than all the pro-marriage initiatives conceived by those who claim to speak for the deity.
Since the "culture wars" began, vocal factions of the conservative base have successfully defined - for all of us, even liberals - what the intangible concept of "family" means through oversimplification and painted a picture of absolute "virtue" through divisive rhetoric designed to instill fear. Family values. Traditional marriage. Pro-"life." All of it cast in a template of Dobson and Robertson's evangelical right wing money machine. And it worked. We all have a tendency now to defend alternate points of view against this litmus test of "purity" that has now become part of the American paradigm of thinking.

But the American Family is more complex and more substantial than simply crafting anti-choice legislation and amending state constitutions to define one kind of marriage.

To steal the words of Jon Stewart, speaking to the hysterically frightened Bill O'Reilly:
Being religious doesn't mean you're a good person, it just means you go to church.
I'm hesitant to announce that we're seeing reality set in permanently, or moving beyond catchy phrasing and simplistic understanding into a more pragmatic definition of what "American Family" means, but it definitely looks like the opportunity to do so is here.