March 29, 2009

New Blog to read

Our good friend Sara Leader now has a blog, and I am thrilled to see her online. She is a really thoughtful and talented artist, and is now showcasing some of that talent here with her photos and writing.

Drop by and show her some love.


Watching OU lose to UNC, which is not that big of a deal as the Tarheels are a pretty good team and OU is underperforming. Those are the joys of competition.

But what annoys me to no end are the stupid ads that we see during sporting events. The Howie Long homophobic ads for trucks. Or the unbelievable Burger King ads--either for using a little person to sell breakfast meals, or for the stupid and sexist ads for their little burgers using buxom women.

But the taker of the cake was the Guitar Hero ads that featured NCAA coaches Krzyzewski, Pitino, Smith, and former coach Bobby Knight. Fine. Do a take off from Risky Business, I really don't care. But when Bobby Knight throws the equipment in a tantrum, we really see how tolerant the American people are of abusive personalities. No wonder we have problems in this area.

That's right. The guy is an abusive asshole who threw chairs at refs and potted plants at secretaries. He even choked a player one time. And he is elevated to spokesperson and icon.



Wilco // New Album Slated For Summer Release

March 28, 2009

John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales may not want to travel overseas

Unless they want to be arrested and tried for torture.

Cold Saturday

I had another weird Facebook moment this week. FB has a bit of a blogger feel--the interaction and comments, but the world-colliding part makes for very weird political connections. Here at the blog, everyone knows I am a liberal (except that troll who accused me of being some kind of Republican apologist), but on Facebook (even though my profile lists me as liberal) not everyone seems to get it. The other day, I received an invite to a group to oppose stem cell research, and to organize letter writing to pressure Obama to move away from a pro-choice stance.

Yeah. Like I said, all of you here know that while I may not be a big fan of abortion, I am essentially pro-choice, and I thought Bush's ban on federal stem-cell research was pure politics, and very little science. Like I said, my profile says that I am proudly liberal, so I was a bit surprised to get this invite from this old high school (and church) friend.

But no big deal. I declined the invite and then sent him a short (and nice) note telling him that I certainly didn't mind the invitation, but I was no longer a conservative, and had in fact supported Obama during the campaign. Trust me. I was nice.

And the response? Nothing.

While being spammed with right wing stuff didn't bother me, the lack of polite response bothered me a lot. Frankly, it pissed me off. I have been very close to firing off another email and not being as nice this time. Talking through it with SOF, however, I realized that she was probably right (duh) that this guy was not the real target of my ire. I have had this happen before, however, and the wounds are rather deep. Friends from the past, and even some of my relatives (more distant) have reconnected with me in the last 15 years, but when they discovered that I was *gasp* a "liberal" they just stopped talking to me. One sent me an email riling up support for the beleaguered Boy Scouts in their battle with the gays. I wrote back and said, "you do remember that I am your liberal relative, right?" His response? "I didn't think you were that liberal." And that was the end of that email exchange. Not sure I have heard from him since.

I don't mind people disagreeing with me, but I do sorely object to being treated as some kind of pariah or defect. Those wounds are still a little painful, and have not helped my view of conservative Christianity. I am grateful for those family (my parents and nieces and nephews, in particular) who have kept in relationship with me despite political and theological differences, and I have a few friends (really just one) from the old days who have done so as well. But those who have dropped me really have some answering to do about their faith and how their faith asks them to treat others.

Anyway. Long story, but one I needed to get out. I have not responded to this latest one, but am still considering a less angry and more inquisitive version of the "take off" email I initially drafted in my head. (Actually, it wasn't "take" in my head!) He certainly doesn't need to to pay for those old debts, and perhaps no one can.


One more item, not necessarily related, but I saw this from George Packer at the New Yorker that reiterates what I have been arguing about radicals on the right v. radicals on the left.
Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck have far more power in the Republican Party (it sometimes seems to include veto power) than Klein, Lee, and Moore have in the Democratic Party. The views of right-wing commentators in the grip of the paranoid style (Obama is a stealth radical, the Democrats are imposing socialism) are much closer to mainstream conservative and Republican belief than the views of their counterparts on the left (the levees in New Orleans were blown up by the government, the White House had something to do with 9/11) are to mainstream liberal and Democratic belief. The reasons are complex, but I would list these: the evangelical and occasionally messianic fervor that animates a part of the Republican base; the atmosphere of siege and the self-identification of conservatives as insurgents even when they monopolized political power; the influence of ideology over movement conservatives, and their deep hostility to compromise; the fact that modern conservatism has been a movement, which modern liberalism has not.

This is not to say that the more destructive forms of populism and outright paranoia can’t appear on the left. They have, they do, and they will, especially in times of extreme distress like these. It’s only to say that the infection has been more organic to the modern right.
Perhaps I have run headlong into that "deep hostility to compromise" in my own life too much. :)


Anyway. It is a little (emphasize little) snowy here in Norman, and a perfect day for my latest experiment in sourdough bread. Hope you are all well.

March 21, 2009

My productive Spring Break week

So often Spring break is either spent skiing (which is cool) or not getting stuff done and not relaxing either. This one has not been the most restful break I can recall, but it has been pretty productive. So, here are my accomplishments for the week:

1) As already mentioned, cleaned out some of the very messy garage. Still a long way to go, but made progress.

2) Placed the order for a shed to replace our garage space.

3) Attended three sessions with my new chiropractor. Jury is still out, but so far, so good. Also made it to two yoga classes.

4) Came up with name "socialized nature" to describe stupidity of current discussion on socialism. Perhaps greatest accomplishment of the week.

5) Filed application for remodel permit. It did take me too trips, and my first trip had me in front of man probably ten years my junior rolling his eyes at my ignorance. Can't fight city hall, but did have the instinct to give him the time honored gesture indicating his number one status. Did not give into that instinct, and my second visit went much better.

6) Removed a few more rocks from my pond water feature.

7) Bottled my IPA this afternoon (tasted really good coming out of the secondary).

Now to make dinner and get ready for the OU/Michigan game. Tomorrow, I make gumbo and am planning on making the darkest roux I can possibly muster. Hmm... roux.


March 19, 2009

Yeah, I am still here

Though it has been a weird week.

After a fabulous visit last week with our fabulous niece, I faced spring break and the need to clean out the garage. I have not mentioned it here, but we are trying to remodel that space into something useful--well, more useful than the storage of random crap ... and a lawnmower.

The weird part of the week, however, began Saturday night when we attended a film about and concert with Wanda Jackson--the Oklahoma contribution to women in rock. Most of this was pretty cool, but there was also a fairly weird quality to this evening that I can't quite untangle. Parts tent meeting and altar call, and parts 1050s bad girl dating Elvis, mixed with parts current performer and forthcoming member of the Rock Hall of Fame. The entire thing had me feeling like world's were colliding in some way that unsettled me a little.

Monday, I started working on the garage with a borrowed truck (used to be my truck) and giving away some of the crap from the garage. Along the way, I had a great coffee with my friend JS, and even had a great little connection to an electrical contractor who has done a lot of work for us over the years, and with whom I feel a friendship.

That was cool.

Tuesday, I made my first visit to a chiropractor's office. I grew up with the sense that they were not legitimate, but have just had so many friends who tell me how much help their chiropractor has been to them. After a month or so of nagging back pain, I broke down and went to one in the city that came highly recommended. He is a pretty nice guy, and uses this cool little computerized tool to stimulate the muscles in the back. I went back yesterday, and am scheduled to go again tomorrow. Not terribly convenient, but so far, it has been intriguing and even helpful. We shall see.

Last night, I enjoyed a few beers with a history colleague from Germany. My favorite moment, I think, was when I mentioned the conservatives talking about Obama leading us into socialism. I believe he nearly spit out beer, and then became a little irritated at this nonsense. I told him that I had decided to start referring to our National Parks as "Socialized Nature," and will now accuse everyone who uses our Interstate Highway system at all as "socialists."

Well, it amused me.

Larry Wilmore on being white in today's climate

Wilmore is brilliant most of the time, but this one is just amazing.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
The New White Face of Crime
Daily Show Full EpisodesImportant Things w/ Demetri MartinPolitical Humor

Louis CK on just how spoiled we all are

H/t to my guitar buddy for this one.

March 14, 2009

Jon Swift on Bristol Palin

Brilliant as always.
Why Bristol Palin Is Different: "We should have the courage of our convictions and not play the liberal game of moral equivalency. Instead of trying to explain away Bristol's pregnancy we should be defending it, holding her up as an example of the difference between liberal teenage unwed mothers and conservative teenage unwed mothers. Because just as it is true that, as Richard Nixon once said, 'When the President does it, that means it is not illegal.' when a good Christian conservative has a child out of wedlock, that means it's not immoral."

March 13, 2009

Jon Stewart as real journalist

We turned on the The Daily Show to watch the interview with Jim Cramer, and both of us watched in amazement. We both expected fluff, and instead watched Jon Stewart absolutely lay into Cramer and CNBC. This was one of the most interesting news events I have yet to see. You won't see David Gregory do this. And you won't see Brian Williams do it. It took a comedian doing fake news.

Couple of take-aways: one, that Republican deregulation allowed much of this to occur, with Democratic complicity, btw. From 1999-2007, the market increased at a 30% rate, and everyone got greedy. That happened to me as well, and I am well aware that, as I said, Democrats were complicit in this. But this is what happens when you assume that CEOs and Wall Street have our best interest at heart. Deregulation and lower taxes have been the repeating mantra of the right, and this is what you get. Cramer talked about indictments for these people, but I really wonder if they broke many laws in robbing from the 401ks. Republicans have made a sport out of elevating the rich and convincing the poor that their interests are the same.

That was the second takeaway, that Jon identified the central disconnect between the interests of the very rich and the interests of the average investor. CNBC (and Republicans and Democrats in Congress) catered to the interests of the very wealthy, and assumed that would help everyone out. When some of us point that out, we are accused of "class warfare" but the reality is that, as Jon points out, there are two economies. And one is a game played with little morality or ethics that is funded by the investment economy of ordinary people playing by the rules.

This was one of those watershed events, I think, where Jon Stewart dared to point out the naked emperor. He did so with humor and anger, at one point telling Cramer how angry it made him to hear him describe how to game the system.

Here is a clip from the uncensored edition:

March 11, 2009

The Thin Line Between Socialism and Capitalist Nirvana

Interesting graph showing how socialist Reagan really was.

Couple of things--with update

On the religious front, InternetMonk has suggested that evangelical Christianity is on the verge of a major collapse. I am not terribly convinced that this is so (primarily because of the next item), but this point is very interesting:
Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.
This seems to be an accurate assessment (at least the first sentence) but whether that leads to people identifying badly with evangelicals remains to be seen. As I noted, consider the following item, on the number of self-professed non-believers in this country. They now constitute some 15% of the population, and as Uygur notes, much more than the 1.4% that Mormons comprise. It has always struck me that for all the whining about Christian persecution, no one ever runs for office as an atheist (well, mostly never, and certainly not for President). Let's just say that this is just one reason It is hard for me to believe that the American people will associate evangelicals with enough bad things to cause a major collapse. Hell, conservative evangelicals essentially supported a torture regime in the White House.


Update--Just saw a discussion on this poll on non-believers that noted that the number 15% was 8% in 1990. That seems like a pretty quick uptick. It also seems that many believe that "non-believer" in this context is no the same as atheist. At least it seems that way to me.


Chuck Norris' open call for revolution against Obama seems to be a trend among the wackjob right. A friend asked me yesterday if I was arguing that liberals are more moral than conservatives because I don't acknowledge the idiots on the left. I noted that we do have idiots on the left, but they just don't have the following that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity (who also called for a resistance from conservatives) who have millions of listeners and followers. I have made this analogy before, but it is if the right's center, or mainstream, is now around the 10 yard line (football field metaphor, with mythic middle of the road American at the 50 yard line), while the left's equivalent 10 yard line wackjobs are firmly outside the liberal mainstream. In that setting, Chuck Norris may be a little extreme, but not so much that it really bothers the average conservative listener. But again, the average conservative listener was not bothered by torture, so why should an American celebrity calling for armed resistance to Obama?

Frank Schaeffer finds the modern right appalling, and as he notes in this angry letter to "the Republican Traitors (From a Former Republican), the Republican party wasn't always like this. I am not completely sure I buy his entire view of Reagan and Goldwater, but it does strike me that the party has shifted dramatically to the right, while so many Republicans seem to not have noticed. Their own allegiance is to the party (even if that allegiance is not very firm) and to a few code words about low taxes and less government (even if that second part has never been true) as well as a few nods to those worried about the gays and abortion-seeking flag burners. I have argued to my conservative friends for the last 8 years--that their party no longer represents their values. Mostly, this argument has fallen on deaf ears.

And finally, this item (can you tell I was reading through the Huffington Post this morning?) on the so-called Obama "class warfare". (After all, he is a socialist, right?) I have always been annoyed with the language of those critical of higher taxes, because it so often includes phrases like "punish the rich" or "it takes away incentive to make more money." I have never been convinced that our taxation policy turned rich people into not-rich people. And this piece very clearly notes that difference. He links to a Chait article on an unbelievable ABC piece on a dentist so upset by Obama's "war on the rich" that she will purposefully make $70,000 less to come in under the $250,000 cut off for the higher rate. Similar to the Ayn Rand people calling for some kind of "going Galt" response, I guess, but equally stupid. As Chait points out, those who make more than 250K don't all of a sudden pay that higher rate on their entire income, they just pay that higher rate on that those dollars they make over that threshold. And when you factor in deductions, that dentist would be foregoing an additional $70,000 to avoid paying $2,100.

I am clearly no financial wiz--I could never get a stock show on CNBC, for example--but even I see the problems with that kind of math. Perhaps the wealthy dentist needs to return to school for a little remedial math. Perhaps she can then take a class on basic civics and see if she can get Chuck Norris to join her. Perhaps either one of them might consider taking their head out of their ass.

Speaking of CNBC, here is Jon Stewart once again going after Jim Cramer--

March 10, 2009


Gee, I wonder how the right would respond if someone on the left spoke this way?

Chuck Norris claims thousands of right wing cell groups exist and will rebel against U.S. government

I think Ann Coulter would include them in one of her books. But since it is Chuck Norris, they will just grin and move on.

March 8, 2009

Live Music Sunday

Saw Horseshoe Road at our local concert venue this evening and it was a pretty amazing show. As several of us noted, we have not heard many fiddle players better than this guy, and the guitar player was pretty phenomenal as well.

As I have said many times, there are live shows that never quite achieve the magical. This one made it, perhaps for me, with one of the more stirring versions of "Amazing Grace" I have ever heard. The fiddle player channeled a bagpipe in the opening and the harmonies were just stunning. The encore was a similarly stirring version of "The Sound of Silence."

Magical live music.

March 6, 2009

Literary fib list

Anglican will love this.

Jon Stewart's CNBC takedown

And it is a classic. Anglican had it on his blog earlier this week, and I decided to post it here for any who haven't seen it. As Will Bunch notes, it is something that we should hear from actual journalists. Watch and laugh and cry. The fact that Jim Cramer is still on TV telling anyone what to invest in--hell that any of these people are advising on economics is as ridiculous as the fact that people still tune in to hear what Pat Robertson says about the future.

Deregulation with extra Salmonella

Reading this story just furthers the rage at Republican public policy. Food producers in this country are essentially left up to their own devices to determine food safety. They can hire independent inspectors, and then ignore their recommendations. The only thing that makes them change (unless they are a good company) is bad media attention. But if the media never hears about their bad policies, they keep doing them.

In the case of our peanut producer, they hired a guy who was an expert in produce, and didn't even realize that salmonella was a problem in peanuts. He gave the plant an excellent rating. And he is not the problem, of course. He did the best he could, but was simply the wrong guy for the job. The plant had already done some testing and knew they had salmonella, but had decided to send out the tainted goods anyway.

This is what deregulation leads us--the grocery store as crap shoot. Thanks, Republicans. Sure love the "let corporate interests regulate themselves" stuff.

March 4, 2009

Hoping for failure

Limbaugh seems to have succeeded in making it ok for Republicans (well, not elected officials) to openly hope for Obama's failure. They are doing so based on a tricky little bit of rhetorical fakery as David Neiwert points out here. Liberals did not wish for failure in Iraq. I, for one, remember very clearly how I felt when it was clear that Bush was invading. I hated it with every fiber of my being, but hoped that it would work. I was glad when the surge (or the Sunni Awakening, whichever) led to reduced violence in Iraq, and think that Petraeus deserves a lot of respect for getting to the villages and homes in a positive way. I hoped, I must say, that the lessons learned out of Iraq not be that we should do this again, but I certainly never hoped that we would lose.

The analogy is actually very interesting, in that it would make more sense for Republicans to have said that they hoped the stimulus bill would fail in Congress. But now that it has passed, they are hoping that it fails to help the economy? They are much closer to wishing economic disaster on the country for political purposes than liberals ever came close to wishing for failure in war.

And, btw, just so we don't lose sight of the facts, when Democrats criticized the Bush plan, they were called traitors and unamerican by the same idiots who got up at CPAC to wish for failure and insurgency.

I keep saying this, but it is still true. There are a lot of grownup Republicans out there, and it is time for them to wrest their party back from the racists, hatemongers, and frankly stupid people who now run it. Those grownup Republicans watched in horror as a racist drug addict forced the newly elected African American head of the RNC to bow and scrape. It is sickening to watch.

March 3, 2009

Conservative Christianity

As requested:
"Are we as Christians ready to state, without embarrassment, that many conservative media voices are either not Christians--and do not pretend to be--or do not represent anything close to the Christian worldview? 'What would Jesus do?' and 'What did Hannity say today?' are not always one and the same thing. Are we OK with saying Anne Coulter is sharp, but her manner cannot be our manner, for it is seriously lacking what we know matters in the witness we bear to others?"


Youth Pastors Encouraged to Learn Self-Defense, because, after all, Jesus said to kick ass and take names.

It is somewhere toward the back. Trust me.

Just a couple more

I loved Robert Gates invoking one of the greatest understatements of recent history when he told David Gregory that Obama was "somewhat more analytical" than President Bush. Yeah. But just somewhat, right?

I missed this from Obama's fiscal responsibility summit where even Republicans acknowledged that Republican outsourcing and privatization may have not saved us anything:
"In one rare example of consensus, incidentally, GOP Rep. Darrell Issa told Obama: 'Mr. President, it was kind of a surprise in the procurement group that was together, we had almost universal recognition that over the last decade or so, we've overdone, in some cases, outsourcing of critical federal requirements, and that means that in many cases we spend more to hire a contractor or a non-federal worker than we would pay to invest in federal workers.

'And so there was universal -- Republican, Democrat, House and Senate, even -- (laughter) -- that during this administration we need to assess where we can re-federalize some parts of the workforce, particularly when it came to people who do get procurement and oversee the procurement.'"

I just love that. The very logical outcome of 25 years of bashing government as the problem has resulted in us spending more money to do the same thing because conservatives believe that private enterprise magically makes better decisions.

As I keep saying, Government is not the answer to all of our problems, but it can reflect the desire to build community and provide some solutions for the common good. Much of that can then free the entrepreneurs to truly innovate, as we saw during the 1950s. What is more, I think Republicans have forgotten or ignored that the great middle class of the 40s, 50s and 60s was created by all those things that Republicans now loathe and demonize. Strong unions, progressive taxation, and government taking a role in infrastructure, education, and even (positively) housing. Since Reagan, Republicans have taken a hatchet to all of those things and then expressed horror at the erosion of the middle class.


Via Sully:
"'We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it,' - Scott Horton.

Sullivan adds:
The Fourth Amendment was suspended indefinitely. And they said we were paranoid."

Bush's Christian values sure helped us, didn't they?

As bad as we thought

But perhaps not as bad as it could have been. As some of you may know, the Justice department just released some old OLC memos from the John Yoo days, and one at the very end of the Bush admin that tries to cancel the worst of it.

Turns out that his legal people told Bush that he could use the military on targets inside the US, and that he would not have to worry about the 4th amendment or Posse Comitatus. Further, he could limit speech and press and not worry about the First amendment.

It could have been worse, clearly, in that Bush could have tried to act off these memos, and as far as we know, besides declaring Padilla an enemy combatant, he did not. But it shows just how little respect these people had for the Constitution, and just how dangerous they really were.

March 2, 2009

On Iran

Not the Iran the warmongers want to see.

Holy Cow

That was fast:
"Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says he has reached out to Rush Limbaugh to tell him he meant no offense when he referred to the popular conservative radio host as an “entertainer” whose show can be “incendiary.”

“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”"

Monday afternoon silliness

First and foremost is the apparent rift in the Republican party between the adults and Rush Limbaugh and Limbaugh's idiot followers. Seriously, how can you sugar coat that guy or the people who listen to him? Evidently, Michael Steele called Rush's show "ugly" and Limbaugh responded with more of his crap this afternoon. Grownup Republicans watching all of this do so with a shaking head, wondering where the GOP is headed if the guy most admired by the base says that Republicans can't beat the Democrats with ideas, and should just work for them to fail?

And speaking of that base, they are absolutely convinced that Obama is a socialist. According to the base at CPAC:
Minutes later, out in the halls, few would argue that Obama was anything less than the rebirth of Karl Marx. "He is a fascist, socialist, and a Marxist," said Pat, a female attendee from Philadelphia. "He is well beyond European style socialism. I'm not going to sugar coat it.
Only if you know nothing about socialism, of course. But this should not surprise us, I think. After lecturing today on the first Red Scare, I was reminded of how easy it has been for conservatives to go to the fear card, and to use that to accuse the rest of us of being subversive or unAmerican.

It strikes me, however, that the "red scare" card might not work as well today. When we trade with the biggest communist country, and in fact borrow money from them to keep our own economy afloat, how do you raise the specter of Communism? When Olympic athletes from both China and America wear Nike equipment, how do you return to the days of McCarthy?

I am sure they will try, but I am just wondering how much that old trick will work.

And finally, this just makes me sigh:
"Retired barber Joe Godlewski says that when television chefs recommended kosher salt in recipes, he wondered, 'What the heck's the matter with Christian salt?'"
They are coming out with Christian salt. Sigh.